Tuesday, August 25, 2015

One Year, Many Lessons. What Lori Putnam Taught Me.

It's been one year since I began working for a fabulous artist, Lori Putnam and what a year it's been. I started my Artist BFF service as a way for me to have steady income as I settled into my new life in California. What I didn't realize was the education that I would receive. I work with many artists at different career levels but I'm so lucky to work for her on a daily basis.

Lori exemplifies hard work and dedication. I see the ups and downs, the trials and the many successes. When there is success, I see her forge even further and then the days that are less successful, I see determination to turn it around. It doesn't happen overnight. It's not unusual for us to exchange notes into the night (we're 2 time zones apart). She is always thinking but enjoying life as she works. Her travel schedule rivals my busiest travel days in mortgage banking (in my 20's and 30's). Yet, she shows up, works extremely hard at all her tasks and with a smile on her face. Lucky me to have a front row seat.

So, what have I learned? You probably "know" most of what is listed below but putting it into practice is the key. I knew these to be true but when I see Lori practice them daily, it only reiterates why she is creating a successful career. So how do we get from where we are to where we want to be? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Are you...
  • Willing to Fail. Doing nothing is worse than failing (#1 lesson).
  • Making time at the easel a top priority?
  • Settling? Challenging yourself to grow artistically?
  • Showing your best work (this should apply to artists at every level). You know when it's not good.
  • Waiting for opportunities? Or are you ringing bells, opening windows, crawling through doors?
  • Filled with doubts because everyone has them at some point. However, successful people don't let it cripple them, they use it to propel them.
  • Able to "Cowboy Up" on those difficult days? After having 3 rejections (galleries, juried shows, etc.) in one day, can you make one more attempt and see success? Yes, I've seen it happen. It takes persistence and moving forward despite the "nos".
  • Are you making your own path or following another's path? 
  • Afraid to ask a question because the answer might be no?  If the answer is no, then ask a different question or pursue a different option. "No" is not the end. It should encourage you to push ahead.
  • Surrounding yourself with trusted advisor(s) or just someone who is only willing to tell you what you want to hear? Say No to the Yes men. 
  • Just taking from other people? Life isn't a one way street. Give as good as you get. Lori practices this in abundance. 
  • Finding "your" audience? My audience is not your audience and vise versa.
  • Expecting to be spoon feed?  Then prepare to only get what is offered. 
  • Thinking that others have all the answers?
  • Thinking that the world is going to show up at your door and offer to buy your art? Well, good luck with that theory. 
  • Being honest with yourself about where you are along your artistic journey? Always search, never settle.

I've never seen a lazy,successful person. The successful are the ones that show up, work hard, push through the difficult passages and ask for advice when needed. Currently easel time can't be a top priority for me. I keep my fingers in the "pie" by teaching 2 classes a week, an online class and sketch/paint when I'm able. I juggle daily client consultations and many projects a week. This doesn't leave me much time to paint but that day is not too far off. Stepping back and having the opportunity to network and engage with some very talented artists/people in the industry has only given me a greater insight into what is head for me. Hard work is not only required but demanded. Success isn't going to come to me. I have to go and get it. I have to thank Lori for allowing me to join her on this wonderful ride. I hope that one day, she looks behind and sees me on her heels or better yet, side by side, each following our own path. What are you prepared to do?

Happy Anniversary, Lori!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Just "Pleining" Around

In the Bright Sunlight
11x14, Oil on linen panel

A lovely day to paint with the sun. It doesn't get better than this.

Email me for purchase information.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Create Compelling Newsletters

Newsletters...writing one is a good idea but do you actually know how to begin?How often should you do one? I can't write or I have nothing to share, I hear this all the time. I've helped create a "few" newsletters! And here are some of my tips to help you get started.

  • The Basics
I suggest publishing on a quarterly basis because most of us don't have enough content to write monthly. I read a lot of newsletters, and the majority of them just aren't that interesting. Even monthly if you have great content, over time it might be too much for your audience. I follow one particular artist and have loved her work for years. She generally does a monthly newsletter and I've been finding myself wanting to unsubscribe because it's just too much.

Many also include artwork and news that I've already seen on social media. No real fresh content and it feels like they are scraping together information just to say that they sent out a newsletter. Not to say that you shouldn't include this but if it's just copying and pasting what you already shared everywhere else, what's the point? A list of accomplishments, i.e. I did some paintings and I'm offering a workshop isn't enough. These are the newsletters that I quickly hit the unsubscribe button. I'm not saying that repeating information isn't good, it's just that it can't feel like leftovers, reheated and served on a paper plate. Keep it fresh and have a little fun. 
  • Always include an Introduction
Many artists just dive right into the news. Take the time to write a personal note, thank your subscribers for supporting you and add a little conversation about what is happening or something that you're excited to share. Treat it like talking to a friend. Without an introduction, if can feel a little mechanical or that you just whipped this out by plugging in information.
  • Don't Copy Someone Else
It's okay to like another artist's newsletter but if you are copying their content and just replacing your name, it is not authentic. While you might think their tagline is great and want to use it, it won't represent you. Be genuine. List words or phrases that describe your passion and art and create your own tag line that comes from within, not taken from someone else. Remember you are selling yourself, your art and if you use their words, it's not a clear representation of you. 
  • Share Yourself
Once again, I read a lot of newsletters and many leave me feeling that I have no connection to the artist. Make it personal. You don't need to over share but allowing your audience to catch a glimpse of your artistic life or your life, in general, is what will help "bind" you to your audience that might have never met you in person. A sense of humor can also help. 
  • Know your Audience
Ask yourself, do you know your audience? Have you just collected names from the internet and have no idea who is on your list or why? Think about what information you are sharing. Would  your subscribers find the information interesting? Act like you are the audience and see if you find your newsletter worth spending time reading. Remember your subscribers might include friends, family, collectors, students, etc. If your newsletter is primarily targeting one segment of your audience, then it's time to rethink the content.

Let's talk Subscribers for a minute.  It isn't about getting a certain number of subscribers, it's about having the right subscribers. Are you just asking people on Facebook to sign up for newsletter without really thinking through you are targeting?  If your Facebook friends are people that you know or are collectors/students great. Not saying that getting people to sign up from Facebook is bad but if that is your primary source of subscribers and you really don't have a strong connection to them, that probably won't turn a whole of lot of sales. Get off the computer and get out into the world. Think outside of the box.

  • Proper Etiquette 

    • If you have someone who you think might like your newsletter, send an email stating that you have a quarterly (monthly) newsletter and ask them if they would like to subscribe. Provide the link for them to do so. You can could post on Facebook a couple of days before you publish your newsletter informing your friends about the upcoming issue and add the link for them to subscribe. Adding people without their permission is against the law. It's also disrespectful to your audience. That is not the way to gain subscribers and can actually backfire. Also think about who you want to add. I manage the emails for a couple of artists and see people add them to their mailing lists with the assumption that because they like their work or have taken a workshop, that gives them permission add to their mailing list. I'm not saying that the artist might not be interested, I'm saying ALWAYS ask permission. It's their option, not yours.

      • Let's Talk Design
      The "hit" list for me is...color everywhere, multiple columns, too small or overly large images, too many or not enough images, long paragraphs that resemble a term paper. It makes me want to scream. Most readers scan first...if they are overwhelmed by content, or it looks like a kaleidoscope, you might get the "I'm outta here" response. 

      Yes, I know we are artists and most of us LOVE color but remember it's your ART that you want to highlight. I realize that purple might be your favorite color but trust me it won't make your artwork shine. On the other hand, black or dark backgrounds with light font doesn't work either. Bullet points with links are a great way to get your point across. It allows your audience to quickly scan the content. If you want to share a blog post, don't copy the entire post, just add a teaser, an image and then link to your blog. It's a good way to direct your readers to your blog, otherwise they may never visit it.

      Keep it clean, simple and well written. You aren't writing the next great American novel. You're just sharing what is happening with your art. Make it easy to read, no "cute" fonts, well formatted and don't include the entire color wheel.

      • Links

      You might think this is not necessary to discuss but I find many newsletters that don't contain links to purchase art, sign up for a workshop, etc. Always include links to your website or include your email. How do you expect your audience to interact with you if you don't give them the opportunity or way to do so? 
      • CTA (Call to Action)
      If you are trying to sell a painting or promote a workshop, do you ask your subscribers to do something? Like "Sign Up Now", "One space left, Sign Up Today" or "Buy Now". You have to ask for the sale and then add a link.
      • Don't Oversell
      Don't make every section of the newsletter about selling something. Provide your readers a little bit of a breather. Find something fun or interesting to talk about that doesn't scream Buy,buy, buy.
      • Be Consistent
      If you announce that you will be doing a quarterly newsletter, then live up to that commitment. If it's too much, then decide how often you can do it. Figure out what you can deliver and then deliver it timely, professionally and beautifully.
      • Test your Newsletter
      I always sent a copy to myself before publishing. I check for spelling errors, make sure links work and look to see how it is viewed on my computer and mobile devices. Ask a friend to review it too. Always good to have 2 sets of eyes to catch the errors.

      • What's Irritating
      Think what you find irritating when you see newsletters or marketing campaigns in your inbox. Chances are the things you dislike are the things that your subscribers will dislike too. Place yourself in their shoes before hitting the send button. 

      Compelling Newsletters

      I have the privilege to work with Haidee-Jo Summers and Johanna Spinks in bringing their newsletters to life. They both have very interesting newsletters that highlight their talents as well as sharing something about themselves as artists. We worked together to choose a tagline that quickly spelled out something about them as well as making sure the content was relevant and engaging. I can't take the credit for much of the content. These two artists have a strong sense of themselves and their audience and were thoughtful about what they shared. Please check out these very talented ladies and see what they have to say.

      The day that Johanna published her newsletter (first time a couple of years), she heard from two former clients ready to book new portraits. Haidee-Jo has had success in her first newsletter (April) with a high percentage of open/click through rates as well as gaining a number of new subscribers and wonderful feedback. So she is off to a great start.

      I hope this post will start the wheels turning for you. Remember there is always a learning curve to creating a newsletter or marketing campaigns. Be thoughtful, creative and professional. Also be yourself.

      If you would like help in starting or improving your newsletter,please contact me or visit my website for this and other services that I offer.

      Sunday, January 4, 2015

      Somewhere between Here and There

      "Eggshells & Jam"
      12x12 Oil on Linen Panel
      Finding time to paint is precious. I'm having to fight the feeling that I need to "complete" a masterpiece when I'm at the easel these days. So did I hit the nail on the head with this piece? My only answer is that I what to be somewhere between my start (see photo here) and where I ended up. It's all a process and for now, just painting is "where" I want to be.  How about you...Are You Where You Want to Be with Your Paintings?

      Thursday, January 1, 2015

      Making Time to Paint

      "Eggshells & Jam"
      12x12, Work in Progress

      One of my goals this year was to step back and take this year to grow artistically. The success of my Artist BFF services has kept me busy and I haven't picked up a paintbrush in more than a month. We all need a challenge sometimes to make us step up to the plate and Leslie Saeta is just the woman to do that. I joined her 30 in 30 painting challenge for January. I won't be posting a painting a day but as Leslie says it's about painting more. So I will share what I accomplish during this time. It might simply be a work in progress, as the painting above. For me it's all about making sure that as I help other artists achieve their goals, that my goals are pushed aside. After all, at the end of the day, I'm an artist & have a desire to share the beauty that I find all around me.  So until next time, Happy 2015. 

      Monday, October 6, 2014

      Stepping Back to Move Forward

      Lately, I've been feeling so very blessed and many of you have been asking how I'm doing since my move, so I thought I would share some of what is happening. It was such a huge leap of faith to make this move and I just believed that with hard work & a little bit of luck that it would turn out great. And it has. So here's an abbreviated version of my time in California so far.
      "Heat of the day"
      Landed here in December, started teaching a drawing class in January, then quickly added another 10 week session and as well as an oil painting class.  I have wonderful students that have become my cheerleaders.  In fact 2 of those cheerleaders recommended me for a teaching job at Pasadena City College (PCC) which I just started a few weeks ago.  Once again, an opportunity arose to add an additional class this session and I've have invited back for next year. I also,started a Sketchbook Monday" class with students meeting me at different locations around Pasadena to experience drawing from life. I love teaching, meeting new students and seeing the joy when someone has an "Ah Ha" moment. And I believe in the end, it makes me a better artist.

      "At the Fair"
      My time here has been an exploration in whether I could make a living here in a very expensive area of the country and to that end, I'm making good progress.  A couple of months ago I became an assistant for the fabulous oil painter, Lori Putnam.  The opportunity to work for such a kind and very talented artist is a true blessing.  I get to see the behind the scenes of a very much in demand artist and what it truly takes to make it in the art world. It's a lot of hard work and perseverance. This opportunity has given me a road map for where I want my career to go.

      In addition to teaching and working for Lori, two weeks ago, I launched my Artist BFF Virtual Assistant service, designed to help artists on a project oriented basis with tasks that range from marketing ideas, social media to starting a newsletter, and everything in between. I've had such an amazing response. So much that I now have a waiting list of clients.  As the saying goes, "See a need, fill a need". I'm a lucky girl with some great clients that I learn from every day.  For my artist friends (shameless plug), check out my Artist BFF services to see how I can help you.

      Between the teaching, working for Lori & the Artist BFF, I'm looking for extra hours in the day.  Where does my art fit into this picture? Well at the end of the day, I'm a painter.  It's what feeds my soul. So not having the stress of my next sale to pay the bills, has presented a wonderful chance for me. So I've made a decision to take the rest of this year & 2015 to focus on my growth as an artist.  I can paint and challenge myself in ways that aren't possible when you are painting for galleries & shows. I'm excited, terrified & fully realizing that sleep might be a luxury over the next 15 months. Sleep is highly overrated. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

      "Fence Line Flowers"
      While you might not hear from me as much on this blog, I do plan to post on a more regular basis on my Art Tips blog.  And I will try to share some of my artistic journey along the way.
      I want to thank my friends, family & students both here & across the country for being my cheerleaders. And for being a shoulder to cry on when needed as well as pushing for me to challenge myself.  I feel very blessed by having each one of you in my life!

      I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to call or email me.  I promise to respond and remember the time difference for my east coast friends.  So I think I can officially say that I'm a California girl! The water is warm, everyone is welcome to join me but just not all at once.

      Blessings from a very happy "southern" transplant.


      Monday, September 15, 2014

      "Fairly" Hot Days

      "At the Fair"
      10x8  Oil on Panel

      I went to the LA County Fair and this is all I got. Just kidding. It was a fun, HOT day and it's always enjoyable to watch kids having a blast.  I got several photos that might turn into paintings, this one just jumped out at me.  Can you feel the heat?