Thursday, February 2, 2012

A marketing journey

Toward the end of last year, I decided that 2012 was going to be the year that I start treating my art like a business. Although I've sold a few paintings over the years, for the most part I've created art for my own enjoyment. I am at a point now where I'm confident my work is good enough to market.

There are so many avenues for marketing artwork: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, galleries, a website, blog, art groups, online art galleries, art festivals, competitions ... the list is seemingly endless. With so many options it's easy to get bogged down just trying to decide where to start. The other potential problem is starting too many marketing plans at the same time. To be effective, you need to try something for a period of time; starting too many things at the same time makes it impossible to know what works and what doesn't.

So I'm starting with Social Media. This is an easy, and inexpensive, way to get the word out. However, the problem with Social Media is that your outreach is limited by the number of "Friends" and "Likes" you have, subscribers to your website, your contact list, etc. With that in mind, I am also going to show my work at the Denver Art District's First Friday Art Walk. On the first Friday of every month over 60 galleries and studios are open in the evening so more people can visit. In warm weather, thousands of people attend Art Walk. In the winter, hundreds make the trek in the cold. Unfortunately, the weather forecasters are calling for a huge snowstorm tonight - dumping 12" to 18" of snow - and Art Walk may very well be canceled. That's disappointing, but fine. I'll do it again in March.

That's about all I can handle right now. Marketing is a lot of hard work and takes time away from the studio. Still, if you want to be a successful artist - however you define that term - it is something that has to be done.

Happy painting!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A slow start

I'm at a dangerous place in my studio. I've finished the projects I was working on without an idea for something new. As a professional writer, I understand writer's block. I have been writing for so many years that I've come up with strategies to overcome it.

My art is different. Although I've been painting most of my life, I recently sold my business and it's only been the last year or so that I've worked on my art full-time. When I get to an "in between" place I become afraid that my creativity has left for good. Fear, of course, is the biggest de-motivator and inspiration-stealing emotion we live with. Even though I understand that, I'm not confident enough to not be afraid when I'm between projects.

I normally work on at least two paintings at a time. I try to start something new while I still have something to finish. There was just something about the end of the year, the holidays, exhaustion, etc. that kept me from doing that.

So what should I do? 
  • I'm going to stop being afraid. I have been at this long enough, and have a big enough body of work, to know I'm creative.
  • I'm going to give myself some time to process what I accomplished in 2011 before starting 2012. I had a greater out put of work in 2011 – 33 paintings – than I have in the last few years combined.
  • I'm going to take some time to read. I get so focused on the art that I stop reading. Reading is inspirational whether it's a book on art or an artist, or something I just enjoy.
  • I'm going to visit our art museum. I haven't been for more than a year – which is unusual for me – and I am always inspired by other people's work.
  • I'm going to stop worrying. I'm going to "let it go, let it flow." This, of course, is easier said than done, but the more I stop myself from going there, the easier it gets.
Being an artist is difficult enough without sabatoging myself with doubt, fear and worry. So it's January 7th. So what. It's not time to panic, I have 358 more days to create art.

Happy painting,
Susan L Stewart

Monday, December 19, 2011

6 days until Christmas

I'm not a "crafts" oriented person. Many people love creating craft projects and some of those are fine artists as well. When I was younger I spent years doing cross stitch, needlepoint, sewing, quilting, stenciling and cutting out ducks and other animals from old barn wood.

My eyes aren't what they used to be so the needlework is a thing of the past. Even so, I don't read crafts blogs or magazines. The projects don't speak to me. That is, until I came across the blog HowAboutOrange and directions for making these beautiful snowflakes.

I have a tradition with several friends where we exchange Christmas ornaments instead of gifts. They don't cost a lot and every year when we put up our tree I relive the memories we share. So I decided to give it a go and began the process of making two lacy snowflakes.

I know, there are only six days left before Christmas. Believe me, I know. The pressure is on. After an hour into the project, I am nowhere near to completing the first one. Frustration is setting in and I'm questioning whether or not my best friend would really, really, love one.

All of this got me thinking about art and art snobs. You know the ones: it isn't "real" art unless it's a painting done in oils; "my four-year-old could make that abstract painting;" acrylics are plastic and not for professional artists; apples are either red or green but never purple; etc.

I admire people who enjoy crafts. It takes a lot of discipline and patience to do them. My temperament is more spontaneous and less planned out. Now I'm questioning my decision to make these snowflakes. Now, if only I knew someone who would like to make them for me!

Happy painting,

Susan L Stewart

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Black and White? Me?

Rainy Day

I have been an artist for so long that I'm fairly set in my ways: my pastels are generally florals; acrylics tend to be abstract with a lot of texture; and no matter what, everything has the most exciting color palette I can create. This year, 2011, I have been focusing on new techniques and subject matter.

The tag line for my website is "it's all about the color..." so when I began working in black and white no one was more surprised than I was. I am so excited about this unanticipated turn in my work!

Although art festivals are probably the best way for an artist to get their work in front of the public, my health keeps me from going that route. Plan B is to enter competitions and find a gallery(s) for representation or a one-woman show.

Before I can approach a gallery, though, I need a cohesive body of work, about 15 - 20 paintings, that can stand as a collection. For now, I am building that collection on my new black and white studies.

  • The year I create my first collection
  • The year I find gallery representation
  • The year I have a one woman show
What are your goals for 2012?

Happy painting!
Susan L Stewart


Sunday, December 4, 2011

A New Year and New Intentions

I finally finished the update of my art website,, and it feels good. It was a major project but needed to be done. Another thing I have done is catalog all of my paintings in a database program for Mac called "Bento." It's an easy program to learn and I can customize it so I have a library for my paintings and one for the art competitions I've entered.

I've  started early with my New Year's resolutions for 2012. Several months ago I decided I was going to enter art competitions until I was at least juried into one. This is a big step for me. While I have sold paintings over the years, I have never made a concerted effort to sell them.

I have some health issues I live with that make it difficult if not impossible to have a booth at an art festival like so many artists do. I know a couple who are both artists in their own right. They spend the summer going from one festival to another across the country. They spend the winter at home producing work to sell at the next summer's festivals. They are successful, true, "working" artists as the festival life is one of hard work.

With festivals out of the question, how should I proceed? Entering competitions seems like a good place to start. For most of them you email digital images to be judged. This is a lot less expensive and a lot less work than shipping paintings to the festival committee. So far I've entered a competition for pastel paintings and one for photographs. Neither one amounted to anything, but I did it! It can be emotionally difficult to put your work – your baby – out there to be judged.

We're coming up on the new year and my goal is to continue to focus my time on painting and selling my work. What are your New Year's resolutions? Are you giving yourself permission to focus on your creativity? I hope so.

Until next time,

Susan L Stewart