This ‘Long Neck Buds’ piece has been a lot of fun so far. With the left (and final) giraffe finished, I’d love to print this image right now as a double-width layout on metal, maybe 20”x40” or even 30”x60” and hang it in my office. It’s refreshing to do something different, especially with so many available options from this painting.
While I can print anything for a custom order, I wouldn’t stock the above painting layout as a poster print. The wider format makes for a larger framing investment for my customers, and keeping unique dimension prints in inventory would be difficult.
With the characters done, I still have several hours of work to build the trees and sky for the rest of the scene.
The leaves will be a challenge because acacia trees are their preferred food, and those have a specific look to them with long thorns among the leaves.
I have a few ideas on how best to do it, including creating a new brush for the task, but with no deadline, I have time to experiment.
If you’ve followed my work for a long time (hey, thank you!), you’ll know how much I look forward to the Calgary Expo each year. This year, it’s happening from April 27th to 30th. With the Wednesday setup day, that’s a five day event for me.
Like everything else, the pandemic knocked the event on its ass, but they’ve recovered well. Last year’s Expo had some hiccups, but once it got started, I had a great time. People were thrilled to be out and about again.
It was also my best year of sales, which certainly didn’t hurt.
I received my booth assignment last week. For my eighth year as a Calgary Expo vendor, I’ll be in Hall C, Booth 522. While still in the Retail section, it’ll be my first year outside of the main hall.
In my first few years, I had a Small Press table. That’s when Artist Alley and retailers were all in the same area. But the show kept getting bigger. So they eventually eliminated Small Press and moved Artist Alley to a different building. That year, I upgraded to a full-size booth to remain in the Retail section.
People have often asked me why I’m not in Artist Alley. It’s a section at most Comic-Cons where new artists can afford to book a table at a big event to sell their prints and other items. But that section hosts many established artists and comic art guests, too.
Despite the higher cost, I stayed in the retail section for several reasons.
First, I wanted lights in my booth; power was not an option in Artist Alley. I don’t know if that has changed, but you can’t rely on any venue to have consistent and bright overhead lighting. I put a lot of work into my art’s detail, colour and printing, and I want direct lighting to showcase that. Power is an added fee, but well worth it.
The second reason I wanted to stay in the retail section was that the booth space and aisles are bigger. Artist Alley is packed tight with vendor tables, not booths. I like having an open area in my booth where people can step out of the crowded aisles. They can look at the art, flip through the prints, and ask questions without being bumped and jostled.
I redesigned my booth last year and it worked so well for me, that I’m making no changes, except that I have invested in new lighting this year. As there was a pillar behind me, rather than another booth, I was able to expand a couple of feet. But I’ve got vendors right up against me on both sides this year, so I’ll have to stick to my 10’x10’ footprint.
I was initially disappointed that I’m not in the main hall this year, but to be fair, I don’t yet know if it matters. I booked a single corner booth and with this year’s new layout, it seems the main room only has six available. Every other corner is either a double or quadruple booth. It does say on the rebooking application that Single corner booths are not guaranteed.
Last year, there were noticeable gaps where more retail booths could have fit. This year, there are more retailers in the main hall, many with double booths.
Hall C was an open area Community and Family zone in 2022. This year, the same area houses 73 new retail booths, including mine.
It’s a much bigger show.
If I weren’t selling my artwork there, I’d still attend the Calgary Expo because it’s a lot of fun. People from all walks of life can be themselves in this festival atmosphere. Families attend this event together, and I honestly don’t know who enjoys it more, the adults or the kids.
Aside from the much smaller version I attended in 2021, it’s been ten years since I’ve been able to walk the show or enjoy the events, talks, and displays. I might get a half hour each day before the show opens to quickly wander the booths, but it’s not enough. I didn’t even make it to the Big Four building last year to check out Artist Alley.
So, when I got my booth assignment, I emailed people I know who come to the Expo every year and are more familiar with the different areas. These two couples are among my favourite supporters and collectors, the people I love seeing each year at this event. They’ve also become friends and generously stop by the booth several times to chat and watch my booth if I need a quick bathroom break.
I asked them what they thought of my new location. Both replied that the Main Stage in that hall is busy all day with panels and talks, and there’s likely to be plenty of regular traffic with the new addition of so many booths.
I went into last year’s event with low expectations. With the pandemic winding down but still active, I didn’t know if people would even attend a crowded indoor venue. But they did, some in masks, most without, though I know several people who tested positive for COVID immediately after Expo.
I had considered emailing the organizers asking for a booth in the main hall should anybody cancel, but I decided not to give in to fear. The bottom line is that I have no idea if it will be better or worse than my previous spots. It might be a prime location. Each year, I’m fortunate to know more people familiar with my work. Rather than rely on their stumbling across my booth, they actively seek me out. So I can always count on seeing my regular customers.
As for the prep, this has been my easiest year. I keep a detailed spreadsheet of sales records from each event. I know which prints, magnets, coasters, and stickers sell best and how many I need to order each year. Of course, I bring extra in case I have an exceptional year, and any new prints are always a gamble as I don’t yet know which will be popular. The Calgary Expo is a great proving ground for the latest paintings.
Everything I’ve ordered has arrived, and I’ve been busy signing and packaging prints, but I have a lot of experience with this show, so it’s low-stress this year.
Many of my subscribers are Expo veterans, and I look forward to seeing you all again. Even if you don’t add to your collections this year, please stop by and say Hello. You’re the main reason I enjoy this show.
I’ll have another update soon, including a feature on the brand-new prints I’m launching at this year’s Expo.
Keeping a blog is handy when I write a year-end wrap-up because I don’t have to remember what happened. So here are some of the standouts from this year.
While on a cabin trip last year, my buddy Darrel suggested my work might lend itself well to vinyl stickers people put on vehicle windows. So, I designed a few, sourced a production company, and realized he was onto something.
The ten designs have done well with regular re-orders at the Calgary Zoo, Discovery Wildlife Park, and Stonewaters in Canmore. They were also popular at Calgary Expo and the Mountain Made Markets. This week, I reordered a bunch and added two new designs. In the upcoming year, I’ll be working to get these into more stores.
The NFT boom goes bust
Earlier this year, I thought there might be a market selling NFTs of some of my paintings. I read a lot of information, entertained offers from online galleries, and eventually signed with one. They were professional and good to work with, but then the entire crypto art market fell apart.
Thankfully, I lost no money on the experiment. I never bought any cryptocurrency or paid for my own NFT minting. The time I lost was an educational experience, and I have no regrets. You will never have any success without risk. Kevin Kelly once said, “If you’re not falling down occasionally, you’re just coasting.”
Will NFTs come back into favour? I doubt it.
Cartoon Commendation I don’t usually enter editorial cartoon contests, but I made an exception this year for the World Press Freedom Competition. I’d already drawn the cartoon above that fit the theme, and the top three prizes included a financial award. Though I hadn’t expected much, I won 2nd place and the prize money paid for most of my new guitar.
The Rocky Mountain Outlook is our local weekly paper. I’ve been their cartoonist since it began in 2001, and I’ve never missed an issue. National awards matter to weekly papers as they lend credibility to the publication, especially when soliciting advertisers who pay for it. The Outlook enters my work into the Canadian Community Newspaper Awards each year.The CCNAs didn’t happen last year because of the pandemic, so they awarded two years at once this time. For Best Local Cartoon, I won First, Second and Third for 2020 and Second and Third for 2021 in their circulation category.
Given there are fewer local papers each year and even fewer local cartoonists, I wonder if the multiple awards say more about the lack of competition than the quality of my work. Regardless, the recognition is still welcome.The problem with local cartoons is that you kind of have to live here to understand most of them. So the ones I’ve shared here are a random selection of local and national topics. Between the five or six syndicated editorial cartoons I create each week, plus the local cartoon for The Outlook, I drew 313 editorial cartoons this year.Calgary Expo and the Mountain Made Markets
I know artists who do the gift and market circuit all year long. For some, it’s their entire living, and they do well. Others try it for a few years, don’t make any money, and move on to something else. It can be a real grind.
More than once, I’ve considered getting a bigger vehicle, a tent and the display and booth hardware I would need to do the fair and market circuit in the warmer months and the holiday shows in November and December.
But with daily editorial cartoon deadlines, long days away and travelling each week are next to impossible. I enjoy working in my office every day and have no desire to spend a lot of my time driving and staying in hotels.
The one big show I look forward to each year is the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo at the end of April, five long days, including a full day for setup. So when the full event reemerged from its two-year pandemic hiatus, I was excited to return.
Not only was 2022 my best year of sales to date, but it was also great fun. I’m already looking forward to the 2023 event, though I’m tempering my expectations with a possible looming recession. Then again, I didn’t think this year would be good, and I was happily proven wrong.
There were several Mountain Made Markets this year, with weekend events every month from May to December. Held indoors at the Canmore Civic Centre, it’s an easy setup close to home, so it’s worth my time.
Each market was profitable, and I enjoyed introducing new people to my work, meeting subscribers in person and visiting with customers, vendors and friends. Significant changes are coming for that event this year. Whether good or bad remains to be seen, but I hope to do more of them in 2023.
If you’ve ever bought a face mask, magnet, coaster, or calendar from me, those come from Pacific Music & Art, just a handful of the many items they sell. I often hear from people who’ve bought a trivet in Banff, a coffee mug in Alaska, or an art card in Washington.
Licensing allows me to spend my time painting and still reach new markets and audiences. I signed a few new deals this year with Art Licensing International agency, a company that has represented my work for several years. Agencies might have many more contacts, but they take a big chunk of the royalties, so it’s a double-edged sword. I prefer to find most licenses on my own.
Sometimes companies cold call me. When Diamond Art Club contacted me about licensing my work, I had barely heard of diamond art kits.
Though there was a lead time of many months, the Otter kit finally launched this summer and sold out in days. Producing these kits involves more than simply printing the image on an item, so it took a few months for them to restock that first piece, but it’s again available on their site.
More diamond art kit designs are coming in 2023, but I’m not allowed to share which ones yet.
I signed a new contract last week for ten of my images with an overseas company for another product, but that, too, will be something I can’t share until the middle of next year. Licensing usually involves quite a bit of time between signing contracts and actual production, so it’s work now that pays later.
Come to think of it, that’s a good way of looking at commercial art in general. Every piece I paint is an investment in future revenue.
As I wrote about my latest commission earlier this week, here’s the link if you’d like to see and read about the pet portraits I painted this year.
Every year, I begin with great plans and expectations, but things go off the rails or new opportunities show up, and the whole year becomes a series of course corrections. All I can do for delayed projects important to me is try again.
I tend to slip into a fall melancholy or winter depression most years. When it happens, I often throw my efforts into a personal project, usually painting a portrait of a screen character. I’ve painted several portraits of people, and many result in great stories to go with them. Here’s the John Dutton character painting I did last year.I realized earlier this month that I wouldn’t get to one this year, even though I had already chosen someone to paint. While disappointed, not having the time was likely due to the work I put into the markets, something I hadn’t done in previous years. However, my latest commission of Luna almost felt like a personal piece because I so enjoyed that painting.
I still had down days this fall, especially with our brutally cold November and December. But September and October were beautiful and right before the weather turned, I had a great cabin trip with my buddy, Darrel.
So the seasonal depression wasn’t as dark as it has been in recent years, and for that, I’m grateful.
On a sunny June day in Calgary, a woman ran a red light and wrote off Shonna’s car. While we had no immediately apparent injuries, we’ve been sharing one vehicle ever since and likely will until sometime in the middle of next year. Unfortunately, everything we can find, used or new, is overpriced, and we’ve heard many stories of fraudulent car dealers adding extra fees and playing bait-and-switch games. As if the near criminal behaviour of our own insurance company wasn’t bad enough.
But we bought Pedego Element e-bikes and love them. Canmore is easier to get around by bike than car, and it has become a necessity since they brought in paid parking. So we were both disappointed when winter arrived with a vengeance in November, and we had to put them away. While we had planned to get studded tires and ride the bikes all winter, as many around here do, 20″ studded fat tires are just one more item on the long list of global supply problems.
We had a wonderful vacation in August, glamping and kayaking for a week off northern Vancouver Island, a 25th-anniversary trip we had postponed at the beginning of the pandemic. It was one of the best adventures we’ve ever had.
I bought a silent acoustic guitar this year and began to play music again. It’s always within arm’s reach of my desk, and I’ve been playing it almost every day, sometimes for ten minutes, but most often for an hour or more. With regular practice, I’m a better musician now than I’ve ever been, and it’s a lot of fun, especially bringing it on a couple of cabin trips.Best of all, there is no chance I will ever play guitar for a living. It’s a purely creative escape with no responsibility to pay my bills.
Including the two commissions, I completed nine full-resolution production pieces this year. I wanted to paint more.
Best I can figure, preparing for and attending the additional Mountain Made Markets this year ate up a lot of time and energy, especially on weekends when I do a lot of my painting. I still had to create the same number of editorial cartoons each week but sacrificed painting time. That’s valuable information to have when considering future markets and shows. While those might give me more opportunities to sell the work, they steal from time creating it.
I’ve put together another video to share this year’s painted work. Most of these are finished paintings, with a few works in progress.
Hundreds of new people subscribed to A Wilder View in 2022. My sincere thanks to you who’ve been with me for years and those who just joined the ride. Whatever challenges you face in the coming year, I hope the occasional funny-looking animal in your inbox gives you a smile and makes life a little bit easier, if only for a moment or two.
I’ve painted over 100 animals since 2009, and I can’t keep them all in stock. Even five of each is a lot of inventory. So whenever I bring in new ones, I’ve got to retire some. Some paintings seem to be perpetual best sellers, while others have their day in the sun for a few years and then wane in popularity.
To ensure a reasonable price from my supplier, I have to order prints in volume. So when a print plays out its best days, it’s no longer worth ordering a large amount. That’s a good indication it’s time to let it go and give a new one a chance.
Today, I’m retiring three prints. The Bald Eagle, Black Bear and Grizzly have been removed from the store. They’re still popular on other items through my various licenses, but not as much as prints in my online store. I get attached to these paintings as each has a story and takes many hours to paint. This round of retirees is especially bittersweet as this Grizzly was the first animal I painted in my whimsical wildlife style, the bear that started it all. But I’m always painting new grizzly bears and black bears, so there’s no shortage of that subject.
As much as I like my Bald Eagle painting, I’ve taken many excellent references at The Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale, Alberta in recent years, and I’m looking to paint a new one.
With a new print order just arrived, the Beaver and Two Wolves are back in stock, so if you’ve been waiting for those, thanks for your patience. Of course, no new order would be complete without some first-issue prints. My latest paintings, Snow Queen and Duckling, are now available in the store! I love seeing the first prints of a new painting; these were no exception. There’s just something about a print that makes the work complete. .
All prints are 11″ x14″ with a white border, and it’s easy to find an off-the-shelf frame as it’s a standard size. In addition, each is hand-signed and comes with a backer board and artist bio in a cellophane sleeve.
If you have any questions about the available prints or vinyl stickers, feel free to drop me a line, and I’ll be happy to answer. Otherwise, take a browse through the available paintings and see if there’s one that catches your eye. And a reminder that all images (even the retired ones) are available via custom order, as canvas or metal prints.