Saturday, 20 February 2010

A whole bunch of flowers!

For some reason that I can't explain, I seem to be almost addicted to the weather forecast! I think my fascination may have sprung from learning about the British Climate, and its main characteristic, 'variability', in A-level geography - I don't know, but even if I'm too busy to watch The News, I always make sure to catch the weather forecast! And I have three weather website icons on my desktop, which I check regularly! I was particularly keen to know what today's weather would be because I'd had a slight problem with my drains yesterday and a neighbour had kindly agreed to come round and 'rod' them for me this morning!

'Wintry showers', sleet, hail and snow were all forecast - but in fact I wasn't too worried. For once, I didn't believe the forecasts. It's the nearest Saturday to my eldest daughter's birthday and, beginning on the day after she was born, we always had lovely spring-like weather for her birthday party that enabled us to let the little 'guests' out into the garden to let off some steam. Year after year the same thing happens, Spring seems to arrive suddenly on the Saturday nearest 17th February and today was no exception. It was probably the first time I'd really looked at my back garden for a while - and there were several little clumps of crocuses 'smiling at me'!

I'm no great photographer, though I do take a lot of photos. I'm not in the least bit worried about definition - I'll leave that to the real photographers - because I mainly take photos for references for paintings, a kind of modern-day sketchbook. In fact I sometimes think that a slightly out of focus photo enables me to really see what I want to paint...that's my excuse, anyway!

Last time I wrote I suggested that floral designs are generally acceptable for most occasions for most women and throughout the spring and summer, I pop out to my tiny garden with my camera whenever something catches my eye and paintings often follow. I've tried painting the real thing instead of using photos but it gets very hot in my attic and the flowers tend to wilt even sooner than I do, even though I paint very fast.

The greeting card publishers, Phoenix Trading, in their Advice for Artists, rank 'flowers' fourth in their list of popular subject matter for greeting cards, behind Fairies, Football and Animals (mostly cats and dogs). I know I am always pleased to receive floral greeting cards, particularly in the winter months when there are fewer flowers in the garden to enjoy. Most of my friends have similar tastes - and yet, so far, I have sold very few flower cards online, in spite of there being plenty to choose from.

On offer in my Greeting Card Universe 'store' are flowers in soft pastel -

- I am rather attached to this one and have refused to sell the original, partly because it was one of the better things to come out of a very disapppointing family holiday on the Burgundy Canal. But also, it was one of two of my pastel paintings that were accepted by the Bath Society of Artists for their Summer Exhibition a few years ago, as a non-member entry.
That was quite a big event for me! When the anxiously awaited postcard dropped through my letter-box, informing me whether or not my paintings had been accepted, I was totally mystified because it just had 'RESERVED' stamped across it. Having no idea whether this meant that my work had been accepted or whether it was on some sort of 'reserve' list, I phoned a friend in the Bath area to see whether he had any idea what it meant. Like me, he thought it might possibly mean that it had been accepted but didn't want me to 'count my chickens...' so I plucked up my courage and phoned the gallery, who confirmed that my paintings had indeed both been accepted. So, that is a painting I have hanging where I frequently walk past it to restore my confidence in the inevitable moments of self-doubt. However, as a greeting card, or a print, I am more than willing to part with it and it can be bought through Red Bubble.

I have also painted flowers from my garden in oil pastels and made them into greeting cards -


and in watercolours - 

This is my latest floral design -

I didn't have any hyacinths for reference so I painted it this week from memory as I'm very fond of them and grow them in pots for indoors, in spite of the fact that I seem to be sensitive to them - my favourites, the white ones, actually give me a headache and make my glands swell!

On Zazzle, my flowers have graced mugs, aprons, mousepads, bags and more! Compliments keep appearing on my store wall and products featuring my flower paintings seem to be popular amongst other artists. As I mentioned, my screenprinted Sweet Pea bookmark won a Today's Best Award. But so far not one of my floral designs has been sold. I'm beginning to think that the reason may not be so much to do with my 'products' as with the fact that I am getting relatively few visits to my 'store'. A few days ago I discovered how to make my store statistics visible and learned that my daily total of visits is generally in single figures, whereas other stores clock up double and treble figures daily. Judging by the number of comments and messages on my store walls, I would imagine that most of the visits I do get are from other artists or store owners, rather than from potential customers.

I'm at a loss to know what to do about this! I blog, I update my facebook fanpage regularly and I've made a webpage of all the addresses of my online stores, complete with 'flash panels', to email to friends and other contacts. I also check the Zazzle forums daily so as not to miss any opportunity to have my products promoted on Squidoo Lenses and so on. I'm not sure what more I could do.

Maybe it's a question of being patient and giving it time?

On the other hand, I have just printed out 50 assorted St David's Day dragons for sale in my local newsagents.

(This is the painted-paper collage version).
I approached the newsagent because he seems like a particularly patriotic Welshman and his shop is one of the few places to buy bi-lingual Christmas Cards here in Abergavenny. He seems keen on art, as long as he can see what it's meant to be - he has nothing but derision for most of what's on display in our local art gallery, selling for thousands of pounds!  When I was exhibiting my soft pastel paintings a while back, he was very willing to display posters for my exhibitions and he once embarrassed me dreadfully by introducing me to a shop full of customers as 'Mrs Monet' - but that was a while back and I don't think he recognised me. But even if he does remember, I think it's a small price to pay for getting some of my cards sold here in the UK. It will be interesting to see how they go - whatever happens, the newsagent is happy. The warehouse he gets his cards from had plenty of St Patrick's Day cards but none for St David's Day. So me turning up out of the blue with my samples made his day!

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