Friday, March 27, 2015

Love Sayings

I've previously had three fantasy pieces published in the same author's book titled "Cat Sayings".  Bradford G. Wheler has just published a new book in the series "Love Sayings: wit & wisdom of romance, courtship, and marriage" from BookCollectives.com (Also available on Amazon.com.) The books in his Sayings series have quotes by the famous, along with various artwork from artists from all over the world.


In the previous "Cat Sayings" book, I had some of my fellow Enchanted Visions artist buddies along for the ride, and it was fun.  ^_^  This time, though, I don't know the other 47 artists whose work appear in the book personally.  Still, it's always fun to see your work in a publication.


This illustration (the version in the book is rather severely cropped to appear in a landscape orientation) was done long before I started my fantasy pieces in current style.  One of my early all-digital illustration in a more painting-like style with no "lines".  Always fun to experiment and do different things, though.

This image will be also coming out later this year as a book cover if all goes well.  I hope to get a copy directly from the author when it does. ^_^  Also if all goes well, I should have some more of my illustrations published in a book in Europe later this year. *fingers crossed*  I hope to be able to write a lot more about that soon, also.


No Longer Burned Out

But seriously, though, when a person does creative work for living, one can never afford the luxury of 'feeling burned out' or 'be unmotivated', let alone have the dreaded 'art block', 'writer's block', etc.  Life keeps going and that means bills keep coming. XD    Over the years, I've learned that real professionals in any field do not complain about such things as 'loss of mojo' or blocks, but they manage to work through these things and get things done, done well, and done on time.  I can tell you for sure that my output has been a lot higher than when I was an 'undeclared' artist (= hobby artist).   Once I began making regular income from art, I have managed to focus my mind to get the work done ... however grudgingly at times. lol

2014 brought a crazy fast growth in my business and I was barely able to keep up with the demand.  Things were going well until around the holiday time.  With the uninspiring news about the EU digital VAT at the end of the year, and the mass confusion and hours of research looking for straight answers, came the feeling of just being burned out.  If the world was a perfect place, every artist's job would be purely to create works of art and that's all we'd ever have to do.  All other related-but-not-so-fun aspects of business can be delegated to professionals.  Well, for a large portion of us, the so-called 'self-represented artists', the reality is that we have to wear so many hats.  We are an artist, wife/husband, mother/father, chauffeur, coach, homework helper/tutor, advertising executive, blogger, photographer, accountant, PR specialist, copyright manager, housekeeper, etc. etc.  The list keeps going.  So I'm not going to be too hard on myself when I say I felt burned out.

Waking up feeling happy, thinking about what project I'll be working that day, used to be the every day thing.  Once the burnout struck me, I suddenly felt tired and couldn't get out of the bed as early as I used to.  Easily distracted, and nothing I sketched looked good enough.  That's a bad place to be, and I was fully aware that I had to intervene somehow.  Luckily, I had a lot of simple-but-tedious "busy" work relating to my business piled up through 2014 to keep working on.  When I can't get into the mood to tackle a new and fantastic piece of art, I keep myself at it by taking care of little things - like new listings, cleaning up files for publications, sorting sketches by priority and types, etc.

I've been feeling the need to get back to my roots.  To do the type of work I want to do, not what I get asked to do.  To do the type of work that I find personally meaningful, not what I think will sell or appeal to the broader audience.  I'm always thinking about ways to maximize my productivity by balancing my interest with the business potential of a project.  I try to keep level headed about it to keep feeling healthy, but there are times when some external force (be it a critique or a sudden financial necessity) would nudge me off balance, and I have to reevaluate and adjust.

The first 3 months of 2015 have been a string of events that I would have rather not dealt with.  At times, it almost made me feel like stop dealing with a line of my business.  But the good news is that by going back to the doodler roots of mine, I was able to get out of the rut of the vague feeling of blue.   I've always been a person who can see joy in simple and small things.  I've been saved out of this rut by a tiny pencil scribble on a scrap paper I was using for notes and reminders.  The idea of this doodle has been expanded and turned into a full illustration.  And I've taken the sketch and turned it into an elaborate digi design as well.  The little scribble expanded to include my love for the cat I just recently lost, the yearning for the cherry blossoms in my home country of Japan, and a walk down the memory lane for the delightful folklore of my childhood, and so many more wonderful things.


And just like that, with one quiet, productive afternoon alone with my doodle, I no longer feel burned out.  I'd love to show the line illustration I finished yesterday, but that'll have to wait till mid April at a showcase on the AW Showcase Blog.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Edamame Sprite

Today was a double new release day at AuroraWings. :D  It's always a little hectic to write up the showcase blog, line up the new listings at multiple locations and keep the links straight.  ^^;  I'm really blessed to have a wonderful group of talented designers on both of my teams (challenge and showcase blogs) to always come through without last-minute chaos.  A few of them are so well-organized, they keep me on my toes to plan ahead and plan well.

I have been playing catch-up on many of my Sprites line art that have already been released as digis.  I have not had the chance to do color work of my own, and I do miss it.  Live everybody else, I much prefer the coloring phase of my illustration work to the line art.  The way I do my lines is pretty tight, so I always have to be focused and concentrated.  Plus, I'd like to work for a long stretch at a time (Really not a good combination for my eye health... or posture, for that matter...), it tends to be tiring, to put it mildly.

Of the two new releases, I only managed to get one of them colored in time. ^^;  At least, it's better than none.   Here's the Edamame Sprite. :D  (She could be Sweet Pea, although the leaves are different...)


I had fun with this one.  ^_^  I've grown edamame in my garden for the past three years or so.  They tend to get moldy as a seed, but once they successfully germinate, they seem to do pretty well.  Although it's so nice to be able to buy them readily in grocery stores these days (microwavable bags), I miss the time when I was growing up in Japan where we could buy whole plants in bunches (edamame pods 'on the vine', or rather 'on the stem' lol) at local vegetable stands, with dried dirt still on the roots.  Talk about fresh!

Anyhow, I think this sprite looks like a nanny or a baby sitter with a bonnet, holding the triplets in a bundle. :D  Sprites are always fun to design and draw.  I still have different vegetables and plants on my list to create.  You can tell I draw my inspiration from nature.  ^_^





Friday, March 13, 2015

Lily of the Valley and the Green Man

Playing catch-up continues at work into the third month of 2015.  *a little sad and discouraged*  Keep on keeping on!

Just finished the color version of the Lily of the Valley Sprite.  I guess it is perfect timing as things are sprouting on the western slope of the Rockies in Colorado.  I'm seeing daffodils and plum blossoms now.  (Time for me to get outside with my vinegar spray to try to kill the tiny weeds that are germinating happily!)  I used to have patches of lily of the valley around the house near foundation, but they have a habit of disappearing (some extremely cold but dry winter over the years...).  I may have to plant some.  Every time I draw a flower, I think about it and then I want it in my garden. ^^;


I was tempted to give her pink flowers, but in the end, the classic white won.   I love this baby! XD  Some flowers work really well as a hat or a bonnet, and this one just looks adorable (if I may say so myself lol).

I just finished coloring another sprite yesterday (but cannot post until the release next week), so once again, I get the itch to do something very different.  I seem to swing from one end of the spectrum to the other.  It would be terrible if I had to do nothing but cutesy stuff day after day...

I started the preliminary sketch for the Green Man digi.  This is a request won by the lucky party guest from February's 2,000 Members Celebration at Stamps by AuroraWings Facebook group.  In my version of the Green Man, he's a wise old tree spirit who has infinite wisdom and patience.  Attracts small forest animals because he's a gentle giant who protects all those in need.


I'll be tucking in a squirrel, an owl, small birds, and a butterfly in his thick foliage as I work and develop the idea.  I didn't care for a particularly young and handsome Green Man or a peculiarly sinister Green Man.  I'm getting the old, grandfatherly vibe for my first Green Man picture.  I hope I can recreate the vision in my mind.  ^_^

In Japan, there are cherry trees that are 1,000+ years old.  It's mind boggling to imagine something could live that long.  Of course, not all cherry trees are long lived.  In fact, they're prone to getting weakened or dying from insect damage, seasonal flooding, and bark damage.  But when the condition, where a tree establishes itself, is favorable, it can manage to live for centuries, and generations of people respond to it with reverence.  It's an amazing sight to behold when you visit these thousand-year old trees and see lots of support lumber put in place by people. (Just imagine the weight of the blossoms, followed by leaves during peak of growth!)

Photo Credit: Kenichiro Saito
Miharu Takizakura in Fukushima, Japan in the spring of 2011
News article in English

I can almost see the spirit or the fairy of that cherry tree among the frothy branches dripping in pink... So magnificent!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Something New

It's been a rough beginning, this Year of the Sheep.  I thought I was going to be the lucky sheep, but no, it wasn't going to be that simple.  LOL   Things are finally calming down around here as the weather is steadily warming up and signs of life are everywhere around me.  I LOVE spring!!

I can't quite tell all the details right now, but I have this thing that I dubbed "the Italian Project", which deals with my Marie Antoinette pieces.  I know!  Marie Antoinette was born in Austria, and married into the French royal family, so why "the Italian Project"?  I hope to be able to tell soon.  I have three line art of Marie so far, but only 2 have been fully colored and finished by me.  I do adore the excess of Rococo fashion and furnishings of Marie Antoinette's era.  The wigs are just so fun to draw and design with all sorts of random objects.  I have to say, she's one of my favorite subjects for illustration.  Fun fun fun.

Marie Nyantoinette ©Mitzi Sato-Wiuff 2015
Kitten in a wig~!! XD

My first Marie had a cupcake theme to go with the "Let them eat cake" quote, which has been attributed to her in popular culture, but research into the matter indicates that this is really not the case, to be historically correct...    For "Marie Nyantoinette", my second Marie piece, I was inspired by the legend of Main Coon cats that goes something like this.  When Marie and her family were attempting to escape France, much of her belongings, including her cats that were said to roam the palace freely, were loaded on a ship heading to America.  Well, the royal family was captured before they made it to the ship, but the ship with the cats and all eventually made it to the shore of Main and the story goes on to say that her cats mingled with the local feline population and became today's Main Coons.  Fanciful tale.  So "Marie Nyantoinette" is the homage to the cat lady that she was.  I don't know whether she actually played with fancy wigs on her kitties, but it just sounded like fun.  ^_^

"Poppy Sprite" ©Mitzi Sato-Wiuff 2015

Another one I had previously released as a digi (line art only), but failed to finish as a fully colored piece.  This one was sitting in my 'to be finished' folder for months.  ^^;  I've been accumulating these types of files lately.  Must complete all these unfinished pieces!

"Christmas Cactus Sprite"  ©Mitzi Sato-Wiuff 2014

I just realized that this one was missing from my Sprites Collection's page on dA when I was updating.  I figure I'd post her right here, too.    I couldn't decide on the color for the flowers as they come in different, equally beautiful colors.  I have a pot of this plant with the same bloom colors, but I've been wanting to purchase a peach or yellow flowering variety.  Would you believe it if I said that my own Christmas Cactus is still blooming by my window?  Started blooming shortly after Christmas (Buds were close, but they didn't open until a day or two after Christmas.), and blooms have been continuous ever since. :D

Now that my web site's digi stamp shop (www.AuroraWings.com) has been updated with new codes for buttons and shopping carts, I'm hoping that I can redirect my energy to art production and get to do the work that I'd rather be doing (rather than implementing changes to accommodate some EU laws...  What a debacle it has been!).  And I've finally recovered from the bronchitis and sinusitis, too! :D  *happy happy*



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

In Memoriam

"Primrose Elf"  ©Mitzi Sato-Wiuff 2015

It is primrose season.  I love seeing them offered in small pots at grocery stores and front racks at home improvement centers in very early spring.  We have seen a very short winter here in Colorado this season, and the temperature has been unseasonably high for January and February so far.  I don't like the nasty inversion that lasts for weeks with arctic temperatures and grey sky at all, plus I don't ski, due to old leg injuries that act up in cold weather,  so I'm not missing anything.

What I'm missing terribly, though, is my kitty.  Black and fluffy and oh, so, so sweet!  She was one of the babies a stray mama gave birth to in our basement back in May.  We've adopted all four babies and the mama, although she comes and goes as she pleases and doesn't give us an inkling of an affection. lol  Two of her babies have taken to us and been the stars of our feline family since.  But as a work-from-home artist, I ended up spending a lot of time with the sickly black baby we named Mayu.  She had eye infection at first, then she had upper respiratory issues and I carried her around in a baby sling on me so I could cuddle her while I had my hands free to work.  Once she was healthy, she turned out to be the adventurous one, climbing on a roof and trees, jumping and breaking things off the shelves... you get the picture.  But I adored her for snuggling up against me on the piano bench when I played the piano.  She would occasionally reach out and start an impromptu duet.  I love that!! :D  She scared us more than once when she jumped on the piano in the middle of the night and banged a few notes to wake us up.  I even had a song made up that we routinely hummed in her presence.  Well, she's been missing since January 16.  We've been looking for her and we miss her terribly.

Art is a way of dealing with emotional stress for many people, and it certainly is for me.  I drew another cat image when one of our cats passed away in the past, too.  I still miss her, but the act of drawing soothes me somewhat.  Besides, I know that she wouldn't approve if I was crying about her and didn't do anything else. 


Here's where the picture starts.  Line art is processed (lightened and tinted) for the digital free-hand coloring phase.


I could have gone with most any color for this little elf, but Jr. suggested that she'd be cute with a dark complexion.  I like the idea very much.  ^_^


Played around with different colors, but in the end, pink and yellow seem to soothe the eyes and the hearts.


Now you know the back story of this image. ^_^  But that's just where the inspiration came from.  In the final image, it's a kind little Primrose Elf gesturing you to be quiet because her little kitty has fallen asleep for a nap on a warm early spring day.  She's enjoying the warmth of the fluffy kitty on her lap, sitting in the bed of early-blooming primroses.  ^_^

I've made the line art into a digi.  It's at my Etsy shopweb site, and my storenvy shop.  1500 x 2100 pixels, at 300 dpi, JPG.


Update on the EU Digital VAT Situation

As I've written about this previously at the end of 2014, businesses that scrambled to deal with the implementation of this EU law, which put the burden of collection and remittance of the VAT on the sellers, regardless where THEY were located, so long as the sales were made to customers in EU nations, are finally coming up with solutions - or agreeing to grudgingly abide by - now that we are in the second month of 2015.

Etsy has finally came out with an official stance that I had hoped they would eventually come up with. They will collect and remit the VAT to each of the EU member nations' tax authority in a quarterly manner and keep the record for 10 years (Yes, that's what the Eurocrats expected the businesses to do... Simply amazing, what they came up with.). Initially, Etsy stated, "as we've historically dealt with local tax laws, we're going to leave it up to individual sellers". Outrage ensued, while some pointed out what the tax authority (HMRC) in the UK at least (What the UK government says may not be the case in other countries of EU, and that's what makes this all such a headache.) had already said, which was "Etsy is responsible to collect, not individual sellers/service users.". Later, they changed their tune a little bit to say, "OK, we'll do this for you for sellers located in the EU nations, but we don't know what's going to happen to the rest of you". This stance was particularly unsatisfactory for many of us in the US, since we've all read the EU law and took notice of the sticking point, "The digital VAT rule applies to any business selling to consumers in the EU, regardless of where the business is located." THIS has been the cancer that sucked the joy out of my holiday 2014. THIS has been the nightmare that caused a lot of digital goods sellers to jump to the gun and close shop. Although I still think this is so wrong, as business analyst who writes blogs for Forbes have said that all legalities aside, for the sake of reputation, businesses outside EU would want to be compliant.

So the most recent position announced by Etsy is this. "We are now announcing that we will collect and remit VAT on behalf of all Etsy sellers providing digital goods to buyers in the EU by automatic download, whether or not the seller is based in the EU." (source: Etsy blog, Feb. 9, 2015 titled Update: European Union Rules on Digital Item Sales) *collective sigh of relief from all those who were keeping an eye on the issue* I'm glad that they've reached the conclusion to take this course rather than dancing around it and stressing us, the micro business owners, out. My business has already seen the negative effect of this EU digital VAT law in the behavior of the buyers. It is true that for many people, it was business as usual, but for those who are informed (Seriously, there was practically no media coverage whatsoever, but we saw a lot of discussions on the web from a lot of worried small businesses.) either asked the sellers as to what was going on (I did get messages from customers in EU regarding this new law.) or stopped buying for whatever reasons.

Looking at the comments on Etsy blog post, I can see that some sellers are still confused whether they'd have to figure in the VAT into their product price. I would imagine from the blog post that Etsy means to come up with an upgrade to their system so that each different country's rate will be figured into the final total, based on the list price, and be collected from the buyers.

Just yesterday, I was green lighted to migrate my products to the new platform by DGS (Digital Goods Store). They're a UK company, so they came out early in the game, ... well relatively early, back in October or November of 2014, to say, "We'll change our business model to be compliant". So now they are rolling out the new marketplace. While we transition, they are not taking on any new sign ups. After the transition, all new sign ups will be initially limited to 6 products and be reviewed before they can sell. The existing customers (people like me) had to request to be invited to the new platform by submitting our intent so they can give our products a quick review and decide if they are appropriate for the new marketplace. Luckily, they saw no problems with my products and gave me a green light and migrated all my existing products to the new account. *big sigh of relief* I'm grateful that this went without a hitch. (I don't know if it's the Mercury Retrograde or bad Feng Shui, the beginning of 2015 has been full of annoying mishaps and glitches for me...)

The good news, although it came late, after so many headaches and so much stress over the last few months, is that as far as this stupid EU digital VAT law is concerned, all of my shops will be compliant. And thanks to businesses like Etsy and DGS (who charge transaction fees so they can implement this kind of change to their system, thus offer their 'service' to small businesses and micro businesses), individual content creators can remain in business and make a living.   (Oh, look, Mercury is about to begin the post-shadow phase of the retrograde.  Things should start going smoothly once again. ^_^ )