Reading books

I’ve always loved to read. I’m one of those people, who reads multiple books at the time. I always find a new and interesting book before I finish one, so I jump back & forth between reading them.

Watch less TV, read more books

One result of the 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for me has been that I couldn’t stand TV or Facebook anymore. That started well before the election result.

The election circus, mudslinging and horrific things that became the norm, exuberated by the media made me turn away from the TV. My wife is the opposite. She wants to see it all, know it all and absorb it. That’s fine for her, but I can’t.

Instead I took to reading. Positive things, like uplifting biographies of people I admire and then more spiritual works about compassion and empathy, the things that were lacking so much in the voices of politicians and people on social media.

Reading digitally

I started listening to podcasts and came across the Minimalists, who at one point said they removed all social media from their phone and only kept the Kindle app, so that instead of trolling nonsense on social media, they read more.

That piece of advice has been one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. The beauty is that every device with the Kindle app keeps track how far you’ve read, so you can always pick up where you left off, no matter if you’re on your actual Kindle, PC or your phone.

Since then I’ve read more and come to appreciate how many fantastic contemporary authors are out there.

That is one of the great things about our digital age. Anyone can publish a book. Of course it means that bad authors can publish, but it also means that good authors that wouldn’t make it through the filters of a publishing house, can now be discovered by the people.

Goodreads

If you want to see what I’m reading now, what I’ve read and how I liked it, make your way to my Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/75404728-bas-hollander

 

 

Starting my Youtube Channel

Starting my Youtube channel

Following my own advice of my latest blog posts, I started working on my Youtube channel. I had 3 videos I had posted in the past, but as most Youtube advice goes, consistency and quantity are key (as well as video quality of course. Meaning post regularly and keep posting until the Youtube algorithms start picking you up and you get suggested and as a result receive views.

The magic number of views is 10,000 for your channel, at that point certain locked features open up for you to enable to promote and monetize your videos.

The first videos

Working from home and having held off on some airbrush jobs to re-evaluate my art business I had time, so I’ve posted daily. I filmed in the morning, edited in the afternoon, posted late afternoon.

The first movies aren’t good. I had to buy some studio lights to get better lighting and bought a better webcam for studio filming (I have a good camera for filming outside the studio. I also had to set up my art studio, so it works better for the videos.

I also tried some different formats. I did some how-to videos, a vlog in Dutch, tips and tricks and a sped-up video showing me airbrushing.

I’m already noticing which ones get the most views (how-to videos) and the viewer engagement (many viewers stop watching about halfway). I already have a good idea how to fix those issues.

The outlook

However, I feel good about my first week on Youtube. No, I’m not seeing much viewing growth yet, but I’m convinced that by keeping going, eventually I’ll get there. My focus will be on DIY artistic paint projects. I think a lot of people wonder how to paint something, touch something up, or even how to fix an item, to then paint it. In between, I’ll post some straight-up art creation videos. I’ve built a following organically on Facebook, so I can do it on Youtube too.

It does take up much time and that means I will become more selective in the commissioned jobs I will take on. I’ll still take on goalie masks of course (I love my goalies) and motorcycle art, but less of the unusual requests I get that in the past I said yes to for the money.

The reason and the plan

So why do all this? Well, if you read the past blog posts, you’ll have an idea, but bottom line is that I’ve come to the conclusion that if you want to make money from your art, it’s not good enough anymore to rely on folks buying your art, or even commissioned art. People will pay a limited amount for entertainment art, but almost none for straight up visual art. But even in entertainment, the money doesn’t really come from straight up sales. Marketing and advertising allow the vehicles for your art to pay the artist. Think Youtube ,  Spotify and Apple Music. People are willing to pay a nominal amount per month to be entertained on demand, like Netflix.

As a visual artist I think it’s just not good enough to try to live from the sale of your artwork. I’m trying to make the creation of my art the product or service that entertains my fans. If I sell the actual artwork it’s a bonus, but I think I can make a business out of creating art on Youtube, both as entertainment and educationally.

Millennials are already big consumers of Youtube, but the next generation relies even more on Youtube and is even less likely to pay for any of the art they enjoy online. Because of that I think that I need to catch up, because relying on art sales is not a sustainable.

Click here to view my Youtube channel

Or on my web page: Youtube

My first Youtube vlog is live!

OK, so I just published my first vlog on Youtube. It was terrifying to put my face and voice out there, but those who have read my last blog post will understand why. For traditional visual artists like me, the game is changing and I believe Youtube is the key to staying up to date.

The case for Youtube

We 40 plussers are stuck in a rut of paying for services and art that our kids will never pay for. My daughter may be persuaded to pay a $10 or $15 per month fee for entertainment, music or books, but she will probably never see the value in paying roughly $200 per month for cable TV or buying one music album for the same price as a month subscription to Spotify.

It’s time for a dinosaur like me to hop on the train, before it’s passed by completely. To me that train is Youtube. I hear all my contemporaries talk about their kids always being on Youtube. It’s often followed by “I don’t understand it, what’s the point in watching someone else play a game?”. The thing is that my teenager gets much more out of it than just watching Pewdiepie playing games. She gets news from a different perspective than we do. She often knows what’s happening in the world before we do and she has a refreshing point of view. I often wish I was as unbiased as she is.

One big difference between Youtube and TV is that Youtube is interactive. You watch, comment, like and post your own stuff.

I’m doing it!

So, I’ve made a conscious decision to do just that. And guess what? I’ve found some fantastic content to follow, from pure entertainment to great news channels.

And now the moment has finally come for me to publish my own content. They always say your first Youtube video is the worst, so I figure it can only go up from here, as I get more comfortable talking to a camera and hearing my own voice and seeing my face. I’m ready for it. I feel like I’m in the caboose, but I’m heading towards the 2nd class wagon.

Go watch it

Check out my first Youtube vlog right here and don’t forget to click the little thumbs up if you like it:

 

Learn more on my website: https://www.artbybas.com/

The modern, successful artist provides entertainment.

“From today, painting is dead’ is allegedly a quote from French painter Delaroche after observing the first photographic process.

Of course, photography hasn’t taken the place of painting completely, but it has had its effect on the old 17th century profession of portrait painting. We may see photography now as an art form that can easily live side-by-side with fine art painters, but I am noticing an interesting overall shift in the art world from static art to entertainment.

What art do we really spend money on?

I don’t think any artform is dead or is going to be soon, but let’s face it, how many of us spend money on original art?

There are art collectors who buy original paintings and sculptures, but in my experience, most people who come to art shows are quite happy to spend a small amount of money on a nice art print. Places like Ikea, Pottery Barn and World Market also have a good collection of inexpensive prints, so you don’t even need to go to an art show. That has an impact on the value of artwork and the ability to be a professional visual artist. It’s tough to live on $30-$60 art prints.

I’m sure that also includes photographers, who probably feel the hit from the amazing camera apps and increasingly better phone cameras. You can take a half decent picture on your Iphone, use an app to enhance it and print it for $30 on canvas at Walmart. Who needs an artist? The photographer will tell you it’s not as good as a professional photo and a quality print and they’re probably right, but if you just want something colorful on the wall it’ll do and it may even come with good memories from the time the picture was taken.

If I think about what visual art I spend my money on, I must admit I’m more likely to buy a print at a Comic Con than original art. I think the last piece of original art I’ve bought was 16 years ago! I’ve bought plenty of cool art prints though.

I also buy concert tickets, Kindle books, go to the movies and occasionally I’ll pay for a music download from Itunes and I sometimes buy theater tickets. All of those have one thing in common, they’re a form of entertainment to pass the time. That’s also the one thing a piece of static art, like a painting or even airbrush art on a motorcycle doesn’t do. It’s cool and may make you stop to look at, but it doesn’t entertain for an hour or more. In fact, I will argue that riding a motorcycle with or without airbrush art is equally entertaining.

But I’m a dinosaur, I know that younger generations don’t typically buy music, but stream it or download it for free from Youtube. If you dig hard enough on the internet you don’t need to pay for an ebook either (sorry writers). Movies can be watched on various streaming services or Youtube. Although going to the movies, going to a concert and going to the theater are tough to replace, because it’s an event. It’s also a moment to lose yourself and if anything, something to brag about on social media.

Entertainment is key

If we are only willing to pay for artists to entertain us, then especially us artists of static, visual art, need to rethink what we’re doing if we want to live of the proceeds of our art.

Hard work

I think we’ve come to a point where the artist with professional aspirations needs to be part of a medium that people do spend money on. That means providing entertainment. But I also think the successful artist needs to work harder than ever. Look at any successful musician. With money from music album sales dwindling and streaming services paying pennies, musicians are forced to hit the road more often and longer in addition to composing and recording new material.

Youtubers seem like a bunch of young men and women who just play games with the camera on, but these men and women work hard! Many hours go into creating all that online content. If they miss a beat, they lose many subscribers. Some of them are even touring now, going from online to live entertainment. I’m going to see Markiplier in January in a theater in Denver. Many podcasters, such as Mark Brickey from Adventures in Design and The Minimalists, tour the country many months of the year.

Want to write novels? You had better be prolific and when you’re not writing, make those book tours! It’s no different for anyone in the movie and theater industry. Right before a movie comes out, you see the actors hit the talk shows on TV.

Make a choice

I think as artists we have come to a point where you must make a choice: Set your life and family aside and work the many, many hours to be successful in a form of entertainment, where there still is money to be made, or accept that your art is a side business and enjoy creating it, without the pressure of making money doing it.

Volunteering makes you happy.

It’s a couple of minutes before the curtain rises. Last check: “Where’s Macbeth?” – “He’s here” comes a whisper in the dark. “Lady MacBeth? Shakespeare? Do you have your props? Do you have the dagger?”

The kids are nervously excited, so am I…. An hour and a half later, or maybe two hours, I can’t even tell, the audience is applauding and as the kids come off stage I high-five every one of them. Once they’ve all cleared out, I put away some of the props of the last scene, close the script folder and turn off my reading lights. I feel excited, adrenaline still rushing through my body, I’m proud of the kids, who just put away another Shakespeare play and ecstatic to have been able to be part of elementary school age kids having fun while learning Shakespeare. Something they’ll be grateful for, when their high school teacher or college literature lecturer introduces a Shakespeare play and every other kid in the room lets out a heavy sigh…

volunteering at a school Shakespeare play

I peek around the corner to see parents hugging their children and congratulating the teachers who helped put this together and the amazing teacher who writes a new Shakespeare based play every year.

Still high on the excitement I walk outside. It’ll take me a long time to go to sleep that evening from excitement and pure, undiluted happiness.

Why I started volunteering.

Why would I possibly volunteer to design and build a 25 by 8 Foot theater set and take on the role of stage director, without experience? Why are there a whole bunch of parents who help with rehearsals, putting together a dinner theater and decorating the school in Shakespeare theme weeks before the plays? Why do some parents volunteer so often and others never?

About a year before, one of the teachers involved with the Shakespeare Club asked me to create the set for the play and to take over as stage director. Creating the set is up my alley as an artist, but I was nervous about stage directing. I’d never done anything like it before.

Like many other people, I used to feel like I was too busy to volunteer and that it’s for busy-bodies who don’t have enough to do.

I started volunteering, because the school did me a solid and I felt I had to return the favor. I volunteered as a classroom parent, then got involved in the PTCO (called PTO in some schools) redesigning their website and assisting with the book fair and later Shakespeare Club. I then also stepped up to be active in my son’s cub scout pack as a scout leader and outside the school by doing graphic design work for a charity for homeless youth. Thanks to that, I gained appreciation for their difficult situation and the hard work of the charity. That was an incredible experience.

If I don’t get paid, what do I get out of it?

According to Google (so it must be true), a volunteer is a person who offers a service willingly and without pay. That sounds altruistic.

Yet, like most volunteers, I’m not truly altruistic. So, what do I get out of it? Well, nothing financially, but being active for the school does get you some recognition by the teachers and school staff, which is nice. But the real benefit is the wonderful feeling you get, when you see the results of your work for a cause you genuinely care for. It creates happiness.

I’d love to, but I don’t have time

You could argue that as a self-employed artist and stay-at-home dad I have more time to give than others, but that’s not exactly true. My get-stuff-done time are the 6 hours while the kids are at school, which is short for a work day. On the other hand, I don’t have a boss to ask for time off to volunteer.

Not all volunteering requires a lot of work or time. Often, it’s just one task, temporary or can be done at home or work. It could be as simple as making some photocopies. Many times it’s a team effort, so you can take on a job that fits your schedule.

Helpers High – As good as chocolate

The happiness and excitement I felt after the Shakespeare show is known by scientists as “Helpers High”.

According to Tracy P. Alloway Ph.D., who’s a psychology professor at the University of Florida, “giving of your time or volunteering can release the same feel-good sensation as eating chocolate or a candy bar. Brain scans show a surge of dopamine (the chemical in the brain that makes you feel good) when we give our volunteer time”

In addition, other studies have found that the chemical oxytocin, that reduces stress, is released by your brain when you volunteer. There are even studies that show people live longer when they volunteer regularly.

Say yes!

So, next time someone asks you to volunteer for anything you care about, remember that volunteering makes you feel happy. Just ask if they have a task that fits your schedule. Once you experience not only the satisfying result of your volunteering, but also how much the people in the organization appreciate your effort, you’ll realize how much happier you feel and you can also experience Helpers High!

Painting hair on a baby doll

American Girl baby doll painting

I get unusual requests sometimes for airbrush work. I received an email with the question if I could paint hair back on a baby doll. It turns out that this was an American Girl baby doll, the kind that doesn’t have real hair, but hair painted on. Somehow it got scratched or white paint streaks on it, unclear, but easily airbrushable and it actually looks like those dolls’ hair gets airbrushed on by American Girl Doll anyway.

 

The price

This is one of those cases where I have no idea how much to charge, because it’s a small, unusual job. As a father of a girl, I know how much a doll or a stuffed animal can mean, so I’m more than happy to do it. When something like that happens I just let the customer offer what she’s willing to pay.

Airbrush Rogaine treatment

So, I met with mom, got the doll, took it to my studio. Masked off what needed to be protected from paint, put a little paper towel barber’s cape on her and went to work.

Before painting the baby doll hair After painting the baby doll hair

After care

After I was done, I was about to shut off my compressor and walk out, but looked over and there’s the doll, looking at me. I know that this is this little girl’s favorite doll and that she’s trusting me with it, even though she has to spend tonight without sleeping with her doll. I couldn’t leave it in my messy, paint stained studio, that gets f-ing cold at night.

So, I picked her up and placed her among other toys on the shelf in my daughter’s room. Tomorrow she will get a matte clear coat, so the masking tape needs to stay on overnight. Then she can go back to her little girl mommy.

The reward

There’s no better reward in life than making a little girl happy.

 

On being a stay-at home dad.

Quitting my job meant that I would become the primary caretaker of our kids. In our case, that meant being a stay-at-home dad.

Not missing anything anymore.

I was excited. When I was working a full-time job, I somehow always seemed to be traveling when there was a dance recital, school play or another milestone of my kids that I would never get to experience again. Now I wasn’t going to miss a thing any longer. It’s true, I’m part of it all now and more; volunteering for the PTCO (or PTO), helping design the set of the annual school Shakespeare play, being cub master of my son’s cub scout pack. I’m grateful for it all, even on the days I wonder why the hell I signed up for it…

Not the only stay-at home dad.

At the time, I was glad to find some other stay-at home dad’s picking up their young kids from school. When I grew up there only ever was a dad picking up if he was off work. We’d chat after school while the kids played. You realize they all have a story. The ones I met were all professionals with a college degree, who had agreed with their wife that they were going to be at home for the kids, instead of their wife. I know a former lawyer, a former management consultant, a librarian and a few others, of whom I don’t know what they did in their former career.

Most of these guys keep themselves occupied between 8 and 3 like me, with another home based occupation. They also tend to use their expertise from their former career in a voluntary position for the school or the PTO (or PTCO in our case), cub scouts and other clubs.

The stigma of the stay-at-home dad.

However, I do still notice a stigma with being the male home maker, as opposed to female. It’s when you’re at a social gathering and inevitably someone asks that question: “what do you do?”. It’s such a loaded question. It really means “Where do you stand on the social ladder compared to me?”, even if you use it as an ice breaker or to break the silence. I noticed that when you say you’re a home maker or stay-at-home dad, it’s an instant conversation killer. Many men don’t know how to respond to it. They’re used to talking a little shop and they suddenly can’t. Women tend to react much more positively, because they have a much better idea of what you do, or I think they appreciate that you clearly agree that women should be empowered to have a career, regardless of having kids.

Now of course I tell those who ask that dreaded question that I’m an artist, which never kills the conversation and is fun to see the reaction which ranges from disdain (oh, the starving artist), to interest or even envy (he doesn’t have to deal with the crap I deal with at the office).

The ultimate project manager.

For those that think being a stay-at-home dad is a matter of hanging around, watching Netflix, playing X-Box or that it makes you a deadbeat, think again. The more you are at home, the more you realize that your house needs cleaning, decluttering and maintenance. In addition, you need some serious organizational and project management skills to ensure that there is food in the house, there are school snacks available, to keep on top of special events at school (almost every week something), there are no conflicts with soccer, dance, guitar class, flag football, scouting. Birthday party invitations and presents, making sure homework is done…including reading, bike tires are inflated. Add to that, dentist appointments, doctors’ appointments, orthodontist, car maintenance etc. It’s no surprise that Google Calendar is my best friend.

The Reward.

There’s a huge pay-off. I get to see my kids more, be part of their lives, bond with them and know what’s going on in their lives and at school. I can contribute and be part of the community, which is material for a whole other blog posting. I got to know the wonderful teachers at school and made friends with other volunteers, neighbors, moms and dads. And when I’m not doing that, I get paid to create art!

10 rules I live by for an efficient and happier daily routine

10 efficient rules to live your daily life by…

I’m an organized person. I like to plan, get things done and I don’t like being late. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I have rules for an efficient working day.

I try to have a daily routine and even though there’s almost always something that throws it off, I like having a plan, so I try to follow these 10 rules.

10 rules for an efficient work day

  1. Make a physical list the evening before. I use a small notepad, where I jot down thoughts of what I need to do tomorrow in a list. I don’t do it digitally, because I’ve found digital lists are too easy to ignore. My list sits next to the coffee machine, where I see it often throughout the day.
  2. Start the day reading something meaningful. I think it’s important to put yourself in a good frame of mind for the day. Don’t start with work, email or the news. They all trigger feelings of stress. I’m not a religious person, so my morning reading tends to be about mindfulness, compassion and other life lessons. Another person might read the Bible, Koran or whatever. The point is to start the day with a sense of being grateful for your life and the people in your life and thereby realizing that not everyone is so lucky and that any day can potentially be your last. Don’t waste your time being angry, unhappy or mean to others.
  3. Eat a good breakfast. Not cereal or a quick bite in the car. Your brain and your body needs fat to be full, content and happy. I cook breakfast for my family every day, so we can all last until lunchtime without being hungry or needing a snack. If you’re in a hurry, make sure you have a boiled egg in the fridge you can eat. Avoid sugars and carbs. They make you lethargic, tired, hungry and fat.
  4. Delay reading your first emails of the day, because once you start, you know you’ll be putting out fires for a while. Many problems solve themselves and most can wait, really, they can. So, if you have something that must be done today, do it before looking at emails.
  5. Dumb down your smart phone. I turn my smart phone off around 8 or 9pm and usually don’t switch it on until about 9am. That allows me to spend the evening with my family without distraction, sleep without disturbance and focus on my morning routines. I also removed all my social media and games from the phone, except Instagram (I use it to post pictures of my artwork, but I rarely spend much time visiting it). Instead I have my books on the Kindle app, so when I’m in a situation where I’m waiting somewhere, I spend time reading. This was an excellent tip from The Minimalists. I read more and waste much less time on Facebook. It’s also much better for my data usage.
  6. Have lunch at a set time. I don’t eat a huge lunch, because I have a good breakfast, so I don’t spend much time on it, but I try to have lunch at pretty much the same time every day.
  7. Stop working when you get home. This one is hard for me, because my art studio is at my house, so it’s easy to slip in there. But really it is much better to set work to the side and give my wife and kids the full attention they deserve. Again, this one is very hard for me. My brain wants to keep going. However, when I adhere to this rule I’m always happy afterwards that I did.
  8. Read before sleeping. Nothing can keep you up more than to work late or to stare at a screen late at night. Nothing helps you sleep better than reading a book in bed. If you must have something keep you awake, let the book hit you in the face as you fall asleep.
  9. Keep electronics out of the bedroom. Even your TV! Luckily my wife wholeheartedly agrees with me and believe me, once you start doing this your partner will too, because as far as I’m concerned, the bedroom is for 2 activities only and both are more enjoyable than TV or Facebook. I notice the difference, even if I’m just charging my phone in the bedroom. Only the Kindle is allowed.
  10. Use a shared calendar with your family. We use a shared Google calendar. We can all add to it and see what we’ve going on. That way there are less surprises, better planning and less chance at double booked appointments. It really reduced stress in our household.

Art Pricing III – Custom art on objects

Art Pricing for commissioned work on objects

The first time I had my hockey goalie mask painted, I wasn’t working as an artist yet. I had bought a brand-new mask. I remember that my budget for the paint job was (arbitrarily chosen, I admit), no more than what I had spent on the mask. After all, in my mind it was just decoration, whereas the function of the mask, to protect my noggin, was worth much more. The idea that the paint job was skilled art work that takes much more time than to create a mass-produced goalie mask and therefore should cost more, never crossed my mind. I looked at the art pricing from the consumer’s perspective, not the artist’s.

A goalie mask will set you back on average around $500. OK, there are more expensive ones and cheaper ones. To paint a goalie mask typically takes me around 2 weeks, including preparation for painting and clear coating. Of course, I don’t work on it a solid 8 hours a day – I’m also a stay-at-home dad and I usually work on more than one project at a time.The artist airbrushing a goalie mask.

If I was to divide the price my customers pay for a goalie mask paint job by the hours I spend on it, it comes to a little over minimum wage. I avoid doing that. It’s depressing. If I priced the paint jobs properly by the hour at what I think it should cost, the cost to paint a goalie mask would be prohibitive for most goalies.

The Art Pricing Value Gap

I call that the art pricing value gap. The difference between what the value of a piece of art should be or is even perceived and what the customer is willing to pay for it.

I think most of my customers would agree after I paint something for them, that the value of the paint job is far higher than what they paid. However, budget constraints simply won’t let them pay that. That’s OK and understandable. We all know this struggle.

So once again, my father’s wise words, that you price an item to what the fool is willing to pay hold up. However, in this case it really backfires.

The value of doing what you enjoy

Why do it then? Well, I could spend my time in an office, making much more than I do, performing a job I don’t want to do, 8 hours a day? Not in corporate America, where you’re required to show your commitment to the company by working many more hours than the regular work week.

Or, I could make a lot less, but do what I want, be my own boss and enjoy what I do and spend more time with my family, which all makes me happy! That’s a choice I made.

Not all jobs are like the goalie masks though. I find that the higher the value of the object you paint, the more people are willing to pay. My motorcycle customers are willing to pay more than my goalie mask people.

Of course, there are occasionally exceptions, but I think many of my colleagues in the custom art world will agree that they prefer not to divide what they get paid by the number of hours they put into a project.

Lastly, my airbrush teacher had looked at it in a positive light: “Every dollar of profit you make, is more than you had in your pocket yesterday”. I’m not so sure that that holds up when you look at your total business accounting, but it puts things nicely in perspective. Enjoy what you do and be grateful for that.

Amsterdam museum visit

When I go home to The Netherlands it’s typically to spend time with my mother and my brother. Often there isn’t much time for other things. I’m not from anywhere near Amsterdam, so I rarely get to visit there as a tourist.

On my last trip, I decided after I landed at the airport near Amsterdam that the best time to do that was there and then. So, I told my family I’d get there a few hours later and headed to the Museum Square.

Here you find the Stedelijk Museum for modern art, the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum, which boasts an impressive collection of the Old Dutch masters.

Banksy at the Moco Museum

As I walked over, I noticed another small museum called the Moco museum, which advertised a Banksy and a Dali exhibit.

Having never seen any Banksy’s for real, I decided to check that out first. It had just opened, so I was the first one inside.

I will share some of my favorite Banksy pieces here. The Dali exhibit contained different stuff than the usual items you know of him. It didn’t strike a chord with me. I’m sure for the Dali connoisseur it would have been great though.

Rijksmuseum

After Banksy I headed to the Rijksmuseum for some of my favorite paintings of the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer and contemporaries. It’s hard to grasp the incredible collection of art in that single building. Here are a few of my faves.

Who are your favorite artists to find in museums? And which museums are your favorites?