An Artist’s Toolbox Must Include Self-Promotion

What I love about January is that it always brings the promise of a fresh start.

It’s a chance to look back and to look ahead and to take stock of life.  And this is true for artists too.

Last year's wishes and dreams are carried away by the wind.
Last year’s wishes and dreams are carried away by the wind.

I spent 6 years on two continents at art schools in the 1970’s. I practiced weaving, printmaking, painting, life-drawing, sculpture, and pottery;  but there was one subject that NEVER came up. That subject was Art Promotion which could include grant writing, approaching galleries, planning a show, finding venues for art and craft, pricing the work and more. It was all a big mystery and I now believe that many graduates abandoned hope and went into other fields. I hope art students today graduate with tools for promoting their work.

Playing with watercolour on a slippery yupo surface.
Playing with watercolour on a slippery yupo surface.

Fortunately we have the internet where there are many resources on the web to help artists learn marketing and promotional skills and today I want to tell you about 3 of my favorites.

The studio is a marvellous place to be.
The studio is a marvellous place to be.

THE marketing and organizing guru for artists is Alyson Stanfield. I used her ideas to good success from her book I’d rather be in the Studio when I organized my own pop-up art show a year ago.  Alyson is very practical in her advice. She recommends a purposeful tracking of the previous year’s art income.

I did this recently and broke it down into income streams – galleries, online, markets, holiday shows, teaching. The results truly astonished me. I discovered that the galleries are doing the hard work of selling my paintings because even with their 35% – 40% commission, over 60% of my art income is from galleries. But also surprising is that 40% is self generated through sales at the studio, a self organized art show and to a very small degree, sales through markets and craft shows. I’ll use the data to strategize for this year.

Enamel pendants I made. I love the colours and textures.
Enamel pendants I made. I love the colours and textures.

My other planning method comes from British writer and artist Susannah Conway who shares a workbook to help artists plan their art direction in the coming year. The focus isn’t about income, it’s about what feeds the soul, the mind and the spirit so it’s a nice complement to Alyson’s suggestions. I wrote in my workbook yesterday and by the end of the afternoon, I had a clearer sense of  my art path this year. There is a very cool exercise where you imagine the advice your future self will give your present self.

One of my art goals this year is meditation that is focused around imagery.
One of my art goals this year is meditation that is focused around imagery.

Another supporter of artists is painter Keesha Bruce who divides her time between Paris and New York. Her tweets are full of links with great articles about support for artists.

All three women also teach classes and seminars off and online. Their newletters are free and each of their websites have signup forms.

In progress.
Acrylic painting in progress.

I think that anyone who is self-employed or is self-directed could benefit from these exercises. Are there January rituals that help you plan your new year? Please share.

Two paintings in the studio.
Two paintings in the studio. “Good Vibrations” and “The Green Table” © Flora Doehler, 2014

PS: A shout out to artist and beekeeper Shirley Langpohl who let me know that my youtube video on monoprinting was mentioned in last October’s Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. What a lovely surprise that was! Sometimes promotion comes from unexpected places.

wc monoprinting

Watch me Paint at the Gallery, surrounded by more Paintings!

The opening for my painting exhibition was fantastic! Lots of people came to take a look, many having to travel through ice and snow to get there. It was a thrill to talk to people about my Nova Scotia work and wonderful to find new owners for some of the paintings.

The show will be up at The Rebekah Gallery for the next few days and closing at 4 pm on Sunday, Feb 3.

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I’ll be there for 4 afternoons starting tomorrow, Thursday Jan 31, 2013. I have a gorgeous bouquet of flowers to paint and you can see how I work and what materials I use.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the show yet, or if you would like to view it all again before the show ends, please join me.

@
The Rebekah Gallery
1890 Clementsvale Road
Bear River.

Please stop by on these afternoons:
Thursday January 31
Friday February 1
Saturday February 2
Sunday February 3
from 1 pm to 4 pm

Over 30 paintings are on display.

 A-brush-with-life-title-page

Here is a video to give you a better idea of the size of the paintings.

If you are interested in purchasing a painting, the prices range from $250 to $1300. Payment plans are available too. Email me at flora.doehler@gmail.com

Monoprinting with watercolours

This coming Saturday I’ll be teaching a workshop at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on the techniques that I used in my pieces that are on display in the show. (The class is full and there is a waiting list!!)

Here is a video tutorial Coinstar online showing how to make a watercolour monoprint. It is so much fun to do …… give it a try! Continue reading

Tradition and Innovation – a printmaking show

Two of my pieces will be in a printmaking show that opens tomorrow (Saturday) at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia – Yarmouth branch!

I just finished them last week and framed them a few of days ago. The show includes work from printmakers at two South West Nova Scotia studios. One is in Yarmouth and the studio I use, Le Manivelle, is in the basement of Saint Anne’s University in Church Point. Continue reading

Intentions for 2011 at Green Willow Studio

Our Green Willow tree,  Cordelia, has finally dropped her leaves. A Cherry tree stands to the right and produces tasty cherries that drip down your chin in the summertime.  Mostly the birds get the bounty as the limbs are too high for us to reach. Our studio is the red building. The other two ‘public sides’ are painted periwinkle blue. We heat it with a wood stove and a small space heater.

2010 was the ‘birthing’ year for our Green Willow Studio. We started with an uninsulated garage and transformed it into a warm, walled and electrified studio! It took us some time to get everything arranged so that a silversmith and a painter could work in the same space. Together, yet apart.

Most of the time it works. We listen to music or to podcasts. We break for tea or coffee and either talk about our work or we go for a walk around the garden to get a different perspective.

It is a thrill for us both to have the luxury of such a well lit room (there are windows on all four walls!) and to be surrounded by garden and a wild field where pheasants live.

As part of the Bear River working artists studio tour it was essential for us to have our studio ready for the beginning of the tourist season in May. We set up a display area in the studio where people can buy our work.  We have met some wonderful people that way and have sold some pieces.

Tulips. Acrylic on canvas by Flora Doehler. SOLD

 

My painting sales this year at the Flight of Fancy, at Paint the Town and in the studio were motivating and rewarding.  A series of one-on-one art coaching and tutoring in painting has helped me to share my painting techniques and to practice teaching. Attending the Bear River Artists and Farmers Market nudged me to develop affordable art as well as gave people a chance to see my work.

 

 

Larry received jewellery commissions and is showing sculptural pieces at Art and Jules Gallery in Halifax.

 

“Growth Spurt” hammered copper vessel by Larry Knox, 2010.
Now 2011 lies before us like a blank canvas or like a shiny sheet of copper waiting to be formed.
The possibilities are infinite; the ideas are many and there are decisions to be made about content, about intention, about the best way to express one’s creativity.
Blooming summer flowers were a constant inspiration.
 I will spend more time posting to this blog and sharing step-by-step, the creative discoveries and techniques that I am using in my work and that Larry is using in his work. Up until now my blogging focus has been on our day to day lives in our adopted village of Bear River. After three years there are over 100,000 hits on that Blog and it has even brought visitors to Bear River. It’s time for me to shift some of the energy spent in promoting Bear River into sharing our artistic life and promoting our work to the world!
Commissioned copper and silver bracelet by Larry Knox.
Copper pieces.

 

Larry and I are excited about these developments and we look forward to sharing our creative journey with you in this coming year.  Thanks for your virtual visit!
Happy New Year and may you experience many creative moments in 2011 and may some of them be inspired by our creative journey.
Painting outside in the summer.

A Lesson From Emily Carr (1871-1945)

I’m in Vancouver for a visit with my daughter and today I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see the Emily Carr paintings. She willed 157 of her paintings to the Art Gallery in 1945 but most of them are in storage or on loan. However about 20 of them were on display today and coupled with contemporary artists who are depicting similar themes such as the First Nation village life, the forest and the symbology that comes from West Coast First Nations cultures.

Emily Carr
Young Pines and Sky, circa 1935
oil on paper
Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Emily Carr Trust

I think that no one has captured the power, feeling and mood of the magnificent ancient British Columbia forest that was still evident when Emily Carr started painting it almost 100 years ago. Yet even Emily became discouraged about her work and almost stopped painting during the 1920’s. Instead, she earned her living renting out rooms, and making and selling the most god-awful looking pottery souvenirs.

I knew that she’d made pots, but hadn’t seen them until visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery today. Emily appropriated ‘indian motifs’ in her pots and ashtrays without really understanding the context.

The exhibition juxtaposes quilts made by BC author / artist Douglas Coupland who has stitched ‘souvenir’ First Nation motifs into his creations. Coupland has also imagined a dialogue between him and Emily about their work and it plays in the room where the pots and the quilts are displayed. I thought it was a clever way to talk about the appropriation of culture!

I wish I could show you photos of the exhibit, but photos are not allowed; the Vancouver Art Gallery does not have paper brochures about their exhibits; the website is also very sparse in terms of description and imagery of their exhibits.

Emily Carr, Loggers’ Culls, 1935
oil on canvas
69.0 cm x 112.2 cm
Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Photo: Trevor Mills, Vancouver Art Gallery

I’ve been thinking all day about this wonderful artist who set aside her brushes to create ‘saleable’ ashtrays and dishes. Thankfully Lawren Harris (yes, the Group of Seven Lawren Harris) invited Emily to a show in 1927 that sent her back to her oil paints.

Emily Carr, Strangled by Growth, 1931
oil on canvas
64.0 cm x 48.6 cm
Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo: Trevor Mills, Vancouver Art Gallery

I’m thinking that Emily’s period of self doubt is a very good lesson for all of us.  Rather than abandoning the art that seems ‘non-commercial’ and trying to make saleable items, like Emily’s ashtrays, we need to follow our passions and stay on course. We must dismiss those doubts and follow our creative hearts even when (pardon the pun) we can’t see the forest for the trees.