On Ethics and Elephants

Elephant in the Room? What? Where? Oh, that Elephant

In the interest of full disclosure, I must point out that I never thought about marketing in terms of the ethics involved. When I think about marketing my books to an unsuspecting public, the thing that leaps to the front of my mind is the “ick factor.

Pandamorphosis: at 116% in less than 48 hours.  Go team.

Writing and cartooning are recent additions to my creative work. I’ve been painting more years than I care to remember, and it’s been my “day job” for the last 25 years. Almost seven years ago, pandas knocked on the door, demanded entry, put their feet up on the coffee table, and insisted that I write stories, draw cartoons, and perpetrate blasphemous adaptations of Sargent and Whistler paintings, all starring pandas.

They were really most insistent.

Arrangement in Black, White, and Gray //Anne Belov //all rights reserved

Arrangement in Black, White, and Gray //Anne Belov //all rights reserved

Selling paintings is mostly, although not entirely, different than selling books.  I’d have to sell  hundreds, if not thousands of books to equal the sale of one decent painting. And so marketing raises it’s (often) not so lovely head.

A recent post by Jane Steen got me thinking about the ethics of self publishing in general and about marketing my work in particular. I am, to say the very least, a reluctant marketer. By following a number of blogs about both the art and the business side of writing, it led me to realize that I was going to have to make peace with marketing, like it or not.

My cartoons appeared on my blog, The Panda Chronicles for almost four years before I published The Panda Chronicles Book 1: Your Brain on Pandas. My method for getting the word out was intuitive and organic. When I started my blog, I finally dove in to Facebook, and sought out panda fans, to see if they thought my panda-centric humor was funny, or whether they would chase me through town with pitchforks and burning torches, tar and feathers at the ready. (They liked them! Huzzah!)

I shared my cartoons freely and my fan base grew. I got an unanticipated bonus by reaching out to people on an individual basis because fans became connections and some friendships (real ones) have grown as a result of this, with meetings and gatherings of panda fans in real life.

The panda Faithful at San Diego Zoo in 2013

The panda Faithful at San Diego Zoo in 2013

To be honest, this is a rather time consuming way of selling books. But I am a glutton for connections, maybe because I spend so much of my day holed up in my studio painting and drawing. When I look at the alternatives: auto tweets, constant buy my book/services links, guest posts which are barely disguised infomercials, I realize that the ick-factor detector is a pretty good ethical guide.

I think we must continually ask ourselves how we respond to marketing appeals by others as we try to figure out how to sell our work. Everyone has different threshold levels of what is offensive or annoying, but if it offends me, why would I do it? I’m still trying to figure it all out, and if I listen to my gut and avoid doing things that make me uncomfortable in the marketing of others, I think I am on the right track.

The sands that publishing is built on are shifting. As more people publish their work independently, we have to figure out how to be ethical, not only in the actual writing, but in how we tell the world about it. We are all on our own, trying to figure out just how we going to continue paying the mortgage, but we are also in it together.

My practice of making connections has served me well, in personal satisfaction and real bridges built, if not yet in monetary terms.  My followers number in the hundreds, rather than the tens of thousands, but they are real names, some even come with faces attached. I have decided to trust that what feels like the right path both artistically and ethically.

What do you think?

hey! Buy my book!

hey! Buy my book!

You can see more pandas (for free!) at The Panda Chronicles. You can also…um…find out where to buy my books there.

Day Two of the Froggwell Biennale


Another day at the Froggwell Biennale….

Originally posted on froggwell:


I woke up yesterday morning, with the usual feeling of dread before a big event, “can’t I just stay in bed? Will anyone notice if I don’t show up?”

But I roused myself and I’m so glad I did.  It was a little bit of a slow start, but by early afternoon, there was a steady stream of people heading down into the garden. Flanking the path into the garden are several sculptures by Sharon Spencer.

As you head down the steps, a carved granite column by Sue Taves greets you along with more of her massive stone pieces.  Makes me glad to be a painter, since I don’t need a forklift or strong young men to help move my work. Continue through the garden to see more of Sue and Sharon’s works, as well as the whimsical constructions of Dan Freeman.

One of the things I’m most happy…

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Let Them Eat Cuppycakes!


I just had to spread the panda -love (not to mention the frosting) around the interwebs! Frosting on the keyboards! Huzzah!

Originally posted on vsomethingspeaks:

Everyone loves celebrating with cake! And Pandas are no exception!!

Panda fans are being treated to adorable images of pandas around the world celebrating their birthdays with inventive and stunning panda cakes. Bamboo, fruit, vegetables and honey are just some of the ingredients in the cakes these fur balls are enjoying.

Birthdays are not the only time for pandas to have cake. In keeping with Chinese tradition, baby pandas don’t receive a name until they are 100 days old. This special event is also celebrated with cake.

I wonder what other important events pandas would like to celebrate and what special cakes they would like?

Anne Belov and the pandas at The Panda Chronicles are well known for their love of cupcakes, or, as they call them, cuppycakes. For the benefit of all pandas and their fans we are studiously, and with no thought or care for our waistlines, devising and taste-testing celebration…

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Connections: An Unexpected Treasure (With Frosting)


Well, I’m learning to play well with others….

Originally posted on vsomethingspeaks:

I am so happy to have Anne Belov of The Panda Chronicles and the recently released picture book Pandamorphosis as a guest blogger. Last week I talked about my love of pandas and Anne is one of the wonderful people I met on this journey! We are also collaborating on a book together :)

I’ll let Anne introduce herself and talk a bit about her work and our upcoming project!!


Connections: An Unexpected Treasure (With Frosting)

Generally speaking, I’m not known for playing well with others.

At least, not in my creative pursuits. I spent my art school years learning to be a painter, and as everyone knows, painters paint alone in their garret, living an isolated, tortured existence. Cutting off your ear is considered optional.

But then a funny thing happened a few years back: pandas entered my life and I became…um…obsessed with them. (For more about that…

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A Personality Of Pandas


Huzzah! please read this marvelous post my my compatriot in pandamonium, and co-author of the upcoming as soon-as-we-can-get-to-it collaboration, The Panda Chronicles Cuppycake Cookbook: Favorite recipes of the Panda Kindergarten.

Originally posted on vsomethingspeaks:

1988 was a pivotal year for me; I started university, met my long term partner Paul and the Giant Pandas Fei Fei and Xiao Xiao toured Australia. We went to see them at Melbourne Zoo because they are Paul’s favourite animal. The one stuffed toy that Paul has kept since childhood is a bedraggled panda. He has always loved this very special black and white bear. I would also come to love them but in a most unusual way.

panda ball

panda ball

Into The Darkness
2000 was another pivotal year for me. I graduated from university and promptly caught a flu that would plague me for years and would almost destroy my mind, body and soul. After years of antibiotics and no respite from the flu I contracted Post Viral Syndrome – PVS (a form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Not much is known about PVS, in fact doctors didn’t diagnose me…

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Wait, is it summer already?

Every year I think, this summer I’ll take a little time off, I won’t plan a whole bunch of work related stuff, like art shows or Kickstarter campaigns that mean I’ll be working, working, working during the most beautiful time of the year on Whidbey Island.


I’m busy getting ready for a exhibition of my paintings at The Rob Schouten Gallery, and feverishly gearing up for this year’s Froggwell Biennale extravaganza.

I’m very pleased to say, that I just sent the last package of rewards for my Kickstarter campaign, to fund publication of Pandamorphosis. Wow!

Pandamorphosis, my (first) wordless picture book!

Pandamorphosis, my (first) wordless picture book!

Thanks to the excellent work of my editorial and production team, Beth Bacon and Kate Burkett, we finished work in record time, and produced a book I’m really proud of.  We are still working on ebook versions, which we hope to have done later this year.

Meanwhile, I’m a little…um…behind on my painting projects, so as we roll into July, (with 84 degrees and blue sunny skies today!!!) I am still tethered to my easel.  Is it worth it?

"Radiance" // Oil on Linen on shaped panel// Anne Belov (c) 2014

“Radiance” // Oil on Linen on shaped panel// Anne Belov (c) 2014

Yeah, I think so too.

There’s more happening over on The Panda Chronicles! Inspector Panda returns to his new adventure tomorrow with another installment (there will be an art history quiz, so get ready!)

See you soon.

Ever Wished That Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Would Return to the Comics Page? Well, He Just Did.


Not only would I set my hair on fire, I would also rip my own liver out with my teeth. You rock, Mr. Pastis. (We already know that Bill Watterson does.)

Originally posted on Pearls Before Swine:

Bill Watterson is the Bigfoot of cartooning.

He is legendary. He is reclusive. And like Bigfoot, there is really only one photo of him in existence. 

Few in the cartooning world have ever spoken to him. Even fewer have ever met him.

In fact, legend has it that when Steven Spielberg called to see if he wanted to make a movie, Bill wouldn’t even take the call.

So it was with little hope of success that I set out to try and meet him last April.

I was traveling through Cleveland on a book tour, and I knew that he lived somewhere in the area. I also knew that he was working with Washington Post cartoonist Nick Galifianakis on a book about Cul de Sac cartoonist Richard Thompson’s art.

So I took a shot and wrote to Nick. And Nick in turn wrote to Watterson.

And the meeting…

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