Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas Pet Portraits, Painting Like Mad near Philadelphia, with tips for artists!

Happily, EVERYONE wants a pet portrait for a Christmas gift!  A lot of artists hate commissions and hate painting with a deadline, but I enjoy both.  I clear my decks for this busy time of the year, and am pretty methodical.  I stock my size canvases and paint, and have a lot in progress at a time, since I like to work from loose to detail in many layers.


I can't rush or cut corners on painting, but there's lots of things outside of the actual painting process to cut the fat.  For one, I buy fabulous, disposable brushes, I love the Robert Simmons line.  I also buy every "dog" and "cat" color rather than mix everything from scratch.  I use disposable palettes, so when I have to leave a painting to dry, I can easily scrape paint from old, messy palette to a new one for the next painting.

Custom Pet Portrait Philadelphia
I also try to finish up several the same day so we can gang up the shipping.  It really saves time to do that at the same time, since I don't have room for a dedicated wrapping/shipping space and have to use my dining room table and then put it all away again!

And REALLY important, I get enough sleep every night and walk Sarge, my boxer dog, every day, and eat carefully to keep my energy high!

I'm pet portrait artist, Robin Zebley.  Lots of samples of my custom pet portraits can be seen at http://customportraitart.patternbyetsy.com.  Or send me an email

Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Teacup List - Good Enough!

I've been thinking about that proverbial "bucket list" of things you want to do before you die and realized that I probably won't have the time, stamina or money (unless I do hit that lottery!) to do the grand scheme things I see on most people's lists.  Round the world tours, jumping out of planes, that kind of thing.

It got me thinking about what I would like to do before I die that is...doable.  What things can I do that I'd like to do, that I haven't?  Not a huge bucket, but maybe a "teacup"?

Instead of round the world tour, how about a trip out west?  I think I can do that if I keep my nose to the grindstone and save up.  That kind of thing.  I found it hard to even THINK of things I want to do when I have so much I must do.

But I like the idea of inserting more fun, discovery and joy into my life.  In teeny, teacup ways.  So here's my current "Teacup List"!

1. That trip out west.  By car, camping.
2.  Learn and DO white line printmaking.
3.  Paint fall foliage.  Plein Air.
4.  See Savannah.
5.  Hike more.
6.  Eat Pho.  I think I'd like it, but have to travel into an authentic restaurant.

How about you?  Have a teacup list?

I'm custom portrait artist, Robin Zebley.  More of my personality filled pet portraits can be seen at http://customportraitart.etsy.com






Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Pet Portrait Shop is Featured on a Blog!

Crafty Girl Creates interviewed me about my Pet Portrait Shop this week in her series of Etsy Sellers.
Here it is! http://www.craftygirlcreates.com/2016/08/customportraitart-interview-with-owner.html

It's always fun to get recognition!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Goldendoodle portrait painting

Goldendoodle Portrait Painting
A goldendoodle is one of the dogs in our family "pack".  My son's dog, Bailey is a Goldendoodle and she spends a lot of time here as my son travels a bit for work. Plus we just love her to death.  She's a fun contrast to Sarge, especially in the back yard, where she is always on alert for critters invading our space.  

Sarge the boxer, as you might know, loves all the creatures he shares the space with.  He looks at bunnies and almost smiles.  Bailey, on the other hand, seems to think she's protecting those she loves from those dastardly rabbits!

My husband often takes them to a wooded area near our home where deer also gather.  Bailey, who is normally a placid, obedient soul, turns into a wild thing when she sees the deer, she gives chase and there is no calling her back!

We love how Bailey is so friendly with children and every human being.  She doesn't get offended that Sarge sleeps on our bed and she sleeps on HER bed at the foot of it.  She's just a great dog to share time with.

So when I got a commission to paint this cute pair of Goldendoodles, I knew already that I'd be painting friendly faces from fabulous canine personalities.  And enjoyed every minute of it!

I'm portrait painter, Robin Zebley. My site is robinzebley.com.  Please feel free to contact me! Robin

Friday, August 5, 2016

Wire Haired Pointing Griffon Portrait Painting

As a dog portrait painter, I enjoy learning more about the unusual breeds I paint.  Since I have gotten lots of orders for custom portraits of Wire Haired Pointing Griffons, I found out a lot about them!
Wire Haired Pointing Griffon Portrait Painting
I know they are hunting dogs but nowadays most dog owners aren't hunters.  So their wonderful, friendly personality and easy training makes them beloved.  And they are so great for the athletic owner who wants a pal to join in on the activity!  They absolutely adore the water and are super swimmers.

They are great family dogs!  They love their humans so much, and speaking of humans.....

They have incredible, human like eyes!

Here's more about them from the AKC: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/wirehaired-pointing-griffon/detail/

I have lots more portraits from my portfolio here at robinzebley.com .  And in my etsy shop, CustomPortraitart.patternbyetsy.com.  Stop by!  Robin

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Rules of the Road, Ten Tips for Dog Walking Etiquette

We all know how much dogs love their walks and how great it is for them.  But it's important for them to know the rules of the road!  It's a perfect opportunity to reinforce "who's boss", too, when they mind their manners!  Here's 10 rules for dog walking etiquette:
Custom Pet Portrait


1. Keep them on the sidewalk and off neighbors' lawns.  If you use a retractable leash, as I do, they are tempted to wander all over and pee where they will.  Rein them in.  Few people plant flowers for other doggy's convenience!

2.  Keep them close when walking in foot traffic like in the city.  My command for this is "Stay Close" with a short leash.  Don't let them ahead or linger behind, you don't want people getting tangled up in their leash.

3.  When encountering other dogs, take a cue from the owner and the dog on whether to interact.  If they look frightened of your dog or of their dog's behavior when meeting a stranger dog, just say "hi".  If they look open to it, ask permission before letting your dog socialize.  Ask if it's okay for him to "say hello".
Labrador Retriever on the Beach Painting by me!


4.  When a person is walking toward you, rein them in until you know THEY want to say hello.  Trust me, dog lovers let you know loud and clear they want to pet and say hi!

5.  Teach him not to jump on people.  Not even dog lovers like being knocked over, and medium size dog can do it to someone crouching down on the balls of their feet.

6.  Greet everyone.  It's fun how many "regulars" I see outdoors, especially elderly, who like to chat a moment.  Dogs are a great ice breaker, and dog therapy can be two minutes with a lonely neighbor.

7.  Train a spot to poop.  We walk different ways every day, but I always try to hit a good spot to go, and tell him it's time.  This takes practice so be sure that if he can't wait, you pull him over to the side by the road.

8.  Pick up every little bit.

9.  Let him leave his p-mail on all the street signs, fire hydrants, and other popular message centers.  It's a thrill for him to send and receive the news of what others had for dinner!

10.  Train, train, train the commands to come and stay so you can let him off the leash for some ball playing, running with others, wilderness fun.

And enjoy.  They give us a great excuse to get out there and enjoy the fresh air in any weather!  And for those days you're away and not able to walk?  Here's a site suggested by my son that will match up your dog with a walker who loves them! The site Rover also matches up for dog sitting.

I'm pet portrait artist, Robin Zebley.  I write about dogs and art and this artist's life here at ArtandAnimals.blogspot.com.  My work can be seen at CustomPortraitArt.
Yorkshire Terrier Portrait, Oils on Canvas

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Large Weimaraner and My Boxer Dog Sarge, the Male Model

Large Weimaraner Portrait and Sarge
I recently painted a large portrait of a Weimaraner mix and to show the scale, I found it really funny how he almost seemed to be trying to imitate the pose!

I really enjoyed painting the Weimaraner mix, my most popular sized portrait is 16 x 20 and he was 24 x 36"!

He was a wedding gift from a groom to his bride of their beloved pet, so it made it extra special!

Their color is so unique, there is an almost purple cast to their gray fur.  And this guy also sported a snazzy blue bow tie!  His eye color is also unusual, so fun!

Here's a close up:
Weimaraner Mix Oil Painting
Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On the Hunt, Fox and Hound? Custom Portrait Art by me Robin Zebley

Custom Hunting Scene Painting by me, Robin Zebley
I love when someone has a special idea in mind for custom portrait art.  This one blends a portrait of my client's fiancee with her little dog, in a traditional fox and hound hunting scene.

Of course, that's not the kind of hound we are used to seeing!

It's a fun exercise for me to paint in a 19th century style.  The horse reminded me of Currier and Ives, I'm not an equine expert but I am pretty sure the hindquarters are not shaped like giant kidney beans!

I've also painted Washington's Crossing with custom flourishes.  Any painting I paint from will need to be in public domain, of course, just contact me and we can discuss your favorite project!

I'm portrait artist Robin Zebley.  More of my work can be seen at customportraitart.etsy.com. To order a custom portrait art piece of your own or for a gift (from your photos), please contact me at my email, robinzebley@gmail.com or call me at 610-220-8053.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Custom Portraits on the New Etsy Pattern Site, my review

Dog Portrait on New Etsy Site
 http://customportraitart.patternbyetsy.com
Our custom oil painting portraits now have an additional home, http://customportraitart.patternbyetsy.com.  What do you think?

Etsy developed this looks-like-a-standalone site to help fill a need for those who would like their own e-commerce site and their Etsy shops.  While I have my own portrait site, most of my google traffic there comes locally in my very competitive market.  So I'm hoping for more google and other search engine visibility in my Custom Portrait Art site at PatternbyEtsy.

My custom portrait paintings Pattern site pulls items directly from my regular Etsy shop, uses Etsy checkout, and was super easy to set up.

Besides a handful of themes to choose from, and a couple of color and font style choices, it's not very customizable, which probably is a good thing for those who feel overwhelmed at the thought of building their own website.  For those of us who have more experience, it's a little frustrating.
robin bird oil painting by Robin Zebley

We can't choose which of our pieces we want to show where, or rearrange them.  That's a minus.

The stats provided by etsy are not accurate as of the date of this blog post.  The do not match up.  The number of visits is fewer than the detail of those visits, they are co-mingling with regular Etsy shop stats.

There's worry about google penalties for duplicate content, but seo mavens seem divided on that in the forums.  At this time, it's free for 30 days.  Then it will cost $15 a month.  I will test it for at least the next 28 days and see if I get unique views via the patternbyetsy platform, and whether those views are buyers or bots.

What do you think?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Handmade at Amazon's Failure to Launch, Part II

Custom Family Portrait from Photos
So why has Handmade at Amazon basically failed to launch?  One explanation was in my previous post on Handmade, but I'm hoping that's not it, that Amazon didn't basically start a dummy category just to drive down Etsy stock and buy it out.

I am hoping there's a much simpler explanation:  That the initial launch failed and they are back to the drawing board.

It's been four months.  The same few categories exist now that did then.  Not one addition.  So no hope for a truly successful Handmade site.

It would be like opening a grocery store with produce, a cereal aisle, bread and pet aisle.  And within produce, not having potatoes.  Or cat toys in the pet aisle, no hamburger buns in the bread aisle.

And worse after the first week, telling the employees to just put anything anywhere, put the dog food with the cat toys, the bananas in with the radishes.  And if someone asks for radishes, show them dog food.  Four months and they are UNABLE to either add the "potatoes" or add a Meat or Frozen Foods section?  Really?

I wonder if they are really just not happy with the results so far.

Amazon's search is based in large part on number of sales.  Which might work fine with "regular" Amazon, I have no idea, I'm not in the wholesale/retail business.

But the result of using that algorithm for Handmade is that for some searches, there is no variety, and the cheapest dominate, and smarty pants sellers of non-handmade use terms to dominate handmade searches.

If Amazon features $7 inkjets rather than $700 paintings, it's getting 1/10 of the fees it could get. It's hard to believe that is what Amazon opened handmade for.

There are people who love it there.  There are people who just plain sell well there, as opposed to those whose views continue to sink.  There are people who hate Etsy and love that it's not Etsy.  There are people who sold there before and understand the complicated ins and outs.  There are people who are thrilled that the handmade competition is kept so small and so narrow. And I'm happy for them.

But I'm of the mind that to truly serve Handmade sellers and Buyers, lots of very basic changes need to happen fast.  Increase categories, enforce listing rules and scrap the algorithm that has vinyl wall sayings and butterflies dominating a search for "custom dog portrait".  For instance.  And do it without waiting for other sellers to rat out the offenders.  THAT could be a full time job.  I just want Amazon to really launch.  And waiting for signs it will.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why is Handmade at Amazon failing so many of its Sellers

Schnauzer Dog Portrait Painting
Why is Handmade at Amazon failing so many of its sellers? Not all, some report great sales, especially in the jewelry category.

The first ten days were great for many of us.  Amazon was pushing the Handmade category in the press, they had a banner advertising it and they sent out emails to their customers.

Since then, it seems they have just abandoned us.  A lot of money is being left on the table due to Amazon's inactions.

No new categories, irrelevant search results, no enforcement of the rules, no press, the Christmas banner left up until late January, when someone complained about it in the forums.  A single blogger with no staff would have changed that up without waiting to be told.

So what is going on?  Jason Rickenbacker thinks he knows, and I have to admit the puzzle pieces fit into those slots. He thinks Amazon opened a token Handmade to get the press and drive down Etsy stock for an Amazon buyout.  His article is here: http://seekingalpha.com/article/3805396-handmade-at-amazon-a-crafty-ploy-paving-the-way-for-an-etsy-buyout

What evidence do we have that he's wrong?  Only this: An Amazon employee answered a question their forums saying they were really building a legit site, and then immediately closed the discussion.  Move on, nothing to see here.  Their actions do not correspond with those words.

Some specifics that seem to prove that Rickenbacker is right:

1.  No new categories.  3 months plus in, and we have yet to see an addition of categories.  But if the current categories worked, I'd put less value on that.  The category where sellers put their items is ..... anywhere they please.  The first page in the Drawing category has exactly one drawing.  The rest of the page is coloring books, paper dolls, reproductions prints. The painting category? Mostly inexpensive reproduction prints.  There's a category FOR reproduction prints, but Amazon, well aware of the issue, has done absolutely nothing to clean up the categories.

2.  No press.  No publicity.  No nothing.

3.  Irrelevant search results.

A search for "custom dog portraits" showed that half of the results were for wall decals, mostly of butterflies.  Half.  Amazon's reaction when I brought this up in their forums?  That we should assume that the seller broke their rules and used misleading search terms and we should rat them out and THEN, Amazon would act.

They are aware of it, but task US with filling out forms to rat them out!  I should note that the ratting out of the misuse of categories has gotten....zero action on Amazon's part. They are well aware of the abuse of categories.  Why should we expect Amazon to enforce any rules for handmade when history shows they do not?

And
4.  The Amazon Handmade Forums.  Amazon permits their forums to be used by a handful of users as Snarkland, where legitimate questions, discussions and comments about the above or any other Amazon failing are ridiculed, along with the askers.

Few sellers use their forums because of this and several Facebook groups have emerged where discussions are civil.

Allowing a handful of users to drive off questioners about Amazon negatives raises a lot of red flags too.

UPDATE:  An Amazon employee has publicly chastised the nasties on their forum for their behavior. That's a good sign, the most hopeful sign I've seen in three months that Amazon might really be in this for the long haul.

In conclusion, I think Amazon still could turn this around IF they want to, and if they didn't just start a mock site to drive down Etsy stock, as Jason Rickenbacker suggests.  As of now, though, there are a lot of potential sales left on the table because buyers can't find what they search for, what they browse for and don't even know that what they are shopping for exists on Amazon.  What possible motivation is there for Amazon to stall Handmade?

Well.....maybe Rickenbacker is right.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Defending my Copyright for my Boxer Dog Portrait Painting

Someone Stole my Boxer Dog Painting Image
How to defend my copyright of this painting of my boxer dog, Sarge?  I had to learn quick.

From time to time, I find one of my portraits somewhere, usually on a webpage, (Sarge has become more than one person's avatar without my permission!) and in instances like that, I generally let them know it's my painting, and I hold the copyright to it, and I'm fine with them using it as long as they credit me with it along with a link back to my Pet Portraits website.

But I found a sad copy of this painting on Etsy where I sell, by some guy who just decided to start painting pet portraits after not painting since high school 20 years before.

So he wanted to compete directly with me, where I sell, using a copy of my painting as his sample!

So I first did a google image search to make sure I hadn't missed that this guy hadn't painted this long ago.  It was so close, though, I think he traced it. Same crop at the ear, same eye, same nose, but he missed the wrinkle on the snout.  The jowls, though were way off, but he had the exact "waddle" as Sarge's with the exact coloring and angle of the neck.  But no, it was straight off of his photoshop, just altered a bit.

I wrote him a very nice note telling him I owned the copyright and he had to remove it.  He ignored.

I searched online for a Cease and Desist letter.  I found a good one by a photographer, but before I sent it, I paid a little trip to the US Copyright Office to officially register my copyright for Sarge.  You have to do this before you can pursue legal claims to protect your copyright, even though the moment you publish a work anywhere, you own that copyright.

It only cost $35 and I could have registered a bunch of them but I didn't know that then.

I sent the guy my Cease and Desist and he wrote back that it was a different dog.  And anyway there were differences.  And anyway, it perfectly permissible to be INSPIRED by someone else's painting and use it.
Custom Wedding Portrait Drawing

Uh, no.  I told him to remove it within the hour, that I wasn't going to discuss his mistaken interpretation of copyright law and that he should consult a lawyer.

And then, 61 minutes later, I filed a DCMA Take Down Notice with Etsy and an hour and half after their office opened in the morning, the infringing listing by the guy I "inspired", was gone and I never heard from him again.  Sarge is glad.  He modeled for this painting and expects a fee himself.  And hasn't seen any samples of cheese coming his way from the guy!
I'm artist Robin Zebley, specializing in portraits of pets, homes and people.  More from this blog HERE, my Etsy Portraits Shop is CustomPortraitArt.etsy.com and my website is robinzebley.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dog Portraits, a basket full of fun!

Miniature Dog Portraits by Pennsylvania Artist Robin Zebley 
Just wanted to show you five miniature dog portraits that I painted last month for a client.  Every dog in the family, for an array on their wall.

What an awesome Christmas gift they will be!


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Your Etsy ABOUT Page, 10 reasons why you may be LOSING sales!

Scruffy Dog Oil Painting Portrait by me,
Pet Portrait Artist, Robin Zebley
Buyers do like to know about the artists and crafters they purchase from, totally true.  But what you include may very well drive the "almost" buyer away.  Take a good hard look at what your "About" page on Etsy or Amazon or wherever you sell.  Although most buyers probably do not even read it, make sure those who do are encouraged to hit the "Add to Cart" button and not the back button!

Yes, it's about you, but isn't it really about your sales?

A good About page should be relatively short and make your prospective buyers feel comfortable that you are an okay person that their purchase will financially support, that you know your stuff, and that they are safe buying from you, that they can trust you will send them exactly what they bought, on time.

I recently began shopping for Christmas gifts, and I like to buy as many as I can from Etsy and now Handmade at Amazon.

When I visited the About pages of some sellers, I just couldn't pull the trigger and buy from them.

Why?

1.  They ranted about their politics.  I wasn't LOOKING for anything political, yet I was lectured to with hard, mean words. "I" "I" "I".  I saw this on both sides of the political spectrum.  And quietly backed away.  They seemed more interested in their cause than in making things.

If you are okay with losing at least half of your buyers, rant away.  Personally, I think it would be one hundred more effective for you to donate to your cause from your sales.  Some will say "I don't WANT anyone who disagrees with me on my favorite political view to buy from me."  Fair enough.  Just know that you could be sacrificing sales for that.

2.  They shared how disorganized they were.  It's really not utterly charming that you are forced to cut your fabric on the floor because you can't find a clear table top.  Or how your house is just TAKEN OVER with you stuff.  I am not a neatnik by any means but those descriptions turned me off.

3.  Religion. Too much, too much, too much.  I don't believe God is running your etsy shop and He's why your potholders are selling instead of your competitors.  Besides Christians like me who hope and pray God is working on changing hearts to bring peace to the earth rather than getting you views, you stand to lose those with other, or no, religions.  Of course, if you sell religious goods or NON-religious things, your market is niche and it's more appropriate.  But if you are selling an item that should appeal to everyone, think about it!

4.  Too much personal info.  I came away from some shops absolutely depressed.  I do understand how a horrible situation can be the catalyst for your going into business for yourself, but man, I have my own problems to deal with.

6.  Too much as in quantity.  Some sound like a great blog post, but on and on and on and on and on and on about yourself, your dad, your kids, your mother, your favorite teacher, your dog, your.....whatever.  Especially with no page breaks, rambling and repeating.  YIKES.

7.  Your grandchildren.  Yes, yes, I know. I do. Really, I get it.  (For the record, my 8 month old grandson truly is smarter, cuter and has a better personality than any child who ever crawled the earth).  But for those with less stellar grandkids or no grandkids, eyes tend to glaze.

8.  Begging.  I hope you do get to keep your electric on, but there's been so many scams with sellers who are ALWAYS on the brink of financial disaster that it really just raises eyebrows for many of us.

9.  Trashing competitors.  Trashing them in any way is not making yours more attractive to buy.  Don't let your buyers see you sweat.  Talking about your competition just is free publicity for them, you actually can drive customers to the Etsy search bar to see what you are talking about!

10.  Expecting the worse from your customers and covering all those bases.  Even on your policies page, make it as matter of fact as possible.  I've seen About pages that go into so much detail about what they will and won't do if the buyer isn't happy, that I conclude they have a LOT of experience with unhappy buyers.

Now, you might be thinking that you KNOW you got sales by doing one of the above, the buyer told you they bought because of your religion, or to keep your lights on or because they vote like you do.  But guess what?  You rarely, if ever, hear about the reasons folks hit their Back button and bought elsewhere.

Don't give someone a reason NOT to buy from you.

Because the bottom line is, does the info you include make people feel comfortable buying from you?  Feel like you're someone they won't mind profiting from their purchase?  Feel you know your stuff and can make a quality product with good customer service?

If not, think about it hard.  And know that if you choose to include things that will drive away ANY customers, then that's a choice you are making, and that's fine.  But please think about it and do it with open eyes, because it will cost your sales.

I'm portrait artist, Robin Zebley.  I paint portraits of pets, houses and kids from photos on the internet, exclusively.  My custom portrait portfolio can be seen at my Etsy shop: customportraitart.etsy.com and my site, robinzebley.com.  

Friday, October 16, 2015

Handmade at Amazon from a Seller's Perspective

So a week into Handmade at Amazon, how is THIS seller faring?
Custom Pet Portrait by me
Golden Retriever
Very well, thank you.  Much better than expected.  I've sold 3 portraits, have one about to purchase (she's getting her photos for her custom house portrait this weekend) and several serious inquiries.  How did I do at Etsy, same time period?  One sale, one inquiry who balked when she realized I actually charge for my time and expertise.

Amazon quickly moved to give us a copy feature that we requested.  Nice.  

Am I leaving Etsy?  No.  The fees are cheaper and I'd rather sell there.  I'd rather sell from my own site robinzebley.com I charge myself no fees, lol!  But my goal is to reach as many people as possible so that if my style resonates with them, we can do business.

Am I scared about the bloggers who do not want me to sell there?  No.  I make money where I can.  I don't UNDERSTAND Amazon like I do Etsy, but somehow, people are finding my portraits and contact me.  There's a lot of fear of Handmade at Amazon, and I think it's from folks who Etsy has treated over-fairly who are worried that buyers will abandon Etsy.

More and more, the art category, that was demoted there as a main category, is inundated with mistagged, miscategorized and mis-titled reproduction prints, which flood the paintings and drawings categories so that buyers can't find originals.  Etsy's aware of this and doesn't even say a soft "now kids, that's a no-no".  Anything goes, apparently.

And I won't be shocked if buyers of handmade do abandon etsy, for the reason that it seems less concerned with showing buyers what they WANT To see than in partnering up big shops to manufacturing.

But Etsy gave Amazon the opening, and Amazon is running with it.  And I'm in that pack. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Selling at Handmade at Amazon, Now I'm Happy!

So now 5 days into the launch of Handmade at Amazon, and I am pretty okay with it.  It helps that I sold two portraits already!  Wow.
Colored Pencil Portrait by me
Philadelphia area artist Robin Zebley


This is such a hard learning curve, Amazon is massive and I have to learn to use it, and not expect it to bend to OUR needs.  But man, whatever the glitches and things I dislike, the bottom line is views and sales and they know how to do that.  It's not an Etsy clone attached like a third arm to Amazon, and I guess that's what I expected.  But however they get those eyeballs on my portraits, I'm cool.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Handmade at Amazon Launch, Day One, Very Disappointed

So how was Handmade at Amazon's launch? 

English Bulldog Custom Portrait by me
artist Robin Zebley


Really rocky first day, a lot of issues.  For instance:

They had a big Handmade banner that you could click on, but when you did, only 300 plus items showed.  If you then searched (thinking you were searching within Handmade), you got the general Amazon with regular Amazon items in the front, a sprinkling of Handmade.  You had to know to go to a sidebar and click on a category within Handmade to get a search bar for handmade.  

And results showed large clumps of a few sellers' items with no variety.  I did find my house portraits , they were in a block together, just like other house portraits artists who have a different style from mine.  Just blocks of one artist!  So you would think there were only a handful of sellers within each category.  It took me three tries and about 10 minutes to figure out how to navigate through to find a working search that showed Handmade.

The banner is gone now.  We don't know if it's because of the above and they are working to fix or if yesterday's banner was the Big Announcement and it's over now.

The drop down menu for Search for all departments does not include Handmade.


The stats do not work.  We do not know if we got even one view yesterday.

Don't think it's an Etsy killer, at least not as of today.  Sellers aren't disappointed with the lack of sales (some did sell, but nobody expected Day 1 to be a big selling day), but at how hard it is to find Handmade at Amazon.  At all.  

I had a TON of views yesterday at Etsy, so am wondering if all the "Etsy Killer" press Amazon stirred up actually worked in Etsy's favor?  Anyone truly interested in handmade would find Etsy a much more favorable shopping experience.  At least yesterday.

Hopefully they are working on fixing all of the above to buyers can find us!   I'd hate to see the hours it took to list ONE BY ONE (they didn't think to program a copy feature for handmade, guess they thought we all made different things different days, not similar things) go to waste.

But until or if Amazon does some serious work, I won't be wasting another moment building there.
I'm portrait artist Robin Zebley, I blog about art, animals, the artist's life, selling online and venues.  My work can be found at my site robinzebley.com, I'm an Etsy artist at CustomPortraitArt.etsy.com, and sure wish I could add Amazon to this list!  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Handmade on Amazon, Live and Ready for my Pet portraits!


Sarge is looking for his portrait painting
on Handmade at Amazon!
Handmade at Amazon opened for business today and my shop there is live and open for business: My Handmade at Amazon

I need to add more samples and more of my woodblock prints and other art, but am optimistic that Amazon will do this up right and publicize it to make it worth our while.

I'm so honored that I was chosen as one of the pioneers of Handmade!  It's exciting and encouraging for sure!

And I hope Etsy gets off it's self-appointed high horse for handmade and actually advertises for buyers for us.

If they still really want customers of true handmade, that is. Which is of course debatable, given their encouragement of factory made in the past two years!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Selling Original Art on Handmade at Amazon

I promised I'd update you about Handmade.  Well, here we are the last few days of September, on the cusp of the Christmas selling season and it hasn't launched yet.
English Bulldog Portrait by Robin Zebley
Most of us who were juried in have gotten a one week's notice to get our items listed, so hopefully it's close.  The problem is it is very, very time-consuming and Amazon has just piggybacked Handmade onto it's regular programming, making it confusing for those of us who are not in the business of importing widgets and reselling them.

The shipping is a nightmare.  You can't adjust for items easily.  You have to use a confusing spreadsheet to upload a base price and then adjust it from there in the item, using percentages and MATH.  Which many of us artists are not the best at.  I had three dedicated sessions before I figured it out, sorta.  What I'm doing is using my most common shipping price and just adding into my largest paintings selling price.

There is no copy function.  Regular Amazon has this, I guess the programmers thought that handmade means we are all making all kinds of items, none of which are similar.  You literally need to start with picking a category for every single listing.  Now, there is a hack to save SOME of your info, but listing on Amazon, with all its boxes and no copy function, is quite time consuming.

There is little Amazon presence in the forum, which would seem to me to be better than fielding tons of phone calls.  So the forum is full of rumors and advice given by volunteer "regular" Amazon sellers who have some different functions that we do.  Like, they can copy, we can't.  

And lastly, their Terms of Use are confusing and have frightened off some really good sellers who would be an asset to Handmade at Amazon.  They are aware of it and have chosen to just post reassurances that they will not use your intellectual property even though the language in the TOU says they can if they want to, forever.  They would do well to revisit the TOU and have a IP lawyer help them from the seller's side to clarify and make the site work for the very cautious.

On the plus side:  TONS of space to add search terms.  For me, that's not as important as for others.

Also, no silly matching of search phrases to title for the algorithm to be able to find you.  This Etsy-only exercise in moving one pile of dirt to another is a hard habit to break, but refreshing.  At Etsy, the mistagging is rampant, so that "original oil painting" shows reproductions OF original oil paintings.  I hear Amazon's search will not produce those kinds of results AND that mistagging is punished.

And I'm really excited to sell here, I can't see a downside personally and am looking forward to being able to paint instead of fixing listings constantly to conform and optimize for Etsy's latest change, in order to get eyeballs on my portraits

The buzz is also starting, I was interviewed for a story thestreet.com is doing on it (hopefully I won't end up on the cutting room floor!).  There is a lot of attention and focus from financial and business press and blogs, and every one of us who is signed up NOW can benefit from that.

So, our hope is that within a week, we'll get the promised 48 hour warning and that the zillions of Amazon buyers and buyers who never thought about buying original art or handmade will be shopping with us!
House Portrait Watercolor Painting by me, Robin Zebley



Monday, September 14, 2015

Handmade At Amazon vs. Etsy for Artists


Handmade at Amazon or Etsy?  I know how Etsy works for me at this time and both Etsy tomorrow  and Handmade at Amazon are unknowns.  Etsy has inserted a bizarre partial list of categories at the top of every page.  One that hides Art.  With a drill down that doesn't include portraits.  So I am 
Bulldog Portrait by Robin Zebley

expanding into Handmade @Amazon and hoping for the best.  I was honored to be selected in the first round of artists to open there, and am working on my shop.  It's not an easy transition, it's a whole different experience to list there and set up, but Amazon APPEARS to be embracing the hand made and art and Etsy's still intermingling the handmade and art with the factory goods.

Here's my Etsy shop for portraits: CustomPortraitArt and for my woodblock prints and other paintings and drawings, Robin Zebley Art. I will be watching the progress of both venues carefully and let you know what happens!

I'm artist Robin Zebley, specializing in custom portraits of children, homes and pets.  I also like to make other art!  My portrait art can also be seen at here at Robin Zebley Portraits I sell at Etsy, too, and am about to be shown at Handmade at Amazon.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Painting Signs in Philadelphia

I haven't been blogging because I've been working! Usually August is very slow for me, but 2015 was fabulous.  I painted a variety of dogs, houses, kids, and wedding venues.

But the REAL exciting news for me is partnering with my husband to begin a sign painting business!

Sign Lettering for Philadelphia gallery

 I've been practicing lettering, but he's got deep roots in the sign business, from painting pictorial billboards and hand lettering everything from walls to glass doors back in the day.

We're thrilled to see that businesses are realizing that effective signs aren't just informational, but sell the business and what's inside if they are really, really good, we're really proud of how this contemporary sign turned!

And that they are so popular at weddings and for home decor, we're offering beautiful hand painted with pictures and will have samples soon.

Here's our first sign, we have a contract for wedding reception signs, and hope to do samples of home decor, English Pub Signs with pictorials, really, just everything handpainted and hand done!

I think this will fit in well with my portrait business, be related, spice up wedding receptions, be personal and decorative wall hangings for homes, and help businesses entice customers with top notch signs!  That's our goal, and I've got a ton, ton, ton of things to do!

If you're interested in a sign, just contact me here or call at 610-220-805three.  :) Robin 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Eating Local!

Local Maryland Farm Stand Produce 
We travel from our home outside of Philadelphia to Annapolis to visit family pretty often.

We don't drive I-95 and dodge the Delaware and Maryland Tunnel tolls, but even better, we tack on 1/2 an hour and get the scenic view through farmland.

Yes, there's still gorgeous family farms between Philadelphia and Baltimore!

And a huge benefit is being able to stop and buy from the small farm stands that dot the roadside.

Here's the bounty from two of them.  Ripe today, eat today, and fun to see the actual patch where they all were growing hours before!

Not certified organic, but home grown without GMOs or pesticides.  And not one gallon of fuel was used to transport these from farm to end consumer, me!

The corn is like candy, seriously.  Didn't add a thing, no need to butter, salt or anything!

I'm Philadelphia area portrait artist, Robin Zebley.  You can see my work scattered through this blog about my art and life http://ArtandAnimals.blogspot.com and my site http://robinzebley.com.  Stop by!  Robin
Maryland peaches, zucchini, corn, tomatoes and peppers 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Round-up Weed Killer Toxic to Your Dog, Even if YOU Don't use it

Round Up Toxic to my Dog Friends, BEWARE
You may not use it, but Round-up, the Monsanto herbicide is toxic to dogs and you may be exposing them to this deadly risk on your daily dog walk!  Other herbicide concoctions are also, of course!

I was horrified to discover today that on my most regular walk, I was exposing my dog, Sarge, to Round-up, and had with my previous dog, the late great Otto who died of cancer.

Nearly every day, he walked through Round-up, and I had no idea.  Til today.

When we were out today, a worker spraying Roundup on the edges of a chain link fence surrounding an industrial park near me, warned me to keep my dog off that grass, that it was "poison to dogs" and to wash his feet when I got home.  

Since I keep a yard friendly to every creature and weed, lol, it never, ever occurred to me that the edges of public grassy areas were not weed whacked, but poisoned.  One of our favorite routes is to walk the perimeter of a local school athletic field.  Sarge is such a sociable dog, and he loves to interact with everyone there.  Today, I noticed the tell-tale sign that Round-up was used to manicure the edges of that field, total bald strips where grass would normally creep.

There's so much info on this on the internet, I invite you to google it.  This page shows that dogs' urine can show they have these deadly herbicides in their system even when their owners do not use it, and daily walks over contaminated areas can be the cause: http://www.mnn.com/family/pets/stories/how-lawn-chemicals-and-herbicides-affect-dogs Particularly interesting is the study of bladder cancer in little terriers. :(

I am just marginally aware of Monsanto, I know there are activists working against Hillary Clinton because of her Monsanto connections, and know they are political heavy hitters.  So fighting the use of herbicides in areas that expose the general public to their toxic brew may be a futile effort.

But I can protect Sarge and you can protect your dogs more by avoiding those spaces, walking them only in residential areas, keep them on sidewalks or crossing the street when you encounter a grassy area with the tell-tale sign of a bald strip at the edges, and washing their feet when you get home.  

I wonder how long my beloved Otto would have lived if I had done those things?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Just Keep Painting those Portraits!

Yorkshire Terrier Portrait with a BIG Smile!
It's that old saw, "The harder I work, the luckier I get" that is my reality today!  I'll share more with you when I can, but I just landed a great commission when I kinda wasn't looking!

My last post was about how I was abandoning the Etsy Forums, and for good reason.  But the best reason is that I swear, working harder on my art opens doors I didn't even know existed.

So get to work, you artist friends!  And if you're here because you have a pet you'd love to have painted, welcome, contact me!

I'm Robin Zebley, a pet and house portrait painter. Got an art project in mind?  Here's more from my portrait art site

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pet Portrait Painting Demo, from Pictures

Boxer Painting from Pictures by me,
artist Robin Zebley
I'll be doing demos all day of my pet portrait painting at Camp Bow Wow in NE Philadelphia on Saturday, May 30, 2015, from 10 to 4.  Stop on by and say hi!


  
Phone: (215) 613-8223
Fax: (215) 613-8138

http://www.campbowwow.com/us/pa/philadelphiane/

I'll be painting this picture of Hoss, a black boxer, famous in Philadelphia's Passyunk Square neighborhood and a star on Instagram!  
Black Boxer picture to be painted into a portrait
by me, artist Robin Zebley



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Painting a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in Front of a Crowd

Oil Painting Portrait of Quiggley, a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.  What I love about painting WPGs is their almost human eyes!
Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Oil Painting Portrait by Robin Zebley

And something really fun about painting Quiggley was that I worked on him while selling my vintage at the Golden Nugget Antique Flea in Lambertville, NJ. The "Nugget" is just up the road from Washington's Crossing Park, just across the Delaware River from Pennsylvania.  As I've mentioned previously in this blog, I'm getting busy enough to focus solely on my art, and am giving up the vintage.  But on this day, I combined the two, got a lot done, met lots of cool dog lovers and artists, and even a new commission!

It was a little scary, I was really nervous.  My french easel was so unused, I couldn't find a part (but my resourceful husband found mega big clips to substitute) and once I got started, a crowd began to gather.  I stopped to chat, and paint and give out cards, it was the most fun I've ever had at a flea!  Nobody came to tell me I stunk (is that what I was nervous about????) and I actually got a lot done.

Dog Portrait I Painted at the
Golden Nugget in Lambertville, NJ


The painting ended when it got hot, though, because my medium got thicker and more sluggish...and so did I!  I am going to paint in public more, it was soooooo much fun.  I will try the Golden Nugget again, it's between New York and Philadelphia, and it's really a neat little, quality flea AND art market.  I'm not the only one selling art there!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Robin Paints robin, Fun Painting Birds in Nature

Robin Bird Original Oil Painting by me, artist Robin Zebley
I had so much fun painting this little robin bird.  He's only 6" x 6" square on a gallery wrapped canvas, so I painted the sides, too.
I edited the photo by Rita Morgan (used with her permission, of course!), simplifying the twigs.

What was most fun was that I painted pretty quickly, I know I've SAID I'm going to do "daily painting", and I love the free feeling painting not commissioned work give me.

It's a nice balance to painting my custom pet portraits.

To be fair, this little painting is available both in my etsy shop, RobinZebleyArtist.etsy.com and at Ebay HERE

More to come!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ebay vs. Etsy for Art, First Steps in Transition

Saluki Custom Portrait by me,
artist Robin Zebley
Today I'm beginning my first steps in my experiment in opening an Ebay store to see if it can pick up the slack that the nosedive in views at my Etsy shop.  More on that in this post about my Etsy views declining.

In order to make an Ebay store a better deal than just listing, I need more listings.

The Ebay rep I spoke with said I could convert my listings to my Ebay store when I was ready.  So my first step is to load my listings.

I have to work around my portrait commissions, but I get drying time since I use a pretty standard medium to paint, I dislike the look of the ones that speed things up.

So, don't have days to work on this project, but I do have hours.  So....off to work!  Have a great one, Robin.

More of my blog HERE.

I'm Philadelphia area painter, Robin Zebley.  I paint custom pet portraits in oils and colored pencil, house portraits in watercolor and ink, and anything else that catches my eye!  I'm currently working on florals, still lifes and landscapes in between my commission work!

I would love if you'd help me by tweeting, pinning, or facebooking my work with a link to my site, robinzebley.com.  It really helps!  Thanks!!  Robin

Monday, April 27, 2015

Thomas Eakins, Dick Blick, and Me!

Blick Art Supplies in Philadelphia, PA

Where do I buy my art supplies in Philadelphia?  At Blicks on 13th and Chestnut.
I usually buy online, but was crazed for the best Chinese Duck House in Philadelphia, Sang Kee, at 238 9th Street (the very tip of Chinatown), AND I wanted to look at some new supports in person that I'm trying out before ordering in quantity.

And here I see Thomas Eakins' studio was on that very spot.  I must have missed that plaque previously, but I hope Eakins' spirit will make for some good painting for me!
Where I buy my art supplies in Philadelphia

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Taking a Chance on Art as a Career

Sleeping Cat Portrait in Colored Pencil
Will I or won't I?

Although I have been doing art for 13 years, and left the corporate world, I've been supplementing through the lean times by selling vintage.

Doing my taxes last year, I realized that my art sales have way outpaced the vintage.  Yet I spent so much time on vintage.  What would happen if I dropped that side line?

I'm going to take the plunge without that safety net.

My gamble is that by concentrating my time and effort on my art, I can replace that vintage income. It takes a lot of time to buy, list, wrap and send vintage.  And the storage of it is a nightmare.

I'm going bigger with my paintings, too.

I'm also writing an e-booklet on starting a pet portrait business.  I get so many requests for advice that I see a need.  So keep your eye out for that.  And wish me luck, remember me in your prayers, send white light or whatever to me, pin me, blog me, tweet me!  I need all the help I can get!  Robin


Friday, April 17, 2015

What is an ACEO or ATC and Who Collects These Art Cards

Custom Dog Portrait ACEO by me
 ACEOs and ATCs are collectible art cards the size of a baseball card and are a fun and pretty inexpensive way to acquire a fabulous art collection in miniature.  I've enjoyed drawing realistic portraits of collectors' pet dogs and cats in this size.  The difference between an ACEO and an ATC is, simply put, about money.

ATC stands for Art Trading Cards.  This is how the movement started, artists trading art among one another, not selling to each other.  Then the general public wanted to get in on the fun and ACEOs were born!

ACEO stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals.  They are meant to be bought and sold and most of them are completed works of little art before they are offered for sale.

I like to paint and draw these tiny works of art both to trade with artists I admire and to sell to folks who collect mine! I've sold them on and off for years and love to list them on Ebay with bidding wars!

 This guy is a memorial portrait of a beloved dog that had recently crossed the rainbow bridge.  As important as his precious face was to his mom, was the setting because it was a place he loved to hang, the rocks and the water.  And you can see it from his happy face!  If you'd like your own pet's portrait drawn in an ACEO size, just contact me with your photos and I'll invoice you via Paypal.  I charge $25.50 each.  More of my dog portraits are at robinzebley.com and my Etsy pet portraits shop, CustomPortraitArt.Etsy.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Etsy to Sweatsy by Regretsy author April Winchell, My Review of her article on her opinion of Etsy's Upcoming IPO.

Pug says "What?"
Former publisher of  Regretsy, April Winchell  published her opinion of Etsy's on upcoming IPO in THIS ARTICLE on Motherboard.

April is best known for nasty-fun posts about handmade items for sale at Etsy with her hilarious comments.  A kind of guilty pleasure which ended when she published a book instead.  So she knows Etsy.

April humorously discusses Etsy's transition from a Handmade site (yes, including the badly made handmade), to a site that uses the reputation and cache of "handmade" to basically sell anything to up its profits to ready itself for the stock market investor.

I want to tell you she is totally off base here.  Because I sell both vintage and my own pet and house portrait art at Etsy.  But I can't.

When Etsy introduced the factory concept a year and a half ago, every staffer said items HAD to be at least designed by the owner, disclosed if it used a factory, that full disclosure of all workers if not a factory would be disclosed and very strict monitoring would take place.  And that they were sure no child labor was involved because a lot of them took a trip to China to make sure.  Somehow knowing in advance that the Etsy artisan who got too big to do every task to produce their own work would NOT contract out to a factory anywhere but.  As April notes, Etsy is not requiring those things, or else isn't monitoring in an acceptable level.

Orange & White Cat Oil Painting by me
One of the searches I do from time to time is "bridesmaid dresses".  I remember in the early days being so impressed that there were actually independent little dress designers working out of their home studios or a shopfront they rented, designing, cutting, sewing and SELLING high quality clothing, including bridesmaid dresses.

So for me that is a canary in the room.  How's the canary singing now?  What I see now on the front pages of search are:

"Cheap Bridesmade Dress!"  Who is the owner?  A name, a photo of someone who designed...nothing. Oh, by the way, they say,  "We prefer direct contact to ugly threats, believe me we have them."  No kidding.

Another that is prominently featured in the search results, happily selling away at "Handmade Etsy" has an owner who never once mentions designing or even ever having worked on a dress.  In fact, his claim to fame according to his self-reported bio is that he worked managing factories!  Name redacted:

"The owner  X  joined in dress business since 2004 after i graduated from university. At that time firstly worked in a large Hongkong based garment factory responsible for large USA brand such as: Macy and Nordstrom as well as some other brands from Europe countries,  X was working in the factory as a team leader. after working in the factory for years with his strong team, he set up his own factory with his team together. with the factory development smoothly and steadily. Last year, with the support of his factory, he lead his team to set up the dress studio/shop to provide the dresses to the customers."

They aren't even trying to pretend to be handmade, designed by the owner, or anything remotely associated with what Etsy claims it is!

And another who claims to do all the work herself from designing to cutting to sewing to shipping and somehow is able to accept  7 to 9 orders a day, every day.  Come on.

This just one search, one I'm familiar with so can write about.  Just multiply it out for just about every type of "handmade" there is.  If I can such obvious offenders of the Etsy TOU within a minute, Etsy can, too.  Others have painstakingly not only found shops violating the TOU, but reported them to Etsy, they say, including links to all over the internet where the exact items are selling, to no avail.  Yet Etsy claims when they investigate these shops, they are all "Etsy legal".  
Drawing of my Boxer dog, Sarge

I am afraid April Winchell is spot on.  I'm sad she is.  I am okay with Etsy going public.  I'd like to invest. But I want to invest in a company that is what it says it is and does what it says it would.   And for a totally, totally selfish reason.  I want to keep selling my pet and house portraits there.  And I fear as more and more potential buyers discover, as I did, that Etsy is not what it claims to be, that all of us will lose.  As April says, "Some corporations have the integrity to tell you who they are, even if you don’t like what they have to say."

That's the Etsy I want to invest in.

I'm Robin Zebley, a pet, house and kid portrait artist from just outside Philadelphia.  My site is robinzebley.com, and my etsy shop is CustomPortraitArt.etsy.com