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Portfolio Formats: Which is Right for You?

 

 

Being an Artist: An Unconventional Career Path

 

As promised, I am elaborating about marketing techniques as part of a series which will feature artist portfolios. Part 1 of this series will be about artist portfolios, and subsequent parts will follow as I research and discover content that I deem to be helpful to other artists as they travel this unconventional career path. For example, in my limited experience of this being a professional artist is a path like no other career, in that it is often difficult to navigate and make decisions about how to advance you. There are countless books, articles, and blogs that promise instant success or even urge you to quit your day job and do art full-time, or seem to imply that notion with titles like, Starving to Successful. Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t really make about its value to judgment artists. 

It’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, and know what to believe or apply to your career. In addition, other career paths such as Nursing, Social Work, Teaching, etc., seem to have a more definite path, which includes: obtaining the degree, often a masters degree, procuring experience in internships, volunteer opportunities, etc., learning to network, writing a killer resume, learning to sell yourself, etc. It is my hope that these articles will bring clarity and direction to your journey as an artist, in whatever form that may take, whether you are a hobby artist, an amateur artist, or a professional artist. But I digress. Ok, so to the topic of the week “What portfolio format options are available to artists?” More importantly, what are the pros and cons of each format?

Artist Portfolios: Why are they Important?

To investigate this topic in greater depth, I read an article entitled, “How to Create a Powerful Art Portfolio,” from Lori McNee’s website, Art and Fine Art Tips. This article was written by guest blogger, Jason Horejs, who is the owner of Xanadu Art Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, and an astute art business consultant.  Horejs states that, for artists, their portfolio is their resume and that it helps them to gain the attention of gallery owners, potential collectors, etc. (Horejs, 2009).

What Types of Artist Portfolios Exist? An Overview

According to Jason Horejs, there are three main formats for portfolios. They include, but may not be limited to 1.) The CD; which is inundated with “digital images,” of your art, and an affordable option, 2.) the printed book, published by an online provider such as Blurb.com, and 3.) The Presentation Folder, which is a binder that you fill up with clear plastic folders to house prints of your current artwork.  All have both pluses and minuses, although Horejs’ favorite format is the presentation folder. (ibid) In his view, this option makes it easy and inexpensive to update, plus gallery owners don’t have to even open up a computer program to view your artwork, and perhaps, find out to their dismay that your images on CD are not compatible with their PC or Mac computer. (ibid) In the interests of length, I will just discuss two options for portfolios and they are the published book and the presentation folder.

Art Portfolio Option 1: Published Book

Another option for art portfolio formats is to create a published book of your best works through online printing. (ibid)  Web sites such as Blurb.com and mypublisher.com can reproduce your artwork in a book format. (ibid) On the other hand, this format can quickly become obsolete as you develop your body of work over time, and if you want to use it, you will have to keep updating and re-printing it to stay current. (ibid)  This option can be a nice addition if you have a booth of your work at an art festival. (ibid)  For example, having a book about your artwork on hand can serve a talking point for potential customers who may ask the question that I dread most, “What is your art about?” (ibid)

Art Portfolio Option2: Presentation Folder

A final option and Horej’s favorite is the “Presentation Folder”. (ibid) This type of portfolio can be purchased at stores such as Staples, Office Depot and others. (ibid) These can be duplicated as many times as you need for the distribution of your portfolio to art galleries or other decision makers. (ibid) To illustrate your portfolio, print your digital images from a “high-quality inkjet printer,” and put the printed pages into your folder. Be sure to include details about the work in your portfolio such as title, medium, etc. (ibid). Remember, not to include every piece of artwork you’ve made since your first art class! Horejs recommends 20-35 images maximum to be included in your portfolio. (ibid) If you are in doubt about what pieces to include, consult a trusted friend, teacher, mentor, etc., to give you an objective opinion.

Dad and I
Dad and I, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.
A Life Remembered 034
Dad and Phyllis, oil on canvas, 11 x 14 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.
Dad and I (Birthday)
The Gift, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.
Dad and 1929 Ford
Dad and his 1929 Ford, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches, 2012, Jodie Schmidt.

Also, it might help to spread out various works of your artwork and look for patterns that define your style and subject matter of choice as an artist. Is it color, Texture, Line, Repetition, or a specific subject or topic that lights you up? What things do you like to draw paint or sculpt the most? Is it animals, architecture, landscapes, still life or portrait? Defining these attributes about your artwork will ensure that it has a consistent look to the portfolio, and it will help you know how to share your artwork when people ask you about it.

What has been my experience with Artist Portfolios?

As for me, it’s been many years since I have assembled and distributed a portfolio for an art show or for anything else. The first example that comes to mind is, my senior year at McDaniel College, in which I created a senior art project based on self-portraits painted in oil. The format I chose to organize my art was a PowerPoint presentation on CD. My second experience with building an art portfolio was when I applied to graduate school for a masters degree in Studio Art. This time, I used 35 milimiterFuji color slide film to record my artwork because that was the method that the schools had required in the application process. Both examples were from many years ago, in 2005 and in 2006 respectively, and obviously, the options have changed. I confess I haven’t kept current with all the new options for displaying portfolio work, for a variety of reasons. For one thing,  I’ve had an ambivalent relationship with art for a long time, going from being fully engaged and filled with dreams and ambitions, to self-doubt, and even extended breaks from making art, and exploring other career paths through college classes, volunteering, etc. Somehow though, I always end up returning to making art.

I am still figuring out what level of involvement I want to have with art. I think my current level of involvement is now an amateur artist, as I have been trying to move in a more professional direction, by requiring that clients sign contracts for my custom art pieces to secure my services, as well as asking them for a non-refundable deposit of 50% of the custom art price.  However, I have not yet been able to make a living from it yet. The earnings are always inconsistent from month to month, even when I really hustle and do lots of art shows, and events to advertise my art. I’m keeping my day job so I can focus on making art and not be worrying about paying the bills.

So what’s my next step? At the moment, I am working on reassembling a new and improved portfolio that reflects my current style, medium and subject matter of choice. A big part of meeting that goal is working in my sketchbook, Draw Every day, Draw Every Way: Sketch, Paint, and Doodle through One Creative Year, by Julia Orkin-Lewis. Here’s a link that describes the book in more detail, in case you are interested: http://augustwren.com/draw-every-day-book/. I’m including some of my sketches from this book that I made with pencil and colored pencil to give you an idea of how the book is structured.

 

 

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How to Stop Procrastinating and Get Things Done

This week’s topic focuses on a behavior that many can probably relate to, and I include myself in that number. The behavior of which I speak is procrastination. I confess that I seem to have only two settings with regard to task completion, and they are hyper speed and snail speed. At times I am hyper focused and hyper busy on whatever the project at hand may be, such as completing an art project, or writing an artist’s statement, etc.. However, at other times, I start and stop and ultimately avoid the task, if it seems too difficult or unpleasant. At present, I am battling with the dreaded enemy of time, procrastination. I procrastinate on the mundane, such as de-cluttering my studio and organizing hard copy art business files and paper work, to the more critical, like updating my web site, and balancing my checkbook, or finishing a complete body of work that features some sketches and Photoshop collages that illustrate favorite poetry quotes.  As to that later, I have started and stopped the drawings and paintings and Photoshop collages for the poetry illustration project numerous times since I came up with the idea in the summer of 2015.

Lately, I have been trying to finish one work from this series in particular, and it is an acrylic painting, entitled, Waiting: Creative Block. It has been a very challenging art piece to work on in terms of choosing the right composition and color scheme. I am being really stretched beyond my comfort zone with this series, as I have never attempted to illustrate something as ambitious as abstract thoughts and feelings such as creative block, creativity, childhood wonder, overcoming life obstacles, etc.! And though I know the stretching is good for my artistic muscles and that I will be happy with myself for completing the work, I tend to avoid the hard part. And the moment comes when you decide whether to press on despite the difficulty and finish the “run” or you give up.

Other things that I have procrastinated about completing are cataloging and watermarking my art work, getting art work framed and matted for an upcoming art show, writing this blog post, printing out my bookkeeping files for this year’s profit and loss sheet, (what fun!), to name a few. I need to find a balance between procrastination and workaholic tendencies when I don’t take time to rest and regroup. When I am unbalanced, I have very little physical energy or creative energy to finish the art work I start and all the other administrative tasks that I need to do to help support my business and market my art work.  I need to create margin in my schedule so that I can get these things done and set some deadlines for each task so that I am motivated to complete these projects!

One more thing I also need to do now is to not schedule any further art shows, and just take some time to regroup so that there will be time to get these things done, such as finishing the poetry series and updating my web site. To date, I have scheduled 9 art shows this year, and one possible art fair is currently in the works. This leaves me with little time to get these other tasks done, since I often have to get my art ready for distribution by pricing it, framing it, and marketing it on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, in addition to making print postcards in Photoshop to give out to potential clients, fans, family, and friends. On the other hand, I have gotten to make more sales, more exposure for my art, and have met more people, which is always a good thing!

I wondered what others had to say about procrastination and how to stop doing it, so I listened to a podcast by author and art biz coach, Alyson Stanfield. In a podcast called, Getting Difficult Things Done, Alyson Stanfield and a guest, Cynthia Morris, also a coach, as well as an artist, discussed some strategies to tackle procrastination. Source: Alyson Stanfield, wwww.artbizcoach.com.  One of their main points was to envision how you will feel after you complete a challenging task, rather than settling for feeling good or just having fun.  Another idea that was mentioned in the podcast was the importance of setting deadlines and thinking about how to reward you after completing a difficult task. Alyson shared that one of her dreaded tasks as an art business coach is working on bookkeeping. She tried to start a ritual of doing her books on Monday but found that that was not the way she wanted to start her week. She was helped by some advice that her husband gave her, which was to re-frame her situation by thinking of this task as counting her money. Bookkeeping is definitely not one of my favorite tasks either. On the other hand, I am realizing that by doing my books, I can understand what is working and what isn’t in my business, rather than being in denial about how much spending I am really doing, in relationship to my sales.

In a similar vein, I also looked up goal setting and anti-procrastination strategies on a Google search, and I found an article called, Why Do You Procrastinate, by Margie Warrell, on www.forbes.com. Warell shared that many of us procrastinate on things both large and small, whether it is getting our personal files organized or updating our resume. She discussed the ways in which we avoid doing things that need to get done with excuses such as, “I don’t have the skills for that,” or “It’s too difficult.” I have definitely made those excuses and avoided tackling difficult tasks, like working on my poetry series. But this week, I made the decision to set aside time for creativity and put in some time coming up with solutions to the compositional problems plaguing my Waiting: Creative Block painting. And I could see that this progress from a much-cluttered composition to something more pleasing is going to take time, but that it is well worth the effort. I know it is stretching me as an artist to do more challenging art work that requires different solutions from my older more simple pieces.

In closing, I would like to share some strategies Warrell suggested to avoid the procrastination trap. Here they are in order: 1.) Set a deadline, and write down your goal (s), 2.) Simplify your goal (s) into smaller pieces, 3.) Envision your ideal life, 4.) Get an accountability partner, 5.) Reward your progress, and 6.) Take the first step toward your goal. Source: Why Do You Procrastinate, by Margie Warrell, on www.forbes.com.

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How to Make Time for Art

This week I would like to talk about one of my greatest struggles, and that is, making time to create art. It probably seems ironic for me to say that since I think of myself as an artist and I make art for art shows, clients, and I studied art in college. However, sometimes the things I want to do the most, such as painting and drawing, seem to be the most, difficult to make time for in my schedule. So many things battle for competition of my time: everyday stuff like laundry, cooking and balancing my checkbook, administrative tasks for my art business, like marketing and accounting, time wasters like internet surfing and excessive social media use, etc., etc. All these need to get done, but if I am not careful, they can crowd out too much of my time. And if that isn’t enough, I have been battling with artist’s block and self-doubt about my abilities to succeed as an artist, (whatever that means), ever since I have taken my art to a more professional level, by showing at art galleries and art fairs, and creating custom art for clients. My standards for making art have really skyrocketed, (and they were already ridiculously high) since I now feel the pressure to try and please others by making art work that “sells.”

However, in all this, I have lost my joy in making art, and don’t even know what it is that I want to say with my art anymore. This period of my life reminds me of another time period when I faced the same kind of self-doubt, when I was a senior in at McDaniel College in Westminster, MD, studying art. I was in my final year at McDaniel and taking an art studio thesis course, where I had to make art work that demonstrated something I wanted to say and write an artist statement to support that work. After I got that assignment, I felt paralyzed with indecision. It took me two weeks to come out of that episode of artist’s block, and I really wasn’t sure what I would do during that time. When I was going through this ordeal,  I felt that everything there is to say about art has already been said by many famous artists such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Vermeer, Rembrandt, etc. and that every art subject has already been done in the thousands of years of art history. I felt I had to come up with some really “original” idea and I looked everywhere I could think to find inspiration: art magazines, art books, etc. I finally found my inspiration in the songs of singer/songwriter, Sting, which seemed an unlikely solution to me. I decided to try and illustrate the feelings in some of his songs like Lithium Sunset, by using myself as subject, and color as a way to express emotions. The crisis was solved and I made it through, but I really struggled to climb out of that pit.

Unfortunately, I am finding myself in that awful place again of uncertainty and doubt. So this week I am writing about how to make time for art, in hopes that it will help me to focus my time better and to get back into the habit of regular studio practice. I’d like to share with you some insights from two blog articles I read by Lisa Congdon, entitled, How to Find Time to Make Art When You Work Full Time, (2017) and an article entitled, How to Find Times for Art in a Busy Life, Tara Leaver, (2014) in hopes that you will find it helpful to you in managing your life and making time for creativity. According to Lisa Congdon, there are a few things you can do to help make time for art. For example, she recommends that artists and other creative types set aside a block of time every week, even if it’s only for a few minutes or a few hours, and that these small increments of time will add up over time. She also mentions an all important habit and that is to limit your time on your computer or phone screen. Another blog writer, Julie Fan Fei-Balzer, recommends a few time management apps she uses to track her time online, such as Flipboard, Tweetdeck, and Alinoff (an online computer app that records the amount of time you spend online.) I’ve been taking this advice by setting aside small increments of time daily, just working on demonstration paintings from art technique books to try and get myself back in the groove. And slowly I am getting my courage back to work on original art, which I really need to get back to doing more often, because I realize that if I don’t make art, I have nothing to share with others, as was so wisely said by Art Biz Coach, Alyson Stanfield on her podcast, on Art Marketing Action series,  at http://www.artbizcoach.com.

For example, she recommends that artists and other creative types set aside a block of time every week, even if it’s only for a few minutes or a few hours, and that these small increments of time will add up over time. She also mentions an all important habit and that is to limit your time on your computer or phone screen. Another blog writer, Julie Fan Fei-Balzer, of Balzer Designs, recommends a few time management apps she uses to track her time online, such as Flipboard, Tweetdeck, and Alinoff (an online computer app that records the amount of time you spend online.) I’ve been taking this advice by setting aside small increments of time daily, just working on demonstration paintings from art technique books to try and get myself back in the groove. And slowly I am getting my courage back to work on original art, which I really need to get back to doing more often, because I realize that if I don’t make art, I have nothing to share with others, as was so wisely said by Art Biz Coach, Alyson Stanfield on her podcast, on Art Marketing Action series,  at http://www.artbizcoach.com.

In addition, Tara Leaver, author of the article, How to Find Time for Art in a Busy Life, (2014), states that one way to make time for art is to schedule in blocks of time during the day when you feel you are at your best, whether it’s early in the morning, in the afternoon or late at night. I personally prefer the afternoon or mid-morning, but I know it would be pointless for me to get up early to try and fit art into my schedule because I am not a morning person. She also mentions that having healthy boundaries and the ability to say “No” to others can help you make time for art, although you can occasionally say yes to say, a meeting with friends over coffee.

For me, the saying “No”, might be to a variety of things such as additional art shows, (since they often require much more than just making art, such as marketing, or pricing the work, or getting it ready for distribution, e.g. (framing, matting or pricing). Or it might mean saying “No”, to watching movies or surfing the internet. Even a well-intentioned visit to Pinterest to look for inspiration for my art work can turn into a rabbit hole that keeps me away from my work and instead results in mindless scrolling through other’s people’s art work, recipes, fashion ideas, etc. if I don’t limit my time there. The biggest takeaway I am getting from this journey out of artist’s block, is that I fear to make mistakes so much that I have been avoiding doing my art work, staying busy with other things, such as cleaning the house, art business stuff, or anything else I can think of to stay away from the easel and my fears about whether I might mess something up. I seem to have a pattern of getting excited about projects, and then giving up, when I get to the hard part. However, today I choose to make art in spite of the fear because it’s what I truly love to do, and I want to share my work with others. It’s been my dream to be an artist for as long as I can remember, and despite many setbacks and self-doubt, it seems to be something I return to again and again. I hope it will bring some light and joy to your day viewing my paintings. The Geese drawing and paintings are my original art work, and the landscape is a demonstration from the Jerry Smith book, Expressive Landscapes in Acrylic.

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Part Two: How do Artists Make Money?

Hello, Friends, last week I posed the question, “Can artists make money from their artwork”? It’s a question I’m sure other artists have asked themselves in the past and certainly one that I have been asking myself lately, and more specifically, “What can I do to make that money”? In last week’s post, I discussed two specific traditional methods, listed on the Art Bistro.com article, How do Artists Make Money? by Valerie Atkisson. Some of the methods listed in this article are: 1.) exhibiting artwork at art galleries and museums, and 2.) Exhibiting artwork at not for profit art galleries. Both methods have pluses and minuses. With the former, the artist may have to submit their work to juried shows, where the competition can be tough, and the entry fees can add up, the more shows that artists apply to. Also, many for-profit galleries take a commission for artworks that are sold, which can be up to 60%, so artists need to price their work accordingly so that they can be sure to make a profit. Source: How do Artists Make Money? by Valerie Akisson, http://artbistro.monster.com/careers/articles/5848-how-do-artists-make-money?page=2.

In a Business of Art Class, I took this January with teacher and Photographer, Rebecca La Chance, at The Artist Angle Gallery, in Frederick, MD; I learned that there are some ways of coping with the competition for art show entries. For example, a guest artist, Bill Watson, taught a class on Artist Branding. One of his points was that before you choose an art gallery to submit artwork too, be sure that your artwork is a good fit for the style of artwork that is exhibited there. For instance, you can visit the art gallery website to review the types of artists and artwork that has already been exhibited, and you can take the time to visit the gallery and get to know the staff there before you decide if you would like to work with them. I think this strategy can help artists to find their target audience of people who are likely to like their artwork and sell it, rather than simply submitting art portfolios to every art gallery in the area without a specific goal. That would be kind of like throwing darts at a dartboard with your eyes closed, not a very effective strategy. It’s kind of like when you are job hunting and you tailor your resume to fit the job description advertisement of jobs you wish to apply for. This can save you a lot of time and headaches to have a targeted plan, and hopefully this method gives you time to create a fantastic portfolio, which I am learning is the foundation I need to build onto first, before getting caught up in the newest craze of how I should be marketing my artwork, etc.  Moreover, your chances of success in this venture should surely increase if you are giving galleries the type of work they already love.

But to return to the topic of,” How do Artists Make Money?” I will reference a few more methods that the Art Bistro.com article mentioned. Another method that artists can utilize to sell their work is to host an open studio event where they can sell their artwork from their studio and invite friends, family, collectors, etc.  (Akisson).Using these method artists can retain 100% of the sales, provided they don’t have a contract with an art gallery limiting how they sell their artwork. (Akisson).  However,  artists  also need to be 100% responsible for marketing their open studio and collecting RSVP, getting refreshments, as well as setting up the show, collecting cash, updating their inventory, deciding on what  payment methods to use, such as cash, check, or credit card payments using Square or a commerce site, such as Etsy or Shopify,  and posting online marketing to advertise their show using Mail Chimp, Facebook, Instagram, or other social media channels to let people, specifically collectors know about an artist’s art show.

I have tried this method of hosting an Open Studio with mixed results. The first show I hosted, I had a great turn out and a lot of art sales from friends and family who attended. I used Facebook’s event page tool and I printed fliers I had made in Photoshop to advertise the art sale which was last July. However, the second Open Studio sale I hosted this past February was very disappointing. Many people did not respond to my invitations even though I made a Facebook page and texted their cell phones, or people said they were coming and didn’t, etc. Only a few people came to the art show and I felt like it was a wasted day with very few sales for so much effort, setting up the art show, making labels for art, marketing the artwork for sale, creating an inventory list, etc. It was a frustrating experience and I don’t think I will be trying this method again, but maybe I will try some other new things instead.

And finally, here is the last method I will discuss today from the Art Bistro article, and that is, selling artwork online. Source: (Akisson, 2014). This particular method seems to get a lot of positive press, especially on websites that talk about how great it is to sell your artwork online, how easy, etc.  To use this method, artists can create online commerce sites with their artwork on websites such as Etsy.com, Art Fire.com, Fine Art America.com, Red Bubble.com, Shopify.com, etc. I am sure there are many more sites, but these are the first examples that come to mind. One thing I learned a few years into setting up my own Etsy site is that I need to take into account the commission taken by Etsy and price my artwork accordingly, so I make a profit from it. However, an advantage of building my own commerce site and selling my artwork directly to others is that there are no gatekeepers who can reject my artwork, although there is usually a subscription fee or other fees associated with membership on the website.  Another thing is that it is not enough for artists to build the Etsy shop and just wait for customers to buy their artwork. In fact, many of the people who buy my artwork are friends and family who have seen my artwork on Facebook or have commissioned artwork from me, not strangers who have visited my website or Etsy store.

Because there are many, many artist commerce shops out there, artists need to advertise their artwork on Facebook, Instagram etc. and make sure that collectors and friends know about their shop so there will be a greater share of online sales. Furthermore, artist commerce sites need to be updated frequently with a variety of artwork, but not so much that buyers don’t recognize your personal art style.

One more thing, I highly recommend is that artists host art shows in person as much as they can, and not just relying on their art website or commerce store to sell their work. It seems to me, base don my own experiences that people want to meet the artist in person and sell the physical artwork before they will buy it. It is also a chance for the artist to build a personal connection with collectors and to find out why they like the artist’s artwork. Sometimes even the best photography will not show details such as texture, etc. of specific mediums like an oil painting or acrylic. However,  it is important to take the best possible photos of your artwork that you can before posting these on your commerce site or artist website. If you aren’t good with photography, take a photography class, or hire a professional photographer so you can present your artwork

photo collage, pregnancy, desert, eye, dress forms, seeds, woman, process, artist's block.
Here is a photo collage I made in Adobe Photoshop which I made by combining various photographs in the Photoshop program. I wanted to illustrate the feeling of artists’ block, which can feel like a time of dormancy. I plan to translate this collage into a watercolor painting soon.

in the best possible light. It is your visual resume and your most effective selling tool to show the world who you are as an artist. Best of luck!