7 Essential Verbs to Live By

I built Art Biz Coach on action.

The first iteration of this newsletter back in 2002 was titled “Do This” (Zzzzz) and had an action at the end of each issue. My book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, is broken down into 16 actions.

As we learned when diagramming sentences in 4th grade, verbs are where the action is. No verb, no action.

With that in mind, I got to thinking about a few verbs to live by that you might not normally associate with your art career. See if these resonate with you.

1. Understand

Understand that you are not alone. You are part of a larger community of artists and a distinguished history of art.

Understand how the art world works. Yes, I believe in breaking the rules, but you at least need to be aware of them.

Understand that other artists might have a different journey than yours. Accept their path and forge your own.

2. Crave

Crave creativity.

Crave connection to your art and to other artists.

Crave clarity about your direction.

Be hungry for the information and experiences that will fuel your accomplishments.

3. Devote

It’s easy to recognize when artists aren’t devoted to their work. Lack of

Continue reading…

Life Is Beautiful and I Have Proof

All is right with the world. I have proof.

I’m at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to see the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition. I arrive early with Rob, my trooper of a husband. He’s agreed to be my companion through the permanent collection galleries before our afternoon ticket time.

What I witness restores my faith in humanity.

Here’s how it goes down.

Is It Art?

As a former museum educator, I know that it’s wise to avoid school tours in the galleries. If I had thought about that, I might have visited later in the day. But then I wouldn’t have been fortunate enough to have had this experience.

There is at least one group in each of the galleries. Most students have assignments and a docent.

One docent teaches native Spanish speakers how to say Marcel Duchamp.

Mahr-sel’ Du’-shahn

They giggle.

She stands in front of Duchamp’s Fountain and asks: Is it art? They are pretty certain it isn’t. It’s a urinal, for Pete’s sake.

I don’t stick around to hear more of their reasoning. I already feel like I’m an intruder.

I’m less interested in the art history lecture than in the way these kids are fully engaged with the art. They are hanging on every word she says.

My husband finds me and asks what I’m up to. “This docent is awesome,” I say.

Then I catch a glimpse of another heartwarming scene.

Continue reading…

Why? Questions for Self-Motivation

Most weeks I write as if I have all of the answers. I don’t. Far from it. I write about what I’ve experienced or witnessed.

When I don’t know an answer, I know the best way to find it: Ask.

Questions can help us think more comprehensively about a situation – especially questions that begin with “why.”

In his exceptional book, Smarter Faster Better, Charles Duhigg notes that “why” questions help us link hard choices to something we care about. He says, “Make a chore into a meaningful decision, and self-motivation will emerge.”

With that in mind, I’ve outlined a number of situations in which you might need a hefty dose of self-motivation. Each has a number of questions to help you make progress and a Big Why to ask yourself.

When You’re Not Making Art

One day off is understandable. Two days is acceptable.

An entire week without thinking about or making art is something to be concerned about when you’re trying to gain recognition and earn money from your art.

Ask yourself …

Why am I not inspired? What can I do about it?

What am I prioritizing above my art? Is it right to do so? (It might be!)

One year today, will I be happy that I chose to spend my time in other ways?

The Big Why: Why do I care?

When You’re Overwhelmed

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the demands of modern life and all that is required to run a business. And you can’t let it stop you.

Take a deep breath and consider …

What do I need to do more of to feel in control?

What do I need to do less of?

What do I need to let go of?

What boundaries do I need to better abide by?

The Big Why: Why am I overwhelmed in the first place?

When Too Many People Want a Piece of You

The gallery needs new work. The art center asks you to teach a class. The organization wants you to serve on the board.

Before you say Yes to everything immediately, it’s worth pausing to think about these questions …

Continue reading…

How to Leverage an Article About Your Art

Congratulations! You had an article written about your art. Whether it is in a newspaper or magazine or published on a blog, website, or as a podcast, you are deservedly thrilled and want to share the good news. How do you do this?

How widely you share the article and how you share it depends on the importance of the article (not all articles are created equal) and the format in which it was published.

Who will care about this as much as you?

Who will be happy for you?

Who would be bummed if they didn’t hear?

Most importantly … Who needs to know about this?

Here are some ideas for leveraging an article about your art.

Continue reading…

Do This Today to be Happy One Year From Now

Rene Gibson sculpture from cow skull

Your exhibition/class/event was a smash hit, and now it’s over. You can breath a sigh of relief.

Your calendar is empty. The breathing room feels good for a few days, until you realize that you have no thoughts about what to do next.

I gently suggest that you take about 1.5 days to relax and bask in the afterglow of your success. Then, get back to work.

I’m not saying that you have to work at the fever pitch before your event. I’m just saying that you need something else to look forward to.

When there are no big plans on the horizon – no major deadlines – we flounder and may find it easier to procrastinate.

Without something to work toward, it’s easy to get lost in the black hole of social media or convince yourself that your inbox needs rearranging. Laundry, anyone?

Stop pretending that any of these (especially social media!) is satisfying. If you want to be happy one year from now, what do you have to do today?

Commit to the Big Scary Idea

It’s fine to accomplish small tasks and projects, but it’s the big goals – the things that are a little scary and a lot uncomfortable – that will move your art career further faster.

Big ideas motivate us to take action, and each action builds momentum toward a larger goal. All you have to do is decide to do it and commit to making it happen.

Here are six possibilities to consider for your next project.

Continue reading…

42 Ways to Improve Marketing Results

If marketing is everything you do to build your reputation and sell your art, there are a lot of areas in which you could improve. In which we could all improve.

I share this list with some hesitation. It’s intended as a checklist to work through, not to tackle at once.

Remember, our businesses and careers are works in progress.

Your Name

1. Decide on a single professional artist name and use it consistently for your art business – if you want to be remembered. I don’t care what it is and it doesn’t have to be the same name you sign to your art.

It’s critical that people can easily find you by your name and associate your name with your art.

Networking

2. Meet more people! The more people you know, the more opportunities you will create.

3. Show other people you care about them. Focus on building trust and relationships rather than selling to everyone who crosses your path. Along similar lines …

4. Keep notes on people on their business cards and add to your database so you can personalize your relationships.

5. Send “It was nice to meet you” cards or emails after connecting with someone (unless it wasn’t nice to meet them and you don’t care if you ever see them again).

Branding & Image

6. Use the same font and colors for all of your marketing material. And please! Stay away from

Continue reading…

What to Include in a Catalog of Your Art

A catalog can be a snapshot of your career at a moment in time or a retrospective documenting your entire life’s work.

With the advent of on-demand, inexpensive publishing, every artist should be using catalogs to promote their art.

And, yes, I recommend print catalogs above electronic versions.

A printed catalog is tactile. It can be placed in a gallery setting and held in one’s hands. It can be sent through the mail with a handwritten note as a gift to a VIP.

I also recommend a physical catalog because there’s nothing like seeing your art in print.

Printed catalogs can also be sold. However, catalogs are rarely money-making ventures. Incourage you to think of them as marketing pieces and documentation rather than products you might sell for profit.

Use this checklist to ensure that your catalog has all of the components to make it a lasting document of your art – one that you are proud of.

Pre-Project Checklist

Focus

Before you begin, you must determine the focus of your catalog. Just as you curate an exhibition of your art, you curate the content of your catalog.

Unless your catalog is

Continue reading…

Organize Your Busy Art Career with Evernote

Bluff painting by Marsha Savage

I am writing this draft in Evernote on my iPad while taking the light rail train into Denver to see a few art shows.

When I want a document that I will reuse and share with students, clients, or my team, I create it in Word, Pages, or Google Docs.

When I want to save drafts of documents or to store something to remember, it goes straight to Evernote where I can access it across devices.

Evernote is an app that organizes information into digital notes and notebooks. It would be impossible for me to keep track of all the information I need to without it.

Here’s a peek at how I use Evernote in my life and business along with suggestions for how you might use it in your art career.

Keep Your Travel Information in One Place

This might be my favorite use of Evernote. In your Travel notebook you might store:

  • Hotel arrangements
  • Flight details
  • Car rentals
  • Contact names and information
  • Directions
  • Things you want to do and see when you arrive
  • Local restaurants

You might also store travel information for your family or for friends who are visiting.

Capture Content Ideas

One of the problems I hear most often from artists is that they don’t have anything to say. And this is a problem when so much of your marketing is based on the written word.

No more worries! The minute you have a bright idea, you can start a note in Evernote. Save drafts for:

Continue reading…

How to Make a Dynamite First Impression

You only get one chance to make a first impression. True? True!

Competition is fierce in today’s art market, and you must distinguish yourself.

How will people come to know you? More importantly, how will they remember you?

Consider this advice when you want to be memorable in the right way.

Be prepared.

There is no excuse to go into a meeting or situation blindly when you have the virtual world readily available. A simple check with search engines or a social media account might lead you to a treasure of information.

Conduct your research in advance to show people that you’ve heard of them – this always impresses.

You might also discover facts in your research that will help you skillfully navigate any conversation.

Be on time.

The little computer we all carry around in our purses and pockets has made it far too easy for us to be tardy to appointments. All we have to do is text someone to tell her we’re running late.

This is usually fine when you know the other person well. It’s not fine if it’s your first meeting or if you make it a habit.

Be interested.

People will think

Continue reading…

Processing Loss Through Your Art

Painting by Carol L. Myers

A gentle warning before you read this. This was supposed to be a celebration article, but things happened that led me in a different direction. You might find it sad.

Stick with me because there is a message here that you might need. Maybe not now, but someday. And I promise that there is a happy ending.

Thank you in advance for allowing me to share this story with you.

Let’s start with the celebration. This week I celebrate 15 years of writing a weekly email to artists, which I mark as the anniversary of Art Biz Coach. The newsletter is now posted here on the blog where you’re reading it.

It was on March 25, 2002 that I sent my first private email as a sample to artists I found on the Internet.

I can’t promise this newsletter and corresponding blog post will go on forever. I can’t even promise they will happen next week. But I’m pretty proud that I have never missed a weekly issue. That’s 780 newsletters if you’re counting.

This week’s newsletter – the very one you’re reading now on the blog – was a close call. Here’s what happened.

Continue reading…