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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Markets, books, and working on new art

     Millennials have made "homemade" hot, and the numbers of people, young people, coming out to new craft shows is astonishing. The result is a bit of confusion for the vendors. They not only have to consider the cost of each, but which ones to attend and whether they can produce enough product for the number they attend. 
    A few years ago I took over from Linda Dell to run, with help from others, ART ZOOM in Port Arthur, which is similar to the Craft Revival. It was so much work, despite the success, that I couldn't do it the next year. So I really appreciate the amount of work that the organizers put into getting these shows organized and advertised.  
     Each year there seems to be an additional market and noticeably they can cater to different age categories depending on the venue and products sold. I decided this year to attend the Craftland Market at the Auditorium rather than December Dreams on the CLE grounds. They fell on the same day. It was a good decision. Having attended Dreams for three years I gave up my booth to a new vendor and I hit a new market. 
My little fox painting will
appear at the Bizarre Bazaar
     Attending Vanderwees for Saturday I gave up my scheduled Sunday to another vendor in favour of the Craft Revival held downtown where the fee of thirty dollars allowed me to earn as much as I did earlier at Artisans Northwest at the Valhalla hotel where the table fee is over two hundred dollars. Unless I print another book or two next year I may not attend Artisans next year because It's important to freshen up the products to keep people interested otherwise you're simply saturating the market with the same product and contributing to a possible monotony for the public. I don't want to contribute to making Artisans dull, it really is an excellent show. I also have to consider making my booth more attractive.
    I continue to sell my books at the vendor's booth upstairs at the Country Market Saturday mornings where sales improve in November and December. I may do well in the upcoming Bizarre Bazaar at the Baggage Building this weekend.
     Markets like these might seem like an odd place to sell books, but it works! Many are often surprised and delighted to meet the author and illustrator. I'm surprised more authors don't do it. Notably, Heather Dickson and Donna White attend many with great success. I have been mocked, twice by other authors, for selling my books at such markets, but I snort a laugh as I make more money than most authors, and I find their elitism odd. It's clearly holding them back. And what a strange attitude to think that the general public is somehow beneath you. 
    I'm painting like mad to try to get at least a couple more paintings completed for the X-mas season. I've neglected calling up the schools to do readings and I haven't had time to work on my books. But, I'm having fun. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

August: Mural Work, Portraits and Logo

Claire Douglas-Lee (Assistant/apprentice - studying at McGill)
paints leaves better than I so I have to follow her example. 

I've had to put book projects on hold while I work on a few commissions to pay the rent. I've hired an assistant so I don't fall behind. Claire, who is going to her first year at McGill will be leaving me at the end of the month to study politics and international studies. She's hoping to work overseas for an NGO. I didn't know she could paint! I set her up to paint leaves and now I have to adjust my style and match her unique approach.
     Bille, from Thailand is working as a lab technician in town till the end of the month before she heads back to Thailand. She posed for an oil painting. I made her cheeks a bit fat so I'll have to rework the painting. It was great that she had the time to pose for a live portrait.
     This month I received a wonderful compliment from a woman in Woodstock, Ontario. She got a tattoo to celebrate her three children, one who loves The Boy from the Sun. Mother and son have read it "a hundred times" and are still reading. 
Promoting and selling books at the Westfort St. Fair
     Writer, Gleb Raygorodetsky has asked for a logo for his book, Archipelago of Hope. I'm working to get a number of themes represented in the logo. No small task. More updates to follow this month. Back to selling books at the Country Market, a new street fair in Fort William and the Westfort Street Fair at the end of the month. READ ABOUT MY WORK IN FRENCH. CBC RADIO INTERVIEW.
Visitor to the Country Market gets a free book!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Current Works

Afro Vinyl - Oil on board a 4'c8' sheet -
 hair soon to be filled with vinyl discs. 

This July continues to be active. I had fun painting this 4' x 8' tall board for the Waverly Library in Thunder Bay. Interviewed by the library: HERE. A Lakehead University Engineering student named Bobbi posed. She has braids, but was okay with the oversized afro to mimic a Chicago Library work. Our librarians used the idea to promote their "new" vinyl collection. The afro will be filled with vinyl discs.

Ocean Guard at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery
My last painting is hanging at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery for a show called, The Perspective From Here: 150 Artists from the North. It's nine feet long, so my biggest canvas yet. The show wonderfully represents both past and current artists from Northwestern Ontario.
Read Article HERE
Commissions are coming - it helps to have a gallery/studio (118 Cumberland). I completed the cover for a dice throwing game, Vault Assault, for its box.
Calmly laying on a rock in the painting on the lefts is a Hollywood damsel who is not in so much distress in a storm. (Storm in the sky yet to be painted). The painting is a metaphor/allegory so realism is not required. I had fun creating waves that you wouldn't see in nature. A little guy will be featured in the background of the painting, working with a few wires. And a panel will have popped open on the side of the rock.
Read about my work in French.

Friday, 9 September 2016

New Works, literary and visual

Temporary cover design for book. 
The images help me to edit text down to the basics. 
I've been working on first drafts for two middle reader novels, a novel for adults and a number of visual arts projects. All have been slowed down as I've taken on a couple paid commissions and am busy setting up a gallery space, vendors booth and all the necessary promotional work for them both. (Special thanks again to Ahti Tolvanen for use of his space! I wouldn't be getting all this work done without his help.) Which work gets attention at any one time depends on my mood and ability to focus on a project – the number of free days I can afford and probably a bunch of other factors. I can't leave a project for too long or it takes a couple days to re-familiarize myself with it. There are benefits to leaving a project aside for a while. Time can give a writer/visual artist a fresh pair of eyes to work with. A number of times I've made major changes because the thing I was originally dedicated to doesn't seem so worthy any more or in a couple cases, I decided I needed a more interesting character for a story. Or that the hand is too big in a painting. That sort of thing. I'm not worried about a project taking a long time. But I do worry that I'm not taken seriously because I'm slow to produce a work. However I already have a number of completed works looking for a publisher so there's no rush.
Dr. Yes tries out new foods outside of the International Fast Food Restaurant.
     With the use of a studio/gallery space (118 Cumberland St. S.) and a quiet apartment in which to focus on writing I'm in the unique position of being able to balance painting and writing as a full time writer/artist. (Special Thanks to Ahti Tolvanen!) 
    I've been asked to show at two local restaurants, which is perfect timing for me as I'm trying to complete a couple larger paintings and start a couple more paintings in new styles.  Article link:   
Fire Fish. Oil on Canvas. 3'x3' $750.00
$750.00  Duncan Weller

Monday, 9 May 2016

Writing in Finland

My wonderful host, Anna,
checks her phone.
Writing in Vihti, Finland
     I'm hold up in a cabin in the wood care of the Tolvanens. My father knew Ahti Tolvanen years ago when they both taught at Lakehead University. I met Ahti through my friend Anna who I came to visit in Helsinki. Anna is moving to Oulu when she returns from Singapore.  I had a chance to see her  and a bit of Lapland and the Arctic Circle. We also travelled to St. Petersburg to visit the city and stroll around the Hermitage museum, which was larger than I expected. Anna, as of this writing, is in Bali on vacation with a friend. I plan to stay here at the cabin for a while longer. The next stop is either Holland or Spain.
Meeting with Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin, one of Finland's top
 children's book illustrators, now retired.
Northern lights in Oulu, Finland.
Cindy, the house cat.
In the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, standing in front of Danae by Rembrandt. 
Anna at the Hermitage.
Giving a talk and reading my books to
children at a Finnish International
School in Vantaa.
At Caisa conference room to attend meeting
with a presentation by Sandi Boucher.
Host Ahti Tolvanen.
Members of different political parties attend. 
So my mission right now is to complete several projects and find an agent or agents to represent me in order to procure a publisher in the United States or Europe. I had a publisher in Canada, but because a Canadian bestseller is considered only 5,000 copies it made sense to try my hand at self-publishing for a while. That went far better than I expected. I was earning a profit of eleven to twenty dollars per book after the printing costs were paid, which didn't take long, due to the wonderful support of the citizens of Thunder Bay. I spent $50,000 in three years printing four books. However, I'm not making a professional wage and for that I need a better publisher with wider distribution. So, here I am in Finland cleaning up a couple projects and starting a couple new works. The surroundings are immensely inspiring. Ideas come to me while I'm doing yard work, housework, canoeing, or when sitting in front of the fireplace. I've been incredibly productive and feeling great, although I feel a little like I've abandoned my home town, family, friends and others. So at some point I'll have to regroup in Thunder Bay. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Boy from the Sun: Expanded Edition –Second Printing

The Boy from the Sun is selling like hotcakes. Thank you Thunder Bay! In the last three months I've recovered 20 percent of the printing cost! A record for me and it means every dollar I invest eventually quadruples. And every new book I print gives me more selling opportunities and new markets. It doesn't make me rich, but it keeps me self employed as a full time artist, which is rare in these parts. I had 2,000 of 5,000 books delivered. The plan is to sell the rest in other cities. So later this year I will buy a vehicle for the first time in my life to take the books on the road beginning with Winnipeg.

Friday, 6 November 2015

AMA: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade

I met Manu Herbstein in Accra, Ghana in 2012 and one of the discussions we had was of our difficulties with the publishing industry in our respective countries. The link HERE is where you can order his book and has a brief description of Manu's current troubles. AMA: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, is a great story and well-researched novel which won the 2002 Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book. 

The description below is provided by Daniel Musiitwa 
The story is set in the west coast of Africa, where Ama (or Nandzi as she is then known) lives. After her village is ransacked, and hundreds of her kinsmen are shipped off to slavery, Ama is left alone to care for her baby brother. Life turns even uglier when she is later captured, raped and enslaved. Although she manages to escape the first time, she is recaptured. We follow her journey into slavery, as she is transferred from one group to another, eventually ending up onboard an English slave ship, where she unsuccessfully tries to instigate a rebellion.  Ama, as she is now known after being renamed by her slave masters, is shipped to Brazil, where along with other slaves, she starts a new life working long, back-breaking hours and suffering humiliation. Still her spirit never breaks, and Ama refuses to see herself as a slave. 

Ama has been taught at several U. S. universities including Harvard (Prof. Emmanuel Akyeampong), East Carolina University (Prof. Kenneth Wilburn), Carleton College (Prof. Martin Klein, University of Toronto) and Boston University (Prof. Heidi Gengenbach, University of Massachusetts). This fall Prof. Rebecca Shumway is teaching it at the College of Charleston in a HIST 361-02 course entitled West Africa in the Era of the Slave Trade.

Reviews: "A book written with tremendous moral passion about a monstrous episode in human history." The Right Reverend Bishop Richard Holloway, Chairperson for the pan-Commonwealth judging panel, author and former Bishop of Edinburgh.

"A monumental work, epic in scope and design, and clearly the result of extensive research, which has been skilfully woven into an enchanting narrative. This panoramic story, with its vividly realised characters and heroic action, restores the ancient link between history and literature." Africa Book Centre, London

"Ama is a story of struggle, resistance and inner strength. Great attention is paid to detail and the descriptions are atmospheric and sensual . . .this is a notable debut which amply deserves its recognition, in particular because of the deep research which underlies the text." Rayda Jacobs, Rapport (South Africa) 29/06/02

Friday, 19 June 2015

Gifts from Finland!: The Beautiful Illustrations of Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin

I contacted an illustrator in Finland whose work once appeared in Canada in a collection of stories called the Kalevala. We exchanged a few emails and Pirkko-Liisa was very helpful with information regarding the industry. We agreed to exchange books, and to my delight she sent me five book that she illustrated. Her work is beautiful, and very inspiring, but sadly she has retired from the industry a few years ago finding a new love: gardening.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Ugg Lives! Dr. Yes, and Book Stand

Christopher Rantala made wonderful bookstands for me and Summer Havelin did an amazing job creating two stuffed Uggs, along with a surprise Fimo version of Dr Yes, both from the Ugg and the Drip. Both commissions were created for promotional purposes. Thanks!! They look great! The kids love them.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Giving Back: Big Book Giveaway at 3 different schools in Thunder Bay.

To give back to Thunder Bay for all the public's support of my endeavours as a self-published author I wanted to give away 300 books to kids across the city. About 260 + children each received their choice of one of three of my self-published picture books in the last month. And last year I gave away 90 books in Surrey, B.C. In T. Bay, I visited three different schools. The best reaction came  from kids who asked me, "Can I take this home?" When I said yes, they were either thrilled or stunned. The response from the principals, teachers and the kids was fantastic. I did get paid for the readings, which basically covered the printing costs of the books, but the fun and excitement generated was what it was all about.
The photos above were taken last week at Ecole Catholique Franco-Superieur, in grades 4 and 5. At Ogden School kids in 2nd and 3rd grades got books. I did readings in two sessions. During the second reading the teachers were whispering and talking in the halls. They apologized for the distraction as it turned out that Ogden was in lockdown mode informed that a "shooter" (man with a gun) had  left Intercity Mall which was evacuated. The teachers and staff handled everything very professionally and quickly. A group of children waited in the library for their parents, a few distracted by the books they just received. The man with the gun was soon after arrested without incident. 
     At St. Martins (photos below) in Westfort I did the reading in the gymnasium to 88 kids who all got books.

I also talked a little about how the stories were created, the underlying meanings, and what it's like to work as a freelancer and self-employed person. The children had lots of questions and were very attentive. There are always a few good insights and I get a few good laughs from the unpredictable responses, questions and interpretations. Thanks to all involved. It was a blast. I might do more come September. Please contact me if you think your school might be interested. Thanks!