Thursday, October 10, 2013

Oracle Deck Kickstarter: Part 1

I am not sure just yet how many parts this series of blog entries will have, but I've been asked by several people to share some tips and insight now that my first self-published oracle deck is a real, tangible thing.

I've been asked specifically where I got the cards printed.  I had a very unhappy experience with the company I used, and even though they fixed it, I won't be ordering from them again.  The company that I used was Printer's Studio (  They make it sound as if they are based in the United States, but they are not.  They are based in China and much to my dismay, my cards arrived from China.  They did a great job, but the problem with this is that I may end up having to pay import taxes and I wasn't expecting or planning to do that.

They also packaged everything very badly.  The first box they sent disintegrated during transit and arrived missing around 30 or more decks of cards, with several decks damaged.  After several late-night calls from China, they promised to send me another box of cards in time for DragonCon.  They did do this, and I was very happy with the product, but I am still miffed about the sneaky importing and feel that they are intentionally lying and presenting themselves as if they are made in America.  I also was not able to order boxes for my cards from them, which meant I had to go to another company for that.  I would have rather worked with fewer companies, but the shipping charges were already steep (now we know why) so it's probably a good thing given how it all turned out, that I worked with someone else for the other components.

Read the rest of this entry at

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dragon*Con Part 3: Bone Adventure in Bonaventure

I grew up in an old Victorian coal mining town, with one of the most organized historic cemeteries in the United States.  I blame this for my odd fascination with cemeteries.  I don't find it so odd, really, but other people tell me it's strange.  I've always loved ghost stories, statues, and quiet, overgrown places, so to me it seems fairly normal.  And visiting Bonaventure?  Well, that's been a dream since I found out about its existence.

I never really knew how I would get there, though.  I didn't know anyone in the area, and driving across the country to visit a cemetery sounds a little crazy.  But then I had the weird fortune of ending up married to a Georgian, and we planned our trip to Atlanta to visit his parents and go to Dragon*Con.  Savannah is 4-5 hours from Atlanta, but that's not far to go when you've already driven across the country, right?  I'm also working on a project for which I needed reference materials, and Bonaventure was perfect.  So, camera in hand, off to Savannah, Georgia we went!

Nothing about Georgia was very spectacular.  It's green and pretty, but no greener or prettier than my hometown in Washington, and the trees in Georgia are very short.  Nothing about it really captured my heart.

And then there was Savannah.  I only spent about 24 hours in Savannah, but I will remember them forever.  Everything there was gorgeous.  I wish I'd taken more pictures of just things in general in Savannah, but it was kind of a rush trip with the main focus being Bonaventure.  We stayed in this gorgeous boutique hotel, the foundation of which turned 201 years old this year.  The hotel was called The Olde Harbour Inn, and I highly recommend it.  Here's a picture I took on the walkway leading to our hotel room at night:
Here's a link to their website, in case you are planning a trip to Savannah, or just want to read about this haunted hotel: Click!

Is it haunted?  Uhmm, maybe?  One of the alarms in our room went off in the middle of the night.  The hotel is situated on a weird cobbled street called Factors' Walk.  There is a huge drop-off from the sidewalk above Factors' Walk, and people have fallen and died.  The railings around our room all say to be careful, watch your step, and so on.  It's a bit spooky, and you are very aware that one wrong step and you could be splattered on the cobblestone below.  Factors' Walk also has quite a history.  All of the slaves that were brought through Savannah walked down Factors' Walk, and its darkness and massive retaining walls along the street have provided the perfect setting for robbers and rippers to stalk their victims throughout Savannah's history.

I realized on the way there that I had left my pencils and sketchbook in our car in Atlanta.  Some quick Google-ing revealed that there was a Dick Blick store TWO TENTHS of a mile from our room.  Seriously?  Could this place be more perfect?  We walked down there after checking into the hotel and I promptly blew $200 in 10 minutes.  Like a boss.

We asked for restaurant suggestions and they suggested a restaurant where it turned out we were going.  My in-laws really wanted to show us Tybee Island, so we drove out there to see the sights.
Tybee Island is like a whole other world to me.  At first, it seemed not all that different from the coast I am used to.  And then we went to dinner at The Crab Shack.  It wasn't the best seafood I've ever had in my life, but it was the best seafood experience I've ever had!  It is hands down the most bizarre restaurant I've ever been to.  It's all pretty much outside.  You eat on a deck, or in a room that is basically just mosquito netting.  We ate on the deck, but not before visiting all of the alligators (yes, I am completely serious).  We only counted 19 alligators, but they claim to have almost 80.

We ate dinner in the company of Tootsie, a very fat stray cat who they caught, spayed and vaccinated, and then released.  She never left, along with 20-something other cats, and she lives a very hard life begging for table scraps in addition to her kibble.  As soon as we were done eating, she was off to beg at another table.

They also have a building for rescued birds.  The birds range from fairly mundane small pets to enormous tropical birds.  Some of them were abused, some had owners who passed away.  Many of them have lost or pulled out their own feathers to the point that their feathers will not regrow (stress causes birds to do this), but many of the birds were still willing to pose for me.

The drive back to Savannah was punctuated by the most spectacular thunderstorm I've ever seen.  I have never seen so much lightning in my life.  It was incredible.  I had hoped it would pass over our hotel and I would get to watch it through the skylights above our bed, but no such luck.

The next morning we were off to Bonaventure.  Finally!  It was crazy hot and stupidly humid, but I still walked around a fairly good chunk of Bonaventure.  I still haven't seen all of it, so I hope to go back some day.  Here are just a few of my favorite shots from Bonaventure, taken with my cruddy little pocket camera.

I'm not sure how long we were in Bonaventure.  Maybe a couple of hours.  I took so many more photos, but I haven't had a chance to edit them all yet.  I got a lot of material for my project, lots and lots of reference photos, and a ton of inspiration.  I'm sure you'll see Bonaventure popping up in my work a lot for a while, and its influence probably for much longer.

Before we left town, we ate lunch at Moon River Brewing Company.  This restaurant is supposedly so haunted the ghosts won't let them finish renovations.  By the end of our short stay in Savannah, it almost seemed like just another ghost story to add to the pile, but the food was delicious, and I am not sure I have ever seen an organic hamburger on a menu for $8 anywhere else.  So if you're in town, definitely give it a try!  I am not sure anything in Savannah can compare to the bizarreness of The Crab Shack, though.

And that concludes my trip to Georgia!  Phew!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dragon*Con Part 2: So. Many. People.

Note: The purpose of these posts is to record notes for myself and share information that might be helpful to other artists.  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

The art show is down in the basement, so you only really see the people who are intentionally coming into the art show.  One day everyone was complaining about how much it was raining, so I wanted to go upstairs and look.  I wasn't prepared for how many people were on the next level of the basement.  It was way too much for me and we were still in the basement!  I have no idea what the rest of the convention was like.  After that, I stayed in my dungeon.

The hours at the art show were also really long.  So we couldn't have gone to see anything anyway, really.  We had a lot of fun at the awards ceremony, but we missed part of the reception on Friday night since we desperately needed food.  We did find the best/cheapest food was in the mall food court.  We tried a couple of restaurants in the area but we weren't really impressed.  The restaurant in the Hyatt was okay, but $18 for a bowl of macaroni and cheese is pretty darn crazy where I come from.  I tried oysters at a local seafood restaurant (Ray's in the City).  They were the tiniest oysters I've ever had, and they were really overpriced.  I'll stick to Pacific oysters from here on out.

There was a restaurant selling gyros in the mall food court, and they were really, really good gyros.  The pasta salad and veggie stir-fry from the same place were also really good.  We also had some Chinese food in the food court that was really good.  Dinner at Ray's for 2 cost us about $60, but dinner for 2 at the Chinese or Greek restaurants was around $15.  You can guess what we ate a lot of during Dragon*Con!

The art show itself was pretty nuts.  My gallery and print shop stuff hardly sold at all, but my table was pretty steady.  With 2 people working at the table we almost couldn't keep up on Saturday and Sunday.  We had our best 1-day sales ever at Dragon*Con, and our best overall weekend as well.

We did have a lot of people who wanted to use credit cards, which was great, but at some point we had to institute a minimum order rule.  People wanted to charge $2 bookmarks and things like that, and we don't make any money after the credit card fees are taken out.  We'll probably put out a sign from now on that we won't charge any orders less than $10 to a credit card.

By far my most popular items were my cat paintings.  That's not really surprising, is it?  I'll definitely be working on more kitties this fall, since the demand was so incredibly high at Dragon*Con.  We made extra prints of the cats one night and still ran out of all sizes.

We took my printer along with us and I think next time we won't do that.  We did need it from time to time but it was back at our hotel room so if we ran out during the day it wasn't really helpful.  It was nice to restock at night though, so I am still torn about that.

We also took a lot of freebie postcards and gave them away.  I think we gave away around 1,500 postcards.  They were just printed on one side and had my website URL at the bottom.  I use them as if they were business cards and people really like it since they get some free artwork.  The postcards can be kind of expensive so I usually order them in massive quantities so I get a break on the price (2,500 or more).  I've also given away bookmarks in the past but I didn't feel like those were as well received and a lot of people commented that they have an e-reader and don't use bookmarks anymore.  So I suppose the bookmark is going the way of the dodo.

We had a lot of fun at the art show, though.  Our neighbors were all really wonderful guys and one in particular was so entertaining if we ever got bored all we had to do was wave at him and he would come tell us a crazy story.  So I hope that we'll be able to go back next year, but it's a juried show so we'll see!

Stay tuned for part 3 (oh yes, there's more!)...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dragon*Con Part 1: Over the Hills and Far Away

Note: The purpose of these posts is to record notes for myself and share information that might be helpful to other artists.  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Driving Vs. Flying

When I told people we were driving from Montana to Atlanta, a lot of people thought I was maybe a little crazy.  "Have you heard of airplanes?" I was asked more than once, but the fact is that living in Montana means airfare to anywhere other than Las Vegas is not cheap.  Most flights to Atlanta required multiple connections and a few flights on small commuter planes, and we were looking at nearly $1,500 just for airfare alone.

The next factor was the stuff we wanted to take.  With checked baggage rates going through the roof, and shipping costs what they are, sending all of the things we needed to get down there would have cost us several hundred more dollars.  We had someone local that we could ship things to, but if you have to ship to the hotel you are staying at, sometimes the hotels charge to receive those packages, so that is something else to consider.

We probably came out ahead on our travel and shipping costs by driving, even driving all the way from Montana.  We stayed in hotels on the way, and I found those through TripAdvisor.  We also used my husband's military ID to get the government rate, so that helped out a lot, too.

We could have done the drive in 2 days each way, stopping to sleep every night, but we were already sleep deprived when we hit the road and it took us 2.5 days to get there.  On the way back we went a lot slower and did some touristy things, so it took us about 2.5 days again.

The other benefit of driving instead of flying is the money we saved on a rental car and all of the things we got to see along the way.  If you stay in a hotel at the Atlanta airport, you can also get a 4-day MARTA pass and ride the subway back and forth.  This might be faster on days like Saturday, when the Dragon*Con parade clogs up most of downtown Atlanta.  I think we sat on the freeway for an hour that morning, just waiting to get on our exit ramp!

I also noticed my friends who were limited by what they could bring on a flight tended to have less to sell, which meant they had less profit.  If you want to make your money back at a show like this, you really need to have a lot of stuff with you for your customers to choose from.

Creative Displays

That said, I took too much stuff.  Next time I will probably just take things like prints, books, calendars, oracle decks and so on.  We took key chains, magnets, mugs, and bookmarks.  We didn't have room to display the key chains and while the rest of it did well (we're out of magnets now and nearly out of mugs), I think we would have sold more prints if we hadn't had those items.

Something else that really helped was having a vertical display.  We ordered 3 2'x7' gridwall panels and had them shipped to Atlanta ahead of us.  We got some picture frame hooks that attach to them and slide right through sawtooth hangers and provide a nice solid hanger for wire hangers.  We made a lot of sales of large, canvas, and expensive limited edition prints off of this display.  For Dragon*Con, you only have a 6' wide table, so this display fits behind it but doesn't leave a lot of room for sitting behind the table.  I was worried the 7' panels would be too tall, but I think they were actually the perfect height and maybe 8' would have been even better.  A lot of people used panels behind their tables and some of those displays were well over 8' tall.

We did get a lot of compliments on the set-up, and by the end of the weekend we had sold out of some things and the table was starting to empty out a little bit.  Some of the displays that worked the best were wrought iron easels I got at a craft store years ago on clearance.  I've also accumulated a lot of baskets from Ross and the dollar store, which I used for small prints, a little trunk that is just wide enough to stand my 16"x20" prints in and lean back against the lid, and a desk organizer with little drawers to store extra things in and shelves just the right size for extra books and tarot decks.

Another little trick is to use bulldog clips to hang prints from the front of your table.  Our tablecloth was a little slippery and occasionally a bulldog clip would just give up and drop the print on the floor, but it was a very short fall and everything was fine.  We also sold almost all of the prints on the front of the table.  A lot of people use that space for signage but I think 16x20 and 12x18 prints make much better signage, plus you can sell them!

The one thing I did forget was price tags, and then I accidentally bought clear ones at the office supply store, so most people couldn't see them anyway.  Oops.

I'll work on posting part 2 tomorrow!  I still have loads of unpacking to do and orders to ship!  :)

Monday, August 12, 2013



I told my husband the other night I'd be really happy if we got to $4500.  It would leave me enough to pay for the oracle deck and put some into savings for future projects.  Then he woke me up this morning and told me we got to $4601.  I thought $4500 was ambitious!

We're going to go ahead and order everything that we can once the funds are in our bank account.  We are still waiting on several payments that didn't go through the first time, and it actually adds up to a considerable amount of money.  So I am hopeful that those people who need to will login and fix their payment method so we can order more decks.

I expect that we will be done shipping the decks by the third week of September.  My husband is going to help me get everything ready to go, and our son will be going back to school regularly starting this week, so I am confident that everything will happen much faster and more organized this time.

Thank you all so much for hanging in there with me!  This summer has been pretty chaotic and it's not over yet.  In two weeks we're leaving for Dragon*Con in Atlanta, and we'll be driving over 2,000 miles to get there.  I still have a lot to do to prepare for it, and I'm trying not to freak out but I am pretty stressed out.  I've never been before and I have no idea what to take or what to expect.

I'll try to update regularly about what's going on and how things are progressing.

Thank you for supporting my art, and allowing me to keep doing what I love!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

One Thing At A Time

As overworked and over-stressed as I am right now, I have to keep reminding myself "one thing at a time".  It feels like I haven't really crossed any projects off my list in ages.  I am still packing up the 2014 calendar Kickstarter between phases of other projects and incoming orders.  I am finishing the oracle deck components this week since the campaign for that ends this weekend (already?!?).  I still have several paintings left to finish for DragonCon.

Today I have 47 prints left to mat, sign, package, and label for DragonCon.  Luckily we have machine-cut mats delivered now and I no longer cut the majority of our mats myself.  I also have several dozen e-mails to respond to, art shows to contact, orders to pack, and a watercolor painting taped to the table and practically screaming at me to get to work.  Two are finished, looking on, wondering when they will be scanned and shared with the world.

Ah well, might as well go cross those 47 prints off my list!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The thing I might love most about my job is all the weird things I learn during research.  I'm working on a painting of Rapunzel right now, so I dusted off my leather-bound edition of Grimm Tales and found Rapunzel somewhere in the hundreds of tales within.  Like most American children, I thought the poor girl had been named after radishes, and I always thought that was a bit stupid and I wondered why anyone would name such a beautiful baby after such a weird vegetable.

But the truth is, Rapunzel was not named for radishes.  She was named for Rampion, a purple wildflower with leaves similar to spinach and a root like a turnip or radish.  Aha!  Now things make more sense!  And I have something far prettier than a radish to include in my Rapunzel painting!

Photo from Wikipedia.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Staying on Track

I hear from a lot of artists who complain that they have a hard time staying on track.  Maybe they have a day job and/or children, or maybe they struggle with procrastination.  For me, the ultimate motivator and the best way to keep my day organized and get the most done with my art time, is to make a list every day of what I need to accomplish.

I use the Calendar app that came with my Mac.  I can color code everything (work, painting time, personal time, art shows, and done) and easily move things from one day to another if I don't manage to finish everything.  And yes, I do put every little thing on my list.  I am very forgetful and if I don't put it on the list I might not remember to do it.

Sometimes I keep a paper list, but a lot of the time I end up misplacing it, or the piece of paper becomes clutter in the workshop or studio.

And that's it for today!  I have a lot of work to do and only a few days to get it done.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Oracle Deck

This entry got really long, so really quickly here: I'm running a Kickstarter to fund self-publishing an oracle deck.  This is day 3 and we are already over funded and decks are going fast.  I intended to order 100, but over 60 are already accounted for.  Here are the spiffy boxes I designed for this project:

I will keep taking orders, even if we go over 100.  At this point I'm thinking I'd like to order 200, because I'm not sure if I will actually have any for DragonCon!  Here's the Kickstarter page:

Now, back to your regularly scheduled rambling!


I haven't updated in so long!  This summer has been totally nuts.  I don't even know where it's gone.  Here's a quick rundown:

In May I attended MisCon.  This was probably the last year I'll be able to attend in person, but if things are less chaotic next year I might make it down for a day.  It was an okay show.  The art room was smaller, and they had a new hanging system that made things kind of complicated.  Other than that, it was fun, and I got to meet my buddy Theresa Mather face to face, finally!

A week or so after MisCon ended, my family came to town.  It was trailer city around here for a couple of weeks while my grandparents and in-laws came to visit.  My grandpa and I had briefly discussed finishing part of my garage so I could use it as a workshop/shipping facility.  He thought it was a good idea on the phone.  Then he got here and saw that every inch of my house was stuffed with packing materials, prints, products, equipment, etc. and he said, "this is the first thing we have to do."

Our quick little one day project idea turned into a month of construction, but now I have a really awesome space to pack, ship, print, and so on.

The day we moved into the new workshop, our main printer died.  I'm not even joking.  I couldn't believe it.  I ended up having to buy a $700 printer because I had a show in a week and I needed a printer.  Desperately.  I really like it (Canon Pixma Pro-10) and so far it hasn't had any of the weird problems I always had with my Epson R1800 (the printer that died).  I still have an Epson 2200 that is 10 years old and runs like new.  But that R1800 was a pile of junk from day one.

So the printer doesn't arrive in time and then I have to scramble to get a local printer to produce something like 300 prints for me.  Overnight.  And then I scrambled to get them all matted and packaged and ready.  Drive to Washington, get to the park and set up.  Beautiful, hot hot weather.

The next morning we (my Uncle Brad and I) get about 5 miles from my mom's house and the torrential downpour begins.  We drive the next hour and a half in lightning, thunder, hail, with the radio going crazy warning us to take cover immediately.  I wonder if the booth is still standing.

We get there and things are a little damp but it's not too bad.  People tell us there's a fire nearby from the lightning.  We set up.  The faire opens, and the lightning starts again.  This is particularly horrifying for me because I have what are basically bionic implants in my back that run along the upper half of my spine (this is like a foot of metal rods, plus gliders, brackets, etc.), and I'm standing in a metal tent, underneath a tree.

I'm going to die.

I jump and/or shriek every time lightning cracks nearby.  Everyone else is pretty cool with it.  Customers keep shopping.  I'm trying not to pee my pants.  Then the rain starts.  Pretty soon everything in the front of the booth is soaked.  I'm trying to keep calm and wait for the rain to stop.  It doesn't rain that long in the desert, does it?

Oh hell yeah, it rains a long time in the desert.  Eventually it stops and we end up with a few ruined postcards and a couple of soggy 2013 calendars.  Otherwise we're okay, just covered in mud and standing in water inside our booth.  Sheesh.

The next morning was punctuated with a bloody brawl that took place next to my mug display.  The RadCon security team jumped on it right away and got them away from my booth before they ruined anything.  I can't remember what else happened that day.  I think my brain hit its stress threshold and stopped recording events.  :P

Edited to add: I remember what happened the rest of the first day.  My mother took my son grocery shopping and ended up stranded in flood waters.  She tried to drive and ran over something and ruptured the sidewall on a tire, and called me in a panic, screaming her head off that there was water everywhere and her car wouldn't drive and no one would come get her.  My grandpa went and changed her flat, but she had to buy a new tire before she could drive home.  This was the worst day I've ever had at a show from a personal standpoint.  Sitting there, wondering if my kid is being swept away in a river or something.  I mean my mom really scared the bejesus out of me.

I rush home on Monday and start packing things up for the calendar Kickstarter.  It's July now.  Where did June go?  Holy smokes.  For some reason, I think maybe the wild weather patterns and stress in Washington, my back freaks out and I spend the next two weeks either hobbling around or sitting in an easy chair.  This is the worst.  I am always doing something.  To be able to do nothing is torture.  I don't take vacations.  I take workations.  It physically hurts me to sit around and do nothing.

But I finally get a new ergonomic office chair, and after a couple days of using it and taking way too much Ibuprofen, my back and hip have decided to work together again and I'm packing orders like a crazy woman.  I'm going to have to take a break this weekend and work on paintings for DragonCon, because before I know it, I'll be packing up the car and driving 2,100 miles to Atlanta.  I don't fly.  I mean, I will, but I have to be drunk or sedated.  And I'll probably still barf.  Plus we factored up the cost of fuel and a hotel room, versus baggage fees and shipping everything there, and it was a lot cheaper to drive.  So we're driving!

I'll post updates as things progress, both on the oracle deck front and the DragonCon front.  See you soon!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Calendars Have Arrived

I am so excited, my calendars already arrived!  They were on the porch yesterday morning, no idea when they actually showed up.  I suspect they arrived on Tuesday and the FedEx guy just didn't bother to knock.

There are 200 of them, so I have a couple of these big boxes in my living room.  I've started signing them already, and I am planning on taking some with me to MisCon next weekend.  They will go up online after DragonCon, assuming there are any left after all the summer shows.

They are even more beautiful than last year's calendars.  I think my printer just gets better and better every year.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Controversies: eBay & Adobe

Two big announcements have been made in recent weeks by two corporations that impact a lot of artists.  The first was eBay, who announced several changes that I'm actually pretty happy about, and the most recent was Adobe, who announced possibly the most asinine business model I've ever heard of.

Let's start with eBay.

Previously, if you had a store subscription, you paid a base monthly price, and then an additional fee for each item you listed in your store, and an additional fee or commission for each item you sold.  When I first started my store way back in 2006, the price to list something in your basic $14.95 a month store was $.01.  I listed a lot of stuff, but I wasn't consistent enough with it, and I closed the store for a while.  I tried reopening it in 2007, only to discover the price had increased to $.02, then $.03, then $.05, and I think for a while it was as high as $.20.  That's a pretty ridiculous price to pay for putting something into a store, for which you already pay a monthly subscription.  In that time the subscription prices also went up a little bit, making it more ridiculous.

Eventually my expenses were so high for all the artwork listed in my store, that it was worth my while to go to the second level of subscription.  At $49.95 a month, it would still cost me an additional $.05 for every item I put in my store.  My fees were a little bit lower, and I had better exposure and more design options.  It was still stupidly expensive, and in order to get more traffic into your store, it was a good idea to have more and more items in it, making it more and more expensive to maintain.  Some months my fees were as high as $180 (excluding commission), regardless of whether I sold $200 worth of art or $2,000.  Pretty silly, right?

Then eBay announced that if you DIDN'T have a store, you would get 50 listings free each month.  Hang on a minute!  I pay a huge fee, and I don't get anything for it, but people who don't pay anything get more free stuff?  I closed up my store and tried listing free for a month, but I didn't get as many sales.

I re-opened my store a while ago, and finally last month eBay announced that starting May 1st you would get a certain number of free listings with your store.  But, they also increased the subscription prices from $15.95 to $19.95, $49.95 to $59.95, and lowered the highest from a staggering $299 a month to $199.95.  If you commit for a full year, you'll get the $15.95, $49.95, or $179.95 prices.

But the part that really upset a lot of artists was eBay's "new" policy on watermarks.  For years, eBay has said that watermarks on images should not contain URLs.  I have always used URLs on my images so people could find me easier and credit the work properly.  eBay has never punished me for this, even though they could.  Now they say you can watermark your images, but the watermark must not be more than 50% in opacity, and must not contain a URL, but can say something like "© Tiffany Toland-Scott."  This has been their policy since at least 2009, but they've been pretty lax about enforcing it.

This upset a lot of people who wanted their URL on the image, but it's not a bad idea to watermark with your name, actually.  Your name will probably never change, but your website address may, and then you'll have to re-watermark all of your images, and all the stuff that's out there with a URL on it will be inaccurate and it may even be impossible to figure out where it came from.

eBay has also reenforced the policy of image size.  The image needs to be at least 500 pixels on the longest side.  That's a pretty puny image, and no one is going to be able to make a good print from something that size.  Plus, your customers probably won't buy your art if you are displaying it that small.  Customers like to be able to really see something before they buy it, and a 500 pixel image can hide a lot of detail that may actually sell an image for you.  Again, this is a policy eBay has had for years.

All things considered, I think this is a step in the right direction for eBay.

Now... let's talk about Adobe.

I've been a loyal Photoshop user for years.  10?  11?  Something like that.  Adobe recently announced that Photoshop and all other Adobe products are going to The Cloud.  Barf.  Why does every program developer think that every person wants to have all of their business in the almighty Cloud?  Maybe I really hate it and won't do it?  Because that'd be the case, not just for me, but apparently most of Adobe's customers.

I have yet to hear from a single person that thinks this is a good idea, probably because Adobe now wants an exorbitant $50 a month to use Creative Suite.  Once their customers started flinging the proverbial poop at them, they offered $9.99 a month to current users, but even then it goes up in a year and will cost at least $240/year just to use Photoshop.  If you never upgraded (like me) this is a tremendous increase in expense.  For what I do, I really only need layers, paintbrush, and eraser, and the likelihood that I will upgrade is pretty much zilch.  The suggestion that I should use a subscription-based cloud service is shut the front door territory.  I don't like to be connected to the internet when I work, and I don't allow my computer to connect and send data of its own accord, so the activation nonsense that will be required of users like me makes my inner grumpy old woman rage.

Plus, I'm not spending $30 a month for something that currently costs me exactly $0 a month to use.  And who had the stupid idea to go to a monthly subscription for a customer base that largely lives paycheck-to-paycheck?  I can afford $250 to upgrade once in a while, but $30 a month might be my coffee and creamer during slow times, and I won't part with that until I'm dead.

I'm sure it's high-fives all around at Corel, and probably Google who recently acquired a software developer that primarily makes image-processing software.  Adobe's stock has been falling since the announcement, so if you have any of it, it might be a good time to sell.

I am not sure why these idiotic corporate goons don't look at examples like Netflix and realize that you are never too big to make a game-ending decision.

Friday, May 3, 2013

As Promised: Kickstarter Vs. IndieGoGo

For my first crowdfunded calendar, I used IndieGoGo.  Here's a basic summary:

  • We barely reached the funding goal, and there were almost no contributions that came from IndieGoGo.
  • There were very few visits to the campaign that came from IGG.
  • The fulfillment system was clunky and horrible to use.  There was no way to contact people through IGG, you had to e-mail them directly.
  • The payments came from IGG without any information attached to them as far as who they were from, except for e-mail addresses.  The e-mail addresses only rarely had any indication to the person's actual name.
  • The support was not great.  I experienced a glitch while setting up my campaign that made my campaign end much sooner than I selected.  I asked support for help, and they told me they would help me this time, but in the future you can't change the end date of your campaign.  It seemed they didn't understand when I repeatedly told them I hadn't set it to the date it was set to by their site.  They also seemed to be bothered by my request for help, and were not friendly.
  • Because they sent the payments in such an odd way through PayPal, I wasn't able to generate shipping labels through PayPal for the payments.  This would have made shipping much easier and quicker.
In the end, I chose not to use IGG again, and to try using Kickstarter the next time.  My original plan had been to use KS the first time, but Amazon Payments couldn't confirm my identity since my mailing and street address are different (stupid, right?).  I eventually had to use an address I hadn't lived at in 5 years to verify my identity, but by the time it was worked out, my IGG campaign was almost over.

This time around I used Kickstarter.  Here's a basic summary:

  • I experienced no glitches after the initial fiasco with Amazon Payments, but that's not Kickstarter's fault.
  • I received a lot of traffic and several hundreds of dollars in pledges directly from Kickstarter, which also brought in some new fans.
  • The fulfillment system is very streamlined and easy to use.  I can poll people who pledged, contact them, post updates to them, and so on.
  • The payments were disbursed to my Amazon account within a day, and within 3 days they were in my bank account, ready to be used to order the calendars.
  • I haven't had to contact support for any reason, so I don't know how their customer service is.
  • People can adjust their pledges or cancel them, which I found very obnoxious and a little upsetting.  At one point it nearly unfunded my project.  One person kept adjusting their pledge over and over, and eventually canceled it.  They don't have to give a reason for doing this, either, so you get no feedback in these cases about what you could have done differently or why they changed their mind.
  • You can only make one pledge.  With IGG, you can order as many different perks as you want.  With Kickstarter, you can only adjust your existing pledge.
I will use Kickstarter again next time, in the end.  I really think it's overall much better than IGG, even though I wasn't happy with the people who canceled their pledges at the last minute, and the inability to purchase multiple different perks.  I also think KS is a better site for things like fantasy art.  IGG seems to be a lot of hipster projects and eco-friendly inventions, but KS is more geared towards gamers, sci-fi and fantasy lovers, and retailers.

I plan on launching my next Kickstarter near the end of June, possibly in early July.  This time it will be for a 40-card oracle deck, and I'll post another update when that campaign is all wrapped up.

If you have any questions about my experience with either of these platforms you can ask in the comments below, or e-mail it to me at tiff @ tiffanysrealm dot com.  I'll do my best to help you, but I can't provide technical help for either of the websites, or tell you how to set up a campaign.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Oracle of Pompeii and Whispering Winds - New Art

Here are two new paintings!  The first is "Whispering Winds", a painting I finished last week but ended up adjusting a few times before I released her yesterday.

Wind has always seemed sort of magical to me.  Where I grew up, it always sounded like the trees were whispering to each other as they swayed back and forth.  Sometimes the chorus of tree-voices was so loud you couldn't hear yourself think.  This little fairy is listening to the whispering trees.  Maybe she can actually understand them!

"The Oracle of Pompeii" is a digital painting, inspired by the book "Last Days of Pompeii" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1834). I have had an 1850-something leather-bound edition of this book waiting for me for years, but it's a monster of a book and I never have much time to read. Luckily through LibriVox I was able to get a free audiobook version of it, and I've been listening to it lately while I work.

I thought it made good background noise for this painting, in particular, and it influenced the direction this painting went. Originally this was going to be autumnal, but I decided to make it more of a late-summer painting and to include erupting Vesuvius in the background. Originally her robes were all white, but that was not the fashion in Pompeii at the time, so I trimmed them in Tyrian Purple to reflect the fashion of the time. The robes are fantasized quite a bit and probably are not historically accurate in the least. The architecture is also inaccurate, but it was a fun challenge.

Now I'm off to finish "Latet Anguis in Herba", another painting actually inspired by Last Days of Pompeii, but radically different from The Oracle.  If it all goes to plan, I will also start "The Lost Library" and hopefully get it near completion as well.  Busy busy!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Drawing the Line

For the last several months I've been dealing with a really tough question: Where do you draw the line with customers?  When does a customer become more than a customer, or, when does it become dangerous?

I've been really blessed that, since I started working full-time in 2011, my business has grown exponentially and I've met a lot of wonderful people that wanted to buy my artwork.  It still blows my mind that people want to buy my artwork, or shake my hand and meet me.  In my mind, I am still the awkward teenager doodling in her tree house, and I forget sometimes that other people have never known me that way and think I am famous because they know who I am.

It's all very strange and foreign to me.  And I am still figuring out where to draw the line when I am giving too much of my time and myself to people that I don't really know.  Recently, I had to learn quickly and the hard way.  I am generally not very assertive, I'd rather not fight with people or clash with anybody in any way.  I'd rather if everybody just got along, but that rarely ever happens, so at some point I had to put on my big girl panties, delegate e-mail to my husband, and figure out how to stick up for myself without feeling like I was a total monster.

I still feel like I am a total monster, but I am a total monster* with fewer things to worry about, so all told I feel less stressed.  I would like it if I could give everybody everything they wanted, but I'd probably never have time for painting or helping anybody else with their art business, so that's not realistic.

Here are some things that I have realized, though, and I wanted to share them in case someone else might benefit:

  • If you have a policy of not holding orders for people who haven't paid for them, don't hold orders for anybody.  People will abuse this policy if you let them.  I used to offer to hold things for people, but even at shows people would forget and never come back to pick it up, and every time I have held an order for a new customer online, it has ended with me frustrated.
  • Some people will use a held order as a reason to keep communicating with you, and won't pay for it until you threaten to or actually terminate communication with them.  These people aren't really here for the art, they just want your attention and time, and getting it makes them feel special.  They are "energy vampires" if you will, and having your attention makes them feel good.
  • The nicer you are with these people, the further they will take the abuse.  In the last few months I've had people like this lie to their credit card company to get their money back, write me vitriolic e-mails after I tried to cater to their every unreasonable whim and failed, hack my e-mail and personal Facebook account, impersonate me, steal personal pictures, threaten me, call me names, write long diatribes about what a horrible person I am on my fan page, etc.  If I had made it obvious in the beginning that I'm available as a professional and nothing more, and that I provide a service like anybody else, and that this is a business for me and every transaction will be treated that way, these people might not have felt they had the right to do these things to me.  They may have felt that way anyway, because some people are plainly cruel and insane.  Which brings me to...
  • If someone starts begging you to keep in contact with them, because their life is miserable, they want to be like you or be friends with you, and they have no one to talk to, GET OUT.  Do not respond to their e-mails, even if they owe you money.  If they try to place new orders, refund the money and refuse them service.  You are (presumably) not a therapist, and it's not your responsibility to help these people talk through their problems and find a reason to live.  You don't want to be their reason to live.

I am sure that as time goes on I'll have more to say on the subject.  This is something that no one ever told me until it was a problem, and I kind of wish that when I was 19 or 20 someone had taken me aside and said, "So, you want to be an artist.  This is what you really need to know..."

I owe a lot to many of my friends who have helped me keep my sanity, have listened to my frustrations, have offered advice and wisdom gathered from having been there, and have understood the unique mental anguish a situation like this inflicts on a person.  Protecting myself from people is something that I have never been very good at, but it is time I figure it out.

*My friends assure me I am not a total monster.  Maybe just a tiny monster when I'm poked.

Friday, March 29, 2013


I don't trust spiders, even when they're dead.
I was cleaning my kitchen counters this morning, and had wiped one section down with a Clorox wipe and was working on the next. I turned to set something down and spotted a dead spider on the counter I had just cleaned.

I debated. I should remove it, but what if this is a trick? What if the minute I reach out to touch him he jumps up and sinks his fangs into my hand? Or what if he's a decoy? And as I'm cleaning him up, another spider repels down from the ceiling and lands in my hair, undetected, to attack me at a later time.

I decided to clean all around the spider, then ask my husband to clean the spider up. He isn't afraid of anything and he's bald, so he would notice a spider running across his head.

This is arachnophobia my friends. Don't ever ask me again why I am afraid of spiders. They are Ninjas, obviously. Tiny, poisonous Ninjas that stalk around your house unnoticed until one day they're crawling on you, looking for a tender place to bite.
Luke laughed at me, of course, and removed it, but I am still left wondering where the frack it came from and who killed it.  I didn't kill it.  Is there some sort of demon cannibalistic spider in my house?  How big might this thing be?  My mind is telling me it's probably the size of a terrier and we should burn the house to the ground to prevent it from laying any eggs.
This experience has left me with some questions, such as:
Is there a spider Thunderdome under my toaster?
Should I move the toaster and clean under it, or pretend it's glued to the counter top?
What kills a spider?
Seriously, what kills a spider?
A bigger spider?
It's a bigger spider, isn't it?

I have to go finish touching all my doorknobs 3 times. Have a good day!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Facebook vs. Kickstarter

I've noticed that my links to my Kickstarter campaign are only getting a fraction of the views my other posts, even links, are getting on Facebook.  I don't know why they would, but I suspect Facebook has put something funky into their algorithm to purposely knock down the relevancy of links leading to outside sites that sell things.  As such, a lot of people don't even know about the Kickstarter and it's just not getting the support that I thought it would get from my fans.  So for now I will try bypassing Facebook's dumb algorithm by posting the link in a blog post.  Ta da!

This is what September will look like in the 2014 calendar, minus date boxes since I always do all of that very precise work last.

Here's more views of this newest painting, "Portal to Atlantis", and the Kickstarter information: Click here to go to my Kickstarter

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mermaids With Legs

Of all the questions I receive specifically about my paintings, the one I probably get the most is "why do you paint your mermaids with legs that transform partway down into fins?"

My answer is, why isn't everyone else?

Let's think about it.  Mermaids are usually portrayed with breasts, which doesn't really make sense since they're not mammals, but they also probably shouldn't have hair or skin like ours.  Obviously we're not going for the full fish here, or they'd be a lot less pretty to look at and would probably look like Lord Voldemort with fins.

Let's take a moment to imagine that, shall we?


So, we should probably try to make them a realistic cross between both.  We have breasts to feed our children, and we don't have hundreds of them at a time, so clearly the mermaid is going to need some uh, reproductive abilities outside of laying eggs.

How does the traditional mermaid eliminate (that's fancy-talk for go wee-wee in the ocean)?  How does the traditional mermaid reproduce?  Are we supposed to assume she lays eggs like a fish and the boobs are just for looks?  That doesn't make sense.  Maybe she strips her tail off and has legs underneath?  Why does she live in the water then?  That doesn't make sense either.

Now, truthfully, a half human-half fish creation doesn't really make sense, either, but I think it's okay to try to find some realism in there somewhere.  So I try to paint my mermaids in a way that makes some sense, plus it's more fun to paint them that way.  Sometimes I even give them webbed fingers and ears, gills, or, you know, wings.

 Really, though, they're a mythological creature and the way you portray them is entirely up to you.  I paint them the way I paint them because I think it looks more graceful and natural, but other people prefer to paint them à la The Little Mermaid, and that's okay, too.

You do what you want.  You're an artist!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Slump

I have started lots of paintings recently, but I don't know when or if I'll finish any of them.  This happens from time to time.  Eventually I'll start cranking paintings out again, and they'll probably be better than the last batch.  Then I'll get really frustrated and hate all of my art, and then I'll suddenly be way better again.  It's a frustrating cycle, but I've finally learned to look forward to the "high" instead of dwelling on all the lows.

To cheer me up, and freshen up the blog, here's some of my newer paintings.

I noticed I didn't have many paintings that used a lot of green late last year, and decided I would work on that.  Well, now it seems I can't stop.  Two of the three paintings I have up in Photoshop right now are predominately green - whoops.  This will probably turn out like the winged mermaid phase, which I seem to be out of now.

...But I kind of want to draw another one, now that I mention it.  Double whoops.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Art As Reference

Is it okay to use another artist's work as reference for your own?  Some people swear it is not, in fact many feel this way, and yet many art professors will instruct their students to look at how other people have painted an unfamiliar subject and learn from them.

Often people seem to believe that "reference" is a dirty word akin to "copying" and that could not be further from the truth.  I think it's a rather immature belief, actually, that these two words are at all similar.

If someone copies your artwork, you have every right to be mad.  If they copy your idea, the way you portrayed it, and everything right down to the colors you used, be mad.  That's plagiarism, and it is illegal!  In that case someone has definitely committed a crime against you and you have every right to feel violated and angry about it.

But what if someone just thinks that you are really good at painting Victorian dresses, and they need to paint one but have no idea where to start?  Sometimes seeing things you've never painted before broken down into brush strokes can help you figure out where to start on your own.  That person isn't trying to violate your rights or do anything wrong, they're just trying to learn from someone they consider to have mastered a particular subject.  Be flattered, in that case.

Recently I have been working on a very tough piece and have found myself looking at pastoral scenes painted by all sorts of artists to get a better grasp on what I'm trying to accomplish.  Most of those artists are dead (Thomas Cole) but some are still alive (Jasmine Becket-Griffith) and I don't think in either case that they would mind that I studied their paintings.  Isn't that ultimately why we hope to leave work behind when we are gone, so that the next generation of artists continues to have something to study from?

What do you think?

Saturday, February 9, 2013


I have been thinking a lot lately about this topic.  It comes up a lot in e-mails from aspiring artists, and sometimes in casual conversations.  I think that nearly every new artist suffers from it to some extent.  It's hard not to look around and become bitter that others are succeeding when you feel that you deserve it just as much as they do, and you are struggling.  It can be really easy to believe that hard work and talent have nothing to do with it, because you work hard and you're talented, so why aren't you swimming in cash and adoration?

The truth is that most people don't work nearly as hard as they think they do.  I know, I know.  You work several hours a day and tell everyone that will listen about your artwork.  But do you really?

I used to think I worked really hard.  It seems to me, looking back, that everything was so much easier when I was 20.  I didn't have a family, I didn't have to worry about money like I do now, and I could work all day and half the night if I wanted to and pay the price for it the next day.

But now I have to think about taking care of my son, and if I'm too tired to do it, who will feed him, play with him, change his diapers?  And all of that takes a ton of time out of my schedule.  My husband is also a consideration.  He works a very crazy schedule that is different every day, and he still wants to spend time with me when he comes home at night.  And someone has to cook dinner, and that's usually me.  Plus I have to take care of myself, and do laundry, clean... it's kind of a wonder I get anything done.  And if I still worked like I did when I was 20, I wouldn't.

All of these extra responsibilities have made me really reevaluate my work and what I do.  Was I maximizing all of my time?  Or was I wasting some of it?  Did I work as hard as I thought I did, or did I just work really hard in short bursts before I got distracted?  And how much of that time did I just brood over how successful other people were?

The truth was that I spent a lot of time distracting myself from work.  Maybe the painting I was working on was giving me trouble, and I was distracting myself rather than deal with feeling discouraged by my own work and lack of skill at painting rocks.  Or maybe my most recent piece hadn't immediately flown off the shelves like the piece before it, and I was discouraged by my lack of immediate success.  Whatever the reason, I was wasting my own time.  And I was jealous of other artists because of it.

All that wasted time was time that I wasn't busy painting, so I had time to think about other things.  Things like, the apparent success of another artist, opportunities that were not offered to me, jealousy of another artist's skills, or wondering why other people were more successful but maybe not as skilled.  I realized I spent a lot of time on all of this.  And I obviously didn't feel good about it, so why was I doing it?

I realized I had to stop it, but it's not easy (maybe not even possible) to just tell yourself to stop thinking about something and be done with it.  You have to find something else to do with those wasted emotions.  I decided that if I wanted to be as successful as I hoped to be, that I would have to stop going and finding something else to do when I got stuck on a painting, and would just work on a different part of the painting.  When I felt disappointed that an artist with less skill was winning an award or grant that I wanted, I decided to work twice as hard and get the money on my own.

Once I started doing these things, I felt I had fewer reasons to be jealous, probably because I had fewer excuses and no time for it.  I used to be lucky to finish three or four paintings in a month.  Now, if I have to, I can finish three or four in a week.

Sometimes, jealousy is healthy.  Seeing work that is way better than yours and wishing you could do it should inspire you.  But if it discourages you from even trying, your jealousy has become unhealthy.  Jealousy is pretty normal, and everybody deals with it sometimes.  Some people are naturally more jealous than others, and as hard as you try you won't be able to completely rid yourself of that aspect of your personality.  Once you stop fighting it and embrace it as an inspiration, you will see what you are really capable of, but you have to be willing to be honest with yourself.

Are you doing your best?

Are you working as hard as you can?

Are you making a lot of excuses for why you "can't"?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Calendar Publishing

 Ever since publishing my own 2013 calendar, a lot of artists have contacted me asking me where I had it printed and who designed it.  Rather than answer each individual e-mail, since I now get more e-mails about this than anything else, I thought I'd make a post here so I can link to it in the future.

Getting the Calendar Printed

When I set out to find a calendar printer, I started with online companies, assuming they would have the best prices.  My first quote was $1800 for 100 calendars.  Yikes!  I would have had to charge $18 a calendar just to break even, and if I followed the formula for figuring out the retail price of products, I would have had to charge at least $72 per calendar at retail price.  Obviously, that wasn't going to work out.

I looked for four or five years for affordable calendar publishing alternatives.  Yes, really.  I started looking in 2007 and eventually a friend told me about a company they used.  I looked into it and was quoted about $760 for 100 calendars.  That was better than the first quotes I was given, but it was still too expensive for me, and I would have had to charge at least $16 per calendar with no option to wholesale them at that price.

I put the idea on the back burner for a few years and during that time I put calendars out through deviantART, LuLu Press, and eventually Zazzle.  All of those places offered me around 10% in royalties.  Even if I sold 20 calendars through any of those distributors, I would only make about $40.  If I sold 100 calendars I might make $200, if they weren't on sale or returned.  Meanwhile, the company got to keep 90% of what was made from the calendars, even though they did about 10% of the work!

Kickstarter started to become very popular during this time, and eventually I decided to try a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to have my dream calendar printed.  I worked my butt off, only to run into a bunch of problems setting up my account because my physical address isn't where I get my mail.  I decided to use IndieGoGo, since they were set up with PayPal and I wouldn't have to go through the identification verification process that was giving me trouble at Kickstarter.

My IndieGoGo campaign was about to end when I got a hunch and started looking around for better quotes on my calendars.  I scoured the internet, but the quote for $760 was still the best one.  Then I decided I would try my last resort, and started calling local printing businesses.  I live near the capital building of my state, so there are a lot of copy and printing places here, some of which offer fine art services as well.  I started with those, and eventually I found a place about 90 minutes away that blew the $760 quote out of the water.

The best part of it was if I needed help, I could call or go in, and since they were local (in Montana, 70 miles away is local), if I had any problems with the finished calendars I could drive up there and get service.  They were very helpful and they did a terrific job.  You probably wouldn't guess that the calendars were produced by a mom & pop business, because they look like something you would encounter in the Pyramid catalogs from a high-capacity publisher.

I was, and still am, floored by the work they did for me, and I'll be using them for all my future calendars and probably other projects as well.

Designing the Calendar

I did all of the design work on my calendar myself.  The company I used to print them gave me a template so I had the dimensions, bleed, and trim information, and from there I designed the calendar.  If you are thinking about designing your own calendar, I highly recommend you pick the printer first and get the correct dimensions from them before you start designing.  You don't want to guess and have it turn out wrong.  If your dimensions are incorrect, your calendar may print blurry, some parts may be cut off, or the images may be warped to fit or fill the pages.

Some people have asked if they could have my print files as a template, but I'm not interested in sharing my files since they are high resolution and include my artwork.  The best thing to do is make your own files.  If you feel that's beyond your design capabilities, it's probably best to stick with something like Zazzle for now, until you feel comfortable designing your own calendar from scratch.