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The emerging artist’s biggest challenge

“Emerging Artist” is a term used to describe an artist just starting out in their career.

Emerging artists have lots of exciting challenges. There are many things to do and learn, many of which don’t involve the actual creation of art . . . except for this one:

Creating a body of work.

This can be the emerging artist’s greatest challenge.

A body of work is a collection of artwork (somewhere between 12 and 30 pieces) in which all the work is similar in most ways — medium, style, color palette, subject matter etc. To a viewer there is a clear sense that the pieces belong together. A body of work is unique, distinctive and attributable to a specific artist.

Although this may seem self-evident and a minor matter of simply making the art – it’s not that easy.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have met with an emerging artist who shows me a collection of work which includes a few drawings from high school, a couple of paintings from a class taken a few years ago and some scattered pieces of recent work in another new medium.

The random pieces may be beautiful with immense potential, but the artist’s career is not like to really get off the ground until the artwork becomes a body of work.

This is not necessarily bad.

When we are first starting out we are in the process of experimentation – rather than having a solid style we are finding and refining our style.

We need these explorations, encounters, successes and failures to give definition to our work. It is all part of our artistic growth.

At some point however, the artist needs to make a commitment.

The artwork is our brand. Building a solid business brand is critical to selling success.

Galleries and customers need to know what to expect from us. They want to know that we can prolifically fulfill their needs.  Having a brilliant, distinctive, well marketed and universally popular body of work is what sells art.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words — here’s an example. Below are images of some of my own work over the last three years:

The Mother Mandala  Copic Markers on Paper

Mother Warrior Headdress
Tree – Mixed Media Collage

As you can see, I am all over the board. Sadly, this is not a body of work.

And I don’t regret a minute of it.

But it is time for me to make a commitment. I am ready to knuckle down and create those 30 pieces!

And as I reassured the artists I spoke with – it doesn’t have to be forever.

(What has been your experience creating a body of work? Professional photographer, David Lorenz Winston came up with a unique solution that allows him a bit of creative leeway without sacrificing sales of his most popular body of work.)

Building your business brand — help for creative people

If you are a creative person you are probably a Jack or Jill-of–all-trades . . . and master of many.

For artists and entrepreneurs, the world is full of shiny new things. We are curious, multifaceted, changeable and full of future potential. We tend to jump right in and lead with our hearts.

And this is a beautiful thing …

Unless like me, and you need a better business brand.

Wondering what a brand is?
It is not just your logo, your business name or the colors you use.
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” Seth Godin
For creative people — the operative word is “set”.
To build a solid business brand we must tease out a unique and particular “set” of expectations — memories, stories and relationships — from all that we are and do.
We must create a true (not phony) story about ourselves, make it the Reader’s Digest condensed version and stick with it.
Our story must be powerful enough to compel a consumer to choose us over another and it must be crystal clear.

Our potential consumers have rich, complicated and busy lives also. They aren’t our best friends or closest family. They don’t have the time or inclination to know ALL of who we are.

Most importantly, we can’t expect them to sort out the puzzle of what we can do for them — for which they would be willing to pay us money!

I can know and teach this, but it is a case of “do what I say, not what I do.”
I love making art and am eager to try all mediums. I have a passion for art marketing, writing, art therapy, psychology, and creating magnificent art events. I love consulting one-on-one with artists, business people and am branching into non-profits. I am fascinated by technology, new ideas, start ups and social media marketing. I have a couple degrees and a couple of almost degrees. I am a mom and a grandmother. I love music, big cities, travel, hiking — and the list goes on and on. (See how boring and confusing this is!)

The world is just too exciting for me. I want to do it all!

When someone asks me what I DO, however, I have a hard time coming up with a single succinct statement (better known as an elevator speech*.)
And that’s not good for business.
Last year I created a “Building your Brand Worksheet” and tested it with the social media marketing groups I facilitated.
It’s one simple page with easy questions and it is surprisingly accurate at helping people zero in on what story they wanted tell business-wise. It can also give you some clarity about what you want to leave out of your brand story. 
You can download and print it here.
Use this worksheet individually or in a group. Doing this worksheet with a group is especially useful because others can validate (or challenge) your results.
With a group you can brainstorm logos, bodies of work, website specifics, mission statements, blog titles etc. — all based on your results from the worksheet.
Download and print it here. (I suggest not reading the bottom line until you have filled in all the questions.)
It’s a start! 
Give it a try and let me know what you come up with. 
*An elevator speech is a 15-30 second presentation of who you are, what you do and why someone should use your product or service — all in the time you would typically have with a person during an elevator ride.


How art can change your life

Here’s a picture of me with my new painting — “Flying Fish.”
I purchased this painting, created by a 16 year-old boy named Jordan, at “On the Veranda”, the annual art show and benefit for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County.  The CAC provides services for sexually abused children – one of which is a mentoring program using art in healing.
I met the young artist at the show – a likeable, fresh-faced, confident young man. I am not privy to his story, but knew that some tragedy in his life had brought him there.
 I had heard about “Flying Fish” a couple of weeks ago on the CAC blog, “Change is Possible . . . Healing Through Art.”  Michelle Wilson, author of the blog and the CAC Development Director, described it this way: “Fish flying through the air, defying gravity, defying the “rules” of order and expected behavior.”
She quoted Jordan as saying, “They are free. They are free to do whatever they want. You don’t expect them to fly, but they are free.”
Michelle also wrote: “I hope whoever ends up with that on a wall at home can feel some of the freedom that comes with the painting,and that the buyer sends some of the energy back to the young artist who is, like all of us, trying to find the freedom to fly himself, beyond self-imposed and society-imposed and abuse-imposed restrictions and expectations.”
I had been having trouble sleeping, tossing and turning, replaying the same dream – plagued with grueling, but garden-variety adult issues like work, bills, relationships and children.
Sight unseen I knew I wanted this painting.
I yearned for a little bit of freedom.
 As I drove home that night with “Flying Fish” in the backseat, I laughed at myself and thought, “This is a lot to ask of a painting!”
The next morning I rose and I went about my business not thinking of the painting. That afternoon, however, I had a life changing epiphany – one of those psychic shifts that only come to me once every few years.
When I returned home and saw the painting, I looked at it curiously and said to myself, “I wonder???  Could this painting have had something to do with this?”
In that moment I decided to believe that this was true – and why not?
I decided to believe that energy can be transmitted through a painting
I decided to believe that if a young boy can fly free with art and believe in the unexpected — then I could too.
I decided (once again) to believe in the magic of art.
This painting now hangs over my bed.
Maybe art can save the world – and why not?

A brush with death and the pictures in my head

All This Useless Beauty   

Last month I had a brush with death. It was the closest I had ever come to the raw awareness of my own mortality.

I asked myself what I would do with only a few months to live. I was surprised by my answers.

I no longer wanted to travel, save the world, become famous, figure it all out or lose 20 lbs. Everything fell away and here is what it came down to:

1. I wanted to create a legacy of love– experiences and memories — to sustain my two children during their lives.

2. I felt a deep regret that I had not put more of the pictures in my head on paper.

I realized that, even if I were to go tomorrow, I had already done # 1 thoroughly and well. That was comforting.

So that leaves me with #2.

I guess I better get started.

What is on your list?

Art Marketing . . . we are all in this together!

A local arts organization invited me to make a presentation about art marketing this month. I received their email newsletter announcing the event  and was surprised to see myself billed as an “Art Marketing Guru.” I am laughing at myself now because my first thought was, ” Oh my … a Guru …. what should I wear?”

The last time I heard myself referred to as a “Guru” was about a year ago and my friend Gaea told me, ” Just don’t take yourself too seriously.”

I can’t imagine that being a Guru would be any fun. You have to be right all the time and know all the answers. This just won’t work for me now. I am enjoying making friends with my inadequacies. It is a much easier way to live.

Plus, the world of marketing is so deliciously chaotic right now.  I would venture to say that no one really knows “what is what” and what will happen next. Calling ourselves experts or hoping that there is a know-it-all out there may be a way of managing our anxiety.

I do admit to a passion for marketing, technology and watching it all unfold. I do admit to a love of creatively sharing what I have learned with others.  I do admit to finding marketing just as fascinating and creative as making art, and you won’t find many artists who say that!

 In reality I am probably a few steps ahead of some and a few steps behind others in this field (and everything else!)

What I am best at is creating collaborations, and this is not the wave of the future of marketing. This is the now.

My art marketing and social media groups are structured along these lines – less teaching; more sharing and supporting. The group members know that if they have a question that we can not answer in the group,  I will assign someone the job of finding the answer and reporting to the group at the next meeting.

Less dogma; less telling and pushing — more connecting, collaborating and sharing.

Fewer Gurus.

We are all in this together.

10 Beginner’s Basics for Social Media Marketing

Are you having trouble wrapping your mind around social media marketing? This is the hand-out I give to the social media beginners in my Art Marketing Support Groups. Use these ten basics to help ground you, and make the “understanding shift” that is necessary for social media marketing success. It is not hard — it just takes practice!
“There is no other way to spread a message to millions so quickly
without spending a dime.”
John Pozadizides – One Man’s Blog
1.  Leave any negativity about social media marketing behind and approach it with an open, curious, and adventurous frame of mind.  
2.  Accept the fact that social media marketing is not going to go away.
3.  Marketing is about bringing attention to something of value – your business! Social media marketing is just changing how we do that.
4.  The focus in social media marketing is not YOU — the focus is your audience. It is NOT about pressuring, advertising or pushing your product or service. 
“Great products aren’t sold. They’re bought.”
5.  Social Media marketing is “Relationship Marketing”, and is therefore uniquely suited to women. Women – just do what you do naturally!
“Social Media Marketing is co-opting, re-packaging and ‘monetizing’ the very life force of the feminine – and calling it a revolution!”
6.  Be Patient. Social media marketing takes time (months) — and it should. Creating relationships based on trust takes time.
7.  You need a clear sense of who you are (brand), and you need to be visible. People are not buying into your business — they are buying into you — your story; your passion. You are going to need to use your real name and freely share things about yourself (there are boundaries.)  If you are a private person — this could be a challenge.
8.  Websites are static, but necessary — like reference books or business cards. Social media is alive and vital – more like a novel! In 2010 Facebook overtook Google in popularity among US Internet users.
9. Social Media is not a competition (at least overtly.) It is about giving, collaborating, crediting, and being helpful.
10. You must Participate. Don’t  sit back and watch — join, read, comment, and contribute value to the conversations. Get out there – be brave!

Dia de los Muertos: An Art Show and Dance

Presented by Cathy Dorris Studios and 
the Blue Lightning Band 

Saturday, October 30th
1:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Art Show opens at 1:00 PM ~ Dance begins at 7:30 PM
Ashland Community Center
59 Winburn Way
Ashland, Oregon
Dance Admittance : $10.00 – $20.00 Sliding Scale 
We are celebrating  “Dia de los Muertos” this year with a Latin American inspired folk art show and dance. The art show opens at 1:00 PM. At 7:30 PM the dynamic rock and roll band, Blue Lightning takes the stage — and  the high energy musical cavorting with the ancestral spirits continues until 11:00 PM.

Dia de los Muertos is an important holiday in Central and Southern Mexico. It is a time for remembering and honoring deceased relatives. From midnight on October 31st through November 2nd. It is believed that the gates of heaven are opened and the ancestral spirits are allowed to reunite with their families.

For further information contact Betsy Lewis at: (541) 890-1453 or email: [email protected]

Who Does She Think She Is?

(Back by Popular Demand!)
A Film, Discussion and Art Exhibition by 
Women Artists
 Presented by: Betsy Lewis Art Event Productions and The School of the Examined Life, Marla Estes, M.A.
Art Exhibition sponsored by the RCC Art Department (Curator: Cynthia Gott)
Friday, September 24th, 2010
6:30 PM: Doors Open
6:45 PM – 9:00 PM: Film and Panel Discussion
Guest Speakers: Dr. Zan E. Nix and Marla Samuel
RCC/SOU Higher Education Center
101 South Bartlett Street
Medford, Oregon
Don’t miss it! This is the 2nd and last time this film/exhibition will be presented at this location.
Men are Welcome!
Come early – seating is limited!
“Who Does She Think She Is?” is a documentary following the lives of five women artists and the challenges they face juggling their overwhelming drive to create along with all the other aspects of their lives – children, money, relationships, and time. The have opted to have it all – not to choose between career and children, responsibility and self-fulfillment. A presentation and discussion with two local women artists, who have also refused to choose, will follow the film. Art by many local Rogue Valley women artists will be exhibited at this location through September 29th, 2010.
For more information contact Betsy Lewis at (541) 890-1453 or email [email protected]

Tribal: A Feast for the Senses

The Yoruba Crown
 Cathy Dorris

Cathy Dorris Studios Presents

Tribal: A Feast for the Senses 

 Featuring art-tiquities, aromas, drumming, dancing, food, wine, mystifications and curious surprises.

Date: Saturday, July 24, 2010

Time: 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Location: Ashland Community Center, 59 Winburn Way, Ashland, Oregon.

Featuring the work of these Rogue Valley artists: Cathy Dorris, Betsy Lewis, Dianne Heitmanek, Gaelyn Larrick, Kim Nielsen, Barbara Helfand,Pam Landell, Cynde Gragert (River), JoHanna White Evins,  and Leighanna Light.

Performances by Sue Lundquist and the Hand in Hand Drumming Group.

Admission: $8.00 (includes ethnic foods.)

Wine for sale by glass from Liquid Assets.

Cathy Dorris is a mixed media artist who has a passion for using a wide variety of mediums and materials, including raw elements from the earth and recycled objects. Her mission is to create art events which go beyond the visual, and which invite viewers to engage all their senses in the experience of art. Traveling extensively, she has been inspired to  create, teach — and now present to  Southern Oregon  —  multimedia art experiences representative of many regions from around the globe.

For 25 years, Cathy has been teaching in schools, art as therapy, holding workshops in mixed media painting, Japanese sumi-e, collage, sculpture, assemblage, and fiber arts, out of her studio/gallery in Southern Oregon. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers, and shown in galleries in Seattle, Portland, and Southern Oregon.

Cathy lives with her husband in the beautiful foothills of Talent, Oregon

Artistic Success: An Ongoing Process

Airport Moment
David Lorenz Winston
This is a guest blog post by Fine Art Photographer, David Lorenz Winston.

After graduating with a B.A. in art from Penn State in 1965, I could no longer rely on teacher assignments as motivation to create work. I felt that all new work would have to be self-motivated. I decided then and there to create a habit of getting out regularly to make sure the momentum and support I received in college would not be wasted, especially since it was clear that I wanted to be a fine art photographer.
I always sensed that I had a degree of talent, but in the real world this was never confirmed until I entered my first art shows in 1976 and won awards in three of the four shows. Sadly, I didn’t sell one print in any of these shows. I concluded that future success meant people would want to purchase my work. Closely observing other artists that were much more successful at merchandising their work, I decided that smarter marketing would make the difference between selling and not selling. In the summer of 1978, freshly armed with new ways to market my work, I set out once again to do shows and was rewarded with a number of sales. At the time, this was the validation I needed and out of these little successes, I forged ahead with the feeling that I could make a living doing what I loved. 
In some of the shows, I decided to hang two genres of work, color photography with popular themes that I felt would appeal to a larger audience and black and white work which I considered to be my most intimate and original work. My black and white work was virtually ignored, while color photographs of dogs, horses, flowers and the like sold regularly. The fact that my gut-level work was virtually rejected was a disappointment. At the same time, making money selling work at all gave me a growing feeling of success. Little by little I found myself creating more work with more appeal. It was more about work that had the best chance to sell, than work that was reflective of me. 
Despite increased sales and more independence, I was drifting away from my real work. I had concluded that to make money and be successful, I needed to create work that others would find appealing. However, within this assumption, I aspired to create work that was done well, work that I would be pleased with even if it wasn’t a total reflection of me on a deeper level. I was willing to do this and to this day do not regret it. I feel that a number of excellent pieces have been created as a result. However, I have continued taking photographs that most closely reflect who I am, whether marketable or not. 
Jumping forward, I now publish two online blogs, The Winston Weekly and Winston Unleashed. I am closely connected to the work on both blogs. The Winston Weekly appeals to a larger audience since its theme is mostly about overt beauty. Winston Unleashed is more about my quirky, somewhat introverted nature, the way I see the world. Today, success is all about creating and sharing the full range of my work to a weekly audience nearing 1000 and having never discarded my personal vision.

Fine Art Photography Stillness in Nature and Surprises in the Ordinary