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Will the real whimsical wildlife painter please stand up?

If your art becomes popular enough that people like it, share it and buy it, somebody will steal it. Some creatives stamp ugly watermarks across every image they post to try to combat this, but what’s the point if you need to go that far?

It’s not uncommon for people to remove my signature or change the wording in one of my editorial cartoons and then post it on social media with no credit or link to my site. It happens to every cartoonist. It strikes me especially funny when the alteration is so they can call a politician a liar, thief, or criminal.

Today’s word is irony.

On occasion, a company has stolen my work and offered it on an online product, usually in another part of the world. In most cases, a cease and desist is all it takes to remove it, and then they steal somebody else’s work. But in some countries, everything online is seen as free for the taking. I know artists who’ve been on vacation in Thailand and seen their work sold at roadside market stands.

If you’re shocked by this, remember that scammers bilk senior citizens out of their retirement savings every day. Humanity has more than its fair share of bottom-feeding scumbags. Art theft isn’t even close to the worst of it.
Several years ago, my friend Kathryn alerted me to a woman on Vancouver Island using my Otter painting as the logo for her business. It was on her business cards, a sidewalk sandwich board, window decals and advertising. When I called the owner on it, she said she Googled ‘royalty-free images’ and my otter came up. I asked if Mickey Mouse had come up in that search, would she think Disney would allow her to use him as her logo? My signature is still on the image on that sign! She angrily told me I was being unreasonable and said if I had been nicer, we could have come to an arrangement.

Based on such a trustworthy beginning, I clearly missed out on untold riches.

On a trip to Vancouver Island, we stopped in Ladysmith to ensure it wasn’t still going on. She’d sold the store, and my work was nowhere to be seen. That’s why I’ve blacked out the name in the photo.
Another company in the same area had my Moose and Grizzly Bear paintings on their chocolate-covered candy labels sold in a local store. The company’s owner in Eastern Canada said they’d hired a graphic designer to make the labels. He just stole my work online and passed it off as his own.

The owner apologized and said he would remove the offending images from his products.

People will frequently look down on artists for not having ‘real jobs,’ or expect us to work for free or the ever-popular ‘exposure.’ Every time I try to pay my bills with this mythical currency, companies laugh at me. I guess it’s only good for art.

For many people, art is their business; when somebody steals from your business, you must deal with them. If it’s an overseas company in a country with lax copyright laws, you could sell your house and spend it all on lawyers, and you still wouldn’t win.

You pick the hill you want to die on.

Which brings me to last week.

A woman in Nevada has been selling my artwork as her own, alongside what I can only assume is questionable CBD potions. As far as I can figure, she has purchased canvases of some of my work, likely from print-on-demand sites like Art.com, Wayfair, iCanvas, and others.

These companies were licensed to sell my work through agreements I signed when represented by Art Licensing International. I ended that relationship early last year, but these companies had contracts with the rights to sell my work until the end of their terms.

Most of those have expired, so even though you can still see my work on some sites, you can’t order it anymore. I’ll write another post later on why I don’t find those sites appealing.

Since the art thief has been doing this for a few years or longer, I suspect that’s where she got them since I don’t post high-resolution images on my site. She then applied some brushstrokes to those canvases and sold them as her original work.

At Photoshop World Las Vegas in 2014, I took a class from a New York copyright lawyer. He was an entertaining character but knew his stuff and had represented plenty of artists who’d been ripped off. His advice even saved me from a deal I worked on that very week with a couple of scammers in Calgary.

The lawyer talked about the oft-quoted 10% rule, the belief that if you change another artist’s work enough, copyright no longer applies, so that you can resell it as your own. He shared the official legal term for that rule; Bullshit.

It’s the kind of thing amateur creatives tell each other to justify stealing.

According to Canadian and United States law, an artist owns copyright to their work as soon as they create it. However, officially registering allows you to claim more financial damages when suing somebody for a breach.
From what I’ve found, she stole my Coyote, Grizzly, Black Bear, Moose, Squirrel, Peanuts and Smiling Tiger paintings, but likely more than that. While the first five are no longer bestsellers, and a couple are even retired, my Smiling Tiger and Peanuts paintings are two of my most popular, bestselling and frequently licensed images.

Stupid is as stupid does.

She advertised that she’d be showing her art all month at a venue in Nevada, complete with photos on her website, Facebook and Instagram. She removed the image from her webpage, but I saw that coming and captured screenshots. Not my first rodeo. I have blacked out some areas of the image that may unfairly implicate others.
I contacted the venue and informed them that this ‘artist,’ for lack of a better term, had stolen my work. I included several links to my site, blog posts where I wrote about the images when I had painted them, and links to companies that licensed my art. And while I told them I didn’t blame them for the infraction, I suggested they distance themselves from the offender.

The response from the venue was better than I’d hoped. They apologized (not their fault), told me they removed the canvases from their walls and even copied me on an email they sent to the fraudulent artist. In it, they told her she was no longer welcome there, and if she wanted to collect her canvases, they’d be at the local Sheriff’s office for retrieval.

She declined to pick them up.

You don’t say.

I had also contacted a friend who lives in that area and asked if she knew the place. She said she did and spoke highly of it. I don’t believe they’re complicit, and as the business is also a victim of this fraud, I see no need to name them.

I have sent emails to other events she’s advertised on her site and to markets where she has sold my work in the past, informing them of the theft and asking them to cancel her registrations.

I am not an advocate of cancel culture and trial by media. Some people don’t know what a reasonable response is, and internet vigilantism seems to have one setting: scorched earth.

That said, given what I’ve seen, she has been stealing my artwork for years. The problem is that when I searched for her online, I came across a few other legitimate artists with the same name, and I don’t want them confused with this thief. It takes very little time to cancel somebody, and it’s nearly impossible to reverse it when you’ve got the wrong person.

So, instead, I’ve shared the photos from her site. I’ve blacked out the venue name and details but left her name intact. Since references to and images of my work are still up on her Instagram and Facebook, I’m also linking to those. The artwork may be removed when you read this, as I’ll share links to this post in her comments section. She has removed my images from the front page of her website.

From a cease-and-desist email I sent her, she responded, “Patrick. I’m very sorry. I will never paint again. The paintings I have will be destroyed. Kat.”
After a whole career dealing with this kind of thing, I am firm-footed in ‘fool me twice’ territory. Her reply almost stopped me from writing this post, but she’s standing proudly in that photo with six large canvases of an art style I’ve spent years developing. And 24 hours after her apology, my work is still visible on her social media with mentions of her amazing paintings. Very sincere.

Genuinely sorry, or sorry you got caught?
If your only available settings for creating art are stealing it or not painting at all, I’m at a loss to understand why you’d bother pretending to be an artist. Choose a profession more suited to questionable morality, like federal politics.

I’m sharing this story as a cautionary tale and a teaching moment. If you’re an artist learning new skills, copying somebody else’s technique, studying their methods, and imitating other styles to find your own is part of the process. That’s what every artist does. It’s how we learn. Eventually, you get tired of being a poor copy and strive to become an original.

But don’t steal somebody else’s artwork and pass it off as your own. It’s happened to every artist I know, and it can quickly become an open wound that never heals. People will find out. Artists routinely reverse-search their own images to catch this sort of thing, though I found out about this infraction another way.

When one artist sees another ripped off, they will tell them about it because we all know how it feels. In some cases, if the artist is popular enough, their community of followers will destroy you online. I’ve seen it happen more than once. It’s brutal.

Dealing with this issue has taken way too much of my time this past week, time I’d much rather have spent painting. It should be obvious why this got bumped up on the priority list.

While I’m not happy about this situation, I’ve mellowed in my older middle age, and I’m not raging or losing sleep over this. It would be naïve for her to imagine several years of theft can be erased by three short sentences in an email, with little action to back up her supposed remorse. I don’t know how much of my artwork she sold, but I’m confident I won’t get a cheque in the mail. And anyone who bought my work from her likely won’t get refunds.

I’ll keep an eye on her to make sure she stops stealing my work, and if further evidence presents itself of ongoing fraud, I’ll make it as uncomfortable as possible for her to continue.

And if she suddenly finds a new art style (she’s done this before), you can bet I’ll do my best to let the next victim know about it and help them in any way I can.

Cheers,
Patrick

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Twas the Week Before Expo

As I write this, everything is going well in the run-up to my biggest show of the year. I’m almost ready to load the car and drive in for setup on the 24th.

I still have to draw twice as many editorial cartoons this week to cover my newspapers while I’m away. I’ll also want two ready to send for the morning after I get home because I’ll be too tired to draw. But that’s always part of the prep.

This always feels a little like a looming new year to me. I look back on the 12 months since the last Expo, thinking about what I got done and what I failed to deliver.

The Book

I promised myself I’d have it finished for this year. If you’ve been patiently waiting, there’s no way you’re more disappointed in me than I am in myself.

The reasons aren’t hard to decipher. There’s an imposter syndrome part of it, where if I keep procrastinating, I never have to put it out there and risk that it won’t measure up to my expectations. I’m not a deep well. This is basic psychology.

I have explained before that editorial cartooning provides a consistent monthly income, even though it’s less each year as newspapers stop using freelance work or they close entirely. But it’s hard not to prioritize reliable revenue.

My whimsical wildlife artwork continues to grow each year. Thankfully, It is now more than half my annual income, but licensing payments come in irregularly and are often late. Gift and trade shows are held at different times each year, so those, too, are inconsistent.

Though I’ve been self-employed for almost twenty years, I’m from a generation used to biweekly paycheques, and though it’s only an illusion of security, it’s difficult to dismiss.

THE BOOK (cue the Imperial March) means investing time, energy and funds into a project that may not generate revenue; if it does, it will come later. Making time to write and draw the content and learn Adobe InDesign means sacrificing drawing an editorial cartoon or a painting for immediate licensing that will generate revenue in the short term.

When I was in my early 30s, it felt like I had all the time in the world to risk and experiment. Twenty years later, it feels irresponsible, even though I know that’s yet another false perception. But I’ll continue to work to find a way to climb Bear Book Mountain, even though I know the only way to do that is one step at a time.

And, of course, I must prepare my apologies for another Expo where people (Hi, Kim!) ask me, “Did you finish your book yet?”

No. No, I haven’t. Maybe next year.

(awkward silence)

Want to buy a sticker?

A Great Show I Never See

I looked through the Expo Exhibitor List last week to see if any vendor friends were near my booth. Though it seems like they all have good spots, none are in my immediate neighbourhood, so I’ll only get to visit them briefly before the show opens each day.

When I attended this event as a ticket holder, I loved seeing the wealth of great artwork all over this show, but as a vendor, I see almost none. When the show is open, I’m there to work and can’t leave my booth.

In my early days of this show, Shonna came with me, but she’d have to take time off work. Eventually, she’d be there only on the weekend, as Saturday is especially busy, and I felt I needed help. That allowed me to leave the booth occasionally and check out the show. But it quickly became apparent that while Shonna was great at promoting and selling the work and even telling the stories behind the art, people always want to talk with the artist.

My leaving the booth for any length of time is bad for business.

I think it was 2019 when Shonna was supposed to drive in on Saturday, but a sudden whiteout snowstorm showed up, as will happen in this part of the world. The power even went out a few times. I called and told her to stay home; it wasn’t worth the risk. While only a one-hour drive from Canmore to Calgary, lousy weather makes that highway treacherous. Add in Alberta’s abundance of aggressive drivers and it was safer to stay home.

However, with her absence, I learned that I could manage the busiest day of the Expo by myself, and that was the last time I needed her to attend. Shonna has two jobs, and I never liked asking her to sacrifice her only day off each week to work at my job, too.

But last week, she surprised me and said she took Sunday off from her part-time job and wants to revisit the show and help me pack up at the end. Isn’t she sweet? I’m looking forward to her being there.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t snow.

What’s New This Year?

Every year, I have a loyal group of supporters who add to their collections. A few of them even volunteer to watch the booth for me if I need a bathroom break. Such nice people!

This year, I’ll have the usual magnets, coasters and stickers, a lot of large metal prints and some canvas, and new postcard sets, too!

The most popular offering, however, is always the 11”x14” poster prints, and I bring hundreds of them. This year, there are over 50 different animal paintings available. It’s always flattering and amusing when people flip through the bins and ask each other, “Do we already have this one?”

A couple of years ago, one of my favourite collectors flipped through the bin like he was looking through hockey cards or comic books and joked, “Got it, got it, got it, need it, got it, got it, need it.”

So, before this year’s show, whether they’re already up or waiting their turn on your wall, take a moment and remind yourself which prints you already have. But hey, if you buy a duplicate, you can always gift it to somebody else. Just sayin’.

To help plan this year’s print acquisitions, here are the nine new pieces I have painted since the last Expo. I’m bringing prints of all of them, but if you can’t make it to Expo, they’re already available in the store. A reminder that all prints are hand-signed and it’s Free Shipping on orders over $48. Check them out!

I don’t include a title or my website on the actual prints, just my signature. And I have lost count of how many times people tell me the prints look so much better in person than they do on the screen. I wholeheartedly agree that my Victoria printer, Art Ink Print, does a fantastic job.

This event has become a proving ground for my latest work, and it’s often where I find out which prints will become popular and discover if perhaps my next bestseller is among this year’s creations.

I’m excited to find out.

Cheers,
Patrick

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You’ll Find Me at The Calgary Expo

As I write this, Calgary Expo 2024 is a little over two weeks away, April 25-28, 2024.

100,000 people attend over four days, one of the biggest events of its kind in North America. It occupies Exhibit Halls B, C, D, E, and F of the BMO Centre, plus an entire floor of The Big Four Building for Artist Alley.

While still a lot of work, I have a decade of experience with this show, so it’s not as stressful as it used to be. Prep starts on the last day of each Expo, putting down a deposit for the next one. More deposits follow throughout the year, hotel booking in December, following the same steps that lead right up to booking my electrical, parking and insurance, which I did just last week.

This weekend, Shonna and I opened up the first metal prints of my latest paintings, and that’s always fun. A painting never feels finished until I see it in print, as that’s when my work looks its best.

I bring hundreds of prints to this event, and they’re all here. I need to sign the latest order of 60 prints and assemble many more this week with backer board, art bios, and sleeves.

Vinyl stickers and postcard sets are ready, but I’m still awaiting a magnet and coaster order. I hope that shows up soon.

Over the next week, I’ll review my booth hardware, check grid walls, lights, tables, backdrops, banners, and the rest of the detailed checklist. Living out of a Calgary hotel for five days, working long late hours, there’s no chance of driving home if I forgot something.

Here’s the map of the BMO Centre and where you will find me this year.
In 2022, my booth location was up in the air until the day of the show, and it was stressful. At first, I didn’t get the type of booth I booked and I needed to address that. Following that, when I got there, one list said I was in one spot and another in a different spot. I couldn’t even unload my car. While I empathized with the organizers’ difficulty trying to please everybody, I still paid a premium for my corner booth, and I had to become the squeaky wheel with emails during the week leading up to the show. I am sure I annoyed the organizers when I became frustrated and could no longer be patient and keep quiet.

Even though that show began rough, it worked out well and was an excellent year for me.

I don’t recall ever having a bad booth placement, but some years have been better than others. As the show evolves each year, the layout often changes. Last year, they assigned my booth outside the main hall, where I’d been since my first year, to an adjacent hall near the Main Stage. I was at first disappointed but decided to make the best of it without complaint.

In yet another example of ‘got what I needed instead of what I wanted,’ last year’s placement turned out to be one of my best. As the Main Stage was a big draw throughout the show every day, there was plenty of traffic. I also heard that the main hall was crowded on Saturday and people needed extra time to get anywhere.

As vendors book for the following year on the show’s last day, I asked the Show Manager if I could request that hall again, and he seemed a little surprised. I explained that it was my best sales ever, and he told me to write down the request on my application and they would do their best. This was the same manager I had a minor conflict with the year before regarding the booth issue, so last year, I made every effort to be as friendly and pleasant as possible in every interaction with him. Had I done any damage to my relationship with the organizers, I wanted to do my part to repair it.

If somebody promises a service or product and fails to deliver on agreements, you should hold them to account and argue for what you paid for. It can quickly become a pattern if you don’t, especially if somebody gets used to your rolling over. But if someone tries to do right by you and correct their errors, that’s all you can ask. We too often fail to realize that everybody’s job is difficult. People make mistakes.

As the show grows closer each year, waiting for my booth placement is a bit of a nail-biter. Some years, it has come only a week before the show. An unexpected placement can mean redesigning the whole booth at the 11th hour.

This weekend, my booth assignment email arrived, and I quickly scanned the attached PDF floor plan. I started at last year’s location and saw that I didn’t get the same spot, which was OK because I knew it was a long shot. But I hoped it would be nearby.

I quickly found my booth number and breathed a sigh of relief. From what I know of this show, this year’s placement looks ideal, even better than last year’s.
Two more aisles of booths are in that hall this year, so it looks like a bigger show. Between the Main Hall and the Main Stage Hall is a corridor through which all traffic comes and goes. My corner booth is at the end of an aisle, within easy view of everyone coming through that corridor. Below was my booth design last year and it worked so well that I will use the same one this year, only reversed, and with a bunch of new artwork, of course.
The organizers are likely pulling their hair out two weeks out, trying to get everything done. No doubt, when they announce booth placements, they receive emails from people who didn’t get what they wanted or those politicking for a last-minute change.

Though we all get too many emails these days, I sent them a quick Thank You. At least they’ll get one that lets them know their efforts are appreciated.

Before I was an exhibitor at the Calgary Expo, I was an enthusiastic attendee. It’s a fun, family-friendly event for all ages and a real circus-like spectacle. I have rarely encountered anyone at this show who wasn’t having a good time or happy to be there. It’s just that kind of vibe and a professional and personal highlight of my year.

Advance tickets are on sale until midnight on April 10th. Hope to see you there.

Cheers,
Patrick

 

 

 

 

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Reflecting and a Raven on White

In the late nineties, I worked different jobs at a hotel in Banff for five or six years, from waterslide attendant and manager to front desk agent, night auditor and accounting clerk.

I used to doodle, sketch, and draw a lot in those days. I wasn’t very good at it, but like with any skill, you don’t produce your best work until you’ve paid for it with years of bad work. It was a hobby that I never thought would become a career.

While at the waterslides, after I’d finished cleaning, the job often meant minding the desk until guests showed up. I might spend hours alone in the slow season, so I would read or draw. The night audit position required a couple of hours running financial reports at the beginning of the shift, then babysitting the front desk all night until the day staff arrived.

More time to draw.

I filled countless sketchbooks during those years, all long ago discarded, recycled or shredded. I’m not a nostalgic person, and I don’t like clutter. Some have suggested I should have kept that stuff because it might have been worth money someday.

Ever seen American Pickers? Those outbuildings full of junk are all about people keeping useless stuff for that very reason. Most of it is worthless.

Proving we never know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone, I took all that creative freedom I now miss for granted. No deadlines, no expectations, and no need for any of that artwork to pay the bills. With no social media or website then, I didn’t have to post any of it.

Art for a living is a double-edged sword. While I certainly prefer it to that waterslide job or working midnight shifts minding a front desk, and working at home alone suits my nature; I no longer draw anything just for fun. If I’ve got time to draw, I spend it on editorial cartoons or whimsical wildlife paintings.

I used to enjoy editorial cartooning, but following politics and the news every day, especially in our increasingly toxic and adversarial culture, it’s just a job, and there’s little joy in it. But I can’t ignore that without cartoon deadlines; I wouldn’t have been as disciplined to draw almost every day for more than twenty years. That constant practice has made me a better artist. How could it not?

The wildlife paintings, however, are the antidote to the negative news cycle. I’d much rather spend every day painting fur and feathers, recording painting videos, or writing, but that’s currently just over half of my artistic income, so I need to devote equal time to the darkness and light.

The financial pressure I assign to my wildlife work often decides which animals I paint. I will avoid certain animals because they’re unlikely to be popular. I must always think about the market potential for anything I paint. Will this or that retail or licensing client be interested, will it be popular at markets, and which products might benefit from this piece?

I’ve only realized in recent years how loud those questions have become. My Otter and Smiling Tiger are two of my bestsellers, but I wasn’t thinking about that when I painted either of them nor could I have predicted their success.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to predict and produce the next bestseller every time I plan a new painting, even knowing it’s impossible. Art isn’t an algorithm. Based on market trends, you can’t accurately predict what will resonate with people. I know because every year, the licensing industry pretends they know what people want and what will sell, and they fail more often than succeed.

Like with political polls or long-range weather forecasts, we pay attention to these poor predictions and then complain about how often they’re wrong. We’re not as bright as we like to pretend.

Several people asked me to paint a sloth a couple of years ago. I kept putting it off because I had no interest. But I finally got tired of hearing it and wondered if I was missing something. So, I put the time in and painted one. It was a worthwhile challenge, and I’m pleased with how it turned out. I learned some things in the process, but it’s not one of my personal favourites. I’ve never felt any connection with sloths. It sells well enough, but it’s not a bestseller.

Over the past year, I’ve received a bizarre number of requests for another animal, at least twice a day at the Banff Christmas markets. It’s another I wouldn’t have chosen, but I started on it this week. With the Calgary Expo on the horizon, it’s the best place to test if requests will result in actual sales, should I manage to do a good job. Rather than tell you what it is, I’ll share it in a couple of weeks.
I’ve always liked ravens, and I talked a bit about that in my last post. Because ravens are popular, this piece was a marketing decision and an animal I wanted to paint. It’s nice when it can be both, but I catch myself asking composition questions while I paint that I never would have when I didn’t do this for a living.

Will no background make the painting more or less popular? Will people want the blues and purples in the feathers to be more or less vibrant? Should I have exaggerated the whimsy more, or did I go too far already?

It also applies to writing posts like this. Am I being too negative? Will this angsty artist crap turn people off? Should I write something peppy and encouraging, even though I feel none of that right now? What do people want to hear?

These questions are pointless, but I find them impossible to ignore.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

But because this work is my livelihood, it’s nearly impossible to avoid these thoughts. My time is limited, and spending it on a painting that doesn’t sell well feels like I wasted it on the wrong painting.

Second guessing like that often leads to procrastination and self-doubt. Too long in that headspace, and I’ll ultimately paint nothing because I’m looking for impossible guarantees.

It would be nice to end a post like this with a positive affirmation or some conclusion that hints at some 11th-hour writing wisdom. But I have no clear answer to this flawed perspective. I’m still working on it.

Cheers,
Patrick

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Market Lessons


Sales were good for both Banff Christmas Market weekends, so I’ll book again next year. The weather was great, right up until a sudden snowstorm Sunday evening, just in time for load-out, but that’s life in the Rockies.

When you make art for a living, profitability is the critical metric for an event’s worthiness, but after you achieve the financial goals, there are intangible benefits, too.

At the Calgary Expo earlier this year, a new vendor introduced himself, thanked me for a couple of blog posts I’d written about the Expo, and said it helped him prepare for his first booth. I got plenty of help and advice when in his shoes, so I was pleased to pay it forward.

There are plenty more experienced vendors than I am, but I’ve done enough over the years to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Every vendor has something to teach you. From where to find a decent meal in a sea of deep-fried food trucks to when to get there on the last day for a good parking spot for load-out. Those who’ve been there before have the wisdom; most are happy to share it.

Keep good records. I have a detailed sales spreadsheet I update each day of the show, whether home or away. You may only do a particular market once, but if you do well and come back the following year, you won’t be able to remember what you sold, so you won’t know what to bring. It’s not enough that I know the Smiling Tiger or Otter were bestsellers. I need to know how the other 40 images did, too.

Be honest about your costs. You don’t make any money until you know what you’ve spent.

Because I got to come home each night, the expenses for these recent markets were low, mainly booth cost and insurance. At the Calgary Expo, once I added up booth cost, parking, power, insurance, hotel and meals, I spent $2000 before I sold one print. To make it worth my time, I must make much more there than at the Banff Christmas Market.

Then, every sticker, magnet, coaster, calendar, puzzle, and print has a cost that must be deducted from each sale before I know what I made. And every time somebody pays with a credit card, there’s a fee, too.

Shit happens. On Thursday, as I set up, I dropped the first metal print of my Blizzard Bear painting. Most wouldn’t have noticed the corner damage, and it still looked good on display, but a slip of my fingers and the profit from that piece was gone. Thankfully, another vendor, a fan of my work from Expo, was happy to buy it at cost. So, I didn’t lose money, and she got a big metal print that wasn’t in her budget at full price.Booth location and size might be inaccurate, neighbours may be challenging, organizers could be stressed out, and anything can happen. Roll with it until you can’t, and then ask for help.

Help your neighbours. It might be scissors, a hammer, or a band-aid, but somebody always forgets something. I have power at my booth, and occasionally, somebody needs to charge their phone. Keep an eye on a neighbour’s booth for a washroom break. Hold the other end of their banner while they hang it up. I get plenty of offers for help and do my best to return in kind. And it helps you make friends, too.

You won’t always connect with the people around you. I remember one Calgary Expo where none of my neighbours were interested in friendly small talk. That makes for a longer market, especially during slow periods.

In Banff, I had two fun neighbours. We were all on the same page with work ethic and professionalism, but I enjoyed their company when there was room for kidding around and chatting. I hope to share space with them again in the future.

Foam floor pads and comfortable shoes. If you do it right, you’ll stand long hours for multiple days. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

Don’t complain or talk politics. This past weekend, a woman started going off about world government plots and chem trails in the sky. One minute, we talked about the great weather and beautiful mountains; next, she headed down the conspiracy rabbit hole. I smiled and politely said, “It’s a strange world.” After I said it the second time, she seemed to realize I wasn’t taking the bait and moved on. Arguing politics and controversial topics with strangers is a waste of life and will do nothing good for your business.

Eat well and often. Pack small healthy items you can eat quickly between customers without stuffing your face: carrot sticks, protein bars, a pre-cut sandwich, and pieces of cheese. Drink water. Setting up and tearing down grid walls and hardware, expect to damage yourself. My hands are wrecked at the end of a show from dry skin, cracked fingertips, and chipped or split fingernails. Bring a first aid kit. Nobody wants blood on their prints or stickers. Bring hand sanitizer and moisturizer.

All these people you’re talking to, especially this time of year, several of them are spreading colds or flu they don’t even know they have yet. It’s unavoidable, but healthy habits are your best chance of prevention.

Lozenges and breath mints are a must. You’ll have to talk a lot, and foul coffee breath won’t help your sales.

You’re there to sell. One vendor told me about someone at another show complaining that he wasn’t making any money. He left his booth often to wander the show. I’ve often seen neighbours spend all their time on their phones, heads down, ignoring people who walk into their booth, failing to engage with potential customers. A vendor next to me at this market, her friends and family hung out at her booth all day long socializing. Customers came and went without a word exchanged.

Respect other vendors. If you’re chatting with a neighbour and a customer approaches, leave the conversation. If it’s their customer, they’ll appreciate it. If it’s your customer, a professional neighbour will understand.

Be positive. Slow times happen, but they can also turn around on a dime. Desperation is contagious, and customers will pick up on it.I’m a pessimist. I don’t have a lot of faith in people. It comes from following the news for a living for my editorial cartoons. I work at home and enjoy my solitude. And yet, at markets, I try to be upbeat, smile, happy and joke around. It’s part of the job. It’s not all an act; I’m genuinely pleased to introduce new customers to my art, and many have become friends over the years. I’m always happy to see them again.

You never know who you’re talking to. If you make assumptions about people, you might say something that makes you look foolish and miss a valuable opportunity. Many people ask about commissions, and I advertise them in my booth with a large metal print of my Luna painting from last year.

When they ask about pricing, I tend to soften the blow with “it’s an investment” before I tell them it’s $1900. The sticker shock is evident on most faces, but then I explain the amount of work that goes into each one, the many hours of painting, the back-and-forth photo exchanges and prep before I paint one brushstroke, and that, unlike my other work, there is no market for that piece when finished. Most people understand, but spending that amount on a painting of their dog or cat is not often a priority. I get that. It’s the reason I only get hired to do two or three of these a year.

But I also spoke to a couple this weekend who seemed genuinely interested, sharing photos and asking about timelines, shipping, and specific details. This was after they’d heard the price, which is always a good sign. They wanted it in my whimsical style, and their dog has a great face and character. I want to paint him.  Even if that possible commission never materializes, my next important client or avid collector could be standing in front of me at any time. That Luna painting? Six months after I first spoke with him, he hired me for the piece, and it was one of the best client experiences of my career.

Listen to people. Ask questions. You’ll discover why certain pieces connect with people and how to use that knowledge for future sales. I learn a lot from my customers. I’ll soon start a painting of an animal I wouldn’t have considered on my own. It must be trending because at least a dozen people (not kidding) have independently asked for it this year. I don’t get it, but I’m going to paint it because I’m clearly missing something.Ask people where they’re from, especially in a tourist town. I met people from all over the world this weekend.

One gentleman said he was from a town in Saskatchewan, and “you probably don’t know it.”But I asked, and then told him that I’m the editorial cartoonist for his local paper and have been for years. He and his wife know one of Shonna’s uncles because her large extended family is from the same area.  People like to tell you about themselves, and it’s nice to give them the opportunity, not just for the sales, but to connect with another human being, something we all missed more than we realized the last few years.

Celebrate the little things that make it fun. I reluctantly confess I found myself singing along to Christmas carols. It might have involved toe-tapping. Those who know me well…close your mouths. I know it’s shocking that this Grinch found a little holiday spirit. Damn that Mariah Carey!

Plenty of happy dogs (and puppies!) were walking around, and their people were most accommodating with requests to say Hello. It made my weekend.  Want an overdose of pure joy? A Bernese Mountain puppy. Take what you want from my booth; I’m no longer paying attention.

While this advice sounds easy, we’re human. People make mistakes. I have complained to a neighbour. I’ve allowed a problem to frustrate me instead of working on it. I’ve talked politics with someone and always wished I hadn’t. I’ve failed to ask for or declined help when it was readily available, usually out of stubborn pride. I have seen somebody who could have used my help but didn’t offer it because I was busy with my booth.

But making course corrections is easier than people think. Most of the time, it’s just a choice.

If you and I have encountered each other at a market or show, whether you’re a customer or visitor to my booth or a fellow vendor, I hope it was a good experience. And if so, I hope to see you again down the road. If you have any questions I can answer, post them in the comments. I’ll help if I can.

If you attended this year’s Banff Christmas Market and took some of my whimsical wildlife home with you, thanks for supporting a local artist. I love my work, and I hope you do, too.

Cheers
Patrick

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Paintings, Puzzles and Projects

For quite a few years, I have fallen into a funk as winter rolls around. To take the edge off that, I’ve often painted portraits of movie or TV characters, personal projects for a break from the business stuff.

I’m doing pretty good this year, however, and haven’t felt the need. The weather has stayed mild for longer this fall and I’m still on my bike most days, so I’m sure the exercise and sunshine help.
The last character piece I painted was John Dutton from Yellowstone two years ago. Even though I have a list of people I’d like to paint, it won’t be this season. I’m still motivated to work hard painting whimsical wildlife, so I’ll take it for as long as it lasts.

My latest commission should arrive on my client’s door this week. I have one more Banff Christmas Market this weekend from December 1 to 3. After that, it’ll be daily business stuff, editorial cartoons, and painting until the Calgary Expo in April.

But with more possible projects and ideas than time allows, I’m focusing on three main objectives this winter.

The first is the bear book. I’ve been actively painting new bears and writing content to accompany them. I finally got sick of my excuses and I’m seeing real progress and positive momentum rather than procrastination.

Though bears are my favourite animal to paint, and many people like those images, I have a growing list of critters I want to bring to life. Several of those ideas are ready to start, with composition layouts and reference set to go.

My second objective is attracting new licensing clients, so I’m building a new portfolio of work. Over the past year, I’ve found it incredibly frustrating to turn down new opportunities because some of their products conflicted with existing licenses. Two clients selling the same images on the same products is undesirable. It’s already challenging enough that prints and stickers I sell often compete with my images on other products in the same venue.
I plan to paint at least a half dozen new images I can shop around exclusively for new clients, and some I’ll only offer as prints for now. All eggs in one basket is a bad idea at the best of times, let alone in this down economy.

The third objective is to create new paintings for puzzles. My first step into that world last year was successful, largely thanks to my subscribers embracing and supporting the initial pre-order. That large order and expense earlier this year was nerve-wracking, but as I write this, I only have eight puzzles left featuring the Sea Turtle and the Parrot. I sold the last Otter and Grizzly on Grass puzzles at last week’s Banff Christmas Market, and I’m hoping to sell the rest at the same event later this week.
Though the first puzzles did very well, I won’t print those images again, opting for new ones instead. Some will be more involved pieces featuring multiple animals, which means each painting will take more hours to create than one with a single critter.

The 504-piece option was popular, but several hard-core puzzlers have asked for 1000 pieces. Others have said they find the larger piece count intimidating and undesirable. I could go with half the order of one size and half the other, or a middle option of 672 pieces.

If you’re wondering why the puzzle piece numbers aren’t rounded to 500 or 750, it’s because of the options offered by Puzzles Unlimited. I was pleased with their product and enjoyed working with them, so I’ll go through them again for the next round. The company’s owner recently wrote a very nice artist spotlight piece on my initial puzzles for their website. You can read it here.
I’ll again ask subscribers for their opinions on puzzle images and piece-count options in late January for another pre-order opportunity.

With my daily cartoon deadlines and only so many painting hours in a day, I’ll be very busy trying to meet those three objectives in the coming months. Any new images I paint for puzzle consideration will also work for the new portfolio, as will any bear images I paint for the book. The trick will be maximizing the utility of each image to make the best use of my time.

A saying attributed to Lewis Carroll goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

While I remain open to considering new opportunities and experiences, clear priorities will help me stay focused on where I want my career to go. And as the season grows darker and colder, plenty of work will hopefully keep the winter demons at bay.

Cheers,
Patrick

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The Banff Christmas Market – Part 1

Trade shows and gift markets share similarities, but each is unique. Many vendors travel from one to the next each season. They know each other as coworkers and are on familiar terms with the organizers in different towns and venues. I always learn a lot from talking with these more experienced vendors, and I haven’t met one yet who wasn’t willing to share helpful information.

Because of my daily editorial cartoon deadlines, I can’t be away all the time going from market to market selling my prints, stickers and other licensed products. That’s not an issue for me, as I don’t want a life on the road.

I’m content working at home alone, getting up early each day, drawing cartoons, painting my whimsical wildlife, and doing all the other stuff that supports my self-employed artist lifestyle. But the occasional market weekend is good for me and my business.

As I wrote recently, I applied for the Banff Christmas Market at Warner Stables and was accepted for two of the three weekends. The first was this past weekend; I’ve got another December 1-3. Not having the middle weekend meant tearing everything down Sunday evening so I can set it all up again in two weeks, but it’s good experience and an opportunity to tweak my setup. I’m putting a positive spin on it, dammit!

Without boring you with a play-by-play, this first weekend was a good market. The event is well organized, I was happy with my booth placement, and it’s a venue with a lot of warm seasonal character. Of the several tents and buildings with vendors, mine was in Evergreen Hall, which is normally a horse barn/stable, so my own lighting was a necessity. Thankfully, I now have a good mix of lights and was able to feature my work well, though I had to add an upright LED lamp to shine on my print flip bins. It was effective.
You’ll have to forgive the blown-out sections of these photos where my phone camera overcompensated for the low light/spotlights.

Though a strong Chinook wind blew through the valley all four days, the weather was ideal for this time of year. I don’t miss living in Banff as Canmore is better suited to our lifestyle, but I enjoyed the old neighbourhood scenery for a few days.

The vendors around me were friendly and fun to talk with, and since my booth for the next weekend is right beside the one I just vacated, I look forward to seeing these folks again soon.

The crowd was a good mix of tourists and locals alike, and it was fun introducing them to my funny-looking animals. Quite a few subscribed to A Wilder View, and several others told me they already follow my work and like getting my emails.

Several people recognized the art from other places, having either seen or purchased it from The Calgary Zoo, Discovery Wildlife Park, Stonewaters, Art Country Canada and Branches Marketplace. Others have bought my licensed products elsewhere.

One of the things I love about this valley is how friendly and accommodating it is to dogs. I’m a sucker for a four-legged fuzzy face, and many brought their furry family members with them. I was happy to meet them all, including this wide-eyed pup.
Of course, my whole reason for attending the market was to sell my work, and sales were very good. Over three days, more than 7000 people came through the venue. Though it came and went in waves, it was a steady stream of people, likely because they admit 100 an hour via timed ticket sales. Once you’re in, however, you can stay as long as you like.

Every event has hiccups, but the organizers were friendly and approachable and handled any minor issues I encountered or heard about well. I’ll apply for this event again next year and hope to get all three weekends.

For now, I’ve counted and reorganized my stock and hardware, ready to set up again next Thursday for the third and final weekend of the market. I sold out of a couple of prints and one coaster design, but I still have plenty of stock and a large variety of available images. I know Saturday sold out quickly for this past weekend, so if you plan to attend, get your tickets early.

I hope to see you there.

Cheers,
Patrick

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The Banff Christmas Market

This will be my first year as a vendor at the Banff Christmas Market at the Warner Stables, and I’m busy getting everything ready. Shonna and I checked out this event last year, and it quickly became clear it would be a good fit for me and my whimsical wildlife.

When they opened applications in February, I applied for all three weekends. It’s a popular market, and they’re selective, but I’ve been living in this valley for nearly 30 years, over 20 as a cartoonist and whimsical wildlife painter, so I didn’t have to sell the local artist angle. However, that only gets me so far, as this area is filled with skilled and talented creative types.

With only one building offering power for lighting, it limited my placement options. For these reasons, I tempered my expectations but was delighted to be accepted for the first and third weekends. It means tearing my booth down after the first weekend and setting up again two weeks later, but I’m happy to pay my dues this first year and hope for all three weekends next year.
So even though the market is three weekends, the dates you see above, I won’t be there for the middle one.

I keep extensive inventory and sales records for each event, which helps me order for the next time. I did several Mountain Made Markets in Canmore for the past couple of years, which were worth it. Unfortunately, this year, the Town of Canmore limited the indoor space for vendors to the point that it seemed like an afterthought to the outdoor portion of the markets.

As I’ve mentioned before, my commitments to daily editorial cartooning and other work make it not worth investing in a tent and materials for the limited number of outdoor markets I can consider. I would have loved to be a part of an upcoming Mountain Made Market at the Canmore Rec Centre, but it conflicts with one of the Banff Christmas Market weekends.

So far this year, the only show I’ve done has been the Calgary Expo in April. As this upcoming event is new to me, I don’t know what to expect for sales, so I must play the speculation game. I’ve ordered what I think I’ll need, hoping I don’t run out while trying to avoid ordering too much, as the next opportunity to sell the stock won’t be until the Calgary Expo in April. Incidentally, early bird pricing for next year’s Expo is available until November 9th. You can buy those tickets here.

Banff and Canmore are different towns but part of the same Bow Valley community. With just a twenty-minute drive between them, many people live in one town and work in the other, and some city commutes are much longer than that.

It’ll be nice to come home each night rather than stay in a hotel, as I do for the Expo. It also means I can replenish my stock each day rather than stuff a whole three-day weekend’s worth of product into my booth at the beginning. They also have a setup day on Thursday, so there is no early morning time crunch for setup on the first day, and I can take extra time to nitpick the details.

The show has a rustic and cozy Christmas feel, with over 100 vendors. On both weekends, my booth will be in the main stable, Evergreen Hall. They also have the North Pole Pavilion and Candy Cane Lane vendor tents. There are photos with Santa, pony rides, live music, and some outdoor vendors.

You can even enjoy a fireside holiday drink at the Fire Lounge and bar. While it’s hard to find a bad view in Banff, the scenery surrounding Warner Stables is stunning, so here’s hoping for clear skies and pleasant weather.

My assigned space is a little smaller than Expo but larger than what I’ve had at the Canmore Markets. I’ve mapped out my booth setup in advance, but surprises always require on-site adjustments. I’m in a different space for the two weekends, which means some minor layout alterations but nothing complicated. I’m pleased with where they put me for both weekends.

Like Expo, this is a paid admission show, so if you plan on checking it out, you’ll have to buy tickets online in advance and choose an arrival time slot. They admit 100 guests every 20 minutes. Once you’re there, you can stay until closing, of course, but staggering the arrival times helps ensure it doesn’t get overcrowded and maintains a comfortable feel.
I’m looking forward to introducing my work to a new audience, especially since it’s been months since my last event. I’ll have my usual variety of products, including stickers, magnets, coasters, puzzles, and calendars, along with poster, canvas, and metal prints in various sizes, provided everything I’ve ordered arrives on time. Fingers crossed.

For more information, scheduling, and to buy tickets, check out the Banff Christmas Market website. I’ll be there next week from opening on Friday, November 17th to Sunday, November 19th, and again two weeks later from Friday, December 1st to Sunday, December 3rd.

Hope to see you there!

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A Puzzle for Another Day

Self-employed creatives will often use pre-orders to launch new products or ventures. Some will also use services like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to fund them.

Planning a project in this way allows the artist to first determine if there is sufficient interest; if so, a pre-order allows an independent artist to pay for it. They often come with incentives for people to pledge their early support. They get better pricing and bonuses for early adoption in exchange for delayed delivery.

Earlier this year, I surveyed subscribers to A Wilder View on which images they’d like to see on puzzles. The response was excellent, and my first puzzle pre-order sales gave me the capital to produce excellent quality products. Once delivered, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and I was pleased with the experience and result.

Last week, I asked a few questions to gauge interest in another pre-order featuring two new designs for 1000-piece puzzles.

I got four comments.

While I appreciated that handful of answers, it wasn’t the response I had hoped for, though it certainly delivered the necessary information. The paintings I chose for the next puzzles either aren’t what people want, or this is the wrong time to launch this project.

Carrying inventory of any kind requires an initial expense. Prints, stickers, magnets, and coasters are worth the investment because they’re proven sellers. But some products, like puzzles, require a much more substantial cash outlay to produce them. I’m hobbled by a significant minimum order from the puzzle manufacturer, so without enough initial interest, they’ll sit on a shelf for months, waiting for the next opportunity to sell them. And that money would be better saved or spent on other products.

So, I’m not going to produce any new puzzles this year. Instead, I will play the long game and submit the images to puzzle companies for their consideration or try again for a pre-order early in the new year.

I don’t consider this a setback, simply an idea that didn’t pan out right now. There have been several in my long career as a self-employed artist, and no doubt more to come. Trying it out is the only way to know if something will work.

If it doesn’t, you just try something else.In the meantime, I have updated my store with 41 available prints, 11 high-quality vinyl stickers and some of those original puzzle designs, but not many. While I may produce the same puzzle designs again, it won’t be this year. Only a limited quantity remains, so if you’re after a 504-piece puzzle of the Sea Turtle, Grizzly on Grass, Parrot or Otter, don’t miss out before they’re gone.

The shipping cost is the same whether you buy one or several of the prints or puzzles. Stickers are free shipping in Canada. And as a bonus, every order in the store over $80 qualifies for free shipping in Canada.

I’ll have another fully rendered new painting to share with you soon, but while you wait, here’s another recent piece I drew for the bear book.

Cheers,
Patrick

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Bearing the Elements: Navigating the Wilds of an Art Career

Here’s a time lapse drawing video of my little friend Berkley when she was a cub. You may listen to the voice-over or read it below.

Most artists will experience an inspirational drought where the creative well appears to have dried up, often several times in a career. Get to the bottom and start digging, you may only find more dry dirt.

That’s some scary shit, especially when hauling that water is how you make your living.

The pandemic was a wake-up call for many. Some changed careers because they had to. Others considered returning to their pre-lockdown jobs and realized they’d rather be unemployed.

We were all confronted with hard questions.

One I keep returning to is, “What do I want?”

The easy answer is often ‘more money’ as many imagine that would solve our problems. I don’t want a sports car, a big truck, or a huge house. I’m not a ‘buy more stuff’ guy. More money means safety and security, not having to fret about the finances, now or in my senior years.

Retirement doesn’t appeal to me. To keep my existential angst at bay, I need to have something to do. Idle time is not my friend. Barring any injury, illness or a cognitive decline, a prospect that honestly scares the hell out of me, I plan to work for the next twenty-five-plus years.

But what work do I want to do?

Parents used to tell their children to get an education and have something to fall back on, but those safety jobs have become rare. The days of thirty or forty years with a company followed by a healthy pension are long gone. We read daily about massive layoffs from corporations with names that used to be synonymous with stability.

That’s one reason I opted to sail my own ship rather than shovel coal on a larger vessel where the captain can throw you overboard on a whim, most likely into shark-infested waters during a hurricane.

But even working for yourself, you must still answer to customers. The art you want to create and the art your clients want you to create are often two different things.

At my market or gift show booth, people often ask for their favourite animal. Do you have an iguana, a hedgehog, or a kangaroo? If I don’t, I’ll add it to the list and might eventually paint it. If they follow my work, they might even still be around when I complete it. It could become a bestseller but likely won’t because most people want popular animals like lions, tigers, bears, and wolves.

At one event earlier this year, somebody asked if I had a sloth. I had just painted one, so I plucked it from the bin, put it in her hands and proudly said, “Why yes, I do.”

The woman looked at it briefly, put it back in the bin and started flipping through the others, asking, “Do you have a platypus?”

I wished I had so that I could find out what she’d ask for next. When I said I didn’t, she said, “Oh, too bad, I would have bought one,” and she walked away.

This is often what it’s like working for clients.
Several licensing companies rent the rights to put my work on their products. Occasionally, one will ask for a painting of a specific animal. If I can, I’ll try to accommodate the request. But without fail, as soon as I do, the client has a list of other images they want me to create.

Suddenly, licensing my catalogue has turned into their ordering custom pieces, but without commission rates or guarantees that the time spent will generate revenue. It’s somebody else gambling with my money or, more importantly, my limited time.

I recently negotiated with a puzzle company to create a few designs for them. The first was a detailed painting of three giraffes. It was my idea, but one they approved. Shortly after I finished it, the owner told me they couldn’t add any new artists this year due to unforeseen circumstances. No big surprise in this economy.

I’m disappointed but have no hard feelings because I got some valuable experienced advice about what makes a good puzzle, and I stretched my skills to create something new. And I’m also happy with the finished piece. Once I complete a couple more puzzle-minded pieces, I’ll be shopping that first painting and new designs to other puzzle companies. Failing that, I’ll produce my own.
When companies are your clients, your needs are not their needs. If your art resonates with their customers, then it’s mutually beneficial. But the moment it doesn’t, you’re yesterday’s news. They’ll work with the artist who makes them the most money. They’re in business to promote their company, not your work.

On the reverse of all my prints, there is an artist bio. The last line invites people to subscribe to A Wilder View on my website, a regular email where I share news, paintings, and the stories behind them. One retailer will only sell my prints if I remove that line from the bio, as they don’t want their customers going to my website.

I’ve had a website for over two decades, and I’m easy to find, so I’m not concerned. But I am reminded of my value every time I prepare to deliver new prints because I must slice off that last line from each bio before sticking it to the backer board.

I recently severed ties with an art licensing agency that kept asking me to create new work to follow whatever trend was popular this quarter, whether it was the type of work I did or not. It wasn’t personal; they wanted all their artists to do the same thing.

If you’re a graphic designer or illustrator, following trends is often part of the job and what you signed up for. But if you’ve found that rare jewel of an established niche as I have, changing what you do every few months because somebody read a post on Facebook that robot plumbers wearing figure skates are in this year, you might as well be panhandling. The artist takes all the risk, creating new work in the faint hope the licensing agency might find a buyer for it. If they don’t, too bad.

If you won’t do it, they can find thousands of young desperate artists who will.

That’s no way to sustain a career. Nobody wins a race to the bottom.
Customer service, professional behaviour and sound business practices are essential, as is compromise and accommodating your clients’ needs and wishes. People pay you to supply what they need, and delivering that often builds lasting relationships beneficial to both parties. All boats rise with the tide. Fail to realize these things, and you’ll soon be out of business.

But if you don’t write your own story, you’re just a bit player in somebody else’s. When you spend all your creative energy trying to please your clients and customers at the expense of the things that made you want to be an artist in the first place, you become bitter and resentful.

At least I have. But I’m working through it by redefining my boundaries in work and life.

An old maxim cautions, “Don’t kill yourself working for an employer that would advertise your job before anybody sees your obituary.”

If I suddenly dropped dead, my licensing clients would (hopefully) send my royalties as usual and negotiate any future licensing with my wife. Everybody else would move on.

Newspapers continue to struggle, and the question of how long I’ll be an editorial cartoonist has been front and center for over a decade.

These are things I can’t control.

So I ask again, “What do I want?”
I enjoy creating my animal art, but lately, whenever I go to paint something, I think, “Will this animal be popular? Have I painted too many of these? Not enough? Will this make me any money?”

Every art decision has become about revenue. And when money is the prime motivator, the creative light dims. That leads to burnout and no joy left in the work. When the economy is down, costs are up, interest rates rising, and companies are laying people off, it’s hard to invest time in projects that might bear fruit later when other short-term work is more likely to generate income now.

Payments from clients and licensing companies are taking increasingly longer to reach my mailbox, despite their tight deadlines and demands for quick delivery.

Below the surface of every current piece of art is an undercurrent of desperation. Doom and gloom valley is not the preferred habitat for happy-looking animals.

Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

But then he also said, “The people who make art their business are mostly imposters.”

I’m gonna focus on the first quote and conveniently ignore the second one.
So while I’m trying to answer the question of what I want to do, I’m working on my art book about bears. Not promising to work on it like I’ve been doing for more than six years, but working on it, as I’m well and truly sick and tired of my own procrastination and bullshit excuses.

A very patient publisher recently told me to write the kind of art book I like to buy and read. The art books I like have smaller drawings, sketches, and unfinished pieces among the fully rendered paintings.

So, I’ve been alternating between writing the bear stories and drawing accent pieces like the ones you see here. I enjoy drawing them and expect one or two will inspire future paintings, as sketches often do.

While working on these images, I realized that whenever I’m lost and trying to navigate this ridiculous profession of art for a living, I always seem to come back to bears.

____