My blogging has been a slow process, documenting my journey for the last seven years. Recently, I have decided to update my methods. I now have a YouTube channel which will be another way of sharing what I've learned over the years. Below is my first attempt at sharing how to make a living as an artist. Please check it out!
As usual, I would love some feed back. Comments, suggestions, requests...
It really was a tough winter. ( and last couple of years...) It started last summer where fatigue had taken over my life. I was supposed to start at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University In Boston in the Fall. (That's a long damn name for a college! How are they going to fit that on a sticker for the back window of your car?) I had some huge shows planned and thought that I'd come up with what little money that I hadn't received in grants and scholarships without a problem. I had had some fatigue issues as well as some joint and muscle pain over the course of the last few years, but had been brushing them off as a distracting annoyance. Doctors hadn't found anything, and they were running out of tests. Through a series of mishaps my big shows were falling through one by one. By the time August came around the heat induced fatigue that I was feeling had pretty much shut my ability to work down. Feeding myself and showering were about as much as I could handle and any slight act quickly became too exerting and ended up in a much needed nap time.
A couple of weeks into August I started dropping my paint brush... A lot. I could barely hold onto it. And, when I did hold it it felt like my wrist was broken. The Doctor scheduled an MRI and the SMFA ( that fits on a sticker!) deferred my enrollment. In September I started classes again at the local community college so that I wouldn't have to start paying back my fafsa loans. One class was a lecture series that I thought would be an easy A. We sat and looked at slides of Art and discussed them for three hours a week. Trying to look at that screen and take notes in a dimly lit classroom made me realize that I couldn't see. No, really, like, at all! I hadn't read much since finals. Over the course of the summer, my vision had not just faded, but had become lousy, and the light from the projector and the glare from the screen made it worse. It was October before I got in for that MRI. The conclusion; MS. The diagnosis left me reeling for a bit. How can you be an artist when you can't hold a paintbrush, or see what the hell you're doing?
When you start believing that everything is going to go wrong, it does. A couple weeks later, my dog died, then I lost my health insurance a week before I was supposed to meet with the Neurologist, then something else, and something else... ( things too personal to tell to strangers reading my blog, but if you want to buy me a beer I'd be happy to sit and talk about it for a while. )
Ironically, during my series of interviews with the Museum School, I had a discussion with one of the admissions counselors about how I was an Artist with a lack of angst. I told them that my life was good and that my work, unlike some artists, was not an emotional release, but a haven, my safe place, a dream. I think that there may be some angst now.
I have never told this to anyone, but when I can't paint, I end up in a dark place, a very dark and scary place. I start to think of ways to get out of that place. When I go to bed at night in this very dark and scary place, and know that I'm going to wake up in the same very dark and scary place, I start to wish that I just won't wake up, that not waking up is my way out. I don't ever contemplate killing myself, but wouldn't hesitate to welcome death should it knock on my door. This is a place that I've been to many times before; standing on the edge, looking out over the darkness. It is this place, my fear of it, and contempt for it, that gave me the courage to say,"Fuck it!", and ignore others disapproval of my choice to live as an artist, to ignore their telling me to grow up and get a real job, to ignore the fear of possible homelessness and self-imposed poverty, and embark on a path towards my dream. This time, to deal with all the shit, the heartache, the worry, and uncertainty, the fear of losing it, I stepped back from the edge and painted.
I can't see a pencil line, so there are no sketches. The color in my left eye has faded to near grays. My hand throbs as I hold a brush, my knees and feet ache as I stand on the concrete floor of my studio. Yet, I stand there, with a patch over my left eye, a cane in my left hand, and my paintbrush duct taped to my right, and I fucking paint. My whole life I have dreamt of being an artist. When someone asks me what I do for a living, it is what I tell them. Until that moment where the pain didn't matter, that moment when you're willing to lie on a cold concrete floor and paint with your canvas lying next to you because you are no longer able to stand. The moment where you have to lift your legs out of bed and place your burning, tingling feet gently on the floor, and walk down stairs slowly, one step at a time, back to that cold hard floor to do it again, and again, and again, to finish your work. Until that moment saying that I was an artist was all lip service. Until that moment I was never truly an artist. But now, I know I've never been anything but.
If you look back over my blog, you'll see that my painting has never been that good. It wasn't about the finished product as much as it was about the learning process. Looking at the pictures of my work on here myself, I cringe at some, still like others, and learned a bit from each of them. Betty Carroll Fuller, my painting instructor for two semesters always told me to loosen up. Now, I have no choice. My paintings are a far cry from the idilic little Cape Cod scenes that I painted to sell to tourists. There may now be an underlying darkness. They are abstract. They are bolder than anything that I have tried before. They are of a process that is still evolving. I'm not sure if they are even good yet. But, they are real. They come from somewhere inside and I will face anything that comes my way to get them out.
Here are some of my recent experiments. They are a far cry from old attempts, yet I can see a logical progression. Please take a look and tell me what you think of them in the comments section.
12" x 12" x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel
36" x 10" x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel
24" x 24" x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel
36" x 30" x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel
36" x 24" x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel
(panting at the top:
12" x 12' x 2"
acrylic on mahogany panel)
Thanks for reading!
Let me know what you think.
IF YOU LIKED THIS INFO, I NOW HAVE A VLOG ON YOUTUBE. YOU CAN FIND IT HERE:
When I sat down to start my writing today I had planned on writing about a new style of painting that I have been working with. I was going to put some images up, tell you how I did it, link it to my stores and other websites share the blog with social media, and be done.
The first thing that I did was open my iPhoto application and gather up the pictures. I had been using the news "Photos application for a while but found it way too buggy. So, I decided to switch back to iPhoto the other day when Photos wouldn't let me upload some edited images. I looked at the images in iPhoto and liked them so much more than how they appeared in Photos. I started editing them for todays blog. I decided that since I liked them so much more I'd do a bit more tweaking and use them in my online stores....
BIG CAN OF WORMS!
Unfortunately, as of late, these types of activities are rushed. I AM "Making a Living As An Artist", finally, and with my recent shows and starting my new Art Business, the business end of things, and everything else for that matter, has been a bit rushed. Today I had an unplanned day off from selling. Last night when I went to bed I had checked the weather. Thunderstorms all day. I decided to get up early and check again hoping that it may change. I hadn't. I got out of bed anyway. Since I wasn't out selling, I figured that this was as good a time as any to catch up. I edited the photos, started to upload them and when I got to my online store, realized just how much I had brushed over in my haste.
(The links from the following post have broken down, I no longer use Yessy to sell, I have my own online store now, CapeNative.com , the information however is still valid and applies to most of the current popular sites. Please read and feel free to leave any questions in the comment section below.)
Staying On the Radar
(Keeping your work on the host sites front page)
The examples that I'm going to give you are based on the site that I'm using, Yessy.
As you may be able to see above on Yessy's Home Page, "Max Powers Gallery-Greg Lindberg", is right there! If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I've been using them to sell my work for years. So how am I a "NEW" gallery? I cheat! Well, the NFL may call it "cheating", but I call it, "using the rules that are in place to my advantage." You need to be your own Bill Belichick. (Yes, I'm a Pats fan.) Know the rules. Before you list your work a site, read. Use them! Go there, see what they have to offer. Can you use it to your advantage? Read the fine print. On Yessy, I had the opportunity to list as either an artist, or a gallery. The latter allowed more flexability. I went with that. It fit my split personality as an artist. I am Max Powers, But I'm also Greg Lindberg. Even just as Greg Lindberg I paint in several different styles. So, I have can a Greg Lindberg "seascapes" gallery, and a Greg Lindberg "still life" gallery. I can have a "Max Powers" gallery. What about a gallery just titled "New Work"? when that works it's way down the page into obscurity, start a new gallery titled "My Latest Work", and viola you're back at the top of page one! Now this does take a little time because you'l have to re-load each work. (Don't worry, I'm going to teach you short cuts.) On Yessy that is the way it works on page one, but page two is also important.
So, now we've got our Name, at least, on page one. Page two is the actual image. You need to keep your artwork on the first or second page! I will show you how to do this in five minutes a day. These tricks will also keep you on the front page of your section! That word should be "sectionS", don't worry I'm going to show you that too.
That's is a really small image. But if you look closely, that yellow sailboat in the upper left hand corner is mine! That position will rarely last long, but you can stay on the first page or two for years by following this simple trick. Only put one painting on the site at a time!!! After that, stand back and watch your traffic. It works the same with Fine Art America, Artsy, and any site where the first filter is "recent works". So don't spend hours sitting there adding all of your artwork to one site all at once. It all depends on how you work. If you create a work, finish it, photograph it, and upload it this will fit with your patern nicely. I DON'T! I work on a series of artwork, there's stuff everywhere, it's usually chaos... I'm going to a show or sale with these works in the morning, I knock stuff over, There is no room to photograph them. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda... Even I can do this! Set up a way of doing it that works for you. Whether you photograph your work one at a time, or fourty-seven at a time, when you load them into your computer (which with the iCloud really isn't even a necessary step any more...) or sit and edit the images, here is what I want you to do:
Start a word or pages file for each Artwork. This should include all of the things that the website that you use requires from you. Images, title of the work, size info, a description... Don't just say picture of a boat. If the site that you are using allows you/ limits to use a certain number of characters know that and tailor it. If your using multiple sites know which requires what, and in the file keep a rendition of it for each. It does not have to look pretty. All that you are going to use this for is cutting and pasting. If you have your own online store, make sure in you artwork info that you include that this work is also available at your site and give the address. Mine all say right under the description of the artwork,"*** Also available at CapeNative.com ***" You may need to keep a separate image file as well. If so, start a file on your desktop for each individual artwork. This will make the process flow so much more smoothly than hunting for all the info scattered throughout your computer.
Make checking your stats a habit. This way you don't find yourself on the last page! If you miss a day, no big deal, just pick it up again tomorrow. If you can't do it every day. Find out the peak hours on that site. Make sure you do it as close, but prior to, those hours or that day as possible. You may not need to do it every day. Watch those stats. If you have a slow steady drop in visits or views have number in mind that you don't want to drop below. When it gets close to that number, think about adding another work. Go to your file and cut and paste the info into the appropriate spots and watch your numbers rise.
Reginald Henry didn't take my advice...
The next step is to get your work in as many categories as the site your on will allow. With Yessy, they allow me three categories to list each artwork in. Stretch. If I have a painting that is a seascape, what are the sub categories allowed? What else does it have in it? Are there categories for color? subject? Fit it into as many as you can. You never know what filters your next buyer may be using. By using more categories you're exposing yourself to more potential buyers. This also magnifies the appearances of your work in these categories. Below you can see that two of my works show up on the first page of "Landscapes & Nature".
When we narrow it further down to the next filter, "Beach and Ocean", I have Six art works on one page, even though they were uploaded over a series of days. Reginald Henry has six as well but all of them were loaded within a few hours. Over the course of days and weeks his name will move further and further back, whereas my name will still be on page one. There will be different images, but my Name will still be there. As people click back page by page they will eventually find Mr. Henry, but guess what, my name will be there as well. While this doesn't guarantee a sale, it does certainly up my visibility. If we go by percentages, the more people that see you work, the better the odds of selling one.
That's about it for today, my brain hurts. But I still have a whole lot more to say!
The fine folks at Not Your Average Joe's caught me again. We had been talking about doing another show sometime in July. I went in for a quick lunch one day. The Bartender that does the event planning said,"Oh good, I'm glad you're here..." ( I hate when people say that. It's usually followed by heavy lifting or a donation to a cause that I've never heard of before... Some sort of pain and sufffering, emotional, physical, or financial... )
"We've decided that we are too busy in July and August to have events. I gets too crowded. (Yadda, yadda, yadda...) Could we move your show up to June? How about the 22nd?"
I am in no position to say no to anything at this point in my life. I am an artist. That is how I make my living. A one man show is a great way to promote myself. It is great experience and an opportunity to make money! So even though the 22nd was only TWO WEEKS AWAY I, of course, said,"Yes."
I had already started some paintings because I knew that we were planning a show for July. (The end of July!) but I had nothing finished. And, even though, I don't have a job other than art, I do have an art business that needs my daily attention. I painted and worked and occasionally ate for two weeks straight. As usual it came right down to the wire. But, I did it! I pulled it off once again. I think I even may have done a decent job. We went with Seascapes and Sailboats this time. What do you think?
And while I was there I painted live...
It ended up looking like this:
It was very dark in there, and even with a light on my easel it was hard to see what I was doing.
I did sell three paintings though!
The above painting, and many more are available at both of my online stores or click on the image itself:
Why!?!? Because life is short, and I have a dream. For years now, I have wanted to be able to make a living as an artist. ( In art school they never told us that this may be an issue...) Since 2006 I have been committed to the pursuit of this dream. I have had some wonderful experiences and successes during that time. I have owned an amazing art gallery...
( The economic downturn, however, was too much to keep it going.)
Sold my work at artist shanties...
And last summer made enough money to survive by selling hand painted souvenir-type things to tourists on Cape Cod...
I painted Nautical Signal Flags on small canvasses. People could spell their kids names, their last names, their monograms... Or whatever. I had one Irish gentleman that decided to decorate his house in swear words, and loved these because he thought no one would know. ( Don't tell him that I told you...)
I made more money doing the latter than I did at my real job! Unfortunately, I was still just barely surviving. If I had had more time to create, I would have been able to sell more. I was pretty much SOLD OUT of product by noon each day that I was able to go out and sell. If I had been able to create and or sell more on the days that I had been "working" I could have prospered. This past winter I took my spare time and created more product. The whole act of creating actually leads to more Ideas. Apparently, creativity creates creativity.
( Kind of like rabbits...)
I came up with an idea for a product that I can create very quickly, and has a very high profit margin. The only drawback is that in doing this there is also this scary, awful thing called overhead. I would need capital to acquire the proper tools to be able to make this a profitable business. If I can get thus business up and running in time for summer. I will have a product that will both make me a decent yearly income, and allow me time to paint ARTWORK through out the off-season rather than crafts.( Below is one of my paintings. you could get a hand-signed and numbered print if you choose to help!)
Why $5000.00 ?
I need to purchase a stock of canvas bags in several size and color choices. I need to purchase the embroidered signal flag patches in large enough quantity to be ready for any order at all times so that I can produce them on demand right there in front of the customer. ( I may get 15 people or more with the same letters in there monograms in any given day.) I also need some basic equipment to produce and sell the bags; the obligatory 10' x 10' white tent (many sales require this, and it gives my the ability to sell in any weather), a butane powered iron ( to be able to work from locations without a power supply), two heavy duty sowing awls (strong enough to sew through canvas and patches ) One other expense are the fees that the shows charge to be a part of them. These fees are due before the selling season starts.
If you have taken the time to read this far, I really appreciate it! Here is a photo of the product. Its is a beach bag or pocket book, depending on size, with a signal flag monogram.
Generally speaking, an artist will paint first, when he has enough to form a show, then he would look into galleries or venues in which to show it. The artist finds a voice, works on it, practices, figures out where its going to lead him and then grooms that mix of talent and vision into a cohesive body of work. For a few months now I've been painting, creating but mostly grooming ideas. Between getting my inventory ready for next summers busy season, working, and dealing with life in general (which just seems to take up so damn much of my time...) I hadn't really just played with the paint and let loose on a canvas. It's that opportunity to explore and create which is what I really enjoy about art and is why I want to be an artist in the first place. Sometimes, when we get caught up in the ebb and flow of life, our focus leans toward one or even a few aspects, and we lose sight of what we are doing or why we are doing it. Whether its those little fires we seem to keep having to put out, or our own temporary loss of our vision or our chosen path, there is an unseen force that always has a way of nudging us back to center.
In my life it is important to have a certain amount of quiet time, a few minutes away from the studio, the job, the pile of dirty dishes in the sink. For me this is usually an afternoon escape to the local pub. If there is any chance for that aforementioned "unseen force" to find me, it will be on a comfy barstool in a usual spot. Since I'm not in England or Ireland and there aren't many year round options in town, I have found a little place called Not Your Average Joe's. It's a chain founded locally, It's comfortable, has good food and a great staff. One day while sitting on my favorite stool in my usual spot, that force actually did find me. The bar tender mentioned that they were going to have an Art Show. The place had been newly renovated and they had big blank walls everywhere. I told her that I thought that was a great idea and that these big freshly painted walls would be perfect. "Good!" she said,"I'm glad you feel that way because your the only artist we know! So will you do it?"
I actually hesitated. I had nothing finished. I had no cohesive body of work. There was fear inside me that had me questioning wether or not I could pull this off. How am I going to come up with enough work? What kind of work will I show? Where am I going to get the money for supplies? Can I paint enough paintings in time? All kinds of questions. All kinds of doubts. How could I possibly say,"yes."
Then she said it... She knew my work. She owned one. It is very "Cape Coddy". My painting of The Red Sailboat. "We were thinking of something a little more on the Modern end of things though... would you ever?"
"Yes!!!"was the next thing out of my mouth. It literally leapt forth, out of my mouth, off the tongue, through the teeth. No time to bite on the word. No thinking first. Somehow through all those doubts that were welling up inside, through all that muddled negative thought, from somewhere deep down inside, in a spot that I didn't realize was even there came not only a "yes", but pretty much an "Oh Hell Yes!!!" Excitement. Fear. An "Oh my God what have I just done?"kind of moment.
As we talked about it our vision for the show was very similar. and that kind of put me a little more at ease. I had two months to just paint. To paint the way I've really always wanted to. To let loose on canvas, and to let whatever happens happen. To experiment. It was winter on Cape Cod. (what would become a record breaking, cold, snowy winter...) What else was I going to do? So I painted. I experimented. I threw paint at canvas. I made mistakes. I made discoveries. I made way more paintings than I really needed. I became an artist again. I had always wanted to be able to do that. Just paint! And I did. I'm not sure if its any good. Abstracts are harder to do than they look. I put together a one man show. It was hard to get moving on it, but once I did it was even harder to stop.
The night of the show finally came, and with it so did eight inches of snow. I hadn't had an opening since I owned my own gallery. This was different. It was not only an opening.. It was my opening, my work. Despite the snow people came! The restaurant had very few customers except for those there to see me. It felt good. The restaurant made their numbers which they wouldn't have done with out those that came out to see me, and they appreciated it. As did I. And I've been invited back to do another!
Here are some pictures of the show:
I think the place looked pretty good! I sold a couple works, but that really wasn't what it was about for me. It was the first time that I'd taken an idea from conception to fruition as an artist, strictly as an artist, for the sole purpose of art, not as a gallery owner or a curator. Although I didn't make enough that night to "Make a living as An Artist", it did help in making me an artist again. It helped to remind me why I'm doing this. Every once in a while it's good to have that. My juices are once agin flowing. My ambition rekindled!
I only sold a couple works so if you'd like to see individual pictures of them you can check them out at my new online store here:
As usual it has been way too long since my last post. Another long winter is winding down here on Cape Cod and I am looking forward to another great selling season. I haven't really kept you all in the loop as to how I am doing with my quest to finally make a living as an artist, so let me fill you in...
When I last left you, I was tending bar at a great little restaurant on the Cape, It gave me the flexibility and time that I needed to work on my art while making money bar tending to pay the bills. I was able to paint some commission works and sell some prints on the side. It wasn't the perfect situation, but it wasn't too bad. All good things, however, must come to an end so they say, and the great little bar is no longer there. I was sad that it had happened, but thought I may get a chance to paint all winter. Although it made me nervous, I was also kind of excited to be able to do it. It ended up that I was only unemployed for about a week. The fear of unemployment and the inability to pay my bills was always lurking beneath the surface. A job offer came in at one of the busiest places in town and I accepted it. Once again, this job quickly pushed my artwork aside. My hours suddenly crept up and the fatigue of overwork and the irregular hours of bar tending took over. The desire was there, the time and energy to do it was not. After a few months I quit... well tried to anyway. The management and I reached a compromise, I became the part-time day bar tender. My schedule was mid week; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday days. Not quite bankers hours, but hours I could work with. Because of the amount of business in this place I could pay my bills with only three shifts! This not only gave me four days to focus on my art, but FOUR DAYS IN A ROW.
Paying my bills was one thing. But, paying for the little things in life was "a whole-nother thing". I needed to find a way to add to my income, using my art to do it was the most logical choice. For a while I had been painting American flags on shipping palettes. I would sell them here and there via Facebook and through word of mouth. I had an almost unlimited supply of palettes and I was using some cans of house paint that I had lying around to paint them, so there was virtually no over head. I looked around for a venue to sell them through and found, of all places, a flea market. There was almost no cost to me for the product and the flea market only charged $25 a day. I loaded up the truck and headed out to sell. They were a hit. My first day of selling them I made more than a week of bar tending. But, I needed to make more to sell next week. Two days of selling and I was almost out of product. Now my week consisted of two days of painting, two days of selling, and three days of bar tending. It was a lot of work, but worth it.
The flags sold well until the 4th of July. Two things happened. First; July 4th. Apparently flag season ends on the Fourth. Everyone bought them to hang on their house or in their gardens as decoration for the fourth of July. Once the Fourth was over however, so was their patriotism. The other factor was that the tourist season was in full swing. Apparently you can't fit a flag painted on a palette in your suitcase. Flag sales tapered off and I needed another product to sell. I spent one day sitting at the flea market in the sun with people smiling and looking at my product, saying wonderful things about them, but not a soul bought one. It was a beautiful day and I got a great tan, but didn't make a dime. In fact I was out the $25 for a day at the flea market, the cost of gas and my lunch. As I sat there thinking about it all I noticed a vintage clothing booth across the aisle from me. Hanging from the end of one of the racks of clothes was an old belt with nautical shipping flags. I'm not sure how I knew them, but I could read that it was just the alphabet A-Z embroidered on the belt. I noticed it, thought nothing of it, and moved on with what was now just an afternoon of tanning myself.
A few minutes later, a family walked by. They smiled and chatted about my palette flags. The youngest child in the group loved them and asked if they could buy one, his father said," No son. It won't fit in the car when we pack to go home at the end of the week." and they moved to the next booth... the vintage clothing booth with the shipping flag belt hanging on the end of the rack. The youngest saw the belt, loved it, and asked what the symbols were. The Dad knew, but didn't know what each letter was. the kid loved it and they bought the belt for him. I was just an uninvolved bystander watching it happen, not even really thinking about it... And then the child said," I wonder what it says. .. Wouldn't it be cool to have one that says my name?"
That's when the idea came to me!
I took four inch canvasses and started painting nautical signal flags on them. I sold them for $5 a piece. Most people would spell their kids name or their last name. Brides who were planning nautical themed weddings, bought the names of their entire wedding parties. I would paint for ten or twelve hours a day on each of my painting days and I still couldn't paint enough. I had to bring my paints and canvasses with me so that I could paint more as I ran out of letters. In the two days that I would sell, I'd make more than twice what I made in my three days of tending bar. My problem was that I couldn't keep up with demand, because of my bar tending job, but I couldn't quit my bar tending job because the selling season was going to end come Labor Day. Now I am making the bulk of my income from my art. Instead of being a bar tender who paints on the side, I'm a painter who tends bar on the side.