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 Blurb.com, 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 www.shawngould.com

SHOW NEWS!

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.

The Elk, part two

ANIMAL STUFF

Went over to the shelter for my usual Wednesday afternoon gig yesterday. Almost didn’t go because I was feeling kind of tired. But working with the animals and getting out on my feet usually energizes me, so off I went.

And was dragooned by a kennel attendant about 10 seconds after I walked in to “help with an animal”. Dog or cat, I asked. Neither, she said. Hummm, I thought. We entered a small outdoor enclosure and there lying on the floor covered up with towels was a jersey bull calf, who had been brought in two hours earlier. He was a newborn, so new that his umbilical cord was still wet when he arrived. He was also pretty scrapped up. They don’t know yet if he was dumped (being a male of a dairy cow breed means you are of very limited use) or fell off a truck, but they needed to get some food in him immediately. So Kathy held the calf, I held the bottle of colostrum and with some sweet talk and stroking, I got him to start sucking at the nipple. Now, mind you, the only reason I ever wanted to go to the fair as a kid was to see the animals, but I’ve hardly ever even petted a cow and here I was getting to help save this (not-so-little) guy’s life. Deep satisfaction doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.

One of the animal control officers has extensive experience with cattle, both dairy and beef and also lives near the shelter, so he has volunteered to take care of him and make sure he eats. The calf also made the front page of the local newspaper this morning. I’ll post updates as I find out more and a photo if I can get one.

ART TALK

So, back to the *#@*!^ elk. Upon further review, something was seriously not right and I spent most of Tuesday and part of Wednesday fixing it. The drawing of the head was out a mile and the neck was too short, plus a few minor, quickly fixed problems with the hind end. I’ve now repainted the head, oh, I don’t know, six or so times. One of the challenges when faced with something like this is to do what needs to be done and still end up with something that doesn’t look labored.

Over at Julie Chapman’s blog, there is a comment thread discussing a common phenomena in art in which the artists who are competent professionals agonize and tear their hair out and artists who aren’t very good always seem to be pleased with what they’ve done, oblivious to the problems in their work and impervious to any criticism. I’m definitely in the “agonize” column. Just ask my husband.

One theory I have is that, as according to Buddhism, people don’t like to be uncomfortable. They move toward pleasurable things and cling to them and away from unpleasant or uncomfortable things. It’s hard to just be with whatever is going on without getting caught up in it one way or another. Really seriously creating art that is good, whatever the media, means living with frustration, mental exhaustion and doubt, none of which is particularly comfortable. Any dedicated artist reading this knows what it feels like when you’ve busted your butt all day and finally your mind just hits the wall and slides down to the floor. Then you know it’s quittin’ time.

But all that can be avoided if one takes the position that everything is fine, just fine. And, if you don’t get into juried shows or organizations, hey, it’s all subjective and they don’t know what they are talking about anyway. Letting go of that means that you have to take responsibility for your art and its shortcomings and, to improve, you have to be willing to do what it takes. And that’s one big thing that separates the amateurs from the professionals. You do what it takes to get it right. No excuses or rationalizations.

I remember when I made the conscious decision to pursue oil painting (and drop illustration, graphic design, etc.) and see just how good I could get. I realized that I had to face the possibility that I would give it everything I had and that, in the end, through an inability to exercise correct choices or judgement, that I would only ever be a mediocre painter. That thought made me sick inside. But I couldn’t turn away, so I accepted the challenge. None of this has ever come easily to me, so one thing I know how to do is hang in there and struggle through. Which brings us back to that bloody elk, part two-

cow-elk2.jpg

There’s still LOTS to do. The modeling of the head needs work to describe the structure. I’ll probably do a pencil drawing to work it out better, so I can lay the paint in with confidence.

And, here’s one of my newest finished paintings, called “Mutual Curiosity”. When I was at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu, I spent two days out in the reserve walking around alone with a GPS, looking for argali so I could do behavioral observations. The trick was that I had to find them, without them seeing me, in order to do the observations. It wasn’t easy. This big old ram spotted me pretty quickly, but he let me follow him around for about twenty minutes. He was very thin, but had a huge, heavy horns. I filled him out a little. It was spring, so he had made it through the winter of 2005. I wondered as I did the painting if he made to 2007.

mutual-curiousity.jpg

I also wanted to show the amazing environment that the argali of Ikh Nart live in. I compressed the scene a little from the photograph, but all those weird formations are within yards of each other.