Wearable Art-Jeweler/Artist Peggy Johnson

This trip down memory lane led me to thinking about my ex-sister-in-law...Peggy Johnson, jeweler extraordinaire. I was always fascinated with her work...whimsy and fine art married.
I haven't seen Peggy in years, so I thought I'd do a little looking around.....ya gotta love Google. I'm happy to says she's still making wonderful jewelry and I wanted to share some photos of her work here. And to see more you can visit her blog or her website. Be prepared to smile.

Philadelphia Murals

I decided I would be remiss if I did not share some of my favorite Philadelphia Murals here.

Even the royals paid them a visit, and so can you. There are several tours offered, here's one
Go here for more information on the MuralArtsProgram in Philadelphia.
A work in progress.

Of course Philly is not just known for its beautiful murals......I can taste the mustard now. Want to see how they're made?
If you've never had a warm, salty, soft pretzel smothered in mustard.....oh, my goodness you must!
No plans to make it to Philly anytime soon? No problem, have some delivered to your door.
And what is it about hot dogs from a street vendor that makes your mouth water? I gave up eating hot dogs years ago, but every time I pass by one of those vendors mine still does.
Here is a great site on all things Philly.... Finding Philly

Well.......I am glad to be back here after a 20 year absence.......see old buddies, see how much the city has or hasn't changed. I even went to South Philly to see my very first apartment. I wasn't on my own back then, it was a small group of us, one of whom became my first husband and the father of my over-the-top-fabulous son (now married with is own family). The building didn't look this nice back then, it was under renovation at the time.....yep, while we were living in it.
Ah, sweet, innocent youth. Actually my ex was/is a carpenter and was employed by the owner to help renovate it. There were parts that didn't even have floors...lol.
Just a few doors down there's one of those fabulous Philly murals.
Well, tomorrow is my meeting at the Hospital of The University of Pennsylvania, and hopefully within the next week or two I'll be adding my contribution to the collection of murals beautifying the city streets and businesses of Philadelphia, PA.
I can't wait :-)


A Forrest Gump Moment

More than a few people have asked me why I want to stop painting murals full time, and I was thinking about that last night. The best way to answer that is to ask you to visualize the scene in Forrest Gump (its what popped into my head) where after how long?
.....he finally stops running and just stands there for a moment before turning around to go home. That moment expresses how I feel.
Its just time to stop.

Its just that way sometimes. This isn't to discourage aspiring mural artists out there, just the opposite. My intention here is to continue to provide advice and support to the beginning mural artists. I mean to encourage you to be as schooled and prepared as possible so that you will have a successful career as a mural artist. Go to Amazon.com and find the book entitled, How To Start A Faux Painting or Mural Business by Rebecca Pittman. There are also a lot of other books there that are useful to artists/muralists.
I also encourage you to go to my archives and read 'Finding Work....' (June 27) for some helpful tips.
Also, have a back up plan. Take some classes in Faux painting, its an art in itself. And when the demand for murals is low, you'll have another artistic skill you can fall back on. And finally if at all possible, put some money away for those slow times. Stress is just not good for you :-)

"You're a mural artist? That must be fun."

I hear that a LOT. And it absolutely can be..........most of the time. This is part of a mural I did for a printing company. It was done on canvas in the air conditioned peace and quiet of my studio. Music playing in the background determined by whatever my mood was set to.
It was fun.
Then there's this. This is my first look at a job site where I was asked to paint a mural. The working conditions didn't improve a lot from what you see here. This was definitely NOT fun.
They did prime the walls for me and I managed to find a broom so I could sweep up a bit. But no electricity, which meant no air conditioning (this was in Florida!) and having to run an extension cord to an outside outlet so I could get some light to work by. No plumbing....of any kind, rather inconvenient for more than one reason ;-(
And of course there's the normal chaos that goes on at a construction site....the roar of power tools not ten feet away from you and the sound echoing off the walls of an empty room, the floor spaghettied with extension cords to trip on, dust, sweat dripping down your face, battle of the construction worker's radios, and language that would make George Carlin blush... but the job got done.
Ceilings. Another 'not such a fun time' when you're who knows how high off the ground, perched on a plywood floor atop scaffolding, and you're so close to the ceiling that you can't stand up, but far enough away that you can't reach it laying down. And too, we all know heat rises....another Florida job site with no air conditioning. Oh yes......and thank you to who ever it was that invented ibuprofen....necks just aren't meant to bend that way.
But the job got done.
So I'd say it's really like any other job....sometimes it's good, and sometimes....... not so much.


To B&B or not to B&B

Sorry, couldn't resist :-)
I was checking the results on the ad I posted on bedandbreakfast.com and was astonished to see the hits jump from 58 two days ago to over 3000 today. How'd that happen? Do I get depressed because none of those 3000+ lookers contacted me? Was it something I said? Something I didn't say? Too old :-O ? Lack of experience? Or was it some kind of technical glitch?
So just to keep my vision/goal alive of finding employment in a B&B Inn I started looking at different B&B websites. Some of these places are simply gorgeous. Please tell me...do the Portuguese know how to do it or what!
And don't we all dream of the Key West getaway, especially when there's a foot of snow to be shoveled,
Or the charm of good ol southern hospitality found in Georgia.
Ya gotta love this one, it's in Amsterdam
And sometimes you don't have to go far away at all. This one is right here in my current (albeit temporary) hometown of Philadelphia, Pa.
I know some of these old row homes are big, but you have to see the number of rooms in this place.

OK, my hope and inspiration are restored :-)

Tuesday I have a meeting with some folks at HUP (Hospital at The University of Pennsylvania) to discuss the mural work for the Neonatology Department. If offered employment from a B&B before the end of the month(July), this will be my last mural job.
Even though things haven't worked out for me here, I just have to say, that I was so honored to have been able to do mural work at HUP. It was totally worth the move up here from Florida.
For the kids coming through here from Children's Hospital next door for treatment at HUP .

One of three waiting rooms I did for them.


Tips For Finding Work Mural Painting

Its not always easy. Artists provide a service that not everyone can afford. You will spend as much time (if not more) marketing yourself as you do on your painting. This isn't meant to be doom and gloom, its so you know that if you're not good at that?......find someone who is (even if its just a pushy, but not obnoxious friend) and hire them to promote your work for you. Know what your strengths are, you don't have to be good at everything, but you do need to work. So if you suck at it?.....get help. That said....
*Take as many classes as you can. Can't afford classes? Let your fingers do the walking and look for free online art instruction, there's lots out there.
*Don't forget about YouTube (check out one of mine). There are tons of instructional videos on there about painting.
*Do an online search for press release sites....some are free.
*Spend some time visiting artist/muralist/faux finish forums.
They're a great resource for getting/giving advice, showing your work etc. This is a competitive field and you need to be the best at what you do. Never stop learning....nobodies that good. Two good ones: http://www.fauxforum.com and http://www.muralsplus.com
*Keep a good portfolio of your work in an album or online. No jobs yet you say?.......get some canvas, tack it on the wall and paint. Do one, photograph it, paint another. Can't afford canvas?........then sacrifice a wall somewhere in you home and start painting, photograph it, prime it out and start another, and another, and another. Create a collection of photos of your work. You need to be able to show people what you can do.
*Websites are good for two reasons. One, it acts as an online portfolio and can weed out people who may not be interested in perhaps your style of painting (you can't appeal to everyone), therefore saving you time wasted traveling to a location for a consult. Two, if your diligent in keeping your site high profile (search engine friendly), I have been contacted for prospective work via the website.
*Websites can be pricey if you don't have the skills to create one yourself, so take advantage of places like this to showcase your work. I've recently switch from a website to using this format.
*Use sites like Blogrush to help bring traffic to your site. Its free and it works. See the widget in the right column to learn more about it. There's also a very helpful video that explains how it works here.
*Always, always, carry business cards. As soon as someone asks what do you do....hand them a card. Tack them up on every available public bulletin board you can find. OK......maybe high end clients won't find you that way, but smaller jobs help pay the bills, and it helps get your name out there.
*Charge appropriately for your geographic area, and your skill level. Be confident when pricing a job, but realistic. You can ask ten different artists what or how they charge for a job and get ten different answers. There is no set formula, you need to be honest with yourself about where you are skill wise, and you need to know what people are willing to pay where you work. I myself, prefer to know what a client wants to spend...I ask for their budget. I don't want to waste time designing something that maybe they can't afford, or designing several sketches to give them options to choose from (thats a lot of work for a maybe). I like to use my time efficiently. I like to get to the point and get to work......whats your budget for this project.
*Use your vehicle for advertising. I have my business name and info on the back of my truck along with a business card holder... http://www.vehiclecardpockets.com ....they work! Park in very public places whenever you can. There's a playground down the street from where I live, on Saturday/Sunday mornings its a great place to park my truck for the day. I like to do children's rooms and folks walking by can easily take a business card.
*Try to land a job doing a mural in a big and busy restaurant. Its by far how I got most of my referrals, and years later still do. Send out that pushy friend you've hired to market your work (to find a restaurant in need). Make sure its high traffic, but with locals, not tourists (if you want local jobs), and that they are customers in a higher income bracket who can afford to hire a muralist.
*Donate a mural in a public place, day care centers, restaurants, churches, community centers etc. There are mixed feelings about doing this, but its entirely up to you and whether you're willing to do it knowing you may not get any work from it (but of course hoping you will). My feeling?.....if you're not doing anything anyway and you've got some down time, paint's not all that expensive, and you could be doing something really nice for someone, you'll keep your skills up and you won't be sitting around getting fat and depressed :-)
*Contact design firms and contractors in your area. Send them a CD of your portfolio if you can, or at least a brochure/postcard or business card. The following are free :-) http://www.mybrochuremaker.com and http://www.mypostcardmaker.com
*Do an online search for 'call to artists' and 'call to muralists'. Check those artist forums for possible opportunity listings, several do. http://www.muralsplus.com and http://www.fauxforum.com are two.


At Least I'm Painting......Right?

There were times when, happy as I was for them, I would really tire of reading on art forums about how this or that artist was booked months in advance. Alright...OK....maybe not so happy for them, downright jealous is probably more accurate. I don't think I was ever booked out more than a couple of weeks at a time and that wasn't often. Regardless, I managed to find work that filled in the slow times. One of my all time favorites.....

...being asked to turn these support poles into totem poles. I'm pretty sure I stared at Wayne for a few minutes in disbelief before I regained my composure and became excited about the challenge.....there were a few of them :-)

If you ever get to Lantana, Fl check out the Old Key Lime House restaurant, a very fun place to have a great dinner on the water, hang at the bar, hear live music. I love the pirate hanging from the rafters. And bikes are welcome :-) Painted that too.

And gentlemen?.......when you go into one of the restrooms there, one of those Bin Laden portraits in the urinal I was asked to do. Try to meet Wayne (the owner), he's a really interesting fun guy.....tell him Karen says hello.

Then there's always ebay as an option to pull in some extra cash.
I had started designing some small floor mats and posted them on ebay.

None of those sold at the time, but I did get commissioned to do a custom floorcloth from someone who saw them. Her request?...
could she have her five cats painted on the rug......sure, why not.

Then sometimes I think some people have more money than they know what to do with. I was asked to paint a temporary wall that surrounded a small construction site. They were building a restroom next to a play area. Yes it was a really nice planned community, complete with shops, department stores, etc. but really.....if the wall stood for six weeks I'd be surprised. Its just my personal opinion, although grateful for the income, the money could have been better spent.

Still....... I waaaaaaassssss painting :-)

More recently I was asked by someone who gives environmental
presentations to youngsters to paint an eagle. No problem :-)
Then I learn its going to be presented as a puzzle that gets put together upside down while a story unfolds about the state of NJ. He developed the idea after seeing a video of the artist who paints on a spinning canvas..... you can't figure out what he's painting until its just about complete and the canvas is stopped in its upright position. I'm not sure he totally understood the concept :-)

But.....still I waaaaassss painting :-)
Point? You probably will have some down time between mural jobs, so use that creativity and explore some new, perhaps unconventional ways to add to your income.......have fun! You need to keep that paint brush moving to keep your skills up. Practice makes perfect :-)


The new karenhetzer.com

Busy today making the transition from the old karenhetzer.com, bringing things here and shutting down the old site. Not to worry, the instructional DVD's can still be accessed here.
I've added some interesting links in the sidebar...warning: I've gotten lost in those sites for hours, especially the ones on design. You'll get lost in a maze of links and may not be able to find your way back.....lots of beautiful things to look at....enjoy.


Staying Focused

Just when I thought the difficult decisions were behind me, I'm presented with another.
This morning I awoke to a most wonderful letter from yet another B&B Inn. I must have read it ten times, it was way too good to be true....an ideal location with "a thriving artist community", beautiful Victorian property, close enough to my family, and from what I can tell so far, a warm and friendly staff.
OK, so I guess this decision wouldn't be all that difficult to make.....lol.

Could it really be true that what you focus on is what you get?

Some of you may remember my adventure with Gladys a few years ago, or maybe more accurately, my lack of adventure with Gladys (giggle:-)

My 21' class C home on wheels, Gladys. I got it into my head I was going to paint my way across the country. I had virtually no money, not the greatest credit score, and no idea how this was going to work. I started going to RV shows. I went to dealers and scanned their lots, not even sure what I was looking for and I admit feeling quite the phony knowing I had no money. But then that one special day.......there she was, sitting in the middle of the lot and it was like one of those slow motion scenes as I walked up to her.........I just knew she was mine. I walked inside her and despite her hideous early 1990's dusty rose pink everything interior, I could see her true hidden beauty.........lol.

After an exhaustive search for someone who would take a chance and lend me money, the deal was done and she indeed was mine. Now the real work begins. I totally redid her interior.

What a fun time! I love tools almost as much as a paint brush!

Long story short, I was on the road for about two months and found it not quite so easy to find work painting murals as I thought it would be. At one point I was painting window screens similar to the top foto (my apartment windows) but for RV windows.

Portrait of Ruthie's Pets

I remember sitting in the doorway of Gladys watching this baby bird for at least twenty minutes while it mustered up the courage to fly. I knew exactly how it felt.

My point though is that I didn't know how it was going to happen but I knew I was going to have an RV and hit the road.
And so I did.

Come to think of it, thats just how my mural art career started. I actually began painting on furniture.....

and I remember so clearly walking into the little shop where I would sell pieces and saying to the owner....."I'm going to paint murals, I don't know why I know that, I just do".
And so I did.