Friday, October 22, 2010

Getting Your Work Out There - Part 2

Today, we wanted to talk about the importance of getting your work out there into the world. This is more about the business reasons why you need to get out there. Stay tuned for Monday's post which is part 3, which will cover some practical ways to actually have your work seen.

So why is it important to get your work out there? The most obvious answer is so that people can see it. While this can be scary, if you are serious about making it as an artist, it is a necessity. The big myth about being an artist is that you slave away at your craft, year after year, and then, someday, somehow, someone finds your art, falls in love with it, and buys all your paintings and promotes you to galleries and you explode out onto the art scene.

While this may be true for very, very, very, VERY few individuals, if you look at the careers of most artists, this is not the case. With the emergence of the internet, suddenly it's a lot easier to go and get your work seen by lots of people. While this is generally a great thing, it also means that there is a lot more competition. With everyone and their mothers and great-aunts, and nephews out there with their own flickr accounts, suddenly the art scene has become very saturated. It gets hard to weed through all the tons of art to find any single individual.

Thus, the era of the hustler was born. If you want to live off your art, it's no longer enough to be relevant, or funny, or thoughtful, or scary, or unique. Now, you also have to think like a business person. You have to hustle your art and make sure that people see your work. The people who are making a splash in the art world, I would say 50% of the time, are not necessarily the ones with the most skill or creativity, but the ones who know how to market themselves the best (however, the ones who are at the top of the game are those who are amazingly creative/talented AND have the marketing skills).

So, long story short, you need to get your work out there. So you just finished a comic book, or a new painting. Great, that's definitely an achievement in itself. But if you want to sell your new product, you have to get it out there. If no one sees your work, no one can buy your work. If no one buys your work, you can't make a living off of it. It's that simple.

So how are you going to get your work out there? Stay tuned for Monday's post to learn some easy (and inexpensive) ways how.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Getting Your Work Out There - Part 1

Today, we wanted to talk about the importance of getting your work out there into the world. This is the first part of a 3-part series we're going to have here on the blog. This is more about overcoming some of the psychological hurdles of showing off your art. Part 2 will cover the reasons (from a business perspective) why you should get your art out there, and Part 3 will deal with some practical ways to do so.

So the biggest hurdle a lot of artist have for not showing off their work is fear. Admittedly, it's scary to show off something as personal as your work. What if they don't say anything? What if they don't like it? What if they hate me because of it? What if they never stop talking to me and throw rotten tomatoes and kick me into the gutter and then hit me with a car because of it?

Sound familiar? Often, our fears suddenly start spiraling out of control when we think about the potential negative consequences of showing people our work. We imagine these worst-case scenarios where we're suddenly thrown out of the village and forced to live off of rocks just because someone wasn't all that into our work. This is not healthy, but totally understandable.

After all, your work is personal. For creatives, it's hard to distinguish between ourselves and our work. If our work gets praised, we feels like we're being praised. If the work gets criticized, we feel like they're criticizing us. What our goal is, however, is to separate the two so that our work is different than ourselves. When someone critiques your work, don't take it personally. If someone tells you that your anatomy is off, then double-check your work - is your anatomy off? Even if it isn't, is the character in a pose that even though it looks that way in real life, might look like the anatomy is off?

While there are the people out there who will offer no helpful criticism and will say stuff like "I just don't like that painting" or "I think that's kinda dumb," those people really are few and far between. Also, they're generally other artists who are a)jealous of either the attention you're getting or the fact that you're showing your work and they aren't, b)are insecure and anything that isn't their work isn't very good, or c)just don't know how to properly give criticism. Either way, they're asshats who you shouldn't even take seriously, because they're jerks to everyone.

That said, you might be thinking "But those people ARE out there!!! Now it's time for me to hide back under my blankey." No! Don't go back in there, no matter how warm and fuzzy it might be!

Seriously, those people make up maybe .02% of all the people that show up to gallery shows, or craft fairs. If people aren't into your stuff (and the truth is, not everyone will be - there are people who don't like Norman Rockwell's stuff,), they usually just won't say anything.

Back to fear. Like we said before, often we let them overwhelm us until we want to crawl under a rock. Really though, what is the worst that could happen? Is the world going to end because they don't like your art? Are your friends going to turn on you and chase you with pitchforks because of your art? A good exercise to start taming your end-of-the-world scenario fears is to write them down. What exactly is really going to happen, at worst, if people don't like my art? Answer that question, and actually write it down. Don't just think about it, put it down on paper.

Maybe if you are submitting pro-Nazi illustrations and are showing in a Jewish Community Center, things might be a bit severe. But otherwise, it's generally not so bad. At worst, you get a bad review in a local paper. So what? Is that really the end of the world, or even the end of your career? We think not. If you're afraid of submitting that book proposal to a publisher, what's the worst thing that could happen? You don't hear back, or you get a rejection letter. If you're afraid of submitting your work to a gallery for review? You don't hear back. Really, is that so crushingly terrible?

Another thing you can do is to start thinking about all the awesome things that could happen. So you might get rejected from that book deal. But what if you actually got it? Say you get rejected by a huge gallery...but what if they asked you to do a solo show? What if you audition for that movie role, and got the lead? Just as important as it is to write down what might go wrong, you should definitely write down what might go right. It'll help to put you in a positive mindset that will help your brain figure out ways to make it happen.

While we both constantly battle with fear and uncertainty, we find that writing your fears down and really being honest and realistic about it will really make them more manageable. Even more importantly, realize that when you're starting out, you have everything to gain, and not much to lose. You could get that solo show, or a lead role. You could get your film produced, or that script bought. So get some paper and a pen, do some quick exercised, and then get out there and show 'em what you've got!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A.P.E Fun and Show Planning

Thank you everyone! We had an awesome time at A.P.E. Thank you to everyone who came out to support us, stopped by our booth, and or otherwise were with us in spirit. We really couldn't have done it without you. We met new friends and caught up with old friends alike. Found new inspiring artists to follow, picked up some DIY stuff (we wanted to buy it all, but alas rent comes first). All in all, it was super fun and we wish we can do this all the time!

At the end of every show, Monkey and Seal always reflect on it to see what they can improve on next time. This is a good skill and habit to have for anytime you finish a project. After packing up the show by 7pm Sunday night and unloading their load, they congratulated themselves with comfort-food dinner.

Then while it's still fresh in our memories, we proceeded to do what is called "a brain-drain." We list everything in terms of three categories: 1) What we did well 2) What could be done better/ needs change and 3) Misc. notes/ future projects/ or "what's next?"

Like always, Monkey and Seal would like to share with you what they've learned, some highlights, and a slice-of-life of what it was like:

Friday Night, Night Before Showtime

Friday night, we had trouble printing our shirts. The bulb inside the darkroom blew out so Monkey was registering the designs in the dark! By 12 midnight, we were dealing with two broken emulsion, mis-aligned screens, and no t shirt. Seal almost gave up, but Monkey pushed on. We had publicized on the APE guidebook and on our website that we would have the new t shirt designs printed. No matter the obstacle, we couldn't go back on our promises. That is a principle we uphold towards our friends and customers. So we pressed on. Seal learned how to print the t shirts, while Monkey problem-solved the screens. By the 25th t shirt, Seal has a new respect for screen-printing and Monkey's knowledge of troubleshooting. With screen printing, everything is a factor: weather, timing, amount of ink, drying time, etc. 1 second off and it completely changes the t shirt design. Seal went home around 3am to get the rest of the products ready, while Monkey continued to print, fighting off 9 more broken emulsions. By 7:30am we showered, picked up the Zipcar, loaded our stuff, and arrived at the Concourse around 9am.

We were now running on 24 hours of without sleep.

Location, Setup, and Visual Merchandising

One of the key things to a successful show is having the right location, setup, and visual merchandising. Location can make or break your show. In generality, you want to be placed where there is a good flow of traffic from multiple directions. You should avoid anything that is a extra step or obstacle for the customer to find you, for example, the second floor of the Concourse received less foot-traffic, simply because people didn't want to climb the stairs. Anywhere where there was a U shape, people avoided because they didn't want to feel trapped.

Setup and visual merchandising is also key, even if you receive a "bad or not-so good location," you can probably save it and or maximize your location, just by how you arrange your table and products. Monkey and Seal were lucky that we were in a place that was easy to find, also, we recently had a banner made with our big heads on it, so we were also easily identifiable. In terms of visual merchandising, we're lucky to have had honed in our experience by working for retail. Seal has worked at Disneyland, Starbucks, Barnes&Noble, a high end Japanese store (she got really good at wrapping presents during Christmas time!) But because of this, they know how to arrange the table, feature a product, organize by color/shape/ type of product, etc. When someone looks at your table, in a quick second, they should understand "the categories" or how things work. For example, our t shirt and ties are together because they're clothing apparel. We also learned that we needed to separate our comics from our zines, because if people picked up our zine, they assumed all our work was text-based. If people picked up our comics, they assumed that we worked mainly with images.

Some of the things we learned, either by ourselves or by watching other vendors
  1. Stand when greeting a customer. Many booths will provide you chairs, but use them only when you are on break. Remember that you represent your art, if you are slouching in your chair, your don't inspire confidence for people to buy your art. There were many talented booths, but as soon as Seal approached the artists, they looked so bored and unengaged that it was enough of a turn off not to inquire further.
  2. Along with number 1, we should be able to see the artist! The artist is part of the art package. Seal saw one talented artist, she has surrounded herself with her art, made a towering pillar showcasing her art on either side of the table, all that was left was a tiny window no bigger than an 8.5" x 11" paper for her little face to peek out from. Her art was beautiful. But damn, it looked like a prison in there!
  3. Make notes throughout the show, about what you observe, friends or customers to follow up on. Some of next best ideas, come during the moment when you are surrounded and inspired by other artists and your environment. Write it down!
  4. Take a chance and talk to people! At these events, people come from all over the place. We met people from Canada, Seattle, San Diego, Europe, Australia, etc. Some of the best suggestions for future shows, come from our neighbors whom we shared a table with. Or who knows, maybe your next projects comes from an inspiration from another person!
All in all, it was a very fun experience for us. It was a successful financial and creative show. We had fun talking to everyone and catching up with friends. Thanks for stopping by!

We will definitely be growing more for next year. We have our holiday shows to look forward and plan for. We will also be uploading our products into our online store, hopefully by next Monday. We also would like to share some resources in terms of show planning, such as time line or checklist on what to bring. These will be uploaded as well this week.

In the meantime, keep rocking your art! Keep growing!

Quote of the day: "So long as a person is capable of self-renewal they are a living being." -Henri-Frederic Amiel