Monday, June 25, 2007

The View Discusses Women And Business

I don't know if any of you in the blogsphere watch The View, but it is one of the few shows that I enjoy. I often watch the show from my studio while I am drawing. Lately, I've found the episodes a bit boring. Today's episode, however, sparked my interest.

The show featured three guest segments; the entrepreneur who invented Spanx, a group of women who formed an investment club, and the president of Hearst Publications. The president of Hearst Publications reminded me of my former life in the corporate world. She brought up some interesting suggestions about climbing the corporate ladder. Actually, it was the intense pressure of climbing the corporate ladder that inspired me to start my portrait business.

It's not that I choked under pressure. Actually, I thrive when I am busy and faced with an upcoming deadline. I just was not happy with what I was working on and the environment in which I was working. I think that the hosts tried to question the guest about the cutthroat nature of women in business. Some are ruthless in their climb for success. It indicates passion. For me, I was making steady pay, but I was bored out of my skull.

The woman who invented Spanx also had an interesting story to share. She found success in solving the problem of visible panty lines. I say, it's important to follow your heart and intuition. It makes hard work worthwhile, even during the times of struggle. Although, they didn't really tap into that subject much. The guest blamed some of her struggle on the fact that she was pitching a women's hosery idea to an audience of men. After one executive believed in her, she was off to the land of the wealthy.

It's a positive message and encouraging to women who would like to start their own business. However, I think that success depends on the nature of your field. In the field of illustration, for instance, success depends on a subjective opinion of your skill set. Plus, you are competing in a huge pool of talent with fewer openings. There can be a lot of downtime, rejection, and disappointment. It certainly isn't as lucrative as a salaried position in the beginning. Of course, there are exceptions.

The other issue that bothers me is that the emphasis of this episode was money. I agree that people should not be scared of money. Owning a business has provided me with a crash course in basic accounting and marketing. I almost gave up in the beginning, because I found the paperwork and licensing daunting. My passion for drawing helped me work through the fear.

Working in a satisfying field is what is important to me. The fact that I am not a millionaire does not indicate laziness. I have a passion inside of me to succeed. To me, success is about satisfying pet owners and families. In some cases, portraits help people heal from a loss. Yes, it is important to stay afloat and ask for a fair wage. However, the show failed to touch on the beauty of following your passion. In some cases, following your dream feeds the business owner more than monetary compensation.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Zoo Amnesia

If you were wandering in the wild and happened to catch sight of a lion, you would probably feel some fear. A lion's stare is intense. He is probably cranky, guarding his territory, and planning his next meal. Hopefully, you are not the main course.

During my zoo visit last week, I found myself in a rather uncomfortable staring contest with a lioness. I was watching her through my camera viewfinder and trying to find the correct angle. How surreal. I am feet away from a lioness. In the wild, my safety would be questioned. Yet, I smiled and began snapping away with my camera. It's amazing how safe a piece of glass will make you feel.

I often wonder if the lions have become accustomed to the company of humans. What are they thinking while being stared at by throngs of people behind glass? I wonder if they have always lived behind glass and assume that this is normal life. Perhaps, they were bred in zoos and assume that their life consists of heated rocks, pools, and the occasional enrichment ball. Perhaps they think the people are supposed to be there. The staring contest is harmless gazing from boredom. I am not lunch, I am just a strange animal behind a camera.

This would not be possible in the wild.

The happy couple is enjoying the spa-like benefits of heated rocks.

I'm being stared down as if I am offensive paparazzi.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Here is the completed pastel portrait of a sleeping fox. I posted the work-in-progress photo yesterday. After working diligently this morning, I feel like the piece is completed.

This portrait is a bit different, in the fact that it is dark, shadowy, cuddly, yet somewhat creepy. I came across this little guy at the zoo, sleeping under a warm heat lamp. He looked so comfortable and content. When I brought the reference photo into Photoshop and played around with the contrast, I noticed that the photo took on a night-vision effect.

The idea for this portrait was born from the altered reference. I imagined a person camping in the deep woods. The sun is setting and the person decides to take an evening hike to view wildlife. Guided by only a flashlight, the person shines the light on a set of rocks. The light rests on a sleeping fox. This is the moment captured in the picture. Of course, a true fox would be just waking as the sun set. This picture would have to convey early evening, as foxes are nocturnal animals.

The portrait is 11x14" landscape. It is drawn in soft pastels on white, smooth vellum paper.

Upcoming Pet Show

I want to give readers a heads-up on an upcoming pet show that I will be participating in. Nature-Tyme, a large, holistic business in Syracuse, is hosting their annual Dog Days of Summer Pet Health Fair on Saturday, July 14th from 10am-3pm. I am very appreciative of the invitation to participate in this show.

I will post more information as soon as Nature Tyme releases their upcoming newletter with more details. I do know that my portrait business is listed on the cover of the mailer, along with my website! Here's hoping that the show day has beautiful weather and is not too humid : )

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On The Drawing Board - Sleeping Fox

It's time for another work-in-progress photo! I started this pastel painting yesterday. Right now, I am in the process of laying down layers of color that will help the finish "pop".

The reference photo for this picture was taken during my zoo excursion/adventure last week. I came upon the sleeping fox in one of the indoor exhibits. He was curled up in a ball under the heat lamp, which produced an interesting lighting effect and Adobe Photoshop enhanced the effect. I want the image to appear as if the viewer is discovering a sleeping fox on a camping trip with their flashlight. It's something different and I hope that the end result looks good.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Finished Golden Retriever Pastel

I decided that I wasn't completely satisfied with the golden retriever portrait that I posted a few days ago. I felt like the proportions in the head were a bit off and that it needed more detail in the floor. I worked on the drawing this morning and finally feel as if it is completely finished. At least, for now....

In case you didn't catch the drawing specifics below... This piece is an 11x14" landscape. Sunny, the subject, is drawn in pastels on smooth, white vellum paper. I have re-named this piece "Post-Dinner Nap". The title isn't very snappy, but it's the most creative title that my tired mind could imagine in the morning. Perhaps, after lunch, my mind will come up with a more witty title. If you have any good ideas, leave me a comment!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Rosamond Gifford Zoo Pictures & Vacation

I have been neglecting my blog for the past few days. Shame on me! I am taking a vacation right now and have been away from my computer more than usual. It's not a fancy vacation with tropical climate and a plane trip. Mostly, I've been reclining at home and catching up on some rest. Yesterday, however, I went to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo with my hubby.

I thought I would share some of my favorite pics from the trip. I travel to the zoo a few times a year to take reference pictures for my wildlife art. There are always a few animals that are obscured from view because of their lush habitats. For instance, I have never seen the wolves. They usually hide in the tall grass. Yesterday, I saw three members of the pack and it was incredible to witness. The alpha was cautiously eyeing the perimeter of the habitat. I took a few pictures but few came through clearly.

This trip also made me realize that it is time for a new camera. My camera is not very steady and blurs easily. I was disappointed with many pictures, but have shared a few of the fun, clear compositions below. Enjoy!!!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Old Gentleman

Here is my latest portrait. The work-in-progress/"ugly stage" was posted in yesterday's entry. This portrait features my golden retriever, Sunny. The reference photo was taken as Sunny napped on my kitchen floor, with his ear hanging into his water dish. Although this isn't the most interesting composition, I think it conveys the feeling of the moment. It also shows the typical senior golden napping position.

Here are the details of the piece... It is 11x14" landscape on smooth, white vellum paper. The piece is drawn with soft pastel sticks (traditional soft pastels).

I'm still not sure how I feel about this one. I guess I wanted more detail in the foreground. It's difficult to photograph Sunny with life in his eyes. He's very old and appears tired in almost every picture.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

On The Drawing Board

I am working on a new golden retriever drawing. It is in the "ugly stage", which is a rather embarrassing stage where the piece is "not quite ready". The proportions are not exact, the colors are not perfect, and sometimes I wonder if my golden retriever could finish the piece more precisely. He probably could provide some interesting textures with his paw.

I will go back to the drawing board after this post. I just wanted to give you a peek at what I am working on.

Oh! I think my cat is jealous that I am not drawing her right now. I've caught her sitting on my studio chair and staring at my drawing desk. It appears that she is saying, "Where is my drawing?" My last three drawings have been of Molly and I think that this focus is going to her head. Before you know it, she will have an agent.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Goodbye, Mr. Mouse : (

It's been 24 hours since my frightening encounter with the wounded mouse. Since the blog, I sealed the door to the guest bedroom and allowed the mouse to die peacefully without interruption from my prey-driven dog and lazy cat. The cat meowed to be let into the room, but I think it was mainly to bat the mouse around like a toy.

This morning, I figured enough time had passed to allow the mouse a peaceful recovery or death. I opened the door, hoping that the mouse was alive and had disappeared into the walls. Unfortunately, it was on the dogbed and appeared to be dead. I was terrified to even look at the poor creature.

One might say, "Come on! It's just a mouse!" Well, my heart goes out to all animals, even snakes. I severely dislike snakes. If there was a dead snake, I would mourn the poor critter. Thank goodness, that this was a mouse and not a snake.

I squirmed for a few minutes and then swallowed my discomfort. I'm an adult and a strong woman. I can handle this. Quickly, I placed the mouse into a paper bag. Don't worry, I used a broom and dustpan. I didn't want to catch any weird bacterial diseases. You never know with wildlife.

Mr. Mouse received a dignified burial in the bushes of my yard. He is with nature. My guest room is now usable. I will thoroughly clean it and life will go on.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Who Needs A Mousetrap?

I want to preface this entry by saying that I never believed in mousetraps. They've always seemed inhumane to me. It would be like someone luring me with a chocolate bar. Come on, Mia. Get the chocolate. Then... smack! I'm ensnared for following the delicious treat.

I didn't sleep well last night. At an ungodly hour, I was awakened by an intense scratching and fumbling noise in the guest bedroom. My dog sleeps in that room and I could hear a commotion and her collar jingling. I tried to ignore it, but then I thought she may be having a seizure.

So, I got up and checked to see if she was ok. She was walking in circles and then madly pawing at the curtain across the room. It was as if she was out of her mind. She was insanely focused on something.

My first thought was that she had a brain tumor and was in a crazy stage. I heard about a dog that had a brain tumor and one day, it just started walking in circles. That seemed plausible in my tired mind, until I saw my dog walking toward me with a tuft of black fur in her mouth. I thought that maybe she had been attacking a toy.

I turned on the light (because it was an ungodly hour in the morning and still dark outside). When I turned on the light, there was a mouse laying on her dogbed. I screamed. It didn't move. I ran into my bedroom and figured my dog would eat the mouse.

I tried to return to sleep, but I couldn't. Tossing and turning, I thought of the dogs that kill rodents and leave them as presents on their owner's doorstep. And the cat. Oh my God! The cat. Once she gets a hold of this thing, she could carry it onto my bed.

I shreaked and ran downstairs. Where is the cat during this whole debacle? Aren't cats supposed to hunt mice? Shouldn't she have at least been in the room, lured by the delicious rodent smell?

The cat ran upstairs, went into the room, and walked away. How lazy can you get? Of course, I know this, because I nervously observed her behavior from a safe spot in the hallway.

I thought about moving the mouse, because I would have to return upstairs and sleep. I didn't want to worry about a mouse in my bed. So, I grabbed a broom, a dustpan, and a plastic bag. I was going to be brave. Tom is away and I normally scream and allow him to take care of any wildlife problems.

I have to move this mouse or it will smell like dead animal upstairs. I inch toward the rodent and it appears to be alive and staring at me. I scream and decide to wait.

A while later, I try again. The mouse is now on the dogbed, on its back, with its legs in the air. Clearly, the animal is dead. Clearly. I squirm and attempt to sweep it directly into the plastic bag. This is no joke. The mouse gets up and moves across the room!

It wasn't dead. It was frozen in fear, pretending to be dead, so that my dog would leave it alone. It's face was mangled, fur wet, and still alive.

I screamed and ran downstairs. The next few hours, I had the kind of nausea where you sweat and feel desperate for fresh air. I was sure that I would throw up. For what reason, I do not know.

My dog and cat ran up into the bedroom and I heard commotion off and on over the next few hours. I got brave and checked on the carnage. The mouse appeared to be dead and on the dogbed. The cat was staring at it in the bedroom. I lured kitty out of the room and shut the door.

Now, I am waiting for the mouse to peacefully die from its injuries (or live and go back to its home). I'm not sure when I will finally be convinced that it will not run across the room when I try to remove it. I really don't want to look at it again. Does anyone have any ideas on how to proceed?

This reminds me of an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie is sleeping and a mouse crawls in her bed. It nibbles on her ear. Her boyfriend says where there is one, there will be more. Oh great. I may have an infestation on my hands... and a very lazy cat.