Fun Art Today: Illustrator Alex Mathers

wiredmountainillo_mysite

“Downhill Running” Illustration by Alex Mathers for Wired Magazine.

Twitter is the best place to discover illustrators. I keep a Twitter list just for illustrators that I follow. I love scrolling the list to see what some pretty talented people are up to. Alex Mathers is one such illustrator. He’s a globe-hopping freelance illustrator who works with the Google+ design team, among others. Alex is actually to blame for making Jonathan and I dream a crazy dream: going overseas with our gaggle of girls and working for a time at our projects. Why is Alex to blame for this scheme? It’s because he wrote this absolutely wonderful post about his nine months freelancing in Tokyo. He makes freelancing abroad seem so…so…I don’t know, something like possible. He’s a dangerous man.

Another thing about Alex Mathers: He’s an encourager. You know I love this. Alex runs this cool contemporary art site called Ape on the Moon along with the very talented Phillip Dennis who tweeted with me once so we’re like practically best friends. Alex and Phillip post about other creative art makers who are doing very cool things.

Secret Pro Tip: Alex also runs the Red Lemon Club, a site dedicated to helping creatives find more clients, network and promote their work effectively in a very classy way (read: not email-blasting hundreds of creative directors.)

Last day to enter the Free Book Friday contest! We’re giving away a hardcover copy of Love Is in the Air, Jonathan’s new children’s book from Penguin USA. Click here, comment and you are entered to (maybe) win!

 

Free Book Friday: Win a Copy of Love Is in the Air

Hi friends! Jonathan and I are super happy to launch a new Friday freebie: we’re giving away a hardcover copy of Love Is in the Air each Friday for five weeks. That’s five chances to win!

For today, please leave a comment telling us the answer to this question: Who will you read Love Is in the Air with?

On Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, we’ll choose a number from Random.org and that number entry will be our winner. Easy! (Contest is open to U.S. addresses only, please.)

Screen shot 2013-01-24 at 9.45.47 PM

Want to know more about Love Is in the Air? Read this wonderful review by the children’s book blog Sweet on Books. It’s posted on their blog and also the NYC local ABC affiliate, WABC’s website. I think the WABC link will only work for one week, so click today to see it!

Melissa from Sweet on Books writes: “Love Is in the Air is a cheerful, heart-warming story; this is a subject not often found in “Learn to Read” books. This particular kind of children’s book is deceptively hard to write, and write well. I don’t think that many authors even attempt it. So much of what is out there is just meh. But Jonathan Fenske has changed that.”

Thanks very much to Melissa and the folks at Sweet on Books. Stop in there for quality children’s book recommendations, plus a gorgeously designed site that makes you want to stay around for a long time. They have an awesome rating system, plus you can sort recommendations by reader level which is very helpful.

Good luck and get those entries in!

Art on a Budget: 6 Ways to Find Art That’s Affordable

Jonathan and I love art, and we share our home with paintings and other special one-of-a-kind pieces that mean a lot to us. I know from talking with friends who come over that they often want original art—but don’t know where to start. It’s too expensive, right?

Well, of course, it can be. But it doesn’t always have to. With a little work, Googling and luck, you can have beautiful art, all for not much money. We’re living proof!

Okay, if you’re still with me, read on for a few tips on buying art on a budget. (Or finding art on a budget…but we’re getting ahead of ourselves!)

Art on a Budget Tip #1: Find An Artist You Love and Then Figure Out How to Buy from Them

I’ll let you in on a secret: artists like to sell their work. And they usually do it with a smile on their face. So, get out and meet artists. You’ll be collecting on the cheap, so head to undergraduate art openings at a college or university near you. Stopping in at the local yogurt shop? Chances are, there’s an artist on the walls that month. Even Barnes and Noble displays art on the hall leading to the bathroom. Look for artist “studio tours” in nice weather. Go on gallery crawls where there are pop-up exhibitions happening on nearby streets.

Use Twitter to find artists by following hashtags such as #illustrator and #artist. Strike up Twitter friendships with artists and visit their websites. Often, artists will set up online stores where they offer paintings, prints and even pillows of their work. Want something different but completely cool? DENY Designs based in Denver sells home decor goods printed with amazing art, including stretched canvas.

Become friends with your new favorite artist. Get on their email list. Comment on their blog. Be supportive and introduce them to other potential collectors. They’ll be grateful and when you commission them to paint the perfect 24″x24″ piece for your foyer, they’ll gratefully move you to the top of the list.

Once you find something that’s in your budget, ask yourself just one question: Do I like this piece? If you do, buy it. This is where you decide to part with cold cash: if you like it, it’s yours.

When I was in high school, I was really into Georgia folk artists. I adored R.A. Miller and found out a cool gallery in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. carried a few of his pieces. I walked in the door (probably decked out in a vintage dress and humming an R.E.M. song) and trotted out a few minutes later with this tin cut (below) for $40. (The painting on the left was purchased in Nicaragua off the street for less than $20. It has a cardboard frame…isn’t it the coolest?)

DSC_0569

Pro Tip: When buying art from a cafe or bookstore, it’s a universal truth that the frames will be atrocious. Look past it—it’s okay. Head over to Dick Blick and re-frame your sweet new piece of art.

Art on a Budget Tip #2: Trade Something

From time to time, Jonathan (who is an artist and children’s book author/illustrator, if you are a new reader to this blog) will trade with another artist he admires. It’s how we got this piece by David Nielson when we lived in Atlanta a few years before we moved out West.

DSC_0566

If you aren’t an artist with another painting to trade, maybe you are a graphic designer and can trade a website design. Or maybe you’re an attorney who can give some contract advice to an artist. Stay-at-home mom? What about babysitting for an artist who needs help watching kids so she can work? Trading works best if you have a relationship already established with the artist. So, I say ask–you never know what you might be able to arrange. Back in Atlanta, we once traded a painting for a Danish Modern dining room table and chairs. (If you want to see that painting, “Chivalry Is Dead,” click here. It’s peeking over the shoulder of our friend Brian.)

Art on a Budget Tip #3: Troll Etsy

There are some amazing artists on Etsy.  It’s like an art fair on your laptop. You’ll have to sift and sort but when you do, slap a heart on shops you love and come back again and again. We purchased this print from 12fifteen and then framed it with a Target matte/frame combo. I love prints and think they are a great way to collect someone you love…even if more than one person has the same one you do. Total cost: $47.50.

DSC_0548

Art on a Budget Tip #4: Ask an Artist to Paint Your Walls

This one takes a little more coordination, but you probably won’t be turned down. As long as you are not asking the artist to paint a Disney character (blech), most early-career artists will happily come over and draw something special on your wall and then paint it. Jonathan got his start doing murals all over the Upstate of South Carolina. Send a friendly email…what do you have to lose?

DSC_0552

DSC_0749

Art on a Budget Tip #5: Don’t Forget Sculpture

An often less-expensive path to an art-filled home is to remember sculpture, vases, birdhouses, lamps…anything that you love and expresses who you are.

This TimeStone clock makes me happy every time I walk downstairs for a badly-needed cup of coffee in the morning. The bright yellow bird slides back and forth. We found this at a thrift store for less than $5.

DSC_0562

These blocks were a gift for the new baby. They are fresh, modern and so pretty. From tiny giraffe on Etsy.

DSC_0544

Art on a Budget Tip #6: Make Friends with Your Local Thrift Store

Every thrift store in America has a huge bin of mouldering frames, 1970’s owl art and assorted motivational posters housed in gold-tone frames. You, dear reader, are going deeper. Remember to disregard the frames and the cleanliness of the art. Pounce on anything that is clearly original and well done. Jonathan rescued this awesome 1982 painting from a thrift store down the street. It’s by Denver artist Bruce Clark and I can’t imagine what happened so that it ended up where it did, but we couldn’t be more thrilled to be the new owners.

DSC_0538

 
I should definitely add that many quality galleries offer paintings in the low hundreds. Some even may have very small works for less than $200 if the artist is just starting out. Or they may sell high-quality prints that cost around $100. But if those prices are too steep for your budget, then I hope some of my ideas may help. Good luck and happy hunting!
Do you have a fun art collecting story? Share it in the comments!  And don’t forget to subscribe to more Fenske art news by scrolling to the bottom of the blog and entering your email. Keep up with Jen and Jonathan on Twitter, too: @jenmanskefenske

Criminal Reshelving and Other Seedy Book Details

The first few weeks since Love Is in the Air published have been super fun, super exciting. We receive great pictures texted to us from friends and family around the country who have so kindly ventured out to bookstores to pick up a copy. Here’s one from our dear friends, the C—– family who may or may have not engaged in a little “criminal reshelving.” That’s the practice of artfully promoting your loved one’s books to the front row. Ahem, totally not condoning the practice but….thanks ya’ll!

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

IMG_3494

 

IMG_3493

 

 

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

 

Other Fenske news: Jonathan heads into the studio tomorrow with Room 214 for some visual scribe work. That’s where he sits and draws and they take like a million pictures of him and then editors stitch it all together into something really cool. He’s also doing painting commissions, per usual. He’s currently working on a commission of an Andy Warhol portrait and the other day, Jonathan had a slip of the tongue and called it an “Einstein portrait.” We both giggled because there’s kind of a big difference.

Jennifer (that’s me!) is scheduling children’s book blogger visits for Jonathan. Jodie from the awesome young readers blog Growing Book by Book has graciously agreed to post about Love Is in the Air; writing coach and all-around awesome author Rochelle Melander will also have Jonathan do some guest posts in February and then again in May.

I also work on Fat and Appy each day. Still find it crazy that we have an iPad app for sale on the App Store. Wild! People ask me what our next app will be and I think definitely ebooks. We both love children’s books so much and it would be a cinch to take Jonathan’s orphaned books and turn them into digital wonders. First, though, we have to get through promotion for Guppy Up! which comes out next month.

 

 

Blue Gate: Snapshots from Santa Fe

We spent Thanksgiving with my brother and his family in Santa Fe. I love the architecture there, the courtyards, the light. Our hosts for Thanksgiving Day own a beautiful house and we had a blast playing horseshoes, looking for wild ponies and just wandering around. Earlier in the week we were able to stop in to the William and Joseph Gallery where Jonathan shows in Santa Fe. Awesome trip.

DSC_0303We

DSC_0314

DSC_0303

DSC_0292

DSC_0286

Space Bug Eats Cheery Astronaut

As you may know if you read our blog, Jonathan loves vintage toys. He often sets them up in funny or poignant situations and then photographs them to see how the scene works. He takes the scene that he likes best and then paints with acrylics onto board. Voila!

Sometimes, I see him processing an image from one of these photo shoots that makes me laugh out loud. This is one such image. It’s called Final Transmission.

http://www.jonathanfenske.com

From the Studio: Paintings

Jonathan is having a rush of post-Christmas commissions. I thought I would show a recent one called “Working Well Together.” This was commissioned by a Colorado client in honor of her brother’s wedding. This picture isn’t the best—in real life, the painting is brighter. You can still get the idea. In my opinion as the artist’s wife, I like commissions the best because they are pre-sold. In a gallery, a painting can hang for months or years before they sell. A commission is just a visitor…there’s no time to get attached.

Working Well Together