Colorful Journey Part 5
By Linda Lover
Picking up from where I left off in the last article, 2004 was the beginning of a very difficult year that seemed to have no let up. Trying to live as ordinarily as possible was the goal, taking each day one at a time and cherishing every minute. Both my husband and I were doing what needed to be done to fight our cancers; mine was one of hope and his was not to be. We lived on faith and that helped us face each tomorrow.
One of the first things I did was to give up painting in the basement. I wanted to be close to where my husband was. I had a potting table on the enclosed porch and I brought that into the living room as the table downstairs was too large. Figuring ways to economize with a smaller surface now, I drilled holes along the edge to hold brushes. My husband built me a bookcase with wide shelves to fit the closet and it eventually held most of my supplies that I normally used. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in things that we forget to realize how precious time spent together is. After bringing my work upstairs I questioned myself as to why having more space downstairs seemed to matter in the first place. We never know what life will bring to our door, and cancer definitely reorganized my priorities. No matter how much time we have together, it is never enough.
I worked a little through the year, mostly with time spent on the 3 combined artists’ books. In fact each time I see those books in Michaels, I’m reminded of when I painted the designs for them and how life had been at the time.
Just in the few years of attending shows with the company, I became good friends with a few designers. You might even recognize the names and, though some are well known, they all were very humble. No egos, just people in the business of design who paint and promote painting for the sake of painting and to earn a livelihood from it.
Looking around at the industry in general, other forms of friendships were noticeable as well. Sometimes friendships evolved through working together, as in a business relationship. Some were used for advancement or because they belonged to a group. Others were just from familiarity like a “hey and how are you”. But the best was the old fashioned kind….you like the people you’re with, look forward to seeing each other and staying in touch from time to time. This kind of friendship between designers was rewarding in many other ways as well. It offered a mutual support system and a place where ideas and opportunities were shared freely because loyalty and trust were valued. It was the best place to find help with a painting problem or even one of life’s problems.
In 2004 I experienced the importance of having genuine, trusting friendships, people who watched out for you. Unable to attend shows, I wasn’t in tune with what was going on. Not that I’d given it much thought anyway due to everything else in our lives. I was able to complete a design for an easy make and take event for the designer who was to fill in for me.
Later that year I received a call from one of my friends checking to see if I was aware that a certification program was being presented using my technique and design applications for the specialty brushes. She’d seen the program advertised as a weekend class at a painting shop with a sign up fee of $300 per student. How could this be possible as no one had contacted me? I put my thoughts in order and followed up with a call to the company.
I was told they were aware of a program but had no details and that I should contact the designer with questions I had. I wasn’t feeling all that great from chemo but knew I shouldn’t delay. The designer tried to convince me that she’d created a great program with my work and I could eventually benefit from it, too, after I recovered from cancer. I was taken aback considering that this program was using my copyrighted material and without my knowledge or permission, plus it had her name on it.
One Stroke certification was popular at the time, but the marketing rep and I had originally discussed that any kind of educational program would definitely be affordable such as books, instructional sheets and inserts with brush packets. It would be easy enough that people would be able to learn from their own painting table. The issue in question was eventually resolved with the certification program being cancelled. I also requested to be informed if any of my material was to be used in the future.
Permission would not be necessary if something original was developed from using my techniques. However, if it came to commercially profiting from work identifiable to me then that would create copyright issues. Due to past experiences where I lost out because I didn’t stand up for what I’d created, I’d finally come to a point where I felt if I didn’t stand up for myself it’s a sure bet no one else would. Cancer brought out a new attitude. When you feel weak you realize that you have to find strength to get over the hurdles. In the process this began to carry over to other things in life.
The self-published book was still selling, but it had been out a while so sales had dwindled. When I felt like painting once again I started to submit to magazines. One of the editors requested a pink ribbon project but I felt another designer who’d battled cancer would do a better job and her design was fantastic. Ribbons and roses are two things that, no matter how much work I put into them, they never quite have the finished look I’d hoped for. I was able to resume traveling to shows again, but time away from my husband was really hard. The work was good for me and it also helped some financially.
Painting books were something I always enjoyed doing, even though they took a lot of time and creativity, but self-publishing was out of the question as painting had experienced a decline due to the scrap book market. Chains were changing their policy on how books would be purchased adding to the obstacles for distributors. Publishing was changing. One book publisher eventually put a temporary halt on doing painting books and another went to publishing every other craft but painting.
So in 2005 I talked to some of the book publishers that attended shows. Some were not taking any one new; others were putting designers on a list to be contacted should there be an opening and one I’d worked with before was having a change of ownership. But my faith in knowing how God seems to put me in the right place at the right time has always been steadfast. So I have given patience and perseverance a chance many times and, for me, connecting with a truly wonderful company was my reward. Up until now, I’ve done a series of 6 painting books and am now working on “Brushtiques FUNdamentals” where the focus is on fun to paint designs that can be done in a couple hours or an afternoon. Projects are easy to learn from, teach with, or paint for shows, shops and quick gifts.
In 2006 my husband had retired on disability due to the cancer and the effects of the chemo. His job was in machine repair and the illness had taken a toll on his physical strength but not on his mental strength. He never dwelled on his illness and his faith was a constant. He never let cancer stop him; he continued to live his life as if every tomorrow would be there. He was an amazing man. Since he was no longer working, I’d asked the company president if he could come to the shows with me. They said most certainly as it wouldn’t cause anymore expense for a room. We simply paid his airfare and whatever food or sight seeing we did. When things were slow at the show, they let me off early to spend time with him.
Their thoughtfulness was something I’ve always admired and appreciated. Our first show was Creative in Las Vegas where we enjoyed a few days of nice weather as compared to what was going on in Michigan in February. A lot of places were decked out to celebrate the Chinese New Year; especially beautiful was the red décor. The next show was SDP in Nashville and we drove, stopping at Mammoth Cave on the way. A ceramic show in Scottsdale was during the heat of summer, 110 degrees some days. After that show we rented a car, took time to see Sedona and then the Grand Canyon. We’d been there several years before when our children were young, but that’s one natural wonder that you never tire of seeing. By fall, I’d stepped away from doing shows and that November my wonderful husband took the hand of the Lord. I opted out of the shows at the beginning of the next year, as it was a time that I needed to get myself acclimated to all the many changes.
My creativity had been waning for a while and by now I could barely find any.However, then I wasn’t really trying as it was enough just to work through the grief. The Lord blessed us abundantly with a beautiful family and it gave me strength and reason to get back to living.
Little by little I began to think about painting again. I knew I had to find something to fill my time eventually. When I did start to paint, I found that I wasn’t painting the same any more. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it felt so different but it seemed like I was working harder on something that had come much easier before. I wasn’t even using the same color palette and my designs seemed different in some ways.
There were days with such a lack of creativity or no creativity at all that I considered maybe my painting days were over. I talked to my close painting friends and they were such a source of encouragement. One designer had gone through quite a trauma and was having similar problems with the desire to paint. She wouldn’t quit and I decided neither would I. Having a book deadline in front of me was definitely a positive thing because it kept me motivated. It just took longer to complete a book than previously. When I gave a date for completion, I stretched it to where I knew I would be able to have it finished and ready for publication. This allowed me more time to create and that was where I needed the time the most.
Occasionally the company had me work on projects to be promoted to other companies they’d met at shows, however, cross marketing of products often is a hard sell. In fact, chains seldom promote cross marketing. As an example, I’ve always felt painters would scrap book but scrap bookers aren’t as willing to paint. The skill required is different and then there’s the issue of water. Paper crafters as a rule do not like to deal with water or paint. For brushes to be popular, they would have to be suitable to inks and powders, and once a brush is washed, it’s wet for a while, also a concern. Some companies have products that are more suited to a dollar market and they don’t really work combined with a product that is more costly.
There are many things to be considered in marketing products and among the first are to create interest to create a demand. In cross marketing products should probably be compatible in quality and cost and compliment each other. Most painters look for quality, how product can be used, performance and durability and cost can also be a factor. I’ve always found that you usually get what you pay for.
To be continued……