Friday, October 29, 2010

Lucid Dreaming

I'm at my grandparent's farmhouse and the whole family is there, including a bunch of other people and children that I don't know. My husband and cousin are outside playing football with some kids, my aunts are inside busily cleaning and preparing a large meal. I find myself bonding and playing with a child that looks like my best friend's son, only she's a girl. I love this little girl. I want to go outside but my aunt stops me and wants me to sweep the porch. I act like a baby about it, "but I wanted to go outside!" and she lets me. (I can be pretty stubborn and hot headed in my dreams). Once outside, a little mean boy pours water over my mother's head. She stands up and it has somehow affected her leg brace. I'm so angry at this kid I want to smash him to the ground. I help my mother up and lead her into the house.

Then I'm standing in the porch looking out. A great rumbling in the distance gets closer and closer like a hurricane of destruction. The otherwise natural surroundings turn more urban and it's like a giant plane or train crash with debris rumbling closer and closer to the windowpane I'm standing in awe in front of. As it comes rushing towards me, I realize I'm just dreaming and challenge myself to keep my eyes open - nothing's going to happen to me. In this moment I am aware, I am lucid, as soon as it hits I once again forget I'm in a dream. "It" - this rumbling pile of gray - hits the house like a tidal wave and then the house feels like it's floating and bobbing on water.

I am lifted up and out of the scene and fly over city streets, parks, people walking and cars. Little shifting clips of scenes from above. The last scene I see is a disturbing funeral group hovering over a casket out in the clear sunny day. It's not really sad, it just sort of... is what it is.

My flying adventure ends at a stairway into a building which I enter. Inside is an art and craft show. I'm dizzy from my "flight" and have to gain my footing before back tracking to the first artisan, I want to visit every booth. She is a kind woman selling silver jewelry with sparkling gems - my favorite kind of jewelry. I pick out a pin and buy it for $8. She says "remember to keep this away from children" and I say I plan on giving it to one of my aunt's that don't have children for Christmas (Jo or Jan if you're reading this, I'm already thinking of presents for you!). She packages it up with a smile and I continue on.

I find myself in a room with antique dealers and I'm carrying a chair on my behind. Yes, as strange as that is, a folding chair is awkwardly being carried along with my purse stuffed with paper work and other random clutter and my new purchase in a bag. It's too much to carry. I ask the vendors if they mind me putting down the chair and one says it's fine, another gives me quite the attitude - "Why do you have a chair with you?" and I snap back, "Because if there's MUSIC or some kind of PERFORMANCE I want to SIT DOWN, OKAY!??" and I've crossed a line, made a spectacle of myself and feel ashamed.

I pick up my chair and exit that room into another that's very cluttered with antiques and some seriously amazing paintings. The artists don't seem to care that their work is strewn everywhere and I find it hard to step around things but I want to take it all in. I put down my things and realize after my little scene in the other room, I somehow managed to pick up one of the antique dealers displays - like a washboard with little nick-nacks on it. Sneakily, I just stick it behind some old chest hoping they find it, too embarrassed to return it myself. The artist looks at me like "oh sure, you'll spend your money on that crap but not on art?" and I tell him I'm an artist too and that I collect plenty of art.

Then my dog woke me up.

I laid in bed for a bit, remembering the artwork I had seen, the images swirling around in my mind and then began to see images that I want to paint. Abstract figurative paintings, big and bold, paintings that say something. That's what's sticking with me and I feel like I have something new to say in painting. After this time away from making art, something has struck me. Inspiration has struck me and now I must take it to heart and do some sketching and planning for new work.

I don't know what the totality of the dream is saying but I thought I'd share it since it was so crystal clear to me when I woke up. (I also find it hilarious what a brat I can be in my dreamstate!). I'm entering the season when my dreams are WILD adventures, sometimes scary, sometimes thrilling. I think on the whole I'm getting better at realizing not to be afraid when danger threatens me. That lucidity clicks in at the key moments and I'm whisked away from danger at the last minute. Like a car headed towards a tree that somehow magically lifts up and off the ground just before the strike. Most importantly though, is seeing art in my dreams. I love when I have art dreams and I wish I could just wake up and paint everything I've seen but already the images are lost to me. What is not lost however, are the images that I "dreamed" when I woke up. These paintings will become a reality. I don't know when, but they will. Stay tuned...

If you like to interpret dreams - have at it! Have you ever had a lucid dreaming experience? Do you ever dream about art?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Art of Gregory Gallo

Worlds Known and Unknown, Trinity of the Angels, The Back of My Chair Has Eyes

The Last Goodbye, Birth of Crow, King and Queen Tree

Visit for more information about this dynamic, outstanding artist.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The website dilemma

For anyone that does it all themselves, you know what I'm talking about. What site do you use to host your website? How do you create it? Which is best? In the last six years I've probably changed my website 100 times or more! In recent years I've had it on WordPress, then Weebly, then this blog, then the site I got when I signed onto FineArtAmerica. I liked the idea that people could purchase prints through their shopping cart but after a brief stint of having that as my website, I changed back to Weebly for a number of reasons. The first being, someone contacted me confused over the prices for prints - were originals going for as low as $19 - how was that possible? I wrote back with a link to my Etsy shop for originals but who knows, I could have lost a potential customer over that confusion. The next email I got through the site was a Nigerian scam. Lovely. Another reason for the switch is a website should be the epicenter of everything you do. I missed the freedom of designing my own pages with links going everywhere. Hence, the new change. Having made a Weebly site before, it was relatively easy to bang it all out in the last 24 hours.

Making the FineArtAmerica site still wasn't a waste of my time because now it's the go-to place for my prints. (You can see on the website, I've got a page for Reproductions). That's the thing that I've learned through the years. There really are no mistakes. Even if you scratch a new site or creative direction altogether, lessons are learned along the way, and sometimes efforts you make intended to work in one direction end up working out in ways you didn't expect.

Take my investment in Illustrator for example. When I bought it, illustrations were all the rage on Etsy (as they still are) and I thought, "I can take my little, cute line drawings I've been making for years, digitally alter them in Illustrator, and start selling prints! It's going to be a wild success!" And, well, it wasn't. I started a shop on Etsy for decorative art called Pure Decor thinking "I'm going to sell less expensive decorative original paintings and they're going to sell like hot cakes!" and, well, they didn't. So are those examples of a waste of my time? You could say that, if you just look at the original efforts and results. Here's the thing though - Now I'm using Illustrator to make digital stamps that are starting to already take off and gained me an interview with a popular digital scrapbooking magazine that will be out Spring 2011. I scanned the Pure Decor paintings I made that never sold, turned them into vector art, and made a Zazzle shop with those images that continues to make me money out of the blue selling prints and mostly mousepads. Illustrator and Pure Decor not a waste - CHECK

Last night I went through some of my first blog entries here (I want to go through the blog and delete posts that lead to dead ends, etc) and it's interesting how the theme throughout my entries is being able to roll with change, that this whole interconnected world of technology is constantly shifting and you've got to continually educate yourself about it or get left behind.


*Do you have a website? Did you design it, or did someone design it for you? Feel free to share your links!

*Do you regularly update your website?

*How do you feel about the rapidly evolving online world? Are you overwhelmed with "the next new thing" or do you look forward to them?

Thanks for reading!
- Jessica Torrant

Return to Art & Life by Jessica Torrant

Friday, October 08, 2010

Tips for Selling Art on Etsy

Since starting on Etsy in 2006 with my first art shop, livefunky, I've been asked by many artists how to best sell their art on Etsy. After writing a lengthy reply to the most recent request, I decided to edit it my response for a general audience and share my suggestions and advice here. Some of this will be already well known by seasoned Etsians, but for new sellers and artists, this is the ground work information that will help you get your work to be seen and ideally selling!

EDITED TO ADD October 1. 2012: What you need to know about selling on Etsy is that Etsy is ever changing. All of my advice doesn't necessarily apply one day to the next. Take this all with a grain of salt, and then go to the forums and find teams that can help you with what's current on Etsy.

1. Shop Info & Appearance

Your shop title should include keywords that people would use to find your shop. For example, mine is "Original Abstract Paintings Fine Art by Jessica Torrant". Including your name is a good idea for artists along with keywords about the style, medium or any other defining features of your work. Next is your description. You can keep it simple, but again think about the words that will act as keywords. Something like "Welcome to my gallery of original abstract paintings by John Doe. I work in oil on canvas and ship worldwide." What I have is "Original Modern Art abstract paintings by Jessica Torrant. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas." So my shop will come up like this in Google searches.

Original Abstract Paintings Fine Art by Jessica Torrant by JessicaTorrant
Original Modern Art abstract paintings by Jessica Torrant. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas.

I want my name, modern art, fine art, abstract paintings, original paintings, acrylic, mixed media and canvas as my keywords, so I've worked them into a couple of relatively cohesive and brief sentences. What would your ideal buyer type into Google to find what you make? Those are the keywords you want to have in your shop title and description.

Your banner should be crisp and clear and lure buyers in, not overwhelm them. If you're not comfortable with graphic design, there are many graphic designers that sell them on Etsy pre-made and also make custom banners for a relatively inexpensive rate.

2. Profile

The first thing to add is an avatar. There are varying opinions on this to either add one of your products or a picture of yourself. I happen to like pictures of the artist when it's a visual artist. If you frequent the forums and post in them, a picture of one of your paintings would be better because it could make someone curious to click on it, leading them to your shop. If you don't frequent the forums, I'd go with a picture of yourself. In the end, it's really up to personal preference.

Next up is to write your profile. You can either write a loose paragraph about who you are, what you do and why you do it/how you came to start making art, what you love about making art, etc. or you can write out a full artist statement and bio. The approach is up to you, but having something in your profile allows buyers to get to know the human being behind the shop which increases buying confidence.

3. Policies

Filling out your policy section is another thing that can help gain buyer confidence. I won't comment on what to write - that's up to you. Your return policy, shipping methods and other information is all personal to your preference, just be sure to fill out this area.

4. Titles

The link above is to articles about SEO (search engine optimization). There is a lot of helpful information about how to utilize all the keywords buyers would use to find your work throughout your shop description, listing titles and descriptions.

Starting with your titles, flush them out with relevant keywords relating to what you're selling such as "original abstract painting", "original figure study", "original landscape oil painting". You can also include large, big or huge if it's a large painting. Also, if you're including the artwork dimensions, I would take away the word "inches" because it takes up valuable space. Instead, I would just write 18x24 or whatever it is because it's assumed it's in inches. In the description you can include inches or " and you might also want to consider adding the metric dimensions for international buyers.

Here are some examples of titles I could use for Beloved.

-Original abstract texture painting on 12x12 canvas - BELOVED
-Beloved by Jessica Torrant - original abstract painting 12x12
-Square abstract painting acrylic on canvas - Beloved

Whatever the major features of what you're selling may be - be it the style, medium, surface or technique - include that in the title.

5. Descriptions

Fleshing out your listing descriptions is key. Before I got into the groove of writing my own, I looked at a lot of other artist's listings to see examples of how people are doing it. Everybody's different, so you can pick and choose elements that you like (but don't copy - obviously). I tend to have a general description that I copy and paste to save me time and just edit what needs to be edited (like size, title, etc). Also, the first couple of lines of your description are included in Google searches, so having keywords in the first few lines is important. You can see when you are writing the description how much will show up in Google searches. Etsy has this feature right under where you enter the description.

How you express yourself and phrase your description is up to you, but a full description of what you are selling is important. What is it, does it have a name, how was it made, what materials, what are the dimensions, who made it and when, is it framed/unframed/ready to hang or something else, prominent colors, inspiration, how will it be shipped, when will it be shipped? The list goes on and on as to what you can share, just be sure to at least include the basics. I like to include a "return to shop" link at the end of the listing just in case someone stumbles on it and isn't familiar with Etsy and don't know how to return to a shop or that there even is a whole shop behind that one listing.

6. Pictures

Pictures are your number one selling tool. The clearer, crisper and more true-to-life they are, the better. It's best to try and fill as many photos as Etsy allows. Close ups, side shots, images of it hanging in a room or on your easel. You can buy a stock photo of an interior online (usually under $4) and use that image to paste your paintings into it making it look like your painting is hanging in a room. One thing I've heard as a complaint to this is when people make an 8" x 10" (for example) look huge in the staged photo, so try and keep it to approximate scale. Do a search on Etsy to see how other artists are displaying their work, including centering it on backgrounds from solid black to fading backgrounds. There are a lot of ways to present yourself, the important thing is to start with good, clear pictures. Remember the the first picture will be the one that customers will see in your shop and in searches. Make that the best one and absolutely identifiable of what it is.

Some DON'Ts:

-Don't show evidence of flash.
-Don't photograph with a distracting background (aka leaning against your car in the driveway or propped on a kitchen chair with your kid drawing on the wall in the background, though that would be fun to see.)
-Don't choose blurry pictures.

Some possible DOs:

-Pose with your painting.
-Show it hanging in a gallery, if it ever has or is.
-In the studio as a finished piece or work in progress.

7. Shipping

Consider offering international shipping. You can even have a high estimate for shipping to "everywhere else" and write in your listing descriptions something like I have "I ship worldwide with insurance. If I have over estimated the shipping fees, I will refund you the difference once it's been shipped." This just opens you up to all of the international buyers that are looking at the site. Also, write about how your items will be shipped, where to and when in the description.

8. Tags

Choosing the right tags is essential. Since this is written primarily for visual artists, you're going to obviously start with art. Odds are the list of suggested tags below art will reveal something that relates to what you're selling be it painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. Click on any of the tags that relate to what you're selling. If you're not selling an original painting, don't add it as a tag (even if it's a print OF an original painting, buyers are turned off when they see reproductions in a search for original art). Other possible tags to include are the subject matter (floral, landscape, abstract), the medium (oil, acrylic, watercolor), the size (small, large, huge), the colors (peach, turquoise, brown), the style (modern, impressionist, realism), and your name. If you join any teams, they may have tags you can add as well.

9. Getting lost in the sea.

Tags and keywords are important to exposure and people finding you, but another important thing is to remain relevant. This means either listing new work (and I do advise the more the merrier!) or re-listing existing items. This brings you to the top of the heap so to speak. Some people look at re-listing as an advertising tool. For 20 cents they can push their item forward to the cherished first few pages of a search. If it's been a month since you last listed or re-listed something, that means you are buried on the 20th or 40th page - it could be 100's of pages deep depending on the search.

10. Having a lot to offer.

Be it prints and originals, or a range of sizes of original art, the more you have in your shop, the more chances you have to be seen and, in turn, for people to buy. I've had artists with five paintings in their shop ask me what they can do to improve their shop and the first thing I think is add more work. People like options and having a range of prices helps as well. Maybe they fell in love with your large, $2,500 painting but can't afford it so they buy a small piece instead. You don't need dozens of pages of listings, but it just make sense that the more you offer, the more potential you have to sell something.

11. Promotion

This one is really up to you and how much effort/time you want to devote to outside promotion. Having a website or a blog, using social media like twitter and facebook, joining artist sites and sharing your portfolio with links to your shop, are all options for you along with others. You can also advertise, but I like to take advantage of as many of the free options as I can and invest in more art supplies. :) It is only as time consuming as you want it to be, but the more you get your name/shop/link/art out there, the more people will start to pick up on it and share it with other people.

12. Proofreading

My husband is a writer and we help to proofread for each other. If you have someone to check out your listings, shop profile - anything you've written - and check for grammatical errors or spelling errors, that can make a world of difference. It amazes me how much I miss when I write. I can have some glaring errors and I just read right over them!

13. Networking

Get to know more about Etsy by familiarizing yourself with others that are selling there. You can join teams, read the blog, and follow other artist's blogs.

14. Understand it may not happen overnight

Selling art can be a challenge and don't expect success to happen overnight (though who knows, it's always possible!). It takes work and patience, the latter being something that has continually challenged me. Especially when you are new to Etsy, it may take a while to get those first few sales and much desired positive feedback. Of course, if you find that Etsy just doesn't jive with you or you find a more desirable venue to sell your work you should move along, but don't give up if it's just been a month and you haven't had a sale yet. It does take time, but the more you weave yourself into the network, the web of Etsy, the more things will pick up steam.

Additional Etsy DOs and DON'Ts

-DO respond politely and quickly to any emails you get from customers or potential customers.

-DON'T spam - aka drop your shop link in a blog comment or an unrelated forum thread. Also, don't contact people that have added you or one of your items as a favorite. This is also considered spam. If you add a customer's email to a mailing list without their permission, that's a big no-no.

-DO let your personality shine.

-DON'T act unprofessional, rude, insulting, defensive, desperate, begging, or arrogant - pretty much the obvious - don't be a jerk.

-DO present your work in a way that makes YOU want to buy it. Sell it, baby! Work that art!

This is just the tip of the iceberg and if I think of anything else, I'll add to the post.

Please comment with any of your suggestions, your experience on Etsy, or other DOs and DON'Ts. Thanks for reading!

- Jessica

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Getting back on track

Brilliant Maple

So. It's pretty obvious I've been away for a bit. All artists have their ups and downs, and now I'm declaring an end to a much too consuming slump. I can't say exactly what brought it on, but I do know what helped me get out of it. The first thing was a good old fashioned, several hour telephone conversation with one of my best friends. Aren't those just the greatest? After some great suggestions on her end, I decided to write out a list of my goals. It helped me tremendously as I was focusing too much on what I wasn't happy with in myself, things I wanted to change, rather than looking at the positive things I want to bring into my life. There's a big difference between thinking DON'T vs DO. One of the things on my list of goals is to give my all to my creative career - the actual work end of things as well as the promotional aspects.

To be honest, my goal actually said specifically "painting" but the reality is, it's bigger than just my paintings - it's photography (as seen above), it's carving stamps, it's drawing and refining digital stamps and any other crafty thing I get my hands on! I must also thank Soraya Nulliah for introducing me to a fabulously helpful art blog - Alyson B. Stanfield's Art Biz Blog. There's just so much information there, it's almost overwhelming. I could spend the next week just reading and doing "homework" from the site! One of the suggestions is to start a mailing list, something I've put off for a long time.

It's getting colder here, so I'll be moving indoors soon. That will be a bit of a bummer because I LOVE working outside in the studio, but the bonus is I can have movies on in the background which, believe it or not, helps me paint sometimes. I think the background noise distracts a part of my brain freeing something up in me to go boldly into the abstract abyss! I guess the most important thing I'm realizing is that it's all about discipline. Regardless of what I'm working on, I most hold true to a schedule of work. I must limit my time online, shut off the phone and be aware of what inspires me in that moment and follow that direction. I may think to myself "tomorrow I'm going to paint!" but the next day I find I'd rather sketch and work in Illustrator. It's okay. Go with the flow. Just be sure to KEEP GOING!

In other stamp news, I was interviewed by the Italian website nuok - if you're interested, you can read it here.

That's all for now. I hope everyone's doing well and staying warm. Cheers!