April 8, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

Using Real Mail to Delight

Email is terrific. It’s fast, inexpensive, and connects to other online resources. But along with email comes a few headaches—primarily, and I don’t have to tell you this, too much of it.

It’s stupidly easy to type up a message and press send. Everyone does it. Every day. And they’re doing even more of it right now because even more of our lives are lived in the digital space while we are staying at home. That means there is a dizzying number of emails flying over the airwaves.

How can you make sure your email is being seen by those you want to stay connected to? You can’t.

I don’t want you to discount email completely, but it seems like a good time to try a different tactic—to revisit a strategy for sending real mail that lands in a real mailbox.

4 Reasons You Should Send Real Mail Now

There are 4 reasons why I’m raving about real mail to my students, members, and private clients.

1. Real mail is tactile.

Envelopes and postcards are things you can touch. You can cut, tear, and unpack a package (sometimes you can even smell it).

Handwritten notes enhance your emotional bond with recipients—something that can’t be duplicated with email. I can’t think of a single email, regardless of how kind it was, that evokes the same level of emotion as a piece of mail with handwriting.

This tactile quality is as important to you as to the recipient. I am certain you will experience more joy writing a single note or shipping a single package than you will sending 500 emails.

Couldn’t we all use a little more joy right now?

March 25, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

Structure Your Days to Be in Control of Your Art Business Now

So much of what is happening right now is beyond your control. You can’t control how many people get sick. You can’t control how fast the virus spreads. You can’t control what our leaders do (though you can vote and I strongly urge you to do that).

But you can control how you react. It’s critical for your well being that you pay attention to what is in your control. This is going to make you feel much more optimistic about the future, and give you fuel to carry on.

For the foreseeable future, I’m dedicating the Art Biz Podcast and this blog to discussing what you can do now to stay in control of your art business.

I want to begin this series by discussing how you spend your time every day, hour, and minute—even if you have kids at home.

In a recent interview with Colorado Matters, Craig Knippenberg, a licensed social worker in Denver, discussed the importance of structure at this very strange moment. Adults do better when they have structure, but kids absolutely need it, so having a schedule is even more important if you have kids at home right now.

1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time.

This helps you better plan your day and know when you need to start winding down for a restful night.

2. Make time for inspiration.

We all have different environments. If you’re homebound in a small high-rise apartment, you might look for inspiration online or out the window. But find it somewhere.

And I’m not talking about inspirational quotes. You’re a visual artist, so I encourage you to look for visual inspiration in clouds, the landscape, or online art exhibitions.

3. Continue learning.

During this period when you aren’t in the throes of writing exhibition proposals or planning your next event, study a subject that has piqued your interest. Maybe indulge in an online art history course. Or enroll in lessons on embroidery, mosaic, or illustration. You can bet that anything you want to learn can be found from the safety of your home. You can also be assured that you will grow as an artist with any knowledge you gain.

Yes, you can schedule these things. Devote, say, Thursday afternoons or Tuesday mornings to learning.

March 12, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

The Impatient Artist: How Much Time Will Your Art Career Take? (encore)

Back in 2016 I sat down with Cynthia Morris to discuss an affliction many of our artist-clients suffer from: Impatience. Especially around making money.

This was the first episode of what became the Art Biz Podcast.

I originally started noticing this almost desperate desire for artists to make fast money at the height of the recession. Artists lost day jobs and, while they were excited to be able to focus on their art, they needed income to start rolling in much more quickly than was reasonable.

Nobody should cultivate a small business this way. It’s unrealistic to put that kind of pressure on yourself and on your art.

As Cynthia put it in our conversation: You wouldn’t decide to be an architect and think you can finish a building by the end of the year, so why would you think an art career would take off so quickly?

The hard truth is that your art career needs time to develop.

A lot of time. An unbearable amount of time for some people. In my experience, patient artists who are committed to their careers for the long haul are the ones who enjoy the ride, have a much healthier outlook, and, ultimately, reach their goals. They understand that there is no such thing as fast fame.

Today I’m republishing an encore of that original episode because Cynthia and I talked about things we need to be reminded of frequently.

We started by considering the pitfalls of impatience, and quickly launched into a variety of topics that all have to do with what it takes to be a professional artist.

March 5, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

How to Turn Your Buyers and Collectors Into a Sales Force

Kate Ward fiber art

Want more help selling your art?

You have a sales force right under your nose: Your collectors.

The people who loved your art enough to buy it and live with it are your biggest fans, and are probably itching to share your art with their friends, families, and colleagues.

Make it easy for them!

Your first step to turning collectors into an art-selling brigade is to stay in touch with them. Sending newsletters, personal emails, postcards, and holiday and birthday cards keeps your name in front of them.

People are more likely to remember to recommend your art if you remind them that you’re still alive and working in the studio.

You risk being forgotten when you neglect your buyers and collectors too long. 

Aside from regular contact with the important people in your life, a special touch here and there will upgrade their experience with you and, simultaneously, improve your sales.

Here are a number of ways you can make it easy for people to promote you and your art.

February 27, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

A Live Painting Business with Jennie Tucker

In 2014 then-promising artist Jennie Tucker received a challenge out of the blue from a friend: Paint my wedding. At my wedding. In front of all the guests.

Most of the artists I know and love would have (1) laughed out loud thinking, Obviously she jests, or (2) run the other way. Fast.

Not Jennie. She accepted the challenge and rose to the occasion.

More interestingly, she found she really liked it.

Jennie, who was single at the time (read: freer), enjoyed traveling and painting at weddings. She liked interacting with guests and painting within the time and location constraints. She didn’t mind people looking over her shoulder to see what was on the canvas.

She became an artist-performer of sorts, and the word spread.

Jennie found a niche for herself: a live painting business. Before long, she was in demand for other live events, like corporate parties and conferences.

The opportunities abounded. Every one of them happened by word of mouth and, eventually, as a result of her social media sharing.

There was no way she could accept all of the invitations that came her way. She had to start saying No.

In this latest episode of the Art Biz Podcast, I asked Jennie Tucker about the business side of live painting. We discuss the importance of contracts (and what to include in them), dealing with people and their many personality quirks, income streams, and her desire to help more artists start doing this work.

Jennie openly shares the challenges and a somewhat embarrassing story from a most memorable wedding.

February 13, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

Turning Journaling into Audio for Your Art Show with Cathy Read

Cathy Read architectural paintings

In the spring of 2018, Cathy Read took my Magnetic You course. Now this class isn’t for the faint of heart because it involves a lot of writing. And, if you’re like most of my clients, you really would prefer to get by without more writing.

We work on your artist statement, bio, about page, stories about your art, and your branding. All of your hard work leads to a cohesive presentation that makes you more attractive to buyers, curators, and collectors.

One of the most important lessons in Magnetic You involves meditating on your art. You read that right. Meditating on your art. I insist that art speaks when you give it the time and space to tell you its story. Then you have to capture that story in a journaling process.

Cathy wrote pages and pages about a new body of work. Then she got an idea from another lesson to leverage all of that writing she had done.

It didn’t just stay in a notebook or in a file somewhere in the dark depths of her computer. Nooooo. She put it to work and turned her written stories into audio for an exhibition.

The leap Cathy took from written word to audio involves a different way of thinking. It’s much like how museums consider programming their shows. They don’t simply put up the art along with nearby labels. They have docents who lead tours, scholars who give presentations, activities to expand on a theme, and audio for telling stories.

Why shouldn’t artists do the same when they have their own solo shows?

I asked Cathy all about the process and experience in this episode of the podcast.

January 30, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

How Art Biz Success Is Evolving in 2020

Kristen O'Neill with her painting

One of the tenets I abide by can be abbreviated as A.B.E. Always Be Evolving.

Evolution, by definition, is something that happens over time. It’s usually not the result of a big bang!

You have to allow it to happen. And that’s a process I’ve learned to give into.

So I began thinking about what I really wanted for my students and coaching clients and what I want for myself. This last part is very important because if I’m not happy in my business, my team isn’t happy and my clients aren’t happy because I’m not performing at my highest level. I don’t give my best self.

Please note that the time stamps for the podcast playback.

Self-Inquiry and Insights

Over the last year, I’ve asked these questions repeatedly:

  • What’s fun for me?
  •  What do I enjoy doing?
  • What do I not enjoy doing?
  •  What do I have to stop doing because it sucks the life from my soul?
  • What am I really good at? And where is the evidence of that?

By the way, I also ask my clients many of these same questions.

Here are the 3 major insights I had during this process.

  1.  I enjoy working live and in person. I like to travel and hold the energy of a large group throughout a workshop.This can be exhausting, but it also feeds me. And I think I’m good at creating an excellent experience for workshop participants. I learn more when I’m there in person. However, I don’t enjoy launching ads, emails, and promotions to try to fill a room and then being on the hook for thousands of dollars to a venue
  2. I enjoy helping ambitious artists who have a solid studio practice. I enjoy helping them shore up their foundation or review everything they have in place as they prepare for growth and are ready for a new phase in their artist journey.My super power is helping artists create sustainable business systems that can support long-term growth. I do not enjoy working with wishy-washy artists who kinda sorta maybe think they might want to do something someday with their art. There are creativity coaches and therapists to help with that. It’s not my gift.
  3. I most enjoy working with artists who are more advanced in their careers. They have their foundation in place and are thinking beyond entry forms and juried shows. They’re carefully crafting their career course, and I’m good at helping them develop creative business strategies that can support their growth.

Those are the 3 insights for me: live and in person events, building systems for artists with a studio practice, and coaching more advanced artists for next-level growth.

That sets us up for this episode of the Art Biz Podcast. Team member Kristen O’Neill joined me for this special announcement about how these three insights are playing out in our business evolution in 2020.

January 26, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

What to Include in an Artist Catalog

A catalog can be a snapshot of your career at a moment in time or a retrospective documenting your entire life’s work.

With the advent of on-demand, inexpensive publishing, every artist should be using catalogs to promote their art.

And, yes, I recommend print catalogs above electronic versions.

A printed catalog is tactile. It can be placed in a gallery setting and held in one’s hands. It can be sent through the mail with a handwritten note as a gift to a VIP.

I also recommend a physical catalog because there’s nothing like seeing your art in print.

Printed catalogs can also be sold. However, catalogs are rarely money-making ventures. Incourage you to think of them as marketing pieces and documentation rather than products you might sell for profit.

Use this checklist to ensure that your catalog has all of the components to make it a lasting document of your art – one that you are proud of.

Pre-Project Checklist


Before you begin, you must determine the focus of your catalog. Just as you curate an exhibition of your art, you curate the content of your catalog.

Unless your catalog is

January 23, 2020 | Alyson Stanfield

Art Safaris and Consistent Promotion with Alison Nicholls

When I was a kid I used to hole up in my room to draw—dreaming of being an artist. One of the books I worked from was titled something like How to Draw Wildlife. The drawing I remember making most vividly was a charging lion.

But I was just copying from a book. Learning anatomy and how to depict movement convincingly by building lines and shapes on top of one another.

I can’t imagine the opportunity to sketch African wildlife in their habitat.

That’s what Alison Nicholls does.

Once a year, Alison leaves her home in New York and heads to South Africa to lead her Art Safaris for Africa Geographic. (They found her from her online posts back in 2010!)

I know from experience that it’s difficult enough to fill a workshop in your hometown or even a neighboring state. Alison’s Art Safaris are thousands of miles away and sell out months in advance.

In the latest episode of the Art Biz Podcast, I asked Alison how she attracts students so far ahead of time. You’ll also find out how she got to be a guest on this podcast, which is a great marketing lesson. Definitely stick with it to the end.