Art Break Wednesday: Woof!


My post this week for Art Break Wednesday is brief, as I’ve been covered up in dog issues among other things since last week.  So, we’ll take a peek at drawing dogs!

On the home front, we’ve been nursing an ill dog – one of our 13-year-old dachshund mixes (we have two males, littermates) is battling pancreatitis.  Back and forth to the vet, fluids at home, etc. etc.  He’s a trouper and we’re trying to get him over this episode and settled back into a routine.  Also, last Thursday night, I rescued a waif of a little creature from a very busy road in our town.  (Did not exercise the best judgment while driving to do it – thankful for those Thanksgiving guardian angels that must have been close by.)

She’s a little chihuahua.  Not even a real dog! ;0)  Actually, we’ve been unable to locate her owner and she has settled in just fine over here, charming everyone she meets.  Except one of the cats.  I look forward to having a few minutes one of these days to sit down and sketch her.

In the meantime, let me share a great little book I found a few years ago.  Our new diminutive doggie reminds me of some Disney character.  She could really be one.  While I’ll never be a Disney artist, I did grow up in the shadow of Disney World in Orlando and have always admired much of the art, especially in the classic movies.

DISNEY’S DOGS, concepted and designed by Ramara Khalaf and published by Disney editions, offers a great peek into famous and not-so-famous Disney canids throughout the decades.  The book appears to be out of print now, but you might find used copies online.

This book is part history, part art lesson, and a big part fun, with inspiring dog-related quotes sprinkled throughout.  The variety of art styles and personalities of the dogs themselves is a treat to peruse.

The anonymous quote in this spread of dalmatian pups reads, “A house is not a home without a dog in it.”

As an exercise, I have found myself sketching from Disney movies to explore the construction of those terrific, expressive animals.  (I still have my set of Disney album storybooks, which I “played” literally and figuratively, incessantly as a child.  Anyone else remember those?)

Many of our classic Disney movies are VHS tapes, since my kids came along in the 90s.  You can pop one in your VCR (assuming you still have one of those!) and stop the action at any point to do a quick sketch or two.

Some sketches scribbled while watching Disney’s BALTO

Or, sketch freely and quickly as the action unfolds, like a gesture drawing.






Do you have a favorite way to sketch animals?  Any favortie Disney dogs?  Thanks for coming by!

artsyletters on Etsy: Black Friday through Cyber Monday Sale!

Are you cyber-shopping this weekend?  Want original gifts made by individuals/small businesses without all the traffic and hustle-bustle?  Lots of Etsy shops are running specials this weekend, and there are many great items to choose from!  [I’m running a 10 percent off sale – just use the Coupon Code BLACK2012 at checkout!]

Art Break Wednesday – Thankful!



This week as I count my blessings, I’m especially thankful for my wonderfully creative, generous, and supportive art critique group.

Prescott Hill, Beth Rommel, Kathleen Bradshaw, and Paula Puckett – my fabulous artists critique group!

Robyn and Kathleen

These fine folks are:  Prescott Hill, Beth Rommel, Kathleen Bradshaw, and Paula B. Puckett.

We meet once a month at Beth’s lovely home (though we’ve promised her we’ll start spreading the hosting love).  We eat, sip coffee, nibble some more, and encourage one another as we share whatever is going on in our artistic lives.  It’s not all social – each month we share whatever we’ve been working on for feedback.  I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned and how much I appreciate their keen insights!  I’m beyond thankful that I stumbled into the fold of this group as it was forming last spring. It’s made a huge difference in my creative life and has been very instrumental in my getting artsyletters off the ground.

Oh, and we sometimes take field trips, too.  Of course, we can all be found at SCBWI Southern Breeze events, but we like our own side trips as well.

Here we are shopping researching markets and digging up inspiration and treasures at the Flowery Branch (Georgia) Antique market.




And Beth and I are shopping  researching and gathering art-making supplies yet again this past weekend in Buford, Ga., at the Revival Antique show.





We call ourselves “Harold’s Friends” after Beth’s cat, who usually deigns to supervise each meeting at some point.  I’m thankful for these friends and wish, for everyone who creates, a talented, honest little band of folks who speak the same language and encourage them on the journey.


Art Break Wednesday: Mini Ott Light Give-away – the Better to See you With!

Yay Images

 Perhaps THE most important resource a visual artist has is light.

I’m lucky to have two windows in my office/studio.  Neither one faces north, from which streams the best light for artists so they say, but I’ll take them. I also have overhead lights which came with our circa ’70s house, and which now have compact fluorescent bulbs in them, a few lamps with various types of bulbs, and a couple of those clip-on task lamps for my drawing table and big work desk.

My favorite one of those is my flexible Ott task lamp which hovers over my small drafting table.  It offers a high quality of light which seems most like daylight to me.  Even so, especially if I’m working with color, I prefer to produce art during the day than at night.

Does that have anything to do with my nearing-50-year-old eyes?  Probably.  Also, I have to wear reading glasses for close-up tasks now, and pay attention to small details.  Case in point: One recent evening, I made a couple of illuminated letter “S’s” in an Ottonian style, in which gouache is used inside and around the gold leaf.  I put them in vintage gold frames, whose double mats I painted gold, and sold one at an art show.  The other I photographed to list on Etsy.

Now the letter, only 2 inches tall and 1 1/4 inches wide was not perfect, but it looked fine to me at a small distance.  I don’t mind slight variations in hand-lettered art – that can add to its charm.  But when I uploaded the photographs and my little letter was magnified dramatically on my computer screen, I saw a couple of areas I couldn’t live with.  The red gouache had been thinned just a bit too much and left a drippy effect near the top of the letter (and I’d missed a wee spot elsewhere to boot!).

Detail – illuminated S with drippy outline

I carefully un-framed the letter and took it back to my drawing table.  Daylight, and this time a magnifying glass, did the trick.

That’s better!

I touched up the areas, took new photos and reframed the piece, and now it’s up on Etsy.

Illuminated S ©Robyn Hood Black

I’ve also discovered that for fine work, I enjoy using a mini Ott flip light right beside whatever I’m working on.  It can be clipped to the side of a small box or jar or piece of matboard to illuminate a project while I’m working.  I like these so much, I bought one to share with you!  Just leave a comment by midnight EST Monday night, Nov. 19, sharing what kind of light you like for  your work or hobby, and you’ll be randomly entered to win.

A fun way to brighten your day!

In other news, I’m beyond honored to be featured today on Julie Hedlund’s terrific blog, talking about writing and artsyletters.


Art Break Wednesday: Let’s Talk Displays


‘Tis the season for holiday marketplaces.  This past weekend, I had the privilege of exhibiting and selling my wares at the All Saints Fall Festival,

Thanks, Brother-in-law!

a church-sponsored art and gift show benefitting the youth of All Saints Episcopal Church in Atlanta, where my brother-in-law Tim happens to be a new priest working with the youth.  (Thanks for letting me know about the show, Tim!)





This was the first time I’ve done an art show in an indoor venue.  Ahhh – no worries about wind, rain, or fluctuating temperatures!  I could get used to that.  The space was smaller than the standard 10 X 10 outdoor show space, but I culled some items and squeezed in a bit.




Probably my favorite investments for the few shows I’ve done this fall have been:

A decent tent.  I ordered a Caravan tent and have been please with how sturdy it is and how nice it looks.  It was pricier than what you’ll find at WalMart, but I think it’s worth it.

Decent panels.  I  knew I wanted a couple of panels to hang framed pieces on, and I did some online research.  The Pro Panels system seemed to get consistently good reviews.  I took my hubby to a couple of art shows and had him help me compare the carpet colors on Pro Panels in different exhibitors’ booths!  We liked the dark gray the best, so that’s what I ordered for mine.  I’m glad I got the six-foot ones (not the very tallest) because I can just squeeze these into the back of my 2004 Honda Pilot.

A narrow display table (and a smaller one as well).  I found a lightweight long, narrow table for trade show use and it’s been a great investment and easy to carry and set up.  Google “trade show displays” and compare items from different vendors. Also, shop around online for a good price on table cloths.  I opted for classy old black.  (If they’re a bit large, just tuck them up and in with bulldog clips or safety pins.)

Magazine racks.  I found lightweight folding magazine racks online and they’ve been great to set up displays of cards and small items in the outdoor tent spaces.  It’s easiest to keep them in the box for transport, because those wire “shelves” will otherwise catch on everything.  A folding display rack (lightweight metal legs and canvas) available from online art supply stores is perfect for matted prints.

Banners.  I had a canvas banner made to stretch across the top of my tent with “artsyletters” big enough to catch the attention of folks walking around.  Then for this indoor show, I had one made about half that size to stretch across my table.  I read recently that it’s great to have your business name outside your booth AND inside of it, so I’ll keep using both.  In my neck of the woods, you can get a nice long banner for less than $100 and a shorter one for less than $50 at local sign/printing shops.

Signs.  After putting up a couple of hand-made ones, I had a few smaller signs made with real typesetting with phrases such as “Art for Your Literary Side,” “Gifts for Readers and Writers,” “Teacher Gifts,” and “Book Club” printed on them.  They’re printed on a strong foam core type base, so they are not indestructible – but they’re lightweight and can be stuck any place with Velcro.

Lights.  I’ve gotten positive comments on some delightful little battery-operated strings of lights I picked up at a shop in Greenville, SC.  Should have gotten more.  They were about $10 apiece and you can bend or wrap them around anything.  I also use a few battery-operated “eye” lights I can twist around the tops of the panels.  Found some on clearance at Office Depot and a couple more at Target.

Vintage, repurposed items.  For my bookmarks, I found two vintage metal receipt holders.  These would have been used years ago in a general store for families to keep track of their running tabs.  They weren’t cheap – maybe $35-$40 apiece? – but they are so unique and they draw customers in to investigate.  They also perfectly display the bookmarks.

Also, I found an chic-shabby shallow hanging shelf with great chippy paint.  It fits right beside the receipt holders on one side of my panels.  A few small nails in the outside edges of the racks, and, Voilà!  More bookmark display space.

Oh – and when I display small refrigerator magnets, a small mid-century metal vanity shelf I found in an antique store does the trick!  It even has little sliding doors I can store more inventory in, and it’s a nice height for the table.



Probably my favorite item is an old spinning card rack I got many moons ago from a store closing its doors.  It holds 48 packs of cards and is narrow enough for easy transport, plus it comes apart and is easy to set back up.  And you can put a sign on top! (I’d given this to my son, now 17, to put his baseball caps on – then took it back when I started my art business this fall.  Sorry, Seth.)

I transport my items for sale in plastic tubs that can be stored under my tables.  Remember, rain makes all the ground wet!  So you don’t want cardboard boxes as your only storage option.

The cost of setting up a travelling shop can be a little daunting, but sales at my first couple of shows this fall just made up the cost of display fixtures.  I think it was a good investment.

If you’re an exhibitor, what do you think are the most important things to think about when setting up for art shows?  Do you have some favorite ways to display your work?

Do tell! :0)