Sunday, November 29, 2009

Art of the Week: Portrait

I'm sorry I don't have anything new to post this week, but I've been busy with the Thanksgiving holiday. Here's a portrait of myself with one of my favorite drawings based on my Migrations series exploring my childhood travel between my mother's house in St. Louis, Missouri and my father's house in Centralia, Illinois. I originally created this drawing while working on my BFA at Webster University.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Website Updated

Thank you so much Chuck for helping me update my website. To those of you who have seen it before, we posted much newer pieces in the Environment and Forgotten sections and posted photos from the Claude: the Monster, the Myth, the Legend and Relics & Reliquaries shows, so please check it out.
Environment page
Forgotten page
Claude: the Monster, the Myth, the Legend
Relics & Reliquaries

My next big update I'm hoping to post more photos of my plein air paintings on display at Art Saint Louis and Les Bourgeois Vineyards but I won't be doing so until early next year. Those shows will be up through the holidays (the show at Les Bourgeois will be up through February) so check them out in person if you can.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Art of the Week: Hat

Here is a photo of the Knify Knitter hat that I mentioned last week, complete with puffball. I am looking forward to wearing it as it gets colder - it's quite warm.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Art of the Week: Necklaces

Sorry I'm a little late posting the art of the week. Yesterday I had a wonderful time at a day retreat at a friend's house and finally got started on a hat using the Knifty Knitter Hat Loom - something I'd been wanting to do for months. The hat isn't yet done but may make art of the week next week. In the meantime, here are some necklaces & jewelry sets I finished up this week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This Week

I have some artworks in a couple of shows opening this week. Outside In is "a contemporary celebration of outdoor art" in which artists worked en plein air and in their studios to depict sculptures & outdoor art from Chesterfield's permanent collection. Included are my interpretations of Ernest Trova's Gox A and Bob Cassilly's Butterfly. Similarly themed is the Remastered show at Soulard Art Market, where artists were invited to "re-imagine famous artworks of the past" in which I will be showing the Claude Monsterpieces.

Outside In
Chesterfield Arts
444 Chesterfield Center
Chesterfield, MO
Nov. - Dec. 2009
Reception: Friday, Nov. 13, 6 - 9 PM

Soulard Art Market
2028 S. 12th St.. St. Louis, MO
Nov. 2009
Reception: Friday, Nov. 13, 7 - 10 PM
Encore Reception: Saturday, Nov. 14, 7 - 10 PM

Friday, November 6, 2009

Art of the Week: Love Nest

Love Nest
reappropriated women's & men's clothing, wire hanger, wooden pants hanger
Created for MoFA Member Challenge: Build a Nest to benefit Nest.
(Note: Not everything I do is for donation and I actually rarely make new work to donate, but I am catching up on things and was excited to participate in these two particular events.)

Working together to build our lives and our home, we feel connected and safe in one another’s arms. There are many who would judge us harshly for choosing not to procreate, who would say that our relationship is illicit despite our being married because we aren’t letting nature take its course and surrounding ourselves with children. But neither of us feels the desire to have children to be complete; we have each other and that is all we need.

Professionalism in Practice

Aside from avoiding excuses, not being afraid to ask questions, and remembering to say thank you, you need to think about how you're representing yourself and your art. This is a continuation of my last post on the importance of having good images of your art, but here I will focus more on how we present ourselves. This is a topic I have touched on many times, but I haven't devoted a blog post entirely to it, so I hope to consolidate some of my thoughts here, in no particular order.

- You will be remembered by how you present yourself. First impressions stick, so make sure to make a good one.

- Present your work professionally. Shoot good images of your work to show to people.

- Keep business cards on hand so people you meet can contact you and can be directed someplace where they can see your artwork. If you use an image of your art on your business cards, make sure it is a good one and reflects your current work.

- It is a good idea to maintain a professional website, keep it up to date, and apply for a domain name. This reflects better on you than directing people to your MySpace or Facebook page which can be seen as amateurish. Blogs do not make up for websites and typically serve a different function.

- Always always always check submissions packets for spelling, typos and grammatical errors. Mistakes are much more forgivable in some formats than others (a lot of blog posts are rife with errors, but that is the nature of putting your thoughts out there quickly), but if you're applying for a show or a grant you want to show off. You don't want to be remembered for what you did wrong. Have as many other people as possible proof your work.

- Be courteous and polite.

- Abide by whatever rules are set up by those whom you're working with and don't expect that rules will be changed to suit your needs, especially not at the last minute. If you have any complications regarding your ability to meet requirements, check with the gallery or organization with whom you will be working to negotiate an alternative plan of action - don't wait and spring it on them last minute.

- Communication is important. Don't bother people and abide by their rules deadlines in regards to contacting them, but don't be afraid to ask questions if you need to.

- Say thank you.

- Attitude is everything. Convey a positive image of yourself. Try not to engage in gossip or complain, especially to those whom you don't know well. Negativity can do a lot to perpetuate itself by fostering more negativity, so try not to bring others down or come across as unappreciative as you can be remembered for that.

- Attend receptions for your work if at all possible. These are great opportunities to network, to show your commitment to yourself as an artist and to talk to others about your work. Think about what you're wearing to your show and how it reflects upon you.

- Stay respectful. Don't backstab or undermine others because they didn't treat you professionally - doing so won't reflect well on you either.

- Be responsible for yourself. Follow through on what you commit to. Try not to overextend yourself or double-book your work.

- Above all else, abide by the Golden Rule and treat others as you would like them to treat you.

I'm gearing up for a busy week next week with drop offs and pick ups, so this will likely be my last blog post on this topic, at least for awhile. I hope that you've found these at least somewhat informative. It has been good for me to get my thoughts down someplace where I can refer to them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Promoting Your Art Via Images of It

Aside from avoiding excuses, not being afraid to ask questions, and remembering to say thank you, you need to think about how you're representing yourself and your art. In this post I'm going to touch on the importance of having good, quality images of your work.

It is crucial that you have images of your current work and that those images do it justice. People will likely see more images of your artwork than your actual artwork itself, between promoting your work to galleries and publicizing it to viewers. So it is very important that your images are accurate representations of your work and make you look good.

I don't really have much to say on this topic except that it really really needs to be a priority. Keep in mind that high quality images are a must. This may be the only way some people see your artwork at all, so make sure to provide an accurate representation that reflects well on yourself and your art. If you don't feel you can do a good job shooting images of your artworks, then hire someone to do so. Make sure to arrange licensing & copyright agreements and payment in advance so that you have permissions to use the images of your artwork for publicity, promotion and to apply for opportunities.

Slides are becoming less common and digital images are used for pretty much everything nowadays. There is no standardized format for submitting digital images as it varies vastly from opportunity to opportunity, so always follow directions when submitting digital images to shows and galleries. It reflects poorly on yourself and decreases the likelihood that you will be considered when your files are improperly labeled, corrupted or saved in the wrong format or size. Check to be certain that your images are readable. It helps to look at your submission from multiple computers if possible to make sure that your files open and are readable and to see what your artwork looks like on different monitors, since that can change how color and detail is conveyed depending on screen size, resolution, type, brightness and so forth.

Digital images used for printed materials need to be much higher quality and greater resolution than those viewed on a computer monitor, so make sure you have an idea of what the image will be used for. It is also generally preferred that images used for print have fewer effects applied to improve them, except when those effects are used to create the artwork itself, since that can have a big impact on print quality. So it is far better to shoot good images in the first place than to correct them drastically later on when considering printed materials. And be aware that some print opportunities specify that images need to be saved in different file formats than you may be accustomed to otherwise, so don't always assume that you can send along a jpeg and be done with it and keep in mind that saving from one file format to another can alter the image quality.

Another consideration is where the images of your artworks will be viewed and by whom. If you or your representatives plan to post high resolution images online in the public domain, it is a good idea to watermark them with your copyright information to prevent others from using or printing them without your permission. Also consider whether or not your work can be traced back to you - I have gotten numerous emails about really cool art that people have forwarded so many times that there is nothing more than a string of images of artworks without any information about the artist or where to find more of the artist's work.

I recognize that I do not have the highest quality images of my work and so am not really the best source of advice on this topic. I prefer to shoot everything myself and do so on a regular basis to keep as many current artworks on file as possible so I can promote and submit them. I use my best pictures of my work to represent my art and myself for publicity purposes, and I tend not to post super high resolution images online so as to not draw attention to their imperfections.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Saying Thank You

I touched on the importance of being grateful for opportunities in my last post, but I really want to reiterate that here.

Thank You - those are two of the most important words to consider and remember when promoting yourself. It is absolutely necessary to make certain that others know that their generosity and time are appreciated.

The workshop at RAC focused some attention on sending thank you letters and follow up communication. It is really important to make sure that people genuinely feel appreciated for what they've done for you. Some people really like hand written thank you letters. Some people really like phone calls or in-person visits. Some people are content with email. Just be genuine and be true to conveying your gratitude and stay in contact. One of the most important things to consider here is punctuality. It is best not to procrastinate when thanking others as the act loses much of its sincerity the longer you wait.

This is something that should be personal and genuine. Your time spent working on this is valuable, and you convey your appreciation by taking the time to genuinely thank someone for what they've done for you. So this is someplace where the use of templates is not a boon and hand-written letters can have a great influence. Admittedly, I don't send as many hand-written thank you notes as I ought to in order to show appreciation in my art career, but I try to be punctual and personal and convey my gratitude and enthusiasm regardless of the format in which I am communicating.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Week

After taking a brief break from the crazy past two months, I have a couple of things going on right now. First off, there's the fire festival this weekend on Nov. 7 from 5:30 - 8:30, where I will be offering some of my jewelry for sale, as I'd mentioned before. Also, I have some of my smaller paintings on display from Nov. 9 - Dec. 28 at Art Saint Louis in their little Lobby Gallery, starting next week.

The Green Center
8025 Blackberry Ave.
University City, MO
excerpts from solo show extended until Nov. 7, 2009
2nd Annual Fall Fire Festival
Join us for a night of fire, food, fine drink and fabulous art in celebration of Fall!
Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009, 5:30 - 8:30 PM
Tickets: $15 adult; $5 child through age 12 at the door

Lobby Gallery Featured Artist
display of small plein air paintings
Art Saint Louis Lobby Gallery
555 Washington Ave. Ste. 150
St. Louis, MO
Nov. 9 - Dec. 28, 2009

Don't Be Afraid to Ask

OK, so I've explored how to turn some of those excuses around to start really promoting yourself. But what can you from there?

Lately, I have been much more forward when it comes to seeking opportunities to show my work, at least in regards to asking people about opportunities as I become aware of them. I don't know exactly how or why this happened, perhaps it was partly because I wanted to get as any of my paintings out there where they can be seen and maybe even sell for the holidays as possible, but it has proven to be interesting and informative. And I know even still I could do more, but I am getting a lot better about it.

Cold-calling galleries rarely results in what you'd hope for, but making informed decisions about what to pursue and fostering existing relationships can make a big difference. Do your research first and find out who you should talk to about showing your art in a particular setting. Get actively involved in the organizations, galleries and institutions you belong to to build a rapport with them and to get a better sense of what they have to offer, and then take advantage of what opportunities they do have.

It is really good to be consistent, professional and communicative. Follow directions and don't hound anyone about anything (especially if they gave you a timeline of when you can expect to hear back upon submission), but keep the lines of communication open in case questions come up. Get involved in other ways and get to know the people you're working with or would like to be working with if possible (in the sense of helping out, not of being pushy). And be grateful for any responses you get when seeking opportunities, even if you don't get in. This can be frustrating when communication is sparse, but make sure that you follow through on your end and that you are responsive and responsible.

Try not to engage in gossip and remain as professional as possible. How you treat others will make an impression, good or bad, so try to focus on presenting yourself as positively and responsibly as possible. Networking and social contacts are especially important and are far-reaching, so it is especially important not to burn any bridges lest they come back to haunt you later on. (Don't forget, gossip travels fast whether or not you are involved in it.)

Be gracious and keep in touch with those who have helped you in the past. You don't have to be in constant contact for someone to know that you're thinking of them and that you still appreciate them. If you're feeling like little more than a number in a turnstyle, remember that you are responsible for allowing yourself to become so easily forgotten (or not) depending on your actions. Many professors are approached by students seeking recommendations long after graduation, and they can be hard-pressed to recommend students that haven't kept up with them as they don't know what those students are doing. Keep in touch with gallery owners and those who have offered you shows; let them know what you're doing and don't let them feel taken advantage of. This can be hard sometimes when something is over because it is so necessary to focus on what is upcoming, but those with whom you've shown will likely want to follow your career and see where it is taking you afterwards and may be among your biggest fans and support system, so don't shut them out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ignoring Excuses

Continuing my thoughts from my On Selling Yourself post...

I can't begin to reiterate how important it is to take advantage of what is right there in front of you. For example, many memberships in art organizations include opportunities to keep images of works on file, participate in off-site exhibits in area businesses and to apply for a featured artist page on the website and whatnot. And it never ceases to amaze me how few people actually do so, finding excuses for not taking advantage of these opportunities like:
I don't have anything they'd want.
I'm not ready.
I don't want to take an opportunity away from anyone else.
I'm not going to sell anything there anyway.
I don't want to be associated with that.
My work isn't good enough.
And so on.

But a lot of people do this, even to the point that organizations can actually have a hard time filling vacancies for featured artist pages and off-site shows. I have taken advantage of many such opportunities and wound up getting a lot of them, not necessarily because my work was that incredible or well-suited so much as I actually presented it for consideration. (In one case, I was even the "website featured artist of the month" for multiple months running because no one else submitted anything at all.) So it doesn't behoove you to make excuses for not getting your work out there. I am going to examine some of these excuses to show how it's possible to turn them around and to ready yourself to take advantage of opportunities instead:

I don't have anything they'd want.
Don't belittle your own work and decrease the chances of it getting seen by making vast assumptions about it. A lot of organizations offer a range of opportunities for off-site exhibits that are seeking a range of artworks to show. Let them decide what is and isn't appropriate - they have a better sense for it. That said, if you know from actually inquiring that your work isn't applicable at all and you want to take advantage of such an opportunity, you may want to consider exploring some other options in series or something. Or just try again later - new opportunities come up all the time and something you did that was ill-suited for one thing may be perfect for another. It is important to keep trying and not to give up.

I'm not ready.
Then get ready. Don't fall back on this same excuse time and time again - let it be a kick in the pants to do something about it for the next time. Be prepared and do the leg work beforehand. A lot of artists make up new packets for everything they try for despite the fact that each of these individual packets may be very similar. Worse yet, some people don't even keep the old packets and instead just get rid of all of their hard work after the application process has passed. But it is simply not efficient to reinvent the wheel every time you need a cart. Make up some generic packets for the purpose of taking advantage of opportunities. Make these as simple and versatile as possible so you can change them to suit different things as they come up. Templates for cover letters, image sheets and other packet information can be easily adapted to suit whatever so that you don't have to rewrite everything from scratch every time. Keep these generic packets up to date and reflective of your current work and get into a habit of shooting digital images of artworks as you complete them so that you have images of those new pieces as well.

I don't want to take an opportunity away from anyone else.
There are a lot of things to consider here. For one thing, others will likely not be nearly so polite to you or concerned about depriving you of anything. And just because you're taking advantage of something doesn't mean you deprived someone else of a chance at it. What if no one else is taking advantage of it either? Those opportunities that no one is pursuing at all very quickly cease to exist because not enough people are pursuing them. So you may actually be helping others by fostering an opportunity so it can continue to be offered, and you'll benefit as well.

I'm not going to sell anything there anyway.
This is difficult to judge and you can be surprised by what sells pretty much anywhere you take your art because you may not be entirely aware of the clientele or of your own audience. So don't deny yourself potential sales opportunities. Some businesses actually pay artists and art organizations for the privilege of hanging artwork in their establishments, so there may be other monetary considerations as well (not just for your benefit as an artist but for the organization to which you belong and wish to foster).

I don't want to be associated with that.
I don't get why people would be involved in an organization with which they wouldn't want to associate in the first place, but I suppose for some really well-established artists with gallery representation showing in certain circumstances could easily be construed as a step down. However elitism for its own sake is rarely a benefit as we can actually dissuade ourselves from participating in good opportunities by thinking we're above them. Ask those galleries and individuals that represent you what they think about such an opportunity - they may see it as better than you assumed they would or be able to suggest other things that you could do instead more suited to your standing. (Also ask yourself this: if your representatives aren't already offering plentiful opportunities themselves, then what benefits are they offering and do those benefits outweigh whatever limitations have been placed on yourself in regards to promoting and showing your work yourself?)

My work isn't good enough.
This is easy to fall into. Many artists are very self-critical and their work is actually far better than they perceive it to be. But if you are uncertain about the integrity of your own art, then work to change that. Take classes and workshops so that you can develop and improve skills. Seek advice and criticism from as many people as possible, and don't take their suggestions personally but rather look at those suggestions constructively to determine what you can do to better your art. Get out and see and absorb as much art as possible (not just in the museums, but in the galleries, cooperatives, coffee houses and as many places as possible); expose yourself to a wide range of what's out there and focus on studying how things are made and presented to see where you are in comparison. Your work may be better than you're giving yourself credit for. And you'll likely find a niche suited to your skill level.

Show Extended

I started to take down Relics & Reliquaries today and have uninstalled my window installation, small plaques and folding screen. But the rest of my show at the Green Center has been extended through the Fall Fire Festival on Nov. 7. And I will be vending jewelry at that event, just in time for the holidays, so please stop by and check it out.

Relics & Reliquaries, solo show
The Green Center
8025 Blackberry Ave.
University City, MO
extended until Nov. 7, 2009

2nd Annual Fall Fire Festival
Join us for a night of fire, food, fine drink and fabulous art in celebration of Fall!
Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009, 5:30 - 8:30 PM
Fire Performance
Stories in the Greenhouse
Pottery Workshop
Glass Art Demo
Brews by the Bonfire
Meet a Fire Crew
Food...Wine Tasting...Art Sale
Art Sale: Finish your holiday shopping early at the Fall Fire Festival art sale featuring ceramics, prints, mixed media works, photos and jewelry all under $100. Proceeds benefit the Center's Youth Arts-Science programs.
Tickets: $15 adult; $5 child through age 12 at the door
Admission includes food and drink. Cash or check preferred. Credit card check-out via Network for Good. All Ages Welcome...Rain or Shine.
Sponsors: Aalim Belly Dance, AEP River Operations, Chuvani Belly Dance, Fitz's Root Beer, Onesto Pizza & Trattoria, Redwood Creek Wines, Schlafly Beer, Third Degree Glass Factory, Whole Foods, and Winslow's Home

Sunday, November 1, 2009

On Selling Yourself

You really do have to sell yourself as an artist in many ways. There are a lot of artists out there, and whether or not we like it we are in competition for visibility. We need to get our work out there where it will be seen and better yet purchased (if that is a goal). We need to seek name recognition, find our niche and develop a rapport with our audience. We need to stay active at the forefront of what is going on so as to not fall off anyone's radar and risk losing fans, potential sales and other opportunities.

As I am quick to point out to people who question how active I am, my work isn't going to spawn many conversations or sell while sitting in storage in my attic studio where it is not going to be seen. Perhaps getting your work out there isn't as important to you as making it, which is fine, but do remember that the more you produce the more you will need to store unless you can find something else to do with it (and the trash heap is a far cry from a solution to this). Personally I feel that getting my work out there is probably one of the main reasons I do it. Not because I'm that egocentric, but as a means of spawning conversation, getting people thinking about things and challenging preconceptions. My work that doesn't fit into this, like my jewelry, is generally geared towards being sold and so still needs to get out there where it can be seen.

I personally prefer to focus more on camaraderie than competition because new audiences, connections, opportunities and publicity can be found and fostered when we work together. But with limited engagements for people to view art it becomes all the more important for individual artists to take advantage of every opportunity available to them to get their work seen. We all need to remember as artists that this is really up to us individually - no one else is going to do it until long after we've already done the legwork and achieved some pretty hefty fame and name recognition by account of our own efforts.

And many galleries and institutions are solely interested in current work and are not showing much of anything over three years old, which offers a very limited window of visibility. It's almost as if artworks have an expiration or sell-by date depending on when they were made, after which no one is near so interested in showing them anymore except in special circumstances, like retrospective exhibits. So it is necessary to work to promote yourself and your art as much as possible so that you can get it seen while you still can do so.

In the next few posts, I am going to offer some tips on promoting yourself and your artwork. I just attended a workshop at the Regional Arts Commission on Marketing and Professional Presentation which raised some key points that I'd like to reiterate here for all that I know I've mentioned some of this in the past. And lately I've found that I've been much more forthright in my own promotion and will explore some of what I've learned from that as well.