Good and Bad News: Your Work Is Never Done

Newsflash! You’re just getting started.

Whether you think this is good news or bad news depends on your disposition. Some people feel fulfilled and complete every day. I envy them.

I want more. Not more “stuff,” but more out of life. More experiences, more love, more friends, more cats. (Only kidding about that last one!)

I know it’s not fashionable these days to want more. “They” say I should be content where I am and live in the moment.

Can’t I want more and appreciate the present?

I have come to realize and accept that I will never be complete. I am just getting started.

My work is never done.

I will never feel like I’ve arrived. There will always be something more to look forward to, and new goals and dreams to pursue that are optimistic about the future.

This is different than being unsatisfied. People who are unsatisfied are negative, unhappy, and, often, annoying.

I’m satisfied because for me, satisfaction comes from a job well done: getting some exercise, cleaning out the garden, or ironing napkins for dinner guests (I know … ironing … weird, but true).

There is great satisfaction in taking the steps toward your vision and seeing each project to completion.

But the vision may shift, and the dreams will get bigger, which brings the next set of projects.

This is how I’m wired. I’ve been this way … um … forever.

I have come to embrace this part of my nature, and I’m happy and positive because I’m enjoying the journey. I can’t imagine a different perspective than the one ingrained in me.

This brings me to your life as an artist.

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Overcoming a Major Setback: Annie Salness (Podcast)

Artist Annie Salness suffered a stroke almost 8 years ago. While many artists would have given up when faced with the trials Annie had, she met the challenge and kept moving forward.

It wasn’t the single challenge of learning to make art again with her non-dominant hand. Annie also had to relearn how to walk, speak, write, and drive. She’s one of the bravest and most determined people I know.

This is the story of a true artist – an artist who has something to say and is committed to making sure her voice is heard; her art seen.

In this interview, you will hear Annie talk about:

  • Her rehab and the determination to paint again – even without the use of her dominant hand.
  • The major obstacles she faces on a daily basis and how she overcomes them.
  • How she continually challenges herself (and why laughter is the best remedy to the frustration).
  • Her teaching and “watch me paint” sessions.
  • Why she wouldn’t want to return to her old self before the stroke.

It wasn’t easy for Annie to share her journey – many people in the same situation would have thought this process of being a guest on a podcast would be too taxing. But Annie celebrated it as yet another hurdle that would contribute to her recovery.

I hope you’re as inspired by Annie’s story as I have been over all these years. She is, without a doubt, one of my heroines.

Please enjoy listening to this conversation with Annie Salness.

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Sifting Through Noise that Throws You Off Course

Cecilia Borghi Ceramic Scupture

I’ve taken great pride in the fact that I’ve written a weekly newsletter since March 30, 2002 without ever missing an issue.

It’s a story I’ve recounted repeatedly. Until now. I skipped last week’s (April 26, 2018) edition – on purpose.

I did it because I want to own a better story.

I don’t want to be known as the woman who wrote a weekly newsletter for more than 16 years.

I want to be known as the woman who changed the lives of artists for the better. I had to let go of the old story in order to make room for something better.

It’s a Noisier World

When my newsletter started, there were no other weekly newsletters to help artists with their businesses. There were probably others that were less frequent, but I don’t believe they lasted.

There was no Art Biz Blog, which kicked off on November 30, 2004. I remember spelling b-l-o-g for my workshop attendees before explaining such a foreign concept to them. Can you imagine?

There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Pinterest in 2002. No podcast, webinars or Facebook Live.

I had to describe to my artist-followers (in painstaking detail) how to listen in on a teleseminar by simply dialing on their phones. You would have thought I was giving them directions to Mars.

Remember those days? Man, I’m feeling old right now (but can we agree to refer to me as “seasoned” rather than using the o-word?).

The world is noisier today, and you are more tech savvy than you ever thought you’d have to be (or ever wanted to be). You have loads of information at your fingertips, which presents a different problem.

With so much knowledge available, it’s difficult to discern what’s critical from what is noise that will throw you off your path.

What you need instead of more emails is

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Confronting Your Professional Legacy: David Paul Bayles (Podcast)

Last fall I received an email from David Paul Bayles, who was a member of my class at the time. The email read, in part:

Recently The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley (third largest special collections library in the U.S.) created The David Paul Bayles Photographic Archive to create a home for my life’s work.

I am driving down to meet with them on Monday to place a large number of prints and oral history audio files into the Archive.

Whoa. How cool is that? A major institution deemed David’s work worthy of saving forever – all together under a single roof.

After peppering David with questions, I knew that his was a story that needed to be shared with you.

I have been concerned about artists’ legacies and what they are doing to prepare themselves and their loved ones for their passing. What happens to the work and the records after they’re gone?

In this episode of the Art Biz Podcast, David tells us what his professional archives consist of, including his photos, writings, records, and audio files.

He also gives us insight into the process of negotiating with the Library – fascinating stuff. And, yes, it includes lawyers.

Of course, we also talked about his art and why he chose to focus on photographing trees throughout his career. A better way to frame the question is how the trees chose him.

And we ended with a discussion of David’s next big goals. What comes after finding a permanent home for your entire life’s work? For David, it’s an artist residency and a traveling exhibition.

As you listen, pay careful attention to all of the people David has connected with along the way. His story is one of finding and nurturing connections.

And it all started with a fire …

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The Career Journey of Growth-Minded Artists

Sky Pape Art

One of the most-used business metaphors is the ladder of success.

With this metaphor it’s assumed that you start at the bottom and work your way to the top rung in a predictable, progressive fashion. Wouldn’t it be easy if you always knew your next steps?

But this isn’t how your business works.

Think about it. What’s at the bottom of the ladder of success? What is the progression of steps? And, most importantly, what in the world happens when you get to the top?

When you get to the top, are you finished? Is it all over?

I have never heard of a single artist – visual, performing, or otherwise – who thinks they’ve attained the highest level possible in their career.

I think that’s why, even though I use it, I have a problem with the word “success.” Growth-minded artists keep moving the target for success. They’re never quite satisfied.

You will keep going for as long as you breathe.

You’re creative, after all. You want to learn more, improve your art, and flourish from accepting new challenges.

You want your art to be seen by more people, to be acquired by ever-prestigious collectors and institutions, and to leave a legacy.

Artists don’t reach the top and say that’s it. They keep going!

Your Art Biz Career Circle

Rather than the using the metaphor of a ladder, I use the circle to explain how art businesses and careers expand. Here’s how it works.

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Dysfunctional v. Healthy Artist Organizations

Elephant painting by Karen Friedland

I’ve been encouraging artists to join artist organizations for my entire career, but the truth is that not all organizations are created equal.

And before you go thinking that you should start your own, let me say this: the world does not need more artist organizations. The world needs better artist organizations – organizations with powerful visions and commitment to serving their artists.

To be clear, I’m not talking about organizations for hobbyists. Those serve a separate and noble purpose, which is fodder for another article.

When you are trying to earn money from your art … when you aim for professional status … you need a higher level of support.

I think this is why Art Biz Coach has been so successful – because we fill a void. We support artists in classes like Magnetic You (starting soon!) and the Art Biz Inner Circle.

Healthy organizations aren’t my competition. We’re all here to elevate the status of artists while helping you lead healthy, productive lives. We’re stronger together.

With that said, here are some thoughts that might help you decide whether or not an organization is right for you.

Profile of a Healthy Artist Organization

Structure & Leadership

The organization has written guidelines, policies, and procedures – and follows them. You know know what is expected of you and what you can expect from the organization.

The organization plays a valuable role within the larger art community. In other words, it’s not an island operating by itself.

Meetings

Meetings are

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How to Project Confidence (Even If You Have to Fake It)

Ellen Lindner art

You are more likely to get the commission, sell the work, fill your classes, and have your proposal accepted if we believe in you.

And we are more likely to believe in you if you believe in yourself and your art.

Confidence is one of the most collector-attractive qualities an artist can possess.

And, yet, doubt and fear are endemic in artists’ lives.

To move beyond these demons, it might first be comforting to reread that last sentence. It’s endemic. You are not alone. Many, if not most, artists face both doubt and fear at points in their careers.

That’s right. I said points – more than one. They never really go away.

If you’re playing it safe by staying in your comfort zone, you’ll be immune to their visits. But when you stretch … when you try something new … when you grow … you can bet your last dollar that doubt and fear won’t be far behind.

You are bound to go through peaks and valleys as you’re experimenting with your art and business decisions. I realize it’s a big ask, but try to be comfortable with the discomfort when it comes.

Use these five tips to project confidence even when you’re questioning your talent and place in the world.

Load up on experience.

The best potion for exorcising fear and doubt is experience.

Experience builds confidence 99x faster than walking on hot coals or loading your Kindle with self-help books.

In particular, you’re looking for real-life experience rather than the online kind: person-to-person interaction, dialogue, and connection. Yes, I know this might be scary for some, but it’s absolutely necessary for building confidence.

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Who's Who in the Art Museum

If it’s on your bucket list to schedule a museum exhibition, volunteer or work at a museum, or see your art in a museum collection, you will benefit if you understand how a museum administration is structured.

While I haven’t been part of the museum world since 2001, I am confident that what I share below can still be helpful to you. Keep in mind, however, that not all museums operate the same way, and there is a vast difference between how small and large museum personnel divide their responsibilities.

Let’s start with an overview of the basic museum hierarchy.

Museum Hierarchy

Board of Directors

Or University Dean, Provost or President. This official body is ultimately responsible for the overall well-being of the institution.

Director of Museum

Museum Staff

Volunteers

Now we can look at the individual roles of the staff members.

Directors

Museum directors are responsible for overseeing all operations. They keep the board of directors informed through regular meetings and as-necessary contact. They serve at the pleasure of the board.

Directors often have art backgrounds, but more and more of them have business experience and political (fundraising) acumen.

The director juggles trying to please the staff, the board, the university (if on a campus), the public, and volunteers.

How an Artist Might Work with a Museum Director

In museums with a curatorial staff, you probably wouldn’t have much contact with a director. However, it might be necessary for a director to assume some of the roles below if there are only a few on staff at the museum.

Curators

Curators, who answer to the director, are the objects (art) experts on a museum staff and often hold doctorates in art history. Being the objects experts, curators shape the content of museum collections and exhibitions, and write and speak extensively about the art.

Some museums

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Taking Perfectly Imperfect Action

You know that I’m all about action.

My book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, is broken up into actions rather than chapters.

While I’m a champion of moving forward, I also slow down to read, research, and learn, which is crucial because my superpower is teaching.

While I could easily bliss out on months of research, the fact is, at some point (not too late in the process), the learning phase must make room for the action phase. No matter how much you research, it doesn’t do you any good until you put that knowledge to work.

I think we stay in information-gathering mode rather than taking action for one of two reasons:

1. We’re afraid to make a mistake (failing), or …

2. We don’t have enough fire in the belly to get moving. We aren’t hungry enough.

Let’s look at these separately and try to move past them.

Embrace Mistakes

You can’t learn simply by reading books and taking classes. The ultimate test of your knowledge comes when you implement.

The only way to grow is to take what you’ve read/heard/seen and put it into action. When you do this, you find out how it applies to your specific situation.

Yes, you’re going to make mistakes. A lot of them. Mistake-making is part of the process.

But you won’t fail. You’ll only fail if

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Quantifying Quality in Art: Elaine Kehew (Podcast)

Everyone says that there’s no such thing as a negative review. That any media attention is good media attention.

That’s easy to say until someone slams your work.

In this episode of the Art Biz Podcast, I’m at the big table with Elaine Kehew, who shares the story of a negative review she received last year and the resulting journey to improve the quality of her art.

The critic who rankled her was someone she knew and trusted, so she took his comments to heart. And they hurt.

This isn’t a story about perfectionism. Perfectionism is crippling, Elaine says. It’s not about aesthetics or beauty. It’s about Elaine’s quest to quantify the quality of her work – to ensure that it is getting better.

Elaine is a repeat student of the Art Biz Accelerator, a class in which my students set goals. When I read that Elaine’s #1 goal for the year is to improve the quality of her painting, I asked her how she would measure that. After all, goals are supposed to be measurable so you know when you achieve them.

This led Elaine to explore quality – particularly the research being done around quality management in the 1990s and early 2000s. (In her previous life, Elaine was a researcher for a law firm.)

Listen as Elaine opens up about what happened after her negative review and shares 8 targets she has identified to improve the quality of her paintings.

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