Saturday, December 12, 2009

No blogging... must sleep!

The old familiar push at the end of the year. Little sleep, lots of things to keep straight, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

It hasn't been a banner year for online art sales, but it has been good considering the state of the economy. I still get to this every day instead of digging ditches. Holiday sales are slower than years past, but to be making a living selling my art now? I count this blessing every day.

A slow economy spurred me to final get rolling on new projects, like my art blocks. I've long wanted to make my art in a format other than wall art. In the coming year, I'll get to branch out a bit into new venues with the blocks.

It took a long time for the blocks to really form into an idea. I had trouble sourcing blocks like I wanted, for one thing. Then one day, boom! There they were, in an unlikely place. I thought I was looking for single blocks that I could put my art on, but I saw these smaller, narrow blocks, and  I thought: Triptychs!

Course now that I have amassed the largest collection of small blocks on the east coast, and now that I have gotten used to the idea of probably looking strange purchasing blocks in that quantity (they are re-purposed, and for what they were originally intended, no one would buy more than a few), I see a lot of triptychs in my future.

Of course, now that I have more triptych block pieces than I know what to do with, I have stumbled on local sources for single art wall blocks in 6", 8", 10" and 12", as well as a variety of shapes for mini art blocks that sit on a shelf. Those are what I originally envisioned using, but could not find them (and I don't really have time to cut them myself).

So here I go, for more than a few years, thinking this is the idea I want to do. This is how I will do it. If only this one thing (finding a source) will happen. Then I can do it. Then life says: Interesting idea, but how 'bout you do it this way? You asked for a source, so you got a source. It may not be a source for what you wanted to do, but it's a source just the same.

Once I pursued the idea that life threw in my path, ways to do the ideas I had been lugging around for a while appeared.

Now I just need a way to explain to cashiers why I am buying so many blocks.

Monday, November 30, 2009

To the 5 Boroughs...

A few years back, I started a series called City Monikers, based on the nicknames of cities. For some reason, I included Brooklyn in that series. Being neither a nickname nor a "city" the way the other cities in the series were, it may have seemed out of place.

But, it was pretty much just the way I work. The idea was to do all 5 boroughs, and make that a subset of the Moniker series.

I have finally done that with my newest wooden block piece. I also have a version with almost no color that will be available later.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday BOGO Sale time!

Time for my Annual Holiday BOGO Sale in the johnwgolden Etsy shop!

Details: But one print get one print of equal or lesser value for free. Limit 2 free prints per purchase.

Triptych Blocks, Gift Certificates, Jewelry and Mats are not eligible as free choices. However, you can purchase one of those items and get a free print of equal or lesser value.

Purchase only the print(s) you want to pay for, and then tell me your free choice in the message to seller.

Sale will end without notice.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Holiday Madness Begins!

My Etsy shop is filling up with new items for the holidays. I have lots of new jewelry to list, and I expect to have new Mini Triptych Blocks in both johnwgolden and rovinato by the weekend.

Debating whether to do a Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion... Have to decide soon :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Some of the new batch of jewelry...

I spent this last week and maybe the last of our warm days here locally making a new batch of resin jewelry. I have over 300 pieces, and following this weekend's Art for the Masses show here, I will start the process of adding these to the Etsy shop.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Glass Tile Graphic Pendant & Ring Tutorial

Here's my latest how-to! For those of you looking for a jewelry making process that is more durable, but relatively non-toxic, I present my Glass Tile Graphic Jewelry. Glass tile over graphics is nothing new, but I have paired that method with a silver plated pendant tray and a silver plated flat ring. The flat ring covers the entire back of the glass tile, making it less susceptible to snapping off, and limiting exposure to moisture. Same goes for the pendant tray.

Judikins DG3 Art Gel is the adhesive that is used, and while it is water soluble, these pieces handle incidental moisture contact very well. When one of these comes out less than perfect, I have to soak the rings for about 15 minutes in water to get them to come apart. I have a pendant that has been soaking for over 24 hours, and while some of the adhesive on the side of the pendants is softened, the glass tile is still stuck fast, with no water seepage into the paper.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Ringy-Dingy y'all!

After a long absence, I once again have some rings in the shop. These are a little different than the last design (more of those are in the works). They use a glass tile instead of resin, and are open on the sides.

Only 6 available, so check them out now!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Downloadable Cut-Out Black Kitty Project

A new free downloadable for ya: A Black Kitty Cat Cut-Out! More colors to follow soon.

Click here to download the PDF.

Step-by-step instructions with photos are available here.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

We know it's a rule, but we know better

You know how you see some things that seem like a minor injustice? Like, say, in a crowd of people when half the crowd is following the rules and the other half is ignoring the rules and benefiting from doing so?

Do you see this sort of thing happening and imagine yourself doing something clever that turns the situation upside down? That your clever act of heroism will suddenly make disadvantaged all those who are gaining advantage by doing whatever they please?

It's not often when I leave the house that I don't see some sort of behavior that breaks rules that are there to keep things fair or safe. I'm sure I break some myself. I try really hard not to, and I try to consider how anything I do might affect those around me. It can be very frustrating as well when one is trying to do the right thing, and you are inundated with example after example of people thinking only of themselves. Just last night, as I stopped at the grocery store, I noticed a pretty good-sized sign that had been placed in the fire lane. It read: No Parking - Fire Lane.

Less than one car length past the sign, I could see the tail end of a silver Porsche. Parked in the fire lane with the driver inside. Now... they probably had to drive right past that sign to park like that. They most likely had seen the sign. But I don't know that they did. In fact, I would venture to say that someone who is that unaware as to think that they don't have to follow the same rules as the rest of us probably was not paying that much attention.

I looked at the sign. I thought, "Maybe I should drag that sign around to the front of the car and leave it there, so this guy can see it. And then he'll feel embarrassed and never park in fire lanes again." But considering the sign had about 80 lbs. of concrete at it's base, I feel pretty sure the message would have been, "I'm stupid enough to expend the energy needed to drag this heavy sign in front of you just to make a point." I have felt stupid in the past after trying to point out someone's inconsiderate behavior. They are not even considering what they are doing, much less doing it for the purpose I suspect and my behavior would be very pointedly meant to grab their attention by treated them poorly.

I really don't think that my efforts would have been all that effective. So, I just let go. Instead of putting a lot of effort into changing this person's behavior, I put much less effort into changing mine. I don't need to care about that person and what they do unless it is truly dangerous or criminal. Little I would do in that situation would be likely to change that person's behavior. All I can do is follow the rules myself. I walked on in the store, and seconds later, I had forgotten what was going on in the fire lane.

So... knowing that I tend to see little "injustices" everywhere, I try to use them as exercises to reduce that tendency.

Everyday, I take each of my children to school. This means everyday, I sit in 3 different car lines. For a while there, I think my wife had to seriously weigh the benefits of letting me drop the kids off (or pick them up). Could a few moments of peace and quite at home be worth the inevitable litany of injustices that I would bring back with me? I would find myself bringing up the car line in conversations. It was becoming a bit much.

Everyday now, I start the day with 3 chances to either get all wrapped up in what people are doing in the car lines, or 3 chances to exercise my ability to ignore people's unconscious behavior. That's something that made what folks are doing easier to stomach, the realization that most of us really are not thinking about what we are doing. We do much of what we do in our daily lives, especially that which is routine, unconsciously.

I still see the behavior, and I still struggle with some of it, but I try not to think about it beyond that notice. I am not truly ignoring it, but I don't carry it home with me. And I remind myself that it is unconscious behavior.

In the middle school car line, there is a certain entrance that the school wants us to use to enter the parking lots. They do not want us to let our kids out anywhere else than the steps in front of the school, under the watchful eye of 2 teachers stationed there to make sure the kids get in safely. You might guess that neither of these two rules is followed by at least half of the parents.

Those of us that do as the school asks spend a much longer time in the car line. There are two reasons for this: One, the kids that are let out in the street and in a second unofficial car line that has developed in another part of the parking lot have to cross through the official car line to get to school. So we get stopped a lot. Two, the cars from the impromptu unofficial car line have to be let back into the flow of traffic that is the official car line.

That's a situation that is just ripe for me to get all twisted up with what these other people are doing. But it is also my opportunity to do the opposite. Instead of grousing and such, I just remind myself that even though I don't think the impromptu car line is fair, it is necessary. The official car line can not handle the volume of kids that have to be dropped off each day. And the wait in the official car line would probably actually be longer if everyone used it. I make sure that my perspective of that other car line is, while maybe not 100% positive, it is a little less negative every day.

Then each day, just to be sure that I take this exercise to heart, I do one other thing that I never used to do. Where the two traffic lines meet. Where I would once have said to myself, "Hah! See if I let you back in!" to the drivers in the other car line. I stop my car and I wave at least one of the other drivers back into the flow of traffic. It feels better than going home and telling my wife about all that negative things I just experienced.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cool Craftster Project: Tiny Halloween Town

I love these little houses by phizzychick! Check them out along with lots of other great projects on

I am awed by people's vision sometimes, and items like these take a strong vision and great skill. You can find phizzychick's work for sale at her Etsy store,

Using judgment for good

As an artist, especially as one with a graphic design background, judgment is a tool I use on a daily basis. So, it can be difficult to try to minimize the "bleed" of this requirement to constantly judge things in my work life. By bleed I mean how the habit or pattern of judging makes its way into my personal life.

I believe that we judge constantly. Situations are judged as good or bad, safe or dangerous, boring or exciting. People are judged the same. So it's a natural tendency we all have. I don't know if people who have to rely on judgment in the workplace have more of a tendency to judge in their personal lives, but I know that for me it is all too easy to slip into the role of judge.

Now, to be clear, I don't see myself as the judge, jury and executioner of every little thought I have about a situation or person. Not that I haven't seen myself in that role at various times of my life. I try very hard now to be conscious that I am judging things, people, places and situations. I then try to remind myself that unless I am using judgment for practical reasons (such as to make decisions at work), I need to stop judging whenever I can.

Judgment makes situations bad, people not worth knowing and your sense of self negative. It makes you less or more than other people. It makes your troubles greater, as it does the faults of others. It makes someone else's views less important or valid, and it makes you right and everyone else wrong.

Not judging allows situations and people to be what they are. An absence of judgment can make your problems manageable, and your own faults and those of others less glaring.

With judgment so ingrained in our day to day lives, it seems impossible to eliminate it. I'm not always successful in doing so. I just try to be aware that I am judging everything. I'm not always successful at that either, but I know I am judging less every time I catch myself doing it.

What I try to do when I catch myself judging situations is remind myself that it is my perception of a situation that determines how good or bad it is. When judging people, I try to turn that spotlight on myself. One can't help but notice what people do, and subsequently assign it a good or bad value. You may even say to yourself, "I would never do that." I find if I try to take what I see and then begin to judge to my own behavior and say, "I have to be more aware of myself doing that same thing", I don't follow through with judging that person or their behavior.

What brought this on? This topic? Yesterday, after my post about how hard it seems to get people to interact, I had to pick my daughter up from school. (And yes, I am aware that judgment played a part in making the observations I made in yesterday's post) I was more so than usual aware of my interactions with people. About half of the folks with whom I made eye contact, smiled and said, "Hi!". The other half were closed off. But that's not what brought this post to mind.

Gotta go further back for that.

Last year, at the end of the school year, my wife and I attended a little picnic for my daughter's class. There was a little girl there whose parent did not attend. She was seated near us. She was quiet and closed off from the rest of the group. I was right next to her, as we ate pizza, and tried to make conversation, as did my wife. She would nod responses, kind of tentatively, but she did not talk.

Later, I mentioned her to my wife, and we had both sensed a sadness in the little girl. That was our judgment. She may have been sad or not. She may just have not cared to really interact with the rest of us. Who knows. She is in my daughter's class again this year.

So, yesterday, as I walked my daughter out to our car, we followed behind that little girl and her mother. Her mother talked on her cell phone the entire time. It was a casual, personal call, not business. She walked many steps ahead of her daughter, with the only communication between the two being an occasional roll of her mother's hand to signal hurry up.

Now, of course, I'm walking along thinking just how crappy that is. But I catch myself. I don't know if this is their relationship in a nutshell. This may be the only moment that the two are not completely engaged with each other.

So, I turned the spotlight on myself. Do I do that? Do I take one of the few moments everyday that my 7-year old and I have where it's just us and waste it? I can't recall taking phone calls instead of interacting with my kids, but I suspect I have. I know that I have spent time thinking about other stuff, when I should have just been there, giving that moment my full attention.

I caught myself again. I had stopped judging that woman's behavior and used it to be more aware of my own behavior. My judgment of her behavior had led to me being more conscious in the future that I shouldn't fill the opportunities I will have to be with my kids with other things. I owe her for that.

Still, I felt bad for the little girl. With this type of interaction, how would she ever be anything but closed off to other people? How would she ever learn to just say, "Hi!"?

As both families entered our cars, the little girl turned, and while her mother went on with her conversation, the little girl gave us a little wave.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Can't you just say, "Hi?"

I find myself asking that (in my head, of course) of other people throughout the school year. It's my response to being thrown in amongst the throngs of parents shepherding their kids to class or attending PTA meetings or class picnics. Here we are, adults, having lived a couple of decades at least. We should have some experience interacting with others, right?

Those of us you that have given birth have been in what must be a far more awkward situation than having to acknowledge another person. Especially one with whom we at least have in common that our children attend the same school. You have had a group of people, some of whom you have never met before, doing all kinds of invasive things to you. You survived that. Could a simple head nod or wave be any more difficult?

One might think that who I am and what I am doing at your kid's school might be of at least passing interest to you. I certainly don't look like I'm heading to a job after dropping my kids off each morning, or like I've come from a job to pick them up. Who is this guy who could use a shave and has time to be at school at 2:30pm in the afternoon? What kind of job could he have that he gets to wear flip-flops, shorts and a t-shirt? Does he even have a kid here?

Hmmm... sounds like I want them to take an interest in me. Sure, that would be nice. It always feels good when someone seems to care about us, or finds us interesting. But really, I just want them to acknowledge the rest of us, return our waves, to give us more than a blank stare or an awkward downcast expression. I just want them to be acknowledged in return, and for us all to benefit from acknowledging each other.

I try to be a happy person, and it often seems that these non-communicative types are deeply unhappy. I try to keep that in mind when I am making all these little judgments in my head about why so many of the parents don't seem to know that there are others of us there. They have a lot on their plates, they are thinking about work, or the disagreement they just had with their husband or wife. Maybe each of us has a limited capacity for being friendly with everything else we have going on. Maybe we have so many people that need things from us that we just don't have anything left for the folks that just happen to travel in the same circles as us.

Okay, so that's a reason for people ignoring each other. Just don't have it in me. Only so much to go around.

The thing is, it really doesn't take much to wave, or nod, or even smile and say "Hi!". And it's amazing what you can get back. For one thing, it spreads a positive feeling of being connected instead of furthering the isolation that I think some people feel. Being acknowledged feels good, and acknowledging someone else feels good, too. For folks like me, who are constantly creating in their heads, imagining people's backstories, the nod each morning can lead to a "Hi!" each morning to eventual conversations. These usually prove my imagined backstory extremely inaccurate. This reminds me that I don't know everything, and makes me less likely to judge people and situations the next time.

Those conversations lead to the exchange of experiences, to a commonality and collective-ness. That feels good. It gives one perspective on one's own life to hear about the lives of others. It brings you into the moment. It gives you another purpose to be there that goes beyond the routine of your day. Maybe you are meant to find out that someone else is going through difficulties that make yours seem insignificant. Maybe you are meant to do the same for someone else. Maybe you will be lucky enough to share with others, or to make someone learn that you can't judge a book by it's cover.

That is an awful lot in return for just saying "Hi!".

Monday, August 24, 2009

Downloadable Cut-Out Owl Project...

Something new we are trying 'round here is free printable download projects. On a regular basis I will post little illustrations that you can download, print, cut out and paste up. These make great projects for kids and grown-ups, too. You can now own your own piece of my art that you help put together.

I am always on the look out for ways that I can share my abilities and knowledge by helping other folks experience making something. These projects are intended to do just that.

The illustrations are created specifically for this series, and can be printed as many times as you like (good for classes and groups). You will need Acrobat Reader, available here, and a color printer. You can use any weight paper you want, but I use a paper heavier than text, but not quite card stock.

Our first project in this series is Owlbert in green. He is a cute little owl who looks great on bulletin boards and is quite at home of fridges as well. My daughter and I used a glue stick to put him together, but you could use double-sided foam tap to give his parts a little more separation. It's a pretty straightforward project: Just cut Owlbert's parts out, and glue him together according to the little line drawing on your printout.

Click here to download the Owlbert PDF.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Your luxury accommodations await...

Spiders and ants included. A week-long stint in the foothills of North Carolina can be yours for free if you'll just take responsibility for 17 kids.

I highly recommend it. You will learn things about yourself, and you will learn things about those kids. And because there are 630+ other kids attending, you will learn a bit about crowds and personal space as well.

You will learn that, in general, rural folk and city folk approach kid control differently. If you are city folk, you may feel a bit ineffectual, like a bit of a weak egghead if you share your campsite with another group that hails from the country, even if that country is only about 25 miles from the heart of your city.

With a rural inflection, a simple but quietly spoken "Boy. What are you doin'?" stops all foolishness, and a "Put that out. Don't do it again." keeps the foolishness from happening again. In the event that it doesn't squash the foolishness, a good long stare from the adult usually does.

In contrast, the city egghead version goes something like this (paraphrased with the hidden meaning of what is actually said added by me):

Adult: "(Insert kid's name here), why are you doing that? Don't do that! It's dangerous!"

Kid: "Well, I'm not doing exactly that. I'm doing a slight variation of that, that's just different enough that you telling me to stop does not exactly apply. So I can continue to do it."

Adult: "Well, I don't agree that what you are doing is significantly different from what I have told you to stop doing, but just the same, the fact that I have told to stop doing something should be enough to make you stop doing whatever it is you are doing."

Kid: (Either evasive silence, or repeated contention that they weren't doing exactly what they were told to stop doing)

And... Scene.

Whenever I attend camping related events that throw together different parenting styles, I inevitably end up feeling a bit ineffective. As much as I want my kids and any kids for which I am responsible to mind what I say, I really don't want them to do so because they are afraid of me.

One of our kids went up to one of those well-minded leaders, the ones that can control their kids with a look and few words. Our kid said, "Wanna see a card trick?" as he held up a deck of cards. The very leader, who all week had been there on the periphery of my vision, as I parented and led my group; Who I felt watching, whether he was or not; Who I thought was probably judging my control over my group, and finding it lacking. He says, "You mean, Poof! You're a pile of sh*t?"

That guy probably learned nothing that week, but he was part of my lesson learned. What else did I learn? Of what else was I reminded?

Well, the kid I worried about was better than expected, to a point. So I learned that even people I have given up on will surprise me. I learned that if an 11-year old can handle everything he brought with him getting absolutely soaked in a rainstorm with an unflappability you don't see in a lot of adults then I can handle things a lot more calmly myself. I was reminded that not letting yourself get overwhelmed has a lot to do with how much you choose to let things overwhelm you. And as much as I enjoyed my week in the woods, I was reminded that I really just love being home.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Them Duggars got nothin' on me

Me, just after climbing the Knob, before I got stung by a humongous ground wasp. The swim test in that lake earlier in the week nearly killed me.

I thought I might call this post "17 kids and counting". It's been harder for me to avoid the large family reality shows lately. They show up everywhere I look. Kate Gosselin and the plus Eight were even in the hall outside The Golden Gallery as they passed by on their way to Caravan Beads. They were on a day trip whilst they were vacationing on nearby Bald Head Island.

Who's to say what I would be doing right now if they had seen the signs for my customizable characters, a la Mot and Dot. Up to my neck in orders?

Well, I have my own big brood a'comin'. An "insta-brood", you might say. On Sunday, I will head into the wilderness with 17 kids for a week long camping experience. I say wilderness. There are trees. And we are sleeping outside. In tents.

It's actually gonna be fun, and I am really looking forward to it. I have known most of these kids for about 6 years. Some I don't know at all, and some I know just a little. Fortunately, I have been to this camp before, so I know my way around. I know where the best plumbed bathrooms are, and a locking shower facility. I'm not sure I could handle 17 kids without that.

I also will have help from 4 other dads. That's fun, too. The hanging out with other dads part. And it spreads around the responsibility for keeping 17 kids alive and out of trouble.

Last year, on this same trip, I was really tested by this one kid. He's a bit of button-pusher, and has a knack for engaging in the most disruptive activity possible at the worst possible time. It's a gift, a talent, no doubt. Of course, every time this kid makes me say I am never gonna do this again, I get some glimpse into why he might behave the way he does. What kind of baggage he has. So I tell myself I will do better next time.

Although, I am up against a genius here. But I do have back-up. Maybe one of our various parenting styles will get through to the kid. I think he just wants to belong, but he mistakes making himself the center of attention for belonging. His antics got so bad last year, that the rest of the group would not let him ride in the passenger van on the way home. He rode with me in our mini-van, and my son, who gave up his chance to ride in the passenger van so that the kid would not have to ride by himself.

I tried talking to the kid on the ride home, but he's pretty good at staying just out of reach. Your questions get vague answers, and you can tell he is not really considering your questions before answering. Getting kicked off the passenger van really affected him, but I could tell he really did not understand that his behavior was making other kids not want to be around him.

Here's hoping that he has grown up some this year, that he feels more a part of things, and that I can do a better job remembering why he might be so hard to handle.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Jewelry Findings Are Back

After a wait that was way too long, Golden Supply Co. on Etsy is an active shop again. It has been very interesting running a supply shop, because the business model is different than from my Etsy art shop. I have learned a lot, and I have made plenty of mistakes.

Buying someone else's product to sell is a very different animal from producing your own product. You can't always control what you have on hand to sell, it takes longer to correct your errors in inventory control, and you don't always have answers to customer's questions.

But...It's well worth it in the end. The whole supply store idea sprung out of the Resin Tutorial Video I did last year. I wanted to share something I was doing with others, to help others experience the creative process.

I soon found out that the findings were not easily available yet online, so I felt a responsibility to make them available. I don't think I fully thought through what taking on that responsibility would entail. So, my plans and systems for the supply store weren't always adequate to deal with everything a supply store makes you deal with.

Hopefully, our re-examination of how we run the supply store has fixed a lot of the problems we encountered over our first year. 2 days ago was the first anniversary of opening the store, by the way. We are striving to offer a significantly reduced turn-around time, and more items in stock. We will be stocking some new items I am very excited about soon.

The video recently reached 100,000 views for the first part. About half those folks that watched the first part continued with the second part. Can't expect to retain everyone for the whole length of a 23 minute video :). We now make our videos shorter if the process allows it.

Thanks to everyone who has watched the video, and to all who have been so patient with us as we went through the growning pains of Golden Supply Co. We look forward to supplying you in the future.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tell us again where you've been...

It's a little funny that, right after starting my series on some people's perception of artists as directionless slackers and on the new wave of business-savvy artists, I would become so slack with maintaining my blog.

I have been staying busy with the transition from the tiny, cramped house (that allowed us to afford to follow my dream of being a working artist) to our new home. I know this house is the space that will allow me to expand the business so that we can get my art out to more people, but I did not anticipate it would take several months to really get settled and get my various Etsy shops back up and running.

Over on the Golden Supply Co. side of things, I have been struggling to get caught up with orders and inventory. I'm pleased to say that I am getting close. The GSC Etsy store, which has been on vacation so I could catch up, is about to re-open. We have had to implement a better inventory control system (many mistakes were made). Hopefully, that system will help us stay better stocked and less likely to sell items we think we have but don't.

Over on, I have stayed busy filling orders from my makeshift office. Our garage, which will be the world headquarters of all things John W. Golden, has been filled to the rafters with the contents of our 2 storage units since we finally cleared those out a few months ago. This weekend, we had the first of several yard sales to start shedding a lot of those contents. I can almost see the space where the desks will go. Maybe in a few weeks.

There are some exciting things brewing concerning my art. A few new opportunities are developing which should mean more exposure for my art. I'll let you know about those as the opportunities are realized.

At home, we are dealing with one loose tooth (not mine), whose owner is reluctant to let anybody get it out, a change from kid-size hangers to grown-up hangers for the kid who sold off all his Pokemon cards at the yard sale, and a little less getting into everything by our youngest. My wife is finally getting to unpack all the art and such that went into boxes during our stay in the little house. I've built a fence, did some minor organization of tools and such in the garage, but mostly I have been shipping packages.

I always try to look for lessons in life's situations, and lately the situations have been pretty pleasant, and I admit that I don't pay as much attention to the lessons when things are going smoothly. The worst problem I have had lately is that my back went out yesterday morning (first time that it has done that). That laid me out for the day (I got off easy I'm told), which happened to be the day of the yard sale. I was carrying (with the help of a friend) my fiberglass darkroom sink out into the yard on the chance that it might catch the eye of someone who still maintains a film darkroom.

We got about halfway to the street when suddenly I felt a sharp pain about 2/3 up my back. I could not hold my arms up, and could only get relief from the pain by bending over with my hands on my knees. Any attempt to straighten up brought the pain back. It felt as if something were pushing down on my shoulders and creating the pain right on my spine. I slouched into the house and spent most of the day laying on icepacks. A couple of times, I was able to stand up straight, and I was able to get myself to the ibuprofen and the bathroom if needed, but it was a quite a struggle.

This morning I did not think I would be able to get out of the bed. Most of last night, I was barely able to to roll on to my side or on to my back due to the pain. I managed to get up though and with a lot of heat packs, was able to get moving and get some work done today. It still hurts, but it's manageable. I don't like to take painkillers or muscle relaxers, so it's grin and bear it.

I have had lower back pain since college. I used to have to lower 300lb. boxes of Arches watercolor paper by hand off the back of a semi when I worked for Cheap Joe's Art Stuff in its first few years of existence. That plus some pretty bad posture while sitting, and a rear-end car collison in 2002 left me with chronic sciatic problems. Many times over the years, I had cursed my lower back pain, and a few times I have been sidelined from it, but the pain yesterday was far worse than any I have felt before. I almost felt like I could not breathe when standing.

Here's the thing though - if not for those years of living with back pain, I think yesterday's pain would have dropped me to my knees. I would probably still be flat on my back, and I would probably be whacked out of my mind on painkillers. And as a working artist, I can't afford that. All those years of pain helped prepare me for the worst physical pain I have felt in my life. And it helped me to get going again.

Oh, wait a minute... there's a lesson in that.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The artist as a directionless slacker... pt. 1

Don't ask me why, but I watched a holiday movie a year or two back where the main character was an artist-type. I think I secretly like bad, cheesy television because it makes me feel like I have taste. I don't like it for the quality, but for the fact that it makes me feel like I can identify bad quality. Backwards, I know.

But the way the artist-type character was depicted made me realize that the screenwriter's perception of the artist (and more so the person who wants to make a living from their art, and not more traditionally stable occupations) was that of a directionless slacker. All the other characters, except for the reluctant love interest, thought of the artist as one who could not figure out what they wanted to do with their life. Is that how the world sees us? Perhaps the writer(s) lived the situation before writing it into a movie. I don't really think that was the intended message of the movie: If everyone around the artist-type can just suffer watching all that wasted potential long enough, a straight-laced business type will eventually come along and take the artist off our hands.

As I look around these days, I think that business type has arrived. Not in the form of a significant other who takes the edge off the drifting artist, but in the form of the Artisan Entrepreneur. So, it's not in the form of some outside force or influence, but part of the artist-types themselves.

Artists are creative thinkers, and creative thinking is not always valued in the traditional workplace. So the artist-type doesn't always fit well in some traditional workplaces. They are square pegs trying to fit in round holes. If they want to be happy in their job, they often have to either find a (usually) lower paying job that requires little more than showing up and doing what you are told, or they have to find work in one of the accepted artist-type positions (see Graphic Artist, Copy Writer, Illustrator, etc.). The former type of job is more easily found, but worries the artist-type's circle of friends that the artist-type will never reach their full potential. The latter type of job exists occasionally in the traditional corporate world, but are more readily available in the creative corporate world of design firms and the like.

Seems there were always freelancers (Copy Writers, Illustrators, Designers) who liked the freedom of setting your own hours, having some input in what you create, etc. An early version of today's artisan entrepreneur. If you go that route, you're bound to learn more than a little bit about running a business.

Seems there have long been quite a few artists who could make their living by creating great art, and commanding high prices for it. But it also seems that route has often required someone else with business sense to manage and guide that career. Another route where the artist is bound to develop a business sense over the years.

But the Artisan Entrepreneur differs a little. They may have been the freelancer, and they may still be one. They may also have done the work-a-day job, and may still be doing that, too. For one reason or another, they are trying to move on from that. They may want more control over what they produce. It's a direction which does not guarantee success (not that the others mentioned do either), and in many cases that I have seen, you start out without really knowing the ropes.

I've done the freelance thing, and I have done the design firm thing, and I have done the in-house corporate design department thing. I've also done the day job that pays the bills. All of those jobs taught me something about business, which positioned me to make decisions in my latest iteration as working artist. I think all Artisan Entrepreneurs draw on their past work experience to some extent. But they also have to use their creative way of thinking to further their business, and they often do so in unexpected ways (that's the entrepreneur part). They also use their imagination and a pretty strong belief in their own ability to make a go of it.

To be continued...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I just can't do all this... Wait a minute... Yes I can... Stop talking to yourself...

Sometimes I have to ask myself if I seek out a schedule that is overloaded. Like I can not stand to be idle. Like I attract the hectic and challenging situations in which I find myself.

"Well, you do, you know"
, says myself.

9 years of freelancing (and the years prior of full-time employment) conditioned me to be able to work 20 hour days. I don't recommend it, but after a while of burning the midnight oil, I believe your body gets accustomed to the lack of sleep. And once you are conditioned to be awake, it seems you will be, whether you need to be or not.

Since stopping the freelance work and doing the art thing full-time, the hours got slightly better and the stress level went down. As my art business has ramped up over the last two years, and as I opened another shop to supply folks with the findings I use in my rings and video tutorials, the hours necessary to stay on track in both businesses increased, and the stress level spikes a bit every once in a while.

Most of the stress comes from making people wait for their purchase, and more often than not I put it on myself. To not let myself get stressed about a delay in an order seems like I am not giving that customer's order proper attention. Folks are great about being understanding and most times exceedingly patient.

From time to time (see Day to Day, or daily basis), I say to myself, "I just can't do all this". Though I have known for a while that if I tell myself such things that I am ensuring that I won't be able to do it all, I still do. It's only recently that I have begun to catch myself and to say, "I can do all this". Yes, I talk to myself. A lot. It's not like I buy myself 2 cups of coffee so that the 2 me's can each have one while we sit down and have a real conversation at the coffee shop. Yet.

What I try to remember these days, more than any thing else, is that none of what I deal with is truly a problem. I am so fortunate to have a business with stress to worry about. I truly believe that if I was still freelancing, or even full-time at a design firm, I would be facing down-sizing or a complete lack of projects. It is by pure good fortune that I am in the position I am in right now. Sure, I have to consider every day that I might sell no art, but I really believe that with the reach of the web, I can continue to find customers. I just have to make sure that my reproductions are affordable and continue to do things that put my name and my work out there.

I gave up long ago trying to understand why people connect with my ideas and images, and now just count it as a blessing that my art continues to connect. That's really all I can hope for business-wise, as that is what supports my art business. It is a job, with stress and problems, but if you have a job without stress and problems, you don't have a job.

So, on any given day, one might find me down on the capacity I have to do it all, or one might find me thinking I have it all under control. I just have to remember that I need to just be happy that I am being found by you and many others. And to hope that I am not talking to myself when you find me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Dog... for the White House and for me!

Every once in a while, I can get another dog done. The list of requested breeds is long, but Portuguese Water Dog is near the top. This breed is a lot better known than it was even a few months ago, which I expect will means lots more options for PWD-themed merchandise.

I personally look at that as a good. We own a Wire Fox Terrier, and you don't find that one very often on the dog keychain rack.

This one is in the Etsy store.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Value You Can't See

As a self-managed working artist, one has to make many daily decisions based on the value of things. One have to ask one's self is one thing worth doing over another thing. Can I possibly make my money back on this advertising? The questions may be phrased differently, but the choice for me often comes down to: "What has the most value to what I hope to achieve?"

It can be difficult to make these decisions, because the face value of something can be far lower than its hidden value. I find that it's easier for me to be more confident when making these decisions if I keep in mind that everything I do to add value to my art business builds on what I have already done. More importantly, I really can't accurately judge what will be the value of any action, judgment or dollar spent.

Case in point, a .20¢ listing fee on Etsy. The face value is .20¢ that buys you a 4-month listing on Etsy. At one time, a hidden value of the .20¢ was 5-10 minutes of exposure on the front page of your category. That exposure is not as likely to happen now, but it does not mean that there isn't some exposure value in listing or renewing a listing. Renewing listings made it possible for me to establish a presence on Etsy. But, Etsy was far less populated then, and it takes a lot more renewing to make a splash now. It may not worth it for some, but it always will be for me because of the way I see the value of the .20¢.

There is at least .60¢ in listing fees that I have spent on Etsy that have had immeasurable value.

The first .20¢ was about 2 years ago. I listed one of my dog series. That listing was seen by a publishing company. In fact, one of the largest fine art reproduction companies around. As a teenager, working in a frame shop, I can remember looking through this company's catalog. That listing led to a licensing agreement with said publishing company. That agreement has led to my work being seen on major retail websites, in catalogs and the like. That agreement has allowed me to continue making art on my terms, the art I want to make, while putting my work in front of a larger audience that I could never hope to reach on my own. That agreement allows me to spend my days working as an artist.

The second .20¢, and the third .20¢ were spent within days of each other. I was contacted through Etsy by two major catalog companies directly to have my work sold in their pages. Without my publishing agreement, I probably would not have been able to even consider these opportunities. Running my Etsy shops fills my days as it is. It would be murder to try to fill catalog orders as well. Or maybe it wouldn't. Me judging situations again, but I am pretty sure it would be more work than I can handle.

I can go on, as I am sure a lot of us could if we sat and thought about it, about little things we have done that blossomed into much larger things. Sure, everything business decision I made before I relisted the dog, or the By Order of the Managment Sign, or the Tin Toy Box Art led to my being found by the right person in the right place at the right time. I probably didn't even consider to what those particular relistings might lead. It's part of my daily routine, something I don't really consider beyond, "Well, these 3 pieces will look nice together", etc.

The point is, in the midst of the myriad of decisions I make each day, some expensive, some not, it has sometimes been the littlest, least expensive decisions/actions that have nudged my work into to just the right spot to be seen by someone who can help me to continue making my living as an artist.

I always hope that each .20¢ I spend to list or renew will come back to me as a sale. But it's exciting to think that I never know what I am gonna get.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

And all the obstacles will disappear...

I have to say, again, that these last few weeks in our current home are dragging. I knew they would. Maybe I should have told myself they would fly by. Maybe by "knowing" that they would drag, I am making them drag. I fully believe it is our perceptions that define situations more so than the reality of those situations.

I think this is a test to see how well I can live in the present, rather than that magical future several weeks away. I keep telling myself, once we get into the new house, I'll have help in the Etsy shops. I'll be able to stay on top of so many things that I can't right now. I am so telling myself that once this thing happens, everything will be right in my world.

How's that for setting myself up for a let down? Certain things will have the potential to be much better. The shops ought to be better managed with two people putting their efforts toward that goal. Makes sense. But there will also be a 4-year old interjecting herself into the process, and if I don't just accept that as part of the new way of life, I'm bound to be disappointed each time it happens.

One thing I know will be different: I will have more time to create new art. Okay... I don't know that. And really, I know from experience that every time in the past when I have thought that a change being made would lead to more creative time, it has not panned out. But I am hopeful anyway.

Hopeful is good, right? As long as I don't base my happiness on any of these positive changes I expect to happen actually happening. It's hard not to do that, but I have to be okay with the positive changes not taking place, too.

One of the things I learned over the last two years was not to judge situations. If you judge a situation as bad, it will be bad. If you judge it to be an obstacle to what you really want, it will be an obstacle. Saying I have learned it and actually practicing it all the time are two different things. Many times I have lamented our current living situation. Too small, too noisy. No room for a home studio. Etc., etc. But there have been many good things about it as well.

I have seen that living situation as the biggest obstacle to taking the next step, to taking my business to the next level. But I have also seen it as the very thing that has made taking that next step possible. It has been both, depending on how I felt each day.

Now, after 3 years of waiting, this situation that I struggle not to judge each day will finally change. If I can just make it through the next few weeks. I'd like to imagine that the new situation will be so great that I won't feel compelled to judge it on a daily basis, that when we sign those papers, get those keys and set foot in our new home, all obstacles to what we want from life will disappear. But that's judging the situation. Instead, I need to accept that no matter what the situation, even if it seems an interminably long wait or new living arrangements that don't live up to my lofty expectations, that is exactly where we are supposed to be. And all the obstacles will disappear.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Leaving the nest for a bigger nest...

Way back in the day, before Pottery Barn Kids and such, when my wife and I were outfitting my young son's bedroom in a robot and space theme, we had a hard time finding robot-themed artwork. So I made some, and then I made a whole lot more. It's exciting to me that in the interim, more ways to find other robot/space art have appeared and grown. There is a lot of great robot-themed stuff out there.

Now, as we prepare to leave the tiny abode we have been in for the last 3 years, one of the things we are looking forward to is a bedroom for each kid. So we need some new artwork. I leave those decisions to my wife, and it just so happens that when I told her I had decided I wanted to do some new bird collage prints, she told me she had decided that our youngest daughter's room would feature bird art.

Our kids have lived for quite some time now within pinching and kicking distance of each other. It is my hope that these close quarters created a closeness that my kids might not have had if they had spent that same amount of time in the, "everyone with their own space" arrangement of a newer, larger home. I know that I am looking forward to everybody being able to separate when needed. I think most of the chaos in our home comes from the kids not being able to get away from each other.

So...why birds? I've already created a lot of bird art, and there is plenty of great bird art out there. Why am I suddenly drawn to birds again?

Well, here's what I think is happening. I really do think ideas find me, rather than I come up with them in a vacuum. Sometimes it's a response to what's happening in my life, sometimes it has to do with my affection for something.

If I look at what is going on in my life: We are leaving our little house, our nest if you will, for bigger digs. My girls will sleep in a room by themselves for the first time in their lives. They are growing up, and we are pushing them out of the nest they have known for so long. It's just a tiny push, but it's a push just the same. One girl, the younger, is excited to have her own room. The other, our middle kid, is excited too, but a little nervous about being by herself at night.

My oldest kid, my son, is a bird in this scenario, too. But not a tiny little scared though excited one like the girls. See, the day we close on the new house, I have to get over there and put up a fence and get a start on all things we want to do before we move in. It's a finely orchestrated plan that requires me to work quickly, with as little delay as possible. That same day at 4:00pm, my son's Scout Troop is supposed to go on a mountain backpacking trip 3 or 4 hours away. It is a trip he needs to go on to stay on track with advancement and attendance requirements.

He's not yet been camping by himself. I'm a leader in his Troop, so I usually attend outings. I try to stay out of his way on trips, because I know that the kid who goes on these trips by himself has a different experience than the kid whose parent tags along. I know that, eventually, he will have to go on trips without me.

So it looks like life may be trying to tell me that it's time to start pushing my son out of the nest. It certainly is setting up the scenario where I will have to decide whether or not to do it, while limiting my options for deciding against it. I would have a hard time deciding not to go, if it weren't for everything that we will have on our plate. It will still be hard to let him go.

So there you go. The whole bird thing, retro-fitted into my increasingly grown-up life. Someone asked me once why I thought people are so drawn to birds. Her theory was that we wish we could fly. My theory is that I wish they wouldn't.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Some people just have it... but you can tell they worked at it too

Image © Harry Stooshinoff

Wanted to tell you folks about a fellow Etsy artist whose work we love around here. Harry Stooshinoff is an artist and teacher living north of Lake Ontario. His work just blows me away! It is loose and precise all at once, and the minimal detail he uses is amazing.

I heard it said once that you know a painting is done when you would add nothing to it and take nothing away. His work has a life to it that seems it could only come from a quick gestural interpretation of a scene, yet each piece is so precise in its composition. No fussing and tweaking is apparent.

When you see work like that, you just know that the artist is one that has an innate ability to capture a scene, and distill it down to only the elements most necessary to give the viewer what they need to recognize what's there.

It's obvious that Harry is a much practiced and skilled artist. You could not do what he does without great knowledge, understanding, practice and control of your medium.

Do yourself a favor and check out his Etsy shop,

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Changes and Ends

Got some new artwork in the Etsy shop, 2 space patrol craft box art images and a new robot named Lois.

So, in a previous post, I alluded to changes and things ending. What's changing and ending?

Well, in a little over a month, we will be moving house. 3 years ago, we simplified. By that, I mean we made our lives smaller and less expensive. We have been living in a tiny little 1920's cottage house since then. We have owned that house for about ten years, and had kept it as a rental house while we flipped another house. We moved back in 3 years ago so that we could meet the requirements for selling the house without having to pay capital gains tax. It has been a tight fit, especially as the kids have grown, but it has been a good exercise for us. Dumb luck put us in a very manageable lifestyle for the current economic climate, so we are very fortunate to be able to buy in the current home market.

Part of our reason for simplifying was so that I could attempt to make my living solely off my art. My family has accommodated this dream, as it has made me a much happier and accessible person. Not so much, "I can't do that right now because I have to work." My full-time job has been being an artist for about a year and a half now.

Moving into a smaller space meant that my studio had to be moved to a separate location. This makes it difficult to work on shipping, etc. outside of the 9-5 workday. Selling your work through the internet means that people everywhere can buy at all hours. It also means that they will have questions at all hours. I can't answer some of the questions until I get into the studio, and that means folks have to wait, and they can't buy until I have answered their question. Having a studio at home again would make answering questions immediately possible again.

Sometime in mid-May, I will have all my Etsy shops operating from our new home, and I will have the added benefit of my wife, Lee, being on site. She's amazing with organization, and somehow, when I can have her involved, it takes a few hours to do what takes me a whole day by myself. Hopefully, that means more hours in the day to correspond with customers, quicker turnaround times on orders, and more time to create new work.

Our time in the little house is ending. For for 2 of the last 3 years, we have said, "It's just 2 years, we can make it." For the last year we have said, "Okay, we have been here 2 years, we can move now." Now we only have 1 month left. The 3 years sort of went by in a flash, but this last month seems to crawl. I know when I look back in a month, it will seem like the past month flew by as well, but it's a challenge to know that what you have been working towards for three years is within your grasp. But if that's the worst of what we have to go through to complete this change, I'm happy with that.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ABC's Cupid: A Print Giveaway!

Photo: ABC/Kevin Foley

Several months ago, I was contacted by someone from ABC's Cupid series to have 10 or so of my pieces used on sets of the show.

On Tuesday, March 31st, the show will premiere at 10/9c. I am having a giveaway to celebrate my art appearing on national TV. The first person that contacts me with a sighting of my art on Cupid will get a free print of their choice from my Etsy shop! Gotta have details like where you saw it: Trevor Pierce's apartment, the bar he works in, the psychiatrist's office, the psychiatric ward, etc. Also need to know what piece of artwork you saw.

I don't know what episode(s) the artwork will appear in, or even which sets, so you may have to watch a few episodes before you see anything. Giveaway will run until we have a winner.

Cupid is a remake of the cult favorite series of the '90s, from series creator Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars). It is described as such by the ABC website:

"Trevor Pierce is a larger than life character who insists that he is Cupid, the Roman god of love. He claims that he has been sent to New York City by Zeus to bring 100 romantically challenged couples together before being allowed to return to Mt. Olympus. His persistence eventually lands him in a mental institution.

Three months later, Trevor is found to be harmless to himself and others and is released -- but under certain conditions. Placed under the care of psychiatrist and self-help author Dr. Claire McCrae, he must attend her singles group therapy sessions on a regular basis so that she can monitor his progress.

Trevor returns to his rented room upstairs from the struggling Tres Equis Cantina, owned by Felix Araiza and his sister, Lita. In exchange for rent, Trevor becomes a bartender and creates an atmosphere for singles looking for lasting love. His ideas, such as half-price margarita nights and mariachi karaoke duets, could help him bring couples together and ultimately take him closer to the day that he gets to return to Mt. Olympus.

No one believes Trevor's story, but everyone finds him to be quite charming. Although he possesses a great knowledge of Greek mythology, Claire finds that Trevor constantly interferes and contradicts her when it comes to her pragmatic style of helping lonely hearts find their soul mates. In true love, Claire believes it's all about friendship and mutual respect; for Trevor, heat and passion conquer all. Only time will tell who will win this battle for love.

Cupid stars Bobby Cannavale (Will & Grace) as Trevor, Sarah Paulson (The Spirit, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) as Claire, Rick Gomez (What About Brian) as Felix and Camille Guaty (Las Vegas) as Lita."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wow! Technology is amazing!

So... I just downloaded a little blogging app for my iphone. Now I can post to my blog anytime and I don't have to wait until I have a free moment at home or at work. I will be a blogging machine.

I say all that knowing full well that I will not be blogging any more frequently. It's more about having something to write about than any ease of use or having time on my hands. But I will have something to write soon! We are in the process of looking for new digs for both the Golden empire and the Golden family. Time has come to put it all in the same place. I can't do it all myself anymore. Gotta take advantage of that free family labor.

So, why a picture of what's probably a 300-400 year old oak tree all chopped up and being carted away? I don't know. I hated to see it destroyed. I don't know where came from or where it was going. It could have been destroyed naturally. But it reminded me that everything changes and that all things eventually end.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Chasing my youth...

Over the last year, my son has taken increasing interest in skateboarding. This is not the often passing interest that little boys can take in many things. Not the way he is into Bakugan the week before his birthday, and then when a relative buys him something Bakugan for his birthday, he's not into it anymore.

No, not like that. Now he skates every day. And he asks me to do it with him. Cool. I can do that, but I can't do that. I have this to do or that to do right now. So, he goes out on the back deck and practices his Ollie. When I can, usually on the weekends, I'll take him somewhere we can skate together.

Ten years ago, when we moved back to Wilmington (hometown of both my wife and me), I thought to myself, wouldn't it be interesting to raise my son where I was raised? To surround him with similar interests and activities as I was around? To see if those interests and surroundings shape him the way they had shaped me?

Some things are different. He went to an elementary school that pushed him harder academically, and as a result, he has made straight A's in middle school. Me? I made a B in second grade, and it was all down hill after that until I failed Trig in 11th Grade (I rebounded in college).

He plays guitar and sings a good bit. I grew up surrounded by guitars and various instruments with a musician father and I did not take a real interest in playing music until college. He already plays as well as I did at my first public performance.

His art is highly detailed and while it once held the place in his life that skating now holds, it's no longer a daily pursuit, but he does draw a good bit most weeks. He was selling his work around age 8. I was just about his age now (11) when I started to sell my work.

Gone are the days of action figures and costumes. His mom packed those away this week, as they have not found their way out of their chests and storage containers in some time. If he is not actually skating now, he is either watching it on TV and DVD, or playing at it on the Playstation or the Wii.

I worried that he might be relegated to the same experience in skating as I was. I loved it more than I was good at it. I was not bold enough to attempt what many of my contemporaries were pulling off. I could do enough to enjoy it, but not enough to excel at it. I always wanted to do more, but I feared what failing at doing more would most certainly bring. Pain, occasional embarrassment, possibly missing teeth, etc.

I took him to our local skate park, somewhere I won't even go yet, as my limited skills are very rusty. I had barely signed the waiver for him to skate, when, in the midst of skaters far more skilled than either one of us, I watched him walk out to the lip of a large bowl, and caught my breath as he proceeded to drop in. He didn't pull it off, but he didn't break his neck either. That's him in a nutshell. Much more confident than I ever was. Sure that he can do whatever he attempts. Eventually.

I stopped myself from shouting out to him. From telling him not to drop in just yet. I knew that I would embarrass him more with that warning than any fall in front of the other skaters would. I knew his lack of skill we be evident, but if he was okay with that, them I would be too. I knew that he could get up from a fall, and try again. That the trying again after a fall would earn him more respect there than never trying would.

He fell a lot more that day, but he got out there. While his skating was timid and tentative a lot of the time, getting out there and trying was the big trick of the day. Skating is a good lesson for that. It's as much what you are willing to try as it is what you succeed at that determines how you see yourself and how others see you.

On daily basis, I struggle with feeling like my kids aren't listening to me. It's a battle getting them to do or not do. There's not often a call for being encouraging, as much as there is a call for discouraging this or that behavior or action. But every once in a while, there is that opportunity to calm a fear, or point out strengths, erase a doubt. And sometimes even then, it doesn't seem like they are listening. But we have always told them that they can do it, and if they find themselves failing, that it's important to keep trying.

Watching my son repeatedly practice his Ollie over and over when I can't clear 2 inches on my own (yet), or drop in to a bowl when I know it's beyond his skill level, I know that he has been listening when it really counts. I know that he is already better at most of what he does than I was even 7 years after the age he is now.

So, I think of myself out there, riding my skateboard amongst a bunch of people half my height. I wonder, "Am I chasing my youth?" It's pretty far gone by now. I won't catch it. Riding a piece of wood with a bunch of kids won't make me young again. But for now, it's the best place to be reminded of so many things. To keep trying, to get back up from a fall, and that there comes a time in every parent's life when it's time to stay quiet and see if you've taught those things to your kids.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Another blog post about how I'm not posting enough on my blog? Or... I'm always where I'm s'pposed to be

Okay, so I promise not to say how long it has been since I posted, or how I should post more, but really...

I really do wish I was here more often and sharing much more meaningful posts than the occasional new work post. Sometimes that's what it seems life is being reduced to though: I listed this, I'm packing packages, etc. That's a big part of making the web a big part of the way you sell your work. Chasing online sales by creating a presence everywhere you can. Twitter, Facebook, Blog, re-list, repeat.

I truly know how fortunate I am to be creating for a living. It's a process that finds its ways to remind you that there cannot be good times without bad, or bad without good.

Over the last year, my wife's mother, Jan, found it harder and harder to breathe. Despite multiple check-ups, nothing was ever found to be the cause until this past Christmas Eve. Her primary care physician (the same one who responded to her multiple office visits to determine a cause for the breathing and other problems with an exasperated and aggravated, "Well...what do you want me to do about it?") had a member of the office staff call and let us know that the diagnosis was most likely ovarian cancer. To her credit, the doctor had tearfully told her in person the week before that cancer was likely the culprit. But that previous office visit was the last time that doctor saw her. The doctor was there but not available to see her patient on following visits. We're all busy, right?

Over the next 24 days, the preliminary diagnosis was confirmed by pathology, and treatment began. She was hospitalized at first, while treatment focused on what was thought to be blood clots in her lungs, and reducing fluid in her abdomen (a symptom of advanced Ovarian Cancer).

Her breathing became easier with the fluid gone, but there was debate about the clots in the lungs. While that can be a symptom of active cancer, her pulmonologist felt that it was not clots, but tumors. Her trip home was brief, as the fluid returned and her breathing got worse, and she was re-admitted to the hospital. Seven days later, she was gone. The cancer had spread to her lungs.

On the evening of January 17th, she just stopped breathing. She had already said she did not want any more procedures and did not want to be resuscitated. I was standing in the lobby of Indochine, the always hopping local Thai restaurant, waiting for take out. We had left the hospital about an hour before. 5 minutes prior, I had talked to my sister-in-law, who was spending the night in Jan's room. There was little or no change in Jan's condition. The the call came that we needed to get to the hospital as soon as we could. We raced across town, through several red lights, but we were too late.

We think she held on until most of the family had gone for the night. She constantly told us to go home in the last few days, to stop worrying about her.

A few days before she passed, I was waiting for the doctor (the lung guy, not her Primary Care) to check in on Jan. I had stopped even trying to get any work done. I was fortunate to realize that this situation called for me to do anything and everything that I could to make this easier for my wife and her siblings and for my children. Two years ago I would not have been able to recognize that. I would have been stressed about work and how much I was getting behind, and I just would not have been available to my family.

She was sleeping, and the room was growing dark. My wife had just gone home after waiting all day for a doctor, any doctor, to come through so that we could find out something more about Jan's prognosis. At that point, we still did not know whether she was going to make it or not.

Jan woke up and called me over. She told me I had been a good son-in-law. I don't remember what I said. When I told my wife later what Jan had said, my wife started to cry. "She knows she's going", she said.

The doctor never showed, but that was fine. I know that's not really why I was there that night.

So, there was a lot of bad this past January, but a lot of good as well. There is a big hole in our lives where Jan used to be. Personally, I was lucky enough to truly experience being where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing. I spent a large part of my free time over the last few years learning about that, and now I know what that feels like. I never once thought I needed to be at work instead. My son finally learned to do an Ollie, my wife is learning that she will be able go on without her mother in her life, my oldest daughter learned a lot about loss, and our youngest daughter taught us all that we can be sad for our loss, but we should be happy for Jan.

My business/professional life kept going without my full attention. Lots of folks had to wait longer than they should have to receive their purchases, but they were all very understanding. A lot of the things I have been working on career-wise over the last year came to fruition. Catalogs came out, major retailers began carrying my work, other major retailers are considering carrying my work, etc. All great things, things that make me feel good about what I have done as an artist.

But I feel so much better that with all that going on, all I cared about is what I needed to be doing as a husband, father and son-in-law.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New in the shop this week: Conversation Heart Collages. I started on these images about 3 years ago, and finally finished them up this week. They are on Etsy for now.