Posts

The Japanese Secret That Will Help You Achieve Your Creative Goals.

Do you ever feel just OVERWHELMED by what you are trying to achieve?

I’m currently trying to learn a new and complex creative skill which will take my art in a radically different direction over the next few years. At the moment I am in “depressing beginners phase” where each piece of work is “wrong” in some way, knowledge is guarded and hard to find and it feels like I will never be able to climb the precipitous learning curve to achieve the sweet upper slopes of mastery before retirement age. Great!

However, one thought keeps me going. The Japanese concept of KAIZEN or “continuous improvement”.

Kaizen – 改善

Kaizen – Japanese for “improvement”, or “change for the better” refers to philosophy or manufacturing practices that focus upon a continuous, never ending commitment to consistently increase the quality of products in every aspect of the business – every single day.
 

Sounds pretty dry and business oriented eh? But basically it means “getting better at stuff every day and not stopping getting better at stuff every day”

Well, that’s my take on it and Kaizen is not just for business. It is important in all aspects of life…

If you have heard of Kaizen before, like me you may have thought that it was originally an age old Japanese concept. Well interestingly, I just discovered that Kaizen was actually introduced to the Japanese by an American quality-control expert called Dr W Edwards Deming. He was brought to Japan after the second world war to try and help rebuild the war ravaged industry of the country. After the war, inflation, shortages and unemployment in all areas of Japan seemed overwhelming but by introducting the concept of Kaizen and continuous improvement every day, the Japanese people were able to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems to pull themselves out of the mire and become economically prosperous in a relatively short space of time.

Kaizen, creativity and your big plan…

When creating, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the scale of a task.

  • Perhaps you want to create monumental sculptures.
  • Maybe you want to create art works with collaboration on a global scale.
  • Possibly you want to learn a new and difficult creative skill.
  • Maybe you want to earn a living from your art in the next few years.

Whatever your big plan, utilizing Kaizen in your beliefs will help you achieve it.

In order to succeed you must have a long term focus. The beliefs you hold control your decisions and therefore your future. If you can hold on to the belief that you can constantly improve every day, each step forward takes you nearer your goal.

Persistance, trial and error and the zillions of tiny improvements you make along the way are what success is built on in the end.

Monitor your progress

At the end of each day, in order to monitor progress, ask yourself three questions…

  • What did I learn today?
  • What did I enjoy?
  • What/where/how did I improve?

The answers will allow you to take charge of your progress and to enjoy the fact that you are constantly moving forward, even when it seems little progress is being made. You will get there in the end.

I will leave the final word to my hero Thomas Edison

“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward”

 

Have you used Kaizen to improve your work or achieve a goal? Do you think it will work for you? Let us know in the comments.

Post image by Nimbu under creative commons licence

 

You may also like

Are you a “Real Artist” If You Have A Day Job?

How do you define being a “successful artist”?

Many artists definition of success rest solely on being able to support themselves entirely from their artistic endeavours without having to do any other work to make ends meet.

However, is this a realistic view of success?

The majority of artists will, in reality, have other work too as part of the rich pattern of their everyday life…

This, contrary to what some people say is NO BAD THING!

The truth is, successful artists often have lots of strings to their bow

Just because you have another job doesnt mean you are not a “real ” or successful artist. In fact, working in other areas separate from your art can have distinct advantages…

  • Having a defined and confined time for you creative work can focus your art and make you achieve more in the shorter space of time that you have to work in. Faced with unlimited time it’s easy to take your eye off the ball and lose focus.
  • >

  • Our economy is changing {see my recent post – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised} In this new and shifting economic landscape, having multiple income streams is a very important survival strategy which will enable you to surf the vagueries of the art market.

  • If you are combining raising a family with your art, you may not be able to spend 100% of your time creating but may be able to find a balance which works for you.

  • Your “day job” may provide inspiration which feeds into your art and helps to fire your creativity.

We really need to change and widen the definition of SUCCESS in the art world…

The down side…

As in all things there can be a down side…

The common problem with other strands of work, comes when the “day job” takes over and hurts your creative energy leaving you too tired to do anything else.

Many years ago, when I worked in advertising agencies, my job was pretty creative but I was expected to start at 8am and leave at 8pm or later – After a sweaty commute on a crowded tube I had barely enough energy left to eat, let alone create. Life was pared down to a bleak cycle of getup-commute-work-commute-eat-sleep. In that situation it is really easy to make yourself ill by trying to draw out more energy than is “in the bank”

Like everything, it is important to find the balance between work and art which is sustainable and right for you. This can take a long time to get right.

If you are struggling with this balance at the moment, keep taking small steps to getting yourself into the right situation and position. Don’t give up. Creating may be difficult at the moment but if you keep fighting for it you will get there in the end…

Artists on Twitter say…

I wanted to find out how artists combine the spheres of work and creativity so I threw the question open to my friends on Twitter. The replies that I received were positive proof of the fact that it is possible and also very normal to be a “real artist” and juggle other commitments and income streams too.

Many many thanks to everyone who replied. I hope you find their thoughts enlightening and reassuring.

My question…

Artists. Do you have a “day job” too? Please tell me what u do. Do you love or loathe it? Does it help or hinder yr art? For a post..

And the answers from artists around the world…

 

For 3 days a week I work as a research consultant on education/technology projects – the geekiness offsets/informs my art 🙂

@iamcreative

http://letcreativitybegin.co.uk

 

I’m studying an MA in Art, and find it difficult to find work alongside this. I’m freelancing for a website and doing bar work.

@MelanieK__

 

I have a day job as mgr at an accessories boutique. I love it but it eats up a lot of time. I do all the creative stuff there

Himself & I share studio space in our petite apt. It gets messy….

@mizelissa

http://msalzmanart.wordpress.com/

 

I do, I work in Human Resoures, don’t love it, it helps financially but hinders taking time away from creativity

@pulpsushi
http://www.pulpsushi.com

 

I used to be a software engineer manager. It consumed my life and made me sick after too many long hours. Almost no art made.

@violentbloom

www.trollop.com

 

Programming || depends on the day – a zen-ish like is the average || ++ discipline, supplies$, – steals time to work

@babaheath

http://www.windyhilldesign.org/theheathergarden/

 

Hey. Got a day job. LOATHE it. Totally. Work in accounting. Go figure.

@thefadderly
http://fadderly.blogspot.com/

 

Other job: web designer. Sort of a neutral effect on my art; doesn’t take away creativity, but doesn’t contribute either.

@smlacy

http://smlacyart.com/

 

Hi Helen, working as a pt teaching assistant + artist gives security of regular £s + people to talk to 🙂

@JaneCarlisleArt

http://www.braemoor.co.uk/ajc/

 

My day job is tattooing. It helps. And yes, I love it!

@justteejay
http://www.whitetigertattoo.com

 

Policy Writing pays the bills and buys my art/photography supplies!

@AkrotiriArt

http://www.redbubble.com/people/akrotiri

 

Art is my day job, and I fully expect to be paid accordingly for this. Still waiting for the world to realise this!!!

@Blackbird1976

http://www.helendblackbird.co.uk

 

Web strategy/editing. Like it. Hinders only b/c it takes most of my day. I steal time to write. Early am, train, late night…

@petercrowell

http://www.lifeismaking.com/

 

It helps…. IF I make the choice to let it be a steppingstone rather than a stumbling block.

@zahndrew

www.zahndrew.com

 

My ‘day job’ is tattooing, I love it and I think they help each other.

@BiueStarr

http://www.blue-starr.com

 

I work for the FAA as an electronics technician. I love it but it does hurt my art and energies because it’s often like 2 jobs

@parachutepromis

http://www.parachutepromise.com

 

I’m an art teacher for a secondary school.. I love it. I feel like it encourages my own creativity! I do get tired, though…

@ArtistThink

http://www.artistthink.com

 

I hope you find these artists inspirational. They are absolutely REAL ARTISTS finding their own balance.

Do you work alongside your art? Please share the work you do with us in the comments below…

 

You may also like

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised | How Can Artists Survive & Thrive in the New Economy?

How can artists and creatives survive in the current whirlwind of economic meltdown?

You may also like

Best of the web | July 2011 | Don’t miss these

How Bob Ross sees Social Media

A beautiful infographic from flowtown.com in which the godlike Bob Ross explains the world of social media. Happy Little Blue Birds…

Pay My Rent ~ Buy a Painting

Evangeline Cachinero has quit her job as an advertising art director. Can she survive on her art for one year? A genius way to sell her art.

Artists Who Sell: How to Write a Killer Sales Page {and why}

A genius post from Steff Metal on the lovely Abundant Artist website.

“If you want to make an honest go of being a full-time artist, at some point you’re going to have to ask people for money. That’s quite a scary contemplating. Many of us have got it in our heads that money in the art world is kind of crass – especially when we’re first setting up our websites.

We don’t ask for sales, and so we don’t get them. Our readers buy from another artist instead, or spend their money on Cockney language kits or Justin Bieber CDs.

That’s right – Justin Bieber gets your money.”

Shes right you know…

Art & Illusion – The Magic of Pricing…

Jack White with an interesting perspective on art pricing.

“Not a month goes by that I don’t receive a gaggle of emails asking about art pricing. My standard answer is, “Art is worth what folks will pay.” That’s the brutal truth. The exception is if you can create the illusion that your art has more merit.”

Is Twitter a Waste of Time?

A close look at Twitter facts and figures in another fabulous and funky infographic.

 

You may also like

Lessons in selling art from my weird obsession with camper vans.

I think I’m having a midlife crisis! Over the past few weeks I have developed an unhealthy and possibly slightly weird obsession with getting a camper van.

It all started with a retro turquoise VW camper which one of my favourite galleries uses to advertise their business. It is parked outside with the gallery name on and gives out a jaunty air of summer happiness.

Since seeing this vintage Volkswagen beauty, my campervan obsession spread like wildfire through 70’s Scooby Doo style Toyota Hiace motorhomes, VW T25’s and the “clearly named by a lunatic” Mazda Bongo. I can be found on the Internet at 4am comparing mileage or in the corner of a carpark pawing at camper bodywork and interrogating the owners on miles per gallon economy.

To be honest it’s all got a bit sad…

 

Mr Artonomy has taken on a resigned look and has taken to disowning me when I dash off to look at my latest find. He has more sense than to get in the way of one of my obsessions.

But where he sees a rusty money pit and possible dangerous descent into being a middle aged couple with a flask of tea, I see a life of wild adventure on the open road. I see Friday night spontaneous escape. Sleep under the stars cushioned from the elements by German efficiency. I see waking up on a beach to the roar of the ocean and running joyfully across the sand with my tousel haired children for an early morning dip. I see festivals and sun. I see magical childhood memories being made and I WANT A CAMPERVAN.

So “what on earth has this got to do with selling my art you sad middle aged woman” I hear you cry.

 

Well it’s all to do with “features” versus “benefits” which is an important marketing concept to get your head around and one which very much applies when you are selling your art in a gallery or online.

What I would ACTUALLY physically be buying (features) would be a rusty old van which drinks petrol like a fish, has a weird tent instead of a roof, contains more Formica than is natural and probably has an onboard potty.

However, what I am REALLY BUYING IN MY HEAD (benefits) is a romantic notion of freedom, escape and being at one with nature.

Painting the picture in your collectors head.

 

If a camper van sales man comes up to me at this point and starts telling me about engine size I won’t be too interested in an immediate sale, but if he paints a picture to me of the free and magical campervan lifestyle in my head and how his vehicle will help me achieve it I will be handing over my hard earned cash to him quicker than you can say “split screen VW”

And that, my friends, is the secret of selling anything, be it sprockets, cars, t shirts, jewellery or paintings. You have to discover the deep personal magical inner desires of the buyer and show how your painting can meet that desire.

Collectors  buying an escape.

 

A great example of this is the gallery I talked about who own the gorgeous blue campervan that started this whole blooming thing off. They are located in a beautiful Welsh seaside town and sell a lovely selection of work, a lot of which is based around the sea or countryside. Their customers aren’t just buying a painting. They are buying a memory of being relaxed on holiday, of picnics on the beach, pub lunches, an escape from work and getting on better with their husband. The bottom line is they buy the painting to capture this feeling and FEEL BETTER ABOUT THEMSELVES. They are buying an escape.

So when you are considering where or how to sell your paintings, remember the magical dialogue that will go on in your buyers heads. Try to imagine what it will be and promote your work accordingly.

Me? I’m off to check AutoTrader for a pre-loved VW.

Let me know what you think in the comments…

Image by Barkaw under Creative Commons licence

You may also like

Video | How to Approach an Art Gallery for Representation | Cedar Lee

Cedar Lee shares some extremely good sense tips for approaching galleries that will help give you the best possible chance for representation.

Cedar Lee is an artist from Baltimore. You can find out more about Cedar and her paintings here.
http://www.artbycedar.com

 

You may also like

The Truth About Tax & Artists | Plus 10 Top Art Tax Saving Tips that will save you MONEY

The tax situation for artists can be confusing, especially if you are only making a small amount of money on the side from your art sales. It’s also difficult to know what to do when you are starting to sell work as well as working in a full time job. I have had a few emails from readers asking questions about this confusing area. As I’m not an accountant {and find it all confusing myself} I have roped in the help of someone who does know, my accountant, who keeps my finances on the straight and narrow.

In this post, Chartered Accountant, David Cramp, answers a reader’s question with regards to the tax situation in the UK and how it relates to artists.

Questions Questions…

I’ve never sold anything yet as an artist and I work full time. I want to start selling my work and eventually give up the day job!

Now, I know that HM Revenue & Customs don’t like claims from sole traders that consistently don’t make a profit, and it could take years to build sales up. If I claim for the high costs of art materials, as far as I’m aware, if I haven’t made much money, the tax rebate comes off tax already paid from my full-time employment. Now whilst this is a good way to supplement the costs of being an artist, I’m presuming it won’t wash with them forever.

So I have 3 questions…

1. Do I need to declare the sales when I start selling my work?

2. At what point will HM Revenue & Customs not accept my loss claims?

3. Do you have any tips or advice about tax/declarations or claims for artists?

And Answers…

If I were dealing with your affairs, I would firstly want to examine your ‘business’ and ensure that it meets HM Revenue & Customs’ definition. But as you have not specifically asked this question and it sounds as if you accept a trade will exist, my guidance assumes you have passed this ‘test’, (I would advise that you seek guidance on this if the business goes ahead though).

1 – Do I need to declare the sales when I start selling my work?

The answer to your first question is yes. Whether or not you are also employed, if you have a sole trader business you will need to declare the results of the business to HM Revenue & Customs. You will, however, continue to pay PAYE through your employment and, depending on the results of your business, pay any remaining tax and NI through the self assessment system i.e. after submitting a Self Assessment Tax Return.

You can register as self employed with HM Revenue and Customs either online at www.hmrc.gov.uk or by completing and submitting a form CWF1.

Normally, you would also begin paying Class 2 National Insurance contributions, but as your earnings are likely to be under the Small Earnings Exception level (currently £5,315 pa), you do not need to pay them and you can apply for this exception using form CF10.

2 – At what point will HM Revenue & Customs not accept my loss claims?

But, as you suspected, HMRC do have an issue with loss-making businesses, and in fact, the trade must be commercial and aim to generate a profit. If it isn’t, you cannot offset the loss against your employment income. Instead, it can only be offset against any future profits your business makes.

As for your costs, you should only recognise the cost of materials you actually use in the year. For instance, if you buy 20 canvases for a total cost of £400 and spend £250 on paints, but at the end of your year you’ve only used half of them, then you should only recognise costs of £325; not £650.

Another point to be aware of with regards to ‘stock’ is if anyone ever commissioned you to paint a piece and agreed a price, then you should recognise some of the sales income according to the painting’s completion. So if they agree a price of £900 and it was a third complete at your year end, then you should recognise £300 in your sales figure. Stage payments can further complicate this calculation, as I am sure you can appreciate.

3 – Here are 10 tips to help you save or defer tax:

  1. Use of home for business – assuming you work from home, you will be able to put through a portion of the running costs of your home
  2. Averaging – a particular concession for your industry which may help to ‘smooth’ fluctuations in your tax bill
  3. Motor expenses – if you use your car to make business trips, you could claim mileage expenses at a rate of up to 45p per mile
  4. PAYE coding – make sure your Notice of Coding is right when HMRC send it to you and your code could even help ease the burden of your tax bill by collecting any additional tax via your employment income; rather than paying the tax in one lump sum
  5. Transfer assets to the trade – assets you bought personally for private use before the business began, but were then subsequently transferred into the business, (such as a computer), could attract tax relief via Capital Allowances
  6. Submit paperwork on time – registering for self-employment late, submitting returns late or making payments late are just a few of the events that can lead to penalties and interest. So ensure you are well prepared and are aware of the deadlines you need to meet
  7. Spouses – if your partner is genuinely assisting in the business, you could pay them a wage
  8. Pre-trading expenses – keep receipts of any business expenses you incur prior to the business starting to trade, as you may be able to get tax relief for these
  9. Record keeping – keep accurate, clear records. Not only will this hopefully ensure you claim everything you are entitled to but is also a HMRC requirement and severe cases can lead to fines
  10. Paperwork – retain all of your receipts. Again this will hopefully ensure you claim everything you are entitled to and is also a HMRC requirement

Please be aware that there are various requirements to meet before making use of some of these tips; therefore please seek professional advice before implementing them. Besides, it is important to seek professional advice during the early stages of a business. A professional will review and ensure for example, that you are claiming all of the available expenses, your tax position is efficient and you are meeting your statutory requirements.

This response is based on the details you have provided and is intended to inform rather than advise and is based on UK legislation and practice at the time. Taxpayer’s circumstances do vary and if you feel that the information provided is beneficial it is important that you contact TaxAssist Accountants before implementation. If you take, or do not take action as a result of reading this article, before receiving TaxAssist Accountants’ written endorsement, TaxAssist Accountants will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.

If you would like to discuss this article or any other matter further, please feel free to contact your local TaxAssist Accountant on 0800 0523 555 or email taxquestions@taxassist.co.uk. TaxAssist Accountants have more than 190 offices across the UK, providing tax and accountancy advice and services purely to small businesses.

—–

David Cramp is a Chartered Accountant with over 16 years post-qualification experience serving a broad range of clients in the UK.

TaxAssist Accountants is a local business, based in Mirfield providing tax and accountancy advice and services purely to small businesses.

Image released under creative commons by Kevin Dooley

You may also like

Show It, Don’t Blow It: 7 Tips to Keep the Art Exhibition Blues at Bay

As artists, showing our work can often be a trigger for creative block. In this guest post, artist and blogger at DialogVisual, Cherry Jeffs, offers 7 tips for ensuring that your next exhibition doesn’t cause a dry spell in your art-making!

A few years ago I began showing my art after a long hiatus. Exhibiting my work previously had resulted in long bouts of creative block and I was determined not to let this happen again!

Since lack of self-confidence is frequently at the root of artist’s block, here I share some straightforward strategies I used to boost my morale and make the whole process less stressful and more enjoyable.

If you are new to showing or returning to it after a long break, these 7 tips are a great way to ease yourself painlessly onto the gallery circuit.

1. Control the Show

In his book, Fearless Creating (Tarcher/Putnam, 1995) creativity guru, Eric Maisel warns against ‘impulsive showing’ whereby the artist shows,
‘…without preparing the work or preparing herself, without considering who the right audience might be or what she wants from the experience of showing…’
Maisel advises consciously planning for showing: Deciding to whom we want to show our work, why we want to show it and whether there is anything else the work needs before we do so.
To ease yourself (back) into showing, choose a situation that allows you to determine what work to show, and when and how you you show it. Organising your own show means you can carefully control the whole process.

Pick the most sympathetic environment possible – i.e. somewhere where you feel comfortable and that’s easily accessible so your pals can come and support you!

2. Like a Scout – Be Prepared!

Preparing for your show well in advance, reduces last minute panics! Complete your work well before the start of the exhibition so you have plenty of time to plan how you are going to hang it. Spend some time in the gallery beforehand picturing how to place the work.

Arrive early on the day of the hanging to make the most of the time available.

Hanging the exhibition

3. Spread The Word

If the venue doesn’t provide invitations, get your own printed and distribute them as many widely as possible. This will help make sure you get a great turn out – another morale booster!

Send out some press releases to local media as well. There’s nothing like a live interview to make you feel important 😉

Local Press

4. Feel Good!

Opening night is your night so do everything possible to optimize your morale so that you will shine.

Have your hair cut/styled the day before the exhibition if it helps you feel more confident and wear the kind of clothes that you can forget about as soon as you put them on!

I don’t suggest you wear your track suit with egg stains on but jettison that trendy-but-uncomfortable outfit in favour of something you’ve worn before and you know makes you feel good.

5. Stay Straight

Don’t drink anything alcoholic on the night! It’s tempting to get stuck into the free drinks at the private view but I’ve seen even very experienced artists getting more than a little tipsy with pre-exhibition nerves and its not a pretty sight!

Keeping a clear head whilst all around you lose theirs will give you an advantage when it comes to haggling over the price of your work (yes, it happens) and keep you sweet-talking those prospective buyers all the way to the bank to withdraw some cash 😉

The Private View

6. Separate the Work from the Show

This is the most important tip of all to avoid creative block after a show: You have to mentally separate the making of the work from the exhibiting and selling of it.

Think of it as creating two boxes. In one, put your experience of the process of creating the work; Then mentally seal that box.

Leave the second box ‘empty’ to be filled by the exhibition experience. Whatever this box ends up being filled with, don’t allow its contents to spill over into the first box!

Making the work is making the work, exhibiting it is something else. You’ve enjoyed the experience of making the work so don’t let anything or anyone detract from that.

7. Keep Your Creative Juices Cooking

Spending time in the studio on new work while the exhibition is running keeps you grounded and in the flow; it stops the feeling that your whole artistic life hangs by the one thread that is The Show.

Also consider booking yourself onto an artist’s retreat to reward and replenish yourself after the exhibition comes down.

You could even organise another show shortly after the first one! This provides a second opportunity for selling anything that remains unsold and a chance to correct any glitches that occurred the first time round 🙂

Following these strategies helps to give you a feel-good experience about showing your work and stave off a confidence crisis that can lead to Artist’s Block.

Do leave a comment if you’ve got any tips of your own that you’d like to share.

If it’s too late and the Blight of Block has already Bitten you, you might want to sign up for my Blast Your Blocks e-course starting 16th June!

 

You may also like

Video | How To Price Your Artwork | Cedar Lee

In this very helpful little video, Cedar Lee explains her strategy for pricing artwork.

A useful starting point if you are unsure of how to go about setting a structure around your pricing.

Cedar Lee is an artist from Baltimore. You can find out more about Cedar and her paintings here.
http://www.artbycedar.com

 

You may also like

Best of the web | January 2011 | Don’t miss these

Creative Entrepreneurs month

Hugh Macleod’s Ignore Everybody

I love Hugh MacLeod’s take on creativity. {see image above} 

Check out Hugh’s tips for creativity in Art and Business

Make sure you scroll down. These are so true.

Freedom, money, time and the key to creative success

Mark McGuiness of Lateral Action has created a FREE E-book detailing his struggles to find a balance between freedom, money, time and his creativity. Its an interesting and inspiring read and you don’t have to register to download. Read it here

I thoroughly recommend having a look round LateralAction.com too. It’s packed full of great info on creative entrepreneurship

John T Ungers Art Heroes Radio

John T Unger is a great example of an artist doing well on his own terms by using the power of the internet to reach a global audience. He creates stunningly beautiful firebowls out of metal and sells them all over the world. Art Heroes radio is his project whereby we can all learn from his great interviews with artists who are living and working successfully in the arts.

Check out his own site too for a good example of a great artists website in action

And finally… Should I work for free?

In short… NO

In long… well, see what ShouldIWorkForFree.com has to say. 😉

You may also like