I’m a list-maker, so when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I already have a list at any given time. I’m constantly thinking of things I want to accomplish or improve. My lists get overgrown, they’re illegible, and I use the new year as an opportunity to purge those lists and rewrite them into something slightly more legible. With that said, there are several guidelines that have always helped me reach goals and regardless of your personal plan, can come in handy. So here’s what I’ve picked up over the years from various sources and my own personal experience:
Have a clear vision of what it is you want
Tell people about your goal- it keeps you accountable- you’ll be more willing to accomplish it when everyone is watching
List in detail steps and a strategy for getting what you envisioned
Set deadlines- literally put it on your calendar that you will accomplish something on a certain date and follow through
Have passion for what you are doing- you have to be truly excited about what you are doing or want to accomplish
Be flexible- if something doesn’t work out, alter your plan to make it happen
Be willing to take risks and get out of your comfort zone
Surround yourself with positive people
Prioritize your goals into high priority, medium, and low
Be proactive but maintain balance in other areas of your life
Judging by my title, you’d think this was a quiz you’d find in Cosmo. Actually, I read an article by Norm Brodsky in Inc. Magazine recently that inspired me to write this post. He mentioned seeing a Rolling Stones concert, watching Mick Jagger performing at the age of 69, wondering how or even why he does it. He’s not exactly hurting for money, he’s getting older- sorry, but true, and touring is a lot even for young kids, so why continue to do it? Mr. Brodsky’s point- passion. Clearly this man has passion for what he does. I can completely relate. While I am no Mick Jagger, I can completely relate to the need (yes, this is a need) to create. That passion is what makes you get up everyday and do what you do, despite rejection, despite challenges, and despite just having a bad day in general, only to get up the next day and do it all over again.
There are some artists out there that give up because they didn’t get into a show or a particular gallery or their work didn’t sell like they expected. There are those that give up because galleries are not knocking down their doors. And there are those that continue to paint (or sculpt, or draw, etc.) but don’t ever expect anything to come of it. If you are happy with that, that is perfectly fine, but if you want more for your art, then you’re going to have to give it your all. Whatever you choose to do in life, that has to be your passion. It has to be the thing you get up for everyday. It has to be the thing you choose to do and do it well. Be the best damn artist, baker, or candlestick-maker ever. And it doesn’t stop there. Don’t just master your craft, but also learn the skills required to make that business succeed. Continue your education- no, I don’t mean go back to school, necessarily, but continue to learn through other sources such as the wonderful web. And get out of your comfort zone. Being successful at anything requires taking on new challenges or doing things we are not accustomed to. Lastly, be flexible. If something doesn’t go as expected, learn to adapt or figure out a new way of accomplishing the task at hand.
It seems like a given that you are passionate about your art, but that’s not always the case. Figure out what it is that brings you joy and if need be, kick it into high gear. Take charge of your [art] career.
After reading the title of this post, you’d probably think I’m being sarcastic or just plain crazy. Actually, no. The thing is, anytime you are losing “fans” (email newsletter subscribers, Facebook Fans, etc.), you’re probably not actually losing fans, you’re losing people that weren’t really interested in the first place. There are many reasons why someone may subscribe to your newsletter or be your fan on Facebook or follow you on Twitter. You would hope that it’s because they just love your art, but that’s not always the case. Some are other artists just doing research on you, some are acquaintances that felt obligated to join because you asked, and some may have been interested but quickly discovered that your work is not what they expected- the list goes on.
So why is this a good thing? Because it translates to more time and effort put into those who do care about your art, and less wasted on those that weren’t interested. For every email, every phone call, every Tweet, every newsletter, every postcard, etc. etc., there is less time, money, and energy invested into those that are not interested in your art, thus allowing you to focus on those that do care. Sure, you want to know that your art resonates with tons of people- everyone, for that matter- but it’s not going to do that if they’re hitting the delete button every time you send them something. And it’s not that you’re doing anything wrong or that your art is “bad.” Some people are just not going to be interested, but this frees you up to fully invest in those that are. If you were to send out a newsletter and end up with a few “unsubscribes” as a result and one heartfelt email from a fan, that fan’s response far outweighs the unsubscribes. (More than likely those unsubscribes are people you’ve never heard from anyway.) Having a meaningful connection with your fans is much more rewarding and better for your career seeing as these are the folks that will talk about your art, come to your shows, and share your news or posts with others.
There seems to be a common misconception among artists and even among the general public, for that matter, that I wanted to take a moment to dispel. Some are of the opinion that if they can just accomplish [insert goal here] that they will make it as an artist (although this applies to non-artists as well). The thing is, there will never be “one” gallery or “one” show or “one” award that will “make” you. I believe this misconception stems from what appears to be the overnight success of others. Anytime we hear about an artist or musician or athlete in the news for the first time (to our knowledge), we think they are an overnight success because we’ve never heard of them before and now they are famous. It wasn’t that they accomplished one particular goal and found instant fame. Sure, there is probably one particular accomplishment being highlighted in said news feature, but that’s simply because they need a hook for their story. The fact is, this person has been working their butt off “behind the scenes.” Just because we’ve never heard of them before doesn’t mean that this now-superstar wasn’t working two jobs or repeatedly getting rejected or struggling to make a name for themselves or all of the above at some point in time. I’ve heard of many artists that worked odd jobs and couldn’t get into galleries that are now successful.
In order to become a success at anything, whether you are an artist or not, is to diligently apply yourself to each opportunity. Sure, Larry Gagosian could walk into your studio, buy your work and make you a star overnight, but VERY rarely does that ever happen. And even in those instances, if you were to look backward you will see a series of small steps that led up to that moment. You have to build your career, brick by brick, layer by layer. There’s no quick-fix, magic pill, or get-rich-quick scheme that will do the work for you.
Although instant success would be nice, the good news is it’s much more realistic (and reassuring) to know that you are in control of your success. Rest assured that the steps you are taking now are improving your career rather than waiting around and just hoping for a lucky break. Take a look at what you’ve accomplished over the past year, or even over the past few years, and you will probably find that you’ve done much more than you ever thought possible. Now imagine what you could accomplish over the upcoming year, or five years from now, or ten. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Les Brown.
I decided to re-post this since it was a popular post I had done awhile back. So for those of you that are new or may have missed this, I hope you find it inspiring!
No one cares about your art more than you do. It’s true. It’s not unlike showing your vacation photos to everyone. They mean well, but after about two minutes, the enthusiasm wears off and their eyes glaze over. I was inspired to write this after going through some old art magazines to clear out the mountain of periodicals I’ve saved. I came across a rather disheartening article in a very popular magazine. The author was giving advice on how to be a successful artist. Some of the author’s tips? Paint what sells- not more “complex” paintings, don’t bother showing in libraries or university galleries since they don’t generate sales (museums usually don’t either, but I don’t know an artist alive that wouldn’t jump at the chance to show in a museum), and sell on Ebay- specifically bright, colorful, quick paintings- no drawings. I know better than this and even I found it depressing! I can only imagine what other artists must think.
So this is what leads me to my frustration. I don’t care who they are or if they mean well, no one truly cares about your art or your art career as much as you do. This is why you are the only one that can determine what your goals are and if, at the end of the day, you’ve done all that you can to achieve those goals. Don’t listen to the naysayers, the haters, the critics, the cynics, or the non-believers. What do they know anyway? Even some of the experts can’t always predict what you, personally, need to do. That’s why it’s up to you to take in all this information and filter through it and find what is applicable and toss away what’s not. You know what you need to do. You know if your work is the best it can be. You know what you should create. If you try to “paint what sells,” you’ll be chasing your tail for quite some time. Popularity changes as do marketing trends. Something that sells one day, won’t the next. That’s why there are trend analysts that make a living at this. Great work is great work and it will attract its own popularity. And while I’m at it- if you were to avoid university galleries, libraries, museums, or any other venue for fear of little to no sales, you wouldn’t be an artist, would you? I couldn’t imagine not having the experience of seeing art, especially when I was a student, at a university gallery or museum. Some of the most significant shows of our time come from these venues.
In my own personal experience, I’ve heard it all. I’ve been told what I should paint, how I should paint, and I’ve even had a drunk non-artist tell me what is and isn’t art. When I made the decision to paint and to try to get into a gallery exhibit, even one of my “good” friends told me that I couldn’t do it. It’s a good thing I didn’t listen to any of these people, otherwise I may not have even been an artist at all. Anyone listening to that kind of advice would quit before even starting. Don’t make that mistake. If you’re already a working artist, just keep on trucking. If you’re just starting out, stay focused and put your blinders on. And maybe invest in some good ear plugs.
Being a true artist takes grit. There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, and you’ll need to develop a thick skin. However, I can’t imagine a more rewarding experience. I always like to think of these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
With all the social media sites out there- Google+, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.- it has a lot of us all wondering if we really need to be on these sites. As an artist, I have to say yes… I can hear the groans now… Does it really matter? In short, absolutely. Not that this is a popularity contest, but those likes, plus 1’s, and tweets are important. Sure, they give you a boost of confidence and let you know that someone out there is taking notice to the work you’re doing- everyone wants to have their “Sally Field moment” – you “like” me. But more importantly, it’s about trust. Social media sites, time-suckers that they are, actually help build brand trust. They allow people to get to know you, get better insight into your art, see what you are doing with your art career, and it also gives them confidence to buy your art when they can see that others like you as well. In fact, the number of fans you have on Facebook, for example, builds confidence among other fans and potential buyers. All the social media kudos you receive show that they are not alone- that others like your work and buy it, too- therefore they should join the club. Because of these sites, others are able to vouch for you.
So how to manage all these sites? And is one more important than the other? Well, I have to admit that I do have my personal preferences when it comes to social media, however, I do think it is important to be present on all of them to some extent. To keep things from getting out of control, I would recommend that you first set time limits. Don’t get distracted with reading posts and watching videos. Limit your social media time to only work-related posts and interactions when you are on the clock. You can always go back later at the end of the day to do your personal posts, etc.
I know some of you may frown upon this, but copy and paste is your best friend when it comes to posting about your art. I see no harm in replicating posts from one site to another. It will save you time while maximizing your reach. More than likely no one is going to be seeing the same posts from one site to another anyway. Not everyone is on all social media sites and even if they are, they still may not see all your posts due to their short shelf-life as well as Facebook’s use of EdgeRank (which filters out 99% of posts by friends and businesses). It really is best to cross-post in order to broaden your audience.
One last note- this may sound contradictory given your time restraints, but do try to respond to your fans’ comments in a timely manner. If you post a painting or you ask a question, people are going to respond rather quickly, so be around to give them a response as well. If you find that this is exceeding your time limit, perhaps find a way to wrap things up and exit the conversation. You could thank everyone and say that you are going back to the studio now. Or maybe entice them to come back by saying that you’re off to work on a piece and will come back with a “sneak peek” photo later. Speaking of which, I need to get back to my easel as well. If you have questions or comments concerning social media, feel free to to share them here!
I wanted to take a moment to discuss some concerns that I hear repeatedly amongst artist friends and online. If you are reading this post, then more than likely you are an artist or maybe an art enthusiast. Some of you may have embarked upon making a career of your art while others are afraid to do so for various reasons. And of the ones that are currently working on their art careers, you may find yourselves discouraged at times or frustrated that things are not going as planned. So what do you do about it? Well, I am here to say that first of all, don’t give up. And don’t be scared, or discouraged, or angry, or sad, or frustrated, etc., etc., etc. This is a subjective business and not everyone will feel that your work suits their gallery or their living rooms. And that’s okay.
Let’s face it. This career is not for sissies. But if you love your art, which I’m sure you do, then the other stuff won’t really matter. Take pride in your work and take pride in all that you have accomplished. Even if you’re just starting out, you have a lot to be proud of just in taking the first step to starting your career. Shockingly enough, most people do not take those first steps (and that’s including those that are not even artists). It takes guts to make the first move. You’re getting out of your comfort zone. And even once you are well into your career, you will find that you still have to shake things up and get out of your comfort zone again and again. As the stakes get higher, you need to do more as well as reach more. But that’s okay because you love what you do.
Aside from loving your work, you have to be consistent. That is the one thing that I see so many artists drop the ball on. Consistency is key. You can’t expect to accomplish everything overnight. You will have to slowly build and take each step towards building your exhibition experience, your portfolio, your sales, your awards, etc. And just because you accomplish one goal, doesn’t mean you can stop. You have to keep on plugging away at your career. You can’t just coast or rest on your laurels. You’ll need to have new work to show, you’ll need to expand to other cities, other states, other countries even. You’ll need to keep moving. How many bands can you think of that were one-hit wonders? How many actors can you think of that were popular and then seemed to disappear from the face of the Earth? You may find it hard to even think of examples but once you do, you’ll be thinking, “oh yeah… whatever happened to…?” Don’t be one of those cases. You are not a flash in the pan. You’re serious about your career and you are here to stay.
The good news is it’s not about luck! Sure, sometimes you may happen to be in the right place at the right time, but that won’t be often. And even if it does happen, it won’t necessarily make your career. Even for the positive things that happen in your career, if it wasn’t directly related to your doing, if you trace it back, you will probably find that it was thanks to one of the “seeds” you planted in the first place. You don’t need to buy a Magic 8 ball or get a tarot reading. Just keep putting yourself out there, creating more, improving as much as possible, marketing, networking, exhibiting, etc. You don’t need luck- luck is hard to get anyway. Consistency is easy enough to do and is a sure bet.
Stay strong, be consistent, and be professional. The rest will follow.
I send out an email newsletter each month, and I thought it might be helpful to those of you who don’t yet send a newsletter or are contemplating taking on such a project, to post some tips. Also, for those of you that do send newsletters, you may find some new ideas to help increase your subscriber rate and boost their enthusiasm. So here goes:
-I’ve posted a screen grab of one of my newsletters here to give you an idea of what I do. If you visit my website, www.AmyGuidry.com, you’ll see that I have kept the overall look the same as the website- color, style, logo, etc. This aids your branding campaign in that the visuals are associated with you and identify you in the minds of others.
-Frequency is up to you and you may want to experiment with this depending on how much you produce/exhibit/etc. I like once a month with a concise list of everything I have going on.
-Use a compelling subject heading, not too long- maybe 6 words or less. I like to focus on my “big” news to catch their attention.
-Photos are a must even if you are only discussing exhibits or articles. People are visual creatures so include photos of your new work, or studio shots, exhibition opening photos, installation photos, etc. If you are published in a magazine, include photos of that as well. Same goes for awards or certificates.
-Text should be concise and interesting. Try not to just state facts, which can be hard to do if you are announcing an exhibit but add some points of interest or amusing anecdotes wherever possible.
-Put your biggest news at the top of the newsletter. Unfortunately, you’ll have some readers that just skim through your news, so you’ll need to get their attention first thing.
-Add your other links at the bottom of the newsletter. If you are on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, etc.- include those links. Your most interested fans will scroll all the way down to see them. Otherwise, you don’t want to distract your readers and lead them away from the newsletter too quickly.
-Limit outbound links to 3 or less. If you give too many links for people to visit, you’ll overwhelm them and they probably won’t go to any.
-Key time to send? According to marketing experts and my own personal experience, Tuesday-Thursday are your best bet. Send during the day, anywhere between 10am Pacific time to 3pm. I think I get more response in the afternoon, but again, try this out yourself and chart what gets you the most response. Monday is a no-no because people are bombarded with new email that built up over the weekend, whether they are at home or at work. Friday-Sunday, people are out enjoying the weekend.
-Have a signup page for your newsletters on your website. Let people know what they will be receiving and how often.
-Include a link to your newsletter signup page in all your correspondence emails.
I try to post as much as possible on here, but sometimes I slack off a bit when I’m really busy. Case in point. So while trying to catch up on recent news, I realized that I didn’t even post the last two paintings I sold. Sales are always good news, so that’s worth sharing. I sold two portraits that I had done awhile back. They were some of the first paintings I had done when I decided to paint professionally and make a career out of my art. I was especially glad since that series has dwindled down to not quite enough to have for a whole show, yet too many to have sitting in storage. And they didn’t exactly fit with my recent series, either. So now they have new homes, and I am very happy about that.
Both paintings are the same size, 30″ tall by 24″ wide. A “medium” size that I do, depending on your definition of medium. (I know some artists think 4 or 5 feet is “medium” sized…)
And they are both framed, so that actually adds an 1 1/2″ in each direction. The painting, “Mike,” is of a friend I met through my husband. The painting, “Craig,” is of my brother (you may recall seeing his picture in previous posts). The “Craig” painting is actually the first portrait I did for this series.