You can see the original article here at Fine Art Views.
You can see the original article here at Fine Art Views.
Because I forgot to post the link to last week’s article you get a two-fer today!
Have a wonderful weekend!
When you try to do everything, nothing gets done.
(5 min. read) (Quote from the movie AMADEUS)
Thin people limit their options.
This strategy is to avoid eating for excitement and stimulation. The less variety in our diet, the sooner we are sated. More variety, more eating. (Again, with moderation–no one can live forever eating Rice Krispies, bananas and walnuts.)
This concept of limiting our options may seem to contradict Thin Secrets for Success No. 6: Thin People Enjoy Their Food. That principle involves eating foods you enjoy, eating slowly to truly savor each bite and learning to love the foods that are healthy choices.
This is about when you’re full of salad, but you could still go for a piece of cake. Don’t go there, girlfriend. (Er…LUANN!)
For our purposes (i.e., how to healthify our art and craft biz) (Yes, I made that word up!), it’s a remedy for dissipating your creative energy by taking on too many creative outlets and options. We can choose to conserve our creative energy by focusing on a select few goals at a time.
Boy, this tip has got to be the hardest one for artists. We’re creative, dammit! We see the creative potential in everything, and we’re excited by it. We want to do it all, and do it all ourselves. What’s wrong with that?!
Well, just that. If everything has creative potential, and everythingdemands–and gets–our full creative attention and energy, how will any one thing ever get the focus it needs to rise to the top?
And how will you–one person–handle it all?
Even then, it’s not necessarily a bad thing-unless it constantly gets in the way of us moving ahead and achieving our goals. Then we must understand it’s not working for us. Then we can make different choices.
Here are some ways creative people overload and overreach themselves:
The first example is the craftsperson who simply does too many crafts. They do a little knitting, they do a little sewing. They make jewelry. They make polymer clay buttons. They also like to cross-stitch and make dolls. And they want to sell their work, and make some money.
What do you tell this person?
How do I know?
That person was me.
I LOVE knitting kids’ sweaters and making tiny dolls. But I no longer have any desire to make them for anyone but grandchildren. (If and when I have grandchildren!)
I was lucky. I found a way to combine many of my interests (embroidery, polymer clay, sewing, and dyeing) to create an entirely new “thing”. The different media add interest, but each is subordinate to a cohesive body of work. That gestalt thing.
But the very first thing I had to do was focus on telling the story that would pull it all together, a story that enabled me to create a cohesive body of work.
Not everyone can do this with their interests–and you may not need to if you don’t need to make money or don’t care about a national reputation yet–but it’s a solution.
Artists–especially new artists–have a hard time narrowing down their creative bent to a few strong choices.
At some point, if we’re lucky, we realize that mastering one medium, or subject matter (portraits instead landscapes, collages, still lifes, and drawings) looks much more professional than a booth filled with “a little bit of this, a little bit of that”. That’s all the insight we need to cull our product lines and bring a new coherence to our display.
But sometimes, even if we see why we should do it, it’s hard for us to figure out how.
Start with a few questions:
Which of these do you like best?
It’s amazing how people hate to admit this. It feels like choosing your favorite child. Trust me, the other media you don’t choose, for now? Their feelings will not be hurt.
Which of these are you best at?
If your heart lies in jewelry-making, but you’re creating mediocre work, or work that is not distinctive, or work that is easily copied, you’re going to have to really dig deep to turn that around.
Which of these do you feel is the most distinctive and unique?
Often there’s something that stands out. It’s unusual, it’s quirky, it’s…distinctively you. And with a little more energy, refinement, and focus, it could be your “big thing.”
Sometimes the person likes them all, but it turns out what they really love is teaching. In which case, they only need to make and sell stuff enough to improve their skills and establish themselves as a working artist. Their real energy will go into marketing themselves as a teacher: Teaching classes, demonstrating, even selling downloadable tutorials online are ways to create an income stream without actually making painting or other art-making your full-time activity.
One artist offers dozens of tutorials on polymer clay, from beginner level to expert. She also experiments to find which clays are the strongest, which are best suited for specific uses, which are the most transparent. Then she shares that information with her audience. She excels at the testing/comparison process, and she has saved me hours of doing my own research.
All of this encourages people to purchase and download her tutorials, and that’s how she makes a passive income from her art.
But the most important question is this one:
What do you want to achieve out of all this?
If you’re having fun doing a little bit of everything, and it’s working for you, and you don’t need to get any” bigger”, then “not focusing” is fine.
If you are just figuring out what it is that calls to you, then take time to experiment and to explore, take classes, and play!
If you don’t really care about a career, if money would be nice but isn’t critical, it’s perfectly okay to stay in this stage, until you want to do it differently.
The minute you find you want to go somewhere, and all this baggage is not going to fit in the car, that’s when “focus” will help us through.
This “Thin Secret #9 Part Deux” will be continued next week, so stay tuned. We’ll look at other ways artists lose their way with too many options.
Have you ever gotten lost in the woods, trying to take on too many goals at once? Are you still in those woods? Or did you find your way out? Share in your comments and solutions. Your words may be just what someone needs to hear today!
My column on February 17 on Fine Art Views.
(5 minute read)
There’s the family you’re born into, and then there’s the family you choose.
Thin people have thin parents.
The original series on weight loss included a discussion of the genetic components of good health. But what about those of us who aren’t fortunate to have healthy parents? Er…Successful parents? How is this useful for our discussion today??
Obviously, it would be difficult to claim that artistically successful people have artistically successful parents. It’s much more likely we are the only artistic person in our family history. So are we totally without hope for artistic success??
Let’s start here: What do we mean by “artistic success? Or even “success” in general?
“Successful” parents might mean people who have achieved “financial” success. But it could also mean parent who balance work with family life. Parents who make decisions to create a stable home for their family. Parents who love their work and do it well and with pride. Or it could mean parents who encourage their child to pursue the work of their heart, no matter what that is.
There were no artists (that I know of) in my family. My parents didn’t even have hobbies (except for my dad, late in life, after retirement.)
But they did provide me with a powerful meme that has stood me well in life:
Both of my parents made major life changes in mid-life:
My mother, a stay-at-home mom with six kids and a seventh on the way, went back to college in her 40’s to get a teaching degree.
My father sold the family restaurant around the same time. He was unemployed, and under-employed for a few years. But after a lengthy and varied job search (including working in a factory and running for public office) he found a new career, one he loved.
Those were scary times for our family. But as kids, we hardly knew it. Looking back, I see now how courageous (and contained!) my parents were.
I believe their example gave me courage to do the same.
Yet whatever successes our parents have, I would still revise this “secret” for artists. Especially because sometimes our parents and families don’t support our decision to make art. It’s weird, it’s scary, or it seems frivolous to them.
Let’s talk instead about the family we create for ourselves. Let’s say this instead:
Successful artists create networks and social circles for support.
Successful artists surround themselves with a “family” of people who believe in what they do.
Successful artists take note of what successful artists do.
And successful artists decide what “success” means to them.
When I teach professional development workshops for artists and craftspeople, I always end the final session by saying this:
“Okay, long after we’re (the ABI team) are gone, you’re still going to need the support, the inspiration, and the sharing of resources you found here today.
Look around the room. These are your peers. They are artists who have SELF-SELECTED to come here this weekend. They came to learn, to get resources to grow their business, to learn how to be successful.”
“Look around. Who did you talk to? Who did you bond with? Share your contact info. Call them up when you get home, email them, and meet them for coffee! Meet up with a small group once every few weeks, or once a month. Research and share ideas and resources. Inspire and support each other!”
“If they don’t live close to you, friend them on Facebook, or e-mail them! Some of my closest professional friends live across the country from me.”
What do you look for in your new professional “family”?
You can do this right now. Right now, as you read this, you are (or can be) a part of the FASO community, full of artists who have self-selected to grow their art biz: creating their own websites, creating an online presence in the world, creating email newsletters. Artists who are reading this email newsletter! Artists who write here, or comment on what others have written, artists willing to share their own experiences of what works for them.
Look for people who support your vision for success.
Remember that success can be different things to different people. Some people need to a little extra make money. Some need to make a lot of money, fast. (When you figure this one out, please let me know!) Others seek prestige, respect, and recognition. Some are looking for a better balance between home, life, art, and work. Some are looking to simply better their craft or product, or their business skills, so they are working smarter. Some are looking for their big Oprah break. (Good luck with that.) (No, really!)
Understand that you can support someone else’s vision even if it is not your own. This gets hard for me, when people dream small. But it’s okay–as long as they respect MY dream, which is not small.
Look for positive-thinking people. We all have enough nay-sayers in our life to last…well, a lifetime. Let the naysayers babble on, but don’t let them wear you down. We all carry one in our head, too. No matter.
Look for people that believe success is possible–because that belief helps make it possible.
Look for people who understand that life may intervene, that our dreams may go to go the back burner temporarily (or longer!)
But look for people who will always remember that you are an artist. They will let you turn down the back burner so your artistic “pot” can simmer, but they will not let you turn it off. (Oh, I knew a cooking metaphor was in there somewhere!)
Not everything is possible. Not everything is going to come up roses.
But making your art, and sharing it with the world, is a good start. Finding people who encourage you to keep doing that?
by Luann Udell
This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
Learning how to say “no” can help you say “yes” to your art.
(5 minute read) (I had to put this in because someone complained repeatedly that my columns are way too long. So, you’ve been warned!) :^D
Inspired by Lorie Parch’s article “Secrets of Thin People”. It’s been years, but the secrets still apply.
So here we are, Thin Secret No. 1:
Thin people can put themselves first.
People who have a hard time losing weight often put other people first. Then they find they have no time to exercise, no time eat right, or to prevent stress–which causes them to gain weight.
And people who want a successful business, have to do the same: They have to put their business first, and learn to say “no” to the demands of others.
It’s the same with the business side of our art.
When I start to feel like I have no time, all it takes is a quick look at my calendar to see where I’m “spending” it. A volunteer commitment here, board service there, a school project here, family commitment there. And sometimes a little “trim” is in order.
I’m not speaking about the delicate balance of having a rich family, social and professional life. I’m talking about the commitments we take on, with good intent, that end up be a distraction.
How do we know when that delicate balance is tipped? Simple. You don’t have time to make art or grow your business.
Is that always a bad thing? No. As human beings, we enter and leave different phases of our lives that call for constantly changing balance. Very young children and teens need a lot of time–the former because they keep trying to explore electrical sockets, the latter because they do the same with the “electrical sockets” of adult life. Other life demands intervene, and sometimes art and business have to take a back burner for awhile.
But when you constantly find yourself responding to everyone else’s crisis, and your own business suffers, it’s time to find a different fulcrum. (Aha! I KNEW physics would come in handy someday!) We once invited a couple we really liked for dinner. But they couldn’t come, because their cousin’s husband’s mother’s brother (or something like that) was having a birthday party.
Either it was one hell of an excuse to get out of having dinner with us, or they needed a new fulcrum, and fast.
When I was an at-home mom, I had many requests for my time. Possibly people perceived me as having “tons of time”–because I wasn’t really working, right?
But as my business grew, the requests continued. I was perceived as having tons of time because I worked out of my home. That seemingly infinite flexibility was interpreted as constant availability. (By me, too, I should hasten to add. I still find it hard to say no.)
Then when my business was more established, I still received many requests on my time–because I was perceived as “knowing how to be successful” and “having figured it all out”–and everyone wanted a piece of that.
And even now, as I reboot my biz and grow my audience on the West Coast, I still get such requests. I’m now part of an art community (loosely) and I’m (somewhat understandably) expected to support that community, often. (I actually did take on a huge project a couple years ago to do just that. After spending weeks on the project, a technical glitch made it all blow up in my face. And rather than saying ‘thank you’, many people made it clear they found it amusing to see yet another “naïve newcomer” take on such a project, and fail. (To the few people who were thankful, I am so grateful!)
What makes it hard to say no is, many of these requests are made by worthy people for perfectly worthy causes. And it’s not wrong for them to ask.
But I have to be responsible about saying YES. Or NO.
Also, people have been very generous to me in this industry. It seems only fair to “give back”.
But ultimately, I have to come first.
Only I can make the work I do, to tell the story that’s my story. The art that’s in ME, I’m the only one that can let ‘er rip.
I’m learning to limit the one-on-one “giving back”. I now try to keep it to “one-to-many” model. That’s one reason I started a blog.
And why I joined the Arts Business Institute faculty for a year. And why I write a column for (the former) CraftsBusiness magazine, and now, the Fine Art Views newsletter. These are all ways of “giving back” to my community without feeling I have to constantly respond to requests for free consultation sessions. (It’s no coincidence that they also serve my desire to write, too!)
And as for larger commitments, well, sometimes before another door opens, a window has to close. Another commitment has to draw to a close before I take on another one.
But there’s another, less obvious corollary to this “put yourself first” secret. And that is: Only YOU can do what it takes to make yourself successful.
Parch quotes Anne Fletcher, a registered dietitian who wrote the book THIN FOR LIFE (2003) which Parch based her article on. Fletcher says, “When people take the reins (responsibility for their own weight loss), they realize that the solution to weight control is inside them, not in some magic potion or fad diet that their mother or sister is on.”
hmmmmmm……The secret of a successful diet. Doesn’t this sound like what I wrote last week?
Yes, there will be many times when life forces us to make different choices, to take on different priorities.
Knowing when—and how—to say “no”, may be the biggest ‘secret’ to creating success for yourself with your art.
(Disclaimer: I’ve used the ideas in the “thin people” article only as a metaphor for other life goals we have, in this case, our art. And not to “lecture” anyone about losing weight. Because, well, look who’s talkin’ here!)
(Spoiler alert: The choices are small, but many. And you have to keep at it!)
Years ago, I sat on a panel of artists and crafts industry professionals, speaking on various issues and answering questions from the audience.
Near the end, an artist badgered me unmercifully, repeatedly asking me to reveal my marketing “secrets” for the entire audience to hear.
I felt extremely uncomfortable, even resentful, about the demands for several reasons.
First, I wasn’t even sure what was being asked. A list of all my marketing efforts for the past 18 months to promote my artwork? For the last 8 years? The efforts before or after 9/11, the dot com crash and the recession? Did they want to hear all my mistakes, too? Or just my successes? Did they want to hear what I learned? Or what I’m learning now?
How much time do you have?!
I was also frustrated because I had no context for the person asking the questions. I had no idea what their work is like, where they are now in their business plan (or if they even HAVE a business plan) and what they are willing to do to succeed. I had no idea what their personal, financial and professional goals are for their art/business. I had no idea who their market is and what they’ve done to target it or even identify it. How do I know what will be of use to someone else unless I understand where they’ve been, where they are now, and where they want to go?
Finally, I was confused by the assumption that I’ve figured it all out and can neatly box it up and simply give it to someone else. I’m still learning, changing, growing as an artist. I have no idea if I’m even thinking the right way about MY marketing plan. How on earth do I put all this in context for THEM?
But I also felt vaguely guilty. After all, wasn’t the panel discussion a culmination of an entire weekend doing just that?–helping others take their next step by sharing my own experiences and learning? Hadn’t I already mentored a number of people here, and at previous conferences, offering insights and advice freely? Don’t I do that daily with my blog, in my magazine articles, and in other professional development classes I teach?
So why was I feeling intense resistance to this artist’s demands?
I’m been thinking about why these scenarios seemed so vastly different, why I would respond wholeheartedly in one instance and clam up in another.
The next day, as I ate breakfast, I read an article about long-term weight loss in the April 2006 issue of REAL SIMPLE magazine. The article was called “Secrets of Thin People” by Lorie Parch. And I had my “aha” moment.
The demanding person was asking me for my “secret diet” for losing weight.
And I don’t HAVE a secret diet for losing weight.
What I DO have is results from deciding from time to time that I needed to change the daily choices I make in my diet, my activities and my attitude–to achieve a different outcome in my life.
What I feel comfortable sharing is how I got from a person who constantly made unhealthy choices, to a person who (periodically) will make consistent, healthier choices–which, as a consequence, RESULTS in me being thinner. (Er….now and then.)
I still don’t actually diet nor are all my choices perfect even now. But I’ve been successful in MODIFYING many of my choices slightly over a long period of time. And when I make those modifications, the side effects are, I lose weight, I get more fit, I lower my blood sugar and cholesterol to within healthy limits, and I walk/talk/carry myself, and care for myself, differently.
(The ONLY physical “shortcut” I’ve taken through the years is, brilliant red hair. Better living through chemicals and all that.)
I’ll share some of the professional, artistic and emotional changes I made years ago that got me where I am today professionally (with apologies to Ms. Parch for using her article for the structure.)
But for today, rest assured there are no “secrets”, no insider information that is being systematically withheld from you.
I know it feels like that sometimes…. It feels like other people KNOW what to do and when to do it.
But that’s not the case.
Success in the arts, like any other success in life, means staying the course. Staying with one course of action until it has a chance to provide results.
One thing that helps you achieve success is getting better at what you do. â
But also recognizing when to switch because it isn’t working for YOU.It means making daily choices, often small choices, that eventually… EVENTUALLY lead to big results.
Because, just like losing weight is an END RESULT of making many different, healthier life choices, being successful is an END RESULT of making many different, “healthier” artistic, professional and personal choices.