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 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.

November 4, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

How To Discuss Slow Sales with Your Art Gallery

film noir painting by Leslie Peterson Sapp

Sales from your art gallery are not what you expected or need them to be.

They sold a lot of your work at one point, but sales have dropped off significantly in the past couple of years—especially during the pandemic.

So what now? Do you ask for your work to be returned?

Not quite! Before you take such drastic measures, do the hard, but professional thing. Talk.

Opening a dialogue is your first course of action, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. First things first.

Assess Your Relationship with the Gallery

The conversation you have with your gallerist about slow sales depends on the answers to a number of questions.

How long have they have represented you?
How much work have they sold for you in the past?
What are the terms of your agreement with the gallery?
What is the nature of your past relationship?
What is the current state of the gallery’s business? How has it been affected by the pandemic?
What is the demand for your work outside of their venue?

2 Options for Opening a Conversation with Your Gallerist

Based on how you respond to the questions above, consider 2 options for opening a conversation about slow sales from the art gallery.

October 29, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

Knit Democracy Together with Eve Jacobs-Carnahan

At the intersection of craftivism and the world of campaign finance is Eve Jacobs-Carnahan. Eve is taking the historical practice of knitting circles and re-envisioning them as modern craftivist assemblies.

While bringing artists together to craft the building blocks of a characteristic state capitol building, she’s also leading conversations about changing the role of money in election campaigns. But the impact that Eve is going to make with this work is going to extend far beyond the current election cycle. In fact, it has very little to do with it.

Kicking off in early 2020, *Knit Democracy Together* combines interested organizations, knitting circles, and conversation about election finance reform. The result will be a 5’x3′ knitted sculpture of a state capitol building that Eve hopes to exhibit in multiple venues.

The pandemic has certainly had an effect on Eve’s plans, but it hasn’t stopped her.

In this episode of the Art Biz Podcast, she shares details about how she has had to reimagine the previously scheduled in-person knitting circles, funding and exhibiting the project, and the art of knitting as a daring act of social activism.

October 15, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

Pitching Your Story to My Podcast or Anyone Else’s

Black-and-white painting of a dog by Elizabeth Petrulis

I’m always on the lookout for artists with interesting business stories to tell.

I consider it my good fortune when I find them from one of my students or clients, and am equally happy when the story appears from beyond my immediate circle.

But I know there are hundreds and thousands of more stories out there that are waiting to be told. Not just to this podcast and blog, although that would be lovely, but to other podcasts, blogs, and media.

Make The Argument

I’m not crazy about the word “pitch” but I’m going with it. I use it in the sense that you are making an argument for something. You’re making an argument that I should pay attention to who you are and the art you make.

I specifically say “pitching your story” rather than “pitching your art” because most artists could benefit from massaging the stories they tell about themselves. You might not call it that, but it’s something that you’re constantly doing.

I’m more likely to pay attention to your art if you have a compelling story than if you ask me to buy, buy, buy.

  • You’re pitching your story when you post about your art on social media.
  • You’re pitching your story when you send an email to your list.
  • You’re pitching your story when you submit to an exhibition.
  • You’re pitching your story when you ask for gallery representation.
  • And take a minute to let this sink in. You’re (hopefully) pitching your story when you tell anyone you’re an artist. Anyone. At any point.

What I’m sharing will not only help you get featured on the Art Biz Podcast, but will also serve you when you pitch to other podcasts, bloggers, writers, and publications.

The more interviews you do and the more experience you get, the better you become at telling your story. You will also grow your audience and maybe even sell some art or attract new students and social media followers. You never know who is listening. Here are 5 steps for pitching your story.

October 8, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

Facebook Live Group Art Shows with Brooke Harker

Brooke Harker Painting

Fun isn’t a word used very often when we think of marketing or business tasks. Still, it’s one of the criteria I suggest considering when you’re thinking about whether to add something to your busy schedule.

When Covid hit, Brooke Harker threw her fears about doing live video out the window and created Saturday Night Live Art Shows—because she thought it would be fun. It started with just her, but quickly grew to a core of regular artists, with new ones jumping in each week.

I wanted to talk with her about it because these weekly events are open to any artist who wants to show off their art or, perhaps, the art that you collect. In fact, as you’ll learn, the rules are, well, … What rules? This could be a great way for you to connect, practice your video (because imperfections are encouraged), and maybe even sell some art.

Brooke and I discuss:

  • What happens during SNL Art Shows and how you can participate. They’re 100% free!
  • How participating artists have benefited from being part of SNL Art Shows.
  • The 3 questions Brooke uses to prepare for live video.

And so much more. Listen and read the detailed notes.

September 24, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

The Value of Critique Groups for Artists with Patricia Miranda

Feminist installation by Patricia Miranda

My experience with critiques is limited to memories of undergraduate painting classes with George Bogart. I was crammed into a space outside the studio classroom with my fellow students.—some of us lucky to snag a bench—to talk about our work.

The only session I remember vividly was one in which I had a very early work in progress that was about my 25-year-old cousin, who had recently been killed in a small plane crash. I struggled with that piece and it was getting nowhere.

“Maybe it’s too soon,” is what I recall Professor Bogart saying. It was, indeed, too soon. And I didn’t have a strong vision for the piece—just the desire to depict this fond memory.

I strongly believe that artists need critique in order to improve. Artists who have been part of formal and ongoing critique groups find them invaluable to their creative development, which is why I’ve prescribed them to many clients over the years.

In the latest episode of the podcast, I talk with Patricia Miranda, founder of The Crit Lab, which uses a structured pedagogy designed to deepen discussion around members’ work.

Miranda has been leading 7 separate critique groups in 3 states and has recently transitioned successfully to online sessions in the wake of Covid.

I encourage you to listen to this episode more than once. And then return to it later. There’s much to consider.

August 28, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

Reclaiming Your Year — Even Now

Christine Aaron Work on Paper

I’m a planner. If you’ve taken any of my courses, or even read my book, you anticipate that there will be at least one plan involved. Often with every lesson. It doesn’t do much good to learn a bunch of stuff without figuring out how to implement it right away. In fact, that’s more like consuming than learning.

In talking with my students and clients, I know how devastating this year has been. Of course, I didn’t really have to talk with them to know that their plans had been stomped on, but it helps to get the full picture.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on everyone’s plans. Canceled shows and travel. Shuttered studios and exhibition spaces. The spouse used to leave for work and give you space, but now you’re stumbling over one another. And the kids! Suddenly the kids are at home and you are tasked with the awesome responsibility of their education.

You’re on Zoom all of the time, so that brief sigh of relief you felt for not having to get dressed and put on makeup was short-lived.

In the early days of the outbreak, I encouraged my clients and students to plan just 1 week at a time. We didn’t know what was going to happen. How long things would be closed. I wanted them to control what they could and not worry about months ahead.

We now know that Covid is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. The planner in me said, Okay! Time for a new plan!