Don’t run aground on the rocky shore of fate: {or how to build your own lifeboat and survive the art world}

I’m a great believer that you can shape your own destiny to a large extent. Often it’s the energy you put out into the world that carves the trajectory of your path into the future.

Think about the people you know. There are always some “lucky” buggers that seem to be in the right place at the right time, land the lucky break and deal with things successfully whereas others always seem to miss the opportunity and generally flounder around, getting nowhere.

Is it that the fates look more favourably on the “lucky” person and send a never ending torrent of bad luck on the other? No. Generally and with the exception of uncontrollable circumstances such as illness, bereavement and accident etc, much of our good luck is created by ourselves, by being in the right place at the right time and making the most of the hand that we are dealt.

As in life it is the same in the world of art. You can create your own destiny.

One common and dangerous idea that persists in the art world is that somehow a gallery will discover your art, create your reputation and do all your marketing for you. You don’t have to do anything other than concentrate on making great art.

This myth tells you that you don’t have to bother with all the timesucking marketing business and promotions stuff because one day a gallery will wade in and sort it all out for you. As long as you make great art you don’t need to bother with anything else.

The {fairly annoying} truth

The sad truth is that it’s not all about the art. There are some wonderful painters and artists who never get any kind of recognition and some terrible ones who rise to the upper eshahlons of the art stratosphere. {We can probably all personally think of at least one hugely famous artists who we think “hmmm” when we see their work, right?} So you can spend all your time creating amazing art but it doesn’t guarantee that a gallery will want to represent you or you will achieve the success you want.

A gallery is looking for an artist who already has paid their dues and built their reputation and who they can work with to take on to greater things. They don’t want to have to start from scratch and they will not save you if are floundering in the water.

A gallery will not build your reputation for you. They will only enhance it

Being tossed around on the sea of fate waiting for someone to come to your rescue at some unspecified time in the future is not a great survival plan. However, it is a popular plan that many artists believe is the one which will deliver them safely to the shore of artistic success. This is just TOO IMPORTANT to leave to chance…

Galleries will not throw you a life ring. In other words you have to build your own lifeboat

Isn’t it a much better idea to start building your own lifeboat now, by working to establish your own artistic reputation? That way you are much better equipped to get gallery representation in the future if you want it and to control your own art if you don’t.

So what steps do you need to build on to start your reputation building survival strategy?

Start building

Present yourself and your work professionally.
Invest time {and probably money} in ensuring that yourself and your work are presented in the best way possible. Ensure that photographs of your work are high quality and show it off to its best advantage. It’s no use thinking “people will like the work even if the photos are rubbish”. They won’t be able to see beyond the poor photography.

Make sure your website looks professional. This is many peoples first point of contact with you and your work. They may see your work or hear your name at an event and want to find out more. If they find an unprofessional website {or can’t find your website at all} then that’s it, opportunity missed.

Make sure all your materials {emails, website, business cards etc} present a consistent message. Keep the colours and typefaces the same across everything and establish your brand.

Extend this to yourself. When you attend an art event, make sure you “dress the part”. It may sound silly but choose clothes that convey success rather than “struggling artist”

Network and build connections.
Go to every art event you can find in your local community. Get to know the “faces” that crop up all the time and become involved in the “goings on”. This way you will find out about opportunities for shows and ways to get involved in art projects. This will all help your CV and reputation to grow.

Behave in a professional and businesslike way.
Always remember that a gallery is a business. They aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their hearts to create somewhere nice for people to visit on a Sunday afternoon and drink some wine and look at some nice stuff. Like you they need to make money to survive so they want to deal with artists that they can trust to come up with the goods. They won’t want to have to deal with an artistic temperament or inconsistent reliability. Always deal with galleries in a organised business like manner and convey to them that you take the business of art seriously. This will enhance your reputation as a serious artist.

Build your cv.
Show your work as much as possible to as many people as possible. Both online and offline. Don’t be shy and hide your light under a bushel. Get it out there and see what opportunities arise. This way you are building your CV, line by line, until you have an impressive track record which conveys consistency to a gallery.

Launch your lifeboat

So start building your OWN Reputation now. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Then you will be in a strong position to work with any gallery in the future on an equal footing in a mutually fulfilling manner. You will also be much better positioned to approach galleries for representation and will have the connections to help you do it.

And what if no gallery shows up? It doesn’t matter. You are fully in control of your own lifeboat and confidently steering your own artistic destiny.

Do you believe in taking control yourself or think a gallery should deal with everthing? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Image courtesy of Freddy The Boy under Creative Commons Licence

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Readers’ Showcase | Carlos Thága | The Spirit of Brazil

Introducing Carlos Thága.

Brazilian artist Carlos Thága lives in the city of Rio de Janeiro. A self taught artist, Carlos spent many years visiting the art galleries in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where he learned to observe technical and artistic ideas.

Os Arcos

Os Arcos

He participated in several painting competitions in Rio de Janeiro, where he received several awards. He also participated in exhibitions in various places in Rio de Janeiro, such as Urca Yacht Club, Alliance Francaise (Ipanema), Hoton Palace Hotel, Brazilian Academy of Letters, the Bank of Brazil and many others.

Cores Entre Listas

Cores Entre Listas

He also participated in the state of Minas Gerais some collective and individual exhibitions also being awarded. Literary released album “500 anos the Discovery of the Americas” with writer Joaquim Branco.

Currently working on his abstractionist language canvases which have given him much pleasure.

Abstração 12

Abstração 12

He now lives with his family in the state of Minas Gerais where he creates his paintings and teaches art to groups of seniors as occupational therapy.

Find out more about Carlos on his website.

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Naughty domain names {and how not to get stuck with one}

When you are thinking about starting to sell art online through your own artists website, one of the first things you need to consider is your domain name.

It is one of the elements of your artists website which requires the most careful thought and unfortunately somewhere that you can easily shoot yourself in the foot if you are not careful, often only discovering the problem further down the line when nobody can find you.

But don’t worry. Sticking to a few simple rules will ensure that you get the most out of your domain and website. Lets have a quick look at what it entails.

What is it?

Your domain name is the address you type into the address bar of your browser to call up your website. You can think of it as a signpost that points visitors to where your website is hosted. It will look something like www .johnsmithsculpture.com. It is an important part of your web presence and has implications for search engine optimisation. You can register your domain name before you have a website set up in order to secure it.

Why is it crucial to get it right?

Your domain name is a very important part of your personal brand. Pick the right one and it can enhance your professional appearance. Pick the wrong one and it can let down the side {see point 6 below ;-)}.

It also has a direct bearing on your e-mail address so picking the right domain enables you to set up a professional email address along the lines of enquiries@myname.com. This looks SO much better and more professional than  email addresses like sexybex75@yahoo2h5f.com,  again tying in with your personal brand and giving the right impression. I see a surprisingly large amount of artists undermining their hard work on marketing by giving out business cards with addresses like this. It is an important element of your whole professional package so well worth sorting out properly.

Careful choice of domain is also really important from a search engine point of view as a domain name containing your name and possibly a keyword about what you do can really help your site to appear well in search engine results. You want people to be able to find your work when they type in your name.

How to choose a good domain name

When you come to buying your own domain name there are quite a few things to consider before you lay down your money. Many domain names have already been registered so it can take a bit of trial and error to find a good combination that hasn’t already gone.

Google views domain names as being one of the most important elements of a website when deciding whereabouts in the search pages to rank it so its well worth spending a bit of time on getting a good combination. Spend time doing a bit of brainstorming to come up with different combinations that may work.

Some good points to bear in mind are:

1 Include your name in the domain.
Creating a domain including at least your last name and probably your first name too will help people find you more easily. I.e. www.johnsmith.com

2 Include a keyword relating to your work.
Even better, using a descriptive keyword in your domain, helps with searches for this subject. I.e.www.johnsmithsculpture.com

3 Don’t use hyphens.
It’s tempting to hyphenate your domain name as sometimes all combinations of words seem to have been already registered. If at all possible do try and avoid the use of hyphens though as it makes it well nigh impossible to tell anyone your domain name orally.

Imagine trying to tell someone your web address over the phone. “John hyphen smith hyphen sculpture dot com” just sounds really confusing. Use hyphens as a last resort only.

4 Keep it memorable.
Try and register a domain name that people can remember easily. To this end try to keep it short and to the point. www.pamalaspotterypigemporiumandartbarn.com probably wont work so well.

Also, if there are any common misspellings of your name it can be worth registering both variations in case people forget how to spell it.

5 Try and secure a dot com
If you can, try and secure the .com version of your domain name. You may want to register a few different variations of your domain name with different “Top Level Domain”s {Top Level Domains or TLD’s are the ending part of the domain address ie .com or .org etc} If possible avoid domains ending in the more obscure .info .tv and similar for your main domain name.

You may also want to register the TLD relevant to where you live {ie .co.uk if you live in the UK. .fr for France etc} You can use the .com as your main domain and point the others to your site too.

6 Consider your choice of words carefully.
Some combinations of words, when put together, create an unforseen comedy domain name. Consider the humorous joys of the following real domain names and carefully check any domain name combinations you come up with.

www.powergenitalia.com {Italian Power Company}
www.penisland.net {Pen company}
www.speedofart.com {Designers}

Yes, they are all real! 😉

Checking if your chosen domain is available

Once you have some ideas, you need to check if they are available to register. Go to a domain registration site such as www.names.co.uk or 123-reg.co.uk and enter your desired domain name in their website checker box to see what is available. You don’t have to register your domain there if you don’t want but you will be able to find out of the domain is available for purchase.

Registering your domain

There are an almost infinite number of companies on the internet offering domain registration. It makes life easier to have your domain registered at the same place as your hosting so take a look at the domain registration services offered by your hosting company if you have one.

If you want to register the domain separately {for example, if you want to secure it before hosting or your website is set up} try www.lcn.com or www.names.co.uk

If you are using an artists website building service they will generally be able to look after the registration for you and ensure it is set up correctly to point to your website. This again is a good option as it keeps everything in the same place and allows someone else to deal with the technical side of things. Just make sure you can keep the domain name should you ever want to move to a different service.

All done

Sorting out your domain name can look like a daunting process but the steps above should enable you to choose and register a domain with reasonably little pain. Go and make sure you have secured your personal domain name as soon as you can. You don’t want to discover that someone else has registered www.yourname.com when you come to set up your artists website.

Please share any problems you have had with registering domains in the comments. Have you secured your personal name domain yet?

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Readers’ Showcase | Andy Hemingway | Capturing the light & drama of Northern England

Welcome to the first post in our series of readers showcases. We want to help you share your art and creativity on Artonomy and encourage you to submit work for inclusion.

This week our first artist is photographer Andy Hemingway from Yorkshire England. Over to Andy to talk about his amazing work.

Andy Hemingway Morning at Shelter Rock

Morning at Shelter Rock

I have held a lifelong love of the sometimes bleak but always beautiful hills and moors of the Pennines. My photography attempts to capture the changing moods and often dramatic atmosphere of the hills that I call home.

I was born and raised in Huddersfield and my passion for the landscape of Yorkshire started at an early age. My father would often take me on walks from when I was quite little, in the hills around the area where I grew up. Some of my earliest memories are of drystone walls, old water troughs and the local focal point which can be seen from almost anywhere in Huddersfield, Castle Hill.

Andy Hemingway Stanage Tundra

Stanage Tundra

I studied for a BTEC in Art and Design at Huddersfield Technical College, before graduating from Norwich School of Art in 1991 with a BA(Hons) Degree in Fine Art Printmaking. My work has always been about the landscape. Not just how nature has shaped it’s contours but how human beings have lived and interacted with the land. From traces of prehistoric habitation, to the scattered gateposts and millstones, it is easy to forget that many landscapes were until quite recently working landscapes. The people who lived on the land had to somehow eke out a living and they left their works, stories and names behind for us to find if we care to look.

andy hemingway fleeting light at castle hill

Fleeting Light at Castle Hill

Often returning time and time again throughout the seasons, I consider it important to know the locations where I shoot intimately. I research the history and folklore of the areas that I photograph and by visiting locations often, begin to understand how the light at different times of year falls on the views that you want to capture. Sometimes you have to wait for months or even years for the perfect conditions to capture the image that you have envisioned. Landscape photography is about so much more than capturing the scene before you but attempting to capture something of the spirit of the place.

Andy Hemingway Dawn Over Saddleworth Moor

Dawn Over Saddleworth Moor

When processing my images, I am not so concerned with adhering to a rigid representation of how the scene appeared at the exact moment that the shutter released. Although I keep within the bounds of realism, I like my colours to zing and to retain shadows and contrast. I also like quite a high contrast in my monos to push out light and cloud detail. I use graduated neutral density filters and bracket two or three exposures. I then often blend exposures together in photoshop and use layer overlays to add contrast and tone to the image. I do not use HDR.

Andy Hemingway Morning on Carl Wark

Morning on Carl Wark

Andy’s work can be seen on display at his next exhibition at Castleton Visitor’s Centre in Hope Valley, from 2nd to 30th July, with Chris Charlesworth.

See more of Andy’s beautiful work on his website.

If you would like to see your work showcased on Artonomy please click here for more information.

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Do you suffer from invisible artist syndrome? : How to get noticed online.

This post may just be an excuse to play a clip from my favourite tv show as a kid – “Randall and Hopkirk Deceased”. {“My Partner the Ghost” in the US}

This was the fabulous swinging 60’s-tastic story of a private eye (Randall) and his unfortunately deceased ghostly sleuthing partner, Marty Hopkirk {Kenneth Cope wearing a white suit}.

Swaggering leather jacketed London criminal types couldn’t see ghostly Marty Hopkirk allowing for all manner of high jinx as he got one over on them. However poor Marty was frustrated by his inability to interact with the real world {especially the ladies} the main difficulty being that he was invisible to everyone but Randall.

The real world just didn’t take any notice of poor Marty. He didn’t exist…

Do you feel a bit like this with your efforts to publicise your art online? Like you can shout from the rooftops about it and no one hears you. You spend lots of time Tweeting, Facebooking, putting new images on Etsy, adding work to Zazzle or Redbubble etc yet no-one seems to even stop by your shop.

Are you an invisible artist?

There is no denying that getting your creative work noticed online is HARD. The competition is vast and ever growing. Every day more and more artists add their work to the humongous selection of artwork available online. I sometimes get the feeling that the internet is comprised entirely of celebrity gossip, nutritional supplements, sex and art, not necessarily in that order. How can you even begin to make a dent in that mountain of content and be noticed?

So what is the secret to beating invisible artist syndrome?

I’m afraid the secret is that there is no quick fix easy answer. It comes down to a combination of working on these areas below and getting them right.

1 ] Branding – Standing out from the crowd

Getting your image right is crucially important. In fact it is the solid foundation to everything else you do. If your imagery is poor you can waste time on promotion and never get anywhere. Get this right first.

You need to stand out from the crowd and make a statement with everything you do. Great high quality photography of your work, well chosen colours and a consistent message across the web will start to make you and your work noticable.

Make sure that your website, printed materials, presence on Twitter and anywhere else your work appears all carry this consistent message. People will start to recognise you and your work and the quality that it represents.

2 ] Your artists website – make it personal

It’s very easy to set up a shop on Etsy, Redbubble, Zazzle or any of the many myriad of artists shopping websites available. Whilst this ease of access is brilliant you can soon find that getting people to visit your shop or buy an item is not so easy.

This is for the very simple reason that these sites are not there to just sell YOUR work alone. Their goal is to get traffic to their entire site, not specifically your shop. They really don’t care who makes the sale, you or any other artist on the site as they get the commission either way. Therefore they make it very easy to surf around and flit from one artist to another. Even if someone lands on your page they will probably flit off to look at another pretty item they notice. It’s the butterfly mind at work and there are SO many other artists on these sites that your work just gets lost in the crowd.

You can expend a lot of energy trying to drive visitors to your shop but chances are they will be off to look at someone else once they get there. Faced with a lot of choice, buyers tend to get befuddled, do nothing and not make a purchase. You are left feeling invisible again.

People who stand out and do well on these sites tend to do a LOT of marketing directing people to their shop but what if something changes?

Sellers on 1000Markets had an unpleasant surprise recently when it was bought out and renamed Bonanza.com, Any hard work put into promoting and creating links to a shop there was undone overnight as the web address changed. Back to invisibility.

Only YOU care passionately about your work. Use that passion to create your OWN website. You have no competition from other artists on your own site and time you spend on promoting and marketing it is well spent and will only improve your chances of being seen.

Your site isn’t going to disappear, change name or get banned. It is your own little bit of the internet and you can make it look exactly how you want. Over time, your work will become more and more visible across the web.

3 ] High quality professional work.

It goes without saying that everything you put on the internet should be your very best work. Never show anything you aren’t happy with. Much better to have a smaller selection of brilliant work to view than a sprawling mass of substandard pieces that you really aren’t happy with. Again, make sure the photography and presentation of your work is excellent. Set your quality threshold high and your work is much more likely to be noticed for all the right reasons.

4 ] And finally… Hard Work {sorry ;-(}

The greatest lie perpetuated about the web is that you can just sit back and let it do the work for you. I think we all know by now that it doesn’t work like that [unfortunately] and you do have to put the time in promoting and sharing your work in order for it to become more visible across the web to potential buyers.

In an interesting interview recently {worth a listen}, artist John T Unger said that he generally spends 30-40 hours per week marketing his art. He figured that he could either work for someone else in a job and come home and work on his art after work, or he could take the hours he would spend on another job and use them to promote his firebowl sculptures, and again work on his art after hours. This is a fairly extreme example of working really hard at promoting his work, but John is able to sell expensive high end artwork through his website and has been featured in publications such as the New York Times so he is definitely not invisible.

The bottom line is that it takes time, work and patience to gain visibility for your artwork, but unlike poor Marty, condemned to eternal invisibility, you CAN do it.

Begin taking some steps now to make sure more potential buyers get to see your fabulous work.

Time to stop being an invisible artist. Let me know in the comments how you get on.

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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. 😉

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