Posts Tagged ‘art’

"Muse, Muse Where Art Thou?"

TORCH

An inspiration

rides on a barebacked white horse

against the wind,

bearing gift-wrapped kindling

for an unlit fire,

salve for blistering hands.

An inspiration

lies awake at night

pondering the possibility of true love

with an unknown factor

who might change the outcome of the picture

completely.

An inspiration sits quietly in blue or red

for a place to live, alms for the poor, a marriage to

a blank canvas,  it never meets.

An inspiration fights at times,

just to stay alive.

________________

I wrote that poem many years ago in response to a friend who  had lost her inspiration and could no longer produce work she was proud to call her own. For whatever reason, her muse left on horseback one day and she was lost.

She told us she felt “vacant” as if part of her moved out without a 30 day notice.  She said she was forced to find another tenant to fill that space or she’d be bankrupt, so she started drinking. Sad as it was, she found a tenant that was far too eager to take up residence in her domicile and eventually forced her to allow a rent to own contract and bought her out in a few years. She was young but no longer had the will to keep going. Her art left her for good that day. A year later, she was found dead in an alley, apparently murdered.

It’s sad that we give up and walk away from the very thing that keeps our spirit alive and free, creativity. We often give up for reasons that seem confusing to others. I, along with countless others just shut down and don’t wait around for the door to open again, a door that will bring in a new and refreshed tenant who will gladly live in that sacred space inside us. What makes the muse move out without notice in the first place?  How do we produce one day and the next find an empty apartment?  Fear has been the basis of my “shutting down”, fear of success, fear of failure. That tag team can creep up on me like the enemy they are and ambush, leaving me tenant free, standing in a vacant room. And then there’s depression.

In her blog ” Case-notes from the Artsy Asylum” Susan Reynolds has posted an article about depression in creative folk, and cites this study: “Arnold Ludwig wondered the same thing. Lucky for us, he didn’t get distracted from Psychology and swept up in clay (you can probably guess who did that).As a result he’s now a professor, and a researcher at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Also an MD – so he’s just the guy to find out more about this.

And he did! In fact, it was a study of 1004 men and women over the span of 10-years. His group was made up of a wide variety of accomplished people in just as wide a variety of professions, including art, music, science, business, politics, and sports.

In the end, he found:

  • between 59 and 77 percent of the artists, writers, and musicians suffered mental illness  especially “mood disorders”
  • compared to just 18 to 29 percent in the less artistic professionals”

There are times when the Muse taps on the window asking to be let in, but we often don’t pay attention to that tapping, and instead go out and buy new locks and install them on the door by feeding our anxiety about not creating. Instead we scramble for something to take its place such as love, sex, alcohol, drugs and depression often fill that space.

Is there hope?  Yes. A friend of mine went to a career counselor to find out what she could do about this lack of inspiration. She was given several tools to try and decided on one that spoke to her. She purchased space for a want ad in the local newspaper. Her ad read something like this:

“WANTED: Muse for hire. Willing to pay any price to get the position filled. Needed for full time (24/7), year round work. No hiring process, no interview. Just show up if interested. Immediate start.”

It was just a small $5.00 ad, but it was something that served two purposes. She was able to realize just how desperate she had become trying to find that muse or at least another muse and how much her ability to create meant to her. Her ad was answered when she read it the next day in the paper. Although her artistic muse had left, another muse answered the call and gave her inspiration to write that ad. The drought ended and she was back at the easel that night. Now I know that was just too simple, but it does happen. Some of us wait for years for that muse to come knocking or calling to rent that apartment. For others, it returns in another form and still others it just never comes back.

If your muse has flown the coup, try bringing it back by venturing into another creative outlet. Think about something you’ve always wanted to try, like throwing a pot on a potter’s wheel or making a necklace out of jump rings or simply take a local art/craft class. Work on a project you’ve put off, read, go buy yourself a new pen or notebook, carve out a work space for yourself and sit there even if  you don’t do anything.  Remember that fear of failure and fear of success? Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” You can make plans for a dinner party, see a movie, paint a room. Rearrange your work space, or go to the local art store and look around. Find another avenue for creativity to seep back into your life. Sometimes I’m frozen and can’t do any of these things, but I have learned to not panic. I write and play my guitar. I write this blog because at the moment the paintbrush and canvas have stopped speaking to me. In order to keep that door ajar, I do something else. Once you stop thinking about the creative block, you open the door for your muse to come back.

Inspiration can come and go at a moment’s notice, or with no notice at all. Thinking outside of the box, utilizing other creative venues can be of greater value than looking to fill that empty apartment with destructive tenants. Think of the price.

“Artists are visited by the Muses, or tormented by their own passions and demons.” (Wes Nisker)

“O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.” (William Shakespeare)

Please leave a comment on this blog. I would love to hear from you.

Advertisements

The Act of Marketing Your Website and Your Work

Some of you have requested an article on marketing and I have to admit, that is one area where I lack. When I think of Marketing, I think of getting out of my comfort zone and actually talking to people, and taking on new sites on the Internet, contacting galleries by postcard. It can be scary, but it is often necessary.

When I think of Marketing I think of spending money I don’t have to get something that I’m not sure I’m going to get, like SALES! There are no guarantees that any strategy will work in this day and age, but it never hurts to try.  Which leads me to telling you that I have done some research on marketing techniques for artists. I am going to share the simplest of them and hope that they’re not so simple that you have tried them all. So, grab a cup of coffee and spend a little time with this article and keep an open mind.

Marketing has many aspects and many options for the artist. Some avenues are simple and cost nothing, and others cost too much. Marketing can be so simple, yet so complex, or at least we can make it that. The big question is, What is marketing? Most people think that marketing is only about the advertising and/or personal selling of goods and services. Advertising and selling, however, are just two of the many marketing activities.

The American Marketing Association has unveiled a new definition of marketing to reflect the discipline’s broader role in society.  The new definition reads, ‘Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.’ ” Ok, you say, so what on earth does that mean?

Let’s talk about marketing activities for the artist, both on and offline. My “simple” suggestions for marketing your work and website are business cards, word of mouth, paid/free advertising, email, newsletters.

  • business cards-include these in your shipping of sold items. Be sure to have included your website, Etsy shop (if you have one) and your email address. The customer will appreciate the thought and might pass it along to other potential customers. It is important to have your business cards with you at all times. I had my hair cut the other day and was talking to my new hairstylist about my work. She asked if I had a business card and I gave her two. She was glad I gave her two because as she already had someone to give the other to!
  • word of mouth-my son and his friend were delivering Cub Scout fliers door to door the other day. They stopped at the local church and had a conversation with the pastor. He told her about my being an artist and she asked how she could see my work. He tried to show her how to get to my Etsy.com shop and was unsuccessful. So, he ran home and got one of my business cards and took it to her.
  • advertising– paid, plugs, comments on blogs, posting in forums are all forms of advertising. Paid Take a small ad in a newspaper, Google ad and other paid opportunities, if you have the funds. Plugs are free. Plugs are tiny advertising banners that you can place on someone’s blog or website but they have to have a “plug board” posted in order for you to do that. Comments on other people’s blogs are advertising in the simplest form. When I look at the comments of people I don’t know, I click on their name or avatar to see what they do.  Being involved on sites that provide forums are also a simple way of advertising. If I like what you say and your avatar is interesting, I click to see what it is that you do. A comment may ensue, I might save your site or shop in my favorites for future purchase possibilities.
  • email– Every email I send, has a signature that includes my name, artist, and links to my website, Etsy shop, cafepress shop, blog. According to the stats on my website, a lot of hits come from emails.
  • newsletters– This is something I just started for my own marketing. There are lots of sites and programs that offer templates for newsletters. I created mine in Microsoft Publisher. The newsletter can be used to announce a new series, a new website, a new blog, an award, a show. Send the newsletter either by mail or email to everyone you can think of, including previous customers. Look at it as a reminder that you’re around and are ever changing and adding to your work. This could bring in new purchases and returning customers.I intend to do a “mailing”  (actually an emailing ) this coming week to previous customers and friends.

All of these activities are useful when you are trying to market your work and your website. Of course not just one of these is going to bring the results you want, so mix and match until you get a successful combination.

Good luck!

I am always interested in your thoughts, opinions and suggestions. Please leave comments for me on this blog.

"What Do I Do Now?"

Now that you have made the decision to create a website or have one created for you, you might be asking, “What Do I Do Now?”

Well, I am about to answer that question! So sit back and relax, I will try to walk you through the next steps in your process.

Keep it simple. That could be the most important tip I can give you today. Don’t add so many tabs or pictures or text that it keeps the potential customer or gallery owner there too long. In this day and age, no one has time to sit in front of a computer and sift through your poorly planned site to figure out how to use it. Keep it simple.

Some of the tabs you use might be the following:

  • Home– this page will be the first glimpse of your website. This is what  people will see when their browser opens your page. Keep it clean, keep it interesting, remembering that first impressions make or break you.
  • About the Artist– keep this simple as well. Don’t write  your autobiography with all of the details on this page. Give highlights that pertain to you as an artist and keep the focus on YOU. If you want to include your artistic philosophy here, make sure it’s neatly separated from your bio.
  • Gallery– You don’t have to have every piece you’ve made on this page. Post a few pieces that show the diversity in your work. You don’t want to show that you’re locked into a style that you can’t get out of. Show some old work and new work.
  • Links– Keep the links list, to a minimum. If you have logos for the sites on which you have your work, use them and link them to the site (this will make it easier for the viewer to go see what you are doing there). Link photos to the site where you sell that piece. Again, no one wants to sift through things. They want what they want to see, at their fingertips.
  • Contact the Artist– Offer a simple form that the viewer can fill out to comment or ask questions, that will be sent directly to your email account.
  • Etsy page -(if you are a crafter, and your main purpose to having a website is to drive business to your Etsy shop (or other shops) I would say to do this). If you are an artist looking for gallery representation and/or sales from this site, you might be wise to leave this out as not all gallery owners think Etsy a viable or suitable place for serious artists to sell.(This is up to  you, of course!) If you are an artist to whom gallery representation is not a priority, but this site is to get your work “out there” it’s your choice as well.

Please remember, this is not a blog. Keep the focus on you and your art. (It’s ok to mention your wife, husband or girlfriend/boyfriend, kids as people in your life with whom you live, but keep it focused and don’t ramble on about them). A  website is a factual tool that represents your work to the online world. This is not intended to necessarily bring out your personality, or be cute, you can use your blog for that. If you want to be taken seriously as an artist, you need to make the decision about what it is you want this website to do.

You can do this and keep it simple!  If this is your first time, keep these tips in mind and you’ll have a more interesting site.Happy Website to YOU!

Next post will hopefully address some marketing techniques that can drive viewers to your site.

I See a Website in Your Future

Picture this if you will, you walk into a sparsely lit room that is adorned with beautiful silks, and beads. The air is thick with excitement and incense. Your heart is pounding, your pulse is racing as you see table covered in a breath-taking silk table cloth in the middle of the room, with two chairs sitting opposite of each other. On the table sits a crystal ball, nothing else. In walks the woman who is going to tell you your future. She is dressed in the same silks that surround you; she offers you to sit at the table. She sits down and asks a few questions, then begins to tell you what she sees…If I could tell your fortune, and give you great news about a flourishing creative business with lots of sales and notoriety, I would definitely tell you about it. But alas, I can’t do that so I am going to fill you in on some information about something that could also tell your future, but with some work on your part…WEBSITES. I know, it could be a boring post, but it’s not!

If you’ve ventured offline to expand your horizons and spoken with gallery owners, shop owners who offer consignment, local juried shows, organizations you are applying to become a member of, you’ve probably heard some of the following questions: “Do you have a website? What’s your web address? Is your website listed on your business card?” The word “website'” is a common buzzword you might want to pay attention to. Articles I have read, books I have scanned and artists with whom I have spoken all swear by the necessity of artists having their own…yes, you guessed it, website. Don’t be alarmed, or have an anxiety attack,it’s not as scary an on-taking as you might think. I promise I am not going to get technical.

Let’s just explore some reasons why it’s a unanimous vote for artists to have their own website…it won’t be painful or scary.
Firstly, your own website will give you exposure. Websites can offer exposure to artists, people and organizations wouldn’t otherwise know exist. A potential customer in Illinois has no clue that they would like and probably purchase a piece from a silk artist in North Carolina, if they don’t know the artist is around. A gallery owner in London would have no idea that there is an artist living and creating in Toronto whom she would love to represent! An organization such as Worldwide Women Artists doesn’t know the hard working glass artist producing gorgeous pieces in Maine and that they would love to include on their member charter, if there is nothing happening with promotion. Remember the story of the tree falling in the forest and no one is there to hear it?

Some art schools require a portfolio these days for admittance. Some will ask for a web- site to suffice that requirement. If you want to join an organization or an art club, they may ask to see your website to view examples of your work. It is much easier for people in these positions to view a simple site than to wait for your cd to arrive (or not) and find it amongst all of the other cd’s they are inundated with on a daily basis.

Secondly, a website allows you to keep all of your work in one place. Yes, that spells organization, oh, you have heard of that haven’t you? Artists are not known to be organized, that’s why we marry people who are! Just kidding. Imagine, all of the examples of your work contained in one place, wouldn’t that be a miracle? If someone asks to see your work whilst riding the train to the city, hand them your business card! They can then go to your site and take a look and all of it will be there. There’s nothing like being asked to be able to view your work and you have nowhere to send them. You want to be thought of as a professional artist don’t you? Maybe it’s time to act like one and having this tool will assist you on that journey.

Lastly, the final word…sales. If you want to sell your work and not have to pay fees in order to list it, then pay fees when it sells, an e-commerce website is the way to go. The potential customer goes to your website, views your work, purchases it from you and that’s that. You decide if you’re going to accept credit cards, money orders, personal checks, PayPal, REM etc. There’s no one else involved! And as sites that allow you to sell your work through them begin to get overcrowded, therefore minimizing sales, e-commerce sites are taking root as another more personal alternative to sell your wares.

Now that you have seen what a web site can do for you, how do you go about getting one? There are many sites that offer free websites, and make it easy for you to create it using templates. If you blog, you know that blog sites offer templates for that. Well these sites offer templates to you to get you started. Some templates aren’t flexible and therefore you might get bored with them rather quickly if you like to change things around a lot. These sites are great places to get started, to get your feet wet and they don’t charge anything to enter the pool! Here are some free website companies that don’t have hidden charges at first glance, they are completely free: Microsoft Office Live, CrawlDog.com, geocites.com , mosaicglobe.com weebly.com Of course there are others, but these were the sites that had the simplest layouts and upgrades are available for a cost.

If you are able to afford it, you might want to work with a professional web designer to design this new business opportunity. There are many of them out there, some good, some not so good. Prices shouldn’t vary too much from one to the next, and if they do, be wise about their training and ask questions, ask to see their portfolio or THEIR site! If you decide to go this route, be sure you have your plan written down and have a clear idea what you want it to look like and who your target customers are. If the designer spends only an hour with you and then runs off to design, you are probably going to be seeing a lot of that person in the future. Ask questions, give the designer the clearest possible instructions and needs. Creativity is fluid, ever changing and our ideas, our “product” is ever evolving with us. You will want to invest in this web site so it lasts for a specified period of time. You really don’t want to have to spend that money every year or so, do you? Be sure to have your ducks in a row and you get what you want and need the first time around.

So, to wrap this up, websites offer new possibilities for artists in this ever changing world. Whether you try a simple, free website for starters, or hire a professional, it’s an opportunity for you to gain the exposure Van Gogh, Vermeer, Whistler and others could not have dreamed of. A website offers organization, and a more personal atmosphere from which to sell the work you love to make! Try it, it doesn’t hurt and you’ll learn a lot. You might just have some fun along the way.

Simply Fabulous

Because I needed to figure out how to layer photos and create a combined image that would include a living room setting and my paintings, I ventured to the local Library to find a book that would make life a little easier and teach me how to do it. I discovered a book that I thought might contain the information I needed.

So, last week on a rather hot day, wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt I sat down on my sofa, in the cool living room to read what I predicted to be, a boring book. Imagine being hot and tired from lack of sleep the night before, I planned on being swept into a deep slumber. Alas, I was pleasantly surprised by the pages filled with information and how-to’s that  make my web site creation so much easier and fun to boot.

LastScan

The title  of the book is “Top 100 Simplified Tips and Tricks for Photoshop CS2” by Lynette Kent. I think you’ll agree that it is a boring title.  Now you can see why I thought I was going to get caught up on some sleep. But Kent is a native Californian and Parisian, both by birthright and having lived in California and Paris. She completed her Master’s degree at Stanford University and has taught art at both the high school and community college levels. She is also a demo artist at trade shows for computer graphics companies.

Ms. Kent has carefully broken down the total top 100 possible questions the reader may have, into one or two pages of clear, concise and picture-filled instructions that answer your very question. Each step is in a numerical sequence instructing you exactly how to perform each task, step by step. Kent has included some time saving insights that “save you time and trouble, cautions you about hazards to avoid and reveal how to do things in Photoshop that you never thought to be possible.” She has even included symbols that mark the level of difficulty for each task.

Topics covered in this book begin with “Customizing Photoshop for Your Projects”. In this first chapter, Kent shows the step by step process that will assist in changing color settings to fit your projects, designing custom brushes, calibrating and profile your monitor for better editing, to using something called a “digitizing tablet”.

Other chapters address the following issues or suggestions:

  • Working with Layers, Selections and Masks
  • Straightening, Cropping and Resizing Magic
  • Retouching Portraits (you’ll love this if you’re a boomer!)
  • Changing and Enhancing Colors and Tone
  • Making Magic with Digital Special Effects
  • Designing with Text Effects
  • Creating Digital Artwork from Photographs
  • Giving Your Images a Professional Presentation
  • Plugging in to Photoshop CS2

This is a well written, clearly thought out publication that I recommend to anyone who is struggling with figuring out the world of Photoshop on their own. As you can see, I enjoyed the book and gained much needed information.  But I didn’t get the needed sleep!  Ah, the price we pay for information!

“Creating an Artist’s Resume”

Building an artist resume can seem like a daunting task. Remembering dates, shows, gallery or cafe names, remember the name of a show you participated in; the list goes on. But some artists might not know where to start to build a resume. “What’s supposed to be in it? How far back do I go? Do I have to list everything I’ve done as an artist? What if I have done nothing and am just starting out?” These are some of the questions you might be asking. I know I asked those questions while perusing internet sites and magazines for shows to participate in. Almost all of them required an “artist’s resume”. I had no idea where to start. Hopefully this article will help you break down the necessary components of the resume to make it seem less intimidating.

Remember these points:

  • You are not seeking a job. This resume will not be like the usual employment resume as it has it’s own special structure.
  • This resume is about achievements as an artist and not a thesis or what you hope to accomplish, the special meanings behind your work
  • You are writing this resume to sell yourself as an artist to potential gallery owners, jurors of shows, curators.

Carol Michels, states in her book “How to Survive & Prosper as an Artist (selling yourself without selling your soul)” ‘The following are suggestions for structuring a resume and the order in which categories should be listed:

Name, address, phone number-how else would they contact you if they are indeed interested?

Place of Birth-possible good icebreaker, you never know where people have been!

Birth Year-if someone judges you and your work by your age, you might want to think twice about being involved with them on a professional level.

Exhibitions- List the most recent first and working backward. If you were awarded, list that in the awards section. This will list all shows you have been involved in. Was it invitational or juried? If there have been more than three solo shows, start the Exhibitions category with those.
Commissions-List the name of the project, the sponsor (insitution, person or company) and the date of the commission.

Collections– List the names of the institutions, companies, museums, or galleries that own your work as part of a collection.

Bibliography-Any and all publications that have mentioned you or featured your work.

Awards and Honors– Any awards or honors you have received for your work.

Lectures/Online coursesList any and all workshops, courses anything you may have participated in as an instructor, no matter how small you think it is.

Education– Any and all art related degress you have acquired. Make this the LAST category to convey the message that your accomplishments have meant more than that piece of paper that states you’ve passed classes.

There are many different kinds of resumes depending on your experience and background. If you do not have a degree, but have a lot of experience in the art world, do not include education as a component of the resume. Use your best judgment and knock them over with your presentation!

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the blog under comments. I would love to hear from you all!