Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why Beginnings Are Scary and Why Fear Should Be Your Friend.

"Let me take the idea that has gotten me this far, and put it to bed. What I'm about to do will not be that. But it will be something." 

-Ze Frank 

This week I’ve been back in the studio full-time after a luxuriously long hiatus that involved almost no art-making for 2 months.

The problem, of course, for an artist is that being out of the studio for an extended period of time can mean you lose a certain amount of mental momentum. This is especially true you're starting something completely new.

Momentum is a powerful force, but at the beginning of any new project—you have none. And that can be scary.

Detail from Squeak Carnwath's painting "Confidence".

Artist Squeak Carnwath makes a very good point. Often you have to work through the scary stuff to get to the truth. Not every time, but sometimes. If you aren't a little teeny tiny bit scared, you're probably not digging deep enough---you don't have enough skin in the game, so to speak.

The trick is to work yourself past the grunting, groaning, “this sucks so much” part until you've firmly moved into the “I’ve done this before, I can probably do it again” part.

Here’s the thing: When you start, you always start from the beginning.

It's OK to be scared.

OK, over to you:

▪  How do you work through your own fears when starting a new work or a new project?

Share your ideas in comments.

Don't be scared.

Just begin.

 Big Love,

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Metrics of Success: How Will You Evaluate The Success of Your Art Career in 2015?

William Powhida. Some Criteria For Evaluation, 2013.
 Graphite and watercolor on paper, 22 x 15 inches.
 Photo courtesy of Charlie James Gallery.

Somehow we’ve managed to make it to the middle of January already, which means many of you are still totally gun –ho about your New Year’s resolutions and are workin’ your butts off to make 2015 your most successful year ever. *insert woo hoo here *

If you’re one of those artists who’s is currently kickin’ ass and takin names-- Bravo!

And then---there’s the rest of us.

Me, I’m still jet-lagged from spending the entire month of December in 3 different time zones.
 I haven’t gotten around to creating a dramatic retrospective summary of 2014 that everybody loves to do. 

(Sidenote: If you need more time to evaluate everything that happened in your art career in 2014, you know what? Take it. A thoughtful evaluation shouldn’t be rushed.)

But let’s talk about what happens when you do finally get around to that evaluation, because frankly it can be a tough task. 

Success is a subjective term. 
 Its definition varies w-i-l-d-l-y from artist to artist.

Usually when I ask an artist to give me their personal definition of a successful art career they say something like “Making a good living from my art without having to have a day-job.” 

In which case I love to tell them that, by their definition, I failed the entire first half of my art career.

Good thing I was measuring my success in other terms, huh?

Wouldn’t it be much better if artists could define success so that we could celebrate our value regardless of the size of our bank accounts?

Measuring success primarily in economic terms can be a dangerous trap. It can blind you to the many other ways in which you’ve succeeded throughout the year.

But if we’re not just judging the success of our art career by sales alone, what are some of the other ways we can evaluate exactly where we stand?

Try asking yourself the following questions:

- How many new works did you complete?

- How many art fairs/ openings/exhibitions did you visit?

- How many exhibitions were you part of?

- How many new people joined your mailing list?

- How many exhibition/residency/grant applications did you send out?

- How many newsletters did you send?

- What new skills and techniques did you acquire?

Ok, you’re turn…

What do you use as your personal yardsticks of success?

What else could you use as a metric for success?

Add your metrics in the comment section.
Big Love,


Sunday, January 11, 2015

APPLY NOW! Upcoming Open Calls and Deadlines You Should Know About.

Photographer and printmaker Keith Taylor’s Dark Matter Portfolio Suite on display
at Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

The Giertz Gallery at Parkland College in Champaign IL seeks exhibition proposals in all genres of contemporary approaches to art making by solo artists, collaborative groups, or curators. Deadline: January 25th.

Maryland Art Place (MAP) is accepting applications for its IMPRINT 2015 print program to highlight one contemporary artist who has demonstrated excellence within their selected media. Deadline: February 1st.

Campbell River Art Gallery is accepting Proposal-based exhibitions by artists, curators, groups of artists in its galleries for 2015. Deadline: February 9th.

Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) is currently seeking art for inclusion in “Readers Art: Concealed, Confined and Collected”, a juried exhibition exploring artists' books that use found or custom-made containers to support narrative and content. Deadline: February 13th.

The Olin Fine Art Gallery at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington PA is seeking proposal-based solo or group shows for the 2015-16 academic year. Deadline: February 15th.  

Curator Dianna C. Long is currently seeking work by women artists for Women of Many Colors to be held at the Liz Long Gallery at Urban Art Retreat Center in Chicago IL.
Deadline: February 23rd.

The Marlani Gallery at the University of Northern Colorado is currently seeking exhibition proposals for the 2015 - 2016 academic year. Proposals may be for solo or a group exhibitions, in any medium, of no more than 3 artists. Deadline: February 23rd.

Ready. Set. GO!

Big Love,

p.s.  Need help writing that exhibition proposal?  
CLICK HERE for help.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Artists You Should Know: My Top Picks from Art Basel Miami Beach.

No matter how elegantly they are designed, the huge white art fair tents
 always make me think of the circus.

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know I'm always ranting about how important it is for you to get out and see as much artwork as possible by other contemporary artists.

This year during Art Basel Miami Beach I took thousands of photos. Thousands. Like most people, I use my camera as a type of visual notebook. Collecting images, names, works, people..... 

I take pictures of all kinds of seemingly nonsensical things so they may later serve as a reminder to go back and look at or research something again once I've recovered from "Fair Fatigue".

Just last week I finally had the time and energy to sort through what I captured. 

I can't even begin to share half of what I saw, but I wanted to take a moment to at least share a short list of art that I really enjoyed.

Shinique Smith at James Cohan Gallery.  (New York City)
Shield Maiden, 2014. 
Acrylic, fabric and collage on canvas over wood panel.

Hank Willis Thomas at Goodman Gallery. 
(Johannesburg and Capetown)
Raise Up, 2014.

Enoc Perez at Danziger Gallery.
Selected images from “Summer Job”, 2014.
Collage on paper.

Jean Lowe at McKenzie Fine Art (New York City).
Casein on Paper mache.

Chris Ofili at Osborne Samuel Art (London).

Afro Muses: Harem 1, 1995.
Series of 9 portraits, Unique, Signed.
Watercolor, ink and pencil on paper.

Erik den Breejen at Freight Volume Gallery (New York City).
Richard Pryor, 2014.
Acrylic on Linen.

Aime MPane at Haines Gallery (San Francisco).
Kinoct & Icono-Jeremie series, 2011-2014.
Acrylic and Mixed-Media on wood panel.

Squeak Carnwath at Seager/Gray Gallery (Mill Valley, CA.)
Confidence, 2014.
Oil and Alkyd on panel.

Vanessa German at Pavel Zoubok Gallery (New York City).
Considering the End, 2014.

So much beauty, so little time. Until next year...

BIG Love,



Friday, December 12, 2014

This Holiday Season, Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is.

One of the complaints I hear most often from artists when it comes to selling their work is how hard it is to convince people to spend their money on original art. 

It’s true, many people are more than willing to spend their hard earned money on high priced items such as clothes, video games, flat screen TVs, and of course that sexy new iPhone, but when it comes to original art, the response is often “That’s a bit out of my price range.”

There are many, many reasons why people feel this way about art, but it’s counter-productive to complain, judge, or mock people for thinking this way. Instead, I propose that it’s time for people who support the arts to lead by example.

If we expect others to buy original work made by artists, artisans, designers, and other Creatives, we have to spend our money on original work made by artists, artisans, designers, and other Creatives.

We artists are producers and vendors, but we also have purchasing power. With that buying power comes the opportunity to show others the ways in which owning original and hand-made items actually benefits the quality of their lives--so much so that we want to gift that benefit to the people we care about most. 

What if we decided this holiday season to only buy and offer gifts made by artists?

For example:

Thinking about buying your father- in-law a scarf? What if you bought him this lovely scarf made by NikkiLuKnits?

Do you have a sister who absolutely loves jewelry? Why not offer her something gorgeously hand-crafted from Little Paper Planes?

Looking for an extra cool and edgy hand-made gift for your niece or nephew? How about checking out the BUST MagazineCraftacular and Food Fair

How about instead of that Starbuck’s gift card you offered a gift certificate from Artsicle?

What if you skipped the mall all together and went out of your way to check out everything the small, local boutiques in your city have to offer? Your buying choices not only show that you value art, but your purchases put money into the pockets of other artists.

"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."  - Margaret Mead

But folks, we are not a "small group", we are many. The question is-- how will we harness our buying power to our own benefit this holiday season?

-- What’s on your Holiday gift-giving list this year? 

-- How could you change your gift list to demonstrate that you value and support the arts? 

Share your thoughts and ideas in comments.

BIG Love,


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Can’t Make it to Art Basel Miami Beach? Do this instead.

I’ve written time and time again about how important it is for emerging artists to get out and see the work of other contemporary artists. 

Even if you’re not a fan of the whole international Art Fair phenomenon, you have to admit it’s a fantastic way to see an enormous amount of art in a very compact short amount of time.

Just because you can’t make it to Art Basel Miami Beach doesn’t mean you can’t keep tabs on what’s going on.

Can’t make it to Miami? Do this instead:

- Check out each Art Fair’s “2014 Exhibitors List”. This is the page on the fair's website where you will find links to each participating gallery, a few images of the artists they’ll be exhibiting, and a link back to the gallery’s website. 

Something as simple as spending an hour on each fair’s website can give you plenty of insight into what galleries in different parts of the world are showing and selling.   For a complete list of fairs, check out

- Keep an eye on the Art Bloggers. Websites like the Huffington Post, HyperAllergic, and AFC usually have write ups and plenty of photos before, during, and after the art fairs. Also, artist Joanne Mattera does an absolutely epic wrap up and review of an impressive amount of fairs each year.

Are the above options just as good as seeing the actual artwork in person?  No, of course not.

But it’s a great way to see what other contemporary artists are up to or even to begin researching potential galleries for your own artwork--all without ever having to leave your home.

Happy hunting!

Big Love,


Monday, November 17, 2014

Are You Still Waiting for Your “Big Break”.

After almost 20 years of hiking this career path, I think I can safely state with confidence that if you’re an artist and you're waiting around to be “discovered”, you are wasting your time.   Even winning the art-world competition show Work of Art won’t guarantee you'll be able to pay your bills.

So I'd like to share a few facts with you that will help you let that little piece of art world mythology go:

1. There is no such thing as an over-night success.

You know that artist whose career you really admire? They’ve probably been working their ass off for years. Even artists who seem to have gone from obscurity to wide-spread recognition overnight, didn’t learn their craft overnight. 

In reality, most over-night successes are years 

or even decades in the making.

In most cases the artists you see getting into great galleries or museum shows have a long track record of producing great work and promoting themselves independently long before they started showing at those great galleries and museums. Which means…

2. Baby-steps Matter.

My first art show was in high school. Then I was included in a few group shows in University. From there I entered juried shows and group exhibitions at local art centers and organizations. 

All along the way I kept up a consistent studio schedule, participated in art organizations to meet new people in my local art community, and was pro-active about learning ways to promote my work. In other words, I built my career by taking small actions every day and then jumping on every resulting opportunity.

If most artists truly understood how much their day-to-day activities added up, they’d take them more seriously.

Sure, sometimes it feels like the whole becoming a successful artist thing is taking way longer than it should. Believe me, I get that. But the only way to reach your next BIG goal is to check each of those smaller goals off the list one by one.

I’d probably been making artwork for almost 10 years before I started working regularly with commercial art galleries. I look back on my career now, and I see how all those small daily actions lead to bigger and bigger opportunities.

3. Networking is E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.

A lot of artists hate the word networking, so I like to call it “relationship building”. But, no matter what you want to call it, you need to do it. Building relationships isn’t an “optional” activity if you want to have a successful career as an artist.
The art world is small. Miniscule even. 

Everyone is connected to everyone else.

From the tiniest local art center in Des Moines, Iowa to Larry freakin’ Gagosian, it’s all just one big game of Art World “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”

Make it into a game if you have to. But you’d better make it a habit.

The majority of the exhibitions, opportunities that I’ve been presented with all along my career happened because “I knew a guy”. Meaning someone in my network of friends, co-workers, classmates recommended me, name dropped me, or passed my email address along to someone else because I had established a professional relationship with them.
That’s not luck. That’s called networking. 

Hopefully, now that we’ve got that all cleared up, we artists can put the whole “Big Break” mythology to bed for good. Because frankly it’s tired.

Ok, over to you…

Did you ever buy into the “Big Break” mythology? How did you snap out of it?

What ONE baby-step can you take today to move you closer to your next big goal?

Share your ideas in the Comment section.

Big Love,

 p.s. Ever wonder how curators meet and choose artists for exhibitions?  

Need help figuring out how to network your way into better exhibitions?  

Download the “Get Discovered” audio program.  Click here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Join Us for an ART-FIX Sunday Brunch Q&A Chat Session!

Do you ever wish you could just pop in and ask me a quick question or "pick my brain" about a particular issue you're having?

Well here's your chance!

Mimosas and champagne optional. BYOB.

See you there!

Big Love,