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Calendars, Scarves, Masks, Oh My!

Thanks to everybody who bought calendars over the past few months. I’ve sold out of them myself, but it’s not too late to start each month with a different funny looking bear painting.

If you’re in Canmore, Banff or anywhere else in the Bow Valley, you can still buy them at Save-On-Foods. They’re on the right side when you walk in the front doors, along with some notepads featuring my artwork.

But if you’re anywhere else, you can order them online from Pacific Music & Art, too. Mike gave me a promo code for 10% OFF  for my followers for not only the calendars, but everything else on his site. That includes face masks, scarves, calendars and whatever else you can find.

Here’s the code… PATRICK10OFF

Now I won’t tell anybody if you give that code to somebody else, too. Mike’s really busy, so he probably won’t read this. Shhhhh.

Incidentally, the face masks have gone through a couple of redesigns since the beginning of our shared adventure. The latest versions have a filter pocket in them and each mask comes with two filters at no extra charge.

Here’s the link to my profile on Pacific Music & Art’s site. The masks are on all three pages, the calendars on the second page and the scarves on the third page. But take some time to look around, too. I’m fortunate to be sharing that site with some wonderful artists, each with their own unique style.
Speaking of masks, thanks to Murray from Edmonton for dropping me a line yesterday after he saw my Amur Tiger mask on the Discovery Channel.

Gold Rush is a reality show that follows a bunch of miners in the Yukon. Like many reality shows these days, they’ve got an after-show called The Dirt, where they talk about what went on, show some more footage, and give viewers more of what they came for.

Well on the Season 7, Episode 7 episode of The Dirt, they had a segment where they caught up with Tony Beets and Minnie in Mexico, where they spend their winters.

As Shonna and I don’t have cable anymore, Murray was kind enough to take some screenshots for me, including the one above. This kind of thing is always a treat for me. Even though Tony Beets likely has no idea who I am, and probably picked up the mask at one of Pacific Music & Art’s retail customers up north, he’s still wearing my art.

If you’ve been following my work for awhile, you’ll know that my Ostrich shirt has shown up on sportscasts, in a Netflix show and Ozzy Osbourne was wearing it on one of his shows as well, though I don’t think he really knew that he was wearing it.

I wrote about this strange phenomenon at the beginning of last year. You can read it here.
So, if you ever see my art pop up somewhere cool like this, I’d be grateful if you’d snap a pic and let me know. It always makes my day.

I’ve started a new painting and hope to share it with you before too long.

Cheers,
Patrick

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© Patrick LaMontagne
Follow me on Instagram @LaMontagneArt
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The Panda in the Room

One of the most challenging parts of marketing is playing the game.

We’re emotional creatures, not as evolved as we like to think, prone to gimmicks, triggers, fear of missing out, limited time offers, inflated prices on sale for regular price. We are prey to an overabundance of cognitive biases, fall for the same stuff repeatedly, voluntarily share our personal information to save a few bucks, and forever fail to learn from our past mistakes.

Even though everyone knows that salespeople have a spiel or massage the details to put the best possible spin on things, we still buy into it. Marketing works because it understands all of this. And even when you know these things, we still fall for them.

Everybody who has ever invested in anything knows that the cardinal rule is to buy low and sell high. So why does the stock market have a seizure every time somebody in power sneezes or runs and hides when the wrong person says, “Boo?”

We’re emotional creatures, even though we like to pretend that we’re not.

Every so often, it’s nice to point out that elephant in the room. Not just mention it, but shine a light on it, display those wonderful big ears, beautiful tusks, enormous feet, pretty eyes and most importantly, the fact that it just sat on the buffet lunch.

Yes, I’m painting an elephant soon. Stay tuned.

(Get to the point, Cartoon Boy!)

I’m tired. You’re tired. We’re all a little testy, impatient, worried, uncertain, choose your own less than ideal emotional state.

So I thought I’d try something different for today’s marketing—brutal honesty.

The Calgary Zoo is usually one of my largest print clients. They’ve been supportive of my work for many years and a great customer. Like every other business this year, especially ones where the public gathers in groups, they’re facing extraordinary challenges right now.

I was taking photos at the zoo recently, and they’re taking the safety measures seriously. The animals are still well cared for, and the staff are doing their best under difficult circumstances. I would encourage Albertans to visit the zoo, support wildlife conservation, and a local business that keeps those hardworking people employed.

They also sell my face masks in their gift shop, made in Canada by Pacific Music and Art, so that’s one more place you can get them.

One of the many unforeseen casualties of this pandemic has been the Panda Passage at the Calgary Zoo. The pandas themselves are fine, but they must go back to China and are leaving soon. They were supposed to be in Calgary for a couple more years, but the daily flights that brought their bamboo diet have ceased. The zoo has been doing its best to source the bamboo from other places, like British Columbia, but winter is coming, and the supply has run out.

As nothing goes unconnected these days, here’s a strange way this affected your friendly neighbourhood cartoonist and whimsical wildlife painter.

The Calgary Zoo used to sell a lot of my Panda prints. They sold almost all of them. Popular in their gift shops, I made it a habit to keep plenty on hand so that when they ordered, there was no waiting. At the end of last year, I ordered more than 50 of them. The Zoo did not place their usual large spring order. I need not explain why.

With the closing of the Panda Passage, it’s beginning to look like it will take me a very long time to sell these particular prints, even at a discount. With that in mind, I’m offering that print at a substantial discount.

Regularly $24.95, I’ve reduced the price of the above panda print to $6.95.

Another print I’m offering at the same price is the Sasquatch. This is a weird one. Mike from Pacific Music and Art suggested I paint this image a year ago because many of his retail customers are in British Columbia, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest. That’s Sasquatch country!

The image does very well on magnets, coffee mugs, art cards, T-shirts from Harlequin Nature Graphics and plenty of other products. It’s one of the best sellers on face masks.
But whether it was at the Calgary Expo or on my online store, it does not do well on prints.  So, I’m going to blow out that stock, too—regular $24.95…now $6.95.

No Promo Codes, no new sign-ups, no hoops through which to pirouette. It’s just the price in the store.

Here’s a bonus to entice you. If you buy THREE or more prints, no matter which ones, I’ll throw in something extra. Could be a calendar, a magnet, face mask, who knows? It’ll be a surprise, but there will definitely be an added gift product in there.

Also, all of my prints are 11″X14″. That’s a common frame size you can buy in many stores that sell them, no need to spend a bundle having them professionally framed.

I’m fortunate that prints and other products aren’t perishable. Someday this will end, and I’ll be ready to supply my customers with the stock I have on hand. But I keep painting new pieces, and if I want to stock new stuff, I must make room for it. When sold, the Panda and Sasquatch prints will be retired, as will several other pieces. It’s the only way to keep releasing new images.

Speaking of which, here’s a Grizzly bear I finished last week, not yet available.
Hopefully, that candor is a refreshing change from the sleight of hand sales gimmicks we often get. I try not to make my blog posts and newsletters all about selling you stuff because I don’t like to receive too much of that either. But I’m a self-employed artist, and it’s the nature of the gig.

Stay well, be safe, and try to be patient with each other. Things are tough all over.

Cheers,
Patrick

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© Patrick LaMontagne
Follow me on Instagram @LaMontagneArt
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The Stories Behind The Work

When I plan to paint a funny looking animal, the goal is usually to create a finished piece, something destined for print. That’s what I’m thinking when I go through my extensive archive of reference, selecting photos to help me create the next painting. As such, there are many images that don’t make the cut.

I’ve recently been going through those files with a different goal in mind, finding reference I still like, from which to practice sketching and drawing.

The first three I tackled, the ones throughout this post, ended up being painted pieces. Still not the level of detail you’ll find in my production prints, but images I enjoyed bringing to life. Unlikely to become prints on their own, I painted them for fun, knowing that one of these might inspire other ideas.

Years ago, while learning to create on the iPad, I painted a practice piece of an Ostrich. At my wife’s insistence, I later developed it into a fully rendered painting and it became one of my bestsellers.

While painting these three pieces, however, I began to think of another use for them.

It doesn’t seem like four years ago, but I had intended on producing a book of my artwork. I had a local publisher lined up and the plan was to have it ready for 2017. But at the end of 2016, life got complicated.

With no desire to dig through old ground, or drag any of you through it again, the short version is that I went through a bout of severe depression. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the experience was a necessary evil and I’m now grateful for that catharsis. Real change never happens when you’re comfortable.

I came out the other side with a better perspective on things, not the least of which is a much lower tolerance for toxic bullshit. Leaving Facebook and Twitter was a good first step in eliminating quite a bit of it.

It took a long time to right that capsized ship, however, and one of the casualties of that dark night of the soul was the art book.

As I’ve been doing a lot more writing this year, the blog, newsletter and fiction, thoughts have returned to that dormant project.

The kind of art book I’ve always enjoyed from other creatives, whether it’s photography, painting, or sketching, is one that talks about the stories behind the work. That’s the kind of book I wanted to produce then, and four years later, I still have the same desire.

Many of my paintings have stories behind them. Hell, just the stories, sketches and paintings about my time spent with Berkley the Bear from Discovery Wildlife Park could fill a large volume.

The thought of such a project fills me with doubt. Anyone who has ever created anything, let alone a book, has experienced imposter syndrome. Who am I to write a book and assume anyone will want to buy it?

I can easily come up with a long list of reasons why publishing an art book is a bad idea.

It’ll cost a lot to produce. Even though I may or may not have to publish it myself, there’s a significant expense involved, and books don’t sell as well as people think they do. It has long been my experience that for every twenty people who say they will buy something, only one actually does.

It’s so easy for someone to post a supportive casual comment on Instagram or drop me a line saying they can’t wait until prints of a new painting are available. And while many of my supportive, generous, loyal customers do indeed follow through, most people don’t, despite their good intentions.

If you’re a creative starting out on this journey and happen to be reading this, that’s Lesson #1 in life and in business. People talk a good game.
So, what about Kickstarter or Patreon? For those to be successful, creatives have to offer different tiers of incentives to entice backers, or people will simply wait until the book comes out to buy it. Suddenly, all of the work involved with writing the book, laying it out, hiring an editor, and having it professionally produced is now paired with coming up with added incentives for the different tiers.

As I am a one man operation, already using most of my limited hours in a day, there’s no more water to draw from that well.

There are plenty of people who’ve done all of the work, launched a book, did the promotion, put in the hours and still ended up years later with boxes upon boxes of them gathering dust in their garage. I recently heard of one author who took most of her leftovers to the landfill as she couldn’t bear to look at them anymore. That must have been a hard day. I would imagine the drive home would have involved a stop for chocolate, ice cream, alcohol, or all three.

While it’s easier than ever to self-publish and produce a book today, it becomes the duty of the creator to do the lion’s share of promoting and selling it. That means gift and trade shows, events, readings, book store signings, not to mention all of the online promotion to ensure people are even aware that you have a book to sell. That’s difficult when things are normal, even tougher now that many of those opportunities aren’t possible due to COVID-19.

At this point, I wouldn’t approach the same publisher again without a finished book in hand. I’ve already abused that faith once before. While it’s a common tale in the publishing trade for well-intentioned would-be authors to fizzle out before launch, that personal failure weighed heavy on me. I wasted another self-employed person’s time, a crime I will not repeat.

As you can tell, talking myself out of this project is easily done. I have no shortage of excuses. I can come up with many more reasons why creating an art book is a bad idea.

I can also give you many reasons why creating art for a living is a bad idea, not to mention self-employment or starting any business. But that didn’t stop me or the millions of other people who’ve done the same thing, and succeeded against the odds.

Nothing good comes without risk.
I’m going through the stories behind the paintings again, with fresh eyes. I’m looking through all of the work I’ve done, both the production paintings and ones like those you see here, deciding which would be good candidates for inclusion. The art books I enjoy have smaller pieces peppered throughout, and I have plenty of those from which to choose.

But I plan to paint a lot more of them as well.

Despite all of the arguments I gave against the idea, and many more that I didn’t, I still want to create an art book, whether it makes any money or not.

One thing I do know for sure, is that I can’t sell one if I don’t write one.

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© Patrick LaMontagne
Follow me on Instagram @LaMontagneArt
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Pit Stop

I started a new painting yesterday morning. About an hour or two in, I found myself wondering at what point I should share a work-in-progress screen shot on Instagram or maybe record another video or two of a close-up of the brushstrokes. Suddenly I wasn’t focused on the painting, I was thinking about promoting it.

In our online content-obsessed world, there’s a ton of pressure on self-employed artists to always be sharing images, works-in-progress, blogs, memes, photos, thoughts and snapshots of life in general. A lot of that pressure is self-inflicted. For most of us, there’s nobody standing at our back, cracking a whip.

Working artists are not only driven by the need to earn financial compensation for our creations, but to also get the likes and shares, new subscribers, and to expand our reach and audience. It’s an endless quest for that validation high, convincing ourselves that just a few more followers will get us closer to the carrot on the stick.

Like any addiction, it’s never enough. The dopamine hit that did the job yesterday doesn’t quite do it today.

Promotion and advertising is part of any business, there’s no escaping it. While it would be nice if there were any truth to that famous whispered line in Field of Dreams, it’s a fantasy to believe that “if you build it, they will come.”

Yes, I know the line was actually “he” will come, but I’m paraphrasing.

If you’re in it for a living, it’s not enough to create something; you have to sell it. It becomes a hamster wheel and it’s easy to lose perspective. It feels irresponsible to ease off on the gas pedal, that any momentum earned will immediately be lost. But it’s an unsustainable pace, and every machine needs maintenance.

I’m taking a summer break from the promotion.

I’ll still be drawing daily editorial cartoons, filling print and calendar orders, answering emails, shipping and delivering the masks when they arrive, basically running my business as usual, but I’m trying something new.

For the next little while, likely a month or six weeks, I’m taking a break from the blog, newsletter, and Instagram to focus on painting and writing. I need to get better at time management, and something has to give, at least in the short term.

I want to work on a piece, without having to think about how to share it, either while it’s in progress or when it’s completed. I want to finish a painting and not have to immediately write about it, size it for the site and Instagram, copy and paste the gaggle of hashtags, then check to see how many people like and comment on it over the course of that day.

It often feels like shouting in a crowded stadium, desperate to be heard above the noise.

After sharing this post (ah, the irony), I’m temporarily deleting the Instagram app from my phone and iPad. It would be too easy to tap that icon and fall back into the habit.

It’s a scary proposition, filled with what-ifs. I might lose subscribers, followers, sales, interest, but I don’t think that’s realistic. I’m simply taking a vacation from sharing everything, carving out time to regroup, to consider where I want to go with my work.

When I come back, I expect I’ll have a few new paintings, wildlife photos and stories to share. But who knows? As we’ve all learned the hard way this year, nothing is certain.

Enjoy your summer.

Cheers,
Patrick

___

© Patrick LaMontagne
Follow me on Instagram @LaMontagneArt
Sign up for my newsletter which features blog posts, new paintings and editorial cartoons, follow this link to the sign up form.

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Face Masks: The First Order

In addition to the usual daily editorial cartoons, this business of face masks has occupied the majority of my last few weeks. The response from my newsletter subscribers was overwhelming and far exceeded my expectations. While there were delays for various reasons, and I sent regular updates to those who ordered, it all came together this past week.

With two shipments from Pacific Music and Art, three evening visits to Shonna’s work to use the postage meter, four visits to the post office, and one trip to Bow Valley Basics when I ran out of large bubble mailers, not to mention the hours of sorting, checking and double-checking the list, it’s been a challenge.
I made two trips around Canmore delivering masks, one trip to Banff yesterday morning, and by the end of day yesterday, the bulk of this adventure has been completed.

(I did come home from Banff with home-baked cookies. Thanks, Helen!)

As of yesterday, all of the Canadian orders have been delivered or shipped. There are a couple more minor deliveries I need to make, and the U.S. orders will go out Tuesday morning. Monday is a holiday here in Canada so the post office will be closed. The US orders are a little more work with Customs forms and the fact that they have to go as small parcels, rather than regular large letter mail like the Canadian shipments.

The masks just didn’t arrive in time for me to get all of that done by the cut-off yesterday.
I sent a bunch of masks to Discovery Wildlife Park and The Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation yesterday, both places I’m anxious to visit as soon as I’m allowed. My friend Serena said they can’t wear masks around the animals as it freaks them out, but I donated them for the keepers to use in their regular day to day lives wherever it might be required.

The first orders were sent Wednesday morning and some in Calgary already got them. People have been kind enough to send me photos, which was fun to see. I’m sharing them here with permission.

I’ve been getting many requests for a second order, but making no promises, as this situation seems to change every five minutes. Right now, the demand is incredibly high but I don’t know if that will continue. It seems some are switching gears from extremely diligent to, “screw it, who cares?”

For example, Alberta was still advising caution on Thursday, and then yesterday announced, “Hey, it’s the long weekend, have at ‘er!”

I’m not sure how a large group of people having a backyard BBQ are expected to keep a 6 ft. distance outside, but then all go into the house to use the same bathroom and hand towels. Not to mention that it’s well established that alcohol and impaired judgment go hand in hand. Hopefully, in hindsight, this won’t be referred to as the Victoria Day Petri Dish Debacle.

Guess we’ll see what happens.

All of the masks contained an additional method of ensuring a good fit.

Some received a little packet inside containing a couple of rubber grommets. Since the actual grommets are still on back-order, the owner of Pacific Music and Art tried a number of different solutions and came up with surgical tubing. He then cut it into little pieces, and included instructions on how to attach them. Because I wanted to make sure I had all of the masks for the orders, I only took one mask out for myself this week; to wear into the post office and other confined spaces. The grommet solution worked very well. They stayed in place and allowed me to put the mask on and take it off without touching the front of it, which is what ‘they’ advise.
While that first shipment arrived with the grommets, the second shipment included plastic pieces that go behind your head. The ear loops attach to different prongs and make it adjustable. Some have been calling these ear savers, as thin elastic ear loops are irritating the wearer. In the limited time I wore my mask, I found the grommets worked well and didn’t find the loops to be a problem.

Some orders will receive a mix of grommets and those plastic fasteners.
Production costs were higher than expected and prices have been adjusted accordingly. If you did get the plastic piece, count yourself fortunate. On future mask orders, those will be an add-on with additional cost of $3.00. The masks themselves have gone up in price. $15.99 for the large, $14.99 for the small.

So while my newsletter customers had to be patient through delays on the first order, they got the masks at a much better price, with additional fasteners at no extra cost.

I’ve had three people this week tell me to send them a text when the next order is available. That’s not realistic. For any future offers, sign up for my newsletter, as that’s where I’ll announce it.

Since I haven’t had any time to do so lately, I wanted to get up and start a new painting this morning, but that didn’t happen. I still have plenty of work to do today, but I’m not in the right frame of mind for the creative stuff. I’ve been hearing a lot about idle time and boredom during this isolation and how people are trying to occupy themselves. I haven’t experienced any of that. I’m worn out.

Thanks to all who ordered the masks and were so patient throughout the process.

Cheers,
Patrick
___

© Patrick LaMontagne
Follow me on Instagram @LaMontagneArt
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A Cheetah Painting and Photoshop Friends

For many years, I was a member of a group called the National Association of Photoshop Professionals. I don’t remember when I joined, but I think it was sometime in the late 90s or early 2000s, and I remained a member until 2014 when it rebranded.

Owned and operated by Scott Kelby, the organization contained a wealth of online tutorials, a magazine called Photoshop User, and the Photoshop World conference. There was extensive training from internationally well-known instructors, each with their own areas of expertise.

Before social media ruined it all (yeah, I said it!), when like-minded individuals wanted to learn from each other, share their work for critique, answer each other’s questions and simply offer support, there were online forums where artists could gather.

I learned a lot from the NAPP forum and made some terrific friends there. Quite a few of them, I never got to meet in person, but when I finally got to Photoshop World Las Vegas for the first time in 2009, that was the best part of the whole experience, meeting this community in real life.

Over the next five years, I enjoyed seeing them each year, attending classes together all day, parties at night, hanging out at different venues. It was a fun event.

My involvement with NAPP was in a large way responsible for my now expert level skills in Photoshop. The networking opportunities introduced me to people and companies that advanced my career in many ways. I recorded a couple of training DVDs for Photoshop CAFE, wrote some articles for Photoshop User magazine, and won a few prestigious awards. It was due to a weird comedy of errors at my first conference that led me to a long and productive relationship with Wacom, the company that makes the digital tablets and displays on which I create my artwork.

I honestly believe that if I hadn’t been a member of that organization, with the opportunities and insights it afforded, I wouldn’t be painting my whimsical animals today. There’s a direct line between those people and experiences and the work I enjoy most.

Sadly, nothing lasts forever. The organization changed focus, became the Kelby Media Group, they retired the forum,  and most of my friends stopped attending Photoshop World. It doesn’t hold the same value that it used to.

I still talk to some of them now and then, but not nearly as often as I’d like. To this day, there are still a few people who call me Monty, my username from that forum.

For the first part of my career, while I’d been drawing editorial cartoons, I would also paint detailed caricatures of celebrities, and people would hire me to paint them for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and the like. But I didn’t see a future in it. The first funny looking animal in 2009 was an experiment, inspired by some personal reflection following my first Photoshop World that year.

Without good reference photos, I can’t paint the detail I enjoy, so in the beginning, I had to buy stock photos and relied on the generosity of photographer friends I knew through NAPP.

In 2014, I had already been taking my own photos with a decent camera I’d bought, but it was essentially a point-and-shoot with a good zoom lens. That spring, I painted a family of owls from the reference I’d taken myself here at Grassi Lakes above Canmore.
At Photoshop World that year, I won the Best of Show Guru award for that painting. At the last minute, they announced that part of the grand prize would be a Canon 5D Mark III camera. The oohs and aahs from an audience of mostly photographers indicated that it was something special. I had no clue.

When I won, I remember somebody laughing and saying, “Of course, the illustrator won the camera!”

When I returned to my seat, the friends I’d been sitting with told me just how good it was and that it was worth thousands of dollars. I remember calling Shonna to tell her I’d won, and we mused that I should probably sell it on eBay as such a professional camera would be wasted on me.

When I mentioned that idea to my buddy Jeff from Boston, he gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received in my career. He told me to keep it and learn to use it.

Since then, I’ve discovered a love of taking reference photos, and it has become as much a part of the creative process for me as the painting itself. While I don’t make a habit of calling myself a photographer and have no designs on going pro, I enjoy it a great deal.

I’ve taken good care of that camera, been using it for six years, and it still does the job I need it to do. If something happens to it, or when it comes to the end of its life, I’ll buy another professional camera, because it’s now such a big part of my work.
Still, now and then, I find myself unable to take my own reference pics. This is especially true of commissions, where I rely on clients to provide me with the photos I’ll use to paint their furry family members.

Or it’s merely a case of access and travel being prohibitive. I’ve been searching for the right reference for an elephant painting for years. My friend Serena from Discovery Wildlife Park went to Africa earlier this year and brought back the perfect photos for me.

One of the people I knew well from my years in the NAPP organization and Photoshop World was Susan Koppel. It’s not enough that she was a flight instructor at 18 and then became an aeronautical engineer, but she’s also an incredible photographer and supporter of animals.

Now retired from the aviation industry, Susan’s photography business is her primary focus, pun intended.  She volunteers for the Nevada Humane Society taking pictures of the animals to make them look their best for their adoption photos. She also donates her skills to a wildlife sanctuary and nature center in Reno called Animal Ark.

The facility has adopted several cheetahs, and one of their regular events is to have cheetah runs. This gives the animals much-needed exercise opportunities to run full out, as they would in the wild, but also provides photographers with a chance to take pictures they can’t get outside of Africa. These photography events give the sanctuary added funds to continue the work they do.

Years ago, Susan provided me with the reference for my Raccoon and Fox paintings. I’ve seen her cheetah photos before and recently asked her if she’d be willing to share some. I’ve wanted to paint a full body cheetah in a running pose, mostly inspired by the photos Susan has posted over the years.

Susan generously opened up her online archive to me and told me I could use what I’d like. I ended up grabbing a dozen or so and expect to do three cheetah paintings in the near future. The reference was just so good that I couldn’t decide.
This is the first of those cheetah paintings, and I obsessed over the details. I expect I could have spent another 10 hours on this one, just nitpicking every little hair. But as every creative knows, eventually you just have to abandon one piece so that you can start on the next.

I miss all of those great people in the NAPP organization and at Photoshop World conferences. Each of them, in one way or another, inspired and contributed to my creating the work I love most, and I believe I’m a better artist and a better person for having known them.

Cheers,
Patrick

___

© Patrick LaMontagne
Follow me on Instagram @LaMontagneArt
Sign up for my newsletter which features blog posts, new paintings and editorial cartoons, follow this link to the sign up form.

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Face Mask Update

Last weekend, I launched a pre-order for face masks, available to my newsletter subscribers. The response was overwhelming and I spent long hours on multiple days processing the orders. This update was sent to my newsletter followers this morning.

Over the past month, things have changed to a degree we’d have thought ridiculous had somebody predicted it at the beginning of the year. People, businesses, and governments are all trying to adapt to information that changes every day.

There’s a video circulating right now with a woman standing in her kitchen in front of microphones talking about the inconsistent messages we’re getting. You may have already seen it because it has gone viral, but here’s the link if you haven’t. It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.

The list of things we’ve been taking for granted grows larger every day. Never thought I’d miss a teeth cleaning and haircut so much.

This week, the Calgary Stampede was cancelled along with every other summer gathering. I haven’t been to Stampede in years, not my thing. But Stampede is part of Calgary’s identity, and cancelling an event for the first time in 97 years speaks volumes.

If you’re playing the ‘every time somebody says unprecedented’ drinking game, take a shot.

It’s hard to follow what each Provincial Premier and State Governor is saying concerning starting up the economy again. While the messages are conflicting, it seems clear that large gatherings, sports events, festivals, and concerts won’t be possible this summer. That’s right, the whole summer.

That just sucks.

When we do go out, we’ll have to continue to keep a distance of 6ft/2m, in gatherings of less than fifteen? Or is it ten? Five?

I’ve been going to the grocery store on Fridays, just once a week. There were noticeably more people wearing face masks yesterday than last week. They were almost all homemade.Masks are going to be a part of our culture for the foreseeable future.

While it’s great that Pacific Music and Art jumped on this so fast, ahead of many others, my masks are the first order of a brand new product, and that means there have been issues requiring adjustments and tweaks.

Before I go further, yes, there is a delay on the masks, but I still expect (hope) I should get them later this week.

True, it’s only been five days since I submitted the order, and even that behemoth Amazon can’t meet their pre-COVID shipping guarantees right now, but I know you’re anxious to get these. I am, too.

Canada Post issued a statement this week that they’re experiencing Christmas level volume right now, but without the staff to handle it.  Postal workers can’t be within six feet of each other, and every transaction takes longer to deal with because of masks, handwashing, and the COVID shuffle.

Here’s why the delay…

When I took the pre-order, the blank masks had arrived in Vancouver. Pacific Music and Art is a ferry ride away in Victoria. Because of new dock safety protocols and shipping delays, it took more than two days for the order to make it to Pacific Music and Art.
When they started test printing, it quickly became evident that the designs were off.

Usually, with licensing, I supply the image, and then the company that licenses the image has designers that fit it to their products. With Pacific Music and Art, I create all of my own designs. They’re my most significant licensee, with the most products, and I’m a control freak. So I want them to look as close to perfect (impossible) as I can get them.

For every painting I do, I create more than a dozen different designs for things like magnets, coffee cups, trivets, coasters, art cards…it’s a long list.

Because the masks hadn’t arrived yet, I based my templates on photos and measurements. 16 designs, both small and large masks, for a total of 32 images. It took quite a few hours, and one sleepless night to get them all done.

Then the company that provided the blanks also provided a template, different enough from mine that I had to redesign them all again, requiring many more hours of work.

Whenever an image is printed on a product, there is a bleed. That means the image has to be larger than the printable area so that if it’s off by a millimetre here or there, it won’t show an edge. With something like an aluminum magnet, the bleed is small because the blanks are all uniform.

When the actual masks arrived in Victoria, there was another problem. Masks are fabric, with straps, and unlike aluminum, there is more variability between each. So I worked late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, redesigning all 32 images for a THIRD time with a much larger bleed.

I had to paint more fur, hair and features on the edges of many of the paintings to accommodate the bleed, work that nobody will ever see.

It was incredibly frustrating. I still had my daily editorial cartoon deadlines, and I haven’t worked on my new painting in over a week.

That’s just my side of it. Pacific Music and Art were working hard in dealing with their own problems.

Heads are different sizes. It’s the reason hat sizes have such small increments between them. Faces are long or short, wide or narrow. With one small mask and one large mask, finding a perfect fit for everybody is impossible, and you go with as close as you can get.

The elastic isn’t super stretchy, because then it would bite into the backs of your ears. They discovered that the ear loops need to be shorter for some people to have a good fit.

As more people wear masks, it’s now easy to find online solutions for a better fit, because so many don’t fit well. Some are fastening the ear loops behind their heads with additional clips and fasteners. Others are tying them over their heads. Front line workers and first responders who must wear them all day are developing sores on their ears and faces from masks that are too tight and elastics that are too thin.

The owner of Pacific Music and Art didn’t want to send out the masks without a solution because you wouldn’t be happy, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Between him and the company that supplies the blanks, they discovered that an addition of a grommet seems to work.
But now we’re waiting on the grommets.

He’s looking for a local solution for my order so that he can ship them to me, and then I can ship them to you.
The good news is, the masks for my order are all in Victoria, being printed right now. Despite this delay, you’ll all receive what you ordered. If the delay goes longer, I will update you again and will issue refunds for those unwilling to wait.

The bad news is, I’ve been hearing from people all week who missed the first opportunity and want to order, and I have no idea when that can happen. Because of the global demand now for any kind of mask, shipping delays on everything, it’s probably going to be a few weeks before Pacific Music and Art can get any more, and that’s only if there aren’t any further delays. My order was first priority this time, but it won’t be next time. They have other retail customers waiting.

It would be irresponsible and unfair of me to take another order with no idea when I can deliver. Masks are going to be hard to come by for everybody for a little while until supply meets the demand. Just like the toilet paper aisle in your grocery store, it needs to catch up.

I’ll also be re-evaluating orders to the US on the next go ’round. Because of stricter customs regulations on anything that isn’t paper, shipping is now more expensive and more involved, even for small packets. I’ll absorb the added fees on this order, so masks heading to the US this time will go ahead as planned, at no additional cost.

The best I can offer is to stay tuned. If you have friends and family who want to order, they can sign up for the newsletter, and I’ll announce the next order opportunity here, whenever that might be. But please don’t promise them anything.

All I can do is ask for your patience and to trust me that as soon as I can get these shipped, I will.

Cheers,
Patrick

Now go watch that video.

And here’s an article from CBC talking about the Canada Post delays, but also why businesses are having a hard time meeting their orders right now. One more thing we must get used to.

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© Patrick LaMontagne
Follow me on Instagram @LaMontagneArt
Sign up for my newsletter which features blog posts, new paintings and editorial cartoons, follow this link to the sign up form.

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Face Masks


Medical professionals and officials have recently changed their messaging about wearing fabric masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19. While they still agree that a non-medical mask won’t prevent you from getting the virus, they admit that it’s possible that a cotton or other fabric mask could prevent the wearer from infecting others, especially if you have the virus but aren’t showing any symptoms. Since coughing, sneezing and talking spreads droplets from your mouth and nose, wearing a mask could prevent those droplets from being inhaled by others.

Of course, nothing is a substitute for staying at home, hand-washing and keeping a distance of 6ft/2m or greater if you have to go out and run errands. Some medical professionals have also said that a side benefit of people wearing masks is a visual reminder to each other of the need for diligence, to keep our distance while out in public.

Even when we’re allowed back out into the world,  it now appears that masks will be a part of our culture for the foreseeable future and Pacific Music and Art is launching a line of masks featuring my artwork. I spent most of Saturday going through my images, playing with the template and designs and the production is now underway. I’ve got fifteen different designs, nine of which you can see below.

I’ve been told these will be available soon, but won’t know the exact date for a little while. I also don’t know what the price will be for each of these, but all of that information will be available as soon as I know it. Newsletter subscribers will be the first to know and have a chance to purchase. So if you’re not a subscriber, here’s the link.

As with all of my posts, feel free to share and stay healthy.

Cheers,
Patrick

___

© Patrick LaMontagne
Follow me on Instagram @LaMontagneArt
Sign up for my newsletter which features blog posts, new paintings and editorial cartoons, follow this link to the sign up form.

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Wacom One Inspiration

One of the unexpected benefits of having been a digital artist since the late 1990s is that I’ve been able to see all of the advances in the medium. My first Wacom tablet was an original Intuos with only a 4”X5” drawing surface.

It seemed so futuristic.  I could move the stylus on this tablet, which would be mirrored on the screen by the cursor, and then DRAW. To some, it seemed complicated, but to me, it seemed like a prosthetic limb I’d been missing.

I don’t know how to paint with oils, acrylics, or watercolours. My sketching skills with a pencil are adequate; my pen and ink skills less so. I’ve tried charcoal, woodcarving, sculpture, but just barely, and all of it felt clumsy.

This is obviously a personal problem, given the centuries of incredible artwork created with those tools.

But digital tools always felt right to me. It has been my medium for more than twenty years.

When it came to software, there was Photoshop, Painter, and a few others. I tried them all. But for the hardware, if I wanted to work digitally, a Wacom tablet wasn’t an option. It was a requirement.

Since then, I can only guess how many Wacom devices I’ve owned, upgrading when I felt the need and could scrape together the funds. For the first half of my professional career, I used tablets rather than displays. That’s where you look at the screen but draw on the device sitting on your desk. It’s not difficult to get used to since we all use a mouse the same way. We look at the cursor, not the device in our hand, and our brain figures it out pretty fast.

Drawing with a Wacom tablet was easy for me.

But in 2011, I got my first Wacom Cintiq display, a 12WX, where I could draw right on the screen. These days, that seems unremarkable, considering how many screens and mobile devices we have at our fingertips. But at the time, it was a huge deal for me.

The 12WX was pretty thrilling, even though it could be a bit clunky at times. Marketed as a portable model,  being the first one that didn’t take up your whole desk, it was more like the prototype for what would come next.
When I got my Cintiq 24HD in 2012, everything changed for me. Not only was I now using their most professional display model, but I also had a working relationship with Wacom.

That display is still the one I use every day, and while there are newer models available, I have a sentimental attachment to this display, and I never feel it’s lacking. Yes, it’s a piece of technology, but like a reliable car, years out of the showroom, my 24HD is like an old friend. I’ve created many of my favourite paintings on this display.

In the past six months, Wacom has sent me a couple of their newer portable models to evaluate and work with, recording videos with them. The Cintiq 16 I received last summer is a welcome addition to my digital toolset.  I use it while working on my laptop, often on the couch in the evenings while watching TV. You can see a recording I did with that one in a blog post from late last year.
Just recently, I was asked if I would take their new Wacom One display for a spin. Pitched as an affordable solution for artists looking to make the jump to digital or for those just starting, it’s an entry-level display.

After using it to paint my latest Ring-tailed Lemur, however, I find that notion rather amusing. This display is better than all of the tablets and displays I used for most of my professional career.

Without getting too technical, it’s a comfortable experience. From the feel of the stylus on the screen, the pressure sensitivity, the image quality of the display and the simple setup and installation, this is a display I would have been thrilled to have worked with early in my career.

I know many people these days draw on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil, and I’ve seen some incredible work done with those tools. I have an iPad Pro, I use it every day, and when I bought it, I expected I’d be doing a lot of drawing with it. There’s even a professional level painting app called procreate that’s pretty incredible.

But no matter how often I work with the iPad, it never feels quite right to me.

Whether it’s the stylus on the screen, the display itself, or the size, I can’t seem to get comfortable with it. To be fair, the iPad is a standalone device, where a Wacom display has to plug into a computer, whether a PC, Mac, Notebook or Laptop. But most people have those already.

I’ve often said that the best tools are the ones you don’t have to think about. When I’m in the zone, painting fur, feathers or details, I don’t want to have to stop because the tools aren’t doing what I want them to do. I’ve invested quite a bit of time on the iPad Pro, and it just doesn’t feel as comfortable as a Wacom display.

I’m well aware that we resist change, so I’ve tried other devices and displays. But I keep coming back to Wacom time after time. Part of me knows that being sent the display, tasked with doing a video, it’s my job to pump it up and promote it.

But honestly, if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t. And I know my friend Pam at Wacom wouldn’t want me to. I was thankful I didn’t have to find a way to put a positive spin on this display. There is nothing about this display that I can criticize. For what was promised, it over-delivered.

The only thing I missed while using it was the Express Keys I have on my Cintiq 24HD. I use those all the time. Those are buttons and dials that you can program to access features you use often. Those features are now automatic to me. Thankfully, in recent years, Wacom introduced a device called the Express Key Remote. It’s a standalone device, and it worked flawlessly with the Wacom One.

A beginner might find Express Keys too intimidating at first, and I understand why they left out of this entry-level display, both for price and function. But it’s nice to know that if a user wants to try them, there’s an affordable add-on option.

As for the video above, called ‘Voices,’ my task was to offer a message to new artists, something to inspire them to give their creativity the chance it deserves. I spent a great deal of time thinking about what I would have wanted to hear when I was new at this artist’s life, trying to gather the courage to stick my neck out.

Ultimately, I ended up speaking to myself two decades ago, that twenty-something kid who was scared to death of being a fraud, having never gone to art school. I’d have wanted to let him know that it isn’t easy for anybody. The only way to navigate this world is through experience. Decades later, it’s still scary to do this for a living, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I’d like to think the message I recorded would have given him hope.

Cheers,
Patrick

© Patrick LaMontagne
@LaMontagneArt
If you’d like to receive my newsletter which features blog posts, new paintings and editorial cartoons, follow this link to the sign up form.

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Bird Watching

One of the wonderfully strange things I’ve never quite gotten used to over the years of licensed work is how my animals show up in the oddest places.

With the Pacific Music and Art license, that seems to be accelerating, because they’re in many more places than I could ever reach on my own, which is the whole point.

Earlier this week, my buddy Al sent me a text that made me laugh out loud, because it included the following photo. It had been shared on The Chive under a headline “Sports Moments Caught Out of Context…”
That ostrich T-shirt certainly does get around.

Years ago, my first T-shirt license was with a company called The Mountain. The relationship was a good one, they treated me well, cheques showed up monthly, but after five years, the owner chose not to renew the license. While I thought sales were right for me, they weren’t enough for The Mountain. The large volume of sales they were after from each design, my funny looking animals weren’t making the mark.

I was disappointed but didn’t take it personally, and we parted on good terms. The owner was a good guy, and when the company shut down its licensing division for anything but shirts, he recommended me to Art Licensing International, an agency that represents me today.

Some Canadian customers wanted to sell my shirts in their stores or gift shops but found the prices from The Mountain to be prohibitive, mainly because of the exchange rate. So, I was pleased to sign on with a Canadian company after that, Harlequin Nature Graphics on Vancouver Island.

Sometime later, however, The Mountain wanted to continue selling the Ostrich shirt, mainly because of one client. Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch and Petting Zoo is a family-owned facility in Arizona, frequented year-round, and it’s my understanding that this one client is responsible for the majority of sales for my Ostrich Tshirt.

With licensing, the main thing is not to step on other clients’ toes, so I checked with Harlequin, as they’ve got exclusivity and first rights of refusal on my designs. They were fine with me continuing that one design license with The Mountain, as they haven’t optioned that painting.

I painted it quite a few years ago on my iPad. It was a sketch painting, a fun experiment, never designed for print. But when Shonna saw it, she said she really liked it and told me I had to finish it.

I know a lot of creative art type people, and there’s something most of us have in common; our spouses aren’t impressed with our work. I’ve heard the same stories in interviews and on podcasts from many people. Actors, musicians, painters, writers, it seems that many of our partners aren’t fans, which in moments of clarity, I know that’s a good thing.

So, when Shonna likes a painting, I get a little excited, because she’s so hard to impress. As much as it pisses me off, she’s usually the last critical eye on a painting. When I ask her opinion, I bite my tongue and brace myself, because she almost always sees something that’s off. I grumble about it, make the change, and reluctantly admit she was right.
 
Man, I hate that.

In recent years, I’ve had people send me images of this ostrich shirt from some unusual places. The first was a screenshot from TSN showing a New York Islanders hockey game. A guy behind the bench was wearing it, making it look like he was giving the coach the evil eye.

A character was wearing it on a Netflix show called Disjointed, a sitcom about a pot shop. Then on the A&E series, “Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour,” Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne visited the ranch mentioned above and were both wearing the shirts in the scene following their departure.
This latest image of the announcer holding up the shirt, I’m sure was from the ranch as well, because I can see a name drop on the sleeve. Though I can’t read it, it looks the same as the one Ozzy is wearing. Interesting post-script to the announcer picture…when I sent this post to my newsletter followers, a friend in San Diego wrote me to say that he knows the guy holding the shirt, even told me his name. He’s going to ask him about it next time they meet. This bizarre small world in which we live.

These are the incidents in my work I can’t ever predict, but I’m delighted when they happen. It’s not like any of these people know who I am, but they’re wearing my art, and that’s enough for me.

Cheers,
Patrick

© Patrick LaMontagne
@LaMontagneArt
If you’d like to receive my newsletter which features blog posts, new paintings and editorial cartoons, follow this link to the sign up form.