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Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Gift of Art .

Its that time of the year again when time and money are short and we spend a lot of time wishing we had that "perfect" gift. We dread that drive across town in rush hour to get to the crowded mall. When we get there, we glaze over searching for something amazing in the land of impersonal, uninspired and often a million in a million pile of products. We want something that says love, in a place where profit is the goal.

Perhaps we've forgotten a time, long ago, when we presented our mom or dad with something from our own hands. Those quirky ceramic animals, the watercolor on manila, taped to the refrigerator until summer, and lets not forget the wooden key holder you made in shop class. Those gifts were met with squeals of delight and hugs that knocked our socks off. Why, when we are most educated, highly skilled and more adept than ever to know what to give, do we search for our gifts in a mall when all those lovely emotions come free-of-charge with a handmade gift?

What I am trying to say is lets shop locally, as in our own studio. We spend hours producing works of art for others. We struggle to please a commission client. We diligently research subject matter. We practice our craft for endless hours. Why don't we give that energy to those we love. A gift created especially for our friends and family are priceless. Forgo that trip to the store and spend some time on something unique.
To give art from your heart is one of those courageous endeavors. Perhaps we have to get over our father's advice to go into accounting because most artists can't make a decent living. Maybe we have to trust that our moms really mean it when they say, "good job honey, it's beautiful!" There are times when I visit my brother or sisters and see my work on their walls. I would have never predicted that as a young sibling. But now, it is a great feeling to know my work resides in a place of love and honor.

The possibilities are endless. Try sketching a portrait of your beautiful new niece. Write down a few tips and tricks of the trade and gather some charcoal and a good sketchbook for your gifted nephew. Paint a floral that fits in your mom's living room, or stitch up a personalized stocking on the sewing machine. If you have to shop, consider a book filled with the classics or a teaching video to help someone learn a new technique. Art is an amazing gift. It has the power to lift. It soothes, it invigorates and it communicates.

If you don't have time to get something done in time, think about shopping in the gallery downtown where local artists show their works. Often these galleries have a wide range of prices and works to choose from. I personally know many artists who's work I would collect for myself. Sharing your point of view with someone who wants to know more about you is an insightful present. There are also many artistic intangibles, like classes, gift certificates or lunch and an afternoon at the museum of art.

Art is a vital element in our economy. But more importantly, art is who we are. Why would we not want to share something that fills our hearts and minds with color and passion. Now is not the time to put the paints away. The colors of the season and our cultural traditions are abundant and inspirational. Share the love!

Happy Holidays to all! I hope your Christmas is filled with beauty, warmth and affection. I hope your reach is wide and your gifts abundant.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Creating Something Bigger than Ourselves

Recently Waukesha, WI was named by Money Magazine, one of the top 50 small cities in America. Listed high on the reasons it made the grade was its Art Crawls. I happen to be one of the many who promote the art crawls and its artists in the historic downtown area. We've been on a mission to keep Waukesha connected to important art advocates and believers in the creative economy. We've worked hard to generate support from our business and government leaders. We've given our heart and soul to something bigger than any one person. It is am amazing thing to see fruits of our labors flourish. To all who work so hard to create beautiful art, build amazing galleries, encourage both emerging and established artists, you have earned this. Congrats to all of the West End Artists and it's business partners who make Waukesha an true Art Destination!

How can the arts drive a community and it's economy? Why is Waukesha enjoying a renaissance while similar downtown areas struggle? Waukesha is home to over 125 local artists. There are over 20 galleries and studios in a one mile radius. How can "starving" artists feed a the financial health of a city? The answers are simple. The arts work from the ground up. They attract youth, diversity of culture and thought and people dedicated to community. The arts encourage out-of-the-box problem solving and innovation.The arts are driven by creative, educated workers and volunteers. Finally, the arts are infused with the very elements that define a genuine quality of life.

While these elements seem intangible they can be quantified. When business seeks a location on which to draw both employee and clientel, they gravitate towards cities rich in culture just because of the very nature of creative, cultural citizens. When artists create events, such as art walks or crawls, art fairs or gallery nights, people come by the thousands. When small business needs foot traffic, they look for cities with such events. When thousands flock, sometimes for the first time to a culturally rich community, they find entertainment, community pride, diverse businesses and they feel like staying. Walkable communities that include great food, galleries, boutique shops and entertainment make it easy for people to stop driving, use less resources, and often become involved. The reasons go on an on. The arts create authentic communities.

The top 50 standing all began with the dream of a single artist, Jeff Seymour. He opened a gallery in a small city with big problems. The streets were hard to navigate, drugs and crime took over the sidewalks at night, and the many deserted businesses did not inspire anyone to work or play. One by one more artists came and moved into the vacant storefronts. Lynn Gaffey joined Jeff's cause and 10 years later the arts in Waukesha are bigger than anyone could have imagined. Perhaps that seems like too long to wait for your struggling community. Well, change begins one step at a time. I came in 7 years ago and the evidence of success had already been established in those first 3 years. Add the support of the local business community, friendly media outlets such as the Freeman and the Journal's Waukesha division and things really started happening. That drew more emerging artists with tons of energy along with the drawing power of established artists like Chuck Weber and there is no stopping the power of art.

The West End Artists aren't finished. Our goal is to hit the top 10 in this and other standings. We are self funded and our organization is run by volunteers. Artists bear the brunt of the financial cost of the Art Crawls but receive a mere 10% of it's proceeds. Business are stepping up to sponsor crawls but we need more. We need the city to stop talking about what they do for the arts and start putting their wallet where their mouths are. At this time funding is offered with too many strings and requirements that cloud the vision and defeat the purpose of an established schedule of events. We have gained steam but lost sponsorships. It is our hope that the reasons we were chosen as a great city will validate our efforts and bring the support we seek.

We would love to become a model for the creative economy. We invite other city organizations and cultural groups to come and see what we have to offer. Nothing would make us happier than to see other small cities build on it's creative workforce. We invite business to learn how supporting the arts can enhance their marketing efforts. We encourage other artists to sit in on our meetings every month. We invite city leaders to talk to our gallery owners and artists staff and ask us what we need to grow. Even with all we have, we know we can be so much more. Each one of us is simply an individual with a dream. Together, we are unstoppable!

I will be speaking at the Waukesha County Museum during the Marc Sijan Exhibit. July 29th from 6:30 to 7:30. The title of my talk is “Art’s Impact: How the Arts Shape Individuals, Communities, and the Economy.” (Views on art and the world from a very human perspective.)

For more info on the West End Artists go to Money Magazine's top 100 small cities article is at Chuck Weber's work can be found at Lynn Gaffey's Almont Gallery can be found at

The next Waukesha West End Artists ART Crawl is on August 7th. Come and see what we are all about!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Adding Value to Your Art

So many artists wonder about pricing their artwork, gaining exposure and name recognition, seeking out new clients and getting into galleries. The quick answer is, get ready to work hard, grow, have courage, reach out and be a professional. These things take time and persistence, but are well worth the effort. Lets break it down into some manageable baby steps.

1. Be professional- Create business cards, prepare an effective artist statement and build an impressive resume. No artist worth their salt is without these basic tools of the trade, yet at least half of the professional artists I know are lacking at least one or more of these.
When arranging a commission for custom art, put things in writing, ask specific questions, collect a deposit before you begin, create a receipt for any money you collect, keep records for taxes and keep your client posted on progress and completion. Let them know if framing is included up front.Insist on payment upon completion, not when they think they can pay you. Put that date in writing and honor it. Meet deadlines and don't make promises you don't intend or can't possibly make good.
2. Price your work considering; the local market, your training and or experience, size, materials used, reputation, gallery representation, resume and your artistic talent. Be honest. Don't give your work away. People get a sense of the "perceived value" of art. If you price too low, they think your work is not good enough, too high and you will miss sales. It takes time to hit the sweet spot. Adjust higher first, then lower. Give changes time to take affect.
3. Keep a digital inventory of your work as you complete it, size, medium, title, date and when it sells. This will allow you to be ready for opportunities as they come to you. Often you need to react immediately to a request for images, bio, statement, etc. Don't let your lack of preparation get in the way of your success.
3. Connect, reach out, join in and enjoy your profession in real-time and in-person. Get out of the studio and go to a gallery opening, live performance, art fair, art walk, whatever. Make connections to fellow artists, professionals in your profession and collectors and clients and use social networking sites. No one is going to discover you if you are in hiding. I read that the ideal percentage of art creation and promotion is 80/20. That means you need to spend more time promoting your work and than creating it. That 80% includes preparation, investing, learning, connecting, advertising, and all the other stuff that doesn't include creating. I know it sounds painful, but you will see results from all that hard work.
4. Invest in your profession. Buy a digital camera and tripod. Use only quality, archival materials. Advertise on some level, (more on that later).
5. Develop thick skin. Rejection is a part of the game, get used to it. Learn from it. Keep it in perspective. Keep your chin up. Try again.
6. Treat your clients like gold. Listen to their needs. Let them know how to help you, be patient with their requests and make them happy they chose your work to collect art. I offer all clients 15% of any future art work they purchase from me. I want them to know I value their choice when there are so many other talented artists in the area.
7. Stay away, far away from that "starving artist" persona unless you want it to define you. Shame on promoters for creating those events! You wouldn't expect an electrician to give you a free day of service, yet we throw artwork to events all in the name of exposure. We can't define ourselves as professionals and allow others to treat our profession like a rummage sale. Sometimes we give someone a deal or offer to take payments on time. Do what you have to do without diminishing the value of your work. Donations are a part of the profession. I'm not saying do not donate your work. Just consider some of the following methods instead:
a. Ask those requesting donations to buy your artwork at a discount. They can write off that donation on their taxes. Artists can only deduct the price of materials used in its creation. Buyers can deduct the full value of the sale. Instruct those requesting donations of this unfair legislation. Perhaps we will gain an advocate if they have to pay for the injustice.
b. Consider giving a gift certificate for future work. If you want the exposure, it often helps to send an original piece of artwork as an enticement for a better donation. I've found that gift certificates are the perfect way for me to donate. For every 5 certificates I donate, only one requires me to produce artwork. One of those works was one of the most difficult clients I had, but I treated her as I treat every one else. If you offer to do the work, honor that promise.
c. Ask that any organization that relies on art as a funding source set up a percentage on consignment, so the artists receives a portion of the donation. They will eventually gain better and more artists who participate in their fund raising efforts. Its a win-win situation.
d. Insist that you, the artist, be allowed to be at the event. Any ticket price should be waived. This will allow you to connect with those who donate. It is a fact that people will be more inclined to buy and pay more for work when they can put a human behind the work and learn about its creation and inspiration. This is another win-win situation. They don't have to feed you, but they should be happy to have you there.
8. My final advice for this very long post is to say you are never to smart or too old to learn. Understand your medium and continue to learn more about the materials you use. Keep up on trends and color forecasts. Learn about the organizations and art venues around you. Don't approach a gallery unless it is a good fit for your work and you can live with the terms of the gallery's sales policies, (more on that later). Learn about the unlimited resources and sales venues waiting for you to discover. Some websites are free and offer credit card and other payment options. Many local organizations are filled with kindred souls and exhibition opportunities galore. Take advantage of groups developed to assist your art. Look at my list of links for just a few. Look at their links they list to find more. Look even further because we are not in this alone.

Good luck!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Art is the essence of a beautiful life.

Look around you. From the moment you awake in the morning, you are surrounded by the work of an artist, a designer, an architect, a builder....need I go on. Here are a few staggering statistics from the Americans for the Arts website, nearly 3 million Americans are employed by creative industries. Art exports are a 30 billion dollar business. Non profit and arts and culture industries generate over 166 billion dollars in economic activity each year. Those numbers do not include for profit galleries, independent artists and other creative industries. Americans donated over 307.65 billion to the arts in 2008. Creative industries are growing while many other segments of our economy are stagnant. The Creative Coalition of Greater Milwaukee is currently working with a grant of $146,000 to strengthen the arts in the M-7 region of Wisconsin. I urge you to learn more about Richard Florida's Creative Class. Creativity is the new face of our global economy and it is the innovative that will not only survive but thrive in the years to come.

Back to art and every day life. I have often discovered that the greater one's sense of self on has, the more driven they are to create an environment that reflects that strength. I have visited a number of my clients homes. I am blown away by the personality and individuality these home exhibit. From serious collectors to your everyday creative decorators, their homes contain paintings, unique furnishings, sometimes murals or faux finishing projects. You can go back through history to the first cave paintings to see that we are driven to create something that defines us. Those reflections are also found in our music collections, the food we cook and the books we read. We are so beautiful in our distinctiveness. It is comforting to be surrounded by people who create things we can relate and connect with.

Watch for an upcoming project created by the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network, MARN, which will focus on those who collect and appreciate art and artists. I think it will give artists valuable insight into those we seek to reach.
Take a look at Richard Florida's Creative Class website to learn more about this movement.
Take a look around you and enjoy the world that surrounds you. From the colors you choose, the styles you enjoy, the literature that moves you to the clothes you wear, you are a work of art. Celebrate it and never forget how amazing and essential it is to life.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Be an art advocate.

Hello all,
I plan on posting once a week, but until then, let me tell you why I started this blog. Art is powerful and if artists don't begin to realize the value of their art in their communities, the economy and in the lives of our kids, we are in trouble.
Here are some future blog topics I want to bring to you.
What would our world be like if art did not exist?
What is happening right now to help you increase the value of art in our little part of the world?
Where can you go to find more information about art advocacy?
What can you do to create value in your art?
What are the major do's and don'ts to market and promote your art?
If you have any other topics on art, please let me know.. I'd love to begin the discussion.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to Art Eminence.
I've been a fine artist for over 30 years. My specialty is portraiture. I worked as an illustrator for 15 years for an art distributor. My job was to use every kind of media to create every kind of subject matter. So, I guess that has made me a jack of all trades. For the past 5 years I've had to come to grips with a diminishing ability to see the world as clearly as I had for so many years. So now I'm an artist who struggles to see yet sees clearly how amazing the gift of art is to have and to lose.

My background has provided a new path to explore. I have written web content, have reviewed books, have served on many boards for a wide variety of art organizations. I help manage Almont Gallery in Waukesha, WI. I show in Algoma at the Flying Pig Gallery and Greenspace and Art & Soul in Wauwatosa. I work with so many amazing artists. I volunteer as an art advocate. I also work extensively in marketing and promoting myself and other artists.

The name Art Eminence comes from my belief that art is a powerful force; emotionally, physically, economically and spiritually. Art has the power to transform nothing into anything. It brings a quality of life that cannot be expressed in words or statistics. If you are an artist, I hope to motivate you to place value on your work and on your profession. I urge you to never underestimate your ability to influence the world around you.