Friday, October 30, 2009

Checking & Comparing

I am tired of writing about money and my computer, but I feel like sharing an observation I had this week.

In my post about my hard drive crashing, I told the story about how I lost a year’s worth of Quicken transactions and I am no longer able to call up numbers with the press of a button.

Most of you also know that I chose to take a break from doing art festivals in 2009. A very large percentage of my income over the years has come from doing these shows, but on the flip side, most of my expenses (and my debt) are a direct result of my time on the circuit.

With the help of Quicken, I developed a bad habit this year. I found myself checking my “numbers” regularly. Comparing what I made and spent last year to what was happening this year. I believe I was using this information to convince myself that I had made the right decision about the art festivals. Since I have lost most of the transactions from this year I can no longer check those figures.

At first I noticed a little anxiety about this, but gradually I came to the conclusion that I have been spending too much time obsessing about the business side of things and not enough time thinking about my art. I am really embarrassed to admit this.

This realization has given me a lot to think about. Only good can come from this. Whether or not you believe in this sort of thing – I am convinced that losing my “numbers” was not an accident. It was a wakeup call and I am listening.

In a related development, something has gone wrong with my “Google Analytics” so I can no longer check how many people are reading my blog. Again, I think this is probably a good thing and possibly another sign that I need to stop checking, comparing and obsessing and just go take some pictures!

P.S. I wrote most of this yesterday. This morning I was also unable to check my website stats…………….. It’s Halloween – right?

Monday, October 26, 2009

You are Beautiful!

I am a walker. I walk almost every morning. When I started this, the main objective was to get in some exercise, but over time it has developed into a morning ritual that includes listening to my iPod as I contemplate and plan the day before me. Another benefit has been the seasonal visual delight I experience walking pretty much the same route all year long. I have learned to notice when the tulips start blooming in the spring, the hydrangeas in the summer, and of course the autumn colors this time of year.

A few weeks ago I purchased a digital point & shoot camera - the first point and shoot I have owned in 20 years! I mentioned in one of my posts about my trip to Paris that there was more than one occasion where bringing all my “equipment” was not practical, so I missed capturing moments that will forever be in my memory, but are hard to describe verbally. I don't want that to happen ever again - which is one of the reasons I bought this camera

This morning I decided to bring my new camera with the intention to record some of the sights I see every day – just for fun. I barely walked a block when I came upon this written on the sidewalk. What a great way to begin my morning! I was so happy to have my camera!

When I became more serious about my photography (and my camera bag became heavier) I think I slowly stopped capturing the everyday wonders around me. Having this little camera as my constant companion is helping me learn to seek out and record sights that somewhere along the way, I had begun to ignore.

My routine this morning was changed dramatically by the simple fact that I was really “looking” at my neighborhood instead of just walking to get some exercise with my iPod plugged in.

I will probably wait until the time changes next month to take my camera again. It was still pretty dark and most of the shots I took did not turn out, but I had a lovely time taking them anyway – and isn’t that why I became a photographer in the first place??

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Recycling - one more time

I promise this is the last time I do this.

I am still feeling overwhelmed and a bit grumpy about this accounting mess. I am also preparing for a class I am teaching this Saturday.

Instead of just messing up my self imposed schedule of blogging twice a week, I am posting a few links to blogs I wrote early on when I only had a couple of readers - with one being my daughter - thank you Nichole!

So here are just a few:

How Did I Get Here?

In Search Of........

The Fight is Over

Next week I hope to share something new I have been working on. That's the plan anyway.....................

Monday, October 19, 2009

Short & Sweet

For those of you that read my post last week - "Just Venting", you know that I am currently trying to recreate a year's worth of financial transactions because of a equipment "malfunction".

So I can get to work on that project, I decided to post a few links related to earlier posts I have written:

There is still time to donate to "A Camera for TMK". Thank you to all of you that have already donated!

There are 2 spaces available in my "Introduction to Hand-Coloring Ink Jet Prints" this Saturday. This will probably be the last beginning class I teach this year.

The response to my "Workshop in a Box" has been great. I have a few more kits that will be ready to ship out in a few days.

I hope to write more later this week, but for now - I have my new WD 1tb external hard drive installed, a bottle of ibuprofen on my desk and am ready to tackle this job. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just Venting......

This little piece of metal has been the source of many hours of frustration, anger and self pity. This is one of the external hard drives used to back up all of my images, documents and any data entered into my computer.

As a former bookkeeper and accounting major, I know the importance of keeping good financial records. All of my sales and expenses are usually entered as they happen. I pride myself on the fact that I can call up the information needed to fill out my sales tax form in seconds and have the return ready to file in a matter of minutes. That is…… until last week.

I started to notice last Thursday that my computer seemed a little “off”. After entering some transactions into my Quicken program, I went to back it up and was unable to. I was sure that this was a temporary problem that would fix itself after restarting my computer, but I was wrong and things got worse. Not only was I unable to back anything up, I could not even open my Quicken program.

To prevent panic from taking over, I called the “Geek Squad” (I have an HP that I bought from Best Buy) and made arrangements for them to come by the next day.

I was feeling optimistic as I waited for the “Geek” to arrive, but that feeling didn’t last long - turns out that my external hard drive had crashed. Normally this would not be a big deal because I use the external drive as a “back up”. This means that everything that is on it, is also stored somewhere else – usually the “C” drive.

After unplugging the hard drive, everything seemed to clear up - except one major problem still existed. For some strange reason, since I had installed that hard drive, all of my Quicken transactions were being run through the external drive – not my “C” drive. This meant that when I did backups, all the files were being recorded onto the same drive that they resided in. In other words – they were not backed up.

The “Geek” assured me that there was a good chance the files could be recovered. This was good news because the last transaction showing on my Quicken check register was from November of 2008!

I wish this story had a happy ending. A couple of days after I dropped the hard drive off at the store; they called to tell me that they were unable to retrieve anything off it. They said they could send it out to have it looked at, but depending on the problem, it could cost anywhere from $250 to $1000, and there was no guarantee of recovering anything! I told them not to send it anywhere and that I would be by to pick up the offending piece of hardware the next day.

I am not happy to report that I will be spending the next several days recreating all my transactions from the beginning of the year. I am going to start with the third quarter because the sales tax return is due at the end of the month.

In the scheme of things, a crashed hard drive is not a big deal. Sure, I won’t be working on any photographs for awhile, but things could be much worse. I just felt like venting…………..

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lighting A Fire

A few months ago I started toying with the idea of writing about what I had been teaching in my workshops. I thought it might make good eBook material. After a few false starts I did begin to write and even take pictures for the book. Every once in awhile I would sit down to work on it, but it was never a high priority. There always seemed to be more important things to do - items on my “to do” list that demanded my immediate attention.

Since I started teaching my hand-coloring workshops, I have had many people that don’t live in the Sacramento area, express an interest in learning this technique. I came up with the idea of a “Workshop in a Box”. This would be a kit that would have all the tools and materials we use in the workshop as well as written material that covered what I talked about in the class.

This is where the fire came in. What I had written so far on my “eBook project” was a good beginning, but in no way was it enough to guide readers through the process. Since I had already promised at least two people that a kit of some sort would soon be offered, I decided to just put it out there and see what happened. I sent out an email to my list and orders followed. Now I had no choice – I had to finish at least a smaller version of what I was considering to be an eBook, and send it off with the kits. And that’s what I did!

The first kits went out last week with instructions to give complete and honest feedback on what they received. I am hoping that with their help I can finish up a more complete and in depth version of the written material.

For those of you wondering what a “Workshop in a Box” is – here is a description.

Included in the kit:
2- art sponges; 2 – razor blades; foam core; Sofft applicator with 4 heads; eraser; 6 well plastic tray;
6 - Prismacolor Nupastel Sticks: Titian Brown; Light Blue; Rose Pink; Corn Yellow; Madder Pink; Sap Green

4 - Preprinted practice prints ready to hand-color. Each print will be made on a different type of paper. This is a great way to try out different textures and surfaces.

Vernazza ©Dianne Poinski - one of the prints included in the kit.

Detailed written material that includes everything discussed and taught in the live workshop. The written material can be sent on a CD or, for $15, sent printed and bound.

Email support is also included.

Price: $55 with CD; $70 with printed booklet - Includes Shipping (Domestic US only)

So if any of you are having trouble completing a project, just offer it for sale and see how quickly you find the time to work on it! Worked for me!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Art & Money

I debated whether or not to write about this subject, but if one person learns from my mistakes, than it’s worth sharing.

I did not begin taking pictures with the intention to make a business out of it. I was a stay at home Mom with little spare time but a strong need for a creative outlet. My first camera was a Pentax K1000 and after a few classes became comfortable enough with it to take decent photographs of my kids. Friends saw these photos and asked me to take pictures of their kids. Eventually friends of friends were requesting photos as well. At this point I began to charge for my services – more as a way to pay for my film, paper and chemistry, than anything else.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that taking portraits of children was not my passion. Besides, there were quite a few photographers out there doing a much better job than I was.

What I did love was making images of flowers, landscapes and architecture. I started to make greeting cards using these images and sold them through a local florist. A showing at a local gallery soon followed and then I began my venture into the world of art festivals.

I was in “business” and I was excited. As most of you know, photography is an expensive pursuit. As I developed my technique I discovered, (or so I thought) that I needed a better camera, new lenses, tripods, filters………………………Then, when I began doing art festivals I quickly found out that the appearance of your booth was very important - so of course I needed the top of the line panels, tables, rugs, print racks ……………..

For the first few years I used my minivan to cart my inventory and booth from show to show. This usually meant getting home late Sunday night, unloading everything, and then putting the seats back in so I could carpool kids the next day. What’s the solution to that? A dedicated show vehicle! A fellow photographer I met on the show circuit was upgrading his vehicle and offered to sell me his van. Of course this van needed insurance, new tires, new shocks…………….

When I first decided that I was going to turn my passion into a business, I did what every good former business major does – applied for a line of credit to obtain the much needed “capital”. The old “you need money to make money” line of thinking was front and center in my mind.

Soon a vicious cycle developed. Fees for art festivals are usually due in the winter - a time of year when I had little cash coming in. No problem - write a check out of the line of credit. The idea was I would surely make that money back when I did the show. But something was happening. My debt was growing larger every year. It felt out of control and it was.

This is embarrassing and there is no need to quote the exact amount of my debt – but let’s just say there are two numbers before the comma. It’s easy to look back and see where the mistakes were made. Many of the items on my “have to have list” were probably “wants” not “needs”. Sure it was nice to not have to unload my van after every show – but I could have. Could I have waited to purchase some of the new equipment I bought? Probably.

My debt was a huge factor in my decision to take a break from art festivals this year. I had to stop the cycle. I only had one goal this year - to make sure that the amount I owed at the end of 2009 was not more than it was at the beginning of the year. A small goal, but important. The good news is I have not used credit once this year! Next year I want to make a significant dent in the balance, but for now I want to enjoy what I have accomplished.

I know I am not the first person to share their story about the perils of using credit, but if one person reads this and thinks a little deeper about a possible purchase, than it was a story worth telling. My advice - stick to the basics and really listen to your heart to determine if a possible purchase is a “need” or a “want”.

I love what I do and would do it even if I didn’t make any money. Having this large debt has put some pressure on me though. Sharing this has made it real but I also feel like I have people out there that will cheer me on as I whittle away at what I owe. I believe this is the beauty of the blogosphere and the community it creates, and I love being part of it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Great Fun This Weekend!

©2009 Linda Erickson

My brand new workshop – “Photographing and Hand-Coloring Flowers” was this weekend and went off with only a few minor glitches. Everything went pretty smoothly, which was a relief. One of my biggest concerns had to do with the logistics of how it would all go together and for the most part, it flowed fairly well.

The day started with a very brief introduction and then I had them pair up to shoot at one of 3 stations I had set up. One station was for macro work, another one had a larger table and backdrop and the third was used for smaller set ups. Everyone had a chance to try each station.

I had created a few arrangements the day before, but it didn’t take long for them to start adding to and taking away from what I had put together. This was exactly what I wanted them to do!

The next step was to upload their images and have them choose one that I would print later that night. This step could have gone a little smoother. I had everyone shoot in raw - which for this class, I don’t think was necessary. Uploading those huge files took quite awhile. It was fine though. It was such a great group that everyone just sat around visiting and sharing tips and ideas about photography and life in general.

On Sunday I brought in their prints, ready to hand-color, and loved what they created!

I am pretty sure I will be doing this workshop again. A few of the changes I will make include fresher flowers, more props and smaller files.

Update - I have scored some storage space! It might be temporary, but at least for the time being, I can leave all my lights, backdrops, vases, etc. – upstairs by my studio. This not only means preparing for my next class will be easier, but I can also take my own floral photographs in my studio and not worry about schlepping all my equipment up and down the stairs!

Thanks again to everyone that participated. You were all wonderfully creative, patient and a lot of fun!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Another Experiment

October 4th, marks a year since I taught my very first class, so it seems appropriate to celebrate the occasion with another teaching experiment.

All this week I have been getting ready for my brand new workshop – Photographing and Hand-Coloring Floral Images. I have been bringing backdrops, lights, vases, and of course flowers - up the stairs to my studio.

For the past four years, any floral images I made were photographed in my daughter’s room. After she went away to college, it dawned on me one day that I had a spare room that I could make a mess in and then close the door. Shooting flowers is messy and most blooms are dead by the time I am finished. You can usually find petals, stems and leaves all over the floor – there is no time to clean up as you go. There is a short window of time before the flowers start to look as tired as I feel.

But its great fun and I love it! That is why I came up with the idea to have a workshop like this.

We will spend Saturday doing the actual photography and then I will print their favorite images that night. On Sunday I will bring the prints back so they can hand-color them.

Getting ready for this class has stirred up more ideas. I wish I had more storage in my studio. After seeing my set up here, I would love to make more photographs in my space. Up until now, the main use of my studio has been for hand-coloring, teaching and exhibiting. Something to think about……

Of course I am feeling a bit anxious because I have not taught this type of class before. It will be an adventure. I will report back on Monday……