Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!
We’re taking a short break from writing new articles this week, but not to worry, we’ll be back to our normal schedule next Sunday.
See you then!
Check out last week’s articles on EmptyEasel:
Is there something you’d like to share on EE? Send it in!
Sarah Dowling went to the Massachusetts College of Art where she majored in Print Making, and went on to receive a Bachelors of Arts Degree. Then she continued her post-graduate education at Montserrat College. But it wasn’t until seven years ago that she began painting with watercolors.
Although Sarah has already won several prestigious awards, and has illustrated several children’s books and toys (including Mom’s Choice Award winner, Flip Along Fun), she longs to get into the Salmagundi Club in NYC with one of her paintings.
Alyice: For those who have a hard time understanding how watercolor paints can be permanent, can you explain what watercolor paints are and how they work?
Sarah: Watercolor paints are a mixture of microscopic pigment particles, which provide the paint color, mixed in a liquid paint vehicle that holds the pigment in suspension, allows it to be applied with a brush, then dries to bind it to the support (paper, board or canvas).
The pigments do not dissolve in water and is why they are suspended in a “vehicle” like gum Arabic or synthetic glycol.
Manufacturers also have to add humectants like honey or corn syrup to moisturize and help bind the pigment to the paper. This, plus other ingredients, are suspended in water which transfers the pigments to the paper.
Alyice: Why did you choose watercolor as your medium?
Sarah: I mainly paint in watercolor because it has a very distinct look. I think I’m drawn to line and delicacy, and watercolor aids that. Different watercolor paints have different qualities such as granulation or transparency or no transparency. Each distinct trait gives you a different look depending on what you want to achieve.
Cobalt Blue, for instance, has a granulation that I like. It’s subtle, and the paint itself is considered “transparent.” If you use a lot of paint and don’t water it down, it loses its transparency, and becomes more opaque.
Alyice: What is the most challenging part about working with watercolors?
Sarah: People think watercolor is fixed once you lay it down, but I don’t agree. I, actually, think it’s quite easy to work with. You can scrape the paper, wash the paper, even use a razor blade on the paper. It all creates difference looks.
What is difficult for me is controlling the watercolor and not being driven by it. It has its own “look” and I like to be the one in charge, not the paint.
Alyice: What is the best part about working with watercolors?
Sarah: I love watching what happens as I layer a painting with translucent color, each color affecting the other. It’s always a bit of a mystery because the paint has its own properties which come into play.
Most watercolors are translucent to some degree, and add to or kill the under layer. Part of the learning curve with watercolor is understanding the properties of each color, and how it affects another color.
You have to work quickly, and really concentrate if you want to control the paint as it works its way down the page. Watercolor just has a unique beauty that you can’t duplicate with any other medium.
Alyice: How durable are your finished pieces?
Sarah: The paints that I use are what are called “lightfast.” I wouldn’t put them outside in the sunlight for several months, but I wouldn’t do that to an oil painting, either.
You can hang them inside, and they should outlast all of us. In fact, many museums have watercolors that have lasted centuries. The paints today are even more lightfast, and if treated properly, should last for centuries.
I place my paintings under glass (If you’re buying one from me that’s framed), and usually matted in an acid-free mat with acid-free backing board.
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Sarah: I usually have to be moved by something, either the way the light plays on the subject or the subject itself shows a vulnerability. Something has to pull me or I have something stirring inside that I want to invent (such as the “Two Old Friends” seen above). I’m moved by what is under the veneer of today’s “cool.”
Alyice: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your paintings?
Sarah: I figure the cost of paper, paint etc. Then I factor in my time and my knowledge of the medium and balance that against what the market can bear. I compare myself to other artists who are at the same level I think I am.
Coming up with titles for your artwork is tough—no question about it. Do you go with something simple that describes the image? Do you spell out the metaphor you want your viewers to see? Or just slap an “Untitled” on there?
And now that we have the internet (in all its wondrous complexity) your job has gotten even tougher. But. . . maybe you don’t know how important titles are?
If you don’t, this article will be an eye-opener. Because today, online, your artwork titles can either make or break you—they can be the difference between thousands of people seeing your artwork. . . or none.
OK, so why are artwork titles such a big deal?
Here’s the short answer—search engines (like Google, Bing, etc) only read words. They can’t see the image you uploaded; instead, they look at all the words you use to describe it, including, and MOST importantly, your title.
(And here’s the longer answer, with more information, if you’re interested.)
When people search for artwork in Google, they often use words that describe the type of artwork they’re looking for. Google’s job, then, is to go fetch the top 10 pages on the web that SEEM to match what they’re looking for.
But again, Google can’t see the image.
So on one hand we have potential buyers, describing something—”A blue painting with sheep in it” or “Italy painting” or “hand-painted pottery with earth colors”. . . and on the other hand, we have artists using titles like “Untitled #23.”
That’s a big problem.
If you’re ready to receive a little more attention from the (literally) billions of people who use Google and other search engines every day, you’ve got to think about what your titles are saying, and what people might be searching for.
Here are a few of the most common, and most costly, mistakes that I see artists doing online (and how to fix them):
1. Naming your artwork “Untitled”
By far the most prevalent artwork title in the world, “Untitled” is HUGE issue if you want people to find your artwork.
If you MUST use the word “Untitled” as your artwork title, there’s an easy way to also help the search engines understand what your particular “untitled” work looks like. . . try something like this:
Untitled #24 – Mountain with sunlit peaks
Untitled (female reclining, oil painting)
The key is to use punctuation of some kind, and simply separate your “title” from your short, unofficial, description. As always, remember to think about how OTHERS would be searching for your artwork, and use those kinds of words.
You might say, “But Dan, there’s already a description field—I don’t have to put a description in the title, there’s another whole section for that!”
It’s true, there is—and you should definitely fill up that description section with a LOT more information about your artwork. The reason why you should also have some descriptive words in your title, however, is because of the importance that Google and other search engines place on the title.
But enough about “Untitled” artwork. . . here’s the second most common problem I see in artwork titles:
2. Naming your artwork something short and vague
Please believe me when I say that I understand that the creative process extends to the title of a work as well as the image itself. I’m a painter—I realize that there’s a need for creative, artistic titles.
Words like “Metamorphosis” or “Flight” or “Grrrrr” or “Solitude” or “Mish-Mash” or any number of one-word descriptors are great for people. . . people see the title, and link it to the artwork in front of them. They experience more from the image BECAUSE of the title, and as an artist, I too know how powerful that is.
But. . . again. People aren’t (typically) searching for “Grrrrr” when looking for art.
If they have a sense of what they want, they’re going to describe it, visually, or with words that indicate feelings or concepts, if they don’t have a specific subject matter in mind.
So as artistic as our titles are, as helpful as they may be when VIEWING the artwork in question, they still greatly reduce our chances of being found online by John Q. Public.
What’s the solution, you ask? Well it’s not as easy as putting a description on the end of “Untitled,” that’s for sure.
Artistic, creative artwork titles don’t usually pair well with a description. Think about it:
Metamorphosis – Abstract shadow in flight
Grrrrr (close portrait, anger, oil painting)
It’s like telling someone, “I’m going to be creative, but also, I’m going to be specific” and expect them to get the same reaction from your title. In short, it’s confusing, and I’m not suggesting that you imitate the above examples.
No, my suggestion is much more work. :)
You already know I think blogging is fantastic. But here’s how it can help with your titles:
Your artwork titles may be artistic, one-word, vague, and just completely wrong for attracting visitors from Google. But your blog titles can be anything you want them to be.
So why not upload that work of art, with whatever title you want. But then, on your free blog that you have, write a post with a great descriptive title—explain your process in creating the piece, or what you hope to express through it, or anything!
The key is to create an alternate page online, where Google can immediately see a great description of the artwork.
And then, link from it, to your artwork page.
In short, you’re creating a separate page (a blog post) in order to gather visitors from the search engines, and then directing all of those visitors to the page they would have never found otherwise.
Does that make sense?
Some art website providers (like ours) even have a blog built in to your portfolio website, so you can keep all your content, whether it’s artwork or blog posts, on one domain.
Even if your visitors don’t follow the link to look at your artwork, they’re still on your website, and the odds are good they’ll click around and see more of your work, right then.
Now. . . there’s one LAST problem that I see quite a bit online, and this one truly does drive me nuts. :) It’s even got a simple fix, too:
3. Naming your artwork with misspelled words
Yep, it happens a lot. And of all the things to keep people from finding your site, this one has got to be the most unnecessary one.
Usually it comes from mistyping, rather than ignorance. “Blue Moutnains” for example, would be an easy mistake to make, if you’re typing fast. It doesn’t even look that wrong! Or if you’re online checking email all day, you might find yourself writing “Femail Figure” instead of “Female Figure.” These things DO happen.
Luckily, the solution is short and sweet—double-check everything! :)
A minute to look over your titles, description, and artwork will go a long ways. Besides helping people find your art, it also will help you look more professional, and that’s invaluable online, too.
OK, so to recap:
• Don’t be the guy or girl who uses “Untitled” for everything without adding a description. If you do, your artwork will ALWAYS show up way behind all those other artists who cleverly included a description in their title.
• Be creative with your titles if you want, but also use your blog to pull in more visitors. If you know your title doesn’t work for SEO, make it happen another way.
• Check and double-check for misspelled words. ‘Nuff said.
I do hope this article helps. . . we see title issues at Foliotwist sometimes, and luckily we can do something about it and tell the artist, or give suggestions for better titles in our Traffic Booster emails.
But really, you can do this yourself, too. Just take a look at your website, and particularly, at your artwork titles. . . are they helping, or hurting, your chances at getting visitors to your website?
Now that you know how it works, there’s no excuse for bad titles. :) Good luck!
The moment that Arizona native Sharon Sieben picks up a paintbrush, she sets off on a journey of discovery, taking exploratory twists and turns until ultimately she finds her finished artwork.
Her goal, in creating artwork, is to create a means of communication with others, and her talent for doing so speaks volumes upon canvas.
With the use of acrylic molding paste, acrylics, and oils, Sharon created this fun piece seen below—entitled Rhino Romp.
Complimentary colors and a highly-textured background create abundant visual energy that seems to send the rhino forward, out of the canvas. The enormity of the beast is especially pronounced through its bone white highlights, from the tip of his sharp horn to his skeletal back and body rippling with muscle and thick skin.
Altogether, this is a vibrant piece of art with a color scheme that cleverly mimics the real-life landscapes that are home to the mighty rhinocerous.
Another mixed media/oil piece on paper, Brooklyn Sunset portrays a fading sunset that reminds me of a quote from The Outsiders—”Nothing gold can stay.”
Even the heavy cement bridge is invigorated by the sun’s rays, while bridge cables imitate the streaming light, adding balance between the light and dark lines spilling across the paper.
This painting is as much an industrial piece as it is an environmental one. Striking a perfect balance between the two is what makes it uniquely beautiful.
Lastly, Elegance is a contemporary nude that demonstrates the splendor and finesse of the female body in a respectful, yet awe-inspiring manner. Splashes of color in the sheer, gauzy scarf conceal while emphasizing the beautiful contours and curves of the woman—curves that are both highlighted and shadowed by those same pops of color.
This painting is, to me, reminiscent of a nude sculpture, with its rough texture and only half-sketched limbs fading from existence. Its gray and beige background serves to keep all of our attention on the woman’s figure, while splotches of burgundy throughout bring to mind sculpting clay—a metaphor, perhaps, in that we are never completely done being shaped and molded by our experiences.
Though we’ve only shown one nude painting, figurative subjects are Sharon’s specialty. Head over to her online portfolio to see more of her gorgeously colorful work.
For the professional artist—or anyone who hopes to make money producing and selling art—creating finished artwork is only part of the process. Marketing and delivery are also part of the art equation.
Today, I’m going to address the delivery process. More specifically, long distance delivery, with the goal of looking professional every step of the way.
Remember—your artwork (as well as the way it’s presented) reflects you!
So it’s very important to present your artwork to buyers or potential buyers in the most professional manner possible. There are many different ways to do this, but I’ve developed an easy and low-cost method that works whether you’re shipping your artwork across the state or around the world.
NOTE: I wrote the following information with colored pencil artwork in mind, but it should apply equally as well for any flat, unframed works of art you may have.
1. Start with a mat
A mat is a picture border of stiff material placed around a picture to act as a simple frame or decorative edge within a frame.
Mats range in quality from non-archival to museum quality. The higher the archival quality, the less likely harmful substances will seep from the matting material into the artwork (a process called “leaching”). Use the highest quality mat you can afford, especially for long-term framing.
Mats can be purchased in bulk in a variety of stock sizes and colors. They are available as singles (one mat) or doubles (two mats combined, one slightly smaller than the other).
I prefer double mats in off white, but also use double white, double black, or two-color double mats. This illustration shows a white inside mat paired with a black outer mat.
If you create a lot of artwork of the same size, you can save money by buying that size of mat in bulk from online art supply stores. Basic colors such as black, white, and ivory are available as single or double archival or museum quality mats.
With some suppliers you can also purchase two-color archival mats in a variety of color combinations.
Online framing companies can also cut mats to order. The cost is higher, but you can match colors to each piece of art and present your buyer with a unique package.
Archival backing material can be purchased from the same suppliers and also comes pre-cut in stock sizes or cut to order.
For every drawing you need to ship, use framing tape to affix the drawing to the back of the mat. Add the backing material and you’re ready for the next step.
2. Package for presentation
Shrink wrapping materials are available from a wide selection of suppliers. All you need is the plastic, tape, and a hair dryer. Wrap the matted artwork in plastic, tape the edges, and use the hair dryer to shrink the plastic around the artwork. If done carefully, the result is a professional looking package that keeps the artwork and mat clean during transit.
If shrink wrapping isn’t appealing, you can also use resealable plastic envelopes. (This is the method I use). Available in a variety of sizes, these archival envelopes are completely transparent and self sealing. Just insert the artwork, peel off the strip covering the adhesive on the flap, and press the flap into place.
Envelope sizes are geared to fit standard mat sizes so you be certain to find something to fit your work.
The additional advantage to these envelopes is that they are heavier than most shrink wrap, so they provide more protection for shipping. They can be purchased in bulk from online suppliers or in smaller quantities from art and other stores. Search “clear plastic shipping envelopes” to find suppliers online or near you.
The artwork below is shown matted and packaged inside a clear plastic envelope, ready for shipping or display.
3. Protect prior to shipping
Cut two pieces of ordinary corrugated cardboard to the same size as the matted artwork. You can purchase cardboard from a variety of locations such as shipping and shipping supply companies or online. It’s low cost and easy to purchase in bulk if you use a lot of it.
You can also save shipping boxes that come into your home and studio. When you’re ready to ship artwork, find a box that’s close to the size you need and trim it to size. Not only are you saving time and money by not having to make a supply run, you’re also recycling cardboard and reducing waste.
If you need a larger piece of cardboard, check out the neighborhood grocery, furniture or appliance store. Refrigerator and file cabinet boxes are ideal for cutting packing sheets from.
Cut your cardboard to the same size as the artwork or slightly larger, and lay them sandwich-style. In the illustration below, I’ve staggered the bottom layer of cardboard, the artwork, and the top layer of cardboard so you can see how it should look:
Notice the ribbing in the piece over the artwork is horizontal in the illustration above. The piece under the artwork is vertical. The reason is that combining the sheets in this manner provides the maximum support and crush resistance possible with two pieces of simple cardboard.
You don’t have to cut your cardboard this way and sometimes you will simply not be able to. But I highly recommend this practice whenever possible.
4. Use high-quality envelopes & boxes
Once you have the artwork safely sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard, slide it into your mailing envelope or shipping box.
With artwork of this type, you don’t need to secure it in any fashion. The cardboard was cut to the same size as the envelope and the artwork, so there will be no shifting or slipping during shipment.
This package is going via United States Postal Service Priority® Mail. The envelope itself is made of Tyvek®, which means it’s puncture and tear proof and moisture resistant.
Envelopes for Priority® and Express® Mail shipping are available from the United States Postal Service website, but you can also order similar envelopes and boxes from other major shipping companies, or from office supply stores.
In closing, shipping your artwork doesn’t have to be a major drain on time and resources if you remember to keep it professional and simple.
Make use of no-cost and low-cost materials, follow the same system every time, and double-check your work. That’s it! If you prepare and package your artwork with care, your buyers will thank you—and be much more likely to come back for more.
Monday in General Art Advice – Tomorrow, come back for an excellent article by Carrie Lewis on how to professionally package your colored pencil artwork (or any flat, unframed artwork) for shipping.
Tuesday in Featured Artists – Don’t miss Sharon Sieben’s colorful and “splashy” mixed media paintings, right here on EE. As always, if you’d like to have your own artwork featured on EmptyEasel, please send it in!
Wednesday in SEO for Artists – I’ll be writing about “the trouble with artwork titles,” and sharing some very common and costly mistakes that many artists make when uploading their artwork to the internet.
Thursday in Artist Interviews – Alyice Edrich will finish out the week by interviewing Sarah Dowling, an award-winning children’s book illustrator and watercolor painter.
Last week’s articles on EmptyEasel:
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Connections, as every authentic New Yorker knows, are everything.
Money and the New York Look are everything too, some say. It depends on how much soul you’re prepared to sell.
I lived in New York in the late 70′s and I was back in ’88 to find a gallery to show my paintings. I brought with me a list of 300 galleries on Madison Avenue, 57th Street and downtown in Soho.
I also had one connection, given to me by a friend before I left Sydney:
I was to meet with Aretha Blankperson, Australian socialite recently turned New York socialite. (Yes, all the names in this story have been changed to protect the obvious.)
Right from the very the start I was swamped with interest in the many nudes in my portfolio—particularly from the suspicious gaze of the U.S. Customs. I heard them say, “Can we let these nudes into the country?”
(When Customs officials become art critics this world won’t be worth living in.)
I arrived, and I’m not sure why but I called Aretha. She was available. Our meeting at her apartment went like this:
“Would you like a drink—a scotch or a beer?”
“A beer would be nice, thank you. Do you mind if I have a cigarette?”
“No not at all, go ahead,” she said, disappearing into her kitchen. She returned with my beer and seeing my cigarette in her ashtray she huffed, “Now I’m going to have to open the windows!”
“I can put it out,” I assured her.
“No, no, no, it’s just that it gets into everything!”
She flipped through my folio like it was a County Local and pointed out that she didn’t know anything about art or the art scene but that she did rub shoulders with some very very rich people, with similar tastes no doubt, who apparently would prefer me to have a haircut by Philippe and a $300 shirt from Bloomingdales, black with a gold chain.
That’s the New York Look and apparently without it you, “haven’t got a clue, dah-ling.” I was struggling to keep an open mind but it was too late.
I took her to Grassroots, a filthy tavern on the lower east side. I used to go there a lot in the 70′s with a motley bunch of very poor artists so there were some fond memories in that dusty joint. Come to think of it, they never had the New York Look and they’re all rich now, except Fred who restores paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Over a beer we tried to communicate:
“Money is everything. Oh my migraine!” she said.
“But Aretha—what about integrity?”
“You haven’t got a clue, you don’t even have the Look! Money is everything. Oh my migraine!”
Migraines are everything too.
I didn’t see Aretha after that. Needless to say I never got to see Philippe or the shirt either.
Luckily Americans like Australians more than Australians do. And pretty soon I discovered that the most effective meeting place was after dark, in bars. (In New York, connections are easy to make, especially if you drink.)
I’d had a long day of calling and visiting galleries, and getting replies like, “Do you know how many artists there are in New York?” “Post your slides” and “Sorry we don’t give interviews.”
So I found myself in a favorite old haunt called the Triple Inn on 54th Street, with my portfolio on my knee (never leave home without it).
Everyone always want to know who you are, what you do and what’s in the folio. I wished the galleries had taken as much interest—at least to look! But I was happy enough to have a few Budweiser’s and see people enjoying my work.
The interesting part is that these bar patrons were not only the unsophisticated common people I always enjoyed so much, they were also the people who knew the people who knew THE people.
And here’s a funny thing: when a New Yorker takes your phone number, they’re serious—they call you. Or somebody does.
A young lady, Susan I think, glanced over someone’s shoulder at my folio as she was leaving the bar. She asked me for my card. I couldn’t refuse. The next day I got a call from somebody using the name Patricia. She wanted to see my folio. What could I do? I thought she was pulling my leg but I showed her anyway. She liked what she saw and put me in touch with Harry Ramble, a leading art critic for a fancy American Art magazine. He liked my work too, but kept asking me about somebody using the name Patricia.
Harry was good to me. His recommendations proved to be invaluable, and the telephone became a kinder instrument to use.
“Sorry we don’t give interviews and we are not looking for new artists.”
“That’s strange—Harry Ramble suggested that I should call you.”
“How about tomorrow?”
Very nice indeed.
But there’s more. Writer of musicals, child of the circus, master of ceremonies and Triple Inn irregular, yes ladies and gentlemen the one and only Pete Lairy, HE gave me some tips too.
He told me to go see his good buddy Lenny Riot. Now Lenny was the super of a building on 57th Street and it just so happened that Kid Famous had his gallery in that very same building, and Riot and Famous were good mates. I’d heard about Famous and, as luck would have it, Lenny had the keys.
With a word from Pete, I made contact with Lenny. He liked my folio. “You’re gonna make it kid! Call me next Wednesday, oh, around 12:00. I’ll get you an interview. Get a show with Kid Famous and they’ll be after you for the rest of your life.”
That sounded good to me.
The day arrived and except for Lenny, the building was closed. He called upstairs.
“Hey, I’ve got this guy down here from Australia. I think you should look at his work. . . I know I’m bothering you, that’s why I called. . . OK, I’ll send him up.”
Connections, warm connections. Forget the New York Look—all you need is the New York Attitude!
It felt good, but I persisted with more calls and more interviews. I got lots of “nice work but not for us.” I couldn’t understand.
Maybe you will.
I had an early morning meeting with Magnus Artmangle at his Gallery on 57th Street. He poured through my portfolio surprisingly slowly and said, “These are really beautiful.” He gestured to the abstract paintings on his walls and blurted, “Look at this stuff—it’s trite.” I’d noticed.
He took pains to reassure me that the artist could “really paint very well” but that “she has to do this for a living!”
Well, well, well, all is not well. The artist is unhappy, the gallery director is unhappy
and the buyer is very very rich and too unhappy to notice how terribly unhappy he is. But no one is game to move. The gallery wall gives the work its credibility, both as art and as investment. So nobody moves.
This sad little love triangle holds most of the galleries in New York in a vice. I realised why they looked at my slides so quickly, as if they were looking for a “look.” They don’t want to lose their clients—well, would you?
Ninety-percent of the galleries depend on abstract art (which means anything innocuous and therefore simply decorative) or minimal (which is sort of decorative without having anything to look at). You can even invite your relatives. No one will be offended nor, sadly, moved in any way.
Representational art is rare, and rarely good and figurative art is rarer still.
The Michael Dingbat Gallery in Soho hands out leaflets called “a guide for artists submitting work.” In that document you will read: “nudes are inappropriate subject matter.”
Tough luck Leonardo, rough times Titian, too bad Botticelli, bitter pills Picasso, rainy days Degas, and stiff cheese to the rest of you Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Renoir, Rodin, Michelangelo, Matisse, Delacroix, Ingre, etc, etc, etc, and to hell with all the Greeks and the Romans too!
In the end, out of the 300 galleries on my list, five wanted my work—two immediately, two later and one gave me a show in Italy the next February. I was told I’d be lucky to get ONE. That’s nearly a 99% failure rate! But 1% success is still success. Just ask Walt Disney.
I guess that’s what a figurative expressionist has to expect in a largely abstract and minimal art world. Some say the human figure is out of fashion, but I like to tell them that the figure is the only thing that can’t go out of fashion. In 100 years it will be all you will be able to recognize.
Thankfully, in the end, very few people care what artists look like—most would probably prefer not to know. So here’s a tip: if a gallery rejects your work, look at what they have on their walls. You might not feel bad at all.
(Here’s another tip—Triple Inn, Fanellis Bar, Prince Street Bar, Spring Street Bar, Broome Street Bar.)
What? You didn’t think I’d tell you everything did you?
Using social media to promote your art business can be tricky. Social media rules are forever changing and it’s up to us, as artists, to stay current with those changes.
Back in August of 2012 I shared some tried-and-true tips for using social media to build trust with your art buyers and collectors. While those tips still offer solid advice for today’s artists, I thought I’d expand on that list just a bit. . .
Here are three more ways you can build trust through your social media outlets.
1. Share information other than your own
Eula M. Young, COO of Griot’s Roll Film Production & Services Inc., believes it’s important to engage fans by sharing relevant information from fans and/or business colleagues.
“How I build trust on my social media pages is to engage in my fans’ posts and re-post their events.” Eula says. “When you share other business owners’ events on your page you build a relationship and that translates into many opportunities. I can’t tell you how many wonderful opportunities I have received just by posting and sharing other people’s events on my social media page.”
As an artist, it can be scary sharing the works of other artists, especially when you’re struggling to get sales and worry that a potential sale may be lost to the competition.
But here’s the thing—by sharing the art of others, you’re showing your art buyers that you’re confident enough in your own work to offer them art that compliments your own.
The artists you feature may, in turn, increase your own audience by talking you up on their social media pages or sharing your information with potential clients looking for something only you can provide.
“Also, posts that link to interesting and relevant news articles and other kinds of content are more likely to be shared by customers on their own profiles, increasing your business’ inbound links and SEO,” says Hannah Marr, Content Director of BizBrag, Inc.
2. Be useful to your followers
Jayme Pretzloff, Online Marketing Director for Wixon Jewelers, believes one of the keys to succeeding with social media is to be useful.
“Give followers interesting information that they enjoy seeing in their News Feeds,” says Jayme. “You need to be inherently useful to your followers. Be truly useful and they will keep you close to them. These social platforms are unprecedented because they put businesses and their friends together and their friends aren’t constantly trying to sell to them, so you shouldn’t either.”
Hannah Marr concurs.
“If there was one piece of advice that I could give to small business owners who are looking to build trust with their customers through social media,” says Hannah, “it would be that not every post should be attempting to sell a product or service to the customer.”
“To a customer, this makes it look as though the business’ only goal is to make money, rather than building relationships with customers and building a repertoire for having great service, caring about customers, etc.” Hannah continues. “When customers have been thoroughly engaged, they are more likely to buy a good or service on their own, rather than having to have the product sold to them before they decide whether or not to purchase.”
“Chances are,” says Hannah, “if a customer is interested in your business enough to give it a like or follow, then that customer is probably interested in the industry as well. By having a profile where customers know they will be getting new information frequently, you will ensure that customers will continue to visit your profile and may even begin making it a point to check your profile to see what kind of new content you have posted that day.”
As an artist, there are several ways you can make your social media pages more useful to your followers. You could:
• Talk about your creative process: where you find inspiration, how you transfer that inspiration into a piece of art, what various steps of your piece look like before it’s finalized, etc.
• Show your delivery process: how you carefully package and ship your work so that it gets delivered undamaged
• Share online courses: who taught you a new technique ,what did you think about the teaching style, how can you incorporate that technique into your own art, etc.
share product reviews: why do you prefer a specific brand or company over another, why is one tool more efficient than another, etc.
• Share art events: don’t just announce where you’ll be selling your art in person, give them a reason to attend. . . talk about the venue, talk about the other artists who will be attending, talk about the types of food being offered, etc.
3. Never delete negative comments
Brady Lowe, Regional Community Manager for Globe University-La Crosse, says, “Never delete negative posts or comments.”
He goes on to explain that negative feedback and comments actually “provide organizations great opportunities to showcase stellar customer service.”
“A first reaction to a negative comment on a Facebook might be to delete it so that other customers don’t see the post. However, a negative post presents an opportunity to publically respond, address the concerns of the poster, and provide a remedy for the problems,” says Brady.
“This public address of customer service shows other Facebook users that a company is serious about the complaints that they receive, they act quickly to find solutions, and that their customer service goes above and beyond to nurture their customers.”
This is great advice for artists, as well! Original art can be expensive, causing potential art buyers to be leery about buying art over the Internet. By showing potential art buyers how you handle customer concerns, you build trust. . . making it less frightening to buy from you.
By following these tips, you can reduce your art buyers’ risk and give them a reason to trust you with their hard-earned cash.
Remember, social media is WAY more effective when you take the time to build relationships. . . so try avoiding those “just listed,” “for sale in my shop,” and “buy now” posts! Find ways to be useful, interact, and respond instead.
As an accomplished jack-of-all-trades painter, Alix Baker’s portfolio includes people and places at home and abroad, in acrylic, oil or watercolor. Her time spent as a military artist has undoubtedly honed her graphic rendering skills, but nowadays, Alix prefers to paint loosely and boldly.
“At the moment, I’m working mostly in acrylic to catch up with exhibition work, but I long for my oils and watercolors,” she said. “I do find I have several styles depending on the subject matter. Artists by their nature must always explore and push personal boundaries.”
Tending just slightly towards the abstract, Catching the Breeze certainly is a view to behold! In this acrylic painting, Alix carves out a hilly landscape around a cool lake and fills it with circular trees, bushes and rocks.
Although colorful and somewhat impressionistic, her eye for detail is still clearly apparent in the crevices time has etched into the sand across the way; and the fluffy plumes of grass jutting up throughout the diverse landscape.
A trio of sailboats casually makes its way out of the shade and into glistening waters, with passengers who (I’m sure) are eager to tilt their faces toward the sun and bask in the day’s sheer perfection.
Likewise, in the painting below under an equally brilliant sky, The Fascinator sails across the lawn at a social gathering, displaying her bold personality in an attention-grabbing yellow and gold number and a purple shawl fit for a queen.
With sunglasses covering half her face, she is the picture of nonchalance, yet the ladies off to the side can’t resist sneaking another peak and exchanging a few whispered words about the woman who has caught their eye.
Last but not least, Cool Shade and Weathered Stone seen here makes me yearn for a vacation in a warm, seaside setting such as this, where plants and palm trees create shadows on a charming cobblestone paths and rustic white walls.
It’s a cloudless day, yet along the alley, the shade makes the stone refreshingly cool to the touch. I love the way Alix allowed the walls to remain abstract—it brings out playful, whimsical note in the painting and expresses the carefree nature found within the setting of this slow-moving, seaside paradise.
Alix’s creativity continues unabated on her website, which I’d highly encourage you to visit. It’s filled with many more treasured scenes that you’re sure to love.
Have you heard of Foliotwist?
If so, you probably know that it’s a website service for artists—it combines a website, hosting, your own .com domain, selling tools, an integrated blog, etc. And, yep, it’s co-owned and managed by me, editor of EmptyEasel.com. :)
But it’s been a while since I wrote about it here on EE, so today I’d like to share just a few of the newer features that you might NOT realize are included with every Foliotwist website:1. An unlimited homepage slideshow
One of the most requested features at Foliotwist (for a long time!) was a homepage slideshow. Well, it’s finally here! :)
(Hat tip to Jeremiah Redclay for a beautifully-customized Foliotwist website.)
Now when you choose Foliotwist’s Minimalist Template, you can either create a slideshow of your three favorite works, or let the slideshow just cycle through ALL of your artwork.
Of course if you’d rather not have a slideshow, you can also just feature one artwork all the time, on your homepage.2. Support for 6 major currencies
We have a lot of international artists who use Foliotwist, so we added a few more currencies at the beginning of this year. You can now price your work in US, Canadian, Australian, or New Zealand dollars, as well as the British Pound or the Euro. It’s as simple as choosing your preferred currency from a dropdown menu.
Best of all, everything still integrates perfectly with your PayPal account, so visitors can buy directly from your website using any major credit card.3. A multiple purchase shopping cart
The other big request from our artists was a way for visitors to add multiple works of art into their cart, continue shopping, and then purchase all of those works at once during checkout.
We completed this feature just last month, so now if you visit any of our artist’s websites, you’ll see an “add to cart” option, along with a fully integrated shopping cart that can be easily accessed from any page of the website.
This is a great feature for artists who want to sell cards or other smaller items, and it certainly makes life easier for shoppers, too.4. Blog flexibility
When we first launched Foliotwist, all of our artist websites had a blog, whether the artist really wanted it or not. :)
Over the years we’ve listened to our artists and added more options. . . first was the Minimalist Template which puts less emphasis on the blog by default, and now, we’ve given it even more flexibility.
Today, when you choose the Minimalist Template you can either “hide” your blog completely, OR, you can use your main “blog” link to point to an external blog (like your Blogger or WordPress Blog). It’s a simple choice inside your Admin Panel.
If you’ve already got your own blog and simply need a portfolio site that is simple to use and comes with amazing customer service (basically, no matter what you need, I’ll help you with it!) then definitely check out Foliotwist and our Minimalist Template.5. Support for visually impaired artists and visitors
We’ve also recently added audio captchas on the contact page based on the recommendation of one of our artists, Paul Daye, who lost his sight at the age of 3.
During the process of adding that feature, he commented, “You guys really make it easy for a visually impaired artist to do everything by themselves on their own website. You should be commended.”
That was awesome to hear, and it just makes us even more motivated to make Foliotwist the easiest website option available.6. One month free for every new member referral
Lastly, we absolutely love it when our artists “like” us on Facebook, tweet about Foliotwist, or tell their friends about us. That’s why we’ve started giving a free month to any of our artists who send another paying member our way.
This isn’t an affiliate program, so there are no special affiliate links to copy and paste or anything like that. . . but if you’re a Foliotwist artist, tell your friends to write down your name when they sign up for our free 10-day trial, and we’ll make sure to thank you with a free month once they join.
Other features that we’ll be finishing in the coming months are:
• Custom pages, for whatever you’d like to share
• Updated templates with more social media options
• Additional font and color choices
. . . along with a few more that we’ll anounce as they get closer. :)
If you’re in the market for a customizable artist website of your own, I’d love to answer whatever questions you have, or get you set up with our truly free trial—we’ll never ask for your payment info until YOU’RE ready to join for good, so you can just try us out and see what you think, without all the stress.
Welcome back to “The ABC’s of Art Marketing”—an alphabet guide to marketing your art, from A to Z.
In today’s article I’ll be focusing on the letter “G,” and explaining how marketing your art often requires you to give something in order to gain something.Giving is often the first step to creating value
As an artist, you know you’ve got to give 100% to create something amazing. . . when you do, creativity flows, and you get into the zone. You gain skill and confidence. You produce art you are proud to show. Life is good.
In the same way, if you want to make a living from your art you must give your time, energy and money to market yourself and gain something of value now or in the future. That something could be tangible or intangible. You could gain fame, followers, fortune or even the faith to keep going.
Sometimes the giving and the getting is immediate, and directly understood.
For example, when you make your art to sell:
• You give money to the art supply shop. You get materials to create your work.
• You give your time and creative energy in the studio. You produce works of art.
• You give money to the framer to finish your work. You get art that is ready to display.
Often you may feel like you’re giving a LOT, for invisible results that don’t feed your bank account. For example when you market your art:
• You give information about your work and career in person, in print and on the web.
• You give samples of your art to viewers in exhibits, postcards and your website.
• You invest time, energy and money to frame and exhibit your paintings.
You can do all these things and still not get noticed, talked about, appreciated, or collected. If you persist, however, it DOES get easier.
• Collectors may begin to give you attention, appreciation and money for your art.
• Gallery dealers may give you their knowledge and access to their client base.
• Arts writers and bloggers may give you a platform for exposure of your art and career.
It takes persistence, and the willingness to keep on giving, for this to happen. It may NOT happen. But without working hard and giving your all, it certainly won’t.One of the best ways to give is to help others
As a successful or emerging artist, you may decide to “work for free” because it feels good to contribute to the society and community where you live.
• You might volunteer at the local co-op gallery to support your local art scene and feel connected to your artist community.
• You may donate art to causes you believe in, to grow the society you want.
• You may give your time and energy to volunteer in arts programs for underserved schools to build a future audience for art.
In the end, no matter HOW you give, it’s important to understand how giving affects everyone involved. Ask yourself the following questions, as often as possible:
• What skill or gift can I contribute to this deserving person, organization, action, occasion, event or cause?
• What would I get directly from doing that? What would others get?
• What are the intangible benefits that my contribution will bring?
• Are these benefits immediate, long term, or both?
• Is there a way that my contribution could result in a positive benefit (of money, goodwill, or awareness) for every party involved?
When there is a healthy balance between your concern for others and a reasonable self-interest, everyone benefits and feels good.
In the words of William James: “The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.”
What are YOU willing to give. . . and what will you leave behind?
Follow the links below to read more articles in “The ABC’s of Art Marketing”—an alphabet guide to marketing your art, from A to Z:
A – Appreciating your Audience
B – Building your Business Base
C – Communicating Clearly, Consistently and Cleverly
D – Diversifying Your Delivery
E – Educate, Entertain, Engage, Enrich, and Evolve
F – Fostering Friendly Familiarity
G – Give to Gain (current article)
H – Coming Soon!
Monday in Art Marketing Tips – Aletta de Wal will continue her excellent series, The ABC’s of Art Marketing, with a new article entitled “Give to Gain.”
Tuesday in Selling Art Online – I’ll share an update on Foliotwist (our guided website solution for artists) including a peek at some of the new features we’ve been adding lately and a preview of what’s coming soon!
Wednesday in Featured Artists – We’ll be showcasing some beautiful acrylic paintings by the talented Alix Baker, and I know you won’t want to miss it. As always, if you’d like your own artwork to be featured on EE, just send it in!
Thursday in Art Marketing Tips – Alyice Edrich has 3 more ways that artists can use social media to build trust and advance their art careers, so be sure to drop by for that on Thursday.
Friday in Motivation – Stephen Wesley Gorton will close out the week with an entertaining and intriguing article on networking, New York, and the troubles and trials of being an artist.
Last week’s articles on EmptyEasel:
Is there something you’d like to share on EE? Send it in!
One of the biggest cultural phenomena of the last decade, steampunk is now firmly established within the arts scene, enjoying mainstream respect at exhibitions and festivals all over the world.
Maybe you’re interested in steampunk art as a collector. . . or maybe you think you might be a steampunk artist, and want to get your work in front of a steamy crowd!
Either way, here’s what you need to know about steampunk art and the steampunk scene in general:
What is steampunk?
Steampunk is an art, fashion and culture movement inspired by the industrial revolution. A form of nostalgic futurism, steampunk imagines a future where technology never expanded past steam engines and tesla coils.
Photo by Phil Campbell
The steampunk aesthetic combines imagery from the industrial era—machine parts like cogs and rivets, clockwork, and laboratory equipment—with Victorian art and design and futuristic concepts such as robotics and AI.
The result: ultra-modern throwbacks designed to delight the imagination and invoke the romance and brutality of the Age of Steam.
Steampunk was originally a literary genre, a subset of science fiction, with the first authors of the genre considered to be Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. In the 1980s, works such as Tim Power’s The Anubis Gates, and K. W. Jeter’s Infernal Devices drew more attention to the genre, and over the last ten years the Steampunk trend has exploded, in movies, fashion, and art.
Steampunk strives for inventiveness over historical accuracy. Many modern technological devices are “modded” (modified) with retro-futuristic elements—such as electric guitars and laptop computers—drawing from the design elements and processes popular during the Victorian era.
Steampunk artwork often incorporates found objects, especially original parts from the Victorian-era re-imagined as art objects.
Steampunk jewelry by Vivianne Draper
The most prominent material is metal, with brass, copper, steel, iron and other industrial metals incorporated into jewelry, sculpture, and paintings. Wood, fabric (especially if it is printed with Victorian designs) and glass are also commonly seen.
Many artists combine the mechanical aspects of industrial machinery with natural elements such as animal skins, bones and driftwood to create an interesting juxtaposition.
Steampunk artists are predominantly inspired by the art, design, literature and technology of the Victorian era and early 20th century, along with the imaginative worlds of science fiction authors.
Steampunk art often explores commentary about the nature of art, science, and technology, and often has a satirical, dark, or dystopian view of the future.
Many steampunk artists explore themes of form and function, so a lot of steampunk art serves a dual purpose. Not only are they objects of art in their own right, but they might be made with objects that once had a function, remade and modified to have a new function.
16GB Mechanical Memory Key by Artype Design
Often, the function of a steampunk object will be a satirical take on modern technology—for example, a computer keyboard made with typewriter keys.
Steampunk art has a distinct and unique style, and many artists are finding that defining their work as steampunk has given them an instant, built-in audience. With new exhibitions and events are being held across the globe, right now is definitely a great time to be a steampunk artist!
Back in March I wrote an article describing how 6 business owners created the perfect taglines for their businesses. Today, I’m going to go one step further and discuss how to craft a tagline that will not only work for your art business, but also help you get noticed by the right people.
Know who you are
Jason Parmer, of the Dapper Agency, says, “To brand yourself, you have to know yourself.”
“This may seem obvious,” continues Jason, “but a lot of companies think they need to adapt their messaging to give the people what they want. It’s far more important, however, to truly know and understand your business and what it does that’s unique in the marketplace and promote those services.”
“When it comes to crafting the perfect tagline, spend time discussing your company’s best assets, goals and services, and ask multiple people to describe, in their words, what the company does. When doing this, key words will emerge that articulate your company’s DNA. These terms will help you know that your brand and tagline are built on an honest foundation. From there, it’s just a matter of finessing the message to be clear, concise and attention-grabbing.”
Kristin Delaney, Managing Partner of SpendLO, LLC, says, “Do not be restrained by a sense of professionalism.”
“People respond to taglines that show what kind of company they are dealing with,” states Kristin. “The creative community is today’s ideal environment to be fun and outside the box. Think about your audience and why they are choosing your company. A great tagline combines two things: the personality of your business and the value you provide.”
“Start by describing—in one sentence—why a potential customer should choose your company then develop a lot of variations of that statement. You will end up with some pretty outlandish options, but typically one stands out as the perfect tagline.”
Do a little research
Paige Dawson, President of MPD Ventures Company, believes proper research plays a key role in creating your tagline.
“As you think about taglines for your company, start by noting what taglines are already used by your competitors, as you do not want a tagline to be similar,” says Paige. Then “make a list of words that you want associated with your product or service in a free flow list—think about the benefits, value, points of difference, experience, etc. List what makes you different, what you want to be famous for, how you want the buyer to feel.”
Once you have that list in place, “consider calling your customers and conducting a short phone interview to assess why they purchased from you, what they see as the greatest value you offer, how they feel the experience was, how they would describe you and your service to others, etc.”
“Now, armed with the above content, start to look for commonalities, strong verbs, power phrases. Once you have decided on a potential tagline, it’s a good idea to ensure that the tagline is available and not already in use by others,” continues Paige.
To do that, Paige offers these three, very important steps:
1. Go to the US Patent & Trademark Office website at www.uspto.gov and conduct a Trademark Search.
This will help show any existing companies that have already registered to use that tagline or mark. Now, it is possible that multiple companies can use the same tagline AS LONG AS they are not in the same industry class or it is not a very readily recognizable trademark already in use by a major company. (Working with an intellectual property lawyer is always a good idea for this process.)
2. Conduct a basic search in Google or another search engine for that tagline to see what companies may be using the term already.
3. Test the tagline as a domain name or search to see if the tagline is already purchased as a website domain name. You can check for this at any domain registrar, or with a service like instantdomainsearch.com.
A properly created tagline will reinforce your brand’s message and help potential and returning customers remember who you are, what you stand for, and why they want to do business with you.
If your current tagline doesn’t do this, it’s time to take these tips and create a new one. You’ll be glad you did!
As a young artist, Lebanese painter Roula Chreim drew inspiration from the boxy houses and flowery meadows within her former town, Salhieh. Today, she still finds her artistic calling in nature, oftentimes incorporating objects collected from seashores or alongside roads for her mixed media paintings.
She paints in either oils or acrylics and doesn’t hesitate to try new things, choosing to use canvas, wood and even metal to create her surreal works of art.
Once Upon a Lovely Day portrays two dignified ladies lightly treading atop a meadow full of vibrant flowers. And, not only that, but the meadow appears to be floating in the middle of a cerulean blue sky!
The structure of this painting is fascinating and full of depth. Flowering tree branches create trails and bouquets of happy yellow blossoms flowing down the canvas. In pristine white dresses, the ladies appear ready to take their afternoon tea outdoors, surrounded by a setting straight out of a fairytale.
Painted predominately in blush and peach hues, the expressionistic Broken Strings below has an air of romance and drama to it. Sweeping curtains and tall, golden candelabras quite literally set the stage for a glamorous evening full of excitement.
Two women in evening gowns speak in hushed voices behind the scenes, while passionate colors swirl around them, depicting their energy and vivaciousness.
The night is a blur, as we can easily imagine all such nights are, due to the shimmery gold and soft pink hues that swish lavishly over Roula’s canvas, fading and concealing the women into the background.
Lastly, Sur La Coline has the intense, tropical characteristics of being on a sultry beach hundreds of miles closer to the relentless sun.
The sky is a flawless, rich blue that not even the sea dare mimics, while the textured, golden sand looks as scorchingly hot as the sun itself. Looking at this work, my love for summer returns, and the only things that are missing are sunglasses and a piña colada in my hand!
Don’t miss the chance to view more of Roula’s enchanting paintings. Stop by her website and catch a glimpse of some of her other charming scenes now!
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a pile of colored pencils too short to be sharpened any further somewhere in your studio.
Pencils are expensive and you just can’t bear to throw away the leftovers. . . but what can you do with them?
Like many artists, I’m reluctant to throw away anything that might be useful, and that definitely includes pencil stubs! So I’ve found ways to extend their useful life.
A pencil extender is a small device that holds pencil stubs and makes them easier to get a grip on. Extenders are made out of metal, wood, and plastic, and some are even made out of bamboo. They come in a rainbow of colors, dozens of styles, and at prices to fit into every budget. Any of them will allow you to work with pencil stubs and get more life out of every colored pencil.
This is the old copper pencil extender I use. It’s about 2-1/4” long. The pencil slides into the open end.
One problem with pencil extenders is that most of them won’t allow your pencil stub to fit into a traditional pencil sharpener. Even so, having a few extenders in your art box is a good thing.
Whether or not you use pencil extenders, you can get extra life out of pencil stubs by sharpening them by hand. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, and hand sharpening comes with some interesting bonus benefits.
When hand sharpening, use a knife with a finely sharpened blade, like an X-acto knife, or a high quality Swiss army knife. Choose a smaller blade with a solid and sturdy handle.
WARNING: Exercise extreme caution when hands sharpening. The best knife for this process is a very sharp knife. That means the risk of cutting yourself is also elevated.
Hold the pencil stub by the unsharpened end and with the exposed pigment core facing away from you. Stroke along the wood casing of the pencil. Always stroke away from yourself.
Turn the pencil between strokes and work around the pencil two or three times or until you’ve exposed as much of the pigment core as you need.
If you need a needle-sharp point on the pencil, use a sanded sharpening board to file down the exposed pigment core to the desired sharpness. Specially made sanding boards are available for this purpose, but other sanding tools also work.
In the illustration below, I’m using a sanding block. Sanding blocks are available in a variety of grades. Some have a different grade of coarseness on each side. They’re easy to hold and use and are reasonably priced.
Emory boards are also very useful in sharpening colored pencils. They’re much easier to include in a portable art toolbox and are even less expensive than sanding blocks.
Pencil stub gluing
While pencil extenders and hand sharpening are excellent methods, the MOST useful technique for extending colored pencil stubs is in gluing those stubs to new, unsharpened pencils. There are several reasons I prefer this method:
1. I can use 100% of most pencils by sharpening the used pencil all the way down to the new pencil.
2. If I use pencils of the same color, I know the color of a pencil that is so short the identifying marks are gone.
3. Glued pencils can still be sharpened with any standard sharpener.
The process is very simple. All you need is a pencil stub, a new unsharpened pencil (preferably of the same color as the stub) and a good glue. Super glues and wood glues are the best, but experiment to find the one that works best for you.
Here’s how to glue your pencils together:
First, match your pencil stubs to new, unsharpened pencils. Ideally, match the stubs with identical colors. Glue a Dark Green pencil stub to a new Dark Green pencil so you can easily identify the color of the stub.
Next, apply a bead of glue to the unsharpened end of the stub. Also apply a bead of glue to the end of the new pencil (make sure nothing is on the end to which you put the glue).
In this photo the stub is on the left, and the full-length new pencil is on the right.
NOTE: I’m using a white wood glue for these pencils because it photographs better. I recommend a super-type glue for the best results.
Once the glue is applied, press the ends together once, and turn them lightly against one another to spread the glue evenly, as shown here.
After spreading the glue, press the glued ends together again. Twist them so that they are aligned correctly. You want the glue to be evenly spread between them, but you also want the best possible alignment, so the new, “extended” pencil is straight.
Clip the glued pencil into a gripping device of some kind so they stand upright. My favorite gripping device is an old fashion clothespin because they’re low cost, easy to use, and don’t leave marks on the pencil. Make sure your pencil is absolutely vertical, or it may dry out of line.
Allow the pencil to dry for at least twelve hours. Twenty-four hours is optimum. When it’s dried, you’ve got a brand new, extra-long pencil, and no wasted stub!
Additional pencil gluing tips:
1. Make sure pencils are in perfect alignment before gluing them together. Sand first if necessary.
2. Keep in mind that fluid glues have a tendency to seep or ooze out of the joint. You can dry pencils horizontally, but you must be careful not to glue the pencil to whatever you lay it on.
3. Test glued pencils before using them on important artwork. Every once in a while a joint may fail, especially under heavy pressure.
So now you know how to save that pile of pencil stubs. . . it’s a fairly easy process, and best of all, you’ve probably got all the tools you need to get started right now. Try it out, and have fun!
This Monday there will be no new article posted on EmptyEasel, in honor of Memorial Day here in the US. If you’re celebrating with us, either here or abroad, we hope you’re having a wonderful holiday weekend!
Tuesday in Drawing Tips – We all know the pain of buying art supplies. . . we squeeze every bit of paint from the tube, work with long-dead brushes, and cram sketches into every corner of our sketchbooks. So on Tuesday, drop in and grab a handful of great techniques from Carrie Lewis on how to massively extend the life of your pencils.
Wednesday in Featured Artists – Don’t miss your chance to see a few of Roula Chreim’s ephemeral, dreamlike paintings on EE. And remember, we’re always looking for artists to feature on EmptyEasel—so feel free to submit your own artwork too!
Thursday in Art Marketing Tips – Come back this Thursday for three art marketing tips from Alyice Edrich on how to create a memorable tagline that gets noticed.
Friday in Art Movements – Steff Metal will be closing out the week with an in-depth look at the unique style and movement of art known as Steampunk. Make sure to swing by on Friday and check it out!
Last week’s articles on EmptyEasel:
Is there something you’d like to share on EE? Send it in!
Eric Francis started out painting cartoon characters. He learned everything he could from books and later went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in studio painting from Centenary College in Louisiana.
After college, painting took a backseat to earning a living. . . that is, until the day he became too ill to work. While he’s healed and healthy now, that downtime allowed Eric to think about his life and what he really wanted to do with it.
Alyice: What’s been your greatest artistic success?
Eric: The ability to create art every day. That might sound a bit corny but it true. For me, a labor of love is a great blessing.
Alyice: Why did you choose acrylic as your medium?
Eric: When I first started painting I used oils. I would go to museums or galleries and see oil paintings. All the great masters used oils and they were who I was trying to be like. Oils had one big drawback, though. . . drying time.
I didn’t really know how to use acrylics but I did some experimenting with them and realized that if I could get a similar look to my oil paintings they would be great.
It was some time after my college days when I did some more experimenting and finding out about the techniques I could use to produce high quality paintings. The results I got were amazing. When I realized that the quality I was getting was as good as any oil paintings I had produced, I was sold.
It is as good for most things and even better for other things because you can control the finish and don’t have to put up with the smell of turpentine or oil. It’s also nontoxic.
Alyice: What is the most challenging part about working with acrylics?
Eric: The most challenging thing about acrylics is also its greatest advantage: drying time. It air dries in minutes so a lot of the traditional wet-on-wet techniques don’t work. You can’t blend because it simply dries too fast.
Acrylic paints also dry dark so you don’t get the color you thought you had when the painting was wet. . . this takes some getting used to. I always premix my paints to see how they look dry before I get them on a canvas because I don’t like any surprises.
Alyice: What is the best part about working with acrylics?
Eric: The best thing about acrylic paints is the drying time. I know I’m contradicting myself but it’s almost instant gratification. When I made oil paintings it would take months for the paintings to dry, but when I paint thin with acrylic paints, it takes minutes.
I also like its versatility. Acrylic paint adheres to so many surfaces from a traditional surface like a canvas or paper to being able to paint murals. It can stick to any porous surface. I have produced acrylic paintings on paper that looks like watercolor. And I can add glass, sand, newspaper print, or anything else that would stick to the paint.
Acrylic polymer film is a clear binder that allows the brilliant color of the pigment to shine through. It won’t become yellow or chip like many of the old master’s paintings do. It’s also a plastic so it expands and contracts to changing weather conditions.
I’m also a big fan of how easy it is to clean up. A little soap and water is all you need.
Alyice: What do you wish you knew about acrylics before you got started?
Eric: I wish I knew that it was a respected medium.
I thought that in order to be a respected painter you needed to paint with oils. All the great masters that I so love (like Vermeer, Rembrandt and Caravaggio to name a few) used oils. Plus, I wish I knew how easy it is to use.
Alyice: Do you do anything in particular to seal your art?
Eric: I don’t use any sealant because it doesn’t need it.
Acrylic, when dry, is unaffected by many liquids so if you spill water on it, it’s not a big deal. In theory it’s not compromised by UV light, either. And if it gets dusty—as all paintings eventually do—you’ll have to get it professionally cleaned.
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Eric: Every painting begins with an idea. I usually see something that gets my creative juices flowing. It’s a masterpiece I see in my imagination that needs to be extracted from my mind.
The first thing I do is create a sketch where I try to work out the composition and get most of the major details of the subject down. I sometimes make a color sketch on paper where I dilute the paint to watercolor-like consistency. Then I draw my idea with a waterproof pen on watercolor paper and make a painting. This is done to see if my color scheme works.
By the time I am ready to paint, I have a really strong idea about how it is going to look and the direction I’m going to take. I paint almost every day. If I can’t do anything substantial, I write my name. Your signature is a legally binding work of art. If I didn’t want to paint for whatever reason I only need to write my name in a slow and meaningful way. That always gets me going.
Before I begin for the day, I do a simple warm-up. It’s usually a pure contour drawing. My goal is switch my mind over to right brain mode. . . in this mode of perception, painting can be as easy as watching TV. Sometimes I just seem to get in a flow state and it’s wonderful. It becomes difficult to stop and do things like eat and sleep.
Alyice: How has your style changed over the years?
Eric: When I first started, I wanted to be an illustrator. I didn’t change my mind until I took a class trip to the Dallas museum of art. I saw a painting that made me want to explode. I was so excited about it that I never took the time to see who the painter was. But, I remember the painting and the way I felt.
It looked like a perfect thought, like a perfect expression of what was in the artist’s imagination. I knew then that I wanted to spend every day trying to create something that outstanding—even though I didn’t know if I could make something that great.
I didn’t pick up painting until college. In those days I worked on figures—a lot of really cartoony stuff. Now, I mostly stick to portraits and some floral paintings. I can’t truthfully say why I love portraits so much. . . I just know I do.
Nothing in my background before seeing that painting in Dallas would indicate a love for fine arts. Out of the thousand of different things around me, faces grab my attention. I like the challenge of getting a good likeness.
I pick the subjects that I do because of the ideas I have once I see them, then I try to capture a moment, a feeling, an idea.
Alyice: What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
Eric: One important element has to be color. It’s what painting is all about. The right color makes the difference between a good painting and a great one.
I also pay attention to negative and positive space. When you consider negative and positive space you look at the entire picture plane and not just your main subject. . . which results in a more harmonious painting.
Since I mostly do portraits, getting a good likeness is very important too. That means creating sound structure. The entire painting can fall apart because I didn’t take the time to develop good structure.
Alyice: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your acrylic pieces?
Eric: When I began to think about making a living as an artist I realized I had to charge enough to make a comfortable living. Enough to meet my goals.
There are three aspects that go into pricing a work of art: cost of material, time I spend working on it, and size.
It’s easy to keep a records of how long it takes because I work on a schedule. I find that without a schedule my work suffers because I would paint when I felt like it. I know now working on something leads to more creative ideas which then leads to more work. Sitting around waiting for inspiration leads to more sitting around and waiting.
I think about the amount of money I should earn in that time period. I know how much money I want to earn for the year. I break that down into months then I break those months down into weeks. So if I have to do several things in that week or just one thing, I know the amount of money I will get for that time.
If I don’t pay attention to the cost of materials, it can get away from me. Technically, all my paintings are made the same way so it’s easy to guess the cost per painting. For instance, I know how much paint I’m going to use based on the size of the canvas. I do plenty of commissions and I charge per square feet, so when I’m asked to quote a price, I know how much to charge based on size. The size tells me the amount material and the time I’m going to spend making it.
I rarely go down on a quoted price. The art market isn’t bargain shopping. You wouldn’t go to the grocery store and try to bargain for a bag of bread. Instead of going down on price I offer extras like sketches, concept paintings, etc.
Lowering your price is unfair to other people who bought your work at full price—unless you are having a sale. It just doesn’t seem right to me to give everybody a different price based on their skill of negotiation.
You can visit Eric at http://erictfrancis.blogspot.com.
We all know we should back up our computers. None of us seem to do it, however. To me, talking about backups is kind of like talking about flossing. . . Until it hurts no one wants to listen. Fair enough.
I, however, have already lost plenty data and have needed a few teeth drilled, too. Bad luck? Maybe. But if you—ahem—feel my pain, keep reading. :)
Most of us keep a couple of hard drives around to backup our photos. Nearly everyone has USB flash drives stashed in drawers, on key chains and under couch cushions.
But what about just uploading all your photos to the cloud? You could access your archived photos anywhere. You would have another layer of security for when your vintage hard drive finally dies.
In some cases using the cloud to augment your other backup strategies can be a great idea. But there are always pros and cons, especially depending on which service you use.
First, Flickr is great, but it’s not a backup tool
I’ll start by crossing off all of the well-loved photo sharing services we all tend to use. Flickr, Photo Stream, Adobe Revel, etc.
Most of us figure that photo sharing sites are a great way to back up our photos. After all, the pictures are online right? Well, not exactly. . .
Yes, everyone’s snapshots are magically transported by iCloud to Photo Stream; Adobe Revel is weird but promising; and Flickr—well, Flickr is both textbook, inspiration AND portfolio.
However, services like these aren’t designed to store data and are poor choices for backing up your pictures. File sizes are capped. Uploading and downloading your photos isn’t quick or easy.
In addition, there is no guarantee that a picture, or even your entire account, won’t be deleted without prior notice. (Always back up your backup. Always.)
So use them to share your pictures and NOT for a backup.
So what about the cloud you already have?
The usual suspects, Microsoft, Google, Apple and Amazon, and plenty of others DO offer cloud storage that could be potentially useful.
The benefit to these types of services is that you are likely already using several of them already. The learning curve is negligible. The cost is low, or free.
In this case, it also doesn’t matter whether you are interested in uploading photographs or spreadsheets, because these solutions aren’t specifically tailored to photographers.
The interface might not be the easiest to navigate, and your data may or may not be encrypted. Your data will likely be capped at somewhere well under 10GB unless you start paying a subscription.
Meanwhile, how long would it take to upload (or download if your hard drive crashes) a terabyte-worth of photos if you needed to replace all of your photos?
There are still too many complications to make backing up to the cloud a mainline solution for photographers.
There are bigger, better clouds, but. . .
Even with the current problems of backing up photos to the cloud, it’s easy to imagine potential scenarios that do make sense. Out in the real world plenty of photographers have already incorporated the cloud into their workflow, just like everyone else.
Photographers use the cloud to archive portfolios, as a way to have yet another backup of their best work, and as a way to collaborate on projects with clients, editors and designers.
There ARE cloud storage solutions designed photographers and other creative professionals – PhotoShelter and Adobe’s Creative Cloud come to mind.
These options tend to cost more than some of the above-mentioned options because they include more specific, more powerful features, more storage space, and professional support.
These are typically marketed to people for whom photography is a business. If you already use Adobe products, or if you want to keep a few hundred gigs backed up in the cloud, it might be worth it.
Even so, these aren’t foolproof solutions.
No backup is foolproof, even an expensive backup. Just ask any grizzled old photographer-techie about how things went with Digital Railroad. (Always back up your backup. Always.)
My opinion is that the cloud is yet another handy tool.
Experimentation is quick and in some cases, cheap or free. Good companies, like the ones mentioned above, offer free 30-day trials of their products and services. While for most photographers it is still more practical and cost-effective to buy hard drives for backup, I think it is worth testing out strategies that incorporate cloud storage.
Try it and see if it’s potentially useful for whatever needs you envision.
Remember, though, that redundancy is the core concept with backing up your images. I’ll say it just one more time:
Always back up your backup. Always.
After obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, Jerry La Point began his artistic career with exuberance, exhibiting commercially in solo and group shows for 14 years.
His work has been showcased in galleries from Atlanta, Ga. to Blowing Rock, N.C. His success lies very obviously in his masterful skill at creating free flowing, expressive paintings in both watercolor and oil.
The dynamic, almost turbulent, perspective seen in Crossing, below, portrays wildness to perfection. A rushing brook gushes toward the viewer, reflecting colors of the trees above and jagged rocks and boulders below as it tumbles down the forest slope with lively determination.
Out of focus tree trunks and foliage give a sense of motion. . . almost as if we, ourselves, are looking from left to right rapidly, lost and scared in the wilderness.
In Floral 1, Jerry’s swift, unconcerned brushstrokes create an untidy background that reminds me of when a child gets his or her hands dirty and marks up a pristine white wall. It presents a carefree, relaxed attitude that I find very pleasing.
After all, flowers spring up from the dirt, and what is dirt but dirty?! The painting pays homage to the earth and a celebration of the beauty of flowers that cannot be arranged or contained without a determined hand.
Best of all, in a vase jumbled with cream and teal flowers sits one perfect rose. This particular rose’s captivating red petals dip and swirl delicately into one another, drawing us forward with the hint of a luscious scent, and the desire to “stop and smell the roses.”
Last but not least is Neighbors by the Lake, featuring a white-washed community of homes hidden behind a waterlogged wall of purples and pinks.
Perhaps living near a lake, where one could fish, swim, boat and soak in the sun to his or her heart’s content feels like living with rose-colored glasses. It certainly sounds wonderful to me!
What I love most about this painting, however, is that it tells the lake’s tale in its appearance, alone – so clever! Tall, leafless trees reflect atop the still water, and the houses that rest on dry land beyond bleed into one another, making it hard to tell where one stops and the other begins.
The rest of Jerry’s portfolio proves even more that he can dabble in all sorts of styles and approaches, and still come out with something cohesive, beautiful, and captivating. Don’t miss this opportunity to check out the rest of his work today!