A Year in Review

It is the last day of 2015. Everyone is posting their “most liked photos of 2015” on social media, which I guess is mildly interesting. But I’m not going to do that. I’m just as interested in the failures as I am in the successes. As nostalgia is both bitter and sweet, it’s been both fun and horrible to compile this list. So, feel free to pour yourself some of this frighteningly cheap boxed wine and join me as I reminisce.

January: I launched a new website

The whole process was like conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to an illegitimate child: the idea was conceived after I got home from the bar; I spent the next nine months developing the idea, eating weird food, and crying uncontrollably; and finally, when the idea was ready to come into the world, I hired a developer who, like a doctor, had me up at 4 AM–screaming and on strong drugs–and who in the end charged me a huge sum of money.

And the launch party was like a baby shower: all of my friends were there (Bess); it was catered (by Dominos); and there was a photo booth (provided by Macintosh).

Now that the site is a year old, the metaphor still holds in that my site makes huge messes and keeps me up at night.

I can only hope that this is where the metaphor ends, because I don’t think I can handle the Terrible Twos.

However, it might be nice if the site grew up and was able to pay for my hospice.

January: I was in Austin Monthly

This was pretty out of the blue but very timely (because my site would be launching in the same month) and undeserved (I didn’t even know how to digitally paint that well!).

austin monthly pet portrait artist

That was my old place of residence. I moved my bed to the backyard to make this shot happen.

Either way it was pretty cool. Bess loved the camera. Link to the article is here.

February: I started Philanthropomorphize, a monthly fundraiser

The beginning of the year is particularly difficult for non-profits because the giving season is over. People are less compelled to give, since many have already given their money to other non-profits or to The Mall. So I wanted to help my friends at Love-a-Bull by having a fundraiser to help boost sales during these slow times. Also to drive traffic to my site.

Anyway, because these shirts were being sold to raise money, I would be ordering the exact amount after the fundraiser was over, which meant that customers who chose to participate wouldn’t actually be receiving their shirts for like a month. Which sucked, but I tried to warn everyone everywhere. Most people received the message and were happy to be helping Love-a-Bull. Others were not, which was disappointing, but probably inevitable.

Then, with the help of Love-a-Bull’s marketing skillz and a feature on 365 Things to do in Austin, I got a shitload of orders. So I had to carefully calculate every single order to be sure that I got the right number of shirts. As a fairly right-brained person, this was a challenge. A huge challenge, and I hated it. I mean it involved a fucking spreadsheet, for chrissakes.

But, during that month, we were able to organically raise over $1200.

That experience sparked two things: the first was doing it every month, and the second was automating the process.

Regarding the former, I reached out to groups, made some web pages, designed some shirts, and branded it with a short, easy-to-say name: Philanthropomorphize.

tee sale dog

Regarding the latter – automating the process – I got my friend Jim the Developer to write some sort of nerdy code thing which creates a crazy file whatnot that I now send to a fulfillment company, who processes the orders, all so that I don’t have to deal with any of those horrible spreadsheets.

So, in 2016, I plan to continue with this, except I hope that the shirts, like my work in general, will be much better than my last round.

March: I learned how to paint like a normal person

Although I’ve been painting digitally since the beginning, I was doing it horribly wrong. The result? Horribleness. I figured that since my whole business is now based on digital work, I needed to perhaps formally educate myself. Thusly I attended the prestigious School of YouTube Videos and practiced a lot.

May: Paws ‘n’ Pints

If you thought that the inclusion of my guest appearance in Austin Monthly was really just a cloaked form of showing off my wild success, this should ground your perception.

Through a weird connection, I had a meeting with the lovely people at Scoot Inn, who were interested in having a dog-themed happy hour thing. Having been in the underground pet-portrait game for over three years, I’ve developed a variety of contacts. So the plan was to brand the event, schedule rescues and vendors, and raise some money.

That didn’t work out at all.

First, it was on like a Tuesday during happy hour. The city is gridlocked during that time. People have been running around all day, working, trying to get home, picking up dogs and kids, blah blah blah. So, asking them to come out was like politely asking Bess to stop chasing a squirrel at full sprint.

Even when some vendors and neighborhood folk did come out, it was either hot as ballz or raining.

But, on the bright side–both literally and figuratively–the Pet Costume Party was pretty legit.

dog with bow tie and hat

And plus I had every excuse in the world to get sloppy drunk on a Tuesday evening, and by anyone’s standards, that is a success in its own right.

August: I started this blog

Again, Jim the Developer helped me out with that. Thanks, Jim the Developer.

At first I really didn’t know what to write about. Writing about artwork seems boring, so I knew that I didn’t want it to just be about that. What seemed interesting to me was illustrating my life as a dog owner through pseudo comics. It involves a different style of painting, which has been great fun to explore.

Speaking of blogging, I find it incredibly irritating when bloggers blog about blogging, so I’m not going to write about it anymore and instead show you pictures of animals.

All Year Long: People’s Pet Photos

People upload photos on my site everyday. Just as people are looking at their “most liked photos of 2015”, I would like to present to you “the photos that I liked the most during 2015.”

that face

cat with tongue out

dog with food

dog in woods

remy with beard

cat

cat painting

haha

dog with gun

WTF?

dog on logs

And there you have it. That was 2015. Sure, there was some shit that I left out, but, to be totally frank, I have lunch plans in half an hour and I haven’t showered.

So have a happy and safe New Year from your friend at Coat and Tails Pet Portraits!

Christmas Season Wrap Up

When I started Coat & Tails three years ago, I had no idea how hectic Christmas would get. A lot of it was that I had zero processes in place to streamline the orders and I wasn’t really that great at digital painting. It was also because Bess thought it’d be hilarious to gnaw on my stylus.

This year was a bit different. It was the first time my site and my new business model were put to the test. High-volume/low-cost is a lot different from low-volume/high-cost (although I hit all points along that spectrum, fewer people choose the high-cost option). The biggest difference is the system. Which I’m trying to improve.

Along those lines, I’m starting to offer free portraits for those who agree to participate in a user group. If you choose to be involved, we’ll basically set up a call and I’ll watch you use my site to see which parts suck horribly and which parts are working as intended. If you want to participate, click here.

Anyway, I thought it’d be fun to show you some of the portraits I did this year.

This is Frankie and Teddy. This one is 16″ x 20″, so that is why it is a bit more detailed than some of the other ones you might see around. The customer had only one revision after the final draft was delivered: that I add more fuzz for Teddy, since he’s “quite the fuzzball.” Excellent.

two cats wearing clothes

This is Chloe. Evidently she sleeps a lot.
cat wearing clothes

This is Sullivan. I think. He had a twin and I could never get their names right.
cat wearing clothes

Here’s Sullivan’s brother. (Notice how they’re wearing the same outfits!)
cat wearing clothes

Here’s their other cat, Warren:

cat wearing clothes

Here’s Gus and Charlie. Don’t know anything about these two.

dog and cat wearing clothes

Here’s Quincy, who unfortunately died recently. Like the first one, this one is also 16″ x 20″ – hence all the detail.
cat wearing clothes

Here is Manly. Although he’s drinking scotch here, I think he also very much enjoys Dos Equis.
cat wearing clothes

Here are a couple of badasses.
cat wearing clothes

Here’s Benny:
cat wearing clothes

Here’s Slim. This one was tough because the only photos of her weren’t great, so I had to improvise. The client was mainly wanting the eyes to stand out.
dog wearing victorian clothes

Here’s Jack, perhaps drinking Jack.
man of leisure

Max, Skittle, and Maris:

"pet

Bella:
"dog

Thanks to all who ordered! Hope the recipients of these gifts were pleased.

— Brycycle “loose fit” Dishrag

A quick reminder about Christmas, along with some other things

Introductory remarks regarding cats and the internet and Instagram

Today I told someone that I dabble in pet portraiture. Here’s our conversation:

“I dabble in pet portraiture.”

“Have you ever seen those cat videos on the internet?”

“Uh you mean, like, generally?” I asked, nonplussed.

“Yeah!” she said, excitedly.

“Yep, I have seen some.”

And that was where the conversation ended.

When I tell people I paint pet portraits, the reactions tend to range mostly in terms of their enthusiasm:

“Oh that’s kind of cool.” -My stylist.

to

“OH MY GOD LET ME SHOW YOU 18 PHOTOS OF MY DOG BATMAN AND WILL YOU PAINT HIM WEARING A TUXEDO?” -Visitor who came to my booth but who could serve as a representative segment for my target demographic except for the Batman part.

(Not sure why they’d want me to paint Batman as Bruce Wayne but it’s whateverz.)

Again, the range is mostly in terms of enthusiasm rather than relevance. Perhaps one day I’ll have enough wildly irrelevant reactions to report an entirely new spectrum.

Christmas

Ok so Christmas. The orders thereof are starting to drizzle in, so I want to remind the two or three people who read this blog that they should go ahead and place their Bruce Wayne-themed orders before I drape all of my online things with “No More Christmas Orders! (I’m backed up like The Penguin after eating an entire cheese plate.)”

I’d also like to remind all two or three of you that you can now order at a range of price points. You can get a photo edit (the HEB of my products), a drawing (the Randall’s of my products), or a totally custom portrait (the Whole Foods of my products). Below explains things in perhaps a better way than using a random grocery store metaphor.

Photo Edit

The “photo edit” option is the cheapest, starting at only $30. For that option, I take your photo:

dog

…isolate the face:

westie face

…and incorporate it onto the costume you choose:

westie wearing tuxedo

…and optionally you can get it framed thusly:

framed westie tuxedo

The drawbacks here are as follows:

  • If the lighting is different from the costume you choose, the composition will be inconsistent.
  • If the photo is blurry or grainy, it won’t look as good as a drawing.
  • If the photo is taken from a perspective that differs from the drawing, it won’t come out as well – it will look photo-edited.
  • Because most people use their phones to take photos, I have to cap the size to 11″x14″. So basically with this option, you cannot get a print larger than 11″x14″.

However, there are plusses:

  • Cheaper, starting at $30
  • Faster turnaround
  • If you upload a good photo, then it often looks better than the drawing. My drawings of clothes are relatively realistic, so a good photo works pretty well

If you choose the Photo Edit option, you might consider reading my Wall of Fame and Shame to get a sense of the types of photos that work best.

Drawing Option

The “drawing” option is more expensive, starting at $96. For that option, I actually draw your pet’s face onto the clothes you select.

For instance, if you upload this:

rocko

..starting at $96, you get this:

dog head tuxedo

Just joking; you’ll get this:

Dog Portrait

Please note, however, that the above was drawn at the 20×24″ size. If you order an 8×10″, it won’t be as detailed.

Similarly, the Drawing option has its positives and negatives:

Plusses follow thusly:

  • It looks like it was drawn by the same hand. After all, it was. This is rarely the case with the photo edit option
  • I can draw it up to 20″x24″.

Minuses follow accordingly:

  • More expensive: starting at $96.
  • Slower turnaround. It takes me longer to draw it.

Totally Custom Portrait

The final option is the totally custom option, which you’ll have to email me about (bryce@coatandtails.com). Don’t worry I’m more pleasant via email than via blog.

Preparation is the Key to the Castle One Bedroom Apartment of Stress Management

To further prepare for when the Christmas drizzle of loveliness becomes a Christmas deluge of death and horror, I have been working on revamping some of my portraits so they look their Friday best for Christmas day. Most recently, I updated The Civil War General (see above).

It’s notable that although I’m mostly devolving as a human being, I’m generally evolving as a digital painter. So the products I was offering last year are what I affectionately call “shit” nowadays. You can see from the image below that I had no fucking idea how to draw animal faces this time last year:

animal heads art

And it’s probably safe to assume that by this time next year, I will rather affectionately call the above “good” face of 2015 “horrid shit” – and I hope that I will, since it will mean that I have gotten much better.

I predict that 2016 and beyond will bring about some excellent progress in perhaps the following vein:

hi guys

Obviously I’m planning to lose my shit completely and draw from my guts rather than from my brain. Then and only then can I use hashtags like #detail and #realism.

Ultimately I’m happy to report that I have most of my old shitty drawings updated and prepped for the Christmas onslaught.

Victorian + Surreal = The Treacherous Future of Coat & Tails

I have also been working on a possible development in my style. Like a good member of the South Dallas community (AKA the Arboretum), I was hanging out at Barnes and Noble, and I came across a book about Mark Ryden.

The intro was about the rebirth of kitsch, which was consoling, since what I do is pretty kitschy, although it’s not as bad as the “bad kitsch” I see by some people who are in my line of work.

I liked Ryden’s style and felt inspired by it and I wondered if I could perhaps add a touch of the kitsch-surreal to my portraits, as I am sometimes wont to do with my personal work, which includes random fish floating by:

fishies!

or lamps paired with Elizabethan collars:

squirrel

Thuswise, I started to thumb through the internet for inspiration. Once I got past all those cat videos on which the internet was founded, I came across several inspiring Victorian photographs and attempted to add the aforementioned surreal component:

organ cat piano

This is not done but hopefully you see the direction: the giant fat keys, the pipes that I made up (intentionally to resemble kazoos). The key difference is that I used to achieve realism whereas now I try to achieve realism mixed with invention. Which is difficult, since there is no reference.

Ultimately what I’m saying is that it’s kind of a challenge to balance both a touch of the absurdly ornate style of all things Victorian:

victorian organ

….with the often simple nature of surrealism:

mark ryden's The Ecstasy of Cecelia

(via Mark Ryden at www.markryden.com)

For the visual learner (or the learner who finds the above unintelligible), here’s a diagram of the Venn variety:

your friendly pet portrait artist

So after I microwave a frozen chicken breast and wash it down with approximately five Lone Stars, I will likely attempt to pursue finishing Organ Lady in all her properness.

Although now, after having written that sentence, I am inclined to hit the town to pursue a lady who is (1) not a cat and (2) lacks properness.

“kuh shh,” said my beer as I opened another one.

Daylight Savings Ends, Leaving the World in Total Darkness and Chaos

Now that it gets dark at 4 PM, my evening walks with Bess have gone from this:

light

to this:

dark

Oh and BTW, the little white dots are actually the tiny eyes of WOLF SPIDERS.

So that’s fun.

Seinfeld

It’s a rainy day here in Austin. For the past two or three antediluvian days, local news stations have been waxing apocalyptic on Facebook about the upcoming deluge and, consequently, my grocery store was a madhouse packed with the overanxious and the duped. This isn’t Patricia, people. All I wanted was a sandwich and a six pack. It took like 30 minutes. I considered the legal implications of simply leaving cash on the shelf; I mean, wouldn’t I have technically paid for it? Probably not.

Anyway, I grew up watching Seinfeld, and it gives me great pleasure to have worked on Kramer:

kramer seinfeld dog

This is one of the first portraits in which I actually cartoonized the face a bit to match Kramer’s expression:

kramer dog

The astute viewer will notice that I decided to include the lobster shirt. It is one of my favorites in the show.

This costume will be available soon. I have been working on Jerry and George:

seinfeld dog puffy shirt

seinfeld george big coat goretex

Elaine will be tricky. I haven’t even started yet.

 

When to Use “Rescue”

by Coat & Tails on

The other day, while I was at the dog park, Bess started chasing this other dog around. I learned that his name was Mr. Wiggles*. I asked Mr. Wiggles’ owner where she got him, and she told me that she rescued him. Intrigued, I inquired further by asking if she had personally saved it from some sort of disaster or imminent death. I learned that she had actually acquired Mr. Wiggles through a rescue group.

But methinks that she did the adopting. Not the rescuing. It occurred to me that perhaps some people don’t know the difference. So I thought a short guide would help navigate these murky waters.

When it’s Appropriate to Say that You Rescued an Animal

  1. When you’ve gone into a burning building to save an animal from being burned alive:

fireman rescuing cat

“I just rescued this kitty from death by giant, raging fire.”

  1. When you’re an officer of the department of the police and you remove animals from unsatisfactory conditions:

police officer rescuing a dog

“I just rescued this dog from its imbecile ‘owner’ whose neglect of this dog would have ultimately killed it.”

  1. When you spend a lot of time secretively running around town in your underwear saving animals from evil villains as a result of having super powers and/or a lot of childhood trauma:

superman kitty

“I just rescued Mr. Banana Balls from The Adolescent, a cruel villain whose childhood trauma – which is concomitant to the hero’s (disenchantment with the public school system) – causes him to torture small animals.”

  1. When you’re a volunteer, employee, or otherwise directly involved with organizations that work to prevent animals from being euthanized.

animal rescue volunteer

 

“I’ve rescued like 10 dogs by helping them find homes so they weren’t euthanized.”

Note: Although I’m talking more generally, this category could include taking in a stray and either keeping it or turning it over to organizations equipped to properly handle the situation, since the animal might have died otherwise.

Ultimately, it’s likely that you did not rescue an animal; you probably just adopted it. So just say that you adopted it. If you want to be a rescuer, then get involved with the animal-rescue process. When in doubt, just show some humility. Geez. 

* The name has been changed to protect the identity of the dog involved.

Scary Forest Man

by Coat & Tails on

This evening, I was hiking on the trail near my place of residence with Bess. It’s a lovely trail with very few people. But sometimes, there are Scary Forest People. Today, we came across Scary Forest Man. I’ve seen him before. He was alone. This time, he was stopped in the middle of the trail (annoying) and stared at me as I approached (creepy). Here is what he kind of looked like:

scary forest man

His dogs were tied to the same leash, but he wasn’t holding onto it, so they were like erratic dog nunchucks.

dog nunchucks

Scary Forest Man then said unnecessarily loudly, “You two have similar bodies!”

This was probably the weirdest possible way of saying that Bess and I are both tall and skinny (and white?).

I said “Yep, that’s why I chose her.” Which is not really true, but sometimes I don’t know what to say.

Scary Forest Man said “Yeah that’s also why I chose my dogs: they’re short and fat.”

I didn’t really know how to respond to this either, especially because his dogs weren’t short or fat, so laughed nervously and said, “Ok bye bye.”

He then started following me and Bess as we walked away, talking to me as though the conversation was still going.

“Yeah, I got me another dog in the pound,” he said.

“Why’s it in there?” I asked.

“It? It aint no ‘it’. He’s a HE.”

“Oh.”

“HE bit someone. They complained to the cops. Asshole.”

I wanted to point out the incorrect grammar, but I also didn’t want the conversation to continue. Although, it would have been pretty satisfying to have a purely verbal argument with a Forest Person over grammar.

So I ran into the woods.

I haven’t seen him since, but I’m worried about his dogs, the asshole, and about seeing him again.