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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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Spa Day

This painting has been rattling around in my noggin for some time. I think I first had the idea at the Calgary Zoo when I saw Skoki, the grizzly bear, sitting in one of his ponds, playing with something floating on the water.

I had taken photos at the time, hoping for some good reference, but while they didn’t give me what I needed, the idea stuck. I have more reference photos of brown bears than anything else, thanks to the time I’ve spent at Discovery Wildlife Park and I used several bears for reference for this painting.

That made it more challenging with different angles and lighting, as did painting wet fur rather than dry and fuzzy. I’ll admit that I didn’t think I could pull it off for much of this painting. It didn’t look half decent to me until several hours in, but that often happens when I paint these critters.

As the man said (often falsely attributed to Churchill), “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Eventually, it comes together, the personality shows up, and it turns into an enjoyable pursuit rather than a frustrating one. What was at first a slog, seeming like hours of no progress, ended up to be work I didn’t want to stop.

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of painting grizzly bears.

Cheers,
Patrick

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Wildlife Postcard Sets: Back by Popular Demand!

Because you’ve been asking for them, I am happy to announce the reintroduction of my whimsical wildlife postcard sets. I haven’t had postcards for several years, but with so many people asking for them, I was excited to receive my first shipment of the brand new designs last week.

Each of the three sets includes four glossy 4″X6″ postcards, featuring popular selections from my original paintings. Perfect for collectors or sending heartfelt messages to brighten someone’s day!
Every high-quality printed postcard boasts a glossy finish on one side, enhancing the vibrancy and detail of each painting. Whether displayed on your wall or sent through the mail, these postcards will make a lasting impression.

The West Coast Set highlights the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, featuring my Otter, Two Wolves, Bald Eagle and Staring Contest paintings.
The Brown Bear Set is a celebration of all things Grizzly, my favorite critter to paint. For long-time followers of my work, yes, these are all images of Berkley from Discovery Wildlife Park. This set includes my Kodiak Cub, Grizzly on Grass, Laughing Bear and Happy Baby paintings.
The Wild Cat Set features paintings of the feline persuasion. Snow Queen and Snow Day are not only popular pieces, but two of my personal favourites. Love those laughing cougar cubs. Smiling Lion and my bestselling Smiling Tiger round out this set.

Each set is $6.99 and I’m happy to offer free shipping in Canada, no matter how many you get. All three sets are now available in the store.

With the Calgary Expo fast approaching at the end of April, I’m looking forward to once again featuring postcard sets at my booth. I hope to see you there.

Cheers,
Patrick

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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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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