Category Archives: Business

The Art of Rejection

A few weeks ago, I submitted a seven-piece portfolio to a juried show. It was my first attempt at jury submission. It failed.

After I finished blubbering and sketched myself a sad squid, I started looking objectively at the situation. Had I simply been rejected, I may not have asked why. But they mistakenly sent me two e-mails; the first one said “Congratulations, you’ve been accepted!” and the second, which came the next day, said “Sorry, but you have not been selected.” Shortly afterward, the art director sent another e-mail explaining the mix-up and told me the “reject” e-mail was the correct one.

I was fairly mad, considering the “accept” e-mail came first. I slept on it, and finally decided to write the director about the situation. I politely expressed indignation about the fiasco, and I also asked if the jury had any comments. I really wanted some insight about why I was rejected.

They were nice enough, and came back with this: “Your work is inventive but lacks focus.” That one line, that short sentence, says so much. I had selected a variety of styles to show the jury my versatility.

Turns out, the majority of juries, galleries, and buyers want consistency rather than variety. Think about it from a buyer’s standpoint: you want to be able to sum up the artist’s style in a few seconds by looking at a wall of their art.

I am still learning and exploring with styles, mediums, supports… everything! Because I’m still new to painting, I don’t know what I want to focus on. I have so many interests that it’s painful to pick just one area. But I have to if I want to become a serious artist. It just feels too soon! I don’t want to limit myself when I hardly know anything and have oodles still to learn. Does anyone else feel that conflict?

I learned a bunch from my rejection. The lesson this week: use your failures to evaluate yourself and improve your art. It’s tough, but it’s worth it. I was back to my normal self in no time, and wiser to boot.

Back to Work

Flying Ace by Meg Lyman

Pencil doodle

Hey everyone, I’m back from Anthrocon! It was a lot of fun meeting people I met online. I talked to a bunch of great artists, traded sketches, doodled a lot, bought art, and sold a few things. I only moved 2 prints, one commission, and 3 originals, but one of those origials (the Cuddlefish) got 8 written bids, which sent it to voice auction. Yay! I have to wait until August (when they send out checks) to find out how much it went for, since I had to leave the auction early.

I met, bought art from, or am otherwise promoting the following great artists:

Ursula Vernon

Bloodhound Omega





Cassandra Rising

I think I am coming down with a cold. It’s either “con crud” or something I got on the airplane. Oh well. Time to go make art before my nose starts leaking on everything.


Several of my “acquaintances inside the computer” have recently blogged about outdoor show setup. Maggie posted about tents and the dos and don’ts of outdoor shows, and Casey has a whole blog about it! The tips they give are priceless; if I ever do outdoor shows, all I ever need to know is in the world of art blogs. However, not many folks have mentioned indoor shows. Could be that normal artists stick to outdoor fairs and trade shows, whereas Anthrocon is… well… weird.

Crashoctopus by Meg Lyman

8×10″ gouache on paper

I have been to a few conventions already. By convention (or con), I mean a get-together for fantasy, sci-fi, or some other “fandom.” Cons usually have big art shows, but they also have dealer booths, seminars, contests, costumes, and music. They’re all very selectively themed… fandoms can get weird. So far, I’ve been to Con on the Cob, run by my good friend Andy Hopp, and DragonCon. Both are general fantasy/sci-fi conventions. Quite nerdy, but tons of fun.

Mauveater by Meg Lyman

9×12″ gouache on Claybord

This year, I’m venturing to a Anthrocon, a “furry” convention. The furry fandom is the weirdest I’ve come across so far. They like anthropomorphic animals – think Disney’s Robin Hood. If you want to know more, check out WikiFur. I never even knew about this stuff until recently, but there are online communities dedicated to furry artwork, and I’m getting a lot of traffic there. I’m beginning to think there might be a market for cute squids and nerdy Linux art!

Football Squid by Meg Lyman

8×10″ gouache on illo board

Anthrocon has a huge art show; a place to showcase your work and maybe win a few awards. But more importantly, it is a silent auction, and Like eBay, it is potentially very lucrative. There is also an area called “Artists’ Alley,” where artists sit and sell prints and take commissions and doodle in other people’s sketchbooks.

Laurel Lagomorph by Meg Lyman

5×7″ oil on Claybord

I requested two 2×4′ panels for the show. Anthrocon sent me blank bid sheets and stickers. I laid out my two panels on my floor with masking tape and jammed as many matted pieces in as I could, then wrote up bid sheets for the front and stickers for the back. My starting bids are fairly low; although some fine artists can sell 5x7s or 6x6s for $100, my bids will start at $35 for the 5x7s. It’s not just me; even the best artists in this genre can’t charge what they could if they painted still-life oranges instead of upright mammals.

The Halfback by Meg Lyman

9×12″ gouache on paper

Once I got my show art picked out, I matted up a bunch of other originals to sell in Artists’ Alley. I scanned files and had a few prints made. Usually I do this at a local place called Silver Dog Digital, but they are very high quality and correspondingly very expensive. For a convention where I’ll have over a hundred 8×10″ prints, I couldn’t afford their prices, so I went to Kinko’s and got mediocre prints for $1.24 each. I considered print-on-demand, but my friend at Rapid POD is very busy and I sort of waited until the last minute.

Cuddlefish by Meg Lyman

5×7″ colored pencil on paper

I took one of each print and threw it in a clear sleeve, and they went into a binder that will lay open on the table. I have a nice display box for the non-show originals so people can flip through them. I made up an inventory sheet and a table display sign (name, URL, prices). I had little cards made of my “adopt” cat and dog, and cut them into ~2×3″ cards to give away with purchases. They’ll also be on sale for $1, with proceeds going to the local shelter.

Here’s the setup. Now I just have to make sure it all fits in my suitcase.


I enjoy helping homeless pets. I have volunteered at shelters, fostered kittens, and adopted (in my unbiased opinion) the best cat in the world from a no-kill shelter. She had been there three years.

So I want to use my art skills to help the less fortunate. I designed this little cat logo with the intention of getting it embroidered on stocking caps, just like my CrashOctopus hats. I wrote a letter to my favorite local shelter last winter, proposing that we make some hats and sell them at adoptions, with all proceeds going to the animals. They haven’t answered any e-mails or phone messages about it. Either it’s a horrible idea, or they’re too busy. I’d like to get your opinion before I proceed.

Is this a design you think people will buy? On what? Stocking caps… probably not at this time of year, at least in the northern hemisphere. T-shirts, maybe? I did a bunch of different colors and line thicknesses, and I did a dog logo, too. All suggestions welcome (i.e. would it look better with whiskers?). Meg wants to help kitties!

The Artwagon

We can make a million excuses for the absence of productivity. I’ve heard from many a successful artist that no excuse is good enough; there’s always time to make art if you really want to. They’re right, but there are life events that make it nigh impossible to do anything more than sketch. Sketching is great, and I know I should do it more often. But to me, it isn’t nearly as satisfying on working on a “finished” piece.

Sketching and its virtues notwithstanding, a lack of true artistic productivity is easy to start. You have guests. You have work done in your dwelling. You go out of town. Someone gets sick. Sketching… easy! Make saleable art… a bit tougher. And once I get started with my utter lack of output, it’s difficult to get going again. Not sure why — Newton’s First Law, perhaps? A productive artist will remain productive, and an artist who has excuses will remain artless. Anyone else have this problem?

It doesn’t take much to get me motivated again; drawing and painting are too exhilarating to abandon for long. However, there’s always a short wall to climb before I can get back on the artwagon. And it is in no way tied to the lack of art in this post. Not at all.

Actually, the same thing happens with workouts at the gym. *sigh*

Art Self Today

Cephalicide by Meg Lyman

Mixed Media (colored pencil, gouache, & ink) on toned paper – 8×10″

$50 – e-mail to buy

Being tagged got me thinking. I told you 7 things about me you probably didn’t know, but they’re random things and not necessarily related to art. Being able to lick my nose is cool, but it has no useful application in art. Or anything else, really. So I will share with you my short “art self” story, both to potentially help others, and to record it for myself, so that in a year I can read this and see how much more successful I became. Or how badly I tanked. You never can tell.

Quick history: I’ve drawn things forever. Don’t we all, as children? But some people stop; I never did. I took a few classes in high school and college, sticking to pencils and pursuing a totally unrelated career. After graduating and working for a while, I took a few community classes. The end.

Oh wait… that’s just the beginning! About a year ago, I saw some art that made me decide to abandon my fear of color and start painting. I started with single-hue paintings, using my experience with value and sticking to one color. Ever since, I’ve been expanding my boundaries and exploring color. The more color I do, the more I love it.

I still do pencil work and enjoy it. I am working on pencil illustrations for a couple RPG books, and trying to push my values even further.

I still feel like I’m experimenting with color, but I’m more confident now than I was a year ago, both with color itself and with the tools. I’ve dabbled in digital art and got paid to design two website logos. I’ve sold several originals. I’ve built enough inventory to call and visit a few galleries and shops. One local gallery said my stuff was good, then shut down for the summer – but it still sounds promising. I have some photos on sale in a small (but really cool) store in Iowa. I have had a couple portrait commission inquiries. And I have two restaurants that will hang some of my art next month.

I have a huge spreadsheet full of art ideas that must be painted before I croak. My next big project will be painting 100 cephalopod species. It may take years, but I’m excited about it. And to show you how far I’ve come since I started with color, my latest and greatest work is on display above (permission to roll eyes and snicker granted).

I also started this blog. It’s been wonderful so far (for me at least… I hope for you as well). I have a million ideas, questions, and tips I want to share with you. That’s the end for now. I wonder what the next year will bring?

Shameless eBay Plug

I’ve been toying with the idea of selling art at online auction for a while now. I’ve read up about it, and I got a lot of great suggestions and tips from the folks at WetCanvas. But browsing eBay is one of the best reference methods. From this type of snooping, I learned that people who have a good following on their blogs often get good bids on their art.

I think this is because the blog brings the artist closer to the collector. Well, it can. Some art bloggers just post pictures and prices, and many get good sales. But I’m talking about the artists who add more content than just the art, whether as tutorials, lessons learned, or just good writing. I’ve heard it said that connecting to potential buyers in that way removes the “mystery” surrounding the artist and exposes their mystical powers of creation. Bah. I think reading about the art or the artist brings me closer to their art, and makes me want to buy it more. I enjoy the whole experience more when there’s a story behind it.

Anyway, I think that’s part of why good art bloggers can almost always get decently high bids on eBay. Blogging is a great communication tool. I have a long way to go in terms of marketing, and I know my listing is boring and already have suggestions for improvement. But here it is anyway:

Cat Prints ACEO by Meg Lyman

Click to bid

I bought a pack of Art Cards from someone online. Upon unwrapping them, I was immediately drawn to the hot pink ones. Not just pink, but neon pink. I thought, “what on earth am I going to do with these?” So of course, the first one I pull out is hot pink, and I use up about 90 seconds of my life drawing this. I’d love to get bids, but this is a learning experiment for me more than anything.

All suggestions welcome. We’ll see how it goes.

Galleries and Shows

I was going to blog about more gouache supports today, but I had an exciting development yesterday that is preventing me from thinking coherently for more that 12 seconds at a time.

I have been painting and otherwise working in color for almost a year now. I have ramped up production in the recent months, and I now have about 30 works in color. Not a lot, but enough to convince myself that I should visit a local gallery. I was nosing around the internet for local galleries and shows, and found a lot that sell “stuffy” art – you know the kind – traditional scenes, drab colors, perfect for an office hallway. I don’t have anything against stuffy art, but I love bright colors, and my art definitely wouldn’t fit into a gallery like that. And I could choose from a bunch of outdoor art shows, but I’m not prepared to make the investment in a tent, table, panels, and the vehicle to carry all that around. I was feeling a bit discouraged, having just found out I missed the Dragon*Con Art Show jury deadline… but then I came across the Blue Frog Gallery, right here in Marietta. Oh, the colors! I tried to e-mail them a link to my website portfolio, but the form wasn’t working… so I decided to go in person.

I matted a bunch of stuff, loaded up the car, and went. There was a one-artist show going on, and her brightly colored art was all over the walls. I sure didn’t want a show, since you could put all my colored art on a few 2×6′ panels. But I was looking for advice, and perhaps they’d take one or two of my pieces.

The gallery owner was fantastic and friendly, and liked my style. She does a lot more than showings – there are art classes and she’s starting a set of “fairs” – like outdoor art shows, but inside the gallery. She invited me to set up a table in the event at the end of this month. She really liked Bugsy, who I’d framed that morning with crappy results (framing pastels is hard!).

I’m so excited, and have a lot of prep work to do. I’m also a bit nervous, since I don’t really feel like I’ve found my style yet. In fact, I feel a looonnng way away from that. I’ve learned enough about color to know I know nothing. And yet, I might just sell something… we’ll see.

Today’s Lesson: you never know if you don’t try.