Top Reasons Not To Use a Website Template

We have recently discovered new information about using a template for your website and want to share it.  Some of this information is quite alarming so if you’re thinking of going with a website template – like ArtSpan, Square Space or WIX – this will be of interest to you.

Your Website Will Not be Unique or Exclusive to You or Your Art.  No matter how much you customize and tweak it there will be a uniform look. Guaranteed that hundreds of other artists and businesses will be using this same template.

There Will be Limits to Design Elements.  You will only have so much control over typefaces, colors, backgrounds and even banners (your logo) that you can use.

No or Little Search Engine Optimization.  Some templates may allow you to enter keywords but that’s it.  You will not be able to enter formal Meta-tag Keywords or Descriptions at all.

Not Search Engine Friendly.  Some website templates won’t even be compatible with Search Engine Spiders and/or confuse them.  That means that your website will not be visible on Search Engines at all.  What’s the purpose of creating a website in the first place if it can’t be found?  If you can’t gain new contacts, viewers and buyers?

Not Being Able to Choose Image Size or Optimize Your Images for the Web.
Website Templates may require that you size your images according to their perimeters and that may be way too small or may even skew your images into an odd shape.  Your images should also be optimized for viewing on the internet and that takes skill – where a website designer can help you.  They can also be optimized for Search Engines.

Needing to Know Code such as .html or .css  What’s the point of using a template at all and if you have to use code?  If you knew how to use code you’d design a website yourself without a template, right?

Unwanted Advertising or Banners on Your Website.  This is why we say be careful what you wish for when it comes to free website templates because free isn’t always free.  You may see huge banners, flashing elements and some may even create noise.  The main focus of your website should always be your art.

Favicon will be the logo of the template/not yours. Remember that the favicon is the little symbol that appears to the left of the website address or page title on your browser.  It does nothing more than add a professional look to your website.  If that favicon belongs to someone else then it isn’t professional.

Too Much Design Code.  .html (Hypertext Markup Language) is what drives the internet.  Website templates can have pages and pages of code that will clog up your website, slow down the speed of opening the page and your images and confuse Search Engines when they are evaluating your website for categorization.

The following is where things can get especially alarming….

Some Website Templates Will Require You to Use Their Hosting and Domain Registration Services.  That can add up quickly and become expensive.  Some fees are monthly and some are yearly.  It’s better to register your domain and get hosting elsewhere because if you do lose the website unexpectedly or decide to upgrade you will have the assurance of more control.

You Could Unexpectedly Lose Your Website.  When you register with a template host you will undoubtedly sign or be subject to their Terms of Agreement.  Should they suddenly decide that your website violates their Terms they could take it down without prior notice or your agreeing to it.

You Won’t Own Your Website.  While you will own the images and text on your website you won’t own the website design itself.  This is a crazy quirk of the U.S. Copyright Laws (the person writing the code or the person that owns the template code owns the copyright).  This also means that should you decide to upgrade to a professionally designed website you and your new designer won’t have access to any design elements from the template.

No One to Call If You Need Help.  Should something go wrong with your website you may not be able to pick up the phone and get help with it. Should you actually be able to speak to someone they may speak in technical language that you won’t understand.  We’ve had this experience with some hosts. No matter how many times we’ve asked they refuse to get out of that geek mode.

Remember that these issues don’t apply to every template service but in most cases one or two will.  Don’t take that risk.

The reason we decided to make website design one of the primary services we offer artists was for fair and professional treatment.  There are many businesses out there just waiting to take advantage of an unsuspecting artist.  Most designers will also charge exorbitant fees.  We’ve seen websites start at $2000.00.   Depending on what you need we usually wind up charging $600 and not only will you get a website, you will get so much more. Including Full Ownership of Your Website, Meta-Tagging Every Page and Coaching for Internet Success.  We have a proven track record of success for artists so please Click Here to See What We Can Do for You: www.theartistobjective.com/websitedesign.html

Social Media: Blogging: Get Writing

Now that you have ideas and topics for blog posts it’s time to get started with the actual writing.  Where do you begin?

I like – make that love – to start with various stages of a technique that’s called Free Writing.  In fact, I’d say that I start most of my writing projects – even my blog posts – this way.  If you’ve read The Artists Way by Julia Cameron you’ll be somewhat familiar with this.  She refers to it as “The Morning Pages” – every morning you sit down and write three pages about whatever is on your mind.  Bare your soul and make room for creativity.  Free Writing is somewhat like that but a bit different.  It’s more creative and the outcome is often the beginning of something you will use.

Free Writing, by definition, is really quite simple, as you will see. It can be an amazing basis for inner discovery.  You can find new ideas for your art and yourself.  It can be a great place to gather your thoughts, or (as in the case of the “Morning Pages”) it can simply be a place to unload.  Free Writing is also known as Stream Of Consciousness writing. Here’s how to get started.

1. Get your favorite writing implement(s).  You can even use a crayon if you think it will open your creativity. I type rather fast so I like to use the computer.  Sometimes I start to get inspired in a cafe or on public transportation so I carry my iPhone and something to write on just in case.  You can use a sketch pad, an iPad, paper, whatever you like.  Just make sure it’s fun and comfortable.

2. Get into your most comfortable spot.  An armchair in your living room or den. I know some writers who can’t write at home so they go to cafes and coffee bars.  Some writers create a special place in their homes for writing – even if it’s just a desk in a quiet spot overlooking a beautiful landscape.  It can be a place dedicated to writing in your studio.  It has to be a place that you look forward to going to because you’ll want to do this again and again.

3. Set a time limit – 10, 20 or 30 minutes.

4. Start Writing.

There are two rules to follow. Don’t worry they’re not hard and fast.

• You are only allowed to pick up your writing implement to make space between words.  If you feel stuck say it.  “I don’t know what to write about? What should I write? I’m stuck.” Just keep going and I promise something will come out of it.

• Do not worry about grammar, punctuation or editing.  Don’t let that impulse to self censor get in the way.  Editing will come later.

• No one else has to ever look at it.

You don’t have to have a topic in mind to start writing but in the case of blogging you may want to.  For example: Pull out a painting or drawing and write about it for that set amount of time.  Whatever comes into your mind about it is okay.  Even if you don’t like it – maybe this will help you figure out why.  You’ll be amazed at what comes out.

After you finish and take a bit of a break, read it to yourself (preferably out loud).  This can be empowering because you will see that you can write and write well and that’s the key to great blog content and great blog content is the key to getting followers.

Social Media: Excellent Example Of A Blog Post

I want to share this excellent example of a blog post from Linea – the publication of the Art Students League Of New York.  It’s one of the Art Students League’s most popular instructors speaking about the three most important tools in her studio.  It’s fascinating. It’s compelling.  Read and be inspired!

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.06.18 PMhttp://www.asllinea.org/tools-of-the-trade-art-sharon-sprung/

Social Media: More Ideas For Blog Posts

The content of your posts should be compelling and engaging.  I cannot say it enough so I want to give you even more ideas and inspiration for your posts.

Answer Common Questions About Your Art
Do you hear the same questions again and again – when you’re at a gallery, on email, on Social Media – about your art. This could be your place to provide the answers. When someone asks the same question the next time, you can simply refer them to this post on your blog.

Make An Announcement
It could be an upcoming exhibit, an event, an achievement, even something that’s important to your career.  A milestone.  Put the announcement in the “Subject” and elaborate in the text area.

Host a Question and Answer Session
Interview a viewer of your art, interview a buyer or collector, interview a teacher or a mentor, interview an artist that inspires you, have someone interview you.  Then post the results to your blog.  A TIP: Use an app on your phone that will convert spoken word to text. Turn it on when you are interviewing someone.  It will save you work when transcribing the interview later.

Review An Art Tool Or Supply
Believe it or not, spelling out why you like a particular art supply will give tremendous insight into your working process. As I’ve said again and again, this is actually quite fascinating to someone who has no idea how it’s done.

Review An Exhibition
The artists point of view is quite different from the critic or art historian.  The inspiration or not, the technique and a unique understanding of what it’s like to put tool to medium, I find, is more down to earth and interesting. TIP: Speak in your voice about this – don’t worry about competing with ArtNews or using Art History terms. You are appealing to your audience who will look at a suddenly academic sounding post and probably say “What happened here?”  Be yourself!

A Case Study
Are you doing research for a particular piece or project?  Outline it here – you can break this up into progressive posts.  Keep your audience engaged – waiting for the next step.

Problem/Solution
This is wide ranging.  Do you have a possible problem in making your art that a new tool or technique would solve?  Write about it.  See who comments and you might get more ideas.  Find a problem outside the scope of your art that you think your readers will respond to and give a possible solution. TIP: Avoid politics or religion unless that is the main content of your blog or your art is political.

Frequently Asked Questions
This one can be broken up into several posts.  Similar to the Questions And Answer but more targeted and direct.  From you to the reader.

Should Ask Questions
Are there questions you think viewers should be asking about your art?  About your concept?  Is there a dialogue that you hear when you’re at an exhibition of your work, or online?  Is there something you are not hearing and wish you should?  This is the place to address it.

A Checklist
This is somewhat self explanatory, however you can make this about you or about something your reader should take into account.  Perhaps a checklist that you complete when your finishing a work of art.  Perhaps something someone should consider when they are displaying your art.

Define Your Art
Define your concept of your art overall and/or a particular piece.  What do you want to convey to your viewer.  Remember that a work of art is a dialogue between an artist and a viewer.  You can enhance that by writing about it here.

Profile
Profile a fellow artist, an arts professional, someone that inspires you or have someone write a profile about you – this falls under the guest blogging category.

Crowd Sourced Post
Bring together several people by sending out or asking a question and having them answer in 100 words or less.  Compile and edit it and post it.

Link Round-up
Curate and link to websites that inspire you or with information that you think would be of interest to your readers.  Give the title of the link and a one sentence description. Then link those words to the website.  For example: Miriam Schapiro – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  TIP: Do this on Fridays to coincide with Twitter Recommendation Fridays and make sure you Tweet about it.

Quotes
Find quotes that you think will inspire your readers and/or inspires you and post it.
I.E This world is but a canvas to our imagination Henry David Thoreau  TIP: A good place to find quotes is: BrainyQuote: www.brainyquote.com/

Best Of The Web
Find websites that you think are outstanding and review them.  TIP: Don’t forget to link to them.

Pick Of The Week
Pick one of your own works, post a perfect image of it and describe your inspiration for it or the concept of it.  This also works for art that inspires you.

People To Follow
This is similar to a Link Round-Up but it’s especially important to link to other blogs and bloggers.  Fellow bloggers will get something called a “ping” when you link to them.  This is a notification and they will most likely link back to your blog.

Story Post
A story about you related, or unrelated to your art, a reminiscence of an art class that you took or what happened in your studio today.

Survey
Choose a trending topic – in the art world especially  or in your world.  Survey your following – your readers, your email list and on social media.  Compile the results and post it.

Prediction
Do you predict something will happen in the art world, your world or the world at large?  Write about it.

Collector/Buyer Showcase
Profile someone who has purchased your art and is ecstatic about it.  This will, perhaps, inspire a closer look at your art by other readers.

I hope that these inspirations will keep you blogging repeatedly.  When you get writer’s block come back here and look for inspiration.  Keep on blogging and tell us about your blog in the comments here so that we can follow it.

Blogging: Inspiration For Your Posts

The most important question when blogging is how to keep your readers engaged? How do you make an impression on them and keep them coming back for more? The answer is compelling content. Sharing information that your readers will not only want to read but need to read.

Mostly what I see is artists posting images of their work and if they do write it’s in a descriptive, narrative format. Narrative means a story or report in a sequence of written or spoken words. There is nothing wrong with writing that way. In fact, I encourage you to make it the main content of your blog.

Tell stories about your art, how you made it, what inspired you, what compels you to make art. What message are you trying to get across in a particular piece or in the overall content of your work. Write about both.

Is there something else that you connect with your art or that you are passionate about in general? Visit Altoon Sultan’s blog for a wonderful example. Something that you love and are excited about. That you want to share with the world with your point of view. Remember that if you don’t love what you’re writing about, you won’t be able to sustain it on a consistent basis.

Help your viewer get to know you from your perspective. Always write in first person, from the “I” or “Me”. You will draw them in, fascinate them, keep them coming back for more and they will spread the word. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool there is, after all.

Remember, that there are a lot of poorly written blogs out there and if you write well, post compelling content, it will be easy to get ahead.

Here are blogging formats that are popular for you to consider.

• Photos Of Your Art
By all means post photos of your work. Visuals make all the difference and it’s why people come to your blog after all. They want to see your work and learn about it as well.

• Why You Make Your Art
Tell them what compels you to make your art. Believe it or not there are people out there who don’t know what the driving force that inspires an artist is. What is your driving force?

• A Day In Your Studio
Describe a day in your studio, from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave. This may sound mundane to you but to someone who is a fan of your art it is utterly fascinating. 

• Reviews Of Exhibitions You Attend
Reviews are one of the top posting formats in general. Have you been to an exhibition? What did you like and what didn’t you like. Please don’t try to be like an art critic in the New York Times. Remember that the artists point of view is quite compelling. Tell it from your point of view, in your own words.

• How-To
This is another top posting format. Readers love tips and it’s a perfect format for an artist who wants to teach. You can show them, virtually, how to do a certain technique. You can even do this as a list format. (See below)

• Step-By-Step Art Workshops
Imagine doing a virtual art workshop. Wouldn’t that be amazing? You can write this or you can do it via video. Video is actually becoming more and more popular as a way to blog. A blog done exclusively via video is known as a vlog or vlogging. 

• Interviews
Interview an art world professional who likes your art – a gallery owner, juror, critic, curator, etc. You can also interview a buyer/collector and ask them why they love your art. Make it brief. No more than five questions. You don’t want to tax their time and blog posts should be relatively concise.

• Lists
Probably THE most popular type of blogging format. They’re easy to read and don’t take up much time. Use numbers or bullet points. “Top Ten” is a popular format. 

• Answering Reader Questions
Ask your readers to send you questions and then you can answer them one by one. It will keep the content and inspiration flowing. You’ll also find out what your audience wants. Think of it as customer service.

• News
This can be about you or your world. Is there something in your part of the art world that is interesting or is news? Share it. A good example is NYC’s 110-Year-Old Art Store in Danger of Closing on the New York Observer website.

• Guest Blog Posts
Ask someone to write about your art or a review of an exhibition – and their point of view is something that you agree with. This is not only good PR but it boosts readership because they’ll be sure to want to tell their friends about it. If you are asked to guest blog and it is relevant to you and your art do not turn it down. It’s also great PR, it builds credibility and the blog that you are writing for will post links to your blog and to your website.

The thing to remember is consistency. Consistency in your voice, your content and in posting. If you can keep a regular blogging schedule it will definitely help. Consistency and persistence are the keys to success!

The Art World Interviews: Altoon Sultan on Blogging

Since I am discussing blogging here I thought it would be good to hear from an artist who is also a marvelous blogger.  I am so glad she agreed to do it and it was an honor to have Altoon Sultan answer my questions.

About Altoon Sultan
Altoon Sultan is a New Yorker, Brooklyn born and bred, who now lives on an old hill farm in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, where she makes art––paintings, textiles, prints, photographs––gardens, and blogs. She exhibited her paintings for 30 years in the prestigious Marlborough and Tibor de Nagy galleries, and in shows nationally and internationally. She has a solo show coming up in October of 2014 at McKenzie Fine Art in NYC. Her work is in many public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Tate Gallery, London, and the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Her awards include two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grants and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is also the author of an instructional book on egg tempera titled The Luminous Brush: Painting with Egg Tempera.

Melissa Wolf: What made you decide to start a blog?

Altoon Sultan: When my gallery and I parted ways five years ago, I wanted to have a web presence. At the time I didn’t know of the do-it-yourself, inexpensive website hosts, but I did know about Blogger, so I began a blog. Right from the beginning I realized that I wanted to integrate my life––gardening, nature, cooking––into the blog, along with art.

Melissa Wolf: Do you have a specific schedule for your posts?

Altoon Sultan: No. When I began the blog I used to post more often, five or six times a week, but the posts were shorter: fewer photos, fewer words. Now I’ll post two or three or four times a week; I want a clearer theme with each post.

Melissa Wolf: Do you do anything to to increase your following/visibility?

Altoon Sultan: No. When I started I let my friends know in an email, but that was it. The only thing I did, which certainly increased the blog’s visibility, was to join Facebook and link to each new post there. The blog has a great deal more traffic because of Facebook. Sometimes other bloggers will link to my posts, which also brings new readers, but I don’t seek that out.

Melissa Wolf: How do you decide on what to write?

Altoon Sultan: I write about my own work and I write about whatever interests me, whether it is film, books, recipes, art exhibitions, the flora and fauna around me. I feel compelled to write about things that I love. Sometimes something I read or something I see makes me think about an interesting topic; I keep a notebook next to the computer to note ideas down. This thought process helps to keep my mind open and fluid, which often gives rise to yet other ideas.

Melissa Wolf: Do you have any advice for a beginning blogger?

Altoon Sultan: Blog about what interests you; put your heart into it.

• Visit Altoon Sultan’s Blog Studio and Garden: www.http://altoonsultan.blogspot.com/

Altoon Sultan’s Website: http://www.altoonsultan.com/

Social Media: Anatomy of a Blog

Before I give you tips about writing for your blog I thought it would be good for you to be familiar with the terminology. Here is a glossary of commonly used terms….

About/Profile Page
A page on your blog that is your biography and why you are writing a blog. You can use your bio or artist statement combined with a statement about what you are writing about. WordPress links to something called Gravatar.

Archives
A listing of your posts in reverse order by date.

Atom Feed
A means by which readers can subscribe to your content and view it via a feed reader. (See also feed reader and RSS Feed).

Backlink or Trackback
A reference link used to notify another blog when you have linked to them on your blog. They usually appear in the comments section of a blog post.

Blogging Application
A program or website that allows you to create, manage and post on your blog. Examples are: Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, Moveable Type, Tumblr and LiveJournal.

Blogger
A person who writes content for a blog.

Blogging
The act of writing and publishing blog posts.

Blog Host
A company that provides the space to host your blog. (See Blogging Application).

Blog Roll or Links
A list of links of blogs that you like or recommend. They are usually linked to a blog topic or other sites that a blogger enjoys. There is a widget that will show them in the sidebar.

Blogosphere
The online blogging community made up of bloggers from around the world.

Category or Label
A way of separating blog posts that will make it easy to find your posts. You can add a widget to the sidebar that has a linked list of your categories.

Comment
An opinion or thought in response to a specific post. Comments are what make blogs social.

Comment Moderation
Something I highly recommend that you turn on behind the scenes in your dashboard in your blog. This allows you to approve comments before they are made public. You can avoid negative comments and trolls.

Dashboard
The primary page where you will manage your blog. You will post, see your statistics, moderate comments, change your settings, design the theme or template for your blog and more.

Feed Reader
A tool used to read RSS and Atom Feeds.

Footer
The area of the blog on the bottom of your blog where you will put a copyright link, contact information, comment policy, etc.

Gravatar or Avatar
Gravatar allows you to create an image and a profile that follows you wherever you are on the web. So if you comment on another blog your Gravatar will show up as an icon next to it. I recommend putting an image of yourself, similar to a head shot.

Header
The place at the top of your blog where your blog title/logo, subtitle, graphics and possibly the navigation bar will appear.

Home Page
The first page that the visitor to your blog will see. This is not necessary and not common but it is possible to create a page on your blog that makes an impact.

Page
Some applications allow you to create pages on your blog. This allows you to categorize your posts and your content. It can make your blog look like a website. In fact, it is possible to create a website on WordPress. This is something I do not recommend. It will function like a blog – in that your content will be added chronologically and it will be Search Engine Optimized for a blog. You won’t be able to meta-tag it the same way.

Ping
A signal sent from one website to another to notify that the content has been updated. They are usually used when one website links to another and receives content from it. I’m sure you’ve seen feeds from Twitter on websites on the side. You can also do this with your blog.

Plug-in
Third party tools – created by web developers – that enhance the functionality of your blog. Some charge a fee (which can be one time or function like a subscription).

Post
Content that you will create and put on your blog, appearing in reverse chronological order.

RSS Feed
Which means Real Simple Syndication. A means by which readers can subscribe to your content and view it via a feed reader. (See also Atom Feed and Feed Reader).

Sidebar
A column that appears on the left or the right of the main column that allows you to put widgets or content that enhances your posts.

Tag
Keywords that categorize your posts and are read by blog search engines, making your posts searchable.

Template or Themes
A pre-designed format that allows you to create content without any knowledge of website design. You can adjust colors, typefaces, sidebars and more.

Troll
Someone who makes negative comments or posts on the internet for the express purpose of insighting an angry response. (The best way to handle them is to ignore them and delete these comments from your blog or social media).

Widget
A tool that allows you to add functionality to your blog in the sidebar, particularly in WordPress. Examples include: Categories, Blogroll, RSS Feed, Atom Feed, Links and Social Media Buttons.

 

 

 

 

Social Media: Blogging: An Introduction

In 2011, Technorati.com (a powerful blog search engine) was tracking 120 million active blogs. That number has been growing at a rapid pace daily. There is an active audience for blogs and people will want to hear from you. They will be interested in what you have to say and want to hear more.

The word Blog is a combination of the words Web and Log. The blogging format was originally created for a single author to create a daily log of their activities. Almost like a diary. Today major companies and news outlets have what are called multi-author blogs. The New York Times has a Blog called ArtsBeat among many others. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art has “Met Blogs”.

There are smaller blogs that referred to as Niche Blogs. Blogs that focus on one thing and do it well. Such as a neighborhood, a celebrity, a featured item or an artist. A good example of a neighborhood blog is We Heart Astoria: Delivering the Inside Scoop In and Out of Astoria. They combine this with active Social Media accounts and have 5,842 followers on Facebook as of this post.

The reason that there are so many blogs is that it is easy to start one. The only thing you need is a computer and access to the internet. You don’t need to know fancy internet code such as .html, .CSS or JavaScript. It’s as easy to use as a word processing software such as Microsoft Word. You can use code if you know how but you don’t need to. You can choose a design simply by choosing a theme and customizing it. You can create posts in text, audio, video or post images. There are blogs that are nothing but video and those are called Vlogs. There are also blogs that are nothing but audio and those are called Podcasts.

The difference between a blog and a website is that a blog is interactive and a website is static. People can and will comment and leave feedback on your blog. You will answer and suddenly a whole entire conversation has started. If you use good etiquette your commenters, followers and readers will tell their friends about you, link to your blog and tell other bloggers about you.

Those bloggers will link to your blog and you will link back. This will increase traffic to your blog exponentially. If you link your blog to your website – and you definitely should – it will increase traffic to your website as well. The most important thing a blog will do for you is to increase your exposure and your readers will come back for more because they can see who you are in a wonderful way.

A blog is a unique creative outlet. Remember always that you are an artist because you have something to say visually. Here is your place to put that into words. To let the world know, and those critics that matter, just what that message is again and again. Tell them what you like and don’t like, what inspires you, what you’re working on. You can simply tell your readers what you’re working on today, or what happened in your studio. You can review exhibitions you’ve gone to, giving your readers an artists perspective.  Believe me, that will fascinate them.

There are some things you can do to make your blog really visible and really good looking. In the coming posts I will go into that so please stay tuned.

Doing Business: Branding

What is the first thing you think of when I mention Van Gogh? Is it Starry Starry Night? Even though he didn’t consciously make this his brand it’s what I believe most people think of when his name is mentioned.

Branding is, for artists, the image or symbol that viewers think of first when they think of the artist and their art. This is what will set you apart.

I have had comments from artists that marketing is too crass or something that artists shouldn’t have to engage in. Think of marketing as letting people know that you exist. After you let them know that you exist you will want them to remember you and a strong “brand” will help you do this.

Here are a few principles of branding and something called Brand Management to help you get started….

  1. Remember that if you are making art there is a reason. You have a message to share with the world. You have a voice. It is your responsibility to make sure that message is heard, again and again.
  1. Branding helps you deliver your message clearly and consistently. Consistency is key to good brand development and management.
  1. It connects with your Target Market (or your niche) emotionally. Remember that art usually illicits an emotional response to begin with. Research your target market to find out what that is (if you are not aware already) and use it to market your work.
  1. It motivates viewers into becoming buyers. That emotional response may make them want to live with your work. Not just view it in a gallery or on the internet but have it in a place where they can see it daily, in their home or office.
  1. It concretes buyer loyalty. The people who have already bought your work will become collectors and possibly life long collectors.

A brand for artists should be a work of art or a logo that defines you and your art. A color palate that is strong or a strong sculptural shape are good examples. You can also use your signature, type or a symbol that relates to your work. Any of these are the equivalent of a logo.

Just to share a bit of information relating to the art world and logos…. Open a copy of ArtNews or another well respected art magazine. You will see that most of the galleries are using type based logos. I suspect that it is because they don’t want to interfere with they are presenting.

Consistency and persistence are key to the success of your brand. You need to imprint that message again and again in the minds of your viewers and keeping that message clear and concise will help as well. Always use your logo or an image with your posts on social media and on your print materials. It goes without saying that you should also use images on your website but there should be something in the banner that makes an impression as well.

Another key part of branding is connecting with your viewers emotionally. Viewers respond to art emotionally to begin with. It’s just a matter of doing some research to find out how they connect with your art and pushing that envelope in your branding.

Here are some things to consider when you are researching what makes your viewer respond the most.

  • Do you give them peace of mind?
  • Does your art illicit a response every day, whether that is to give your viewers pleasure or to make them think about your message.
  • Do you inspire them? (Preferably every day).
  • Do you give them a deeper sense of satisfaction? That Ahhh! or Ah Ha! moment when they look at your art?
  • Do you make them feel that you are easily approachable?

Remember that you can’t please all people all of the time. You will have to find your niche. Your Target Market. I will give you some tips on finding your Target Market in the next post.

Doing Business: Return on Investment

Before I delve into Social Media I think we should discuss basic business principles, in terms that you can understand of course…. Many times I am asked “Will I make money with Social Media?” The answer is yes but not directly. What you will get by engaging in Social Media is a huge Return on Investment (ROI). This is a business term that is often used to mean a return on time, effort and money and should be used in everything you do for the business side of your career. Unless you hire someone to manage your Social Media accounts for you, the investment you will make is time. So basically there is no cost and the return is tremendous and sometimes priceless.

If you want to get your work seen and develop an amazing reputation Social Media is essential. It’s time to get started!

Here are some of the ROI’s you will get from Social Media….

REPUTATION
The first thing every artist should know is that the key to a successful career is an excellent reputation. There is no better place to develop your reputation than the online tools available to you. So it is essential to have a professional looking website and to get a clear and consistent message out there through Social Media and Selling Online. If you do this your reputation will grow exponentially and it will motivate you with the positive feedback you will receive.

RISK REDUCTION
You can see any complaints, threats to your reputation and news about you and your work immediately and address them. You can create alerts in something called Google Alerts, for example. In addition to entering your name and any items that are relevant to you and your art business, you can be alerted about news items you are interested in. Here is a link: http://www.google.com/alerts Remember to respond immediately to anything negative you will see unless you suspect it’s a Troll. (A Troll is someone who is commenting negatively usually for sport but it can be for other purposes as well. The best way to handle a Troll is to ignore them.)

VIEWER, FAN, BUYER/AUDIENCE RETENTION
Constant and consistent communication with your audience will give them more information about you and your work. Artists are fascinating and people want to know more about them. How is the work made? How do they get themselves out there? How do they live their lives? You will connect and communicate with your audience directly. No more mysterious buyer out there in the world somewhere. (The buyer who purchases your work and you never hear from them again.) You will find new people, talk about new things and keep them coming back for more. A side benefit – but a very important one – is that relationships will deepen.

EFFICIENCY
You will deepen relationships, research, share your message. develop your “brand” as an artist in ways that may seem incremental but are profound. You will be able to do this in a miniscule amount of time, compared with doing it off line. You can also research in minutes. Compare using Google Search (for example) to going to a library. The time you will save is amazing!

ART INTELLIGENCE
You should rely on the information you get from Social Media to constantly hone your message, how you market your art and who your audience is. It will help you make better marketing decisions and perhaps even inspire your next great work of art. You can even post works in progress and get feedback almost immediately.

Another type of art intelligence you will get is inspiration.  I have learned so much about artists I know already and new artists whose work I’ve never seen on Pinterest.  You can read about them on Wikipedia or their own websites.  You can find Facebook and Twitter pages about them. You can go on StumbleUpon or Tumblr and search for web pages about them. It’s amazing what you will find.

SETTING YOURSELF APART
This is especially important for artists. You are unique and it’s important to remember to push that when marketing yourself. Be proud of that uniqueness! Tell the world how you are different and how you are better. The key to this is how you communicate, how you present yourself and your art, and who you present it to. Making uniqueness a key part of your marketing efforts is essential. Social Media will help you find new ways to present yourself. It will also put you in close touch with what your audience is looking for.

DEVELOP YOUR “BRAND”
Think of your art as your “brand.” It may be hard to do this because art making is such a personal and intimate thing. The first thing I tell artists is to separate your art from your personal life. You art is your job. Yes, the creation of it comes from your heart and your soul but at the end of the day you go home and settle into the things you enjoy doing – watching TV, spending time with your family, etc. If you are able to separate your art from the rest of your life you will be successful. It will become your dream job.

You will also begin to look at your work objectively and begin to develop that brand. A brand is unique to each artist. It is associated with your style and the message you are trying to convey. Yes art is visual but there is something you are trying to say. Even if it’s not immediately clear to you. Developing your artist statement will help you get in touch with that message.

When you do get in touch with that message it’s time to strategize how to market your work and who the right audience is for your work. More on branding in the next post.

Email: What to Do if Your Email Has Been Hacked

No discussion of email would be complete without addressing the issue of hacking. This is when someone takes unauthorized control of your internet based account and starts doing unlawful things with it. Usually they send emails in your name. Sometimes those emails ask the recipients to click a link taking them to a website and enter information that allows the hacker to take control of your account.  They can get information that will allow them to go as far as sending similar emails to your contacts, identity theft or sending a virus that will shut down your computer. So beware.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR ACCOUNT HAS BEEN HACKED

1. Make sure your security/anti-virus software is up to date.

2. Recover your account. Go to your account and try to log in. You will most certainly need to change your password because the hacker has changed it. You can do this by using the “Forgot My Password” feature and it will help you change your password.

3. Change all, and I do mean all, of the information that is associated with logging into your account. Your password, your security questions, your pin number if you have one. Changing your security questions, especially, will prevent the hacker from taking control of your account again.

4. Check your “Sent” box. This will allow you to see any mail that the hacker has sent to your contacts or anything that is unfamiliar. Delete those emails immediately.

5. Send an email to all of your contacts letting them know your email was hacked. If they see any strange emails from you not to open them and, most certainly, do not click any links in the email. Not only will this alert your contacts to the fact that your email has been hacked but it will alert the hacker that you’re on to them.

6. This final step is not necessary and it may be hard to find a way to do it but report that your account was hacked to the email or social networking platform you are using. This will allow them to investigate and perhaps prevent it from happening again.

PREVENTING HACKING
There are several steps you can take to prevent your account from being hacked.  You should make this part of your daily business practice of making art.

1. This one should be a no brainer but don’t ever, ever share your password with anyone and I do mean anyone. Even a trusted best friend or a family member. Yes you can trust them in just about anything but do you trust them to know exactly what to do with the information. Don’t take that chance.

2. Be on the lookout for Phishing attempts. No reputable company would ask you to change your password in an email. Not even a financial institution, an email company, a social networking company. They have built in ways of asking you to do that right on their websites. Do not even open suspicious emails, especially if they have an attachment – they could be SPAM.  If they contain a virus it will open up automatically and “infect” your computer.  Even if there is not an attachment there could be a virus.  Spammers who use commercial email services can see who opened their emails and what action they took – if any.

3. Keep anti-virus software up to date always. Hackers are discovering new ways to get in all the time. Anti-virus software companies are constantly on the lookout and finding new ways to prevent them just as fast.

4. Take extra precaution when using public computers – in a library or a cafe. Hackers can store something called Malware (which stands for Malicious Software) in public computers. This will allow them to capture all of your information. Please, please, please do not ever do any banking or financial work on a public computer or a computer that doesn’t belong to you. It is a sure fire way for someone suspicious to conduct identity theft.

5. If you are using your own laptop in a WiFi Hotspot – especially one that is not password protected – be cautious. Hackers can get into your computer through WiFi. I’ve even heard of cases where hackers drive around neighborhoods in cars looking for WiFi spots that aren’t password protected. If you are using a wireless modem make sure that it is password protected. Most modems are now coming with built in passwords so it’s not as much of an issue.

6. Never click on ads in search engines – especially if they say one thing and the domain address/URL says another. For Example: if you see an ad for Target, check the URL. If it doesn’t begin with http://www.target.com you know it’s not an official Target website.

7. Always sign out of your accounts, especially when you are in a public space. If you are doing financial work – like going on your bank’s website – don’t just log out of the account – quite the browser. Some people advise shutting down the entire computer but I’m not 100% sure of this. Again, please keep your financial work at home. Don’t go on your bank’s website in a public space.

CREATING STRONG PASSWORDS

1. Use 10 characters or more. 16 characters is ideal.

2. Do not use information that is close to you. Such as the name of a relative, pet, the year or city you live in. Use something that is not easy to guess.

3. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters and punctuation. For example: iLWoprqba@9548.

COMPUTER SOFTWARE

Firewalls
Most computers come with a Firewall built in and/or it comes with anti-virus software. It’s a computer based program that protects your PC. It automatically monitors incoming and outgoing traffic to your computer as a virus preventative. It also prevents hackers or other people from seeing what you’re doing.  This is based on a set of precepts set either automatically by the software or by you.

Anti-Virus Software
This is software that you will have to purchase but it’s well worth the investment and it’s well worth it to take the time to update it when it asks you to. It repeatedly scans your computer for viruses and removes them when it’s detected. It will also prevent them from coming into your computer. The two best anti-virus software programs are McAfee and Norton Internet Security or Norton 360. Some Anti-Virus software will come with a Firewall for extra protection.

FROM THE HACKER’S PERSPECTIVE
Why would someone want to hack your email or your account?  What is the motivation behind it? The most common answer is simply for sport – to get a cheap thrill. It can also be for unlawful reasons – such as accessing bank accounts, identity theft or information gathering.  Hackers are usually sophisticated software programmers.  You can receive a legitimate looking email from a hacker.  It will come from a trusted email service provider or a company.  It may even have the logo and usual format from the company. Such as clothing1@target.com or info@paypal.com

Hackers usually send out a huge broadcast of emails, so they’re not just targeting you. They are looking for anyone who is uniformed enough to open the email and take action. Even just opening the email could cause a problem – a virus could open automatically onto your computer and do one of several things.

MALWARE/VIRUSES
The technical name for a virus is Malware (short for Malicious Software).  It is a general term for hostile or intrusive software.  In addition to the internet or email this can come from being in a Wifi Hotspot or a public computer.  The types of Malware that you may come across include: Worms, Trojan Horses, Ransomware, Spyware, Adware and Scareware.  Here are descriptions of the different types of Malware.

Worms
Software that spreads across a network of computers – without attaching itself to software or an email or an in company message.  It replicates automatically again and again and again.  This has been known to shut down entire companies or even sections of government.  Chances are that you are only on a network of one computer – yours – so you won’t have to worry too much about this one.

Trojan Horses
These are similar to Computer Worms but they don’t self replicate. Typically they are used to cause theft or loss of data and could possibly cause harm to your computer.

Ransomware
Malware that restricts access to the computer that it infects and demands a ransom to be paid to the creator in order for the restriction to be removed.  Some forms of Ransomware simply lock the system and display’s messages intended to coax the user into paying to get the computer working again.

Adware
This is exactly why you should avoid click ads on Search Engines.  It’s advertising supported software that will generate ads in your name.  When you click that ad in the Search Engine the hacker will gain access to your computer.  It will also generate revenue for the hacker.

Scareware
A virus that produces frivolous and alarming warnings and threat notices. They are most certainly fictitious or a useless Firewall or computer registry cleaner. It will also try to increase it’s perceived value by bombarding the user with constant warning messages.

I hope that by telling you about the different kinds of viruses it will send the message home that protecting your computer is key to your success and can save you thousands of dollars.  Sometimes computer stores will charge a ton of money just to recover files.  This is also why you should never leave anything on your computer’s hard drive.  Always use a Flash Drive/Memory Stick.

SOCIAL MEDIA HACKING
One more tip to prevent hacking on your Social Networking accounts.  Be a warm contact always.  This is good not just to prevent hacking but for your business.  A warm contact is someone that clicks like, comments and posts.  In other words, is active. Hackers are looking for cold contacts.  These are accounts that were set up and never touched again.  The hacker will take the same actions that they do on email with the exception that they may tag your contacts in photos you didn’t post, or post something on your timeline.

If you do find a friend who has been hacked inform them immediately and then unfriend them.  The hacker can access your account through them.  As soon as the person resolves the issue you can get back in touch with them.

If your Social Networking account has been hacked follow the same steps as you would to recover an email account.

Hopefully none of this will ever happen to you and if you take the precautions I’ve mentioned going forward it won’t.  I can tell you that my computers have never been hacked and I’ve been working on computers – mostly Macs – for over 20 years.  Besides the fact that hackers don’t seem to be interested in hacking Macs there are great preventions built in.  PC’s are also prevalent in offices, companies and government offices.  Hackers will get far more results with a PC. Therefore, if you own a PC please constantly update your anti-virus software and get total control over your Firewall.

If you take just one thing away from this post, it is to be vigilant and to always be on the look out.  Make preventing viruses and hacking a daily business practice of making art.

 

Email: What Not To Do

These are a few things you will want to avoid doing in email because they are either highly unprofessional or just downright annoying to your recipient.

DON’T USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS – This is the equivalent of screaming and it’s very hard to read. It’s the number one complaint that I hear. It also usually says to me that the email sender doesn’t know what they are doing quite yet.

Don’t Say Anything on Email That You Wouldn’t Say In Person or On the Phone – It is the coward’s way out. Also remember that email can be saved and printed out. If it is deleted it can be retrieved from the server later. (I’m sure you’ve heard of cases of AOL pulling up an email from the deep dark past of a person in a court of law).

Don’t Send Flaming or Emotional Emails – Do Not ever forget that email is just words. Even the best punctuation cannot convey what body language or a voice on the phone can. Be very clear and concise. If you’re not sure how what you’re saying will be perceived then don’t send it at all. I’ve had emails misinterpreted and illicit “flamingly” negative responses. Think before you Click “Send”.

Don’t Discuss Confidential Information on an Email – As I said above, remember that it can be saved, printed, easily shared and hacked. Pick up the phone or arrange a meeting.

Don’t Click “Reply All” Unless Your Message is For Everyone – Take control of this. Make absolutely sure you are replying to the sender only. Otherwise, you’ll be annoying everyone else in the email group with an email that simply says something like “Thanks! I’ll be there.” Whey it’s not necessary to see that. The other mistake that is made is that a very personal response between the sender and the recipient is seen by all. Make sure it’s only seen by you and the sender.

Forwarding For the Sake of Forwarding – Maybe you think that all of your friends will think it’s cool and you just click on Forward without a message of any sort. I’ve had friends who I’ve had to remind repeatedly that I’m way to busy to look at every cartoon, cute photo, interesting quote or whatever (use your imagination) that they send me. Remember it’s not communicating. Communication is a discussion between two people. Forwarding is not a discussion.

Don’t Forward Chain Emails – These are emails that ask you to take an action and saying something like “If you don’t forward this to all of your friends bad luck will befall you.” Don’t fall for it. It will annoy everyone you send it to and it’s just not true.

Don’t Open an Old Email and Just Hit Reply – Make sure you change the subject pleeeaaasssee. Make sure the subject concurs with the text of an email. Perhaps you are looking for an old email address the only way to do it is to pull up an old email and then hit reply. I guarantee you that there is always a way to change the subject which means there is no excuse for not doing it.

Don’t Click Reply All and Then Write “Remove Me From This Email List” in the Subject – That’s so embarrassing for the sender and completely not necessary. At the bottom of a commercial email you can click “Unsubscribe” or Mark As SPAM in your email server or you can just send a nice note to the sender asking them not to send you group emails again. This can also hurt your reputation. Suppose some of the people on that email list are critics, jurors, etc? They will think that you are not a nice person and difficult to work with. You will also, most certainly, burn a bridge with the sender who you may want to continue communicating with.

Don’t Use Re: Re: RE: Too Much – if you just keep replying to an email going back and forth with someone it will just keep adding a RE:. Eliminate a few of these or change it if the content of the email has changed.

Don’t Leave the Subject Blank – This is extremely annoying because your recipient won’t know what the email is about. Service Providers can also mark an email with a blank subject as SPAM. 99.9% of the emails I receive have subjects but if they don’t and they are from someone I know, I usually assume their account has been hacked and delete it. Even if you just put “Hi” or “News” in the subject it helps but please be more creative and to the point than that.

Don’t Say “Urgent” or “Needs Immediate Attention” in the Subject – Especially if it doesn’t. Email Service Providers may also interpret this as SPAM.

Don’t Use a Really Long Subject – Keep it short and to the point. I had a friend who would do this when email first became widely used. She would write the entire email in the subject and leave the text area blank. I would miss most of what she said. Then she got more control over it but would put most of the email in the subject and then repeat it in the text area. I knew her and would laugh and pick up the phone. Imagine if I didn’t know her what my reaction would be? Either that the sender was really nuts or unprofessional and I’d delete it without opening it at all.

Don’t Use Texting Lingo – i.e. Ur or Gr8. First of all this can be cause for miscommunication. Not everyone knows what it means and it is, once again, highly unprofessional. I’ve asked senders not to do this repeatedly and on the third ask I usually block them.

Don’t Use Emoticons – These are those smiley faces or symbols that are fun but not to be used in a professional email.

3967_IconsExamples of Emoticons

One last thing I want to share with you can send emails to a group of people by using CC: or BCC:

BCC – Blind Carbon Copy is an email sent to multiple recipients who can’t see each others names and can’t respond to them. (They can respond to the original sender, however…that would be you). You might do this to discretely let somebody else in on a conversation, to send to an email list without sharing everybody’s email or involvement with everybody else or any other situation where you or a recipient might desire a bit of privacy.

CC:  – Carbon Copy – this is like Blind Carbon Copy only the recipients will be able to see and respond to everyone.

By the way, if you don’t have one already here are a few of our favorite email Service Providers.

Domain Associated Email – this is the best for professional use. Think of it this way – every time you send out an email you will be sending a free mini-ad for your website. It also looks far more impressive and professional. Most website hosting packages will come with a certain amount of domain related email addresses. If not you can certainly purchase one easily.

Gmail Gmail is email that’s intuitive, efficient, and useful. And maybe even fun and they give you 10GB of storage. I also find that creating folders is easy and their SPAM Filters are just right for me.

Yahoo Yahoo makes it easy to enjoy what matters most in your world. Not as easy to use but still widely popular

MSN – This used to be Hotmail. It’s good and far preferable to AOL.

AOL – America Online. I have always found the AOL interface to difficult and “antiquated” to use. In fact, I sent one of my clients an image that I’d edited carefully and AOL completely changed everything.

Overall I find Gmail to be the easiest to use of all of the Email Service Providers not associated with your domain name. You may choose to use an Email Service Provider for your personal email and a Domain Associated Email for your professional. This should make your life far easier and set you up for great online success!

 

 

Email: Doing Business Day to Day

I am assuming that by now you know how to use basic email. That you have a good server (such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, MSN, or an email attached to the domain of your website). You know how to compose, send, reply, forward, file, archive, etc. What you may not know is that there is an etiquette that you should keep in mind as you communicate for professional purposes – and it’s a good idea to keep them in mind for personal email as well. Some of what I tell you will apply to how you conduct yourself on Social Media as well.

Did you also know that some people spend up to two hours a day checking and responding to emails? Sometimes they just delete them because they are overwhelmed. Setting up the right systems and using the right protocols will ensure that you don’t become one of those people.

These guidelines should keep you organized and you will get results….

Set Up Different Accounts for Different Purposes – I have a personal and a business account. This is so that I don’t get confused and that I can take a day off and still interact with friends and family. It really makes a difference.

Set Up a Time of Day to Respond to Email and Social Media – the number one question I get from people just starting with email and especially Social Media is that they will be overwhelmed with the amount of time they will have to spend on it. Choosing a time of day that you check and respond to email and social media will keep you from being overwhelmed and you won’t spend as much time doing it.

Clear Your Inbox Daily – If you don’t you could easily become overwhelmed fast. Make sure that you take an action with every email that comes into your box as soon as possible. I set up files for emails I need to save or want to look at later. Most servers will have an option to create a file. You can usually find the ones that you don’t need to read without opening them. Click them and click on delete. Then find the ones that will need quick attention and read those. Lastly, go over the ones that you need to spend more time with. Your ultimate goal should always be an empty Inbox.

Check Your SPAM Folder – there is a folder somewhere in your email account that automatically stores all SPAM. All email servers now have SPAM Filters. Some are stronger than others and some allow you to determine how strong that filter is or to turn it off. Never-the-less always check the SPAM folder – at least once a day. You don’t want to miss an important email that was wrongly determined to be SPAM by your server.

NEVER/EVER Reply to SPAM – SPAM is usually sent through bulk email services or some kind of automated service. That means that they can track who opened the email, what they clicked on, where they’re from (in general terms) and more. Opening one SPAM means that you may suddenly see a lot more. SPAM may also have a virus attached that may automatically activate when you open it.

Compose a Signature – most email services will have a way for you to create an automatic signature. You should include your name, your website, blog and social networking pages. Some will actually have a way for you to insert the logo of the social networking platform and have it link to your page and some will allow you to insert images into your signature. Please do not include a street address or a phone number in your signature. You don’t want that to actually wind up in the email of someone you don’t know that well.

Use an Engaging Subject You always want the recipient of your emails to not only take action with your email but to open it and be excited about receiving it. Make sure that your email compels them to do just that. Use something engaging, funny and/or to the point.

Respond As Soon As Possible As I said in today’s world wide web – especially with smart phones – email senders will expect a quick response – usually within 24 hours. Don’t let an email go for more than 24 hours without taking some kind of action.

Keep Your Emails Short and To The Point – Again, in today’s world (the world wide web that is) attention spans are very short. Make sure that your email is direct. i.e. Dear Mr. Smith, I am writing to you because….” Especially if it’s a business person, curator, gallery director, grants manager, etc. If you do have to write a longish email try to keep your paragraphs short, to 3-5 sentences maximum. I know I don’t have to tell you that those sentences should not be run-on sentences. Use punctuation to break it up. If you’re not sure what to do, see my prior posts on grammar and punctuation.

Be Judicious About Punctuation – don’t use too many exclamation points or question marks. Doesn’t it look amateur and unprofessional???!!!

Use Spell Check – Always, always use spell check and then check it again yourself, especially if it’s an important email or stressful situation. Sometimes reading it out loud or to a friend helps to put it in perspective as well. Remember that computer spell checkers are not human beings.

Set Up Templates – If you find yourself answering the same question again and again you can use a template for an answer or a part of an answer. I usually compose the email in Microsoft Word (or another word processing program) and then I copy and paste it into an email. I customize it – adding the person’s name or changing some other detail.

Check Any Links That You Include Before Sending Them – imagine receiving an email with a link and when it’s clicked on takes you to a strange website or the link it just dead – it doesn’t open up anything. Wouldn’t that be frustrating? (Actually, I usually Google or Search for it on the internet. It’s an extra step that I have to take, however, and it can be annoying).

Write Something in the Text Area When You Send Attachments – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten emails with attachments (even from commercial galleries) and nothing in the text area. I usually assume that it’s SPAM or their email has been hacked. It’s probably a press release but I can’t take that risk and I certainly can’t take the extra time to download and open a .doc (Microsoft Word) or a .pdf (Adobe Acrobat Reader). It’s cold and highly unappealing.

Make Sure That Your Attachments Load Quickly – When you do send attachments – let’s say it’s a curator asking for images or a resume or an artist statement – make sure they load quickly. If they are large files there should be a way for you to compress them. By the way, in most cases images should be 72dpi for sending on the internet. (See the first posts on this blog about Digital Imaging).

Make Sure Photos You Embed Into the Text Area of Your Email Load Quickly – there is nothing more annoying than sitting at your desk, with 5,000 other things to do, while the email takes forever to open up and load. Make sure that you are not sending a Camera Raw or 300dpi photo that is 21″ x 18″. It will surely take a while to overload and may even freeze the recipients computer completely.

Use Auto-responders – take a good look when you first set up your email account because some may have an auto-responder already set up. You want to disable it. Should you go on vacation or need to be away from your desk for a number of days, you will want to use this feature. You can say something like: “Thank you for contacting me. I am out of the studio and will be back on …you pick the date.”

In the next post I will cover the things that you shouldn’t do so please stay tuned!

Social Media: Email: A Glossary of Terms

I’m sure you’ve seen those beautiful emails that look like mini-websites. They compel you to click on something, take action, scroll, read, look and in some cases watch video. They can even compel you to purchase something without leaving your email server. You wonder how you could send one of those beautiful emails because it would be perfect for your art. Wouldn’t it?

Scroll to the bottom, the next time you receive one of those beautiful emails. You will see a number of interesting things – in the small type. You will always see an “Unsubscribe” button, a “Forward” button, information about the sender, social networking buttons, and usually a logo from a commercial email service. Constant Contact, Mail Chimp and MailGen are the most popular.

Besides enabling you to send those beautiful emails there are a number of advantages to using a commercial email service. The primary one is that your emails will be likely to get through a SPAM filter in an email server (like AOL, Gmail or Yahoo), the email you use for day to day communications.

Before you start using a commercial email service there rae some things that you will want to know, so here is a glossary of commonly used email terms.

Opt In/Subscribe – when someone gives you their email address voluntarily.

Opt Out/Unsubscribe – when someone asks not to receive emails from an email list. There is usually an automated way for them to do this in commercial email and that’s usually referred to as Opt Out.

Subject Line – a line of copy that will appear before the recipient opens the email. It will inform them what the email is about and entice them to open your email. It’s important to be catchy without being SPAMMY.

Attachment – a file (such as a .jpg, .doc, .pdf, etc.) that is attached to an email but not in the text area of the email.

Block – an action by an email service provider or recipient that won’t allow your emails to go through. This is usually because the server perceives your email as SPAM (this is why it’s important to be catchy without sounding like SPAM); or the recipient (for some strange reason) has set your email address up on a blocked list.

Bounce – an email message that is not delivered promptly or at all. There are a number of reasons as to why this can happen. An invalid email address, the recipient has a full inbox, the email server perceives your email as SPAM and sends it back. When this happens you will probably get an email that says Mailer Daemon in the subject line. You can ignore it and just delete it. If you’re using a commercial email service you will be able to track how many bounced and how many times. I recommend removing an email address from your list after it has bounced three times.

Click Through/Conversion – when someone takes a desired action in the commercial email that you sent. Such as clicking on a link, making a purchase, forwarding your email, etc.

Content – the information, text, images, video, etc. that appear in the body/text area of your email.

Digest – a shortened version/synopsis of an email newsletter that replaces full-length articles. There will be clickable links, often with a brief summary of the contents. This is usually sent to inform your recipients of a blog post or from a Social Networking Group.

Email Address – a combination of the username and a domain name }
(such as theartist@mywebsite.com)

Email Filter – a software tool that categorizes, sorts or blocks incoming email, based either on the recipients preferences, the sender and how they conduct themselves in the email content (does the server perceive it as SPAM?).

Email Server or just Server – the company that allows you to send private email such as AOL, Gmail, Yahoo, MSN, Optonline, etc.

Email Newsletter – an email with news about what you are doing and/or editorial information that is sent on a regular basis. Monthly, quarterly, etc. TIP: Recipients find these very interesting and engaging.

Footer – information in small type at the bottom of an email. This information can include an unsubscribe button, forward button, social networking buttons, information about the sender and a logo from a commercial email service.

List Fatigue – a condition producing fewer and fewer returns from a mailing list whose members are sent too many emails. Don’t worry, I’m almost 100% sure that this won’t happen to you, even if you send emails three times a week. Remember that your subscribers asked to be on your list and are therefore interested in you and your art.

List Management – how your email list is set up, administered and maintained. A commercial service will make this very simple and easy because it will be automated – and most likely take care of itself.

List Owner – that’s you! The person who has spent the time and the effort to build a dedicated email list.

List RentalWarning! Please Do Not Ever, Ever Do This! Do not spend money to rent a list (I guarantee that you will be wasting your money) and Do Not Rent Your List to someone else. Your email list is like gold. It’s precious and your subscribers are counting on you to protect their privacy. Don’t ever violate that trust. You also want to ensure that the people you are sending your emails to will be interested and engaged.

Privacy Policy – this should be made 100% clear to your email recipients all the time, on your website, the bottom of every email, when your subscribers Opt-In to your list.

Signature – a line or two of information found in the closing of an email usually the sender’s name. Signatures can also include information, such as your name, art, a branding message or a call to action (which is a conversion).

I want to stress again that with a minimal, ongoing dedicated effort it is so easy to build your email list for free that it is not necessary to rent an email list. In fact, it is considered a nefarious practice to sell one. Don’t worry, there are tips for building your email list in the next chapter.

Email

Social Media: Email

Email is THE most important form of Social Media out there. It enables you to communicate with buyers and turn them into collectors. It is also an essential marketing tool for artists. You can create marketing emails to send to a bulk list that not only look beautiful but keep people interested in what you are doing. The next series of posts will focus on email.

Let’s start with a little bit of history first:
The earliest electronic mail (email) goes back to the beginning of the 1960’s. It was a simple text, black and white message that existed on the same computer. There was no internet or even networking capability within an organization or office then. It was a file that was “appended” with messages from one author to another who were using the same computer and the same file. By opening that file the user could read what others had appended to it.

The first actual email, resembling what we know today, was sent around 7:00pm in the autumn of 1971. It was a test created by a programming engineer who had been chosen by the U.S. Defense Department to create ARPAnet. ARPA net was a precursor to the internet that allowed people within the U.S. Defense Department to communicate with each other.

By the end of 1972 Tomlinson’s two email software packages had become an industry standard and he first used the @ symbol in an email address. When he was asked why he used the @ symbol he said “The ‘at’ sign just makes sense. The purpose of the ‘at’ sign indicated a unit price for example 10 items @ $2.99. I used the ‘at’ sign to indicate that the user was ‘at’ some other host rather than being local.”

Email has gone from the early days with black and white text only to the addition of a choice of fonts, colors and backgrounds. You an also add images, video, audio and links. You can even send an email that looks like a mini-version of your website.

So let’s address some terms that are commonly used in email:

Email Bombing
The intentional sending of large volumes of messages to a target address. The overloading of the target address can render it unusable and can even cause the email server (such as AOL or Gmail) to crash.

Email Bankruptcy/Email Fatigue
This is when the user falls behind on checking their email and becomes overloaded with information. Very often they wind up deleting a series of emails based on what’s in the subject, just to get rid of the bulk of it.

Email Spoofing
An email that looks like it’s coming directly to you from a trusted source such as your bank. There may be a link in it which is called Phishing (see below).

Flaming Email
This occurs when a person sends an email with angry or antagonistic content. The term is derived from the term incendiary to describe how heated discussions on email can get. A flaming email can almost literally leap off the screen right into your heart. Emails can be perceived as Flaming even when the sender didn’t intend it to be that way because body language and voice intonations are not present. There are ways of saying things like “Lol” (Laugh Out Loud) and :-) for a smiley face to indicate something funny or a joke. Please don’t use those in professional emails. Just be very aware of what the recipient might see in your email communication.

Phishing
An email spoof or message leading you to a website that asks for your information. The source may be a spoof that looks like a trusted source (such as your bank) saying that they need to update your information. Don’t fall for it! No bank of any worth would do that online. If you do fall for it you may be asked to submit your name, address, phone number and Social Security Number or Bank Account information. It’s the beginning of identity theft.

SPAM
Spam is unsolicited commercial (or bulk) email that is of no use to the spammer. The cost of email is minimal so spammers may send out millions of email messages each day. This can lead to information overload. Most email servers will have a spam filter. Make sure that it is on the lowest setting. The filters aren’t perfect and they can block an important email. Most emails will also have a spam folder or bulk mail folder. Make sure you check that daily to be sure you aren’t missing anything.

I want to give you a brief, entertaining fact about the use of the term SPAM just for fun.

The term SPAM originally came from the meat produced by Hormel Meat Packing Company in Austin, Minnesota. It was first produced in 1937. The President of the company at the time came up with a really tasty recipe for Spiced Ham. Thus the name SPAM. In the first year of production SPAM captured 18% of the market. By 2002 more than six billion cans of SPAM have been sold with 44,000 cans per hour coming out of the factory. This means that a can of SPAM is sold every 3.1 seconds. Unbelievable!

So how does Hormel feel about the use of SPAM to imply something so negative? Hormel’s “official” position is as follows:
“We do not object to the use of this slang term to describe Unsolicited Commercial Email, although we do object to the use of the word ‘spam’ as a trademark and to the use of our product image in association with that term. Also if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters so to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with upper-case letters.”

Back to the serious. On December 16, 2003 George W. Bush signed the CANSPAM Act into Federal Law. This was the first law setting national standards for the sending of email. It requires the Federal Trade Commission to enforce it. I will discuss marketing and bulk emailing in another post but note that you should have a visible “Unsubscribe” button in all of your marketing emails. To boil down the rest of it into simple terms the CANSPAM Act states that those sending emails have to be honest and forbids the use of false header/footer information.

This should begin to help you understand the use of email and some basic terms. I’ll begin to address using email in your communications and marketing in the next post so stay tuned.

Social Media: An Introduction Part 2

Most people think of Social Media as Social Networking. Social Networking is one of only a vast range of tools at your disposal. I will break it down into simple terms in a minute. What they all have in common, however, is the ability to interact. To have a two way conversation. There are places on the internet where you will not have that ability, a website is a good example and on Social Media you can also turn off the ability to have that conversation but this is not something I recommend. On a website you might be able to click a “Like” or “Tweet” button but you won’t be able to comment or post, directly on that website.

Here are categories of Social Media:
• Social Networking – a platform, similar to blogging, where you can interact with people, create relationships and enhance the ones you already have. Facebook , LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.

• Blogging – short for web log, this is a place (like this blog for example), where you can write articles, post photos and videos and people can comment and share and repost your articles on their blogs. So far I have found that WordPress.com is the best platform because it has automatically built in functions and widgets that will share your posts on various Social Networking websites. I also like Blogspot.com, otherwise known as Blogger.com but not as much. It’s run by Google and has good search engine visibility but there aren’t enough widgets or built in things. I have had more traffic and comments on Word Press in a month than I had in three years of being on Blogspot.com

• Micro-Blogging – Twitter.com is a good example. You have a set amount of space (140 characters – spaces count as characters – on Twitter for example) to post. An original idea is to post several consecutive posts on one topic. I did a Twitter class on Digital Photography for example.

Photo Sharing – websites like Pinterest.com, Flickr.com and Instagram.com It’s almost like a photo blog. You will post photos and people will comment or in the case of Pinterest.com, they will “re-pin” onto their boards.

• Video and Audio Sharing – this is a website where you would post audio or video and you would get comments and feedback. People will also share your posts and put them on their “Channels.” YouTube.com is a good example of Video Sharing. SoundCloud.com would be a good example of an audio sharing website.

• Podcasting – Audio or Video that you create and post – different from Video and Audio Sharing – that people listen to or watch, like listening to a radio show. It’s usually a series of informative recordings. These are available through a website or a platform like iTunes.

• Article Sharing – These are websites where you can post articles that you’ve written about different topics. They will be shared and re-posted and commented on. A good example of an article sharing website is hubpages.com

• Business Rating Websites – These are websites where users post information and reviews of existing brick and mortar businesses. Yelp.com is a good example.

• Crowd Source Funding – These websites work in conjunction with Social Networking websites to help you raise funds for certain projects, such as Kickstarter.com, Rockethub.com and GoFundMe.com. Some are all or nothing websites – raise all the funds or you won’t get paid (Kickstarter.com is one of these) – and some are get paid as you go (Rockethub.com and GoFundMe.com are get paid as you go websites).

The statistics of user numbers for these websites is huge! I will share some of this in future posts. Before Social Media, however, Word of Mouth marketing meant that one person could spread the word about you and your art with 20 people over a period of time. With the advent of Social Media – combined with mobile devices such as iPhones, Androids, iPads, Kindle Fire and more – one person can share information with 2000 people in a matter of minutes. This should give you a fair idea of the power of Social Media.
In future posts I will show you how to maximize your use of Social Media to get positive feedback and word of mouth about your art.

Social Media: An Introduction

By now you have heard that Social Media is an essential tool that every artist must use in order to be successful. You may be overwhelmed by it. What is it exactly? How can I use it effectively as an artist? What is it for? Will I make money with it? These are questions almost everyone asks.

What Is Social Media?
Put together these two words and you will have somewhat of a definition.

Social
This refers to our instinctual need to interact and communicate with each other. We like to be in groups of like-minded people to share ideas, thoughts and experiences with.

Media
This refers to electronic, digital and paper platforms that we use to connect. This includes magazines, newspapers, fliers, brochures, postcards, phones, television, computers, mobile devices, video, social networking and more.

The thing is that when you put these two words together they refer to media that is specific to creating personal interactions and communications that may or may not lead to various types of relationships. This is now specifically a term that refers to digitally based media.

The prime reason that social media is so effective is that it is built on a 2 way interaction. As a pose to a one way communication. A one way communication is advertising – a newspaper ad, a radio ad, a billboard. It presents your message to the world. The response some advertising might be seen as an invasion. Especially if you’ve ever heard those ads for car sellers with guys screaming at the top of their lungs. It’s annoyingly effective but most of us want to turn it off and will walk in there with a not so favorable review that we’ve determined before we even walk in the door. It might even keep us away.

Social Media is a “conversation” that runs from real time (like Live Chatting) to being available when people have the time (Social Networking, blogging, pod-casting, email, etc.)

One of the prime keys to success with Social Networking is listening and responding. For example on Facebook simply reading the Newsfeed and clicking “Like” and “Commenting.” Being what’s commonly known as a “Warm Contact.” Opening accounts and leaving them static not only alienates your audience but they are ripe for hacking.

Word of Mouth
This used to be person to person and meant that one person would communicate information about you and your art to 20 people because all of their interactions were face to face, or voice to voice (phone). With Social Networking the average person can reach up to 2000 people in a matter of minutes! You can maximize this by staying true to yourself, doing everything with complete integrity. If you don’t, people will see it in a heartbeat. It may surprise you how fast that can happen.

You will create relationships, build trust and be really THERE when people are ready to view your work, because you are listening and communicating in a direct, immediate way. You can turn followers or contacts into buyers and buyers into collectors. They will follow your artistic life, be fascinated by it and spread the word about you. They will even attend exhibition receptions. They will “Like”, “Share”, “Favorite”, Re-Tweet”, “Forward” and more.

That said Social Media is not a magic wand that you will wave and it will take care of itself. It will take a few hours to set up your accounts and then a few minutes a day or a few hours a week to keep up on it. It’s fun! You will create relationships! You will meet people that share your likes and interests.

Before you approach it, however, you should have a strategy and I will address how to go about that in coming posts. Stay tuned!

Internet for Artists: Website Design: The Gallery Pages

The most important reason that viewers will visit your website is for your art. It is important to present it, therefore, clearly and simply. There are several options for doing this and there are new options appearing as new technology becomes available.

When I first started writing this I was using Photoshop Elements and Dreamweaver 8. I am now using Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Web. It’s amazing the difference in new technology and will probably always be a novelty to me. It has Photoshop Extended. Photoshop Elements is a perfectly good enough program if you can’t afford Photoshop Extended and will let you do all the things you need to do. Therefore, there is no excuse for poorly presented photos.

Since I am talking about photos let me speak about a newer format. .png 8 and .png24. These two elements are lossy compression elements as is a .jpg or .jpeg. That means that you will loose pixels when you save it but not as much and the color options are in the millions and millions. This makes it a format that is great for the web and presents your art in a clearer way. .jpg or .jpeg is still the preferred format in most applications for exhibits, grants, fellowships and residencies.

So how to present your art. Remember that each artist is different and each website should be professionally presented but at the same time unique and inline with the artists style and technique. I did like the disjointed rollover. That means that you have thumbnails of your work on one side and when the mouse rolls over it, a larger image appears. This allows your viewer to see a larger version without having to click on anything. However with the advent of new technology and the fact that Dreamweaver CS5.5 no longer has the technology to support it, it’s not the ideal way to go.

Another way is clicking on a thumbnails and a larger image imposes itself over the page with a transparent black background. Much like in this website: www.kathleenjgraves.com. Make sure that this is done in .html or Javascript and not Flash. Flash is not supported by mobile devices and is slowly going out for computers as well.

This artists website has a portfolio system with thumbnails on the top that visitors click and a larger image becomes available below them: http://www.symastudios.com/PORTFOLIO/Pages/PUBLIC_ART.html#8

I’ve also seen pages with thumbnails that open into a new window. This is becoming common again. However, make sure it’s not a “pop up” window (a small window that opens to the top left or top right of the browser). Also make sure there is a way to go from photo to photo without having to leave the separate window. It’s best to have it open to a full web page rather than a “pop up.”

I can’t really offer you more options at this time but keep looking around. Look at what other artists are doing, galleries and museums. See what you like and instruct your designer accordingly. Make sure it’s simple, all about your art and you will have great success.

Internet: Website Design: Top 10 Mistakes

Before I talk about the gallery pages on your website I thought I should talk about the mistakes I’ve seen on artists websites. I want to be sure that you will develop THE most exciting and professional website possible. Your website says so much about you and is there to speak for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s the world wide web after all and a poorly designed website says so much about you.

1. Not including an artist statement, bio and resume.
Visitors will go to your work, first and foremost, to see your art but a well written artist statement, bio and resume will make the difference between making a sale and not making a sale. Between getting an exhibition and not getting that exhibition. It shows how in touch with your process you are, your experience and your professionalism.

2. Not including contact information or including too much contact information.
If there is no way for people to contact you how will you receive any opportunities. That said putting your address on your website (or anywhere on the internet for that matter) is opening yourself up for identity theft and perhaps something worse. Also putting a landline phone number is a bad idea. If you put your phone number into a search engine your name and address might come up. Try it on Yahoo in particular. With that information someone can start opening bank accounts, getting credit cards, etc. in your name. So put access to an email and a cell phone number only. You can also put links to your Social Networking profiles.

3. Not putting links to other websites
Search engines will give you better ranking if you link your website to another website and they, in turn, link back to you. Make sure that these links are relevant to your work and that they have high search engine ranking. A link to your dentist is fine but does it really have anything to do with your work?

4. Not Meta-tagging Your Website
This means that you will choose 8 key words that will help search engine spiders categorize your website. If you don’t’ do this they will go by the content of the text on your page and that will make they come up with something totally garbled. There is also a two sentence description that is a tag. You can see what that is in a previous post with a glossary of terms.

5. Letting your website developer handle the whole entire thing, even the design.
A website designer, in most cases, is not a graphic designer. If they are, they may not know the ins and outs of the art world. What makes a professional website. That’s entirely up to you. Before you even think of approaching a designer please, please, please take the time to plan your website. I can help you do that through an internet consultation. Visit the website for more information: http://www.theartistobjective.com I can do it over the phone or in person with internet support.

6. Putting up a website and leaving it static.
In order for a website to be effective it has to be live. Meaning lively and constantly changing. Put new photos, articles, exhibition information and events. If you can’t do it yourself have your website designer do it for you. This can be costly. The Artists Objective has a monthly website update program. For more information: http://www.theartistobjective.com

7. Confusing Navigation/Menus
This runs the gamete from poor placement, to type that’s too small, to confusing categories. The number one mistake here is categorizing by the year. To me this is a huge cop out and I’m inclined to leave the website. I feel that it’s too exclusive for me, and that I might have had to know about the artist in the first place in order to be privileged enough to visit the website. I know that’s not what the artist intended but it’s the lazy way out. Describe your art by medium, or subject. You can do drop down menus (technically known as jump or pop up menus). Think carefully about this because it generates hits/clicks which boosts your rating on search engines.

8. Poor Navigation on the Gallery Pages
I will talk more in the next post about how to set up the gallery pages but you will want a way for people to click from one enlarged image to the next without having to go back to an interim page. That’s annoying to your visitor and they may leave after the first click.

9. Small Images or Images that Don’t Enlarge.
When I visit a website I want a comprehensive look at the art. That’s the first and foremost reason I am there. I not only want to see the work, I want to LIVE in it. I want to feel it and almost touch it.. I want to feel compelled to touch my computer screen. Images that are too small do not allow me to do that. In fact, it almost screams ameture. Images must be 72 dpi and I like to recommend a minimum of 350 pixels. but ideal is 504 which is 7 inches. I always try for that but if it’s not possible that’s okay too. Be sure that it also works on a smaller screen, like an iPad or an iPhone.

10. Poorly Photographed Images
When I see this I sigh. Why did the artist spend the time and the money to put up a website in the first place? I can understand if an artist is using interference or iridescent colors but there is a way. Your images must be 100% perfect! In today’s digital world there is no excuse. See the first posts on this blog fore more about photographing your art properly. Please don’t put up a website until you have good photos.

A bonus mistake – too many bells and whistles or colors that are so bright that they interfere with the art itself. Your art is fantastic! Make it shine on the internet and everywhere else that you present it. Let planning your website be a way for you to develop a “look” for all of your materials. Your blog, postcard, brochures, stationary, etc.

That said The Artists Objective does website design and internet consultations. Please visit the website for more information: http://www.theartistobjective.com In the next post I will address the gallery pages. Stay tuned!

Internet for Artists: Website Design: Planning

The number one key to success on the internet is intuitive design. This takes thought and careful planning but the pay off is huge. It’s key to higher search engine ratings and will be very important to your visitors. Most of all the main content of your website is to showcase your art. It should be a retrospective of everything you’ve ever made, a catalog raisonné of you – the artist.

There is a temptation to put up bells and whistles, fast moving content. Please avoid this. The simpler the better and the more your art will stand out. Sometimes these kinds of websites are built in a program called Flash. Flash is okay in parts of websites but the whole thing should never be built in Flash. For example most videos are viewable in Flash. I’ll talk more about website design programs in another text but one major reason not to use Flash is that you can’t meta-tag it, losing control over traffic to your website.

At this point I’m sure you have a vision for your website. What color is the background, what typefaces will you use? How will your banner look, etc. I’ll talk more about type and color in another post. I’m going to start with a list and descriptions of essential pages every artists website should have.

• Home or Index PageThe first page your visitors will see when they arrive at your website. This should be simple and make a bold statement. Your visitors should never have to scroll for anything on this page. I always recommend putting a work of art there that’s bold and inviting and to change that about once a month or as appropriate. It will keep visitors returning again and again to your website.

• Gallery Pages – These are the pages that display your art. How will your visitors see it and how will these pages connect to each other? How many images should go on a page. If you have a lot of art I recommend using what’s called a “disjointed rollover.” This is an image that opens larger in another part of a page just by having the mouse roll over it. See an example on this website: www.nancyfabrizio.com You will also see a small arrow on the right that connects to the next page of the art. If you have fewer images you may want to consider using one or two larger images of your art.

• Text Pages – one each for an artist statement, bio and resume.

Site MapA Site Map is a page with listings of all of your pages. This is a wonderful tool for many reasons. The number one reason is so that your visitor can easily find a specific page they are looking for. Secondly, it helps search engines categorize your website and thus boosts your ratings. Thirdly, it is a wonderful place to start your website on paper. Do this and your web designer will love you. You’ll also save a ton of money doing it.

• Press Pages – if you have any press written about you and the images of those articles this is the place to put them. Make sure they are readable. The type and images are clear.

• Copyright Page – it’s one thing to say ©Artist Smith, 2012, All Rights Reserved. It’s quite another to outline the terms of that copyright. It makes you look so much more professional. Like you really mean business. You can see the copyright page on the website mentioned above. By the way the way to say copyright is just the way I said it above “©Artist Smith, 2012, All Rights Reserved” As I mentioned in a previous post there are international conventions and by saying All Rights Reserved you are conforming to and claiming those conventions.

• “Missing” Page – This is a page that people will arrive at if a URL is typed or linked incorrectly. I’m sure you’ve seen those pages that say “This Page Does Not Exist.” A website host will automatically put up a page for that, however it will not look like your website and you’ll lose the visitor. It’s easy enough for a website designer to create a “Missing” page with your banner and navagation bar on it. Again your website will look more professional and you will capture the visitors that you’d otherwise lose.

Those are the essential pages. Now it’s time to think about how to link these pages and this is where the planning comes in. It’s time to draw out that site map. Which pages and links will link to what pages? How will you get there? It’s called navigation and I’ll address that in the next post.

The Internet: Website Design: Thinking Simply

That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.
Steve Jobs in Business Week, 1998
The main reason visitors will come to your website is to see your art. Therefore making your art the central focus is the logical thing to do right? Not so fast. It takes some careful thinking and planning. You have to think simply. Some websites are about written content but your website should be about images and the best images possible in order to showcase your art. The design around your work should be simple. The temptation is to overpower it with bells and whistles or bright colors or large bold text is very compelling. Don’t succumb! A clean, professional looking website will help to bring you success in a very significant way.
The first step in planning a website is to think about the design of the actual pages. Most artists have an idea of what that should look like because they are focused on their mission. I would like to give you some help by outlining the components of a website page. If you’re doing your website by yourself this will help you tremendously. If you’re using a designer this will help you to direct them. Remember that in most cases a website designer is not a “designer.” They won’t know your art as well as you do and they may not be aware of what is needed for success in the art world. So you need to be a guide and have a strong vision. I will talk about what a visitor will see and the behind the scenes.
The components that are visible on a web page are:
• Banner or Header- the header/logo at the top of the page. This should appear in the exact same place on every page. A common standard is to have this clickable to the home page. More and more websites are doing this and it eliminates the need for a “home” button on your navigation bar. This will be created as an image or a .jpg and images are easily linkable.
• Navigation/Menu Bar – This is the set of links that enables visitors to find things on your website. It can appear at the top of the page under the banner or on the side. More and more websites have it at the top. There is something called Drop Down or Pop Up Menus. This can also be a huge help when categorizing your work.
**Tip: This is where wording and simplicity are all important. You want to be sure that people will click on your website, boosting your search engine optimization. I have seen navigation bars on artists websites that categorize the work by the year. I really, honestly feel that this is a huge cop out. The website probably has a very low search engine rating because the number of hits will be lower. How would a visitor know what to click on? There is probably also a large bounce rate. Visitors that come, see the site and leave without clicking. Categorizing your work by subject or media or something else will mean more to a visitor than almost anything else you do, with the exception of showcasing your art.
• Images – The actual photos of your work. They should always be 72dpi for two reasons. 1. It loads faster because .jpg’s are compressed (see the previous post on the different types of images) and 2. 72dpi prints out rather poorly and will be hard to reproduce, therefore protecting your copyright. Remember that visitors will have short attention spans. If an page takes more than 30 seconds to load they are likely to leave your website. The size is also important. I’ll talk about the gallery pages more in the next post and what your options for display are.
• Text – Words ARE important, see the previous posts on writing. The content of the home page is usually low on words but you can put a testimonial or a quote from an article written about you. You can also put a section of latest news on the home page: a quote from an article written about you, or an upcoming exhibition. Of course, you will also have pages with your artist statement, resume, bio, copyright, contact, links and press. (If you don’t have all of that yet there is no need to worry. Your art is the first reason people come to your website. You can add those pages later.) The fonts you choose are also important. The difference between type used for text, headlines, and banners are viewed differently so it’s important to think about it’s readability when you are thinking about placement. I’ll address design elements in another post.
• Footer – Those are the little words at the bottom of every website that are not necessarily in the navigation bar. They can include copyright, site map and email. These are important because they not only help your visitors but really help search engines to categorize your website. Especially if it leads to the site map.••Tip: One more thing you should add to the footer of every page. Social Networking Buttons. They allow visitors to share the website page they’re on, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc. I am including a link to a website below that allows you to choose those buttons and get .html code that you can simply plug into the code of your website. I always add this complimentary, by default, to every website I create. You don’t want to miss any opportunity for exposure after all.

Favicon That’s the little image that appears to the left in the address/URL bar of the browser. If you go on www.starbucks.com for example you will see their logo right up there. This is a 16 pixel image that can be transferred into a favicon very easily. This can be static or it can move. It may be small but it makes your website look so professional. I always include it complementary when I design a website.
• Title – these are words at the top of the browser – above the address bar/navigation. This is helpful to your visitor because they will know what page they’re on and the content and extremely useful for search engines. In fact, titles rank in importance with meta-tagging and meta-descriptions.
If you right click on any website a menu should come up – this applies to both Mac’s and PC’s – and you’ll see “View Page Source.” Click on that and you’ll see the .html code that makes it possible for the website to be visible. You will see two sections. Head and Body. Sounds kind of anatomical in a way and it is. The anatomy of a website.
The Head text is the content you don’t see. It’s the instructions that will juristic the way the page looks overall. For example: the background color of the page, the default font your page will use, the code for the navigation bar, the alignment of the whole page. You can set these up overall. It will also show what type of code to use. html vs. Javascript, etc. This will also include the Meta Tags (keywords and descriptions) the favicon and the titles.
The Body Code is the part of the website that is visible. The actual words and images. The navigation bar, the footer, etc.
There is one more thing you should know about text and code. It’s called CSS which means Cascading Style Sheets. CSS can be used for much more than just text but this will help you speak to a designer tremendously. For changeable text in the body section of your website you should use CSS. Some programs like Dreamweaver will automatically set this up no matter what. So you can use any kind of text in the body/content area that you want to. However it’s best to cascade that so that if someone viewing your website doesn’t have that typeface on their computer they’ll still be able to see it. For example: if they don’t have Georgia, they may have Palatino and will definitely have Times Roman. A CSS for type looks like this in the code: Georgia, Palatino, Times, Serif.
I’m telling you this because I was once working with a web designer who told me I could only use Times or Helvetica for text. He was wrong. I was completing my first web design class at the time and told him that’s not true. I wanted to use Baskerville – because that’s what the organization used in their newsletters. I told him to use this Baskerville, Palatino, Times, Serif as a cascading style sheet. If I hadn’t been apprised of that I might have listened to him and the website would have been inconsistent with the organizations print materials.
If you remember simplicity and consistency in everything you do – on the internet and off the internet – you will have success.LINKS
Website to create favicons – http://favicon.htmlkit.com/favicon/

Internet: The Basics

The Internet is an extremely important marketing tool for artists. It’s a way for you to make connections, make money and develop a real following.

Now that you’ve gotten all of your other materials prepared it’s time to get your website up and running and your “presence” on the internet. You will need to approach it in an organized fashion and think about who “you the artist” are and how you will present it to the world. Developing a website plan can help you construct that “persona” and a brand that will help you towards success. From there you can go onto selling on sites like eBay, Yessy and Etsy, Social Networking, Blogging and so much more. You will need to have a plan just like any other business. Consider it the internet section of your marketing plan.

Just to give you some background on my qualifications on this topic, I am a website designer and am trained as a Graphic Designer and in Advertising. Before I design a website I always like to have a consultation with the artist about how they will present themselves to the world.

I will go into depth on each and every aspect of the internet and how you can use it to get publicity, network and make a profit from it. As an introduction, you will find a glossary of definitions below. They will not only give you definitions of each item in the topic but perhaps give you information on items you thought you already knew about. You will be able to refer to this again and again. However if you do find it overwhelming you can contact me for a website consultation at: info@theartistobjective.com

The Internet or World Wide Web (www.) – A network of interconnected links – websites, blogs, web pages, etc. that may include content such as text, images, video and/or audio – that are hosted and available for viewing on a computer.

URL (Universal Resource Locator)The address of a website, usually – but not always – proceeded by www. It’s also known as the Domain Name of a website. Example: http://www.smithartist.com

Domain Name – The name or address of your website – otherwise known as the URL – that is registered with a domain registration company. It is unique to you and you only. In most cases you will purchase a domain name that is registered for a certain number of years.

.html (Hyper-text Markup Language) – The basic language – or set of tags – that make a web page visible. It tells the computer where to find an image or where to place text. The color of the text or design and whether it’s centered, aligned to the left or to the right and so much more. It also instructs search engines to place your website or blog in the right category. See Meta-Tags and Meta-Descriptions below.

Tags – The “words” of .html. Usually surrounded by < > (known as ankle brackets) and give a command. Usually starting with a start tag and ending with an end tag like this this content is bolded to give it emphasis.

Java Script – a type of language (like .html) that allows for minor animated functions on web pages.

Adobe Flash – a multimedia platform that is generally used to add animation, video and interactive media to websites. Some websites are designed entirely in Flash. Note that this is not recommended for several reasons, which I’ll go into in another post.

Search Engines – A program that allows you to search for documents, websites, pages, blogs or any type of content on the internet.

Spiders, Crawlers or Robots – automated programs used by search engines to evaluate your website and “index” or categorize their content.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – process of adding, removing or placing content on a website so that it can gain higher placement on a Search Engine. Tip: Once your website is up and running you will get a few emails about SEO from companies offering to upgrade your search engine visibility. Ignore them all. They are all SPAM.

Meta-Tag – a series of up to 8 key words (no more) that helps search engines categorize web pages.

Meta-Description – a two sentence description of a website that is visible on the search engine under the title of the website.

Website – a collection of linked pages that can be static, dynamic or interactive. It can be used for personal or commercial/business purposes. A static website does not change. The content is put up and it stays the same and it doesn’t invite a visitor to do anything. A dynamic website has moving content such as video or animation and an interactive website allows your visitor to click on media, watch it or create something and much more.

Blog (Short for Web Log) – a type of website or part of a website that is updated with content. Usually writing but it can be images or video. It has followers and is actually considered a legitimate form of journalism. A good example of a blog is: http://jazzsaints.blogspot.com/

Web Traffic – Information generated by visitors to your website or blog. They click on something that leads to your page or click something on your website. Tip: This can be tracked by Google Analytics. More in a later post.

Visitor – Someone that is viewing the home or index page of your website. There are two types of visitors. New Visitors – a visitor that has not made a previous visit – and a Repeat Visitor – a visitor that has come to your website more than once.

Hit – Otherwise known as a click. A visitor comes to your website and clicks on a link. That’s a hit. The more hits a website generates, the more popular it will seem to Search Engines and they will place your website higher on the list based on your Meta-Tags.

Google Analytics – A free service offered by Google that allows you to track traffic, in detail to your website. This will help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t.

Server/Host – A huge computer owned by a company (like GoDaddy.com or Hostdime.com) that allows your website to be live 24/7 for viewing by the public. Very often hosts will give you a deal if you purchase a hosting package when you purchase a domain name. Both will be for a specific duration of time – like 3 years for example.

Email – An online communication between two or more people. I will go into how you can use email to optimize your visibility online and off in depth in another post.

Social Networking – interactive websites that allow you to connect with people, view photos, videos, join groups, gain more exposure, and keep followers interested. There are 400+ Social Networking websites but the “big three” are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Even YouTube is now considered a social networking website. I’ll go into it more in depth in a series of future posts.

PayPal – The most popular ecommerce company in the world. It allows you to open an account (for free) and pay or get paid for things on the internet. (It will take a small percentage if you get paid – usually from 2-2.75%). You can create customized buttons generated through PayPal that you can add to websites, blogs and emails. PayPal is an eBay affiliated company as well and if you intend to sell anything on the internet PayPal is a MUST! They’re in the business of security and everyone knows it. You’ll get paid faster and easier because there is a level of trust with PayPal. It also allows buyers or collectors to pay via credit card, debit card, PayPal account or even a checking account. www.paypal.com

YouTube – A video sharing website (created by 3 former employees of PayPal) that allows you to share and watch videos. You can create and subscribe to “channels.” Over 10 Million people watch a day and usually more than one video. You can even see demonstrations of painting, sculpting and art making, videos of artists work and so much more. Why not create a video, post it on YouTube and get a piece of the action?

Photostreams or Photo-Hosting Websites – Websites that will host your photos for use in other mediums such as a blog. They also function in a way that is somewhere between a blog and social networking. They are public, allow people to see your images and comment on them. www.Flickr.com is a good example

eBay – An online market place where people sell things from and to all over the world usually through auction. Sellers with a track record can create an eBay store and you can also create a “buy it now” price. eBay makes their money by charging a fee for posting items up front. Start slowly and build. More in another post.

Online Stores – a website where you can sell and purchase items. There are several devoted to art and hand crafted items. Etsy.com, Fine Art America and SaatchiOnline.com are good examples

On Demand Stores – Stores where you can design items that are then created and shipped after a visitor to a website purchases it. Such as www.zazzle.com/artists or www.CanvasPress.com

Online Galleries – Galleries that function on the internet in the same manner as a gallery with four walls with one major advantage. They can reach a much larger audience and even some viewers who would never even step foot in a gallery or museum. Beware of the vanity online galleries or galleries that use unprofessional practices like audience generated jurying. Shameless Self Promotion: www.melissawolffinearts.com

Online Art Portals – Such as Fine Art America, Saatchi Online, Artnet.com. They connect your website – usually for a fee – to a designated portal of art buyers and collectors. Buyer beware! There are websites that claim to put your website in front of a larger audience but don’t deliver. Pick and choose carefully.

Website Design Software – Software that allows you to create a website on your computer and then transfer it to the host through something called a ftp (file transfer protocol – a series of web language that helps a host communicate with your computer) The best software for website design is Macromedia Dreamweaver – which can be purchased alone or as part of Adobe Creative Suite. There are other programs for website design out there but none are as easy to use or as flexible. It will even support Adobe Flash and Java Script and something called CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). WordPress.com is a blogging format that you can use to create something similar to a website. It’s not a website per se, you don’t have traditional means of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engines will categorize it as a blog.

If you’re doubting the seriousness of selling online let me clear that up. This past year (2014) Sotheby’s is organizing a collaboration with eBay to make their auctions live online.  Amazon.com is now carrying expensive art by approved galleries.  By 2018 online sales of art are expected to jump to over $34 Billion a year.  Shouldn’t you be able to be a part of that statistic?  It’s time to get yourself online if you’re not already. If you are already online it’s time to hone your skills and make money!

Copyright for Protection and Profit

Knowing your rights, as a visual artist, is very important and copyright is one of THE most important rights you own.  Otherwise known as “Intellectual Property”, you are the rightful owner the minute you take something from being an idea into something tangible.  From thinking about making a sculpture to the moment you start to make it, it’s yours.  In 1978, the United States changed the law to make that possible without formally registering your copyright.  In 1989, they made it possible for you to own the copyright without using © (the copyright symbol).

The proper way to use that symbol is ©Your Name, Year, All Rights Reserved.  It’s important because then you will reserve all of the international conventions that the United States has with other countries. I’ll talk about that in a minute.

The U.S. Copyright office often refers to things that are copyrighten as “published or publishing.”  By their definition published means “Making Public.”  So if you put a painting on a wall for exhibit you are “publishing” it or “making it public.”

It is also important to distinguish between public and private use.  Private Use is when someone takes your work, prints it or shows it to their friends and doesn’t make a profit on it.  Very often I hear “What if someone uses my image for the wall paper on their computer?”  Guess what? That’s Private Use. Artists that ask this are interested in making a profit. The most you’ll make is $1.00 so is it really worth worrying about that anyway?

Public Use or infringement of Public Use is when someone takes your work, claims it as their own.  The moment you need to worry about it is when they make a profit from that endeavor.  However, it is important to develop a number in dollars that it would take for you to pursue this in court.  Remember that there are court and legal fees.  I usually advise $5000 or more.

You should register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office however.  Let’s say someone does infringe upon your rights and then you register it.  All that you’ll be able to recover is the money that they made from it.  That’s it. However, if you register long before someone infringes upon your rights you can collect the money they made from it, legal fees and statutory damages.  Statutory damages is money for your time and effort as well as emotional stress that this action took upon you.

You can register your copyright on the Copyright Office’s website: http://www.copyright.gov It is $35 if you register online. If you register by mail it is more.  That is as of this posting. I recommend checking the copyright office website for more information.

It is important to know the exact definition of copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office so here it is [with explanations].

DEFINITION OF COPYRIGHT FROM THE UNITED STATES COPYRIGHT OFFICE

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship” [the artist would be the author in this case] including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works, Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

• To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords [i.e. Giclees, computer prints or print on demand]

• To prepare derivative works based upon the work [Collage artists beware!]

• To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental or lease or lending

• To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works [Don’t forget digital art, video art and performance art]

• To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audio visual works [in other words a buyer cannot exhibit your work without your permission]

• In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

In addition certain authors of works of visual art have the rights of attribution and integrity as described in section 106A, see Circular 40, Copyright Registration for Works of Visual Arts.

Just a few more explanations.  Although you may sell an original work to a buyer they are only purchasing that work.  They are not purchasing the intellectual property and the rights that come with it.  Only you have the right to reproduce or alter it.  Not all buyers will be aware of this so I always recommend stating your rights on the back of an invoice upon delivery.  If someone wants the rights to reproduction, they will have to enter into a licensing agreement with you or pay you a lot of money for that right.
The advent of the internet brings up the question of your rights as an artist around the world.  There are international conventions with just about every country in the world.  Some of these conventions include the Berne Convention and the World Trade Organization and you can find out more in Circular 38A, available on the US Copyright Office website.

A list of some of the countries that do not recognize these conventions follows.  Notice that most of these countries either have internal conflicts, poor governmental infrastructure or are just plain hostile towards the West.

Afghanistan, Bhutan, Comoros (unclear), Eritea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kiribati, North Korea (unclear), Nauru (unclear), Nepal, Pelau (unclear), Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tomé and Principe (unclear), Seychelles (unclear), Syria (unclear), Tuvala (unclear), Vanuatu (unclear), Yemen (unclear).

We can also count most countries in the Middle East in the list because of the changing situation there, especially recently.

LICENSING
Licensing is the part of copyright where you get to profit and to increase your visibility.  In some cases to increase the worth of your original art.  Many artists don’t like to think of commercial production of their work.  Take a moment to think of the benefits I mentioned and you’ll see that licensing can actually be a good thing.

Technically licensing means that as a holder of a copyright you have the right to benefit and profit from your work (even after the original is sold) whether it is registered or not. [The prime reason to get fantastically perfect images of your work]. You may want to visit the Licensing Division of the U.S. Copyright website for more information.

Licensing means that you give a publisher, producer or manufacturer the right production, distribution and marketing of your work. Sometimes all three and sometimes just production.  Usually this is in a certain geographic area for a certain period of time.  A good licensing agreement will state that and will state a way for you to get out of the agreement should the publisher, producer or manufacturer not hold up their part of the agreement to your satisfaction.  I always recommend having a lawyer look at contracts such as these before signing just to be sure everything is in order.

The best producers will not only manufacture your work but they will have a marketing and distribution mechanism in place.  A good example is: AmericanGreetings.com or Hallmark.

Marketplaces for licensing are as wide as the imagination.  Just to get your imagination going here are a few:
Greeting Cards, Prints, Print-on-Demand, Calendars, Collector Plates, Book Covers, Children’s Books, Animation, Stamps, Stock Photography and Illustration (see iStockPhoto.com), CD Covers, Surface Design, Jigsaw Puzzles, Needle Craft and Stitch Kits, Stationary and Gift Products (go into your local gift store and you’ll get the idea), Tableware, Mat’s, Mouse Pads, Coaster, Wall Coverings, etc.

What about digital formats?  That’s endless to.
Such as Computer Games, Wall Paper, Mobile Formats and with the advent of digital tablets it’s amazing what you can do. Also iPhone or Digital Tablet Cases and Covers.

If you are thinking about approaching a manufacturer with a formal licensing contract and system in place know the market in full first.  Read trade publications, look them up online, do your research.

Then develop a packet with your resume, artist statement, articles written about you and whatever other materials about your work you can scrounge up.  Also include mock-ups of your work and additional images that the manufacturer might be interested in.  For example: if you want someone to produce greeting cards, make a few up on your inkjet printer.  You can also get things printed up on demand.

You can also enter into an informal Licensing Agreement.  Print-on-Demand is usually an informal licensing agreement. Such as having Zazzle.com make up prints of your work that you market and distribute yourself.  They will only be allowed to manufacture your work on a certain product of your choosing will do no more than that.  You will be responsible for bringing in sales.

A formal licensing agreement with a company that has everything in place may be contracted in one of several ways.  Either you’ll get an up front payment, royalties or both.  Sometimes you’ll get an advance payment and after that amount is recovered you’ll get royalties.  These are all standard.

Now you know about Copyright and how to protect and profit from your art.  These are the facts, no myths here!  I hope that you will feel more secure.

RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE
U.S. Copyright Office – www.copyright.govAmerican Greetings – www.americangreetings.com
Zazzle.com – www.zazzle.com/artists
iStock Photo – www.istockphoto.com

Pricing Your Work

This is the biggest question I get from artists, constantly and all the time.  How do I price my work?

I wish I could say that there was one formula or one answer for every artists I met.  Then we’d be done with this discussion and no one would need to ask. I’ve seen articles written with formulas for pricing, based on the size of your work and the stage of your career – even measuring inch by inch (If you can believe that).  It’s just not that simple.

That said, I’m going to provide you with some pricing concepts for you to keep in mind. The most important thing you should take away from this post is that pricing is a form of marketing.  Especially Target Marketing.

Just to be clear, you should always Target your market.  Find out who would be interested in your work.  Demographically: Income, Gender, Location, Family Status, Hobbies, etc.  Thanks to Social Networking we have more of this information than ever.  This will help you determine what your market can bear – as far as pricing.  Yes this does apply to artists.

The first thing you need to know is that your prices must be absolutely, positively consistent.  I cannot stress this enough. Do Not Waiver!  Don’t sell a work of art to one buyer for one price and then charge another price to a buyer.  It effects your reputation and it’s highly unprofessional.  Remember, also, that if friends and family love you they will pay for your art.

Let me address the commonly perceived issue that artists will work for free.  Not true.  Please don’t ever work for free or charge less than your work is worth. If you do, you are not only undermining yourself but every artist who is trying to make an honest living out there.  Believe it or not, even Art Professionals (Administrators, Curators, Business People in the Arts) will also expect you to work for free. Don’t do that.  Always get paid for your work. Okay, now back to pricing.

Don’t over price your work.  Some artists will charge a lot of money for a piece because they don’t want to part with it. That’s unprofessional. If you don’t want to sell it, don’t display it.  This may seem funny to you.  You may have seen something called Not-for-Sale (or NFS) on the wall next to a piece.  In the case of painting, sculpture or art items that clearly should be for sale, it screams amateur from a mile away to me.  In most cases, this is because the gallery will need to be funded somehow and will usually take a commission and/or ask for a jurying fee up front. However, if your work is an installation, performance art or something clearly intended for an interactive experience (i.e. Public Art) then that is an exception.  There are still ways to get funded for that – grants and getting commissions for public art will be a subject I will address another time.

The basic premise, in business for pricing is your cost multiplied by 2 plus 10%.  Remember that your cost is not just your materials.  It involves labor – you are the labor.  How much are you worth an hour?  (We all want to be paid $100 an hour or more but it’s important to be realistic here).  You also have the cost of your studio or art making space – if it’s in your home.  Utilities, phone, transportation to and from the studio and, yes, materials. You will need to break that down, mathematically into what that is per hour. Then estimate how many hours you spent on the painting and consider what the market will bear and you should have a fair price.

Do note that there is a psychological price point or “Value Based Marketing” for art.  Art, in most cases, is perceived as a “Luxury Item”.  Understanding how your Target Market views value is important.  If you price your work higher, there may be a perceived higher value in it.  However if you price it too high, you may price yourself our of the market completely.

Understand that to the customer there is a perceived benefit to purchasing art.  It can be for enjoyment or as an investment.  The highest compliment someone can pay you is to pay for your art.  In most cases, they will have the means to take better care of it than you will.  They will enjoy it for years to come and perhaps maintain a relationship with you, the artist and turn into a collector.  They may even call you and tell you how much they love your work.

If you are in the beginning of your career, you will, of course not be able to charge as much as a middle or late career artist.  Go out there and network with other artists.  See what artists, using similar mediums in the same position in their career, are charging and doing with their work.  You can get ahead by charging slightly less than market rate.

Lastly, you can offer a solution of developing different kinds of art for different price ranges.  For example: a large canvas will have a higher price than a print on paper or a drawing.  You can also offer the original piece at one price, a Gicleé for another and a high quality print from your computer for another price.  You can offer print on demand.  Two places I recommend highly for doing that are:
www.zazzle.com/artists
www.canvaspress.com

Some of the artists I work with say that it’s too commercial.  I disagree.  Licensing – a major part of copyright – is something I will discuss in another post. Reproductions can help get the word out about your art.

No matter what you do in your art and your business practices remember to be professional always!  Hold yourself to the highest standards and if you do, the market will follow.  I guarantee it.

Writing for Artists: Writing Prompts

I recently came up with these for an exhibition and thought they might be useful to you. The artists were asked to write about their pieces. Several of them asked for help so I wrote this. You will invariably be asked to write again and again about your inspiration for a specific piece, an artist statement, a statement for a particular exhibition, etc. Use these prompts to inspire you….

All of them are free writing. (You can read more about free writing in a previous post). Get your favorite writing materials. Sit down in a quiet place or take yourself out for a Chai at Starbucks….:-)

1. Place the artwork in front of you. Set a time limit of 10 minutes and write, only picking up the pen to separate words. Don’t hesitate to gather your thoughts or get grammar or punctuation right. Write whatever comes into your mind. It’s okay if you stray into different topics. When you realize it bring yourself back to your work.

2. Place the artwork in front of you. Make a list of words that come to mind about the work and the creation of it. Read them out loud and look them up in the dictionary and then pick one, based on the definition in the dictionary write – no holds barred and no stopping – about that word and how it relates to your art.

Don’t edit it right away. Put it away for a day or so and then come back to it. Pick the words, sentences, paragraphs that speak the most profoundly to the piece and put them together. Almost like a word collage. Then through editing merge them – make it smooth. If you still need help, contact The Artists Objective. We have editing services and can sit down with you and get you writing in no time. It’s fun, it’s creative and it will help you become successful!

Writing for Artists: The Resumé: Formatting

“I hope it is a benchmark for what the artist’s experience in the field of art might be. I don’t think it should matter to a gallery if the artist is self taught or has a Master in Art, but the length of time, making and creating should speak volumes. Art seems to be the field where length and breadth of experience is a very important aspect.” Cathy Hegman

Your Resume is the most important marker of your experience that you may have. Getting the grammar absolutely perfect is a mark of your professionalism. This post will show you how to outline your resume. What goes in what order. I will create a list and after each item there will be an explanation with tips.

You will start with your name, address, phone, email, website, blog and other web presences. This is a good time to create a letterhead for yourself. A logo representing your art and a format for every bit of correspondence you send out. There are even ways to add it to an email. If you aren’t ready to do that then I recommend at least putting a piece of your work that represents the majority of what you do. People will remember you first and foremost by your work. You want to get that image in front of them as much as possible.

The items of your achievement come next…

Representation
This means any galleries that represent you or that you have consigned with. You just need to put the name of the gallery, city and state. If it’s outside the United States then put city and country.
i.e.
Laurel Gallery, Baltimore, MD
Shanghai Gallery, Shanghai, China

Museum Exhibitions
Any museum where you’ve had a solo or been part of a group exhibition. You’ll need the name of the exhibition (if any), the name of the museum, the city and the state, or city and country.
i.e.
An Artist in Soho, New Museum, New York, NY.
American Artist in Asia, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, China.

(Tip: The name of the exhibition should be in either italics or quotation marks. Italics are preferred because it looks more sophisticated).

Solo Exhibitions
Any gallery where you’ve been the sole exhibitor. You can also add a category if you’ve been part of a two or three person exhibition. Any exhibition with more than 3 artists is considered a group exhibition.
For all gallery exhibitions this is how you will list them:
Name of Exhibition, Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.

This should also be listed under the year. Like this:
2009
Name of Exhibition, Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.
Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.
Name of Exhibition, Name of Gallery, City, State or City, Country.

Group Exhibitions
This is any exhibition that you’ve been a part of that includes more than one artist.
I’ve seen artists include the name of the juror because they think it’s prestigious. Leave it out. It’s not necessary and in most cases nobody will care.

Art Fairs
If you’ve been a part of an art fair such as the Affordable Art Fair.
i.e. Affordable Art Fair, New York, NY, March 2014.

Awards and Honors
If you’ve won a prestigious award or honor for your work. List it like this:
• Name of Award, Name of Exhibition (If any), Name of Organization that gave it to you, City and State, Date.

Grants
If a foundation or grant making organization has given you funding for your art, list it here. It’s important because if someone is willing to give you money to make your art, then how can you be refused by anyone else…? Right? This is your place to let them know about it.

List it like this:
• Name of Grant, Name of Grant Making Organization, City and State where grant making organization is listed, Date.

Fellowship
Any time that you’ve been given services or goods for a specific purpose. For example Women’s Studio Workshop gives a limited amount of subsidies to use their space for a Residency or if you’ve been given money or services that allow you to study or create your work.

List it like this: Name of Fellowship, Name of Fellowship Organization (i.e. Vermont Studio Center), City, State, Date.

Residencies
Whether you’re paying for them or not they are usually juried so it is prestigious. For example:

• Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT, March-October, 2013
• Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA, September-December 2013.

Publicity
This includes any part of the media that has included you or your work. Even newer media such as online media. (Tip: Create a Link on Your Website to the Article and Ask the Creator of the Blog or News Media to Link Back to your Website. This is known as Cross Linking and will boost the search engine traffic to your website). You can make separate sub-categories here as well. Such as: Print Media, Television and Radio, Online Media. Always list it like this:

Name of the Article by the author, Name of Publication, Vol. [Volume] No.[Number], Month, Day, City, State [City, Country], Page the Article Appeared on.

i.e.
New York Artists Shows in Shanghai by Chin Me How, Shanghai Times, Vol. 3 No. 4, Beijing, China, April 29, 2014, Page 32.

Education
This is where you’ve studied and with whom. If it’s your college degree, list it as follows:
• Bachelors of Fine Art, Long Island University, Southampton Campus, Southampton, NY 2002.

If you’ve studied with an artist or teacher of note you can list it like this
•Pablo Picasso, Art Student’s League, New York, NY, 2014.

Memberships
These are organizations that you have current memberships with. Such as Allied Artists of America, National Sculpture Society, etc. Here’s how you’d list them:
• National Sculpture Society, New York, N.Y.
• National Association of Women Artists, New York, N.Y.
• American Association of Watercolorists, Philadelphia, N.Y.

Commissions
These are private or public commissions (or public art) – where you’ve been paid to create a work of art for a specific location or reason. You’d list it like this:
• Skecher’s USA Inc., Orlando, F.L.

Public Collections
A place where your work is in the permanent collection of an institution or business. You’d list it like this
• Citigroup USA, Long Island City, N.Y.

Private Collections
The private individuals who have purchased your art and still hold your work in their possession. They haven’t resold it or given it away. You’d list it like this… (Notice the alphabetical order by last name):
• Leonard Baskin, New York, N.Y.
• Miriam Schwartz, New York, N.Y.
• Joan Zimmet, New York, N.Y.

Some artists are shy about listing name of the of their private collectors and this is a huge mistake. Remember that by purchasing your art they gave you the right to do that. It’s also extremely important to list individual buyers if you ever want to be represented or consigned by a gallery. They will not only want to see your art but that you have a following or a record of purchases. It gives you more credibility and that’s important.

If this is overwhelming for you, one of the services The Artists Objective offers is resume editing. Please contact us at: info@theartistobjective.com even if you just have a question. I’m here to help.

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Writing For Artists: The Resumé

The questions I hear again and again are who looks at an my resume? What is it’s value and why should I even create one?

An artists resume has tremendous value for artists in so many ways. The primary purpose is to gauge the value of your work. It’s what collectors and auction houses might refer to as “Provence.” The more you do and where you do it can bring tremendous value to your work; exhibitions, grants, residencies, fellowships and most importantly collectors. For example: if you receive a prestigious grant a commercial gallery or museum juror is more likely to look at your work and take you on. I like to call the process ladder climbing. You’ll gain with every step.

A resume is also a personal record. A place for you to refer to again and again to see how you are doing. To take a moment, from time to time, to access and bask in your achievements. Don’t be afraid to list everything. I’ve seen resumes that are 10 pages or more. That said, do not be afraid to create a resume if you don’t have that much on it yet. You have to start somewhere after all. It will grow and when it does you will have a concrete record. (Don’t forget to applaud yourself every step of the way).

Remember that a viewer, gallery or juror will always look at your work first. They will look at the Artists Statement secondly, and your experience/resume third. It is important to have all three as perfect as possible. If your materials are well presented and clear you will be more likely to achieve success. In the next post I’ll tell you where to start so please stay tuned.

Writing for Artists: A Few More Symbols

It occurred to me that after my last post that I’d forgotten three very important punctuation marks. The bullet point, the slash and the accent (back and forward). These will help you make your writing – and your resume especially a lot clearer.

The Bullet Point (•) – is a typographical glyph used to define items in a list. It is probably called the bullet point because of it’s resemblance to a bullet but it can take several forms. A circle, a triangle, a square, a diamond or an arrow. Bullet points are used most commonly in the following types of writing – technical, reference works, notes and presentations. They will be most effective in a resume where you will be listing items like exhibitions, press, etc. Here is a general example of how they are used:

Paintings
• Drawings
• Photographs
• Collage
• Assemblage
• Sculpture

Compare it to this and you’ll see how the bullet point makes things much clearer by indicating a separation.

Paintings
Drawings
Photographs
Collage
Assemblage
Sculpture

The Slash ( / ) The most general use of the slash is a shortcut for “and”. For example: painter/sculptor It can also mean either/or. Another use is as a line break for poetry. For example:

“The naming of cats is a difficult matter/it isn’t just one of your holiday games/you may think that at first I’m as mad as a hatter/when I tell you a cat must have three different names.” *T.S. Elliot, The Naming of Cats, Old Possums Book of Practical Cats

It is also used in abbreviations. Such as: w/o for without

To address internet issues…
When used in a URL (means Universal Resource Locater or website address) it can mean a separation of a file. Such as http://www.theartistobjective.com/listings/artistindex.html

It can also mean the end of a URL
http://www.theartistobjective.com/

The slash is also used in mathematical type for two things. (I know this is about art but…) It’s used for percentage symbols (5/0%”), in a fraction 1/2″ or to indicate the division symbol (10/2 = 5).

The Accent – There are two major accent marks you need to be aware of . The accute accent and the grave accent.

• The accute accent (´) is a forward mark placed over a vowel, usually an e. An “e” would normally be pronounced “eee” but if an accute accent is placed over it then it would be pronounced as if you were saying “A”. I.E. Resumé.

• The grave accent (’) is a back mark and is usually placed over an e to mean that it is pronounced separately. Ed at the the end of a word with a grave accent would be pronounced separately. (paint-ed vs. painted)

There are other marks that are technically called accents or diacritics but these are the most commonly used. Essentially what they all mean is that there is a difference in pronunciation in the English transliteration of a word.

In the next post I’ll go more into formatting for your resume. Stay tuned!

Maya Angelou

“The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.”

Maya Angelou

“There is nothing more agonizing than bearing an untold story within you.”

The Artist Statement: A Sense of Purpose

Envision yourself walking into a gallery and you are absolutely, positively fascinated by what you see. The titles, media and size are not enough. They are only a clue to the concept. The art is really well executed and thought out. You are either not sure of what it really is or you want to be sure that you get it. You want to know more.

So you walk up to the desk where the gallery director or an assistant is sitting and start asking questions. About the artist – they can only tell you about their experience with them. What made them decide on that particular artist – they can answer that. Then you ask about the art. About the concept, how the artist did it, what they were thinking and feeling at the time. You get either cursory answers or a blank stare. What to do?

You go home and get on your computer. Search for the artists name and find a website with more art, a resume, a bio and contact information and not much more. The web is about instant gratification, you get bored and lose interest.

Consider this alternative scenario. Same compelling exhibition, in the same gallery and you are drawn in, breath taken by the art. You go up to the desk and start asking those very same questions. The person behind the desk jumps up, comes out and starts speaking enthusiastically about the artist and their process. You almost can’t get a word in edgewise. It draws you in, as if you were in the studio with that artist. You ask to see a price list. You see that you can actually afford a print that moved you and you must have it. Not only because the art was beyond amazing. Not only because it would look amazing in your living room and you’d enjoy seeing it every day. Because the artist is so compelling. Done! Sold!

The print arrives and you put it on the wall. The experience of the gallery visit was so thrilling that every time you look at the piece the very same feeling comes up in your heart. You must have more. Done! You are now a collector!

Eventually you meet the artist, get to go to their studio often, wind up going to a chique bar and have a drink with the “in crowd.” Life just gets amazing!

There you have it. The power of the Artist Statement. The power to change lives. You have given the gallery the power and knowledge to sell your art. Galleries love a well written artist statement. It’s not just the commission and the sale. It’s the involvement in changing a life. Yours. I actually heard a gallery owner say that he wanted to help as many artists as possible. If you give him the tools, he’ll sell your art. The Artist Statement provides the gallery the information they need to turn a viewer into a buyer.

The Artist Statement is also used for a press release or press packet. I will go more into depth when I address reaching the press another time. A good Artist Statement is an integral part of the press packet. It also gives the writer of the press release the information they need to appeal to an editor. (An editor is the one who decides whether a story is good enough to send a reporter out.) It gives the journalist the information they need to write not only a good article about you but a compelling one. The kind of article that makes your event, exhibition, art and even you – the artist – a must see.

The Artist Statement helps you when writing grants, residencies, fellowships and all kinds of applications. By getting through the process of writing your Artist Statement, you will become more articulate about your work and become a much better writer. You will be able to knock out those applications with ease. By being more in touch with what you are doing you will also be in a better place to decide which opportunities overall suit your work the best. More about grants and applications another time.

Lastly, addressing websites and the internet. Effective exposure on the internet includes statements about what you are doing. It can turn a visitor into a “click” or a hit. It can make the difference as to whether they click on your website on a search engine. They are more likely to become a follower on social networking sites. They can become a collector or buyer and make a recommendation for you.

I hope that I haven’t put pressure on you by saying this. I only want to express the importance of completing your Artist Statement. I also want to get you excited. Writing, fiction or non-fiction, is fun! Enjoy the process.

A word about the next series of posts. They will be about grammar. Groan! you say? You are probably having bad memories from high school English class. The teacher who beat the importance of a period into your head and those boring textbooks. I say English teacher and textbooks be gone! Empowerment and a stronger artistic voice come in! I hope to take away all that boring high school garbage and the confusion or the mislead feeling that you are confused away, and show you how good and effective a writer you already are. How you can strengthen the voice you already use to speak. Grammar is simply a tool. Think of a period the same way you would think of that dab of paint carefully placed on the canvas making a painting not only good but brilliant. Not only will this help you to edit better, but it will help you understand the series of posts following that: The Resume. Stay tuned!

The Artist Statement: The Power of Words

Artists are so visual that they often overlook the power of words. Believe me when I tell you that words – the way they are written and/or said – ARE important. You CAN harness that power and use it to express yourself in a unique and effective way. To connect, create a bridge between you and your viewer. A bridge that might just turn a viewer into a buyer and a buyer into a collector.

If you are doubting what I’m saying about the power of words then think of this. Remember the saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never harm me.” It’s definitely not true. In fact, words can do lasting damage. This sounds negative but have you ever wished that someone had used one word in place of another because it would have alleviated the pain they caused or it wouldn’t have been painful in the first place. Words can go straight to your heart. They can change a meaning of everything you just said. They can change the tone of a whole book – and require the author to go back and revise the entire book. Similar to a painting. One dot of red may change the whole thing and require you to go back and rework the entire piece.

As you can see I love words. Editing has become like a creative crossword puzzle to me. Here is an exercise that incorporates using the power of words….

After you have a solid piece of writing, it answers all of the questions that a viewer may ask and you think you are satisfied then go into a room and read it out loud. Does it flow off your tongue? Does it feel good to say? Are there any words or punctuation that you stumble over? A sentence that doesn’t flow properly or convey exactly, exactly what you mean. One word can interrupt the flow of an entire sentence, an entire piece of writing.

Two of the most powerful tools I have found are the Dictionary and Thesaurus. Look up just one word and read the entire definition and suggestions of other words to use. You’ll be amazed and find things you never thought of before. Here is an example:

Inspiration: in(t)-spe-‘ra’-shan, – (,)spi-/in (14 century) 1.a: a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate with sacred revelation. b: the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions c: the act of influencing or suggesting opinions 2: the act of drawing in: specific The Drawing of air into the lungs. 3a: the quality or state of being inspired. b: something that was inspired. 4. an inspiring agent of influence.

This can also be a marvelous tool if you feel stuck. Here is another exercise:
Write a list of words that describe your art and look them up in the dictionary or thesaurus one by one. It opens the doors to your mind and your heart and suddenly the words will just flow. Start to free write about what each word means to you if you’re still stuck after that.

Another exercise is to have someone else read it out loud to you, after you’re completely finished with it. As they read it you will see if they understand the meaning of what you have written. You can also see if they stumble over words or sentences. Listen carefully. Having more than one person read it is also good because it will let you see who your artist statement resonates with.

Remember that an artist statement is never really finished. Your process and technique will change. You really should review it every three to six months and see if it needs tweaking. If you have followed the steps in the previous posts and in this post congratulations! You have completed your artist statement. Getting over the hurdle of writing your first artist statement can be the hardest thing but once it’s complete you know you will have something you can really use. It will be easier to change and keep up with. You will be able to talk and write about your work with confidence. You will be able to write grants, fellowships, residencies, press releases, exhibition proposals and so much more. Galleries like artists who can write and who can talk. This is the second major step to your success.

The Artist Statement: Writing for the Senses

One of the most important questions, that can help your viewer get into your mind and your heart, is how does the act of making art make you feel. Is it a wonderment. an excitement, calming, peaceful. What’s going on in your being? What does it do for your soul?

Someone with a passion for art, who doesn’t have the ability to make it, cannot conceive of why you do it and how you feel. If you can touch them in that way your statement will ultimately be successful. Walk them into the studio with you.

The best way to do this is to bring the five senses into your writing. That is Sight, Smell, Touch, Feel and Taste. Okay, maybe the last one doesn’t exactly apply to art making. Writers will also tell you to show not tell. So describe what your studio looks like, how it smells and feels. Is it the best place in the world for you to be in? Why? If you’re a painter, for example, where are the paints in your studio and why? What do they feel like? How do they smell? What is your surface and why do you use it? What effects are you hoping to achieve?

That said, you don’t want to cross that line of telling the viewer how to look at your art. That’s crossing into the art historical, curatorial description of your work. You want to tell them what you see in it, not what you want them to see.

Try this exercise. Get a piece of paper and your favorite writing tool. Get into that relaxed creative zone. Then write about your studio. Imagine that you are someone else walking in the door and describe every detail of what it looks like, feels like, smells like, etc. You will write a lot, and don’t worry about that. This is primarily to get you in touch with showing and not telling. In touch with the senses.

One more tip, beware of using too many adjectives. Be aware of what adjectives you are using and why. A general rule is to not use more than two adjectives to describe something but rules are meant to be broken. The repetition I described in the last post may apply to this.

As always have fun with this. Espousing freely helps you find your artistic voice, your writer’s voice and can give you a lot of confidence.

Have fun with this exercise.

The Art World Interviews: Lynn Lobell, Managing Director, Queens Council on the Arts

I am pleased to share with you what is the first of what I hope will be many interviews with arts professionals.    I am honored and extremely grateful to Lynn Lobell from Queens Council on the Arts, for agreeing to do this interview.  I have known Lynn for a long time and find her to be a dedicated and generous member of the the non-profit arts community and artists world in the borough of Queens, New York City and beyond.  Queens is the most culturally and ethnically diverse place on the planet and the programming that Queens Council on the Arts helps to make possible is fascinating. It can even be a window into a culture that you might otherwise not get to see. In addition to the Visual Artists Queens Council also supports Writers and Performers. Please visit Queens Council on the Arts website for more information: http://queenscouncilarts.org/

I would like to take a moment to say that every community, nationally and even internationally, has an arts council that you should connect with.  They don’t only provide grant money but free or low cost services and support to artists. For example Queens Council on the Arts offers a professional development program that includes workshops and events about the Business of Art.

ABOUT LYNN LOBELL
Lynn Lobell is Managing Director of Queens Council on the Arts. Prior to her current position, Lynn served as Director of the Queens Community Arts Fund for over ten years. Lynn has spearheaded several vital projects at Queens Council on the Arts. She penned Queens Council on the Arts Grant Writing Basics booklet, conceptualized and implemented the Individual Artist Initiative pilot which is now a staple among Queens Council on the Arts programs. Lynn has served as a panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs as well as additional grant maker discussion panels for various organizations throughout New York City. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Astoria Performing Arts Center.

Lynn holds an Arts Management Certificate from New York University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography from the University of Alabama. She has held a graduate internship at the International Center for Photography. Lynn has also worked as a freelance photographer as well as an artist’s representative and photo editor for various magazine publications. When she is not at Queens Council on the Arts, Lynn enjoys exploring all corners of New York City.

ABOUT QUEENS COUNCIL ON THE ARTS
Queens Council on the Arts is a re-granting organization serving the borough of Queens, New York City.  Started in 1966 by leader organizations in the borough’s cultural community, they formed the Council as an umbrella organization to promote cultural growth and the development of the arts in Queens, and to help artists and groups present the borough’s diverse cultural resources to Queens residents as well as the larger community.  For many years Queens Council on the Arts has been a re-granting organization for New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), the Department of Cultural Affairs for New York City (DCA) and JP Morgan Chase.  They have also worked hard at offering support services and professional development services for artists and organizations to maintain sustainability in the communities that make up the ethnically and culturally diverse borough of Queens in New York City.

MELISSA WOLF: HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE ARTS AND WHAT LED YOU TO QUEENS COUNCIL ON THE ARTS?

LYNN LOBELL: I studied photography in college. I have a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography.  I moved to New York to continue my education in photography. I had an internship at the International Center for Photography and continued pursuing photography as my art form, for a few years.  Then the reality set in that I needed to pay my rent, pay the bills and put groceries on the table. I got involved with a little art gallery at A.I. Friedman [Art Supplies], on 53rd Street. It was right next to the Museum of Modern Art.  They happened to have a little annex on 53rd Street,  and they had Letraset and Pantone Colors for CBS, across the street.  I was hired to work in the poster gallery and I had come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I worked in Special Exhibition Posters.

That kind of helped to pay the bills for a little while and I continued to do my photography, not as much as I had wanted to.  I still stayed very in tune with the art world. Gallery visits, museum visits and then I settled down and had a family. I really devoted my time to my kids.  After ten years of staying home , I needed to get back into the work force. I had a neighbor who worked for Queens Council on the Arts.  She actually recommended that I sit as a panelist for the Queens Community Arts Fund.

I didn’t know a thing about a grant.  I didn’t know a thing about a narrative or a budget.  I’d never written a grant before.  When I went to the panel orientation, I received a packet of a few applications, sat through the orientation and read the packet.  I was intrigued by all the programming that was being proposed and was actually happening in Queens.  I learned to read a budget really quickly and how to relate it to a narrative- and at the panel meeting I met quite a few people.  One of them happened to be Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, who is now the Executive Director of Queens Council on the Arts. She sat next to me as a panelist.  So it’s kind of interesting how we both came to work for Queens Council on the Arts professionally.  I enjoyed the panel process.  It was a volunteer position that was a great way to network with people in the community that I’d never met before.  It also gave me the opportunity to whet my appetite a little bit before getting back to work in the art world.

A few months passed and the person who was running the re-grant program at the time asked me if I wanted to do some freelance work for Queens Council on the Arts.  It was perfect timing because I was working in another freelance position, doing some editing for a book in the sports world, going through archives of photos. Although it was a connection to photography it really wasn’t my thing.

My first job at Queens Council on the Arts was to sell ads for a brochure about the Rockaways, an information guide to the Rockaways. I’d never been in the Rockaways in my life.  It was interesting for me on many levels. One was to connect to a community I’d never been to before.  It made me realize that in Queens it is a really very closed knit, tied together by neighborhoods.   Each neighborhood has it’s own quilt, the fabric is just so different.After the completion of that job it just so happened that Queens Council on the Arts needed someone to help with the JP Morgan Chase re-grant program.  I said I had the time and I’d be glad to try to help do it.  I did it successfully and I became the Queens Community Arts Fund Director , as the person who was in charge was moving on.  Once I became the Queens Community Arts Fund Director, it really put me in the forefront of what was going on in the Queens cultural community, not only in the arts but a little of politics and businesses as well. I learned so much just reading artist’s applications, talking face to face with people about their projects.  It was fascinating. That’s how I got started and I’ve been there for 13 years.Through the Queens Community Arts Fund, some of our funders wanted to see a professional development program. We get funding from the City and the State – we are the re-grant program for the New York State Council on the Arts and the Department of Cultural Affairs. They require us to provide some kind of professional development programming.  They don’t just want the money to go out. Our funders want artists to take full advantage of any opportunities that come their way to help advance their artistic career, to help show them how to sustain their careers.  Actually, that’s how the JP Morgan Chase grant started. They saw there was money for programming in the community but nothing for sustainability.  JP Morgan Chase is all about community building. The need for arts organizations and community organizations to bring economic drive to their communities.

As I was learning what I needed to be teaching people, I realized that my expertise really wasn’t there. So I received a grant to take courses at New York University’s (NYU) Certificate in Arts Administration program.  The classes were fascinating and I connected and maintained relationships with a lot of the people I met.  Ellen E. Day, Director of Brickhouse Ceramics (for example) in Long Island City. The courses at NYU really did help me guide artists through to whatever they needed to for development  I think I can now say that I have a very good overview of what it takes to run an arts organization and what organizations and artists basic needs are to develop as creative citizens can take to become sustainable in our communities. I think Queens Council on the Arts is able provide a lot of resources for a lot of people in the creative industry.  That’s the thing, how can an artist access creative resources? For an artist to set goals, direction and how to achieve whatever they wanted to get out of their art.

Now I’m managing programs and not so much in the re-grants program.  I work closely with the program coordinators of  in all programs.  We maintain a professional development program which is multilevel. My current position also involves managing many different people. I do a lot of budgets and am part of the grant writing team for the funding that the council receives.  In order for us to survive as a non-profit we have to raise funds, either through foundation, corporate or government grants or individual giving.  We do have programs that help artists get through the day to day and help them develop and offer networking opportunities and performance opportunities.

MELISSA WOLF: HOW SHOULD ARTISTS APPROACH YOU OR QUEENS COUNCIL ON THE ARTS?

LYNN LOBELL: They should not be afraid to approach us. We’re people just like they are.  We are there, waiting for people to knock on our door because we do have the resources and experience to guide people through.  When people do come to us we want them to have set ideas and goals about what they’re trying to achieve so that we can help them.  People can say “Oh we need a marketing plan” or “We need a website” – that’s the number one thing they ask for.  The website is an important tool to use but they might need a plan – a marketing plan.  People think they know what they need but when you sit down and start asking what it is that they’ve done or they haven’t done.  I always tell people the first thing they should do is get a business card made and make themselves available to any opening or networking event or gathering event to meet people because that’s how you meet people.  You can sit all day online and look at websites but there is nothing like the face to face.

 

MELISSA WOLF: DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR ARTISTS ABOUT WHAT NOT TO DO?

LYNN LOBELL: Don’t come to us and assume that you’re going to walk away with all things solved.  We’re there to offer suggestions, support and there might be many different things that we offer. It might feel confusing at first.  Some artists might walk away with a list of many things that we’ve talked about.  It’s a matter of being able to sort through them.  Walk away and come back two weeks or later on with ideas, thoughts or questions. We’re not there to solve every issue but we are there offer suggestions about how to go about doing that, step by step.  One of the things that I’ve learned from consultants that we’ve worked with is to look at your own resources.  You’d be surprised by what you already have out there and use them.  Utilize them and don’t be afraid to ask people for help.

Resources Mentioned in this Post:
Queens Council on the Arts – www.queenscouncilarts.comNew York City Department of Cultural Affairs: www.nyc.gov/html/dcla/html/home/home.shtml
New York State Council on the Arts: www.nysca.org
Metropolitan Museum of Art: www.metmuseum.org
International Center of Photography: www.icp.org/
Museum of Modern Art: www.moma.org
Brickhouse Ceramic Art Center: www.brickhouseny.com/

The Artist Statement: Idea Party

One idea that I really love is to have what Barbara Sher – author of Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want – calls an “Idea Party.”  For the artists statement what this amounts to is asking a group of trusted friends to come over and talk about your art.  What you will do is put out some wine and some snacks, your art and having them talk about the art.

It’s interesting to see what other people say.  They may bring up ideas you never even thought about and you may even get a new direction for your work while you’re at it.  You’ll want to record it somehow because you want to be fully engaged in the conversation (and not be stuck writing things down).  Inform everyone, of course, that you will be recording this before they come and it will be absolutely confidential.

You should start by asking a question.  Ask them what they think about a painting, the color in the painting, the shape, the size, etc.  Encourage them to ask you questions and be sure to note what they’re asking.  (The most effective artist statement answers the questions your viewers have).

A few days later, get into that quiet place with a pen and unlimited amounts of paper and turn on the recording.  Sit there and listen and take it all in.  Absorb without writing.  After you’ve listened to it once, listen again and this time write, write, write away. Write down the questions that your friends are asking about the art, write down your own ideas as they randomly come to you.  Be open, be free and enjoy!  I hope by this point you’re beginning to enjoy writing and finding it as creative and inspiring as I do.  Remember, most of all don’t edit, yet.  I’ll give you tips about that later.  Keep following these steps and you’ll be successful because I’m not just training you to write your artists statement, I’m training you to write in general.  To be successful you will have to write, fill out applications and apply for things.  Writing is key to success but it shouldn’t be a burden.  Enjoy it!

Sources
Wishcraft: How to Get What you Really Want, Barbara Sher with Annie Gottlieb, Ballantine Books, New York, NY, 2004. http://www.barbarasher.com/index.htm

The Artist Statement: Second Writing Exercise

Before I get into another strategy for writing your artists statement I want to ask you to watch two videos.  One is of Jackson Pollock talking about his work and the other is Louise Nevelson.  The reason I posted them was not to intimidate you but because I want you to know that everyone can talk about their art in terms that are as accessible as if you’re holding a conversation and that’s what you definitely want.  You want to engage your viewer – as if you’re telling them about your process on an email or a letter or in a phone conversation.
Once late in her career, when pushed by a reporter to say that she intentionally put the sexual nature into her flower paintings, Georgia O’Keeffe said “It’s on the wall and if you don’t get it that’s too bad.”  She got up and walked away.  That was when O’Keeffe was in her 90’s and already an American Icon.  Some people thought she was downright nasty.  My theory is that she was a painting machine and she had to protect that.  The point is that most artists are not Georgia O’Keeffe and don’t have that luxury.  Even Georgia O’Keeffe said “Every artist needs a Steiglitz.”
How did that come to be that she could get away with such a statement at that point in her career.  Words.  Years of talking about her work, of Alfred Steiglitz talking about her work, of critics and reporters talking about her work. Words.  Even that reporter was trying to get words about her art out of her.
Enough about humanizing the greats, now it’s onto the second writing exercise.  I want you to get your favorite writing implement and a piece of paper or a notebook.  That writing implement could be either your favorite pen or a crayon or a quill pen or whatever your heart desires.  As long as you can make words out of it.  Sit in your most favorite place.  That can be on the floor, in an arm chair, or even in a cafe.  If you like Starbucks that will do.
Take 20 minutes and write non-stop. Don’t let your pen stop and don’t pick it up from the page.  This is a wonderful way to get into free writing.  For writers this means writing about anything that comes into your conscious from your sub-conscious.  For you there will be a theme. Writing about your art.  Don’t pick your pen up from the page without the intent of putting it back down immediately and continue for 20 minutes.  Don’t worry about editing, or how it will look to others.  Remember that ultimately you’re the only one that has to see this draft.  You can edit it later.

You may not even use the whole thing but you will definitely get prized nuggets about your art that may indeed blow your mind.  You may be surprised and not even know that you had it in you to write like that.  One of my friends is a wonderful short fiction writer and after this exercise she came up with a marvelous prose poem. We were both blown away.  She didn’t know she had it in her.  It’s an amazing exercise and I hope you find that it is. Remember that the absolute key is not to pick up your writing implement for 20 minutes.

The Artist Statement: A Writing Exercise

The first exercise I will give you is one of my favorites. It involves getting into that place where you are one with the pen and are just letting everything that comes into your mind out. Partly inspired by “The Morning Pages” in Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and partly by seasoned writers who simply call it free writing. Tapping into your unconscious and letting it all hang out. Remember that you don’t have to show it to anyone. Don’t worry about editing as you go. You can do that later. If you do edit as you go your thoughts won’t flow. You will begin to wonder if what you’re saying is right and suddenly you’ll find yourself blocked. Almost like writing a diary about your art and your life. What ever is on your mind put it on paper or on the screen-wherever you’re most comfortable.

Sit down before your writing medium. Relax completely and make sure there are no distractions. Choose a pen and paper-I find that the words flow better on paper; you may find the computer easier to write on. Then start. The difference between this exercise and the morning pages is that you have a theme. Your art.

You can even start by saying “I hate this exercise. I don’t know what to say. What the heck should I say about my art….”. Most importantly do not give up. Keep going and if it turns out that you’re not writing about your art that’s okay too. Clearing your mind opens your creativity and your heart. Come back to it later or do this agin and again and again if that’s what it takes. You may begin to really enjoy the process of writing and find that you have something to say.

If you do get something out about your art and you’ve written enough about your art even for the day, sometimes you can get sapped and need to take a 24 hour break, leave it aside for that length of time.

When you come back to it go into a room by yourself and shut the door. Read aloud what you have. Don’t rush through it. Slowly, carefully. Enjoy the words, enjoy the language as it passes through your lips and try to listen. Don’t make any judgments. You may find that it opens up a flood of language that you must put on the page. A great author and activist Maya Angelou inspired that in a podcast I heard from TimesTalks. I’ll link to it at the end of this post. She is so inspiring to me. She said that is exactly what she does to break a writing block and yes, even Maya Angelou faces that from time to time. It clears your mind and makes the voices of self doubt disappear. It’s an amazing exercise and I hope this works for you. Keep following this blog because there will be more exercises and ideas.

The Artist Statement: An Example: Henry Moore

Henry Moore was an amazing sculptor who was the most well known sculptor in England in the 20th Century. His work is semi-abstract inspired by landscape, bones, human features, shells, pebbles and more. Here is a link to more about him on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Moore

I want to share with you excerpts from three interviews he did because I think they are perfect examples of his artist statement. They are from the catalog “Henry Moore at The Serpentine” from an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery and Kensington Gardens, published in 1978 on the occasion of his 80th birthday. He meant for his work to be viewed in a garden setting. It’s at is best in the open air. Throughout the years his work evolved and you will see by the dates that as he changed direction his statements changed with it. I hope that you find this inspiring. Read on!

“When I first began doing sculpture about 1922, or so, I often worked direct in a piece of stone or wood, which might have been not a geometric shape, but just an odd random block of stone that one found cheaply in some stonemason’s yard, or a log of wood which was a natural shape, and then I’d make a sculpture out of that bit of material as I could, and therefore one would wait until the material suggested an idea.

Now a days I don’t work so much in that way, as I have an idea, or an idea comes to me, and then I find the material to make it in, and do that, the ideas that I am concerned with, I’ll produce several maquettes – sketches in plaster – not much bigger than one’s hand, certainly small enough to hold in one’s hand, so that you can turn them around as you shape them and work on them without having to get up and walk around them, and you have a complete grasp of their shape from all around the whole time. If the form, the idea, that you’re doing is much bigger than that, then to see what it’s like on the other side, you have to get up, walk around it, and this restricts your imagining and grasping what it’s like as you can when it’s small. But all the time that I am doing this small model, in my mind it isn’t the small model that I”m doing. It’s the big sculpture that I intend to do.” Henry Moore, 1964

” One doesn’t know really how ideas come. But you can induce them by starting in the far little studio without looking at a box of pebbles. Sometimes I may scribble some doodles, as I said, in a notebook; within my mind they may be a reclining figure, or perhaps a particular subject. Then with those pebbles, or the sketches in the notebook, I sit down and something begins. Then perhaps at a certain stage the idea crystallizes and then you know what to do, what to alter. You dislike what you’ve just made, and change it. At the end of a week you’re sitting in that nice little easy chair with the bench in front, and there’ll be probably some fifteen or so maquettes about 5 or 6 inches long, if it’s a reclining figure, or that height if it’s an upright. Then either I know that a few of those are ideas that I like, or that I don’t like any of them. If some are ones that I like, then I’ll do a variation on that idea, or I’ll change it if I’m critical. Done in that way the thing evolves. In my mind always though, in making these little ideas, is the eventual sculpture which may be ten or twelve times the size of the macquette that I hold in my hand” Henry Moore, 1960

“The human figure is what interests me most deeply, but I have found principles of form and rhythm from the study of natural objects such as pebbles, rocks, bones, trees, plants, etc.

Pebbles and rocks show nature’s way of working stone. Smooth, sea-worn pebbles show the wearing away, rubbed treatment of stone and principles of asymmetry.

Rocks show the hacked, hewn treatment of stone, and have jagged nervous blocked rhythm.

Bones have marvelous structural strength and hard tenseness of form, subtle transition of one shape into the next and great variety in section.

Trees (tree trunks) show principles of growth and strength of joints, with easy passing of one section into the next. They give the ideal for wood sculpture, upward twisting movement.

Shells show nature’s hard but hollow form (metal sculpture) and have a wonderful completeness of single shape.” Henry Moore 1933

Henry Moore was immediate and frank in his understanding and description of his work. He was also very articulate. He seemed not to know really what was happening but at the same time he did. He left it to chance and let the materials tell him what to do. That’s what he was saying. It’s almost as if you’re having a conversation with him. These are excerpts from interviews so in a way you are having a conversation with him. If you can be this frank and immediate in your writing you will have something extremely powerful. That kind of writing almost comes from the unconscious and you can tap into it by using the free writing exercise I mentioned in the previous post.

Here is a link to a video about Henry Moore on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hr09gZitg1s&feature=fvwrel

The Artist Statement: Getting Started

When I tell artists about writing and how important to their careers it is I usually get a look of dread. How do you put something so visual into words? Artists are not usually articulate about their work, a lot of times it comes from the unconscious. The language is visual so how do you articulate in speech and writing what you are doing?

Many artists also tell me that their grammar is not good or their writing is not good. However, everyone has a story to tell and this is your chance to tell the story of your art. I’m going to give you, here, a few tips about writing.

I used to confuse the artists statement with the bio. The bio is a narrative version of your resume. Pick a few of your greatest achievements and highlight them in your bio. The artist statement is something that answers the questions your viewer may have about your work. It engages them and brings them into a deeper level of understanding. It creates a relationship between you and your viewer. It’s what can turn a viewer into a collector.

I used to be nervous about making an artist write their artist statement because sometimes the art of making art is not really knowing what your doing. Then someone pointed out to me that it can be an exploration, a process that brings the artist into a deeper understanding of what they are doing, who they are and what their direction is. If you are one of those people that hates writing, think of this as an adventure. A discovery if you will and you will enjoy it.

First and foremost remember that writing is a process. In my last job as the Executive Director of Women’s Studio Center we had many writers and I would see their work again and again in our writers forums. They would revise past pieces and bring them in for feedback. Until they got it right. They loved it and reveled in the details. Think of it as creative as making your art and if you can be articulate you will not only succeed but soar.

I like to start with an exercise called free writing. Get yourself into that creative mode where you are one with the paper and let the words flow. It doesn’t matter what you say or how it comes out, don’t worry if the grammar is correct. Just let it out. You can start by saying “I’m stuck, I don’t know what to write. Writing about art is so hard. What shall I say?…” Keep on going and it will eventually come out. Leave it aside and come back in a few days and look at it. Then piece together the good parts or free write some more.

Another great exercise is to have an “art idea party.” Put out your work and some wine and a few snacks and invite some friends over. Ask them to talk about your art. To ask questions and see what they think. It can be a difficult situation to take notes in so you can turn on a tape recorder. (Make sure your friends know that you will be taping it for your own private use first). Ultimately you will want to answer the questions that the viewer has of your art so this is a good way to get started.

Remember that writing is a process and developing your artists statement is an ongoing process. As your art evolves so will your statement. It’s a work in progress but getting the first one out is ultimately important. You will use it in all kinds of applications – grants, fellowships, residencies – and in catalogs, press releases and more. By being in touch with your art and your direction you will know which opportunities to seek out. In the coming posts I will be talking more about the writing process. I love writing so much and want to share some secrets and tips that I have learned over the years. I also want to make the process easier for you and eliminate the intimidation. Writing can actually be fun and inspiring. Your artist statement can be the most inspiring thing you do.

Digital Imaging: Labeling Your Images

You’ve got good images so now what. Every image will have a label. That’s the wording you see next to the icon, on your computer.

The best way to label your images are as follows:

lastname_titleofpiece.jpg

or

smith_sunlitlandscape.jpg

In otherwords, your last name, the title of the piece and the extension.

99 out of 100 opportunities I see ask for the images in that format.  From an administrative perspective it’s easy to understand why.  It will be easier to keep track of your images and associate them with an image list if they ask for it.

Here are other tips for image labeling:

• Don’t ever have spaces in your labels. If you must put a space use an underscore instead.  A space means that the recipient may not be able to open it, because it will appear to the computer as a “broken image.”

• Don’t use uppercase letters.  Not all computer languages will read uppercase letters, which means they may not be viewable.  Make a habit of typing anything labeled or in computer language in lowercase.

• Don’t use punctuation – except for underscores, dashes and periods.  Use them judiciously and with a purpose though.  Use periods or dots exclusively for extensions, like .jpg, .png or .tiff  for text based documents this means .doc or .docx

One mistake I have seen many times is that artists do not edit the labels on their image files  and it can take hours to locate something.  What a waste of time!  Think of your computer as a virtual file cabinet and create files and document labels accordingly.  You will be very grateful for the time it saves you later on.

Digital Imaging: Making Your Images Look Good

Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years to making your images look not only perfect but absolutely professional.  The first thing I can tell you is that I’ve spent most of my time using one program to edit images and that is Photoshop.  I’ve used the full blown and the Elements and I find them to be THE best editing software on the market.  There are other programs but they are usually sub-par.  If you can’t afford the full blown Photoshop, Photoshop Elements is less expensive and can do almost everything the full blown Photoshop can do.
The basic features you will need in any photo editing software you choose are as follows:Image Size – the ability to change the inches as well as pixel size.

Cropping – the ability to crop your images for details or just getting rid of some background that might show up.
Color Adjustment – the ability to make your image color perfect, adjusting warmth and coolness or tone.Light Adjustment – the ability to brighten or darken your image as needed.

Rotate – sometimes you will need to rotate the image by an increment in order to crop it properly.
Sharpening and Light and Contrast – the ability to change the focus or sharpen your image.
Before you get to the computer however, you should consider the following tips for using your camera.

• Use the best most even light possible.  Turn off your flash and if you can’t afford special lights and equipment simply shoot your work outdoors.  There is nothing like pure daylight to make your images color perfect. Of course, adjustments can be made in your photo editing software.

• Shoot the piece absolutely, positively flat.  When you hold the camera up make sure it isn’t tilting backwards or forwards.  There is almost no way to correct an image that is tilted.  You can rotate an image that is shot flat but not straight, however.  (Does that make sense?)

Once the image is in the computer here are some things that you should work on…

Crop the image properly –  if it is a 2-Dimensional square piece (i.e. a painting on canvas). If it is a 3-D piece, has uneven edges or is sculptural than make sure the background is either black, white or a neutral gray.  I find that a neutral color usually works the best.

Make sure your image is color correctdown to the last increment. There is nothing more frustrating to a juror to accept a work based on the colors in the image, only to find it’s completely different when they accept it. Your piece can be rejected on arrival because of this so get it right!

Make sure your lighting is perfectly even – that there is no flash or bright spots and that the image can be seen at it’s best and perfectly.  This is the worst infraction I’ve seen and if I have any doubt – in my experience as a juror – I will turn it down.

Remember that just because your piece is accepted in an exhibition, it may be rejected on the spot because it doesn’t match your image. Consistency and Professionalism are key in everything you do.

Digital Imaging: Camera Features

There are certain features you will want in your camera and there are certain features you will want to look for so that you can turn them off.  Here are some of the terms you need to know.

Flash
Flash is something that you should generally not use.  It is positioned in one part of the camera and will light your art poorly.  Secondly, it will produce “Red Eye” because your subjects eyes are usually level with the flash.  It will produce images that are not color accurate and we all know that artists really need color accurate photos.

White Balance
Different sources of light have different color casts to them.  For example incandescent (light bulbs) tend to have a yellow cast to them.  Fluorescent light can have a blue or yellow cast to them.  Most cameras will automatically adjust this for you, unless you go to the menu and manually tell it what to do.  Some even have settings for taking photos at night.  In most cases I highly recommend turning this off all together.  Especially if you are shooting photos of your art.  Color accuracy is everything and you can always make adjustments on your computer.

ISO
This refers to shutter speed and the more ISO you have the more options for exposure you will have. For example if you are outdoors in direct sunlight you will need a slower speed because you won’t need to capture as much light.  If you’re shooting images at night you will want to use a slower speed.

Noise Reduction
This is not sound.  This refers to the blurry little pixels you sometimes see around images.  This is a good feature to have and if you get a camera that shoots in Camera Raw, this is less likely to happen. This is also not so important because you can control it in Photoshop or other photo editing software.  In Photoshop it’s called “Despeckling.”

Image Size
On Camera Raw you will be able to capture huge photos. Even on a Compact Camera you will capture rather large photos – sometimes as much as 20 inches.  It’s important to be aware of that and take control over it.  I will discuss that in the post about software. You will want a larger Image Size because it will give you much more capability.

Zoom Control
Some cameras will allow you to turn off Digital Zoom.  This is very useful because in most cases you will want Optical Zoom only.

Image Quality
This is almost the same as Image Size.  It usually has settings like Fine, Normal and Economy.  See Image Size for more information.

Camera Charging and Information Processing
Make sure that the way the camera charges and moves information from your camera to the computer is convenient.  Mine has a “cradle” which is almost like a tray that connects to a plug and to the computer.  Some require that you remove the memory card and insert it into a device in order to move information from the camera to your computer.

Focus
Most cameras will have Auto Focus and that’s generally fine.  You may want some control though.  Even Compact Cameras have control over that but SLR Cameras will allow you the most control.

The best tip I can give you is when you first get the camera, sit down with it and the instruction manual and go through it step by step. This should take you a few hours.  You will want to make the most of everything you’ve got.  Not just for your art but because your camera can help you actually make the art. You may become a photographer once you have one because you’ll be having so much fun with it.

Digital Imaging: Purchasing a Camera

The second most important thing you will need to know about, even if you want to use a professional photographer, is about the digital camera.  There is a lot to choose from and new things are coming out all the time.  I have posted links to a few websites with reviews below. Do check them out before you make a purchase.

Mega-Pixels
Cameras can come with anywhere between 4 and 20 or even more mega-pixels. A mega-pixel is one million pixels. By comparison there are Gigapixels which are one billion pixels but you won’t need to know about that so much for digital cameras.  Your camera will interpret the mega-pixels into RGB colors and needless to say, the more mega-pixels you have the better.

Zoom
This can be confusing.  A camera may say 10x Zoom but will it be the best kind of zoom?  There is digital and optical zoom.  Optical Zoom is ideal because it actually uses the camera lens to “zoom” in on the image and then it shoots it. Digital zoom is interpreted after the shot is taken and is known as a “software zoom.”  So make sure your camera has more Optical  than Digital Zoom.

Memory Card
This is like a flash drive.  In most cases it will look like a mini floppy disk.  This is the memory and the more memory you have, the more images you can store. They run from 4GB to 32GB.  Some come with special features.  One type has a global positioning feature, meaning that it will automatically attach a time, date and place to your photos. Another has Bluetooth and every time your computer and your digital camera are on they will sync automatically.  I do recommend having more than one Memory Card.  The camera will come with a very low GB Memory Card.  Consider purchasing two more. There is nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of a shoot and the Memory Card breaks down.

Battery
This gives your camera power.  It keeps it running.  You will get a charger with the camera but it is also a good idea to budget for two batteries.   You will have extra power on the go and if one breaks down you’ll have back up.

There are several different types of cameras and which one to buy is going to be a learning curve.  Let me make it easier for you.

SLR
This means Single Lens Reflex.  It is probably the best to purchase if you can afford it.  It is sometimes known as DSLR.  This is a system that allows you to see the image as the camera sees it via prism to mirror function.  This camera looks like a professional 35mm Camera and they do tend to run high in price but if you can make the investment it’s worth it.  It will have a higher resolution and will be guaranteed to shoot everything in Camera Raw, which translates into a .tif on the computer (see the previous post for more information).

Compact or Point and Shoot
If you can’t afford an SLR camera then this is the next best thing.  Make sure, however, that it can shoot in Camera Raw.  Most can only shoot in .jpg’s.  That might cost you a bit more but will be worth it in the end.  You don’t want the camera to compress the pixels for you.

Those are the two formats you really need to know about.  In the next post I will talk about camera features.

Digital Camera Review Websites:
Consumer Reports: Digital Camera Reviews
Digital Camera Magazine: Your Guide to Digital Imaging and Photography
PC Magazine: Digital Camera Reviews

Digital Imaging: The Beginning

The first step to your success is getting good, reproducible digital images of your work.   One side benefit is that digital images are easy to shoot and edit yourself, once you have the right equipment and information.

The first thing to know is that the ability to market and sell your work in different formats with digital images is tremendous.  Social Networking is one good example.  Images of your work will be viewed 24 hours a day/7 days a week, and be working for you even when you are not.  This means that your images will say more about you, your work and your level of professionalism more than ever.  So be very picky because your images must be perfect. There is, honestly, no excuse for a bad image. If you don’t want to do it yourself then hire the right photographer.  Even then you will want to be able to shoot good photos because you won’t want to miss an opportunity just because your photographer isn’t available. The following terms and information will also help you to speak to your photographer so read on!Pixels
Digital Images will look like beautiful, seamless photos until you blow them up on your computer.  If you blow them up all the way you will see that they are made up of thousands of tiny little squares. These squares are known as pixels.  Each square is assigned a color number, known as a Hex number.  Hex numbers are made up of six digits and give the computer instructions about how to present them on your computer.  Remember that no color is perfect.  Computers are back lit so it may show up slightly different on different screens.  There is no way to control this.  It’s not such a huge difference that you have to worry about it tremendously.

IMAGE FORMATS
.tif or .tiff or Camera Raw
Initially all of your images should be shot in this format. It is the best high resolution format because it has the most pixel colors to choose from.  In the Millions of Millions.  This does make it large format, so you will want this only for yourself.  You will send this format to someone only if requested and usually a printer or manufacturer.

.jpg or .jpeg
This is the most popular image format because it’s known as a lossy compression. Almost every grant, exhibition opportunity, application and social networking platform you send or use will require this format.  A lossy compression means that every time you save it you will lose pixels.  Compression means that the image is faster loading. The color choice in pixels isn’t as high as a .tif but it will more than suffice.  Tip: When you do save it most photo editing software will give you an option to save it on a low to high scale.  Make sure you always save it on the highest setting.  You will lose fewer pixels.

.gif
This is an image that should only be used for a low level animation.  For example making something in your image move back and forth.  This image format is not good for still images because it has only 256 colors to choose from so it is not ideal for art.

.png
This is a relatively new format and is so much better for artists because it is a lossless compression. It also has millions of colors to choose from.  Being a lossless compression means that you won’t lose pixels when you save it.  The word “compression” means that it’s fast loading.  Not many people are asking for this yet so you might want to stick to using .jpg’s for opportunities and applications.  You can use the .png with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, etc. and on your website.

Color
This is important to artists.  You will have more options on the computer and they will be confusing.  The one that you really have to remember is RGB. This is true of the screen and printing.  RGB means Red Green Blue.  This is associated with the Hex numbers I spoke about before.  The Hex numbers are six digits that look something like this #00FFCC.  The first two numbers are Red.  The second two numbers are Green and the last numbers are Blue.  The reason there are letters is that this format needs to choose from 14 single digits.  So the internet and computer uses 0-9 and A-F.  This last part may be too complicated for you but you just need to remember what Red Green Blue is.

.dpi or .ppi
These terms are interchangeable. .dpi means dots per inch.  .ppi means pixels per inch.  .dpi is a term who’s origins are in hard copy printing (magazines, newspapers, offset printing) and means just what it says.  Hold a loop or magnifying glass to a full color magazine and you will see that it is made up of hundreds or thousands of little dots in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.  The more dots the higher the resolution. Sound familiar?  That’s because your ink jet computer printer works the same way.  It sprays dots of the above mentioned colors.  Again the more dots per inch the better.

Printing vs. Screen
For any image that you see on a computer screen it should be 72 dpi.  If there are fewer dots per inch it should be faster loading and harder to reproduce.  It is the standard and all entries should be sent this way unless requested.  If you are printing something or something is being printed for you (say in a newspaper article or catalog or postcard), your image should be 300 dpi and up.  It makes sense that the more dots you have the higher the resolution.

TIP: Always view your images (and try to view them projected) before you send them to an opportunity or with an application.  You want to be confident that they will look good to a jury or viewer.