It isn't often that I am at a loss for words. However, as I begin to write today, I am finding difficult in expressing myself.
After yesterday's post of my recent painting of Layla the tiger, I received such a huge amount of positive comments from various social media venues that I am completely humbled and in awe. I just never expected it.
I sit here and write to you all each morning, and I don't often think of the 'audience' that reads. Oh – I occasionally look at the numbers, like on lumberjocks.com where I also post my blog or at the number of 'likes' I get on my Facebook pages, but in general, I don't really pay attention. Each morning I come here and it is as if I am talking to my close friends. My colleagues. My former classmates. My family. While the words flow freely when I think of things in those terms, I tend to be stifled if I think realistically at the scope of people I am reaching. It makes things so hard.
Most of my posts are written while sipping my first (or second) cup of coffee. They are stream-of-conscious thoughts that are usually tied to the project I am working on at the time. When I am in between project, the subject usually shifts to something to do with the day to day process of running a small business. The comments posted are usually from 'regulars' or friends, which adds to the facade of intimacy that I feel when I write. I often say it is like sitting in a coffee shop in the morning, discussing the day's plans. This makes it easy to write nearly 1,600 posts without much thought. But today seems a bit different.
Yesterday, when the Wildcat Sanctuary posted the link to my blog here and the photos of Layla, I immediately noticed that 'strangers' were seeing what I do for the first time. At first when the notifications of comments began coming in, I was really pleased that people seemed to like the painting. Believe me – there were times while I was creating her that I had my doubts. After I posted the photos of her undercoats, and they were shared by others and people seemed to like it, I suddenly felt a bit petrified about continuing. I seemed to have set the bar high for myself and now that I knew people were watching, I feared that I would not be able to live up to their expectations.
As a result of those feelings, I let Layla sit on my kitchen table – staring at me – for nearly six days untouched. Her eyes were finished at that point and it was as if she was daring me to continue on. I kept busy with other things and did all I could to avoid moving forward. However, I had a deadline to meet and scared or not, the commitment I made to my editors drove me forward. Finally I picked up the brush to finish. I am glad I did.
I know my fellow artists will understand what I experienced. I know of many others who have taken on ambitious tasks and not realized what they were in for. To me, the most difficult part of painting Layla was that I had to do so in a way so that I could recreate her and TEACH the painting process to others. Layla's pattern will be featured in the online painting publication of Painting Ezine next month. For those of you who wish to learn to paint – I highly recommend it. The cost is very minimal and the wonderful variety of projects offers something for any taste and style.
Yesterday, as those notifications of comments kept rolling in, I worked on Layla's pattern packet. I had taken hundreds of photos along the way, and I needed to work on them first and then do the written instructions. I did not use oil paint on her, as I am allergic to oil and I love creating with DecoArt Americana Acrylic paints. I wanted to use products that most decorative painters are familiar with and may already own. As I wrote the pattern and read the comments, I realized just how many people enjoyed it, and I became a bit overwhelmed. I am so 'small time' in this world and at the time I am writing this post, the Facebook post has over 19,000 "likes" and over 2,600 "shares". Those numbers just boggle my mind.
I was totally unprepared for this kind of response. I have toyed with the idea of creating prints and note cards of the Layla painting to sell, and give part of the proceeds to the Sanctuary for the care of these lovely animals. I am already going to donate to them based on the pattern sales. My initial goal here was not only to have a beautiful subject to paint but to raise awareness for their cause. I hope I succeed in doing that.
Based on the requests, I am going to begin selling the note cards and prints. I know of a great place in New York that creates archival quality reprints and I will probably use them. It will take some planning though and a little time to get my initial orders. Since I am sending them digital files, I want to order samples before I order any quantity, as I want to be sure that they are as perfect as they can be. I will continue to support the Sanctuary through the sales of any of the projects that I sell using their subjects. I hope I do OK for them. (If you are interested in them, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you on a list and notify you when they are ready.)
I also encourage you again to visit their site and Web Page and show your support as well. I think they do important work and their kindness and compassion is an example of how we should treat all creatures on this Earth.
Finally, I wish to thank you all for your amazing response to my painting and work. I rarely do these types of paintings, as I am trying to make a living with my design work and most of you realize how time consuming that can be. It is never bad, but it is a matter of spinning several plates at once and trying to concentrate the hardest on what will keep you moving in a positive direction. Those of you who read know that I am the 'eternal optimist' in that I know that eventually all the hard work will pay off. After all – for me it does every single day.
Today I will finish up the final work on Layla's line work for her pattern. It will not be a difficult process at this point, and it should be a fun day. I have a few things to do this weekend and some new avenues to explore with some fellow artists that I am excited to work on. I also have many painting and scroll saw patterns 'living in my head' that need to come to life. I am sure I will be busy.
I am very grateful for the support you have all show both Keith and myself. In these difficult economic times, we feel privileged that you enjoy our designs and continue to support us. I always say that I couldn't spend my days creating if it weren't for your support, and I mean it. I know that I am fortunate beyond words in so many ways.
As for Layla -
I am glad that I pushed myself beyond what I thought I could accomplish. She will be a reminder to me that "I CAN" always do better. I only need to overcome my own doubt and fear. I hope you all remember that about yourselves as well, no matter what you wish to accomplish.
Have a wonderful Friday!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"