Step-by-step demonstration.

Now that my book ‘A-Z of Bird Portraits in acrylic’ has gone off to production the business of promoting it has really ‘kicked-in’.

It is already available to pre-order online on Amazon and Waterstones (Plus one or two others) and as a result of my publisher’s hard work I have just received a commission from Artists & Illustrators magazine to write and illustrate a step-by-step demo to coincide with the book’s release.

The article is due to be published in the December issue that will be out on 7th November.

Next job will be to decide what bird species to paint.

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New book: A-Z of Bird Portraits in acrylic.

Back in November 2012 I was lucky enough to be commissioned by publishers Search Press to produce a book of bird paintings and techniques for creating acrylic art featuring birds.

After the initial euphoria had subsided, realisation dawned as to just what a task I was undertaking. The amount of painting that I would have to complete was daunting enough, but for this commission there would also be a substantial quantity of writing required. I would need to produce text that clearly explained various aspects such as materials, my colour palette, composition, painting techniques, reference gathering and also text on the features of birds (feathers, eyes, beaks and feet).

The format that we decided on for the book required that I part-complete all 27 paintings, to show different elements of each picture at various stages of completion. These were then taken to the publisher’s studio where they were photographed, before I could finally finish each one. For an artist who usually finishes each piece, before moving on to the next, having this quantity of unfinished work waiting for me was a particularly frustrating aspect of this process.

At this stage though I must pay due thanks to the Search Press team (in particular my editor) who made the whole business of being an author much less daunting than it might otherwise have been. I have been expertly guided through the production process, while at the same time I have been allowed to have a major influence on the final layout and appearance. I was given complete freedom to choose my own list of birds for the paintings in the book, a task which proved to be problematic, as my initial list of tempting species was 5 or 6 times longer than it needed to be.

Over the last year the layout plan that we were creating gradually began to take shape. Text and images were introduced, spelling and grammar was checked (and re-checked!), until we could pass the whole thing on to the design team. At this stage we really began to get an idea of just how the final book would look.

Now, all that remains for me to do is to check the colour proof when it arrives from the printer and then wait (in excited anticipation) for the advance copies to arrive.

The twelve months that have passed during the ‘writing’ stage, have flown by, but I daresay that the next 4-5 months until publication will seem to pass much more slowly.

The book can now be pre-ordered on my website. For further details, follow this link:

http://www.wildlife-artists.co.uk/az-of-bird-portraits-in-acrylic.html

Book cover

It features sections on, materials, my colour palette, composition, painting techniques, reference gathering and the features of birds (feathers, eyes, beaks and feet) – See more at: http://www.wildlife-artists.co.uk/prods/6835/a-z-of-bird-portraits-in-acrylic.html#sthash.3BPzrT
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Artist in Residence. A week of art, without distractions.

Tomorrow I will be heading down to Nature in Art near Gloucester http://www.nature-in-art.org.uk for my annual week as Artist in Residence. I always look forward to my time at NIA for a variety of reasons:

It’s a wonderful, inspirational place for anyone with an interest in art that focuses on the natural world.

It provides an opportunity for each artist to display their work and demonstrate their techniques and working practices to the many visitors.

It offers the benefit of receiving feedback from those visitors on the success (or otherwise), of the art on view.

Last of all it provides a period away from the potential distractions that are inevitable for an artist with a home studio. A whole week with no phone calls or other interruptions.

 

You might consider that the constant stream of visitors would be a distraction, but I find that I enjoy the interaction with interested people. Getting a fresh perspective on the art that I produce can be really useful in helping my thought process when considering new work ideas.

This year I will be working on a new Snow Leopard drawing. I have started with the eyes on this piece, so that visitors (from the very first morning) get to see the most important element of the portrait.

Image

Here’s to another great week!

 

 

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Producing art for a living. Is it less enjoyable than hobby painting?

I have been asked on a number of occasions if I still get enjoyment from my art since I turned professional. Has the pressure of deadlines and the need to secure an income taken away the ‘gloss’ of what had previously been a most fulfilling and enjoyable pastime?

Well, the answer to those two questions are;

“Yes I do” and “no it hasn’t” respectively.

I still derive a huge amount of satisfaction from the painting/drawing process and I don’t expect that will ever change, whether a piece of art is being produced ‘to order’, or for myself.                                                                                                                                                Now however I also have the added potential encouragement of feedback from clients, whether they be private or commercial. I find a sense of accomplishment in meeting deadlines (especially the really tight ones!) and of course there is probably no greater confidence booster than if someone is prepared to part with some of their hard-earned cash to purchase the results of your efforts.

There is no doubt that transforming your ‘hobby’ into a ‘job’ requires a dramatic change in mind-set. The development of self-discipline is an absolute necessity, if you are to achieve the required level of output. Gone are the days when you could choose with impunity whether or not spend some time on the current creation.It ideally requires a daily ’9 to 5′ approach and often within a 7 day working week, but there major benefits to be accrued from even this demanding schedule.                                                                                              For most artists their hope and expectation with each new piece of art is that this will be better than every other that they have created. The ‘creative’ gene almost demands improvement from us and this is where the increased hours of hard graft can begin to reap rewards.

There is an old saying “Practice makes perfect”. Well, it may not necessarily make “perfect”, but it does create “progress”. There is no substitute for practice and when my painting sessions began to be measured in days, rather than brief hours, the potential for improvement and the resulting enjoyment for me quickly become evident.

Some friends warned me that I might lose this ‘enjoyment’ factor on turning professional and perhaps for some people that would indeed be the case, but thankfully for me it could not be further from the truth. It is now six years since I ‘took the plunge’ and I am enjoying every minute of it.

 

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To publish, or not to publish? Getting over the initial hurdle.

In the extended period since my last post I have been extremely busy producing artwork and text for my first book ‘An A-Z of Bird Portraits in Acrylic’, which  is being published by Search Press.

This is a new area of artistic endeavour for me. In the past I have produced illustrations for other peoples publications, but now I have to ‘author’ the whole book.

The first thing to say is that I am thoroughly enjoying the whole process and this week I spent a couple of days working in the publisher’s studio for a photo shoot. This gave me a fascinating insight into the ‘behind-the-scenes’ work that is involved in book production.

However, for a professional artist who needs to continue to create new work/income, the huge amount of time involved on their first book is obviously going to dramatically impinge on immediate income-generating areas.

The decision for the artist when an opportunity to publish presents itself, is ‘Can I cope with a period of reduced income?’ in order to build a platform of long-term exposure. It definitely requires a long term view. There is of course no guarantee that even if the time is committed to a book, that it will sell and redress the income balance, but my view is, until we try, we will never know!

So, from my own perspective, since I decided that I would accept the offer to ‘write’ the book, I have committed totally to the project and am doing my utmost to try to ensure the book has the best possible chance of being a success.

Once this initial hurdle has been successfully overcome, then annual royalty payments will hopefully be forthcoming and then this can help to make future publishing an easier decision to make.

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New website

Following on from my previous post last week, regarding the importance of the time  we spend as artists promoting our work, it is with pleasure (and relief) I can announce the launch of my new website.

Those of you who have come to this post via the website have already seen the results of the hard work put in by the company who have designed and built it for me. For those of you who have reached my Blog via another route can view the current version at http://www.andrewforkner.co.uk

My previous website was one that I designed and built myself, using Microsoft’s Frontpage software. Over time it it went through several major overhauls as I endeavoured to create a more professional looking and effective site, but even though I researched the complexities of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and made numerous adjustments to my ‘baby’ it never truly lived up to it’s potential.

I had thought on many occasions about having a new site created professionally, but was slightly concerned about relinquishing the control and the freedom to make changes. managing a site myself meant that within 15 minutes of completing a new painting it could be uploaded for the whole world to see. Well, that’s the theory, but of course if the site was not achieving reasonable rankings on the search engines, then the ‘whole world’ would not even be aware that this new artwork even existed. Most people, when searching for sites related to a particular subject/genre are not likely to look through more than the first few pages of search results, so if your ‘pride & joy’ is languishing down the list on page 15 or 20, then it is unlikely ever to have the opportunity to divulge it’s secrets.

So, what was required was a solution that allowed for a professionally designed and optimised site, with subsequent user-friendly access to allow me to control the ongoing management. With my new site I can add and remove artwork in moments (just as before), I can alter layouts, colours and just about any aspect of the site that I need to, but I still have the back-up team of ‘techies’ that I can call on if I have problems. The best of both worlds.

It is undoubtedly a ‘work in progress’ and will continue to develop over time, but I am happy that from this point onward I will be the one responsible for that development.

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It’s a trade-off.

As an artist, the time you spend working in the studio is the foundation of your business/career. Of course it is, because if you don’t produce anything, you have nothing to sell, so developing the discipline to devote all your hours to creating your art would seem to be of paramount importance. However , the production of saleable art does not necessarily result (on it’s own) in the required ‘sales’.

Do potential buyers even know we exist? If not, how do we address that difficulty?

Simply put, we need to involve ourselves in ‘marketing’, or ‘networking’. Meeting people, advertising what we do, promoting our work. The more people who know about us and our work, then the greater the chance of us finding those potential buyers.

Here lies the ‘rub’. This ‘networking’ takes time (however you go about it) and this means a reduction in productive studio hours. So, how do we balance these two potentially conflicting requirements?

The simple answer (although one that is probably beyond the financial reach of most artists) would be to employ a PA to deal with the administrative duties, or perhaps prevail upon a willing spouse, other family member, or friend. However, if those options are not available, then it is important that we do not just ‘forget’ about the need to attend to these  vital jobs.

During my recent week as Artist in Residence at Nature in Art I spent some time talking to a lady and her daughter about working as an artist. The daughter is currently studying for her Art A level and is keen to pursue art as a career, but she has reservations about the business aspects of being an artist. I had to admit that to a degree I could relate to how she felt, but over time I have come to realise the importance of supporting your creative endeavours with the necessary admin. These seemingly mundane tasks are exactly that, vital support, without which our work will be seen by fewer people.

So, it seems that we should trade some studio time for the business side of ‘art’, if the hours that we do spend in our creative space is to be fruitful in more ways than one.

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