Archive for November, 2009

My Art Thanks

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

It is a bit cliche to write out a list of things to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Oh, well.

I’m thankful that I started my current series of prints, it was the kick in the butt I needed to start making art again.

I’ve tried a lot of things over the last few years, coaching, teaching, blogging, and design, but none has felt as satisfying as art. I’m pretty sure I’ve finally landed on the thing that I’ll stick with for quite a while, and find my fortune and glory from.

I’m thankful that I know what is next. I have been working on completing this current series, and until I’m done, am not starting any other projects. I’m hoping to be done by the end of 2009, and can start the next project on Jan 1, 2010.

Ideas aren’t the problem, it is the time to execute, and the time to invest in getting my chops back. With that in mind, I’m thankful that I am dedicated to this. Fortune and Glory does not come to the timid.

I’m thankful to every one who has bought one of the prints (30% sold out already, sign up for the newsletter to get in on the pre-release sale). It has been an encouraging way to start this pre-launch of my art.

The truth that I am discovering is that success with this “art thing” takes a ton of work. It is a job to make art, and another job to market and sell it. Both benefit from full time engagement. Working this in with a full time DayJob gives me a more work than should be possible. It’s a good thing I am a little obsessed with this, so, strange as it is, I’m thankful for my obsessive and compulsive tendencies.

Please, feel free to subscribe to the RSS feed or check back frequently, because I am just getting started with all of this. It is going to take a while, and you are invited to watch it happen.

Be An Artist: Get a Sketch Book Today

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

[Be An Artist is a new series of posts I am starting – each gives a quick, actionable tip to help you start making art today]

The artists most valuable tool is his sketch book.

It is also a good test of your commitment to art.

One of the two most important things I need to do every day is draw. (the other is to write, which I’m doing now)

I actually didn’t get any time for drawing yesterday. I spent the entire weekend in front of my computer writing the emails and recording some audio content I am going to send you when you sign up for my newsletter.

By the end of the day yesterday I was pretty fried, and didn’t get to it. I should have though.

Anyway, enough about me, onwards to you!

What do you need?

Getting started with a sketch book is pretty low overhead. It doesn’t require much. For about $20, you can be in and out of the art store with everything you need.

Required items:

  • A sketch book
  • Some pencils
  • A pencil sharpener

That’s it.

Take some time when you are buying your sketch book. You are going to be stuck with it for a while, so make sure it is something you like. Don’t get too nice of a sketch book though, I don’t want you to have something so nice that you are hesitant to “mess it up”.

I use regular old pencils that I you can get anywhere, and a cheap plastic pencil sharpener, the kind you can get at your local drug store.

Glenmorangie Bottle - Ink and Colored Pencil

Glenmorangie Bottle - Ink and Colored Pencil

For Over Achievers

For those of you that aren’t satisfied with mere graphite, here’s a few more things you can get to spice up the sketch book.

  • Eraser
  • Colored Pencils
  • Oil Pastels
  • Pens/Markers

This will give you the ability to mess around with some color, and do more in depth drawings in your sketch book.

What to draw?

Good question. It doesn’t matter though.

I even draw myself - Oil Pastel Sketch

I even draw myself - Oil Pastel Sketch

An artist’s sketchbook is for herself, not for others. It is a tool to improve and hone the skills an artist needs. to this end, it doesn’t matter what you draw, it only matters that you draw.

I like to draw whatever is around me.

If I am drinking a cup of coffee, I’ll draw that. If I am sitting on my bed, looking at my desk, I’ll draw that. If I just bought a bottle of Scotch, I’ll draw that.

The what isn’t as important as the how. The point of the sketch book is to improve the skills of seeing, processing what you see, and turning that into line.

Create a habit

The best way to make sure that you draw on a regular basis is to make it part of your daily routine.

I draw in the evenings, after I get home from work. I draw for an hour. I either make it the first thing I do when I get home from work, or the last thing I do before I go to bed.

I need this sort of structure and habit, but another structure might work better for you. It does take effort though to make it happen.

You will be pleased with the work you do, as long as you stick with it, and your progress will amaze yourself.

= = = = = = = = =

The images in this post are from my Flickr account. Check it out by clicking here. There’s not much on it yet, but I am starting to fill it up.

Your 1 Most Important Activity

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Something you can do today is more important than everything else you will do.

Jack Daniel's Bottle Sketch

Jack Daniel's Bottle Sketch

There is one activity, one thing, that will help you to get what you want, create your masterpiece, or advance your career.

For me, this is drawing.

Despite all of the marketing I may be able to muster, the success of my art is going to depend ultimately on the quality of my art. Since I am not an abstract expressionist, I need to be able to draw (though I would argue that even abstract need to have strong drawing skills).

Drawing is the primary skill that all of my artwork flows from. Without drawing, I can not make art. I would then have nothing to sell and nothing to market.

I need strong drawing skills.

I have recently started a habit of drawing every day, for around an hour. Implementing a habit takes time, but I know that I need to implement this habit as a non-negotiable habit. It is, after all, the most important thing I can do.

I have started very simply. I draw things that are around me. A couple nights ago I drew the desk in my office. Last night, an empty whiskey bottle. What I draw isn’t as important as just doing it. The ability to transform lines into an image, and to recreate what I see on paper is a fundamental skill.

I will not succeed without it.

Everybody has a “most important thing”

This idea does not just apply to artists and drawing.

Whatever you are creating, one thing is the most important thing to do today. If you are a blogger, writing is the most important thing for you to do. If you create iPhone apps, writing code is the most important thing to do. If you are dieting, then exercise is the most important thing for you to do.

The people who succeed are the people that do their most important activity every day, no matter what.

What is your most important thing?

What is that most important activity?

It is the one thing that you cannot have success without.

If I did not have this website, my email newsletter, and mobs of admirers, there is a chance I could succeed on skill alone. It may not be likely, but it is possible.

The successful people are going to be those that do whatever they need to do to succeed, every day. If you do it so much it becomes habit, all the better.

Overachievers are ok too

I lied. I actually have two most important things. One is drawing. The other is writing.

I have two jobs. One is as an artist. The second is as a marketer. The success of each is supported by success of the other.

As a marketer, my most important activity is writing. I’ve written about my morning power hour elsewhere, but maybe I’ll bring it back up here one of these days.

My alarm goes off at 5:45 every morning, so that I can sit at my computer from 6:00 to 7:00 am and write. I write blog posts, email newsletters, sales copy, etc. The important thing is that I write. Sometimes I have no idea what I am going to write, and that’s when I produce that blog post that kinda sucks.

It is more important to write something badly than to not write at all.

I separate my two jobs into morning and evening. In the morning, before I go to DayJob, I am a marketer. When I get home from DayJob, I am an artist. Each of these times has its most important thing to do.

What is your most important thing to do? Leave me a comment and let me know.

By all accounts, I shouldn’t be Writing

Monday, November 16th, 2009

I had a busy weekend.

I redesigned this site, and I wrote the first draft of a number of pages on this site that will be the lifeblood of sales.

I created a checkout cart and a gallery of art. The foundation is in place to actually make sales.

I signed and numbered the 101 Woodblock Series. That itself is a lot of work.

I have spent an unholy amount of time in front of two computers all weekend. In fact, when I was going to sleep last night, I had some some great ideas for the sales copy I have to refine this week, and had to wake up, grab a pen and paper, and write down the ideas.

I shouldn’t be sitting in front of my computer again this morning.

The prints that I have been making and discussing on this site are going on sale this week to Insider Newsletter subscribers. Selling art on the internet takes a whole lotta work. Who woulda node?

There are some changes coming down the line to BDD.

The best content, and new, better, multimedia content is going to be moved to an Insiders Only area. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be good stuff here, but the best stuff will be Insider-Only.

The newsletter is available to everyone, but you have to want it. That’s the key. This is a two way relationship, and you have to want to build a relationship with me as much as I want to build a relationship with you.

Now may be your last chance to sign up for the newsletter on the old, not very good sign up page.

You see, I showed the signup page to a friend of mine that is actually good at writing sales copy, and he revised and tweaked the copy on that Newsletter signup page. I haven’t changed it to the new and improved copy yet, but let me warn you: the new copy will force you to sign up. The new copy is so good that you will actually lose control over your free will when you read it and sign up for the newsletter.

Once I use the new copy, that is.

The old copy leaves it up to your free will to sign up. Free will is pretty cool. I guess.

Click here to sign up for the newsletter.

So anyway. I may be writing more on this blog about the sales and marketing of art and the culture of art, in addition to just the production of art.

This should be a nice resource for artists, collectors, and most of all, folks who just like art.



Harder Than Art

Friday, November 13th, 2009

When I was in school getting my art degree, guest lecturers would speak about how to be a successful professional artist. They made one thing was abundantly clear: being a professional artist is two full time jobs, one as an artist, and one in sales and marketing.

Back then, I always thought to myself, “whatever. Sales and marketing can’t take that long.”

It turns out, I was wrong. The 101 Woodblock series is almost ready for a pre-launch, available for newsletter subscribers. Putting everything in place to start marketing these things has been a lot of work. Far more than I imagined when I heard guest lecturers say this back in college.

Anyhow, the prints I am making for this current project will be available only to Newsletter subscribers, for a cut rate. The pre-release price is just enough to cover my materials and mailing expenses.

I’m doing these as a crash course in fine art printmaking after all, and, well, as a marketing gimmick. The best marketing is done by giving people far more value than you ask in return after all.

Details will be coming out next week on the Insider Newsletter. If you want to get a head start on signing up, click here to get on the newsletter.

If you have to ask, you don’t get it

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Either that, or I am just f**king around.

This is not an apple or something

This is not an apple or something

Please, imagine that the above is some sort of thought provoking art.

Small posters of this photograph are available for $75 each. Contact me for details.

A print is not necessarily a Print

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

The word “print” can mean a couple different things. It is frustrating to me when I tell people that I make prints and they misunderstand, and I think it has led to a fair bit of confusion for the average art connoisseur.

A “print” can be:

  • A hand created and printed piece of artwork, created either as a monotype, relief print, intaglio, or lithograph
  • A high quality reproduction of a work of art using photographic and mechanical means. These are also sometimes called “lithograph”
  • A poster

I’m going to go a little in depth into each one and explain the difference.

Handprinted Art Prints

These types of prints are drawn on the printing element by hand, inked by hand, and hand printed or run through a manual printing press. The main methods used to print these types of prints are monotype, relief (ie. woodblock), Intaglio (or etching), and lithography. Silkscreen can be included in this list, though silkscreen seems to be more widely used for craft rather than art.

Each print made by these methods is an original work of art. In fact, there is no “original” to speak of, because no image is being reproduced. The image is being produced for the first time with the printing elements (the plates, block, stones, etc), it is just being produced a number of times.

When people refer to Fine Art Printmaking, it is this type of printmaking that they refer to. Since these prints are original art, these types of prints maintain and increase in value over time. These are the type of prints that investors and collectors purchase.

This type of Printmade Fine Art is the type of prints that I make and sell here on BDD.

High Quality Reproductions

These type of prints are often referred to as a “limited edition Lithograph” or a Giclée print. These are high quality reproductions of an original work of art. The original art is created, and then photographic and mechanical methods are used to reproduce it.

These prints will often be signed and numbered, and issued as a limited set, so these can be easily confused with Printmade Art prints. This gets more confusing because these are often referred to as “lithographs”. The tricky thing about this language is that pretty much everything is a lithograph. Newspapers and magazines are lithographs, they are just produced by industrial lithography, rather than hand-printed lithography.

These types of lithographs are not hand printed in the fine art sense, though there may be an operator working the printing press.

Sometimes these will be called Giclée prints. Giclée is essentially a really fancy ink jet printer. (And I mean really fancy. I’ve seen Giclée printer produce prints, and they look mighty nice.

Though these types of prints are often limited editions, they do not hold and increase their value as well as original printmade art. They may maintain some value, and increase in value, depending on the artist and the work, but they won’t be an investment like a hand printed art print.


We all know about these kind of prints. These are the type that we hung in our college dorm room, to show off our appreciation for Van Gogh or Monet. These are the type of print that you will get at Museum gift shops or stores that sell art prints.

These prints are a great way to be able to look at your favorite work of art. Certainly, I know that I won’t ever own a Manet or Renoir painting, so this type of poster would be the appropriate way to have this art in my apartment.

These types of prints are not signed and numbered. They are mass produced, and are a consumable good. They are pretty, but they are not original art.

The continuing saga of Block 5

Monday, November 9th, 2009

I’ve noticed something about a lot of my blog posts. At the end of the posts, I say I am gonna continue in the next posts and write about the next part of the subject. Then I never really write that next post. I’m kinda flaky like that.

But not today!

It’s a beautiful Monday morning, I’ve got some delicious white plums cut up, trucks are falling off the bay bridge, and my cup of coffee is almost done brewing. Time to continue the saga of Block 5, the coolest linoleum block ever to be made!

So I finished up the start of the story of Block 5 with the block completely carved. As I was carving the block, I realized that I would like another block to print to add some color to this block. This requires transferring the image from Block 5, the line art, to another block.

To do this, I printed block 5 on a sheet of mylar, as shown below:

The block is printed on mylar to transfer the image

The block is printed on mylar to transfer the image

Mylar is a thin, but rigid plastic material. The ink prints onto the mylar well, because it has a little roughness to the surface, but it does not soak in to the mylar, like ink does on paper. This is perfect for transferring images from one block to another, because the ink does not dry, and stays right on the surface.

I take the sheet of mylar, and press it against the surface of block 6 to transfer the image.

Using the mylar, the image is transfered to a fresh block, Block 6

Using the mylar, the image is transfered to a fresh block, Block 6

Since prints print backwards, I have to go through these two steps to get the image on tho the final block correctly. When I first printed block 5, it came out backwards on the mylar. When I press the mylar on block 6, it transfers the image backwards again. Double backwards, is, of course, forwards.

Printmaking Aside: This is pretty much what biog, industrial lithograph machines do, the kind that print magazines, newspapers, etc. The panel that is printed is on one roller, than there is another roller that the image gets printed on. This second roller then prints that ink on to the paper. By transferring the image twice, rather than once, the image comes out the way it looks on the block.

Back to block 6, now I have lines to use as a guide, and I carve up the block to print a flat color behind the line art. Here is block 6 after it has been carved and the ink cleaned up:

Block 6 is carved and ready to print

Block 6 is carved and ready to print

So now I’ve got these two blocks. What to do with them. What to do…

Here’s how Block 5 and Block 6 look printed together:

Block 5 and 6 printed (click for larger)

Block 5 and 6 printed (click for larger)

In the top left corner you will notice some pencil marks. I drew these on the block when I was printing the first block on the paper so that I would know where to line up the second block. It is a pretty crude system, but it worked fairly well. I only lost one print over the weekend to poor print alignment.

Now the fun begins. I combine this block with some of my other blocks to make some woodblock prints. Here’s a few of the completed prints I finished this weekend that involve Block 5 and Block 6:

Block 5 and 6 were used as background for a previous block in this print (click for larger)

Block 5 and 6 were used as background for a previous block in this print (click for larger)

I like how the blue horizontal bands extend beyond the image area (click for larger)

I like how the blue horizontal bands extend beyond the image area (click for larger)

Since it is autumn (supposedly), here's something in brown (click for larger)

Since it is autumn (supposedly), here's something in brown (click for larger)

If you want on the inside list for the release of these prints, sign up for the Bad Deacon Design newsletter by clicking here.

I can’t get no satisfaction

Monday, November 9th, 2009

I’m sitting here in my apartment, eating dinner and watching some TV to relax on Sunday night. I’ve been working a lot this weekend. It’s actually been all work. I worked till midnight Friday on a run of prints, woke up Saturday, and headed over to Dan’s house (my former roommate) to work on a new demo for our band.

I had a little powwow with Dr. WordPress afterwards, and we talked business plans and such. Got home Saturday night, printed up another run on my prints, and got to sleep.

I cleaned up my apartment today (it needed it), printed yet another run of prints, just a few today, an additional run on about 10 prints. I’ve been carving a woodblock for a few hours, and that brings me to where I am at the beginning of this post, dinner and TV.

I just looked over at this block I carved this afternoon, and I know I am gonna print it tonight.

And I won’t be satisfied.

I know artists are always self critical. Yesterday, with Dan, we were listening back to one of the takes we recorded. He mentioned that he messed up his drums a few times, but I didn’t hear it. He was far more critical of his craft than I was, because he was closer ot it.

This is a plague that infects a lot of artists, from what I have noyticed. I know I have it.

Pulling that first print off the block is exciting, but once it is hanging to dry, I start to see all the flaws. I see every misstep with my carving knife, how the color would look better if it was a shade different, the uneven pressure I put on the block when I printed it, making the final ink coverage inconsistent, or the lack of balance in the overall image.

I can’t get no satisfaction from my work.

When I say this, I hear the song in my head, except I hear the version by Devo, rather than the original version by the Stones.

Actually, I hear that version now, since I threw on Q: Are We Not Men? onto the speakers.

Usually I would sit around and stew in my dissatisfaction with what I am making, but instead I think I can address it by writing up this post and letting you sit there and read about how art is such a frustrating endeavor.

I think that the frustration that I feel with the art I make is the entire point.

If I could make the perfect print, then I wouldn’t need to make any others, I would have “accomplished the goal”.

Creating a work of art may be a goal in some respects, after all, I want to make art, give you an inside view of what it is about, and get it in to the hands of you folks. That certainly is a goal.

The entire reason I make art, however, is a process. I could be making tons of other things that might be far more profitable than art, but art is what I like to do. I’ll just have to work ten times harder to get rich off of my art.

The process of creating has meaning to me, and that process wouldn’t be important if I was satisfied with everything I do. I guess that lack of satisfaction makes it worth doing.

Anyway, back to dinner and Devo.

Are we not men?

We are Deacon.

Inside the Birth of a Block

Friday, November 6th, 2009
Sometimes it all begins with a small sketch

Sometimes it all begins with a small sketch

I like to give you an inside look at how I create woodblock prints. To that end, I present The Birth of Block 5.

Block 5 is another block used to make the 101 Woodblock Series. I number all of the blocks that I make, just because, well, I like a nice stack of numbered blocks. This block is the fifth block I’ve carved for the series of prints, with quite a few blocks left to go. Block 6 and 7 have been carved since I finished this block.

Like most of my good ideas, this one started out as a little sketch doodle on a notepad. I have a lot of note pads laying around at my desks, because I know that I have a tendency to forget stuff. Notes and lists are a vital tool for me.

I often get an idea when I am writing down notes, and doodle it down on a sheet of note paper. On the left is my original doodle for the image that I eventually carve in to Block 5.

You can see some of the notes in the corner of this sketch, I actually have no idea what these notes mean. I guess I need to take better notes…

When I do quick sketches like this, I am not too worried about detail. What I am drawing is the overall image that I have in my head. I try to get the overall feel of the image, the balance, and the major elements down on this paper.

Next I graduated to a larger sketch pad, the results are below:

A larger concept sketch

A larger concept sketch

I draw in blue pencil so that I can later go over the image with a regular pencil or a pen to darken up the image. I picked up this habit from comic book illustration. The pencils for each page are often done in blue pencil. Blue pencil does not reproduce in a photocopy machine, so when the page is inked and then copied to prepare it for color, the original pencils don’t show up.

I picked up this habit of working because I like how I am able to draw a light sketchy line, which I can then ignore or reinforce with a darker line as I refine the image.

Next I got out Block 5 and drew the image on the block in blue pencil again. When I had an image that I was happy with drawn in pencil, I went over the image in ink. Here is the partially inked block, you can see both the blue pencil and the ink drawing:

The design sketched in pencil, and partly finalized in ink

The design sketched in pencil, and partly finalized in ink

As I inked the image onto the block, I realized that I like the look of the ink drawing, and decided to carve the block so that it would have the look of a line drawing when it was printed. This was a change from my previous plan, which was for this block to print the flat shapes of the leaves.

I realized that I had done that before with some of my previous prints, so I decided to do something different with this block.

Another comment on this block’s image: one of the things that I was unsatisfied with on my previous prints was the how sparse the image felt. The previous images felt rather empty to me, and I wanted to create an image that was more abundant with growth, so to speak.

Finally, I sat down and started carving this block. Here is the partially carved block:

The block is partially carved

The block is partially carved

It turns out that carving a block so that it will replicate an ink drawing takes a long time. I spent around 10 hours carving this block. I had to be precise with my X-acto knife to follow the lines, to make sure the final carved line wasn’t too thick or too thin, and to make sure that the block was carved right.

One of the challenges of carving a linoleum block is that the material is not rigid. It is pretty flexible and soft. This makes it a little easier to carve than wood, but presents a problem of stability. I had to carve into the block at an angle, so that the linoleum base is bigger closer to the particle board that the linoleum is mounted on.

Each uncarved area of the block is like a little mountain sticking up off of the board surface. This is required to give each portion of linoleum stability, so it doesn’t get smashed and misshaped when I put pressure on it to transfer the ink from the block to the paper.

The result is that carving a block like this requires a lot of time and precision.

Finally, the block is finished:

The block is completely carved

The block is completely carved

10 hours and ten sore fingers later, the block is finished. At least I didn’t cut myself this time, I seem to be getting better at not doing that.

Next I’ll show how I transfer this image to other blocks, and what I carve to compliment this block.