Since time immemorial, an oddity of human behavior has encouraged purveyors of consumer goods to put a face and a story to their brands. Buyers, it seems, are more apt to transact with sellers with whom they feel some sense of camaraderie and kinship.
Some sellers take this quirk as a call to arms, and they bombard their potential customers with a bizarre tableau of pitiful tales and arrogant assertions in the hopes that something will 'stick' and make money magically rain from the sky.
We'll call these sellers "artists".
Judging from the slew of bungled bios posted in countless online profiles, artists are notoriously bad at branding themselves. They say all the wrong things in all the wrong ways and share pieces of their lives that no one wants to hear about, like a drunk uncle at Easter dinner.
As a species, artists are grasping attention mongers with little to no self-restraint when it comes to crowing their own praises or tooting their own sad trombones; sometimes managing to accomplish both feats at once.
(Speaking of which, I think I may have nerve damage and my cat just died, but look at the wondrous creation I have wrought with these masterful hands!)
See what I mean?
Hard to believe, but we're usually completely clueless when it comes to writing about ourselves in a way that is engaging and not creepy and off-putting to potential buyers.
That's why most long-timers recommend bios written in the third person, in order to avoid the appearance of prideful self-promotion and the tendency to overshare sensitive (read: 'gross' or 'inappropriate') information.
If you've been at this art selling business a while and have experienced a measure of success, you may have had an actual biography written about you by a highly credentialed and noteworthy individual in the field at some point in time. But if you're like the rest of us, you just have to fake it. To many, that means padding their achievements and accolades to appear much more impressive than they really are.
And that sounds like a game plan to me:
"April Moen's illustrious fine art career began at the tender age of 36 in February of 2014. Long known as "the best artist in the family," her emergence into the cutthroat world of online print sales was met with a huge amount of fanfare and nearly one dozen likes on Facebook!
Though her style is completely unique and unlike anything that has ever been seen before or will ever be seen again, and her technique flawless to the point of transcending the mortal realm, her work has been compared to that of "that one guy that did flowers and cottages and stuff" by someone who may or may not have ever seen artwork done by anyone other than Thomas Kincaid.
April's awards include a Certificate of Participation in a mandatory 4th grade science fair and the much coveted "Cutest Smile for the Boys" award from her 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Smith. She credits her public school education for her success since she was never taught the meaning of the word "quit", along with a litany of other very common words and phrases that would probably not have done her any good either.
April currently lives with her husband, son, and dog in a van down by the river."
Yep. Pretty sure I nailed it.
Make it rain, people.
2014 began, as years are ofttimes wont to do, in January. At least, I assume this to be so since my dusty wall calendar stubbornly insists that time ceased its laborious progression in July of 2012. But billions of Facebookers and one very excited 10-year-and-342-day-old boy convinced me that this was not the case. Time had most definitely continued marching on and had indeed ushered in a brand new year.
Two of them, as a matter of fact.
I wish I could say that I can recall that most monumental of days with great clarity. Alas, the events that transpired since seem to have turned my once-proud thinking apparatus to a sad, gloppy bowl of mush.
Thus I look to various avenues of social media to do all my remembering for me...
Oh, yes, that's right. We rang in the new year at my in-laws' beach house, pulling poor, sad clams from their miserably wet and sandy homes and giving them new ones. In our bellies.
January also marked another year of maturity for the boy child; that being a nebulous concept for an almost-teenaged male of the species.
He requested Old Spice Body Wash. We are officially on high alert.
February marked the beginning of a career in fine arts for me when I decided to offer a piece of my artwork, "Magnolia Branch I," for sale online at the request of a friend who wanted to purchase a print.
She changed her mind.
Fortunately for me, the trap had already sprung and it was too late for me to turn back. Uploading new artwork soon replaced my addiction to feeling guilty for not doing housework.
My ruggedly handsome and dauntless husband turned the big 4-9 in March, and he made that nearly half-century look goooood. Here he is modeling the shirt that I made him for his birthday the year before.
(It's a long story.)
My vintage fishing lure series of digital paintings got their start in April when my husband implied that he might not be averse to hanging something in his office at work that was a wee bit more manly than magnolias.
As if there's anything more manly than magnolias!
By May, life was buzzing along (nyuk, nyuk) at a good clip. With the looming threat of the ending school year - and fear being the positive motivator that it is - my production output hit an all-time high. And it's a good thing, too, because...
I'm pretty sure this is the only tangible thing I accomplished in the entire month of July.
My husband and I celebrated our anniversary in August by reminiscing about the time when we had these strange green pieces of paper with pictures of old dead men on them. I've forgotten what they're called.
September was a beautiful time. A magical time. A glorious time. I mean, just look at the joy radiating from that new middle schooler's face.
My husband spent most of October and part of November in Arizona for work, so my son and I got to experience our first Boy Scout camping trip without him.
My husband is forbidden from traveling ever again.
But October also proved to be an epic month for me when I was accepted into my very first gallery.
November was a bittersweet month for the Moen household. We had to say goodbye to our awesome feline overlord, Arrow. This was especially hard on our son because Arrow was his first real pet, and the first real loss he'd ever experienced.
We decided the best way to honor Arrow's memory would be to open our home to another animal, so we rescued this dashing fellow, Wallace, a two-year-old Boxador (Boxer/Labrador mix), from the Humane Society.
Sadly, the tie was not included, but we love our Wally dog anyhow.
December has wrapped up a year of many firsts, so what better way to cap it off than with one of my first mixed media pieces? Yes, I've expanded my repertoire to include actual honest-to-goodness acrylic paints, gel mediums, and paper and fabric embellishments.
I know, I know! What will become of my digital art street cred?
Fear not, for I am even now hard at work on new digital pieces. I am so excited to see what the new year has in store for us.
Here's wishing you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015!
The Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth is one intimidating fellow.
And by fellow, of course, I mean "Holy Creator God of all time, space, and existence." (What's so intimidating about that, right?)
By all biblical accounts, Jesus is loving, accepting, and eminently approachable. But as an artistic subject, He is the most intimidating thing of all - a complete and total enigma.
There is no mention of anything close to resembling a physical description of Jesus in the Bible. In fact, the only thing it contains about His appearance is that He was not a good looking guy. That's it.
So, when I was recently asked to create some digital paintings for a sermon series titled, "I AM: Meeting Jesus Again for the Very First Time," I found myself in a bit of a quandary. I knew at least one of my paintings would have to feature Jesus. I mean, He is the star of the show, after all, but...
What does the Creator of the seen and unseen universe look like?
As an artist who relies on visual references for her paintings, I found a disheartening dearth of Son of Man selfies. Not really surprising. I did, however, find a veritable treasure trove of breathtakingly beautiful and intricate oils painted by the old Italian masters depicting the facade of a white, European male that we in the western world have come to collectively identify as 'the face of Jesus', even while acknowledging that that perception is inherently flawed considering the place and time that Jesus entered into human history, and that no one ever mistook Him for 'one of those Roman characters' in the garden of Gethsemane.
And thus my quandary deepened.
If I painted a picture of a Middle Eastern Jewish man, very few in these parts would readily identify Him as 'Jesus'. If I painted Him like the Renaissance masters did, I would be pandering to a false, though prevailing, whitewashed western worldview. I was deeply conflicted, and as I so often do in these times of great moral morass, I opted to paint grapes and bread instead.
Okay, that's not entirely true. I only sketched that one out while wrestling with my apprehensions over the Jesus painting. But something cathartic did occur in the sketching process. I experienced a rare moment of stillness and peace, and a deep conviction of something I think I've known all along...
There is a divine reason Jesus' appearance is never described in the Bible.
As a believer, I view the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness..." And just as all the words and lessons contained in the Bible are of profound significance and importance, so too can those be which have been purposely and divinely omitted. For instance, considering the very telling lack of such citings, I don't think I'd be remiss in saying that the eternally white-robed Jesus would probably concur with my hypothesis that the unwritten 11th commandment would go something like, "Thou shall not trust a man wearing skinny jeans to make good life decisions."
(Now, I'm sure the vast skinny-pants-wearing male contingent of my readership - currently comprising roughly 0.02% and falling! - will balk at my assumptions regarding the Most High's disdain for their personal choice of stretch denim leg casings, but if you, like me, are a product of the relaxed fit generation, when capital-M-E-N MEN wore jeans that didn't give them the shapely gams of 1940's pin-up girls, strangely sagging posteriors, and deep vein thromboses, you get it. You totally get it. Your disdain for "masculine" skinny jeans is actually holy and biblical, thus sayeth the Lord.)
Okay, okay, I digress.
Consider instead, if you will, the 613 Mosaic laws parceled out in just the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible), or the ancient Hebrew phone directory alone that is the book of Numbers. If those examples don't prove that the Almighty God is what we'd call "detail-oriented", I don't know what does.
But unlike every other doting parent in history, our heavenly Father never gushed in the pages of the New Testament ad nauseam over His Son's adorable baby cheeks and button nose, or boasted about what a divine specimen of masculinity he grew to be (quite literally). Nor did He ever inspire those words to be penned by His prophets.
So, why not?
Well, I imagine the answer lies in Jesus Himself and who He is.
The King of all tribes and every nation.
Or, to paraphrase Paul, everything to everyone, in order that they may be saved.
I came to find in my search that Jesus is depicted reverently in art in nearly every hue of the rainbow and every ethnicity under the sun, and though I don't claim to speak for Him, I have to believe that His heart is filled to overflowing any time that His children seek to express the depth of their love for Him using the gifts that He bestowed on them. After all, I, too, have a heart melting collection of "Mom" stick figures (and not so stick figures) that my son has drawn of me that I will treasure until the day I go home to be with Jesus, even if my head really isn't a lopsided and open-ended ellipse and my mouth isn't truly the shape of a watermelon wedge.
I love the heart behind the art. And so too, I believe, does Jesus.
With that belief in mind, I allowed myself the freedom that being truly free in Christ affords me. I didn't worry about political correctness or any potential religious backlash. I created with just these words in mind:
Everything that Jesus epitomizes to me inspired me to create this...
Is it Jesus?
Only God knows, but I don't think so. It's just an amalgam of His classical depiction with a tad more olive in his skin tone and a touch more Arabic features.
But the real question, the true question, I believe, is, does it capture His heart for humanity?
Does it evoke an emotional response? A desire to more fully know this man?
What do you think, dear readers? Do you feel His love?
The Moen household is currently enduring a painful season in life. Our grocery store is remodeling.
Prayers would be appreciated.
Maybe to some of you flippant, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants types, this doesn't sound so tragic, but let me assure you, you're wrong. It's bad. It's very, very bad.
Things are not where they should be - where they've always been! The very world is turned on its axis. Have you tried grocery shopping when the world is turned on its axis? It's very tilty and sloppy and slidy. Trust me.
But being the stalwart stiff upper-lippers we are, we have managed to persevere with just the minimum of belly aching. In fact, we have even found a small glimmer of hope in our otherwise gloomy pit of despair.
Look what can now be found on our store shelves...
Now, this may not be big news to you, but I have very fond memories of riding my old hand-me-down bike (the only kind there is when you're the youngest of six) for miles on shoulderless rural roads to the Macleay Country Store to get bottles of this sweet Sioux City nectar of the gods and some packs of Black Jack Gum.
There was just something so taboo about those brown glass beer bottles that appealed to the kid in me as a general line toer, even though I don't think they really fooled anyone into believing that I was knocking back actual brewskies on the front steps of the establishment. I still felt like a rebel, and that's all that mattered to my 12-year-old self.
When my similarly-aged son saw the bottles, he was immediately drawn to them, too. I couldn't resist buying a few, just for old time's sake.
But unlike old times, there were several other brands and flavors of root beers to try. I was intrigued by AJ Stephan's Jamaican-style Ginger Beer.
My son's take on it, "It tastes like soap," together with this reviewer's, "It tastes like burning," and I think 'burning soap' pretty much sums up the taste experience that is AJ Stephan's Jamaican-style Ginger Beer. I can, however, attest that it makes an excellent chicken and rice marinade.
The ginger beer, not burning soap. I'm not that much of a gourmet.
But even though AJ done me so, so wrong, I am still a sucker for the nostalgia of the glass soda bottles of all kinds.
How about you? What makes you nostalgic for your younger days?
I loves me some mental health days, but summertime is not exactly replete with them in our household. Not for the parental-type people, anyhow. No, our days are filled with grown-uppy things to do, like going to work and making charts about our non-existent mental health days.
Hey, here's one of those now!
As you can clearly see from the graph, our summer months run decidedly in the negative when it comes to free time, and yet my need for Just. One. Me. Day... It's usually close to DEFCON 1 by the end of July. And I have a sneaking suspicion I know why.
I'm blaming this guy.
(Remember when I said I wouldn't post pictures of my son in goofy hats anymore? Yeah, I lied.)
Sure, he looks sweet and innocent, but it's all a ruse! A filmflam! A con!
Okay, it's not. He is in fact an exceptionally well-behaved kid. And I'm not just saying that as his mother, but also as the Denier of All Things Good & Fun for Unruly, Recalcitrant Children. Very seldom in his 11 years have I ever had to wield my superhero-like authority over him. But as a mom who works from home, I can attest that even the most cooperative child can morph into the Annoying Orange on bath salts when you are on a deadline.
And all the rest of the time, too.
See, I'm not someone who can function with a lot of noise or distractions, and considering that all of my work takes place on a piece of equipment that can instantly connect me to more funny cat videos than I could watch in an entire lifetime just at the click of a button, well, the odds for me ever completing a single task are already nigh on insurmountable. And to throw in a kid who constantly needs things like "food" to "survive"?
Good Lord, I'm only human!
Yesterday, my son and I had a little talk about all his incessant neediness:
Him: "Mom, I'm hungry."
Me: "So, go eat."
Him: "There's no food."
Me: "So, go get some."
Him: "But I'm only 11."
Him: "So, I can't drive, remember?"
Me: "Aw, there's nothing to it. You'll be fine. If we lived on a farm, you'd be driving a tractor by now, you know."
Him: "But don't you remember what happened to Uncle Eric's tent?"
Me: "Well, it was his own fault for putting a 7-year-old on a riding lawnmower!"
Me: "But you're 11 now. I'm sure you'll have much more control. Besides, there aren't that many tents on the roads."
Ugh! Nails on a chalkboard, amiright?
Well, as it happens, my husband's aunt graciously offered to let my son tag along with her this week for some fun adventures, which worked out well for all of us. They had fun together, and I got some much needed quiet time to work on my latest digital painting, aptly titled "Tranquility."
I even made another time-lapse video of the process just for you...(tube).
Ah, I can feel the threat level downgrading already.
I identify most of my work as "digital paintings," and I never gave a thought to the term's ubiquity (or lack thereof.) I figured everyone knew what I was talking about when I said I make my paintings on the computer. But you might be surprised, as I was, to learn that not everyone is entirely fluent in the latest raster graphics street lingo. A shocking number of my acquaintances thought that Photoshop (get this) was used for editing photographs!
I have been asked by a number of these cave-dwelling chuckleheads (a.k.a. "my friends") what I mean by "digital painting" and how "it" is done. And though I am the first to admit that I am by no means a master of the art, I have at least gleaned enough from my time in the field that I feel I can adequately address these tough questions:
Digital painting is an art form that utilizes one or more image editing programs (i.e. Photoshop, Corel, Gimp, MS Paint, etc.) on an internet machine (a.k.a. "computer") to create a finished piece that resembles something that artists of traditional mediums sometimes call "a picture".
Let me know if I'm going too fast for you.
No, seriously, it's just that easy. I start with a blank virtual canvas on my computator, choose brushes and colors, and with my mouse or (rarely) my Wacom tablet, I arrange a whole lot of little colored pixel-type things in (hopefully) an aesthetically pleasing configuration that makes people want to willingly and gleefully part with their hard earned Benjamins. (Or at least the nice crisp Abrahams they got in their birthday card from Nana.)
And that's it. No icky mess to clean up, no pesky original to sell for millions. Just a beautiful bunch of ones and zeroes in computer gobble-de-gook and a numb posterior to show for my time.
So, how does that translate in visual parlance, you ask? Here is a time-lapse example of my latest binary marvel, "White Owl," a digital speed painting I created for a one-hour art challenge I will be hosting starting July 5th on Fine Art America:
Notice the conspicuous lack of actual paint in my digital paintings. Call me a maverick, but I found they tended to gum up the works.
One final note: some people call photographs with applied "painterly effects" or "filters" that mimic the look and feel of traditional methods "digital paintings". But those people are wrong and they should feel bad about themselves.
I kid. I kid.
But seriously, they're terrible, horrible people.
Just came from the doctor. He wants me to get a second opinion. Which is strange because his first opinion was, "I'm sure there's nothing wrong. I'm sure there's nothing to worry about."
Have I given you sufficient time to marvel at my blogging restraint? Well, shockingly, it hasn't been that much of a challenge to stay away since last we spoke. I've been a wee bit preoccupied with getting this website up and going, filling my online stores with attractive quality merchandise - *cough buy something cough* - and creating not one...
...new digital painterly pieces for you to enjoy. Plus, I've also been working on the sketch for my next digital painting of a ship's figurehead, tentatively titled "Bow Maiden."
So, you can see that I have not been sitting around just twiddling my thumbs. No, I've been sitting around and putting my thumbs to an inordinate amount of work that, having very little experience with twiddling of any kind to draw from, I can only assume is "more than" that.
And with this added burden placed on not just the thumbs, but on every single digit of both of my two hands (the right AND the left!) I'm afraid I have determined an unsettling truth...
My left hand is, how shall I say, subpar.
That's fancy English for "a big dumb lump of useless flesh."
Well, I guess that's not really fair. I mean, it has its uses. But it is in the unenviable position, naturally, of being compared to the go-getter that is my right hand. I mean that guy is a champ! He's in the game, under the lights, scoring touchdowns, and my left hand...
Well, Lefty is watching moths and getting beaned by pigskin. Every. Time.
I've been uploading a slew of cool new products into my Zazzle store this past week, and the process requires a lot of repetitive typing of one sentence for every product: "Featuring original artwork titled "_____" by April Moen."
In the beginning, all was well...
It only got worse...
Leaving me with only one possible conclusion...
You're drunk, Lefty. Go home.
I suppose this was inevitable. Me, starting a blog. Again.
I had another blog once. It was a good blog. An awesome blog. A blog to end all blogs. But it didn't. End all blogs, that is. There are still one or two floating around the recesses of the worldwide webs. You can probably find them if you look really hard.
But my blog was fun. And poorly designed. And it even had music blaring from the bottom of the scroll-heavy pages. (Hey, it was 2007. It was a different time back then, man.) People hated that, but they kept coming back. By the hundreds every day.
Even more when I got rid of the music player.
But then life happened. And more life happened. And I realized what a time-suck that blogging had become. And how often my automatic response to the coolest or most significant moments of my life was, "That will make good blog fodder." And how seldom I was truly living in the moment with the people that I loved as a result.
So I stopped. Cold turkey. One day I was a blogger, and the next...
I didn't know what I was.
I just knew what I wasn't.
I wasn't a 'stay-up-'til-three-in-the-morning-to-finish-this-post' girl. Or a 'not-now-honey-I-gotta-return-these-comments' wife. Or a 'quit-your-crying-and-put-on-this-goofy-hat-so-I-can-post-your-embarrassing-pic-to-the-blogosphere-to-the-praise-and-adulation-of-my-many-nameless-faceless-admirers-and-to-your-eternal-unending-and-possibly-debilitating-shame' mom.
God willing, I will never be that again.
But I do miss writing. And sharing stories about life in all its minutiae. And saying snarky things that make people laugh. And having a voice, separate and distinct, even if I'm only using it to shout into the void from this little tiny iceberg of bandwidth that I call my own.
And so I'm here, giving this another shot, and praying for the strength to resist the temptation to overindulge in this good thing.
In all things, moderation, I tell myself. You can do this.
Thing is, I've never been a baby steps kind of girl. My motto? If a thing's worth doing, it's worth overdoing. Twice.
So, this shall be an adventure for both of us. The thrill ride that is restrained casual blogging.
Do you think you can handle that kind of excitement?
Well, then, let the adventure begin!