From the EBSQ Archives: Best Practices: How to Successfully Write About Your Art by Melissa Morton

We will be looking at writing about our art and ourselves.

First, let’s look at why we should even want to write anything about what we do. The main reason is to connect with the people who view your work. People like to feel connected. This is true in all aspects of society and it is a valuable tool when it comes to promoting ourselves and selling our art. When I was working in a gallery, I can not tell you how many times people came in and asked for information about an artist or a particular piece.

If you are thinking, “A connection…thanks for the general and not very helpful bit of information”, let me elaborate.

When someone sees a piece of art that they like, they often want to know about the person that created it. A general bio on file takes care of the basics but often people want to know more.
When someone is looking at a collection of marsh scenes and they know where the artist went to school, how long they have been painting, and what part of the country they are from, that’s good.
If you add that they are paintings of a local spot and the view is from the porch of friends that they were visiting, that’s better. Add that it the artist visits these friends and this spot every year and obviously the view and the place have more meaning than “it’s pretty” and that is even better.

It provides a background, a history. It can make the difference between a looker, a consider-er, and a buyer. People want to know the history of the people they meet and it is often the same with the art that they own.
Something else to consider is what are people looking at? If a piece of art is conceptual or abstract, they very well may not know. It may be obvious to you. It may be obvious to your best friend. It may not be obvious to everyone.

This doesn’t mean that they are unable to appreciate it, just that they may need a little guidance or a nudge in a particular direction. Not everyone thinks the way you do or sees things like you do but that doesn’t mean that they can’t go where you want them to go.

What you say about your work is particularly important if it is going to be viewed online. A computer monitor flattens and strips much from your work. Scale, depth, texture… all are diminished or removed. Then there are the differences in monitors. Colour, light, dark and contrast will all vary. The visual impact your work makes will be different online than in person. This makes communication with your audience even more important.
If your work is online, it is most likely because you want to be found. The more you say, the more likely you are to be found. You have to give search engines like Google something to crawl so when someone types something relevant to you and your work into the search box, your name will come up.

Another good thing about being able to express yourself with words relates to shows and exhibitions. EBSQ shows are not the only ones that require an artist’s statement. Being able to submit with confidence, not only your art, but what you have to say about yourself and your work can only work in your favor.
Now, for the hard part… how do you know what to say? How do you know how to say it? There are several angles of approach that may make things easier.

First, let’s talk about what to say about you and how to say it. Who are you? What do you do? How long have you done it? Why do you do it?These are the main points that you should address. How much or how little you say is up to you.

I would suggest that you go beyond, “I am an artist. I paint in oils. I have been doing it for 20 years. I do it because I like it.” Some feel that it is very important for them to communicate their feelings about art and their life in detail. Others do not and will just touch upon it. A few why’s and where’s will go a long way to fleshing out who you are, but to what depth you go depends on what feels comfortable and right to you.
How you say what you say is also up to you. Some people write in a chatty manner. Some prefer to communicate in a more spare way. If you feel comfortable with words, you may write more than someone who does not. Regardless of what you say or how you say it, you are trying to tell a little bit about yourself to complete strangers. Make sure that it is a true reflection of who and what you are.

When you are dealing with the art itself, it can be hard to know what to say. It can be more difficult than describing a nebulous feeling. Just how do you get a handle on it?

One way to start is to describe what it is. If it’s horsehair pottery, tell us a little about that technique and why you are attracted to it. If it’s a painting, tell us if it it’s oil or acrylic and why you like to work in oils/acrylics. Is it a collage? Why do you like to assemble things?

You can also tell us about the piece. It’s a painting of a glass of water on a table did you chose this subject because you liked the way the light played on and became a part of the glass and the water? Maybe it’s a work all in reds. It could be that you were particularly attracted to reds that day and wanted to see what could be done working with that one colour.

Another approach is to describe the meaning of your work. Not everything is created with meaning in mind, but when it is, an explanation can clarify and expand the understanding of those who view it. Tell why you chose the elements that you did, why you put them together the way you did, what it all says and why you felt it was important to say it.

You can also describe how you feel about the piece or the feeling you were trying to capture. What did you set out to accomplish and did you accomplish it? Was what you ended up with where you started to go or did the creation process take you in another direction?

You can choose to elaborate on the subject. Who is that a portrait of and why did you paint, draw or otherwise depict them? Is there a reason that has to do with your subject that made you choose one medium over another?

If you are creating to a theme, how does your piece relate to that theme? What elements did you include specifically with a mind to communicate that relevance and, of course, why?

One more thing to consider is to tell a story about your art. This works well with pieces that are more whimsical and fun because the story becomes whimsical and fun. The big caution with this is not to say too much or go on too long. You don’t want people to think, “all right all ready,” but to take an interest in the piece specifically and your work in general.

Do be sure that what you write is spelled correctly and makes sense. Proof read it. Read it out loud to see how it flows. Ask others to read it. Make corrections. This is important as it will impact how people perceive you.

The things I have said are not hard and fast rules. (Except the proof reading bit) They are guidelines… a place to jump off from. The main thing is that you start to speak up. It is not immodest to speak of yourself and your art. It is beneficial. It is good marketing. It is an effective way to let others enjoy what you have created in a more in-depth and meaningful way.

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EBSQ Live Studio – The Art of Applying Henna

This demonstration was originally presented by Wendy Lea Feldmann on 17 May 2010

Ken’s Green Man in Henna – Wendy L. Feldmann

Henna as Body Art – It’s Fun to Draw on Your Friends

I. Henna Through History

II. Henna Mixology

a. Acidic

b. Sugars

c. Oils / Terps

d. High Quality Henna

e. WendyMehndi’s Henna Recipe

III. Applying Henna

a. Body Art

b. Hair Dye

IV. Henna Safety

V. Henna Resources

I. Henna Through History

Henna has been found throughout history. The mummies of the ancient Pharaohs show traces of henna on their hair and nails. Henna is included in many ancient rituals and ceremonies: weddings, circumcisions, births, and other rites of passage and celebrations. Henna has enjoyed a resurgence as an art form in the west, thanks to prominent flashes of it among celebrities in the media.

Although henna has a rich past with many customs and traditions, it is also a contemporary art form. It’s fun and easy, and any wild mistakes will wear off in a couple of weeks, and you can start again. Henna can be used to “test-drive” an actual inked tattoo, or just as a temporary form of expression.

The plant, Lawsonia Inermis, is of the Myrtle family, and is found in arid areas including India, Pakistan, Yemen, Morocco, northern Africa, northern Australasia, and Egypt. It has traveled along the Silk Road, and spread all along the borders of the Black Sea.

II. Henna Mixology

There are as many many varieties of henna recipes. The secret to good henna application is having the right ingredients and the correct mix. It’s kind of like a science project.

Lemon Juice, essential oils, high quality henna, and sugar

Henna will stain keratin, a fibrous structural protein, found in hair, nails, hooves, horn, as well as skin and leather. Henna will also stain wood, wool, egg shells, silk, and turtle shell.

For body art, the ingredients are simple – something acidic, something sweet, and “terps”, which are essential oils with a high monoterpene alcohol content. This magic combination sets off the dye reaction, freeing the lawsone molecule from the henna leaf and allowing it to bind with keratin.

[read the rest  of The Art of Applying Henna at EBSQ]

TONIGHT is EBSQ Live- Mehndi: The Art of Applying Henna with Wendy L. Feldmann

hosted by EBSQ Self-Representing Artists and Wendy L. Feldmann
Monday, August 23rd at 9pm Eastern (6pm Pacific)
EBSQ Chat Room

Ken’s Green Man in Henna – Wendy L. Feldmann

Come learn a little about the history of Henna arts, Henna Mixology (the secret is in the mixing!), and safe application of Henna, as well as how to avoid unsafe practices masquerading as “henna”.

“WendyMehndi” the Henna Faerie (of Waltzing Dog Studios) is a Henna Artist, Glitter Artist, and Face Painter (among many other artistic disciplines). Dressed outrageously, she can be found delightedly drawing unique freehand designs on people using natural henna, body paint, and glitter. When not decorating and enjoying people, Wendy works in fibre and other media. She lives in Orange County, North Carolina with her husband and children as well as their dogs and cats.

August’s EBSQ Live: Mehndi – The Art of Applying Henna with Wendy L. Feldmann

hosted by EBSQ Self-Representing Artists and Wendy L. Feldmann
Monday, August 23rd at 9pm Eastern (6pm Pacific)
EBSQ Chat Room

Ken's Green Man in Henna - Wendy L. Feldmann

Come learn a little about the history of Henna arts, Henna Mixology (the secret is in the mixing!), and safe application of Henna, as well as how to avoid unsafe practices masquerading as “henna”.

“WendyMehndi” the Henna Faerie (of Waltzing Dog Studios) is a Henna Artist, Glitter Artist, and Face Painter (among many other artistic disciplines). Dressed outrageously, she can be found delightedly drawing unique freehand designs on people using natural henna, body paint, and glitter. When not decorating and enjoying people, Wendy works in fibre and other media. She lives in Orange County, North Carolina with her husband and children as well as their dogs and cats.

EBSQ Spotlight on Photography: Colour: Richard Holland

This month’s featured gallery is Photography: Colour. Photography lets us briefly stop time and capture tangible moments. Whether spontaneous or crafted, what our eyes see is frozen forever. When the photograph is in colour, we will always have the blue of the sky, the flush of a cheek, and every colour the world presents us. During the month of June, we are going to take a few moments to catch up with some of the EBSQ photographers that enjoy capturing the world in colour.

Richard Holland

Age - Richard Holland

I became interested in photography when I was about 16 years old…got my first SLR as a high school graduation present from my parents. Much to their dismay I spent the better part of my college years in the photo lab.   I spent a couple of years learning the silver process (B&W) and developing a personal gum bichromate process (water colors) before moving on to color (long before the digital age).

I call myself a social landscape photographer, which is like photojournalism without the paycheck.  I like to capture the truth in a person’s eyes, something they prefer you wouldn’t see; a soft spot.  It’s there for a moment unguarded then jumps back behind the wall.   I also enjoy performance photography: music, dance, sports. Nature is also a big draw.  Stopping time in the flight of a bird or a bee.  Enjoying the bloom of a flower.  Helping others be moved by things they otherwise might not.

I feel color photography deals with reality.  Black and white by its very nature manipulates the moment.  I love both. – Richard Holland

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EBSQ Spotlight on Photography: Colour: Lisa Miller

This month’s featured gallery is Photography: Colour. Photography lets us briefly stop time and capture tangible moments. Whether spontaneous or crafted, what our eyes see is frozen forever. When the photograph is in colour, we will always have the blue of the sky, the flush of a cheek, and every colour the world presents us. During the month of June, we are going to take a few moments to catch up with some of the EBSQ photographers that enjoy capturing the world in colour.

Lisa Miller

The Light Shines Through - Lisa Miller

Color photography gives an opportunity to record what is seen. A memory made with the snap of the shutter. Through a photo, a photographer can show the world what and how they see. From broad landscapes to the smallest macro, life is what is captured. Once a photographer understands light and color the possibilities are endless, exciting and rewarding. Capturing life it is my passion. – Lisa Miller

Like what you see here?  We hope you’ll consider leaving a comment or subscribing to one of our feeds. Never miss another cool post from EBSQ. Subscribe to EBSQ: Art Meets Blog v2.0 by Email today

EBSQ Live Studio – Social Media for Artists

This demonstration was originally presented by Amanda Makpeace on 17 May 2010.

Good evening everyone. Thank you so much for attending Social Media, the Artist and Marketing. I’m going to start things off by defining the term social media. Most often when we hear the word social media the first sites that come to mind are Facebook and Twitter, but social media is any site that allows you to share information and interact with other people via the internet. Sharing and interacting—these are the two main aspects. Yes Facebook and Twitter apply, but so too do Blogs, YouTube, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Flickr, Digg and many more.

One of the best things you can do is explore social media sites. Chances are not all of them will work for you, nor do you have the time to utilize each and every one. The following link is a listing of the top 25 social media sites, along with marketing tips for each.

Top 25 Social Media Sites

When I began using social media sites several years ago I tried dozens of different platforms, but now I only use a handful. Here are my tops sites for interaction:

Twitter

DeviantArt

My Blog

StumbleUpon

Facebook

Flickr

Here are some of my recent experiences on Twitter:

Example 1: I love sci-fi/horror movies and books. I began reading Stephen King when I was 13 years old. This isn’t just something I’m interested in, it’s something I know. I follow many aspiring writers and published authors on twitter, and in turn quite a few follow me and they’ve also made purchases from my Etsy shop.

Example 2: Many of you know about my One Pebble Project? Well just last week bestselling author, Kat Richardson (who I follow and she follows me) caught wind of my tweet and went crazy sharing it with all of her friends. We bantered back and forth for a good 15 minutes. Okay yes, this was a lot of fun especially since she is one of my favorite authors, but it also spread my name and ultimately my art to the 1,117 people who follow her tweets.

Example 3: I entered a contest on a blog a few weeks ago and the blogger clicked on my profile to see who I was, and ultimately ended up at my Etsy shop. Within a matter of days she commissioned a painting!

Maybe I’m lucky, but I don’t think so. I think if you want to generate sales from social media marketing you have to interact with people and build relationships.

I’ve seen direct sales from Twitter, so I put most of my time and energy into using my tweets as a marketing tool. Twitter may not be that site for you. Maybe instead Facebook is where you generate the most interest or even YouTube. The key is to find which one works and put your energy into it, instead of spreading yourself to thin.

Here are some good and not so good practices. You can use these rules of thumb, in some form or another, on any social media site.

Good Practices

Give to Get – Successful social media marketing programs involve listening and participation. That participation centers around giving value before expecting anything in return.

Putting in the Time – Yes, social media marketing can be time-consuming, but if you choose the best times to participate you can plan and use your time wisely. There are also tools you can use so you aren’t spending all day on the computer.

You want to facilitate sales, not attempt to make sales directly. – This is probably the most important practice of all. People following you naturally become acquainted with what you do, and as you participate in the conversations and build interconnected followers sales can and do happen.

Think outside your product. – If you have interests outside your own art, and most of us do, share them! 1. You will gain new followers/friends who will then discover your art and 2. It makes you a “real” person who is interesting and not one-sided. Also, seek out people with those interests and follow them!

Bad Practices

Being fake, in any way. – This is self-explanatory. Nobody likes a fake.

Not listening.- If you aren’t listening you may miss opportunities to incorporate your product into a conversation, etc.

Being oblivious to formal & unwritten social rules – It’s good to do a certain amount of lurking to see what is socially accepted for a particular social media site.

Being pushy or overtly sales-y in messaging – If all you do is post links to your product people will ignore you.

Cautionary Practices

Be careful sharing your political and religious views. – Unless they pertain directly to your arts theme/subject. We’ve all seen the discussions that can turn ugly, this would be disastrous to your online image.

Be careful expressing anger or upset over an event/person. – This can work for you or against you. Last year I witnessed author, Alice Hoffman have a complete meltdown on twitter over a bad review. The backlash at her behavior forced her to leave Twitter, but not before her account was suspended.

Tools of the Trade for Twitter and Facebook

Twitterfeed – This site allows you to take any RSS feed and share it on Facebook and Twitter. I use it to share the images I “Stumble” but I could also use it to share new items I list on Etsy too.

Feedburner – You can also use Feedburner to share your latest blog posts on twitter, which means less time you spend on twitter! I like Feedburner for my blog because it has more customizable options.

TweetDeck – The newest version of TweetDeck allows you to simultaneously post to both Twitter and Facebook or separately. TweetDeck works on Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as iPhone and iPad and an Android application in the works.

TweetDeck also allows you to schedule tweets. This comes in handy if you have a busy day ahead of you but don’t want to leave your followers in silence.

Also, artist Lori Mcnee has an excellent article on her blog, Lori Mcnee: Fine Art and Tips, about branding yourself as an artist.

Lastly, I want to say just a few things about blogging. You don’t hear much about blogs as a social media tool, but they do fall into this category. Blog posts can be shared across a myriad of social networking sites with the click of a button. But guess what, nobody is reading your blog because of your art. If you want to know why, this recent post on Gapingvoid.com explains it in an easy to understand way.

And I am going to leave it there. I hope you find the information in this presentation useful. – Amanda Makepeace