Thursday, 26 May 2011

'New Baby' Cards from Greeting Card Universe Artists

At this time of year, it's not just new baby birds and animals that keep appearing - there are plenty of human 'new arrivals' to celebrate too!

So here's a selection of beautiful 'New Baby' greeting cards from Greeting Card Universe artists who use traditional, non-digital methods to create their designs:
(Please click on the images to appreciate them in greater detail.)

Judith Cheng



Diana Ting Delosh

Ink and Watercolours


Betty @ kontinentalkitties



Bambi Papais 



Hand drawn and painted

Diana Liu



Barbara Schreiber



Gerda Steiner  

Watercolour and Coloured Pencils


Astrid Wielinga 

Acrylic on Canvas


Judy Adamson

Gouache and Pen and Wash


Of course you'll have realised that computers were used for some of the lettering. But apart from that, I think you'll agree that there's 'a certain something' about handpainted and hand-drawn designs that makes them special!  

I'm sure all the artists will appreciate your comments!

Monday, 23 May 2011

My 'Flower Power' range - please help me choose?

Late last Thursday night I received a request, through Greeting Card Universe, to customise one of my collage name-specific cards. So while all the messy collage stuff was spread around my kitchen, I decided to do some more of the floral style collages, similar to the one I posted previously, as it has already done quite well!

Here it is as a square version without any text:


 And here are the new ones:




I've been wondering about submitting some of my designs to UK publishers for a while but thought it would be a shame to have to remove those designs from my online stores if I were to succeed. However, now that the tax situation on my sales through US companies has changed for the worse, I'm not so bothered about that and maybe it's time to screw up my courage and have a go!

I don't want to submit too many at once and I thought I'd try two of these new ones first. But I keep changing my mind about which two to send! So perhaps you can help me decide?

Which two of the above would you choose - if any! - if it were up to you?

(The publisher I have in mind doesn't take computer-generated designs and even the lettering has to be done by hand. I'm rubbish at lettering and the harder I try, the worse it gets! But they do take square designs and a great many of their cards don't have any text at all. So I thought I'd get around the lettering problem by making these designs square!)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Drawing and Painting - just do it!

Cromer Fisherment, Norfolk

I recently happened upon an article with Ten Tips for Drawing Figures and, guess what! – I disagreed with every single one of those tips.  

That doesn’t mean that there was anything wrong with these tips and some people would probably find them helpful but to me they seriously over-complicated the process of drawing. It’s my belief that if you simply draw what you see, you can’t go far wrong!

And if your fine motor skills are sufficient for writing your name, and you are able to set aside any inhibitions about what you can or cannot draw, there’s no reason why you can’t draw anything you like, including the human figure! There really is no difference between drawing a person and drawing a landscape; both are simply made up of a juxtaposition of shapes, colours and textures!

Shire Horse at Rally,

I’ve heard people say that they ‘can’t do people’ - or animals or boats or that they are no good at landscapes. But as long as you are drawing from a reference, a photo, a sketch or a model, it really shouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference what you are drawing. Everything is made up of a collections of shapes which come together to produce a landscape, a life painting, a creature, a building or whatsoever takes your fancy! 

I was fortunate to discover this even before I came across this fabulous quote from Monet:

‘Try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever. 

Merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape.’ Monet

Monet goes further and includes colour and I’ve found that the same thing applies to painting.

Forget all about those ‘arty’ terms  - perspective, tone value, colour theory, negative space, composition etc. They really do become redundant when you take the simple approach and just draw and paint what you see!

Cows coming home
Of course if you deliberately try to forget something, the chances are that you won’t be able to stop thinking about it! That’s the way our minds seem to work. But when you just focus on simply faithfully ‘recording’ what you see before you, you’ll get into ‘flow’ and all that unnecessary mind work will soon melt away.

Why is it ‘safe’ to let go of all those technicalities that people make such a fuss about? Well, in fact, you won’t actually be ignoring them. They will probably have been part of the process of choosing your subject, maybe unconsciously.

People have commented on the ‘dappled light’ in my paintings, the ‘sunlight and shadows across paths’ and the way that my paintings often seem to ‘lead the eye off into the distance’.  All I can say is that this is news to me; I was totally unaware of these things, and others that have been commented on, until they were pointed out to me. But these features must have been what attracted me in the first place, what ‘asked me’ to paint this particularly picture! So that takes good care of perspective, composition and tone value without giving those things a moment’s conscious thought!

I’m sure this is the way that many artists work, but if it’s not your way, perhaps it would be worth giving it a try! It might be the solution to drawing or painting those things that you think are ‘difficult’- and you might have a lot of fun along the way too!

Path from Abergavenny Castle down to the Meadows

 Just draw or paint exactly what you see!

Of course, drawing and painting from the imagination is another matter and would need a blog post all to itself!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Top Ten Tips for Selling Designs Online - Guest Post by Doreen Erhardt

Doreen Erhardt is a photographer, artist and designer who has grown a highly successful online business.

You can see Doreen's work at:

Salon of Art Gifts & Apparel
Salon of Art Greetings
Salon of Art on Facebook
Portfolio for Doreen Erhardt

Doreen has generously agreed to share her Top Ten Tips for selling designs online:

For the artist who is just starting out selling their art online, it can be daunting and many of us learn these lessons the hard way, so I’m delighted to have the opportunity to share them freely with Judy’s audience in the hopes that some of you may find a smoother path to success than I did! 

1.  Design for the product and market you’re after, don’t stuff your design into a market that isn’t suited to the design. 

2.  If you want to be successful at selling your work online, you need to stop thinking purely as an artist and start thinking as both a consumer and as a business owner.  Would I buy this product?  What market am I going after? Wearing three hats is mandatory for success in this business.

3.  Use templates!  Make sure your design fits within the printing guidelines and looks like a professional product.  Don’t put a 5x7 card image on every product at Zazzle and think it will sell. 

4.  If you add text to your cards, make sure it’s legible without overpowering the artwork AND be sure the text/verse you are adding fits the mood/emotion of the image and the category.  Making age-specific cards for example is fine, but not all images are right for all ages.  Making hundreds of cards with the same image is not necessarily going to bring more sales.  Be selective, create your best work and it will sell.

5.  Keep your online presence professional.  Bright colors, loud patterns and lots of flashing java script such as auto-music are turn-offs to most customers and are not considered professional. An ‘in your face’ attitude does not work with car salesmen and will not work for an online store.

6.  Branding is key to the success of any business, online is no different.  Create a business name and a professional looking logo to give your business a recognizable quality.  Keep your URL’s properly capitalized and be consistent throughout your online presence.

7.  Successful site promotion involves creating back links, having strong, valid content and keeping your sites updated.  Sites that sit stagnant for weeks at a time lose ranking in search engines. 

8.  Social networking is not just a craze; it’s an incredible tool all business owners to attract new customers and communicate with existing customer base.  Learn how to use it not abuse it. Don’t just post sale after sale after sale.  You have to offer content, know what you have to offer and they will follow.

9.  Promote other artist’s work along side your own.  Take advantage of the diversity you can add to your blogs, the increase in traffic their following can bring to your site and the affiliate dollars on any sales you make.

10.  Have a ‘mother ship’ in cyber-space, i.e., your own .com so people can find you without having to remember the long URL’s store owners are assigned.  People can type in your store name and navigate everywhere you are online from one location.  You can do this for as low as $10 a year for the .com registration and creating a small site on one of many free hosting sites.

11.  Submit you sites to search engines every six to eight weeks.  Be consistent, but don't abuse this part of your promotion strategy.  More frequent submission will get your site banned.

Doreen Erhardt

Well, I actually make that 11 Top Tips - I told you that Doreen was generous, didn't I!

Here's a small selection of her many imaginative greeting cards for Father's Day:


Doreen currently has more than 2000 cards in her Greeting Card Universe store, Salon of Art Greetings, so go ahead and enjoy a browse! I'm sure you'll find something that's  just what you need!


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Apologies for Missing Posts...

...and intermittent service, due to blogger having some 'scheduled maintenance' issues that necessitated putting some blogs in 'Read Only' mode and removing anything that had been posted since last Wednesday..

In particular, if you are wondering why Doreen Erhardt's very helpful post has disappeared, it's all part of the problem blogger's been having and they are expecting to restore missing posts over the weekend - or so they say!.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Experimenting with Originality

In the UK, we've already had Mother's Day, some weeks ago. But I've been busy and forgotten to put away the cards that my family sent me. The one above is the sort of thing that is very popular at the moment over here - the word that comes to my mind to describe it is 'minimalist'!

It's been standing on a shelf where I see it every time I sit down to a meal. So I've been thinking about it quite a lot, wondering how a style that looks almost like a child's drawing could have become so popular, in fact so 'chic'! I like it but it's not my style at all. Nothing about me is 'minimalist'; I'm more of a 'clutter and collections' person.

But after writing a blog post about 'copying' - Is Your Art Original? - a couple of weeks ago, I've been wondering whether I could deliberately adopt a different, more fashionable style, stopping short of  meticulously copying someone else's work.

So I decided to experiment. I'd already had an idea for some kind of row of flowers in a 'window box' floating round in the back of my head for a couple of years but had never got around to doing anything about it.

I had lots of small but pretty pieces of handpainted paper left over from recent collages that were just right for flowers. So I decided that collage was the way to go.  I began with the 'trough', trying to keep to nice, clean lines, nothing fussy - but couldn't help embellishing it with the hearts! 

Birthday Flowers card
Birthday Flowers by helikettle

Next, I positioned the big, deep pink flower, followed by the three smaller blue ones, intending them to be supported on thin but dead straight stems as in the Mother's Day card design. The two orange flowers came next and that was all I had planned to do.

But I really didn't like the 'gaps' and began filling them in, working more instinctively and less 'thought-fully'. By the time I was happy with the flowers, there was no way that rigidly vertical stems would suit the design - and far more leaves crept in than I had planned for!

It seems, then, that even when I set out to change my style to something more 'modern', my own personality took over and produced something completely different. Yes, there are traces of  'influence' - the shapes of the flowers and leaves, for instance. But, unless I've missed something, I think the likeness ends there!

The objective of my little experiment was to try to pin down the extent to which I'm influenced by being constantly subjected to other artists' designs that I really like.

My conclusion is that yes, I am influenced but that my own 'style' probably always prevails. In this case, and almost certainly others before it, I ended up with something new, a slightly different style from my usual collages, even though it might still be recognisably 'me'. And I think that's a worthwhilestep to take to avoid becoming 'stale' - or copying oneself!

It isn't a question of which is the better design - people's tastes are so different! But I was quite pleased with my 'window-box' and I used it to create a mug, a tote bag, some stickers, an iPhone case and an apron on Zazzle, as well as greeting cards.

Someone else must have liked it too because the apron received a Today's Best Award and I've had some lovely comments on my store wall!

'Do not worry about your originality. You could not get rid of it even if you wanted to'. Robert Henri

It seems he's right!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Was that our Summer?

At last it seems as if we might be about to get some rain!

This Spring we've had weather in the UK that would normally be very welcome in 'Summer'. Practically the only cloudy day was the day of the Royal Wedding!

The plants in my garden are all well ahead. I looked back at last year's blog posts to check if things were really as early flowering as they seemed. And yes, this post from last year about 'Gardening on a Shoestring' shows my 'Dreaming Spires' rose starting to bloom at the end of May. Whereas the photo below is from the last day of April, this year!


Last year I was anxious about whether my 'Albertine' rose would be out in time for my birthday in June, as usual, but this year it's already begun to bloom, though most of the flowers are too high to photograph easily. Last year I hung out of the bedroom window to take the photos but I'd have to move the tomato plants from the window sill this year as it's still too cold at night to plant them outdoors.

Yesterday I noticed that my second 'Dreaming Spires', planted a year later than the first one, has finally reached the top of the 6ft garden wall and is peeping over onto the pavement, in spite of competition from the honeysuckle! When I visited some friends in Wiltshire a few years ago and went for a walk around their village, I was impressed by the way so many of the houses had great swathes of roses draped over their high walls for passers-by to enjoy. And now, at last, mine are nearly there too!

This April was the warmest in the UK since records began and the southern half of the UK has only had about 10% of its usual rainfall. I've been pleased to be able to wash curtains and covers and have them dry outdoors in a few hours. But there have been disadvantages to this long dry and sunny spell with temperatures that we would normally be very pleased to see in August.

Apart from the 'smog' that was a problem over the Easter Weekend and everyone, including myself, suffering more than usual from 'hay fever' symptoms, there have been wild-fires in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales - and now in England! I heard on the news a couple of nights ago that there were currently more than 300 grass and forest fires raging in South Wales alone, fire-fighting efforts being hampered by the stiff breeze that got up earlier in the week. It seems almost incredible to see footage of helicopters dumping water on the fires, especially so early in the year!

Reservoirs are very low - though hosepipe bans haven't yet been mentioned - and farmers are very worried about their crops because of the lack of rainfall. This will quite possibly result in even higher food prices than we already have!

I'm convinced that the next few months will be our usual summer diet of one or two sunny days, followed by a week or more of rain! We all try very hard to pretend it's Summer but I have memories of many family Summer holidays spent largely huddled in a steamed up car, eating our picnic and saying hopefully, 'I think it's brightening up over there!'

But maybe there are reasons we should be grateful for our usual damp to downright wet Summer weather. For me it means less time Spring-cleaning and gardening - and more time for painting. And that's something to treasure!