Breaking Some Rules

Holly Study #1, watercolor, 5″x7″  ©Charlotte B. DeMolay

The big reveal! No, it’s not a baby thing, it’s a website thing.

I decided a month ago my website needed a new look. First, it was time. Trends change, my artwork has changed a bit, it was time to update. The second, and driving reason, was…I sell my artwork.

What?!? You can buy all these amazing paintings? Why didn’t you tell me? Ok, I’m probably being a little dramatic here but there is a bit of truth as well.

This started in September while I was browsing the Leesburg Fine Art Festival in downtown Leesburg, VA. It’s a small art festival but has quite a bit of talent in it. One booth had striking abstract paintings. I stepped in to look closer and looked around for tags for more information (media, price, etc). There was nothing. The artist was nowhere in site. There were no brochures, business cards, signs or anything telling me about this artwork. I have no idea if I could have afforded a piece of that artwork or not.

Falling Leaf, acrylic & mixed media, 8″x8″ ©Charlotte B. DeMolay

About a week or so later I was looking up some of the artists I visited that day (that had cards) and I started browsing other artists’ websites in a couple of art organizations I belong to here in Virginia. I saw the same problem again. Beautiful work, minimal information, rarely a price or a way to buy except “Contact the artist.”

Then I realized that is how us artists are taught. We should be ‘above’ sales. We should strive for galleries and museums, and our art booths and websites should reflect that. Let the art speak for itself.

I looked at my own site and realized I was just as guilty. I put up my art and prices but tell people to ‘contact me’ or I point them off to Etsy to buy. Can you imagine if Amazon or Target said here’s the stuff and here’s the price but email me to figure out how to buy it. Now I’m not selling essentials for living like Amazon or Target, but I AM selling a product. A product that will inspire you or speak to you or create beauty but still a product to be bought.

This week I got an email from my favorite art business guru, Alyson Stanfield, The Art Biz Coach. The title was Ignore the Rules and it was a write-up for a free webinar she’s hosting. It covered several topics of “Art Rules” but, I smiled when I read it. It dawned on me why I felt very daring in this web redesign; I was breaking some rules:

  1. I’m actually admitting I would like to sell my art. I love seeing someone connect with my creations. Seeing paintings on a wall where it belongs instead of stacked against mine. And, yes, I like to see the money sit briefly in my bank account before it flies right out to buy more supplies to keep creating! My site now is be set up as a store with purchase buttons.
  2. I want anyone to be able to afford my art. I have a few pieces in my home I’ve bought from other artists. They are small and were affordable to me. I have sold large paintings but I know most people who love my art can’t justify hanging an $1800 painting above their couch. I’m ok with that! My site now has prices ranging from $7 to $4700.
  3. I will show all of my artwork, not just ‘curated’ pieces on my site. Not all of my art is a grand masterpiece. Some are studies for larger paintings, some are me playing around with a new technique or idea. But it is still art. My handsome business partner (aka my husband) is constantly telling me that where I see the study or experiment he (and other people) see a beautiful piece of art! My site now include all types of my art on it, instead of being pointed off to Etsy. (I’ll still retain my Etsy shops during the transition but eventually all work on Etsy will be found on my site.)

I did buy a piece of art at the festival that day. The booth walls and tables were covered with a variety of sizes and price points. The artist willingly discussed one of her techniques with me. Prices were obvious and she made it clear how she took payment. She made it easy and I bought.

Click Home or Artwork here or the buttons above and explore!

What I Make My Art With

Netted by Perceptions, acrylic with mixed media, 36″x24″ ©Charlotte B. DeMolay

When you are looking at art in a gallery or on a website, the ‘medium’ is generally a part of the description. For Netted by Perceptions (right), I list this as “Acrylic” meaning it’s an acrylic painting. This conjures an image of me standing in front of my easel with paintbrush in hand painting happily away. While some of this is a true image, I’m usually pretty happy and there is an easel and a bunch of messy brushes, it still paints an incomplete picture (pun intended).

Collection of interesting textures

So what am I making art with? Acrylic paint and brushes to start with, then I get a little curious and start exploring. After I get my layer of paint on the canvas, I look around my studio and see what I can use to create some texture in the paint. Some of my favorites are the cardboard from Starbucks cup rings, netting from fruit and veggie bags, sponges, even just plain paper towels. I press the textured item into wet paint. It makes a impression into the paintings and lifts paint from the spot and transfers it to the next place I press.

Tissue papers

I’ve also created more texture by painting thick lines or drips, wait to dry and painting over. Another way I create texture is embedding things into the paint such as tissue paper, other papers or even netting. I am sure to paint over these items heavily to keep them firmly on the canvas or pour Art Resin over the whole canvas to seal it in.

How about all those straight lines that have been taking over my artwork? Tape! All kinds of tape (that’s not too sticky), right now blue painters’ tape and washi craft tape are my favorites.

An assortment of tapes

I’ve also cut out stencils in shapes I wanted to repeat such as the leaves in the background of several of my paintings. Most of the time I use the stencils to mask out the background and paint a  new layer for the foreground.The sails in the Sea Bound series are the same because I cut stencils out of poster board and reused them for each painting. The color of the sails is actually the background of each painting.

Detail of painting in progress ©Charlotte B. DeMolay

Using my homemade stencils has inspired me to look at other objects I can use for stencils or stamping. Just the other day I grabbed a large tomato can (from dinner the night before), painted the bottom rim and used it to stamp large circles around my canvas.

Now when you are looking at one of my paintings, I bet you’ll be able to identify some of the objects I used to create the marks. If something looks like it’s been embedded, it probably has been. The more I experiment with these, um, experiments, the more ideas I have to explore. I hope you enjoy exploring with me!

Whoa…Big News

…I’m moving…a long (ish) ways away! My family and I will be relocating to Virginia at the end of this month.

This is an exciting move as my family is spread out along the East coast from New York to Florida.

This is a daunting move as we’ve had a life here in Texas for 20 years and in our current home for almost 17 years.

The biggest immediate change for me is I’ll no longer be teaching (at least in Texas). Although I did have one of my adult students suggest we Skype a few classes!

I also have a lot of artwork to move. I’m a little nervous about that from a bad experience with movers 20 years ago coming from North Carolina to here (picture a guy twirling…yes twirling… one of my portfolios in the air with artwork flying out the sides!).

So I’m having a BIG sale to see if I can re-home some of this work locally instead of moving it across country. Almost* ALL of my artwork will be half-price until June 29th.

To purchase anything you see on my website here  just email or call me.

To purchase small works on my Etsy shop, CBDArtStudio, here use coupon code MOVE50.

To purchase mixed media or collages on my other Etsy shop, CobaltBlueDreams, here use coupon code MOVE50.

*Please note that ACEOs and Commissions are not a part of this sale.

I don’t quite know what my art career will look like in Virginia…but I’ll always be an artist! Commissions are still accepted (with a slight delay at the moment.)

Etsy Shops…yes that’s Shops, plural!

 Short Story

Collages, mixed-media, experiments, ACEO/ATCs (Artists Trading Cards) – www.cobaltbluedreams.com (it directs to my Etsy shop)

Small works, studies for paintings – www.cbdartist.com

Large works – www.demolay.com/artwork

Sign up to be a Studio Insider to get a fabulous coupon for my artwork in April! Or see the end of the article below on how to get the coupon early.

Long Story

The hardest part of being an artist is getting your work in front of people. It used to be the only way to put your art ‘out there’ was to get into a gallery (or two or three!) or do art festivals…or both!

I did the art festival circuit for several years, but Texas weather is not very friendly to artists and their large paintings. Although I could probably weigh down an art tent to withstand hurricane force winds with all the practice I had!

I currently have my artwork in a gallery. The Wylie Art Gallery in historic downtown Wylie is a lovely spot in a former bank building. While being a part of the gallery is wonderful, I can only put a few (5-7) pieces in the gallery at any given time. Needless to say, that leaves a LOT of art stacked around my studio.

Fortunately, over the past 5-10 years there had been a revolution for artists…or maybe it’s evolution…with the growth of social media. With the ability to be be in front of almost anyone on the globe, artist can now take the reigns of their own marketing and sales…without dealing with the wind.

So…why two Etsy shops? Why even Etsy at all?

Moonlighting, acrylic, 36″x24″ ©Charlotte B. DeMolay

Much like getting your art represented in a gallery, art is best viewed when there is continuity in the pieces. It doesn’t have to be a series, but similarity in theme, colors, medium, etc is idea.

I decided to compartmentalize my art. Big works on my website. They truly are my portfolio pieces, my show pieces, etc. These paintings are usually on the larger side, more expensive and require information from the buyer on shipping so “Buy it Now” buttons are not appropriate.Well…I don’t tend to do art that way. I love learning so I’ll jump entirely into a new medium or technique or subject, then return to my beloved pastel and acrylic coastals. I’ve tried putting all my work together and it just looks chaotic (much like my studio most days!)

I decided to compartmentalize my art. Big works on my website. They truly are my portfolio pieces, my show pieces, etc. These paintings are usually on the larger side, more expensive and require information from the buyer on shipping so “Buy it Now” buttons are not appropriate.

Fall Harvest: Pomegranate, pastel, 4″x6″ ©Charlotte B. DeMolay

Smaller works are going back on Etsy (cbdartist). I tried them on my site but I don’t quite like the look. These are small pieces as well as studies and sketch works for larger pieces. If you like the artwork on my website, chances are you can find a similar, smaller (and for many, more affordable) piece on this site. Disclaimer: I haven’t moved all the artwork over yet. Over the next week and a half I’ll be adding to Etsy and dropping from this site.

Collages, mixed-media and experiments get their own shop on Etsy (cobaltbluedreams)I’ve actually had this site for years. I even have the url that redirects to the Etsy shop. This is my original Etsy shop that I listed all my small works and mixed-media on. Now I’m going to exclusively list my more experimental pieces. Although they almost always include some form of my ‘traditional’ artwork within them, they still don’t resemble my traditional work.

Soar, mixed media, 7″x 5″ ©Charlotte B. DeMolay

So why Etsy? The main reason is I’ve had slow and steady sales without even trying. I started my first Etsy shop when I stopped doing the art festivals and went to graduate school. I couldn’t stand the idea of my artwork just collecting dust in the studio. Also Etsy is a fabulous and HUGE community of like-minded, creative people. I’ve always loved being a part of it, both as a shop owner and a buyer.

So in between and during all my traveling the past month, I’ve been working on the shops and adding artwork. I have enough I feel I can roll them out..but please visit more than once! I’ll be adding more of my existing work over the next week and a half. After that, I’m hoping to have more time in the studio to make new works (to then add to the shop)!

Big bonus…sign up to be a Studio Insider and you’ll get a great coupon for my artwork in my April newsletter. In fact…if you sign up (or are already signed up) and comment on this blog post or the Facebook post about this blog…I’ll send you the coupon early!

Beginning…again

The year was 2006 and the season was spring. I was teaching art at a local private school and gearing up for my last child to enter kindergarten in the fall. I decided to teach more ‘full time’ and turn my front rooms in my home into a studio/classroom. I started with 3 students: my son and two of his friends. They were all boys and in 2nd grade. We studied Art Parts (Elements of Art and Principles of Design) and created self-portraits with acrylic paint on canvas. It was an awesome beginning!

The teaching and my art sales business grew over the next 3 years. I taught in my home studio/classroom, afterschool programs at a local elementary school, Moms programs, MDO programs and homeschool coops. I guest lectured at local art groups, libraries and even Collin College. I loved what I was doing but always thought of making and selling art as the ‘main’ part of my career.

In the fall of 2009 due to the recession and some personal changes, I felt I needed a break from art. I enrolled in graduate school to study another one of my passions, environmental design. Three years later I emerged with a Masters of City and Regional Planning concentrating in Sustainable Development.

I went to work for a nearby city in their Environmental Education department. Somewhere in the middle of teaching preschool through adults on how to be good stewards of this earth, I realized how badly I missed art…especially teaching art! The light dawned on me while preparing an Art from Nature class I spent my entire weekend ‘off the clock’ prepping and coming up with more and more projects. I was very, very happy and looking forward to what I was getting ready to teach. That was my ‘aha’ moment and the beginning of beginning…again.

So I turned in my notice last summer, dealt with a very serious health issue which resulted in a surgery in the fall. While recovering, I plotted and planned. By spring of this year I had redesigned my website, started painting again and got my artwork hung in a local gallery. This summer I partnered with the gallery and taught summer art camps for ages K-8th grade.

While hauling my many supplies up and back from the gallery, I realized it was time…the front room needed to be a studio and classroom again. So we moved out the exercise equipment and moved in the tables. My excitement has grown over the past month as I’ve moved supplies down, reorganized the bookshelves and planned the lessons. This time around has been different. I still paint (and love it!) but I’m more excited about teaching. This time it isn’t about me and my art, even though that is a deep part of me, but about sharing what I know and love.

Even with different goals, I have had a weird since of déjà vu during this process. That same child that was getting ready for kindergarten is now in high school. My little 2nd grade son will graduate at the end of this school year. Yet, today I’ll welcome in three new students. They are all girls and way past the second grade (8th actually). It will be the first time I’ve taught classes and not had one of my own kids in at least 1 or 2. But I’m so ready to begin…again!

Review:The Cottonwood Art Festival

This past Sunday my husband and I visited the Cottonwood Art Festival. This has always been one of my favorites in North Texas and this spring it was the best year yet! This is one of the few festivals that offer both a Fall and a Spring show. Most of the time the same artists are in both, but applications for each show are separate.

This spring show seemed to have a larger amount of new artists than I had ever seen at the Cottonwood. I have visited this show either in the spring or fall (or both!) for the past 7 or 8 years. I was thrilled to see so many new faces this year.

Why do I keep returning to this festival year after year? It has a large selection of high quality art, including jewelry and glass. I have a few favorites I like to visit each year including Betty RobbinsNiki Gulley and Jo Moncrief. One of my husband’s favorites is C.J. BradfordEven better is that all four of those artists live in North Texas. Not all the artists at the Cottonwood are local but it feels good to support those that are!

This is great festival to take your kids (even the furry ones are allowed!) Artstop is the children’s area with several hands-on projects including pottery and painting. These activities have a charge but it’s very reasonable.

We don’t tend to go for the music or food (typical fair offerings…corn dogs, kettle corn, etc) but it’s worth noting there is a ‘beer garden’ area around the small stage. One of the artists told me the music was definitely a step up this year.

Oh…the best part? Admission is free! Worst part…parking can be a bear. There is a shuttle but even the website doesn’t say where to park to ride the shuttle. We usually find parking around the high school located just to the northeast of the park or in some of the local businesses along Coit to the west of the park. Mark your calendars…next show is this fall, October 3rd & 4th.

I didn’t think to take any photos of the show so I’ll leave you with, Magnolia, one of my latest pastel paintings.

Magnolia, pastel, 8″x10″ ©Charlotte B. DeMolay