Friday, September 29, 2006

I am headed to Peoria. You know the drill; if you're in the area, come see me!

It has been a wild week, exhilarating in many ways since I have my painting mojo back. Consequently I have been working literally non-stop in some insane fit of energy that I cannot even begin to explain. Can you say 16 hour days? All because I have to deliver a gallery show on 10/05 which is right around the corner. I do believe I finally have the pieces done though and I am happy with them.

But inventory for the art fairs is not good. I tried my best to make some more work this week but I was really focused on the gallery stuff. I did manage to make some 6x6's but that was about it. I desperately need to make some 12x12's. This one sold already at Plaza and I had to ship it to the new owner. I left it hanging on the wall with a sold sign which instantly puts a magic spell on any piece because the minute I mark it "sold" everyone wants to buy it. I could have sold this one probably 5 times last weekend, it was pretty funny. Like when I got engaged and guys who never knew I existed suddenly started hitting on me. As if the presence of a ring was some endorsement or validation. Same thing with the sold signs. Yeesh.

Be what you wish to seem copyright MB Shaw 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

At least I brushed my teeth

I have been working so hard and furious that I didn't even bathe today. Yeesh. I worked quite late last night and majorly screwed up a painting, one that is supposed to be in the gallery show I am due to deliver next week. That being the same show that is now two paintings short since I sold another one this past weekend. Yikes! I suddenly have so much to do.

This painting at hand, a 30x24, was supposedly finished a couple weeks ago. I say supposedly because it has continued to taunt me in that way paintings sometimes do. It would whisper everytime I walked by and I kept staring at it day after day with disappointment because in my heart I knew it wasn't really finished and it needed something, but what, I was not quite sure.

I now know it didn't need what I did to it last night. Ugh. After struggling into the wee hours, I finally gave in and gessoed over the damn thing.

Luckily I was more successful with some of my other work today, specifically a couple abstracts I am working on. Despite my late hour last night, I couldn't sleep and popped out of bed early this morning to hit the studio with a vengeance. I worked solidly all day long and even gave up my tickets to Garrison Keillor tonight! I think I put in about 15 hours today.

My hands are arthritic little claws; they are stiff and sore from painting so long. So no more typing for me. I am waiting for the Advil to kick in and I'm off to bed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Best Comment from the show

I was talking to a potential customer about one of my large abstracts and said, "This piece can go either vertical or horizontal and I have wired it both ways."

He didn't miss a beat, "That's not legal in the state of Missouri. "

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Whew, it's over. Long hours, but it was worth it as I logged my best show of the year.

I sold a big abstract yesterday to a super nice guy. He was from NY, visiting family in KC, when he & his wife found my painting, Silence must be heard, inspired by the Enigma song. Lots of talking back and forth, husband, wife & kids, in and out of the booth several times. They finally returned, with extended family including brothers, more kids, and their mom. The gathering filled my booth. Mom was in a wheelchair, jaunty cowboy hat hiding her bald head. Her voice was weakened and soft; her face glowed with inner beauty as she watched the scene with obvious pride while each and every person passed approval on my painting. The tenderness was palpable.

The brother was standing beside me and I naively asked, "so, are you guys having a family reunion or something?" Which was when he explained how Mom was dying of some ugly variety of incurable cancer. The family had all flown in to spend time together and were hanging out at the Plaza Art Fair for the day.

I pretty much didn't know what to say. We just stared at each other and I know my eyes did the talking as they started to fill up with tears and I struggled to hold it together. After the transaction was complete and the painting packaged, the new owner hugged me which was so unusual yet felt so right. It was a privilege to cross paths with all of them.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

And Polly wants to eat it too!

I have been a busy little artist. Playing with some different techniques, using more of the heavy body acrylics along with my fluids, adding accents with pen and pencil, blending oil pastel, just having the best ol' time imaginable. And before I knew it, I had a batch of new work. Which is a good thing because we are heading off to another show tomorrow.

Kansas City here I come. My favorite city in the Midwest, not only because it's cool, but also because the city straddles 2 states and I amuse myself by saying, "we're not in Kansas anymore" every time we cross the line back into Missouri. I doubt John finds this nearly as funny as I do.

The Plaza Art Fair. I love this show. It's in such a gorgeous setting and the people are all so nice; attendees, director, staff, volunteers - all are nice, nice, nice. The show is a pleasure to do because these folks wrote the book on how to treat artists. Plus it's such an honor to be in the show, yeesh it's hard to get into this one, with something like 1500 applicants and only about 200 available spots. I am absolutely thrilled to be attending for the second year.

The piece above is one of my new ones, a 20x20 completed in the nick of time. I have tons of new works ready! So, if you're in the Kansas City area, come on out and see the show. I'll be in booth #315, just a few booths away from Starbuck's. Also across from one of the many many fountains.

(Cake, copyright Mary Beth Shaw 2006)
We have had an ongoing phone issue in our household.

You see, John works on the second floor and I work in the basement. If the phone rings, we have a system - I look at the Caller ID to see if it's for me. I then either pick up within 2 rings or let it keep ringing which signals John to pick up and take a message. Cause sometimes I simply can't talk or don't want to like if I'm in an art zone, have paint all over myself or something like that.

The problem arises after I finish a call because John can't tell when I am off the phone. His job requires him to be on the phone a lot. Which means one of us is always running up and down the steps to see if the other person is on or off the phone. I have tried to yell up from the basement but that is not terribly successful and Lord only knows I have given it a good effort but it's just too far plus my sweetie is half deaf. Only within the range of my voice of course.

We sometimes call each other in the house using our cell phones and we also briefly considered walkie talkies which seemed equally ridiculous. So we basically rationalized the purchase of new phones. The thing is we needed new ones anyway because it seems the life expectancy of a cordless phone has plummeted in recent years. Like many other products, the quality is so poor that our existing phones don't work that well and get horrible reception. Honestly, I don't know what we expected when we bought little $10 phones anyway.

John went out and bought this really slick looking phone system that we will be able to add on to with additional handsets. It has like a million Ghz whatever that is, way more than any of our other phones and is apparently smart enough to search for the best reception so you get the clearest call every time. There are cool ring tones to pick from. The phones also have a color display which is totally unnecessary (but pretty)and you can pick a "wallpaper" for your phone. I chose a beach picture. I don't know what John chose for his. The phones have all sorts of additional functionality that I doubt we will be able to operate.

But the intercom rocks. Around 5:50pm I paged John from the Studio phone up to Base (which is his phone).

"Hi," he says.

"Hey, it's me. I'm starving. You want to eat early?"

"Yeah, sure, let me finish up something and I'll meet you in the kitchen.

About 2 minutes later I saw something cute on the NBC nightly news, out-take footage of Pandas. It was so funny, these adorable Pandas wrestling with the NBC reporter and cameraman. I paged John again.

"Hi," he says.

"It's me again. You might was to go downstairs to replay the end of the nightly news, it is really cute."

"Ok," he says. "And honey.........I already know it's you. Who else would it be?"

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Not that I am counting

I have been in an obsessive cleaning mode. First the studio, which I ransacked on Monday. Then Friday, when I should have been working in my clean studio, I decided to tackle the house. Now mind you, it hasn't been cleaned in awhile. Sure we pick up stuff; John runs the vacuum to get cat hair up; I make sure the kitchen is somewhat sanitized. But our bathroom, well, it seems our cleaning efforts seldom move up to the second floor.

I was talking to Karyl on the phone the other day when I admitted just how grungy our bathroom had gotten. I lamented I wasn't sure how we even came out of it clean. Then I confessed something so ignorant I can't even believe it popped out of my mouth, "I'm not going to clean it yet because my Mom & Dad are coming in October and I would just have to do it again."


So I got to work. And I diligently scrubbed and polished for over 5 hours on Friday. My efforts were not limited to the bathroom, I hit other rooms as well. But the bathroom got the special treatment which included wiping the wood blinds, each section of each blind individually, an endeavor that apparently cannot be short-cut because trust me I tried. Oh my gosh, what a task this is. I am pretty certain I have never done this before because it is a major league pain in the ass which I certainly would have remembered. Imagine about a year's worth of dust petrified by hairspray. Need I say more?

So now, post obsessive cleaning, I am obsessively trying to maintain the clean. We have always squeegeed (not a real word by the way as squeegee is apparently not a verb) the shower, but I added a wipe-down program for the counter. And I am putting things back in their places so stuff doesn't accumulate. Plus I am trying to make the bed every day.

Fifty four hours later and everything still looks good.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl

My biggest thrill lately has been downloading special ringtones to my cell phone. I must certainly be one of the last people on earth to figure this out. But, after much deliberation, the deed is done and I am delighted with my choices.

I have 2 Ditty Bops songs for my friends Rhonda & Robin - Angel with an Attitude and You're Head's Too Big. No judgment here, I just love these songs. Claire got a Dead Can Dance song since we saw that concert together. I wanted a Springsteen song for Marian but Sprint doesn't offer any which really sucks as I cannot think of other music which would define Marian as much as Bruce. I mean it has to be Bruce. I also have a couple friends left and am still thinking of what songs would best remind me of them.

And John. Well, it had to be something special. A song that defined either him or our relationship together. At first I thought of Bonnie Raitt because her song Something to Talk About is darn near autobiographical. It was "our" song back in the day; meeting John was without question the best thing to come out of my employment at Safeco Insurance. But I digress. Alas, Bonnie Raitt is also not on Sprint. So John picked his own song, Pink Floyd, Wish you were here. Most people would never guess my hubby as a Pink Floyd fan, but yes, that is his favorite group. This is the part of the song that comes up as my ringtone

How I wish, how I wish you were here.We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year

It is so perfect. As usual, he knew exactly the right choice.

So now I smile whenever the phone rings. The only problem is I like hearing the songs so much I wait too long to answer.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Exchange: giving & receiving?

There should probably be some sort of a "blog rule" about writing when you are mad. And yeah, I know I should be able to self edit and prevent myself from doing this but what can I say. So, that being said, proceed reading at your own risk.

When I was a young fledgling artist out in San Francisco, I was lucky enough to share studio space in a big Sausalito warehouse shared by about 150 artists. It was a terrific building, one of those cool places that was "known" locally. The building maintained a website with information about all of us so I had an internet presence before I had my own website up. I only mention this because I am sure that is how this whole thing started.

One day back in 2000 or 2001 I got a phone call from an organization in Arkansas called Art Exchange. The caller was pretty congenial and explained that their organization markets to designers and art collectors. He wanted to place my art on their website.

I was so naive in those days, actually I still am, but I was really really naive back then. I mean I hadn't even really shown my work at that point. So I simply could not believe my "luck" that this company would want lil ol' me and my art. I listened to his pitch and discussed with my husband (who had a real job back then meaning I had more financial backing than most struggling artists) and we decided to pay the $475 (I think that was the amount?) to post images of some of my art on this website. It was a very labor intensive process with tons of paperwork where I had to pick words to describe each and every piece of my art. Abstract. Red. Earthy. Collage. Painting. Etc. Etc. Took me forever to wade through their requirements, get slides made and send the package off to Arkansas. But I did it. And several weeks later I was up and running on their site.

I did some searches using the words I had chosen and my work didn't really pop up like I had hoped. You see, it was all alphabetical and my last name begins with an "S." So anyone searching for an earthy red abstract would have to be patient enough to wade through all the earthy red abstract art by artists with last names A-R before they happened upon my piece. Honestly I kind of lost hope at that point. I called the company to discuss and the congenial guy was not nearly so congenial. I felt as though I had been "had." I was a chump.

Flash forward five years.

I have sold probably 500 pieces of original art, none through Art Exchange. I earn a living through my art. I jury into some of the best art fairs in the country; I sometimes win prizes; I am at work preparing for a gallery show later this year. Sure I face my fair share of rejection, but generally I feel pretty good about my path.

One day several months ago I got a call from Art Exchange. They wanted to "feature" me in an online show. I didn't think it sounded like a match for me and it cost too much money (like I would give them more money!?!) but it did prompt me to look at their site again. And I saw my work on there. It was old work, stuff long sold. I contacted them to see if I could trade out my images for newer work. Naturally that would cost me additional money so I asked to sever ties with their company and to be removed from the site. I sent a written request confirming my intention.

I then lost track as I have been kind of busy. Forgot to check back with them. When I finally did I saw I was still on the site. I sent another email. Nothing happened. I was still on the site. Ugh.

Early August 2006 - phone rings. It is Art Exchange. Another congenial guy which is the only reason I let him talk. He tells me about an opportunity to exhibit at a New York show, some sort of hospitality convention where Art Exchange will have a booth marketing art to hotels. They are seeking artists to provide slides that will be part of a slide show. Based on the succcess of past events, he anticipates I would make a minimum of $38,000 if I participate. Hmmm, interesting. I was polite, I listened. I actually had John listen to him too. This "once in a lifetime" opportunity normally cost $3500 but was being offered to me for $1750 (can you say red flag?). They had one last spot to fill to complete their show. We were walking out the door at the time, on our way to a show. I told him I would call him back by Monday if I wanted to do it.

John and I talked in the car. We decided there was no way, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. I mean I have a gallery working with me who does not require any upfront payment. They believe in me enough to market me at their own cost, preparing and mailing postcards, sponsoring an opening, etc. It just sort of rubs me the wrong way that I would pay a company $1750 to show 6 slides of my art to a convention audience. And honestly, the idea I might make $38,000????? I would have to significantly increase my prices to make that much money off 6 pieces of art, ha! Not to mention the odds of selling all 6 of my pieces during the show. The whole thing didn't even make sense.

Needless to say, we did not call Art Exchange back.

So just a few minutes ago, this guy calls back. I tried to cut him off at the pass and say I was not interested. He persisted with some fast talk. I got angry and raised my voice. I told him I wished to sever all ties with Art Exchange. He asked why. I told him I didn't have to tell him why, I wanted out and that was it. He got kind of nasty and raised his voice. I said I was selling my art quite successfully on my own and that I had others working with me who didn't require money up front. He said he couldn't believe I was walking away from the opportunity to make $50,000. I told him I was confident of my ability. He said, "good luck with that" as he laughed. And that is when I really got angry. I said, "I WANT OFF YOUR SITE." He said, "Good, we want you off too."

I'm not sure what the moral is. Don't do business with snakes (joke)? I don't know, you can draw your own conclusions. All I know is Art Exchange didn't work for me. It probably does work for some people, who knows. It just didn't for me and I honestly feel had. I hope to heck I'm off their website very soon. Any affiliation at all just troubles me at this point.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Art Outside and I celebrate our 3rd year!

Ok, this is it! My last St. Louis outdoor art fair for 2006.

Tonite and tomorrow, be there or be square (I have always wanted to say that). Seriously, it is so much fun - great beer; terrific and affordable art from all local folk; great beer; energetic and sometimes raucous entertainment; good food & did I mention there is great beer? What more could you want?

You all know the back story, don'tcha? This is the show that put me on my path. I had made some art. We bought a tent, got the credit card machine, I made some more art. Make it and they will come, I was thinking, wonder if this works with art? And whoa boy did they ever. I was blown out of my shoes by the whole scene and instantly knew I had found my calling. Thirty shows, 7 states later, and I am still loving this gypsy life just as much as ever!!

Here are the details:

Art Outside 2006
Friday (that's today!) from 5-10pm
Saturday from 10-10
Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood (Click the link for lists of artists and entertainment)

On Sunday you can go to that other art fair, you know the one I mean. I'll be going there myself.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Truly Golden

I am in a painting frenzy. A painting, collaging, varnishing frenzy. It is ugly and the studio looks like a pig sty; I am down to perhaps an 8 inch square work space, having covered every visible surface (and there are a lot of them) with some work in progress. It is scary.

A varnishing mad woman, that's me, doing all the pieces I finished last week. And hoping to heck I can get them to dry down to travel to the show tomorrow. That's what waxed paper is for, right?

Anyway, my varnish is acting funky again. The polymer gloss varnish looks kind of chalky, definitely very matte looking, ugh, ugh, ugh, not what I wanted and not consistent with the rest of my work. It has happened before and I have been puzzled about the cause.

So I spontaneously picked up the phone yesterday and called Golden. I explained my issue and was instantly connected to a wonderful tech support guy who is my new best friend. Lucky for me, he is into over-analysis of art products (my male twin) so together we carefully discussed every single angle of my isolation coat and varnish process. I confessed that we have a water softener which was my prime suspect. In fact, I had previously switched to bottled water because I was worried about the water softener.

Here's the skinny for anyone who might be using a similar product - water based varnish that requires diluting - the water softener is a deal killer. It puts salt in the varnish and can look yucky and chalky. I've gotten mixed results though because if you pre-mix a batch and don't use it for awhile, the salt settles to the bottom and the varnish could work ok(or at least it seems like it does) if you don't stir it. If you do stir it, the salt might kick up and dull your piece. Or not. Depends on how much is in there, etc, etc, etc. Which is why I have had such inconsistent results. Which makes sense, EXCEPT I had already switched to bottled water awhile back.

Well, Golden Guy says I probably have minerals in my bottled water that are doing the same thing.

Duh. Never thought of that.

The answer: distilled water. This is not found in the drinking water section of the grocery as I just discovered. In our store, it's by the ironing stuff, by spray starch, detergent and such.

Problem solved. I mixed up a new batch and everything looks great. I am going to keep this water on hand and use it in any diluted or mixed product. For instance, when I am making paste paper and mixing up my paste.

And Golden..........well what can I say, they truly are. The attention to customer service is amazing.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Stay in your skin

(copyright Mary Beth Shaw 2006)

Stay in your Skin


Acrylic, ink, collage on stretched canvas

Monday, September 04, 2006

Wake up

(copyright Mary Beth Shaw 2006)
Wake up
Acrylic, pastel, ink & collage on stretched canvas

Saturday, September 02, 2006

He's not a cat, he's a snake

I had a horrible headache that started Wed. night, lasted on and off through Thurs. and nagged its way into Friday. I went to lunch with some friends yesterday, these are my Artfest buddies, the crew that has finally cajoled me into joining them at Artfest this year. It will be my first time ever and I am so very very excited. We had lunch yesterday to compare applications and put them all together for mailing. I'll tell ya, I changed my mind so many times about the classes. My conclusion: they are all great and I am going to love whatever I end up with!

Anyway, after lunch I had a few errands. I was pretty over-stimulated by then, headache fully kicking into gear. I finished up and hurried home because I wanted to listen to the Healing Hypnosis/Meditation that is on my iPod. It felt weird to have a headache and I was bummed because I've been going to an acupuncturist and have been headache-free for several months now.

I took a couple pain pills, suited up with comfy clothes and my iPod then got into bed. Merlyn assumed a position next to me and that is when he saw the iPod wires. He thought it was a game and grabbed for them. He is fast and he is good, so naturally he had the wires in his mouth before I even knew what was happening. The earbuds popped out of my ears and he nearly had control of the iPod which you know is one of my prize possessions. I smacked him on the nose and told him "NO." He knew I meant business but of course he had to try one more time. He finally got the hint and settled down next to me.

Which is when he must have hatched his plan.

I was trying to meditate at that point, as much as I could with a 20 pound cat laying on my arm and nuzzling me. I felt him inch his way up my left side, first kneading my ribs, then my armpit, then my collarbone. Then he casually draped his big furry paw across my upper chest. And I'll be damn if he didn't grab for the iPod wire again.