How to Creatively Network for Artists

Five Ways to Enhance your Artistic Market and Build your Network

Five innovative ways to successfully build your creative network among fellow artists and professionals.

You’ve sent your proposal, bio, slides, and emails, even held up an “I’m hungry” sign, and no one has told you when to bring in your art. Here are five innovative suggestions, and common cliches, that will have fellow artists, galleries, agencies, and the general public murmuring, “I knew that Artist! I thought she was a beggar.” These valuable ideas will provide a start for artists building a creative network.

Build From the Ground Up

Who do you know that knows someone, that knows someone? Make a list: family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, mentors, and alumni. Check your list twice throughout the day, and revise as needed. Be sure to let everyone know you are looking for connections and opportunities. When you have a lead, follow up.

Social/Professional Networks

Say yes to popular sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LiveJournal, or more focused sites such as DeviantArt, ArtBistro, or ArtInfo. Meetup.com is a great resource to form contacts and attend small to large gatherings, to collaborate and express your media. If you prefer underground social networks, try sites like Tumblr, Rafter Jump On, or Altpick.

There are online professional networks (AIGA, etc.), which usually require a membership fee, that will get you more connected if you do not have offline professional networks available in your region. For offline professional networks, consider co-ops, arts organizations/galleries that thrive on memberships and volunteers, entrepreneur groups, or the local women’s or men’s professional associations. Look at demographics, media, and other specifics. What do you have in common with other professionals? Your local arts council is also a great resource, no matter which media you work in as an artist.

Tip: When you become a member of an online or offline network, offer comments and connect with fellow artists. You will be remembered. Building a network requires effort and maintenance.

Haunt Coffee Shops

It’s true, especially of the independent coffee shops or collaborative spaces… The creatives gather around the fuel that keeps them going between jobs. Bring your sketchbook, laptop, or novel, and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation, even if it is with the barista. All sorts of people come into coffee shops, especially if they are in a public library (from homeless to CEO). Similar places to consider are restaurants and others of the like, where emerging artists often start, either showing their work or making ends meet.

Self-Promotion

Do plein air painting or caricatures. Do your art to music on the streets. (Some cities require permits or at least permission from a local business whose corner you have taken over.) Attend craft or art fairs in your area of focus. Attend or teach at conferences, workshops, and retreats. Be a presence at gallery hops, whether you are showing or commenting, and find out how the artist got their space. Then, work to get a space. Create business cards, mailers, postcards, and your artist’s statement. Self-promotion can be intimidating, but you are investing in yourself. Show your creativity, be uniquely you, and as they say: Think outside of the box.

Do It Yourself

Be your own muse. Start your own MUSE, another professional networking and meet up group for creatives. Take the few artist contacts you know from the neighborhood and coffee shops you haunt and form a co-op, where you will share a space, host gallery showings, and create. Contact an artist whose work you admire, ask for an informational interview, and keep growing.

These five suggestions will help get you started in creative networking. Don’t be afraid to shine, and go where others have not. Isn’t that what artists do?

Painting Tips for Beginners

Have Fun Creating an Original Painting

Basic information for beginner painters including painting tools, helpful hints, and simple techniques.

For many people, painting can be a relaxing hobby that helps them to express themselves. Professional paintings may intimidate beginners, as they are often detailed and realistic. However, anyone can paint a fantastic painting that expresses a part of themselves, or one that simply looks pretty. The following advice can help beginners to get going in the face of intimidation.

Painting Supplies to Have Before Starting to Paint

Before beginning painting, there are a few supplies that are very important to have. The following items are essential or near essential when first starting out:

  • A drawing tablet and pencils
  • Canvases
  • A variety of paint colors (usually either acrylic, oil, or watercolor)
  • Starter brushes
  • Medium (to mix with the paint)
  • Some sort of towel
  • A palette or palette paper
  • Paintbrush cleaner (for oils)

Easels, an apron, floor coverings, and other accessories are more optional.

In terms of what artist paint brushes to pick, it is often a good idea for beginners to purchase a wide variety of brushes. Large brushes are generally good for wide strokes, while thin, small brushes are better for details. Brushes vary greatly in quality, so it is important to choose how much time one wants to devote to the art. If one is simply experimenting, it may be best to choose cheaper, lower quality brushes. If someone is instead planning on painting much more in the future, it may be better to purchase sturdier, more expensive brushes.

It may also be wise to buy several canvases while one is at the art store. That way, he or she may be more inspired to paint on a whim instead of having to go to the store every time the urge to paint strikes. It can be fun to have, say, a big canvas for a large painting and several smaller canvases for less-detailed paintings.

When choosing what type of paint to use, it helps to have some experience working with different paint types beforehand. Watercolors, acrylics, tempera, and oils are vastly different paint types. Watercolors require a steady, careful hand, while oils are messier but more forgiving. Acrylics are somewhere in between, as they are not as thick as oils but they do allow for some mistakes. Taking a painting class or trying out a friend’s paints first can be a good idea before purchasing a whole paint set.

Basic Techniques for Painting an Art Canvas

Before painting, many professional painters draw their subject from many angles to get a good idea of how they will design the painting, and in order to get an intimate idea of what they are painting. It is important for beginners to get in the habit of drawing pictures beforehand so that they can figure out what they are painting before they paint it. This technique can lead to better paintings and less frustration.

After drawing sketches, many artists will draw a faint outline of their subject directly onto the canvas. Some artists will make the canvas into a grid so that all objects are lined up properly. These lines do not really show up for acrylics or oils, but they may for watercolors. They can be erased with a simple eraser, but an eraser can also remove some of the dried paint as well. Thus, it is best to draw the sketch with a light touch, to begin with.

Once the sketches are done and all items are prepared, painting can commence. When painting, artists can get as realistic or as abstract as they want. If painting a scene realistically, it is recommended that many colors be pulled out of the scene, rather than just the obvious colors. For instance, when painting a brown purse, colors like yellow, red, and purple may be added, rather than just using a plain brown (Bryce Vinokurov, U.C. Davis).

Helpful Tips for Beginners

When getting ready to paint, it is often helpful to set up the whole area first. It may be a good idea, especially if one is especially messy, to cover up the floor or table with old sheets or newspapers. Also, it is often a good idea to wear old apron or very old and ruined clothes. Paint can simply ruin good clothes, so it is important to never wear a favorite outfit while painting.

Also, for mixing “perfect” colors, a painter should squeeze a little bit every paint color out on his or her palette before beginning. This way, one can use all colors that he or she sees in a scene without having to squeeze out more paint every time a new color is needed.

When painting as a hobby, the most important thing to remember is to have fun. A painting does not have to be perfect. It can be anything that the artist wants it to be.

History of Artist’s Watercolor Paper

Papermaking has an ancient history. Traditional paper manufacturers such as Fabriano and Arches produce watercolor paper for painting.

The creation of images is an ancient practice. Marks and pictures were scribed on cave walls, clay tablets, bark, papyrus, and vellum. Watercolor paper is a relatively recent surface for painting and creating art. The history of the watercolor paper begins with the story of papermaking throughout history.

Papyrus and Parchment

The English word for paper comes from the Greek term for papyrus, the ancient Egyptian material for keeping written records. Papyrus was made from strips of a reedy plant beaten together to form a smooth wide sheet. It was produced in Egypt as early as 3700 BC. Papyrus was exported to both Greece and Rome. The ancient Greek term papyros led to modern word paper.

The papyrus plant only grows in tropical regions. When papyrus from Egypt became scarce, northern regions needed to find a replacement. As a result, parchment was developed as another kind of writing material. Also called vellum, this material was made of processed sheepskin or calfskin.

Paper is Invented from Rags and Fibers

China is credited as the birthplace for the first true papers. It was considered one of the Four Great Inventions of Ancient China. Although there are some earlier examples, the papermaking process was developed in China during the early 2nd century. Supposedly, the paper was inspired by the nest materials of wasps and bees. The paper was created from old rags, mulberry plants, and other plant fibers.

Paper and papermaking slowly spread to areas beyond China. First Japan and other East Asian cultures adopted it, then it moved into the Middle East. Finally, it was introduced into Europe in the 13th century.

Artist’s Watercolor Paper Production

In Europe, the paper quickly began to replace the use of parchment. It was lighter, easier to make, and cheaper to use. Paper and papermaking arrived in Italy around 1250. The papers were made from recycled linen rags as the pulp. Some of the first papermakers in Europe are still making fine artist quality watercolor papers.

  • 1283 Fabriano, in Italy
  • 1492 Arches, in France
  • 1557 Canson, in France

These companies all produced fine artists papers, mainly for drawing. Papers for watercolor painting originated in the 18th century with the development of a very fine wire screen that was like a wire cloth. This new process allowed a very even surface to form in the pulp fibers.

This fine art paper became suitable for watercolor painting with the addition of a “hard size” to the fibers. Sizing is essential to watercolor paper because it allows the color to stay on the surface as the water sinks into the paper. This is what makes watercolor paint so brilliant and allows the surface colors to be lifted and reworked.

Early paper was all made by hand. Paper production entered the Industrial age in the late 19th century with the first companies to use a cylinder mold to make the finest art papers. Machine-made papers create the consistent quality and texture sought by fine artists. Although handmade watercolor papers are still available today, they are harder to find and generally more expensive.

Paper, in history, has strong sociological connections for record keeping, information storage, and communication. Paper that is stored properly and taken care of lasts a very long time. Some of the world’s most beautiful artwork is maintained in images on paper.

What is an Optometrist?

Optometrists are doctors of optometry (OD) who specialize in the practice of primary eye care.

Like ophthalmologists who attend a four-year post-college medical school, optometrists must attend a four-year post-college optometry school.

Optometrists take two years of general medical courses (as do ophthalmologists in medical school), followed then by two years of intense specialization courses in the field of optometry.

Upon graduation from optometry school, optometrists must then pass several national board exams and a North Carolina board exam.

Only then can an optometrist take the grueling North Carolina license test which allows an optometrist to be properly licensed to practice optometry in North Carolina.

Optometry and ophthalmology are similar in many ways, and in North Carolina, optometrists can do everything that an ophthalmologist can do except surgery.

In fact, optometrists can diagnose and treat most eye diseases, perform non-invasive procedures such as foreign body removal, prescribe all medications, give prescriptions for different types of eyeglasses and monthly contacts made of unique silicon material.

Optometrists are generally thought of as the primary care doctors for eye care (similar to a family doctor or general practitioner). Ophthalmologists are thought of as secondary/tertiary care doctors who handle advanced eye diseases and conditions as well as performing surgery (including laser surgery).

Because the education for optometrists is more of a concentration in optics and disease diagnosis and management, optometrists are very well trained to provide the best refractions for lenses of all types.

It is generally true that optometrists provide the best refractions because of their intense education and training in this field.

For this reason, optometrists are your best first-line of defense for having the best and clearest possible vision, while wearing color-blending contact lenses for a natural look.

During a normal thorough comprehensive refraction exam, an optometrist will perform the following steps:

This is used to verify your current vision and to compare it to your current lenses and prescription, if applicable. At AOC, we use only the best phoropter. Ours is computer automated, allowing the optometrist to obtain the most accurate refractions possible.

  • Dilate your eyes with eye drops.

The purpose of this step is to prevent your pupils (the center dark part of your eye) from closing when the doctor looks into them with a light to see inside of your eyes.

This is done to check your retinas, the central vision part of the retina (the macula), as well as the optic nerve, for any conditions or abnormalities.

These retinal photos become a permanent part of your record, thus also providing a history of your eye health so that future changes in your eyes can be easily detected and documented.

SEO Basics Guide

Search Engine Optimization Fundamentals for Effective Web Marketing

Search Engine Optimization is a type of Web marketing strategy to rank a site high on the search engine list. It’s the wish of every site owner to have their site appear on top when people type in specific keywords or phrases since it increases traffic significantly. These free listings that show up on the search engine are called “organic” or “natural” results. Unfortunately, there is no simple formula for making a site rank on top since many factors are considered, and each search engine uses different methods.

A Guide to the Basics of SEO: How it Works

When performing a search, a Web spider captures a URL and checks the pages based on factors such as the title, meta description tag, body copy, alternate text for images and links and then stores it in an index. When the user types in a keyword or phrase, the search engine looks in the index to display the right sites.

SEO Strategies and Techniques

SEO-conscious content developers are strategic about choosing the right titles and words in their articles. Before writing, they think about what keywords users will type in to find the article. (Google’s keyword tool is a helpful resource.) The keywords must not be too vague and general. For instance, “music” is not as good a title as “funk jazz music” since the term music is too broad to be found by anyone. It helps to be specific, but not too specific that no one can find it.

Other basic tips to know:

  • Avoid overstuffing the page with keywords since the search engine will most likely view it as spam. Repeating the key phrases every 100 words or so is a better technique.
  • The article should be written seamlessly without it seeming artificial or forced.
  • Add keywords in the subtitles to increase the chances for higher ranking.
  • Cite well-known websites that relate to the content.
  • Build external links through directories, social bookmarks, Facebook and Twitter.

SEO Techniques to Avoid

Search engines can blacklist sites that try to manipulate the pages to attract viewers. A website containing more than 50 unrelated links (link farms) for the sole purpose of getting traffic is unethical. Anything that seems over the top or deceptive, like keyword stuffing, should be avoided.

Ranking high on the search engine and building high traffic takes time. No one has a guide to perfecting SEO since search engines do not disclose everything. Google search uses as many as 300 factors for ranking sites. The best way to go is to follow the SEO advice of marketing experts. 

 

How Art Will Save the World

Visual art has inspired incredible cultural transformations in the world.

Many things about the world are all too often taken for granted, particularly in terms of human capabilities. Walking, for instance, is a basic function that usually doesn’t cross one’s mind until someone else’s misfortune becomes painfully obvious. Many important capabilities of a psychological nature are often taken for granted as well, particularly in terms of images. The ability to perceive, process, and analyze images is a crucial right-brain function which defines the most basic aspects of life, and perhaps more than anyone realizes possesses the single greatest potential for harmony in the world.

A Visual Basis for Learning

In the past hundred years, unbelievable strides in art, literature, science, and human rights have taken place, and such progress has coincided with the availability of images of the outside world. Before the advent of photography, television, and most recently, the internet, a person was not able to conceive of a world outside their immediate surroundings; therefore, exploration of foreign lands and especially other planets was never a priority because, even if it were possible to read about such places, the lack of visual evidence created widespread apathy in terms of the rest of the planet.

Consider, for example, what kind of relief efforts would have been made for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti this winter if no one had seen photographs of the damage and destruction; or what sort of movement would have erupted in the absence of photos coming back from Vietnam; or what the state of space exploration would be now without the iconic image of Neil Armstrong on the moon.

The increasing awareness of the world (and beyond) has had another significant impact on cultures all over the world: the emergence of visual art. Prior to these relatively modern technologies, painters and sculptors were typically expected to create portraits, or at the very least stay strictly faithful to the human form. There have obviously been artistic movements in the past, the Renaissance is the most important example, but even in such masterpieces as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, humans resemble humans and nature resembles nature.

Artistic Freedom Leads to Creating the Future

It was not until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that artists were truly free to explore the possibilities of their respective media. Artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dahli, M.C. Escher, and Georgia O’Keefe continuously redefined the possibilities of visual art, and have since inspired hundreds of thousands of ethereal works of art.

The landscape of visual art is, of course, much greater than the works of painters. More artistic uses of photography, sculpture, architecture, and the newest addition to visual media, the cinema, have been redefined post-industrial revolution and have infused incredible beauty into the world, and thus into the scope of human consciousness. The power of past artistic movements such as cubism and surrealism is simpler yet more important than any artist could have realized at the time: the act of simply looking at a work of art inspires the viewer to think abstractly, to potentially look at the sky and think not of the basic star-studded landscape the eyes first perceive, but of Van Gogh’s swirling colors in his masterpiece, “Starry Night.” One might also look at Picasso’s “Crying Woman” and, perhaps subconsciously, consider the sadness of women all over the world. Such abstract thought is the basis for action.

Naturally, art has not single-handedly transformed the world into a magical, peaceful place, but the boundary-defiance and emotion it encourages in its viewers have aided political movements all over the world: Civil Rights, the Women’s Movement, and gay activism just to name a few. Given the changes that have happened in the past hundred years or so, one must wonder what the world will be like in another hundred years, and what role art will play in creating the future.

Money Laundering and Stolen Art

How organized criminals and terrorists purchase art and antiquities to launder money. Stolen art can be traded for a fraction of the true value.

Watching an episode of Burn Notice, the star Michael Weston comments on a crate of antiquities. He says that the madly fluctuating prices of antiquities make it easy for criminals to exchange cash for rare pieces of history from all over the world. I wondered if this was true or just something is thrown into a television program to make it more interesting.

Purchasing Artwork to Launder Money

It turns out, this is actually true. One major problem for criminals is what to do with all of their ill-gotten cash. Once they purchase an artifact, antiquity or piece of artwork, that cash becomes legitimized and laundered in essence, into an asset that gains value and can be sold at a later date with no questions asked. Whether purchasing legitimate art or hot artifacts and antiquities, these tangible assets can be used to launder cash into collectibles.

Using Stolen Art as a Tradeable Commodity

Stolen art, artwork that is stolen from a museum, gallery, or private home, can be traded or fenced in the underground world of organized crime. These trophy paintings cannot command the same value as if they were acquired legitimately. It’s like buying the proverbial expensive camera or television out of the back of someone’s truck. One knows it wasn’t acquired legally so the full retail price is not attainable. Criminals fence stole artwork at a fraction of its real art world market value.

So for example, in theory, if a criminal wanted to sell a stolen Vermeer they would not be able to ask for the legal market price which would be many millions of dollars. Probably, the asking price would be much lower, perhaps only a million dollars (US) or so, but for the art thief that is a free and clear million dollars and they are rid of a very hot piece of property.

Art Crime

In Art and Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World, edited by Noah Charney, there is an essay by law journalist Dafydd Nelson which talks about this subject matter in a more academic way. Nelson also reminds us that during times of economic hardship, fine art and antiquities retain their value, making them even more attractive as a way of money laundering for organized criminals.

Nelson has plenty of real-life examples of money laundering deals that have been discovered. For example, in March 2002 a painting by Goya and another painting by Tsuguharu Foujita were seized by US officials when a Spanish money launderer tried to use these valuable objects to settle a $10 million dollar drug debt.

This dark side of the art world still receives very little attention by the American media that is focused on the War on Terror in terms of suicide bombers, terrorist attacks, Al Qaeda, and Islamic extremists. The truth seems to be that terrorism and organized crime worldwide is in part funded by stolen art, artifacts, and antiquities.

5 Simple Ways to Save Money on Art Supplies

Buy art supplies for less! Follow these easy tips to find cheap or free art supplies around town, in stores and online.

Buying professional quality art supplies can be expensive. Purchasing the finest brushes, paints, and canvas is unjustifiable except for established artists with consistent sales. Fortunately, artists of all abilities can find great deals on art supplies in a number of easy ways.

Scavenge for Free Canvas

Do not be bound by convention. Go to construction sites, abandoned fields or go dumpster diving for paper, posters, cardboard, plywood, mirrors, glass panes or fence boards. Right now, the “recycled art” and “green art” market is hot. Artists should use many different materials in lieu of canvas to set their work apart.

Go Garage Sailing for Cheap Art Supplies

Buying large, pre-stretched canvas can be costly. By priming used, mass-produced prints, artists can get blank canvases for pennies on the dollar. A canvas size that retails for $50 may only cost $10 at a garage sale. Moving sales or estate sales are typically the best places to find the recycled canvas. Often, frames are included, adding extra value.

Since it is illegal in many areas to dispose of unused paint cans, homeowners usually need to unload their leftover house paint. For mixed media artists, this can be a great way to pick up cheap art supplies. Spackle, caulk and glazing compound make great textures and unique 3-D effects.

Look for picture frames. Once primed with special paint, glass panes and mirrors make a perfectly usable canvas.

Buy Art Supplies in Bulk

Properly cared for, canvas, brushes, and paint can be stored for years. So plan ahead. Large art supply stores like Hobby Lobby routinely have 30% off sales on all canvas and paints. Since artists’ work typically has a high markup, waiting for great deals on already cheap art supplies only increases profit margins.

TIP: For online shoppers, Dick Blick and Cheap Joe’s offer great deals on art supplies. Additionally, both sites provide helpful tutorials and workshops to hone artistic skills and teach new techniques.

Buy Returned Paint

For action painters or drip painters (think Jackson Pollock), buying full retail is unnecessarily expensive. To avoid losing money on mixing errors, local paint stores, like Sherwin-Williams, usually sell discounted remainder paint. Many suppliers will happily notify artists when discounted quality paint and rare colors become available.

TIP: Large home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot will occasionally accept paint returns. Unique colors are routinely found for 50% off or more.

Maintain Artist Equipment

A good set of artist paintbrushes or pallet knives can last a lifetime. After each use, thoroughly clean artist utensils with either soap and water (for acrylics) or turpentine (for oils). Make sure paint caps and lids are airtight. Recycle old plastic tablecloths for extra-protection for studio floors.

Find Deals on Art Supplies

Professional artists can halve their costs by buying art supplies at the right time and from the right places. For those just starting out, painting does not have to be an expensive hobby. Free canvas is available in many forms and frequently found for free or sold in neighborhood homes and businesses. With a little imagination, artists can find deals on art supplies in a variety of places.