Tag Archives: art sales

A Day In The Life


    “I read the news today, boy
    About a lucky man who made the grade” 

John Lennon

There is a false sense of security one can wrap themselves in when accolades start coming your way.  This year has been very good to me in the awards department.  I pulled in $1650.00 in prize money in three out of four juried shows I attended.

Lincoln Art Festival Best of Show

Lincoln Art Festival Best of Show

Make no mistake, winning awards is great, they are confidence builders and nice annotations to the art resume.  They don’t equate to sales; 2012 was far better for me.  I think of what new paintings I had showing compared to last year: only four small 5″ x 7″ marble paintings and one 5″ x 7″ fruit.  The latter was only on display for my last show in Lincoln Illinois.  Ultimately I feel my booth presentation improvements have helped considerably.  It’s a bit easier to spruce up a tent than it is to churn out 20 new paintings.  Consistency  and uniformity in frames, mat quality and cutting as well as professional signage are all important elements to having a good both presentation.  Yes the art is what matters most.  I feel as if I am riding on the coat tails of my older paintings.  Why?  Let me explain.

Working a full time day job sometimes makes painting after hours seem like a second job.  Often I get home and simply don’t feel like painting.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want to paint, I just don’t feel motivated to start after working all day.  Ever feel like that?  Yes I know, the picture isn’t going to paint itself, you’re right.  I want to paint but I simply don’t start.  I’m sure there is some pill for that.

Don’t let me fool you, I don’t dig ditches, throw trash or haul bricks all day.  I don’t even walk uphill to work.  Quite the opposite actually.  Rather I sit on my ass in a shared office, doing a tech job that isn’t very fulfilling.  It’s a paycheck; a good one, but one that I do because I must.  I am one of those guys who works to live, not vice versa.  I wish I liked my job, but I don’t.

Ultimately my art must be able to completely replace my 9-5 income, before I quit my daily grind.  I guess that’s my dream, to wake up being my own boss, and yes, get paid for it.  Sounds ambitious right?  Perhaps, but who wants to work a long day and not get paid?  Wouldn’t you rather do something you love to do and make good money at it? Isn’t that the dream, getting paid doing what you love.

Staying motivated is the key.  Having discipline to work regardless of motivation is the answer.  Regardless of talent hard work is the difference between success and failure.  There are no less than 20-30 paintings in my head that are worth painting.  How long is it going to take?  I don’t know, but none of them will get finished unless I get my butt in front of my stretched paper and start.  I have to make the grade, by my standards.  I’m lucky to have accomplished what I have since taking up the brush back in 2006.  Right now I feel like my output is sitting at a D.  So I’ll leave you with a bullet point list of helpful thoughts.

  • Paint at least two hours a night, five days a week
  • Sketch Daily
  • Blog twice a week
  • Start using a art calendar
  • Read more art related material
  • Have short term, mid term and long term goals written out
  • Take a workshop from another artist
  • Open my Amazon store front
  • Sync my FB/Blog and website with updates
  • Get my website redesigned using a WordPress theme
  • Daily Painter
  • Seek out quality galleries
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Acquired Inspiration


Canyon RoadIn my recent travels to Santa Fe New Mexico and Siesta Key Florida, I had the opportunity to immerse myself into Canyon Road and fill my nearly empty cup of inspiration until it was overflowing.  In Santa Fe, I managed to walk through twenty five or so art galleries before I had to catch the train back to Albuquerque.  Watercolor art had a modest presence.  Even less represented were the ‘hyper-realism’ still life paintings I have accustomed myself to painting.  But I already knew this, and my speculations over a year ago about moving towards figurative work were spot on.  Gallery prices were through the roof too, some upwards of 60k  Were any of these selling? Who buys $60,000.00 paintings these days?  The middle class art budget has all but dried up since 9/11.

There was one artist that sticks with me still.  I was very fortunate to see a few  Steve Hanks originals hanging in the Rio Grande Gallery.  Simply amazing!  Yet I feel that it’s in me to render people as well as I can glass, perhaps in time, as well as he does.

Santa Fe was great to visit and I definitely would recommend this cozy little town to anyone interested in art.  I will be returning someday so I can take my time and spend several days in this western art mecca.  By the time I hopped the train back to Albuquerque I had reached art overload an still hadn’t seen even a quarter of what was there.

My BoysThanksgiving in Florida helped me refresh from a long summer of shows and a nearly absence of painting in the early autumn.  Just sitting in the sand, soaking up the sun on Siesta Key with nothing to do was great.  I got to just listen to the waves crash ashore in the warm sun.  It really helped wipe the slate clean and renew my affinity for nature, family and just being.  Sometimes the simple things in life like waves on the shore, amber and crimson sunsets or listening to trees creak in a gentle wind can remind us of our humanity and affinity with mother nature, all we need to do is stop a minute to listen.

For now there are some paintings I have to get done that were supposed to be done months ago.  Five small marble paintings, a glass piece, one swim painting, a surrealism building picture and then I’ll be diving into figurative work.  Anyone interested in modeling for me?

New Glass New Glass (zoomed)

See you next year!

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Art Galleries, are they worth it?


If my blog was one of my kids, it would have died from neglect.  I can’t count the days that I had passing thoughts about writing something insightful or interesting but the moments passed and I guess I just got caught up in the day.  Days fade into weeks, weeks into months and before you know it your online journal is old and dusty.  It is not just being busy that keeps me away from blogging as much as one ‘ought’ to.  The fact is, at times, I don’t think anything I may write is worth reading.  I guess it’s better to say nothing than to just vomit out posts on the basis of being regular.

Regardless I’ll press on from where we left off at the tail end of August,  galleries.  I really don’t have much experience as an artist interacting with the art gallery scene.  Initially I thought galleries to be a waste of commission money, but I have come to learn that a gallery can be worth the money.  Promoting yourself as an artist requires many different hats, all of which require time to wear.  Most painters I know just want to paint and we all wish the rest would just fall into place, but it doesn’t.  To be successful as an artist, you have to be a marketing manager, a publicist, a web designer, blogger, a tax adviser, business manager as well as the crafter.  Good galleries can wear a few of these hats for you.

Galleries and artists have to possess a symbiotic relationship in order for both to be successful.  I  have found such a gallery, The PodIt is co-owned by artists Bekah Berry and Natalie Wetzel.   The Pod opened last July during our local fine art festival which I was showing in.  As it was a good show for me, I know the The Pod did very well and business was booming those first two days.  Since then, I have established an art presence there and become friends with Bekah, Natalie and their great families.  I have even learned a bit more about what a good gallery can do for an artist.  Hold that thought, I’ll get back to this in a minute.

If you are an artist, ask yourself this:  How do I get my art out there to sell?  Online? Festivals? Contests and exhibitions?  If you have read my blog enough, you will know that festivals are the most labor intensive and risky.  The costs an artist bears is considerable and the ROI is as unpredictable as the weather.  How much online sales have you garnered assuming your website/presence is even capable of e-commerce?  Art exhibitions can also be expensive and usually require original work only.  You have to give up a piece for the duration of a show.  Often the exhibitions will take a little cut of your proceeds if your piece sells.  You have to pay to apply, pay to ship and you wait.  Sales during these events are uncommon if not rare and the competition is tough, so having expectations to take home some prize money is a foolish notion.

Exhibitions are a great way to get exposure.  Often they are covered in national circulated magazines and can draw the attention of galleries, collectors and customers.  They are also a great way to meet and greet other artists, patrons and society organizers.  Most nationally ranked shows such as the AWS, NWS & the TWSA are located in very busy venues that get lots of traffic.  Some even have traveling exhibitions where the show is displayed in several large cities around the country.

Now back to the gallery.  Some offer a co-op where you pay for wall space or rent and keep 100% of your proceeds if something sells.  Others take a commission and still some do a combination of both.  Over the long haul I find the renter type of gallery to be cost prohibitive and in some sense counterproductive.  Think about it, a gallery that is a wall rental operation only has to worry about getting the rent check.  They don’t have to know you, your art,  or even really value your craftsmanship.  Their first concern is paying their rent from the rent checks they collect from the artists.  There is less motivation to sell and often the more art this type of gallery can cram in, the better.  I like to call it wall sprawl.  You will know it when you see it.   Art starts inches from the floor and will go inches to the ceiling, around corners and in places that are not really idea for display.  Pushing maximum density comes to mind!

Combination galleries who charge wall rent and also take a commission tend to be even more costly to the artist.  Often the rent and commission fees are cheaper but together they often surpass the other two types of galleries.  If your art sits in a rental gallery for too long, you are more or less giving it away or losing money.  This forces artists to either up their prices to compensate or bring in larger expensive pieces that can afford to depreciate over rental time and still make the artist some money on the back end of a sale.  Given the economy, who wants to add yet another monthly expense?

When I first considered galleries as an option, my first thoughts were, “50%…. really?  The hell with that.”  Then I got myself going with festivals, and found that not only was I putting in travel expenses and the time and costs of showing at a festival, it was hard work and often unrewarding.  Rinse and repeat this process and soon, 50% seems more appealing.  I don’t have to setup a tent, sit in blazing heat for 12-20 hours and hope sales are enough to warrant the effort.  There is far less risk in damaging my art in transit and I don’t have to worry about inclement weather, setup and tear down difficulties, hotels and all the other intangibles that spring up during a festival.

Alternatively I can walk my paintings down to The Pod gallery, and have them nicely displayed in a place that has far more foot traffic than my studio at a cost I can afford.  The best thing is, Natalie and Bekah are honest, friendly and very energetic about my work.  It’s an honor to be included in their repertoire of artists and I know they have my best interests in mind.  Their rates are very fair and they are flexible enough to allow me to call the shots on what art I hang there and for how long.  I’d go as far to say that they have bent over backwards to accommodate me.

I’m fortunate to have such a gallery just a block from where I paint.  Not all artists are so lucky.  The important thing to remember is what works well for me may not for you.  You may find the festival circuit far more appealing, or the rental gallery option.  Just be sure you cover all your bases before you risk your original art to the hands of strangers.  The risks need to be shared, and if you feel your being steered into a deal that puts everything on you, then just say no.  There are always greener pastures to find, just keep looking.

The Collector hanging in The Pod Gallery: Uptown Normal IL.

Made in China hanging in The Pod Gallery: Uptown Normal IL.

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Making Time


I don’t often take the time I should to just do nothing.  Life these days always seems busy and I feel that I lose touch with the things that I enjoy a lot.  Obviously painting is one, but I often find myself longing for the outdoors and nature.  Right now I’m sitting out back on my patio… it’s dark out, and there’s a refreshing cool wind blowing from the north.  Considering it is still 83F out at 10:00 PM, the breeze is nice.  There is a choir of crickets and every other nocturnal bug singing in unison as if under the sway of some conductors baton.    Stars twinkle overhead between passing clouds and the world around me prepares for sleep.  Some soft music is playing while my faithful companion, Sam lounges just out of arms reach watching over me and the yard while I tend to this blog.  Topping this off is a fresh glass of red merlot.  One could argue it doesn’t get much better than that, and frankly I can’t see much in the way of disagreeing.  I can only ask myself, why aren’t you out here more than once or twice a month?  The answer is time.

Sam

Just as much as I would like to sit out after a long day and soak up the evening I don’t.  Our family is very busy.  Our house in a total disarray due to some remodeling, and Jenny and I are blessed with three active kids.  It seems like the choir list and  running never stops.  Perhaps I will miss these days, when the nest is empty and I have only time on my hands.  I miss my art too, much akin to the feeling of being constantly late for something.  I’ve not been in my studio doing any new watercolor painting for almost two months.

The last piece I completed: “Made in China” a 22″ x 32″ watercolor, was the last and largest of a triptych of still life paintings which have done rather well for me.  The first painting: “Firestorm” won the Juror’s choice award at the McLean County Art Center’s first watercolor exhibition back in July.  This painting, along with the sister piece; “Facet“, sold rather quickly.  The last of the trio will go to the Lincoln Art and Balloon Festival tomorrow.

 

Firestorm

Made in China

Facet

Art festivals four weekends in a row don’t give you much time for anything, especially with a full time day job.  My short festival circuit has felt like a crap shoot.  So far only one show has been profitable and worth the time, expense and effort of setting up and operating in the summer heat for two days.  The rest have been break even endeavors, plagued by bad weather, poor attendance and little to no sales.   It really digs at an artists’ self esteem and makes one feel like they are just walking in circles.

Walking in Circles

For me there has been no way to predict sales, set any type of goals or have any expectations.  Doing so only results in disappointment.  Working at McDonald’s has more stability than trying to sell art in this economy, and even at minimum wage, is more profitable.  This begs the question whether festivals are even worth the time and effort.  What is the alternative?  Galleries? Ebay? Book Covers? If you have any ideas do tell.  I’ve often thought about doing book covers, but how do you get a foot in that door?  I’ve always thought about showing in galleries, and have had some recent offers.  One comes from a downtown San Francisco establishment called the The Galiara and the other; The Pod,  The latter is just down the street from my art studio.  And on that note I’ll see you all on the next post, where I will be discussing my short experiences with The Pod and my hopes for a presence at the Galiara on the west coast.

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Picking up the Pieces


The Columbus Art Festival http://columbusartsfestival.org/ came and went.  The best part of the trip was the fact that I spent some great quality time with my son Ed.  He was a great help during the show, and it makes me proud to be his dad.  I received many great compliments about him, so I think Jen and I did something right in raising him.  I forgot to take some photos of him and I together.  Next time I’ll remember to do that!

           

I walked the show a few times and was overwhelmed with quality art everywhere.  There were some amazing glass sculptures, awesome photography, wood crafters, mixed media illustrators and of course traditional painters.  Best of all, Leah Alters was a gracious host and show director.  She was helpful, personal and went out of her way to make sure my needs were met while attending.

During my days exhibiting at the festival, I was particularly impressed with some stand out artists.  I’m not going to plug them too much but I’m going to list them here so that you can also enjoy their work.  First and foremost in the list was my booth neighbor, Daphne Covington  http://www.daphnecovington.com   She does wonderful abstract oil paintings and was a hoot to hang out with all weekend.  I hope we can be booth neighbors again someday.  If it wasn’t for her and Ed, I would have lost a lot of art or worse when the deluge hit Saturday night.  Before I get to the other artists, I want to talk about tent weights.

Good tent weights are like good insurance, you will wish you had them when it’s too late.  Last year I reluctantly spent the money on a set of Happy Feet weights:  http://happifeet.com/  They’re not cheap, but they look great and are by far; hands down, the best tent weights money can buy.  Made by artist Cindy Gordon, for artists, they kept my tent on the ground against some very severe wind gusts somewhere around 50-60 mph.

Also if you are thinking about exhibiting, be sure you’re insured as well.  There were some artists who lost everything at the Columbus show.  Have a backup plan if your willing to risk your heart and souls work on the randomness of weather.

Ok back to the artists I wanted to mention.

            Robert Flowers –  http://www.robertflowersart.com

            Geoffrey Harris – http://geoffreyaaronharris.com

            James Petran – http://www.artsiowacity.org/artist/jpetran/jpetran.htm

            Phillip Nolley – http://phillipnolley.com/

All of them do fantastic work, and I enjoyed talking art shop with each of them.  I plan on beginning my personal collection with work from each of these artists.  I did buy a few small glass pieces from Nolley that I will be incorporating into a few new paintings.  Hopefully him and I can continue to work together to bring his 3D glass into my 2D watercolors.  I hope to get some transparent marbles from him soon.  :-]

Columbus also showed me what superior booth presentations look like.  I saw some very amazing looking setups and you can tell what people have been doing this for a while.  Good festival tents look uniform, neat, and are very inviting to look at.  I’ve picked up a few ideas to continue to improve my setup.  I think every show will be better as far as presentation goes.  Sales continue to be the low points in the shows I attend.  The bad economy isn’t helping anything either.  I have four shows left, maybe a fifth if I get into the Bloomington Indiana festival and that will end the season for me.  I feel like I’m pulling a boat anchor up hill sometimes.

It’s hard to keep doing things when the effort has no payoff.  The next four shows need to put me in the black or I’m going to re-examine and re-prioritize for 2012.  The festival venue may just get shelved.  There is still hope though.  I’ve been contacted by The Galiara in San Francisco http://www.galiara.com/   They are interested in showing my art there, so I’m pretty excited about that.  I have plans to send them a good body of work in the early autumn and keep it there or a rotating stock if they will allow.

More on this later.

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The Little Art Exhibit


A friend of mine stopped by a few weeks back and asked if I was interested in participating in a little post card art exhibit designed  to raise grant money for art students in need at the university here.  Somewhat enthused I said yes.  We chatted a bit in the studio and as the conversation went on, I became more interested in attending the entire affair.

I had about a week to donate a small post card sized painting so I started rummaging through a lot of my old photos.  One sprang to mind; it was a shot I snatched with my phone that was one of those right time right place photos.  This image has been lurking in the back of my mind since, begging to be brought back to life in watercolor.

Normally I like to work larger, but I had already scaled down to a few 7” x 12” sized paintings and I figured a 4” x 6” would not be too different.  To my surprise, painting this was fun!  There are some interesting techniques to painting small and there is a mastery to be achieved even at this scale.  I’d even argue that smaller art demands more attentiveness and precision.  I got the post card done and turned it in on the last day.  Fast forward to the artist reception.

4" x 6" Watercolor

4" x 6" Watercolor

I was a bit nervous, and didn’t know what to expect.  There were some familiar faces in attendance and it didn’t take too long to get into a mingling mood.  There were 100’s of post cards hanging and I recognized a few and liked about a dozen more.  Two hours later I had strolled the exhibit several times, had a few glasses of wine and even got to vote on my favorites.

Fast forward again to the event opening.  Dressed in business casual, I strolled in last Saturday with a bit more confidence and felt an equal as far as the artist factor goes.  Sixteen of the highest voted pieces were picked out to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.  An entry ticket ran $60.00 but it guaranteed you would walk out with an original piece of art.  In addition there was an open bar and a great selection of Hors d’oeuvres.  I had about ten votes on my little painting, which was well above average but not enough to get on the spotlight auction.

About 100 people attended, there was instrumental live music, plenty of wine and food and things got going once the bidding started on any painting that had more than one claim sticker on it.  The bidding was intoxicating and it was very tempting to just run with it in the excitement.  I had my eye on three pieces, so I put my bid number stickers on all three.   Two of the three had other bid stickers on them, which meant I had to out-bid my competitors.  If you were the lone sticker on a piece it was yours for your ticket price or 50.00 if you had subsequent stickers on additional art.

I had stickers on a figurative watercolor depicting a horses head, a photo of a classic car zoomed in tight on the reflections around the passenger mirror and windows and lastly a vivid landscape crafted by a local artist name Jeff Little.  I lost the bidding war on the horse, was unopposed on the car photo and had more competition on the landscape which was last to be bid on as far as my stickers were concerned.  Jeff Little’s painting finally came up.  He’s a great artist  http://www.angelfire.com/art/wiredjeff/ that has been in the craft for a long time.  I am drawn to his work because it is detailed and tight but also displays great color expression and depth.  All his landscapes are well composed, meticulous and very vibrant.

Bidding opened at 60.00 and it jumped very quickly to 100.00.  I opted in around that time and held on till it hit 150.00 before I had to contemplate what the consequences may be for buying art when we didn’t budget for it.  The four glasses of Malbec said to keep bidding, but the “You’re going to get your ass kicked when you get home” told me to put my bid card down and not challenge the 200.00.  Wiser in my old age I had to watch my favorite painting go to another buyer.

The best thing about this was the fact that I met Jeff and got to chat for a spell during the event.  I also met several other people and got to talk to some (yes you Karen!) that I had only been introduced to before.  The Post Card Art show was great, and I’m glad I attended as well as submitted work.  I’ll be back next year for sure, hoping to exceed the $160.00 my picture brought in this year.

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In the Doldrums…


Making art and selling art are two different animals requiring a vastly different array of skills and time commitments.  I’ve learned this the hard way since attending my first festival back in the spring.  Generally I have felt ill prepared for all of them, frantic on getting my tent setup, and the hundred other steps it takes to be ready for the first ‘customer’ to roam into the tent.  Things have improved each time, yet I know I have not reached the level of efficiency and presentation I want to be at.  2011 will be the real test for me.  I hope to get into around a dozen shows, which will require careful planning with my day job, my family and vacation plans for the year.

I work full time as a network engineer and do all this art stuff after hours.  It cuts deep into my time at home, my family and our budget.  Most of the time I feel that I that I’ve shot my wad on all these startup expenses: Flourish Tent, Happy Feet Tent Weights, Frames, Mats, a Mat Cutter, Bags, Prints etc.  It probably has cost me somewhere around $5,000.00 give or take a few and I have barely dented into that with sales.  Sitting in a tent with all your ‘gear’ hanging out for everyone to peruse for two days can get discouraging, especially when the vast majority pass through without a even a notion to look at all the art and prints available to them.  Doubt sinks in, slowly at first, but it gets reaffirmed with every passing customer and often I find myself asking: “Why are you even here?”.  “You should not have spent all that money on this, you should have just stayed home”.   These thoughts lurk in the back of my mind more often than I would like, and as I continue spending money, I worry more and more about getting something in return for my time and effort, and the sacrifices my family  has had to endure in order for me to have this hobby.  So I’m out there in the heat, at my second outdoor festival and its about as slow as molasses in winter.  Saturday was dead and I sold one small print which paid for my lunch.  Sunday seemed better, the heat ebbed and there was a nice breeze rolling in, which brought a lot more people out, but still sales were sparse and I was ready to return home still in the red.  I had just three hours left until I could pack up and go home.

Then the most unlikely thing happened at the Washington Art Festival.  While I was out strolling the art show taking a break watching people pass by, my youngest son watched my tent.  Robert is a better salesman than me apparently.  When I came back from my 10-15 minute walk, he said: “Dad there was some people that came in and they really liked your artwork, I think they were close to buying something”.  I said, “Really?” and then dismissed it, since all I had moved up until that point was about four or five 5” x 7” matted prints.

About an hour passed and this time Robert was roaming around and I was tending my wares when a couple strolled in.  I said hi and smiled and tried to give them space to look around without pressure (which is my policy).  After about fifteen seconds they turned and said to me, “We want to buy a painting.” I asked them if they had something in mind, and they pointed to the Original of ‘Liquid Gladiators’, a watercolor I just finished no less than a month prior.  BOOM!  I went from zero to hero in one sale.  It made the show for me and really felt good that a couple that purchased my first non-commission original didn’t know me from Adam.  Then I remembered why I decided to do all this, and all the doubt and pessimism washed away in an instant.  Robert was electric when he walked back in as I was ringing them up.   He is my best fan and it gives me the deepest sense of humility and gratitude when I hear him praise me and pat me on the back saying, “I told you so Dad!”  He smiled like the Cheshire cat for at least ten to fifteen minutes and wanted to call mom right away to tell her.  I managed to keep the lid on it until Jenny showed up to help tear down a few hours later.  I guess that is how art festivals work, moments of feast and famine.

No risk, no reward, right?   I have to remember that, and also keep telling myself I’m on the ten-year career plan.  Ten years left until I can retire from ISU and have the security of health insurance until I’m dead.  In that time, in order to walk away from the 9-5 I have to build this art business up to a level that I can support myself comfortably as long as I wish to keep painting and doing festivals.  I think I’ll know by next year whether this is a fantasy or realistically attainable.  Perhaps something else will happen along the way that will open more doors for me to accelerate my plan.  There are tons of contests I’d like to enter.  Maybe I’ll place in something, and get some coverage in one of the art magazines I subscribe to.  Time will tell.  I think art works like a pebble rolling down a mountain.  If it gets some momentum it can turn into an avalanche.

In progress photo

Right now, I’m in the middle of repainting the studio and getting some track lighting hung so I can finally open my doors to the public.  It really is a nice place and even with all the buildings lack of updates, it does have character and the location is the best in the county as far as art studios go.  I just need to get open… like yesterday.   Aside from the studio, I have my last art festival coming up: http://www.lincolnillinois.com/ABF.aspx I had hoped to get ‘The Collector” finished up but I’m having doubts.  I need to mat another 30-40 prints still, and put in another twenty hours on the painting.  It really is turning out well I just seem to be avoiding it for some reason.  I don’t think I will get prints of it ready in time even if I were to finish it by Wednesday.  So maybe I’ll just get it scanned and worry about prints later and just focus myself on painting.

My wife is heading out Tuesday evening for her 40th birthday.  I tried to surprise her with a  trip to the island of Anguilla, but it proved futile.  She found out like she always does and I realize I would have had to have laundered money; like drug dealer, into a friends account in order to pay for it without her knowing.  Then there was the passport thing, which sorta blew it as well.  So she is out in a few days, and my kids start their first week of school tomorrow.  My plate is full this week and there will be no reprieve until next Monday.  Until then, I have lots to do, and little time to do it.

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