January 14, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

Goals for Artists and What You Should Be Focusing On Instead

Dance with Me 12x12" collage with washi wood assorted papers acrylic on panel from Curvy Geometric series © Nancy Egol Nikkal

I teach setting goals for artists. It’s the first lesson in the Art Biz Accelerator.

I encourage all of my artist-clients to articulate their goals because they have to know what they want to achieve before I can support them.

And, yet, I know there is something far more important, and more difficult, than setting goals: Doing the work.

We just survived a year in which we lost control of so much in our lives and businesses. We lost control of whether a venue would be open for a show or whether a live workshop would go on as planned or be canceled.

But, in fact, we never had control of these things in the first place.

You will never be able to control results or outcomes, but so much else is in your command. Before we move on in the conversation, let’s first look at goals.

SMART Goals for Artists

I used to teach how to set SMART goals for artists, which is a system for articulating goals and deadlines—a system that was definitely not devised by an artist. The acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound
  • The way I taught SMART goals to my clients and students was fairly rigid. Goals had to be articulated as an affirmation and include the due date: I will do [this] by [this date]. If my student or client didn’t write it to my standards, I made the necessary corrections.

    While I understand this is a tested system that has been used by millions of people through the years, I have let it go. It doesn’t work for most of my artist-clients.

    I think the reason it doesn’t work is because

    January 7, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

    Seeking Balance with Chris Maynard

    2020 Chris Maynard Reflection No. 5 12x15 inches turkey feather artwork

    Balance is the holy grail of every entrepreneurial artist’s quest.

    What does a balanced artist’s life look like?

    And what happens when you actually achieve balance?

    As much as I love the idea of being whisked away by my latest all-consuming project, I also know what it feels like to be out of balance. I much prefer being in charge of my time and my life, and that’s why I loved this conversation with Chris Maynard.

    In this episode I talked with Chris about finding balance in life as well as in making and marketing art. He shares the secret behind his seemingly successful quest for balance, how he approaches requests for commissioned pieces, and the systems that he uses to stay on top of it all.

    Balance may seem elusive, and, yet, we all need it in order to be our most creative and successful selves.

    Whether you’re currently searching for balance in your work or have already homed in on what the perfect balance means to you, this is a conversation you won’t want to miss.

    December 17, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

    Leveraging Your Location with Ashley Lucas

    © Ashley Lucas, Belmar Colorful watercolor painting of Belmar Sea Side Town

    I don’t believe in making art for a market. I believe in making art from your *soul* and then finding the right audience for it.

    But sometimes we are lucky enough to make the art we want, then tweak it just a bit so we can broaden our audience. My guest for this episode of the Art Biz Podcast has found a way to do just that.

    Ashley Lucas (aka Lady Lucas) is an artist whose work features smartly dressed animals and other sweet anthropomorphic characters. She has illustrated numerous children’s books, coloring books, and other unapologetically cute projects.

    By placing her characters in the local townscape Ashley has increased the appeal of her work to a specific audience that continues to grow. I talked with Ashley about how she came up with the idea to tap into people’s love of a specific location and how she leverages it for her prints, products, and commissioned work.

    We also discuss how she connected with a community even before moving there, how she juggles her life as an artist with that as a mother of a two-year-old, and which social media platform offers the greatest return for her work (it’s not Instagram).

    Even if you don’t “do” cute or illustrations or location-specific art, you’ll want to listen to ideas for connecting to new communities.

    December 10, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

    Procedures for Art Commissions with Sema Martin

    Waiting for Santa Sema Martin drawing of cat in christmas tree

    By now you may have picked up on the fact that I am a sucker for a reliable system. My signature program is called the Art Career Success System for a reason. Systems work. They provide you with a framework that, once in place, you can return to repeatedly and update to match where you are at any given moment in your art business. 

    I love figuring out systems, maybe even more than I love following them, because systems are always there to support my progress. And my guest for this episode of the podcast has proven that a clearly defined system can take your art business to the next level.

    Sema Martin is a full-time artist living in the French Riviera. She currently has a 4-month waiting list for her pet portraits, which is likely due in part to a system she has developed that keeps her organized and her customers satisfied.

    In our conversation, Sema shares the the 8 stages of commissioning work from her.

    We discuss how she standardized her sizes, how she makes it easy for clients to buy from her by offering multiple currencies, and how social media serves a dual purpose to both promote her work and to share her progress with clients. You’ll hear how she stays organized and at the end of this episode I’ll tell you how to get a copy of her system spreadsheet.

    December 3, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

    Growing Your Art Business on Instagram with Jeanne Rosier Smith

    Pastel drawing of crashing ocean waves in blues, greens, and grays

    So many artists have benefited from Instagram. This isn’t news. It comes up frequently in my interviews, and it’s so ubiquitous that I haven’t been able to pinpoint a specific lesson to devote an entire episode to.

    Until now.

    Jeanne Rosier Smith’s success on Instagram wasn’t random. She made a conscious decision to focus on using Instagram to grow her following and expand her art business, and it has paid off. As you’ll hear, she has been focused and deliberate in her use of the platform, while also allowing a great deal of flexibility in the process.

    It’s important to Jeanne that using Instagram is, above all, fun.

    In this episode, I talk with Jeanne about the strategies she has used for the past 3 years to build a following of 37,000 and reach the 6-figure mark in sales for each of those 3 years.

    You’ll also hear about how she maintains good relationships with her 8 galleries even while selling on Instagram, and why she doesn’t schedule posts in advance.

    November 25, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

    7 Steps to Developing Your Artistic Style

    Laura Cheney wood quilt sculpture

    In order to project a professional image as an artist, you must be able to distinguish yourself and your art from a sea of other talented artists. To do this, you must first develop your artistic style.

    As most artists have come to learn, developing an artistic style all your own is easier than it sounds. It means that your work doesn’t look like your instructor’s work, but that it is also cohesive when shown together.

    What is Artistic Style?

    Style is a word we use freely and without much thought. But what does it mean?

    In her book Living With Art, Rita Gilbert writes that “style is a characteristic or group of characteristics that we can identify as constant, recurring, or coherent.” She goes on to say, “Artistic style is the sum of constant, recurring or coherent traits identified with a certain individual or group.”

    An artist’s style is not good or bad. It just IS. The execution might be criticized, the colors might be perceived as ugly, or the composition seen as weak, but the style is what it is.

    Your style is a combination of the mediums, technique, and subject matter you choose. It’s not just that you make contemporary quilts or that you paint landscapes. Those are mediums and genres by themselves. No, style is that extra little thing you do to distinguish your work from that of other artists.

    Two quilt artists might each create abstract, colorful compositions using the same traditional block. If both are mature artists, however, we’d probably be able to tell one artist’s work from the other. For example, a fiber artist might employ one or more of the following in creating the quilt.

    • Hand-dyed fabrics from organic dyes
    • Loose threads hanging on the surface (rather than hiding them)
    • A particular fabric that becomes a signature of sorts
    • Text written with ink on top of the quilt

    In other words, she becomes known for works that contain a certain characteristic. For a painter it might be loose brushstrokes, impasto, or a repeated image. Kehinde Wiley, who painted the official portrait of President Obama, is known for his highly decorative backgrounds around his subjects. Sarah Sze brings together hundreds and thousands of found objects to create detailed multimedia landscape installations.

    What are you known for?

    November 23, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

    Giving Art and Artist Merchandise

    Scarf by Trudy Rice

    Are you giving art this holiday season?

    You always run a risk giving art as a holiday present if you don’t know the recipient will truly love and want to display it.

    However, many artists have merchandise with their art on it, which can be more appropriate for gift-giving because it’s utilitarian.

    • Mugs
    • Calendars
    • Note cards
    • Scarves
    • Ornaments
    • Journals

    What art are you giving this year?  What do you have for customers to purchase for gift-giving?

    Please leave a comment with the following:

    1. A description of your gift.
    2. A link to where we can see it. Double check to make sure the link works.
    3. Your Instagram handle so I can help you promote it.
    November 19, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

    The Benefits of Blogging About Your Art with Lisa Call

    Textile art by Lisa Call

    Blogging about your art may seem less fashionable these days, replaced entirely by the quick and simple posts of Facebook or Instagram, but Lisa Call has proved that nurturing a blog can be one of the most beneficial practices that an artist can pursue—for marketing as well as self-discovery.

    Lisa dove headfirst into the blogging world back in 2005 and created such an excellent blog that I have referenced it many times both on this site and in the first three editions of my book. Unfortunately, her blog went up in flames before I could mention it in my fourth edition.

    That major set back hasn’t stopped Lisa from continuing to create what I consider one of the best examples of a good artist blog.

    Lisa makes textile-based art and uses hand dyed fabric to create large abstract compositions. She uses her blog not for marketing her work but as a place where she can share her opinions about art and learn more about herself and her work. In fact, Lisa credits her blog as the single greatest factor in her success as an artist. (Turns out it had been an unintended marketing tool all along.)

    In our conversation, she shares the benefits of blogging and why she decided to revive her blog after all those posts disappeared. We also go over some of the steps she’s taking to republish old posts and how her blog has led her to opportunities that she otherwise never would have imagined. Of course, blogging isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy writing and sharing insights about your life as an artist, this is an episode you are going to want to listen to.

    November 11, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

    Introduce Yourself Confidently as an Artist

    If you find it difficult to introduce yourself as an artist, you’re not alone.

    “I’m an artist” doesn’t seem to roll off the tongue easily for some people. And yet it’s critical to be able to say those words with confidence.

    This is a topic I never could have dreamed up while I was working in art museums. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that artists would have a hard time introducing themselves. After all, what you do is so cool. So creative. So magical. It seems like all you have to do is say, “I’m an artist” and the conversation opens wide.

    But what I’ve learned in the years since working in the museum bubble is that it isn’t always that easy to say I’m an artist. Then, when the words finally do come out, what do you say after that?

    Why Your Artist Introduction is a Struggle

    It seems to be easier for people with art degrees, especially MFAs, to proclaim their profession to the world. Perhaps it’s because there is a physical piece of paper that says you completed a curriculum to the satisfaction of an institution. Regardless of any outside job you may hold to support yourself, you know at heart that you’re an artist.

    Having said that, I know it’s difficult even with that piece of paper for some people who aren’t working full time on their art careers to assume the title of Artist, with a capital A.

    There isn’t an official governing body that confers the title of artist on anyone.  “Title” isn’t exactly the right word here, but I think you get my drift. You don’t have to pass any licensing boards or get certified to start calling yourself an artist.

    For most artists, there isn’t a turnkey moment when they can proclaim, “NOW I know I’m an artist.” It’s more of a slow, steady slog on the way to the day you finally feel worthy enough to say it out loud.

    This is why it can be difficult to introduce yourself when you are in the process of becoming. You must summon your courage and present yourself as you want others to see you.

    Read or listen to the podcast.