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Delighted with DecalGirl

I spend a lot of time trying to get the details right, painting in all of the little hairs and textures. So when I have that work printed, it needs to look great, too. Whether it’s the poster prints sold at the Calgary Zoo, or the giclée matted prints and canvas in the galleries in Banff and on Vancouver Island, if it doesn’t look good, I don’t want my name on it. I’m also a big believer in working with professionals. Rather than stumble through learning to print my own work, I hire people who are already experts at printing. By paying them to do what they do best, I get to continue doing what I do best, which is painting funny looking animals.

When I signed on with The Mountain , it was only because I’d seen their quality and attention to detail and knew that my paintings would look great on their shirts, and I wasn’t disappointed. My reputation is only as good as the people I choose to work with. I didn’t want shirts that were good enough, I wanted the best shirts.

OtterCaseSo, when I got the opportunity to sign on with DecalGirl, it didn’t take long for me see that this company was a perfect fit for me and my whimsical critters. DecalGirl has been in business since 2003. They were the first-to-market, the original skin company to produce full color skins in the United States. They support over 500(!) unique devices, including cell phones, laptops, tablets, MP3 players, eReaders, and gaming devices. Sounds like they’re the best to me.

Whenever possible, I’ve tried to work with companies where the owners are still involved with the day to day. While you can always hire good people to work for you, it’s the people at the helm who chart the course. When those are the people who have built it from the ground up or who’ve bet their own future on it, they just care more. You can build relationships with these people.

Here are some other positives that really stand out for me with DecalGirl.

– Their products are 100% Made in the USA. Yes, I’m Canadian, but I have a lot of great friends and customers in the U.S. and I find it a lot easier to stand behind a product if I don’t have to hide where it’s made. DecalGirl is a one stop shop. Their customer service staff is right on site, so if you’ve got questions, you’re going to be talking to the right people in the right place.

– I already knew from their website that they paid attention to detail, but seeing is believing. I received my samples last week and I was WOWED. The print quality is as good as that of the work I sell in the galleries. I couldn’t wait to put my Shark Totem on my laptop and kept squinting and looking at the fine detail, couldn’t believe how good the print was.
Packaging– These decals don’t just arrive loose in an envelope, the packaging is well designed, colorful, and professional. From an artist’s perspective, I was very pleased to see that included in the details was my name, the name of the painting and my signature. That not only makes me feel valued as a partner, it’s going to make my customers feel valued that they’re not just buying some generic catalog stock photo. This is a piece of artwork.

– I worked in a sign shop years ago and I learned a lot about vinyl and the different weights and qualities. I’ve printed and applied vinyl to many vehicles and signs, but it’s been well over a decade and I’m out of practice. I needn’t have worried, because not only do the decals come with easy to follow instructions, the vinyl is of such excellent quality that I was able to apply it quickly and easily, using only my fingers to smoothly stick it in place. No fuss, no bubbles, and it looks great! Follow the instructions, you’ll have no trouble.
Otters

– The great prices they’re offering for their products, the incredibly large number of available devices, and the attention to detail is very impressive. I’m really not going to have to sell their work, it pretty much sells itself.

– When I bought my laptop, I wanted one that could replace my desktop in a pinch. It had to be powerful and robust, so that if my main computer went on the fritz and needed repair, I’d still be able to work. So my laptop is rather unique and uncommon in the market in that it’s a high end gaming laptop, perfect for the demands of detailed digital art. As such, it’s not listed in their available devices. A nice feature DecalGirl offers is that they’ll custom fit one to your specs. I gave them the measurements of my laptop and the print that arrived fit perfectly in the space I’d intended for it!
Shark– Getting tired of my mentioning attention to detail? On my iPad Mini, for instance, all of the little holes for the volume and power buttons, the speakers and microphones, they’re already cut out of the decal. It helps with getting a perfect fit if you start on an edge with those holes and then apply from there. It almost fell into place on its own. They’ve also got a downloadable wallpaper for your devices, which was a simple process. The decal on the front of my iPad lines up perfectly with the wallpaper on the screen. Looks very cool! This image also completely covers the back and sides of the device, too!
GiraffeiPad– These decals will in no way harm your devices. They’re easily removed without any leftover residue.

At present, the Totems available from DecalGirl are my Great Horned Owl, Ostrich, Giraffe, Otter and Shark. For those who’ve been asking for some of the others, fingers crossed that these sell so well that eventually all of your favorites will be available. Take a look and see some previews of what these look like on your devices.

While this is still very new, the folks I’ve been talking with at DecalGirl have been friendly and welcoming, offering me any and all assistance to make sure I’m happy with how they’re putting my paintings on their products. In point of fact, I’m thrilled. I’m looking forward to a long relationship with these folks.

Cheers,
Patrick.

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Giraffe Totem

GiraffeTotemThe latest in my Totem series, this giraffe was a lot of fun to work on.  Well, not the whole time.  Mostly at the end, if I’m being honest.

The reason this one was a little different is that I recorded much of the process.  While I’ve done that a number of times before, the previous videos were done with screen capture software which runs in the background and you don’t really have to pay attention to it.  There’s always a fair bit of editing work after the fact, but that doesn’t affect the painting itself.  With the current video, it’s a mix of screen capture and footage from my GoPro on a tripod, which was sitting just off my left shoulder while I worked.  I’ve often shown the software, Photoshop CC in this case, but wanted to show the hardware this time as well, since the Wacom Cintiq 24HD is such a great display.  What this meant was that I couldn’t shift position and had to constantly be aware that this camera was there.  The lighting was also different than what I’m used to working with.   This changed how I felt about the painting process, but I really wanted to record this video, so sacrifices had to be made.  I’ll be editing it this week and hopefully the footage I got was worth the effort.  As always, photos are only used for reference in my paintings.  It’s all brush work.

RecordingIn a perfect world (hey, it could happen!), my painting sessions involve a hot cup of coffee, music in my headphones and a darkened room with no distractions, allowing me to get lost in the work.  With having to think about the camera all the time, I could never quite get all the way into it until I neared the end.  That’s when I forgot to recharge the GoPro for that session and the battery was dead.  Rather than ruin a perfect Saturday morning painting session by waiting, I decided to just do screen capture for the end of the painting and I had a blast!

GiraffeBlogCloseupI know I say this whenever I finish a painting, but this is one of my favorites.  I just love the expression on his (or her, your call) face.  Anybody who has followed my work on these critters for any length of time knows that I don’t take all the credit for the personality.  It just seems to show up and the funny thing is, it showed up twice while painting this one.  I thought it did a couple of days ago, it was the same great moment that always happens, but then there was another moment in the final hours of painting when something just popped and it seemed to come even more alive.  It was a bonus.

Prints will likely be available for the Giraffe Totem in the next month after I’ve done my proofing and I can’t wait to see them.

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Another Day at the Calgary Zoo

Meerkat2Had to pick up some prints in Calgary again yesterday which gave me another excuse to go to the zoo.  The forecast was pretty dismal, so I was prepared for rain, expecting I would just hang out in the indoor enclosures.  As usual, however, the forecast was less than accurate and the sun came out for a few hours.  It ended up being quite warm and enjoyable and with the couple of hours I’d budgeted to take reference shots, I managed to cover quite a bit of ground.

Giraffe

As I want to spend more time on sketches and practice work, instead of every effort needing to be a fully detailed painting, I’m finding a lot more useful reference than I used to.  While I did finally get some decent reference shots of the meerkat for a Totem painting, everything else will end up being reference for less finished work.  Should I find that a sketch or practice painting has potential for something more later, I know where to go for more reference.  For now, however, sketching from some of these pics will serve as resources to help me improve my skills.

GreatGreyOwl

SnowyOwl

I took hundreds of photos yesterday, but ended up keeping about fifty, which is still a lot.  Roughly thirty or forty of those were of one meerkat.  He (or she) just kept posing for me and I’ve got plenty of reference to do a nice study of the little critter sometime in the near future.  He was just fun to watch.  With many school children at the zoo yesterday, there just wasn’t any room to sit and sketch for an hour, nor would I have enjoyed it with the constantly moving (and shrieking) crowd.  It’s likely that I will wait until September or October for another trip to the zoo, when it’s a little quieter.  Until then, I have plenty to keep me busy.

RedPanda

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Sketch Paintings

Meerkat

One of the things I noticed at the recent Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo is that many of the artists were selling books.  Some were elaborately done with high production values (and costs, I’m sure) while others were smaller and  produced on a budget, but still looked great.  I’ve mentioned before that the Expo was a great learning experience and I’m still processing all of it.  In addition to drawing and painting, I also enjoy writing a great deal.  I’ve even got a couple of novels on the shelf I wrote years ago that I wouldn’t mind taking down and doing a rewrite with fresh eyes and a little more experience.  One of them, anyway.

Sailing and fishing my personal creative ocean day to day, the idea of publishing a book that combines my artwork and writing is something that is never far below the surface of the water.  As time passes, the idea keeps growing larger, is circling more often, and it’s clear that I need to haul this in pretty soon or I’m going to need a bigger boat.

While this future publication is still just in the idea stage, I do know that it will likely focus on my animal artwork.  What I like most about the books I’ve bought by other artists is seeing the sketches and work that isn’t as polished and detailed.  Since the goal for the majority of my animal paintings has always been to produce finished pieces for clients or galleries, I don’t actually have a lot animal sketches and paintings that weren’t destined for print.  I figured I’d better make time to do more of that work since I don’t want a book that is devoid of variety.

Had I gone to art school or started drawing animals when I was younger, I might have stacks of sketchbooks of this stuff in storage, but before the late 90’s, all I ever did was doodle.  After that, it was mostly editorial cartoon work and nothing I’d want to share now.  This painting obsession didn’t really take hold until sometime in the last ten years, well into my 30’s.  What I’d like you to take from that is that it’s never too late to learn new things and do what you love.

Grouper

In an effort to create these additional sketches and paintings, there are some great side effects.  One, of course, is that it’s wonderful practice.  With no client to please, I can spend a half hour, an hour, two hours and just stop whenever I want.  For somebody as obsessive as I am, just being able to stop and leave it alone, knowing there is plenty of room for improvement is an accomplishment by itself.  Secondly, it’s like a palate cleanser, a reset button in between larger projects, very much like getting up and having a stretch.  Having just finished two cat portraits for clients and moving on to another Totem piece, the meerkat sketch I did yesterday afternoon was a way of leaving one painting behind and starting fresh on another.

Finally, these are a lot of fun.  Pouring rain that turned to snow yesterday, which can happen any time of year in the Canadian Rockies, gave me no motivation to go on my afternoon walk in the woods.  Bored of training videos after about an hour, I just decided to make some fresh coffee (unusual in the afternoon), crank the tunes in the headphones, find a reference photo from a recent trip to the zoo and start drawing.  Before I knew it, it was coming to life and I was really enjoying myself.  Yes, I have deadlines right now, a long list of work I need to get done that will take me well past the summer, but making the time to do sketches like these on a regular basis is proving to be very good for me, almost like I’m taking a mini-vacation.

Expect more of these whimsical, cartoony characters in the coming months.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even turn one or two of them into a Totem painting later.

Giraffe