How to have a Victory with Open Studios!

Here in San Francisco we are just a few days away from open studios. (Mine is on Oct. 12, 13, 14….oh man)  ArtSpan’s SF Open Studios is largest and longest running Open Studios program in the country. This week I am frantically making lists of the things I need to do, and fighting off the panic. As the co-chair of ArtSpan’s Open Studios committee I get asked a lot of questions on how to prepare for the event. Over the last 6 years of doing it I have a good amount to share. Here are some key incites that will help you to have a some victories with Open Studios.

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First Stop – The Toolkit – Did you know that ArtSpan volunteers have comprised a toolkit to help you succeed at Open Studios?  It has a wealth of information in it.  Anything from postcard designing, to sales receipts and what food to set out in your studio.  If you have questions….hopefully its in the toolkit.  So stop there first.  One of my personal favs in the toolkit is the timeline….showing you when you should be ordering postcards and getting ready.  I find that super helpful.  Check it out here…

Check The  Variables… – Look…there are things you can control about Open Studios and things you cannot control.  You can say to yourself I wanna sell all of my work and make ‘X’ amount of dollars during my Open Studios.  But that is not something you can control.  There are things on your list that are NOT variables.  Like, you can invite 50 people by phone.  You can go door to door and tell all ten of your neighbors about your Open Studio.  You can give out 100 postcards to people.  You can make sure that the coffee shop down the street has SF Open Studios Guides.  Do you see where I am going with this?  You can do action items that are attainable and if you do that to the best of your ability you will have a successful open studios.  Which brings me to the next piece…Victory.

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Defining Victory – What does it mean to be successful at Open Studios?  Is Open Studios a good place to sell your work?  Can I pay my bills with this event?

Certainly for each of us the answers vary greatly.  I have always approached Open Studios as a ‘get to know me’ event.  Since I can’t control if people buy my work or not, I tend to not look at it as a SALES event.  My mission is to show people my work and studio and get them acquainted with my story.  I work to get names and emails onto my mailing list.  I give out commission information.  I talk and tell stories all weekend.  I work really hard to invite a lot of people to my event.  And I curate and present my work in the best light I can so that people can enjoy it and start to follow what I do.  And if that is your goal and you put in the time and work….you win.  Even if no one buys a single painting, you nail all the things that you can control and have a victory in that.  THEN when someone does buy a piece of work its like a bonus round.

Approaching the event this way has really helped me on the days that there were no sales.  It has helped me see that maybe I didn’t make much money one day, but I did get 46 new people on my mailing list….and as I have managed that list over the years, some of those people have followed me and come out to shows…and even now collect my work.  So for me, Open Studios is about playing long-ball.  It’s nice to sell stuff…and I usually do well with prints and things, but its really great to meet new collectors and get people excited about what I do.

Now I know this approach may not work for all of us.  Some folks are in this event to pay their bills.  More power to them and I hope they kill it.  Even still….look at the things that you do have control over and make sure that you do that work.  Then you will have a victory either way.

I hope to make it out to all of your open studios this year.  Its a huge event.  Go kick buns.

See you soon.

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SF Open Studios  – Check out over 800 participating artists over 5 weekends of SF Open Studios.  Its a huge part of the SF art community.  Artists are happily welcoming YOU to their studios…so please check it out.

Change of Seasons

This Saturday was the first day of Fall.  And for a lot of us, it’s our favorite season.  This got me thinking about how the light changes.  How the sun hits the trees from a different angle and how the shadows all change from how they were months ago.  And it got me thinking about big projects.  I work in series very often.  And a few years ago I came up with a metaphor that works for ANY big project.  Especially art stuff.  Check it out.

You can look at the nature of big projects like the seasons of the year.

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Spring –  Ah Spring.  The fresh air and smell of grass and flowers blooming, so vibrant and so alive.  Spring is like the place where your ideas are born.  And sometimes they run fast like a raging river.  They bloom almost by instinct.  You have all these fresh ideas and you just do your best to write ’em down before you have MORE new ideas.  When you are starting a project this is certainly the brainstorming and also the planning part.  You are excited, alive, and ready to make the magic.

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Summer –  Summer, the days get longer, you do cool stuff like play in the yard with the hose.  Or in your studio.  You are doing the WORK of your project.  It’s fun and memorable but it can also be challenging.  Just like Summer can be too hot, you may find yourself pushing hard to the end of each day.  You planned 20 paintings in this series and now the rubber has met the road and you’re on painting number five.  But hey, enjoy it.  The parts that you love in the end are the work.  I mean, this is what we signed up for, right?

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Fall – This is it…all the work is done.  All the preparations for the show are finished.  No more work can actually be done.  All the seeds were planted, the plants were tended and now it’s time to harvest.  You are going to present your series in a gallery or your giant sculpture to the world for public consumption.  You will gather and garner all the support and nourishment you can from them.  THIS IS THE HARVEST.  Enjoy it.  You earned every bit of it.

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Winter –  The harvest is over.  The food is stored.  The crowds all go back to their homes and now you are left alone to rest and hibernate.  You need time to fully see the scope of what you did.  You need time to rest.  To sleep.  To get solid.  Often times, you need to repair the things you have been neglecting while you were out working.  So take the time to repair.  Soon enough you will see signs of spring again.

And the whole thing repeats.  Sometimes our society heavily values Spring, overvalues Summer, and is obsessed with Fall and pays very little attention to WINTER.  If you look at folks working big career jobs in the United States, their time off is rarely valued.  As artists we get told that we are lazy if someone should see us resting and refilling our brains with ideas.  Sometimes that person telling us to get to work is ourselves.  You must take time to refill the batteries.  So don’t discount Winter.

On that same note, try and find a balance between all the seasons.  You can certainly work way too much in the Summer.  It happens.  That is kind of why the days get longer.  You can work on your stuff and turn it in half-assed just because you need the Harvest so much.  So I see a lot of artists rushing things just to be in shows…..maybe that isn’t the best way to go.  Although I have done it too.  And Spring can be deceptive as you have all these amazing ideas springing forth you forget that eventually, you gotta get to work.  Spring slips into Summer somewhere.  You can’t stay there forever and NOT do the thing you came to do.

As an artist do your best to check in with the seasons and see where you are in your project.  That certainly does not mean you have to line it up with the actual seasons. It’s a nice way to keep you and your time in check for a project.  This is one thing that has really helped me a lot over the years.  Kind of a Zen way to see it.  See if that resonates with you.  Till next time.

 

 

 

Written by Josh Coffy and edited by Harmony Anderson.

Express Yourself (Talking About Your Art)

How do you talk about your art?  Do you love each and every piece of your work?  Have you ever said that this piece isn’t your best piece?  Is that a good idea?

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Photo by Bara Cross on Pexels.com

One of the challenges of being an artist is speaking well of your craft.  At times, we can be unsure of a certain piece or have doubts about it and that can lead to talking about that piece in a negative light.  I have met with several artists in their studios and at openings that do this.  EVEN when you compliment their work they seem to want to bash it, as a form of honesty.  But this self-deprecation can be incredibly detrimental to the sale.  After all…if the artist dislikes their own piece how do they expect anyone  else to like it?  Patrons want to buy work from artists that LOVE their work.  So let’s dig into this a little deeper.  Here is a recent conversation I had with an artist…at their opening.

Joshy: “Hey, congratulations on the show everything looks terrific”

Artist: “Thank you.  Thanks for coming out.  How are you?

Joshy: “I’m doing great.  Wow.  This bird piece is my favorite one in the show.  Just spectacular.”

Artist: “oh that one.  yeah well, it was a really tough one to do…I made a lot of mistakes on the feathers.  I’m sure you know how it is.  But I think it came out ok.”

STOP.

At that point, I wouldn’t have even looked for mistakes in the feathers.  And, if I had seen something, who is to say that wasn’t a stylized choice made by the artist?.  Internally as artists we know all the mistakes with our work. But get this…WE are the only ones that usually see them as mistakes.  The viewing public sees these things as artistic expressions.  So you don’t have to give a disclaimer to all of the problems you have with your work.  When someone sees your work for the first time and they make a connection with it.  LET IT BE.   They like it for their own reasons.  You certainly don’t have to undercut their expectations and connection by saying you didn’t like it.

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Age of Wonder (Line Drawing Piece)

One year at open studios I had meticulously put up several paintings in my studio.  And just for fun I put up a panel on my easel with just the background and a line drawing on it.  I figured it would show my process.  Literally, it was a colorful panel with a bear line drawing on it (Left)….in white charcoal pencil.  After an hour or so into day one, a woman came to see my work.  She loved it all and looked at the piece on my easel.  Before I could say ‘Oh that’s a piece I just started and its a bad line drawing…etc.’ She looked at me and said, “I will take it!”  I hadn’t even considered selling this unfinished work, it was literally just a sketch.  But she loved it and HAD to have it.  So I told her I needed a day to varnish it and then I could deliver it.  She paid for it in full and walked out.  I was shocked.

You never really know what people see.  And it really isn’t your job to GUIDE them.  Your job is just to make the art.  If you don’t like something, guess what – You get to paint something similar on the next 500 paintings.

Now before we get too far off track…Let’s go back to talking about your work.  It is imperative that you speak well of your work especially if you want it to sell.  Patrons and supporters want to support someone they believe in.  And if you believe in your art…they will too.  Now, how do you do that?  Where do you start?  Try appreciating all the things that this painting taught you.  Maybe you struggled with it during the drawing part.  Well, that is a good lesson that drawing takes practice.  Maybe the colors never were quite right for you….again color and composition are a skill that takes years to get a handle on.  If you look at each painting as a learning experience you will have better things to say to people.  When you speak about your work from a place of appreciation it is far more positive than the deprecating negativity bits.

Patron: Speaking of one of your challenging pieces – “I really like this crow piece you painted it’s so colorful”

You:  “Thank you,  I am so glad that you like it.  This piece taught me a lot of new things about colors.  And I am really happy to have learned about some new color combinations…”

Sounds way better than “yeah that one was a huge pain in my ass and I can’t believe you like it.” doesn’t it?

So try starting with an appreciation for each painting.  Another technique I use is Talking Practice.  I learned this from rock musicians.  Whenever big fancy rock bands come out with a new album it’s always “their best album yet”.  At least that’s what they say.  Why do they do this?  Do they always make the best albums…no.  They do it because they want you to check out their latest work.  Artists can do the same thing.  Each new thing you make may not be your best.  But no one really knows that, especially if you say that this is the best for where you are right now.  And maybe you did struggle with some pieces in this series which is actually part of the gig. After each piece is finished in my studio, I practice the things I am going to say at the opening about it.  And I connect a cool story to it and practice that before it leaves my studio.  Then I’m better prepared to talk about each piece to people at the opening in a positive upbeat manner instead of relying on self-deprecation.  Give this a try for yourself.  I would love to hear what kinds of things you say about your work in the comments below.

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Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Lastly, there is a weird paradox afoot with art making.  Over the years, I have found that the pieces I have made that I thought were absolute shit and weak for whatever reason, sold first.  That piece I hated was sometimes the one that sold first at open studios or gallery openings.  Someone would come in and be like “THAT is my favorite one of  yours!”  WHAT?!  Conversely, the pieces that I think are my absolute masterpieces are still in my inventory.  So it behooves you to speak well of all of your work.  It’s all part of you and your journey.  And you never really know what people will connect with….again your job is to make the art and present them all together so people can make up their minds.  Don’t stand in their way with negativity.  Thanks.  Until next time.

 

 

Edited by Harmony Anderson.  Written by Joshua Coffy.

The Tide Rises

I have been giving quite a bit of thought as to what the first post was going to be for the blog.  I really want to set the tone and lay out my philosophy for art business and the art world.  Sometimes,  I think I think ‘too big’.  Maybe it is best if we break the philosophy down into little bits that we can explore together.  And with that….we should start at the beginning.  Makes sense right?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 ‘A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats’

This is one of my favorite sayings.  And it definitely relates to my art journey, my art business, and my life.  At its core, it is about supporting those around you.  When you support others we all win.  Let’s look at that in the context of the art world.

I volunteer quite frequently in my local art community.  Here in San Francisco, my main point of volunteering is with ArtSpan, a local arts charity that supports artists through year-round resources as well as hosting the nation’s largest and longest running Open Studios program.  I have done a lot of amazing things with ArtSpan.  From painting giant murals to doing community outreach and youth art programs.  I love volunteering for them.

When you volunteer you meet lots of interesting people.  Artists, non-artists, collectors, etc.  And as you work alongside these folks you are automatically building your network.  If you leave a good impression on people in these interactions you never know how that is going to come back to you later.  So that’s one way the tide lifts.

Another way to support others is simply by going to their shows, celebrating other artist’s victories, and getting rid of the ‘art is a competition’ attitude.  Look….If someone is selling art you should be psyched.  That means ‘Team Artist’ is doing well.  That means somewhere out there someone is buying art!  They could be buying your work next time.  So lose the competitive attitude.  Jealousy and grudges leave a terrible impression on people.  And people will always remember the way you made them feel.  Be happy for those around you as they will return that favor when it’s time for you to sell art.  Support “Team Artist’.

When you support those around you, you build really strong bonds with people.  Your immediate community becomes stronger.  Your ability to access resources grows tenfold.  You start learning new and better ways to deal with huge challenges.  And, at times, when mighty obstacles arise you will have a network of people willing to help you overcome them.  That is the nature of ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’  Treat people well and they will be willing to help you succeed as well.

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“Desafiando la Marea”  – Oil on canvas, 48″x 24″ by Claudio Talavera-Ballon

Lastly, I am here to share what I know and to support YOU.  In this blog I want to talk about art biz stuff.  All things pricing, dealing with galleries, connecting with people, art archiving, etc.  I am sharing this stuff because I hope that it helps you.  Much of it I learned from people that I look up to….So it’s kind of like a tradition being passed down.  In supporting you I am sure I will relearn a few things.  But please feel free to ask all the questions you can along the way.

So for the remainder of this blog I will likely reference this phrase.  It is something that I strive to live by.  And it definitely is something that I have built ALL of my art philosophy on.  So if you haven’t heard it before….let it sink in a little.  How are YOU going to lift the tides a little?  What can you do to support those around you?  I would love to hear your comments and answers.  Until next time.

 

 

This post was written by Joshua Coffy and edited by Harmony Anderson.

 

Welcome to the Hustle

sethdrawingWelcome to my brand new blog called  ‘Zen of Hustle’  This blog will lay out my philosophy of making a living as a full-time (or part-time) artist.  That philosophy will cover many topics from pricing your work and dealing with galleries to finding inspiration and plugging into your local art community.  You know…art business.

I am a visual artist.  I paint using mixed media and acrylics.  I have been doing art as a full-time career for 5 years.  And in that time I have picked up a lot of useful experience.  I would like to share what I know with all of you…and hopefully learn some new things in the process.

Not only do I plan to have regular (monthly? maybe more) articles and essays about art stuff, but I am also looking to do some interviews with artists.  I will even host some guest bloggers along the way.

So thank you for checking out my site.  Sign up and subscribe today.  It’s free.  And let’s start talking shop.

 

Portrait Drawing by the incredible Seth McCorkle at SethAlmighty.com