Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Greenwich Artisans' Faire and Soulful Studios Pet Portrait Booth

Soulful Studios
Dot Alampi
Rain, rain go away. Come again when I'm not trying to sell my art! This weekend's Greenwich Artisans' Faire was a success despite the weather's attempt to dampen spirits. Friday in the drizzle and wind, Dot and Alex Alampi showed me how to get to the grounds and helped me set up tent. They were a well oiled machine with their display, whereas I was just a fumbling newbie with mine. Taking down the tent was far easier and Joel and the kids made that chore a breeze. Yes, I've been painting nearly 3 decades but this art booth gig is new to me. Without everyone's assistance I would still be there trying to get my act together.

Saturday started out wet but the weather improved enough for a few rays of sun to peak out before the showers showed up again. Sunday wasn't much different. However, Team Alampi showed me by example how to keep my chin up and hopes alive during imperfect conditions. You can see in the above photo how happy Dot Alampi was to be in period clothing with the wet weather and humidity. Frankly, she said she would kill me if I posted this snapshot but we all know I live dangerously. Sorry Dot, I couldn't resist.

Yours truly did not wear an apron but rather her favorite pair of jeans to greet her many wonderful customers. Soulful Studios had a steady flow of interested animal lovers requesting information about pet portrait commissions and purchasing greeting cards. I learned so much from the people that told me about their pets and how they came to be partnered with them. It was very eye opening and inspiring.

As you can see in the photo of my booth above (I moved the paintings around later for a better display), I showcased "Partners" at the entrance and was shocked by the emotional responses from viewers. Most passers by stopped at least for a moment to mention how touched they were by the image of the man and his dog. One woman actually cried real tears and thanked me for the moving experience. A mother wishing her son would consider a service dog also thanked me for my painting and purchased prints and cards as well. This experience reaffirmed my mission and vision for my art.

I did learn that my booth needs to be more centered around the art of pets and pet portraits as it was a mixed display. It is clear to me that people love their animals as I do and want to see more art showing that connection. I've been blogging for a long time now that this is what I'm after in my work. Now I know I'm on the right track and that feels really good.

Thank you everyone for your support and kind words. Next post will show my progress on the golden retriever custom dog portrait. "Buster" is starting out great and is a lot of fun to work on. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 26, 2008

No Hard Edges In Life Or Art

graphite drawing by Lori Levn "No Hard Edges"
graphite drawing in moleskine

Thinking back to my art school years I can hear my instructors telling me, "there are no hard edges" and "always soften your edges". These words play over and over like a maddening song in my head as I work. As my work matures I can see the edges disappear. Forms start to become one with the space around them instead of separate. They work in harmony and do not compete with their environment.

I sat at the kitchen table with a huge basket of fruit before me and sketched this piece. The light filtered to the window and the rest of the room was dark. There was a sense of peace but also mystery in the room. Instead of getting right to the studio I stopped long enough to capture the moment. My goal was to represent that which I saw with the feeling attached. "No hard edges" I continually repeated in my head.

The more I thought about it I realized that applied to life and how we live it. Setting up boundaries with one's surroundings and those around us is necessary to a point. However when our exterior becomes hard and separate we lose a little of what makes us look alive and whole. Staying soft and meshing into what is around us is tricky and feels rather scary. We wonder if the risk is worth it. Like this drawing, the results are worthy of the leap of faith.

Next week I get a break from show preparation and marketing for a while. I will be in PA two days photographing for two commissions I'm starting. "The Veil" will see a little love again and I will begin Buster's pet portrait. This dog portrait is of a funny Golden Retriever that I just can't wait to get pencils moving.

Now you must excuse me. I am off and running to set up my booth at the Greenwich Artisans' Faire and Marketplace in Cumberland County. Super duper fine artist Alex Alampi and his wife Dot have so kindly offered to help me set up my tent today so that only the art has to be put out tomorrow. They are an amazing team. Joel and the kids will be there to help me the rest of the weekend. Maybe you'll come out and visit us. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Horse Art: Progress of "The Veil"

horse art by Lori Levin Cow Bingo, the Canine Partners event, was a success. I met lots of nice folks that came out to meet me and see the art for the Pet Companions Magazine cover. The bovine pooped resulting in a win of $5,ooo to the lucky ticket holder. I also got to meet Mike and Dansko who are the subjects of "Partners" and give them a copy of the print. You can check out my new Soulful Studios site to see the image and purchase your own print or card. Events like this give me a chance to hear what people think about my art. The greatest compliment was when someone said "Partners" made them think of 9/11 and of the great partnership of humans and animals. That is just the comment I was hoping for. I sold many prints and cards and was really pleased with the day.

I'm gearing up for the Greenwich Artisans' Faire on Sept. 27th and 28th and that requires a lot of preparation. However, I am taking time to work on my fine art horse painting called "The Veil". Currently I'm working on the basic tones and overall feel of the piece and leaving the details and exciting brushwork for the very end. Usually I can't wait that long and get to the texture first. This habit can lead to an overworked or under thought out painting so I'm being patient. I want it to have a similar look to that of "The Freshmen" that I painted a few months ago. If you look closely at the above photo you can see that painting behind "The Veil". Emotion is really being poured into this oil painting, I hope it is obvious to the view in the end.

I've had some really good feedback on my new site. Please help me out and let me know what you think. Feel free to tell me not only things you like but things that you do not. This will serve to help me greatly with its development.

Tomorrow I need to begin the pet portrait of a Golden Retriever named "Buster". He is not a smiley dog and really has quite a sad look on his face. This dog portrait will show him as the dirty, messy dog he is complete with fur tangle by the sea and sand. Stay tuned for that.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Pet Portrait Site Launched

Soulful Studios Home Page

It's official. The new site for Soulful Studios has been launched. Though it went live a few days ago, it still had some "birthing pains" (thanks Denise for that descriptor), I believe now it is ready for the public. You can see that the new site has a new look an layout as well as some new features.

Soulful Studios now has a section where you can purchase cards and prints directly online using the security of PayPal. I've started with just a few options there but in time the selection will grow. Portions of the sales of these items will go to Canine Partners for Life or Search Dog Foundation. You can read more about this on my Giving Back page.

Also available now is the access to my schedule. There is a specific page dedicated just to where you can see my art or have a chance to meet me. Remember that tomorrow (Saturday) I will be selling prints, cards and more at CPL's Cow Bingo. Please pray that the rain stops as the event is rain or shine!

Something that is really neat is that the most recent entry of my blog can be seen directly from the website so that you don't have to go to multiple places to find it. If you want to visit old posts you can click on the link at the top or the bottom of the Daily Journal page and do it from there as well.

My pricing is the same but my order form has been updated. The section about my background has some new information too. The great thing is that Websketching made it possible for me to update the site myself so that I can continually add content. Let's face it, Google likes that. That will help me with better visibility on the web. One area that I will add more information is the Inside Soulful Studios section. There I will share more of the business side of my art as well as some things I just don't share on my blog. This will give you just one more reason to bookmark my website and visit often.

Another area that will change in the future is the addition of writings about the background of each commission that I do. That will be found as added content when you click on each pet portrait image to see it in a larger version. Within the coming weeks I will focus on one portrait at a time and give some interesting details about it that helped me do the piece. Of course I will also add more dog and horse portraits as I do them. My fine art is available online as well and will be updated with each new piece I complete.

Finally, don't forget the opportunity to win a free giclee (that's a fine art print folks) by yours truly through the DiscoverSalemCounty.com website. Currently you can sign up to win prints of my Salem County Resident series but I believe that may change soon to the Farmers Market series.

Oh, before I forget, I've been asked how to get a copy of Pet Companions Magazine where my painting "Partners" is the cover art. You can do so by visiting their subscription info page or by emailing petcompanionsmag@yahoo.com . It is available free in stores throughout Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

I look forward this week to getting back to the art of making art. So much of my time lately has been on marketing which always leaves me feeling like I've ignored my child. "The Veil" is coming along nicely and I hope to share the progress with you next week.

Hope to see you at my booth tomorrow!

Friday, September 05, 2008

I'm So Excited and I Just Can't Hide It!

Pet Companions Magazine Cover by Lori Levin It's here! It's really here! Opening my post office box today gave me such a thrill when I saw what was inside. Seeing my work on the cover of Pet Companions Magazine is like Chanukah in September. The article written about me and my work is so well done it made me want to meet me.

If you would like to see the painting in person you can visit my booth at Canine Partners for Life's Cow Bingo on Sept 13th. You can also enter a drawing to win a free print of "Partners". Prints and cards will also be available there as well.

In my next post I will announce the launch of the new website. It should be live tomorrow but I want to make sure that everything works before folks check it out. I have great ideas and visions for 2009. This is the beginning of many great things I just know it.

Please take the time to check out Stand Up To Cancer at 8pm tonight that will be shown on all three major networks. You can check out this article to read more about the motivation behind this unique event. I will be standing up to cancer by not watching TV but going to buy my new studio doors. This is my way of showing that evil disease who is boss. That's right, I have a future and it is big and bright. You can see it unfold here or visit me this spring at my new studio open house. We'd love to see you there.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Big or Little?

cows by Lori Levin
oil on panel (framed)

Staying up at night to watch coverage of the national conventions is proving to be a difficult task. I can't seem to keep my eyes open past 9pm so I have to catch the snippets of the speeches on the news the following day. Other than the fact that this presidential election is unprecedented due to race and gender, I find it no more inspiring than those of the past. It seems that the human race has not changed a whole lot. Why is it that individuals make other people seem little so that they can feel big? Do you think there could be a campaign without mud slinging? Sadly the answer is no.

This isn't just a political problem. Now that I have children around, I watch how they try to impress adults and other kids by making fun or boasting. Adults are worse frankly. Often we sit around a table discussing the negative behavior of someone else so that we can feel good about what we are doing. That discussion can turn into an "us against them" sort of deal which makes us feel even better because it is a bonding moment. I'm not throwing stones because I'm as guilty as the next guy. I will admit I do much less of that now but sometimes it is easy to fall into the trap. When it happens to me I try to take a step back and figure out what I am feeling small about.

This painting was a result of watching cows in a local field. There was one that was very timid and would tuck itself under the neck of a bolder cow. They were the same size but one obviously felt small and in need of protection. It made me wonder if the other cow felt bigger because of being needed. My own desire to be bigger often requires someone else to feel little. I think I will know true success when I'm able to feel big without someone else feeling little. Maybe then I will run for president!

The new Soulful Studios website should be launched next week. The painting above will be on display at First Impressions Art Gallery then as well. I am starting a new pet portrait of a dog named Buster shortly as well. More things to tell you but you will have to check them out when the new websites launches.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


sunflower drawing by Lori Levin "Ode to Van Gogh"
sketch in moleskine

A few nights ago I spent a lovely evening sitting by a fire, getting to know some of Joel's friends. They sweetly brought flowers from their garden and I decided to draw my favorite. The image started to be light and delicate but as my mind raced it morphed into some sort of dark and intense drawing. I realized I was thinking about a conversation we had about my art and decision to run my own business which brought my thoughts to the topic of risk.

A term that has always amused me is that of "calculated risk". Is there such a thing? Try as we might we cannot truly plan out every possible outcome for each decision being made. Sure, we can guess but life has a way of throwing something in that is totally unexpected. I mean, did anyone ever envision a group of radicals flying jets into the Twin Towers? Obviously not. So plan all you want but risk taking is not a science and it doesn't always add up.

Risk takers come in two categories. Some, like Richard Branson, take risks with complete abandon and find it to be joyous. Others like me, cannot live without risk taking but somehow do it kicking and screaming the whole way. We know that any great action comes with a good deal of risk so we do it. However, the process is not necessarily exhilarating to us, unlike Branson who doesn't seem satisfied unless his life is on the line.

What I wonder is can there be a happy medium? Can someone like me, who wants to put herself out there a little, learn to do it without so much anxiety? Can I learn to enjoy the process without becoming feeling the need to risk life and limb for a thrill?

I write this because I had not been able to work much the past few weeks due to a concussion I sustained. It left me unable to look at a computer screen or focus for any length of time. The plans I had for all my outdoor shows seemed to go out the window. Anxiety set in as there was nothing I could do to change my situation. I had to be patient. It left me wondering why I had chosen such a difficult career. Being a one man band ain't easy folks. If I'm not playing there is no music. After much thought I realized I could never be happy doing it any other way. The weekly paycheck never made me feel anything but safe and that wasn't enough for me. Let's face it, Van Gogh kept took the risk and kept painting despite the lack of sales. So, I'll be at those shows playing my tune. It may be a little off key but I'll be there and people will listen. That's just how it is meant to be. Maybe I'm not too different than Branson after all. Oh right, I'm not filthy rich. Better luck next time.