Etsy


A parody of my ACEO Gypsy Cat listing on Etsy

I apologize in advance for a post that will probably come across as complaining at best, bitter at worst…. but I do have a message for you to hear, if you shop online. Or sell online for that matter. ;)

There seems to be a great deal of “Photoshopping” going on with product photography.

It has probably been happening since the dawn of the internet, or the birth of Photoshop, whichever came first ~ hehehe …. but lately I’ve been noticing it quite a bit on Etsy, and it’s bugging the crap out of me.

I do want to defend Photoshop, which has an unfair bad rap.
It’s a very useful tool when used correctly (to edit out stray marks & unwanted objects, brighten under-exposed photos, correct ugly color tints from incandescent light, and more)….

Artists can also create stunning photomanipulations (“photo collages”) using various images blended together, and you can even digitally paint with Photoshop… although a program like Corel Painter has better tools for creating the look of realistic oil or watercolor paintings.

I love Photoshop and use it daily. I cringe whenever I hear people speak of something as “being photoshopped” in a negative connotation.

But I’ll be honest… Photoshop can cover a multitude of sins, and actually allow online sellers to create deceptive photo listings for products that do not exist and/or need to be seriously enhanced to attract customers.

Whenever I find an Etsy listing that is obviously a photomanipulated product, I have to question the quality of the item:
Why isn’t the seller comfortable taking a real photo of it?
Are the colors of the print inferior to the digital scan?
Are there flaws? Cracks?

I’m not a professional product photographer, and my earliest Etsy listings look like cat poop to me now.
I seriously wonder why my first customers ever purchased from me, except that they must have seen some potential, and were willing to give me a chance.
Thank you guys!!

But I spend a lot of time staging and taking photos of my artwork, framed on the wall and lying flat, so that customers can see the real prints and judge their quality.

Shopping online is hard enough, without a tangible product to examine… we don’t need to muddy the waters, confuse, and deceive our customers with smoke and mirrors.

Take for example: a listing for an 8″x10″ photo print. The accompanying image looks like this:

Parody listing, Photoshopping a digital file on the wall

(Using Anne Elliot Cat, I created this parody of an actual item listing I saw on Etsy… an enormous 8″x10″ photo hanging on the wall)

I will confess to having occasionally used an image I’ve taken of an 8″x10″ print for a 5″x7″ listing, and vise versa, if there was no obvious point of reference in the photo to compare sizes…
But I wouldn’t dream of listing an ACEO mini print using a poster sized image on the wall. ;)

Another item that gets Photoshopped frequently is the infamous “art pendant”. Whether they are selling Scrabble tile pendants or “vintage” lockets, I’ll come across 130 copies of one generic photograph of a blank pendant with artwork digitally pasted onto it.

The trouble with this lazy habit is that the quality of the real printed image may not meet customers’ expectations; depending on the printer, paper, and type of resin/glue used, the print might not retain the beautiful, vivid colors and small details of the original digital file.

The only companies that might be able to get away with this are professional print-on-demand labs, and websites like Zazzle.com who have a solid reputation and stellar customer service.

Otherwise, can you really trust a shop full of digital clones??

Using Photoshop to paste photos onto blank pendants.

And while you may be thinking that customer feedback would highlight the poor quality items being sold, thus separating the wheat from the chaff… remember that feedback can be deceptive, too. It’s always best to read the comments.

For instance, in the case of one faux-photo-happy pendant seller… with thousands of sales, and 100% positive feedback… there were some obvious incidents of poor quality and misrepresented photos, that actually inspired me to write this blog post.

Last night, I stumbled upon a beautiful pendant while browsing a friend’s recent Etsy favorites, and was tempted to buy one.
When I visited the seller’s shop, however, I noticed that ALL the product listings were created using Photoshop… which made me curious:
What do these pendants really look like?
With thousands of sales, people must be pleased with them. Right??

But did you realize that 100% feedback doesn’t mean every customer is happy…
that, in fact, a negative review on Etsy will be cancelled out by a couple hundred positives, restoring a seller’s ‘perfect’ score?

I didn’t think it was possible to claim something was 100% if it wasn’t entirely true. 99.99% maybe. ;)

In addition to a few negatives ( 2>10 ), and neutral ratings in the double digits, many of their positive reviews weren’t entirely positive….
For whatever reason, these customers chose to give a good rating, but the accompanying written feedback tells a different story:

“….not as bright and vibrantly colored as what you see on website…”

“… I just expected something different from the picture…”

“…They are a bit darker than shown in the pictures…”

“…I thought they would be metallic and basically prettier, but they’re not.”

Sharing my opinion that feedback scores should accurately reflect the buyers’ experience doesn’t always make me popular in Etsy forums.
Sellers are happy to get ‘second chances’ to reclaim their 100% status, especially if they felt a negative was undeserved.

I get it. Really. Sometimes satisfaction is truly beyond a seller’s control.
A customer could potentially leave a negative because they waited until Dec. 22nd to order a custom gift, and were upset because it didn’t arrive in the mail the following day.

I’ve worked with the public enough to know that pleasing people is an art form all to itself, and very few of us have completely mastered it.
Mistakes happen, too.

In my first year on Etsy, I started selling journals with my artwork on the cover.
My friend and fellow Etsian, Lily, from TwoStrayCats, purchased one… and unfortunately I didn’t ensure its rigidity in the mailer.

The postal worker folded it in half, and shoved it into her mailbox.

Ouch. When she contacted me, I was horrified and embarrassed…. I offered a replacement and a refund, but she benevolently refused both, saying that after a bit of ironing, it was almost flat.
And the crease gave it character.
Bless her heart.

It would’ve been reasonable to chew me out, demand her money back, and perhaps even leave negative feedback.
Instead she wrote:
“The dashing Mr Darcy is now officially residing in Alberta ~ Canada
and I must say that I am very happy to have made his acquaintance…

(while ironing out his wrinkles)”

I added that last bit. heehee ;)

However, the close encounter has stuck with me, and with each package that I carefully support with thick cardboard, conducting my various “Bend Tests”… I’m continually learning from my previous mistakes.

Apparently after a year’s worth of disappointed customers’ comments, this paper collage jewelry seller still uses Photoshop rather than taking accurate photographs of his/her real pendants. And obviously hasn’t learned a thing.

But I have. And hopefully you have as well.

When you’re shopping online, take a few extra minutes to read the entire listing – pay attention to size, color, and materials – and look carefully at the photos. All the photos. Are any of them unnecessarily duplicated?

Read the feedback comments, even the positive ones. Especially the positive ones.
Some of them may be negatives in disguise.

(And yes, you can typically tell which negatives are undeserved, too, if you read the whole story.
Or if they don’t bother to explain a poor rating at all.)

And lastly give props to those sellers who value integrity, and don’t use Photoshop as an excuse for laziness, or worse… blatant deception.

Artisans who spend hours ~ (hundreds of hours) ~ brushing up on their photography skills, or hiring a professional to shoot their products, to give you a faithful representation of their work.

So that “what you see is what you get”.
Even on the internet. :)

Regency Cat Bookmarks, original artwork by TaraFly

My Regency Cat portraits are now available as bookmarks, trimmed in ribbon and lace, for sale in both my Etsy shop and locally in Funkstown, Maryland ~ at The Guten Tag, a family owned gift-shop in Historic Town Center.

I mentioned The Guten Tag back in April, when I began selling my framed prints of Mr. Darcy Cat and Redcoat Soldier Cat there.

I’ve been thinking of ways to expand my selection of goods, and Michelle from TrueBookAddict on Blogspot suggested bookmarks as the purrfect compliment to cat characters inspired by classic novels! ;)

These are created with reproduction prints of my artwork – the same quality prints I sell in my shop, using K3 UltraChrome pigment ink and Ultra Premium Presentation paper.
I’ve taken decorative cardstock found in scrapbooking stores and adhered it to the backside of each art print, using Modge Podge decoupage glue.

I applied a couple thick coats of acrylic varnish, let it dry, and punched a hole in the top for threading a bit of lace or ribbon.

Creating bookmarks featuring my Regency Cat artwork, Mr Darcy Cat bookmark

When I stopped by The Guten Tag to visit Jessica Synder, the shoppe’s owner, to deliver my bookmarks and chat a bit… we discussed upcoming holiday merchandising ideas.
She loves to deck the store floor to ceiling with ornaments, so I’ve decided to begin a special portrait series based on Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet, which will be featured on Christmas ornaments! ;)

I thought it would be fitting for Clara Cat and the feline Nutcracker Prince to battle an evil Mouse King! Bwahaha

They will most likely begin as original paintings, which I’ll reproduce onto the ornaments, allowing people to collect the full set. They will be available during the holidays both in my Etsy shop and locally at The Guten Tag.

I brought my camera along during this visit, and Jess graciously allowed me to wander the shop and take photographs of all the treasures!

iron metal dressform with crochet snowflakes and tags

I drooled over the wire dressforms, stone urns, statuary, garden obelisks, and bird-cages. I also loved the creative ways in which she showcases her items, arranging random finds into beautiful and elegantly coordinated collections.

Golden goblet, obelisk, light, mirror reflection, photograph by TaraFly.

My Flickr slideshow of photographs will give you a taste of what you might find inside The Guten Tag gift-shoppe; it’s definitely worth checking out in person!

And of course, remember to ask “How much for that Darcy in the window?”…. ;)

I’ve been distracted and unfocused this past week, bouncing from one project to another… but I did manage to sneak in a photo shoot using my awesome new thrift store finds!

soft dreamy vintage photoshop filter tutorial

Gossip Girls 8x10 Archival print, shown in frame.

It happened to be an overcast day, when the children finally decided to behave themselves, so my lighting situation wasn’t perfect… but nothing a little Photoshop couldn’t solve, right? ;)

I’ve also been excited to experiment with some vintage filter techniques, so I fired up Google and set off to find a great Photoshop tutorial.

This “breathtaking, dreamy, vintage” tutorial seemed to fit the bill at first glance, but after reading through it, I found myself disappointed by its rigid structure.

Use these (x,y,z) settings… download this (abc.jpg) texture… and this (etc.jpg) one… and this (blah.abr) brush…

I know.. I know… What the heck was I expecting with a tutorial?!
I dunno, perhaps a little wiggle room… the chance to stretch my own creative muscles.

Because you see, I don’t play by the rules.

I don’t follow recipes to the teaspoon, or sew using patterns…

I quit piano lessons at the age of six, after only two months, because I was frustrated with my teacher’s strict and seemingly limited Suzuki method.
Impatient to play any piece by sight, I begged my grandmother to “just teach me to read the treble and bass clefs, pulleeze?”

With that in mind, after getting the basic gist of this photoshop tutorial, I threw it out the window. My childish foot stomping: “Don’t tell me what to do! Let me do it myself!”

But I’d like to show you step-by-step what I did instead, using PS Elements 6 (as the original tutorial had different settings)… and encourage you to explore these steps on your own as well.
Just remember as we get started, no decision is right or wrong, as long as you enjoy how it looks!

Another Vintage Dreamy Photoshop Tutorial

I started with a few shots taken of my “Gossip Girls” Regency Cat art, framed and hanging on the wall.
You can see here that I had some issues with lighting contrast – bright sunny spots and deep shadows.
Hey, that’s okay – *deep breath* – we can fix that problem.

three photographs of TaraFly's art studio

Three photos of my framed artwork, taken from different angles...

I chose the photo on the left, because I liked the angle, and all the key elements (props, etc.) are relatively centered.

The reason why this matters?
Well, I want to upload the finished piece to my Etsy shop, where pics are recommended to be 1000×1000 square.
When I set up my photo shoots, I try to keep a cropped “square” in mind.

In this screenshot, I’m using Levels to fix the lighting problem, which can be done by sliding the arrows (left or right) to accentuate the light, shadows, or midtones.
In this case, I slid the right arrow over towards the center (where the wavy lines begin), causing the entire image to grow brighter.

adjusting light with photoshop levels

Brightening my photo with Levels

**Quick note – normally, you wouldn’t want to saturate a photo this much.
See how washed out my poor porcelain pitcher is? For a nice “realistic” photo, I might create a mask to ignore the basin, and lighten just the chair and wall.

Next, I cropped my image into a rough square for Etsy… it was actually 1000×960 but close enough.
Obviously, you can crop your picture however you please, or not at all.

Okay… here is where the real fun begins.

1. We’re going to create duplicate copies of this image: I made 2 copies (plus the original).
We will be adding a different color effect to each copy, and then blending them together.

creating duplicate layers in photoshop

Right click, and select duplicate background/layer

2. Make two of the copies invisible, by clicking the eyeball next to each thumbnail. That way, we can work with one layer at a time, and see the results. (Otherwise, the layers above would block our view)

3. Go under “Enhance > Adjust Color” …. we have multiple options here, and you’re free to try them all.
Our goal is to shift the color balance of each layer… making the photo appear redder, or greener, etc.

Adjusting Color Variations in Photoshop

Selecting Increase Red for this photo's midtone colors

I personally chose “Color Variations”, which allows me to alter the color values of the image’s shadows, midtones, and highlights.

4. I selected “Midtones”, set the sliding arrow about mid-way, then clicked on “Increase Red”.
And… Voila!

TaraFly's tutorial, increasing red with Color Variations in PS

Yes, that is definitely an increase in red!

I did the same thing for both of my duplicate layers, by making each one visible again, and increasing the blues and greens.

5. I chose to increase the blue shadows on one layer, and the green highlights on the other.
Resulting in this:

Altering the highlights and shadow colors in Photoshop

Looking at my green and blue layers, side by side

6. Now we blend the layers all together, using the Blending mode (located next to the Opacity level).
The two duplicate layers get blended, and you can experiment with different blending styles of course.

I chose Soft Light.

Adding soft light filter to blend layer in Photoshop

Selecting Soft Light from the list of blending options...

7. I also set the Opacity level of the Blue shadowed layer at 100% and the Green highlighted layer at 45%, which toned down the green somewhat.
If a particular color looks too strong for you, try a different blending mode (Overlay, Lighten, etc…) or even adjust the Opacity to a lower setting.
Everything is negotiable.

After you’ve finished blending and playing with the transparency, you’ll have a better idea of how your image is coming along…
Mine looks like this:

creating a soft dreamy vintage style image in Photoshop

It looks very warm, soft, and inviting, doesn't it?

8. At this point, I merged all the layers into one by selecting “Layer > Flatten Image” from the top menu.

This isn’t necessary, but neither is having a bunch of loose layers hanging around, since we’re basically done editing them… it just keeps things tidy. ;)

Okay, now we’re ready to add some aged effects!

You know those spots and splotches of UV and acid damage commonly found on vintage photographs? We can re-create that appearance digitally using a photograph of clouds. Seriously!

You probably have pictures of clouds somewhere on your computer or photo albums; the shot doesn’t have to be award-winning, so don’t worry, but it helps if the clouds have a nice shape and strong outline.

If you don’t have any on hand, let me direct you to a great stock photographer for your fluffy cloud needs – Hatestock on Deviantart.com.
She’s an artist who also provides free-for-any-use stock photographs.

9. I took this cloud photo from her gallery and cropped it, resizing it to match my photo dimensions.

dark clouds with patch of sunlight, photo by Hatestock on Deviantart

Photograph courtesy of hatestock.deviantart.com

10. Next, I added a new transparent layer above the cloud image, to experiment with gradients.

Yes, you can add gradients directly onto the photo, but I also like to play with blending modes.
I’m just a layer junkie, okay?! :P

11. Choose two colors that you would like to create a hazy effect with… (I picked a pinkish violet and gold) and add a gradient over the transparent layer.

Create one by selecting the Gradient Tool, and click/drag your mouse over the transparent layer, to establish the direction with which one color will fade into the other.
Mine was a diamond-shaped gradient, beginning in one corner and expanding outward.

12. Then we can blend it into the clouds on the layer beneath, using various settings (Overlay, Vivid Light, Dodge, etc…)
until you find something interesting that you like.

I chose Color Dodge, and set the Opacity to 85%… creating a large burst of whitish yellow light and fluffy pink/purple clouds.

Using Photoshop gradients to add special effects to clouds and sky

My gradient in the corner, and my new pink cloud layer underneath

13. Merge the layer onto your clouds, then copy and paste this new creation onto your original image.
Again, adjust the blending mode to suit your tastes.

I used Vivid Light at 50% Opacity this time.

Creating a vintage style photo in photoshop, adding cloud texture

Clouds create a gorgeous deteriorated effect, don't they?

*Keep in mind, you DO want these colored clouds to be visible, even if the image looks really weird at this point. LOL

I also wanted to add another texture to age it even further, add a bit of graininess and a few tiny scratches… like this poor photo has been kicked around in a dresser for fifty-odd years.
The perfect thing to get a texture from, is a bit of rusty, scuffed up metal…. like an old, grimy cookie sheet.

an old rusty cookie sheet, used for a metal texture in Photoshop

Well, not truly grimy... it does get washed after every use.

Please don’t tell me that your cookie sheets look nothing like this, or I’ll accuse you of sounding like my mother. :P
Hey, I line them with aluminum foil.
And…. they’ve been scrubbed a million times.
They’re clean, I swear!!

But I digress.

You can snap a picture of some old, dirty metal object in your home… or scan it…
OR …for those of you with pristine, immaculate homes … *cough* yeahright *cough* …you can surf the web (i.e. Deviantart) for “rusty metal textures”.

14. One way or another, grab an image of a rusty, nasty looking scrap of metal… preferably scratched or dented… then crop and resize it to fit your project.

15. Copy and paste the metal image over your cloud layer, and set the blending mode to Overlay, with 100% Opacity.

A photo with two textures applied for vintage look in Photoshop

Now THIS looks like a beaten-up, weathered photograph.

Using Overlay eliminates the majority of its color, and leaves you with just the texture of scratches and scuff marks.
You could’ve also converted it to black and white scale first, but it isn’t necessary.
If a bit of the metal color comes through, it just adds to the effect, right?

So, by now you’re probably thinking “What the frak have you done to this picture?!”
It does look pretty rough! LOL

But wait! Here’s the best part:

16. Take your bottom layer (with your color-altered image on it) and duplicate it.

17. Drag this new copy up to the top of your layer heap, above all the textured stuff….

Now of course, all the textures are hidden under this new layer, which matches the bottom layer, like a rainbow sandwich.
But not for long.

18. Set the blending mode on the duplicate layer for Multiply, and leave the Opacity at 100% by default.

The result is that your duplicate image now softens the effects of the cloud and metal texture, while still allowing them to bleed through.

dreamy, soft, vintage aged photoshop tutorial by TaraFly

At last, a soft and romantic vintage inspired photo.

At this point, I’m calling it quits! LOL I like my picture just the way it is.

19. When you’re finished, click “Layer > Flatten Image” and save it as a .jpg file.

However, you might want to continue making small adjustments…
Perhaps it’s still a bit dark, and you want to brighten it? Go ahead.
Add a sepia filter? Sure, why not!

One thing I’ve noticed with my product photos:
** The clouds or metal texture sometimes will encroach on key elements that you want undisturbed. **

I could’ve easily wound up with my framed artwork of “Gossip Girls” covered in purple clouds or rusty black spots.
Not exactly flattering when I’m trying to sell reproduction prints, eh?

In that case, I would need to take the Eraser Tool, and erase the cloud or metal texture layer just inside the framed area, or whatever object needs to remain free from clutter… like the faces of people, for example.

Experimenting with Photoshop is an ongoing process, and as I said, there really isn’t a right or wrong way to use it.
If someone tells you otherwise, bite them. Not too hard, though. ;)

You should feel free to take this tutorial as a starting point, and make improvements, or completely throw it out and start fresh…. but I’d love to see what you create!

If you did this project, please show me your results!
If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. :)

TaraFly's 3-year-old daughter Mia in the studio.

My daughter Mia, posing with Mommy's thrift store finds.

This weekend I had the rare opportunity to spend Saturday afternoon treasure hunting.

Joe stayed at home with the three little beasts, and I hijacked the car for a pleasure-filled frolic through Hagerstown’s thrift-store district. ;)

My purpose for this little adventure was to find some props for staging photo shoots.
I’ve been growing increasing dissatisfied with my current set-up…
Even though friends tell me “Your shop looks great!” … I’ve decided that I want to brand my work against soft, romantic backdrops of lace and porcelain.

I have this vague destination in mind, and I’m struggling to find the right path to get there.

Most people have enough “things” lying around the house, that if mixed with a little creativity, can produce interesting tableaux…
and believe me, I’ve searched our house from top to bottom.
My blinders must be heavily padded, because I’ve given up, unable find any cute knickknacks to stage a scene with.

We don’t really own much anymore… I’ve learned one lesson after years of living with cats and children:

1. Do NOT bring anything valuable or fragile into your home.
And
2. Don’t grow attached to your material possessions.
Okay, two lessons rolled into one. ;)

But I’m determined to set my work apart… even more so than it already is… so it’s off to the Goodwill thrift store, to look for diamonds in the rough.

wooden jewelry box with keyhole lock

a charming wooden jewelry box

In the past, my trips to the second-hand shops were focused on finding usable, affordable items – tables, dressers, toddler clothing – especially children’s coats and seasonal items that will be destined to repeat the adoption cycle in a few months.

I don’t normally see Hagerstown’s thrift stores as eclectic troves of buried gems, not like the dusty yet magical shops depicted in made-for-television films… where the heroine discovers one-hundred-year-old love letters in an antique writing desk, and embarks on a journey to uncover the couple’s star-crossed history.

Browsing the racks of my local Goodwill typically gives me as much excitement as weeding out my closet.
My neighbors’ discarded apparel, worn paperbacks, and chipped dishware look nearly identical to our own.

As the saying goes: one man’s trash is another man’s… ermmm… trash.

porcelain water pitcher, basin, candle holder with handle, copper skillet

A few of my recently acquired treasures...

Saturday was different, however. My mission wasn’t to search for everyday functional items… rather, I specifically wanted old junk.
The older the better.
If a piece wanted to tell me its story, I would invite it home for coffee and biscuits.

I walked into the Goodwill with a fresh pair of eyes – leaving those industrial-strength blinders at home where Joe would likely need them. ;)

I headed past the racks of clothes and toys, making a beeline for Housewares. Originally hoping to find some crystal goblets or china plates… I was met with initial disappointment at the limited selection.

But my luck soon turned, after stumbling upon this lovely porcelain water basin and pitcher… looking for all the world like it belonged on the bedroom nightstand in a prairie cabin. I scooped it up for $8.00 and canvassed the shelves for similar accessories.

porcelain pitcher and water basin with vintage photo filters

My pitcher and basin, with candle sticks on a string...

Additional treasures I unearthed included a colonial style candle holder with handle, a pair of large wax candles molded as Victorian Christmas carolers, and a wooden plaque sporting a reproduction of baroque painter Peter Paul Ruben’s self-portrait with his wife Isabella Brandt.

trio of painted bird figurines and box covered in tapestry paper

My bird trio, and a papered box

I also picked up this decorative trio of bird figurines for $5.00, because I liked the irony of photographing my predatory cat portraits alongside their painted prey.

Quite a number of people gave me strange looks after glancing at the odd mixture of items in my basket…
I wasn’t the typical Goodwill shopper: arms filled with paperback romances and blouse/skirt sets.

Studying my finds as an ensemble, I was mightily pleased with how well they coordinated (at least, they seemed related to me) …
and calling it quits, I hauled my collection up to front counter.

Passing the furniture section along the way….

Where I spied two lovely Victorian balloon back chairs positioned near the corner window.

victorian balloon back side chairs at thrift store

Pair of Victorian balloon back chairs at the Goodwill thrift store

I rested my loot on a farmhouse table, and went over to examine the side chairs.
They were $35.00 a piece, and although I preferred the chair with the squarish shaped seat, naturally I wanted them both!

Unfortunately, I hadn’t budgeted $70 to spend on furniture.
I snapped a couple of photos of them with my cell phone (my first attempt using the mobile’s camera, and it worked!) …before letting the cashier ring up my other items, and went home to beg discuss it over with Joe.

He acknowledged that one chair could be afforded, so I sent him back to grab the smaller one that I favored.

Shortly after he arrived at the shop, I received a phone call from him: the chair that I wanted, he feared, wasn’t structurally sound…
One of its legs had been broken and re-glued, something I hadn’t noticed.
I did see the cracks in its back frame, and some of the carved details had been sanded down.

The round chair, however, looked alright and felt sturdy when he sat on it. So I forfeited the smaller chair for the opportunity to bring home its sibling.
[See: Rule #1 above]

In addition to adding character to my product photos, this lovely piece inspires me to model again in my Regency wardrobe. I haven’t created any new stock photos in years.

TaraFly's art studio photography corner, with Victorian chair

My ready-to-shoot photography corner of the studio...

I even reorganized my art studio to accommodate an actual photography corner, where my precious chair and a temporarily repurposed filing cabinet can remain dressed and ready for lights, camera, action.

Of course, you know what this means… right? More work for me!
For the next few weeks, I’ll need to experiment with staging and photographing my art prints, incorporating these new props.

You won’t notice dramatic changes overnight, but I’ll gradually re-shoot the majority of my listings.

And once I finally have my shop designed exactly as I’ve envisioned it…

It will be time to begin all over again.

Because my website, much like my house, gets vacuumed 37.2 times per day on average… dust and fur doesn’t settle around here. *sigh*

angry artist attacking printer with hammer and saw

Threatening To Torture My Printer Unless It Surrenders...

This year, my luck has officially run out, folks.

I’m beginning to feel like the old cat trying to learn new tricks…
Okay, more like trying to jump through a hoop of fire, with my legs tied together and a blanket over my face.

It began with the transition of my website to the WordPress program, which was originally limited to a sub-folder for running my blog.

The move itself went swimmingly.

However some of the hard work I’d done, incorporating my Zazzle store merchandise into my website via the Store Builder, was rendered redundant because WordPress doesn’t recognize the program.

The Zazzle Store Builder integrated on my website

Remember these pages? They're gone.

There was a work-around, via a plug-in designed specifically for WP, which seemed easy enough to install and use.
Except it didn’t work for me…

And after reading 50+ pages of users’ questions and the standard troubleshooting responses,
and double-no-triple-checking to ensure I followed all the advice given,
I figured it was just me.

I’ve also been forced to re-write all the image links on my blog posts, because they were uploaded to my “blog/wp-content/images” sub-folder…
which no longer exists …as WP is now running the entire site and not just a single folder. :/

Half of my images are still broken… because I get caught up editing the posts, reworking the SEO keywords, and various other distractions.

Disgusted by all the additional work my website now requires, I jumped into a fresh sewing project:

Artist angrily attacking printer with saw and hammer

You Talking To Me?! Go Ahead.... Make My Day.

I want to create some tote bags featuring my artwork.
The original tote bag prototype will be my personal messenger bag for carrying packages to the post office.

So I purchased these nifty sew-able cotton fabric sheets created for ink-jet printers, as an alternative to iron-on transfers.

Unfortunately, my printer doesn’t like these nifty fabric sheets.
It refuses to print anything on them.

Whenever I try to feed the sheet, my printer kicks it out…
and then has the gall to demand REAL paper, by blinking its “paper out” light accusingly at me.

I’ve even tried tricking the printer:

I’ve loaded a few sheets of fine-art paper, slyly slipping in a sheet of fabric paper, and set it up to print multiple copies.

All the velvet art paper and premium presentation paper fed through and printed beautifully, but it spit that cotton fabric sheet out with distaste.

Googling for answers resulted in nada.

Plenty of folks on the planet are experiencing paper feeding issues with Epson printers… however mine isn’t acting in a similar fashion -
mauling the page to shreds or refusing to feed it entirely.

Rather mine feeds directly through, without stopping to print a dot of ink. :P

Eventually my curiosity will overcome my deep well of frustration, and I’ll discover the secret to getting my printer to eat its vegetables.

But for now, iron-on transfers will have to suffice.

TaraFlyArt.com via mobile smart phone

TaraFlyArt - On The Go via my mobile browser

Last week, Joe and I decided to reinvest in cell phones.

We’ve gone without these modern necessities for over two years, after my last contract expired.
I’ve never missed being shackled to mine.

The beauty of a cellphone is also its biggest drawback:
you can be reached anywhere, and are expected to be “on call” and willing to answer.

And as you know, among other things I have a fear of phones. :P

Joe was required to get one for work, but what made me jump back on the bandwagon?

I was seduced by these “smart” phones that are essentially portable internet browsers.

Since my master plan involves getting out into public, and being prepared to promote myself, I wanted a nice way to show people my website and
gallery.

I was also tempted by those folks who can Tweet “on the go”, instead of hours later when the news is less relevant.
Folks who can perform google searches or get questions answered in real-time while out shopping.

I’ve recently become addicted to Pandora, the internet radio station that tailors its song selection to your individual taste… and I wanted to bring it along for the ride.

Oh, and not to mention the convenience of accessing Paypal… and perhaps some on-the-spot selling. ;)

TaraFlyPhotos on Etsy via mobile smart phone browser

My Etsy Shop in a tiny screen, filled with tiny clickable links

For these reasons and more, I succumbed to the awesome sale on my Motorola Defy. Although after paying less than $20 for a phone retailed at $450, I felt insanely angry at the state of our economy.

It says volumes when a company has to practically pay customers to TAKE the product away…
Joe tells me to quit obsessing, and just be happy that I got a super great deal.

But this type of mentality bodes ill for everybody.
Who wants to pay for things anymore?

*sidestepping the tangent*

So after setting up my online profiles, downloading a couple apps, as well as adding music and images from my computer…
I tried to send a simple text message to Joe, reminding him to pick up a vacuum belt.

Q: How easy it is to send text messages?

A. Not very.

Q: How long does it take to find your own flipping phone number?

A: A very long time.

(*hint, it wasn’t under the account settings or phone status, where it should have been)

I can pop off a tweet or update my Facebook status with two clicks, but I spent half an hour trying to text my husband.
I was once the queen of text messaging… in another lifetime.

Accessing Facebook profile via browser on Motorola Defy

Interacting with Facebook pals is easy enough.

Don’t get me started on the convoluted contact list, which very nicely uploaded every single Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail acquaintance I have.
Try finding a real-life contact in all that mess?!

Oh, and this lovely feature called Touch Screen?
It’s highly sensitive.

That is an understatement.

A stray cat hair, that landed onto the screen from a drive-by shedding, actually turned on the Google Voice Search.

That was an exaggeration.
But just slightly.

I liked the phone when I realized I could access my Etsy shop and website,
with full color images and teensy-tiny links that you need razor-sharp nails to click on.

I fell in love with the phone when I plugged it into my car’s stereo, and played my favorite music on shuffle while driving to Joann Fabrics.

I married the phone when I could update all my social networks all at one time,
from anywhere.

But the honeymoon is over now, when I feel like a deceived fool trying to use this blasted phone…

…AS A PHONE.

But then again, this is 2011 – The Year of the Cat (or Rabbit), depending on your beliefs.

It is definitely not MY year.

Dominic the tuxedo cat looking out window at snow

Dominic was disappointed by the snowfall this morning.

Being a working artist, whether self-supporting or struggling, is a mixed bag of delight and disappointment. I can’t paint a rosy picture for you, and if I could, I’d sell it for a billion dollars because everyone wants one.

There is one thing about being an artist that totally rocks, however… and that is my social circle. I have the creme of the crop talent-wise at my fingertips, and not only do they inspire me daily with their imagination and ingenuity, but these kind-hearted creative folks are always willing to give me a few words of knowledgable advice or thoughtful encouragement.

2011 Calendar designed and illustrated by Jessica Doyle

A 2011 Calendar, designed and illustrated by Jessica Doyle

Jessica Doyle is one of the most talented artists/illustrators out there; she specializes in ink drawings, colored pencil and watercolor, although she can jump to acrylics or digital media effortlessly when the mood strikes.
If you aren’t already familiar with her work… you soon will be, but remember where you “discovered” her first. M-kay? ;)

I first found her while searching for a review on the Epson line of printers that Carrie Hawks, another awesome cat artist, recommended that I try. Carrie’s favorite model, the R2200, was discontinued … and a search for the next upgrade (the R2880) led me to Jess’s fabulous blog.
I devoured a year’s worth of posts in one afternoon, and one private goal of mine is to read the entire blog from beginning to end.

2011 calendar illustrated by Jessica Doyle

Printing and measuring the calendar

Following her on Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, WordPress, Buzz, and Flickr… eh, does that sound stalkerish? …over the last year and a half has been really meaningful for me, because she is full of insight and wisdom. And she doesn’t mind sharing it with us.

I’ve especially enjoyed watching her e-commerce baby being born… The Handmade Cloud, she calls it.
We both took the self-hosted webstore route, but her patience and dedication has paid off with a beautiful online retail shop to showcase her work, that she designed herself with some help from a coding expert.

Imagine how tickled and honored I was to be invited to test-drive a new feature! A select few lucky folks (hehe) were able to freely download a PDF copy of her very-much-in-demand 2011 calendar…

Cutting the Jessica Doyle calendar with X-acto blade

Trimming Jess' calendar with an X-acto knife

The calendar is available for purchase by everyone else here on Etsy, and on Handmade Cloud.

I didn’t yet have a calendar purchased for next year, so her gift was greatly appreciated. The other day, I organized the studio (again) and de-cluttered it, so today I enjoyed a bit of quiet time printing Jess’ calendar on – our - Epson printer… and assembling it under Merlin’s supervision.

Merlin the cat and Tara Fly in art studio

Merlin demands a chin scratch or else the printer gets it!

I guess he didn’t trust me with X-Acto knives. Funny thing, I’m scared to death of pricking myself with a sewing needle, but the real danger in slicing into one’s finger with a razor blade never occurred to me.
Did Sleeping Beauty traumatize me as a child?
I’ve ripped into hundreds upon thousands of cardboard boxes during my 12+ years working retail, that box cutters seem like a useful claw attached to my hand.

I did, however, encounter one particularly terrifying thing while printing this little calendar.

A scary nightmare alternate reality Jessica Doyle calendar

Mushrooms from my nightmares....

Mushrooms!

One of Jess’s paintings featured mushrooms… and I’ve been scared of toadstools and mushrooms since childhood.
Seriously.

Did I ever tell you about the evil mushrooms that hide in tall grass, waiting for young children?
They spring up and attack the innocent frolicking girls, and tear into their flesh with razor-sharp fangs… blood-thirsty toadstools can eat an entire child in a few grizzly hours.

As a five-year-old, I commanded my grandfather to hunt and kill all the toadstools in our yard before I would play in the grass. I stood fearfully on our brick patio and watched him scour the lawn, uprooting any he could find. He also fashioned a piece of twine into a lasso, as a weapon for me to use in self-defense. I practiced throwing it over their monstrous heads from a safe distance.

Yeah… don’t get too philosophical with me. I’m sure there’s a Freudian explanation buried in it somewhere. ;P

Jessica Doyle 2011 Calendar September and August artwork

Those paper mushrooms will not hurt me...

So… anyway… I might just cut August’s page in half and reuse that artwork for September. ;)

Jessica Doyle 2011 calendar with ribbon tie

Tying the pages together with a scrap of ribbon.

A bit of leftover ribbon that was too short for any other purpose was perfect to hang it from the wall, in place of my ugly, utilitarian calendar. It was still displaying the month of June…

My goal for the new year is to actually make some long-range plans, to set deadlines for myself, and to create my own calendar (and some Christmas ornaments, too) for next fall.
If the world is going to end in 2012, I can’t procrastinate too long, huh? :P

Jessica Doyle calendar on wall with stink bugs and computer

I discovered two stink bugs while hanging her calendar...

When I took the current calendar down (hey, it was June, for crying out loud! I doubt it’ll be missed) I found two stink bugs hiding underneath it. Everyone following my updates on Facebook or Twitter knows about the obsession I had with our infestation of stink bugs this summer. (They taste like cinnamon!)

At one point, I actually followed a group of them around, documenting their every move with my camera… with the intention to write a dramatic dialogue for them. No need to worry if you don’t recall reading it, because I didn’t post it anywhere. LOL

two stink bugs on wall

A Few Days of Our Lives, starring Annie Bugstede and Taylor Stinkler

I took this romantic interlude as a good sign. I am slowly surrounding myself, and my workspace, with positive vibes from dear friends. With Jess’s artwork now hanging on the wall, and Merlin the cat cuddling with me, and the stink bug couple dreaming their dreams and building a nest…

The life of an artist is pretty fulfilling, sometimes scary, always colorful, and slightly cinnamon flavored.

I Like Purple People Eating Fridays Myself

Crowd Of Zombies

This isn’t the blog post that is scheduled to appear tomorrow… as this particular post stood a 95% chance of never coming into existence.

Black Friday madness is a disease that retail associates encounter with dread each year. Knowing what bloodthirsty monsters lurk outside my door – the rabid and frothing crowds of shoppers, with sleepless glazed eyes and desperate frenzy reacting with high levels of caffeine – makes me grateful to be alive and well in my home.

The sales are tolerable, I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me (to risk life and limb).

The children and I just kissed Joe good-bye, as he departs to serve his company in preparation for “The Event”.. i.e. working overnight as the head of security for our local Walmart.

Zombies looking for bargain brains on Black Friday - photo from Belch.com

I didn’t intend to have a sale for Black Friday… just to be rebellious.
Although I do have a holiday sale going on through December 31st, both in my Etsy shop and my website… I haven’t been actively promoting it.

But as the clock winds down, marking the end of Thanksgiving (…oh, by the way, I made chicken fried rice and a pumpkin pie for Joe and the kids), the excitement builds and everyone has “Sales” on the brain.
I’ve decided to host a minor one of my own, just to say “Thanks!” to everyone who has purchased from me this year. Every dollar counts around here… unlike Walmart, who will never miss me. ;)

Everything will be marked 10% off with free shipping in my Etsy shop… and 20% off with free shipping on my website. I accept PayPal, personal checks, and money orders on TaraFlyArt.com, and (unlike Etsy) I’m under no obligation to pay any “final sales” fees… so you can see where my loyalties lie. ;)

Green Kimono Cat Fine Art Print by TaraFly

Green Kimono Cat 8x10 Print now on sale!

My Purple People Eating Friday sale will begin at midnight tonight, and will run through midnight on Monday, Nov. 29th (EST).

Other exciting news for fans of Zazzle merchandise….

Zazzle is hosting a major Black Friday sales event, which applies to all the cool products in My Zazzle Shop – posters, greeting cards, shirts, mugs…! So here is a glimpse at what is going on:

Every two hours, a different product will go on sale! Four special sales have already begun:

These four sales are going on right now, until those designated times.

Mr Bennet Cat by TaraFly printed on Zazzle T-shirt

This guy loves his navy blue Mr Bennet Cat T-shirt...

Okay, the other sales which begin tomorrow (and last 2 hours each) are as follows:

For the final 2 slots, 8-10PM and 10:00PM until midnight, Zazzle is hosting something called “Friday’s Favorite Deal Repeat” … and I’m not quite certain what that means yet. Perhaps they’ll repeat whichever deals earned the most sales earlier?
When I find out more, I will post an update on my Facebook fan page (which automatically updates my Twitter status as well).

Red Kimono Cat by TaraFly US Postage Stamps Zazzle

Red Kimono Cat on a sheet of US postage stamps

U.S. Residents: Please note that Zazzle also has a Free Ground/Economy Shipping offer in place for purchases over $50.00 (before taxes). The offers ends on November 30th.

Whew! That was a lot to absorb, wasn’t it? If you’re totally confused, I wouldn’t blame you… I subscribe to Zazzle’s newsletters (which is a good idea, really, if you like shopping with them) and I had to re-read it a couple of times to clarify things. Hehe
My brain apparently shut down from sugar overload after digesting the pumpkin pie topped with Cool Whip and a glass of freshly brewed iced tea.

But anyways… Cyber shopping on Black Friday is much safer, more convenient, and definitely the easiest way to get your sales-addiction fix without trading your pajamas for a heavy winter coat and braving the masses for hours of joy standing in line.

And best of all, you can’t catch rabies over the internet!

The snarling, foaming monsters are far, far away from you… trapped behind the glass or plasma walls of their computer monitors.
And you needn’t worry, because I don’t bite.

Unless you are that last slice of pie…
slice of pumpkin pie on a red plate

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.