Are you making the majority of your art marketing efforts via social media and online platforms, nearly ever leaving the comfort of your own office/studio? Do you choose to ignore the possibility of first-handedly selling your work to people or businesses within your city because you find face to face interaction kind of intimidating? Have you avoided promoting yourself and your work amongst people who know you (friends, family, coworkers, etc.) because you are worried about what they may think?
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear."
“Leadership requires five ingredients--brains, energy, determination, trust, and ethics. The key challenges today are in terms of the last two--trust and ethics."
In this post I will share a bit about where my mind has been in the past few months as I've started to build my art business. I'll also share the short term plans I've set that will help me start building a platform for future success, which includes reaching out to people I know as well as local businesses that could be interested in what I have to offer. Building relationships within your community is a vital part of being a freelancer or solopreneur, especially when starting out, and we should definitely make sure to invest time and effort into creating them, instead of focusing solely on the online world.
What I've Done So Far and Some of My Short-Term Plans
If you have already been following me for a bit, you probably already know that I made the jump from working full-time to starting my own art business quite recently. The time I have spent since resigning from my full-time teaching position until now has been absolutely amazing. I have been making art more than ever before and am finally on my way towards finding my artistic voice and style, which brings me a level of fulfillment unlike nothing I've ever felt. However, though this time of artistic exploration and self-discovery has brought me SO MANY positive emotions, there's also been some amount of anxiety and stress looming over my head because I knew since day one that I had no time to lose in regards to starting my business. Before leaving my last job (which I worked at for six years) I made sure to set myself up as best as I could financially speaking and am still working part-time in order to generate somewhat of an income. Nonetheless, the pressure is on, and I know that I have to keep moving and building something that will eventually start bringing in money.
There's been SO incredibly much to learn in SO many different areas! Though I feel that I have grown so much in the past few months, I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Some days, quite frankly, my brain feels like it's going to explode with all this information I have to wrap my head around. I WANT to be making art, but learning about the business aspects involved and promoting my work takes up A LOT of my time. Sometimes days go by in which I don't pick up my sketchbook or paintbrush. I quickly learned (and accepted) that creating great art and making sure to continuously work towards improving artistic skills is only a slice of the pie...a very complex pie. Building a business takes large amounts of courage, dedication, and I've found, being one's own cheerleader. If you don't believe in what you have to offer, remain focused on your work, and do something everyday to expand your reach, NOBODY else is going to do it for you. Though you are only one person, it is imperative that you do something every single day, whether it's online or off, to continue getting your name out there.
Read my blog post Self-Doubt as an Artist: How to Stay Confident and Keep Going.
I've been reading a lot and taking online courses, learning all I can about the many elements required to build an art business, from social media platforms (and what works well on each), the do's and don'ts of self-promotion, what to include in an effective website/portfolio, how to create sell-worthy products and opening online shops, shipping products, how to price artwork, TAXES AND ACCOUNTING, the legal aspects of being an artist, creating necessary documents for clients in order for projects to run as smoothly as possible...the list goes on and on. Self-promotion (and more specifically the face-to-face kind) seems to be one of the hardest things for many of us and it is what I wish to focus on today. However hard marketing your work and building connections may be for you, it's important to take the bull by the horns and realize that if you don't do it, nobody else is. Realize that, no matter how amazing your work may be, if you don't constantly work to put it out there and connect with others in positive, constructive ways, people will not want to engage with you.
All this said, I have to admit that most of my marketing efforts have been online and not at personal level. I have decided that I am going to start fixing this situation during this last part of 2017 and use this holiday season in which people have gifts to buy (and seem to be generally more happy) to reach out. First, I am going to make sure that family and friends know EXACTLY what it is I'm doing and what I can offer. Many of them SORT of have an idea but, truth be told, I've put in much more time and effort into learning from and connecting with others behind a computer screen than chatting face to face.
My plans are to start selling Christmas/holiday themed gift cards and greeting cards with original watercolor illustrations to family, friends and coworkers, as well as start offering commissions. I will also start selling some of my finished oil paintings in, at least, one local shop and start cold-emailing businesses. I have printed a stack of business cards and will work on creating postcards to send to agencies and editorials very soon. I am challenging myself to at least start with this during this last part of 2017 so that I can begin 2018 knowing I have already informed all those closest to me that I have quality products to offer. For some reason, I find it a lot harder to talk with my family about my passions and projects than with total strangers. Am I weird?
Local Connections: The Foundation for an Art Business
As artists, most of us tend to spend heaps of time working alone, which makes it even more important to schedule in time for social interaction. We ultimately create artwork for others to view and appreciate, and there's more of a chance that we'll be successful if we are able to orally communicate our ideas and talk about our artwork with self-confidence. Make no mistake, art friend, you are your best salesman/woman. Our art will not sell itself.
Now-a-days everyone seems to be online, and there's no denying that social media is a vital part of having any type of business. However, when we are just starting out, it is imperative that we build a solid platform of experience and connections to move forward. Once we have achieved a certain skill level and we are producing work consistently, we should begin communicating with the people around us (family, friends, coworkers, etc.). Chances are you already know a good amount of people that could find what you do useful in some way.
Don't ever feel foolish for starting small. Every business started somewhere! However, ALWAYS keep it professional. Always be kind, respectful, and act as a billboard for your brand. Yes, you are a brand! Remember, even when working for family or people who have known you for years, a client is a client, and your art should be valued because you have already put in a lot of time and effort to be where you are at. These smaller jobs will allow you to start building confidence in your artistic skills and you'll learn how to better manage your time as well as how to effectively communicate with clients. Moreover, you'll be able to start building that resumé that will attract bigger clients/projects in the future. Take advantage of the so called `Domino Effect´. It takes one great relationship to start a chain of opportunities. Keep at it and, I assure you, as your network and experience expand, bigger opportunities will arise.
Trust as an Essential Component of Building a Brand and Business
It is a personal project of mine to build a YouTube channel. It's happening! I've even recorded videos and have invested in a DSLR camera, tripod and an arm/mount that will allow me to record my art in process. Why? Not only has YouTube been an invaluable resource in my learning as I build my artistic skills and business, but I KNOW that it is probably the best type of platform out there that will allow my prospective clients to get to know me and trust in what I can offer. In my opinion, it is one of the best things artists can do now-a-days.
Think about it. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and even Twitter, are all awesome in their own way, but they are mostly curated images or very short videos and that's it. While YouTube videos are also highly edited and only show you a snippet of a person's life, the channels that have inspired me most of all are those created by artists and illustrators that try to keep it as real as possible, show how hard they are working to improve and how their life revolves around their work and clients/fans. By consistently sharing their life and passions with us, these YouTubers are able to develop in us a sense of trust. We feel like we know them. This, inevitably, creates fans, as well as diverse opportunities for jobs and events. I know that constantly recording and editing videos entails A TON of hard work, but building a channel and putting yourself out there in this way is, in my opinion, the next best thing after face-to-face marketing. It is a way in which you can start to develop trust in people all around the world!
There's true value in connecting with people at a personal level and building genuine relationships. In a world in which most of our communication takes place behind a computer screen or cell phone, we long for warm connection. We want real-ness and sincerity in this heavily edited/curated world. Furthermore, businesses look for professionals that show authenticity and integrity. If you don't have a solid list of past clients to vouch for you yet, the best way to show others that you can be trusted is by talking with them in person. Once you have that level of experience and solid proof you can be trusted, is when others will make the first move to reach out to YOU.
In my opinion, success is impossible without building solid relationships, and solid relationships require trust. Believe in yourself, work daily on building those relationships (both online and offline) and you will get there! Also remember that opportunities emerge from unexpected places!
Building solid relationships both online and offline is an essential part of starting (and maintaining) a successful business. Never be afraid to put yourself out there! Just think, what's the worst that can happen? Do what you can each and every single day to reach out to other human beings, whether they are people you can learn from or possible clients, always in positive ways. Please, PLEASE, put in time and effort to personally interact with others in your community and NEVER underestimate what you can get from a job that may seem small. Continue working hard on what you love, sharing, and always keep in mind how your skills can help others. In time, recognition and money will grow!
Thank you for reading and talk to you soon!
This week I really felt like painting something different and challenging for me. I went for a bear and a dog, because I love animals and hadn't painted one in a long time. As you can see, I am still practicing drawing the female body in different poses. Next week I will be starting my days drawing hands in different positions because it is something I have to improve as well. I also included here an oil painting of pears that I finished this week. Still have a lot of exploration to do with oils, but I am enjoying them very much! Thanks for popping by and hope you enjoy these pieces!
"You want to make an omelette? You've gotta break some eggs."
-Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
In today's post, I will be taking you through the process of preparing an old canvas painting in order to reuse it to make a new artwork! I am a firm believer in using what we have and in being as resourceful as possible in our explorations. Because, as most of you already know, us artists explore a WHOLE darn lot and we have to be smart about how we spend our money.
First and foremost, a bit about the original painting. This canvas was a part of an artwork composed of three separate panels (three long rectangles meant to be hung vertically side by side). The paintings around 35 years old. Probably more. Another important note is that these artworks seem to have been created using very thin applications of acrylic paint. It is definitely not oil. And they don’t have much texture to them at all. I took all of these points into consideration when I decided to use them in my explorations. I knew resurfacing them was going to be easy and that they presented good opportunities for me to work on a size and format I had never worked on before. My main point is, canvases with thickly applied paint or a lot of texture on them will probably require more work because more sanding will be required.
Secondly, I used regular Gesso I had at hand in order to resurface my canvas. There is a lot of debate whether or not it is ¨safe¨ to use oil paint on a canvas prepped with gesso. A lot of folks believe that it should not be done because it is just a recipe for cracking, peeling and an overall less durable painting. Other artists believe that a good quality Gesso can serve as base for practically any type of paint or medium. I think it is up to you to figure out if this will work for your specific type of artwork or not, and the only way of finding this out is through first-hand experimentation. Perhaps your just experimenting and learning like me, and aren't really looking to create a masterpiece that will be passed on from generation to generation. In this case, it doesn't really matter. Something you DO have to keep in mind is that if your goal is to resurface an old oil painting, a whole new set of rules apply. Regular Gesso cannot be used for this purpose. You would need an oil-specific ground and/or primer (I will not go into this process today because it is not something I have personally tried). So, once again, you CAN create an oil painting over traditional Gesso, but you CANNOT apply gesso over an oil painting. Are you with me?
I personally didn't worry much about creating an impeccable surface for this project because, as previously stated, I knew since the beginning that this was mostly an exploration for me. However, if it worries you, a solution is to apply Lindseed Oil prior to starting the painting process. Simply brush this all over the previously dried gesso and allow it to soak for about 24 hours. Afterwards, wipe off the canvas with a dry cloth and let the games begin! The idea is that the gesso will absorb some of this oil and it is less likely to make the painting crack later.
How to Reuse an Old Canvas Using Gesso:
You will need:
-Old canvas painting/print/pretty much whatever as long as it's not an oil painting
-Thick used up/cheap brush
-Glass containers for water
-Linseed oil (*Optional)
1. Wipe clean the old artwork. Make sure it is clear of dust and other particles.
2. Sandpaper the surface using light pressure and focusing on highly textured areas. Don’t fret so much about getting the surface super even if the painting has a lot of texture to it. Wipe surface using a cloth.
3. Apply first layer of Gesso as evenly as possible and allow to dry for a couple of hours. If your Gesso is too thick and this bothers you, you can add a bit of water to it. Make sure that first layer completely dries before continuing with the next step. If it feels damp to the touch, this means you should wait longer.
3. If you want to start off with a textured surface, simply apply a second layer of Gesso. If you don't want so much texture, sand your surface gently once more, wipe to remove particles, and apply second layer of Gesso (you can sand it once more after it dries).
At this point it should be ready to be painted on! But if you are still a bit nervous about not having a quality surface to work on, use the Linseed Oil suggestion I mentioned before. I will be trying this out on the next one!
To end this post, I would like to encourage you to always keep learning and not be afraid of devoting time to a process that might not produce the most amazing of artworks. Keep experimenting and be proud of yourself for simply going through a learning process. I firmly believe that the process matters more than the final outcome in both life AND our artistic journeys.
After I have devoted a solid amount of time into any artwork, I like to analyze it and make notes about what I learned throughout the process. In this case, here is what I wrote:
Hey! Nice to see you!
Here is a little mixed-media piece I just finished today and it is based on one of the pictures I took during my pastry photo shoot last week. Below I will be explaining a bit about the process I followed to get to this.
Here is the initial picture I took and on the right is what I actually used as I was painting. I used my handy-dandy Photoshop skills to clean it up so that my eyes didn't get distracted by the background. I also rotated the doughnut a tiny bit counterclockwise.
Once again, I used a gray water-soluble pencil to create this initial sketch. I like using water-soluble pencils because the lines completely disappear as I am doing the painting. However, a lot of artists like using straight up pencils. At this point, I try to get the proportions as close as possible to the reference picture, but I don't get super paranoid about it being identical to the picture. I also add in shapes that map out where the lightest and darkest values will be. For me, it is still a challenge to leave the lightest areas white since the beginning!
Here is what it looked like after about three layers of watercolor textures/values.
Here is the painting after about 5 layers of watercolor paints. After this I couldn't help myself and I took out my Soft-Core Prismacolor pencils and went in to add more textures/values until I was satisfied.
-Strathmore Cold Press Watercolor Paper Series 400
-Sakura Koi Pocket Field Watercolor Set
-Prismacolor Soft-Core Pencils
-Combination of Rodin and Artify paintbrushes
I just finished this watercolor piece today, which is meant to be the second part of my "Things I Eat Everyday" painting I did some months ago (here's the link to that post). This was fun and I worked on it on and off over the last 3 days. I am very big into health and usually eat pretty healthy.
It may be hard to believe, but I rarely eat things that I paint like fast food and sweets. In fact, this morning I went out to buy some sweet breads to photograph them for future reference images and, as difficult as it was, I saved them all for my husband to take to his friends later. Except a chocolate doughnut that I broke in half because I wanted to have a reference picture of a half-eaten doughnut (these make for challenging paintings!). That one I threw away.
Below are a couple of pictures I took during the process. I wanted to challenge myself and use only watercolors in this one. I helped myself with acrylic paint for final highlights in the first version.
This has been the first week of relative peace after finally settling into our new home and my painting studio/office is in a workable state for me, which is wonderful. I am in the process of establishing new work routines for myself, which I was in desperate need for after all that craziness, though I feel like my brain is in a state of denial because I'm finally enjoying my new home and all its new spaces. I really needed this. I am, however, making sure to make advances towards my goal of improvement and finding my style every-single-day.
Two days ago I started what is probably the biggest oil painting I have worked on so far. I decided to re-purpose an old painting that was going to be thrown out (not mine) by gesso-ing it and painting over it. I'm approaching it as an experimentation and will share the process with you later. :)
Thanks for reading!
Here is a piece that I worked on during the week, after arriving home from work. I decided to do a painting that included a variety of things in it, as opposed to focusing on only one. Even though this may sound more complicated and usually the painting takes longer to complete, I have found it helpful that you can bounce around from one thing to the other in order to let the previous watercolor layer dry. This was something I struggled with in the beginning. I wanted to just keep going! After having understood this, I would rather work on several pieces simultaneously so that I can continue one while the other is drying.
I knew before starting this piece that I wanted to use only watercolors for this (I sometimes add Prismacolor to deepen values and create textures), but I did end up using some white acrylic paint at the end for highlights. Also, people usually ask me if I eat everything I paint (which usually is fast food and sweets) and I wanted to make a painting of foods I actually eat everyday. I want to make a part 2 to this that will include things like avocado, cherry tomatoes, other types of nuts, and perhaps popcorn? I like to eat very healthy, for the most part! I simply find desserts very pretty to look at because I love their combinations of colors and textures!
Thanks for popping by! Here are a couple of pictures I had posted on Instagram of the process. Have a wonderful weekend!
It feels so good to finally get a chance to rest and work on my painting/drawing. Spring Break has officially started. I have a plan in order to improve my skills in the next 13 days:
Every day I will be working on pencil sketches in order to improve my drawing of anatomical elements of the human body. I really have to continue working on drawing the head in different angles, making poses more dynamic and feet/hands. I will be posting this type of sketchbook work on my Instagram as soon as I finish with them so click on the sidebar icon to follow me on there. :)
Aside from these, I will be working on a painting every day. Smaller paintings will be finished a lot faster than more complex ones. I plan to be working on two or more at the same time. If I have the time, I would love to do a small oil painting as well. Stay tuned!
I used a picture from Pixabay as reference for this painting. This site has been really useful for me in my quest towards improving my artwork! Highly recommended if you are looking for free reference images for drawings.
Hi guys! So... I'm not usually the type of person that likes to talk about my plans until they have become a bit more concrete. However, I am going through a strange phase at the moment that is unlike any other I have experienced so far and is likely the prelude to a new exciting chapter in my life. Hopefully, these transitory months of uncertainty (and a certain amount of anxiety!) will eventually bring me to a point at which I can finally start working toward a life of peace and happiness from doing what I love and living in a place where I feel like I belong.
My husband and I are applying to move to Canada (this means moving far away from all friends and family and the city that has been our home for most of our lives). It has been a process and will likely take months still, but I have decided to leave my current job at the end of this school year so that I can dedicate my time to art and developing an online presence. It was a hard decision. I really love teaching Art and hope to keep teaching Art in the future, but I am excited to be able to have time to improve and experiment and make a name for myself as an illustrator/artist. If you have visited before you probably already know that I have been doing my best to make time after my full-time job to keep drawing and painting. It has been hard and I am spreading myself thin as I am also very much committed to keeping a healthy lifestyle.
I have a lot of personal projects that I am currently doing a lot of research and investigation for as well. I want to open my Etsy shop and create my own YouTube channel soon. My Etsy shop will probably open sometime in the next couple of months and my YouTube channel is something that I will probably start as soon as the school year ends. I am so excited for what is to come!
Here is a bird for you, my friends! And I hope that you follow me throughout this journey!
In my last post I shared the process I went through in order to create the Vanilla Cat Lounge and Cafe logo. This personal project was a great opportunity for me to try incorporating original hand lettering design as well as some illustration work in both logo and menu. As you can see, I changed some of the the Pantones in the logo because I decided I wanted brighter colors to work with. This was a lot of fun!
Well hello there! Yesterday I went out to buy some small gifts for some coworkers who have helped me out a ton throughout the semester and decided to make my own watercolor "Thank You" cards. I think they turned out pretty cute, don't you think?
I started by covering a box with a couple of layers of paper mache. Because this box has an attached lid, I made sure not to cover the line that allows it to fold over. After finishing the paper mache, I let it dry over night.
After sketching a bunch of different ideas, I came up with a monster design that would complement the shape of the box and transferred it using a pencil. I then traced my lines carefully using a thin Sharpie.
I covered the box's folding line with a similar colored tape.
Ready to be filled with goodies! :)
There are only 2 weeks left before teacher preparation for next school year begins (OMG!). I am still working on my final portfolio for my Master program (which ended last month), but since I am done with all my classes I finally had a bit of time to dedicate to personal projects. I used this small break to set many goals for myself, in both personal and professional areas of my life. Because of this, I decided to create my own personalized planner to keep track of my progress throughout the year.
I saw/read SOOO many of videos and blog posts from others in order to get ideas for my planner. The whole thing was pretty fun to make and it will be super useful for me. I enjoyed it so much, I will probably be making more in the future. There are many websites from which you can buy monthly calendars and weekly templates, but I decided to make my own. If anyone is interested, the PDFs are below the pictures, which can be downloaded and printed out. I decided to make the design very simple because I plan on doing at least a certain amount of doodling and collaging in this planner.
To start off I found an old hardcover book and used an X-ACTO knife to carefully separate the pages from the cover. You have to run the blade down vertically, as straight as possible, and making sure not to damage the spine. Next I found an old blouse with a nice graphic that I was never going to use anymore. I cut out a large rectangle (the book cover has to have at least 1 inch of extra fabric all around it), ironed it, and used spray adhesive to glue it onto the book cover.
I then planned the sections I would be creating in my planner. This will vary from person to person, since we all have different organizing needs. I left only 3: Monthly Calendars, Weekly Plans and Important Notes. After deciding on my sections I got to work designing my monthly calendars, and my weekly spreads. I made sure to add areas to jot down monthly goals or notes about important events, as well as daily meals and exercising in my weekly planning section.
As you can see, I went for the easiest book binding method. I had a roll of thin rope in my basement which I thought would go well with the cover. I was a little worried at first that it wouldn't hold the pages properly, but the hard cover helps keep everything in place perfectly. :)
I am going to be starting a new project with my Eighth graders soon that will involve designing and creating an Alebrije. Alebrijes are colorful Mexican sculptures of imaginary creatures, sometimes they are a unique representation of an already existing animal and sometimes they are wild combinations of several different animals in one. Some even combine human faces and elements with animal body parts.
We are going to be doing them the original way, using wire and paper mache. I can't wait to see their amazing creatures come to life! Since I always make my own example first, in order for me to try out the process personally and be able to explain to my students the best way to go about doing their projects, here is my initial sketch. I will be posting pictures of the final product later!
In this section of my website I will be posting helpful information
for other artists and
art educators, as well
as my own thoughts
and personal artistic progress.
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or if you have any ideas
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Hope you enjoy and find this useful/inspiring!