On free sites vs self-hosted, functionality and trust

Yesterday, on a free consulting call with a new LEAP subscriber, the issue of websites came up.

Many people can’t or won’t invest in a professional site, and choose to go with free options, such as Google’s Blogger.com platform.

Other options are sites hosted by Vistaprint, or Typepad, and also WordPress has a free site service at WordPress.com.

There are some advantages to using that type of solution, in that, well, it’ free.

It’s also (in most cases) fairly easy to set up and configure.

But there are some disadvantages too, and that’s why I’d never recommend using a free service.

For one thing, if your site address – the URL – reads something like ‘watercolour-artist-johnny.wordpress.com’, it makes you look unprofessional.

“Huh, they don’t even have their own website? Weird”.

You’d think that it doesn’t matter, but it does.

It gives out the message that you don’t invest in your art-business, and in terms of psychology, that simply means that people won’t take you quite as seriously.

It matters more than you think: people buy something when they have a strong enough feeling of trust, and the more professional someone behaves and looks, the more we trust them.

So you’ll always want to have your own domain name (i.e. watercolour-artist-johnny.com).

As a temporary solution at the start, a free site can be useful, but the very moment you can afford to invest in a proper site, you should make the switch.

Doesn’t even have to be very expensive: $20 a month should set you right – and it’s well worth the investment.

Another major disadvantage of free sites is the limited functionality they offer.

There’s always limitations to what you can do, in terms of design and formatting.

Not only that: once you start getting serious about your business, you will want to add in functionality.

An optin form, for example, is something that you can’t put on a free WordPress site.

Kinda sucks, given that building your own permission-based list of email addresses is task number 1 in any business.

So if you haven’t got a site yet: start out right, start with a site where you can use the domain name that you choose.

And if you’re on a free-hosting platform, seriously consider moving to your own hosting as soon as you can.

It’s good for business.

Cheers,

Martin

The definition of a real artist

This one might piss a few people off.

Not that it’s my intention to do so, but so often do I see artists – incredibly motivated, driven, talented – shirk the issue of money and selling, that I think it’s time to share one of my more radical opinions.

Don’t just take it from me, you know.

There are tons of people out there, smarter and more experienced than me.

Cory Huff, Ann Rea, Alyson Stanfield, and many more: they all tell us to get over ourselves and exchange our art for money.

Helen – an accomplished artist in her own right – says the same thing.

And personally, I don’t see any shame in selling art. Quite the opposite.

So here’s where I hold my breath:

A real artist is someone who sells their work – or at least actively tries to.

I can already hear people go: “You’re crazy! I AM an artist, even if I don’t sell my art!”

That’s valid, I agree.

But are you working on sales?

Are you building an online presence?

Are you using the proven marketing strategies that get you in front of people?

Are you, in fact, acting like a professional?

Let’s take this back a few centuries, to prove my point.

Georg Friedrich Händel wrote his magnificent Water Music suites because King George I commissioned him to do so.

Schubert had a job – composing music so as to feed his large family.

Rembrandt was commissioned to paint the Nightwatch.

Michelangelo’s David was bought and paid for.

So how come we ended up with the notion that free artistic expression is the only thing that justifies art?

That taking money for it somehow defiles what true art is meant to be?

I don’t buy that.

Look at the Rolling Stones, or Leonard Cohen – or indeed, Andy Warhol.

They all know that in order to keep creating, money has to come from somewhere.

I listened to an interview with Jay Jay French, of Twisted Sister fame (who vehemently rejects the glam rock tag, btw).

Like ‘em or not – they are a business, and it’s that attitude that has enabled them – just like the Stones – to survive to this day.

Neil Young? I doubt he rejects money.

Jack Nicholson? Al Pacino?

All of them, artists in their own right, still going strong, living from what they consider their art.

So why would you want to distance yourself from that, what’s the sense in being a closet-painter and never try to sell your work?

Maybe completely free artistic expression is indeed what you do it for, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

But I do regret that the consequence of it is that something you create, that could change somebody’s life, won’t get seen.

So maybe it’s marketing that people are against – that’s something I can understand. There’s a lot of crap being sold, just because there’s a marketing genius behind the strategy.

And that’s wrong in many ways and on many levels.

Sad too, because if there’s one thing the world needs, it’s more real art and less gunk.

Which is yet another reason to come to terms with promoting and marketing your work.

Or maybe it’s because of ethics – there sure is a lot of that missing in a lot of marketing.

But that’s just a matter of how you go about things.

Ethics are in your hand – if you’re an ethical person, your marketing will be ethical too, automatically.

So ask yourself: why not? Why wouldn’t you create a simple, effective, ethical strategy to be seen by more people?

Goodness, they’ll even thank you for it, once they find you.

Or, maybe it’s confidence, fear, doubt, insecurity – is that what’s holding you back?

Not sure you’re good enough, that you can pull it off, that your work deserves to be seen?

Cheers,

Martin

One trick to trigger emotional response

Got a little instructional for you today.

Yesterday, a reader responded to my call ‘hit reply and tell me where you struggle’.

Always nice to hear back from people – do keep ’em coming.

She told me a bit about her struggles, and ended with ‘this is my site, please have a look’.
so I did, and I liked what I saw.

But there was one important thing missing:

She didn’t have a tagline.

In the header it stated her name, but that was all.

And because of that, she misses out on an enormously powerful emotional effect.

I call it resonance: when someone is exposed to your message, or your website, and something in them ‘clicks’, and goes: “Huh, I like that”.

That short moment right at the start, is powerful, useful and important.

Without it, a visitor might just poke around the site a bit.

With it, they might do the same, but they’ll do so while being in a more engaged, more joyous emotional state.

And while the difference may be slight depending on the person, it does increase the chance of them spending more time, reading more, seeing more of your paintings, or even signing up.

I like to think of the tagline as a 10-word artist’s statement.

A short, pithy message that’s personal, shows your passion, demonstrates your why, and reaches into the viewer’s mind with to see if there’s anything it can connect with.

It’s not that hard to write one.

Here’s how, starting with the don’ts:

First, don’t be strictly factual: “Johnny Johnson, watercolour artist’ says what’s in the tin, but it has no pulling power, it doesn’t push any emotional buttons.

Second, don’t try to be clever. We’re talking about communications here, so no nifty wordsmithery.

Next up, the dos:

Take a sheet of paper, and quickly start writing short descriptive sentences about yourself, your art, your passion or your techniques.

List 100.

Don’t overthink it, do NOT second-guess or judge their usefulness – what we’re looking for at this stage is a brain dump.

Just write as many as you can, as fast as you can.

You probably won’t reach 100 at fist go, but that’s ok.

It can take days or even weeks to get the perfect tagline together, all part of the process.

Carry a notepad or index cards (my fav) with you, and any time during your day that an idea comes up, jot it down to later add to the list.

Once you have 100 of them (you’ll find that parts of some statements will be duplicates, and that’s fine), you’re done with the strictly creative part of the exercise, and you can get more rational about it.

In other words, you put on your editor’s cap.

You’ll quickly see that most of them aren’t all that great or useful, so you just cross those out.

Whittle down until you have some ten or twenty good contenders, and copy those over to a new sheet of paper.

Btw, I think the best way to do this is by writing it in longhand, on paper.

Writing by hand activates different areas in the brain, compared to typing, and that’s useful for the kind of process we’re talking about.

So now you have 10 or 20 an a new sheet, and again, you take an axe to the ones that aren’t ideal or perfect.

Narrow down to the five best ones, and copy those to yet another sheet.

Then you take the best bits of those five, and mix & match the words that have the most emotional appeal, are most relevant and to the point, and you scramble the words, concepts and meanings together until you’re left with one simple, 5 to 10 word sentence that basically says:

Who you are, what you do, why you do it, why it matters.

You stick it in your site header beneath your brand name or your own name, and you’re done.

From that moment on, each time a new visitor lands on your site, they’ll not just see your name, but instantly they’ll also read your micro-artist’s statement.

And if they’re the right kind of person for what you do, something in them will perk up and recognise it.

A useful exercise, not just for your site to be more effective, but very likely for your own mind as well.

Highly recommended.

Also recommended: the LEAP Newsletter. Details here –> https://artonomy.co/leap-to-more-sales/

Cheers,

Martin

 

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The day I got art – and a few thoughts about your moral and ethical duty to sell yours

 CLACK! CLACK! CLACK!

It’s 10PM, I’m 12 years old and I’m in bed. In the studio below my room, my mother is using a staple gun to tack a canvas on a huge, 4 by 6 meter frame. Clack, clack, clack.

It’s going to be another one of those grim and dramatic Norse fjords that everybody is so taken by, but which I can’t make sense of.

Who understands that stuff?

Strokes and streaks, blotches and smears… it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t even look like anything. It’s just… I don’t know… drama.

In a few weeks we’ll be on vacation and once again, half the time will be spent with her – enraptured – dragging me (kicking and screaming) through one museum after another.

How I loathed those holidays.

But, that was long ago.

Over the years I grew to accept art as something with meaning and importance.

However, I never learned to appreciate art.

Even though I learned quite a bit about art history in school, about things like pointillism and expressionism and what have you; even though I had a girlfriend who was a painter, I just never got art.

Even though in my previous work as a fancy travelling tailor I would be surrounded by stunning works when visiting clients, I just didn’t get it.

Maybe it was because of that one exposition in Amsterdam, where I had once again been dragged along.

One of the artists was a fat and greasy punk-rock dude, purple mohawk and all.

He didn’t have any paintings, so I wandered into his booth.

There on display was his art, neatly framed and glassed: Empty cardboard fast-food packaging, the mayonnaise and ketchup still on.

That was art? Seriously?

Looking back, I can see how that moment broke my willingness to ever appreciate art. Who knows.

All of that changed yesterday though.

 I fell in love with art – head over heels

I’m in Kilkenny, Ireland. I’m spending a week with an Irish painter named Jimmy Kelly, because in recent months I’ve been helping more and more artists come to terms with the business and marketing side of being an artist.

And Jimmy’s one of those artists who should be seen and sold but like so many others, he’s never been able to come out of his closet and actually get himself in front of people.

Becket Broquy So I said ok, I’ll come over and show you how it’s done.

Jimmy’s shown me his work, he’s introduced me to influential people in the art world, he’s painted my portrait, and he’s talked to me at great length about the meaning within.

And yesterday, he took me up to Dublin, into a number of galleries.

That’s when I saw the painting of Samuel Beckett you see here, and I was stunned, gobsmacked – as enraptured as can be.

After all those years, and after months of dealing with artists, I suddenly, really, deeply, GOT it.

Starting yesterday, art is a part of me, and I’ll never be the same.

I’m in love.

Now that I have gone beyond understanding and I’ve finally experienced the power and impact of art, my life has become so much richer.

I guess I needed the years to get to this point. I’m so grateful it’s happened.

So that’s what I wanted to tell you, quoting Jimmy: Art changes you, whether you want it or not

I’ve lived that experience, and that’s why now I can say: People need you, and your art.

Because with what you make, you effect change.

Change for the better, for beauty, for enrichment of the inner world.

I know it’s difficult to sell, but you can learn it.

I know marketing has a bum rap, but that’s only because car salesmen talk so fast – in itself there’s nothing wrong with marketing.

And if you don’t sell, and don’t market, and don’t promote your work, then guess what:

You’ll be falling short of what I consider your duty.

Because if you change people’s lives, I believe that it’s your moral and ethical duty to show up and make that happen

Hiding behind a shy attitude, a pseudo-ethical marketing-is-dirty stance, then you’re not actually living the artist’s life as it should be lived.

So please, try to come to terms with it, and learn how it’s done.

You with your work, have the power to turn people, like I was turned.

I’ve become happier and more fulfilled.

Don’t withhold that from the next person.

Get out there, show up, be visible.

Sell your art and become good at it.

There are people who truly need you.

 

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How to Have Yourself a Stellar Christmas This Year

With Christmas soon upon us, Martin Stellar shares ways that you can maximise your Christmas art sales, starting RIGHT NOW…

Remember I told you that people need you and your art?

I’ve good news for you: it comes with perks. Notably, we’re upon a time of the year when people REALLY need your art.

How do I know?

Because a work of art makes a fantastic Christmas present. Just you dare disagree.

Alright, I know: it’s only early October, why on earth am I on about the holiday season?

Very true.

But Here’s a Little Secret: Most Christmas Sales Happen in October and November

Now, I’ll be the first to understand if you don’t want to be part of the whole XMAS hoopla.

If you prefer to play it naturally and see what sales you’ll get, come December –that’s fine by me.

But do understand that you’ll be leaving a lot of money on the table.

And to put a little sting in it: There will be many people who would have loved to give a piece of your work as a present, but you decided not to make the effort to put it into their hands.

So, if you:

a) want to have more cash at the end of this year and

b) believe that – yes – your art does make a fantastic present…

 

Then put on your learning cap and let’s get rolling.

Fact: Britain Alone Will Spend 20 BILLION or More This Christmas Season

Yeah, let that sink in for a minute.

I’m not completely sure about the number, but this article shows us that in 2010, the total amount was £16.7 billion. I doubt it will be much less this year – if fact it’s likely to be much more.

Now it doesn’t matter what you make: if a pie is that big, you bet there’s a slice for you.

 

Fact: Over 30% of That is Spent in October and November

You want a slice of Christmas pie?

Then you’ll need to get to selling Christmas presents right this minute.

There is literally no time to waste.

But You Don’t Like the Christmas Hype

And you shouldn’t. Neither do I.

What I do like though, is solving people’s problems, and selling stuff they need is one way to do just that.

When you’re looking for a present, you have an itch to scratch.

Putting a great present in front of people and saying: “The recipient of this might like it a lot. It costs x” is a way to offer a scratch for that itch.

If they like it and they buy, you just solved a problem.

And then they pay you for it: ethical, non-pushy sales in a nutshell.

Now, of course you could argue that it’s only because of aggressive marketing techniques that people spend so much on presents.

But really, people like giving.

It’s something that comes naturally to us, for a number of reasons.

You could also argue that it’s because of the advertising industry, that if marketers would leave people alone, Christmas sales wouldn’t start until December.

I doubt that’s the case though.

I think it’s because in the end, Christmas is important to us.

The act of giving presents is for the most part based on an authentic desire to give.

No proof or research to back it up, just my opinion.

Either way: people worldwide are about to have a real need for presents.

And that’s not my opinion – it’s a fact.

Here’s How to Sell More Art This Autumn Than You Thought Possible – Without Feeling Seedy About it

Fact: Selling Art as a Present Comes Down to One Simple Thing

Placement.

That’s all there is to it.

Placement in this sense means nothing more than presenting your art as a possible present.

All you need to do is make people see your work as a gift.

You could just simply say it – invite people to consider your work as a present – that will already make a difference.

Seriously: If you’re in the habit of emailing your readers a picture of new work (a recommendable strategy, by the way), nobody is going to be upset if tomorrow you include a line such as: “I think this piece will actually make a great Christmas present. Just saying”.

See what I mean? You don’t need to force things on people – just make a suggestion to help them see your work as a gift.

Visually, you can do that by using design elements on your site: Christmas themed banners, figures and adornments are a great way to give a modest tinge of Christmas to your site.

Obviously, you’re not going to launch into a fullscale automatic email sequence replete with bells, whistles and reindeer, starting tomorrow.

We like to play our marketing nice.

You’re also not going to put snow and jingle bells all over your site. (Or music! – more about that further on).

Just start introducing small elements.

A few lines in your blog posts.

Or a blog post about art as a gift. You don’t even have to prominently mention Christmas.

Maybe send an extra email that says: “Hey, listen, soon I’ll be having a few items on special Christmas sale. Keep an eye on your inbox because that’s where I’ll notify you.”

A few small visual elements on your site, which you can add to as the holiday season gets closer.

Simple things, but they work.

One More Thing: NEVER Let Music Play Automatically On Your Site

I understand it’s fun, and that the right kind of music can enhance the atmosphere and the experience of your site.

Especially if you can use it to increase the Christmas theming of your site.

But letting music play automatically when the page loads is an extremely bad idea.

That is, if you want people to stay on your site.

It’s a fact, proven over and over again: Most people find it annoying, and many people will simply close the page.

That’s a pity, because you want people to actually stay around, look at your work, and buy something.

YouTube can use autoplay – sure. But YouTube is a video site, it’s an entirely different story.

I know how tempting it can be, but trust me on this one: Music on autoplay – Christmas or not – WILL cost you sales.

Alright, so let’s get ready to get more presents sold. Send me an email if you have questions or need help.

Good luck.

 

martin-stellar

Martin Stellar is technically a copywriter and marketing consultant, but really he’s one of those people who can’t help trying to motivate and inspire people, given half a chance. He blogs at www.martinstellar.com, where much motivating and inspiring takes place, and he’s usually good fun on twitter.

Image courtesy of Amy_b

Selling Your Art Is Your Duty! – A Passionate Plea From The Heart…

A few weeks back I received an intriguing email from Martin Stellar. He had a particular {and traumatic} life experience to draw on which had taught him a very important lesson about art marketing. I will leave him to share this vitally important lesson with you in this guest post. Thanks Martin…

If you signed up to Helen’s ebook series (which you totally should), you’ll have read about the elephant in the room: That strange aversion to selling that so many artisans and creatives live with.

I agree with Helen’s teaching: She says that we needn’t feel anything negative when it comes to selling or marketing our art, but I want to make an even stronger point:

As an artist, it’s not enough to just accept sales, selling and marketing as a necessary part of the artist’s life.

You need to understand that selling your art is your moral and ethical duty.

Yep, I really said that.

And I have a good reason for it too:

As an artist, you owe it to the world to get mighty comfortable with marketing and selling, and to get at least moderately good at it.

Because you make a difference. You make the world a more beautiful place.

Your work, your daily toil and your innermost creativity: all of that conspires to bring more beauty to the world, one print; one canvass or one photo at a time.

If you’re an artist, you believe in the art you create (no matter how deep down that may be, hidden by a public mask of insecurity).

If you didn’t believe in your art, you wouldn’t live how you live and make what you make.

And if you believe in your art, you owe it to the world to sell as much of it as you possibly can.

Sidenote: My editor tells me I should talk about sharing your art, instead of selling – she makes a good point, but I believe selling is the single best way to share your art.

Anyway: If your art can improve a house, a room, a face or a street… bring something beautiful or meaningful into the world… Then OF COURSE you should sell it. Tons of it, if you can.

All this is of course a generously grandiloquent way to look at things.

After all, we don’t all create deeply inspired one-off pieces

I can understand that if your business is, say, selling printed t-shirts of your own design, you might not feel that you contribute as much as someone who creates unique life-size sculptures.

But think again.

Your t-shirts also add to the total.

People buy them because it gives them pleasure, they enjoy owning and wearing them, they like to be seen wearing them and so on.

I’d say that with each t-shirt sold, you just added a bit of happiness or enjoyment to someone’s life. Right? Right.

It really makes no difference what you make, how many, how big they are, how much they cost.

If you consider yourself an artist that inherently means that you make things that are meant to enhance the world

Now tell me, don’t you think this not only justifies and necessitates, but even obliges you as an artist to find as many people as you can who will buy what you make?

Should it not be your mission to make people’s lives a bit better with your art, as often as you can?

I’d say so.

It’s your duty to sell (read: share) your art.

You make the world better, more meaningful and more beautiful. Each time you create, you do the world a favour.

Each time you sell, doubly so.

What do I know?

Now, you might wonder where I get the nerve to come at you with all this high-faluting pomp and circumstance.

After all, I’m not even an artist myself. I couldn’t draw a stick-figure to save my life.

No, my genetic makeup is similar, but not quite the same: I’m what’s known as an artisan.

Specifically, I’m a bespoke tailor. Or used to be, before I became a marketing writer.

It’s a long story, but the short of it is that I used to have my own tailoring company, in which I myself created high end bespoke suits, fully handmade.

For a while I ran a blog and I ranked nicely on Google, just below Savile Row tailors, and I was getting a decent reputation on several forums.

Prices were also up there with Savile Row, and I was getting some sales.

At some point my father passed away, and I ended up with a sizeable inheritance that I decided to invest in my business.

Things looked like I was set for success.

But all that money, (all 120,000 pounds of it. Ouch.), I lost over the course of five years.

Here’s why my tailoring business tanked, forcing me to change careers:

I refused to really come to terms with the (very high) intrinsic value of what I created with my own two hands

Until the end, when I ran that company into the ground, I always approached the marketing and sales of it all as if it were a necessary evil.

And the only reason for that, I realise now, is that I didn’t value my stuff the way I should have.

The way you should value your stuff. Which I’m guessing you might not really do, just like me, back then.

And you may take all this as literally as you like (hint: the more literally you take it, the more your sales will soar).

You see, aside from the fact that creating a suit is in itself creating a piece of art (provided you do it by hand like bespoke tailors ought to), there is the value to the customer, and in that sense art and artisanry are very similar.

In both situations, the value to the customer sort of has no limits

You would be amazed by what people are willing to pay. Trust me, I’m a marketer (these days), and I know exactly how much the right people are willing to pay for art.

Or for my suits for that matter. Because that was the amazing thing I discovered: You can charge literally anything you want, and you’ll have people buying it.

It gets even better: the higher your prices, the more eager people will be to buy

That’s something I hope Helen will allow me to explain at a later point. Provided of course that she’d like to have me tell more of the story of how a young tailor had a chance and blew it.

For now, I just really want to hope that you see my point, because you so much deserve to live with the confident (and slighty bold) attitude I’ve been describing.

What you do makes a difference. Make it happen more, make a bigger difference.

Even if it’s one printed mug at a time.

You’re an artist
It’s your nature to create beauty
You’re an artist
It’s your duty to sell the beauty you create

Martin Stellar is technically a copywriter and marketing consultant, but really he’s one of those people who can’t help trying to motivate and inspire people, given half a chance. He blogs at www.martinstellar.com, where much motivating and inspiring takes place, and he’s usually good fun on twitter.

How NOT To Be A Starving Artist { The 3 crucial tips that will help you sell your Art}

Being a starving artist sounds delightfully romantic, I know, but if you’ve ever actually been there you know that cold clenching feeling that makes you wonder if you shouldn’t have listened to your parents and studied engineering. Fortunately that doesn’t have to be the solution. If you aren’t making any money as an artist then you can usually solve it by addressing the following common problems.

You Aren’t Selling Yourself

Artists are often artists because they don’t want to talk to other people. Unfortunately, that’s simply not how it works. A freelance artist is a small business, and that means marketing. Putting your art on ebay or Etsy isn’t going to generate a lot of interest compared to real, hands on marketing. Go to local events to display your work, talk to small business owners (bar and restaurant owners specifically) and get them to post your work on their walls. If there are no events in your area, you can start your own (gasp!). It’s actually not as crazy as it sounds, simply round up a few other artists in your area, research cheap (or free) possible venues. Any place with a dance floor has enough room to work with, and business owners will be happy to accommodate you if you can convince them that you can bring in business.

Your Art Isn’t Original Enough

If you find you’re already doing all of the marketing that you could be it’s time to turn around and look at your work. Are you being original? Can a potential customer go elsewhere and find something in the same style, with similar content? What’s your own response to it? Does it make you sad, amused, or terrified? If you don’t have much of a response to your own work, then the odds are good that no one else does either. You have a chance to say something in a way that no one has ever said it before, it’s a shame to waste that chance.

If you used to do fairly well, but just can’t get past a creative block that has you doing essentially the same thing over and over again, resulting in a boring, one sided portfolio, you can check out another post that I wrote on dealing with that issue

Your Prices Are Wrong

What if you’re working all the time, and your art is selling, but you’re barely making ends meet? Clients are constantly hounding you and reminding you that they can find someone else to do the same work more cheaply, or try to get you to rework or modify work repeatedly. This one is as simple as it sounds. Raise your prices, perhaps even double them. Your work costs whatever you charge, period. If you don’t think it’s worth more, go back and read the earlier paragraph. You don’t want people buying your work just because it’s the cheapest around; you want them to buy it because they love your work. People being bullied and cowed into working for criminally low prices are the biggest reason that new artists so often find themselves in huge financial trouble, and the answer is simply to unapologetically charge what you’re worth.

ed-stuartEdward Stuart is an art and decoration enthusiast as well as an online publisher for Canvas Art. He frequently blogs on the topics of art, art history, design, and home decor.

 

This post was written by a guest writer. if you would like to write a guest post for us please get in contact with your topic ideas.

Performance Art Magic…with No Secrets to Hide

Performance artist Kerry Kistler shares some of the ways you can enthral a live audience with your art and a little showmanship.

Who can forget the Masked Magician? Back in the late 90s he appeared in four TV specials on the Fox Network exposing many trade secrets behind dozens of magic illusions – many of which were still being used on stages across America. During my days as a touring variety performer, it was not uncommon for some smirking spoiler to corner me after a show and make a snarky comment about the Masked Magician and triumphantly proclaim with a wink that they knew how our illusions worked. They were usually wrong.

But, there is one routine in my bag of tricks that never fails to enchant and mesmerize the audience, and no one ever says “I know how you did that.” It isn’t exactly self-working, but at least I’ll never have to worry about exposure by the Masked Magician, or tough angles, or difficult sleights, or exposing methods, or dropping gimmicks…although I do sometimes drop sticks of chalk.

That’s right. People actually view my performance at the chalk art easel as the REAL magic show. One day I figured out that my magic routines were the appetizer, and my chalk art was the main course – complete with loud gasps and standing ovations. And I’m not even that good. Seriously, I am not being modest, humble or ridiculous. If I HAD to hide one big secret about chalk art, it is this: you don’t have to be a virtuoso artist to “chalk and amaze” an audience.

This truth was proven to me again recently while watching “speed painter” D. Westry on YouTube. Speed painters and chalk artists are considered kissing cousins, because the main difference is the medium we throw on the canvas – their pigments are wet paint and ours are dry oversized pastels (from EternityArts.com). And more than a few performers have mastered both mediums. True, speed painters don’t have the element of surprise that chalkers enjoy with UV black light and hidden pictures. But many of them employ a secret weapon that works just as well. Curious?

I was watching D. Westry’s act in a talent contest on a TV talk show. In 90 seconds he created a large, sketchy painting that looked like a deformed vegetable. I’m not taking anything away from D. Westry – he’s a very talented performer. But even the main host later quipped, “I gotta say, I thought [the painting] was a weird potato…I think that’s amazing!” What amazed the host?

At the last second, Westry turned the painting upside down, and a portrait of the talk show host was clearly recognized. It took only a beat to sink in, and then the audience burst into a thirty-second standing ovation. Magical?? You be the judge, but I can’t remember ever seeing a magician get that kind of response with a $10,000 stage illusion!

Oh, and Westry even won the Grand Prize trip to Costa Rica with that simple potato-portrait. Astonishing, if not magical. Now, try to imagine the power chalk art can have when sharing your message.

To repeat: You don’t have to be a virtuoso artist to “chalk and amaze” an audience. If you have a solid grasp of stage craft and showmanship, I invite you to give it a try, even if it means doing a little pre-show work like tracing faint guidelines to follow. And please don’t howl, “That’s cheating!” A few spectators will always assume there is some “trick” to it. I’ve actually had a few teens come up to me after a show and ask if I use a special high-def, smart board technology that simulates live drawing – as if there MUST be some sort of digital “iChalk” magic behind it all since actual, live drawing seems impossibly hand-crank. I ask these doubting Thomases to reach out and touch the chalky surface of the drawing with their own fingers. Then I watch their expressions change, assured they will never yell out, “I know how you did that!”

Seriously, how is that NOT magical?

Kerry Kistler lives in Springfield, Missouri where he publishes Chalk Illustrated, a FREE quarterly magazine for performing chalk artists. Contact Kerry at chalkillustrated@gmail.com or subscribe today at www.ChalkIllustrated.com.

 

Crowd Funding for Artists – How To Crowd Fund Your Next Art Project

Crowd Funding is something we are getting asked about a lot here at Artonomy. It’s a new way of funding that can work brilliantly for the right project. In this post Janelle Pierce shares some tips on how to go about it…

As a writer you probably know how daunting and difficult it is to get published. As a photographer you probably know how tedious and time consuming it is to sell prints. As a musician you’ve probably had more than a dozen rejection letters from record labels who just didn’t hear the same potential for your music that you did. Well rest easy because the financial times are changing!

If you haven’t heard about crowd source funding it’s the new, hip way artists are getting the funds they need to produce the work they love, and the best part? They’re being funded by backers who love their work too! If you’ve ever wanted to professionally record and release an album, publish your first novel, or release a coffee table book of your favorite photographs then crowd funding might just be the way to go.

Taking the First Step

If you’re new to crowd funding then have no fear, there’s a first time for everything, and truth be told it’s not that difficult, but it will take some time so be prepared for that. Before you do anything you need to decide which crowd funding website you’re going to utilize. With more than 400+ sites available the decision to pick just one, may not be that easy. Instead of going with the big dog (kickstarter.com) just because it’s the big dog, do your research. Pick a crowd funding site that caters specifically to your niche. If you’re an artist who specializes in a certain pottery technique or who makes a specific kind of music, find a site that values that and has an audience who values it as well.

Impacting Your Backers

In order for your crowd funding campaign to be successful you need to make an impact. Since your ultimate goal is to entice and secure funding from other people it’s important to make a human connection. Tell your story and make it personal. People can easily discern whether or not you’re genuine and authentic so don’t fake it. Using a video is one of the best methods because it allows you to communicate not just information, but also emotion.

Duplicating Success

If this is your first crowd funding campaign then you’ll probably want to do a little investigating. Knowing what worked (and didn’t work) for others is a valuable piece of information you cannot afford to neglect. Spend some time searching for other projects that were (and weren’t) successful. Try duplicating the strong points of the successful campaigns while avoiding the weaknesses of the failed campaigns. This will improve your chance for success across the board!

Benefits to the Crowd Funding Model

There are a lot of benefits to the crowd funding model but two of the greatest are its ability to raise money while contributing to the marketing of your art. When a backer decides to support you with their money they make a connection with you that is personal. Their monetary investment is just the start, after that they’ll support you with their vocal support to family and friends. With a few high profile Twitter or Facebook users in your ranks you’ll be well on your way to success due to the word of mouth advertising they’ll provide.

In addition to the financial support and free advertising you’ll also receive constructive criticisms. You may have a good idea, but it can probably get better. If that’s the case the crowd will help you do it. Offering constructive criticism is one way crowd funding makes everything better not just for the backer, but also the artist. Many minds are better than just one and it’s true that there is strength in numbers.

No APR

The old method for funding projects, books, or inventions was a reliance on large corporate banks or wealthy relatives. While a wealthy relative may not charge interest they can add additional stress. Likewise a bank will charge interest and as a result you’ll end up paying more for your loan than the loan was worth.

Conclusion

Crowd source funding is a great alternative to the funding methods of the past. No longer do you have to borrow money only to repay it later. With crowd funding you’re able to sell your creations directly to your customers. Through the process you’ll learn more about your audience, the project you’re working on, and it will hopefully make you a more accomplished artist.

Janelle Pierce enjoys writing about crowd funding and answering various small business questions. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, hiking, and spending time with friends and family.

For inspiration why not check out the kickstarter project of Joshua Harker Joshua’s beautiful sculpture Crania Anatomica Filigre was the 3rd most funded arts project ever raising over $77,000. You can also visit Joshua’s Etsy shop to buy this fabulous sculpture here.

 

Low Budget Studio – Incredible Photos of Your Art

Chris Garrett, photographer and large format printing expert, shares some ways that you can create professional quality photographs, of your art or subjects, with very little equipment or expense, in your own home.  

I have spent so much time limiting myself to outdoor photography because I didn’t have access to a studio. Without the right lighting and backdrop, it’s difficult to get the high quality photographs I wanted. What I didn’t realize was that it is very simple to create a studio to use either inside or outside and get amazing results. Most of what I needed I already had and what I didn’t was very inexpensive compared to all brand new equipment. Whether you’re looking to move your photography indoors or to capture the nuance and quality of another type of art on film, these tips can help you to achieve professional photographs in your home or workspace.

What you can use:

  • Two ladders
  • An 8 ft. pole works great
  • Clamps
  • Various colors of sheets (make sure your colors are very rich, not faded from washing)
  • Foam boards (for reflecting light)
  • Your choice of lighting (natural light works very well)

Setting up your space.

If you are working indoors, you just need the room to set up. Moving furniture temporarily works, using the garage is great, but you should try to position it to where you have access to some natural light. When using the white foam board as a light reflecting tool, you can manipulate it to do pretty much anything you want.

photography for artistsSo place the ladders on each end of the set. Use the pole to rest between them on the tallest rung. Clamp your sheets to the pole and lay one on the ground if you want a solid backdrop. Your set should be in the prime lighting location if you are doing them outdoors, so basically you don’t want to have your subject facing the sun or you will get squinting or watering of the eyes. Use the foam board to reflect and manipulate the light in your favor. If you are in a dark area, making your own soft boxes will give you some great results, many use a flood lamp that can be moved around or even use a flashlight behind your props for some backlighting.

You can also try substituting a silver car shade for the white foam board, but they will produce a much harsher light and may cause shadows. The white board makes the light softer and more diffused. The best way to get great at this is to practice. You should be able to take amazing photos with hardly any Photoshop time.

photography for artistsSo, it is easy to say that you don’t have to have a dedicated space in your home to use a studio set up. You may need an assistant until you figure out your own way of doing things. But this is a great alternative to spending a fortune that you may not have on equipment that works in the same way. Play around with it and create photos that people will want to hang on their wall or use for customized wallpaper as a mural. No one will know you haven’t been doing this forever!

For me, this is a set up that works and is portable if I need it to be. Feel free to make your own modifications, but just don’t be afraid of studio photography. It does get really hard to do pictures in the middle of winter when your client wants family portraits and there is a foot of snow outside. Get away from being a seasonal photographer and be ready to shoot anytime on any day!

 

Chris Garrett is a large format printing expert and freelance writer for the custom printed wallpaper expert Megaprint.com. He frequently blogs on the topics of design and printing.

Photo credit Alexis Godschalk @ photo.net & Tackorama