Artist Inc – Class 2

The second class with the Artist Inc. program helped the students “hit the ground running” so to speak.

Greg Katz of the Artist Success Studio led a one-hour session about creating a vision for yourself and setting goals. He drew a line on the board and labeled it with numbers from 1 (an “Artist Who Works” to 7 (a “Working Artist”) and challenged everyone to place themselves on this continuum. Where are you now and where do you want to be? He discussed that a “successful” arts business (or any business) is a “sustainable” business.
Throughout his talk, he asserted that whatever your goals are for yourself and your arts business, each decision you make should move you toward your goals. Here are some tips he discussed:
– Become an “expert” in your field – i.e. go out in your city and be part of what’s going on; visit art galleries, museums, etc.; stay current in the art world; be an active participant and become engaged; become a “go-to” person for your particular media/technique or perspective.
– Write down a list of your excuses for not doing something or not moving toward a goal; then you can never use those excuses again. Don’t sabotage yourself!
– Clean out your old ideas (literally or figuratively) and make room for the new. Carry a notebook with you to jot down ideas.
– Know what influences you and your art – who are the contemporary artists working in your media; read books/periodicals about your preferred subject matter, etc. Have some type of story to tell about your work – people like to ‘buy’ a story when they purchase art.
– Find ambassadors for your art – create win-win relationships, be a likable person and banish your narcissism. Remember what goes around comes around.
– Don’t be a trailblazer relating to the business side of your art career – find some models that work for you. For example, how much art do you have to sell per year to live comfortably? How many artworks do you need to create? Is this possible for you at this point? Would you be comfortable only being a part-time artist?

Following Greg’s presentation, each artist stood in front of the group for 5 minutes to discuss one piece of their work projected on the wall behind them. This was quite intimidating for some – there were many people who stood with hands in pockets or shifted back and forth – but the overall goal was to begin to get everyone comfortable speaking in front of groups. It is a challenging skill to master, one that requires an entire workshop in itself, but as you grow more confident, as you establish your written materials (artist statements, etc.), and find language that you can use over and over, it will get easier.

Up next was a 2-hour session taught by Jennifer Garner, Director and Curator of the Center for Visual Arts, and Assistant Professor of Art at Metro State College. She spoke to the group on preparing the necessary written documents that all artists should have ready: the artist statement, resume (or Curriculum Vitae – CV) and letter of introduction.
As she has worked with hundreds of artists and art students in her varied role as professor and curator, she had some well-informed information to share. Here are some important points from her presentation:
– Consistency is KEY – create an identity for yourself and maintain it throughout – your business cards, letterhead, portfolios, etc. should all have a similar look and feel, and it should reflect your art. {If you create contemporary black & white architectural photographs, does it make sense to have a flowery/organic logo and and use pale pink paper for your personal letterhead?}
– Label everything (documents, images, CD’s, etc) with your name and contact info! It will likely get separated from your other materials.
– Don’t spend a lot of money on your presentation materials – no fancy binders, etc. Also, don’t give a gallery more than they have requested – follow instructions carefully. This demonstrates that you respect them and their time.

In the next section, Jennifer spent quite a lot of time on how to craft an Artist Statement. This document has long eluded artists, yet it is such a necessary and compelling component of an artist’s suite of professional documents. It distills down into three paragraphs the essence of why an artist does what they do. your statement can sometimes make or break a viewer’s impression of your work – a well written one can enhance their experience, while a poorly written one may do you a disservice and actually downplay your artwork. Most viewers of art don’t understand what they are looking at, how it was made, and what it could mean – so help them! Here are some of her tips for tackling this beast:

Paragraph #1 – Identify: What type of artist are you? What is the concept of your work and how is it evident in the work? Don’t get too personal or philosophical, but be very direct. 3-4 sentences
Paragraph #2 – Analysis: Elaborate on your style, palette, mark making/techniques, concepts, influences, etc. 7-10 sentences
Paragraph #3 – Response: Summarize and clarify the concepts presented in #1 & #2. 2-4 sentences.

Here’s an exercise to get the words flowing: Think of 50 descriptive words about your artwork: 25 relating to content, 25 relating to concept. Once you have that list, look them up in a thesaurus, and double it – now you have 100 descriptive words to start crafting into sentences. If you are feeling extra bold, go back and double that list to 200!

Once you have your solid draft, read it out loud – how does it sound and flow? This is a working document meant to change and adapt to particular uses. Save a copy and then go back in to rework it for specific exhibitions, etc.

Next, Jennifer discussed creating the resume or CV. A resume is usually one page, and CV (Curriculum Vitae) is a list of everything you’ve ever done. List education at the top for your first 5 years or so out of school (if applicable), and the move it to the bottom. Divide the resume into categories such as Gallery Exhibitions, Professional Experience, Publications, etc. List things that relate to your art career, and always work in reverse chronological order (most recent first). Avoid including a goal statement as it clutters the document.

Last, a cover letter/letter of introduction was discussed. A cover letter should be included every time you send your materials/images, etc. to a gallery, for a specific proposal, etc. Again, use your personal letterhead, and make the document neat, clean and concise.
Paragraph # 1- Why are you writing?
Paragraph # 2 – How and why you are qualified – be specific here. Entice them to investigate your resume further.
Paragraph #3 – Wrap up, thank them for considering you, mention your enclosed materials as applicable.
Close with ‘Sincerely’ and list enclosures.

We covered a lot of material during class! It is overwhelming to start writing these documents from scratch, but once you have them, you can then constantly use, adapt and then alter them slightly for multiple uses for years to come.


Welcome to the TOSA Blog

The Other Side Arts (TOSA) has started this blog as a forum for artist discussions. We welcome your feedback and comments!

Artist Inc. – helping artists achieve professionalism

Artist Inc. is an exciting new program at TOSA. Funded by a grant from the Colorado Council on the Arts this 10-week course is designed to help visual artists of all types to improve and enhance their business and professional skills. We are thrilled to have eleven dedicated and enthusiastic artists taking part in the program’s inaugural year.  The program is inspired by the long-running EDGE program through Seattle’s Artist Trust.

The group met for the first time on April 10 when they attended the Create Denver Expo, a well-organized event run by Ginger White and the excellent staff at the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs. There, they could attend a wide variety of workshops led by professionals in the arts and business communities.  I sat in on two helpful sessions:

Robin Bond of Citizen Pictures led a session about how to sell yourself to “Suits.”  These CEO-types love to make decisions, are very direct, are early adaptors to innovative ideas and technology, and admire creativity.  She encouraged everyone to have their 30-second “elevator speak” at the ready because you never know if a parent at your child’s school or a guest at your cousin’s wedding could become a future customer, business partner or patron of your artwork.  {If you don’t have your personal elevator speak, create it soon and practice it often.  It will take some time to roll off your tongue.}  Once in a meeting with a top-level executive, be cognizant of the details (what does this person like/dislike – do your research about them), stay on target (don’t talk about nothing), maintain confidence, and always close with a direct question that requires them to follow up.  They will most likely admire you for your persistence.

Next, I attended a session about public speaking led by Steve Kultala, a consultant and trainer on this topic.  He spent a lot of time putting one poor workshop participant on the spot – she had to stand in front of the group repeating herself until she mastered the public speaking technique that Steve was teaching.  In the end, it was fun to see someone learn to take dramatic pauses, to engage individuals around the room in the eye, to speak with articulation and to slow down.  Steve emphasized that you should try to make conscious decisions while you are speaking in front of a group – be present, respond to your audience members as if you are in one-on-one conversations.  Most important is to not be afraid of silence – silence is what helps your audience connect with you and process what you are saying.

In the main lobby of the Webb Building where the Expo was held, there were a whole host of arts groups and business resources to network with and take advantage of – what a great way to gain exposure about what’s happening around Denver.  I feel lucky to live in such a burgeoning art town!