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"The Independent Artist"
Issue IV, October 2008

Consumer Ed 101: Art Buying Boot Camp

Artists who exhibit at art shows are always eager to cultivate new ways to connect with people who

will purchase their work. To that end, they often express a desire to see the development of consumer education programs.

Its heartening to see a show attempting to address this need. The 57th Street Art Fair, for 61 years a fixture amidst the leafy, brownstone-lined streets of Chicagos Hyde Park neighborhood, introduced its Art Fair Buyers Boot Camp this past June. The shows directors have recently ramped up efforts to improve quality on several fronts, instituting such initiatives as tightening up jurying procedures and visiting other successful shows to find out what works.

According to attorney Jay Mittelstead, lots of ideas are tossed back and forth during the meetings of 57th Streets directors. Mittelstead says the volunteer board works hard to make sure the fair is centered around the art and the artists, rather than being a Cmon down and have a beer and listen to the music sort of event.

The directors avail themselves of a PR firm they hired to raise the shows visibility. The firm attends board meetings, and the decision to hold a boot camp for prospective collectors developed over a couple of years. In addition to benefiting the consumers and the artists whose work they might purchase, the boot camp was thoght to be a good vehicle to get the art show featured in the local papers. (The Chicago Tribune did indeed develop a piece around the boot camp and Mr. Mittelsteads missed opportunity to purchase a portrait of Scraps the Wonder Dog, which became a central theme of the article.)

Last year was Mittelsteads first on the board. Each year, the committee commissions a local artist to create a new poster and t-shirt design to publicize the fair, and Jays wife, Martha Janotta, was the prior years featured artist. She works with watercolor and oils, painting still lifes and figurative art.

Along with leading the tours, Mittelstead and Janotta helped develop the themes and the syllabus for the boot camp. There was a booth on-site during the fair where students could sign up for tours.

Mittelstead wanted to reach collectors who were just starting out, to help them alleviate their fear of failure. He contends that there are many who would like to buy art, but feel foolish or out of their depth. If we get one person to go ahead and buy something, says Mittlestead, that would be worth it. We want people to learn to spend $100 without feeling foolish. Thats the goal.

According to Mittelstead, the boot camp participants mirrored the diversity of population that is found in the Hyde Park neighborhood itself. Hyde Park is a rich mix of local culture and high-powered academiaa grand old neighborhood with the famed University of Chicago at its heart.

As you might expect, the couple are collectors themselves. Mittelstead started purchasing some pieces right after college. He and his wife tend to gravitate toward contemporary art. Although they occasionally seek work for their collection in galleries, Mittelstead says, We dont like to spend a lot. We like buying from young artists. Art fairs are a great venue, and juried art fairs are even better. You can get some nice things there.

The boot camp will return to the fair again next year. There are plans to expand its influence with additional publicity.

While many artists might take exception to Mittelsteads focus on guiding buyers into looking for bargains and deals, the implementation of a program to eliminate barriers that inhibit fair-goers from purchasing work is much to be applauded.

Art Buyers Boot Camp:
Jay Mittelsteads Tips for Art-Buying

1. You like it? Buy it.
2. Negotiating is easier with pricey pieces.
3. Cheesy is OK.
4. Talk to the artist.
5. Photos make good first-time art buys.
6. Art can be re-framed.
7. Ask if you can test it on your wall at home before buying.
8. Start with a small piece.
9. Young artists are more likely to bargain.
10. Buy late in the day. Artists dont like hauling around art.

Find Your Style:
Define Yourself and Your Art

by Alyson B. Stanfield

Alyson B. Stanfield

Alyson B. Stanfield is an art-marketing consultant who helps her clients get more attention with better stories and planned events. Her free Art Marketing Action newsletter is emailed every Monday and can be found at ArtBizCoach.com. You can stay updated in between newsletters by visiting her frequent postings on ArtBizBlog.com. Contact Alyson at [email protected] The following originally appeared on her blog.

In order to have a successful careerwhatever that means to youyou must be able to define yourself and your art in a sea of untold numbers of artists. To do this, you must first find your style.

What is style?

Style is a word that is bandied about freely. But what does it mean? In her book Living With Art, Rita Gilbert writes, style is a characteristic or group of characteristics that we can identify as constant, recurring, or coherent. She goes on to say, Artistic style is the sum of constant, recurring or coherent traits identified with a certain individual or group.

An artists style is not good or bad. It just IS. The execution might be criticized, the colors might be perceived as ugly, or the composition seen as weak, but the style is what it is.

Your style is a combination of the mediums, technique, and subject matter you choose. Its not just that you make contemporary quilts or that you paint landscapes. Its what you do to distinguish your work from that of other artists. Two quilt artists might each create abstract, colorful compositions using the same traditional block. If both were mature artists, however, wed probably be able to tell one artists work from the other. For example, a fiber artist might employ one or more of the following in creating the quilt:

Hand-dyed fabrics from organic dyes

Loose threads hanging on the surface (rather than hiding them)
A particular fabric that becomes a signature of sorts
Text written with ink on top of the quilt
In other words, she becomes known for works that contain a certain characteristic. For a painter it might be loose brushstrokes, impasto, or a repeated image. Alexander Calder added primary colors + black to organic shapes for his kinetic sculptures. Cindy Sherman transforms her own image in each photograph she prints. What are you known for?

You can work in as many styles as you want, but if you have two very different bodies of work you will do twice the work marketing it. For three different styles, you should exert three times the marketing effort if you want to do it right. Each body of work that looks like a different person did it should be marketed to its own audience.

3 different styles of art = 3 different audiences = 3 times the marketing effort

Some artists choose to have a very narrowly defined style and seem to produce almost the same artwork over and over again with differences in color or scale. Adolph Gottlieb, for instance, painted his trademark Bursts over and over again. Some were better than others, but they all look pretty much alike. His close friend, Mark Rothko, became known for large bands of thin pigment floating on the canvas surface. The colors differ, but we know a Rothko when we see it.

You dont have to stick to one image as Gottlieb and Rothko did in their maturity. Having a style doesnt mean you must produce the same work over and over again. It simply means that you have created work that others identify with you. There isnt a higher compliment!

So . . . how do you find your style? Read the suggestions on the Art Biz Blog and, please, leave your own that would help other artists.

7 Steps to Finding Your Style
1. Set aside studio time. This is the most important thing you can do as an artist trying to make a living and building a reputation. If you cant devote non-negotiable studio time, you arent going to get very far. Most artists who have other jobs will find this hard, but the commitment is critical. Everyone gives up something to pursue their dreams. If it is difficult to honor your commitment, block out time on your calendar (in ink!) for the week. Treat it as any other appointment and respect this promise to yourself. Its the first step toward professionalism.

2. Stay organized. If your studio is a mess and you are using it as an excuse to avoid making art, fix it. Ditto for your office space. Clean out, throw away, file, categorize. Put systems (filing, databases) and routines into place that allow you to succeed. Very, very few people who fly by the seat of their pants have found success that way. More of this is covered in the art marketing class Get Organized to Run a Successful Art Business (begins tomorrow - July 11!).

3. Draw. Doodle. Write Wherever you go, whatever you are doing, get into the habit. Sketch a scene, write down your responses to other artists. The goal is to keep your pencil on the paper and to capture your brilliance before it disappears.

4. Look at art. Look at lots of art! Some people are afraid of copying other artists. Dont be. How do you think the Old Masters learned? If you do enough of it, youll work through the influences and find your own voice. If you missed out on art history classes, consider taking a few at your community college or higher education facility. You can also check out films about art and art history at your local library or through Netflix. Some of my favorites are:

Art of the Western World
art:21 / Art of the 21st Century (PBS series)
American Visions (5 Volumes)
Anything from the Sister Wendy series.

5. Experiment. You dont have to make art to sell. You can make art to grow as an artist. Try a new medium, practice a new style, copy a favorite historical work, enlarge or decrease the size, or use a color outside of your normal palette range. You are making art just for you. No one else has to see it.

6. Take a break. Its difficult to evaluate progress while youre in the throes of production. Know when its time to take a step back, get away and return with fresh eyes.

7. Evaluate. After you have taken a break, look at your work critically to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. What do you like? Not like? Ask a variety of other people (friends, family, strangers, other artists, non-artists, etc.) the same questions.
8. Repeat. Making good art is the result of being devoted to your craft. Just keep doing all of the above.

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