I’ve had a much needed muse break with the Exalted Art Challenge, but now it’s time to return to my Birthstone Goddesses! First off, a warm welcome to the Patrons who just joined up. You’re in for a treat as we enter this final exciting phase of this project!
Over the past few years, I’ve created the main set of paintings, the Visage collection, and the enamel pins, and now I want to take the final bold steps towards the big ambitions I had for this series. Here’s a rundown of what I’m working on and what’s in store!
My dear Patrons will be getting that behind the scenes look into my design, publishing, and production process along the way, along with exclusive glimpses behind the scenes!
The Wall Calendar
Part of the major conceit of creating the original set of 12 images was that I wanted to make a wall calendar. I’m finally making moves towards this endeavor and will need to create this calendar from scratch, as the nontraditional size of the images means I will need to have them custom cut and printed.
I already have templates and a local printer in mind and I hope to launch this calendar on Kickstarter around August of this year so that it can be created in time for a 2022 calendar! Patreon Patrons will be getting an exclusive peek at how I’m designing the layouts and other creative notes along the way.
(The main set of 12 paintings.)
The Art Book
What better way to wrap up this project then to collect the art created for it into a luxurious book? This is my crown jewel, the ultimate showpiece of this series! One of my biggest endeavors to happen next is to start working on the book’s storyboards. I want to not just show off the art, but part of the narrative and research I’ve developed over time for this series as well as create an elegant collectible volume.
I also want to create never before seen paintings for this book (which you can see a hint at the thumbnails in the featured image of this piece). I’m calling these new paintings the ‘Dark Goddesses’, as I’m taking some of my favorite Goddesses from the series and giving them a new rendition in my own style!
I adore Mucha, but I also want to leave my own mark with this series that shows more of my own style than Mucha’s. These new paintings will be much more of my own dark elegant surreal aesthetic, which I hope you will still enjoy!
There’ll no doubt be many tasks that need doing, from spot illustrations to hiring a proper designer to help me with the book layout, but I expect to get the majority of work done before I Kickstart this book, which I want to happen in 2022. 2021 is going to be about all the prep work!
As ever, I’ll also be sharing sneak peeks of the Dark Goddesses paintings and other book tasks exclusively for Patrons!
Other Birthstone Goddesses Collections
I still have it in mind to release the following things along the way. Some of them have already been created, but still await a proper release!
- Stickers – These designs have already been completed, but aren’t in my shop yet. Currently researching dropship fulfillment options!
- Totes/Messenger Bags – I test ran these at DragonCon a couple of years back. I sold out completely so it’s time to get them ready for a proper release in my shop!
- Scarves – These also did well at the last in-person event I was at! I’ll be taking customer feedback to heart so I can re-release them properly to my shop.
- Greeting Cards – I already have designs for these, but am still working on setting them up with a dropship fulfillment system like Printful and Art of Where.
- Gift Sets – I’ve always felt proper birthday gift sets featuring everyone’s favorite products matched to birthstone-themed jewelry and a pretty dried flowers (or perhaps a sticker?) would be an exciting thing to offer! I’m still coming up with ideas of what to bundle together and how to present them so I can make them available for everyone.
My Would-be Dream Collections
These are wishes for cool things I’m not sure how to make happen, but hope that speaking aloud might happen some day!
Birthstone Goddess Jewelry – I really want to expand the Goddesses into some beautiful wearables so you can channel that feel you get when you look at the art through yourself as well! Gorgeous jewelry is part and parcel of the Art Nouveau movement and I would love to pay homage to that fact by collaborating with a jewelry-maker.
Make-up Palettes – I love, LOVE seeing beautifully illustrated makeup sets with inspiring swatches. Each Birthstone Goddess has her own color scheme based on her flowers and birthstones as well, which seems like a perfect match for makeup. Plus the idea of illustrating a cover with a focus on the glamourous side of my Goddesses sounds so exciting!
Teas, Perfumes, Bath Bombs, and/or Soaps – All of these things bring me comfort and a sense of calm, while also having a luxurious feel and aesthetic to them. I’m especially a sucker for tea mixes and fancifully illustrated tea labels!
Know of anyone I should talk to about these ideas? Feel free to message their contact info to me and I’ll add them to the prospects list for when I am read to expand into these endeavors!
I’ve got a lot to do as a 1-person biz, but I’m excited to get back into the fray! I’ll be working through Emily Jefford’s Making Art Work marketing course over the next couple of months and am looking forward to gaining new insight on how to handle all of my ambitions for this series.
It’s been an amazing journey thus far in the 6 or so years I’ve been at this! I’m excited to share the last leg of the journey and see what it reveals. My hope is that this series would become the backbone of a self-sustaining business and I’m just starting to see good results from that.
Here’s to a future filled with beautiful art that I hope will bring you as much happiness as I’ve had in the sharing of it with you!
I’m so pleased to have good news to share this month! My husband was able to come home from the hospital and has managed a miraculous recovery from COVID. Kev has gone from possibly needing a cane and an oxygen tank to needing neither with no adverse effects, beyond bouts of fatigue he’s still struggling with. He’ll still need to strengthen his lungs, as they were weakened by COVID and pneumonia, but we are so relieved, as things could have gone so differently! We’re so grateful to have been able to celebrate our 4th anniversary together.
It’s given us both perspective to enjoy life while we can. Our plans to find a new home continue and I’ve meanwhile returned to work this last week in February with renewed focus and appreciation for our good fortune. I’m also slated to start new training with Emily Jefford’s Making Art Work in March, which I hope will help me figure out a path forward through the difficulties of this pandemic. I look forward to making my Birthstone Goddesses the best they can be as I continue with their journey to publication and expanding that vision in the coming months!
Coming in March
There will be a new fantasy-themed coloring page and a wallpaper for my Patreon digital library. I’ll also be sharing Secret Sketchbook notes for my next painting of Temperance for the Woven Path Tarot. I have some exciting major project updates to share as well, now that my muse break with the Exalted Art Challenge is over!
Digest of February’s Posts
- My Patreon Turns 8 Years Old! + FREE Lady of Eternity Pin
- Art Collection: Exalted Art Challenge 2020
- My Share the Work Challenge + New IG Account!
Rewards Added in February
I’m happy to see life returning to a form of normalcy for us and to take a big step forward as I return with renewed energy to the next and final phase of the Birthstone Goddesses!
Till next time. More soon!
It’s been a time of trial and change for me lately with our personal struggles with COVID and the way it has impacted my art business. It’s fair to say my life has been upended! With that in mind, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching trying to figure out where we go from here.
And that is when Emily Jefford’s Share the Work free mini-class came to me earlier last week. I had seen Emily’s name recommended around the art community by people I admire (Naomi VanDoren, to name someone with an absolutely stellar and successful art biz).
Emily invited artists to try out her 5 day challenge which explores our understanding of our art and our business readiness, so I decided to take on the challenge!
I welcome you to explore the blog posts I wrote as I absorbed her lectures and did the worksheets for myself:
- Day 1 – Clarify Your Vision & Why It Matters
- Day 2 – Sharing Your Vision With Your Audience
- Day 3 – Turn Your Vision into Visuals
- Day 4 – Evaluate + Share + Evaluate
- Day 5 – Do A Brave Thing
To summarize, Emily’s challenge surprised me with just how much focus there is on understanding what meaning your art has to others, but ALSO what meaning it has for you, if you’re comfortable with the act of creating it, what value it brings to your life, etc. This is important because, as I’ve realized with my many bouts with burnout, if the work isn’t fun for you to physically do, how do you hope to make a permanently sustainable business?
I had some big revelations along the way so I recommend you folks read the blog posts for the details! May they be useful for others who might be wandering the same road of creative entrepreneurship that I am.
I also got to create a brand mood board, which is something I had never thought to do. It felt great to define a vision for my Birthstone Goddesses with more intention!
(I also created a blank template of this board you’re free to use. Enjoy!)
My New Instagram Account
The very last day of Emily’s challenge asked me to do a BOLD thing and my choice was to create an all-new Instagram account for my Fine Art endeavors! It was scary, but it feels so very good to finally do this. Over time, my main account has become more about my personal characters, comic experiments, etc. It’s been more challenging to elevate my fine art pieces when I’m also sharing a silly comic about my D&D party’s latest misadventure or fan art memes on the same account!
So please welcome @AngelicShadesArt which will now be the exclusive home for my Birthstone Goddesses and other gallery-minded projects! I’d be so grateful if you gave it a Follow and helped give it some love.
I may occasionally double-post to my main account, @AngelaSasserArt, when I feel there’s common interest, but otherwise, @AngelaSasserArt is going to be all about my original characters, storyworlds, ttrpg adventures, and other illustration and geekery!
I hope my musings prove useful to you guys! Did you take the Share the Work Challenge too? Did you have any revelations along the way?
I’m looking forward to learning more from Emily as I progress into her Making Art Work full time course for artists in March! Till then, I’m going to take the knowledge I learned from Share the Work and start working towards an even more bold and beautiful adventure for my Birthstone Goddesses!
Whew! Emily Jeffords’ Share the Work challenge has been a great ride! We’ve plumbed the depths of meaning in art, unraveled the mystery of the collector, and quelled the chaos of my brain to come up with a brand board.
The final day asked us to do something very simple, but also difficult. Do something bold! After much inner turmoil, I’ve decided my bold action would be to start a new Instagram account! This has been weighing on me for a long time because I already curate several IG accounts and didn’t want to do more work, but honestly, after deep thought spurred on by this course, I realize the folks who like my fine art work definitely are not the same folks who like my illustration and geeky character art. It was time to give both of these bodies of work the space they need to breathe! Meanwhile, I’ll sort out the other IG accounts to see if I could lessen my workload.
So with that in mind, I’ve created AngelicShadesArt, the new space for my Fine Art and Art Nouveau identity! It feels so good to know I won’t scare off Fine Art collectors with art of the dumb thing my D&D character I did smattered between my Birthstone Goddesses pieces on AngelaSasserArt. While I’m certain there are some art collectors out there who might love my geekery, I don’t think this different mood elevates my fine art pieces in the way that I’d like, while also sending a confused branding message to my Followers.
Feel free to give my brand new IG account some love if you like my Birthstone Goddesses and other Fine Art work! I’ll be cleaning up my AngelaSasserArt account and moving all of that Fine Art work to the new account, instead.
In the five days I’ve been working through Emily’s prompts, I’ve learned so much about myself and my own vision. I’ve decided to make the big investment into her Making Art Work course which is focused on the kinds of things I feel I’m lacking in my current business, clear branding, reaching collectors, etc. After 2020 threw a huge wrench into my plans by canceling all of my shows where I planned to debut all the art I’ve been making in the past 5 years, my strategy needs to shift!
Here’s a peek at all the modules of MAW that I’m SUPER STOKED to dive into in March:
I hope you enjoyed this look into the thought processes of a creative entrepreneur! It’s a business like no other and I’m excited to dive even deeper to what this means for me in the coming year that’s presented such a different landscape for me as an art biz. I leave you with the empowering mantra that Emily prompted us to write for ourselves:
Like my Goddesses, I will be powerful, balanced, and beautiful. I will believe in my workings and share my blessings.
Today was the dreaded evaluation where we take a look at ourselves and our biz and decide what we’re doing well or not so well on. Emily’s positivity carried me through this day with her insistence that this is a chance to grow and do something new and to make our biz meet our vision. The worksheet asks us to rate ourselves on our performance in several sectors, from how we feel we’re reaching collectors, how we’re prospering, how consistent is our aesthetic, etc.
The Verdict? I’m not as bad off as I thought. My art is there and that’s the key, but I’m definitely struggling with presentation, branding, and feeling overwhelmed by my multi-faceted business. If you’d like to get the full evaluation form, you can see it here before it disappears in a few days. I’ve omitted including all of the questions here for brevity’s sake.
Have a look at some of the things I settled about my Birthstone Goddesses today. It felt good to make them so concrete after a long time spent talking about them without a unifying intention beyond ‘because I like these things’. There were also some unexpected questions about what my biz believes in and what brings me joy. Joy really is key, huh? Read on for more:
Look Back, Move Forward
Make Something Remarkable
Evaluate where your heart, mind, & business is right now.
CORE VALUES: Feminine empowerment, diverse beauty, inner peace, self-improvement, appreciate of art and nature.
HIGHEST WORK: The main series of the Birthstone Goddesses (and the upcoming additional paintings of them that I’m planning).
TASKS THAT BRING ME THE MOST JOY & HELP ME REACH MY BUSINESS GOALS:
- Creating interesting paintings that make people feel awed and inspired
- Creating a book for this series that allows me to indulge my love of writing and fantastical stories
- Making wearable designs that make people feel beautiful and empowered.
WHAT OPINIONS DOES YOUR BUSINESS HOLD?
Diversity is beautiful. Feminine aspects and stories should be celebrated.
WHAT DOES YOUR BRAND STAND AGAINST?
Racism, the loss of fine art techniques like leathercrafting, and the loss of appreciation for beauty in vintage movements like Art Nouveau.
WHICH AREAS NEED YOUR ENERGY THE MOST RIGHT NOW
- Finding collectors and building sustainability.
- Clarifying my “highest art”.
- Better product photos and clearer aesthetic.
- Refining the Birthstone Goddesses website’s shopping experience.
In the previous days of the Share the Work challenge, I’ve been diving deep trying to think about what my Birthstone Goddesses mean to me and to the people who might collect them. Day 3’s goal was to finally turn all of my musings into a cohesive visual!
Is My Art Worth Selling?
But first, Emily gives you some tips for evaluating whether or not you’re ready to sell your work in the first place. The biggest sticking points here were did I actually enjoy creating the work? Could I sit alone with it in a room and be comfortable with it? I think the intention of these questions is to gauge your excitement and confidence for your work because if you have these things for the art you create, it will come across in your energy as a seller.
I did have some minor revelations here that I actually do not like half of my work from the main set, with the exception of Lady of November, Lady of March, Lady of February, Lady of May, Lady of June, and Lady of September. I usually do not hang my own art in the house because it triggers my constant inner critic, but Lady of November is the first painting of my own that I chose to hang up!
Most of these pieces were also not necessarily enjoyable to create, either. The tedious transfer process and inking really hurt my hands after the hours put in and watercolor terrifies me with its threat of ruining hours of inking each time.
To me, this indicates that my decision to change media to something more loose for the last phase of the series is a good move! I don’t think the original paintings are unsellable, but they are harder for me to connect to as the artist because of the flaws I see in their anatomy, unrefined concepts, etc. My gals come as a set that I do not intend to redo, however, so I will have to learn to love them all!
Visualizing My Brand
Before now, I had already decided while building the website for this body of work that I would have a warm neutral theme with a teal accent, which you can see in action on the website dedicated to this series. I had also created a logo halfway through development. Despite having these basics sorted out, I’ve never done something as intentional as create a brand mood board.
Beware, because creating a brand mood board was really addictive and fun to do! It helped me make more purposeful connections between the feel of vintage art with my modern new age aesthetic. My Birthstone Goddesses were especially tricky to plan around because their color palettes are all over the place to match their respective birthstones and birth flowers!
A neutral scheme with a bright accent and clean font with decorative headers seems to be a good choice so that my detailed colorful art could shine brightest.
- UX Collective – A handy article breaking down the basics of the parts of a brand mood board, what info to include, etc.
- Canva’s Brand Board Advice – A useful article on building a brand, plus templates you can use with Canva’s free cloud-based design functionality.
- My Brand Mood Board Template – I decided to make my own template in Photoshop. Feel free to use this template for your own mood boards! No credit required, but I won’t turn down a thanks via pay what you want on Gumroad, tipping me via my ko-fi, or pitching in to my Patreon.
My journey with Emily Jefford’s Share the Work continues with more deep exploration of the threads of influences that intertwine my work with those who enjoy the art I create. Again, this was challenging for me because I created the Birthstone Goddesses for me and my particular set of tastes first before I figured out the kind of person who might buy them. I just assumed folks like me were out there and that I’d find them eventually! Making that connection wasn’t done with as much intention as it should have been from the start of the project.
Now, I need to figure out why other folks might enjoy this series for reasons I might not have thought of. If you’re out there, Birthstone Goddess fans, let me know what about this series resonates with you and help me solve the great mystery of humans who enjoy my art!
Day 2 Challenge Worksheet
Sharing Your Vision With Your Audience
What makes your work unique?
My work channels the awe-inspiring beauty of the decorative art of Mucha re-imagined with the primal allure of folklore, fantasy, and my own dark elegant aesthetic.
Where do you find inspiration?
From vintage art movements such as Art Nouveau, the Symbolists, etc, holiday traditions, folklore, haute couture fashion, and history.
What stories does your work tell?
My Birthstone Goddesses speak of rituals and blessings, harkening back to real-world traditions retold via original imagery in a liminal fantasy space. They explore the journey of the soul, rituals of death and grieving, fertility, etc. This narrative started to formulate more consistently during the Goddesses of Autumn, while the goddesses I created earlier on weren’t as intentional with their narrative.
Define who your ideal customer is and where they feel most comfortable:
My ideal customer controls their own living space as a home owner (or apartment) and has an appreciation for folklore, history, nature, and feminine empowerment. They also enjoy diverse human beauty in all its forms and may also appreciate or practice pagan or new age spirituality. They are most comfortable surrounded by elegant beautiful things that bring them a sense of peace, mystic awe, and tranquility that also nurtures their own creativity. They are usually women 25 or older.
How can you use empathy to share your work effectively?
By understanding that there is a lack of diversity in Art Nouveau that I didn’t realize until I interacted more with my customers at conventions who loved my work, but didn’t see themselves in it in a way that I was perfectly capable of obliging. After this experience, I realized that I also want my art to look like my own family which spans the gamut from dark to light in so many beautiful ways. I want to bring diverse images of goddesses to all kinds of people, especially women, who want to to feel empowered when they see the goddess that represents their birth month.
What is one way I make buying my work a little more effortless?
I could start by actually updating my shops with all the stuff I’ve been making, but just haven’t had time to properly add yet. I also have a bad habit of just sharing art once and never again because it feels like people will think it’s ‘old news’ and everyone will be bored of seeing it again.
Are my photographs conveying the value of my work?
I either only show the art and not the frame/context or the images of my framed pieces are shown without any lifestyle context. I feel like I could do better to make them feel more posh and magical!
Is my “highest work” being communicated?
Probably not. I only have a small amount of originals posted to my shop because I’ve been waiting for the right moment to share them.
Tomorrow’s challenge, How Do You Know if Your Art is Worth Selling?
It’s been a strange time for me right now. Over the past few years, I’ve created an amazing amount of work for my Birthstone Goddesses project, but now I’m in a place where I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of getting all that work out into the world in a meaningful way! I’ve been learning as I go along using my background in Arts Admin to fly by the seat of my pants, but as far as knowing anything about fine art marketing, I don’t feel my knowledge is adequate.
And that’s why Emily Jefford‘s Making Art Work course has piqued my interest of late! Emily’s name has floated to me over the past couple years as someone who has mentored some amazingly talented folks I know, like Naomi VanDoren, Emily Hare, and Kiri Leonard, to name a few. Her course focuses on fine art marketing from the ground up, from exploring your motivations as a creator to how you can build a sustainable business out of your art. It sounds perfect for helping me feel just a little less crushed beneath the weight of my unorganized ambitions!
As such, I’m hopping on Emily’s free preview course Share the Work 2021, which challenges you to 5 days of prompts that help you explore some basic thought processes for getting your business and your art organized for success. I’ll be sharing my progress here as I complete each worksheet! Enjoy this rip-roaring ride because I’m starting a little late. Share the Work goes away on the 25th (in 6 days)!
Feel free to take the mini-course with me and share your thoughts here in the comments (or on my Discord).
I gotta be honest, guys. All these questions about why I create art and what meaning my art has for others proved really difficult! I’ve never tried to dive too much deeper into why I do what I do, except when I’ve been forced to for school assignments and artist’s statements. I’ve always loved making art. It’s been second nature for so long that I’ve not really questioned it!
Was there any deeper meaning than ‘because I like doing it’? More particularly, I started creating my Birthstone Goddesses because I love Mucha and wanted to create something that channeled that sense of awe and beauty I get from my favorite Art Nouveau pieces. What more meaning did I need than “because I enjoy doing it and maybe other people might like it too?”. The answers I found through this closer examination intrigued me!
Day 1 Challenge Worksheet
Why do you create? What keeps you coming back to the process?
The joy of realizing ideas for things I love and want to see more of in the world. The happiness that comes from mastering a skill. The joy of learning new things.
What meaning does your creative work bring to your life?
Creating images, characters, and stories that resonate and teach people how to be people be better people brings me joy. Spreading an appreciation of nature, beauty, and stories also fulfills me.
How does it benefit others?
Try to go a little deeper than “it’s pretty” — though that totally counts!
I hope that sharing my art helps others gain a similar appreciation that I feel from stories and imagery that teach and empower others. My goddesses, in particular, provide aspirational magic and beauty to empower those individuals whose months each goddess represents.
What messages do you convey through your art?
My Birthstone Goddesses convey a respect for the primal waxing and waning of life and death, the cycle of human festivals of life, love, and death. They pay homage to the cycle of the year that reflect human existence, while also empowering women, the unseen, and underappreciated.
Why does this message matter to you?
I see a lack of the kind of stories about empathy and complex morality in the world and I want to explore them. I also want to see more people who look like my multiracial family. I want to normalize different types of human beauty and to empower myself and others by telling stories that relate to them and motivate them towards positive change.
I was very surprised to see many of my answers leading back to the idea of female empowerment and personal empowerment, though it made sense once I dove deep and connected the dots to the things I personally love, like the history of historical women and other underappreciated figures. It was not an accident that my Birthstone Goddesses span a more diverse range of races, which represent my own colorful family, starting with my olive-skinned Latina mother for December.
These answers also reinforce what I’ve seen at conventions in the past. For example, many folks would pick up the Lady of September (my most popular print), because they liked that she represented an interesting depiction of their personal birth month. She empowered them in a way that other depictions of September by other artists haven’t.
I’m also realizing I’ve been marketing my Birthstone Goddesses more as an illustrator would. I’ve been very focused on the fantastical lore I’ve come up for their function as goddesses. Fine Art, from what I’m gathering from the lectures thus far, is more focused on what a buyer sees of themselves in a piece of work or what that art says about them if they display it.
Hopefully, I can figure out how best to combine both of these approaches! I love telling fantastical stories and I’d love for people to feel empowered and awed by my goddesses without requiring them to necessarily read their lore write-ups.
Tomorrow’s challenge is Sharing Your Vision With Your Audience, which asks probing questions about inspiration and our ideal customers. Should be fun!
After much contemplation, I’ve decided to go ahead and mark the Exalted Art Challenge as ‘complete’! I’ve been working on it since October of 2020, so it was time to end this not-so-short break from the Birthstone Goddesses, despite the fact I didn’t quite get to finish the final two topics of the Challenge due to life throwing some major challenges our way.
My husband is thankfully home and healing very well from COVID! We’ve both been resting after the sleepless nights and it seemed a good time to put this challenge to bed. It’s time to recuperate my energy levels and embark on the next part of my artistic journey!
It’s been a really great ride with this Art Challenge and I’ve enjoyed the creative challenge of strange and new topics for a while. Did you all also enjoy the diversion? I’m curious to know how this crowd likes my TTRPG-inspired art!
I do eventually want to finish the comic for the “Favorite Stunt” topic during my free time. When I do, you can catch the finished pages on my Exalted project’s social media accounts instead:
For now, enjoy a compilation of all the topics! Be sure to click the links to the individual collections for more on each topic and its creative notes.
The Master Challenge List
- Favorite Caste
- Regional Fashion
- Favorite Charm (Sketch)
- Favorite Charm (Final)
- Favorite Incarnae
- Favorite House
- Favorite Spell
- Favorite God
- First Age Incarnation
- Age of Sorrows Incarnation
- Incarnations Back to Back
- Limit Break
- Anima Banner
- Reasons to Have Ox Body
- When No One Takes Sail
- Magic Material
- Signature Character
- Favorite Stunt