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Got Cow?

At the Banff Christmas Market late last year, I received several requests for a Highland Cow painting.

Many artists have drawn and painted this noble Scottish bovine breed, but I had never considered it. I don’t know what about Highland cattle excites people, but who am I to argue?

But of course, having never seen a Highland cow or Heilan coo, as they say in Scotland, I had to buy some stock photo reference to get it right. As I’m fond of saying, I can’t exaggerate reality without knowing what it looks like.

At the cabin my friends and I rent in the central Alberta foothills, there are often cows just over the fence in two large pastures. I have a lot of cow photos, some with their tongues up their noses. It’s a ridiculous look I thought I might use for a future cow painting, so why wait? I decided to make it more of an exaggerated lip-licking rather than a full-on nostril excavation.

I wasn’t excited about this painting, and had it not been for all the requests, I likely wouldn’t have done it. But since a hairy Highlander was in demand, I wanted it finished for The Calgary Expo. Once I got into the work, though, I really enjoyed this piece, so much that I didn’t want to finish it. I like obsessing about details, and hair is one of my favourite things to paint, so this was fun.
And still, every painting comes with challenges and choices.

Initially, it had a full background, the horns weren’t as big as they are now, and the canvas dimensions would have made the final piece 30×40. But at one point, thinking I was nearly finished, I asked Shonna’s opinion.

While she liked the face and hair, she said the horns looked “too spindly.”

Artists have fragile egos, so criticism of my work is uncomfortable, even when I ask for it. I spent countless hours alone, painting every little feature and hair, and I’ve solved a lot of the problems myself, so just tell me it’s pretty, dammit!

But I also want to grow as an artist; the only way to do that is to ask for and accept constructive criticism. Shonna has a good eye and can often spot something that isn’t working.

Just like you can read a letter three times and still miss a typo, it’s easy to stare at a painting for hours on end, over days and weeks, and still miss a problem. Once it’s pointed out, however, it seems like it should have been obvious.

So, to create my best work, I grit my teeth and ask for Shonna’s critical eye, knowing she will almost always see something. And while we have disagreed a few times, her suggestions usually improve the painting. The changes can often be so minor that most people wouldn’t notice either way, but once she points it out, I can’t unsee it.

To make the horns bigger and less spindly (?!), I had to change the composition, or else I’d be cutting off so much of the horns that one of the defining features of a Highland cow would be gone. Now, the focal point of all my paintings is the face, so cutting off the horns isn’t necessarily a wrong choice, as plenty of painters have done the same thing, and their paintings look great. But I wanted them there for the original piece, even though I’d still have to crop some for the poster prints. Here’s what that will look like.

For consistency and practicality, I size my poster prints to 11×14. It’s annoying to buy a print for $30 or $40, then spend another $100 plus on a custom frame because it’s a weird shape. One of the bestselling features of my prints is that I can tell people that 11×14 is a standard size, and it’s easy to find an off-the-shelf frame at stores that sell them.

You wouldn’t believe how often that’s the clincher on making the sale.

I sized the blank canvas to poster-print dimensions when I started this piece. Had this been a traditional piece on canvas, you couldn’t change sizing when the painting was almost finished. However, working digitally offers welcome flexibility.

I made the canvas wider and upsized the horns. I could have made them even more prominent, but that would make for a very wide painting, even more challenging to offer a poster print later. What you see here is the compromise.

I also chose to crop the background down to a smaller rectangle, which makes the horns look even more prominent and the features pop.

These changes added a few more hours of work to what was essentially a finished painting, but I’m much happier with the result. So, once again, asking for help made for a better piece.

Regarding criticism, nasty comments from the cheap seats are easy to come by, and that’s usually more about them than you. The trick is to ask advice from people you trust who genuinely want to help you become a better artist. But then you must resist the urge to bite when they point out areas for improvement.

When it comes to my painted work, I have Shonna and my buddy Derek, an excellent painter and tattoo artist. His critiques have always been good, and he has asked for and accepted my opinion on his work more than once. For editorial cartoons, I’ve often run ideas by my friend Darrel. If he doesn’t think one works, I either tweak it or toss it out. 

I still have to remind myself to let a painting rest before calling it done. Yesterday morning, I thought this one was finished. But I kept nitpicking it until I eventually started to feel the whole thing was garbage.

This clearly showed that I had been obsessing about it for far too long. I wasn’t seeing the image accurately anymore and couldn’t trust my judgment. So, I let it sit for 24 hours. I spent the rest of the day working on my month-end invoicing, sketching a couple of editorial cartoons and writing this post you’re reading now.

When I woke up this morning, this cow looked much better to me. I spent another couple of hours correcting errant brush strokes I hadn’t noticed and painted more stray hairs here and there, which adds to the realism of a piece. When all the hair is perfectly smooth, running in the same direction, it can look fake. For detailed work, you must introduce flaws. That’s what makes it look natural.
I could have worked on this painting for another week, and nobody would know the difference but me. Eventually you just have to call it done, let it go, and start on another one.

I’ll have prints of this piece for the Calgary Expo, but I’ll also order a 24×16 metal print for the wider composition to show the uncropped horns.

Given all the requests for this painting, perhaps I should bring two.

Cheers,
Patrick

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An Update on Puzzles, Postcards and Prints

Although I haven’t felt like writing much lately, I figured I should post an update. I’ve been busy working on a couple of paintings, and while I would have liked to have finished one by this week, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take a much-needed break.
My buddy Darrel and I spent five days last week at the cabin we rent in the foothills of central Alberta. Even though our first visit there was in January of 2018, we don’t often go during the winter months.

But with an opportunity in both our schedules, we won the gamble that it was available on short notice. You never know what you’ll get in February, but we lucked out with typical pleasant winter temperatures and several comfortable sunny days.

The only animals we saw were several white-tailed deer, though plenty of coyote and rabbit tracks. I had hoped to capture a moose, coyote or owl, but wildlife doesn’t punch a clock.
Back to work, I’m already preparing for the Calgary Expo at the end of April, figuring out the stock I’ll order and trying to make the most efficient use of my creative time and energy.

Puzzles

While I had planned to do a puzzle pre-order this month, I have changed my mind. I’m sure puzzle enthusiasts put them together all year long, but if there is a season for this hobby, it’s when the weather keeps people inside. When spring rolls around, most people want to spend more time outdoors. I know I do.

Another consideration is that puzzles cost more than other items, especially when one factors in shipping. The state of the economy is no secret, and I know many people are watching their spending right now, including me. I’m thinking carefully about which products to invest in and planning the best time to do so.

With that in mind, it seems like launching the next round of puzzle designs in March would be poor timing for maximum sales. While I did very well with all my other products at the Calgary Expo, I didn’t sell many puzzles. Since I don’t want to end up with a lot of stock sitting on a shelf all summer, I have decided to hold off on new designs until the fall, when I’ll have more opportunities to sell them.

I have two detailed paintings in mind for two of the puzzles, and though I’ve started on both, each is a challenging piece. I don’t want to rush them.

Postcards

Several years ago, I sold postcard sets of my work, which were popular with the Expo crowd for a few years. Then, interest dropped off one year, so I discontinued the product and focused on others. But last year, people began asking for them again.

A knowledgeable friend in retail told me that some products go in cycles, including postcards. I won’t know if that’s true for me unless I try them again. So, I’ll relaunch 4×6 postcards sets at this year’s Calgary Expo at the end of April. If they do well, I’ll continue to stock them for future markets as long as there’s interest.

Prints

Since I had to proof four new paintings recently, and the Calgary Zoo placed their first large order of the year, I figured I might as well begin stocking my Expo prints at the same time. I spent most of Monday afternoon signing and packaging a large order from my Victoria supplier, Art Ink Print.

I still want to finish a few more paintings before the Expo, so I’ll place another large order in the next couple of months. But it’s nice to get an early start.

Several of you will wait to buy new prints until you visit me at my Expo booth, but most won’t have that opportunity. With no real reason to wait, I’m pleased to announce that the first prints of Genial Grizzly, Golden Bear, Meerkat and Raven on White are now available in the online store.

I’ve also restocked TEN prints that had sold out, which makes almost 50 different prints and a dozen stickers now available in the store, so please take a look and see if there’s something in there you like. All prints are 11×14 and should be an easy-to-find frame size, wherever you choose to buy yours.

That’s it for now, and I hope to have a new painting (with a lot of hair!) to share with you very soon.

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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A Golden Bear


One of the best things about the last couple of weeks of the year is that I don’t have editorial cartoon deadlines. Most newsrooms, especially the weeklies, are closed over the holidays or running a skeleton crew. So they need their cartoons in advance.

Big news can break in these two weeks, and some years, I’ve had to draw a cartoon on an issue that can’t be ignored, as was the case with the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami. But most often, I draw a bunch of extra cartoons in the middle of the month, then nothing until the new year. I sent my New Year’s cartoons to my newspapers on December 18th.

I enjoy painting my whimsical wildlife, so these two weeks haven’t been time off, but I spent fewer hours in my office. I’ve still been up early every day, working on paintings because, with markets and other work this month, I haven’t had the time to paint as much as I would have liked.

Last week, I finished the Meerkat, followed by this Golden Bear this week. By the time New Year’s rolls around, I’ll be well into a third painting, but that one will take longer as it features more than one animal. I don’t expect to finish it until the middle of January.I’ve also completed the bulk of my year-end bookkeeping this week and cleaned my office so I can start the new year right. I typically don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I always have plans for the coming year.

I’m already looking forward to the Calgary Expo in April, with a couple of new products I plan to offer. Fresh sticker designs are coming soon, and new puzzles launch in the next couple of months, depending on when I finish these next two paintings.

Beyond that, I’ll draw the usual editorial cartoons, paint funny-looking animals and take care of the rest of the business of art for a living.

It may sound cliché, but it’s also true, that without the people who like my art, it wouldn’t be much of a profession. So, THANK YOU for being here this year and for your continued support of my work. I mean it.

Here’s to 2024. May all its surprises be good ones.

Cheers,
Patrick

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A Merry Meerkat

I’ve taken hundreds of meerkat photos at the Calgary Zoo over the years. Their antics never fail to amuse me, and because of their natural inclination to stand upright and still, staring at anything that catches their eye, they often appear to be posing for me.

The problem with taking photos of these critters is that every time I go, I try for a shot that’s just a little bit better than any I’ve taken before.

I recently realized that when a photo opportunity is rare, and I can only get three or four decent ones, I’ll make them work. I’ve painted many of my whimsical wildlife pieces with limited reference, even some of the most popular ones, like the Otter and Smiling Tiger.

But I know that whenever I go to the zoo, I’ll have time and opportunity to take more meerkat shots, so I never have to commit. The ones I have may be good, but maybe the next ones will be better. This means the painting never happens because I’m still waiting for the perfect reference, even though I know there’s no such thing.

The other false belief I’m working to shed is that once I have painted an animal, I must move on to a new one. It often feels like I’m only allowed one shot at it, so I had better make it count. Why bears get a free pass on this fuzzy logic is beyond me.
Earlier this year, I painted my Bugle Boy piece. It’s proven to be a popular painting and has become one of my favourites. But I almost didn’t paint another bull elk because I painted one several years ago, even though I never liked it.

My bull moose painting has long been retired from print. It was popular in its day, and I liked it then, but I’ve been reluctant to paint another one. However, after the positive elk experience, I have gathered new reference to take another crack at a moose. I think I can do a better job of it now.
When it came to meerkats, I’ve long had the idea to paint a whole troop of them, so painting a solitary meerkat wasn’t on the radar, or I’d do the occasional sketch painting, but never a finished production piece. But just like the three giraffes I painted for my Long Neck Buds piece, each of them a portrait on their own, each solitary meerkat might become part of that eventual group painting.

Or it’s just the first meerkat I’ll paint, of who knows how many more down the road.

Cheers,
Patrick

 

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A Rerun and a Reminder

If you read my last post on market tips and tricks, I wrote about the importance of staying healthy at these things. But in the best-laid plans category, I wrote it before realizing I had come home from the last Banff Christmas Market with the flu.

I don’t often get sick, but when I do, it kicks my ass. So, for a few days this week, I was in and out of consciousness on the couch, shaking and shivering, enjoying the nasty cold and flu symptoms with which we’re all familiar.

I managed to finish my editorial cartoons, but they took longer than usual, and the effort wiped me out. Most disappointing was that, after weeks of long hours of market prep and execution, I was finally looking forward to having some time to paint last week. I had even planned on recording a video. But the virus laughed at my hubris and beat me senseless.

Thankfully, I turned the corner Friday evening, and by Saturday morning, though still weak and weary, I got some work done. I’m not 100% yet, but I’m on the mend. I hope to get a full day in today.

But because I’m now even further behind than I already was, there won’t be a new Christmas painting video or a video gallery of my work this year. I’ve just lost too much painting time and I need to make that a priority.

Fortunately, I’ve got many new subscribers who likely haven’t seen this video from a couple of years ago and perhaps others who’d like to see it again. It’s a high-speed time-lapse window into my process, digitally painting whimsical wildlife. If you enjoy it, please share with whomever you like.
 

Also, this is a friendly reminder that my Stocking Stuffer Sticker sale is over tonight, so it’s your last chance to get either the Bear Pack or the Variety Pack. Those packs will disappear from the store tonight. Thanks to all of you who’ve already ordered.

I’ve only got three Wild Animals 2024 calendars left as well, so if you want one, act fast. They’re in the store while supplies last.

Cheers,
Patrick

EDIT: Calendars have now sold out. My thanks to everyone who ordered one this year.

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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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Stocking Stuffer Sticker Sale!

For a limited time, I’m offering two four-packs of my high-quality vinyl stickers. Each sticker measures approximately 4”x5”, and is water resistant, which means you can put them on a water bottle, coffee mug, or vehicle. These popular stickers usually retail for $7.99 each, but in each of these packs, you get FOUR STICKERS for $19.99, which includes FREE SHIPPING in Canada.

In the Brown Bear 4-pack, you’ll find Waving Bear, Kodiak Cub, Happy Baby and Grizzly on Grass. Click here
The Variety 4-pack includes Bear Hug, Wolf, Sasquatch and my brand new T-Rex sticker. Click here
This offer is only good until the end of Sunday, December 10th, or while supplies last. All orders will be mailed Monday morning, December 11th. Check out all of the available stickers in the store.

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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Wild Animals 2024 Calendar

The Wild Animals 2024 calendar from Pacific Music & Art is now available in my online store. Featuring some popular and personal favourites along with some more recent paintings, it’s always fun to see which ones make the cut. My thanks to all of you who keep coming back for these year after year.
This year’s calendar is $15.99 plus tax.  I’m offering a flat rate of $6.50 for shipping within Canada, regardless of whether you buy one or several. For the US, it’s a flat rate of $9.50. All prices are in Canadian funds.

Get ‘em before they’re gone and enjoy them all year long.  It’s also a great gift to introduce your favourite whimsical wildlife artist’s work to somebody new. You can find them in the online store and I’ll have them for sale at The Banff Christmas Market this coming weekend, from November 17-19 at Warner Stables.

If you have other favourite whimsical wildlife artists, I don’t want to know about it. Allow me my delusion.

Cheers,
Patrick