Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fresh Off the Easel!

Camera shots are usually never the best, but I was really excited to finish this piece up so I snapped a quick picture of it.  It's been cold and then warm and now cold again up here in DC (I just looked out the window and realized it's SNOWING!), so painting a piece of Grand Cayman, a place that is always some version of warm, was pretty easy to get into.  I love love love Cayman cottages, the colors, the roof lines, the porches.  Ahhhh don't you just want to grab your favorite drink and watch the crystal clear water lap up against the sand?!  Sigh.  Maybe this is why I have multiple fake palm trees in my house!

Of late I've been doing a LOT of framing with my lovely assistant (read: mom), which is always a bit like Christmas when the FedEx truck rolls around.  That said, it's a lot of work when it comes to putting the actual frames together.  Everything starts as "chop," individual lengths cut at a 45 degree angle.  We then match and secure the corners, place the painting in the frame, secure it to the frame, add paper backing to it, and add wire for hanging.  The whole process can take quite a bit of time, even when everything is perfect.  That said, it is quite satisfying to have a great frame and overall presentation.  I say that a frame is like the jewelry to a great ballgown...it just finishes off the look!

Hope your week is going great!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Featured Artist - The Cooley Gallery - March 2014

Happy Presidents Day!  I hope those of you who have the day off are enjoying your free time.  Today in the studio I am starting a new painting, one of Grand Cayman, after having just finished up a piece of a Tuscan countryside.

I posted this on Facebook already, but I'm really excited to announce that I'm going to be a featured artist at The Cooley Gallery during the month of March.  Show details are below, it would be GREAT to see you there!  The show coincides with Leesburg's First Friday, which is when all of the shops stay open late and there is music, food, and other special events for everyone to enjoy.  It's free and open to the public, so bring your family and friends!

Opening Reception
Friday, March 7th
6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
The Cooley Gallery
12 S. King Street
Leesburg, Virginia

In the meantime between painting, I am going to get framing!  I just got a shipment in for some of the pieces going into the show!  Woo hoo!

Hope you have a great Monday!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ten Things I Learned in My First Year as a Full Time Artist: Part II

At Smith Cove, Grand Cayman, Watching the Sunset

Last week I went through five of the ten things I learned in my first year as an artist, and I realized after writing the first set how cathartic it was to stop and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  With that said, here are the other five things that stuck out at me.  These aren't all mind blowing, but hey, the little things can turn into big things very quickly!

6. Make Lists
#1 - Teach dog to supervise framing.  Check. :-P

Like writing down your goals, I think creating daily to-do lists is one of those classic success strategies they tell you to do in just about every business book.  It's something that I started to do when I was in the corporate world, but I find it just as important now as I did then.  Especially when you are working on a large or a slow painting, having things to cross off of a to-do list provides a sense of accomplishment.

 And I absolutely put stuff I've already accomplished for the day on the list just so I can scratch it out...tell me someone else does that, too!

7.  Stay Social

My running, ahem, jog-talking buddy, Liz. 

My old co-workers made fun of me once because I told them my new co-worker was a squirrel that would come up to my window every day looking for stale bread and nuts (don't worry, I don't feed him anymore!).  Now while I am teasing, of course, I realized it's important to get out, meet with other artists (and non-artist friends), and be able to talk about what we're all up to.  I've learned that others in your same field are your friends, nobody can empathize, connect, and guide you like another person who does what you do.  That's not to discount non-field related folks in your life, as some of the best advice that I've gotten is from non-artists, it's just that I began to understand the importance of having other artists in the arsenal to lean upon.

8. Technology is a Great Friend
Laptop.  Lap dog.  Two great buds.

I took an art in business class once and the first thing he said was to get online. I guess there is a reason that "googling" is a verb.  Everyone does it, so it's great to have an online presence not only in the form of a website, but in Facebook, Twitter, a blog, what have you.  I think there is a cathartic element in putting yourself out there via all these social media tools, albeit I personally can find it hard sometimes to do that sometimes...anyone else with me?!  That said, I think it's of utmost importance to have a web presence.  I love to share my work and the web enables me to reach an audience far larger than I could have possibly imagined.

9. Take Yourself Seriously (But Not Too Seriously)

Joey Stevens and Bob the Parrot...this guy cracks me up!

To quote Jay-Z, "I'm not just a businessman, I'm a business, man."  Ha!  Somehow when he says it, it sounds a lot cooler.  But in reality, he has a GREAT point. I quickly realized that when I go out into the world and talk in any way about what I do for a living, I am no longer a representative of a company. I am the company. That means what I put out there is important and so the more seriously I take myself as an artist, the more others will, too.  That said, you still need to have some fun. Would I know who weatherman Joey Stevens is without his fake pet parrot on his arm?!

10.  Do What You Love and You'll Never Work Harder  

Lights out?  It's okay...paint in the dark!

We all know that quote, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." It's false.  I can say with certainty that I have worked harder in the past year than I have ever worked.  But I've also never loved working more, and that's why I work so hard.  I love it.  That said, certain tasks loom over me...I stared down my business license renewal forms for about three weeks, picking them up, getting overwhelmed by them, then putting them down for another day (I think this is why they give you two full months to fill it out!).  But, it's done now, and it's satisfying to have it complete.  Even painting can be tough during the 14th hour of the day and a sore grip, but it's so worth it.  I think I'm probably my toughest boss I've ever had!

No matter what you do, there will be aspects of the job that just aren't much fun, and that's just reality.  But reality is also beautiful and doing what you love is a huge blessing in life!

And there you have it!  Ten things I learned in the first year...maybe I'll do this again next year, it might be fun to see what I learn in my second full year.  In the meantime, I've finished up some paintings so stay tuned for some new work!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ten Things I Learned in My First Year as a Full Time Artist: Part I

My happy place, Grand Cayman

Last year, 2013, was my first full year as a professional artist.  As I reflect back on the past twelve months, I thought I'd put down a few of my thoughts in my blog, in hopes that other artists can glean information from it and also that those who are non-artists can see a little bit into my life as an artist!

So here they are, and while there are far more than ten and they don't only apply to art, here are the first five that really stuck out at me over the past year (in no particular order):

1. Painting is Only Half of Running a Business.

I had to get this into my head. Fast. More importantly, I had to accept this as a fact.  When I quit my corporate job, I remember thinking I would have all the time in the world...I would paint for ten hours a day, maintain a perfectly clean home and run the business side all at the same time.  Wrong.  I quickly realized that while I do have a lot more time to paint, I also became my own CFO, Marketing Manager, Office Assistant, and Head of PR. Tracking receipts, updating my website, ordering supplies, framing, consulting, building relationships, paying bills, creating newsletters, blogging, Twitter, Facebook, you name it, it all adds up.  I think I had an inkling walking into this, but I don't think I really realized just how quickly time flies and how a few days can whiz by without even picking up a brush.

That said, there is joy to be found in running the business side.  While I think I could gladly sit behind my easel and paint all day everyday, it's important to take a break to exercise your brain, stay organized, get yourself out of the studio, and expand your reach. 

2. Staying Organized is Critical.

I could probably qualify this point by referring you to the point above, but seriously, I had no idea all that went into maintaining a business.  There are so many facets, and it's not just critical for your own sanity, you have Uncle Sam to report to, as well.  As a result, I keep a binder of all of my receipts and invoices and have a Profit & Loss Statement via Excel (big thanks to my hubs for that!).  This helps me to see very quickly what I'm bringing in and what is going out, and helps to keep a pulse on my business and what are busy sales months vs. quiet ones.

Also, an organized studio is just as critical.  A cluttered world creates a cluttered mind, and a cluttered mind hinders creativity.  Even if the rest of my house is a mess, I clean up my studio after every painting.  It helps to create routine and keeps the mind like a clean palette, ready to create.

3. Set Goals and Reward Yourself for Attaining Them.

Day at the pool...classic summer reward for a hard day's work

There are about a billion business books in the world and just about all of them will say to set goals.  I'm no expert, but in my experience, it's been a critical part in keeping me focused from a business perspective.  My first full year, I really didn't want to set a monetary goal from a revenue perspective, so instead, I set one from a profitability perspective.  It can be scary to put down a number, so I instead wrote down some other goals and verbalized the number.  Goals don't have to just be monetary, they can be for a certain output (x number of paintings), getting into new venues or shows, or even goals of just getting yourself out there (approaching x number of galleries, etc.).  

Some of these goals can be more daunting than others, so I rewarded myself after I achieved them.  I met my profitability goal for last year (yay!), and when I realized it, I bought myself the curio/hutch above to keep my art stuff organized.  And it doesn't have to be big (or cost anything) to be a reward.  When I am working toward a show or have a tight deadline, I reward myself by taking one night a week off completely, no thinking about painting at all.  It really does help to refresh and renew and is a dedicated treat!

4.  Invest Earned Money Back into the Business.

Business cards!

I once heard publicist Kelly Cutrone put it best when asked about how she built up her business to the success it is today.  She said when she started out, she'd make some money, set a little aside, and put the rest of it right back into the business.  When she started making more money, she'd still set a little aside, and put the rest back into the business.  The percentages never changed, but the numbers started getting bigger.  As an artist (and in any business), it's so easy to hoard for a rainy day when you don't know when the next paycheck is coming.  That said, I've come to realize that when you own a business, just about everything that you put out there reflects back on you.  Now I'm all for never stepping into Michaels without a coupon, waiting for sales, and spending for need and not want, but there are certain things that I've realized make an important impression.  

My first set of business cards as a hobby artist were cheap...and they looked it.  My second set of business cards were more expensive (nothing crazy, but pricier), and I could tell the difference instantly.  So could others.  The comments I've received on the second set make the cost worth it, and I wouldn't go back to the cheap version. Of course I spend within reason and in accordance with what I am bringing in (the cards are by no means gilded or laced with diamonds), but I remind myself that artists are creative by nature, and most of us are proud of the quality of the work we put out, so it's important to make every aspect of the product and the business as high quality as the art itself. 

5. Know and Work for the Greater Goals.

Courtesy of Baby Havens

I remember walking into a meeting with a gallery and being so nervous.  I had totally psyched myself out.  Have you ever done that?!  It's awful.  Anyway, I remember thinking to myself, breathe in, now ask yourself what are you doing this for?  Not short term, as in, "getting into this gallery, of course!" but really, what am I doing all of this for??  One of the first things that popped into my mind was the Baby Havens, an organization in South Africa that takes in abandoned and orphaned babies in Johannesburg. Being a mission I love, part of my earnings go toward this haven (as it did in the past and would also if I took a job other than painting!).  I immediately thought to myself, if I go in there with confidence, I'm more likely to work with this venue.  If I work with this venue, I have another opportunity to make a sale.  And when I make a sale, that's a little more that I can give to save a baby.  So this isn't really about me, this is about saving a baby.  It totally snapped me out of the nerves and I had a great meeting and started working with that venue.

The point is, that we all get so caught up in the nitty gritty sometimes that we can get nervous, inwardly focused, and trip over our own two feet because we were looking at our shoes instead of what was in front of us.  And while the example I used was charitable in nature, I'm not trying to make myself sound like a selfless saint by any means, rather, it is one of several "what are you working for" goals, but a slightly more impactful one than "single family house with a nice yard."  Ha!  The point is, it can be anything and it's personal but it's critical to keep a big picture to get the confidence boost to step out in faith and take a risk to drive that reward.  I know sometimes (especially when it's flippin' freezing outside like it is now) my great goal is to end up here:

Grand Cayman, aka, my favorite place on the planet

Okay!  Phew!  That's a lot of writing.  Stay tuned for next week, hope this inspired you or at least helped you to appreciate what goes on in my head!