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.
When Diamond Art Club approached me a couple of years ago to license my work, I only had a passing acquaintance with diamond art kits. I soon realized, however, that they were the leading company in the world for this exciting and popular creative hobby that’s similar to cross-stitch or paint by numbers.
They’ve previously released my Otter, Smiling Tiger and T-Rex paintings as diamond art kits, and all three sold out quickly upon launch. As these are intricate kits and each requires manufacture, assembly and transport before they’re available to purchase, it takes time to restock them. But over the last year, they’ve done so more than once and they’ve sold out again. As I write this , the Otter is currently available. You can sign up for an email notification on their site when the Smiling Tiger and T-Rex are back in stock.
I’ve heard from several Diamond Art Club customers who’ve told me how much they enjoyed putting the kits together and they’ve asked when more of my work will be available.
As with many licenses, I often know months before launch that a new design is on the horizon. It’s an exercise in patience, because I can’t talk about it until Diamond Art Club makes an official announcement.
I was thrilled to get an email this week from their Licensing Director letting me know I can post that two new paintings are launching for Black Friday. They’re releasing a lot of art this week on their social media pages, so while I don’t know when the second announcement is coming, and can’t spoil their surprise, the first has been revealed.
The Countdown is on! You’ve been eagerly awaiting the scoop, and the wait is finally over—Black Friday is going to be epic with 100 DISCOUNTED NEW DESIGNS just for you!
Circle the date: November 24th, 7:00 am PT | 10:00 am ET.
Diamond Members, you’ve got the VIP pass! Early Access kicks off November 23rd at 9:00 pm PT | 12:00 am ET. Sorry, Ruby Members, this one’s just for the Diamonds.
See your way through a wintry storm with clear blue vision and an inner sense of strength. A thick, shimmering coat of fur notices every twitch in the wind and keeps you warm no matter the temperature.
“Snow Queen” by Patrick LaMontagne available in 19.5″ x 25.8″ (49.6cm x 65.5cm) | Square with 28 Colors including 2 ABs and 1 Fairy Dust Diamond
Also available in 22″ x 29″ (55.8cm x 73.7cm) | Round with 28 Colors including 2 ABs and 1 Fairy Dust Diamond
Keep your eyes on Facebook and Instagram! Every hour from 8 am to 5 pm PT, we’ll unveil a different sneak peek on each platform.
When it’s go-time, head over to www.diamondartclub.com. These beauties are ready to fly into your cart—catch them before they vanish!
Both of this week’s launches are two of my personal favourite paintings, and already bestsellers. If you want to find out more about their Diamond Insider Rewards program, click here.
For my second image they’re releasing this week, you’ll need to follow Diamond Art Club on Facebook and Instagram.
EDIT: Here’s the second one, released a couple of days after this initial post.
Trade shows and gift markets share similarities, but each is unique. Many vendors travel from one to the next each season. They know each other as coworkers and are on familiar terms with the organizers in different towns and venues. I always learn a lot from talking with these more experienced vendors, and I haven’t met one yet who wasn’t willing to share helpful information.
Because of my daily editorial cartoon deadlines, I can’t be away all the time going from market to market selling my prints, stickers and other licensed products. That’s not an issue for me, as I don’t want a life on the road.
I’m content working at home alone, getting up early each day, drawing cartoons, painting my whimsical wildlife, and doing all the other stuff that supports my self-employed artist lifestyle. But the occasional market weekend is good for me and my business.
As I wrote recently, I applied for the Banff Christmas Market at Warner Stables and was accepted for two of the three weekends. The first was this past weekend; I’ve got another December 1-3. Not having the middle weekend meant tearing everything down Sunday evening so I can set it all up again in two weeks, but it’s good experience and an opportunity to tweak my setup. I’m putting a positive spin on it, dammit!
Without boring you with a play-by-play, this first weekend was a good market. The event is well organized, I was happy with my booth placement, and it’s a venue with a lot of warm seasonal character. Of the several tents and buildings with vendors, mine was in Evergreen Hall, which is normally a horse barn/stable, so my own lighting was a necessity. Thankfully, I now have a good mix of lights and was able to feature my work well, though I had to add an upright LED lamp to shine on my print flip bins. It was effective.
You’ll have to forgive the blown-out sections of these photos where my phone camera overcompensated for the low light/spotlights.
Though a strong Chinook wind blew through the valley all four days, the weather was ideal for this time of year. I don’t miss living in Banff as Canmore is better suited to our lifestyle, but I enjoyed the old neighbourhood scenery for a few days.
The vendors around me were friendly and fun to talk with, and since my booth for the next weekend is right beside the one I just vacated, I look forward to seeing these folks again soon.
The crowd was a good mix of tourists and locals alike, and it was fun introducing them to my funny-looking animals. Quite a few subscribed to A Wilder View, and several others told me they already follow my work and like getting my emails.
Several people recognized the art from other places, having either seen or purchased it from The Calgary Zoo, Discovery Wildlife Park, Stonewaters, Art Country Canada and Branches Marketplace. Others have bought my licensed products elsewhere.
One of the things I love about this valley is how friendly and accommodating it is to dogs. I’m a sucker for a four-legged fuzzy face, and many brought their furry family members with them. I was happy to meet them all, including this wide-eyed pup.
Of course, my whole reason for attending the market was to sell my work, and sales were very good. Over three days, more than 7000 people came through the venue. Though it came and went in waves, it was a steady stream of people, likely because they admit 100 an hour via timed ticket sales. Once you’re in, however, you can stay as long as you like.
Every event has hiccups, but the organizers were friendly and approachable and handled any minor issues I encountered or heard about well. I’ll apply for this event again next year and hope to get all three weekends.
For now, I’ve counted and reorganized my stock and hardware, ready to set up again next Thursday for the third and final weekend of the market. I sold out of a couple of prints and one coaster design, but I still have plenty of stock and a large variety of available images. I know Saturday sold out quickly for this past weekend, so if you plan to attend, get your tickets early.
This will be my first year as a vendor at the Banff Christmas Market at the Warner Stables, and I’m busy getting everything ready. Shonna and I checked out this event last year, and it quickly became clear it would be a good fit for me and my whimsical wildlife.
When they opened applications in February, I applied for all three weekends. It’s a popular market, and they’re selective, but I’ve been living in this valley for nearly 30 years, over 20 as a cartoonist and whimsical wildlife painter, so I didn’t have to sell the local artist angle. However, that only gets me so far, as this area is filled with skilled and talented creative types.
With only one building offering power for lighting, it limited my placement options. For these reasons, I tempered my expectations but was delighted to be accepted for the first and third weekends. It means tearing my booth down after the first weekend and setting up again two weeks later, but I’m happy to pay my dues this first year and hope for all three weekends next year.
So even though the market is three weekends, the dates you see above, I won’t be there for the middle one.
I keep extensive inventory and sales records for each event, which helps me order for the next time. I did several Mountain Made Markets in Canmore for the past couple of years, which were worth it. Unfortunately, this year, the Town of Canmore limited the indoor space for vendors to the point that it seemed like an afterthought to the outdoor portion of the markets.
As I’ve mentioned before, my commitments to daily editorial cartooning and other work make it not worth investing in a tent and materials for the limited number of outdoor markets I can consider. I would have loved to be a part of an upcoming Mountain Made Market at the Canmore Rec Centre, but it conflicts with one of the Banff Christmas Market weekends.
So far this year, the only show I’ve done has been the Calgary Expo in April. As this upcoming event is new to me, I don’t know what to expect for sales, so I must play the speculation game. I’ve ordered what I think I’ll need, hoping I don’t run out while trying to avoid ordering too much, as the next opportunity to sell the stock won’t be until the Calgary Expo in April. Incidentally, early bird pricing for next year’s Expo is available until November 9th. You can buy those tickets here.
Banff and Canmore are different towns but part of the same Bow Valley community. With just a twenty-minute drive between them, many people live in one town and work in the other, and some city commutes are much longer than that.
It’ll be nice to come home each night rather than stay in a hotel, as I do for the Expo. It also means I can replenish my stock each day rather than stuff a whole three-day weekend’s worth of product into my booth at the beginning. They also have a setup day on Thursday, so there is no early morning time crunch for setup on the first day, and I can take extra time to nitpick the details.
The show has a rustic and cozy Christmas feel, with over 100 vendors. On both weekends, my booth will be in the main stable, Evergreen Hall. They also have the North Pole Pavilion and Candy Cane Lane vendor tents. There are photos with Santa, pony rides, live music, and some outdoor vendors.
You can even enjoy a fireside holiday drink at the Fire Lounge and bar. While it’s hard to find a bad view in Banff, the scenery surrounding Warner Stables is stunning, so here’s hoping for clear skies and pleasant weather.
My assigned space is a little smaller than Expo but larger than what I’ve had at the Canmore Markets. I’ve mapped out my booth setup in advance, but surprises always require on-site adjustments. I’m in a different space for the two weekends, which means some minor layout alterations but nothing complicated. I’m pleased with where they put me for both weekends.
Like Expo, this is a paid admission show, so if you plan on checking it out, you’ll have to buy tickets online in advance and choose an arrival time slot. They admit 100 guests every 20 minutes. Once you’re there, you can stay until closing, of course, but staggering the arrival times helps ensure it doesn’t get overcrowded and maintains a comfortable feel.
I’m looking forward to introducing my work to a new audience, especially since it’s been months since my last event. I’ll have my usual variety of products, including stickers, magnets, coasters, puzzles, and calendars, along with poster, canvas, and metal prints in various sizes, provided everything I’ve ordered arrives on time. Fingers crossed.
For more information, scheduling, and to buy tickets, check out the Banff Christmas Market website. I’ll be there next week from opening on Friday, November 17th to Sunday, November 19th, and again two weeks later from Friday, December 1st to Sunday, December 3rd.
I’ve been a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist for more than two decades, and my work appears in daily and weekly newspapers across Canada. But longer than that, I’ve also been the local cartoonist for the Rocky Mountain Outlook since it first launched in 2001. The Outlook is the weekly community newspaper for Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore, Exshaw, the MD of Bighorn and Stoney Nakoda.
So, in addition to the five or six syndicated cartoons I send to several publications each week, I draw one local cartoon.
I’m unable to enter the National Newspaper Awards because I don’t work for a daily newspaper, and therefore can’t be sponsored by one. In an age where very few newspapers have their own cartoonist, it’s a rule that doesn’t make much sense anymore, if it ever did. But, each year, the Outlook submits my cartoons to the Canadian Community Newspaper Awards. My work recently won First and Third place in the Local Cartoon category in the Outlook’s publication class. In order, here are those cartoons.
While having coffee with my editor last week, he pointed out something I hadn’t considered. The accountant, Donna, had been there since day one but retired earlier this year. One of the reporters, Cathy Ellis, has also been there since the very beginning, but she once took a year off.
I’m in no way responsible for assembling the Outlook each week. I don’t put in the long investigative journalism hours that make it a consistent award-winning community newspaper. I don’t sell the ads or design the layout. I don’t do any of the back-end that keeps it going in an increasingly challenging industry. I only spend a few hours each week drawing one cartoon for the editorial page.
And yet, it appears that I’m the only person who has been a part of every issue of the Rocky Mountain Outlook for the past 22 years, having never missed a week. While my name and work might be familiar to many locals, most don’t know who I am.
Wait, am I the phantom of the Outlook? Damn, that could have been a good cartoon for the 20th anniversary, too. But here’s the one I drew for that a couple of years ago. The signature comment refers to one of the founders and first editor of the Outlook, without whom I might never have become a full-time artist. She encouraged me to self-syndicate at a time when I didn’t even know what that meant.
I enjoy the Outlook cartoon because it’s almost always about local issues, which often means you must live here to understand them.
A former Canmore mayor once joked he was disappointed I hadn’t drawn a cartoon of him. I told him that was probably a good thing, but if it had been that important to him, he should have embezzled some money or participated in some other scandal. On the other side of that, a reporter once told me that a former Banff mayor was thoroughly irritated when I drew a caricature of him in a cartoon. So, be careful what you wish for.
I’ve drawn more than a few controversial cartoons over the years, more than one prompting angry calls or emails to my editor or publisher. But contrary to what many think, the cartoon spot is not my private domain, and I can’t draw whatever I want. No cartoon appears on the page without my editor’s approval.
Each week, usually on a Monday, I email or call and ask what they’re working on. The Outlook publishes on Thursdays, so I’ve got to have my contribution in by Wednesday morning at the latest.
Ideally, the cartoon goes with the editorial beneath it, but when that doesn’t work, it often comments on a prominent story in that issue. Sometimes, it’s general or seasonal, on holidays like Halloween or Christmas, or a recurring reminder about bear and elk safety in the spring and fall. Annual local events like Melissa’s Road Race in Banff or the Canmore Folk Fest are always good topics.
This week, my editor is on vacation, so the interim editor told me the editorial would be about the large number of Canadian Community Newspaper Awards and Alberta Weekly Newspaper Awards the Outlook won recently. My initial response was that I couldn’t very well draw a cartoon about awards I won. Talk about self-serving.
But on reconsideration, I decided to have fun with it, and took a shot at myself. And I’ll find any excuse to draw a bear. Here’s this week’s Rocky Mountain Outlook cartoon.
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.
When I started drawing editorial cartoons in the late 90s, I drew one a week for the Banff Crag & Canyon. A little later, I tried to expand my horizons with illustrations, caricatures and other creative work. The publisher, however, figured that $30/week bought the newspaper an editorial cartoon and the right to control work I did for anyone else.
In 2001, I removed those shackles and joined a new publication launching in Canmore, and I’ve been drawing cartoons for the Rocky Mountain Outlook ever since.
In stark contrast, my new editor encouraged me to draw more cartoons and self-syndicate. At the time, many Canadian dailies had a staff cartoonist, and I wondered if one of those gigs might be in my future.
Those daily papers often had open freelance spots a couple of days a week, and I was happy to get those whenever I could, hoping a foot in the door might help me later should an in-house cartoonist retire.
A very nice former editor of the Calgary Herald, who helped me whenever he could, told me their staff cartoonist thought I was trying to steal his job because somebody had tried it before. I’m not that ruthless, but I soon learned the newspaper business and editorial cartooning profession was adversarial, paranoid, and often nasty.
As Canada’s daily newspapers were bought and sold repeatedly by larger companies, the old-guard cartoonists were laid off or forced to retire, and their positions eliminated. Today, only a handful of cartoonists are attached to daily newspapers, and their days are numbered.
I have always been a self-syndicated freelancer, keeping me working and paying the bills while many salaried cartoonists were shown the door. And since most of them never had to learn to be self-employed, that job loss ended their careers. So I am grateful I never got a staff job.
Years later, it’s no secret the newspaper industry has not recovered. While several community weeklies are still doing well, including the Rocky Mountain Outlook and many other clients, daily newspapers are struggling. I’d need a second job if I had to rely solely on my editorial cartoon revenue today.
But editorial cartooning allowed me to quit my office job in 2005 and become a full-time artist. I explored opportunities, tried new things, and improved my art and business skills while the freelance cartoons paid the bills. I increased my cartoon revenue year after year, and it didn’t seem like it would ever decline, though all industry signs pointed that way.
Though editorial cartooning was going well, I prepared for when it disappears. I tried Flash animation, but I didn’t like the work and couldn’t make it pay. I painted caricatures of people for hire. People liked the art but wanted it cheap, and I couldn’t justify the hours. I took online art courses to become a better painter and learned valuable techniques I still use today.
In 2009, I painted a grizzly bear which led me to the work I enjoy most and launched the next phase of my career.
Becoming a good artist is the easy part. Learn from other artists, create art daily, and repeat for many years.
The hard part is learning the business. There are as many roadmaps to success as there are artists trying to do it. What worked for one won’t work for another because everybody wants something different from the deal. It’s not just about making money but finding the work you love and people to pay you for it. You must love it enough to give up mornings, evenings and weekends to devote to the work and the business. When stuff inevitably gets hard, the only thing that will keep you going is loving the work.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes in this business of art. Customers, editors and licensees have screwed me over. I’ve lost time and money from bad decisions made from poor preparation. I’ve followed bad advice and put trust in the wrong people.
I’ve also made decisions that were right at the time but still went south through no fault of my own. Supportive editors retired, and their replacements chose another cartoonist or eliminated the cartoon altogether. Newspapers, art galleries, retail stores and licensing clients have closed or lost their businesses.
No matter what you do for a living, shit will happen.
As a self-employed artist, however, it’s almost routine. When one revenue source disappears, you scramble to find another. Losing one customer isn’t usually the end; it just means things get a little uncomfortable while you adjust course. Adaptation is as much a required business skill as bookkeeping.
For quite some time, my business was half editorial cartooning and half wildlife art, but in recent years, the latter has kept increasing while the former continues to decline.
I learn more about licensing my work and finding new clients each year. A company makes and markets the product and pays the artist a royalty of 4% to 15%, usually in the middle of that range, for using the images. That small percentage can become a healthy income depending on the product, the company, and reach.
I’ve acquired most of my licenses on my own. I’ve learned about contracts, red-flag clauses, and how to translate legalese. I retain copyright of all my work and never sign it away.
In 2017, I signed up with Art Licensing International in New England. A reputable agency with global reach, they represent hundreds of artists, many of them well-known. An agency typically takes 50% of royalties. However, their connection with big companies makes that sacrifice worth it, as they can often get artists’ licenses they wouldn’t usually find on their own.
I had final approval on every license they acquired for me, and their quarterly cheques arrived four times a year without fail. Amounts were never significant, but I was willing to be patient as a license can take a few years before it pays off. But last year, I considered ending the relationship. I’ve had much more success finding my own licenses, but I also wanted to explore opportunities with other agencies.
Art licensing is a tricky business. While there is plenty of advice on best practices and what to avoid, each company has their methods and focus, and you never know which business relationships will work until you’re well into them.
If I’m tied up with too many smaller licenses that don’t bear fruit, those can prevent me from signing with companies that better fit my artwork. If one company licenses my work for a product, a competing company might not want to, and that second company might have been the better choice.
In the past couple of years, it has become clear that ALI is not the right agency for me. Some artists tailor their art to follow trends each year, and the agency’s messaging supports that tack. It’s a solid business practice for many artists and companies, especially graphic designers, so I can’t fault them for it. But I am not an artist who chases trends.
Years ago, I remember a gallery owner telling me that he was glad I wasn’t painting realistic-looking wildlife because had I done so, no matter how good it was, he wouldn’t have been interested.
“Everybody’s trying to be Robert Bateman.”
I have a unique signature style, look and an established niche, so my work will never be for everybody. When I hear suggestions that I should change my work to fit somebody else’s agenda, I think of all the licenses, customers and subscribers who connect with and enjoy my art and support it year after year. So many artists struggle to find their niche, a pinnacle achievement in any art career. There is no question I have found mine.
As Seth Godin often says, “if you don’t like it, it’s not for you.”
That’s not argumentative or defensive; it’s a simple truth. I’m not fond of Celine Dion’s music. But I’m confident she doesn’t care. Trying to please everyone is a recipe for misery in life and art because you will never succeed.
I decided to end my relationship with Art Licensing International this week with no hard feelings. The owners and staff have always been professional and friendly. But after six years with little to modest income to show for it, I’ve realized that the wrong business relationship is just as bad as none at all.
There are several licenses I’ve signed with them, however, that will continue until the end of their term, a few that won’t expire until the end of next year. But I’m free to look elsewhere for better representation for my artwork. My art has been removed from their site.
When so many artists struggle to find agency representation, leaving such an arrangement voluntarily is uncomfortable. And even though it’s a little scary and always uncertain, making these choices is one of the best parts of self-employment.
The following is an opinion piece I wrote for the local newspaper, The Rocky Mountain Outlook. I’ve been their cartoonist since its beginning in 2001 and I’ve never missed an issue. This busy tourist-town community is currently involved in a heated conversation surrounding transportation infrastructure. Many municipalities are dealing with these same growing pains, or soon will be.In June last year, my wife and I stopped at a Yield sign in Calgary. A woman ran a red light and collided with another vehicle, sending it over the curb into our car.
We walked away, but the car was written off with an unreasonably low settlement from our insurance company. With supply chain issues, ridiculous prices, and questionable auto dealership ethics, we haven’t yet found a replacement, opting to share one car until we do.
Having lived in the Bow Valley for thirty years, we bought electric bikes from a local business.
Biking home one afternoon with a fender cargo crate full of groceries and an equally loaded backpack, I rode up the hill beyond the Hwy 1 underpass, headed for the lower Cougar Creek bridge. Spread across the path were a half dozen pre-teen boys on their bikes.
I rang my bell several times and finally squeezed by on the left at about jogging speed. As I passed, one of the boys yelled at me, inches from my face, “CHEATER!”
Startled, I pulled left and caught the edge of the pavement, crashing hard to the ground.
Later, I could fix the bent brakes, light and fender. However, the wrenched shoulder, bruises and scrapes on my arms and legs took longer to heal. While I had loud, angry words for the kid, we’ve all made stupid choices at that age.
Many ill feelings about e-bikes seem to revolve around what some think, but what that kid said. Some see e-bikes as cheating and resent that if they must strain to climb that hill on a bike, then everybody should.
Canmore and Banff want fewer vehicles on the road. While paid parking seems like a money grab, people will find other alternatives if it becomes more expensive and inconvenient to take your car.
For many locals, e-bikes aren’t luxuries. They’re transportation.
This isn’t Saskatchewan. We live in a community with significant elevation gain on either side of the valley. At the end of a long workday, perhaps after running errands, heading up to Three Sisters, Peaks of Grassi, Eagle Terrace, or Cougar Creek on a traditional bike is an ordeal. Add in the summer heat, torrential rain, or a chinook wind, and it becomes downright insulting.
If your bike commute to work is 15 minutes up a hill or with a headwind, it won’t be long before deodorant fails you. How much will a tourist enjoy their crisp cool green salad if delivered by a foul-smelling sweaty server?
I’m in my early fifties, physically fit, with no mobility or health issues. But I have friends with failing joints, arthritis, and other age-related ailments. E-bikes allow people who aren’t hardcore athletes to navigate our community without forcing them to buy a car, take the bus, or walk everywhere. People don’t have the time, not when many work long hours to afford to live here.
I’ve been an avid trail walker for years. I’ve been startled and grazed by fast-moving cyclists silently passing within inches. It is inappropriate to go fast on a busy trail on any kind of bike.
Canada has capped e-bike assist speeds at 32 km/h.
With a full backpack and rear cargo crate, you can bet I’m using full assist while biking up Benchlands Trail on my way home from the grocery store. That’s not about speed but help with weight and elevation.
When I need to share a road with vehicles, many riding my fender while I try to navigate the 1A roundabout or drive through Spring Creek, maintaining 30 km/h is essential for my safety.
We bought reflective vests, helmets, bright front and rear lights, and the loudest horn available on the market for when the bell isn’t enough.
Drivers don’t want e-bikes on the roads, pedestrians don’t want them on the trails, and both resent anybody who uses one.
On weekends, we’ve used them to tour around town. We slow down, give warnings, and yield to oncoming bikes and pedestrians. And still, we get flack. E-bikes are new, making them an easy target because some people don’t want to share.
Trail use requires compromise, and most people around here get that. We’re an active community; when we’re not walking, we’re biking or driving. Most often, when approaching another trail user, I thumb the bell, and the person moves to the side, saying thank you as I pass; at the same time, I’m offering my thanks for their courtesy. It’s not complicated.
Pedestrians routinely walk three abreast, forcing others into the rough to go around them, or they walk into a crosswalk without looking, comfortable in their right-of-way. Some wear earbuds, so they don’t even hear the bell of an approaching cyclist, but they still get angry when they’re surprised by one.
Many cyclists don’t wear helmets, have no lights or reflectors, fail to signal, and weave in and out of traffic, jumping from sidewalk to road and back without warning.
Vehicle drivers speed through school zones, fail to obey stop signs and traffic lights, cut people off, tailgate, and make other aggressive moves.
The modes of transportation aren’t the problem; it’s a lack of empathy for those sharing the route.
There are indeed inconsiderate e-bike riders on the trails. They’re the same people who text and drive, take two parking spots at the grocery store, talk in a movie theatre, fail to pick up after their off-leash dog and run a red light destroying somebody else’s car.
Bad apples will always draw the most attention, and it’s convenient to blame their e-bike if they happen to be riding one. There’s a guy with a loud aftermarket muffler who races down my street, his bass stereo cranked so loud I can hear it through my closed windows. Should I blame the truck?
Vehicle congestion is a problem, but you can’t simply remove cars from the roads and expect the people in them to disappear. They still need to commute, run errands, and recreate.
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.
When a company needs artwork for a product, they’ll often contract an artist to use their work in exchange for a future royalty percentage on sales.
Depending on the product, percentages can be small. But if the company sells a lot of that product, it can add up to a significant portion of an artist’s income.
This is licensing.
Some artists don’t like licensing because they think they’ll lose control of their art and it will be stolen. That has happened to me more than once, and to every professional artist I know. Sometimes you don’t even know about it until long after the fact, and most of the time, there’s nothing you can do about it except tell them to stop.
Most of the licensing companies I’ve worked with are professionals. They use the art how they say they will, pay me regularly, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
They don’t always use the images I want them to, or as many of my paintings as I’d like, but that’s not my call. They’re running their own businesses, and my art is often a tiny part. Once they license the work, it’s theirs to market how they see fit if they keep to the spirit of the agreement.
Harlequin Nature Graphics licenses a handful of my images on T-shirts. DecalGirl offers several of my paintings on cases and decals for electronic devices. A dozen other companies around the world have licensed my art through an agency for cross-stitch, fabrics, canvas art, and other products. My most significant license, of course, is Pacific Music & Art out of Victoria, BC. Thanks to Mike and his staff, my work is on coffee mugs, water bottles, calendars, art cards, magnets, coasters, trivets, notebooks, and more. During the first year of the pandemic, his foresight to put my work on face masks was a welcome flotation device when other parts of my business were under water.
I regularly encounter people who tell me they’ve bought some of my art at stores I didn’t know existed in towns I’ve never visited. One local friend recently returned from a trip to Vancouver Island and told Shonna, “Pat’s art is everywhere!”
At the Calgary Expo this year, a very nice woman came into my booth and loudly proclaimed, “That’s my otter!”
I laughed and replied, “I beg to differ, Ma’am. That’s MY otter!”
She had bought the image as a framed art card in a BC store more than a year ago, and it hangs in her kitchen. I get my licenses in three ways. The first is through an agency. They will contact me and propose a contract with a client. I have first right of refusal on every deal, and I have politely declined the opportunity a couple of times. They represent many artists, so it’s not a very personal relationship.
I look up every company in every proposed agreement. Sometimes it conflicts with an existing license; other times, their site looks unprofessional, I don’t like the product, or it’s just not a good fit. But most of the deals they send me are worth a try, and I give them the go-ahead.
Sometimes I look for a license because I think my work will fit a product or I like a specific company.
The third way is that a company will reach out to me. They’ve seen my work somewhere, looked around my website, saw images they liked and want to talk about a license.
About a year ago, Diamond Art Club contacted me to discuss access to my catalogue. The contact was professional, sent me a great information package for prospective licenses, and they were upfront about their royalties and payment schedule—no red flags.
I looked through their professional site and was impressed with how many high-end brands and artists they have under license. There’s no credibility question when a company has the official DC Comics and Harry Potter licenses.
I had heard a little about diamond painting kits but didn’t know much about the hobby, nor how massive it is. The simplest explanation is that it seems to be a blend of paint-by-numbers, cross-stitch and a little bit of the classic lite-bright toy. So rather than butcher the explanation, I’ll refer you to their site’s excellent description. Click here or on the image below. After a couple of weeks back and forth with contracts and questions, I uploaded my art to their servers and tried to put it out of my mind. They were clear that nothing would likely be available until the end of the year. Licensing is often a long game, depending on the product, and each company’s lead time is different.
The production pipeline on these kits is extensive. First, there’s research with customers and retailers to determine which images to produce, then assigning an image to a designer who will turn a piece of art into a kit. Following that, the kit must be manufactured in large quantities and shipped. It’s more involved than most products I’ve encountered.
I don’t know the timeline for when the world is normal, but I was forewarned that it is much longer under the shadow of the pandemic.
It has been a year since I signed the contract with Diamond Art Club. I checked in with them every couple of months, and they were friendly and accommodating as they explained the different stages of delay. And I’m just one new artist. They no doubt have hundreds of other pieces in the pipeline, all affected by the same delays every company in the world has faced these past couple of years.
The first image Diamond Art Club put into production was no surprise. My Otter is one of my top two bestsellers everywhere, a close tie with the Smiling Tiger.
I’m glad they started with that one because if it does well, there will no doubt be more of my images on these kits in the future. Given the popularity and quality of these kits, I certainly hope so. My sample arrived this week, and I was eager to open it. The first thing I noticed was the fantastic design of the packaging, both outside and in. The tools and pieces are well organized and labelled. The quality of the otter image on the canvas is superb, and there’s nothing about this kit that looks cheap and thrown together. At 23″X17″, it’s a fairly large image.
If I were into this hobby and bought one from Diamond Art Club, I would feel like a valued customer. As a licensed artist, I feel my work is represented well, and I’m pleased to be involved with this company. I hope it’s for a long time.
I’ve learned about licensing, however, that I have no clue what will do well or for how long. Certain paintings may be incredibly popular with the people who like them, but will a new product find a new audience? I have no idea.
So, while I wait and see, I let these companies do what they do best, and I’ll keep painting new portraits of whimsical wildlife for their future consideration.
Because that’s what I do best. If you’d like to learn more about Diamond Art Club, head to their site and check it out. Right now, you can get 20% off your first order with the code SUMMER20. While they have a large assortment of fantastic art, might I suggest a certain Otter as your first piece?