Being Stuck

Being stuck as an artist can seem like overwhelming. It may be a blockage of creativity, drained of inspiration or it could be the other kind, lack of time due to poor management of time and resources.  I have been artistically stuck for a while, with several painting sitting waiting to be finished.  In the meanwhile, I have been working within a three dimensional system to create  fairy portraits.

Day Dreams, ©2017 Rennata Tropeano

I am hoping the time away has given me a fresh perspective and will add a greater level of depth to my work. I have decided to work through Alyson B. Stanfield book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio! She is also the author of artbizcoach.  The book starts with the phrase:

Congratulations …

on deciding to take responsibility for your art career.

The first time I start to read this book, I did not take note of this, but this time it resonated with me, three words really stood out to me.

  • Career. I often talk about my art. There is something more concrete and subtle about it calling it what it is, my art career.
  • Responsibility. I have also started working with a bullet journal with the express intention of focusing on being responsible with my time.
  • Your. This is my goal and my dream, no own is going to come along and do it for me, so I need take ownership and get going. It is time to continue on my way, I hope you enjoy the journey as I move forward with my art career.
Advertisements

Ready, Set Goal II

Dragon Mask and Costume Tee

Originally published

http://www.rennatatropeano.com/growingunique/?p=155

As I mentioned yesterday, I have been thinking a lot about goals and how to achieve them. As I start to prepare for Nanowrimo, I am taking stock of other goals that I have for October, November and December.   The fourth Quarter of the year.

It is a very busy time of the year. A time to prepare for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  Yet smack dab in the middle of all that, I choose each year to participate in a pair of creative challenges, Nanowrimo, and Art Every Day Month.  I also have managed to blog every day during those challenges, even though I do not participate in the official blog every day challenge.

So October is a month of planning, and making socks.  November is a lot of doing, with December close on its heels getting ready for Christmas.

Then comes January when most people are setting resolutions. I tend to do my basic long term business planning in January. I take out my business plan and review it and update it.  That is generally it. This year I wanted to figure out how to carry that November momentum into January without having burnout from overload.

As I was lining up my plans, it occurred to me how odd it was to be doing some of my most detailed planning in the fourth quarter.

Why am I not spending some time in January planning for January, February and March?  The Same would be true of April and July for the other quarters.  I just put an appointment in the calendar to make that quarterly review in January. I think this will help me focus on my goals and put the more detailed planning into those months.  The more detailed and focused a goal, the easier it is to reach.

 

 

 

Designing and Decorating your Internet home- Going back to the beginning.

DSC04255 At the end of my last post, I had a list of questions that would would help sort out the what to do in SEO and creating a internet presence.  If you are just starting, or thinking of starting to get on the web your first question would be why?  While I know there are many reasons why someone might want an internet presence,  this is aimed at authors and artists who are self promoting their product.

 

Are you selling a one time purchase product? Or are you selling yourself as a creator who has multiple products?

This is not a one time question. This is actually a question that you might want to keep in mind every time you create content.  An author with a new book might be focusing on selling that one book. They may have a back list and other works, but the sale of the new book takes priority.   I might want to sell you a large original painting to hang over your couch, but think the better approach is to market myself as a creator.  What ever you decide, the next step is to find a home.

 

Do you want to rent or own?

This is not so much a question of what you pay or do not pay, but rather of who owns the URL. 

What I mean in terms of renting, is setting up shop on someone else’s site.  There are pluses and minuses to this. The plus side is they are usually easy to set up, and come with an advantage of being part of a recognized internet presence.     WordPress, Livejournal, Etsy.com, DeviantArt and Blogger are a few of the commonly used sites.  One of the downsides, is that the url gives you away as a renter, and there are limitations on getting the site exactly as you want it. 

My blog started out at the URL  https://rennata.wordpress.com, a rental.  It is now located at http://rennatatropeano.com/growingunique, an URL that is clearly mine.

 

Do you want the upkeep that comes with the larger mansion, or do you want the simplicity and ease of a studio apartment?

One of the main reasons I brought the two together is that I did not want to have to promote my blog at wordpress, my website, and my online gallery.  I could have just run my entire website on wordpress under my own URL, I think of this as the studio apartment. Easy, with everything all together in one place.  I had reached the point where the blog was just not big enough to do everything I wanted it to do. I wanted a full searchable online gallery, and I wanted all the functionality of the blog, and I wanted something to tie them all together.  The gallery, the website and the blog each have their own controls, and require a bit of maintenance in each place. It is a tradeoff that I chose for the increased functionality.

As I move forward with series of posts, I am going to explore my options on each choice, so I am sure that I will be making changes to each.  This is where they are today, the starting point.

image image

Designing and Decorating your Internet home.

Breaking Fast This morning found me up at an unreasonably early hour.  I started reading some of the blog posts that  I had marked as “come back to later”.  They were all about creating an online presence.   One of them asked the question, “what do you want from your visitors?”  The answer in that blog was a sale.  I do not deny that I also want sales, but I want more. I want a relationship with my visitors that leads to sales.   Author Steven Saus did a great job of  explaining the difference in his guest blog post,  “The Used Car Salesperson” Versus “The Family Dealership” (you can find a link to Steve’s site under authors and artists).

Some of the blog posts talked about directing or moving people around your website, others spoke about welcoming them in and creating a community.  This reminded me of my still life, Breaking Fast.  It was taken in a room that was perfectly designed to be welcoming, intimate, and draw you in. The moment you walked into this room, you wanted to take a seat at the big crescent shaped table.  The crescent shape let you see and talk to anyone around the table.  The table faced a window that looked out across the lawn to the river.  An incredible Tiffany fireplace flanked the table. This picture does not capture the beauty of the fireplace, the mosaic tiles created a depth difficult to capture in a photograph.

Tiffany Fireplace All and all, it was the kind of room that drew you in and would inspire you to stay chat and linger over coffee or tea.  The tour guide told us that many a great business deal was made here, not in the boardroom. This is what I want in my website, a well designed place of beauty that can lead to lasting business relationships.  How do I translate this perfection of design into my internet presence? The business grew out of the relationship between the host and his guests.  Part of what made this room perfect was that it was designed to be a breakfast room.  It was not trying to be the dining room, the kitchen table, the study, the music room and a place of business as well.  I tried  to think of what part of my web presence could be my perfect breakfast room. My Blog? My website? My online gallery?  I have just brought these all together so that I can have a single “home address” on the internet for SEO purposes.  Taking this analogy a step further, What does that make social media?  My first answer was the door,  but that did not quite work. I decided that they were more like outposts with portals to my home.

When it comes to social media,  I have always thought of Facebook as a large cocktail party, Twitter as an elevator conversation, Livejournal as a conversation in a coffee shop. Flickr is a bit like flipping through someone’s photo albums. Second Life is very much an amusement park with Conference Center facilities.  I am not at all sure what Google+ will turn out to be, but I think they want to be my whole neighborhood.   What I am discovering is that the real question is where do our websites and blogs fit into all this?  Reading the wildly conflicting suggestions for how to “manage” social media,  I could sort them into the used car or family dealership models easily enough, the harder part was knowing which ones would work for both your product and your internet presence.   Are you selling a one time purchase product? Or are you selling yourself as a creator who has multiple products. Do you want the upkeep that comes with the elegantly designed mansion, or do you want the simplicity and ease of a studio apartment? Do you want to rent or own?  Each of these choices would result in a different answer applying.   I shall review my online home, and it’s out lying portals in a series of posts on this topic.

 

This post was originally posted at  http://www.rennatatropeano.com/growingunique

The Battle to Make the Grade

Recently I attended a webinar run by Phil Simon, in which he recommended a few tools for improving the SEO rating of your website/blog.  Being a good webinar learner went and ran my website through one of the tools, Website Grader. I received a 50 on my first try, and a well written page of suggestions on how to improve my grade.  One of the suggestions was moving my blog to my website.

DSC04431

I started my blog on wordpress.org because of all the blogging formats I had tried, it was the one that felt the best. As I started developing my own website as an artist, writer and designer, I kept the blog on the wordpress site.  I had a list of reasons why the blog and the website were fine being in two locations. I had put a lot of time and energy into it. I was linked into a number of artistic communities through the wordpress open id.

Then came that 50. That translated in my mind as failing.  Then I recalled the quote:

“There is no failure except in no longer trying” – Elbert Hubbard

So, the logical thing to do was to move the blog.  I am sure that some of you are wondering what this has to do with an artistic journey. Isn’t being creative all about what you are making, writing or designing?

To which I have to ask, “ Do you want to make a living doing what you do?” If yes, chances are that you will need to spend either some time or some money on developing your website, your SEO and your online presence. 

I decided to take a number of the suggestions that Phil gave us in the webinar, and the suggestions from Website Grader and turn them into a battle plan to bring that 50 up as high as I can get it.  Between the move and a few other minor changes I managed to get the score up to 72. 

Thoughts on product images.

is_00863I have realized  one thing about myself. I do not think I would every be a very good production artist, I like making new things, but always making new things means always needing to make make new listings and take new photographs.  I have seen a lot of pictures that say, this is not the item you will receive, but one that is made exactly like it with the same materials or something similar. I can see this when it comes to something fairly standard like jewelry, I am having trouble with the idea of using it for felted pieces or sewn items.

I have been viewing a lot of Etsy shops and other places where people list hand made items.

Looking at product display is almost as interesting as looking at the work its self. What did they use as backgrounds? What a standard prop used?  What I mean by that is that is a necklace displayed on a jewelers stand,  a person’s neck or on something else. I found myself drawn to those displayed on a tree branch. a marble bust, and laid out on decorative paper.

I did not make these earrings.  I took the picture for the picture for the jeweler. What we each liked about the photo was something very different. I liked the play of the light and shadows, He liked the way it showed how the stone was set, and the detail of the casting.  His wife, who ultimately choose which photos to put in the ad  liked the one set in a gift box with the name of the jeweler showing on the lid.  Over the Christmas season they did end up using both product shots. I was glad to see that this one sold more diamonds. She noted however that the other one resulted in more people leaving with an item gift wrapped, and  most important, they may have come in because they saw diamonds, more often than not they left with something with a lower price point, but a higher profit point too.

What I wonder is do I like the necklaces that are displayed in an unusual manor because they are better artistically as a necklace, or it because I like the display?  Things to think about.

Thursday

Thursdays are my day for being at the Gallery, or my evening to be more precise.  I have been busy creating a series of Halloween Costumes, and now have plunged head long into the month of Nanowrimo. Yet, I have this block of time set aside this evening to create so I find myself debating as to if I should take the laptop and write, or plan on working on the paintings I am midway through painting.  My own indecision has made me aware that I have I have lost focus on my art goals. I am a firm believer in setting goals. Some people would call it setting your intentions.

I have been on a fairly intense committee to create a strategic plan for my daughter’s school. It has been a long and thorough process. As I am writing this I am realizing that it is more than just the question of writing or painting.  Although I wrote out a business plan, and set up a series of goals for what I wanted to accomplish, I am floundering a bit because I had achieved one of the smaller goals, getting my artwork into a gallery and sold. 

I know, I am a member of a co-op gallery and sell art there. What I wanted was to know that I could do it else where, because that would be more real.  I have the check from that sale, so I know it is real .

I am going to let the question of setting new smaller goals kick around. What is the next step? What do I need to do to move my art forward.

New Services and Ways to get the Word out.

Being an independent Artist is a challenge. The big question is always where or how do you sell your work.  The Gallery has the same challenges.  I noticed a friend trying a new service, Thumbtack,  that just happened to be one I heard someone mention reading about. Is this the new “big” thing, or is it just another want to be.  I guess you never really know until you try, so I added a listing for Custom Art and Design Work on the Thumbtack service.

I will keep you posted on how it goes.

Speaking of trying new things, I have been having fun playing with a new online drawing progam on DeviantArt 

SEO and all the fun stuff.

I have been enjoying the fun side of being an artist, the going out and creating new artwork.  However, I created more paintings than I could enter into the competition.   I find myself faced with the challenge of finding homes for the other paintings.  While they are both on display at The Gaslight Gallery, I will be adding them to my own personal online gallery, and listing them in a variety of online locations.  Nashawannuck Pond I have been posting pictures with the traditional information of: ”Rennata M. Tropeano, Nashawannuck Pond, Painting 11×14 inches ©2010”, with a picture.

The good news is that is easy to see what the painting looks like from the picture. The bad news is that search engines will not pick up the picture and show it to the person looking for it unless they search by the title, my name or the size. That is where SEO or search engine optimization comes in.  I recently read an article from Art ID that gave really good suggestions for how to write entries for art pieces. 

Based on the information in the article I came up with the following: Original acrylic painting of Nashawannuck Pond with a duck swimming on the water against a background of bright green foliage and dark green shadows. The skyline includes the Mount Tom peak of the Metacomet Ridge.  Fully painted gallery wrap, ready to hang.  This Plein Air painting was completed during the "Paint Out" competition in East Hampton MA.   I turned this into a list of tags:

I was surprised at how many things I had to go back and look up about something I just painted.

As I was making an Etsy listing, I found that I needed to track even more information about my art, namely what it was made of, so I added:

100% cotton canvas Gallery-stretched over 7/8"solid pine stretcher bars and hand-splined, primed with acid free titanium gesso painted with acrylic paint. This information was also boiled down to searchable tags as well, Cotton Canvas, pine stretcher bars etc.

Several hours later I now have an optimized listing, with complete materials list and tag list.  To make my life easier in the future, I started a spread sheet in Google docs to track all this.  I know that my next 10 11×14 painting listing will be much easier, as the materials list is now just a cut and paste away.

While none of this is as fun as the making the painting, it will be interesting to see how much effect it has in views and in sales.

Building a Business

Untitled My last couple of posts have been sparse.  The lack of any immediate creative result to show left me a little less than inspired.

I feel caught in a conflicting set of expectations. In the business world there is an expectation that artists are a bit flaky, not practical and temperamental.  I can certainly list any number of artists who have created this image.  Yet at the same time, there is the starving artist expectation, that it is somehow important to suffer for your art.  I find that there is this subtle snobbery in the art world, the I create art for the sake of art and you just want to sell it.

Yes, I want to be able to sell my creations.  I am too fond of eating to be a starving artist.  This does not change the fact that I still create art for the sake of art, but that is not all I do.

Author Michael A. Stackpole, had a wonderful post on his blog  called What’s Next.  It touches on the “popular image of writers is that we’re urbane and live lives of leisure; but really we’re word-farmers.”    It rang very true, and clarified the stumbling block that I had come across.  Michael’s blog  is a must read for any aspiring writers, and is full of practical advise to anyone who is creating and marketing there work.

It dawned on me that I was spending a lot of time thinking about how to get people to make the jumps from by blog  to my online art gallery to where my work was actually for sale.   I have been participating in a number of discussions on the subject of  “Vertically Integrated Publishing.” The goal being to cut out the middleman to lower our prices to consumers while increasing our own profits.

Putting all these things together meant one thing.  It was time to add a shopping cart to my web presence.  I have been working on that, a process that has required me to learn more about creating web content and coding.  There are still a few kinks to be worked out,  so I do not have  a live link yet, but I will soon.  For now though, I am off to clear the driveway. The weather finally remembered that it is winter in New England.