Category: Flowarte Shop

How do you curate your own artwork?

FlowArte Portraits

Short answer: you curate without mercy.

I spent the week alone. My husband was traveling and I stayed home with my pup.
Of course I had epic plans. And not because my husband wasn’t home, but because I was not going to follow a schedule of any kind. I would eat when hungry, I would sleep when sleepy. My titanic plan was to review all my watercolor work and curate it. Discard, throw away, classify and within all that try to notice the patterns and see if I can find hints of that elusive thing called “style”.

Mountain of sketchbooks

I accomplished part of it. Now I have a smaller pile of paintings I like. It gives me a few clues as to what I’m naturally inclined to work on.

During this process here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Series

Most artists work in series, they paint several versions of the same thing or the same color palette or subject. I have never done that. I paint a one off thing and then my curiosity takes me to another in a different technique.

2. There is an element, line, expression, color that carries throughout your work, even if you paint a cow one day and a flower the next.

I’ve noticed this, I love the bluish-greyish-muddy tones that unite two bright colors. These tones are in almost every one of my textures and abstracts. They’re also in my portraits and my more illustrative work like my Grenoble paintings.

3. There is no waste

I’ve felt so tense when starting a new block of paper, a new sketchbook, because I don’t want to ruin it. I’m precious about the paper, but invariably, the first painting will be a warm-up. As I went through all my stack I noticed how many had been practice paintings. I wonder when I will cut myself some slack and just enjoy every bit of the process!

Illustrative portraits by FlowArte

4. I don’t like to mix mediums too much but when I mix them in a subtle manner I love it. Or keep it pure.

In particular I love seeing pencil lines against watercolor (like in the above painting). This is definitely one element that I will keep. I’ve mentioned Marc Taro Holmes, who is my favorite watercolor artist in Montreal. He paints directly with watercolor with minimal or no pencil sketch. The purity of the blends and the amazing paintings that emerge are stunning. I aspire to that.

5. Words and pictures.

This is my happy place. Illustrated books for adults where the shortest line or paragraph takes my breath away and there is an image that goes along with it.
Last year during my 100 day project I started to create a series of postcards with words cut-out from magazines. Maybe I should pick up where that project left off.

A New Portfolio

After I finished discarding and classifying my work. I decided to reactivate my RedBubble profile to give some of these illustrations a home and build a portfolio.

Red Bubble has a nice interface which is both helpful as portfolio and collection building as well as a shop with high-quality products that I can’t make myself like mugs, chiffon tops, hard-cover journals, dresses and my favorite: floor pillows! I’m still working out the collections. I hope some of my more floral and dreamy work finds an echo among Red Bubble customers.

FlowArte RedBubble ShopLearning as you go

Since I don’t have formal studies in graphic or textile design, it is very difficult to asses which designs look better on what kind of product. On RedBubble I can see right away so I don’t have every artwork on every product. I am developing my eye to recognize the different categories like home decor, stationery, apparel.

Patterns are a tricky thing, they look beautiful and soothing on screen but  as soon as you try them on different items you realize that they might not work very well for a dress but they look wonderful on a phone case.

So feel welcome to take a look and if you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it!

Printable Valentine’s Watercolor Cards

Printable Watercolor Valentine's Cards

What are those small rituals you share with your partner? What are the things you want to say in a more permanent way than with an emoji? Do you often remember how you met? Do you anticipate what he or she will do or say? Do you imagine them as little kids and feel warm and fuzzy? Do you say thank you to your mother in law for creating this perfect creature?

Are you in the beginning stages? Are you building a home? Are you ten, twenty or thirty years into your life together? What do you share the most? Are there stories about him or her you do not yet know? (I often ask my husband: “Tell me something you haven’t told me…”) Do you melt with their little idiosyncrasies? Do you each buy your own toothpaste because one or the other won’t put the cap back on?

Do you keep quiet when they take a nap hoping to let them sleep as long as they want? And do they get up in the freezing morning to walk your beloved dog? Do they cook for you? Do they bring you a smoothie in the middle of the day? Do they let you choose the Netflix movie on Friday night?

Are you opposites? Are you alike? Can you be silent for a while and be OK? Can you talk about everything?

Maybe your days are full and there is no time to go and look for a pretty card, maybe you want to add a personal touch, you want to say things in your own hand writing.

Here is a Valentine’s day card which you can print on the paper of your choice. It’s easy and convenient to print, cut, fold and personalize.

Printable Valentine's Watercolor cards

Watercolor Valentine's Card

You can customize it by adding a bit of thread, adding inspired and romantic words as collage, giving it a more rustic look using crafts scissors to mimic torn paper like so:

FlowArte Watercolor Valentines Card

You can purchase it here as an instant download.

 

Psst: My newsletter subscribers will get it free! Join and I will send it out this weekend!



There is money involved

Flow Arte Onyx Glade scarf

The interviewee said: “It’s weird, I love doing my job, I could do it all day long but the second someone offers to pay me for it, it becomes work and so all the procrastination mechanisms become activated”.

I can’t remember which podcast it was. It must have been around 2014 when I was listening to a lot of web design and development podcasts. This woman was a UX designer. I remember I had an a-ha! moment when I listened to her.

I’m able to tinker away at my WordPress site for hours. I can get into the code and change things until it looks perfect, I don’t mind to refresh the page a thousand times but when I started to do it for clients, the whole picture changed. I had a lot of trouble and anxiety about breaking things, about not doing it well, about writing spaghetti code, or having to do endless changes and adjustments, despite being paid for it.

When I started to do illustration work, it was exactly the same. I illustrated many things, I created clip art sets and worked meticulously on them with strict quality control and I released them to my Artistic Clipart shop, but when somebody asked me to work on a paid project, it automatically became “work” and it stripped the pleasure. There was money involved.

This is a phenomenon that baffles me, especially since illustrating and painting is my dream job, I want to be able to support myself with my work but why does money murk everything? Why is it a source of insecurity and dread?

My theory

It’s all about confidence and self-worth. I am certain that my work is good. I show it and I feel proud, but I don’t associate it with monetary value.

I came across this interview with Kaye Blegvad on Design Sponge:

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

I’ve always found pricing very difficult. At first, I wanted to make things at a very low price point, something that me and my fellow broke-artist friends could afford. I looked at the costs of production and marked pieces up based on that, not factoring in time and labor at all — I was basically just looking at a piece and thinking “I would be able to spend X amount on that” and calling that the price. Then there was a point where I started to get busy, and was churning orders out, working crazy hours, replying to countless emails, totally exhausted, and I realized I was probably making about $3/hr. It’s really important to value your time and effort, and to factor it in to your pricing. I still try to keep my pieces as affordable as I possibly can, but it was an important discovery that pricing based on your own finances is not necessarily going to be good for your health and sanity!

Big insight right there!

Ever since I started to work for myself, I’ve had this fear of pricing my work and since most people still tend to complain about cost when they know they’re doing business with a freelancer, I always caved and charged too little. No wonder it felt like an ungrateful job.

Artists and hand made businesses need to learn how NOT to mix our own financial reality with that of our potential customers. We have no idea of their reality.

I think it’s a bad sign to be surprised when you get an order. It means you are not valuing yourself enough. People have purchased my leggings and they love them! Why am I surprised?

Two-fold

My clients and customers value my work, they do or they wouldn’t buy. It’s my job to value myself too. To account for the long photography session of last Tuesday when I spent all afternoon bent over taking pictures of my Furoshiki wraps and scarves. Then editing the pictures in Photoshop. Practicing tying them up and verifying that they indeed look beautiful.

Flow Arte Furoshiki Scarf

For this scarf, the process went like this :

Japanese Watercolor Botanical by Flowarte

I did a painting.

I wanted the most simple brush strokes, something evocative and delicate. Something botanical with a Japanese feel.

Next, came the process of digitizing and transferring to Photoshop to extract the image from the background. I digitize at 600 DPI.

Extracting the background from defined shapes is a little easier than abstracts and very fluid watercolors. This image is quite defined so I decided to make a dark navy scarf. No wandering white pixels would tarnish the final design.

Flow Arte Onyx Glade scarf
Scarf Onyx Glade

The file is sent to my local printer who I visit regularly and reassures me. I know where my products are made and this printer follows ethical guidelines which were the defining aspect when I decided if I wanted to print them overseas at ridiculous low prices at the expense of workers who labour under poor conditions, or here in Montreal where production is a little slower and yes, a little more costly but I know that on Friday afternoon, workers leave to enjoy their weekends or any other paid holiday.

I’m confident that my customers value this process. From my studio to their hands. And so, yes, there is money involved but the money supports values that are important to me: ethical and local shopping, reducing waste by creating multifunctional products and last but not least creativity.

Visit my Etsy shop, look around, if you have questions contact me.

If you’re a creative share with me how you manage to successfully deal with the monetary aspect of creativity.

An Artist-Entrepreneur’s Quiet Path

Floral Explorsion Flowarte

Have you heard that Forest-Bathing is a thing? There’s no denying that a walk in a forest or even a park, is beneficial. It can’t NOT be. It’s silent, it’s solitary, it’s peaceful, it’s full of things to discover, things we don’t see every day. Most of these discoveries we keep to ourselves, we wonder how the tree got its bark, how a leaf falls, why do mushrooms grow in a certain patch of land, but we rarely announce it to the world. Maybe we take a few photos, but ideally, we wouldn’t be doing that.

In January I started my small business project with the help of a local organization. People come together and we follow a course to write a business plan and then we follow a sales course. I recently started that one, which is a HUGE step away from my comfort zone. I have to talk to people. I usually only write to people. I am terrible at small talk and at superficial conversation. I favor long deep conversations one on one, preferably over coffee (not a bar), or a walk. So a sales course huh? It’s compulsory if you want to keep your grant. Well, it’s going to be four months in which I will have to get over my introversion and my shyness. But this is a good thing (says the person who recently finished a YA novel titled Optimists Die First).

The noise and the changing landscapes

There is a rabbit hole, a never-ending, endlessly entertaining, bright and shiny path of noise and psychedelia called “being an entrepreneur”. If you were online, or blogging around 2006, you might have fallen through it and still haven’t emerged. Those were the days when the term pro-blogger was born and people started creating info-products. Where shopping carts were easier to install and the notion of “leaving your day job” “doing what you love” brain-washed us into thinking it was easy or that it was the ideal state of being.

I’ve tried on several occasions to create a business relying only on what is available on the internet. It seems so easy, until you start doing for real. When people tell me, you should give me a crash course on selling stuff online, I laugh and say, you have no idea what it takes. Because I didn’t have an idea myself.

I did what everyone else was doing: get a mailing list, be on all social media channels, follow like this and like that, create content per channel, write, work like crazy, listen to podcasts, take great photos etc. Until I finally realized that what “works” for some, doesn’t work for others.

I do it the quiet way and it’s hard.

I have been working steadily behind-the-scenes, I’ve written a 43 page Business Plan, I have hired a graphic design firm to help me. I’ve worked on my designs, on my Etsy shop and my Shopify shop. I’ve invested money, which is something that wanna-be entrepreneurs don’t want to do, especially if they want to build a business online.  I’ve printed prototypes of everything and through that, I’ve pushed myself to try different things in watercolor.

All this trying to silence the comparison-monster that shouts every time I look at Instagram. How can some people publish a book, film thirty or more online classes, launch a home decor line and maintain a shop, on top of having kids? I’m still trying to perfect my Photoshop retouching skills for my watercolors.

The good thing is that since I quietly opened my shops, people have been purchasing leggings and scarves. I have gotten great feedback and my friend Amanda even filmed a couple of videos wearing my Ultra Floral design.

I tell myself I could do more but I also remind myself that if I do things my way, chances are they will reach a finish line. If I try to do things like other people, I will feel disconnected and I will abandon my projects. This should be in the Luisa Handbook.

So I am launching Flowarte like if I were in a Forest. Walking slowly, observing, taking the time. Even if during my sales course they said you should be selling 80% of the time. I say, sure, but not yet. I’ll get there. I’m moving towards that goal a little every day.

Meanwhile I enjoy the summer, which gives me the strange impulse to try painting flowers again.

Take a peek into my shop, fun colors, lovely textures, high-quality fabric printed right here in Montreal!