The Art of Bird Whisperers

You may have noticed I like birds. My friend and artist, Melissa Gay, also likes birds. You might call us bird whispers! We both have our own unique approach to depicting these feathered creatures. What if we created a work of art from the same reference photo? How similar or dissimilar would be they? I thought it might be fun to find out and Melissa agreed!

Gyrfalcon Stock

 

Here’s a stock image of a Gyrfalcon I found on DeviantArt. We both took a few days to create our piece of art and then without even showing one another, we posted them on Facebook.

Wow!

Same bird. Different art. Completely different vibe!

Melissa and I enjoyed this little experiment so much that we’ve decided to repeat it once a month. If you follow us on Facebook, be on the look out for our posts around this same time each month. You can also find our posts using the hashtag #birdwhisperer.

Amanda on Facebook – Melissa on Facebook

You can see more of Melissa’s art at www.melissagay.com.

More on Self Promotion

Social Media Tips

Self-promotion. The forest we try to navigate each day. If you sell a product, no matter what product, you walk this tightrope. It’s not as simple as shouting, buy my stuff, from my the highest peak. Self-promotion is hard work and it involves a ton of patience. It’s not always fun and you don’t always see results. I personally dislike the feeling of forcing my art on people. Each time I share something on Twitter I wonder, am I annoying folks? Is anyone even looking at my art? But then I start to pay attention to my statistics. Days I don’t share and talk about my art my views go down. Days I do… You get the point.
What might be the most difficult part about self-promotion for me, is the act of sharing things not about my art, but myself. I’m a quiet person. Not as quiet as I once was in my younger days, but my fellow Tessera Guild members will tell you–I’m quiet. I’m a thinker, and sometimes a loner. I don’t often say something unless it’s worth saying 100%. Ironically, this is key to self-promotion via social media networks. Key. When you interact with your fans you’re also building trust. Building trust will make your product look far more appealing than someone elses they don’t feel they know. Last year I wrote a blog post about building trust with online buyers after reading an excellent article at EmptyEasel.com. EmptyEasel is geared toward visual artists, but these five rules will apply to authors, musicians and anyone else selling something online.

I’m revisiting these five rules with new thoughts for the new year.

1. Don’t Make it About “You” “It’s about the community. People aren’t going to follow you if all you do is try to sell them stuff and promote yourself. Become a trusted resource, instead of a salesperson.”

Or better yet, become a storyteller. Whatever you’re creating, chances are there’s a story behind it and there’s an audience who’s ready to listen.

2. Be sociable “…the next time you think about listing one of your art pieces, take the time to figure out how you can present that piece in a more social manner.”

Don’t just post a link to the art in your shop. Think about making a collage showing the stages from sketch to finish.

3. Show the real you “Use a photo of yourself for your profile image, not a photo of your art, or company logo. People want to connect with people, not products or businesses.”

I’m not sure this is always necessary anymore, as long as your real face makes an appearance from time to time. There’s nothing worse than coming to know a public figure by their profile photo, only to find out it’s from 20-30 years ago. Don’t do that (unless you’re vampire).

There was suppose to be a dog in this photo! LOL Well, we both enjoyed the short walk. Beautiful day. 🙂 A photo posted by Amanda Makepeace (@amandamakepeace) on

4. Respond to your fans

“When you respond to your fans (or customers)…have a conversation with them.”

I try to respond to everyone and if I’m swamped with comments I will still post a ‘Thanks everyone!’ They are taking the time to make a comment, something totally voluntary, the least I can do is show my appreciation.

5. Be consistent

“From how you portray your company across various social networks, to how often you post…”

Also, remember that online and offline, you represent your art and/or brand. That’s why it’s best to be yourself, so when your fans meet you in public (whether it’s at a convention or the grocery store) they aren’t surprised…

I’ll be honest. There are days I don’t feel like socializing at all. I don’t beat myself up about that. Tomorrow is a new day and we all have off days. But when I am online I try to follow these rules and above all I try to have fun. I’ve met so many wonderful people since I joined social media and the various other sites you can find me. Some I even consider more than just acquaintances. They’ve become friends who support my creative vision and that’s invaluable.

Here are the social media hangouts I use most:

Instagram
Facebook
Tumblr
Twitter

I also have a monthly newsletter!

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What shapes your creativity?

We’ve all been shaped by our experiences in life, our past and our present. We probably don’t think about it enough, but as creative individuals those experiences play an important role in what we create. Though I’m conscious of this fact, I’m not sure how closely I’ve ever explored the little bits that have shaped me. Artist Meredith Dillman invited me and other artists to create an Influence Map. If you’re a member of deviantART, you’ve probably seen one of these:


Influence Map Template by fox-orian on DeviantArt

The creator mentions in his description that, you might discover some things about yourself doing this, and he’s right! I’ve decided I’m going to make two Influence Maps. This first map (below) contains my pre-2006 (when I turned 30 years old) influences that clearly still play a role.

Influence Map 1Art Inspired by Fantasy, Nature and Myth — that’s what I have printed on my business cards and it’s no lie. If I had to add anything I’d say there’s also a touch of darkness.

From the top (left to right):

Ram’s Head, Blue Morning Glory by Georgia O’Keeffe

O’Keeffe is the first artist I remember from childhood. My mother kept a book of her art on our coffee table. The cover of the book features one of her skull paintings. Skulls. I don’t think I need elaborate any further.

American Crow

I decided to feature the crow, but let’s just say he represents all birds and nature.

The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse

Again, let’s just assume all the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Magic, Fantasy, Nature…. But also the tone of the paintings, the introspection, the colors.

H.R. Giger

Everyone close to me knows my quiet obsession with his xenomorphs, but all of his art was (and still is) mesmerizing. The darkness!

The Black Unicorn by Michael Parkes

I’ve been a fan of Parkes’ paintings since my early 20’s and I have a few prints rolled up in my closet still. His dream worlds infused with myths and fairy tales are a delight.

The Unicorn Tapestries

I’ve loved these for a long time, longer than I even realized. It wasn’t until last year, when I saw a special screening of  Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn did it become clear. When I traveled to Paris in 2004 seeing the tapestries was on my list, but the museum was closed for maintenance.

Beauty and the Beast (with Laura Hamilton and Ron Perlman)

I’m not embarrassed at all to say I was obsessed with this tv show. There were many teenage tears shed when this show came to an end. I’ve been consumed with many television characters over the years, but only a few brought me a tears when the networks cancelled them. But hysterical fangirling aside, I loved the underground world in this story and the rich costumes. I wanted to live there!

Natural History 

That’s a photo of just a few things in my collection today. I’ve always loved collecting feathers, nests, rocks, bones, shells, etc. I had an impressive collection as a child and it’s still something I do today and incorporate into my art.

Jareth, the Goblin King

There are several movies I identify with from my childhood, movies that I would obsessively watch over and over again. Labyrinth is just one, but out of all of those I feel as if it left the most obvious mark. The movie even has a barn owl! Fantasy with a touch of darkness. I really wanted Sarah to stay with Jareth.

I’d been thinking a lot about where I’m going with my personal work, what makes my heart sing, even before making this influence map. I feel as if much of what I’ve been painting the last two years are just starter paintings. I’ve been exploring and learning a new medium, opening up my creativity–giving myself permission to be myself.

Renascentia by Amanda Makepeace

I think having a style is not something you discover, it’s more about being true to your self when you paint.

Discover More:  Facebook | Twitter | Convention Schedule  | Shop | Quarterly Newsletter

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Conventions: Panels, Art, Books and Leather

Dragon Con & ACE 1995I attended my first Science Fiction & Fantasy convention, Dragon Con, back in the 1990’s. It felt like an endless maze of art, comics, books, jewelry, games, etc. If you brought a wad of cash with you it was the best weekend ever. They first opened their doors in 1987 and for several years it was called Dragon Con and Atlanta Comics Expo. In 1996 they became merely Dragon Con. The Atlanta summer convention has grown and swelled, especially so in recent years. In some ways this is great, it means the convention is doing well but it’s also frustrating when the dealer room is so cramped you can’t reach the booths. That’s what happened last year. Still, it’s one of my favorite yearly events and it has everything.

Some people attend just for the Cosplay, while others are there for their favorite fan track. There are parties and performances, gaming rooms, photo ops with the stars, television/film panels, publisher booths, comics and toys, dealers selling everything under the sun and so much more. Love Star Wars, LOTR, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Anime, Steampunk, Horror? They’ve got you covered.

And yes, there’s a lot of leather. Leather costumes, leather armor, leather corsets, leather accessories and more.

I love all of those things, but what I look forward to most are the educational opportunities and of course, the Art Show. I know. How boring, right? Learning at a SciFi/Fantasy convention?? Yes. Conventions are a great resource for writers, artists and comic creators. First you have the face-to-face networking with others in the field, including editors. Second, you have workshops and panels. I’ve attended a few of the writer/editor/publishing panels. They are top notch. You’re learning from successful, well-known individuals in their fields. The same is true of the Art Show Programming. This year I’m giving a panel on the Basics of Digital Painting in Photoshop. Anyone who’s ever been curious about how to get stared using Adobe Photoshop to paint will have the opportunity to see it in action. I think that beats reading it in a book any day. Here are some other great panels at this year’s convention:

 

Making Art into a Career

Panel of pro artists debate the nitty gritty of the business of art. Not for the faint of heart, real world advice will be given on how to make it!


Anatomy In Action

How the human figure looks with muscles contracting during action. Live models, suitably dressed, demonstrating &
holding poses. Bring your sketchbook.

SkullThe Art of Prepainting, the Unseen Hours Before the Brush Hits the Canvas

For fans and artists alike, join Michael C. Hayes for a glimpse into the work that occurs prior to the actual painting of a narrative illustration.

Open Studio for Art Show Artists

Workshop focuses on the importance of classical figure drawing. Draw from a live model. Bring your own supplies. Sign up with Michael Budzisz-Art Show.

That’s just a taste of the amazing panels scheduled for Dragon Con 2014. You’ve paid for the weekend, if you’re a writer or artist shouldn’t you also take advantage of furthering your career?

You can download the full 2014 Art Show Programming below. Oh, and don’t mind the fact that they have me down as Amanda Makepiece. It’s an easy mistake to make!

Dragon Con Art Show Programming 2014

Don’t Fall for the Trap

Charles de Lint quoteIt’s easy to lose sight of our path. It’s easy to paint what everyone else is painting. It’s easy to think I’ll never be as good as “them.” It’s easy to fall into the trap.

If you aren’t painting for you, you’re stifling your own creative voice. This makes you unique, what sets you apart from other artists. There are dozens of artist/illustrators I admire, and there is a small part of me that hopes and wishes I might be as great as them one day. But focusing on that won’t get me anywhere. As much as I admire Todd Lockwood, Cynthia Sheppard, Dan Dos Santos, and Cory Godbey (to name only a few), trying to be them is a trap. Read more