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The Plight of the Emerging Artist

Emerging ArtistIt’s tough starting out in the world of the arts if you’re a Visual Artist, Singer, Writer or any creative for that matter, and many learn the hard way when they venture out after their studies and discover it’s really not what they teach you at college.

Just as the song “Video Kills the Radio Star” of the 80’s suggests, times change as technology changes. The old makes way for the new. The Art business and the Publishing Business are changing – just as the Music Business did a short while ago.

In the past a creative person with an idea for a book or a screenplay, a collection of paintings or sculptures, artistic photographs or a written song would approach the appropriate business directly (if they were allowed to do so without an Agent) or seek representation through an Agent in the hope of signing a deal and starting a career. It was a tough enough road even then, but now that there are so much more artistic people seeking to earn a living from their talents, this industry is changing in so many ways. One would think the markets would be saturated but instead it is just transforming – and not necessarily all negatively either!

So What’s Changing Nowadays?

I understand that traditional Art Galleries are taking on fewer emerging artists these days, preferring to spend time and money on established artists who are guaranteed to make them money. This is partly due to the recession perhaps, where the wealthy can still invest in art and yet the person of more modest means shall not extend his or her budget considering there are more vital expenses to handle first.

Emerging artists are hence advised to have a strong sales record and client base before a gallery will consider taking them on and yet there’s an irony at work here because if they have a strong client base and making a success of their career, one wonders if they really need the gallery at all? Especially a small one in their local area that may bring a few sales and serve as extra exposure but isn’t really going to “Make your career” as in days of old. Yes, in the past galleries could take on an emerging artist and market them in all the right places, introduce the artist to new collectors and establish a liaison with the press, but it appears this is not happening as much any more. In most cases, emerging artists are basically on their own until they have established some value that will appeal to the gallery. This value is essentially work that sells consistently, a strong online presence and collectors and followers of their own.

Similarly, I understand that authors are expected to assist the publishers in marketing their book too and yet they can simply upload their own book to Amazon and a multitude of other sites (as well as their own websites) to publish it themselves, put some effort into marketing this work and make sales without the publishing house behind them. We’ve all read amazing success stories of authors who have made a million Dollars on Amazon and then been approached and signed by a traditional publishing house. The author must have been delighted because of the prestige factor we associate with “being signed” as it enforces the merit of the work, (because we trust it has been validated according to the traditional methods of the past,) but the author had really done the groundwork alone.

Likewise, Singers and Bands upload their music to SoundCloud, You Tube and other sites where they can also be shared, recommended and ultimately go viral. Again, some of the most unlikely musicians have been discovered this way.

However, the emerging creative need not despair – there are other ways of developing a successful career and it need not be the “plight” it appears on first glance.

Social media has certainly done a lot to change how we live or communicate and even promote ourselves and our businesses. Marketing ourselves has become a new trend on its own.

New Gateways and Avenues To Pursue

In the days of van Gogh, the artists had the Salon as a credible gateway for getting seen and known, and in the past an artist represented by an Agent or a Gallery was esteemed more prestigious than one who exhibited at fairs and markets for example. This is still true to a certain extent now, only Artists have so many other avenues to explore and a phletora of opportunities available to them as well.

Because Artists, Writers, Singers and other creative people are avidly taking advantage of the social media networks available, such as Facebook, they are actively building his or her own presence online – sometimes a very strong presence too – and are simultaneously establishing themselves in the eye of the public and creating a name for themselves.

In so doing, they are also slowly gathering what marketing guru, Seth Godin, calls “The Tribe,” as they attract an increasing number of followers interested in these talented people and their products. Among these followers can be Collectors and Buyers or Curators, Music and Film Producers, Gallery Owners, Publishers, Art Organisations, Associations and a host of other potential business – who, let us bear in mind, have Art Critics, Reviewers, Journalists and Marketers and everybody else concerned in all these industries busy themselves promoting their services and companies on their own pages on social media at the same time , as well as also on the lookout for who is making a buzz in their industries on the web!

General Advice Regarding A Positive Strategy

The Work Itself

My advice to you today from one artist to another, and whether you Write songs or books, Sculpt, Paint or Weave, is to always try and follow these few pointers:

  • Be yourself in every way – let your own personality and who you really are shine through in your work and in your promotions I.e. Be Distinctive – tell your own story! (Show this in your corporate image, your blog and the work itself)
  • Set realistic prices according to the value of your work
  • Make Good Art! – always strive to be better than your last creation
  • Associate with people who do the same or similar work as you do but who are better at it than you are – you are bound to improve and learn from them – but do not endeavour to replicate their style or you are just promoting them and you want to be unique and promote yourself!
  • Set a short-term and a long-term plan and look for ways to achieve this.

Promotion

  • Engage fully in creating your career – get involved in every opening that arises.
  • Don’t scoff at the most unlikely avenues – these sometimes lead to great new opportunities and you never know who you may meet!
  • On Average, aim at devoting 30% of your time to creating your craft and 70% of your time to marketing it – unless you can afford to employ someone to help you!

Create a Promotion Strategy Using These Outlets

1) Social Networks like Facebook (Your own wall and a Fan Page) and Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram

2) Distribution Platforms especially for specific creative activities as follows:

  • Artists – Sell originals and prints through sites like Saachi, Fine Art America, Deviant Art, Daily Painters etc
  • Musicians – Upload your songs and promote yourself or your band through sites like Soundcloud etc
  • Writers – Self-publish your books through Amazon (CreateSpace), Lulu, Bookbaby etc

3) Competitions – Research and enter as many competitions as possible to keep abreast with what’s happening and obtain more exposure in the art world. An award will look good on your CV! There are free competitions and some you need to pay to enter, but be careful as some of the take your money and you have no way of knowing if there really is a competition or whether you were selected or not.

Competitions can be found online on specific sites and ezines and also in art/publishing magazines and newspapers.

Enter Talent shows if you are a singer, like Idols, UK Has Talent etc

4) Web Campaigns:Emerging Artists can also take advantage of platforms offering a variety of ways to launch ideas and create a buzz to attract some attention to your work. You can really get creative!

  1. Crowdfunding campaigns can be really innovative ways to raise funds for Indie Projects. Kickstarter and Indiegogo, to mention but a couple, are sites that favour film, the arts and creative projects. Depending on the effort put into the networking of one’s campaign, these too can go viral sometimes and some people have been really fortunate and received millions to really set them on their way.
  2. Marketing Apps – Anybody can drive traffic to their products, boost sales or generate engagement online through creating a campaign themselves, using sites such as Shortstack for example, who or even Facebook itself. They offer a range of very good and easy to use apps, which offer a host of different ideas such as:
    • Photo-Vote Competitions
    • Giveaways
    • Promotions
    • Webinars

5) Video Creation – it is easy these days to create a video and upload to sites such as You Tube. You can create a series of shots of your artworks in a slideshow format or a demonstration of you actually creating the work. Share your video on other social networks.

6) Create a Blog – Use Blogger or WordPress and build an audience to subsequently boost sales of your work through your Blog. It’s a good place to display your work, impart your knowledge and engage with readers. Draw traffic by promoting your blog on other social networks too and share it on Tumblr, Google +, Stumble Upon, LinkedIn etc

Get with it!

So although you’re presently an emerging artist and up against a lot of competition, take heart that you have so much potential of many new outlets to distribute and market your work and drive an audience and sales. Take advantage of these opportunities and try your hand at all of them! Think up some of your own too or ways you can implement them in getting your work seen in as many places as possible, both online and in your local area or nation.

Watch this video for extra inspiration and let me know if you have any other great ideas to assist emerging artists.

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Posted by on July 25, 2014 in Creating Art, Creative Inspiration

 

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Novelty Is Seldom The Essential

“In our time there are many artists who do something because it is new; they see their value and their justification in this newness. They are deceiving themselves; novelty is seldom the essential. This has to do with one thing only; making a subject better from its intrinsic nature.” Henri de Toulouse Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 063

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 063 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How true are these words from the famous French artist Henri de Toulouse Lautrec? We artistic people are always trying to find that one thing – that elusive single thing that will make us stand out from the rest. We strive to be novel and so original that we sometimes end up doing nothing at all.

I’ve said it in other posts, but it’s better to just do what you love, in your own way – that’s as original as it needs to be!

Recently I have been painting still life scenes and they too can tell a story, in their glorious simplicity, through choice of colour etc, and as Lautrec says “Making a subject better from its intrinsic nature’ is the actual challenge for the artist painting realism – a pot, or a watering can, or even an ironing board has a beauty and a personality and portraying that essence is what resonates with the viewer.

So do it in your style. Capture the essence of anything in your own way and stop worrying about finding something that has not been done before and stop worrying also about who will like it. That’s being truly original. Even Picasso painted all sorts of things beautifully and realistically before he painted in the style of cubism. Who knows what you may stumble upon too on your creative journey!

I also love these words from Andy Warhol which sums it all up perfectly.

Don’t think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it.  While they are deciding, make even more art.” Andy Warhol

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Creative Inspiration

 

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A Still Life is Certainly Alive!

I have been a busy bee creating a few small still life paintings these last two weeks.  Although painting from a still life set-up is easy in the sense the model doesn’t move, the light does! Like plein-air painting, this creates a challenge and forces one to paint quickly before the light changes. I have started taking a photo of the initial scene to refer to once my basic painting is complete; this enables me to check my shadows and highlights at the end.

The French termed a still life as a “Nature morte” which literally translates as ‘dead nature’ and the surrealist artist Salvadore Dali had a bit of fun when he had a dig at this term in one of his paintings, “Nature morte vivante” (dead nature alive) where he had the objects flying around! Anything but dead and very creative indeed!

More than just the scene of a few inanimate objects on the canvas, I love trying to capture the very essence of the objects themselves. Even a pot has a personality! And no fruit is without beauty or a character of its own – or am I just crazy?!!!

Painting still life scenes is great fun though, and quite a change from painting people, which I have done for many years, and can also offer a range of possibilities for all style of art as it doesn’t have to be the traditional old fashioned way and manner, but can be done in a contemporary way or even as an abstract painting.

I love colour, so I portray that in my work. I also love bold brushstrokes and adding impasto in certain parts of the painting to add interest.

Talk about the joy in a paintbrush! I have found it in this style of work and would like to show you a few examples of my recent paintings:

A platter of oranges

“A Platter of Oranges’ Oil on Canvas 12′ x 12”

Sunflowers and Pears

“Sunflowers and Pears” Oil on Canvas 12″ x 12″

Sugar or Lemon?

“Sugar or Lemon?” Oil on Canvas 9″ x 12″

Pots and fruit

“Pots of Fruit” Oil on Canvas 10″ x 10″

Pears in the sunshine

“Pears in the Sunshine” Oil on Canvas 10″ x 10″

Passion Fruit

“Passion Fruit” Oil on Canvas 12″ x 12″

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Creative Inspiration

 

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Latest Paintings – Assessing What’s Valuable In My Life

As I put in my newsletter this morning, Spring cleaning in the southern hemisphere is done, but as October arrives and summer is winking at us, as we enter the last three months of the year, I am eager to set a path of prosperity which will turn things around and continue into 2014. To lay down some groundwork for a plan for the future, we need to be cognoscente of the errors of the past; not to harp on the bad choices one has made but rather to evaluate the consequences of those choices.

It occurred to me that the book I read and the video I selected for you in the titbits I enjoyed this month also convey this message. Sometimes we look back on our behaviour, the way we treated people, or the way we handled a situation and we feel a mixture of guilt, or shame or even sometimes regret, but we have the chance to rectify these. We can make amends. We can also see these mistakes as a gift – a way to advance with a new approach. This ‘spring clean’ of the soul as it were can also assist in eliminating what we no longer need – including people who do not serve us well – and in so doing to take the steps to live this one life the best way we can from this point onward.

Be grateful for what you have and take action to change what you don’t like to achieve what you dream of having and the ideal life you want to live. As always remain positive and inspired!

Here are a few examples of some of my latest paintings, where I actually hauled out old pictures of some the most meaningful moments in my life and created paintings from them. (I apologize for the sub-standard quality of the pictures – I am saving up for a good camera, essential for every artist, but they do give you an idea of what I’m doing until I get one!)

Summer Lunchtime

“Summer Lunchtime” 

Oil on Canvas – 76cm x 101cm

My son and myself in France many years ago but I was inspired to create a painting from this photo because of the mood and meaning it exudes. This picture portrays a mother and child tranquil in the sunshine in the garden where they are about to take lunch. The child is abandoned in his mother’s lap as he enjoys his bottle and the mother has a serene and nurturing expression of utter love for her son and this moment in the day.

 They grow so fast“They Grow So Fast”Oil on Canvas – 76cm x 101cm

I decided to paint the image I found of my son and I in the garden when I still lived in France. I loved the enthusiasm little Greg had on the simplest task of watering the roses, and the sheer enjoyment of being surrounded by nature in the sunshine. Even though the picture is of a personal nature, it still portrays a moment between mother and child, where she is stepping in with a close watch on her son and ready to assist him if he needs her.

 It's up to me

“It’s Up To Me”

Oil on Canvas – 55cm x 70cm

I liked this picture of my son as a young boy, out on the water in a small boat and I decided to paint it. He has control of the oar and looks quite confident, despite his tender age. This is what I love about children – they don’t fear trying things and never doubt they can do it. It’s such a pity this boldness is replaced with fear, as we grow older.

Winter Fruits

“Winter Fruits”

Oil on Canvas – 40cm x 40cm

A simple still life of a platter of winter fruits, set against cool colours of the season in contrast with the warm colours of the fruits themselves – simple pleasures in life.

Most of the paintings I did this month touch on things of value from my past as well as things that I find beautiful – the simple pleasures in life; something I want more of in my life. Start this new month asking yourself these questions: What do you want to surround yourself with? What do you find most valuable in your life? What inspires you? Now, go out and make these a reality, every day!

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Creative Inspiration

 

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Quick Alla Prima Studies

When I wrote the article on the Alla Prima technique, I didn’t have a camera handy to take any pictures, so I am just posting some examples of a couple of the studies I did recently.

Simple Pleasures new small

“Simple Pleasures’ Oil on canvas

Somewhere (new) small

“Somewhere” Oil on canvas

The more I work in this technique the more I like it. It’s such fun too!

 

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2013 in Creating Art

 

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The Three H’s for Artists & Photographers

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to producing a successful piece of art or a stunning photograph, there is a little formula which works every time – it’s the three H’s:

  • Head
  • Heart
  • Hand

The first one, Head, means you use your brain to formulate your ideas and the message you want to relay into a pleasing composition.You decide which format, which medium, which viewpoint etc would best portray this message in an art piece – it’s the planning stage of the project where thinking is required.

Then you use your Heart to determine the best possible way to relay that particular message. It’s the feeling stage – aspects such as the mood and colour and lighting are decided upon, through sentiment towards the subject. Another “H” comes into play here – Hunch – where the creator follows his or her gut-feeling and intuition of what to reveal and how. It’s the stage where the creator feels the excitement and anticipation of the actual doing, as well as visualizing the emotion of the viewer when he or she will lay eyes on the finished piece. It’s the stage where the creator internalizes the very soul of the objects or subjects relevant to this specific message, which they can then display in the execution.

Lastly, comes the Hand, which is the actual skill in rendering those Head-determined and Heart-felt ideas and brings them into being. Many people think that this last stage is the most important in creating an art piece, but I feel that without the first two H’s being thoroughly thought and felt through before starting to render the work, then no amount of technical skill will result in an evoking piece. Yes, it will portray the talent of mastery in the craft, but it risks falling short of stirring any reaction from the viewer and that’s the most important reason for creating the work at the onset, isn’t it?

Consider these three H’s before you start your next project and I’m sure you’ll be able to add a fourth “H” to the mix – Happiness!

 

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Inspiring Artists, Making Art

 

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Alla Prima – The Perfect “In The Moment” Technique

wet  on  wet

wet on wet (Photo credit: paladinsf)

I always used to paint layer upon layer to build up a painting. While this is a lot of work it certainly renders a beautiful finish, but recently I have been experimenting with the Alla Prima technique and have discovered some remarkable things – not just about the amazing immediacy of the finished painting, but about life too!

Before I reveal my insights to you, I want to quickly explain the basics of the Alla Prima technique. Fundamentally, it was started by the Impressionists who wanted to paint their subjects in one sitting. They painted landscapes on plein air excursions or simple still lives in their studios, or even figurative studies of people, but they did these paintings in one sitting and worked wet-in-wet. The term Alla Prima comes from Italian, meaning “At the first,” “At once” or “On the first attempt”. It’s also known as ‘direct painting’ or the French term au premier coup (at first stroke).

Because the painter working on an Alla Prima painting is trying to work fast to complete the entire piece in one sitting whilst the paint is still wet, he or she is obliged to translate what they observe of their subject as directly as possible. The second challenge is that the colours easily become muddy and therefore the painting benefits from an economy of strokes – each one meaningful and precisely intended. This not only prevents the piece from becoming overworked, but maintains a fresh vibrancy and the immediacy of the brushstrokes serves to exude the very soul of the subject being painted. A simple jar, an egg, a fruit or a person lives on the canvas.

So, when I set about learning these pointers and applying them to a few exercises I set up, I noted the following observations:

  • One learns to clear one’s mind and trust one’s instinct.
  • There’s a greater immediacy to the work.
  • Fewer colours worked better than more.
  • I had to keep it simple.
  • I had to be really specific at the onset at what I wanted to portray – no dilly-dallying to change later as I had sometimes been proned to do before.
  • Limiting my time taught me to work even quicker and fresher than before.
  • My brushstokes were more deliberate and each one made more of a statement individually- no random guesswork.
  • My edges were more varied with less effort – because I have always used the “squinting” method of determining my lights and darks and my edges, i.e. if when squinting my eyes I see an edge is sharp, I paint it sharp and if it’s fuzzy or vague, I paint it so, but before I used to check and recheck my edges at the end of the painting, even with the squinting method – now I didn’t need to! (It’s perhaps because I didn’t need to trust my instinct as much as I had all the time in the world and could come back to it tomorrow.)
  • I learned to eliminate unnecessary detail.
  • I appreciated the experience of painting a simple subject from life more than from a picture, although one can relay a photo in an Alla Prima painting too.
  • The work is far more painterly than the blended layer upon layer method.
  • The textures created through the thicker application of paint are more intreresting.
  • The tendency to over-blend is minimalised.
  • You learn to paint the very light itself.
  • The statement “a picture says a thousand words” is even more appropriate here because the story is so simple, but it is dynamic and more potent somehow in its simplicity.

All these reasons have made me excited about this technique, and I want to practice and practice until I master it, but what excites me most are the life lessons I have acquired from painting this way too.

Life Lessons I’ve Realized From This Technique

It sounds so dumb I know, to say I have determined a few simple teachings to apply to life from a painting technique, but I declare it to be true! Think I’m crazy if you want, but I’ll share them with you anyhow…

  • To live more in the moment.
  • To do things “at once’ – not procrastinate and/or be long-winded about them.
  • Trust one’s instincts.
  • Less is more – less detail and less time spent portrays a bolder, deliberate statement with more punch! Why warble on and on and show them everything including the kitchen sink if you don’t need to?
  • The darks make the light more beautiful.
  • Be bold.
  • Express yourself with confidence.
  • Lose the arbitrary! Why complex one’s life with random stuff?
  • The seemingly non-important objects in the world also have an interesting story or message to relay
  • One bold statement is stronger than a hundred mumbled words.

Unfortunately, I can’t upload my painted exercises today as I am currently without a camera, but I shall soon. However, for you to understand the effects of this wonderful technique, I am posting a few examples of some very successful works by well know Alla Prima painters. Let me know what you think!

By Pamela Blaies

By Pamela Blaies

By Richard Schmid

By Richard Schmid

By Quing Huang

By Quing Huang

By Nancy Medina

By Nancy Medina

 

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