Personal and Professional Essentials For Traveling In Mongolia

But first, to help everyone get in the mood for Naadam, which begins a week from tomorrow, here’s a terrific music video from Nomin Talst called “Minii Mongol Naadam” or “My Mongol Naadam”. This is a great example of why I love Mongolia:

On Monday, I’ll do my last post before I leave. It will include one video for each of the Three Manly Sports that are held during Naadam: Horse racing, wrestling and archery.

I leave next Wednesday, so the organizing and packing has begun. Over on Facebook, a friend asked what I consider essential, both personally and professionally. FWIW, here it is:

Personal Essentials:
I don’t go there anymore without a Thermarest pad, even for hotel stays. The beds, everywhere, are HARD, seriously hard. My hips don’t do “hard” anymore. I also take my 20F rated down sleeping bag. It’s a rectangle, not a mummy bag, so I can use it as a comforter on a ger bed if it gets nippy.

Drugs for all the basics: cold, flu, sinus plus bandaids, antibiotic cream, sunscreen, Cipro, etc. and medical emergency air evacuation insurance, which I get from my tour company. There’s essentially no western standard medical care in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, except for an SOS International Clinic and something called the Russian Hospital. In the countryside, well, I don’t know much about traditional Mongolian medicine yet.

For anything serious, like a sprained ankle (yes, that can be serious) or a dog bite, you’ve gotta get to Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, Seoul, you get the idea. And that can run, so I’ve heard, around $10,000 to get flown out, so $40 a month for the insurance is a pretty reasonable deal, I think.

My one major preference that I indulge is the ability to have a cup of coffee when I get up in the morning. This has proved iffy at times at the ger camps when I’ve gotten up early and haven’t been able to score a thermos of hot water the night before. I now take an Esbit stove, which is basically a small metal stand that one can put a small stainless steel camping pot on and that uses solid fuel cubes, which travel in my checked luggage. Heats enough water for two large cups of coffee in about 8 minutes. I buy packets of three-in-one coffee and milk tea at a grocery store in UB before I head out to the countryside. I take a coffee mug, too. Oh, and matches.

A Fozzil bowl that stores flat and snaps together and will hold water. I use it mostly as a place to put my watch and rings and stuff at night, but I can use it to wash underwear and socks in a pinch in warm or hot water that I heated up with the…Esbit stove. The stoves in the gers aren’t really used in the summertime, so I can’t count on access to one of those and wouldn’t want to use fuel for that kind of thing anyway.

Two Travel Towels, each of which fits into its own little bag. I never have to worry about having a towel and I like to have one for my hair. It’s small stuff like this, which is different for everyone, that seems to make travel go more smoothly.

As is true for many places, I always plan to dress in layers. Sturdy pants, light hiking boots or walking shoes, fleece jacket, t-shirts, turtleneck, thermals just in case. Teva flip-flops for going to the shower ger or if it’s hot.

I also always take a couple of del, the long, traditional Mongolian garment. Perfect for a robe in the morning, to wear to the toilet or shower, sit around in in the evening or, and this is really traditional, portable privacy on the road in a country where there are mostly no trees. And it can be really, really flat.

One change from previous trips is that I have lots to do in UB this time with various people. I’ve only had “field clothes” before and always felt like I’d just crawled in out of the Gobi. I really needed a nice warm weather outfit. So, our very own local Bohemian Mermaid, Bekki Scotto, carved out an hour a few days ago before she hit the art festival road and met me behind the Safeway store in Arcata with a rack of tempting goodies to choose from. I bought a couple of her hand-dyed rayon t-shirts, and a matching skirt and scarf to wear in town. She made me promise to get my picture taken wearing her finery in Mongolia.

My iPhone with excellent earbuds. I don’t care about airport delays anymore since I can always zone out to music, play solitaire or Paper Toss if I don’t feel like reading. Or watch my virtual koi pond.

I take a small stack of books, paperbacks that I will mostly leave behind as I go.

A Timbuk2 messenger bag for my non-roll-on piece of luggage, which my purse fits into, so I still only have two items. Clever me. It also holds the laptop, my file folder of trip stuff, all the power and charger cords and USB cables, snacks, a water bottle, a book and…my First Class Sleeper, which is more or less a half-size air mattress that you put between you and your cattle car-class seat back. It provides lumbar support, cushioning and has “pillow flaps” on either side. It has made a huge difference in my inflight comfort and arrival fatigue level. For $29.95. I just wish they’d make it from something that didn’t outgas at first.

My Mongolian-English and English-Mongolian dictionaries, since I’m really trying to learn the language.

Professional Essentials:
All the camera equipment: two Nikon D-80 bodies, 28-300 lens, 80-400 lens, 8, 4 and 2GB memory cards, four batteries, and a charger.

New KATA daypack for carrying same.

MacBook Pro for primary image storage in iPhoto. New Toshiba 500GB portable hard drive for back-up.

Car lighter adapter for charging batteries since not only do the ger camps usually not have electricity, but I’ll mostly be either camping out or in a fairly remote research camp this time.

Sketchbooks, pencils, gel pens, pan gouache, more paper, pencil sharpener, brushes, water-soluble colored pencils, a collapsible water container.

Nikon Monarch 10×42 binoculars.

Final essentials: patience, flexibility, a sense of humor and a willingness to set a goal but let the Mongols figure out how to do it. And my sense of wonder always gets a thorough workout.

Mongolia Monday- New Gear for Next Trip

As promised last week, here’s look at two items I recently purchased for my next trip to Mongolia. In both cases, they are “upgrades” that I hope will perform and function better than what I’ve used in the past.

First up, my new camera/day pack. I’ve used a good sturdy general purpose daypack from REI for quite a few years and it did what I wanted until I got a MacBook Pro which is larger than my old IBM x31. I solved that problem with a messenger bag from Timbuk2 that I reviewed here last year.

The cameras fit in the old pack, but had to be put into it vertically side-by-side with some kind of cloth wrapped around one to keep them from banging together. Not very satisfactory. And it got worse when I was able to upgrade to a Nikon Nikkor 80-400mm lens last year which is much longer and bigger in diameter than my old zoom telephoto. The jury-rigged set-up even made my guides nervous.

I started out looking for a pack which had the depth and padded dividers that would let me safely carry the two cameras as I had before. On the road, the pack is on the floor at my feet so I can grab either body in a hurry or zip it up and go without a bunch of fussing around.

I searched the internet and found a couple of possibilities, but realized that the only way to know for sure was to take both cameras to my local camera shop (Swanlund’s) and see what actually worked. And, as it turned out, the one I’d thought would, didn’t. But the young guy who was helping me, all of five days on the job, pulled a KATA pack off the wall and handed it to me. I’d seen the brand when I was looking on the web, but knew nothing about them. Turns out they’re an Israeli company which specializes in “Protective Carrying Technology”, which means gear bags and bullet-proof coats that can literally go into a combat zone. Might be, uh, overkill for my purposes, but I did want something that will protect my cameras.

So I sat on the floor with both Nikons and their lenses and a Digital Rucksack DR-465. What the young sales guy pointed out was a top compartment which would hold one camera and a bottom compartment with zippers that slid back far enough that I could get the body with the 28-300 lens in and out easily. And he was right.

There’s a loop on the back for a tripod and a zippered net pocket on one side for a water bottle. There are three zippered storage pockets in the front and the top compartment has a pocket along the back that will hold pens, notebook, cellphone, etc. The bottom compartment has a re-configurable or totally removable padded divider. Included is a rain/dust cover that comes in its own bag.

The inside is a lovely goldenrod and it has a purpose. It’s a color that will make it as easy as possible to find whatever is in the pack when it’s dark. Really dark.

The company points out in its literature that it doesn’t look like a camera bag, which is true, and that’s not a bad thing at all. The straps feel like they are well-designed ergonomically and will be comfortable with a full load hiking in the field. So, all in all, I think I’ve got a winner here. I’ll know for sure by the end of the first round of travel in the countryside.

KATA Digital Rucksack D-R 465, without cameras
KATA Digital Rucksack DR-465- with cameras

I’ve also gotten a new jacket. I needed something less bulky than the reliable old Travel Smith jacket I’ve used since 1999. I wanted wind and at least a little rain resistance. The weather in Mongolia is very changeable and one needs to have good outerwear.

The best deal in my price range (pretty low) was an REI Windbreak Thermal Jacket for $89.95 (and I had a 20% off coupon),which they describe as their warmest wind-blocking fleece. They claim it will do the job in up to 50mph winds, which ought to be sufficient. It also has a water repellent for light rain. I have a poncho already for real rain, a certainty if Mongolia has a normal summer. The exterior pockets zip up and there are also large pockets on the inside, which I think will be handy.  The styling is such that I can wear it around UB and not look like I just crawled in from the Gobi.

I’ve been wearing it every day when we go out to walk the dog and, so far, I like it a lot. But, once again, field use will tell the tale.

REI Windbreak Thermal Jacket
REI Windbreak Thermal Jacket

Just got an email from Amazon that my order from them has shipped. More camera batteries, a new option for back-up and a little indulgence that I’ll reveal next week, if it works.

An Olympic Drawing Opportunity

If you’re watching the Olympics you know that it sometimes seems more like ads interspersed with some sporting events than the other way around. I’ve also realized that I don’t know how argali sheep are put together as well as I need to, especially the legs, and I’ve got a major takhi painting coming up

Put the two together and I’m getting some good sketching time in. I’ve got all my images from my last two trips to Mongolia on my MacBook Pro, sitting in iPhoto, which happens to have a great enlargement function. I’ve set the laptop on a small folding table (are they still called “tv trays”?) and am using a 9×12″ sketchbook.

These are drawn with a fine felt tip pen with no preliminary pencil work. I either get it or I don’t. None take more than about five minutes, so there isn’t a lot of time invested. The purpose is to hone in on areas that I don’t understand as well as I should. Purely process, not result. Plus, I keep in mind that photos flatten objects, so I need to compensate for that when drawing three dimensional animals.

I started with a page of takhi, plus a cow I saw at Hustai.

Then I moved on to argali. One of the challenges is to keep the legs and body in proper proportion since the legs are really skinny and long. There isn’t a lot of muscle definition to play with, like with horses, so one has to nail the overall shape.

I’m struggling with the horns, too. They move back and around in space and I’m suspicious of how the camera might distort them. What I really need is to draw from the live animals. But there are none in zoos that I know of and in the wild you’re lucky to watch them from 600 meters (over 600 yds.)

Ideally, I’d have my Leica Televid spotting scope, which would solve the problem, except that it is entirely impractical to haul it around in the terrain where the argali are, at least for me. So it’s photographs and a pair of domestic ram’s horns that I brought back from England some years ago. I don’t have access to taxidermy mounted argali, but the problems there would whether or not the horns are typical, how good the quality of the mount is and is it a Mongolian argali.  Notice that I started on the left with only basic shapes and didn’t worry about modeling or “color”.

The best images I have of argali so far are a group of six rams at Baga Gazriin Chuluu Nature Reserve. They were considerate enough to have parked themselves in the open within sight of the main road through the reserve in great morning light. I would have been lucky to have spotted them, but the local man living in the reserve who my guide hired to go out with us both mornings that I was there saw them right away. Here’s a long shot from where we stopped. They’re right back against the rocks, in the middle.

I’ve circled them in red.

Piece of cake, right? Here’s what I got when I zoomed in with my Nikon Nikkor VR 80-400 lens. These are 10mg files, so they can take quite a bit of enlargement and stay sharp. I’ve got about 84 images total to work with. There’s something useful in all of them. Love these guys.

Here’s a close-up of the three rams in front. A perfect Exhibit A of the subject of a previous post about why you have to get out there and do the fieldwork. There’s no other way to get this kind of reference (Buying it from someone else doesn’t count). Game ranch animals won’t do it either. They’re out of context and, unless you’ve observed the species in the wild, you have no idea whether or not any behavior that you see is “real”.

And closer yet of one I drew last night. Everyone was fat and sassy and in great condition. Notice that the younger ram is much browner than the older ones. His behavior was different, too. He was a little more skittish, kept more space between himself and the others than they did between each other and was last in line when they all finally moved up into the rocks.

Great stuff! Action, a terrific pose, rim light. Here’s the page of sketches that include this ram.

Give it a try! It’s a great way to keep training your eye.

“Flipped” Out and Got a Flip UltraHD

I’ve gone back and forth over whether to add some way of shooting video on the upcoming trip to Mongolia. I looked at “real” camcorders and finally decided that another $600 and hauling a third thing that is bigger than a Nikon just wasn’t in the cards. But I was very skeptical of the little Flip camcorders. Many times it’s better to skip something rather than settle for the minimum and then just be frustrated.

But I’ve watched a couple of people use them and saw how compact and light they are. Hummm. I went to Amazon over the weekend and poked around. The second generation of Flips are out and the price was too good to pass up, so, for $129 I got a Flip UltraHD and I have to say, I’m really impressed. Here’s my first ever video that I shot last night, all nine seconds of it:

Visit the AFC site here

I’ve already learned one thing and that is to let the subject go all the way out of the frame before stopping the shot.

This Flip will shoot 120 minutes of video and has 8gb of built in memory. It has a flip-out USB port that plugs into your computer. I also got the rechargeable battery pack and the padded case. The case was returned today. It was a $15 rip-off. Cheesy and no way to even get the camera in it since it was effectively sewn shut.

I have no idea what kind of wildlife footage I’ll get since there’s really no zoom to speak of, but for the national Nadaam events, especially the horse-racing, and domestic animals like the horses and camels, it will be interesting to have images of moving animals to work from when I get home instead of only stills. It’ll all be a big experiment and a fun one.

Should Artists Go To Game Ranches To Shoot Reference?

Every artist and photographer will have to decide for themselves.  For me, after having been to two of game ranches and having been involved in animal welfare and rescue for the past four years, the answer is “no”.

I do want to make the point, as did Mangelsen, that I am specifically addressing game ranches; not zoos, reserves, sanctuaries or other places with wild animals which have vets and other staff trained in animal care and where the animals are not there for the purpose of “modeling” or “acting” for photographers or artists or to be used in movies, tv or advertising.

Here’s the link to a blog post in the new online publication, Wildlife Art Journal, in which Todd Wilkinson introduces an article by legendary wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen. Mangelsen pulls no punches and I applaud him for exposing to the light of day something that’s been hidden for too long: the price the animals pay so photographers and artists can get “that perfect shot”. For example:

baby-bearThis bear cub was allowed to repeatedly shock itself on the electric wire in order to “teach” it to stay within the enclosure. The cub cried in pain every time and is seen here licking the spot that touched the wire. The keeper also “cuffed”, as in hit, the cub to “discipline it the way a mother bear would”.  To my knowledge, the keeper had no formal training, certification or degree in animal behavior. This was in front of a number of artists, including me, and clearly the keeper had no problem with us seeing how the cub was being introduced to working with humans.

Is any painting or photograph worth being complicit in a fellow creature being treated this way?

UPDATE 6-17-09: I have just learned that the person who is referred to above no longer works for that game ranch. He was fired because of how he treated the animals. Very good news indeed.

Here’s the comment that I left for Mangelsen’s article, which is here:

Finally. It’s not just me who’s wondered….

Posted By Susan Fox on Jun 14, 2009

I’ve been to workshops at two of these places and came away very ambivalent since I am also involved in animal welfare (NOT PETA-style animal rights) and dog and cat rescue. Yes, I got some “great” photos, but the other 10-20 artists who were there got almost exactly the same image.

I’ve noticed a proliferation of cougar paintings over the past few years, which coincide with a whole bunch of artists going to shoots put on by one particular ranch. How big a market is there for cougar paintings? Especially when so many show the same animal on the same red rocks? Do cougars even live in that habitat? I dunno.

Part of what makes me and my art interesting to people (Read: potential buyers) are the stories behind the paintings. So, what do you think a buyer finds more compelling:

“I was at the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone and had set up my easel to paint, but ended up watching one wolf attempt to distract the bull bison who had taken up a defensive posture while a second tried to dart in and cut out a calf. After a half hour they gave it up and, all of a sudden six more wolves popped up out of the grass and they all trotted off “(true story)

“I photographed these two wolves splashing in the water and playing. One was the mother of the other, who was a young adult. No, I have no idea if one would see that interaction in the wild. I have no idea if wolves “play” in the water. I have no idea if they run around chasing each other like two crazy border collies.”
“The cute baby raccoon was brought out and inserted into a hole in a tree stump that was placed on a table.”
I did paint that one and have it available as a giclee. I described him and what he was doing accurately, but otherwise feel that I committed at least a sin of omission. And, when people ask me, as they often do, if or where I saw him in the wild, I tell the truth. I like the image, it was fun to paint, but it and another of a captive animal have become somewhat problematical for me.

I’ve made it a point to do the travel, study and fieldwork required to see wildlife where it lives and learn about a species’ behavior and how it interacts with its habitat. Taking pictures of captive animals I’ve never seen in the wild turns out to be useless to me in that regard. There is so very much more to painting animals than their surface appearance, however appealing.

One thing I always tell people is that I don’t paint what I haven’t seen. And, of course, I have seen the captive animals. But I’ve decided finally that that’s not good enough. Taken out of the context of their habitat ultimately ruins their value to me for reference, except as a supplement to what I would shoot of the real, wild versions. It’s a step better than buying someone else’s photographs to do finished paintings from (as opposed to reference for a detail of some kind), but not good enough for me anymore.

As far as my visits to two game ranches:

I remember seeing, briefly, the cages, one that had an adult snow leopard in it. It was a quarter of the size of a kennel that would be considered an acceptable minimum for a large dog. There was barely enough headroom for the animal to stand up and turn around. It was in a covered area with no natural light.

I remember the baby black bear who was allowed to repeatedly come in contact with the electric hot wire around the enclosure area in order to “teach” him to stay within the boundary. He was also “cuffed” multiple times to supposedly duplicate the discipline of a mother bear. What would you think of someone who did that with a puppy or kitten? How in the world would a human with no background or education in animal behavior, as far as I could tell, have the faintest idea what a momma bear would cuff her cub for?

I remember the owner of one game ranch complaining to us about the owner of another one because the guy had gotten caught and cited by the Feds so many times that it had drawn increased scrutiny onto everyone else.

I remember speaking with a fairly well-known wildlife artist at a show, gingerly asking her about the game ranches. She immediately and strongly assured me that the animals were never mistreated to make them “perform”. I changed the subject.

I’ve wondered more than once when a litter is born, what happens to the babies or youngsters who aren’t willing to be socialized to people. If there are five wolf pups and only one can be handled, what happens to the other four? I think I can guess, but currently have no direct knowledge. However, these people are running businesses that need to make a profit, not sanctuaries.

I believe that there is an inherent conflict in the use of animals for profit at these game ranches. The owner’s revenue stream, profit, mortgage and care of their families is dependent on their ability to “deliver the goods”. And I think, with what I’ve seen in the pet rescue world, history has conclusively shown that if there is a choice between what serves human profit vs. what serves the animal’s interest, the animal almost always comes out on the short end.

Is there a disconnect between wildlife and animal artists who paint what they do out of love for animals, but who then patronize places that are questionable at best? Does the excitement of seeing the animals closeup and getting great photos bury any nagging little doubts or questions about what is going on at these ranches? Is it more convenient to take the explanations of the owners at face value about how they run their business?

I’m not saying that the owners are bad people or that there is deliberate abuse or cruelty going on. But, ask yourself honestly, are the conditions you’ve seen, if you’ve been to the ranches as opposed to the locations, appropriate or right or fair for any animal, much less wild ones.

I am ambivalent no longer. I will no longer patronize game ranches and I urge my fellow wildlife artists to look into their hearts and consider whether or not they should, either.

Mongolia Monday- Bizarre to Beautiful “Bugs”

I probably should have run this post last week before Hallowe’en, but, in any case, here’s a variety of the insects that I’ve seen in Mongolia. Not all that many and I don’t know what the species are. Field guides are kind of thin on the ground for Mongolian wildlife. So if anyone can ID these critters, let me know and I’ll update this post.

The photos were shot on my 2006 and 2008 trips. I used a Nikon D70 with a Tamron 28-300mm lens in 2006 and a Nikon D80 with a Promaster (made by Tamron) 28-300 in 2008.

Saw this one in the Gobi. It was big- close to 3″ long.

Saw this one at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve. There were specimens at the Natural History Museum in UB but, unfortunately, the labels were all in cyrillic Mongolian, which I can’t read. Yet. They are related to grasshoppers, but aren’t. That much I was able to find out.

Grasshopper at the ger camp, Hustai National Park

Another grasshopper photographed at Hustai.

Large, almost 3″ grasshopper photographed near Dungenee Ger Camp, Gobi Desert.

Photographed same location as above. This one really matched the rocks.

Only spider I’ve seen in three trips to Mongolia. Photographed same time as the two grasshoppers above.

Beetle at Ikh Nart. The challenge was waiting until it scurried out into the sun so I could catch the deep blue color.

This was really one of the most dramatic wildlife spectacles I’ve seen in Mongolia. The beetle had pounced on the brownish insect and the battle was on, with the latter trying to escape from the former. The beetle inexorably manuevered the brown one around for what we thought was the death grip in which they were head to head. Then, suddenly, the brown one broke free and got away. It went on for minutes. I took quite a few pictures, but this one seemed to show the situation with the most clarity.

Ikh Nart butterflies.

Friday Features


Red Crossbills showed up at the sunflower seed feeder yesterday and made a serious dent in it. A group came through last fall, but moved on after a couple of days. We’ll see how long these stay.

The goldfinches and sparrows are emptying out two thistle seed bags in less than 48 hours. They’re back within seconds of the refill. We live but to serve. We must have the fattest finches in the neighborhood.

Bonus photo with my new lens- an osprey diving toward the pond, at what we’re not sure since the goldfish pretty much stay under the branches we’ve laid around part of the edge.

All photos taken with my new Nikon D80 with the equally new AF-VR-Nikkor 80-400. I’m stoked, to say the least.


Anyone with even a small yard can make it bird-friendly. Food, water and shelter are the requirements. We have the big pond, feeders, food plants, trees and brush piles. But a town backyard could have a bird bath (be sure to keep it clean), bird feeders and some small shrubs. If you can stand it and feel you have room, let a corner go “wild”. And consider not obsessively cleaning up in the fall. Leave some seed heads on the flowers and grass. Then sit back and see who shows up.


“There’ll be moments when you get a spark, a gleam of light and BOOM!, you’re gone. It seems easy. But then it goes away, and it gets so incredibly hard. It’s like having sex in a wind tunnel.”

Robin Williams (who else?)

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.