Wednesday, 21 December 2011

'Fairy at Forty ' . . . to Colour

This little doodle started out as an illustration for a colouring sheet for:

'Every little girl wants to be
The Fairy on top of
The Christmas Tree!'

But my Naughty Pencil had other ideas and it turned into:

'Nobody Loves a Fairy when she's Forty . . . '

This will be my last blog post before Christmas - and possibly the last of 2011, so I'd like to say a big THANKYOU to everyone who has followed my blog and especially to those who have left their comments!

I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday Season, in whatever way you celebrate it, and I'm looking forward to being back in touch in the New Year!

PS I've uploaded the fairy at a size that can be printed out on A4 paper if anyone has the urge to colour her in!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Art as Therapy?

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

So said Picasso. But is that your experience too? Do you find making your art therapeutic? Does it help you to relax, does it energise you? Or do you find it stressful or frustrating? Is it hard work, constantly striving to improve your art or do you look forward the challenges?

For me it can be a bit of both!

I first became aware of the stressful side of making art about twenty years ago when I was doing a lot of silkscreen printing. I would work on the design with enthusiasm until I was satisfied with it, happily prepare the stencil, the screen and the cardstock or fabric I was going to print on – and then I would freeze!

When the time arrived to actually print my design, panic would take over. I have sat in my kitchen at that point, seized by fear, super-glued to my chair! What if, after all this preparatory work, it all comes to nothing? What if I’ve wasted all this time – and materials? What if, what if...

Even all these years later, I sometimes still experience the same slightly queasy, panicky feeling when I’m about to embark on ‘the real thing’ after a period of preparatory work. But I’ve found a solution, a very simple one! All it takes is to say to myself firmly, ‘Just do it!’ – and get on with it and the panic immediately subsides.

“The pursuit of art on a regular basis may be the key to healing our minds and bodies.”  Kim Blair

But by far the greater part of my experience of making art is decidedly therapeutic. I’ve probably mentioned that I’ve had back problems for much of my adult life and there’s no denying that the cause is a physical, disk problem, alleviated but not eliminated by surgery. But our minds and bodies are not easily separated from one another and our minds can play a major role in deciding the amount and severity of the pain we experience.

“Making Art is good for your health,
especially if it is done in fun” 
Orithia Johnston

I first noticed the power of our minds to affect my backpain when I was spending a lot of time painting in pastels. I always stand to paint and each painting takes roughly 45 minutes, or about the length of the CD I play while I paint. Standing has always been the ‘killer’ for my back and yet I suffered no ill-effects from standing at the easel to paint.

Standing in a supermarket queue is a different matter, though! Four or five minutes and I’m shifting from foot to foot, looking for something to lean on, wishing I could jump the queue and wondering whether I’ll last out till it’s my turn to be served.

The difference, if I’m honest, is that waiting in line for my turn frustrates me, particularly as I’m always in a rush! There’s no such frustration involved in my painting, quite the opposite and the combination of the music and doing something that I love to do seems to produce the endorphins that are our body’s natural painkillers.

“Art heals by changing a person’s 
physiology and attitude. It takes you
‘away’ to some other place.” Barbara Timberman

Perhaps even more astonishing is the contrast between when I was teaching and the time since my tutoring business went into decline with the economic downturn. Although I also enjoy teaching and am pretty passionate about ensuring that all children get the chance to become fully literate, at the end of each teaching session, my back was in such a bad way that it was as much as I could do to prepare something to eat – from the freezer to the microwave!  - and I was taking painkillers almost every evening.

“I paint for my mental health.
It is a lot cheaper than seeing 
a therapist and a lot more fun.” 
Jane Conkin

But since I started painting again a couple of years ago, I can’t remember the last time I took a painkiller and there have even  been days when I’ve sat for a full 10 hours at the computer without any pain.

I believe the reason for my pain whilst teaching is that old bugbear of mine – frustration! One hour a week, at a time when the children are tired, is no substitute for a short daily session and this seriously hampered the progress we were able to make – which I found very frustrating. And it was my backpain that shouted at me to stop! Unfortunately I’m quite a persistent person and I took no notice – until the economic downturn took away my choice!

I consider myself fortunate not to be a perfectionist so I rarely put myself under any pressure where my artwork is concerned and I can just enjoy it to the full. It calms me when other stresses arise, it makes me want to get up in the mornings and it feels like what I’m supposed to be doing.

Van Gogh said:  

‘The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting’

And if my grumpiness when other things keep me from painting is anything to go by, I’m beginning to know what he means!


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Oh dear - my Naughty Pencil!

In fact, I think I should rename it my WICKED pencil!

The little 'doodle' above is the result of a conversation about Thanksgiving in which I suggested that we should make greeting cards for Harvest Festival, the nearest we have to an equivalent 'holiday' on this side of the pond.

But it was pointed out to me that, whereas Thanksgiving conjures up heartwarming 'images of roast turkey, happy families and joyful times', Harvest Festival is associated with 'tins of food, stacked up on a wooden bench, children singing out of tune and smelly old ladies'. 

So out came my pencil while I was 'watching' an episode of Poirot that I'd seen at least twice before - but, as usual, couldn't remember whodunnit. And of course, drawing sitting comforably on the sofa always results in an upward slope to the right in my doodles.

But looking it at it now, I can't help feeling that years of teaching seven year olds has built up a kind of inner store of images of their expressions and gestures.

Presumably it's the smell of the mothballs from the fur coat that the boys are objecting to? 

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Round-up of Websites Selling Greeting Cards . . .

 . . . from a designer's point of view.

It’s just about two years since I first signed up to a Print-on-Demand store to sell my greeting card designs. So I thought it might help anyone just starting out – or others who are thinking of expanding, or changing tack – if I try to sum up the pros and cons of the various different options. But first I must stress that this is a very personal point of view and others may have different experiences.

I started with Greeting Card Universe and that is where I’ve had the most sales to date.

  • Good quality cards at a very reasonable price.
  • Greeting Card Universe does a lot of the promotion for us, in conjunction with their sister sites such as Big Dates-Solutions.
  • Active forum but not so fast-moving that you can’t keep up with it.
  • Orders now printed in and shipped from the UK as well as the US.
  • The review process! Intended to keep standards high and to help artists learn about what makes a marketable greeting card but the inconsistency of the reviewers’ verdicts can make this a frustrating, infuriating process!
  • Making photo cards and custom front cards is relatively tricky but these are new options and bugs may get ironed out over time.
  • The commission is reasonable but easily becomes very low, when there are special offers and customers buy in bulk, both of which happen frequently.
  • Payment is quarterly, provided you have reached the threshold.
  • ‘International Artists’ ie those living outside the US are required to obtain an ITIN to avoid paying 30% tax to the IRS – this can cost time, money and effort to obtain.
  • The images we use for promotion in our blogs etc are very small.

My overall rating: ***

I joined Zazzle shortly afterwards:

  • Huge number of products to put one’s designs on, which I enjoy!
  • Sellers can choose their own commission and vary it for different products in their ‘stores’.
  • Opportunity to earn ‘referral fees’ when a customer purchases a product through clicking on one’s link.
  • No review or entry standard – anyone over 13 years of age can set up shop!
  • Payment is automatic a certain amount of time after you reach the threshold. This threshold has been increased recently which of course means waiting longer to get paid, but it's still possible to be paid more quickly than the quarterly payments of other websites.
  • The ability to offer one’s designs on products such as phone cases, mugs and T-shirts means that a smaller number of sales can produce a larger amount of earnings than on a cards-only website.
  • If you are not a US seller, various opportunities are withheld, such as the launch of new products and only US sales count towards becoming a ProSeller.
  • Prices and shipping costs seem very high for UK customers, even if the seller keeps their commission to the minimum.
  • The forum is lively and useful but is very fast-moving and there are no notification of replies emails so it’s easy to spend far too much time searching for the thread you were following!
My overall rating: ****

CardGnome  (I joined up in August of this year)

  • Impressive-looking site from the design point of view – I love the way it looks – it seems to show off our designs at their best!
  • Apart from a banner and profile, artists do not customize their ‘storefront’. I like the clean, consistent look that this brings to the website but others may prefer to put their own stamp on their store, as with other PODstores.
  • The Gnomes are very friendly and helpful
  • Good commission, though subject to occasional special offer reductions
  • Tailored to the needs of US customers – eg the prices are only in dollars.
  • Designs must be a bit larger than the standard size – ie 5.25” x 7.25”
  • At this time, no possibility of customization, which I think is increasingly expected by online customers these days. But the store is relatively new and maybe this feature will be added.
  • Prices seem relatively high, though they include shipping.
  • I’ve always found the uploading process smooth and reasonably speedy, but a number of artists have had a lot of difficulties – something that we hope will improve over time.
  • Due to the newness of the site, there still seems to be a lot of room for modifications and improvements, such as a way for artists to contact one another outside of the forum.
  • Sales relatively slow so far but hopefully that will improve with time. 
I've downgraded my rating since CardGnome began removing artists who had previously been accepted and then  reduced Artists' commision to 5%, which is very low compared to the PODstores above!
My overall rating: **8
(potentially more when the bugs are ironed out!)

SendaSmile (I joined in October and still stocking up my ‘shop’)

  • Based in the Netherlands, though there is a US domain and I believe the cards are printed in the US.
  • Very quick and easy system for uploading, tagging, categorising etc – once you get used to it.
  • Designers can offer other designers’ cards for sale in their shops if they wish – and vice versa.
  • Cards can be uploaded for customisation without the designer having to do anything except upload the template.
  • Offers square cards
  • Designs must be approx A4 size
  • No forum so it all seems very quiet!
  • Takes a while to get replies to enquiries – this is where a forum would probably help as artists give advice to one another.
  • Quite a lot of the website is in Dutch or a mixture of Dutch and English! This caused me some problems initially, when I was setting up my account and opening my shop. But once you’ve figured out what to do, it’s no longer a problem.

My overall rating: ***


Based in the UK and started by Bob Lesley, of Churchill Insurance in 2004, which is when they asked me to join them, based on my pastel paintings website.

  • All the artist needs to so is email the designs without any text, no promoting, uploading or ‘processing’ needed. Saves time!
  • Artists have no control over what happens to their designs – I was horrified at the coloured borders and lettering that were put on my pastel paintings!
  • Very low commission, especially as they prefer designs to be ‘exclusive’ ie not available for sale elsewhere.
  • Since yoodoo changed hands last Autumn, contact for enquiries etc has been very difficult or non-existent!
  • Yoodoo decide which designs to accept and how to use them.
My overall rating: *

Red Bubble
I haven’t made a single sale through this Australian site but then I probably haven’t explored all the possibilities. I set up my account there in order to sell prints of my pastel paintings and haven’t focused at all on selling greeting cards, though I believe others are successful.

Overall rating: don’t feel it would be fair to rate this company as I haven’t played my part in promotion. 
See ‘Red Bubble’ above.

A UK-based site with the emphasis on Prints but greeting cards and mugs are also offered. Appears to be defunct!

My overall rating: wouldn't want to speak ill of the dead!

I must stress that these are entirely my personal opinions, based on my experience and what I look for in a PODstore. Changes are constantly being made across the board so what applies today, may well not be the case next year or the following year!

You are most welcome to add your own experiences and assessments in the 'comments'. It will all help those who are just setting out down this road . . .

Saturday, 19 November 2011

New Year's Greeting Cards from GCU artists . . .

. . . who use traditional painting and drawing methods.

January 1st is celebrated as the beginning of the New Year in most countries and cultures, though there are other 'New Years' associated with different nations and cultures as well. 

Here we have a selection of traditionally painted greeting cards for January 1st by Greeting Card Universe artists -

Diana Ting Delosh

Ink and Watercolor


Cathie Richardson



Rachel McNaughton


Geree McDermot

Acrylics on Canvas Paper 


Michele Naquaiya

Silk Painting

Scratchboard and Acrylic Inks

Pen and Ink

Kerra Lindsey


John Crowther

Pen, Ink and Watercolor

(You really need to take a close look at this one to appreciate the humour!)

Susan Alison


Sharon Himes

Watercolor on Paper


Lady Charlie

Ink Drawing

Lisa Charlton


James Peele



Graphite and Watercolor Pens


Judy Adamson

Handpainted Paper Collage


 Christi Madden

I hope you enjoyed these New Year's cards from so many talented Greeting Card Universe artists and I'm sure they'll all join me in thanking you for stopping by to look and in wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Traditionally Painted Cards for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa

Instead of showing Christmas Cards, this month's selection of designs by Greeting Card Universe artists who use traditional methods, features designs for some of the slightly less catered for 'holidays', Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year. 

There are so many New Year's cards to feature that I've split this post in two and this time, we'll just showcase cards for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Watch out for the New Year's Cards next Thursday!

Hanukkah Greeting Cards

Christi Madden      


Diana Ting Delosh

Ink and Watercolor

Audrey Ascenzo




 White Dove Studio



Monica Palermo


Betty Matsumoto-Schuch

Watercolor and Prismacolor pencils


Miriam Schulman



Judy Adamson

Handpainted Paper Collage


James Peele

Graphite and Watercolor

Kwanzaa Greeting Cards

Bambi Papais 

Angie Rowe

Mixed Media
(paper, fabric, yarn, string, acrylics)


Gerda Steiner

James Peele

Watercolor Pens
(This one has the bonus of a recipe inside!)


Judy Adamson

Handpainted Paper Collage


I hope you enjoyed seeing what lovely designs can be produced with minimal digital input. Please click on the images to get a better view of the designs.

And if you find something you really like, even if you don't want to buy it right now, you can show your appreciation by using one of the social media buttons on their stores - such as facebook, twitter and google+. Thank you!