Saturday, January 31, 2009

Panoramic series Take 16

Pano 16


After much consideration I've decided to handle how I sell my 12"x 36" pano prints differently than my normal art festival offerings. 90% of my print sales are framed using the "clip frame" method I talked about in a previous post. This offers a ready to hang piece of art at a very affordable price. After doing about 15 festivals selling my 12"x 36" prints this way, I experienced about a 50% glass breakage on this particular size during transportation to an from the shows. Once hung, the fragile nature of these long, narrow frames disappears. Its the constant moving that breaks the glass.

So starting this year, I will be carrying metal framed panoramas to shows as well as un-framed prints only that will be delivered in crush proof mailing tubes. This will allow customers their choice of buying finished works (as long as they like my taste in frames) or purchasing un-mounted prints that they can have framed exactly like they want at their local frame shop.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Panoramic series Take 13

Pano 13

I've been trying to figure out how I would sell my 12"x 36" panoramic prints online for the past month. Even though I've shown the first half of my series, I haven't added them to my store for people to order because of the outrageous cost of crating and shipping this sized glass framed print. I came to the conclusion that because it would actually be cheaper for my customers to have the printed framed themselves instead of me having to charge for over sized shipping, I will reduce what I sell them for and ship them to my buyers in a crush proof mailing tube.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mandala 46

Mandala 46

I thought that I had already uploaded this image previously but after trying to find it to show how it works together with Mandala 45 I couldn't find it. So here it is in all of it's dark glory.

Mandala 45

Mandala 45

A very dark but unusual design. I can't remember exactly when I created this but I can only imagine the mood I was in that day. It sold relatively well during 2008 but it seemed to only sell as a combo to another image I did that was also done in dark tones.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A music video for Jonathan Coulton's song Mandelbrot Set

One of my favorite performers is Jonathan Coulton. His quirky, techno musical genius is lost on many listeners but being a quirky, digital factalist myself, I totally dig him. I found out about him by googling the word "Mandelbrot Set" and noticed that one of his more popular songs is actually titled "The Mandelbrot Set." Check out summerkitchenstudios YouTube video on this very entertaining song.

Mandala 44

Mandala 44

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mandala 43

Mandala 43

Happy anniversary sweet Linda.

My road-trip mix tape

Sugar Magnolia by Grateful Dead

All Dead songs are appropriate for the road.

Maggie May by Rod Stewart

Named my best traveling buddy (yellow lab) after this song

No Woman No Cry by Bob Marley

Cuz its Bob man.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mandala 42

Mandala 42

Much more traditional.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mandala 41

Mandala 41

I guess I should explain something to you. I started creating my mandala series as a way to offer art to both myself as well as my customers a visual "centering point" that could be used for meditation. Along the way, some of my mandala (symmetrically shaped, square designs) pieces strayed away from the typical kaleidoscopic shapes more traditionally associated with this form of art. I am not trying to suggest these non symmetrical designs are Mandalas, but only offer a way for me to categorize these square pieces.

A more precise definition of a Mandala is as follows. (from Wikipedia)

Mandala (Sanskrit maṇḍala "essence" + "having" or "containing", also translates as "circle-circumference" or "completion", both derived from the Tibetan term dkyil khor) is a concentric diagram having spiritual and ritual significance in both Buddhism and Hinduism. The term is of Hindu origin and appears in the Rig Veda as the name of the sections of the work, but is also used in other Indian religions, particularly Buddhism. In the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism, mandalas have been developed into sandpainting. They are also a key part of anuttarayoga tantra meditation practices.

In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of aspirants and adepts; as a spiritual teaching tool; for establishing a sacred space; and as an aid to meditation and trance induction. According to David Fontana, its symbolic nature can help one "to access progressively deeper levels of the unconscious, ultimately assisting the meditator to experience a mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity from which the cosmos in all its manifold forms arises." The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw the mandala as "a representation of the unconscious self," and believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality.

In common use, mandala has become a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically, a microcosm of the Universe from the human perspective.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My final leg of the trip home

As I climbed the grade driving out of Las Vegas headed toward Mesquite, NV. I kept thinking about why I chose this route to drive home instead of my more familiar way through Flagstaff AZ. Sure I got lulled into thinking that I wouldn’t have to take the chance of getting stranded in a snow storm but at least if I chose to drive that way, I would have been mentally prepared for snow. This way I wasn’t.

After I calculated how far I would have to drive until I got to Mesquite, I started to feel better about my chances of making it safely. The non-damaged taillights would at least make me visible to vehicles coming on me from the rear so I should be OK that way. I decided to stay as close to a big rig directly in front of me allowing him to be my lights and in no time at all I was pulling into the town where I was going to stay for the evening.

The cool thing about Nevada towns, especially ones close to the border of neighboring states, is they survive mainly by offering “games of chance” to its visitors. Legalized gambling in the state of Nevada drives it’s economy and by placing these little “boom towns” along the border of neighboring states that DON’T allow gambling, Nevada assures itself of a steady stream of customers.

The different casinos try various means to attract gamblers to loose their money (I mean try and win a fortune) in their establishments. Free booze, inexpensive meals and of course, cheap motel rooms. I was able to secure a very comfortable room for under $30.00, which if it weren’t affiliated with a casino would have cost at least $90.00 for the night. The casinos underwrite what they loose in lodging by what they gain in they money the house normally makes off its gamblers. In my case, I was exhausted from the day so they didn’t get any additional money off of me. A few cold beers, some dinner and ESPN on TV were all I wanted for the rest of my evening.

After a good nights sleep I awoke to find that the previous days snow storm not only left more snow than this region has most likely seen in a while but was leaving more and more even then. My driving goal for the day was to make it to just outside Salt Lake City where my son and his family live. This is only a 250-mile drive, which in dry normal conditions should only take 4 ½ to 5 hours to drive. Unfortunately, I was sure that the snow floor on I-15 would slow my drive time considerably. I grabbed a cup of coffee at a local drive thru across the street from my hotel and headed out.

Even though the road conditions were less than perfect, I was able to make fairly good time, FOR THE FIRST 10 MINUTES. As I headed towards the summit of the pass I needed to cross, the blizzard grew worse and traffic slowed to a crawl. As I took my place in line, I noticed a highway patrol officer a short distance away starting to direct those rigs without tire chains installed to pull to the right where they could either put them on or if they didn’t have them, to stay parked until the road became safe for them to drive. That caused a major backup. I would guess that maybe 10% of the cars had chains. The big rigs by and large have chains but it takes a fair amount of time to install them. Those of us who drive 4 wheel drive vehicles were able to pass through the road block but the traffic was backed up for over 10 miles so I spent more time at a stand still than driving. When I was able to move, it was only a car length or slightly more at a time. For the next 3 hours I inched my way towards St. George Utah and somewhat better driving conditions.

Once past St. George my speeds crept up towards the speed limit and although I was still driving on a snow floor, traffic dispersed enough to allow those who are used to driving in snow more room to pass slower vehicles. From there up to my son’s house near Salt Lake City it was clear sailing. After spending the night with the family I headed out to my next destination, a good friends house south of Missoula MT. 550 miles away. This stop has become an annual stopover allowing us to catch up on old times as well as bring each other up to speed on current happening. I always cherish this time spent with Mort & Kathy.

The next morning I left for my final days drive before I reached home. The weather was OK in Missoula but as soon as I approached 4th of July pass on I-90 the snow floor worsened and sideways blowing snow started to obscure my vision. On this stretch of highway, especially in the winter, traffic is always light. Even though it is the main east-west artery this far north, I’ve never run into too many vehicles when driving over the pass. This morning was a different story.

The Idaho Highway Patrol was monitoring weather and road condition very closely because of the storm and just as I was to make my climb to the summit I encountered the 3rd road-closing blockade of my return trip. As I came to a stop in one of the chain-up pullout areas, a polite officer explained to me that there was a mandatory road closure and I would have to turn around and wait out the storm. He said they expected the highway to be closed at least 24 hours and that I should try again tomorrow. Totally bummed and dearly wanting to get home I tried pleading my case but I was told no way and seeing that this gentleman was armed, I slowly started to make my way to the exist to turn around.

Just then, I looked in my rear view mirror and noticed a big rig sliding to a stop about a quarter of a mile behind me. The officers all took off to aid this jack knifed rig and I sat there looking in my mirror of the two them running away from where I was parked. For the moment I continued to turn around but my desire to get home out weighed my fear of these fleeing patrolmen so with complete disregard for the law that I hadn’t felt since my teenage years, I took off and drove past the road block.

With adrenalin pumping and the fear of what it would be like to experience sitting in the back of a police car handcuffed vividly in my head, I kept up as fast a speed as I felt safe and continued on. I passed dozens of parked trucks and trailers for the next 10 miles or so. These drivers knew how bad the road was and chose to sit it out. I on the other hand, slowly picked my way through chunks of broken ice that the large trucks created by driving on the 8-10” thick snow floor with their chains. Heavy semi’s + chains + ice = small boulder sized obstacles I had to maneuver around. Right about then I was starting to think that running the roadblock was not one of my brightest ideas but I was too far into it to turn back now so I just kept going. Because there were no other “moving” vehicles on the road, I at least didn’t have to worry about them, just the chunks of ice.

After about eight hours into what would have normally taken me about 3 hours to drive, I pulled into my home town of Sandpoint with just slightly elevated blood pressure and a few more grey hairs for my trouble. With my 2008 show schedule behind me and no more road trips for a few months, it was truly time to relax.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How to weather the downturn

Denver artist Bob Ragland gives a very poigent interview on NPR about being an artist in these hard economic times. Bob has been supporting himself as an artist for over 40 years. His attitude about recessions: "People will spend money no matter how hard times are. People will buy less, but they will buy better."

NPR's audio interview here

Friday, January 9, 2009

Snowy Las Vegas

There are a few things that really get me excited. Computers, digital gadgets, my ever expanding horse/dog/cat & goat family, my lovely wife Linda and of course my 4 kids. But every once in awhile I come upon something that really blows me away. Such was the case when I rounded the last curve in the road and saw the Hoover Dam for the first time. The dam itself is awe inspiring but couple that site with the enormous bridge they’re building next to it and you have the recipe for some very cool visual eye candy. Because the daylight was already fading fast and the hard rain was turning to snow, that’s right snow in the desert, who would have thunk it, I decided to forgo taking any more photos and keep on driving into Las Vegas.

I was able book a room in a Motel 6 right near the off ramp leading to I-15 north which should have been less than a hours drive from the dam so I wasn’t too worried about the fading daylight. I guess this is as good a time as any to mention that the paranoia over driving at night is not some deep seated issue I’ve had since childhood but rather the lack of head lights due to the collision I had with a large mule deer on the very first night of this trip almost 4 weeks ago. Truck/deer run in’s have happened to me in the past. It’s never pleasant to take another creature’s life. It’s always messy and many times debilitating to the vehicle. In this case I was lucky (much more than I can say for the deer) because even though the front of my truck was smashed in, including the lights, I was able to pry the bumper away from the tire enough to enable me to drive to where I was staying that evening. That was a good thing because it was getting dark and 8 degrees outside. I always carry clear duct tape in my truck so with its help, I was able to literally tape my fender, grill and what was left of my lights back together allowing me to continue on.

After giving up condolences to the spirit of the deer my thoughts turned to the monetary loss I might be facing if I couldn’t continue on to these two shows. When you entire income is based on what you sell at art festivals, missing a show, for any reason is a huge bummer. Lucky for me the antlers of the deer didn’t puncture my radiator so as long as I didn’t mind driving around a smashed in truck and planed my driving not to happen at night, I should be OK. Which of course it was or I wouldn’t be writing about my trip AFTER that night here on this blog.

So, back to Vegas. Did I mention snow? To me, living in Sandpoint, Idaho, driving in snow is just part of life. But to desert dwellers, driving in the white stuff is life altering. You could tell whom the snowbirds where even by not looking at their license plates. They I’m sure were put off by the snow but were able to cope with it. Those drivers spending the winter in the desert instead of back home in Michigan or Minnesota were able to keep up a steady but safe high way speed but for someone who hasn’t had the pleasure of driving on ice before it was darn near frightening. Based on the amount of people thinking 5-7 MPH was the top speed one should drive when rain turns to frozen falling water from the sky, I knew I might not make it to the motel before darkness fell and I, driving without adequate headlights would be up the proverbial creek I didn’t.

There were stretches when I was able to move over into the fast lane and drive at a respectable speed so when I saw the sign noting that my exit towards I-15 north where I was staying that night was only 2 ½ miles ahead I was stoked. That feeling lasted all but about one minute because the very next freeway sign warned that due to construction on the off ramp, the road leading to I-15 north was closed and I should take the next exist and follow the detour signs. Normally that wouldn’t bother me but it was snowing in Vegas, I had little to no headlights, traffic had come to an almost paralyzing halt and I didn’t know how to get back to the motel where my reservations for the evening were. By the time I called their front desk to see if they could guide be back, I was so far out of my way I decided to continue on and look for other accommodations.

The other problem with this detour route was it was taking me through a very Hispanic part of the city and because I don’t speak or read Spanish, trying to locate a new room for the night looked rather slim. That said, I ventured on until I found the re-connection back onto I-15 north about a half an hour later. This was a good 15 miles from the motel were I was to stay so turning back once on the highway didn’t seem like a good idea. Now it was well into dusk so it was getting critical about finding somewhere to stop for the night. Crossing my fingers I headed out into the snowy Las Vegas night, trying to make it to the next place on the road where I could get a room, Mesquite, NV.

To be continued….

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm back

Let me start this New Year’s blog entry by recapping the last road trip of my 2008 season. I historically end my art festival season with an extended road trip to AZ. for shows in Tempe and then Tucson. Even though many of my fellow traveling artists are staying closer to home because of their fears of a down economy, I always make money on this trip and this last one was no exception.

I was actually up about 5% in Tempe over the same show in 2007 but off 10% in Tucson. What I did notice from both shows though was the even though my customer count was higher (more actual individual sales written) the higher prices pieces sat un-sold by and large. That was one thing I noticed about the AZ. economy. People still came out and purchased art but they spread their Christmas shopping dollars out more. Instead of buying 2 $75.00 pieces they bought 5 or 6 $20.00 items or 4 to 5 $35.00 gifts. Basically the same dollars spent just spread over more gifts. Either way, I felt fortunate they spent with me because many of my friends reported sales down 40-50%.

Traveling is always an issue for artists that do the circuit. Add to that the fact that on this trip I have to drive 1800 miles home through some of the worst weather states imaginable, and one can see why making a living like I do is NOT for everyone. There was a winter storm warning in and around Flagstaff on the Monday I was to be traveling through on my way to my first stop in Salt Lake City. Reports of highway closures with up to 2 feet of snow made me decide to seek an alternate route. I Googled mapped a new and safer way (I thought) around this storm though Las Vegas, which then was to reconnect me back on I-15 north then up to Salt Lake City. This was going to add about a hundred miles to my trip but I gambled that this detour was worth not getting stranded in the snow in Flag.

My first surprise was that Highway 93 out of Phoenix towards Vegas looks like a main road on the map but in reality isn’t much more than a 2-lane desert highway. By the time I got to Wickenburg I was already calculating how much time I wasted on this new route. Because I had never been through Las Vegas before I kept telling myself to just think of this as a site seeing trip and to chill out because my season was over and other than wanting to be home in the worst way, an extra day driving in this area of the country I’ve never been in before was better that the hazards of the storm in northern AZ.

I knew that this route took be near Hoover Dam and had a vague recollection that I might even get close enough to see it. In fact, not only do you see it, you drive right over it, cool! As I neared the dam itself, you can’t help but notice the signs warning you of travel delays. I thought, it’s Monday, they are probably working on the road. What the road delay signs really meaning is that some higher up in our government still feels that this historic dam would make a great terrorist target so official looking guard types stop and randomly search vehicles going over the dam in both directions. By now it was raining rather hard and these guards standing out in the rain looked as if they rather be any where else than where they were so as I approached my turn in line to go through the checkpoint I decided to curb my almost always kidding nature and revert to using words like yes sir and no sir. I was happy to see that they weren’t requiring every vehicle to be searched but only seemed to be diverting 1970’s models VW buses and old converted hippie type school buses to pull over and show their contents. That really made me want to ask the guard about they’re use of stereotypical profiling but alas, I kept my mouth shut.

He did however ask what was in the canopy of my truck and when I told him I was an artist traveling home from my last show of the season he actually did want to make sure I wasn’t fabricating the whole story so he made me pull over and open up the back. Once he saw that I was carrying dozens of boxes filled with my art as well as my entire canopy and print bin set up, he gave me a break from not empting it’s contents and doing a more thorough search. It might have had something to do with me saying I had over $20,000.00 worth of art that absolutely could not get wet or he was just being cool but either way, I was back on the road and just a few minutes away from getting my first site of the famous Hoover Dam.

To be continued….