New Wildlife Art Magazine Debuts!

UPDATE 7-13-16: Unfortunately this online magazine had a short run and is now defunct. For awhile it looked like someone else would take it on but that never happened.

I just found out this afternoon that Wildlife Art Journal is now up and running. Members of the Society of Animal Artists got a heads-up a few months ago and we were able to view a preview version, but the real thing is available now here. Todd Wilkinson, who many will remember from his excellent articles in the old Wildlife Art magazine, is the editor and co-publisher of this new online-only publication. The plan is to update the content on an on-going basis instead of using the old monthly print magazine model. There is a blog also. It’s obvious that a tremendous amount of work and care have gone into creating this, driven by a deep love of wildlife and animal art.

I personally want to wish them all the very best!

No Electricity, No Problem?… And Plein Air Painting in 1930s Scotland

I may have found the perfect solution to safely heating water in a ger without a fire or electricity. Whoever designed this really backed up and asked themselves what problem they were trying to solve. And what they came up with was this:

Esbit Pocket Stove
Esbit Pocket Stove

This is obviously perfect for backpackers or anyone who might find themselves in a survival situation. The two upright ends fold down flat, so the dimensions are 3″x4″x 3/4″. It weighs 3.25 oz and is made in Germany, can you believe it. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it uses a solid fuel that is non-explosive. It burns about 13 minutes and is supposed to boil a pint of water in about 8 with no smoke. No kerosene bottles or other stuff that the airlines don’t like or allow.

I’ve thought of another use for it, too. Last winter around eight children died in Mongolia when they got caught out in an unexpected storm while herding animals and couldn’t get back home. What if they had had something like this to stay warm long enough for rescuers to find them? And the adults who also died in the cold too, of course. I’m going to see what I can find out about the issue when I’m there and see what might be done.

Plein Air Information Discovery!

I’ve been down with a cold since a week ago Saturday and it’s been a tenacious one. I’m almost over it, but still needing to take it easy. I’ve been doing a lot of resting and reading and decided to dive into the Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. I’m not a mystery fan, but I love these because they are so delightfully and excruciatingly English. I just started “Five Red Herrings”, which takes place in the western borderlands of Scotland. The area is heavily populated with artists, one of whom doesn’t play well with others and is deceased by page 17. Wimsey visits the site where the body was found. It appears that the artist was painting on location, took one step too far back from the work in progress and fell off a cliff, the kind of thing that can be an occupational hazard for those working in the great outdoors. In any case, Wimsy thoroughly paws through all the artist’s things, possibly providing clues but absolutely recording what a plein air painter in Scotland circa 1930 would be hauling around.

He gave his first attention to the picture. It was blocked in with a free and swift hand, and lacked the finishing touches, but it was even so a striking piece of work, bold in its masses and chiaroscuro, and strongly laid on with the knife.”

“Idly, Wimsey picked up the palette and painting-knife which lay on the stool. He noticed that —– used a simple palette of few colors, and this pleased him, for he liked to see economy of means allied with richness of result. (My emphasis. Wouldn’t we all?) On the ground was an aged satchel, which had evidently seen long service. Rather from habit than with any eye to deduction, he made an inventory of the contents.

In the main compartment he found a small flask of whiskey, half-full, a thick tumbler and a packet of bread and cheese, eight brushes, tied together with a dejected piece of linen which had once been a handkerchief but was now dragging out a dishonored existence as a paint-rag, a dozen loose brushes, two more painting-knives and a scraper. Cheek by jowl with these were a number of tubes of paint. Wimsey laid them out side by side on the granite, like a row of little corpses.

There was a half-pound of vermilion spectrum, new clean and almost unused, a studio-size tube of ultramarine No. 2, half-full, another of chrome yellow, nearly full and  another of the same, practically empty. Then came a half-pound tube of viridian, half-full, a studio-size cobalt three-quarters empty, and then an extremely dirty tube, with its label gone, which seemed to have survived much wear and tear without losing much of its contents. Wimsey removed the cap and diagnosed it as crimson lake. Finally, there was an almost empty studio-size tube of rose madder and a half-pound of lemon yellow, partly used and very dirty. The large compartment, however, yielded nothing further except some dried heather, a few shreds of tobacco and a quantity of crumbs, and he turned his attention to the two smaller compartments

In the first of these was, first, a small screw of grease-proof paper on which the brushes had been wiped; next, a repellent little tin, very sticky about the screw-cap, containing copal medium; and thirdly, a battered dipper, matching the one attached to the palette.

The third and last compartment of the satchel offered a more varied bag. There was a Swan vesta box, filled with charcoal, a cigarette-tin, also containing charcoal and a number of sticks of red chalk, a small sketchbook, heavily stained with oil, three or four canvas separators, on which Wimsey promptly pricked his fingers, some wine corks and a packet of Gold Flakes.”

“A wide cloak of a disagreeable check pattern lay beside the easel. He picked it up and went deliberately through the pockets. He found a pen-knife, with one blade broken, half a biscuit, another pack of cigarettes, a box of matches, a handkerchief, two trout-casts in a transparent envelope, and a piece of string.”

I find it interesting that the paint is measured in pounds. With variations for personal taste, however, I suspect that any regular plein air painter’s kit today would have a similar accumulation of odds and ends. But….Peter noticed that something was missing. And since I’m only on page 50, I haven’t the faintest idea what it is and wouldn’t say anyway.

Visit the AFC site here

Mongolia Monday And A Schedule Adjustment

As I am about two months out from my Mongolia trip, I’ve decided to consolidate my blog posts to Monday and then do quick updates as needed on other days of the week. For the next few months, most posts are going to have Mongolia content as I share my preparations and, with luck, the trip itself.


I have my plane tickets and will be leaving on July 5, staying overnight in Seoul, Korea and arriving in Ulaanbaatar on the afternoon of the 7th. I’ll be taking the local United Express flight to San Francisco, Asiana to Seoul and MIAT to UB, and doing it in reverse without the overnight for my return on July 30. My current plan is to attend the National Naadam celebration in UB and then, in some order still to be determined, spend a day or two at Hustai seeing the takhi, travel to the Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve and the Baga Gazariin area to explore the argali habitat in those places, with hopes that I will be able to see and photograph them.

The one “appointment” that I have is to be at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu the week of the 20th for three days of meetings with the herder women to discuss their ideas for a crafts cooperative, which I plan to support. For this purpose, and for other projects that might come up in the future, I have established a non-profit association, Art Partnerships for Mongolian Conservation (APMC). Our mission will be to use the arts to promote conservation in Mongolia. My 501(c)3 sponsor is the Denver Zoological Foundation, which has set up an account for me so that donations made to APMC are tax-deductible. For more information, email me at


Last week I said that I would do a book review of an excellent “drawing” book. I got it out recently to use as a guide for honing my field sketching techniques for the upcoming Mongolia trip (see how it’s all dovetailing?). It’s called “Fast Sketching Techniques” by David Rankin, who, as it happens, won an AFC Flag Expedition Grant a couple of years ago to travel to the source of the Ganges River in India, one of his most favorite countries. He, dare I say it, draws a very useful distinction between drawing and sketching and does it in a way that I think encourages people to pick up a pencil and paper and give it a go.

Here’s where you can find it on Amazon, but it looks like it has gone out print, so you might end up with a good used copy. I highly recommend it. Here are a few pages to give you an idea of David’s approach. He is a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists, has been in every major wildlife art show multiple times and is an excellent teacher and “critiquer”. In short, he knows his stuff.

Book cover
Book cover
The difference between drawing and sketching
The difference between drawing and sketching
Quick, simple sketches that catch the essence of the subject without getting bogged down in detail
Quick, simple sketches that catch the essence of the subject without getting bogged down in detail
An example of how he interprets a scene quickly
An example of how he interprets a scene quickly
Using pause on a tv recorder to do quick sketches
Using pause on a tv recorder to do quick sketches
Instruction on how to work at zoos sketching animals
Instruction on how to work at zoos sketching animals

Next week, I’ll have post some of the sketch work I’ve been doing in order to get up to speed for the real thing.

Mongolia Monday- “Required” Reading, Part 3

For the final installment of my list of “must” reads for anyone interested in Mongolia, I offer three books: One about a place and two about people.

gobi-john-manThe word “Gobi” is a byword for dry/arid/trackless/endless desert. In fact, there is a saying, “Dry as the Gobi”, to describe an extreme lack of moisture. Would it surprise you to know that the best, sweetest vegetables grown in Mongolia come from the Gobi? Or that snow leopards live there? Or that there is a forest with trees that have wood so dense that a piece of it sinks when thrown in water? Author John Man realized his dream of traveling to the Gobi (which is the word for “desert” in Mongolian) and then wrote this excellent book, Gobi, published in 1997, about his journey there, along with lots of excellent information on the human history, natural history, geology and paleontology of this remote and fascinating part of the world.

“We stopped to confer, and I unfolded the map on the bonnet. The Flaming Cliffs were definitely west, they had to be…..In the distance, a ger appeared, standing out of the desert as clear as a mushroom on the moon….Inside, the woman of the ger was distilling camel’s milk, boiling it in an immense pot, capturing the essence as it condensed, drop by drop. We received tokens of hospitality: camel’s curd, hard and sharp as parmesan, and a dish of distilled camel’s milk. It was a nectar of transparent purity, like vodka to look at, but with its alcohol content disguised bya smooth and subtle texture.”

This was one of the first books I read after my first trip to Mongolia in 2005 and it was, in part, the inspiration for my own trip to the Gobi in 2006. Re-acquainting myself with it for this review, I saw in the Acknowledgements two familiar names: wildlife artist Simon Combes, who Man encountered in the Altai Mountains when Combes was there gathering snow leopard information for his Great Cats series of paintings and Dr. Richard Reading, who was the scientist in charge of the Earthwatch project, Mongolian Argali, that was my means of getting to Mongolia the first time in spring of 2005. You’ll be hearing more about Dr. Reading in the not-to-distant future.

Gobi by John Man, Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1997

dragon-hunterEvery Westerner who goes to the Gobi is, to some extent, traveling in the footsteps of Roy Chapman Andrews, who organized and carried out his series of five Central Asiatic Expeditions from 1922 to 1930. Andrews was about as close to a real life Indiana Jones as one is likely to find. Dragon Hunter, by Charles Gallenkamp, tells the story of Andrews’ life and his amazing adventures. He made his reputation at The Flaming Cliffs in the Gobi, where he and his fellow scientists found some of the most important fossils in the history of paleontology. Which was ironic, because Andrews was in Mongolia on a mission laid out by his boss at the American Museum of Natural History in New York to find evidence that man had originated in Asia, not Africa; a goal tinged with more than a bit of racism.

“It was agreed by everyone that the primary objective of the 1923 expedition should be The Flaming Cliffs. Shackelford’s unidentified dinosaur skull, the egg-like fragment found by Granger, and prolific array of bleached bones littering the ground and eroding out of the sculptured formations offered an irresistable lure.”

You can see my photo of The Flaming Cliffs at sunset and Mongolian dinosaur fossils on my website under “Mongolia/Mongolia 2006 photos/items 4 and 1

Dragon Hunter by Charles Gallenkamp, Viking 2001


Women of Mongolia is a truly wonderful collection of first person narratives that introduce us to women from every part of Mongolian society: city and countryside, professionals and laborers. I was struck by their strength, practicality and resourcefulness, all of which were necessary for them and their families to survive the transition from socialism to a market economy. The photos in the book may make them seem distant and exotic, but once you start reading, you realize how much we have in common even though the details of their lives are very different from the average American.

A herder woman: “What do I do all day? There’s plenty to do! First I get up at around six o’clock in the morning to milk the cows. My daughter helps me. We have nineteen cows to milk, so it takes around one hour. After that I do various other jobs. I go to bed around ten or eleven in evening. We make everything here. Yes, the wheels of the carts outside are an example. My husband makes them, out of wood. We use the carts to move the ger and our belongings. They are pulled by oxen. I make all the ropes out of horsehair – you can see them on the outside of the ger, holding down the felt.”

An anthropologist: “I recently founded a new Department at the University, so right now I am rather busy. I’m head of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the Academy of Sciences, and also head of the new Department of Anthropology at the National University…The focus of my own work has been craniological study…..How did I get started in this work? I graduated from the Moscow State University in anthropology because that is what the government told me to study.”

Women of Mongolia by Martha Avery, Asian Art and Archaeology/University of Washington Press 1996


And, on a different note: join Lonely Planet Mongolia author Michael Kohn as he takes the train from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing and beyond.

Mongolia Monday- “Required” Reading, Part 2

Last week, we started with personal accounts by people who had lived in Mongolia as journalists or as a teacher. This week, it’s three selections from one of my favorite genres- travel writing. I’ve had some fun and “interesting” times on my travels and folks back home here in northern California think I’m very brave and adventurous. That’s as may be, but let me tell you, these books will put my travels into perspective in a hurry.

The first two, written about ten years apart, are the result of actually doing what a fair number of adventure travelers have probably considered or wish they had done: follow in the “hoofsteps” of Chinggis Khan’s Horde and travel across Mongolia by horse.

First up. Tim Severin:

severinTim Severin has made a name for himself re-creating famous journeys of the past and then writing compelling, informative and sometimes humorous  books about what happened. I first found some of them on a remainder table in an English bookstore and have since read as many as I can get my hands on. A few examples: his first foray was to cross the Atlantic in the same kind of small leather boat that St. Brendan used when he supposedly made the same trip (The Brendan Voyage). Another was to have a traditional wooden Arabic ship called a “dhow” constructed so he could retrace the voyages of Sinbad (The Sinbad Voyage). He has also traced the route of the Crusaders from Bouillon in France to Jerusalem. In 1987-88. On horseback. By which time there were somewhat different obstacles to overcome than the ones the original Crusaders faced.

Severin’s journey across Mongolia took place in 1991, when the country was in dire economic straits from the withdrawal of the Soviets and was beginning to create a new government and civil society from ground zero after 70 years of socialism. He had been asked to help a group of Mongols travel the route of the Mongol Empire’s amazing overland communication system that made it possible for messages to cross 2/3s of the known world, from Mongolia to the Danube in about two weeks. The grand plan for this journey involved riding, in stages, a distance equivalent to that between Hong Kong and London, around 6,000 miles. He jumped at the chance because “Here was the most wonderful opportunity for me to travel freely inside Mongolia, not just as an outsider following his own program, but in the company of Mongols who were committed to rediscovering their own history. It was an opening no Westerner had ever been offered before.”

After trip preparations that became a small saga in themselves, the expedition was on its way. “At first the ride was exciting and spectacular. There was the constant rumble of 100 sets of hooves, the shouts of the herdsmen, the mob of horses surging forward….and the sheer exhilaration of riding at a fast pace across unspoiled countryside…..Sure enough, after three or four hours, the well-remembered riding aches and pains set in…The hammering, jarring flat run of the Mongol horses was as excruciating as ever….I understood why the Mongol dispatch riders had found it necessary to strap up their bodies in tight bandages…..”

The account of the trip then moves forward, interspersed with lots of information about Mongolian history and culture. Obviously, highly recommended, as are the next two.

In Search of Genghis Khan, Cooper Square Press, 2003


Stanley Stewart caught the Mongolia bug and nurtured the idea of going there for 25 years. In his 2002 book, In the Empire of Genghis Khan, Stewart, having made his way from Istanbul through Kazakhstan, finally finds himself being served dinner in a ger near the town of Bayan-Olgii in far western Mongolia. “Sated with sheep guts, we settled into after-dinner chat. Bold explained that I intended to ride across Mongolia to Qaraqorum, the ancient capital, then beyond to Dadal, the birthplace of Genghis Khan. Batur looked for me a long time without speaking. The plan was obviously too outlandish to merit comment…Batur saw no reason to try to dissuade me. Events would soon take care of that.”

As you might imagine, I really liked this description of the horses: “The relationship of Mongolian horses to the wild Przhevalsky’s horse of these regions has yet to be conclusively established (it has since been demonstrated that the domestic and wild horses diverged about 500,000 years ago) but presumably they share the same parole officer. They looked like the outlaws of the equine world….What they lacked in stature they made up for with attitude. They had carried the hordes of Genghis Khan to the gates of Vienna….Now they milled about on the slope below the ger, snorting and pawing the ground, a rabble looking for excitement and hostages. ”

Interestingly, both Severin and Stewart describe the morning process of saddling the horses as “a rodeo”.

Aided by a succession of patient interpreters, who changed out at each stage of the trip, Stewart makes his way across the vast empty interior of Mongolia. Well, not quite. “In Outer Mongolia, my social calendar was packed. Lunch invitations, drinks parties and dinner engagements came thick and fast. There were times when crossing the Mongolian steppe felt like a royal tour of which I was the unlikely focus.” All to say that, after a thousand years, the traditional customs of Mongolian hospitality are alive and well. I can personally vouch for that.

In The Empire of Genghis Khan, The Lyons Press, 2002, 2000


In their 2004 book, Long Way Round, Ewan McGregor (yes, that Ewan McGregor) and his good friend Charley Boorman decide that their lives will not be complete unless they ride their motorcyles from London to New York – by way of Europe and Central Asia. A four month jaunt of 20,000 miles, as it turned out. The reason I include their book on this list is that not only did they travel through Mongolia, but that out of all the countries they visited it was the one that grabbed McGregor and hung on.

Having finally made it to and through a border crossing in the far west that was normally only open to Russian and Mongolian goods vehicles “we rode into Mongolia, turned a corner and ran straight into a herd of yaks….” And a few minutes later, “We pulled into a clearing, where our local fixer, Karina, had been waiting for four days. She was very excited to see us and tied blue ribbons (actually blue scarves called “khadak”) to our bikes, a Mongolian shaman tradition used to bestow good luck on babies and vehicles”.

The book is largely excerpts from the diaries they both kept and, as many of you know, they were also accompanied by a small film crew. Ewan and Charley quickly find out that in most of Mongolia the word “road” doesn’t mean the same thing as it does in the west. Mongolia is not a country where you fly in, grab a rental car and head off into the countryside. Unless you have a GPS and are willing to spend a lot of time trying to puzzle out which of the endless braid of dirt tracks is the one you want, because there are no road signs. None. Not that you are all alone out there on the steppe. “At the top of the first pass, we came across a nomad on horseback with three camels and a couple of dogs. He was a stunning man, fine-featured and handsome, proudly sitting bolt upright on his horse. In the traditional garb of pointed leather herdsman’s boots, a Mongolian hat and several layers of heavy woolen clothing, he was grazing his camels at the top of the mountain. He looked so perfect and so at home in his surroundings that it could have been a hallucination.”

They do, of course, make their way to Ulaanbaatar, where they had made arrangements with UNICEF to visit some of the street children and also a center that has been set up to help them. “The conditions in which these children lived, even in a proper centre, hit me like a sledgehammer. A four-year-old girl was lying on the floor with her head against the wall. Her legs were withered and weak and she was trembling. It broke my heart to see her in such distress, so in need of love and attention, but so alone. I spent quite a lot of time with her, stroking her hair, touching her face and playing peek-a-boo with her. And then we had to leave. I hugged as many of them as I could, said goodbye and got into a car”. (Spoiler alert: I believe that after the trip, McGregor went back to Mongolia, adopted the girl and took her home to England with him, may great blessings be upon him.)

Finally, their journey took them north out of Mongolia and into Russia and Charley observed, “…I’d come to love Mongolia. It had been hell at times (Did I say that this isn’t the easiest place to travel?), but some part of me had actually relished the misery. I’d enjoyed meeting people along the road and I’d been blown away by the helpfulness of complete strangers. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

McGregor noted that “Riding across Mongolia had been incredibly demanding, but it had offered everything I’d been looking for on the trip, a pastoral paradise full of curious, open-hearted people who welcomed me into their homes because I was a passing traveler, not because I was Obi-Wan Kenobi on a bike…It had been like riding through the pages of National Geographic.”

Long Way Round, Atria Books, 2004


If you are interested in learning more about the street children and how they are being helped, visit the website of the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation at


Next week: More books about the land and people of Mongolia.


Rainbow from last week's storm
Rainbow from last week's storm

A great old French word that I picked up many years ago when I was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism. It means “a jumble or hodgepodge”. Which is kind of what today’s post is.

SOFTWARE THAT I USE to keep things moving and, with luck organized. FWIW.
I switched to Apple at the end of 2008 and have never looked back. I tease my husband, who still uses a PC, about when he’s going to come over from The Dark Side. He might, at some point, if his business requirements allow. In the meantime, other than house network stuff, which is still his balliwick, I can now handle my system with a minimum of whining at him for technical support.

1. MobileMe– keeps a bunch of data like my address book, email, notes, etc. in an online Apple “cloud”, which lets me effortlessly keep my iMac, MacBook and iPhone synced.

2. Quicken– checkbook balancing trauma is a thing of the past. At last. I also record my credit card transactions.

3. Flick!– just started to enter the records of my paintings. I used to have Working Artist, which I absolutely hated, but everything else available for the PC was worse. Flick! has a clean, attractive interface and responsive tech support. It’s built on Filemaker, the Mac-based database standard.

4. Aperture– Apple’s image management software; handles my closing in on 30,000 images effortlessly. Lets you open images in Photoshop with one click. Set up whatever categories (which it calls Projects and Albums) work best. The RAW files are resident on the iMac for speed, but are backed up to an external Time Machine hard drive,  so every image exists in duplicate. We hope to eventually keep an additional set on a Buffalo Terrastation that will be kept in the garage, which is a separate building. Am I paranoid? After experiencing a real, physical back up hard drive crash a couple of years ago with a machine that was supposedly designed to recover from something like that and having the vendor essentially shrug and say “Too bad”, and in which I lost forever a bunch of images of older work, you betcha. CDs are not archival. None of them. A high quality external hard drive is the only way to store images for the long haul.

5. Photoshop CS4– can’t imagine how I’d function without it. The relevant difference between it and Elements is that Elements doesn’t let you do CMYK conversions and other tasks necessary to prepare images for commercial reproduction. I use Photoshop for just about everything image-related.

6. iTunes– last year we converted over 700 CDs to digital. No more getting up to change discs and no more discs taking up valuable shelf space. All my music is right on my desk. Hey, it’s a big deal when you grew up with a record player and a stack of 45s and LPs.


Unless I’m writing, talking on the phone or doing concept work (thinking up ideas for paintings), the music’s on. I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for most of the 1980s and there were still quite a few musicians from the 1960s around and working in various bands. Guitarist John Cippolina was one of them. He was best known as the lead guitarist for Quicksilver Messenger Service. I saw him in the mid-1980s in a band called Terry and the Pirates. It turns out there’s a two album set of recordings by the Pirates and, if you want to spend 99 cents on one of the hottest, driving SF-style rock songs out there, buy “Something to Lose”. Cippolina on the guitar and Nicky Hopkins, who was also in Quicksilver for while, on the piano. Crank. It. Up.

Species tulips, hellebores, flamingos
Species tulips, hellebore, flamingos


Frogs are at it around the clock now, crocus and early daffodils are blooming, tulips are up. Primroses going strong. In the neighborhood, the willows and Indian plum are starting to leaf out already. We’ve covered the front “lawn” (34’x19′) with black plastic and are going to turn it into a vegetable garden.

Pansies, Pickwick crocus, tulips
Pansies, Pickwick crocus, tulips


I’ve become increasingly concerned about what’s happening/happened to the food supply in this country. The pet food recall in 2007 definitely got my attention. Oh, and then there’s the Peanut Thing. Now I’m (finally) reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and it is really crystalizing my thinking. One of the basic points is that industrial scale food production, in and of itself, is a major problem, both in the animal suffering it causes and the loss of nutrition and taste in fruits and vegetables. Plus the environmental cost of moving all that stuff an average of 1500 miles. And who would have thought that corn and the excessive amount of it grown is literally the root of the problem.

It’s time to, as Pollan says, “opt out” of the industrial food chain. His book is an exploration of how that food chain works, what the consequences are and how new alternative food chains are being formed. Anyone who wants to make conscious, sound and informed decisions about what they eat needs to read this book.

For us, we’re becoming much better label readers (citric acid is from corn!?). We’re going to concentrate even more on sourcing our food locally. We already do not eat factory-farmed animals or animal products. Period. I’ve mentioned the vegetable garden. We also plan to get chickens later this year to provide eggs.

The great thing is that the information and alternatives are out there, especially for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in California. Obama mentioned in his State of the Union address that subsidies would be cut for “agribusiness”, which is long, long overdue. In the meantime, what we can do is vote with our pocketbooks.

New Paintings, Book Review, Camera Drama cont.

Took the Nikon D70 and lens in to our local camera store. Classic good news and bad news. The lens is fixable and is being fixed. The camera body could have been, for half what it cost new, and then I’d have a repaired (after having hit the pavement hard ), four year old camera body for the Mongolia trip in September. I don’t deliberately abuse my equipment, but it does end up with stories to tell. So, I sucked it up, decided to trust the gods, and bought a Nikon D80, the follow-on. It’s, uh, killer great. In general, it’s just more of everything than the D70. Larger file size, bigger ISO range, etc. So far, my favorite part is the bigger monitor. Very handy when photographing paintings.

Which I just got done yesterday. Here are a couple of the newest. The bison is called “Autumn”. I shot the landscape in Yellowstone last year at the end of September as the season changed. It went from sunscreen to snowing in 48 hours. The coyote, also from Yellowstone, doesn’t have a title yet. If you provide the winning suggestion, I’ll send you a pack of twelve assorted greeting cards with my art on them.


I promised a review of “I’d Rather Be In The Studio!”, by Alyson B. Stanfield, who runs, so here tis:

How many of you fellow artists out there: try this show/run that ad/enter another competition and hope that somehow, sometime, lightning will strike and you’ll sell out your show or a collector will buy ten of your paintings or a big gallery will hunt you down and beg to show your work and you’ll be on your way to fame, fortune and winters in the Bahamas or, in my case, Hawaii?

Ain’t gonna happen. How many of us have held ourselves back with this kind of magical thinking? Honestly, it really just gets in the way when you think about it. If you’re waiting for the Fine Art Fairy to come along and sprinkle you with Success Dust, then you’re probably not actively building your career in an effective, organized way. Which means you’ll continue to flail around and wonder where the money is going to come from for that next tube of Cadmium Red (for you non-artists, that’s one expensive color!).

You can “join the artists who are ditching excuses and embracing success” for starters by reading Alyson’s book, the subtitle of which is “The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion”. What I like about it is the active voice, the practical steps you can take and why they are important.

The contents are organized around all the excuses Alyson has heard in her career working with artists both as a museum curator and now as a art marketing consultant for artists. Some of the excuses include “My art speaks for itself” (no, it doesn’t), “I have no idea where to begin” (start with your art), “There aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all” (organize your information) and, of course, “I’d rather be in the studio!” (start by defining success for yourself). She then addresses each one with specific Actions, which include exercises you can do to start to get the hang of it.

One of the things that surprised me at first was her emphasis on The Mailing List. Sure, I have one and when I want to send out postcards, which I do a couple of times a year, I ask my husband, who maintains it for me, to do a label run. I put out a sign-up sheet at events and shows and he faithfully adds the new names for me. And…that’s…about….it. Sound familiar? Did Alyson ever open my eyes to what a mailing list is, can and should be and how absolutely fundamental it is to a successful career as an artist.

She has a website and a blog (and tells you in the book how to make the most effective use of both) and she does private consultations. I was going to go that route until I read the book. I could tick off so many changes that I need to make already that I’ve decided to implement those and then run it all by her to see how I’ve done and what I still need to do.

What is really all comes down to as far as she is concerned is that you have to own your own life and career and take total responsibility for it.

So, to check out Alyson: (Alyson’s home page) (Alyson’s blog, obviously) (the book)


And just for fun, the oriental poppies are blooming in my garden. It’s raining today, which we badly need, so the poppies really add a “pop” of color outside my studio.