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Riding on a cloudy day

December 1st, 2013

Riding on a cloudy day

Chilly, cloudy and fog has been the forecast this Thanksgiving weekend. While the temperatures were really not that cold, it was hard to peel away from a crackling fire. We made up our minds to get out on the horses early this morning and just dress for it. Well, we didn't leave until late morning, but so glad we did. We rode out in the Kane Creek area below Hurrah Pass, where approximately a year ago Sunnie and I went out Plein Air Painting. Here is the painting that resulted, it was done on a chilly, rainy day, with fast moving clouds. Today we followed a herd of cows in, Red Rock Ranches from Bedrock, Colorado was pushing a few hundred head into their winter range. We rode Lightning and Thunder, 4 years old and 3 years old respectively. Thunder wanted to give Stan a rodeo, and we bogged down in some mucky muck in the creek bottom, but made it out safe. Lightning got a lesson in moving through some narrow openings created by BLM campground construction. I think he was afraid they were electric fences, or maybe he was just buffalo-ing me, but we made several passes through. All in all a great ride.

Marketing Boot Camp day 2

May 16th, 2012

Marketing Boot Camp day 2

Here is the same photo, in positive.

Branding was the theme around day 2 of the Marketing Boot Camp at the Plein Air Convention. Once again around 400 people shook themselves out to attend the early morning session. "Don't assume buyers know who you are, know your work, understand your work, or even care." We as artists have to clearly put all of that forward. We need to strive for a good product, but it doesn't have to be perfect.

Brands matter, your brand is not what YOU believe but what THEY believe. Know thy audience. Ask what their background is, what art appeals to them, why they are drawn to specific pieces. Build a list of questions to ask your audience. Then market to the best audience for your work. Supercharge and dominate ONE audience segment.

A brand is built of credibility, trust, quality, position, value and price. You need to clarify how you want to be known, who you want to know you. What position do you want to own? Who is your competition? What media can you dominate? Can you live up to the brand? And how can you stand out?

Most buying decisions occur before the buyer goes out to purchase. We all have moments when we feel rich and when we feel poor. If you are not top of mind, you must have a presence when the buyer is ready to buy because they have other choices.

A marketing plan consists of Research, Advertising, Branding, Publicity, Pricing, Strategy, Sales Promotion, Public Relations, Product Placement, Direct Marketing and Sales.

OK, so there is work to be done. We have all heard most of this before, but it helps to hear it again. What do I need the most work on? Do I really know my audience? Like many artists, I am rather introverted so I don't tend to draw information out of people easily. I do have many extroverted friends, though, and I watch them carefully. I attended a lot of trade shows with my husband and I learned to meet strangers and strike up conversations. I have had many occasions to practice over the years and even some of my friends are surprised when I say I am introverted. A deep breath, a smile and a determination to learn something new always carry me through.

Plein Air Convention and Richard Robinson

May 6th, 2012

Plein Air Convention and Richard Robinson

As I sat in the convention hall I sometimes took photos of images on one of the two large screens on either side of the speaker. Of course the room is darkened so the colors were always a little wacky. Since the colors were way off anyway I started playing around with effects and shot some of them as negatives. The image above was one of my negative shots. (Not one of Richard Robinson's paintings, by the way. These are famous paintings, bonus points if you can identify them.)

I have made it a habit to play with camera settings when I want to take reference shots for paintings. Sometimes I shoot negatives, sometimes color flare, sometimes just sepia or black and white. I find it instructive, I see elements of the composition that I hadn't noticed before. Sometimes the images are downright inspirational and I play with changing the subjective content entirely. None of these, so far, have made it past my pile of personal reference, but who knows, I may frame some someday.

The keynote speakers for the first day of the convention started with Richard Robinson. Richard lives in New Zealand and has become passionate in the last few years about plein air painting. He is also a videographer and has put together some great videos about painting. His presentation included many excerpts from his videos. You can check them out at www.robinson.painting-academy.com or www.livepaintinglessons.com.

Richard asked, "Why do we plein air paint?" His answers, "To really see the light, see the colors" "Expression, dealing with time constraints" "Being there...opportunities arise that would not if we weren't lingering in one place" "Getting there...it's like a treasure hunt, finding the right place, the right inspiration for that day." One of my favorite of his lines was the "Free Range Art Critic". We've all been accosted by one of those. They come out of nowhere and have a lot to say. With such comments as "did you paint that?" when they find you all by yourself standing in front of a field easle with a painting on it. Um Hummm.

Richard talked about the Japanese term Notan. Develop the skeleton of the work first. Resolve an interesting balance of light and dark before laying in any color. He talked about painting with infused light, where exaggerated colors are placed at the edges of transitions. I think this is going to help me. I've been pushing colors for years now, sometimes off the cliff. I see hints of really exaggerated colors when I'm plein air painting, and try to include them. Richard's demonstration showed me that the extreme edges are where these can live, give pops of lively color without taking the whole picture out of reality.

I also garnered some good tips about setting up a composition and was reminded to set limits first thing. Set the outer limits, draw the main shapes, add a few smaller shapes within the larger shapes, establish the darkest darks, the lightest lights and the most saturated color.

Richard gave a great demonstration of the spotlight effect: Lighten the main area, darken all others. Keep the detail sharp in the main, blurr less important. Brushstrokes get larger and more expressive at the outer edges. Add a common warm color throughout.

At one point he talked about a triple A town he had been in. Everyone there was either an Artist, Alcoholic or Anarchist, or a combination of 2 or 3. No, it wasn't Moab. But it could have been, especially in the 70's. I'd like to get him to come do a workshop here.

Plein Air Convention, second installment

April 23rd, 2012

Plein Air Convention, second installment

"The Key to Marketing is to start Designing Your LifeĒ is my interpretation as the theme for day 1 of the Marketing Bootcamp. Thursday morning, bright and early over 400 filled the Summerlin Ballroom. Eric Rhoades started by talking about getting very clear about goals.
We must get crystal clear about what we want and what our goals are. He suggested we take a day or at least several hours away from all distractions and ponder the following:

Write down why I came to the Marketing Bootcamp. Or in other words, what specifically do YOU want to learn about marketing. (brainstorm...write down any reason that pops into your head)
Prioritize those reasons.

What is my "Head Trash" about marketing? This is all the negative thoughts that pop up...why I am bad at it, why it is hard for me, what conspires against me doing it well. Write it down. Also write down a positive thought that can counter-act these. As an example, here is one of mine:
"I don't think my paintings are as good as they should be to get into top galleries"......"I can work my way up into better galleries and take workshops along the way".

Write down how I define success. Success with art, success in general. Again, brainstorm, and then prioritize. Choose one thing that is most important and keep this at the forefront of your plans.

Make a list of what I am unwilling to do. This should be a broad list encompassing your whole life. For instance, I am unwilling to live somewhere other than Moab, at least as a home base. I suppose if there were some mandate that you couldn't be an artist in Moab, that would be it for me. Luckily it isn't. Selling art for decent prices in Moab....now that is another matter. But I am determined to be an agent for change in that.

If told you only had a year to live, what would you do? Brainstorm and prioritize. Don't discount your first thoughts, they may seem crazy, but there is something elemental here.

What will you celebrate as the major accomplishment of your life? What would your obituary say if it were written right now? What would you wish it would say?

Marketing is all about preparation. Just as a successful garden depends on preparation, so does a good marketing plan. We must do our homework, put a good bio, artist statement and resume together, organize our inventory of paintings so easier to track and manage, put a cohesive professional portfolio together, improve our network with others, plan advertising, seek the right venues (whether online, galleries, or exhibit space), block out sufficient time to market the product. 20% of our time should be dedicated to marketing.

The steps to success are:
Belief, Passion, Vision, Clear Direction and Action. Every one of these is essential, you can't succeed if one or more are missing. Create a road map for yourself and take it one bite at a time. All the while, take time to visualize what the end goal really looks like, how you want it to look and feel. Budget time doing marketing like money owed and don't let yourself off the hook.

Set goals. Start long range, break those down into smaller and smaller sections, and set realistic timelines for them. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. They should also encompass broader aspects of your life such as social and family. Incorporating all aspects will prevent being tripped up.

"Marketing is like raising your hand in class" If you don't try you will never get noticed, and there is nothing wrong or manipulative about marketing. I think most artists have a really hard time with rejection and self-esteem. We work in isolation for the most part, but we need to get our work out to be seen, network with other artists, and get friendly critiques. We need to keep a positive thought stream going. What we think, we create. Above all, have fun at it. Look for the fun aspects, savor them, visualize the positive, and minimize the not so fun, or at least don't dwell on it.

I hope you've found a nugget of gold in here. Going through my notes to write this is invaluable to me. I vow to find a beautiful place to sit and work on my lists this week. Moab is full of them but itís becoming a little more challenging to find the little pockets of heaven that aren't overrun with tourists. I know of a few.

My Notes from The Plein Air Convention

April 23rd, 2012

My Notes from The Plein Air Convention

I am just returning from the First Annual Plein Air Convention hosted by Plein Air Magazine. The event was held in Las Vegas for 4 days, featuring talks and demonstrations by the best of the best. The atmosphere of the entire event was warm, supportive, highly informative, educational and empowering. I highly recommend that you look into the event next year, it will be held in April in Monterey, CA. I have many artist friends who wanted a report back on the event. There is so much to cover that I decided that I should create a blog. As I go through my notes over the coming days, weeks and months, I will share my impressions. Please keep in mind that a lot of information was given, and I am working from my incomplete notes and drawing on points as I understand them, possibly a few steps away from the reality. (Hey, that's how creative minds work!)

OK. First an overview: Place: Red Rock Resorts & Casino. We began each session for 3 days with a 6:30 am "Marketing Boot Camp". At least 400 people shook themselves out of bed and attended each day. The presenter, Eric Rhoads, covered topics such as defining goals and priorities, working through resistance, concrete steps to create a marketing plan and how to prioritize your time to make the plan work, building a brand, what really drives a sale.... Here are a few jems from those early mornings:

Every day begin by writing a to do list and prioritize the list. Make the A-1 priority of that list something that will bring you closer to your goal. (You are seeing mine right here.....another point emphasized was using social media to advantage...more on that later).

Titles and captions matter. Art speaks to the emotions anyway, give the viewer a little more about the story behind the paintings.

After 1 1/2 hours of Boot Camp, we had at least 2 sessions each morning and 2 to 7 each afternoon. Top painters, art historians, educators gave demonstrations, video clips, lectures, etc. The large ballroom had the presenters in the middle with cameras projecting on two large screens on either side. It was very effective, we could all see as if we were looking right over the shoulder of the demonstration, with other photos, graphics and video clips inserted from time to time. New content was added on the fly: Extreme painting video at a lunch break and a fascinating history lesson of Sennelier Co.

Just outside Summerlin Ballroom, vendors had booths set up with great convention specials on their products. I bought Guerrilla Pochade boxes for Sunnie and I from Judson Art Outfitters, frames from JFM Enterprises and Randy Higbee of kingofframe.com, brushes from Rosemary and Co., a panel carrier and a few panels from Ray Mar Art. There were DVD's and books, Sennelier pastels and papers, Rembrandt and Gamblin Paints, Arches papers, the list goes on. Many gave free samples and coupons in our great little Plein Air Tote we received at the beginning. Track your tag and Online Artist Websites had great info for online presence and I will be buying the Value Viewer App for my Android.

All in all, everyone had a great time. One of the sound techs that live in Las Vegas probably gave the best accolades. He said (and I paraphrase) in all the years he had been a sound tech for Las Vegas conventions (double digits, I think something like 20 years) he had never seen an event where each of the presentations were so well attended, the attendees so engaged in the content, the people so nice, and the information was so interesting to himself and the other tech people who knew nothing about painting.

At the end of the event we went out painting. Saturday afternoon was cold and wet, but Sunday was stellar. Stay tuned, I'll add more in the coming weeks.

Happy painting!
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