Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's been a good news week!

Three things happened this week that made me quite a happy girl!

#1. Tony Moffitt's Art World selected me as one of his Top 10 blogs in his new occasional Top 10 best blogs post series!
I am so unbelievably flattered! His website offers amazing, practical advice to artists daily, so you can see why this is a huge compliment. Another plus is that his posts are short, simple, and straightforward. So if you're looking for advice, you won't have to sit for an hour sifting through everything and end up forgetting half of it later.

#2 My frog photo on Flickr (above) was chosen to be included on the Schmap Baltimore guide for the National Aquarium! Schmap is a website full of resources that can assist in your trip planning with maps, guides, and user reviews.

#3. I found out that I was invited to exhibit at the Mount Gretna Outdoor Art Show on August 15 & 16. Another show to add to the summer agenda... Yay!

So the latest thing I'm working on is -- eh, well, I probably shouldn't say. I don't want to post too much about it because I'm incredibly afraid of jinxing myself. I may not believe in much, but I believe in jinxes and karma, big time, so just let me have this and if I get some good news in the next couple of weeks, I'll definitely be posting a follow up! Eeeee, it's a project I'm really excited about!! But it's the reason I've been scarce this week.

If you're following me on Twitter you probably know about and have seen what I'm working on... but SHHHH, don't tell! And send me some positive thoughts... pleeease.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Artists! Who likes free stuff? Tips for package reuse.

I haven't posted much about art in a while, but this was a post that's been bouncing around in my head now (as most things do...) for a while. Since yesterday was the Mechanicsburg Earth Day festival, I'm still feeling a green streak, so it's time to formulate this post.

A lot of people have heard the term "Starving Artist." I'm not too crazy about that term, probably because it brings back all-too-vivid memories of college and having ONE art store in town that could (and did) charge an arm and a leg for everything, and with Flagler College's art students 2 miles away, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Art supplies cost WAY more than food, and at the time, seemed much more necessary. (But you could still always find beer money... Ramen noodles + Art supplies + Cheap beer = unofficial art school budget.)

I digress. Since everyone's looking to save money, especially artists in college or just starting out, here are some simple ways you can reuse things for your art/art business.

1. Vinyl tablecloth with fuzzy flannely backing.
This bad boy was 2.99. Pretty cheap. These tablecloths are practical if you're throwing a party, but the bad thing about them is they tend to rip. Once it has a rip in it, what do you usually do with it? Toss it? I have another idea- use it to protect a painting in transport. After you wrap your painting with whatever you use (preferably something reusable like foam), wrap one of these around it. If there is humidity or rain wherever you're taking it, the vinyl is waterproof and will protect the painting. The fuzz on the back won't hurt your frame, either. I plan to experiment with attaching velco to it and making a pocket that will stay in place around my artwork and can be resized for various paintings.

2. Envelopes
This one is simple, but you can keep some old envelopes around for receipts. You can easily organize them by month, or by art show. For a while I was using folders but I was going through them quickly and always running out. Now I can use envelopes from cards to organize receipts by month or show and then have a folder for each year. A very simple tip, so simple many may not have thought of it!

3. Empty tubs
These have about a million uses! Transporting dry kibble for your pets during travels. Offering leftovers to family or friends after dinner to take home (no worries about getting them back). And of course, holding your paintbrush rinse water while you paint! You can keep a few in different sizes and use them all at once, with separate bowls for each color you're working with, etc.

4. Miscellaneous plastic packaging
I know ideally it's best to just avoid this altogether. But sometimes when you're limited to what your grocery store has to offer, it's hard to get around it (hello... do you like berries?). These containers have a lot of uses, too. The smaller packages you can use to store small things like business cards, price tags, ACEOs, framing hardware, small tools. If they have ventilation holes and you want to keep the water out, you can store the plastic container in a heavy plastic bag from your cereal or potato chips. Wash all of these out as best you can to avoid oils or food residue. Wrap it in a rubber band to keep it tight.

5. Medicine/prescription bottles
If you tend to work with smaller quantities of paint at a time like me, you don't need a giant storage container for custom colors. I'm not sure how reliable most of these bottles are for long term color storage... The bottle on the right was left over from a prescription for my cat. I mixed some paint in it more than a year ago and planned to use it up within a day or two. I didn't use all of it, but surprisingly the paint in there is still wet and seems usable. Not sure I'd want to use it after a year, but it's nice to know that I could count on it to hold a color for at least a week or two.

6. Vegetable containers
Again, I know, avoid these- but if you're a big fan of mushrooms and the loose ones are all sold out, you might end up taking one of these containers home once in a while. These make GREAT palettes, as you can see from the used one! The paint will build up in them after a while, so they do have a finite life span (as far as I can tell). I like that there are many different kinds, and the green one has nice little pockets that are about 1/4" deep, so they'd hold a decent amount of paint and would be good for mixing it, too.

Do you have any tips you'd like to share in things that you reuse (art related, or not)? If so, please leave a comment! :)

Have a great week, everyone! I'm out of town for a few days and might not be posting while I'm gone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!!

Sadly for Earth Day I did not get to do as much outside as I had hoped. It rained a lot of the day, and to top it off, as much as I didn't want to have to drive on Earth Day, it happened to fall on a Wednesday- the one night a week I take my car out for my dog's obedience class. AND it was the last night of my dog's obedience class. I couldn't skip out on his graduation ceremony, especially since he surprised us and passed!

So what do you do when you strive not to drive but have to anyway?
Check out the Greenculator!!

You simply enter in your commute, and then on the next screen click "edit trip" and enter in your make and model of vehicle. Then you're offered the option of buying carbon offsets for your trip!
Pretty neat, huh?

Anyway, before class I did go out to the parking lot next to my building and attempt to remove the trash gathering there. However after being out there for an hour, I hardly made a dent in the trash heap and I was disgusted. I am amazed at how much of the trash consisted of drink bottles. About half were water (what a WASTE!) and the other half were various sodas and sugary so-called 'fruit' drinks. I am almost positive that the people who park in the lot bring their drink with them to the parking lot, finish it before they get into their car, and then just chuck the bottle. There were a lot of the same brand of drink all gathered in one spot... what is that? Was someone trying to see how impressive of a heap they could make!? You'd almost have to think so.

Anyway I'm thinking maybe I should just go out there daily with a couple of bags, one for trash and one for the recycling, and see how long it takes to get it cleaned up. I would love to plant some flowering bushes and plants there for the bees and butterflies, but I'm not sure it would discourage people from turning it into a dump anyway, which just made me sad.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day Chalk-A-Thon!

It can still be called a Chalk-a-thon with only one participant, right? But it was TWO if you count my dog!

Today turned from a rainy morning into a beautiful day. Instead of planting seeds, I decided to get out the sidewalk chalk that my husband gave me as an Easter gift a year or two ago and put it to good use.

I've asked friends and family if there are any Earth Day events going on in their towns, and all I got back was a blank stare or the silent treatment on the phone.

Uh, turns out, even though this is the 39th year Earth Day is being celebrated, a lot of people have heard of Earth Day but still have no idea when it actually is: April 22.

Inspired by the kids' chalkings in a local neighborhood, I thought a good idea might be to do a bunch of sidewalk chalk drawings announcing Earth Day. I knew I could do them on Earth Day, but that might be useless if anyone who sees the drawings cares enough to want to do something. Then they'd see the drawing and go "Oh, TODAY was Earth Day? Well, that information might have been more useful TO ME
(Have you seen the Wedding Singer?... Anyway.)

Thus, I decided today, the day before Earth Day, would be the ideal time for my chalkings!

It was a lot of fun, and I did them in 3 separate places. I did the one above at about 11am near where I live, in the downtown area of the city, since a lot of people go out and walk by the river during their lunch breaks.

The next one, I did around 3:30 in a strategic location, where a lot of people walk after work. A lot of people park their cars in the area, or if it's nice out, it's just a nice walk. I hoped that the crowd who gets off between 4 and 6 would definitely see that one.

And my last one was done on the sidewalk along the river around 4:30pm, since in the evenings people are always walking their dogs or going for a jog or a bike ride down there. The good thing about that spot was that you can also see it really well from the path up above the river, so both crowds of people would get to see it.

You can click all of the photos to see them larger!

Anyway right now I'm about to cry because as I was finishing the last of the drawings, the sun was out, the weather was gorgeous, and I thought "There is no way it is going to rain tonight, even though the forecast said there was a possibility." But as I took a couple of pictures and gathered up my chalk, a cold wind and dark clouds came. Now I'm pretty sure my drawings only have a few minutes of life left, but it was a fun project and I'll be sure to chalk about Pollinator week this summer!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Seed Scattering!! Earth Week Day 2...

When I left Maryland and moved to Pennsylvania, into an apartment, a lot of my friends and family asked if I would miss having a garden. You know what? I don't! Because I don't miss the squirrels, voles, groundhogs, rabbits, deer and whatever else raping and pillaging my gardens, helping themselves to my all-you-can-eat-buffet of hard work!
I'm still bitter about the hostas, mostly.

However, since helping the honeybees and all pollinators is a concern of mine, I always found it essential to have a great garden. True, it was also for selfish reasons- obviously I can't deny that I love to look at beautiful plants and flowers. But after researching the local native pollinators, I did spend more time researching and then planting the kinds of things that they would enjoy. I felt really happy about helping the bees and other bugs too.

I found a lot of my information here:

So now that I live in a place with a shady back porch, what's a girl to do for the pollinators in the city?

Guerilla Gardening!
I had a big box of seeds I collected from lots of my plants back in Maryland, and planned to make seed bombs with them. But the weather got warm and time got away from me and the seeds..... still sit there. So today, between rains, I gathered some of my seeds (and brought my dog out to get some fresh air) and picked a sunny spot along the fence of the designated pet-relief area in my apartment complex and planted them. I'm hoping all the dog pee doesn't kill them all! Tomorrow there is also supposed to be a break from the rain, and I plan to take some more seeds into the parking lot next to the complex and sow some into the grassy area there- while ALSO trying to clean up the area in general. If I'm even remotely successful, I'll try and post some pics. It's pretty horrific.

So how about for Earth Day this week, you try your hand at some seed bombs or guerilla gardening, too? Do you know of a vacant or unkempt grassy area? You would not only beautify your town, but you'd be helping the local wildlife, too! Bees, butterflies, birds..... and probably even the deer, voles, squirrels, etc. If you stick to native plants, once they're established, they should need very minimal care. You may have to water them a bit initially. If you choose plants that reseed themselves, you'll only have to do it this one time! Think of the sense of pride you'll feel each time you pass by and see the beautiful flowers and the bees and butterflies busily swarming around- not to mention the birds you'll get to see in the fall!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Earth Day? How about Earth Week?

I know for anyone concerned about the environment, every day is Earth Day! But there are almost always ways that all of us can improve in our efforts toward conservation, so I thought I'd try to do something special (meaning: different from the things I normally do) this week, to put forth a little more effort and hopefully incorporate new and better practices into my lifestyle.

The first thing I did was order myself some reusable produce bags last week. I always bring reusable bags to the grocery store, but I hated to buy vegetables or bulk items like raisins, rice, nuts, etc. and still end up with 3 or 4 plastic bags each time. Ugh! I was so happy because these arrived on Saturday, just in time for Earth Week! :)

I ordered them from Thumperlove's shop on Etsy. Etsy has a great selection of reusable bags, and not only were Thumperlove's prices great, but the location from which they came was just a couple of states away. It seemed a little counterproductive for me to order an ecofriendly product from the other side of the country. Anyway, to check out more of Thumperlove's reusable produce bags, go here:

I had been trying to put off going to the grocery store until they arrived, and since they arrived this weekend, I was able to go last night.

They're made from nylon netting, a double layer, and weigh almost nothing- so you won't be charged any extra on the products that are sold by weight. Awesome!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why Make Art Green?

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I'd answer a question I received via the Contact page of my website.

I was asked:
Why is so much of your 'art' website dedicated to nature conservation and being eco-friendly?

Since I am so inspired by nature, I feel that it only makes sense.
It doesn't seem right to paint gorgeous flowers, insects, and scenes from nature but not take an active role in preserving it. I'm not just trying to make a buck or a name for myself at nature's expense. I've never been a fan of people who talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. For me, my art is the talk, so I had better walk the walk if I don't want to be a complete hypocrite. That means I must do what I can to preserve these beautiful things and hope they don't disappear in my lifetime- which, sadly, I've heard that some of them might.

I feel at home and elated in the presence of beautiful plants and they give me such joy. I want to bring them into my home, and surround myself with them, fill my home with the same beauty I see when I'm in a beautiful natural habitat. (Aside of making my home into a conservatory, hanging paintings of tropical flowers is the next best thing.) I want to share that beauty and those feelings with others who feel the same way. You can pick a beautiful flower, but it will only last so long in a vase. You can have a potted plant that will live for many years, but it may not always bloom. But a painting of a flower will always be beautiful :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Where does your water come from??

Earth Day is next week, so here's some inspiration to be more eco-friendly... AND save some money while you're at it! (Who doesn't love that!?)

Here's an article (from Reader's Digest) about bottled water that is very enlightening.

I was never much of a drinker of it anyway, due to the fact that I find it hard to spend money on something I could get for free. After I learned about the production that goes into the bottles and the fossil fuels used to transport it, I gave it up for good and invested in a reusable aluminum bottle.

Another informative article full of inspiration:

And if you don't feel like reading, this documentary looks interesting:
Movie trailer for "Tapped"

My favorite quote from the trailer:
"Bottled water is the greatest advertising and marketing trick of all time."

Some interesting points from the Reader's Digest article (in italics):

  • "...But more than 25 percent of it comes from a municipal supply...This year Aquafina will begin stating on labels that its H2O comes from public water sources. And Nestlé Pure Life bottles will indicate whether the water comes from public, private or deep well sources. Dasani acknowledges on its website, but not on the label itself, that it draws from local water."

    Surprise! You're drinking tap water.

  • "In 1999 the NRDC tested more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of water. (This is the most recent major report on bottled water safety.) While noting that most bottled water is safe, the organization found that at least one sample of a third of the brands contained bacterial or chemical contaminants, including carcinogens, in levels exceeding state or industry standards. Since the report, no major regulatory changes have been made and bottlers haven't drastically altered their procedures, so the risk is likely still there."

    And..... it might be worse than your own tap water.

  • "It's not just where you store your water, but what you do with it as you carry it with you. Many people sip from a bottle that's been sitting in a hot car, a potentially dangerous move. 'Leaving bottled water out in the car changes the chemical equilibrium so that the materials from the plastic go into the water faster,' says Smith."

    Mmmm...... plastic.

It seems like the biggest reason I am told why people drink bottled water is: "It's convenient!" Maybe to some it's convenient to spend money on something that costs more than gasoline (in some cases), but could easily be obtained for free? Rather than using, you know, a thermos. Which is a one-time purchase. Because that would be totally inconvenient.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Great Green Frames and Ink Jet Papers coming your way.

I've been saying over and over that THIS will be the weekend that I finish my Tulip Poplar Flower paintings. One is very close to being done, the other two just need some more coats of paint on the flowers and then I need to work on the middles (the stamens? I'm not completely knowledgeable in floral anatomy). I was telling my husband how excited I would be if I could find reclaimed-wood frames for them, or something else eco-friendly... AND what a bonus it would be if I could find frames made from poplar trees!

Today was my lucky day because through Twitter, I found a GREAT search engine called The Eco Key. It's a Google powered search engine that puts an eco filter on your search results! Especially when adding the words "eco-friendly" or "green" to my search, I was getting much better results than using a the standard search engine (with no eco-filter).

So, through The Eco Key's engine, I found my frames on
Behold BucksCountyFrames shop! They have lots of standard sizes and offer custom, too!!

Photo copyright from The Bucks County Frame Company:
The frames I purchased.

If you're interested in eco-friendly frames, there are quite a few people on Etsy who make them, and some do custom sizes, etc. I did searches for "ecofriendly frame" (click to see the results of search), and "reclaimed wood frame" (click to see search results).

While I was playing around with the new search engine, I decided to look online for some good recycled and/or eco-friendly paper options to use with my new printer. I've got some Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte paper (I hear over and over that Epson printers are really designed to work best with their own papers) that I've used for some 8x10's and ACEOs and so far I really like it. But I'd prefer to find a more eco-friendly paper option- but only if it's going to make my prints look their best, and not ruin my printer.

I searched with The Eco Key again and found The Green Rooster which is Hahnemühle's eco-friendly paper line. They've got 2 bamboo papers and one made from sugar cane. 5% of the proceeds from the Green Rooster label papers are donated to environmental protection projects. After reading about the 3 different papers, I decided to order some made from sugar cane (here's some info about sugar cane paper and here's some cool stuff too) as it's a natural by-product and got some great reviews online.

It was a little tough choosing a paper though because you always have to wonder, which is best? Which is the most green? What happens to sugar cane by-products that aren't made into paper? If they would otherwise go to waste, then it's great to have found a use for them in a nice art paper. I also know that generally speaking, sugar cane farms have some bad effects on the environment too, though (as does almost all agriculture, sadly). But what about Bamboo... that would be a whole separate blog post, as bamboo seems eco-friendly but when you start really researching what goes on with it, at least to produce fabrics and things, it might not be so great after all.

That doesn't mean I love Bamboo (as a plant) any less.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Yay for CafePress and!!

CafePress makes it very simple for shop owners to donate their proceeds to a charity!
I'm very pleased and excited to announce that the proceeds from my Helping Honeybees store now go directly to, instead of having to go through me first. I love eliminating the middle man, especially when it's me.

I plan to add some new T's for the summer to raise awareness of all pollinators including honeybees, but also butterflies, bats, beetles, and more.
So far there are bags and both short and long sleeved T's in the shop.

Clicking an image below will take you to its page on CafePress. Happy browsing! :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mmmmm, spaghetti squash.

This weekend was quite productive!

I ended up giving myself a crash-course in limited edition ACEOs (Art Cards Editions & Originals). For those who aren't familiar with them, they started out as Art Trading Cards, or ATCs. Artists and fans of artists could collect them and trade them. Somewhere along the lines ACEOs came in, and I believe the reason was that they could be produced without being meant soley for trade. An ACEO is a piece of art (an original or limited edition print from an original) that measures 2.5" x 3.5." So they are quite small, miniature pieces of art. Since they are small, they can usually be produced in a short amount of time and thus sold for less than a big original painting. If you're a big fan of an artist but can't afford one of their original works, you could probably afford one of their ACEOs. If you have several favorite pieces and they offer limited edition ACEOs of those, and the prices are right, you could possibly even have one of each.

I created ACEOs this weekend from 3 of my butterflies and hope to add the luna moth to the series as well. I've listed them in my etsy store:

Swallowtail Summer

Swallowtail Caterpillar

Baltimore Checkerspot

One thing I learned rather quickly is that my handwriting is completely unacceptable for this kind of thing. Apparently if people really do want to collect your work, they want to know a lot about it. Which makes sense. So in my research I discovered that the back of an ACEO should include such information as:
The title
The artist's full name
The artist's contact info
The artist's signature
The number of the print, if applicable
And possibly the location where the ACEO was created.

That's a lot to write, and a lot for some poor soul to have to read with my scribble. I ended up buying some acid-free paper (from an art store I found out is only 2 miles away, which is a the perfect distance to walk and wear out my energetic dog!) and then created a form to mount to the back of the card. I left a space for my signature and the number, so those are still done by hand, but the rest just had to be typed. There was no way around it. My handwriting isn't even the "so messy it's kind of cool in a stylized kind of way" messy.

And now, must get back to my spaghetti squash.... MMmmmmmmmmm. Hell yeah.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Beyond the Gray Sky..........

It's raining. And nasty. AGAIN.
That means I probably won't get a bike ride today :(

But maybe it's not a bad thing, because if April showers really do bring May flowers, then I say


In the meantime I've had a lot of little (some of them literally, hehe) projects and things I've been trying to get done. And I've been quite productive!

I finally changed my homepage on my website I completely changed the graphic and had a lot of fun creating a color wheel from flowers, and getting some creativity flowing in making leaf-paintbrush graphics. I also re-did my artist's statement and that is now on my homepage as well.

Instead of having my artist's statement on the "About Samantha" page, I changed that text to be more like a bio. I am contemplating a new page for my site, a "green" page where I can link to green products I use and would recommend to other artists with similar interests in making their work more environmentally friendly.

This morning, I finished printing, spraying (with preservative protectant- again, there's that struggle with preserving my art versus making it eco-friendly, *sigh*), and cutting out my first batch of limited edition ACEO prints!

I created these from my Swallowtail Caterpillar painting. Not sure which of my paintings I'll print next, but the caterpillar seemed like the most fun for the first set :)

And this afternoon I created a cute button for the "follow me on Twitter" link, over on the right. It was just text, which is fine, but a button seemed like something I could personalize and make more fun. So, here it is, and click if you feel so inclined (come on... do it!):

Also, it's Friday, April 3rd which means tonight is First Friday!! I'll be at Gallerie 13 this evening to participate in my first one with this gallery. I went to the last one, before my art was in the gallery, and it was fun! Snacks, art, a lot of nice people, and music too.
As the weather gets warmer, check into First Fridays in your area- they are springing up in small towns everywhere and it might be a fun thing to do before or after dinner. Get your snack on and your art on!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I walk the line...

As I've tried harder and harder to incorporate "green" into my artwork and art business (prints, packaging, etc.), I'm starting to realize that archival and environmentally friendly are damn near mutually exclusive. It seems that I am walking a fine line between them. When you can find environmentally friendly art supplies, the sizes or colors offered are extremely limited.

After a few customers asked me about making ACEOs, I recently decided to create some. Last year these little cards were immensely popular in the art community, and with the economy being in the toilet/people not wanting to spend a lot of money on things, I would wager they will remain popular for at least another year or two as they are small and artists can make them quickly and cheaply. Plus, it's tiny collectible art cards... Tiny is FUN!

So to package and sell ACEO prints, you can put them into a clear sleeve with backing board just like you would do with any other print. But getting a bunch of new plastic sleeves just to encase these tiny prints seems a bit wasteful. And, I can't find bags in the proper size that are environmentally friendly at all.

Some artists are using baseball card holders/sleeves to display their ACEO prints. These are a little thicker and more sturdy than your standard plastic sleeves for prints, and are almost always archival quality as collectors don't want their cards to deteriorate in quality. After an exhaustive search, I came up with no recycled content or biodegradable baseball card holders.

Some people on Etsy are incredibly creative with their packaging! Etsy sellers are using everything from cereal boxes (cut to size then taped together to make a sleeve), to fabrics, to recycled mailers and other recycled packaging.

I love the idea of the recycled cereal/snack boxes for shipping, but I still need a nice way to display the cards for art shows, galleries, etc. Hmmmm.....