The Garden Sign Business

Painting on the fence boards has been a lot of fun. So far it’s been three sunflower paintings and one featuring Columbine, a bee and some dog prints. They’re faster to paint than an oil, partly because they’re painted in acrylic paint, partly because of their size and partly because of the nature of the job. They all belong to people I know and that makes me happy, too. So far, they have gone or are going to Montana, New Mexico and Idaho. Another has crossed Wolf Creek Pass and is another small Colorado town. I LOVE painting these.

Painting sunflowers is as much fun as growing them. ❤


Painting in acrylics requires that I mix paint. Yesterday, painting the Columbine sign, I got to enjoy that miracle. With acrylics I am pretty happy with the basic palette of primary colors — red, blue and yellow. You can do pretty much everything with just those colors.

Basic palette — with a tube of white.

The painting below is an acrylic painting of a scene at Zion Natl. Park I did in the 90s. It’s acrylic on Masonite. Not a great photo, but you get the idea. The only colors I used were the colors above. Amazing but wonderful.

I seldom mix paint for my oil paintings. I mix the colors right on the canvas while the paint is wet — if at all. The only actual mixing I might do on the palette is blue with white for sky.

Shopping for paints a while back — comparison shopping whites — I learned that the most sold white is Titanium white which is very white and opaque. It dries pretty fast, too, which is part of its appeal. The white I want exists, but I don’t think I’ll probably ever use it. It has microscopic bits of crystal in it, making it transparent. It’s also a lead white.

Most of the time I use Gamblin’s Flake White Replacement which was built to replace lead white. Never having used lead white, I have no idea how close it is to that beloved and deadly color, but I like it. In case you’re bobbling on the edge of your seat right now wondering, “More than one white? WTF? How can that be?”

Gamblin oil colors’ range of whites

All this painting of signs has given me some thought about business. I’ve been using Etsy which, for now, has more benefits than liabilities. I first opened an Etsy shop in 2011. The platform was smaller then, with fewer options for sellers (and buyers). A big problem for people like me is merchandising and marketing. That’s the MOST difficult part of being a self-published writer. Merchandising art is a little easier because you can SHOW it to people and they instantly know if they want it or not. I learned that in Denver in 1981 when I took my pile of gouache paintings to ONE coffeehouse to see if they wanted to give me a show and the owner said, “YES!!!!” Just like that. Maybe that happens with novels, but not in my lifetime. ❤

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/08/10/rdp-monday-bobble/

21 thoughts on “The Garden Sign Business

  1. I can so relate to the dilemma of selecting white paint. Went to the paint store this weekend for that purpose. They actually have a therapy dog (he’s not certified, but he might as well be!) to sit with people who get stressed about selecting paint. **me with white paint chips** You’d have loved him, Martha. Part Great Pyrenees, part St Bernard, part something else. Looked like a Golden Retriever. I could have stayed in that paint store all day, with that dog by my side.

  2. An intriguing post! I never thought of mixing right on the canvas — great idea.Mind you, my painting has mostly been on wood (birdhouses) & “bug” rocks. I only dream of painting on canvas. Someday, when so many other things are done and out of the way.
    And a therapy dog for people who get stressed over paint colors! Wow! However, when you look for “light blue” you’re apt to see at least 50 different shades. So, yes, I can believe it.

    • One of the things I’ve learned about color over the years is that two colors next to each other will “create” a third color in the eye of the viewer. There’s a line of “green” in the dead tree painting that isn’t there at all, but looking at the painting from a distance, you see it and you see it in photographs. Old masters knew this and impressionists made a big deal out of this phenomenon, but I never thought about it in any systematic way, just noticed it happening as I painted. But, the phenomenon has been described in detail tons of times. It’s just kind of tedious to read about colors and a lot more fun to play with them.

  3. We had to try to match the ceiling white – who knew there were so many different colors of white?!?! Anyway I love that you are having such success with the garden signs. It is always fun to know where they are headed once they leave your hands. I think you are very right when it comes to marketing physical pieces of art versus literary art (books). I’ve had 2 big shows (individual) and was able to get pieces into juried shows at least 4 times. But I doubt anyone other than my mother would want my poetry…

  4. My only experience with paint is wall paint. We have white walls and ceilings here, however the walls definitely look gray when just a lamp is turned on. It is so weird. Choosing a shade of red/pink/coral or whatever turned out to be the lesson for “don’t trust a paint chip” to judge 4 walls of color. Many years ago, we had a “Dusty Rose” disaster – a do-over the next day. If I was a real painter (like you), I’d consider painting a mural on one of our bedroom walls. I think that would be really cool. I really like those sunflowers. ❤️

    • I love painting murals. I have a job ahead of me once the virus is over. I painted the Eiger on my own bedroom wall back in California and several murals for friends. It’s a wonderful thing to paint such a large size.

      The color of the light that hits a wall changes the color of the wall. I think that’s one of the challenges of wall painting. My mom once picked a “beige” and painted the living room that color. She wanted my dad to paint the book case he’d built and anchored to the wall and he said, “I don’t want a goddamned pink book case, Helen.” When they turned on the lights that night, the walls WERE pink. My mom hated it. 😀

      • Lucky you! That sounds like so much fun…a whole wall as your canvas. Your mom story is hysterical. Your dad ended up with a goddamned pink room and a book case! And nobody liked it. 😄

  5. Eager for my columbines, bee and paw prints to arrive ❤

    With your talent and imagination I'm sure you can create a variety of items people will want in their homes/gardens. A good use of pandemic extra time at home!

  6. Reading you talk about pain brought back memories of when I painted. Your mind is at work on the painting, but your hands and fingers are at work with the paint. I think my hands miss that physical feel of handling paint,, perhaps even the mixing of it on the canvas. I wonder whether that is a common feeling.

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