Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Sewing has been a hobby in my family for years. My grandmother, mother, my wife and now daughter all enjoy sewing a variety of things are all are quite good at it.

A dear friend who passed away awhile back had an antique "crazy quilt" on her wall that fascinated me. Since my wife loves fabrics and I love color, I often tag along on her fabric junkets. I always check out her books because, well, you just never know. She has made many a quilt that I have helped her arrange blocks of color for just the right look.

Getting tired of Pennsylvania Dutch and not quite having yet the skills needed for Rosemaling (I am NOT giving up though) I saw a photo of a modern crazy quilt and thought, what if I did a birdhouse in a design like that?

I did, entered it in the summer DecoArt contest and received first place in national voting. By the time I heard about that I had done two more birdhouses and then ventured onto trays. The first tray was a challenge. Why? Because it had all those patches of color that were going to need designs on them. It was bleak looking, let me tell you. However, slowly I began to dream up designs and patterns and before I know it, it was done and actually looked like a crazy quilt glued on a tray. People are surprised to realize that its not paper or fabric but painted on!

I figured if I could do one, what about a nesting trio? All of the trays more or less follow the same fabric patterns but, each tray uses a different color way and often different fabric patterns. And, they all fit inside each other for easy storage.

Whether you like them or not, and I admit they are "colorful," you must admit you've never seen anything quite like this. Inspiration is all around us. All we have to do is stop for a minute and look around. For this item and many more be sure to visit my store:


AND, if you have other ideas that might translate into interesting craft items be sure to email me at:


I am more than willing to give them a try!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Reflections on Art and Pets

Shortly after moving to our home of 26 years we got a dog. She was discovered wandering with her mother on the grounds of a retirement home. My bosses daughters knew we had just lost a cat and thought that since we had a yard and two small children we would want a pet for them.  In fact she became my running partner and protector from other dogs for most of her 15 plus years. Everyone loved her and she watched over us like a herding dog rather than the Lab mix she was.

When she started acting old at 14 we got another dog, a young yellow lab who was quickly taught his place in our house. A career change seeing eye dog (he didn't make it and was in fact our lovable dumb blonde) they became great mates and so it was an awful day when she began to go downhill with a series of strokes. Putting her down was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

Then our daughter went abroad as an exchange student and poor Max was inconsolable.  He wandered the house for days barely eating, drinking...doing nothing except agreeing to go on his daily walk.  Finally he perked up but an illness made it impossible for me to run so we would walk for hours much to his delight. When he to came to the end of his life, and yes I cried like a baby, we tried living dog less. Since I need to walk everyday I quickly discovered it just wasn't the same. I would call Max only to realize he wouldn't be walking with me anymore.

The hunt began for a new dog. I was hooked on Labs and found one at a rescue shelter who was beautiful. However, he was strong at 3 and had no training. But we agreed to try.  We also found a female Lab who was found wandering. We figured they would be company for each other.

Shadow loved people and would sit all day with his head on your knee if you'd let him. But he was a bully and attacked Maggie when they first met. While trying to decide what to do Maggie walked over again, licked him and he let her. However, it was an uneasy relationship and I was terrified of taking him around dogs. Finally, at Easter he attacked a smaller dog at a trailer park and realized it was time to return him.

Maggie,  my much younger Lab, quickly filled In and became my dog.  She would nag me everyday for a walk and recently has become more vocal. When she began acting strange, stopped eating it became concern and after two visits to the vet yesterday fear that something far worse was afoot. Suddenly your buddy was sick and you realized how much you cared for her.

At the emergency clinic last night another family had to put down their small dog.  Dad held it together but Mom and the son didn't.  Remembering my own two such visits I had a hard time not crying in sympathy.

In many ways I think an artist, of whatever media, has the same kind of love for their art. It has been a long drought at my ETSY store and yet I realized that it wasn't going to stop me from what I loved doing.  In fact I have become more daring, innovative than ever. Sitting here with my hopefully recovering dog beside me, I've realized it's that same kind of devotion that we hope will carry us through.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Yard Sale Art

There are many people out there who love the weekend yard sales. One of my favorite tales is the woman, who lived here in Southern California, who bought a painting at a yard sale, only a few miles away, for I believe 50 cents.It was a rather glittery, silvery painting, very abstract in the style of Jackson Pollack. Since he was an easterner, it had to be from a painter who admired Pollack and not an original.

As a child I remember growing up with Pollack. Life magazine seemed fixated on him and all of his antics were duly recorded first in black and white and later in color on those magazine pages. I will never forget the nude model who smeared with paints wiggled on a a huge canvas under his direction in the newsreel of the day at our weekly movie showing. You can bet all the boys talked about that for days.

I think the first time I actually saw a Pollack painting was a few years ago in a room off the spiral of the Guggenheim Museum in NYC. It was like entering a room that suddenly breathed life. I was truly stunned. Painting after painting flowed around the room with wild splashes, and blobs and globs of paint in a wild cacophony of colors. There was a depth, a kind of luminosity abstract paintings don't usually possess.

Our yard sale lady was convinced the painting was real, and went to dealer after dealer trying to get proof. Since it was not signed and there was no provenance, no one was convinced it was anything but "in the style of" kind of painting. Watching the TV show that documented her purchase and journey, it was hard to believe it wasn't a Pollack. There was something that elevated it above a mere copycat art work.

Finally, one curator decided to see if there was a fingerprint in the paint that could give him a clue. And after dusting and taking the print he found, realized that it was Pollack's. (Goodness, he was in jail enough for drunken driving so his fingerprints were known). Now, with proof that Pollack had in someway done or at least helped create the painting, the value suddenly was $5 million. What was she doing to do with it? She didn't know. At the end of the show, it was back on her wall in the living room.

The point of this story is that you NEVER know when and where you will find a treasure. Stories like this are more common than we want to believe. If you enjoy flea markets, antique stores (though here some are better than ever in trying to find that treasure at a bargain price - if they say antique they know it has more than piddling value), yard sales as the lady of our tale does, you just might find that piece of gold midst the chaff.

Always be on the lookout. As many a person on the ANTIQUES ROADSHOW has found out, it just might be the real thing. However, if it means something to you, who cares?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Is Art A Copy?

In my last post, I discussed the feelings of many artists that to expose themselves on the web is an invitation to be copied. I think of them as Luddites...people afraid of and rejecting new technology. As I continued to consider this thought and the feelings that went with it, I also began to realize that all art is in one way or another a copy...of life. What we see, hear, feel all influences us in ways that are reflected in our art.

Every great art movement had its original basis on what was seen, or felt and often imagined. It was an attempt to express with a picture, sculpture, writing, music what we felt about the world we lived in.

Does anyone remember the French Salon? They rejected every Impressionist painter because they didn't paint to the standards that while once new, exciting and original had become bureaucratic in outlook. The idea of light and fresh, freer strokes on a canvas was anathema to them. Yet, it resonated with the public and one painter after another picked up a brush and helped by the visions of the others created their visions as well. While they were in a genre each of the painters had a different take on this style. And as the style began to evolve, it moved in different directions...expressionism and finally into abstract. Some thought Van Gogh may have killed himself because he had come to an impasse and didn't understand the increasingly abstract nature of his work. Cezanne created more and more abstract paintings that finally led to Braque's "Nude Descending A Staircase" that set the art world on edge.

Everything an artist does, in many ways is a copy. They are often influenced by their surroundings more acutely than the average person. As an example, look at this tray I just completed...it is basically a crazy quilt that has been painted on a tray. Is it original? Of course. Is the idea new? Maybe for a tray but for a real quilt, this style has been around 200 years in the world of quilting. Is this a copy? Well, yes and no.

It is though, a way to express myself both in admiration for the quilters art and a chance to use bright colors and design that has not been done before. A careful look at this shows that each fabric was used several times and the patterns remained the same. It is both a delightful piece to look at and is very practical. Sealed in spar varnish you will never have to worry about spills that would ruin often old, ancient fabric. I can easily see this on a quilters wall. It is an homage to their art.

Should I show this online? Absolutely. It is a rare artist that can make a copy that will be like mine. Who knows, I might have started a whole new genre that will explode and take the craft world by storm. My point though is, never hide what you do. You may inspire others to take what you've started to new heights. What they do may inspire you to greater heights as well. Remember, if you want to sell, you will have to show what you do somewhere. The web is one of the possible places that more than a few can see your work.

See this tray on my Etsy.com store. Type in KrugsStudio for this and other original items.

Alan Krug

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Should You Be An Art Luddite?

We recently spent a week in Mammoth Lakes, CA with friends. I hadn't been there in years but remembered the many kitschy shops and so loaded up lots of photos on my iPad, and a tub of my craft items in case that I met and even could sell items to the local galleries. This was between the annual Bluessapaooza and seeing the sights.

Speaking to several shop owners, who were very helpful, I came across a trend that startled me. One owners husband had many things he had welded in the gallery, had a web site but kept the majority of his items off the web for fear that they would be copied. Another had an email address but little more. Checking out their consignment artists information, several were far more savvy than the galleries that represented them.  On further questioning about selling online, she admitted that she didn't have much use for computers or the Internet. She, and many more I fear, had never heard of etsy.com (to the chagrin of all of us who have stores there) but did know of someone who sold items there. She was not interested at all.

I know that many in artistic community dislike the Internet for a variety of reasons. One is just that it can be daunting and a time sink that they feel produces nothing. They would rather create than struggle with their web stores or allow others to copy their ideas. I hear them. Yet to ignore also puts an artist at peril. And I say this after a terribly frustrating time today trying to buy something on the Adobe software store on the web. I never could download it and gave up after 30 minutes on hold. I will ask for my money back tomorrow, probably after an even longer wait on the phone.

Artists really can't ignore the web. More and more people go there to shop and stores like Amazon and the iTunes store have set the standard for making that purchase. Both eBay and Amazon offer sites for your store and, in hindsight, that would be the place to set up your first store. They have made the purchasing process so simple and easy, its amazing everyone else hasn't copied them. Trust me, after today, I KNOW they haven't.

To think that you can exist today, without a web presence would be a mistake. An artist can't be a Luddite. Technology, for better or worse, is here to stay! We creative types will just have to learn to use it.

Check out my store at KrugsStudio.etsy.com.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Focus In Every Room

How often have we been to someone's home, one you were not familiar with and come away impressed? There was something that made you remember it, some touch or feeling that you enjoyed. If you think back and remember that home or room with minds eye, I bet there was something there that stood out, encouraged you to focus.

Many of us collect things but rather than grouping them into a focal point, we tend to put them all over the place or in some curio cabinet that tends to create a separation between us. You may wonder what I do with all my created stuff. Well, yes, I may be guilty as well.  They are buried in the garage or on cabinet tops in my den. Yet, they are noticed.

However, in my living room we have a collection of Oaxacan "monsters," wild fantasy figures with two even three heads, bodies not quite of this world and in a cacophony of colors spread across the mantle and adjoining bookcase. Few that visit can resist looking, and even touching them. They always prompt questions and fit in with all the other things we have collected or been given from around the world.

Art of any kind is meant to be seen. Whether indoors or out, by carefully planning and arranging, you can give visitors and yourself some focal point to enjoy.  You bought it for some reason, why not display it and enjoy it?

I am a firm believer in making sure every room in the house has a focal point. A place that your eyes can rest and enjoy if even for a moment. If you bought say a colorful birdhouse, how will you display it? All alone? With other Birdhouses or other colorful things? If you haven't you should.

I remember a collection of spoons that were noticeable in a guests home.  The cabinet door was slightly ajar and as I reached over to latch it, I heard a laugh and a gentle, "Please don't close it! It's my conversation starter." Puzzled I listened to her story. An avid politico she entertained strangers often for fund raisers. Since many had never met they too saw the open cabinet. This was their introduction to her collection from all over the world. Since countries have changed names, governments and everyone knew she collected them, her collection was huge. As we admired them she would reach in, grab one, talk about it (usually with an appropriate political comment) and the evening would start. 

A collection doesn't need to be expensive or large. All you need to do is display it! Look at those precious items you own and why not see if there isn't a more exciting way to display it.  Not only your guests will admire it, but so will you!

Alan Krug

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

DecoArt Goodies

One of the rewards for winning one of the DecoArt summer contests, other than the money, is the goodie box that comes with it.

Yesterday, working on a project, as usual, the doorbell rings and as I go to the door see the ubiquitous brown UPS truck at the curb. On the porch is a well wrapped box from DecoArt!

What goodies there were inside! Two new 16 oz. bottle of matt and gloss decoupage glue, Americana Gloss paints, Americana matt paints, three packets of stencils, foam and bristle stippling brushes and a set of the new 2012 colors. It was like Christmas in July! In fact, looking for an outdoor sealer for my birdhouses at Home Depot, I came across some stippling brushes and almost bought them. Since they didn't have a clear outdoor Varathane (I'm sorry, I spend too much time worrying about color to buy a sealer that is for exterior use that will add a "warm" glow to my project) I didn't buy the brushes. In fact that is the subject for another post in the future.

I certainly want to thank DecoArt, but also realized that this box opened for me a whole new set of possibilities. It made me realize that it is worth spending time at a craft store and actually seeing what products are out there. Just by reading the labels and what the product can do, is illuminating. However, I think that they should have  included the 2012 product catalog as well so that you could see what other exciting things are available. Large craft stores just don't carry everything even if they want you to think they do. If I wasn't going to my class at the Tole Bridge in Norco, CA, I might well never know what other products are available.

Thank you DecoArt. I can't wait to try your wonderful gift out!