What happens when a horsemad Ould Wagon moves from Cork to Provence with 2 horses, 2 dogs and a Long Suffering Husband? Why, she gets a third dog, discovers Natural Horsemanship à la Française, starts writing short stories and then discovers a long-buried talent for art, of course…
Some years ago, I packed up my life and moved from grey, rainy Cork to a small village in the middle of Provence, along with my Long Suffering Husband and a small herd of beasts. Time has moved on. This new and exciting life abroad has become our normal existence.
I’ve stopped riding, due to chronic back pain. Aero is officially retired and enjoying life as the undisputed King of his herd of five. Flurry gazes at me with mournful eyes and wonders why we no longer go tromping through the woods. We lost a Small Brown Dog and gained a high-octane brown and white goofball.
The LSH packed in his high-paying day job last year and is slowly building a portrait photography business.
I work at the farm where the horses live, feeding and caring for 30-odd horses. It doesn’t quite pay my livery bill, and I know I won’t be able to do it for ever. I need another source of income…
and now I’ve rediscovered my long-lost love of art. Frankly, I am amazed at what I am producing. Maturity, patience, better attention to detail and a good teacher are all making me into a better artist. My aim is to earn enough money from my art to keep paying my horses’ livery bill, and (hopefully) contribute to the monthly household income.
Surely that’ll be possible?
The blog as you know it will continue in its sporadic, random way below this pinned post. For new visitors, you can find out a bit more about my past on my About Me page.
Yes, I’ve been busy.
I’ve been doing tedious stuff like ordering cards, uploading images to Redbubble and then ordering some products from them to stock my market stall. Market stall? Yes!
I’ll be doing three Christmas markets this year, starting with Montfuron on Dec 1st, followed by one in Celony, Aix-en-Provence on Dec 13th and finishing with the local Reillanne Fête de Noël on Dec 20th.
I will also be selling Christmas cards via four local retailers.
I’m struggling with knowing just how much stock I will need. Ten packs of four cards in each shop seems very low, yet twenty in each seems foolishly optimistic. The French don’t have the same tradition of sending Christmas cards that we would have had in Ireland or the UK twenty years ago, so I should expect to sell fewer French cards. But there will be mostly French people around at this time of year, apart from hardy expats like myself, so I need to be sure I cater to them. The English-speaking world is sending fewer cards than before, but for expats, card-sending is still something that happens, so I need to be sure there is a good stock of English cards everywhere.
The biggest lesson has been this little chap.
I’ve been promoting my Pack of Dogs Christmas Cards on various social media. People like them, a few people said they’d buy a pack or two, and the owner of one of my models ordered 50 cards. Then one lady (who I don’t know) said “I really like your dogs, but I don’t have a dog. Would you have a robin card?”
Well, part of me was going to reply “Ehhh no, I have frickin’ dog cards.” But the more sensible part of my brain won the day. I might as well try a little robin… what did I have to lose?
I told the lady I’d work on it. A week later, I send her the above photo and I also posted him on Facebook and Instagram.
Within hours, I had orders for 200 cards.
I love my Pack of Dogs Christmas Cards. I think they are cute and quirky. But it seems that people don’t want cute and quirky dogs, they want robins holding mistletoe.
Lesson learned. More robins, less quirky, elf-chewing dogs.
More on the Christmas markets as they unfold.
Wish me luck.
…and feeling Good.
I finally went ahead with my expo in the cave (cellar) of Cent Cinq, my friends’ lovely Chambre d’Hote in Apt. It was held during the first week of the autumn school holidays, so I thought there was a smidgeon of a chance that I might have a visitor or two per day.
I had worked hard to have my Christmas cards ready, but in fairness, it’s only the Americans who start thinking about Christmas once Hallowe’en has passed, so I shouldn’t have bothered – lesson no. 1.
The LSH and I set it all up on the Monday morning. It looked amazing. The owl cushions had their own little section, happily sitting on an antique childs bed which doubles as a little couch in the courtyard of Cent Cinq during the summer.
The next morning, the board was set out in the rain-soaked street and I settled down to a quiet morning of drawing, working on a sketch of a horse, just to practice a few techniques.
I had nobody at all in the morning, but in the afternoon things picked up – I had three visitors! I packed up as planned at four, but I felt there was a bit more bustle around town – perhaps it would have been worth waiting until five to close? I decided I might try that the following day.
The following day, Wednesday, was surprisingly busy. I had a steady trickle of people throughout the morning – I even sold some cards, and I think I would have sold Chouette 1, except I’d put a red sticker on him! I’ve decided that I like him way too much to part with him right now, so he’s going nowhere except my wall!
My in-laws arrived in force in the afternoon, and gave my sales a huge boost (thanks guys!) They left at about three, and the rain started to fall torrentially by about 3.30pm, so I decided to I bail out. I put all my cards and prints away in the laundry, just so they wouldn’t absorb the damp from the air in the cave, and I went home, sploshing through the torrents of water that ran down the street.
The rain fell and fell and fell. It fell in sheets, it fell in buckets, it fell in cats and dogs, it fell in ropes… it fell in every way possible that rain can fall, for hours and hours. I did wonder a little about whether the cave would stay dry, but I shrugged those worrisome notions away. It’ll be grand, it’s been there for hundreds and hundreds of years, I thought, and the heavy rain which had fallen the previous Saturday had had no impact on it at all. So I hadn’t even been the slightest bit anxious when I got the text from Jenny saying “A little bit of water had come in from somewhere, and had landed on the table” – where I’d had all my cards and prints! Good job I had moved them! But no need to worry about all my original pieces, they had moved the whole lot into the safety of the main house. (Again, thanks Jen and Chris!)
Lesson no. 2. You can’t be too careful where water and Art are concerned.
The following morning, everything was set up once again, with two dehumidifiers humming happily in the corners. I popped my head out for air after about an hour, to find a man looking at the poster outside the door.
“I’m in a hurry, I don’t really have time,” he told me in French. “But I can’t resist!”
In he came, and he ooh’ed and aah’ed his way around the whole exhibition. He completely fell in love with the Owl cushions, and left with one tucked safely under his arm, sending in another hapless passer-by on his way out.
That set the tone for the rest of the week. I had a steady trickle of visitors, so much so that I had no time to spend on my drawing practise. Drawing takes steady concentration, for me anyway, so I took to wrapping up my packs of cards in between visitors instead. Brainless work, but has to be done.
By Friday, I had sold a good few cards, the second owl cushion, had had very serious enquiries about commissions and had received lots and lots of very positive feedback.
Saturday morning is the insanely busy market day in Apt, so I had high hopes for more visits and more sales… This was the one disappointment of the week, but an important lesson nonetheless.
Market stallholders are assigned slots along the streets and alleyways of Apt, and there is a large cheese stall assigned the slot in front of Cent Cinq. It’s possible to get in and out, but it is not at all inviting, as the cheese stand literally blocks the door. I had a handful of intrepid visitors, but not a single sale.
Lesson no. 3 Next year, if Jen and Chris will have me back again in the summer, I will know that there is no point at all in opening on Saturday morning.
I will leave you with a little video of the whole exhibition.
As a final note, it was really exciting for me to see all my favourite pieces out on display together for the first time. Thanks again for everything, Jen & Chris, especially the photos! ❤ ❤
I am so ridiculously delighted with these.
It’s my Chouette 1, printed on cushion covers by the clever people at Redbubble.com.
Redbubble is a site where artists can sell their images in many different formats. It’s set up very much like a community or social media site.
I’ve been uploading some of my images to my page there, and working out which ones will look good on what.
I’ve duplicated and reversed some images, in some cases so that someone can have two horse cushions which look at each other…
…but also so that it will look correct on certain items. For example, the leftward looking Iberian will look wrong on a phone cover :
His head would end up at the back of the phone, but his mirror image will look fine, after being shrunk down a wee bit :
Who knows whether anyone would want such a thing on their phone cover… but he’s there in case a Lusitano-lover sees him and falls in love with his little face. I also thought he’d look good on a mug, but cropped in close…
There’s a wide variety of things to print on, and it helps that I can modify the background colour to suit each image.
Take a look at my page by clicking on the image below…
Once you’re there, you can see what options are available for each picture by clicking on it. Have fun!
Sales, likes, shares and suggestions for what you might like to see one of my pictures on are all welcome.
The title of this post, Taking Art out of the Frame, is the title of a short piece I wrote in my artist’s journal on Redbubble. You can read it if you drop by.