Simple Reasons Why You Should Share Your Artwork

Photo credit: superstitionreview.asu.edu

Photo credit: superstitionreview.asu.edu  Painting: John Sonsini

Ever since I became more focused on being visible and sharing my work, I realized that there is a lot that I have to know about myself as an artist. I thought knowing myself as a person was more than enough, but there’s really another level to it. Something that is more acute and focused.  What inspires me, what motivates me, what I like, what I don’t like…what do I even do? People who are interested in you and your work are going to be asking you those kind of questions, and you better know the answers if you want to be taken seriously. Otherwise you may be creating an unnecessary barrier between yourself and viewers. I can’t tell you how often I talk to other artists who really can’t explain why they do what they love and can’t have an extensive conversation about their work. It’s interesting to me because it’s something that no one else can tell you, YOU have to know it. Why do you create what you do? I think that knowing the answers to these deeper questions can strengthen your work and keep you grounded throughout your artistic journey, maybe even build your confidence. And that’s something we can all use.

I’ve found that if you don’t know the deep-seated reasons for your motivation to create your art, a good way of discovering this is by actually sharing your work. When putting your work out into the world, even if you only end up showing just a few friends, you’re almost forced to actually say something about it. That reason alone will get you thinking about some deeper points about your creations. It’s scary, I know. We put ourselves in a vulnerable position once our work is out there for viewing. However, if your goal is to build an art career it’s necessary to start sharing! The more that you do it, the easier it becomes.

With the rise of social media and the ever-growing emphasis on using it to make connections, I don’t think we artists can afford to be so shy or reclusive all the time. If you can do all of your marketing or networking offline and still amass followers, then I applaud you (and please share your tips on this blog!). But to me it seems that if you’re in the beginning stages of your art career, it might not be the best idea to be mum about your work. People want to know who you are. Collectors want to know who you are. People need to feel some sort of personal connection to you. People want access to you. They want good reasons to follow you. If you are one of those people that is opposed to social media, then I’m sorry you’ll have to get over that! At least create an artist facebook page or instagram account and start allowing your work to be findable. Use the tools and resources that are out there, many of which are free by the way, and connect with other artists and potential followers.

You don’t have to reveal intimate details about your life, unless that’s your thing, but whatever you’d like to share is better than doing nothing and continuing to go unseen. People love pictures and video, so start there. Sharing progress pictures or your thoughts about a particular piece of work can go a long way. These are the types of things that non-artists usually don’t get to see, and typically it’s non-artists who are most likely to buy your work. So give ’em something to see! Build relationships with other artists by commenting on their posts and share each other’s work. If you’re REALLY brave, post your mistakes or discuss your struggles through a piece. I did just that for the last painting I worked on, check out the post on my personal blog.

The more opportunities that you can give people to connect with you or understand what you’re about, the more valuable you become to your followers and the more in touch you will be with your own work. Below is a screenshot of artist John Wentz’s instagram page. I think he does a good job of managing his page by sharing interesting pictures of his artwork and promoting upcoming shows. And every now and then you get a cute picture of his sweet dog. It may not seem like a lot, but I wanted to show an example of just how easy it is to get the ball rolling for yourself.

JohnWentz_Instagram

Artist John Wentz’s instagram. @johnwentz

Trust me, I know it can be daunting to put yourself out there and subject your artwork to judgment. It’s a tough thing to do, but if you want to embark on a path of a professional artist in this day and age it’s a necessary evil. I encourage you to challenge yourself, get over that fear by starting small. Share some things with your friends or supporters. Tell them what you like about your piece and what’s important about it. Then when you’re ready, move it to your social media spaces. It really is that simple. The more eyes you can get on your work, the better. No one will know what you do unless you show them!

Thoughts? What has been your experience with sharing your work? What holds you back from putting yourself out there?

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6 Tips for Planning Your Creative Goals

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Now that the energy of the holidays has begun to die down and we’re well into the first week of a new year, it’s a great time to hop on the wave of change and plan out some of your creative goals. I think the key to setting yourself up for success is starting off with a broad idea then breaking it down into smaller, attainable goals. But there are also a few other things you can do that I’ve found to be very helpful. So if you’re ready to get a leg up on the creative goals you’d like to reach by the end of this year, here are some tips I hope will get you on your way:

1. Write them down
Seems like a freakin’ no-brainer, right?! But yes, seriously, write them down. The physical act of writing it out is literally a release, putting your ideas or goals out into the universe where you can see them. It’s a great way to organize yourself too. Sometimes just keeping it in one’s head isn’t enough, we need to see ourselves putting energy into the planning. If you don’t want to actually write it out, then type it out. Keep the list in a place where you can easily access it – be it a small notepad you keep with you, a file on your computer, or even as a task list on your phone. Use whatever you think will fit best for you. Overall I suggest doing SOMEthing to get your task list out of your head and made into a real thing that you can see and revisit.

2. Break your tasks down into smaller goals
A friend shared the this Creighton Abrams quote with me: “When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” That encompasses the whole idea with tip #2. List your goals as broad statements. Then underneath each statement, jot down some smaller tasks or ideas that will allow you to reach the main goal. Here’s an example of one of mine:

Sketch more
– Carry a small sketchbook and pencils with me
– Sketch ideas for paintings
– Practice drawing figures
– Get useful drawing books to help improve skills and confidence
– Try to sketch at least a few hours a week

I’d like to use some more of my time to practice drawing, so I just used the umbrella statement of “sketch more” then listed some things that I wanted to do underneath that category. Organizing your thoughts in this way will give you an idea of what you should be doing so by the end of the year you will be able to gauge how successful you were at pursuing the particular goal. I like to keep my lists pretty loose, not necessarily sticking with too many quantitative goals (i.e. 3 drawings a week, 10 paintings by the end of the year, take 2 classes by the end of the year, etc.). That’s just a personal preference. However if it’s something that you need to put out there in order for you to commit to it, by all means write it down!

3. Tell someone
Let people know what you’re trying to do! I suggest telling at least 1 or 2 people that you trust, people that you know will make a personal investment in your goals and will hold you accountable to them. It doesn’t have to be someone with a militant personality (unless you think that you need that!). I’ve found that the best accountability partners are those who are also actively pursuing goals of their own. These people understand the process, and appreciate the energy of others who want to be productive too. These people will push you. If you’re not around someone like that, then of course someone like a spouse, a sibling or a best friend will also work perfectly. Basically, choose someone who you know will genuinely care about and support what you are trying to do. Someone that you wouldn’t want to let down.

4. Check in with yourself
This is where you revisit your list to evaluate where you are with your goals. This part will vary from person to person, and will also depend on the tasks in question. Personally I have an informal and formal way of doing this. Last year and the year before I’ve been doing a more formal check-in every 6 months. So at the beginning of the year I’ll make a list of things I want to try to do, while seeing if anything from the year before should roll over. Then in the middle of the year, around June or so, I’ll check my list again to see if I’m satisfied with how things are going at that point. This is also when I may tweak the list as needed. Six months later, at the end of the year, I’ll check again to see how much I’ve completed from when I first created the list. Then it’ll be time to plan again for the next year!

Informally, there’s no real timeline for how I check-in. I’ll just prioritize maybe one or two main goals at a time, working around the list in a loose way. Making some progress here and there, then switching it up. That’s just how I am though, kind of scatter-brained and juggling a bunch of stuff at a time. Lots of unfinished thoughts and actions. Then I use my formal check-in to reel myself in and refocus. You might need to be a bit more structured to keep yourself in line. As I mentioned before, checking-in will vary from person to person.

"To Do" An installation by the art collective, Illegal Art.

“To Do” A post-it installation by the art collective, Illegal Art.

5. Add or subtract as needed
Sometimes it’s easy to get in over our heads and create goals that we can’t achieve within a certain timeline. Or sometimes we just plain lose interest in it. It’s okay, just scratch it off! On the other side of that, you may knock out your goals early and are looking for more to do. Or you may realize that some tasks need to be added in order to supplement other goals. Well, then just add on whatever you need! Allow yourself some flexibility. Nothing has to be permanent just because you started out with it. Change it up if you need to!

6. Roll ’em over
Here’s where flexibility comes to play again. If you have goals that you didn’t get around to accomplishing by the end of the year, don’t beat yourself up and cling to feelings of failure – shit happens. Just roll the unfinished goals on over to the list for next year! Really simple. Maybe set them at a higher priority next time around so they have a lesser chance of getting lost in the shuffle. Either way, I’m sure by then there will have been a bunch of other stuff that you DID complete, so don’t get too hung up on what didn’t get done. I’ve rolled over my goal of putting together my personal artist’s website for the 2nd year in a row now. But this awareness has made me more determined to get it done, so it’s definitely a high priority task for me this year. Rolling things over isn’t lazy, nor does it mean that you don’t value those goals. It ensures that you’re always planning and working towards something.

Those are some of the main tips that I keep in mind when setting creative goals, though I suppose they could also work with any non-creative goals that you may have. I hope this post has been helpful! What are some artistic goals you’d like to achieve? What has helped you stay productive in the past? I’d love to hear it!

Making it work!

Since I started having to be held accountable for homework assignments for my portrait painting class with The Art League, I’ve found that I really have no excuse for not painting more often. In my mind, I couldn’t paint more because I didn’t have enough space or the right lighting, or enough time, blah blah [Insert procrastination reason here]. So many of us make up excuses to put off a lot of things we keep “meaning to do”. Why is that? For me, I’m now starting to believe that the root of my excuses about not painting is the fear of actually starting the task. Once I get going though, it’s all over.

This string of thoughts, and the fact that I want to take my class seriously and DO the homework assigned, inspired me to do a post about making art with limited space and/or resources. Because let’s face it, so many of us out there that want to work on creating masterpieces probably don’t have the funds to rent studio space or build such a space at home. I live with my mom in a 2 bedroom condo, so I damn sure thought I wasn’t going to have the space to be creating much of anything. Boy was I wrong. Turns out, just like in life, when you want to do something, you just find a way to do it. Period. It may not happen right way, or it may not be the most pleasant experience, but you somehow get yourself down that path you want to take. Wanting it just isn’t enough after a while.

There isn’t a whole lot of room, but I have been able to to turn the dining space into a makeshift studio of sorts. Now I really have no excuse not to be more productive in some way.  Here are some pictures of me completing my first homework assignment for class, which also happened to be the first time I set up the dining room space as my “studio”:


This was truly a humbling experience. It only makes me wonder about all the other things we tell ourselves we can’t do, when we actually really WANT to do it! The only thing in your way, is you.