Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sigh - More Scamming

Having web presence is great, but of course, it means you're open to fraud & scammers. Once again, I've been approached by the "we'll pay you extra for shipping and you send us difference". And the first time it happened, I was willing to be at least not totally pessimistic, if not entirely optimistic. As Dave says, the more traditional scammer relies on the mark's inherent greed. The awful, horrible aspect of the art scam, though, is that the target's interest isn't necessarily greed: this is our bread and butter - interest in our artwork is ultimately how we make money. On top of that, many artists are not 100% full time professional artists, often don't have a high level of "scam-o-meter" and who rely on the internet for a good portion of their exposure. It's very gratifying to have someone be interested in your work, and to want to purchase it, and even more so when they want to purchase quite a lot of it, or something that represents a sizeable monetary value.

So I mentioned some options for artists to arm ourselves with knowledge:

For those of you who are interested, the RCMP has a site on frauds & scams and reporting economic fraud. You should check out the Better Business Bureau if you feel there's a false company, or search government websites to see if they've got something similar if the company you're interested isn't Canadian or American.

I am not the first artist to be drawn in by this, nor by a long shot will I be the last. There are lots of posts on various art forums, and on one of my favourite artists' resources, the Painters Keys. The names and places change, but the overall structure of the scam does not.

In this most recent one, I did a Google search for (the first scammer had a yahoo address, and I wasn't successful at turning anything specific up about that), and found the domain name on a blacklist. Then I did a WHOIS search and found further information about the domain name, which wasn't necessarily helpful. But those are a couple of other ideas to search for when looking to check out a possible scam.

So I'm adding a list to my sidebar with "scammers I have known", to add to the searching possibilities of other artists out there who might be looking for a little help. And artists out there - it takes a huge amount of courage to admit to our community and the wide world that you have been a victim of one of these scams, so thank you so much for your honesty to share your experiences so the rest of us might learn.

One more thing - accepting PayPal, while it also has its inherent pros and cons, is a better option overall than cheque or money order.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ink Trials

Currently, I use Speedball watersoluble ink for my relief prints. There are many printmakers who scoff at the use of this medium, and many others who recognize the product for what it is: inexpensive, easy to use, easy to clean up, easy to find to purchase, comes in a wide range of colours, and is relatively versatile. It does have its drawbacks, though. Once it's dry, any drop of water will make the image run. The ink is quite "loose" and slippery, so I find that a smooth surface works better than a surface with tooth to print on. The colours are not extremely sophisticated, and when mixed, create greyed down, somewhat muddied results, rather than sharp, clear colours.

So I have embarked on a mission to find an alternative ink to use. I can't use oil based inks, as linseed oil makes me feel sick. Many people suggest that I should have better ventilation, and while that does help, the only time I've not been bothered by oil inks was when I was in an industrial-ventilated area. I wanted to find something easy to clean up, but that had a bit more sophistication than the Speedball inks.

I have received a free sample of Graphic Chemical's water based relief ink. I just tried it last night, and it's very nice. It will take some getting used to, because the layers of ink build up more slowly on the plate, but what a beautiful smooth texture! One drawback though is that GC doesn't have a colour chart to order from, so I don't know what other colours to order!

Above is one of my trial runs using the Graphic Chemical ink - a little light (i.e. not enough ink layers) but definitely has potential. This was printed on a previously abandoned print using Speedball inks, so it looks at the least like I can layer black over colours from Speedball, although the inks are completely different, so I can't mix them.

Graphic Chemical also supplied me with a free tube of water-soluble oil-based Caligo inks. Unfortunately, just opening the tube was enough to confirm that they'd make me unhappy in a short period of time from the smell. It's not strong, but I just happen to be sensitive to linseed oil.

I have sent requests to Faust Ink and Akua Kolor for information and possibly a sample, but haven't yet heard back. I also discussed this with the sales rep for Daniel Smith, and while they're water soluble, they're not water based. Therein lies the rub: water soluble means it can be cleaned up with water, but can still be oil based. Too bad, because the colours from the DS line are lovely, and many printmakers rave about them. So the website information doesn't necessarily help. Akua is supposed to be water based, but I did want clarification. So we'll see what happens!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Autumn Blooms

We spent all day Tuesday gardening: digging up spuds, pulling beans & shelling them, weeding. So I didn't get any art done. Thursday afternoon found me again in the garden, this time equipped with my paintbrush & sketch pad. The sun was warm and beautiful, and the garden was a-buzz with insects. There was one huge dragonfly that spent a lot of time hovering around, I suspect hunting for lunch.

So this post's offerings (again, click on an image to open enlarged into another window):

California poppies

Autumn crocus

The colours in both the poppies & crocus were so lovely. I had a bit of trouble with the colours in the crocus, but I'm pleased overall. There are some really nice passages in both pieces.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

On a Roll

It seems that I've got the outdoor watercolour sketching bug! Yesterday was POURING with rain, but today it cleared up and was beautiful and sunny. One drawback though: the heat evaporated the moisture on the plants & ground, and made the atmosphere quite muggy, so the watercolours took a wee bit longer to dry.

I'm still captivated by the beautiful merging/blending colours of ripening fruit, so here are some more sketches done along that theme.

Feral apple tree by side of the road. The passing traffic caused the leaves to be in constant dancing motion, and the branches to sway.

Some of the later-ripening crabapples (another tree has almost completely ripe clusters all over). This one is more in the shade and in competition with other shrubs & bushes, though.

While the fruit is definitely the most flavourful of those we have growing feral, the cut-leaved variety of blackberries are the most vicious, with back-curving thorns that dig deep and bite hard.

Here's a very late blackberry flower (it was just about the last one on this plant):

The clouds gathered around lunch time, so I headed back inside. Later in the afternoon, the sun shone forth once more, so I decided to head into the veggie patch (a.k.a. "deer Fort Knox"). I experimented with a new pen, but it's not water-proof, so it kind of smudged ink into the painting of the sunflower. I let the sketchbook face-plant in the moist dirt by accident, so there is some serious interaction with nature on this sketching page! I also had the delightful opportunity to do some sketches of a native bee working very hard at collecting pollen.

Another native bee of the same species came by and totally laid into the first one, who got knocked to the ground and lay stunned. I coaxed her gently onto my finger and got a great sketching opportunity while she rested. Here's the close-up:

Monday, September 3, 2007

Country Life

Autumn Asters

Dave & I are on visiting my mother in the Cowichan Valley, a rural/suburban/urban area of southern Vancouver Island. Mom lives in Cobble Hill, which is mostly rural, but with a bedroom community aspect; many people who live here commute each workday 45 minutes (on good days!) south to Victoria. Mom is semi-retired, and moved over Dave & I are huge fans of bees & insects that pretend to be bees, so I'm always on the lookout for any of our native bees or bee-mimics. This hoverfly looked quite a bit like a bee, until you look a little closer.

As I was sketching the cluster of asters, Dave told me he was returning the ladders borrowed for our staining job to Pat, our friend of many talents, including farming (and printmaking, house painting, orchard pruning, etc.). What a perfect opportunity for me to grab my sketchbook and get some good stuff. So here are the fruits of my quick-sketch labours (you can click on any of them to view larger in a separate window):

Pat's Chooks

Black Australorpe Rooster

I am especially pleased with the effect I achieved in this image:


These chickens were in constant motion, and all clustered around the fence in front of me, hoping for a handout. Even though they soon figured out I didn't have any food on offer, they were still curious and watched me watching them. But of course, a chicken's attention span is short, so they soon started doing other chicken activities, and it was a blur of chicken-ness.

Pat raises chickens for eggs & meat; these were his egg chickens. Pat's also got a number of rabbits. This image was a bit of a trick to obtain, because the bunnies kept spooking. Even though I wasn't really that close, and I hardly moved a muscle, I think it was because I was watching them intently, which is certified predator behaviour, that upset them. So the colours are maybe not quite where they should be, but I'm pleased with the result.

White Bunny

The job of raising food for their own table falls mostly to Yasmeen, Pat's wife. She has a beautiful rampant veggie garden, with all sorts of lovely goodies. They've got a simple wood-and-poly hothouse which is exploding with ripening tomatoes (bunny poo is the world's best fertilizer!).

Yas' Roma Tomatoes

The greens & reds of the ripening tomatoes were a delight to try to capture in watercolour. I'm a watercolourist under duress; I don't do it very well, and haven't the patience to master it, but enjoy adding colour to field sketches and it's the best way to do so.

After I sketched for a bit, I gave their wee pony, Molly, a bit of a curry combing and hoof cleaning. She almost purred.

We headed home, and I decided (surprisingly for me!) that I'd not yet had enough sketching, so I worked on the prune plums in Mom's back yard:

I love the way the greens and purples merge together on the ripening plums. The colours are so beautiful. The knobby twigs are also very intriguing. This sketch was done in a semi-blind contour manner, which means that I spent some time looking at the sketch pad to orient my pen, but mostly looked only at the subject.

I noticed an abundance of large black slugs cruising through the un-managed field, so I thought I'd sketch a few:

I am pleased with the almost calligraphic quality of the lines on the mantle of the slugs. I watched the one on the dandelion inexorably charging towards the flower from a patch of apparently uninteresting grass. It was obviously zeroed in to the flower, as it spent a good amount of time chomping all the tasty bits out, leaving the green salad behind. Sound familiar?