A New Start to a New Year………………..25/1/2020

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Interestingly, I have realized while reflecting on the year just gone by, and future-gazing into 2020, that my paintings, some of which I recently saw again almost 40 years after painting them, are mostly in better condition than I am.

I deeply appreciate the fact that many families are already passing them on one generation to the next, and it cheered me no end to realize that these artworks will outlast me by many years.

Paintings are timeless, and what they depict are, or will be, the history of mankind, and that in itself is timeless. Just think of the great Art Museums of the World and how people flock to them to gaze in wonder at their treasures.

May your life be filled with beautiful art in 2020.

“THE UPS AND DOWNS OF BOOK MARKETING”

Having been through the whole book publishing and marketing ‘thing’ years ago with the book, “Sun on a Rusty Roof”, which I co-authored with Ron Edwards, I had no desire to repeat that exercise with my current books.

“Sun on a Rusty Roof” contained full-page plates of my watercolours depicting old buildings on the left page. Each text page on the right explained something about the painting opposite, and contained an appropriate bush poem or folk song from Ron’s collection, as well as one of Ron’s black and white sketches. An exhibition of the original watercolours specially painted for the book was used to launch the book at a prominent Cairns art gallery.

The book sold well for the first six months until our Queensland based publishing company was taken over by a major Australian publishing house which in turn, within a year, was itself taken over by a multi-national. This company was not interested in distributing and marketing our book anymore, preferring to concentrate their efforts on distributing and promoting the latest fiction thrillers.

Part of the original deal was that the publishing company would market and distribute the books through their distribution agents, who travelled the country visiting bookstores and the like, promoting their new releases AND checking and re-ordering sold stock. Now this no longer happened, and our sales died.

The new company gave us two choices: either they put the books in the ‘throw out bins’ of bookstores at a ridiculous price so that our royalties would be nix; or we could buy the stock at cost. Ron was not interested as he had his own books to market and sell. So my husband and I decided to buy the stock and pay out Ron for his share. I was determined not to have a fire sale of the books. I didn’t want to lose face with those who had paid full price, and I needed to be able to hold my head up in the community where I lived.

Now what to do? As it was just before the social media era, marketing the book required ‘foot slogging’ to every conceivable outlet: bookstores, tourist souvenir shops, local museums, newsagents – anywhere I thought the book would sell.

It was a great learning experience for me. I had never found it easy to promote my artwork or myself, and I found marketing the book even harder, but in the process I learned much about human nature and relating to others. My marketing area stretched north to Cape York, west to Mt. Isa, and south to Rockhampton including every small township in between, with a few outlets in Brisbane.

This required monthly follow-ups, either personally or by phone. It also required follow-up to collect payment; most selling agents wanted the books on consignment, but were not very prompt in paying for sold ones. It was scary at times. But I persevered.

It took me quite a few years, but I eventually sold the thousands of books. Today, the book is out of print and highly sought after by collectors, and only three copies remain in my collection. I still get requests for it. Eventually, we did very well out of the sale of the books, BUT it was hard work!

So you can see why I wasn’t keen to repeat the exercise with my current books. After some exploration, I decided on the self-publishing option for my new books, using Amazon as the publishing, sales and marketing option. My books are for sale on Amazon, in both hard copy and e-book format (Kindle).

However, besides selling the books online, I realised I also needed a public, local profile for the current books, “The Lone Photographer”, “Terror and Turmoil” and “Into the Mirror, into the Past”. These are quite different books from “Sun on a Rusty Roof”.

I chose a Friday evening event with drinks and nibbles at the Atherton Library for the launch of “Terror and Turmoil”. Since the book was about our experiences of Cyclone Tracy and its aftermath, I began proceedings with a sound recording I had made of cyclonic winds with the intermittent cyclone warning siren, followed immediately after with a chapter reading from the book. It certainly attracted attention and frightened the hell out of some of the people there! Besides the usual invitees, invitations were also extended to Tablelands Regional Council emergency staff, and State Emergency Service, medical and nursing personnel.

Cairns was chosen for the launch of “Into the Mirror, Into the Past”, since much of its story revolved around this city. This book is about my childhood in Nazi-occupied Holland, emigration with my parents, and growing up in Cairns from the late 1940s to the 1960s. I prepared a video of the photos and paintings I had used as illustrations, and this was played on a big screen throughout the night. At the time, the paintings were on display in a local gallery. I also did a chapter reading, as I have found people really respond to readings by a writer. A little later, I displayed the book at a school reunion and donated copies to the various schools. Word of mouth then took over.

I designed my launch invitations so that I could guillotine off the launch information, leaving the remainder as a handy brochure hand-out – much like a large business card. Launch sales for these two books were beyond expectations, and we had to place names on waiting lists to purchase copies. People did not seem to mind waiting a few weeks for their copies to arrive from Amazon.

I have yet to organize a launch of my latest book. There are decisions to be made and venues to explore since moving to a completely new life in Brisbane. Despite this, sales have been good both online and by promotion on social media and my website. I had developed an email distribution list by saving contacts from the sales data of my previous two books, and was able to notify these readers about my new offering. Because they enjoyed the previous books they were eager to read the new one.

So with Amazon you have the opportunity to sell locally, go on a marketing road trip if you so wish, and sell online. You don’t need to take cases of books with you everywhere but can ask Amazon to send your Author copies ahead.

If Amazon publishes (sells) your books, they will automatically become public. Anyone – readers, bookstores and libraries – can buy your books from the Amazon website from anywhere in the world. But isn’t that a good thing? I have sold my books in the UK, USA, Europe, Argentina and Australia – markets I would not have been able to reach myself, unless I was a James Patterson.

Using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing was a great learning experience – exciting and fun. With Kindle, royalties are paid monthly into your bank account, advice is by e-mail, and each day, if you wish, you can check the statistics on your book’s sales and progress.

For me, the Kindle royalties that flow in magically by themselves are a bonus, ‘the cream on top’, while I concentrate on selling the hard copies I’ve ordered, usually ten or twenty at a time, at Author discounted prices. As the books usually take 2 to 3 weeks to arrive, I schedule the times into my marketing program. With hardcopy books sold online, Amazon pays royalties through Kindle as well. However, no royalties are earned with the discounted Author copies you order.

I have no complaints about my Amazon and Kindle experiences, and enjoy the immediacy of the statistics and Amazon’s search engine possibilities. However, keep in mind that Amazon has more than 35 million books online, and tens of thousands of new books are added each month. Kindle has almost four million books, with tens of thousands of new ones added each month as well. For readers, this means a lot of choice, but for authors it is easy for their books to get lost in the crowd. For this type of online selling, authors need to choose the book categories and pricing carefully, and promote regularly online.

With my latest book “The Lone Photographer”, I will need to arrange some sort of public launching even though the book has been selling well on its own. It helps with publicity when I can mention that the book had rated as #1 best seller in its category and #1 best selling new release, and can post readers’ feedback on my author web site. You need to stay constantly on top of marketing so that your book does not fall into ‘the black hole’.

For me, selling and making money from the books was not my priority. I wanted to write my stories and present them in a professional-looking book format so my descendants would find them attractive enough to pick up and read. Also I did not want to outlay huge sums of money to have umpteen copies printed and sitting there as most publishing houses stipulate runs of hundreds, often thousands, of books at a time; I initially just wanted enough copies to give to family and interested friends. Amazon gives you the opportunity to print just one if that’s your wish, but you have to remember it will be ‘out there’ for all the world to see and buy just the same.

I currently have three new books on the go, working from one to the other – much like I do when I’m painting. This helps me to keep the muse in tow. I’m hoping to have at least one of these books ready by Christmas 2020.

 

  • KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)   https://kdp.amazon.com/
  • Navigating KDP is easy with lots of templates you can use for the text and covers, plus an excellent help/forum with answers to anything you can think to ask.

GREAT CHILLAGOE ART TRIP

Painting in shade in front of the Bluffs.

Painting in shade in front of the Bluffs.

 

Artists are an intrepid lot! Determined in their quest for the perfect painting, against all odds. All in the name of ‘Art’.

One of the amazing features of Chillagoe is its sandstone outcrops and caves which turn beautiful colours depending on the direction of the sun. Of course, these were a ‘must-do’ and favourite subject of our enthusiastic band of artists.

The Eco-lodge mini bus drove us with all our art gear to some of these locations to later pick us up again. One morning location was the Archways cave system in the Chillagoe-Mungana National Park, and the bluffs were tall and imposing. About half of the group settled in to paint in one of the caves which was quite open with arched (hence the name I guess) openings looking out onto the surrounding scenery. It was a cool area in which to paint as there were already signs of a potentially hot day. The perfect spot!

RULE #57 for outdoor painting – do check for indented wet patches on a cave’s sandy floor BEFORE setting your stool over this spot. Engrossed in their work some started to wonder why they felt little drops of moisture on themselves and saw splatters on their paper and paints. Caves are nearly always damp. A hasty reshuffle of positions solved the problem.

Meanwhile, a couple of us had decided to sketch the bluffs from the outside. Finding the perfect spot from which to paint these, but unfortunately out in the now hot sun, we found shade from the trunk and branches of a nearby tree on a narrow sandy track. This necessitated regular shifts of position to keep up with the movement of the sun. Painting with the glare of sunlight on the white paper or canvas can cause the equivalent of ‘snow blindness’. I kid you not. If you have no choice, sit with your back to the sun so that your paper is always in shade.

I did notice that there was plenty of horse dung on the track, but hoped that the mob of brumbies, which we had seen scampering away into the bush at our approach, would be too spooked by our presence to come charging along their well-worn track.

RULE #163 for outdoor painting – do check on fresh horse and cattle dung where you are preparing to sit and paint. You do not want to be in the middle of a sticky situation (in more ways than one) with some head brumby or bull wanting to challenge your right to be there. We survived!

Another great location was the area of The Balancing Rock closer to Chillagoe. This was a mid to late afternoon painting excursion to capture the gold, orange and red changing colours of the normally grey-looking rocks. About half the group struggled up the very steep rocky path, lugging their art gear, in order to paint from the top where the balancing rock was located. The rest of us stayed towards the bottom reluctant to risk twisted ankles or heart attacks. We spread out a bit to find the angles of the bluffs we wished to sketch.

One artist further up the path settled down, placing her paint gear bag beside her folding chair. She reached down into her bag groping for a pencil, not noticing that a marching column of big black ants, twenty deep, had advanced, (and were still pouring out of the nearby nest), and were devouring the afternoon snack she had forgotten was in the bottom of her bag. All she felt was a crawling writhing mass of something around her hand. Her screeching, fit to cause an avalanche,  echoed around the bluffs. They mustn’t have been black bull ants because the screeching was of horror not pain. She flung her equipment everywhere in her efforts to empty the bag of ants which in turn caused her to dance around all the now very scattered and angry ants crawling in all directions. She came hurtling down the track towards us to tell her tale.

After she composed herself she headed back to her spot to retrieve her art gear, to find that most of the traumatised ants had retreated to their nest. She did not accomplish much art work at that location.

RULE #368 for outdoor painters – do check for nearby ant nests before taking up position. There are ant sentries with binoculars on the top of specially designed sniffing towers at all ant nests. Be warned – some bite – and they will find YOU!

On departure day (Saturday), we had a ‘Show and Tell’ in the dining room of the Eco-lodge where we displayed our colour and black/white sketches – what beaut examples everyone had of the inspiration that Chillagoe had given us.

The Bluffs at Archway N.P.

The Bluffs at Archway N.P.

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Balancing Rock N.P.

Balancing Rock N.P.

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The minibus took us into the township for a coffee at Gallery 29, then drove us to Almaden for lunch, after which we boarded the Savannahlander back to Cairns. The trip home on the train with the great informative crew, the unique landscape we passed, was a terrific way to finish off the four day art experience. Tired, but happy!

Archway N.P.

Archway N.P.

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WONDERFUL CHILLAGOE ART TREK (2)

A lovely shady spot to sit.

A lovely shady spot to sit.

After finding a lovely shady spot to sit for painting and sketching, the immediate reaction is ‘of overwhelm’. So many great little scenes and subjects beckon that for a moment, it all becomes rather confusing.

The rule of ‘en plein air’ (on location) painting is to quietly sit for some moments, take a deep breath, relax and absorb the surroundings, then slowly and deliberately look around and notice what captures your attention. As mentioned before, nature rarely, if ever, presents the perfect picture.

On finding a scene that appeals, you then have to decide what is important to include in your drawing and what isn’t. Rubbish undergrowth can be eliminated to some extent, and so can some of the numerous rocks and twigs and grasses and the umpteen branches of a tree, superfluous to your main subject.

Always be very careful to not destroy the credibility of the location. For example, a grove of pandanus trees slightly to the left of the scene of rocks and reflections you would like to paint, can be shifted into your scene, but not the mango tree three streets away. The elimination of superfluous stuff should not result in the scene looking like an immaculate garden because of any drastic culling. The resulting drawing/painting should still look like an authentic representation of your location, otherwise you may as well stay home and paint from your imagination.

The following photos and small paintings were done on Chillagoe Creek which flows alongside the township. We sat under the shady melaleucas on the creek banks and between the rocks. The creek was still gurgling along over and between the numerous rocks because the area had been blessed with some rain a few weeks previously. This was good for us because we didn’t have problems with flies, mosquitoes and midges normally associated with stagnant water.

 

The resulting watercolour sketches from the subject matter on location above :

watercolour

watercolour 7″ x  5″

 

watercolour 7"x 5"

watercolour 7″x 5″

A few more sketches in the next post.

FANTASTIC CHILLAGOE ARTISTS’ TRIP (1)

Painting in shade in front of the Bluffs.

Painting in shade in front of the Bluffs.

For an artist there is something really special about painting ‘en plein air’. The atmosphere of a place somehow transfers to the artwork and the total absorption that happens as you sit painting and drawing somehow is more refreshing and rejuvenating than painting in the studio.

Many artists love to gather their sketch and photo references this way because that special feeling is usually remembered and then translated into their later studio works derived from these. As photo references are mostly quickly taken because of perceived time restraints, they do not always help to recall that unique experience; but taking the time to quietly sit and paint small paintings and drawings, all the feelings flood back each time you view these art pieces again.

Of course, painting on location has its drawbacks – heat, flies, wind, juggling paint gear on your lap, ants crawling up your leg or into your paints on the ground, paint drying too quickly or too slowly, the water pot toppling over, and the agitated bull pawing the ground not far away because you are sitting on his and his harem’s path to the water hole. But artists are brave and resilient!

On our recent art trek to Chillagoe we found some wonderful locations to inspire even the fussiest of painters – old mine sites, caves, escarpments, old cottages, a flowing creek, a dam, melaleucas, pandanus, and heaps of bird life.

Nature, however, never provides the perfect picture. The necessary elements have to be composed and manipulated from the surrounding area by the artist, so that the picture composition does not jar and alienate the viewer. Artists are like little gods. We can shift trees, rocks and mountains, eliminate undergrowth, posts and general rubbish, bring things a little forward or backward all in the name of ‘art’. Naturally, this has to be done discreetly, carefully, so that the picture is still a valid representation of the actual – otherwise the image becomes ludicrous.

See if you can find the components I shifted and modified, while I was on site, to give interest/focus to my little paintings and sketches of the scene. I have attached the photos of the scene where I sat to paint and draw, and the finished (as far as I will take them) efforts. These small works (7″ x 5″) are, of course, little impressions, roughly done, under trying conditions, and can’t be considered finished paintings. We worked like ‘little beavers’ to get as much done as we could in the three hours allocated at each different location.

Next post, I will show some more of the little impressions from the various locations where we painted and sketched.

 

 

Pencil and Watercolour Wash

Pencil and Watercolour Wash

 

Pencil Sketch

Pencil Sketch

 

TIP # 1 from “TERROR AND TURMOIL”

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“…………..My friend next door had followed me into the remains of our house. Their house had been wiped out to the last row of bricks. She was desperate for something to wear.  Anything ……….. even wet would do!  She had made the mistake of going to bed in a skimpy, see-through nightie.  Now she stood there  – one arm over her breasts, and the other arm trying to conceal her crotch area.  The wet nylon nightie was clinging everywhere.  She may as well have been wearing nothing.

Their clothes were ‘gone with the wind’. Most people had lost all of their clothing except what they had been wearing. Her husband was standing in his very skimpy underpants as when he’d gone to bed.  So we dressed him in my husband’s old shorts from the bottom of grandfather’s old sea chest, and her in my husband’s old football jersey which went down to her knees. She was happy! The rest of the warm dry clothes in the sea chest went into dressing the neighbourhood children………….”

This is a short extract from my book – the moral being – that when a cyclone is approaching and the winds are building up, you do not go to bed unless dressed in substantial clothing and footwear. You also keep, in a plastic bag and very close to you, a change of clothing for all those sheltering with you. The winds change from bad to horrific very quickly with each new gust, and you may suddenly find it is too dangerous for you to try to collect these things. Be prepared!

We were fortunate that the large extremely heavy sea chest did not budge during that cyclone, even though everything else was blown away. It stayed true to its purpose and was bone dry inside. In its journeys sailing around the world, it had probably encountered such severe weather many times. Even in the following stifling heat, we were so happy to have its contents of winter woollies, and ‘odds and ends’ of old but dry clothing, as we were all in shock and shiveringly cold.

Read more hard-earned tips in my book “Terror and Turmoil” available on Amazon’s Kindle, and hardcopy from me.

 

“MISTY TABLELAND MORNING”

"Misty Tableland Morning"

“Misty Tableland Morning”

Was delighted to find out during the week that my watercolour “Misty Tableland Morning” (50 x 70cm) won the Watercolour Award of $1000, at the Cairns Art Society’s 69th Annual Art Exhibition at the Cairns Regional Gallery. The show opened on 17/11/2016, and finishes 12/12/2016.

For artists, winning awards, strangely, is not about the money at all (though, of course, that is nice!) but it’s about affirmation as an artist. We have such delicate egos!! Knowing that a judge has considered all the competition, and then has given you ‘the gong’ gives you a kind of warm fuzzy feeling, only bettered by a hug from that ‘special one’ in your life.

The scene was of a farm shack on its last legs (well stumps anyway), with the mists rolling over, stuck in the middle of a paddock, in the backblocks between Kairi and Tinaroo on the Atherton Tablelands.

At this time of writing the painting is still available for sale. ($995.oo).

WANT TO WRITE A BOOK?

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WANT TO WRITE A BOOK? GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY.

The wise words from Maria Murnane – “Sometimes when people I encounter find out I’m a writer, they share with me their own ambitions of writing a book. While some of these individuals go on to reach their goals, in my experience that’s usually not the case. I’ve lost track of how many times an aspiring writer has told me that he or she once started writing a book, but then for various reasons it went nowhere. Some of the most common explanations I hear include:

*I got too busy with work/family

*I wasn’t sure where the plot was going

*I was afraid it was awful

*It seemed like so much work

*I set it down and just didn’t pick it up again

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of the above, but here is the truth: Yes, they are reasons, but they are also excuses. It’s completely fine if you don’t finish your book or even if you never start your book. No one is telling you that you must write a book. It’s your life, and you should live it as you choose. But if you truly want to write a book, you’re the only one who can make yourself do it. That’s really all it comes down to.

Much like losing weight or getting (and staying) in shape, writing a book takes discipline and commitment over a long period of time. There are always going to be reasons for why you can’t eat right every day or work out every day. Always. But if you really want to lose weight by eating right regularly, you will. If you really want to be in shape by exercising regularly, you will. And if you really want to write a book, you will.

Writing a book is challenging and scary and not always fun. And once you’re done, there’s no guarantee that you’ll sell a single copy. But who cares? For the vast majority of authors, writing a book isn’t about the money. It’s about writing a book. So if you really want to be a writer, get out of your own way and make it happen. I promise you’ll be glad you did.” – Maria.

I found this the best piece of advice I have ever read…….it stopped my procrastination, my excuses, and made me DO IT!!

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It’s Wet, No Kidding.

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Our current weather reminds me of this painting. “It’s Wet, No Kidding” was a watercolour 60 x 55 cm I painted some time ago, of a scene I came across in the back blocks of Atherton. It had been a miserable, wet, cold day but the sun was trying to come out. The goats, sheltered from the wind by their humpy, had picked a sunny spot to dry out…….in the only little bit of sun around. They seemed quite pleased with themselves. I do have some reproductions of this painting available which are stretched on canvas and ready to hang.

If You were an Artist, What would “YOU” like to Paint……..?

Heat Haze, Richmond

If you were to be an artist, what would “you” like to paint……..?

Everyone knows how I gravitate to old shacks, houses and homesteads……..the rustier the iron, and the more weathered the timber, the better. I love painting the play of light over these structures.

What grabs you? What do you see when you say to yourself “I wish I could paint” or “That would make a fantastic painting”? What has stirred your soul??

This is an oil on canvas, I painted some years ago, 900 x 600mm, “Heat Haze, in the Back Blocks, Richmond”.