Marin Art Festival 2010

Two of the fantastically costumed stiltwalkers

I did a number of art festivals in the San Francisco Bay Area for a few years, including the Marin Art Festival the year before last. What I have found as an oil painter is that the street fair style of events don’t provide a targeted market for what I do. After skipping last year because of the economy, I decided to go back to the Marin festival. It’s a well-established destination event held on a big, grassy field near the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Marin Civic Center.

Side view of VW Eurovan packed and ready to go

I like that fact that it’s a flat rate for a space and that once you’ve been juried in, you are invited back and given a $100 discount on the entry fee. Knowing I will be able to count on participating year after year means a lot to me as far as my yearly planning. Communication from the people running the festival is excellent. They go out of their way to find ways to drive sales, especially this year. Besides postcards provided free to the artists in whatever quantity you request (each one good for a $10 free admission), they sent an email to all the artists with a free pass to print out that we could forward on to our mailing list. Other things they tried this year to drive sales were handing out “coins” that could be redeemed for a $10 discount on sales over $100 and a silent auction, which did generate sales. There is also a raffle.

Back view of VW Eurovan with propanels

Besides the artists and fine craftspeople, there is gourmet food, live music and members of a local “circus” who provide amazing stiltwalkers and costumed raffle winner announcers. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are allowed. Someone does face-painting for kids and there are special activities for them, too. There are lots of tables with umbrellas and chairs for people to plop down in for a break. It’s all calculated to encourage people to stay as long as possible.

My booth at the festival; they request that you "spill out" into the walkway area

I’ve decided that the Marin festival will be my one yearly Bay Area “appearance” due to time and distance constraints. My plan is to build up a following and identity as the artist who paints Mongolian and animal subjects. I feel that I made a good start this year. I had sales, got quality sign-ups for my mailing list and was able to tell my “story” and make myself memorable.

More stiltwalkers with a young admirer

Coming Up This Weekend! North Coast Open Studios!

The propanels are up and covered with paintings. The studio is about as clean as it ever gets. There’s new prints and cards. I’ll be baking oatmeal cookies tonight. And, at 11am Saturday morning, it’s Show Time! The 12th Annual North Coast Open Studios .

If you’re out and around in Humboldt County this weekend, consider checking out a few studios. Our county has an amazing variety of artists and the community is very supportive.

I’ll be open on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm. This year I’m offering a selection of small, affordable works ready to hang on your own wall or to give as a special gift.

For more information on this great event, here’s the link to the official website, which includes a directory of artists with examples of their work. maps to all the studios, photos of many of the artists in their studios and more.

In the meantime, Niki is resting up for his big socializing opportunity:

Three New Small Works

Coming up soon is North Coast Open Studios the weekend of June 12-13 and, the following weekend, June 19-20, the Marin Art Festival. I’ll have framed paintings, prints and cards at both events, plus a variety of small, unframed affordable original oil paintings. I’ve been doing new ones in between working on larger paintings and it’s a nice way to take a break from the more complex pieces.

I generally do these in two sittings, plus maybe one more short one for final tweaking and try to keep them fairly loose and simple.

Rooster 8x10" oil
Chipmunk 5x7" oil
Three Tule Elk, Point Reyes 8x10" oil

Coming up: a new on-going series on how to improve your paintings, based on all the mistakes and false starts I’ve made over the fifteen years I’ve been painting in oil. So it will be a looong series. ;0)

Juried Show News!

Mongol Horse #3- Young Stallion 16x20 oil on canvasboard

“Mongol Horse #3- Young Stallion” has been juried into Art Horse Magazine’s “EX ARTE EQUINUS III!

You can see it here There will not be a physical show. Images of the art, in a variety of media, will be published in the summer issue of the magazine and a selection will included in a limited edition book, both due in March. I’ve made it into the book and greatly look forward to getting a copy.

Lesley Humphrey, who placed first in painting in Ex Arte Equinus II, was the painting juror for this year. Her juror’s statement is here and is very well-written.

And if this image looks familiar, yes, this painting was juried into an American Academy of Equine Art show earlier this year.

Coming Up Saturday Night….

Lost Coast Daily Painters in having a big, Big, BIG holiday sale this Saturday night during Arts Alive in Old Town, Eureka, California. This may be your last chance to get one of our paintings listed in the Buy It Now section of the blog. I’ll be there with the other artists at Kathy O’Leary’s studio upstairs at 208 C St. from 5-9pm. We’re even offering free gift wrapping and can handle shipping if you find that special gift of art for someone who lives out of the area.

Here’s a selection of what I’ll have available. Almost everything will be $50-$95. They are all original oil paintings.

Meet Shawn Gould A New Book Of His Art); And Great Show News!

I received a delightful surprise in the mail a few days ago. My friend and colleague Shawn Gould sent me a sweet little self-published book of some of his recent paintings. I’m writing about this for two reasons. One, because I thought that you would enjoy seeing his work, which is quite different than mine, and two, to look at what he has done from a marketing standpoint.

Sparrow Song 12x16 acrylic on masonite

Shawn grew up in Iowa, but now lives about twenty minutes from me in Eureka, California. He started out as an illustrator, creating award-winning work for clients like National Geographic, the Smithsonian and the Audubon Society. For the last ten years, however, he has been creating beautiful paintings like the ones you see here. He’s a Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artists and his work has been accepted into a variety of national juried shows like Birds in Art, Art and the Animal Kingdom and Arts for the Parks.

Good Dog 18x15" acylic on masonite

Now, for the book, “Wild Sanctuaries”. I asked Shawn via email to tell me more about it. He said that “I have a lot of new work that hasn’t been seen by very many people, and the book seemed like a nice format to get it out to a targeted audience for a reasonable price. We sent out 100 books for less than the price of a one page magazine ad.”

Summit 24x42" acrylic on masonite

The publisher is a company called, who I had never heard of. I wondered what they were like to work with. “Blurb was great. Kristen (Shawn’s wife) did the layout of the book, and deserves all the credit for how it looks. If like me, you don’t know InDesign very well, blurb does offer software you can download from their site. I don’t think you have as much freedom with the layout, but it’s easier to use and does still look good.

Gambel's Quail 12x18" acrylic on masonite

“Wild Sanctuaries” is available through Blurb on a print-on-demand basis, so Shawn hasn’t had to tie up any money in inventory. If you would like your own copy, for yourself or for a gift, it’s $30 plus shipping and handling and can be ordered here

Challenger's Bugle 26x38" acrylic on masonite

Given the down (down, down) economy, creating and producing “Wild Sanctuaries” took some courage and a leap of faith. But Shawn now has a powerful marketing tool that should prove increasingly valuable as conditions improve. Food for thought.

You can see more of Shawn’s work at


I recently received one of two Janie Walsh Memorial Awards from the Redwood Association for a painting that was in their 51st Annual Fall show. It even included $100 check! Here’s an image from the show. The painting of bighorn sheep, “Heavy Lies the Head” is mine. The show ended yesterday afternoon.

On-going Notes from the Society of Animal Artists Show Opening- I’ve Been Elected to the Executive Board

Sept. 7

I’m not in Kansas anymore and there’s no place like home. Interesting trip back which started when I found out at the Wichita airport that my flight home via Sacramento had been canceled and that I would have to stay overnight in San Francisco. United Airlines never contacted me, even though they seem to have my correct email address and I was checking email twice a day. They will be hearing from us. I ended up at the Hilton near the airport. The guy behind the counter listened to my tale of woe and gave me a “Preferred” room for $70. Very spiffy room with big LCD tv hanging on the wall. Lamps next to the bed with dimmers, very comfortable bed, great omelet for breakfast, so it all worked out.  A big, fat Win for Hilton.

Pleasantly uneventful last leg. It’s nice and sunny. Hope to be back in the studio tomorrow with wonderful memories of all the great artists and art I saw at the opening.

Sept. 6

The annual membership meeting was held in the morning. Lots happening. The Society is closing the office it has maintained at the Salmagundi Club in New York, which will save a ton of money. The Society is now based in Colorado, home of the President and our Administrator. There are big, exciting plans afoot for our 50th anniversary Art and the Animal Show to be held in San Diego next year. A week’s worth of events, a Life Achievement Award for Robert Bateman, who will be in attendance, enough room for lots of member’s work and also large works, talks, workshops, possible trips to Marineworld and the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park. Members coming in from all over the world.

But the big news, personally, was that I have been elected to serve on the Executive Board of the Society! I sent in the required “Why I want to do this” letter, but didn’t really expect anything to come of it for at least a year or two. However,  a couple of long-time Board members dropped off, so the Nominating Committee tapped me and another gentleman to run, so we’re both in. I plan to attend the November meeting in New York, although my term doesn’t start until January. I’m really excited about this opportunity to get more involved in the Society and to work with the other board members, superb animal artists all.

After the meeting, most of us adjorned to the zoo for one more round of sketching and photographing the animals.

We gathered in the evening at 5pm for “Social Time”. Everyone brought their show catalogs and we spent over an hour getting each other to sign their respective pages. It was kind of like a high school year book signing at the end of the school year, but without the social drama. A great deal of fun.

Then it was time for dinner. I had the good fortune to have picked the most fun table and probably the rowdiest, sitting with Jan Martin McGuire, Paul Rhymer, Joni Johnson-Godsy, Kelly Singleton, a couple of spouses and another very amusing artist whose name I didn’t get. At one point Diane Mason’s husband came over and told us that they were going to split us up. I guess we were having too much fun ;0).

The final business was the handing out of the awards. One good friend, who shall remain anonymous until he is officially notified, received an Award of Excellence and a number of new friends, who I met this weekend, also got awards. Our new President, Diane Mason, who has already brought amazing energy and new ideas to the organization, got a well-deserved standing ovation.

I drive back to Wichita tomorrow to catch an afternoon flight for home.

My camel painting on the wall at Art and the Animal
My camel painting on the wall at Art and the Animal

Sept. 5-

As those of you who followed the run-up to my Mongolia trip may remember, I bought a Flip video recorder for the trip. As it turned out, I really never used it. Too much else to think about. But I brought it with me and yesterday I was watching some timber wolves at the zoo and thinking about how to capture in paint that graceful, loose-limbed stride they have. Then I remembered, duh, I have the Flip with me.

Here’s a sample. It will be interesting now to draw from this kind of reference-

Sept. 4, later-

Back from the opening, at which there were around 40 artists. There have been a few sales already, which is good news for everyone. I’ve only seen Art and the Animal in the show catalogs. This is the first time I’ve seen it in person. It appears, from some of the comments that I’ve heard, that this show is particularly good, so I’m even more proud to be a part of it. Sat at dinner with another artist, Kim Diment, who I met on Simon Combes’ last safari in 2004. We ended up regaling the table with tales from the field- elephant encounters, hippo incidents, etc. Sculptor Karryl had a great wild dog story. Saw them pull down an impala in Botswana. Perfect dinner table conversation. If you’re animal artists.

Amur Leopard
Amur Leopard

Sept. 4-
Spent most of the day sketching at the Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure zoo and taking pictures. So far, the big hit seems to be a small pond outside the entrance to the museum that has water lilies and at least ten frogs, who may now be some of the most photographed frogs in history. At a place where there are snow leopards, amur leopards, Indian rhinos, black swans, orangutans and other exotic creatures, it seems like every time I walk out of the museum there’s at least two or three artists photographing the frogs. The opening reception is this evening. Should be fun!


Sept. 3-
Back from the Art and the Animal show venue, Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure. About eight of us are here a day early. They fed us a lovely brunch and then we got to see the show, which is filled with superb work. After that, we were taken on a walking tour of the zoo, which has everything from capuchin monkeys to asian rhinos. We invade a local Italian restaurant at 6:30.

Black Swans
Black Swans

Sept. 2
Hanging out at the Country Inns and Suites in Salina, Kansas after visiting the Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve. Gloomy, grey day, so nothing to photograph. It is, after all, thousands of acres of….grass, but represents a significant chunk of the 5% or so of that ecosystem that is left. They hope to reintroduce bison at some point, but not remove the domestic cattle, which is too bad.

Transcaspian Urial
Transcaspian Urial

Sept. 1-

Trip started with a 90 minute delay due to weather in San Francisco, not uncommon for the 8:50 am flight. My next two legs were bumped to later flights, so I got into Wichita at 9:30 instead of 7:30. I so love arriving in places I’ve never been after dark and having to find a motel on the other side of town. But it all worked and the Fairfield Inn and Suites was quite nice. Super comfy bed.