It has been another crazy run of orders and being busy for me. While I feel that is a wonderful thing, it hasn’t allowed for my own creating and I haven’t had much time to do much other than keep my head above water with my orders. Such is the life of the self-employed.
Unlike many businesses where we continue to grow until we need to hire others to help us, my business doesn’t quite work that way. Since most of what I do is part of my own creativity, it is difficult to share the burden with someone else. Even the woodcutting part of the business would be difficult to share, as I don’t think anyone else would work for the amount of money that I get paid and it would be hard to find someone who would be able to do the job as efficiently and accurately as I do. After all, I have had a lot of practice.
I don’t state the above with any meaning of arrogance. I hope it doesn’t come off that way. I am only pointing out that I do love what I do and after over twenty years of both designing and cutting wood for other painters, I kind of feel I have it down to a science.
On top of that, I am really picky. If a piece doesn’t come out pretty close to perfect, I toss it in the bin. To me, there is no sense in providing something that isn’t good quality. All that will bring is a lot of ill feelings from customers who expect better. I am certainly not the cheapest woodcutter around, as I can’t compete price-wise with things from the Dollar Store, China, and many of the laser companies, but what my customers get from me is what I hope to be some of the best wood and surfaces that they can get. I want them to be able to open the package, take things out, and paint. It is as simple as that.
As the business grows though, I am trying to think of where things will wind up. The work comes in waves these day, and the waves seem to be getting a bit bigger and come more frequently. At the beginning of the year, I made a promise to myself to allow myself some “me” time. This entailed setting a decent and workable schedule for myself and quitting ‘work’ at a reasonable hour. It seemed that over the past several years, my work day lasted from the time I awoke until the time my eyes closed at night, leaving little time to live life and even less time to create. It was time to reign myself in and remind myself that I was entitled to a bit of a life as well, and the world wouldn’t crumble if the orders weren’t sent out in a day or two. I embraced the thought, “I’m not delivering hearts to heart patients. These are craft supplies and people will just need to wait a little longer.” Putting things into that perspective really did help.
Most, if not all of my current customers are very supportive and aware of this. I get most of my orders from customers who have joined my Facebook group, “Let’s Paint (and Create) with Sheila Landry” and they see that I work long hours and provide decent surfaces and are willing to wait a little bit longer for my products. After all, there are few painters that I know of that actually run out of things to do. Most have more surfaces, paints and supplies than they can use in several lifetimes. Myself included.
Many customers become friends, and I have truly appreciated the value in not only having such positive and creative friends in my life – especially during this last year of isolation – but it also makes me want to do an even better job on what I provide for them. It makes it more personal and fun for me and I like to think of what I provide for them as being ‘future heirlooms.’
With that said, I have been quite busy. About two weeks ago, I finished up my North Star Village “Pink Macaron” bakery project and released it only in my group. I will probably show it here in the next week or so, as I am finally seeing the light after a tsunami of orders that followed. I still have another batch of cutting, but the first wave is pretty much under my belt and many packages are heading out today and I feel as if I accomplished a great deal. I promise to show it soon.
During the past two weeks, I did behave and followed my self-imposed guidelines. I worked hard, but I also quit at the dinner hour (6 pm) and came down from the shop or stopped packing and what I was doing. I answered my correspondence in the mornings and as I walked by during the day and probably the most important thing was that I didn’t fret and worry about hurrying up and getting orders done. That, for me, was a huge improvement. There has been little stress that I have been feeling.
But even with these restrictions on myself, I haven’t had a lot of time to create. I would quit “work”, come down to make and eat supper, and then after cleaning up and washing up for bed, I was pretty tired and ready to wind down for the evening. I spent some time visiting and catching up with my group and friends, but pulling something out to create just didn’t seem to be in the cards. I was just too tired.
This was fine for the weekdays, but I wanted to reclaim at least one of the days on the weekend. In between all the other things, I still had house chores to do, even though Keith has been incredible and picking up a lot of the slack of the daily chores. So since I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I felt it was time to take a full day to just ‘play’ and do something creative and artistic and guilt-free. I felt like I earned it.
I follow several designers on Patreon, and Maria Raczynska is one of my favorites. She is a wonderful watercolor teacher and I have learned a great deal from her over the past year or so since I discovered her. You can see her page here: Maria Raczynska Watercolors .
Last week, she offered an online class to paint a white flamingo in watercolor. The minute I saw it, I knew it would be my next painting. It was a wonderful goal to look forward to and it made me work even harder to make it so. I really feel like having a day to goof off completely is a great motivation during the week. It has been so many years since I had differentiated the weekdays from the weekend, I had forgotten what that felt like.
In any case, I got my Sunday chores done and set things up to follow the short, hour-long video class. I watched the class while setting things up. This I find helpful because it lets me know the direction we are going to head. For this particular lesson, I had two objectives: finishing the painting quickly and not ‘over-painting’ it.
For those of you who have seen my artwork (see previous blogs) you realize that I do a very detailed type of painting. Not everything is aiming for hyper-realism, but many of my pieces do. What I am trying to do to grow as an artist is to capture the details necessary, yet allow for artistic interpretation to fill in the blanks. Or for lack of better term – “Loosen Up”. This is one of the reasons that I love working in watercolors so much. They allow me to do just that.
On top of things, with the flamingo being white, it would require me to leave more of the piece unpainted than painted. That, to me, is quite another challenge. We tend to want to use paint and use lots of colors and especially in watercolors, this could point us down the road to disaster. I have mistakenly followed that road before and I was determined not to do so this time around.
So – after a couple of hours of painting and taking my time and starting and stopping the video, I actually did the painting from start to finish. I am pretty happy with the outcome:
The photo above the painting shows the reference photo from Pixabay. Maria provided it to her Patreons.
I followed her lesson for about the first half and then (as usual!) I went on my own and did things my own way. I always say that there are several paths to the same destination and I think that this a fine example of that.
I followed mostly on panting the base layers. This is a wet-on-wet technique where you had to keep the area to be painted wet. I frequently have trouble with this because the wet areas are quite large and because I am watching how to do the next step on the video, I don’t work quickly enough and things start to dry. Once the paper is dry, you don’t get the beautiful, soft effect and shading and blending.
This began to happen here, too, as we were to wet the entire head and neck and do that first. Then move to the beak. But partway through the head, things began to dry.
In the past, I would panic, slap on more water, and try to go from there. The result would usually be over-blending, too much paint, and a lot of muddy colors. But my new ‘chill’ attitude must have taken over, because I just allowed things to dry and proceeded to paint in sections, re-wetting each area before I worked on it and blending it out with clean water so it wouldn’t leave hard edges at the end of the ‘wet’ parts.
I found myself in the beginning looking more at Maria’s beautiful painting than the reference photo. But again – I caught myself at this and started really looking at the reference photo more. I want my painting to be my own interpretation of the subject, not a ‘painting of a painting’. Although I realize that part of the learning process is following along with the teacher. I may even paint it again on my own to see how much information I was able to retain. I think what I liked most about her class was how it pulled out the subtle purples, yellows and pinks for the shading and shadows. One would think a white animal used mainly – well – white. but when seeing just how much color was involved in making this lovely animal, it was quite reveling to me as an artist.
I had thoughts of adding a color to the background as per a suggestion by a dear friend. But after finishing the painting, I loved the ‘clean’ look of the white animal on white and it really showed off the beautiful colors used to give it life. It looks clean and lovely just the way it is.
I finished the painting in a relatively short amount of time (for me, anyway!) and I decided to also work on another piece that I ‘found’ with my watercolor paper that I had started and abandoned a few weeks before. The piece was actually going to head for the bin, and I saw it and uttered, “YUCK!” and almost threw it out right then and there. But after the success of this painting, I still had the colors I needed on my palette to continue working on the other pieces and some time to do so, so I played around with it and got it to the stage of being ‘acceptable’, although it isn’t really finished. I still have one more idea to make it look ‘decent’. However, I don’t ever see it going up on my wall.
But that will be for another post as soon as I finish it up. . .
It is now Monday morning and time for me to get back to ‘work’. I have to call in to the courier for a pick up of today packages and prepare the rest for the post office. I am heading back up to the shop later today to set out the next batch of cutting, and I feel very happy. Since I satisfied my longing to create yesterday, I no longer feel deprived and have something to look forward to next week. I am planning another day to goof off and just have fun creating.
I feel there is a lot of merit in taking time for ourselves. While for some it may feel selfish, it is as necessary as breathing air and eating food in order to survive. I have spent many years telling myself that the only way I would find success in my business was by working harder. Little did I realize that taking a day to feed my soul and rest would be so beneficial to me both physically and emotionally. It is all about balance.
Until next time . . .