I mentioned my somewhat iffy health in a previous blog. It has been causing me problems for about 4 years now and has become a bit like a time consuming hobby I would really rather not have! I have misbehaving lungs that seem to spasm at the slightest insult from airborne allergens necessitating many 999 calls, nervous paramedics and speedy ambulance rides to resus. In a fairly new and odd development my symptoms seem to be multiplying and I can now add pain around my ribs, tremors, a misbehaving right leg, dizziness, feeling vague and overwhelming fatigue to my collection. Oh, and an inability to stand up without my brain seemingly wandering off. A bit like the pictures in Harry Potter where you can't expect the subjects to hang around all day.
It is all very peculiar and baffling but hopefully the medical profession (and my incessant Google searches) will work it out eventually. In the meantime I have taken matters into my own hands.
Problem: I can't walk very far without my lungs complaining, my legs turning to jelly and my head disappearing into the clouds.
Solution: An awesome wheelchair with orange spokes!
I absolutely love it. It has completely changed my life. I cannot overstate what it has done. I can join the boys on outings! I can go to Sainsbury's! I can race the boys down hills at Marwell Zoo and nearly tip myself out in the process! I can go out for a meal with friends and not worry if we park more than 20m away from the restaurant! I can just go out and not worry that I will end up in hospital because my lungs have had enough of me pushing it.
The new wheels mean freedom. There is no "wheelchair bound". I'm wheelchair freed.
I spend quite a lot of my time feeling not all that peachy thanks to somewhat dodgy health. I have to pace myself and tailor what I do each day to how I feel and how much energy I have. Some days it is sitting on the sofa watching rubbish TV or retreating to bed. But on the days when I feel slightly better than that then I can rely on my brain to be able to be artistic. It mostly won't do the accounts, but that could have more to do with the fact that it is dull than anything else!
Today is very nearly a sofa day. In fact I'm typing this whilst sat on the sofa watching Octopussy! It'll take me a while to write and my ability to compose sentences might not be quite what it sometimes is. But I have managed to paint today. I've painted a monster. Literally.
I have also scanned Bluple (as I have just decided to name him), tidied up the scan in Photoshop, imported it into Illustrator and printed it out. And then framed it. All things I can do without too much brain input required and mostly from a seated position. Perfect.
I think I shall be painting more monsters and possibly starting a new line of prints. There seems to have been quite a positive response to Bluple on my Facebook page so maybe I'll even sell a few! And I feel great because I have achieved something without ending up exhausted or feeling worse than when I started. Plus son number 2 has been inspired to paint his own monster. A good result all round.
So, I've been having some thoughts today as I was bombarded by e-mails trying to tempt me with Black Friday deals. I've always known that marketing is my weak area. I love designing my pictures, talking to people about the design they want, coming up with new ideas, mucking about with my website, and so on. I'm not great at marketing / selling (and I hate doing the accounts!).
I can happily post stuff on Facebook and put pictures on Instagram, but that isn't quite the same as trawling round shops trying to get them to stock my pictures or talking people into buying pictures when I'm on a stall or coming up with exciting Black Friday deals. I guess it basically comes down to the fact that I really want people to want the picture they buy and not be drawn in by some fake deal or marketing ploy.
I posted on my Facebook page today that I would give 10% of all sales receipts from the next week to Asthma UK and Help for Heroes. This seemed like a good antidote to Black Friday, but even in doing that I thought perhaps people would think I was trying to use my support for these charities to sell pictures! And I really don't want people to think that but I guess some will. I genuinely do support these charities for reasons very close to my heart.
I am ex-military and know the great work done by Help for Heroes. Asthma UK supports people with asthma and is working hard trying to find new ways to lessen the impact of this disease. I have asthma and it has caused me a lot of grief. I have only had it for three years and I have lost count of the number of ambulances I have needed and the number of nights I have spent in hospital in that time.
So, in the grand scheme of things, creating pictures seems pretty unimportant! Sure, it makes me some money which is nice and I enjoy it. I also hope that the people who buy my pictures get pleasure from them. I am not, however, going to hassle anyone into buying one! If you want a picture, my website is always open!
My eldest son, Owen, shows quite a lot of interest in Gillian Jones Designs. He keeps asking to help with the pictures. Now I love my son to bits, but the thought of teaching an 8 year old the intricacies of Adobe Creative Suite (which although brilliant is not the most intuitive set of software) makes be shiver slightly. We've had the odd play, but I think I'll wait a couple of years before using him as my chief designer!
I don't, however, want to discourage his enthusiasm, so together we had a good think about what he could do to help with Gillian Jones Designs and learn a bit more about business. We came up with flags! We found a wholesaler, decided on the designs we would like to stock, worked out profit margins and ordered flags (initial capital investment courtesy of Mum!).
So far, he has sold flags at the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth and at a school fete (all profits to the PTA - he's a good lad!).
The next step was to add them to the website, so I taught Owen how to add products. And he did! I showed him once, and he added the others by himself. The joys of teaching the technologically savvy.
We haven't quite come to an agreement on how much he earns each time a flag is sold, but we'll have more discussions about that no doubt! At the moment he is happy to reinvest the earnings into more stock. We've just bought some hand waving flags which Owen is sure will prove popular with children. We shall have to test out his theory at our next event, which is a Love Southsea Market in Palmerston Road on November 8th.
We are also having a go at social media marketing and are running a competition on the Gillian Jones Designs Facebook page to win a flag. All you have to is like the post before 23rd October!
It's great fun working with Owen and hopefully he is learning something. Perhaps this is something I should package up and sell to schools as a learning tool!
I am often asked how I create my picture and what type of paint I use. Well, I don't use any paint at all - just printer ink! All my pictures are created using the Adobe Creative Suite which is a set of software tools that includes the famous Photoshop (although I don't actually use Photoshop that much).
Last week I was invited to visit HMS Excellent, a shore base in Portsmouth, to take some photos of Navy Command HQ with a view to creating a picture for them. I used these photos a starting point for my design and using Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign I can go from this.....
Or even this...
Oh the fun you can have with a computer....