New beginnings

sail boat
To my colleagues who taught me what it means to create exceptional work, encouraged me to do what I love, and inspired me to do my very best. I’ll see you in the next port. And remember: Make the pie higher!

Today my new life begins. A life without the day job, a job that’s been my home, my sense-of-self, and my security since the beginning of the 21st Century.

The magazine industry is in precarious waters right now, and running heavy ships without good maps. Corporate bean counters are reducing crews, and I was among the group that was most recently set adrift.

But not truly adrift. I’ve spent 15 years working for an exceptional magazine—we won a James Beard award a few years ago, and just last year, an ASME (which is like an Academy Award for the magazine world). During that time, I’ve learned skills enough to float my own boat. And I’ve got a network of others to help me as I chart my own course.

Yes, I’m very sad. I’ll miss the daily schedule. I’ll miss being part of something bigger than myself. I’ll miss the borrowed prestige of working for a large, venerable magazine. I’ll miss the incredible view from the window by my desk. I’ll miss the steady paycheck. And most of all, I’ll miss the people I worked with. After so many years we had become friends.

Things change, and I hate change. But I’m a little excited (and terrified) about this change. I’m not sure where I’ll go from here, but for now, my morning commute is short and beautiful and I’ll have more time to paint. I think this blog will change (or at least become more frequent). I’ve got some ideas. We’ll see where I end up.

I’ve sailed through waters rougher than these.


“Listen, Miss, boats are supposed to float. Even if they break up, they usually still float and show up on a shore somewhere. There have been no reports of wreckage or abandoned boats. At this point, no news is still good news. Don’t worry. It’s too early to worry.” Cathy Ostlere, Lost

What it’s like to buy a house


I haven’t been blogging, painting, or much of anything else the last few weeks because we’re trying to buy a house. I can’t even write many words about this process. All I can do is draw, heart in (exceedingly) dry mouth, what it feels like. (You can click on the drawing to make it bigger.)

Fears and art and the fear of failure

“Sometimes you just have to jump out the window and grow wings on the way down.” –Ray Bradbury

In less than a month, I’ll be selling my paintings and prints at Silicon Valley Open Studios. I’ve been preparing. I’ve been painting. I’ve been printing. I think I have a nice body of work to show. Everybody in my life, from the fiddler to my day-job boss and colleagues, has been excited and supportive.

And yet…

The first day of Open Studios, May 3, is my own personal “Follow your Fear Day.”

There are days when I’m nearly paralyzed by fear of the Open Studios experience. Fear of selling my work, fear of meeting the public, fear of competing with other artists.

There’s nothing new about these fears nor are they my fears alone. The Skinny Artist has a post that does a good job describing the 5 fears that can destroy an artist, and I have to admit, I suffer from all of them.

What, exactly am I afraid of? Well, it’s sort of a nebulous, nameless fear that involves people sneering at me, total failure, and a recurring nightmare of showing up at prom in curlers and pajamas. So let me break these things down and try to dispel them, if not for you, than at least for me.

Failure is a state of mind

Michael Jordan famously said, “I accept failure…I can’t accept not trying.” But my wonderful fiddler puts it another way:

“There are no failures, only experiments for gathering data in order to learn.”

I can do that. I like science, and although I’m not a scientist, I appreciate the scientific method. So I’m trying to be a dispassionate observer as I work towards May 3. I tell myself, I’m simply gathering data. I’m taking notes on the whole process of setting up a tent, sitting with my work displayed, and meeting people. Watching people’s reactions, learning from other artists, practicing my talking skills.  Since, like many artists, I’m shy, meeting and greeting people is the hardest thing for me to do. What will people think?

Who cares what other people think?

Let’s be real here. I do. You do. We all care what our fellow humans think about us; it’s part of the pack mentality. We want to be accepted into the tribe because that’s where our safety rests. And if we don’t belong to the troupe we see coming over the hill,, well, that group of folks may be hostile.

Except I know that most people aren’t hostile. Most people wish others well. And I’m not sure I should care about the ones who don’t wish me well.

Art is a personal choice, and people may not like what I do. That’s fine. That’s got to be fine, because I only can paint like Margaret Sloan (me!) paints. And wherever I am in my particular artistic journey, that’s where I am.

“And then I discovered I was at the dance wearing my pajamas!”

Yes, I’m afraid of forgetting something, of being caught out, of looking stupid. A friend once said to me, “Don’t be afraid of the future. Be prepared for it.” And so I’m spending all my free time getting ready for Open Studios. And when I have those embarrassing dreams, well they’re my dreams; I’m dream-hiring the band Pink Martini to play  “Tempo Perdido” while I shake it like there’s no tomorrow. Because damn it, I look pretty good in my pajamas.

Getting show ready

Business cards
Three of my beautiful business cards. They are really like little frameable prints. The words are on the back.

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for the last couple of weeks because I’ve been getting ready for Silicon Valley Open Studios this year. I haven’t exhibited my artwork in a booth at a public event in, oh, I don’t like to say how many years, so I’m riding on a little hyperdrive of nerves.

I’ve been painting and planning, and panicking; it’s a big job! I’ve been making prints, framing paintings, and I’ve just had more Moo Cards printed. I really think they’re one of the best, (if not one of the most expensive) online printers. You get what you pay for.

Let me say that my day job is in the business of print, and I’ve been trained by some of the most obsessive compulsive perfectionists you’d ever hope to meet. People with eyes of eagles; they can tell if a 5 pt. period (full stop for you Brits) is italic or roman. I’m not saying that I have that kind of eye (I can barely see a 5 pt. period, let alone its slantiness), but I’m pickier about print than the average person (It’s my job!), and I have been impressed with Moo Cards. If you’d like to try them, you can use my code:

You’ll get %10 off your first order, and (full disclosure here) I’ll get some kind of credit since I referred you. So if you’re looking for new cards, you might want to give Moo a try.

Run like a Christmas dog



Happy holidays! The days getting longer, the sky is endless,
and ribbons abound. I hope you can go outside and run about in glee.


(Click on the running dog for a larger image)


A portrait painter comes to town

Portrait by Kevin McEvoy
Oil portrait by Kevin McEvoy

Caveat: I did not paint the above portrait. It was painted by a friend, Kevin McEvoy.

Last week one of my favorite painter/bloggers, Kevin McEvoy, came to town.

I’ve been following his blog for a while, enchanted by his writing about his deep spiritual commitment to painting, his family, and to life. Plus, he plays Irish fiddle.

So when he blogged that he was coming to California, I was eager to meet the person who was at the other end of the keyboard.

Yes, I know,  contacting someone off blog and meeting them in person can be a scary thing. But so far the few other bloggers I’ve met have been wonderful.  And Kevin’s words and his paintings had an authentic ring to them; after reading  this post and seeing this painting, I couldn’t believe he’d be a bad guy.

And he wasn’t! He and his wife and their friends were delightful. It was such a pleasure to meet them, see his paintings in person (they’re wonderful) and have some tunes with Kevin.  And then, best of all, he asked the fiddler to pose for a demonstration painting. And he gave us the painting!

Loss and a call for help for a fellow artist

With great sadness I read that of one of my favorite bloggers, Gretel Parker at Middle of Nowhere,  has suffered the terrible loss of her long-time partner. I’ve read her blog for years, and have admired her for her strength, talent, and courage. I have gotten to know her lovely needle felting, her charming illustrations, and the bits of her story she shared with the world. My heart is breaking for her loss.

The blogosphere is a strange place. You write about yourself as if you were on  a secret desert island and then float your carefully chosen words like messages in a bottle bobbing on the interweb sea. And you find messages from other castaways who have sent out their own words corked in the smokey glass of a blog post.

In this way we build shipping lanes of friendships and acquaintances from messages floating on the digital tide. And we make connections whether or not we know we are making those connections. Gretel’s blog had a way of doing that.

To help Gretel, who is not only suffering from the grief of losing half her heart, but will also be going through some real financial upheavals, two bloggers, Suzanne Houghton and Tara Change, have started a fund raising effort on her behalf called the Gretel Parker Project. If you have enjoyed her blog, I hope that you will be able to help her out.

And my friends, hug your loved ones. Tell them that you love them and hold them close.

Last year and next

Luke (detail of unfinished watercolor painting)
© 2012 Margaret Sloan

Finding time for reflection on the past year is difficult, smack dab in the middle of several projects I’d like to finish before the week is out. But after reading Rose Welty’s lovely New Year’s post, I thought I’d take a stab at casting a backwards glance over 2011, and peering forward into 2012.

Here’s what I accomplished in the last year:

  • Entered and won an art competition
  • Had my first solo gallery show
  • Painted. A lot

I admit, I’m not good at marking time over the long haul. The concept of time, longer than a few hours, gets away from me. The past, even just a few weeks ago, seems like it happened in another lifetime. As for the future? I never quite believe that next year (heck, tomorrow) will actually show up, hat in hand, at my doorstep and demand to be let into the house. I realize this grasshoppery attitude probably bodes ill for my little-old-lady future, so occasionally I do try to plan.

My goals for next year:

  • Make an artist website
  • Blog more often
  • Make it possible for people to buy my art
  • Enter  a few art competitions
  • Apply for a residency.

But my main goal? Paint. A lot.  Which may supersede all the other goals. Because painting is what makes the long year worth the heavy slog.


P.S. Don’t forget to comment on this post to get a free gift.