Dec 25, 2013

Christmas Cardinals Painting


Happy Holidays!!

"Christmas Cardinals"
Oil on Multimedia Artboard

Dec 19, 2013

Apple Chickadees Greeting Card Version

My Apple Harvest Chickadees painting shown here ...

.... has become a favorite with many of my friends and fans so I thought it would be nice to make these available as notecards as well as prints. This image is already available on Fine Art America as prints and notcards but, because it's a rather busy scene of large dimensions, it's not really suitable as-is for greeting cards. If you take this large painting and scrunch it down onto a 5"x7" greeting card many of the finer details will be lost. Because of that, I decided to digitally alter the painting to extract smaller groups of elements and adjust the size and ratio to better fit on greeting cards. Below are three new versions of apples and chickadees derived from the above painting. These new versions are the right size and ratio for greeting cards. Click on an image to be taken to its Fine Art America page.

Dec 15, 2013

Time For Something Personal - Kale!

I hate kale! I won't lie. I like a lot of vegetables, but kale is about as close to the bottom of the list as you can go, even below brussel sprouts. But, because kale is supposed to be a super anti-oxidant food, I have tried to force myself to eat it from time to time. I've tried baby kale in salads, and baked kale chips .... no matter how I've tried kale I am left lying on the floor in gagging convulsions. Sorry, the stuff is just gross! This is one of those foods that could only have been determined to be edible during a time of extreme famine. No well-fed human would ever crave a heaping pile of kale!

However, after all my attempts to find various ways to prepare and choke down kale, I did manage to find one form of kale I could actually eat! I would hardly call this delicious. I would never crave it over a hot fudge sundae...or even turnips! But at least it doesn't leave me gagging and convulsing. It's actually not too bad, as far as kale goes.

I bought mine at Costco, but there are few others stores that carry it. It's called Braised Kale and is made by Cuisine Solutions.

Dec 14, 2013

Your Art on Pinterest

I've recently started using Pinterest to share my wildlife art, along with other things I'm interested in such as other wildlife art, wildlife photography, nature, space, etc., and I think it can be a useful tool for promoting your art and website. There are already lots of articles on how to increase your following on Pinterest, such follow other Pinners with similar interests, Like and Comment on others' Pins, etc. So I'm not going to go into the basics of Pinterest here. This is not an introduction to Pinterest so I'm going to assume you already have your account set up and have some idea how to navigate Pinterest and are now interested in making the most of it. So in this blog post I want to talk more specifically about how to improve your chances of getting your websites and art seen on Pinterest, and also how to prevent your art from getting lost in the sea of Pins.

One important thing to keep in mind is that, if you post your art on Pinterest and make a mistake, you can go to your Pin and edit it. But if someone else has already re-Pinned your Pin then you can't edit that Pin. Your mistake is out there forever! So you really want to try to get it right the first time you Pin something.

If you have your own website (and you should!) the first thing to do is set up your site to make it easy for you and others to share your art images on Pinterest. Add Buttons to your website with their Widget Builder. Or you can go a step further and add buttons for Pinterest as well as other social media like FaceBook, Google+, Twitter, and more. I use the tool from and this is what it looks like on my website:

The tool just sits there along the side to the left of the menu. It stays in place even if you scroll way down the page so it's always accessible. Both the Widget Builder tool and ShareThis tool are free, and they're easy to set up of you know basic HTML. You just copy and paste their code into your page.

Now that you have tools set up so anyone can share your images it's important to do a few other things to your site to optimize it for Pinterest. You want all that sharing of your images to lead back to you, your website, and your art. One thing you should do is make sure your name is clearly visible within the image itself, not just as text next to the image. You should do this anyway, not just for social medial sharing. Anyone can download your images at any time and you want to be sure no matter what they do with it, such as post it on their, or email it to a friend, it always points back to you. Don't rely on your signature. It may not be legible, especially if the image has been compressed. It's worth taking the time to open each image in Photoshop (or similar program) and add clear text with your name, and even your website, right into the image, like I've done here:

It may not be pretty but it's very important for keeping your images credited to you. You don't want people taking credit for your work. There are some unethical Pinners who will replace your Pin's URL with their own, unfortunately. You always want people to be able to find your site should they see your image and want to know more about it. While it may be safer to plaster the text right across the middle of the image as a big watermark, I'm opposed to that. That ruins the image so much that I, personally, won't Pin and share such images. It's just too ugly. So if you want your images to be shared, don't totally obscure them with ugly text.

The next thing you need to do to your website is add descriptions to your images that Pinterest will use when someone Pins your image. I am amazed at how many Pinners are too lazy to add even one word of description to their Pins! They just put a dot, or a space, or a simple word like "wow" in, just enough to satisfy Pinterest's description requirement. Unfortunately, this will not help your art get seen. Pinterest does not have eyes. It has no idea what your image looks like. So if someone uses the Pinterest Search feature and types in "art" your images will not come up if they lack a description, or have an inappropriate description. Let's face it, we're never going to get all those lazy Pinners to type something, so let's do it for them.

Pinterest will grab some information from your website automatically, if it's there. If you highlight text from a page before you click the Pin button then Pinterest will insert that selcted text into the description for you. So make sure there is text near each image that says something about the artwork so Pinners can use that if they want. 

Many Pinners don't know about this, or won't bother, however. So you can go one step further and add behind-the-scenes descriptions to your HTML that Pinterest will grab by default. If nothing is selected Pinterest will grab whatever is in the "alt" tag for that image, so be sure to include alt tags in all your images! Since no one visiting your website normally sees these alt tags (it only shows up if the image does not display) you don't need to worry about cluttering up your page, so make your alt tag as long and descriptive as you'd like. For the above fox painting my alt tag looks like:

alt="Oil painting of a red fox pup in his den, by wildlife artist Crista Forest, Fine Art Prints available"

The words within the quotes are what Pinterest will insert into the description automatically when someone Pins your images from your website. Don't use only the title of your artwork. Use descriptions with keywords you think people will use when searching for art like yours. I don't even bother including the titles in mine. The above fox painting's title is "Learning" but I doubt anyone searching Pinterest using the word "learning" is looking for fox paintings. It's more important that I get related keywords like "painting" and "fox" and "art" in my description. Be sure to include your name. As you can see, I even included my website URL, which becomes clickable once Pinned.

Speaking of URLs, here's another tip about those when posting your artwork. If you have an account with Fine Art America, Etsy, Daily Paintworks, or similar site, don't Pin your art from there. Many of these sites make it easy for users to Pin from them. The problem with this is that when you post from these sites their URL becomes linked with your image, as shown in this Daily Paintworks Pin below.

This would be great if clicking that link right there would take viewers to your Daily Paintworks page, but it doesn't. (This is not the same as the URL people are taken to when they click the actual image, btw) If someone clicks that link what they see is a whole page of images Pinned from Daily Paintworks by anyone and everyone, which may or may not show any of your images. It's better to have your own website URL in there so when people click that link they will see all images posted from your website, not Daily Paintworks. You'd much rather have them discover other images from your art website than other artists from DPW! If you already have some of those Pins on your Boards you don't need to delete them and go re-Pin those images from your own site. You can just Edit the image and replace the DPW (or Etsy or whatever) URL with your own.

Well, that's it for now. I'm fiddling around with Boards and think I have some ideas on how to organize things to make Boards more appealing and more likely to be followed. But that's a whole topic in itself so I'll save that for a future post. In the mean time, come over and follow me on Pinterest!

Dec 8, 2013

Brushing The Cat No.2

Somehow I missed posting this painting I finished back in October. I had done a previous "Brushing The Cat" paint of an orange tabby cat with this concept of the paint brush creating the cat's image. In that one I'd deliberately left the whole painting unfinished as if the brush were still working on not just the cat but the entire painting. In this one the painting is finished but the brush is just putting the finishing touches on the cat, adding the stripes.

"Brushing The Cat No. 2"
Grey Tabby Cat
8"x10" oil on Multimedia Artboard
Original: Available

Here's the previous painting, in case you missed it before.

"Brushing The Cat"
Orange Tabby Cat
6"x6" oil on Gessobord
Original: SOLD

Prints and notecards of both cat paintings are available on Fine Art America


Dec 4, 2013

Being Painterly - Autumn Elk

Here's another one of my attempts to be more "painterly" in my art style. This is, obviously, an elk in an autumn setting.

8"x10" oil on Multimedia Artboard

I have made several attempts to loosen up and develop a more painterly style over the past year. I find it fun and challenging and, since it's not my usual detailed style, I've actually been pretty happy with the results of my painterly attempts.

But ... I must admit ... while I may be happy with the results, I'm not really satisfied. There's a bit of a difference between being happy with the results of your efforts, and being satisfied with what you've done.

I have been told by galleries, critics, and other artists that I should develop a more "painterly" style, so I've made several attempts to do so. Now that I think about it, though, I'm not actually sure why I've been told this. Is this because that is what art collectors want? Is that what wins competitions? Or is it just because that's what the "experts" think paintings should be like? 

I admire the painterly style. I really do. Many of my favorite artists paint in this style. And it's a lot harder than it looks! One would think that less detail would be easier but, trust me, it's not! At least not for me. I find it more challenging. To make something look good with fewer brush strokes is actually hard. So I have the utmost respect for those who can do it well.

But I think I've decided it's just not for me. Somehow I find it fun, but I just don't find it satisfying to leave out the details. No matter how hard I try to let go of it, I just crave the detail.

I don't think I'll make any more attempts to be "painterly" anytime soon. I admire the style but it's just not "me" and I don't think I should do it because some gallery, critic, or artist told me I should. Even if my painterly paintings turn out great, I think you can tell there's something missing from it. I need detail! And when it's not there, something of me is not there, and it shows. I need to be myself in my art, not what others tell me to be, or it's just not mine anymore.

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