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Show Your Work book coverIt’s been awhile since I posted here. I have been writing- the intended outcome is a book, but I can’t quite get the words, ‘I’m writing a book’, out of my mouth at the moment. It sounds too pretentious and it scares me a bit.

A lot.
Considering how many times I’ve started and stopped work on this project in the past decade or so.

I will finish the manuscript this time, because I promised a friend I would. But whether it will be anything worth sharing at the end, I don’t know. Anyway, it is keeping me occupied, a recent task being going through every one of the almost 400 posts on this blog, printing the relevant ones out and categorising them. More on all that another time.

Anyway, back to the topic of this post which is a book review.

Anyone who has been reading my posts over the past 7 years will know my anti-marketing stance when it comes to art, so surprise surprise, I am about to sing the praises of a book that could be seen as a book on promoting your art, but which is SO not an art marketing book.

I was cruising Amazon and this title was on the recommendations for me. I immediately liked the format and cover and took a ‘look inside’. I was sold from page one. This was an author who understood my reluctance to make self promotion the ultimate goal for my life on Earth, and who has written a kind, heart-filled guide on how to not hoard your creativity, how to not give up, how to keep your integrity while getting your work out there, how to not turn into ‘human spam’ (loved that), and have a great and fulfilling time doing it.

This book is so lovely in every aspect. It has a smooth cover, silky to the touch, the small square format appeals, it simply exudes friendliness and encouragement. There are loads of keri smith style handwritten pages and illustrations by the author, Austin Kleon (who wrote ‘How to steal like an artist’ which I didn’t read because I already know how and am already an artist).

Almost all the people I look up to and try to steal from today, regardless of their profession, have built sharing into their routine.  These people aren’t schmoozing at cocktail parties, they’re too busy for that. (paraphrased):They are working in their studios, getting good at what they do, and sharing their process.

‘By generously sharing their ideas and their knowledge, they often gain an audience that they can then leverage when they need it- for fellowship, feedback or patronage. (personally, I’ve never had any luck with the last one, SZ).

I wanted to create a kind of beginner’s manual for this way of operating, so here’s what I came up with, a book for people who hate the very idea of self promotion. An alternative, if you will to self promotion…Imagine if your next boss didn’t have to read your resume because he already reads your blog. Imagine being a student and getting your first gig based on a school project you posted on line… Imagine turning a side project or hobby into your profession because you had a following that could support you.

Or imagine something simpler and just as satisfying: spending the majority of your time, energy,and attention practising a craft, learning a trade, or running a business, while also allowing for the possibility that your work might attract a group of people who share your interest….

This little book is full of original, funny, insightful, wise advice that can help anyone gather the courage and get organised to share their work more. And who knows where that could lead!  Whether you are a writer, crafter, artist, or hobbyist in anything at all, give yourself a present and go buy it.( And, no, I’m not being paid to say this!)

 

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 Book of Hours  Oil pastel collage SOLD

Book of Hours Oil   pastel collage SOLD

I’m feeling quite good because I’ve sold some of my art to a friend. Obviously it is heartening when someone likes your work enough to want to give it a place in their lives. But a lot of the satisfaction also comes from the fact that this has been accomplished without Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any promotional effort at all.

Because, after a long career as an exhibiting artist, I have chosen to now work outside the gallery system, and i don’t make a big effort to profile as a selling artist on the web,  I don’t sell much art. But when I do, it is usually a rewarding personal contact that leaves me feeling valued, and the buyer feeling happy to be walking away with an original creation which somehow has connected with his/her soul.

The people who buy my work also pay 30-50% less for my art than comparable work by other professionals who do work with galleries.

You might think that artists sell their work for the gallery price only during the exhibition. But the gallery owner will usually ask you to agree to pay the same commission on work that they’ve shown, even if you sell it privately later. I suppose it is to prevent friends from waiting until the show is over so they can buy directly from the artist and avoid paying the commission. However, most exhibiting artists choose to sell at the gallery rate to avoid having different prices for the same work.

In a recent BrushBuzz ( a great source for painting tips and marketing for artists), was the post, ‘The myth that Good art sells itself’.  I would argue that good work, combined with several other factors, eventually finds its way to the people who will value it and pay for it.  It isn’t that you can sit back and wait for the work to sell itself, of course that isn’t effective. But I’ve found that there are rules operating far outside the normal ideas of promotion and selling which often work in my life. They aren’t linear-‘if you do A, then B will happen’,  but operate sort of sideways. For instance, when I am working hard and consistently on one area of my art like my painting, I’ll often get a commission or sale from another area like calligraphy or instrument decoration. It is as if all that energy being put out there by focused effort somehow calls forth a response, but don’t ask me how it works. 🙂

Tuscan landscape-  oil pastel  SOLD

Tuscan landscape- oil pastel SOLD

Why website?

May 26, 2012

I would like to ask you, the small group of regular readers, or anyone who happens to drop by this blog for suggestions on the following:

My present website, ArtWell was created 5 years ago, and reflected my activities then. It also represented what I thought a website should do. It was my first site and has not been fundamentally changed since it was made. I don’t speak fluent HTML and though I can manage the text, structural stuff like adding pages and slide shows is beyond me. So it is very much out of synch with where I am now; for example, I don’t offer the whole range of dementia services outlined in that category. And the shop isn’t effective at all.

I have been working on a replacement site on Weebly for awhile, and it is OK. It obediently shows an overview of my main work areas with short texts to go with them.

And it totally bores me.

So, what questions would you like me to answer on a website? What can a website add to this blog, which is an up-to-the-minute log of my thoughts, activities, and work in progress?

At the moment I just don’t see the point, yet at the same time it might be an opportunity for something new. I know it might be nice for people to be able to easily navigate through my several portfolios, ie.- harpsichord soundboard painting, oil paintings and oil pastels, and letter work. I guess that would be the reason to maintain a site. But so far it doesn’t really get my bells ringing.

Thoughts appreciated.

Friends at decor-artuk recently posted a helpful entry on marketing for artists. A short exchange between us followed, and I’d like to continue my  bit here – everyone is welcome to join in, of course.

As my oil paintings mount up here (and they are the first work in several years which I feel are worthy of exhibiting), I will soon be re-entering the marketing fray in some way or another.

So just a reminder that my ‘anti-marketing’ posts aren’t about not selling one’s work, they are about the other sides of art which are getting lost in the marketing discussion. These facets of art/the arts are essential to human spiritual and cultural life, I feel. So I’ll continute to write about them here, perhaps reminding us why we chose to be artists in the first place.

When a work of art, piece of music, phrase of literature, etc  connects straight to my soul I get launched out of my small life with its everyday cares. I get reconnected to the best in myself, and reminded of why I am here- even if I can’t express it in words. It is just a profound reassurance that life is fine as it is, warts and all, the larger wheel is turning in a beauty and order which is unfathomable to a human mind, and my small life is somehow held and counted in it. Those mysteries are what art touches.
A past post, Art’s worth, explores the issue further, with Rob Riemen, a Dutch publisher and writer who spoke eloquently of how art was a solace to him after a series of devastating personal losses.

In Kristina’s (decor-artuk) reply to me she says, ‘… it does seem that art has lost a lot of it’s true characteristics; it has become like everything around us – you can sell it and you can buy it, it’s that simple’. (See the full comment here. )

Yes, Kristina I think , you are perfectly right. This made me feel my age, because being part of an earlier generation than most of the avidly marketing 30 somethings, I feel that loss keenly.

For one instant I even wondered whether in advocating a more ethical, and connected art I was becoming dated, an art veteran holding on to a disappearing age. But actually I think what we see emerging in all kinds of wonderful quirky forms outside the established art world -this is the future of art.
Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks from ArtCalling

January 1, 2012

heart-angelsblog.jpg

I like practical, connected, and meaningful art. I am excited and inspired by the arts in healing and community art.  For the last years I’ve been committed to finding alternative paths for myself and other artists so that we have choices outside the traditional ways of exhibiting and exploiting art. I have done a lot of thinking about right livelihood in relation to art, so will be airing some of those ideas here.
Over the years my thinking has been inspired by other artists, writers and friends, and I look forward to sharing some of those sources.

Dear friends, with the above words in march 2007, I started this blog.
Looking through the past 5 years’ posts I’ve stuck pretty much to the original intent.  The main themes have stayed roughly the same.

Through airing ideas here and the dialogue that has followed, ideas have developed and gained clarity. Especially those concerning new ways to think about art and; the challenges of art and market.

I’ve shared my oil pastels, older oil paintings, and new craft work. Have shared my dreams and goals, my ups and downs, and generally let a little slice of my life show here.

I want to thank all of you who have been popping in here from time to time and especially those who’ve taken the time to comment. My life has been enriched by your thoughtful remarks and the contact with like minded-souls as well as those with other views.

Alpha, Michael monocle, Thea, Rachel and Phil have been the most active commentors.  Thanks so much folks.

13,037 people visited in 2011. Most of you are from the states, with the UK and Holland close behind.

The top referring sites in 2011 were:

Thank you.

In his’ Making and Connecting’, Gauntlett hits up against a basic dilemma- how to work with a gift in a market based society. How could a discussion of craft and art not touch this issue?

This upsurge of people making things and sharing them in on and offline communities is distinguished by a strong current of giving and sharing. Think of book drops,art  postcard crossing, many forms of guerilla art, etc. So much of this tendency is a reaction against the present system where the worth of things…(and people!) is determined purely economically.

So how do we reconcile this genuine desire to share our creative efforts outside an economic framework with the just as real need to earn a living?

Free platforms as exploited labour*

*(This subhead is a direct quote from the book).

OK, we have some new channels for sharing our art and ideas- YouTube, Facebook, Flickr etc. These are open platforms where, for no charge, with no credentials, and hardly any conditions, we can put our stuff out there.

Some people claim that You Tube, for example, makes gobs of advertising money off the millions of people posting and viewing videos there. Gauntlett has done some research and writes that it actually costs YouTube more to host the site than they are receiving through ads. (Based on 2009 figures, YouTube makes a bout $1.20 per video on ads per year and spends $3 per video to host the site).

We generally accept that no ads would mean no free sites.

He also says that most of us don’t care about the ‘free labour’ harvested by these sites because we want to share our work and we have ‘no thoughts of economic value’ except being glad that we don’t have to pay to share our creative work online.

Around a campfire

David suggests that the atmosphere in most of the open platform sites is like being around a campfire. Maybe my singing voice is beautiful and I could print out tickets and charge a fee, but that would completely change the underlying agreement of mutual sharing.

OK, fair enough. But then he goes on to rightly say, that in a society where everyone gets paid for what they produce, creative people should also get paid for their efforts. This is where it gets tricky.

Gauntlett cites the  example of the music business to illustrate this point. People seem to feel entitled to download music free of charge while most of the musicians are struggling to survive from their music. Some established bands or star status artists make good money from their products and tours, but they represent only a fraction of the whole profession. As a rule, it is the managers, PR people and other middlemen who are making big bucks off the musicians ‘backs. Gauntlett has a suggestion to remedy this. Read the rest of this entry »

If everyone is an artist….?

December 15, 2011

There are several points of discussion ,’Making is Connecting’, brings up for me. The first one is:

if anyone can make and sell their work on (and off) line, is everyone, then an artist?

If everyone is an artist, then, of course, no one is.
Not in the same sense I’ve been brought up to believe; that an artist is someone with a calling who devotes his or her life to learning to express themselves in their chosen craft/discipline. This almost always involves a rigorous path of education and then the required 10,000 hours of practice before one can even begin to make work of stature and relevance.

I think, though, that the ways to discern people devoted to excellence in their calling from the dabbler have been blurred. James Krenov acknowledged this in the last century and suggested that keeping  professionalism and amateurs strictly separate was the best way to honour the artist and leave the hobbyist to putter in their own domain. I apologise for sounding harsh, but for many years this is how I felt about hobbyists, even though in some fields, I am one myself.

Pro-Ams

Things are radically changing, though. In his book, ‘The Element’, Sir Ken Robinson cites the rise of the so-called ‘Pro-Ams’.  (partially  paraphrased)

This is a kind of amateur who works at increasingly high standards…the Pro-Am pursues an activity as an amateur, mainly for the love of it, but sets a professional standard. The Pro-Am uses his leisure not for passive consumerism but is active and participatory involving knowledge built up over a long period of practice.

While no professional in any field enjoys being undercut by people offering lesser quality work at cheaper prices, I actually welcome this democratisation of art and creativity because it frees us all from some very confining boxes.  Creative people are finding channels, not previously available to non-professionals, for sharing their work.  And professionals,too, get a chance to let down their hair and try out some other areas without the constraints of having to be perfect first.

Real Artists

I think there will always be a place for excellence and authenticity. There are simply artists who either reach such high levels of their craft that it communicates to whoever is receptive to it. Or they touch a nerve which the whole society is poised to express but hasn’t yet realized. And  in so doing give it a voice and a face.

And reluctantly I must admit, that maybe the distinction of the Real Artist might be passé.  Or it is expanding to include various degrees of commitment and expertise.

There is to my eye definitely a distinction between the talented crafter who at this moment is flooding Etsy with (extremely popular) owls, birds and vintage. And the artist drawing from their own experience to give wings to a vision.

More about art vs craft another time.