This blog focuses on the joys, challenges and lessons of living the creative life—and make a living doing it!
Author Gayle Mahoney is an arts marketing consultant and has shown and sold her own artwork for over 25 years.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Promoting Online – How Your Art and Ideas Can Spread Faster Than Ever

(This is a guest blog post by Richard Wilde, founder of, an online artists community that allows anyone to exhibit, sell and buy great artwork. Please visit to read my post about Personal Branding for the Artist.)

If you are an artist and you’re not using the internet to your full advantage, then you are missing out on a huge amount of publicity, opportunities, sales and influence as an artist, no matter what kind of work you produce.

Good old fashioned exhibitions are great, but if you really want your work and ideas to spread faster and further than they ever have done before, then use of the internet is probably the most effective way of doing so.

I recently wrote an ebook on how to market your artwork, and talked about many marketing ideas, including how to promote your work online. Below, I’d like to expand on some of these points and add a few more especially for readers of this blog. If you take these ideas and implement them consistently, then you will start to see a growing pattern in the popularity of your work on the web, which will open so many more doors.

If you don’t have a blog, then seriously think about getting one. They are great for keeping your fans updated and finding new fans as well. Also, if you are passionate about something, it will show through in your writing, and your niche market will find you and tell others about you; spreading your ideas faster than you ever could do on your own.

Social Networking
Ignoring Facebook, Twitter and many other niche social networking platforms is madness if you want to do well online. These platforms are generally free and provide so many functions to help you get your artwork noticed, sold and also gain bigger followings of fans and admirers. My website,, provides some social networking features like being able to create groups for your kind of art, and also networking opportunities with other artists. It’s not as advanced as Facebook obviously, but it’s good if you’re an artist who wants to interact with like minded people.

Social Bookmarking
Social bookmarking is also a good way to get your work noticed. Sites like Stumbleupon, Digg and Delicious all allow you to ‘bookmark’ your work on the web with keywords and phrases. Then when people search for these kind of words, web pages with your work on can get picked up and seen by new people who may have never have found your art if not.

Add Your Work to Other Websites
This may not be for everyone, especially if you just want to keep everything on your own website, but adding your work to other sites that list, show and sell art is a great way to make sales and get your art noticed in places you wouldn’t have done previously. If a website has good quality work on it already, it won’t devalue yours, so I personally don’t see a downside to doing this.

If you apply these tips above then you are likely to gain more success on the internet. The golden rule is to be consistent and focus on quality in everything you do. People like to see regular patterns, so if you do the above regularly then it will get noticed and people will come back for more. So don’t just write a blog post or write something on twitter once a month for example, it’s basically pointless.

I hope this article will be of some use to people, and if you would like to read my full ebook exploring these ideas and others further, feel free to download it and share it with others at If you are an artist or art enthusiast, then you are also very welcome to join the community I have at if you join, take these ideas on and add your work and comment on others to get yours noticed as well.

Monday, March 15, 2010

More on LinkedIn Groups

I have had a LinkedIn account for several years, but once I set it up I neglected it for the most part. About a year ago I went in and updated my information. Within a week I was contacted by two galleries out of the blue who asked to see my work and I got a consulting project.  

While I don't always use LinkedIn to its full potential, recently I have signed up to participate in several LinkedIn groups, mini-networks within LinkedIn, organized around common interests. I get weekly emails that give a digest of the discussion threads for each group. I have actively participated in two of these threads that have been of great interest to me- one about artists who work with charities in fundraising, and one about how blogging can benefit artists. 

Both discussions have provided practical, technical and creative advice as well as collaboration with other artists/business people to trade web links, share tips and even guest-blog on each other's sites. I have been blown away about how friendly the people in the groups are and how open they are to both asking for and giving advice. Through these groups I have access to hundreds of arts professionals that are more than willing to answer my questions about business, techniques, legal issues, and creativity. 

So… if you are already on LinkedIn:
- Update your information regularly.
- Add your website url, blog, Facebook page, Twitter name, etc. to your LinkedIn profile. 
- Join some groups! It's easy: log into LinkedIn. Click on the "Groups" tab. In the search window, type in some keywords to locate groups you may be interested in. Scroll through the results and click on groups you want to join. That's all there is to it!

Some groups I belong to are: 
American Ceramic Society, Art Business, Blogger's Network, Green Design Pros, MuseumLink, NJ Association of Women Business Owners, Visual Artists and their advocates, Sculptors, and Metal Clay Artists.

If you are not on LinkedIn… it is a professional networking site, similar to Facebook but it's all work and no play! Seriously, there are great tools to help you expand your contacts and build professional relationships. It is free and easy to sign up. Give it a try:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Are you a slave to your medium, techniques or processes?

Good or bad, the trend right now in "art" is that the idea is what matters, the execution only matters in that it supports the idea. The materials don't matter at all, unless the idea is about the material. Since the materials don't matter, and the execution is an open prospect, it doesn't really matter who does the production, or who touches the materials, as long as the artist is the foreman of the project and makes sure the final product is true to the idea.

This allows artists to use whatever media they like to express their idea. Because it is acceptable for the production of art to be a team effort, the artist is able to call upon the expertise of an engineer, a welder, a paint specialist, a chef… whatever is necessary to execute the work even if the artist doesn't have those skills herself. A fabulous example of this is Cristo's and Jean-Claude's The Gates that was installed in New York's Central Park a few years ago. Hundreds of people worked at various stages of production to pull off such a large-scale endeavor, but the transformation of Central Park was a successful execution of the artists' idea.

There is a downside to the idea being all-important, though. Where does that leave technique? Many artists secretly practice their craft not because of the ideas of art, but primarily for tactile reasons- because they are in love with pigments, or they dream about getting their fingers into clay (of course none of us would ever admit to such carnal motivations!). For many artists, to do work that is only about idea and abandons technique would be creative suicide. And if all that is required of art is an idea, it doesn't mean that idea is a good one! It is all too easy to just be clever, or cynical, instead of adding something important to the conversation.

Roberta Smith wrote in the New York Times, in her article "Post-Minimal to the Max," February 10, 2010: 
What’s missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand. A lot but not all of this kind of work is painting, which seems to be becoming the art medium that dare not speak its name where museums are concerned.

(Read the full article here.)

Smith points out several painters who are managing to push painting along, even as they are under the radar of the temples of the art world. 

On the other hand, on the craft side of things, while there is some movement toward more conceptual work, in my observation the world of craft as a whole has yet to break free from the bonds of material, technique, formalism or pedagoguery like the "art" world has. Much of the conceptual work in craft can still be traced to specific schools or teachers, and the trend has not yet splashed into the craft zeitgeist. The question remains as to how far the conceptual envelope may be pushed if function is one of the definitions of craft. (If you make a ring out of razor blades so that it really cannot be worn, does it cease to be jewelry and instead become "art"?)

An inherent part of craft is function, so in that sense I believe there should and will always be some connection to material, but it can be an unexpected material, and it can be fabricated in unexpected ways. When we put a particular technique before the idea, or don't experiment and push the boundaries of the techniques we learned in school, sometimes our work can suffer by those limitations and ends up looking like a knock-off of our teacher's work. Instead of crafts people experimenting with newly developed materials, processes or technology, we often eschew them before we even know what their possibilities are. Why are we so afraid to break out of the boxes we have created for ourselves?

In craft, some people feel guilty (or self-righteous) about simplifying production processes by having work cast, using technology, or using assistants. Many craft shows require that all work and components be made by "the artist's hand," but unless one has their own silver mine, tannery or mill, it is impossible to comply with such a request. There is a moralism about "the artist's hand" in craft that disappeared from the "art" world decades ago. In reality it's a standard that is almost impossible to follow to the letter if one is trying to make a living from selling their work. I don't know a single craftsperson who makes a living from selling their work without the use of production processes that take place either outside their studio or with the help of at least one assistant. 

The craft movement of today actually started in the late 1800s as the Arts and Crafts movement. It was a response to the mass-produced objects of industrialization and the decorative excesses of the Victorian age. The movement's claims were that functional objects had inherent beauty in their form, that materials should be respected for their organic qualities, that making work by hand was a good and noble enterprise, and that good design was a democratic right and that even the poor should be surrounded by aesthetically pleasing objects. Despite these lofty ideals, almost every piece made by the Arts and Crafts gods Stickley, Hunter, Morris and the rest, were not one-of-a-kind pieces made one-by-one by hand, but were made in mass production in small factories by a host of workers under the direction of the designer. 

My point is that whether we see ourselves as being on the "art" or the "craft" side, or maybe with one foot in both realms, it's easy and comfortable to settle into current trends or the familiarity of a technique. But that can be deadly to the quality and relevance of our work. Unless we force ourselves out of our comfort zone now and then (whether it be strict adherence to a philosophy or a technique), we will just churn out the same old stuff. I would like to see the "the artist's hand" find its way back into "art," but I think the craft world would benefit from being liberated from some of its self-imposed rules of formalism and pedagoguery.

I would love to hear your comments!