22.2.07

Uppity downity

Despite a mammoth mail-out over the last few months, both in the UK, Europe and the USA, there's no commercial work on the horizon. The tax man's taken all my dough...I've got plenty of nothin'....and the tumbleweeds blow through my ever increasing overdrafts. But hey, that was then, this is now. It really has been a worrying 2007 so far. We can't survive on just Andy's wage, and with the bus service being cut yet again, it's impossible to get a 'normal' job out of the village, unless you drive. (I don't). A friend gave me one of those free New Year calendars from a Chinese takeaway, knowing that I collect ephemera. We'd just been talking about my penurious situation, so imagine my delight when I read the advice for Sheep -

'A year filled with obstacles and setbacks. Only perseverance and hard working will bring out the rewards. Income is fairly unstable. Expenses exceed your earnings. A sound financial planning is needed. Love partner is quite unpredictable.'

Recently I had to pull the plug on a large, privately commissioned painting. Twenty-five hours of work for a tailor-made (and therefore unsaleable to anyone else) piece, due to what we might call a break down in communciation. I thought that the Chinese fortune teller might be have right after all...one good thing came out of it; I was so annoyed I told the always-demanding and not-very-well-paying client that I cannot work for them again, which I've been dying to do for years.

Anyway,
I'm in the middle of a shift in style again. For the last two years I've been doing mostly educational style work, like the 'Drake's Tail' pictures. It's bright, it's cheerful, it fits the brief. I've changed the way I draw children, I've changed the way I use colour. It's been good for me. But I've kind of missed my old fashioned artworks, the ones people used to like and sometimes buy. The stuff which has been described variously as 'sad' 'melancholy' and even 'grim'. I started painting up a few pieces for an Etsy store, with no more hope than I'd make enough to buy a bit more firewood, and some groceries. I finished this...


...and this...



...and then, in the middle of all that snow, a couple of weeks ago, I got a phone call. A fellow cricket 'WAG' and friend from our club had (unbeknownst to me) passed on my name to an art gallery who specialise in vintage and modern children's illustration. Would I be interested in selling work through them? So, we arranged for them to visit a couple of days later. Then it snowed. Boy, did it snow! But still they came. And I dragged out as much artwork as I could physically get out of my cramped studio, for them to browse. They were quite delightful people - a love of cats, interest in motorbikes and shared eclectic musical tastes helped make it a thoroughly convivial meeting. And they enthused about my work. Not the jolly infant posters. Not the reading cards or the 'Princess's Handbook'. Not even 'Pinwheel Days'. They pounced - mainly - on the 'sad' stuff. The works I've had kicking about in my folios for years. They told me that my 'urchins' (which I discarded on the advice of a junior Art Designer, who told me that they were not right for today's publishers) - were worth conti
nuing with. They liked the dark stuff, the old-fashioned styles...

I was hoping they would take away a couple of pieces to get feedback on, I was expecting nothing more. But I was out of the room for five minutes and came back to find a set aside pile of 11 works and the offer of a substancial cheque. Somewhat gob-smacked, I looked at what they had chosen. A few early Winnie the Pooh try-outs from the Disney job. The rejected artworks for the 'Velveteen Rabbit'. One of my favourite works, 'Queen for a Day' - rather badly reproduced here -


and the two newest works (above) I'd been about to flog for a farthing on Etsy. And, by the way, if I did happen to do any more 'quality' work, would I let them see it please?
I had to take up all the unsigned artwork and scribble my name on them. Then they disappeared into the snow, and we picked our jaws off the floor, Andy too, as neither of us had expected anything like this. When you've been dreaming of lucky breaks for two decades and been knocked back time and time again, you simply give up hoping, although you plod on, because what else can you do? This week I had a call to say
that two of the artworks are now framed, and ready to go display at the 'FORM' exhibition.

The bad patch has passed for the moment. We have wood, we have a full store cupboard, the bills are paid and my tax return is sorted. This week someone bought one of the 'bargain' framed paintings I had, for more than the asking price, and told me I sell my work too cheaply.



(It's called the 'Easy Over' after the US phrase for soft eggs, I only later later discovered that the phrase is 'Over Easy.' Oops.)

To be honest, I don't feel I'm out of the woods yet, and I still feel anxious about the future. But at least I have some breathing space to sort some new ideas out. And, as Andy likes to say, it's all gravy. I like todays' Western horoscope, for Cancer -

You may appear uncertain about your long-term plans now, but that's because your words are not telling the entire story. You probably know exactly how you feel, yet cannot easily express it to others. Don't waste too much energy trying to convince anyone else that you aren't floundering. If they don't understand, just come back to the discussion later.


30 comments:

Beck said...

Hooray! It's about bloomin' time you had a lucky break and someone offering you large cheques for your paintings, fantastic news, congratulations! I hope they come back for many, many more.

It's so good to hear your good news, and great to hear you could tell an awkward client to go away too, that must have been satisfying.

Joy said...

That is fantastic Gretel, I am so pleased for you. I hope this goes from strength to strength for you.

Francie M. said...

I am so happy for you, I really really am...BUT I was sort of hoping you wouldn't make it REALLY BIG until I could purchase one of your fabulous pieces. Sigh, I am always a day late and a dollar short. See? Almost all of us have something to worry about.... :)
Francie

Gail said...

As usual a lovely post Gretel - great news and you so deserve it! Here's to lots more healthy cheques! ;)

Anonymous said...

Hurrah for you Gretel!

Soozcat said...

Gretel, your story sounds very familiar to me. I want to tell you a short story about this man.

For years he created two kinds of paintings: the "saleable" ones, simple landscapes and such, and the "weird" ones with floating fish and ladies with wings, which he kept in his garage because he knew no one would ever want them. When one of his neighbors offered to buy one of the "weird" paintings, he thought it was a fluke. It took him a while to realize that people actually liked, and wanted to buy, the work he cared about most.

Your style is obviously quite different from his, but I believe your "sad" work deserves as much exposure as his "weird" work did--and that it will find an appreciative audience, just as his work has.

Daisy Lupin said...

I am so pleased for you that you had this lucky break, you really deserve it. Those paintings that you have shown on this posting are just wonderful. Long may this continue for you.

Sherry Rogers said...

This is absolutely wonderful NEWS! I am so excited for you! You have a wonderful gift and I know this is just the beginning! Way to Go!!! Congrats!!!

Have you ever tried selling prints on e-bay? You can set a mininum bid. . .if the bid isn't met it doesn't sell.

Awesome news!

PG said...

Thank you everyone! and Sooz, for that gorgeous link, I've just bookmarked it.

Francie, :) I am still small fry, and in the 'affordable illustration' section of the gallery website. I don't think my prices will be going through the ceiling, just yet...

Sherry, thanks so much - I am going to be doing some lino printing, and I'll be selling through Etsy, as they are a lot cheaper than ebay, and it's got a nice community.

tlc illustration said...

Hooray Gretel!!! That is such Good News! And well-deserved. (Sooz's story is also very on-point. J. Christensen is now very well known, respected and by all accounts - well-enough off. I got to have him as an instructor for a class when I was in college. He is a hoot! He deserves it all!) (As do you).

Cotswoldgent said...

I told you! "Yes I know PG the famous artist, we exchange blogs you know!"
Well done that it such wonderful news

carolyn said...

That's the trouble with being self employed it's all up and down and all over the place. Sometimes we go from one success to the next only to be followed by one diaster after another. Swings and roundabouts as they say.
So pleased you are having a good moment.

natural attrill said...

Glad to hear your good news G, hope you have lots more!
P.

The Decorated House said...

It's good to hear that your work is doing well. Your style is unique and delightful. I've done children's illustration work (including Disney, too) and it's still one of my favorite things to do.
You know the competition can be really steep, but anyone should love your work.
Hope your future is very bright with colors, and strokes of the pen or brush.
Donna
The Decorated House

Ed said...

Holy bloody hell, G. What a post, what a story, what a woman. Your success, temporary or leading to greater thing (oh I so touch wood that it's the latter) is so well deserved. I love your work and am so glad that people with money are saying so too.

Even the way you TOLD the story was amazing.

Stuntmother said...

Oh wait, that was me, Stuntmother (francesca).

I seemed to be signed in as Ed. Sorry.

Barb said...

Isn't serendipity wonderful...that case of a fortunate occurrence created by unanticipated luck, even in a snowstorm. I'm thrilled for you. I know the good hard cash is important, but to see them walking out with armloads of your work, but have had you dancing on air.

julie said...

Brilliant news about the gallery - it wonderful when you feel that things are pretty low and then something unexpected comes along to give you hope again. Here's wishing you tons of successful gallery sales, lots of commissions for grateful and appreciative clients and many exciting new projects!

PG said...

Ah, thank you every one - it means so much to have people pleased for me, and Stuntmother, I knew it was you, it was the 'holy bloody hell' what gave it away! ;)

LisaOceandreamer said...

oh dear Gretel this is the best news to read and I can actually FEEL your relief. I wish you continued and future success and when you are rich and famous....(and you will be)..don't forget us here in bloggityville!
XOXOXO

Sweet Pea said...

I am in the same boat as you Gretel, and it is always stressful not knowing when or if the next job will come.

So, congratulations and well deserved! I think selling prints on etsy is a great idea (something I have been considering too). I am glad to hear that things are looking up for you and look forward to seeing more of your beautiful paintings :)

Ash said...

Yeeee Haaaa!
Been away from blogs for a few days and MISSED all the excitement! Delighted to know that your body and soul have been nourished by the angels in the snow.
PS looking forward to the linocuts - I love 'em
xx L

Gordon Fraser said...

Yo yo yo our Gretel!!! How do (and Mr Gretel as well of course!)

I've been pretty busy recently, so trying to catch up on everything! Bloomin great post.....about time you had some good luck...(well over due if you ask me!)

Anyways, you know I ADORE your work so keep it going and never stop your style...IT'S THE GREATEST!!

(I will order some cards soon....if I ever get paid!)

SueC said...

I'm so pleased for you Gretel....its so well deserved of your talent and long overdue.

I have to say I really love your 'darker' illustrations too and I've been lucky enough to have seen the original Queen for a Day.....long may the gravy run. Sue xx

lettuce said...

Fab. news Gretel - and how great that its the work you feel is most "yours" which they liked.

muddy red shoes said...

Thats great Gretel, you should feel well proud, I love your work and you deserve every success. Never loose faith, I know that is easier said than done sometimes.

andrea joseph's sketchblog said...

Beautiful work. You've such a gorgeous style.

judie said...

Well you know, that's where the term "starving artist" comes from. There's ups, and there's downs, and we can only hope for the ups more and more. I for one LOVE your art, and if I were a gallery owner, or a publisher, I'd be after your stuff! Unfortunately, I'm a starving artist...sigh......You know where I see your art? On fabric. On those tops nurses wear. They love that kind of art on their clothes. Good luck.

Ruth Welter said...

Gretel,

This is wonderful news and you so deserve it, your illustrations are gorgeous. All the Best.

Kirsty said...

i was lucky to receive a card that you had illustrated for christmas from my friend Joanna in Worcester and have just gotten round to say that I think your work it utterly charming.