As some of you know, when I started painting in 1995 I painted murals. Looking back, I have absolutely no idea why I chose walls instead of canvas or paper, I just did.
The first 5 or 6 years were mostly trial and error. Ok . . . mostly error. But since it was paint, it was easy to paint over something and either start over or salvage anything I could.
Learning the mural business . . . well, I’m not actually sure I ever did learn it! Or let’s just say, I didn’t make any real money because I had no idea how to bill.
Or how to bid a job either.
I can’t tell you how many jobs I worked on without any sort of paperwork – work order, invoice, any kind of agreement. They’d give me a check and I’d show up with my paints and brushes, paint their walls, get another check and leave.
You know the saying, “ignorance is bliss”? Yep. And I was really lucky to have the best and most trustworthy clients anyone could ask for.
I didn’t have much of a portfolio either. I had some color copies in a binder of a few murals and would tote that with me to people’s houses. Since most of my jobs came thru word-of-mouth, the clients had usually seen my work already and I always provided a full color rendering of their job before painting their walls. It worked well enough.
I started teaching painting classes in 1998 at the craft store where I had worked. The income from those helped when I was in between mural jobs, which was quite a bit since I didn’t do any regular marketing or advertising.
Feng shui? Yep. I studied it for a number of years, did a few friends’ houses, then – like everything else – I started teaching it.
The reason I even bring it up here is because my feng shui classes were instrumental in getting my website – Muralmaker1.com – built.
You see, the newspaper had a Calendar in Saturday’s Home & Garden section where you could list classes for free, which I did. My feng shui class caught some editor’s eye and they wanted to interview me for an article.
Um . . . okay.
They also wanted to send a photographer out to the house to take some photos of me.
Seriously? Ok. If you have to.
The interview, however, was done over the phone, just question and answer stuff, which was fine, until he asked a certain question –
“Do you have a website you’d like us to put in the article?”
Sure, I do! (I didn’t.) When will this article print? (So I could hurry up and build a website.)
I think I had 10 days or something like that. Ten days to round up all of my mural photos, write something about each one, and put them into a website.
Never mind that I had never built a website before. You’ve read the story about my flower shop, where my landlord came in to order family flowers for his mother-in-law’s funeral . . . but she wasn’t even dead yet! If you have a few minutes, you might find it amusing, how a 19 year old with absolutely no experience opens a florist.
Story of my life, not knowing what I’m doing and working under pressure.
I borrowed Mom’s computer since ours was barely functional and we couldn’t get online with it. Hers at least could connect to the internet and had a whopping 256k. (I don’t believe they even made computers with a gigabyte of RAM at the time. Ha, I would’ve settled for a one megabyte.)
Oh, yes. This was back in 2004 and I had probably spent altogether about a month online and that was using those free AOL disks.
But c’mon. How hard could it be to build a website?
Actually, not hard. I used Homestead as a host and they have templates and everything was drag ‘n drop. There was only one problem . . . that 256k. It simply was not enough memory and I didn’t even know it.
I didn’t have the sense to optimize my photos for the web, nor did I have a photo editing program. Every time I’d get a page laid out with colors and text and all, I’d place a photo or two in the page and the click “Publish” and the computer screen would go all wonky and then turn off.
I believe the technical term is “crash”.
It was a long, long 10 days but you can bet I did get that first website built. It was called FromTheRedBarn.com because we had a red barn and, I dunno, I thought it was cute.
I think I changed the name 3 or 4 times before finally settling on Muralmaker but Muralmaker-dot-com was already taken by an artist in L.A. who painted screen sets and back drops. So I became Muralmaker1.com.
Remember all of that talk about people who had websites got rich, like, overnight? Yeah, um, didn’t happen.
But I did have a good art portfolio which served me well for a few years.
When 2007 hit, not only did my business suffer, like everyone else’s, I was also in a car accident. No more painting walls for me. I kept the website though because I always figured I’d eventually get back to painting. If not walls, then something.
In 2009 my mom got sick and I started spending half of my time with her, 35 minutes away from Sacramento. I spent a lot of my time online because I didn’t have my paints at her house. Twitter and Facebook were around but not huge yet. I came across some article that talked about blogs and how good they were for marketing. But the best part? They were FREE!
I had no idea what I was doing with the blog, (sound familiar?) but it was fun. I kept Muralmaker1 because I thought it made sense to have both – a website and a blog. But there was so much to learn about blogging, and just the online world, I never really did much with the website. Every so often I’d upload a photo or two and tell myself one of these days I’d revamp the whole thing.
That day never came.
And here we are, 5 years later, and I finally . . . FINALLY . . . have a plan for my paintings. Want to know the plan? Okay, I’ll tell you. Thanks for asking.
First, the blog. Of course. Now that I’ve moved to WordPress it’s actually fun to blog again. So I’ll continue posting paint projects and tutorials. Second, I want to paint more products for my Zazzle shop. Third, I’m working on videos again. Some will be free and some will be paint classes and workshops. Those will get going as soon as I have #4 ready. Number 4 is an Etsy shop with all of my art and illustrations available as downloads. I talk more about Etsy in a few days.
That’s a lot, those four things. Doable, but a lot. Which made me realize that it’s time to close the door on Muralmaker1.com. I probably should’ve done it years ago but it was like my first painting baby. Now it’s just money down the drain every month because I don’t spend any time on it and it gets very little traffic.
No, the blog and the shops are enough online presence, along with social media.
You know, when I started this blog 5 years ago – and it was called Mural Maker and More – my plan was to write about painting murals. I really haven’t done that much. So maybe from time to time I’ll drag out some photos and we’ll talk about that job a bit. I know a lot of you paint murals, or would like to, and if there’s anything I could do to help, I’d love to do that.
The past few years, with Mom getting sick and my husband and brother dying, have obviously been really tough. It’s been hard to focus on my business, or anything else, for that matter. Now the dust is settling a bit and it feels so good to have a plan and tangible goals again, goals that are within reach.
Oh, one last thing, I’ll keep Muralmaker1.com open for another couple of weeks if you want to go over and check out some murals.
Right now I’m gonna open a window and let some fresh air – and new paintings – in!