Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What's New Wednesday [#3]

Greetings!  Time for "What's New Wednesday"!  I've been swamped this week with assorted junk and I haven't been blogging for the past couple days, but it's all good.  If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you may notice that I gave the blog template a little Spring update :)  Here's what else I've been up to:

For your listening pleasure... a tune by my new favorite band, The Staves (they're produced by Justin Vernon [ie: Bon Iver] and their harmonies are gorgeous):

 "Teeth White" by The Staves via YouTube

I launched the shop on Saturday!  After a little HTML tweakery and figuring out which products to feature, she's gone live.  The website isn't perfect, and I'll likely change the products/product types a few more times, but I'm happy with it for now.  Yay :)

I've received not one, but two wedding-related commissions this past week.  I'm thrilled!  The first is for a tropical destination wedding-themed logo and the second is for a watercolor-style large backdrop.  I got started a bit (see pic) on the tropical theme project to get the creative juices flowing.  Having a blast with these projects and I'm honored to be an artistic part of these weddings.

Also wedding-related, I'm the Matron of Honor for my friend's wedding this Summer, and I'm currently in major Bachelorette Party planning mode.  I'd been looking for invites that were in her signature wedding colors (gold, marsala, and light pink), and I couldn't find I created my own!

I've been playing around in PhotoShop and I started creating these marble/agate-looking things from my paintings.  I'm mildly obsessed with how funky yet earthy they look.  I put a couple available as free backgrounds on the shop website (link located on top tab of the blog as well).

This has nothing to do with art, but...I've rediscovered Forensic Files.  Shows like this that make me very, very thankful for the collaboration between science and law enforcement.  I'd say 95% of the cases are solved using suuuuuper small pieces of DNA.  It's phenomenal.  The episodes are kind of scary because obviously the cases are about unsolved murders, but the episodes also flip back and forth between re-enactments and actual evidence without warning.  There's also a retro-vibe to it because the events happened 10-20 years ago; can't explain it, but it adds to the terror.  Only watch with a beloved human or house pet nearby.

To end on a more pleasant note than Forensic Files, I'm happy to share that my business cards arrived!  Hooray!

Thanks for reading!


Friday, April 24, 2015

Happiness is Happening

original art © OJD 2015

Happy Friday, everyone!  I totally junked up the little painting for today with yesterday's date by accident, and you can't unstamp a stamp so moving on....for today's post, I thought I'd share my investigation into the origin of one of my favorite David Bowie songs.  As I've mentioned before, music in an integral part of my painting process.  If my brain isn't groovin', my paintbrush isn't either.

I bought the album Hunky Dory many years ago, and framed a piece of the lyrics booklet to song No. 7, "Fill Your Heart",  because I fell in love with the lyrics and I clearly have a thing for hearts.  (The whole album is fantastic, actually.)  Bowie songs are the epitome of musical mastery because they craftily combine sentimental (and sometimes odd, but thought-provoking) lyrics with brilliant rhythms.  I've always been a lyrics person, though.  If the song has good lyrics, they'll linger in my mind long after the song is over.  

A literal hunk of framed lyrics from the lyric booklet to Hunky Dory
Now look closely, Bowie himself did not actually write these lyrics.  The song was written by Paul "Biff" Rose and Paul Williams.  

"Fill Your Heart" by Biff Rose, one of the original song writers via YouTube

Did you know the song was originally written for singer Tiny Tim as the B-side to his 1968 hit single "Tiptoe through the Tulips".  Who knew!  If you've never heard Tiny Tim sing, you need to hear this legendary man!  In addition to having a powerful voice, he also had the ability to sing fascinatingly high.  Like really high (for a dude).

"Fill Your Heart" by Tiny Tim via YouTube

 The classic version of "Fill Your Heart" by David Bowie via YouTube

Back to the lyrics.  Some may argue that the song is ironic or sarcastic because it almost comes across as too "happy/feely" or sugary.  However, if I had to rank these three renditions based on playfulness/implied lyrical sarcasm, I think Biff's version is the most humble and contemplative (I hear a little Paul Simon-y flair, and PS can do no wrong in my book, so maybe I'm biased), followed by Bowie's cover, and then Tiny Tim's. Overall, I think the song is pretty profound.  Does the song not challenge the listener to find happiness by conquering fear through being mindful?  That's how I've always heard it.

I suppose we're all singer/songwriters to some degree.  Creating a harmonious balance of tempos, instruments, and lyrics is kind of like balancing emotions, life choices, and reality -- we're all striving to compose a tune that just makes sense and feels right.   Remember: HAPPINESS IS HAPPENING :)  Sing your song.

Have a wonderful weekend!  


Thursday, April 23, 2015

I Wonder ...

original art © OJD 2015
In the past month, Arts Rapid City (ARC, for short!) has hosted some fabulous workshops that have helped me start navigating as an emerging artist.  I had no idea what to expect when I moved to the Black Hills in terms of the art scene, and I still can't believe how active it is here for such a small city!  What a great place to attempt a new artistic pursuit; seriously.  I'm feeling very fortunate to have local resources and support.

When I saw an open invite for an Art Critique at The Dahl Arts Center last week, I said to myself "I WONDER .... should I go?"  So I signed up!  Last evening I attended my first Art Critique and it was fantastic. 
I brought these little nuggets to share for my critique

The critique was led by local artist, Denise Du Broy, and the critiquers (approximately 10-15 people) were primarily art students and a couple of professors from the Black Hills State University.  I was blown away by the level of engagement and the meaningful feedback that was offered to each individual artist.  Beyond the feedback that I received (really helpful to hear some artistically-minded strangers' opinions and interpretations of my paintings), I truly enjoyed seeing everyone else's works and learning about their creative processes.  Quite a diverse collection of mediums!  We critiqued a giant charcoal drawing, acrylic paintings, oil paintings, photos, and a super cool medium I'd never heard of before: "encaustic"!  (it's a wax-based paint and it looks incredible -- you apply it in layers and then strategically chisel away at it to fill the layers with ink, paint, trinkets, whatever!  So cool.) 

"I Wonder" by Rodriguez via YouTube
[note: if you've never heard his album Cold Fact, go do it NOW]

Cheers to the WONDER of learning new things about art, the people who create it, and the benefits of collaborative feedback.  Have a wonderful Thursday!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What's New Wednesday [#2]

It's "What's New Wednesday"!  (Yep, I still made a painted mantra: BE ELECTRIC.  I honestly haven't stopped listening to Oasis since I heard the rumor earlier this week about their possible reunion, and I figured a gender-neutral version of  the song "She's Electric" would be a fun thing to paint.  Plus I'm still really on a lime green kick, so there you have it).

This past week has been awesomely exhausting, and I'm learning a ton about the do's and don'ts of the textile design industry, the process of submitting original art to an exhibition, how to operate my new camera, and how to speak a new language: Photoshop.

Here's a recap of What's New at Olivia J Designs along with some smooth melodies by John Coltrane for your listening pleasure:  

"What's New" by John Coltrane via YouTube

Found out on Friday that The Dahl Arts Center gift shop will be selling my series of "Golden Pines" note cards!

...bumper stickers, too!

I applied to my first local exhibition for the chance to have my paintings as part of a new art exhibition (featured around the terminal/gate walls) at the Rapid City airport.  This 4-piece collection is entitled "Golden Pines, IV" and it's inspired by the time I've spent exploring the Black Hills.  Even if my works don't get selected, I can't wait to see how the airport is transformed with local art.  It will really liven it up!  Such a great idea.

I've been researching textile design this past week because I think it's so FUN, and I stumbled upon a design competition.  Printed Village throws a monthly contest to submit designs for a themed-scarf that will be presented to Anthropologie, Barneys, and Nordstrom.  This month the theme is ELEPHANTS!  I couldn't resist, so I got to work on creating a bunch of designs. Click here to see the whole stampede!

Some of my sewing friends have expressed an interest in my original fabric designs, so I decided to make them available to buy at  Four of my favorite designs are now available in a wide array of different fabrics [modern jersey, minky (which I've learned is a suuuper soft fleece that I'm dying to use to make a snuggly robe!), satin, assorted cotton, etc.].  There's a link up at the top of the blog called "fabric", or click here.

Lastly, I attempted to make my first matcha green tea latte!  It was....ok.  I think I need one of these wisky things to smooth out the clumps. 

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015


original art © OJD 2015

After hearing the GLORIOUS news (ok, rumor) that Oasis may indeed be getting back together, I knew I had the perfect topic to explore: how to REUNITE with the things we formerly despised!  Cheers to the wΓΌnder brothers for the inspiration behind this post. 

*disclaimer: As evidenced by their public display of brotherly banter, I can only assume and therefore do not claim to know that Noel and Liam have ever officially despised each other in the past.

Original acrylic painting of the brothers by David E Hepburn

To start, there are many, many reasons to give up bad habits, bad friends, you name it -- and most times, it's justifiable.  If it's something or someone that's causing you pain, suffering, anger, and you've tried to work through it to a reasonable degree without any luck, then yeah, by all means DITCH IT.  However, sometimes there's a unique situation when given the proper amount of time (& space), the thing that was once a source of negativity becomes a source of positivity.  How does this happen?  Cosmic magic?  Perhaps.  But I think it has to do with coming to terms with expectations.

In terms of my art, I find myself avoiding certain artistic avenues where I've struggled previously, but where I know that if I put the time in, it will be beneficial to my artwork.  It's creative avoidance in a way, but not the good kind of creative!  Should I take the time to sharpen a particular skill or skills that will help me advance my artistic pursuits?  Of course I should. So, what's typically holding me back? My unrealistic expectations.  When I re-evaluate my expectations, that's when I truly make progress.  Most times, the worst thing I can do is do nothing at all.   When was the last time you gave someone (or yourself) a second chance? Why did you write off that person, thing, or situation as a lost cause?  Do you think of it often?  Maybe it's time to re-evaluate.

Additionally, there will always be unmet expectations that you just have to let go.  The "perfect life" is the greatest hoax of all time, although some may argue it's the Yeti.  Those unrealistic expectations that you set for yourself and others are what cause the long term damage to the adventure that is YOUR LIFE.  It's a lot more fun to encounter unexpected efforts.  When you expect virtually nothing in return, you can't be disappointed.  Ok, stay with me...I by no means encourage drudging through life without ANY expectations.  You need to hold yourself and the people in your life accountable for some things!  

My indoor flowering plants really require low expectations -- when they actually do bloom, it's amazing!

Back to Noel and Liam...perhaps we will never know how they came to terms and decided to reunite to make more music.  Could it be financially-driven?  Somewhat likely.  But that's not the point.  The point is that they are striving to figure out a new way to work beyond their creative differences, because they know it will be beneficial.  That's a beautiful thing.  Bravo, sirs! 

When the time is right and you're ready to work through that former tough thing, you just have to re-assign it a set of realistic expectations, visualize all the benefits of succeeding in that 2nd attempt at it, and then REUNITE with it.  In Oasis-speak, I think that translates to don't look back in anger.

♫ ♬

"Don't Look Back In Anger" by Oasis via YouTube


Friday, April 17, 2015

Brag Well

original art © OJD 2015

I'm learning that speaking confidently about my art is critical to promoting myself as an emerging artist.  So how do I "brag well" about my art without sounding obnoxiously delusional? 

I'm a bit of an old soul when it comes to matters of manners, and I reference Emily Post's Etiquette book whenever I'm lost.  The book is pretty fantastic.  I found mine on eBay for ~$10, and it covers nearly everything.  In addition to mealtime manners, common courtesies and assorted formalities, I always learn something new when I crack open the 800+ page book, such as what to do if presented with an unpeeled kiwi at a fancy dinner, understanding that modern chauffeurs no longer wear livery (darn), or how to address a letter to an ambassador of a foreign nation (it's "His or Her Excellency" by the way).  I digress.  

If you search up "brag" in the back of the book, it is referenced on two pages, (pgs 8-9).
pg 8 of Emily Post's Etiquette book
The segment is a mere two paragraphs in total, and it basically stipulates that it's ok to brag (but only a little) about accomplishments to friends, family, and people who love you, because if these people truly care about you they will be "just as pleased as [you] are".  Makes sense.  However, in order to be a good conversationalist with other people, she explains that most people "are not terribly interested" about your accomplishments.  Ouch, thanks for the dose of reality, Emily.  

I decided to expand my research beyond Ms. Post, and find advice from more career-minded resources.

To start, one approach that I like is by Peggy Klaus, the author of Brag!  How to Toot Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.  She says that: “Remaining quiet about your successes only leads to being under-appreciated and overlooked" and she recommends developing a "Bragging Questionnaire" with questions like

-What are the ten most interesting things you have done or that have happened to you that have contributed to your art career?

-How did you end up becoming an artist? [This is a frequent topic of conversation. Be prepared to respond with a good story.]

-What do you like/love about being an artist? [Substitute the specific medium if you prefer: What do you like/love about being a sculptor, painter, fiber artist, metalsmith, photographer, etc.?]

-What professional and personal obstacles have you overcome to get where you are today? What essential lessons have you learned from any mistakes?

I realized that I have some major reflecting to do!  I may think I know the answers to these questions now, but taking the time to re-examine my answers will provide some valuable insights.  This is probably something I can't complete in a weekend, because I think it will take some time to develop meaningful responses to these questions.  

Secondly, in the January 2015 edition of Main Street (a financial planning website), contributor Kathryn Tuggle wrote a piece entitled "How to Brag About Your Accomplishments and Not Sound Like a Jerk".  The article is more corporate business-focused, but I found a solid quote by professor Angelo Kinicki from W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University:   

He says that when it's time to talk about your accomplishments, focus on the "tangible results" of your efforts.   

It's a simple concept, and I like it because getting good results (aka data!) is the foundation upon which I've justified success in my nerdy past.  This also applies to the art world.  Until I have results (aka my art in a gallery, exhibit, make a sale, etc.), I will continue to be an emerging artist.  In order to get these results, I need to keep striving by applying my talents to every opportunity that I can juggle.

Let's end on a hip little jam, shall we? It's 90's throwback time, because Crystal Waters knows how to bring the beat and the brag:

Crystal Waters via YouTube

(Bet you didn't expect to find a blog post that combined Emily Post and Crystal Waters, now did you?  You're welcome.)

 Happy Weekend!


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Don't Give In!

original art © OJD 2015
When it comes to tackling new obstacles (and there will always be obstacles), good old fashioned fear often creeps in....DON'T GIVE IN!  Personally, I know I'm really good at convincing myself of multiple reasons why I shouldn't take the next step (in anything new, art or otherwise), and I have had to teach myself to stop listening to these thoughts.  Sometimes it helps to simply remind myself, 'of course I'm uncomfortable!  This is all 100% new to me'Gil Fronsdal uses the phrase "cultivate capacity for being uncomfortable", in his April 12th podcast, and I love that. 

I think it's pretty critical to separate yourself from IT (the emotion) and see IT as an IT -- not as YOU.  You are not fear.  Fear is something you feel.  Fear is something you must simply make room for, acknowledge, and not give into.  

I reference fear specifically because I've been a little fearful this week about the direction I plan to take my art, because I know it's going to be the biggest step I've taken thus far.  I can paint, paint, paint, but I need to stay confident in the direction I aim to go.  The fastest way to lose my art aspirations is to become fearful of my talents and others' opinions.  Something I've tried to remind myself is that for every "yes" other artists hear (gallery exhibitions, commissions, sales) they've also heard a "no".  

Music inspires and motivates me in many different ways, and I have found that a lot of rockabilly/country songs perfectly address ways to put fear in its place, even though the songs are seemingly about heart-ache.  But isn't fear another form of heart-ache?  For example, I love Wanda Jackson's song "Walk On Out Of My Mind":

Wanda Jackson via YouTube

Cheers to moving beyond the fear and aspiring to reach new goals!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What's New Wednesday [#1]


For Wednesday posts, I decided I'll feature some of my latest works.  My main focus right now is creating original watercolors to sell, but I am also working on some side projects.  Cheers to the first "What's New Wednesday" kick-off!

Just for fun, let's fire up some Billie Holiday, shall we?
 Billie Holiday via YouTube

To start, here's a glimpse of my sunshiny studio space:

Bright natural light, wood floors, I'm happy.

Upcoming products:

Framed original watercolors
©2015 Olivia J

Original fabric I created of my design entitled "Gather, II"
©2015 Olivia J

Original fabric I created of my design entitled "Firenze"
©2015 Olivia J

Original fabric I created of my design entitled "Thai Sky" ©2015 Olivia J
Original poster print of my design entitled "Tulips, II" ©2015 Olivia J
Original poster print of my design entitled "Natural Patterns, Spring II" ©2015 Olivia J 

Framed poster of my painting entitled "Marie Antoinette"  (yes, that's my french-themed living room!) 
©2015 Olivia J

Thanks for looking! 


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Do It!

original art © OJD 2015
Technology is a wonderful thing, and there are a zillion different gadgets, tools, and services that I'm just itching to buy so I can explore new ways to make, modify, and market my art.  Plus, the more I continue to learn about what I can do with my art business, the more I want to DO IT.

Part I:
I decided to invest a bit, and buy ONE item to enhance my art.  After a little brainstorming, it was pretty obvious what my #1 upgrade needed to be.  Yep, it's time for a new camera!  I need to have quality images of my pieces for promo material, my website shop, prints, submissions for shows/galleries, etc. and my current set up just isn't cutting it.  I've been using a smart phone and $25 lightbox kit from Amazon to take photos of my art and promo images.  I know.  Horrendous.

So, a few requirements for the new camera:

-Ability to take up-close photos of my art (I work quite small; and I presume this is critical to consider if you create small pieces too, like earrings, necklaces, accessories, etc.), so I'll need to get a macro lense.

-Has to be budget-friendly; no exceptions.  I understand that most professional photographers and my photographer friends would recommend investing in a high-end camera straight away, but I simply can't float that right now.  I'd love to do that in the future, but I have to keep costs low.

After taking the above into consideration and reviewing the tips that were discussed at the workshop last weekend (aka: new terms to my ears such as aperture, resolution, etc.) I figured that my best option was a used Panasonic Lumix FZ 200 (24x zoom) camera off of Craiglist for $325, plus a "starter set" of filters, lenses, tripod, etc. off of Amazon for $36.99, a set of DGF color cards for $12, and a set of reflectors for $11.  Not too shabby in total. The cost of a brand-new Panasonic Lumix FZ 200 (24x zoom) is ~$400 (which is pretty reasonable too), but I figure for the price of it used, I can also purchase the additional items.  Plus, all the reviews for this camera sounded great.  Graham Houghton created a superb demo using said camera in this video:

Graham Houghton Table Top Photography via YouTube

Regarding light sources, I am inspired to work with natural daylight when I can.  On the days when daylight doesn't cut it, I can take photos in the studio with the lights that came with my lightbox set-up; they're decent enough for now.  I'll likely upgrade to a pair of work lights, but one thing at a time ($$$!). 

Part II:
At the workshop on Saturday, we learned how to take photos of flat paint-on-canvas art, but I work mostly on watercolor paper and I don't prep/stretch my paper before I my finished pieces tend to be a bit, how do I say, wavy.  Sometimes I get lucky and they aren't too terrible (depending on how I dry them), but I know I need to flatten them all 100% going forward if I want to sell them.

Time to upgrade the "air drying method" to more effectively flatten my watercolors
Crisis averted!  Luckily, there are several different ways to flatten a painted watercolor.  I honestly had no idea there were so many solutions. 

I found an excellent watercolor-themed blog by painter Jim Oberst, and he recommends the following options for flattening watercolor paintings:
  1. Dry-ironing the painting on a hard, flat surface.
  2. Steam-ironing the painting on a hard, flat surface.
  3. Dampening the back of the painting and pressing it flat under a board and weights.
Joe Cartwright also has a unique technique using steam-ironing on top of a white bed sheet, as seen here.

Part III:
So, once the watercolors are flat (yay!)....what's next? I've been trying to determine the most cost effective way to display my pieces for sale, and I've decided that doing a combination of selling my art in both (1) clear plastic bags and (2) mated/framed is the way to go.  To start, I think variety is good, and I can see what sells/what doesn't.  As always, this will be a learning process (!!); all part of the fun.  I found this fantastic video by Lindsay Weirich, and she does a really great job showing how to use the plastic bags, how to create your own matting, etc.:

Lindsat Weirich via YouTube

As they say, "Don't just think about doing it -- DO IT!".  Cheers to that.


Monday, April 13, 2015


original art © OJD 2015
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend an all-day creative workshop for Professional Development Training, and it was fantastic.  The event was hosted by Arts Rapid City (at The Dahl Arts Center) and the presentation was given by The First Peoples Fund.

I knew it was going to be a great day, because upon arrival we each got to a pick out a hand-made coffee mug from a local non-profit art studio (The Suzie Cappa Art Center).  Loved it!  This little beauty spoke to me:

As I mentioned, it was an all-day (9 AM-5PM) event, so a lot of material was covered.  I'm not sure where to begin (!!), so I created a list of the things that I learned over the course of the day; a combo of the presentations and through chatting with others at the event:
-Keep all your receipts for everything related to your art (supplies, shows, transportation to shows, food at shows, etc.), for tax purposes.  Regarding taxes, you need a license number to do direct sales in your state.  Say you want to sell your art at a show in Minnesota, Texas, Arizona, need to register for a license for each  separate state as well.  However, there are some exceptions if you are selling by mail order (ie: Etsy or a website shop), but make sure to just read up on the different qualifications.  This site lays out the law pretty well.   

-Apply for grants/scholarships for funding, consider chatting with a business coach, or getting an apprenticeship with a master artist

-Don't under-estimate the value of marketing material!  Make sure you have brochures handy, business cards, and then send out postcards to all buyers to keep in touch.  E-mail blasts, too.  You are BRANDING yourself.  Do it.

-When you're preparing for a show in a new area, make sure to do research on the region to get a feel for potential customers.  A good place to check is the local newspaper

-Learn how to TALK.  Know your artwork and be prepared to really gab about it.

-It's important to have different support systems, and know it's ok if things don't work out.  When in doubt, re-evaluate your own personal vision.  One great question we were asked was to reflect on was where we saw our art in 5-10 years if money wasn't an issue.  Inspiring.

-WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS, and make sure they're measurable.  

-Galleries buy art because they are investing in the artist, and they typically don't invest in emerging artists.  (*side note: this was honestly a little discouraging to hear, but I completely understand the logic behind it.)

 -Pricing your art can be tricky, and there are several ways to do it.  Most importantly, be sure to stay consistent and remember the differences between selling wholesale vs retail.  Also, price your work by size.

-When taking quality photographs of your art (to share on your website, shop, portfolio, gallery/contest submission) make sure it's centered with equal light from both sides, use a good exposure (no flash!), and sneak a corner piece of an 18% grey card in the frame. Shoot straight ahead (no weird angular shots) and get a tripod so the shots are level and steady. 

Lastly, the major highlight of the day was networking with other local artists.  Getting the opportunity to CONNECT with the others was great, and I met a ton of amazing people who are incredibly creative.  I feel pretty lucky to be living in such an artful little town!

I also learned about a local native band from the Pine Ridge Reservation, called Scatter Their Own.  Here's a beautiful acoustic session they did of "Earth & Sky":

 Scatter Their Own "Earth & Sky" via YouTube

A big thanks to Arts Rapid City, First Peoples Fund, and Steve Babbitt (hands-on photography session) for putting together a wonderful workshop!  Can't wait for the next one.