Live Studio Reboot: How to Write about your Art

Peony Love by Rebecca Salcedo
Peony Love by Rebecca Salcedo

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 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.

City Music by Patience
City Music by Patience

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.

by Melissa Morton

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EBSQ Friday Five

The EBSQ Friday Five offers a brief look at noteworthy news from around the EBSQ Artist Blogosphere.

In Pursuit of Happiness by Catherine Darling

1. In Pursuit of Happiness – Cathy Darling’s new painting is certainly full of happiness, but what I like most is how she painted it–without a plan. Spontaneous expression!

2. Art Festivals – Delilah Smith has a great post on Art Festivals, specifically booths! If you are thinking of entering the world of festivals this is a must read post.

3. Interview in Simply Homemade – Did you know the artist behind Gorjuss is also an EBSQ artist? Suzanne was recently interviewed by Simply Homemade magazine. Congrats!

4. Not Selling for Materials Costs – Laura Bracken’s post on underpricing artist made jewelry is one visual artist should read too!

5. Enter to win a Free Painting – Windi Rosson is giving away a painting. All you have to do is “like” her Facebook page. Easy peasy! Check out her blog for more details.

Have a wonderful weekend folks, and if you can give a few minutes of thought to those devastated by the tornadoes in the South.

5 tips to get your art portfolio fall-ready

Art: Autumn's Yellow by Artist Amanda Makepeace
Autumn Yellow by Amanda Makepeace

 
We’re celebrating the last day of Summer here in the Northern Hemisphere by helping you get ship-shape for Fall and the upcoming holiday season. 

Is your contact information up-to-date? Make sure we have your current private email address for lost password retrieval and public contact information for people who want to learn more about your art. We’ve often seen members post that they do commissions but don’t offer a contact method for potential buyers.

Are your website and blog addresses still correct? How about your eBay and Etsy ids? Again, if we don’t have the right information, people aren’t going to be able to find you or your work at your prefered sales venues.

When is the last time you took a look at your artist’s statement? Do you have a “Hi, I’m new,” message that you posted back in 2004 and simply forgot about? Or notes about your Spring cleaning sales? Are you talking about your past realist work when you’re now showing a portfolio full of abstract expressionism? Have you done any new shows or changed galleries? Don’t forget to add this new information to your CV.

Have your commission prices changed? If so, don’t forget to make these edits if you have pricing listed on your commissions page. Or maybe you don’t do commissioned work at all anymore–you can always turn off this feature by unchecking the “commissions available” box in your profile tools.

Are you showing your newest work? While we do have members that update their portfolio as soon as they have something new, others simply upload a handful of work when they join and forgeddaboutit, letting their portfolios collect cyber dust. When was the last time you added something new? Every time you add new art to your portfolio, that piece shows up on the front page of EBSQ, which in turn brings more people back to your portfolio.  

Is it for sale? If so, you can add in a PayPal “buy it now” button directly in your artist statement. You’re also welcome to link directly to other venues where a specific piece might be available. (Just make sure you update your information if it’s already been sold!)

Have another great tip for getting your portfolio fall-ready? Feel free to share it in the comments below!

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Tips of the trade: on shipping art

by EBSQ Guest Author Aja Trier


Ok. Since my Quit Your Day Job article was published on the Etsy Storque I’ve had a number of inquiries on how to ship paintings from new sellers. I’m going to post this here (mostly so it’s easy to find as I get more inquiries) but maybe someone will come across it and find it to be useful 🙂

I know the shipping aspect can be intimidating at first and can seem rather daunting. I actually go back and forth between shipping through a local shipping place and doing it myself, it depends on the time I have and the size of the painting. I’ve built a repertoire with the place I ship through over the past 4 years or so and finally took the plunge a few months back and it’s helped to have someone who can wrap up and take care of the really big ones instead of me fooling and fussing with it at home. When I do it I buy frame boxes and bubble wrap from them, there’s a bunch of sizes to choose from and I buy a good amount at a time. I have an account with FedEX and USPS.com and I have them pick the packages up. The accounts were easy to set up and it’s really convenient. You can also print shipping labels through paypal – hee’s there help explanation on their site – https://www.paypal.com/helpcenter/main.jsp;jsessionid=KT0DSyptYvvv5wHXdQynbdQplDtrc4WJGzS52hfKb4G8KJQn5ppC!-685170754?locale=en_US&_dyncharset=UTF-8&countrycode=US&cmd=_help&serverInstance=9004&t=solutionTab&ft=searchTab&ps=solutionPanels&solutionId=10773&isSrch=Yes

It’s really quite simple. You do need a scale – I got mine at Walmart for 10 bucks.

Larger paintings should really go through FedEX because of the cost and the shipping “zones”. 16×20 I’d send through FedEX. 11×14 can go just fine through the postal service.

For all of my small shipments (anything up to 12×12 or so) I use the free boxes you can get through the post office. You can order some online for free – they are for Priority shipments though so if you plan on sending your paintings first class you can’t use the free boxes. I always send Priority when I use USPS because it looks more professional and is faster for the most part. Here’s a link to order free Priority boxes – http://shop.usps.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductCategoryDisplay?catalogId=10152&storeId=10001&categoryId=13354&langId=-1&parent_category_rn=11820&top_category=11820&WT.ac=13354

The place I go to for my other boxes orders theirs from uline and sells them to me at cost. It’s good to start a relationship with a local place cause there can definitely be perks! Take a day and shop around. A really large box for me costs 16.00 – that’s for a 36×46 box, unfortunately sometimes you gotta cut um down since they don’t always have the size you need) I have heard some people go to Michaels and get their boxes on garbage day, but you have to be there at the right time – they wouldn’t hold them for me and it was like 20 miles for me so I just broke down and bought them outright. But that is an option.

When I am wrapping it myself I wrap the painting in plastic and tape it to secure moisture from compromising the painting. Then a layer of bubble wrap is tightly wrapped around and taped. Another layer of bubble wrap is then wrapped around the first, bubble to bubble, creating a “pillow” that is extremely effective in securing the painting from damage. The pillow is then placed in a sturdy mirror box for shipment with more bubble wrap or paper if needed.

Please copy and paste this URL in your browser to see how these “pillows” look just before shipment – http://tinyurl.com/5ws4ah

Note that with international shipping, to most countries the largest stretched canvas you can send is 22×28 through the postal service. The postal service has strict dimensional guidelines – length+girth (a tape measure wrapped around the middle of the box gives you the girth) can’t be any larger than 79 inches. This includes Australia, a popular shipping destination. For places with the 79 inch cut off I offer taking the painting off the stretchers and rolling it in a tube. This doesn’t always work though. I can’t do this with gallery wrapped canvas, only with canvas that has staples on the back – I can take staples out of the canvas. Can’t rip it from that groove the higher end canvases have, and I won’t cut the canvas from the stretchers. It’s best to advise your patrons of these things so they are aware. That’s why in my shop I only show US and Canadian shipping prices for larger works. Canada has a 108 inch cut off, so pieces up to 24×36 can go through USPS. Any larger and it has to be sent through FedEX or UPS – which for an international destination can be a couple hundred easy. If a patron is willing to pay the actual shipping cost then by all means. But it really is exorbitant!

It looks like a lot to take in, and initially it is – but after doing it a while you’ll become a pro and it will be second nature 🙂 Best of luck!

Be sure to check out Aja’s blog at Sagittarius Gallery

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