Get Back in the Studio and Make Art!

Without your art, you have nothing to market, and there would be no need for you to read this blog.
Without your art, you wouldn't be an artist. You’d just have an interesting hobby.
Without your art, your gifts to the world would be fewer and far less original.

Get back in the studio and make art!

Jacqui Beck, To The Cypress, acrylic
Jacqui Beck, To The Cypress. Acrylic and mixed media, 10 x 20 inches. ©The Artist

Every week I give you an art marketing action to try or to tweak. What I don't say in each issue is that your art must be your priority. I'm here to give you ideas for promoting and selling your art. It's your job to put your art first—before the marketing.
In Linchpin, author Seth Godin defines artists broadly as people who act on their big ideas and change the world. For this, he says, you must focus on the work.

Your work is to create art that changes things, to expose your insight and humanity in such a way that you are truly indispensable.

The work, he convinces us, is about making a difference.
Your work is in the studio.
Sending out newsletters and email blasts about your art is necessary, but it isn't your genius. Don't ever lose sight of the reason behind your marketing.
FINAL WORD: Get back in the studio and make art. Make lots of art. Make lots of mistakes. Learn from the process and share your gifts with the rest of us.

If you find a regular studio schedule difficult to maintain, get a boost from the Art Biz Coach Blast Off class. It's all online at your convenience and begins May 19.

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38 thoughts on “Get Back in the Studio and Make Art!”

  1. What a great way to start my week! I had already decided that this week was going to take an extra push on my part to finish a sculpture I’m working on… Your post is reminding me to not get distracted (just long enough to write this comment). It’s so easy to get carried away with making improvements in the business of my art, many of which take lots of steps to accomplish. I’ve been working on my goals for 2010, and they include my new website, a new postcard, new mailing list, working with a new medium, and a new direction for my work. All these things have been started, but I need to keep the ball rolling. Mostly I need to get my butt back in my studio and FINISH what I’m working on. And on that note, I’m off. Thanks Alyson!

  2. So true!
    I’m just about to start my summer off from teaching my two drawing classes. Often I get asked the innocent question of what I’m going to be doing – in my mind I think ” what I always do- go to my studio!” To get anywhere with one’s artwork one lavishes it with time and attention. That’s like adding water and fertilizer to the old garden.
    One of the dark secrets of artists is how incredibly long it takes to get a piece to look just right. Most of the time it means re–working the difficult passages over and over again. I have no doubt Rembrandt and Monet would know exactly what I’m talking about.

  3. Alyson, in a previous recent post you had touched on just how much of our art marketing is now in our own hands. we are no longer dependent on someone else for getting our work out there, and now more than EVER before we have SO many opportunities and avenues for self promotion. We are rich in all the variety of choices available to sculpt just the right marketing strategy for us.
    Without the ART though, we have nothing to bring to the world and to promote! There is nothing more important than building that solid body of work *first*, and only when that is accomplished or at least underway, then worry about the marketing! Horse, cart…. Thank you for this timely reminder!

  4. You would not believe how many blog posts have been written on this subject. I have the same issues about not being in the studio making art. Perhaps it’s because my college major was in marketing and my minor was in art. I naturally gravitate towards the mktg. part of it. But if you don’t have anything to market, all the websites, blogs, displays, art show tents, mailing lists, etc. aren’t going to get you very far.
    Part of the problem is that artists have to do every job there is in running a business, and then some. How many business owners need to be professional photographers to be able to advertise their work? In most other businesses, there is more than one person involved and work can be delegated and given or hired out to specialists in that area. In the case of many new emerging artists, there just isn’t enough cash available to be able to do that. Therein lies the quandary. You need to prioritize the making of the art as first on your list. Then worry about the rest.

  5. Funny, I was just at LACMA with a fellow artist talking about just this. Not focusing on the external junk, like what others are doing with their career or inventory, but to focus on what we do best. That this is the priority if one is to be “artist.”
    But I must say, there is a marriage between managing the business of your art, and making the art.
    It’s a duality we cannot afford to ignore.
    When I’m at an impasse with a project, I switch over to support mode, aka marketing, which is creative, but uses the other side of the brain too. When I’ve reached capacity with the marketing efforts, I switch back over to the work.
    Like my own marriage, it’s the willingness to work together, one supporting the other, yet having the freedom to be autonomous, working toward a mutual goal or dream…

  6. I find that a balance between the making art and the marketing the art works well for me. If I do a bit, or a lot, of both each day, I stay on track.
    Conversely, if I dedicate endless days to making art without doing any marketing or working at the marketing without making even a little art, I don’t do as well, personally or professionally.

  7. SO true! In fact as you know (from the Blast Off class) one of my affirmations is “I will not neglect the small rocks, so my jar can be full.” This is actual the reverse of the real lesson of the “Big Rocks” story because I tend to let myself excuse the little tasks in favour of the big ones to the point of neglect sometimes. Actually painting is the number one Big Rock. 🙂 So if I don’t do that, there’s no big rocks in my jar at all! (The big rocks story is here: amongst other places)

  8. Roger K. Lawrence

    Recently retired, and working in a converted home office, I find that the lack of structure ( like going to work each day at a certain time) seems to make getting started difficult. Add that to my allowing distractions at home, TV, pets, honey do’s, phone and computerr, keeps me in a reactionary mode instead of getting to the studio first. I have been taking lessons to learn to paint in oil and I don’t seem to get much
    homework done. I am sure other retirees have this problem also. Any key to getting started in the studio. Once I start I manage to stay at it. My past business experience makes the marketing challenge easy.

  9. The key to making art is SELF DISCIPLINE. We no longer have somebody standing over us saying you MUST work, from x am to y pm. Easier said than done…

  10. Alyson, what you say here is the truth. No sense putting the cart before the horse, and our workhorse is our artwork. Without on ongoing body of work, we have no “business” gathering information, day after day on how to market our work – when we have no work to market.
    Thanks for saying it.

  11. This post was so timely. I just put in a new drafting table in my studio an have vowed to spend the early mornings working on my art before I head off to my 9-5. I told someone about my paln and they couldn’t believe that I was willing to make the time to do that but the way I see it, I don’t have any other choice.

  12. KaBOOM! Got me! I’ve been thinking (as I hover over the keyboard) that I’ve really got to get back to painting soon. And then that message; “NO! You’ve really got to get back to painting NOW”. I’ll grab a brush right after looking for the hidden webcam that must be here somewhere 😉

  13. Amen!!
    When it comes to creating if one is sometimes stuck,
    lack of external deadlines + distractions + fear = static growth in inventory.
    Thanks for the spur, Alyson!!

  14. Hi Alyson. Thanks for that BIG reminder. Although this comment is not directly related to your topic I would like to share my recent encounter. A friend just approached me to paint two murals for her upcoming wellness center. I told her I would give her a quote which will be really reasonable. She said that I should do it for free since I will get lots of exposure and down the road I will get clients through her shop. As much as I want to promote and market my art, and still keep our friendship this did not sit well in what I have been working for as a professional artist. Your input would be appreciated.

  15. Cynthia, if it interests you, perhaps you could come up with a real quote (not a “reasonable” one), separate out your materials and equipment costs, and do a barter exchange for services at her wellness center, charging her for materials and equipment). I wouldn’t knock your price down unless she did the same for the services you would get in exchange. And get it all down in writing.

  16. This comment is for Cynthia. I agree with Karen. This is what I’ve learned to do in these kinds of situations: Write down exactly how many hours it will take you to do the work (design, prep work, painting, and clean up). I’ve painted murals before and it is hard work. Then write down exactly how much it will cost you to buy your materials. Remember that there is ALWAYS room for negotiation. Talk to your friend. Add up what the murals would cost you if you were paid only minimum wage. This is usually an eye-opener. Now think about what hourly rate for your work will make you happy? What hourly rate can your friend afford? What kind of “exposure” will you get out of this? I don’t think you should work for free ever. I don’t know why, but it is common to think that an artist is just too happy to work for free. Our time seems to not equate to an hourly rate. However, when people actually see on paper how many hours and material costs are involved they finally get it. If you will be bartering for services, then having on paper what the murals are worth in dollars and cents should help. How many hours of services or treatments would be equivalent to the cost of the murals? Why not offer your friend a commission if you get work from a client in her shop? This could even be motivation for your friend to make sure your info is always available for all to see. Maybe you’ll end up only painting one mural to bring the costs down. If we want respect for our work as artists, we have to speak up. You have nothing more valuable than your time. The funny thing is, I bet your friend will value the murals and the work behind the murals much more having paid you for them.

  17. “In the studio.” Those three words conjure visions of the perfect ahhhhh moment for me. My studio is my safe haven. I am safe there from the threat of undone housework, unwashed clothes, uncooked dinner, and unanswered phone calls. It is the ultimate selfish retreat from the world. It is My world…in the studio. (Excerp from my blog post today seen at )

  18. Debora Stewart

    I’m considering turning off my computer during the day this summer. I’m off from my teaching job for two months and have much I have to get done for two large shows the next year. I have spent a little too much time with the social networking stuff and have actually become a little obsessive over it. (very compulsive) But it has also been very helpful for me as I look back over the last year. I’m excited that I will be personally meeting two artists that I have connected with on a trip I”m taking. But, its time for me to get into a “zen state of mind” and just create! I can hardly wait!

  19. Cynthia – would your friend make the same “offer” to her plumber or equipment salesman? Be very careful here, and value yourself and your work.
    As to Alyson’s post – Just as a banker, store owner or accountant has regular hours, so should we. It doesn’t matter how great a store’s marketing is if you go there only to find bare shelves!

  20. Wow just the push I need to get me into the studio. Question I hear Allison say we need consistent studio practice, a body of work, a gallery show ready to go, how many pieces is a body of work, how many in a gallery show? Is consistent studio practice getting into your “studio” and making work every day? Does going into your studio and staring at your work count?

  21. Thank you Karen. That is a smart one! You are right Patricia! Dentists, doctors, lawyers have their fees posted and we even have to agree by signing forms etc. We artists need to do the same.
    Thanks Alex for your great practical input!

  22. I couldn’t agree more. I left a full-time+ job to be a full-time+ artist and brought the same schedule to my studio. I’m in there by 7:30 most days and that has made a huge difference in my work.
    Somewhere last year I read that being an artist is like being a ditch digger: you work whether you feel like it or not. Even if I have a cold, or I’m tired, my studio work starts around 7:30 and I work all day. Keeping those hours means – no surprise – that I produce a lot of paintings and make solid progress!

  23. Roger K. Lawrence

    Lisa, Thanks for sharing you stategy of the discipline needed to get started in the studio and to achieve productivity. I need the productivity to speed up the learning process at this stage in my development. I want to sell my work exclusively to galleries and it is clear that I won’t get many opportunities with galleries unless I can produce to fill their needs. You comments are appreciated. .Now I need to quit spending so much time reading blogs and get to the studio.

  24. Alyson Stanfield

    Tina: Thanks for reminding me of the Big Rocks story. It’s a terrific lesson.
    Roger: My problem is more “turning it off.” Stop working and create balance. It’s hard to do when my office is always in my field of vision.
    Jim M: How did that work for you?
    Lynn: Love the Patti Digh post. Thanks for sharing it.

  25. Alyson Stanfield

    Cynthia: While you say it didn’t sit well, you didn’t offer anything further. What did you say to her immediately? What do YOU want to say? What will you feel like if you do as she asked? What will you feel like if you trust your gut?
    I have further thoughts, but wanted to check in with you first.
    Maybe this is a Deep Thought Thursday–though I kind of know how it’s going to turn out. 😉
    Debora: I think turning off the computer during the day is a fantastic idea. In fact, I think you should do it and after a month write a guest blog post for me as to what you learned.
    Carol: Listen to this podcast about creating a “body of work”:

  26. Hi Alyson: Yes, I sat there for a moment (frozen and not feeling good inside) and said in transition,”what would be a comfortable fee for you? She gave me a figure that still fell short of course to what I really feel is right. She begun telling me how limited her funds are. Although at this point she knows that she is not getting anything for free. My mind was wrestling about this ‘negotiating’ mode as Alex mentioned. I finally agreed with the $ amount when she offered me I can use one of her rooms to showcase my works once a month for free. Have an opening reception, etc.. Then she started telling me she will pass my cards. I offered her some sales commission and she declined. For some reason I was still not totally satisfied in my gut. I know I could have done better. This was a big learning experience. Negotiating with Money has always been hard for me.
    Then the next day I read all your responses. It may be too late to change my agreement with her. It is more difficult to deal with friends. On the other hand you wonder if they are true friends why would they bargain so much!!?
    Now your turn. Looking forward to hear your thoughts!

  27. Alyson,
    My brain is exploding with all the ideas I have but I don’t do anything with them. I can’t even make myself go into the studio. Your article was an eye opener. “You gotta show up and do the work”. Thank you!!

  28. Roger K. Lawrence

    RE: Turning it off. You have solved my problem. The interruption of having my computer turned on and located in my studio is the problem. Sometimes the problems that are the most perplexing have the simplest solutions. The computer & the rest of the office equipent will be removed from my studio. Great big Thanks for the advice.

  29. Alyson,
    I did pick up the brush and tackled the problem area that I had been avoiding. Some thoughts on how to approach it had been percolating for awhile, and I needed a jolt of virtual caffeine to get me going. Wow, your Deep Thought was a hyper espresso! Thanks! But I never did find that hidden web cam 😉

  30. Alyson Stanfield

    Cynthia: My favorite response is always “Let me think about that and get back to you.” It gives you time to mull it over and ask around. And everyone understands this. And remember, too, that it’s much easier to say No and change your mind than it is to say Yes and change. It sounds like you figured that out.
    Roger: Yay! Sounds like they already have a new home.
    Jim: Does that mean that I’m “virtual caffeine”? I kinda like that.

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