Monday, December 29, 2008

Midlife artist, Michael Bailey had this comment a while back on this blog:
As a member of the mid-life group hoping to emerge successfully into the art world I am faced with all of the daunting forces every artist has at the start, how do I market my art, do I try and land my art in a gallery, am I better with an online presence to introduce my art around and work at getting my art into shows and competitions? And of course all the questions of how do I finally price my work when I have it complete, am I too high or too low, will my customers perceive my work as an actual item of worth to spend money on?

This says it all, doesn't it? Galleries? Online? Shows? Can we do it all? Should we do it all? At the same time? Conquer one at a time? I would love to hear more input from others on this but I do have a few thoughts.

For me, I picked one of the above. It's so daunting, especially for someone unestablished, unknown, and inexperienced! There was no way in heck I could have walked into a gallery 5 years ago looking for representation!! Here's my true story, and go ahead and laugh, I do!:

After I had done enough practice pieces that I felt reasonably sure I could pull of a commission, I made up cards and took my Brutus the boxer on the chair portrait that was nicely framed around to vets and pet stores in my area. Now, what you don't know about me unless you know me in real life is that I'm very outgoing. I love talking to strangers, have always dealt with "big shots" in my real life jobs, have no difficulty at all getting up to give a speech, etc.

But that day, whoa boy! I sat out in the truck with my dogs (who came for the ride) with butterflies like crazy!!! Finally I talked myself into going into my first place with my cards, a pet shop. I walked in, showed the kid behind the counter my portrait, said, "I'm a pet artist, and I was hoping I could leave some cards here" in a too loud/too high/too fast voice.

"Sure, ma'am. Leave them here on the counter," he squeaked, sounding like the burger flippin' counterboy in a Simpson's episode, his voice changing.

What was I so afraid of? That he'd say, "NO! You are no artist! You're an imposter!!"????

For many of us, it takes some dipping the toe in the water to get over that fear and to feel like yeah, I'm an artist.

So where to start getting your work out there? I'm glad I did commissions first, but that's a skill to learn too. There is SO MUCH to learn about promoting your work in any fashion, and the first thing? You need lots of pieces. IMHO!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Following as I say...not as I do!

So many of us complain that we love making the art but hate the marketing. If that's so, then every opportunity that arises needs to be taken dead seriously. I am saying this from experience. I have been really remiss in taking advantage of opportunities that presented themselves because AT THAT TIME, I was busy and time just had a way of running away from me.

I was asked to put samples in a frame shop. But at the time, I was swimming in commissions (was asking very little for them!) and never got around to it.

I was called by a vet in another state asking for flyers. But I was, again, busy and all the steps to getting flyers to him...the printing, cutting, and mailing...had to wait and I just didn't get the job done.

Another wanted me to show her samples of my human portrait work, but I had done them a while ago before a computer crash and would have to wade through disks looking for them...never done.

THis is really stupid. You never, never know what will lead to what.

I thought about this today because I saw a post on wetcanvas in the art for sale forum of someone who posted a link to their work, was hoping to sell some pieces to buy more art supplies. Another member inquired...about size, price, etc. was interested. And the original poster..never got back. Ever. Opportunity lost, sale lost, who knows what would have led to what?

I recently decided to buy my cosmetics and shampoos, etc. from a local avon dealer who had knocked on my door instead of the grocery store. I know how happy sales make me, so why not help someone else out, all things being equal.

I bought over $40 worth, got free shipping, am happy enough with the products and yet...I have not only never gotten a thank you, she ignored my inquiry about whether she was aware that I bought from her and instead, pummels me with spam asking me to order something!

Now, this poor soul bought the catalogs, walked around knocking on doors, got a decent sale, and will never get another one from me. I would have been a regular. All because of not paying attention to the follow up. I will bet that instead, she's out there with more books, working awfully hard for that next new customer.

Now, art isn't the repeat business that avon is. But I do get repeats, and I also get referrals, when I follow up.

Some of my customers still email me from 5 years ago. But I've sold dozens and dozens of aceos and have never, ever sent a follow up email, or tried in any way to cultivate the interest of people who I worked awfully hard to sell them the small piece they bought from me in the first place.

Why not? Because I am waiting for the correct time? When I have more pieces? When I have bigger pieces? When I have a series? ETC.

Crazy, huh?

Well, I do want to be ready to have credible sales of non commissioned work, but I pledge I'll be ready this spring to see if my oldies can be reinterested!

How about you? Please don't tell me you're not going to let golden opportunities fall through your fingers. Because every opportunity might turn out to be gold!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chuck Close is Watching Me!

Earlier in the year, I made my way to a gallery across town on my lunch break to see an exhibit of Chuck Close's. I'd heard his name bandied about and checked him out online but (no surprise to any of you), seeing his work in real life was astonishing.

If you ever have the opportunity, don't let anything stand in your way.

Knowing a bit about his life story...the incident that put Chuck in a wheelchair...made the experience all the more humbling.

So I have the postcard promo piece from that exhibit in my cubi at work. In it, a self portrait of Chuck is staring straight out at me. When I feel tired, discouraged, full of self doubt...Chuck stares me straight! How can I put off artwork just because I'm tired or grumpy? How can I let the circumstances of my life get me down? Not with Chuck watching me!

What a life well lived. To not only make imaginative, fabulous art, but to inspire artists way down the food chain.

I'm never throwing that postcard self portrait out.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Stop Marketing!

That's what I'm doing! Last Christmas season kicked in full tilt around this time of the month, and I accepted every commission. I was exhausted, didn't enjoy things I usually enjoy like baking, was stressed, etc. I had marketed a lot in the previous weeks and the chickens came in to roost about this time.

This year, I'm taking a break. I haven't been a marketing fool, of course, if any come my way, I'll take them...or SOME of them.

My feeling is that more than marketing, what I need to make a jump and not a hop is to improve my skills on every level. Not only in draftsmanship, but in creativity. I want to become a really good artist. Not just a selling artist, but a really good artist. That's my real goal, and I feel like I've been in a bit of a rut and haven't moved along as much as I would like.

The portrait inquiries really made me think about where I want to go. I not only want to be able to do portraits that laypeople say "looks just like him", but that other Same with my prints.

To that end, I'm going to take more classes. I'm really really fortunate that I live here in the Philadelphia area because I have so many options for excellent community based classes. In the city and out, there's lots of offerings. We have a tradition for classical training here and I'm going to take advantage of it.

In fact, one of the locations where I can do life painting, you have to jury into. And that made me good am I, really?

So...while I'd love to make the leap to a full time art career right now, I think that marketing more isn't the answer for me. I think I will improve my chances of really leaping if I first take the time to study.

And the art shows and contests are a component of this...Anything juried will teach me something...good or bad!

So the way I'm looking at this, I can either market more at what I already can do...or I can devote more time to growth. I think the "big picture" is to grow. What do you think?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More Grand Plans

I already got my calendar going, but I have big decision to make, too. Do I follow the human portrait path full tilt or no? I've done them, and enjoy them, but my early success was with the dogs and that's where I went, figuring I had to get good at ONE thing before moving on. And I get lots of inquiries, so if I do, I need more samples to show. I unfortunately lost several I did in a computer crash...

I actually think that in some ways, humans are easier (no worries about breed, lol!), and the photos tend to be better. But I have a lot to learn, but who doesn't?

Am I going off onto one of those tangents that is the opposite of staying focused towards a goal? I am already committed to printmaking, I love it. So another new direction? Too much?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Planning ahead...what are YOUR grand plans?

Okay, we're making the jump, either a giant all-or-nothing leap or a more modest hop on the way. What are your grand plans and how are you working them? What's number one on your list? Here's what I'm hoping to do...

I realize that in addition to putting time in on the art, itself, I need credentials. I have a zero art resume, save lots of commissions and a few show wins. So time to build that up. I'm going to scour the 'net for juried shows and contests I think I might fit in. I've got a calendar just for art to diary the due dates, etc., and I'm going to try and enter the ones I identify.

No, I'm going to do it!!

How about you?

What are your grand plans?

Take a moment to answer my poll to the top right...what is your number one goal?

My pet portrait website: ; my art and animal blog: