Take 20 minutes to define your brand with this free guide

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Take 20 minutes to define your brand with this free guide

We created a guide to help you define your unique story, or personal brand. It starts with putting your artwork into words and thinking about why you are unique. Plus, it’s free and should take you less than 30 minutes.

Sign up below to get it emailed straight to you.

As an artist or creative entrepreneur who deals with making work that is close to your heart, incredibly intuitive and part of how you simply are as a human being, it can feel impossible to translate your work into words and marketing efforts that mean something real, that make an impact on the people that matter, and that feel right to you.

As a small business owner—artists and creative entrepreneurs, that’s you—you may be unsure of your personal brand. You may be thinking, “Do I even need one? ‘Brand’ sounds like a word that only corporate companies use.” 

But you do have a serious business: your work. And you do indeed have a personal brand, it already exists within you. It's way easier than you think; it starts with putting your visuals into words and thinking about why you are unique.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

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Be specific: honing your unique story

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Be specific: honing your unique story

As you navigate the art world, remember that you have a unique story to share about your practice. This story is a condensed verbal delivery of your personal brand.

HERE ARE FIVE TIPS FOR TELLING YOUR UNIQUE STORY:

1. CARVE OUT THE TIME TO GET IT RIGHT

You need to set aside time for yourself to craft your unique story. Take a look at your schedule and determine when you most like to write and feel self-reflective. Over morning coffee? At night after a day’s work? On the weekend?

Make it count! Schedule a few hours in your calendar and show up. This is a very important meeting you have with yourself.

2. REFLECT ON WHY YOU ARE AWESOME

It doesn’t matter if you hate writing, despise thinking about yourself, loathe self-promotion, and would rather crawl in a hole. Now is the time to pat yourself on the back a bit, reflect on all of the amazing things you have been doing and think about why you are so awesome.

Let’s get started. Answer the questions below honestly and with as many descriptive words as possible in a free-form style. Don’t worry about spelling mistakes or coherent thoughts, just write and avoid jargon. Be yourself. No one is reading this except for you.

  • What do you do? What does your work look like? (If you make visual art, get down into the nitty-gritty and describe one of your most successful projects or pieces in great detail. If you offer services, write out the exact steps you take on a project from beginning to end with an ideal client.)
  • How do you do it? (List the cold, hard facts about how you do what you do. Take nothing for granted. For the makers: how much time does it take, what kind of materials do you use, what does it look like in space? And if you offer services: how much time does it take, what is your approach and attitude, where do you do it? What are the results that people get from you?)
  • How did you arrive at this kind of work? (What is your applicable personal and professional history that has led you down this unique path? What inspired you to start doing this? Go back in time and think about the days before freelancing, or that amazing project that launched you.)
  • Who are you as a creative professional and how do you want to be defined? (As a creative, you might wear many hats, but only state the thing that you want to be known for by your ideal audience.)

OK, you’re done! Save your writing and get ready to move on with your day.

But first, schedule a time tomorrow to review this. It should only take about 30-45 minutes. Do it. Show up. Don’t wait until next week!

3. WHAT NICE THINGS HAVE OTHER PEOPLE SAID ABOUT YOU?

So you currently have a giant document full of information about your work that applies only to you. These notes provide the actual words that reflect your very own personal and professional history that drive your creativity and passion for what you create.

Next, you need to remember the nice and amazing things that your audience (friends, fans, clients) has said about you and your work.

Write from memory, and if you have some great testimonials kicking around then copy them into this doc.

4. SHOW WHY YOU CARE

You’re more than just your work.

Your career path and personality make you unique, so just describing yourself as a “designer” won’t help you get new clients. Tell us exactly what you design, why, what it means to you, and how you got there. Give your audience something to care about and remember.

With that frame in mind, review your notes and take the first stab at writing your unique story as if you were telling the story to someone who loves what you do. Don’t bore them, engage them.

Set your timer for one hour.

First, clearly state what you do. Tell us why you are unique and how and why you do what you do. Next, reflect on any interesting tidbits of your professional path or applicable personal details that make you stand out from others in your field. And finally, what are the amazing results that clients get from working with you?

Sleep on this first draft, take a day or two, and better yet, engage the help of a friend and schedule in your next meeting to whittle this beast down to a manageable statement that you can use on your website and other marketing materials. It will also translate beautifully to how you talk about what you do.

You’re close. We know you can see the light.

5. KEEP REFINING

The goal for the next sixty minutes is to finish editing your draft down into a manageable professional story that is engaging, genuine, and all you. The goal is to have one to two concise and powerful paragraphs that are malleable enough to share on your website, use in your marketing efforts and feel proud of.

Spoiler alert: this step really isn’t the last, since your unique story will be ever-evolving and changing as you do. Roll with it and come back to these questions often when you feel a shift in your work or when you know that you have something wonderful to add.

And if you want even more help, and a nifty guide and workbook to help you hone your story even further, download our free DELVE 3 Step Brand Guide!

How do you tell your story? Let us know!

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Make people remember you with an effective introduction.

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Make people remember you with an effective introduction.

Have you ever felt tongue-tied when asked to introduce yourself and describe your work? Or maybe you ramble on in a way that doesn’t accurately describe what you do?

As an artist it might be incredibly difficult to put your work into words in order to give your audience that “aha” moment and make them want to learn more.

There are many occasions where you’ll be asked to describe your work – or answer that dreaded question: what do you do? These include interviews, parties, networking events, conferences, or even meeting a friend of a friend for the first time.

The goal? You want the right people to remember you.

There are ways to practice talking about your services and talents that will open doors and engage the people you are talking with in an exciting way.

First, you need to remember: You are the only person in the world who does exactly what you do in your unique way. We want to help you make sure you tell the right story when people ask, in a clear, succinct, and compelling way.

Let’s explore an example:

We met an artist at an opening. She had recently moved to New York from Florida, so we were discussing that, since it's a big life move. Sarah, our new acquaintance, impressed us when we asked her, "What kind of work do you make?" And she answered, "I am a sculptor who makes works from recycled materials, especially those small plastic bags that newspapers are delivered in."

Immediately, we were intrigued, asked her more questions about her work, and made it a point to look at her website the next day. Had she just said, "I am a sculptor" the conversation might have drifted off to more social things, or perhaps ended. So, the point here is to be very specific because each and every one of us is incredibly unique.

1. Say what you do: I am a______________________________. (writer, painter, actor, etc.)

2. Now write down the three most important things that you do and cite proof points why your work is important or unique.

3. Now figure out: What do you want your work to accomplish/What is your goal?

4. Distill the above three points into a short sentence or two: this will become your introduction, or pitch. You’ll want to end up with a simple statement like: I am a _____________ who (does this unique thing.)

5. Remember, you are talking with someone else, so engage them. Hopefully your pitch is so compelling that they ask you follow-up questions! Make sure you have a business card on hand to give them in case they want to learn more.

Here are the facts to remember about your pitch:

  • It should explain what you do, clearly and succinctly: Who are you? What do you do?
  • It should be no longer than 20-30 seconds, which is about the time it takes to ride an elevator.
  • The pitch should be addressed to THEM not to YOU. To successfully engage in conversation, remember it’s about storytelling, not fact-reciting.
  • It should be comprehensible to even a kid.
  • Say it with confidence.
  • Be memorable.
  • It needs to be compelling and sound natural in person. (It’s beneficial to write it out and memorize it, but you don’t want to end up sounding like a robot.)

Why is your elevator pitch important?

  • You want people to understand what you do and remember you. It’s an opportunity to create a mental picture for your audience when your work is not in front of them to experience first hand.
  • You are creating an opportunity for an opportunity, which getting tongue tied will not provide you.
  • In a social setting, you would like to be able to engage in meaningful dialog with someone without rambling.
  • You want to add value to your community.
  • Because it’s an opportunity to represent your character as well as what kind of work you do.

Good luck! Let us know what your success stories are after you’ve written out and practiced your pitch!

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Your website: does it open up doors of communication?

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Your website: does it open up doors of communication?

As you know, your website is an incredibly effective and important tool for your art practice and creative business. Beautiful, well-maintained, current sites evoke confidence in your work, in you, and open up doors of communication. We liken it to looking at a neighborhood of homes. Your ideal audience is more likely to want to walk up to the front door of a home that looks clean, has a beautiful yard, and doesn't have too many winding paths and obstacles that prevent them from ringing the door bell. The same idea applies to your site: you want to give your viewers an accurate and positive sense of who you are right off the bat. Don't be a mystery!

Here are a few ways to assure that your website is working for you, not against you:

  • Include a photograph of yourself, your team and/or your establishment. We know that solopreneurs and artists can be shy, but posting a nice, professional photograph of yourself on your website will immediately make people more comfortable reaching out to you.
  • Don't make people click too much. Operate on the assumption that your audience does not have a lot time, so make it easy for people to see the work that you want them to see at a glance. Too many clicks might make your audience give up and move on.
  • Make it easy to understand what your work really looks like. We may have said this a million times already, but gorgeous images of your work are a must for any successful website. But if your work is better seen in context or in detail, be sure to share these images as well!  And don't forget to label your work and add descriptions as necessary. Better to be overly descriptive than to assume your audience knows what they are looking at.

We help people create their own beautiful websites all the time. You won't have to rely on someone else maintaining it for you, you'll know the content is perfect and it will be an amazing way to showcase your work. Get in touch.

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Your new best friend: the editorial calendar

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Your new best friend: the editorial calendar

The editorial calendar is your vehicle for staying organized, maximizing your time and maintaining a clear communication plan.

As an artist you are a small business owner. You are responsible for making the work, the business side and the marketing side. We understand that it is really overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be.

Our philosophy: once you develop your unique story verbally and in writing, create beautiful documentation of your work, the rest of the marketing stuff falls into place with good design and a clear plan, and some minimal maintenance along the way.

I have heard content management/managers before. What is it? What do they do?

A content manager is you, or someone who will make sure that your work is updated on your website, documented and shared in a consistent, clear and compelling way online to achieve results.

What exactly is an editorial calendar?

It's simply an organized personal calendar that outlines your content for sharing online in different formats. This can be everything from establishing monthly content themes, determining what products/services you are sharing over the course of a year or month, updating your website or blog, sharing events, and planning all of the online content (social media, newsletters, press) that you will share to tell your ideal audience your unique story, so that they will know you, love you and buy what you do. The editorial calendar is your vehicle for staying organized, maximizing your time and maintaining a clear marketing plan.

The key is that you need to figure out the big goals first before you can get your editorial content active and working for you. Let's review the big stuff that you need to consider before you develop your editorial calendar:

1) Do I have a firm grasp on my unique story verbally and in writing? Can I write and speak clearly about what I do that feels natural and is memorable? This is fundamentally the most important part of telling the world about what you do. It's also one of the hardest things to do.

2) Am I aware of my ideal audience? Your audience should never be "everyone." It's important to define who they are. Once you narrow this down you will know who you are creating content for and it will be much easier to speak to them directly about what you do specifically. Your ideal audience might only be 50 people to start. That is ok.

3) What are my goals? Why am I sharing my work? Are you looking to get people to hire you, create awareness around your practice, or sell a specific product? Before you start dreaming up amazing content to share, you should be aware of what you want it to accomplish. Of course, you don't want to sound salesy or pushy, no real people do. But you won't achieve your goals without sharing your work in an effective, clear way. Operate under the premise that there is no one waiting to discover you in hiding.

No matter what your end goals are, we believe that online content management can develop two very important things around an artistic or creative practice:

  • It creates a community around your work. By engaging on social media, sending newsletters, writing guest articles, or simply sharing your work, you are creating conversations, building an audience and rallying support. People care!
  • It is the opportunity to create a personal online archive of your work, interests, passions and life as a professional. When you look back through a Twitter feed or Instagram account, for instance, you can see exactly what you have shared that builds a story about who you are and what influences your work. Your ideal audience will be very interested in this.

That is the big picture assessment of why it's extremely important to have a firm footing in your goals and unique story before launching into the development of your editorial calendar.

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Writing an artist statement doesn’t have to be so hard.

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Writing an artist statement doesn’t have to be so hard.

Without fail, most artists dislike writing about themselves and their work. Writing is difficult. So we figured out a way to teach artists how to craft an effective artist statement about their work over and over again.

It doesn’t have to be so hard. Actually, it can enlighten your practice, clarify what you’re working on and give you tons of confidence.

Crafting a Powerful Artist Statement: a step-by-step guide, is an online, self-paced course that you can start at any time. It will guide you through the questions to ask yourself so that your thoughts are genuine and specific to your work. We won’t put words in your mouth; we just give you the tools so that you can concentrate on making your work.

Here are some key things to remember about writing a statement:

  • Like it or not, you often need one for applications and exhibitions.
  • The goal of your artist statement is to give your viewers insight into who you are as an artist, your motivation and your process. In other words, it’s an amazing way to highlight how you are unique and what you’re thinking about.

  • It will remind you what is most important to you when making your work.

In addition to the class, you can also have your statement professionally edited by us before you put it out in the world, but you have to complete the class first.

We promise that if you see this course through completely, you will have a better understanding of what to write about and how to accomplish writing an artist statement.

Why wait?
Access Crafting a Powerful Artist Statement: a step-by-step guide here.

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DELVE Interview: Alix Sloan

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DELVE Interview: Alix Sloan

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. DELVE IS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COACHING PLATFORM TO HELP YOU GET THE BUSINESS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER IN ORDER. THE ARTISTS AND ARTS PROFESSIONALS WE INTERVIEW ARE POSITIVE FORCES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES, AND THEY SHARE TOOLS AND ADVICE THAT THEY'VE LEARNED TO INSPIRE EACH OF US IN OUR PROFESSIONAL AND ARTISTIC GOALS. 

The most valuable resource artists have is each other.
— Alix Sloan
Alix Sloan celebrating the launch of her book: “Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists”

Alix Sloan celebrating the launch of her book: “Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists”

Alix Sloan has been in the arts for over 20 years. During that time she has been a gallery owner, gallery director, curator, consultant, author and educator. She opened Sloan Fine Art, one of the first galleries in the now vibrant Lower East Side arts district, in 2008. Today she continues to mount pop up shows under the Sloan Fine Art banner, guest curate exhibitions, work with freelance clients, teach, coach artists and consult for artists, collectors and businesses.  She is the author of “Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists” and maintains the website PracticalArtists.com where she posts helpful information and resources for artists and has recently launched online courses.


Can you describe your path as a writer/curator/arts professional – from where and when you began, until now?

It’s been a bit of a circuitous path. My first job out of college was at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, which was a great experience. I learned so much. But I hadn’t done much else and was anxious to try other things. I left to explore TV and Film Production and Copywriting.  About six years later I was running the writing department at an Interactive Agency when the dotcom bomb hit. The company closed, I was out of work and realized how much I missed the arts. So I just started calling people – artists, clients, galleries – to see if they needed help with anything and got back into it by way of organizing events, helping artists get books done and curating shows. And my experience as a copywriter led to writing opportunities. Eventually, I relocated to New York and opened the gallery, an accomplishment I’m super proud of. It was definitely one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve done. But it was also all consuming. So when I couldn’t negotiate a reasonable lease renewal I took it as a sign and closed the physical space. I’ve been doing pop up shows and occasional art fairs, consulting, teaching, coaching artists and writing since. It’s a bit frenetic but I love it.

 What does a day or week in your professional life look like?

Every week is different. I have a few artists I work with on an ongoing basis, so I prioritize them and make sure we’re on track with any projects or goals. Then I divide my time as needed between everything else. It all kind of depends on deadlines and timing.

How do you balance your personal and client work and what have you learned from balancing all your projects?

Balancing has always been a struggle for me. The past five years or so I feel like I’ve gotten a much better handle on it. I’ve become a huge fan of time blocking which I definitely recommend. It helps me focus and organize my time. I find it also helps combat procrastination. I plan each week out ahead of time to get my head around what it’s going to look like. I commit the first hour or two every workday writing because that’s when I’m most productive and creative. Then I plan out the rest of the day after that. I try to stick to that week’s schedule knowing I may have to move things around and make adjustments to accommodate anything unexpected.

Since getting married, I’ve made a commitment to try not work over the weekend unless I really have to. That was a big step for me and has been such an upgrade. It forces me to work more efficiently and longer during the week but it frees up most weekends for a personal life. Also there’s plenty of overlap in my life. I enjoy going out to openings. That’s both business and fun. And I’m good friends with many of the artists I work with. Work doesn’t always feel like work, which is nice.

In your book, Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists, can you give us the top three things that an artist needs to do in order to win the opportunities that they want?

It’s hard to come up with just three, but I think I’d say building and maintaining community is definitely #1. Whether directly or indirectly, most opportunities come through friends and colleagues. The most valuable resource artists have is each other.

Then making time for career development – things like finding and pursuing opportunities, networking, creating and maintaining effective support materials – is so important. So many artists are committed to making wonderful work but not to getting their work out into the world. An artist can have the most amazing work in the world but if nobody knows it exists then it won’t be seen, enjoyed or make an impact.

And finally, patience and perseverance. I didn’t get into this enough in my book so I’m happy to have the opportunity here. Developing a career can take time and everyone’s path is different. It can be really frustrating, but if you stick with it, you’re ahead of anyone else who doesn’t. I know one artist who applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship every year for something like five years with no luck and then finally it happened. He was selected to be a Guggenheim Fellow. Thank goodness he didn’t give up!

As a curator and someone who coaches artists, what are good ways to network in the art world and beyond?

There really is no substitute for getting out, supporting your community and meeting people in person. If an artist is able to attend openings, open studios and arts events, I always recommend it. If you show up for people, they’ll show up for you. And you never know what could happen or whom you might meet.

Social media can be a great tool if used properly. People may enjoy seeing your art. But if you also share information, make recommendations and share other people’s work and news, you bring value to your community and become someone people want to be connected with.
 
Where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

Professionally, I find being around other art lovers, like on a really busy night where there are lots of openings and people milling around, incredibly inspiring. Creatively and personally any quiet space works. If I had my choice it would be a gorgeous beach or balcony with a great view. But on the couch with the phone turned off and the cats by my side works, too.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve expanded my Practical Advice for Artists website to include online courses which I’m incredibly excited about. I love the idea of making straightforward, encouraging information available to artists everywhere. I’m also teaching a one-day workshop at Art Center College of Design in July 2017. It’s part of their extension program, so it’s open to anyone. And the next Sloan Fine Art exhibition is a four-person show in collaboration with Phylogeny Contemporary in Seattle in early 2018.

A screenshot of Alix Sloan in her new online course for artists.

A screenshot of Alix Sloan in her new online course for artists.

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Writing to win opportunities

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Writing to win opportunities

Writing about one’s art work falls into the nonurgent crucial category on our To Do List. Meaning, it’s an incredibly important but difficult task, so it’s often put off until the last minute. We advocate for adding writing to your daily or weekly practice so that it can illuminate your practice but not weigh you down.

How to write project proposals/statements for residencies and other opportunities is a difficult task – especially if you haven’t experienced the opportunity in person or it could be months or years away We’ve all been there. It’s a tough one, but we are going to run down some productive ways to think about this conundrum below.

First, make sure that the opportunity you are applying to is a good fit for your work and your practice. If you don’t fit the criteria, then applying will be a big waste of time.

Do you know anyone who has gotten this opportunity in the past? Ask them about it.

Next, get into the mindset of what the reviewers are looking for. Yes, you want this opportunity and everything it has to offer but what can you offer them? Every opportunity has it’s specific story and requirements so be sure to pay attention and tailor your application to it. They are looking for artists who will make the best of their opportunity and need it.

You’ll need an artist statement and beautifully documented work. A lot weighs on these documents, so don’t put off writing your statement to the last minute! Sometimes we want to apply to a residency, for instance, to further work-in-progress. Despite the work being in progress, you can still formulate a cohesive statement, knowing that it will most likely change someday.

Your project statement or proposal is different from your artist statement. For a project statement, the jurors want to know how you would make the most of the opportunity and what it has to offer. You should write about what you would work on and how you would spend your time. This is something only you know. Are you interested in taking advantage of their specific location, resources, or technology? Is there an educational or community component that would benefit your work? Is there a private, isolated experience you are needing to get some work done? Set some goals and let them know what you want to get done in the context of what you are applying for. A proposal is just that: an idea; a way to share your process, practice and why one specific opportunity is calling your name.

Good luck!

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DELVE Interview: Maya Pindyck

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DELVE Interview: Maya Pindyck

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. DELVE IS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COACHING PLATFORM TO HELP YOU GET THE BUSINESS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER IN ORDER. THE ARTISTS WE INTERVIEW ARE POSITIVE FORCES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND THEY SHARE TOOLS AND ADVICE THAT THEY'VE LEARNED TO INSPIRE EACH OF US IN OUR PROFESSIONAL AND ARTISTIC GOALS. 

The more I write, the more the writing comes. It’s a cyclical process.
— Maya Pindyck
Maya Pindyck recording a participant’s recollection of seeing a rabbit in Milton. Photo credit: Jamie Wilson, documenting the making of “Today I Saw”

Maya Pindyck recording a participant’s recollection of seeing a rabbit in Milton. Photo credit: Jamie Wilson, documenting the making of “Today I Saw”

Maya Pindyck is a multidisciplinary poet and artist based in Brooklyn, NY. She is the author of Emoticoncert (Four Way Books, 2016), Friend Among Stones (New Rivers Press, 2009), and Locket, Master (Poetry Society of America, 2006). Her work has been recently exhibited at the Lewis H. Latimer House Museum (NY), Chashama Pop Up Space (NY), Gallery 263 (MA), and the Governors Island Art Fair (NY). Currently a doctoral candidate in the English Education program at Columbia University's Teachers College, she teaches at Parsons School of Design and Long Island University. Her language-based installation, “Today I Saw,” opens May 13th, 2017 as the first exhibition at the Milton Art Bank (MAB)* in Milton, PA. Placing the town in a global context, the installation remaps Milton through the lenses and voices of its residents while forming an archive of sights.

*Founded by Brice Brown and housed in a converted 19th century bank in Milton, PA, Milton Art Bank (MAB) is an artist-run experiment and space for creative inquiry. Through exhibitions, performances, and other creative interventions, MAB encourages curious dialogue and engaged participation as a way for people to become active agents of positive change in their community.


Can you describe your path as an artist/writer – from where and when you began, until now?

I remember drawing, painting, writing, messing with objects, and performing as a child and into high school and throughout college and after. And I remember when I was fourteen my mother giving me News of the Universe: Poems of Twofold Consciousness, an anthology I fell in love with and would read each night before bed. I entered college as a theater major, then switched to art and philosophy. I took an inspiring poetry workshop there, but I didn’t have a consistent creative writing practice the way I did with visual art. After college, I moved to NYC and worked for a non-profit while continuing my art practice. I applied to MFA painting programs and got into SFAI, but I felt uneasy about quitting my job and moving to San Francisco. I decided to stay in New York and took a poetry class at Columbia that summer. I was hooked. I wrote & read poetry anywhere I could: at my job, on the subway, at cafés. The accessibility & portability of writing really appealed to my city life—I didn’t need to worry about space or toxicity or the messiness or weight of material.

For years I incorporated text in my drawings/paintings and had an ongoing practice of manipulating found books, but there was something about the limitations of poetry that I loved. What could I make of just language and space? How could I work words—make them move & trigger—as lines on a page? (It felt like a mixed media exercise I could do for the rest of my life!) The instructor at Columbia encouraged me to apply to MFA programs in poetry, and I ended up at Sarah Lawrence. I really grew as a writer there and learned from a range of brilliant & supportive poets/teachers. Now I continue both my writing and visual art practices, often using language in installation and as a form of social practice.

What does a day or week in your professional life look like?

Well, this semester a day might go something like this: Wake up. Record dream if remembered. Get my two-year-old out of bed and bring her to preschool. Then, depending on the day of the week, go teach, or work on my dissertation, or tend to another project. Pick up my daughter at 3pm. Hang out with her until 6pm. Then read, grade assignments, respond to emails, or play around in my studio for a few hours after dinner.

Maya Pindyck & MAB founder Brice Brown discussing the installation in MAB before the bank’s renovation. Photo credit: Jamie Wilson documenting the making of “Today I Saw."

Maya Pindyck & MAB founder Brice Brown discussing the installation in MAB before the bank’s renovation. Photo credit: Jamie Wilson documenting the making of “Today I Saw."

Since writing and drawing/painting are both part of your creative process, how do you see them working together and informing each other?

I see writing and drawing/painting offering distinct materials for thinking and opening up different ways of sensing. I heard William Kentridge say something along those lines in a recent drawing lecture, and it really resonated: There’s an illogicality to drawing and thinking, and each material brings its own thinking. I’d say the same is true of writing. Writing longhand with a pen or with a pencil or through erasure or in between drawings or over an image or on a computer or by phone each activates different ways of thinking/feeling. My creative process brings writing and drawing into relation and works the gap between word & image, between language & gesture, between name & thing. It’s that between-space that tends to activate my process and inform my subject matter. I’ve always been less interested in calling myself a “writer” or an “artist” than in what those materials—text, sound, charcoal, ink, found object—can do, together & alone, in a sociopolitical context.

What is your writing process? How do you set aside time to write?

It depends on what I’m writing & why, but I’d say that with poetry, there’s a process that repeats: First I write with a pen or pencil in an unlined notebook. I’ll then rewrite the poem around 4-8 times. I rewrite each version slowly, feeling out the line, making slight shifts as needed in each rewriting. I’ll also speak the words aloud to measure how they feel in my mouth & body. Then, when the poem starts to click (or when what I’ve written clicks as poetry), I’ll type it up, print it out, and make handwritten changes to the printout.

Sometimes I’ll do an exercise—often in class with my students—to get moving, but usually my subject matter finds me. What I need to write about follows, haunts, & stalks me. It’s a kind of possession. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with something to write down. I’ll be in the shower and suddenly realize that a word in a work that I thought was finished is actually wrong. I carry a notebook with me wherever I go so I can be ready. In that sense, it’s less about setting aside time to write and more about trying to stay attuned, open, and prepared for what needs to get written. But a consistent writing practice mobilizes that attunement. The more I write, the more the writing comes. It’s a cyclical process.

Since you are also a professor, how do you teach writing and inspire your students to want to write? Can you advise visual artists in any writing exercises?

I try to assign exercises that I find engaging and that push different ways of seeing & making. If I’m giving my students an assignment I wouldn’t want to do myself, that can be a sign that it’s a shitty assignment.

Some writing exercises I love that I would suggest to other visual artists:

1. Find a random book and erase its text to make poetry. Try out different modes of erasure: whiting out the words, blacking them out, scratching them out with a thumbtack, crossing them out with a pencil. (And read Mary Ruefle’s amazing essay “On Erasure”).

2. Cento: a collage poem made of lines from existing poems. Start with a poetry anthology or stack of poems and make a poem entirely of lines from other poems. I give myself rules, like only use one line per poem, and/or pick each poem by opening up to a random page in an anthology.

3. Write a visual essay by juxtaposing image and text.

4. Observation exercises: Study an object and, using language alone, record its tone. Shift its scale. Make it into an ominous thing. Now make it a vulnerable thing. Repurpose it. Describe its surface marks in as much detail as possible. Map it onto your own body & history (where/how does this object live in relation to your own life experiences?). Imagine the memories it carries and tell its story based on those memories. Develop a theory of human nature from that object. Place it in a different context and write about what changes.

5. Read Wallace Stevens’ “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” What are 13 ways of looking at your neighborhood, your grandmother, the kettle in your kitchen?

6. Activate chance: Open a book to a random page and begin writing from a word or line. Record the first six phrases you overhear in a café or the first eight things you see on a train.

7. Read Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and make a written portrait of someone in your family that takes on her/his voice & language.

8. Follow the cadence of a text—its sonic current—and write a poem that follows that cadence.

Some of the participants in “Today I Saw” standing outside the entrance to MAB. Recordings of their voices describing local sights will be heard in the bank and throughout the town for the duration of the exhibition.Photo credit: Jamie Wilson documenting the making of “Today I Saw."

Some of the participants in “Today I Saw” standing outside the entrance to MAB. Recordings of their voices describing local sights will be heard in the bank and throughout the town for the duration of the exhibition.Photo credit: Jamie Wilson documenting the making of “Today I Saw."

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from managing all your projects?

Saying no can be an affirming and nurturing action. I used to think I had to say yes to most project invitations & opportunities, but I’ve learned that saying no can open other things up and be a form of self-care. I’m also learning how to be still with each project, engage it wholeheartedly (even if just for a few hours), and then give a different project the same careful focus instead of trying to do everything at once in a distracted & thin way.

And where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

My favorite places to go are books, art exhibitions, readings, performances, the park, the ocean, the woods, the subway, the classroom, cafés, my daughter’s wild & tangled hair. If I had to pick one place right now: your question at this table.

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Reading for artists & artist statements

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Reading for artists & artist statements

It’s no secret that reading helps you write—especially when you’re trying to write about your work. You might find words and phrases that lead to titles, or inspire you in how you are thinking about your visual work. Reading about other artists, philosophy, or subjects relevant to your subject matter will impact your work by giving it context and relevance While it might still be taking shape.

 

Here are a few of our favorite books that inspire us to start writing:

Bird by Bird: Some instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott  (here's an article about it in Brain Pickings.)

Speaking of Brain Pickings, there is this phenomenal list of books on writing by famous writers, with advice and insight into process, inspiration, and just sitting down to the task.

Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees by Lawrence Weschler (great book about the artist Robert Irwin, with wonderful descriptions of both the person and his work.)

Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit (a testimony to process, research, and taking time to observe what's around you.)

Speak, Memory by Vladamir Nabakov (an autobiographical memoir that is stunning for its visual descriptions.)

PLEASE ADD TO THIS LIST IN THE COMMENTS! Share what you're reading and why.

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The Artist Statement Blueprint

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The Artist Statement Blueprint

Writing an artist statement is usually the last task on your list. It’s a necessary evil for your practice: you need one for all of your professional endeavors, but it seems like your work should speak for itself. We think your work is the most important part of all, too. So why are we advocating for the artist statement?

Because the act of writing about your work helps you not only achieve a well-written statement that serves practical purposes, it helps you clarify your goals, identify actual words that can help you communicate your practice, and these words will help you represent yourself and your work in the most professional, genuine way. In other words, writing helps you have your shit together. Writing will help you be articulate about your work, and you’ll have a much easier time speaking about what you do.

Artist statements need not be overly wordy or too academic. They simply need to give your reader some insight into who you are and why you make the work. It can serve as a powerful tool to allow someone to connect with your work on a deeper level.

The artist statement also should not: be longer than 2-3 paragraphs, tell someone how to feel, overly explain things, or use phrases like “I hope, My work aspires to, My goal is, or The Viewer will.” We'll show you how to distill your thoughts in the Artist Statement Blueprint.

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DELVE Interview: Spencer Merolla

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DELVE Interview: Spencer Merolla

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. DELVE IS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COACHING PLATFORM TO HELP YOU GET THE BUSINESS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER IN ORDER. THE ARTISTS WE INTERVIEW ARE POSITIVE FORCES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND THEY SHARE TOOLS AND ADVICE THAT THEY'VE LEARNED TO INSPIRE EACH OF US IN OUR PROFESSIONAL AND ARTISTIC GOALS. 

Spencer Merolla in her studio. Photo credit: Lulu Yee

Spencer Merolla in her studio. Photo credit: Lulu Yee

Spencer Merolla grew up in a drafty Victorian house in a suburb of New York. Having studied religion as an undergraduate, she had embarked on a career in academia before returning to her first love, visual art. Her work, informed by the study of religion and history, has explored the social practices and material culture of mourning through a variety of materials such as funeral clothing and human hair.

Her work has been shown nationally, and featured in The Jealous Curator, Venison Magazine, and the Society for Domestic Museology. Her solo show, Material Remains, is running through April 22nd at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn.

Can you describe your path as an artist – from where and when you began, until now?

I was really into art as a kid. When I was very small I had a little desk I thought was magic because it was always full of paper scraps and cardboard for me to draw on— I suspect my mother replenished the supply every night after I’d gone to bed. I used to draw until I gave myself headaches. I took classes in high school and college but was focused on making representational work with which I was never satisfied, so I majored in religion and planned to become an academic. Several years into a PhD program I realized I was miserable, and all these clues were there that I had sidelined something important— I was using paint chips as bookmarks and organizing my books by color. The first thing I did after I quit was cut up my books and make a collage, which was the beginning of working more conceptually, and I haven’t stopped since. 

Installation view of Material Remains in the Glass House at the Invisible Dog. Photo credit: Lucien Zayan

Installation view of Material Remains in the Glass House at the Invisible Dog. Photo credit: Lucien Zayan

What does a day or week in your professional life look like?

A week in my professional life ideally includes time in the studio making work, time spent visiting galleries and museums, plus staying on top of the boring stuff (accounting, inventory, website, photo processing) and plotting next steps (applications, research). But in reality from week to week I find myself more focused on any one of these things than the others.

What do you do to promote your work and get opportunities? What are some challenges you've overcome in expanding your audience?

I’m just going to come right out and say this— I’m not really a party person. Openings are parties. I’m an introvert, so over the course of two hours I’d rather have a substantive conversation with three people than two dozen brief interactions with as many people crammed together in a tight space. And I’m not great with names…or faces, really! I think artists who can effortlessly shift into schmooze mode have a superpower. So while it’s important to show up to openings and events, I find myself mostly connecting with people outside of that context.

Would It Were So, heirloom wedding dresses, thread (2017)

Would It Were So, heirloom wedding dresses, thread (2017)

I love Instagram for this. It makes it easy to share things you’ve seen and like, follow people whose work you admire, and forge a connection based on common interests (which is especially good if maybe you would be too shy to do this in real life). I’ve connected with so many kindred spirits with whom I otherwise never would have crossed paths, and gotten some shows through those connections. You have to be realistic about how your work will be received on Instagram— some things grab viewers more than others— but you can build a following on there of people interested in your work and engage with people all over the world.

What is a major goal you have set for yourself in the past year that you accomplished? How did you do it?

I did a large site specific installation at the Invisible Dog's Glass House. I worked for an event design firm after grad school and I thought of the project like that— I measured, drew up plans to scale, made a cheesy “rendering" in photoshop, and spent countless hours vividly imagining every way in which it could be a disaster. I reached out to people with carpentry and lighting skills for help, and involved them early enough in my process to incorporate their suggestions. In the end, it looked just like the rendering, which is its own source of anxiety, because if it looks just like you imagined you’re used to seeing it in your mind, and so it seems to lack freshness in real life. I had to suspend my judgement and force myself to view it through other people’s eyes. 

Embedded, heirloom wedding dresses, thread, concrete (2017)

Embedded, heirloom wedding dresses, thread, concrete (2017)

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from managing all your projects?

Feel (so much!) fear and do it anyway. 
Not knowing the “rules” may lead to embarrassment, but also confers enormous advantages. Many more things become possible.

And where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

I’m a generalist, and collect a lot of arcane information on unrelated topics and techniques, and these just sort of float around until they assemble themselves into something interesting. This almost exclusively happens while I'm on the subway. I know the shower is the customary location for "aha moments," but it is the subway that somehow connects the dots in my mind between all the various things I’ve been thinking about.  

Six Word Novel, clothing previously worn to funerals, foam, batting, thread (2016)

Six Word Novel, clothing previously worn to funerals, foam, batting, thread (2016)

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5 Keys to Marketing for Shy Artists

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5 Keys to Marketing for Shy Artists

MANY ARTISTS AREN’T OUTGOING. HECK, MANY ARTISTS ARE INTROVERTED. WE KNOW THAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO MAKE OUR WORK AND GET IT OUT INTO THE WORLD, BUT THIS TASK CAN BE STRESSFUL. ON TOP OF THIS, OUR WORK CAN SOMETIMES BE DEVELOPED FROM A PERSONAL PLACE, AND IT’S HARD TO SHARE IT IN A WAY THAT FEELS GENUINE AND NOT LIKE YOU ARE BEARING YOUR HEART TO THE WORLD.

Luckily, you don’t have to be the life of the party to succeed at marketing, you just have to be clear and confident in your story. Marketing for artists is a necessity to get the opportunities you want. They won’t be achieved in a vacuum.

Here are 5 ways to overcome marketing anxiety if you have social anxiety:

  1. Get your Unique Story down pat. It’s a curated version of who you are, the one that is clear, accessible and helps you share the story behind your work, but not every personal detail. So that right there is a great way to put yourself out there in a way that is controlled but still relatable.

  2. Practice and memorize a really nice elevator pitch. This is a 1-2 sentence summary of who you are and what you do. Just memorize it so it sounds natural and conversational– not like a robot.

  3. Make sure your website is amazing. This is one of your biggest assets. Even if you have terrible social anxiety when talking about your work (most of us do!!!), then your website will speak volumes for your amazing work and professional acumen.

  4. Assure your visuals and documentation are gorgeous. Go back to the last point. This is a must for artists of any temperament, but especially important for people who will do a lot of their marketing online.

  5. Get really good at one social media platform. You can build a solid community of friends and supporters online. If you dedicate yourself to sharing your work and unique story on Instagram, for example, you will be marketing your work in an inspiring way without ever having to speak to anyone!!

Do you want more inspiring and practical advice like this sent straight to you? Sign up for our weekly newsletter. You’ll get weekly mission to improve your focus and practice. Don’t miss out!

© 2016 Kind Aesthetic, All Rights Reserved.

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#IWillDelve, a free 1 week challenge to help you get sh*t done

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#IWillDelve, a free 1 week challenge to help you get sh*t done

One of the hardest things to do as a busy artist is to set aside time to visualize your big career goals. It can be much easier to focus on the tasks at hand than to push ourselves outside the comfort zone and dream big. It can also seem easier to think and fret about making progress and not actually do anything about it. Well, it's time to just take action and make amazing stuff happen.

In this article, “Don’t Underestimate the Simple Power of Writing Down Your Goals,” the author writes, “Having dreams is one thing; actually accomplishing them is quite another, especially given the fact that relentless fantasizing may actually reduce one’s odds of achieving goals.”

Exactly. You need to write them down and make an actionable plan to achieve them. It sounds simple but can be quite daunting. So, we created a challenge to help kick start you into gear.

The #IWillDELVE challenge will help you:

  • Clear your mind and identify your top professional goals
  • Determine the first goal to accomplish that will pave the way to future success
  • Fess up to what is holding you back
  • Make an action plan to achieve your most pressing to dos
  • Find accountability
  • Get a huge goal accomplished in one month’s time!

If you sign up we will also be checking in with you personally to see how things are going. That way you get a little bit of built-in accountability with this challenge.

  

This challenge is free and self-guided, meaning you can sign up at any time. You’ll get a series of emails that will walk you through the steps. But don’t delay, because if you get started now, you know you are on your way to awesome things.

Sign up for the #IWillDELVE Challenge now!

© 2016 Kind Aesthetic, All Rights Reserved.

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DELVE Interview: Rhia Hurt

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DELVE Interview: Rhia Hurt

WELCOME TO DELVE INTERVIEWS, A LOOK INTO THE UNIQUE PATHS OF ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS. DELVE IS AN EDUCATIONAL AND COACHING PLATFORM TO HELP YOU GET THE BUSINESS SIDE OF YOUR CAREER IN ORDER. THE ARTISTS WE INTERVIEW ARE POSITIVE FORCES IN THEIR COMMUNITIES AND THEY SHARE TOOLS AND ADVICE THAT THEY'VE LEARNED TO INSPIRE EACH OF US IN OUR PROFESSIONAL AND ARTISTIC GOALS. 

Rhia with her recent installation, Stair Gazing, at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey

Rhia with her recent installation, Stair Gazing, at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey

Rhia Hurt is a fine artist currently based in New York City. She received her MFA in Painting at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2009 and has since shown her artwork in California, New York, Berlin, and Toronto. Her work is in private collections throughout the United States. In addition to her studio art practice, Hurt is also the Executive Director of Brooklyn Art Space & Trestle Gallery, an arts organization in Brooklyn, NY. She currently has a solo installation at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.

Can you describe your path as an artist – from where and when you began, until now?

My path has been an interest in art and interdisciplinary learning since I was young; in high school I excelled in English and Studio Art. I loved how personal stories in literature and art can teach so much about history, the natural world, power dynamics, and ourselves. I studied art and education in college and grad school, getting an MA in teaching and MFA in painting. I taught in public schools for 10 years before working in an arts organization and moving forward with a team to found a non-profit contemporary art gallery and educational program in Brooklyn. For me, art is a way to enter into and understand many topics and personal life experiences. It’s one of the richest ways to see many points of view on any subject, and does its work on multiple levels, intellectual, emotional, and physical. I have a vision for creating community around art making and observing through my work at Trestle.

Star Bursts, 2016, acrylic and synthetic silk over wire, dimensions variable

Star Bursts, 2016, acrylic and synthetic silk over wire, dimensions variable

What does a day or week in your professional life look like?

Professional and personal get all mixed together in order for me to get things done. My days are spent trying to get out the door, sneaking in an email, making a phone call, going to work, meeting with staff members, writing more emails, getting my son from daycare, playing, making dinner, doing bedtime routine, and then doing more work. I can work on my personal art projects in stages while tending to Gray. I observe nature with him, walk, and make things by sewing art components while Gray plays with blocks, or playdough. Sometimes we draw and paint collaboratively, while I do color studies. Studio time and alone time are rare these days, but I soak it up when I can. On the plus side, this alone time is very productive because I’ve been thinking of what I want to do for days before I actually get in there.

But days are not all balanced and perfect. My colleague and mentor, Mel Prest, once told me, “Artists don’t usually live ‘balanced’ lives; or if they do, it’s not all balanced at the same time.” So, to me that means some days/weeks/months I’m mostly focused only on my work as an administrator, some days I’m trying to figure out my and my son’s health insurance situation, some days I’m trying to figure out how to get to the gym, some days I get one or two or three hours in the studio, some days I work on my website or announcement, research and read, some days I go see art, go do a studio visit, or take an hour or two at home to pay my own bills, etc. I try to make sure there are things included in every day that “feed me” and inspire me.

What do you do to promote your work and get opportunities? What are some challenges you've overcome in expanding your audience?

Make work and talk to people. Invite people I admire to my studio. Promoting is not my strong suit. Making work that excites me is where I really want to spend my time. I love color, organic forms, the ability for my process to shift and surprise me. In my latest work, I create wire forms and sew canvas to them and paint both two dimensional and three dimensional structures. The forms are related to nature and the body.

Coalescence Cascade, Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 27 x 60 x 5 inches

Coalescence Cascade, Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 27 x 60 x 5 inches

I think momentum comes into play because work comes from work, as many artists (and other creative people) before me have noticed and said. Artists I’ve met with similar interests and values tend to share opportunities and I do too. It’s so great to be able to support fellow artists. So, again, I think the space to make work (mental and actual space) and a community of other like minded professionals is what keeps momentum going.

One challenge is finding an audience since I am not often thinking of that when I make the work. Over time the right people sort of find each other through looking and doing research, like going to see art exhibitions, following artists on social media, etc. My intended audience hasn’t ever really been collectors, but more other artists and art spaces I like. However, I have had a couple of collectors find my work through exhibitions and word of mouth. I currently have a show at The Visual Art Center of New Jersey. The assistant curator there, Katherine Murdock, saw my work in a mailer from another show I participated in and scheduled a studio visit, which led to this show. I think the best way to get out there is by trying out different avenues when opportunities become available. Over time, I’ve learned that I don’t need to say yes to everything (especially with time constraints). But I do say yes to participating in things when I believe in the project and the people involved.

Red Earth, Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 36 x 40 x 8 inches.

Red Earth, Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 36 x 40 x 8 inches.

What is a major goal you have set for yourself in the past year that you accomplished? How did you do it?

Keep making work and finding exhibition opportunities despite a challenging schedule with work and personal life. I have to do it or I would go completely nuts. I do a little everyday, even if it’s just sitting for 10 minutes and putting paints in order by color. These sort of things actually make me happy and feel more balanced and ready to start a new project. Deadlines and encouraging artist friends (like Mel Prest, Arlan Huang, Melissa Staiger, Jean Rim, Katerina Lanfranco, Myra Kooy, Lorrie Fredette, and Austin Thomas for example), studio visits into other studios and inviting artists and curators to mine, and collective critique groups like MAW (started by Katerina Lanfranco and Clarity Haynes),  and Trestle’s open critique, have helped me stay connected when things have sort of felt out of whack.

“When I feel low about what I can’t get done, I remind myself that my experiences and efforts add up to something meaningful and important over time.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from managing all your projects?

Try to work smarter not harder. Well, right now it’s smarter and harder, but I hope to cut back on the harder part at some point. When I feel low about what I can’t get done, I remind myself that my experiences and efforts add up to something meaningful and important over time. Also, the payoff to some work doesn’t happen right away or in a linear fashion. I think that doing the work for a long time is the only way to see the effects.

And where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?

Hiking in the coastal redwoods of the Pacific Northwest. And walking/running near the beaches there. I also love going to see art in small contemporary art galleries, LES like Invisible Exports and Chelsea galleries like Cheim & Read, as well as going to The Whitney, The MET and other great institutions in NYC.

Wings, Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 36 x 120 x 5 inches

Wings, Acrylic, canvas over wire. Approx 36 x 120 x 5 inches

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Artists, meet your Guide to the Schedule C

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Artists, meet your Guide to the Schedule C

ARTISTS, MEET YOUR GUIDE TO THE SCHEDULE C. THIS BEAUTIFULLY DESIGNED GRAPHIC WILL HELP YOU TRANSLATE YOUR COMMON ARTIST EXPENSES INTO TAX LANGUAGE.

First, let’s identify what the Schedule C is:

The Schedule C, also known as the Profit or Loss From Business (on your 1040 individual tax return), is a tax form and powerful tool that allows you access to a world of small business incentives. You report income or loss from a business you operated or a profession you practiced as a sole proprietor on this Schedule. It’s part of your individual tax return and can be filed by any person receiving income from business activities, including:

  • freelance income, any amount
  • income from a 1099
  • sales or services
  • a business that is a sole proprietorship
  • a single-member LLC is entitled to file a Schedule C

How to use this tool:

Meticulously organized by color, An Artist’s Guide to the Schedule C defines common expenses you might have as an artist, and points you to which category they fit into on the Schedule C. lt can also serve to remind you which expenses you might be able to claim on your tax return. It would also look beautiful pinned up on your wall!

This wonderful resource is all thanks to Hannah Cole of Sunlight TaxShe is working artist and a tax expert, and we’ve collaborated with her to develop the online DELVE course called The Ultimate, Honest Guide to Understanding Artist Taxes. She understands what it means to have to do your taxes as an artist. It can be difficult and overwhelming. Think of Hannah as your brilliant translator on your yearly trip to Tax Land.


No Rendering of Advice The information contained within this course is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining tax or financial advice from a tax professional. Presentation of the information via the course is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a tax preparer-client relationship. You are advised not to act upon this information without seeking the service of a professional tax and/or financial planner.

Accuracy of Information While we make reasonable efforts to furnish accurate and up-to-date information, we do not warrant that any information contained in or made available through this website is accurate, complete, reliable, current or error-free. We assume no responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content of this website or such other materials or communications.

Disclaimer of Warranties and Limitations of Liability This website is provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis. Use of this website is at your own risk. We and our affiliates disclaim all warranties. Neither we nor our affiliates shall be liable for any damages of any kind due to the use of this website.

 

© 2016 Kind Aesthetic, All Rights Reserved.

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Estimated Quarterly Taxes for the New Freelancer

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Estimated Quarterly Taxes for the New Freelancer

Welcome to "Tax & Money Stuff" a column in partnership with Hannah Cole. Hannah is a tax expert who specializes in working with creative businesses and artists. A long-time working artist, the financial challenges of freelancers and small creative businesses are both relevant and personal to her. She is the founder of Sunlight Tax. Read her post about saving for retirement here.

With Hannah's unwavering expertise, we created the online course: The Ultimate, Honest Guide to Understanding Artist Taxes. It's a clear, motivating 60-minute online class that demystifies what your tax responsibilities are as an artist.

Guest Post by Hannah Cole

In my last post, I addressed a common dilemma for the new freelancer - an unexpectedly large tax bill in April. I explained self-employment tax, and why it catches so many people off guard. In this post, I’ll explain estimated quarterly taxes, which are the solution to that huge April tax bill.

You’ve newly struck out on your own, and you had your first profitable year as a freelancer. Congratulations! But when you prepared your taxes, you were blindsided by the enormous tax bill. You got a crash course in self-employment tax, and now you’re ready to set yourself up better for next year. It’s time for estimated quarterly taxes.

Last Love Song, Silica and Pigment on Linen, 24" x 20", 2014, by Matt Phillips

Last Love Song, Silica and Pigment on Linen, 24" x 20", 2014, by Matt Phillips

ESTIMATED QUARTERLY TAXES – WHAT THEY ARE

Our tax system is called “pay as you go.” If you’re employed, your employer withholds taxes from your paycheck each pay period, so that at the end of the tax year, you should have already paid in approximately the amount of taxes that you owe. When you overpay, you get a refund, and when you underpay, you owe some more tax on top. But the idea is that you don’t pay all of your taxes for the year at one time - for almost everyone, setting aside that much money would be difficult.

When you freelance, there’s no employer to withhold tax for you, so it becomes your job. (Yes, another burden of the gig economy). Everyone knows, and that includes the IRS, that it’s much harder to pay one big bill than several small ones. So to approximate the withholding situation of an employer, the IRS requires freelancers who owe at least $1000 in tax to make estimated quarterly payments.

It may seem yucky to have to pay taxes four times a year instead of just once, but it’s a good thing. Breaking it up into quarters makes the payments much easier to handle. And you avoid an unpleasant surprise in April.

WHAT ARE THE DEADLINES?

April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15

HOW MUCH DO I NEED TO PAY?

Generally, you need to pay in 100% of the tax you owed in the previous year, broken into four installments. If you meet this threshold (called a “safe harbor”), you generally avoid penalties and interest. If you make over $150,000 in adjusted gross income (or $75k if you are married filing separately), then you must pay 110% of last year’s tax.

You can find this amount by looking at last year’s tax return. Be sure to look at the line that states your total tax for the year, and not just the amount you owed when filing. Take this total tax number, divide it by four, and that’s each estimated quarterly payment amount.

 

Traci Talasco, Juggling Act: Various States of Balance and Imbalance, 3/4" plywood, interior paint, dollhouse furniture, (4) 12 x 12 inch panels, 2012.

Traci TalascoJuggling Act: Various States of Balance and Imbalance, 3/4" plywood, interior paint, dollhouse furniture, (4) 12 x 12 inch panels, 2012.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE HUGE VARIATIONS IN MY INCOME YEAR TO YEAR?

Good point. You’re a freelancer. You have great years and not-so-great years. If you expect to make substantially less money this year than last, and don’t want to pay more taxes in than you need to, you are allowed to pay 90% of your total tax due for the current year in four installments.

BUT HOW DO I KNOW WHAT MY TAX DUE WILL BE THIS YEAR, SINCE THIS YEAR HASN’T FINISHED HAPPENING YET?

A fine point again. That’s why most people choose to pay 100% of last year’s bill. It’s much easier to calculate. But you are the best person to make an estimate of how good your income will be, and if it is truly going to be much lower this year, you are allowed to base your estimates on this year’s income instead of last year. 90% of this year’s total tax due is a “safe harbor” amount - meaning, so long as you have paid at least that much, you will not be assessed any penalties or interest.

So paying estimated quarterly taxes of 100% (or 110%) of last year’s tax or 90% of this year’s tax keeps you safe from penalties and interest. Excellent.

But you can still be hit by an unexpectedly high tax bill in April if your income is higher this year than last. This is where the word “estimate” is extra relevant. Estimated Quarterly Taxes are just that - estimates. The IRS does not expect you to predict the future perfectly. (But if you can, expect a call from me for some stock tips). There’s no one in a better position to judge whether this is a good money year or a bad one than you. So if you just hooked a big client or got an advance on your novel, it’s a good idea to increase the amount of estimated taxes you pay in. You can increase your payment or make an extra payment at any time. And it’s better to do it as the income comes in than later. We’re all human, and money tends to get spent, so make an extra payment right when you get the big check. Don’t wait until it’s disappeared into bubble gum and comic books.

One last point. Remember state taxes. States vary. Many don’t require estimated quarterly taxes (some do!), but don’t forget that you will still owe them money (unless you live in one of the handful that don’t have income tax).  A good practice is to look at last year’s state tax owed, and set that amount aside. You can do it in chunks, as income comes in, or divide that number by 12, and put aside that amount each month into a separate bank account. That way, when you do get your April tax bill, the money for state taxes is there for you.

Estimated taxes take a little getting used to, but once you’re in the rhythm, they’re not so bad. The key is to become familiar with calculating (and recalculating) them, setting aside enough of your income in a separate account, set the deadlines on your calendar, and make paying them a habit. In my next post, I’ll discuss the methods of paying estimated quarterly taxes; what your options are, how to estimate what to set aside, and some tips to help your cash flow.


Hannah is a tax expert who specializes in working with creative businesses and their owners. A long-time working artist, the financial challenges of freelancers and small creative businesses are both relevant and personal to her. She is the founder of Sunlight Tax. follow Hannah on Twitter at @sunlight_tax, or sign up for her newsletter to get friendly, timely updates about money stuff for creative people.

Disclaimer: This is meant as a guide, not professional advice. If you have questions about your own situation, talk to a tax professional.

This post was originally published on August 4, 2016

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Artists, let's talk about money.

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Artists, let's talk about money.

ARTISTS CAN HAVE A LOT OF HANGUPS AROUND MONEY. MONEY CAN BE A SENSITIVE SUBJECT REGARDLESS OF INDUSTRY, BUT IT ESPECIALLY SEEMS TO BE IN THE ARTS. IT CAN BE HARD TO PUT A NUMBER ON AN IDEA, A TALENT, OR A PIECE OF ART THAT HAS NO COMPARISON.

The relationship between money and art is complicated. Common thoughts are:

  • How does one put a monetary value on fine art?
  • If I sell products, does that devalue my art work?
  • If I want to be paid for my work, does that change the reason I am making it?
  • I do other things besides sell my art. Does that mean I am not a real artist or art business?

But guess what? All artists deserve to be paid fairly for their work.

“We’re trained to feel that it’s impolite to discuss money. In the art world, [often] the person we are dealing with, be it a gallery director or curator, has a broad view of a whole bunch of different artists and [can see] where we fit in among them. But if we as artists are not talking to each other about money, we are not operating with as much information as they are. So I think that artists should to talk to each other about money. They should be open and transparent. And the more we promote the culture of transparency around money the more it helps everybody. Sharing this information with each other IS artist empowerment.”

- Hannah Cole of Sunlight Tax, from the course The Ultimate, Honest Guide to Understanding Artist Taxes

Many of us have the goal of selling our work, but remember that sales are usually not the only way an artist makes money–even the most well-known and successful artists often do more than just sell their work to survive. Thinking nimbly and branching out about how you earn money to support your practice will help you to achieve success.

Ways to earn money that aren’t sales of work include:
Grants, residencies, teaching, speaking fees, public art commissions, private commissions, commercial art (maybe you are a painter who sometimes sells illustrations to magazines and websites), sales of editions or multiples, writing, design work, and the list goes on and on.

The good news is, that if you are doing any of these things already, they bolster your business and support your practice! Artists should be honest with each other about what all they do to support themselves and their work. It’s revealing, but also super inspiring, to learn that our peers have various gigs and structures in place. Everyone’s path is different and unique, and we can all learn from each other. It also might remind us that choosing our own path will lead to our own versions of success.

So, what is your story? Take some time to list all of the ways you support your art business and how these experiences have shaped your practice, expanded your network, and influenced how you spend your time. We are in the same boat as many of you and do lots of things to support our individual art practices: creating blog posts, helping artists by leading classes, workshops and individual coaching, and selling our services. Sara also teaches, and Andrea does commercial photography. We seek out grants and residencies. We’re busy, yes. But this stuff fuels our connection with our art-making and our community at large.

Check out our videos from DELVE: Comedy + Art, a networking event where artists Alex Gingrow and Michael Scoggins share their unique stories.

We’ve seen that if you can harness the storytelling potential of your experiences to share your practice, then you are well on your way to an effective marketing campaign to grow your audience! And once your audience grows even further, you have even more ammunition in support of yourself not only as a professional artist in the eyes of the world, but also as a viable business.

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The Ultimate, Honest Guide to Understanding Artist Taxes

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The Ultimate, Honest Guide to Understanding Artist Taxes

Whether we like it or not, tax season awaits. We figured why not embrace it by getting empowered with a ton of knowledge about taxes, money, and what that means for us as artists? You should join us. It'll be fun–We promise!

We know we've had questions for years about taxes and Schedule Cs and all that stuff. We talked about it with friends and colleagues, who also felt themselves shrink away from the topic with confusion. That's why we are so excited to bring you a brand new online course called:

We have teamed up with artist/tax expert/wonderful human Hannah Cole of Sunlight Tax to demystify your tax responsibilities as an artist. Hannah speaks clearly, without jargon, and explains tax concepts in plain English.

We met Hannah in Brooklyn – she now resides in North Carolina – when her studio was down the hall from ours. An amazing artist, she got licensed as a tax expert and specifically works with artists and creative businesses because she gets it, she gets us, she is one of us! Hannah is a totally smart, badass woman and we couldn't be more excited to be collaborating with her.

With a better understanding of your money, we hope to help your art business grow. With Hannah's expertise and support, we are taking the fear out of money and empowering you to be a successful business. You can do this!

Throughout the process of making this course with her, we have learned so much. She has so many clear examples and literally translates all the confusing IRS language into phrases that ring with clarity. This course we created is a labor of love, and is a must for anyone who has ever been the least bit confused about how their art practice fits into the greater tax world.

A number of confidants have already taken the course and are saying things like:

Taxes can be intimidating and confusing. Tax professional Hannah Cole is just the opposite. In The Ultimate, Honest Guide to Understanding Artist Taxes, she delivers clear, concise, information with an encouraging and empowering style.
— Alix Sloan

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Inspiration for 2017: Branding, professsional, and tax resources

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Inspiration for 2017: Branding, professsional, and tax resources

Do you have any of this in mind for 2017?

  • Set some huge professional goals and achieve them.
  • Connect with an audience that likes and supports my work.
  • Feel confident about how I talk about and share my work online.
  • Be inspired to take action on projects that truly matter.
  • Professionalize my practice in terms of money and marketing.

If you thought "yes!", to one or any of the above, then check out these amazing free resources that we've developed for you over the past few months. They will help you refocus after the holidays and make 2017 your best year yet!


THE KIND AESTHETIC 2 WEEK BRANDING CHALLENGE is a motivating way to help you create a solid foundation for your personal brand, which will make marketing your work easy. Sign up here. (It's an ongoing challenge so you can start at any time.)

We're visual artists and creative entrepreneurs, too. Sharing your work in a way that feels good can be overwhelming. You'll receive one email with a 5-15 minute challenge every day for the next 2 weeks.


Get our free 30-minute branding guide, specifically for artists and creative entrepreneurs here.

Take charge of how to clearly and genuinely articulate what you do and connect with the right audience. Plus, find more time to actually do what you love: make your work!

As a small business owner—artists and creative entrepreneurs, that’s you—you may be unsure of your personal brand. You may be thinking, “Do I even need one?" The answer is YES! And it already exists within you.


We are compiling an ongoing list of resources and inspiration called the DELVE Action Guide for Artists & Creatives. We need you to add to it. Tell us what you and your friends are doing to make the world better, more informed, educated, and kinder. What are you doing to take action? Comment on the page or email us.


Artists and creative business owners: have you been struggling with understanding how to file your taxes?

We have teamed up with tax expert/working artist Hannah Cole of Sunlight Tax to demystify your tax responsibilities as an artist, conquer your tax anxiety, and shed light on many common questions about your career. The course is full of helpful videos, downloads and worksheets to walk you through all of those complicated questions you have about running your art practice as a business.

Enroll in The Ultimate, Honest Guide to Understanding Artist Taxes today.


And don't forget to always check out when we might be hosting a live DELVE workshop near you, or ask us if we will host one for your group! And explore our blog for some great advice and guidance.

For 2017 we are working hard to bring you some online classes that are affordable and extremely useful and productive. But the biggest goal we have is to continue to build connections and our community of artists and creatives to make positive change, educate each other, and have meaningful conversations to take action on projects and causes that matter. Stay tuned!!

© 2016 Kind Aesthetic, All Rights Reserved.

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