Tag Archives: retirement

A Year of Change and Adventure

The Midwest has been locked in a deep freeze for the past few days and will continue to be for the next several.  This is a good time to snuggle in the warmth of the house with a hot cup of tea and reflect on the changes and adventures of the past year.

Leaving the office on the last day. Walls empty. Bulletin board empty. Most of the paperwork gone. Lots of memories.

The most dramatic change for me this year was my decision to retire last spring.  Leaving a job that I loved, my wonderful work family, and in the middle of an exciting new building project which had been on my wish list for a decade was difficult.  The hardest part was making the decision.  However, City Council approved the funding for our part of the building, the Library referendum passed, donors made huge commitments, and an energetic and intelligent young replacement was found.  I was able to walk out the door with a light heart knowing that Jasper Arts would be in good hands.

This left more time to pursue my own interests or get back to them.

First and foremost was my painting.  Although I’ve been a professional artist for over thirty years, job demands and time constraints meant there was less time for creative pursuits.  I never gave up my art but now I am able to devote as much time as I want to it, which is generally several hours every day.

My studio is the old summer kitchen surrounded by herbs, flowers and giant maple trees.

My schedule is pretty much my own.  I can get up when I want but that’s usually pretty early. Hard to break that 5:30 a.m. habit.  Now I can linger over that second cup of tea and my commute is only 30 feet from the back door.

I have been catching up on ten years of projects (how often does one really need to clean out the attic?)  Satisfying but not usually on top of the To Do list.

Gardening is another passion.  This year I was able to get outside before the heat of the day instead of dealing with chores at the end of the day.  Very nice.

My bike is tuned up.  I used to ride 100 miles a week and hope to get up there again this coming year.

Reading, of course, is always high on my agenda and I have eclectic tastes.  No more business or fundraising books!  Yay!

A short nap after lunch is always a nice thing to insert into the middle of the day.  (Apologies to those of you who can’t take advantage of this.)

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

My husband and I took our first winter vacation in thirty years this year. Couldn’t do that when the kids were young and in school, then later when I was working because winter is the busy season for the performing arts.

The Huntress I – oil on canvas, 20 x 20, Kit Miracle

Our charming granddaughter was also able to spend much of the summer with us.  She loves the beach (of beautiful Lake Patoka nearby), anything to do with nature or bugs or animals, painting and crafting with grandma, and is game for just about any adventure.

At the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh

We traveled back to Pennsylvania to visit relatives.  While there I took her to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh where she could see real dinosaur bones up close.  She was elated.

And my husband and I took a fall trip back to Massachusetts to visit relatives. We visited the iconic Rockport sea town and stopped off at Stockbridge on our way back.  We also took a detour to Niagara on our return.  It’s big…and loud!

Rockport, Massachusetts

Niagara Falls

There were family barbecues, day trips to interesting places, some plein air painting, and just time to kick back next to the fire pit and enjoy the day.  What could be better?

So, goodbye to 2017.  It was a good year.  Now I’m making plans for 2018.

Stay tuned.

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Selling Art on Etsy….or Not

My90Acres, Etsy shop

A couple of months ago I had lunch with two old friends from high school.  We hadn’t seen each other for decades so there was much to catch up on – families, careers, retirement, etc.  We had such fun.  As the newest retiree in the group (just since May), I was curious about how they spend their time.  As it turns out, my friend Susan started an Etsy shop.  We talked some more and I thought I could probably revive some fruit and vegetable paintings that I used to do when I was traveling the art fair circuit.  Later, when I returned home, I looked at my friend’s shop DoodleDogDesigns (cute personalized doggie bandannas) and was impressed by how professional it was….and how many sales she has had!  Wow, who doesn’t need a little extra income?

KitMiracleArt-Etsy shop

Within a week, I had set up a new Etsy shop, My90Acres with the intention of focusing on artwork related to the theme of this blog, i.e., living in the country.  The paintings are all original watercolor / pen and ink sketches, matted to 8 x 10.  These used to be my bread and butter item when I did the art fair circuit for 25 years. Very popular with buyers who want to add a pop of color to their kitchens and living spaces.  Afterall, just how much grey can we live with these days?  And they’re small enough to fit into those awkard spaces in your home, on the soffits over the cabinets, between the cabinets and the counter, between windows, or even on a shelf.  I had customers who would come by my booth every year to add a few more paintings to their collection.

Veggie Painting, My90Acres, Kit Miracle

I was also surprised that an Etsy shop that I’d started a few years ago was still registered to me, KitMiracleArt.  So I decided to revive it for all of my other artwork.  I’m ambitious if nothing else.  Besides, I have plenty of artwork on hand and plenty of time to pursue my interests now.

Autumn Road

So after two months of the Etsy experience, this is what I have to report.

Pros

  • The investment was minimal. I already have the studio and all the tools I need to do my work.  The Etsy fee is only 20 cents per item and 3% per sale which is a small fee to get my work in front of so many people.  I did purchase museum-grade ready-cut mats.  Not much overall.
  • I already have the skills. I’ve been painting professionally for over 30 years. I have years of selling at art fairs and running a business.
  • I have a modest amount of computer skills with my original web site since the mid 1990s, plus managing the website, blog, and other online activities at my former job as Director.
  • I’m pretty good at marketing and SEO (search engine optimization). During my decade as Director, we sold out about 50% of our performing arts events. And a Google search of my name reveals that I come up five times on the first page.
  • This forced me to take a complete inventory of my studio, plus clean up. Neither of which is a favorite activity of artists.
  • I was forced to learn my “new” digital camera which I purchased two years ago.
  • I was also forced to learn a really good photo manipulation program which I had installed over a year ago.
  • And, my time is still my own; I still get to paint and do something I enjoy. I love those afternoon naps, too!

LuckyRed #3

But all is not paradise in the land of Etsy.  There were some surprises.

Cons

  • Running a successful Etsy shop takes LOTS OF TIME! I so admire those people who are really good at this and totally appreciate the effort they have put into their shops. The actual time invested to make this happen was a surprise and affected almost every area related to my Etsy shops.
  • Establishing a new shop and reviving the old shop was more work than I anticipated. What was I thinking?!
  • Production time increased. Just to get enough products for the My90Acres shop required a concerted investment of time.  This could almost become a job. Did I mention that I just retired?
  • Taking good photos is paramount. If your pictures don’t look good in your store, you don’t look professional. I was forced to learn the new camera so this ultimately was a good thing. It takes a lot of time to set everything up, check the lighting, take the photos, and put everything away.
  • Photo editing (after I learned the new program) takes a lot longer than I anticipated. I really want my pictures to look good.  Many evenings will find me working on my laptop while my husband is taking in the Cubs game.
  • Writing the descriptions for each item takes way more time than I imagined. Afterall, I want to be informative but perky, to entice the buyer to actually purchase something.
  • Promotion is critical and again, takes some investment of time. This includes making sure your tag words are good, searchable, promoting on social media, and just keeping up with it all.
  • Educating myself about the ins and outs of Etsy has also been a treat. I’ve read a couple of books but will say that the Seller’s Manual on the Etsy site has been a tremendous help.  I’ve also watched several videos on the topic (there are over 1 million Etsy videos on YouTube).
  • One needs to have some business background – budgeting, accounting, inventory – to have a successful shop. Fortunately, I had this already but new Etsy shop owners should educate themselves in this area.
  • Planning and organization are key. I’m pretty organized but the amount of time involved has been a surprise.

Bottom line

So, my shops have been open for less than two months.  Lots of visitors from all over the world but no sales yet.  My friends are encouraging and I’ll stick with it because, hey, I’ve got the time to devote to it now.  And….shameless marketing….I’ve got sales going on in both shops through September 18th.  Time to start shopping for the holidays! KitMiracleArt   My90Acres

Pumpkins and Sunflowers, KitMiracleArt, Etsy

Quick Draw and Plein Air Painting Event at Jasper, Indiana

I have only been into retirement about three weeks but, frankly, I have been sooooo busy!  I know, all retirees say that.  But it’s true.  It rained nearly the entire first week with some epic flooding in this area.  I spent much of that week just organizing the stuff I brought home from my office (too much after 17 years).  And making lists.  I’m a list maker and have always been one.  Just love checking off those items.

After awhile, however, I reminded myself that I didn’t want my entire retirement to be one big To Do list.  I want to have some fun!

So I signed up for the Quick Draw and Plein Air Painting event sponsored by Jasper Community Arts.  I have never been able to participate before since I am an employee so I was grateful for the opportunity this year.  It is also co-sponsored by another organization I belong to, RunawayArtists.com.

This two-day event was on the Friday and Saturday before Mother’s Day.  Friday predictions were for more rain so I tried to think of somewhere sheltered to paint.  I asked my friends at Green Thumb Nursery if they would mind if I painted there and they were delighted so that is where I began.  It was a very pleasant morning with the rain pattering on the roof and painting among all the flowers.  The most difficult part was to find the right corner where I wouldn’t be in the way of all the Mother’s Day shoppers. The angle wasn’t the most desirable as I couldn’t back up enough to gauge the proper perspective, but a lovely morning, all in all.

Plein Air Painting at Green Thumb on a rainy day. Kit Miracle

Plein Air Painting at the garden center. Oil on canvas, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

Watching all the shoppers come in for holiday, I thought that I might stick with the flowers theme and went to the other side of town to paint in the Walmart garden center.  It was an awesome display of flowers!  Again, I found an out of the way spot to paint.  I was particularly enamored with the bright colors of the kayaks propped against the building contrasting with all the flowers.  You have to develop a pretty thick skin to paint in such a public and well-trafficked space but it didn’t bother me at all.  No one from the store came up and asked what I was doing but I did have a few customers asked if I worked there.  It must have been my painting apron.  Ha ha.

Painting at the garden center at Walmart on the day before Mother’s Day. Kit Miracle

The Garden Center at Walmart. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12, Kit Miracle

Finally, at the end of the afternoon, I participated in the Quick  Draw event at the Schaeffer Barn in downtown Jasper.  This old log barn was moved here and restored and has a beautiful garden space.  Always something interesting to paint.  This is a timed event and the artists only have two hours to complete a painting.  I came in third.  Yay!

Painting at the Schaeffer Barn, Quick Draw event.

Schaeffer Barn Quick Draw event. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12. Kit Miracle Third place winner!

The second day of the event I worked in the morning as a volunteer.  Later in the day I did some more plein air painting at a different garden center but nothing came of it.  Sometimes it works that way. I must have used all my creative juices the day before.  But that is alright.  I met some very nice artists and had a good time in the fresh air.

Lifetime paid vacation

Leaving the office on the last day. Walls empty. Bulletin board empty. Most of the paperwork gone. Lots of memories.

Finally.  After years of working, I retired this week from my job as Director of a performing and fine arts center.  I can’t believe the time is finally here.  It seems as if I’ve been traveling towards this day since my first paid real job when I was sixteen.  At first it seemed it would never arrive, and then the past few months, time kept speeding up.  I did what I could to clean out and organize.  Trained my replacement as best one can in only a week.  We’ll see how he does.

But for now.  What to do?  Paid vacation for a lifetime.  My list is long but I think it’s important to have a life, not just a To Do list.  There is always something to do on the farm.

Cleaning out my studio. Painting.  Getting back into the exhibition thing.  Traveling for plein air painting events or just to travel.  Gardening. Reading.  Just kicking back.

Hopefully, you’ll see lots more work on here.