Recommended: Annual meetings

Party balloonsIf you want to meet other artists and talk with them about local resources and outlets for your own art, here’s one great approach:  Join art associations and clubs, and — here’s the important part — go to their annual meetings.

Unlike some corporate annual meetings, art associations’ meetings can be very sociable and fun.  Frequently, the associations’ important issues are discussed and voted on, board members are elected, and then everyone stays to chat.

Often, refreshments are served. (Volunteer to help the refreshment committee, for extra networking opportunities.)

Invariably, everyone discusses his or her art career.  Here’s the most important thing that you can do: Listen!

You’re there to learn from others, and — given a chance — they will tell share valuable information.  They’ll talk about where they’re showing their art.  They’ll talk about the gallery or shop or fair that was a bad experience.  They may say where they found a great deal on frames, canvases, bulk orders for batting or fabric… and so on.

Oh, it’s fine to ask questions about how you can get into a specific gallery or shop.  You can inquire about a store or show that you’re not sure about.

Start by listening to everything others say.  Don’t interrupt with your questions or comments.  Let them talk.  Agree when your experiences have been similar.

Then, when they’ve said everything that they wanted to, ask a few — just a few — of your own questions.

You can form many wonderful, genuine friendships at these kinds of meetings.

In conversations like these, I’ve learned about other, useful groups.  I’ve connected with other artists working with similar media to mine, and we’ve put together orders to buy our supplies in wholesale volume.  That cut my production expenses by nearly 50%.  I’ve met members who were opening their own shops or galleries, and were looking for consigned artwork to sell.

Attending meetings has been incredibly beneficial.

Many art associations and groups hold their big, annual meeting around May or June.  Others schedule them near the end of the calendar year.

Those meetings are one way to meet a large number of active artists, and find ways that you can help each other.

And, in some groups, the annual meeting is when members sign up for major upcoming shows or other opportunities.

Join local art groups, no matter how humble or lofty.  Go to their meetings, especially the annual meeting.

You’ll learn a lot and share what you know with others.  Meetings are usually a wonderful, relaxed opportunity to meet other artists and network with them.

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Choosing an unjuried show

Potter at a wheelHow do you choose a ‘good’ art show or crafts fair when you’re a beginner?  A few simple cues can help you, plus one reliable source.

The first cue is the quality of promotion.  Does this fair have an online presence, and does their site look professional.  (If not, tell them about my book, Sites that Soar!)

Do they advertise in local newspapers and magazines, or even in national ones?

If it’s a small show–perhaps a fund-raiser for a school or church–many crafters ask if they’ll have a food concession.  If the show is professionally catered, it generally marks a well-run show.

Another cue is the sponsorship.  If it’s an annual show put on by a town, there may be tremendous pride in how well the show is run.  That’s a plus.  If it’s a first-time effort by a youth group, it may be great, or it may be a lesson for everyone involved.

Check the show’s policy about vendors leaving early.  Empty tables discourage shoppers.  If the show lets vendors leave early without a penalty, the show can deteriorate pretty quickly.  Many top shows declare that any vendor who leaves early will not be accepted for future shows.  That sounds harsh, but it can be necessary.

If the show or fair is an annual event, the most reliable sources of information are other artists and crafters.  Ask them.  Online forums are useful, but–even better–ask people at other shows.

Ask your customers.  “What other shows and fairs do you like?” can be a conversation-starter, and provide insights into what shoppers are looking for… as well as a list of worthwhile shows.

When the day is winding down, ask other vendors, too.  Sometimes, your direct competition won’t chat with you, but crafters in other fields will.  Ask them which shows they really like.

If you’re considering one show in particular, ask about it.  Talk with several people so you hear a variety of opinions.

While you’re asking, get tips about preparing for that show.  For example, are extension cords vital?  Is there a parking area near the door for vendors to unload their cars and vans?  Do the sponsors provide chairs or should you bring your own?  (Is a pillow a good idea if their chairs are plain metal folding chairs?)  Will most booths be merchandise on a tablecloth, or will some vendors set up impressive, professional-looking displays?

Take notes.  After a show, you’re likely to be tired and forget at least some of what you learned.

Also, jot down notes from the show you were just at.  What worked and what didn’t?

When you plan your schedule next year, your notes–about past shows and prospective ones–can help you make better decisions.

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Keys to successful art shows: Have fun

Art fairs and art shows can be great or totally boring. What makes the difference? You do.

Many artists don’t like to hear that, but it’s true.

When I was a Guest at Dragon*Con 2007, I visited the”Walk of Fame” to see a few friends and buy some autographed photos.

One of the busiest booths in the room belonged to James and Oliver Phelps, who portray the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter movies. In fact, fans were waiting in a line that went fromtheir booth to the door on the opposite side of the hall.

That line was so huge, it was so difficult to walk across the room to get to other booths. Several other celebrities weren’t happy… and weren’t selling many photos. They saw themselves as competing with the Phelps brothers.

What not to do

I approached one celebrity in the room, whose photo was on my “must buy” list.

I said hello. He looked at me somewhat sourly, and didn’t say anything. Well, that could be part of his marketing, since his onscreen character is scathingly sarcastic at times.

I asked for an autographed photo and paid for it. “Are you having fun?” I asked.

“As much fun as you can have sitting in a chair all day,” he replied with some annoyance.

“But isn’t this great, with so many fans and such great costumes to look at?”

“I suppose so,” he sighed.

I wished him a good day and walked off.

Figuring that I should give him a second chance, I returned to his booth the next day. His demeanor hadn’t changed, and no one was buying his photos.

What to do, instead

Throughout the convention, I kept hearing about Marc Singer. People raved & raved about him, talked about what a great person he is, how they’d have to see what he’s doing in films and on TV, and so on.

Why? It’s simple: He greeted people with a smile. Even though his booth was in a hard-to-find corner, he stepped out from behind the table, shook hands with people and cheerfully posed for photos. He clearly cares about the fans. (He’s an excellent artist as well.)

Even on the train to the airport, I was still overhearing conversations about how great Marc Singer is. With over a hundred big-name movie celebs in attendance, that says a lot.

How this applies to you

When I have a space at an art show or an arts & crafts fair, I sell the most–and win the most awards at the show–when I set up an easel or a work area… and work.

I position myself so that visitors can see what I’m working on, but they also see me in profile as I work. (In other words, I don’t turn my back to them.)

I chat with people as they walk by. I shake hands. I hand them a flyer or some freebie that has my website info on it, and a list of galleries and shops that feature my work. If I’m teaching, I mention my next gig. (Art shows are about PR as much as sales.) And, I continue to work.

People like to be able to say, “I bought her art, and I saw her working on something new. It was so interesting to see…”

You don’t have to create art at the show or fair. However, do something (smile, hand out something free…) that makes it easy for guests to interact with you.

In other words…

People buy your art, not just because it’s “pretty” or “interesting,” but because of the energy that’s in it. As an artist, you need to convey that energy personally, as well. That’s what confirms the importance of owning your art and having it in their home or workplace.

Put great, attractive energy into your art, and into how you present yourself.

The quality of your energy–and how accessible it is to others–is key. Decide to have a great time, no matter what, when you’re at an art fair or show. That’s what Marc Singer did.

No matter how frantic you are to sell, don’t get “needy” about it. (Needy people don’t get dates and don’t remain in relationships for very long. It’s the same in every context: That “needy” energy isn’t attractive. It’s a sucking black hole rather than an effusive and dazzling energy that people want to take home.)

Treat an art fair or show as if it’s a party and you’re there to meet very cool people. Be the life of the party, and you’ll win fans and customers.

” Your needs will be met once you can find a way of projecting energy and fulfilling someone else’s need.” — Stuart Wilde

“Making art is a lot about just seeing what happens if you put some energy into something.” — Kiki Smith

“In the end it all comes down to enthusiasm.” — Stuart Wilde

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The Quadrants, revisited, by Robin Retallick

Let’s begin by understanding a couple of things here:

1. If you’re reading this, then you may be among those looking for a “fix” to life. We see others that seem to have it all, and we can’t seem to get ourselves organized. If only we could find the secret to success. Well – read on.

2. All of our life is spent in the NOW. Yet how much of NOW do we spend being regretful or anguished about the past, or worried about the future? Answer (for most of us) – a lot!

So let’s think a little about what to do in the NOW that’s right now – what to do first.

Stephen Covey’s Quadrants

Let’s look at Stephen Covey’s quadrants from his best seller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“. As Covey himself admits, this is just common sense – but it sure helps to have it laid out logically. If we classify what we have to do in terms of both Urgency (X-axis) and Importance (Y-axis), then we get four quadrants:

1. Important & Urgent
2. Important & Not Urgent
3. Urgent & Not Important
4. Not Urgent & Not Important.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it means you’re spending a lot off time in Quad 1. What Covey shows us is

A. If we allow ourselves to be driven unconsciously by the “tyranny” of the urgent but (mostly) unimportant (Quad 3), then we’re condemning ourselves to more of Quad 1.

B. The more time we spend in Quad 2, the less we will spend later in Quad 1.

So for the overwhelmed, it’s good information – make a chart of your To-Do’s and plan differently.

But for most of us, it’s not the best model for organizing our lives because much of the time, we’re quite capable of putting off important stuff – be it urgent or non-urgent. In other words, we procrastinate.

Ken Blanchard’s Quadrants

Ken Blanchard (“The One Minute Manager”) in his latest (“The On-Time, On-Target Manager”) lays out his quadrants a little differently:

1. Have to Do, Want to Do
2. Have to Do, Don’t Want to Do
3. Don’t Have to Do, Want to Do
4. Don’t Have to Do, Don’t Want to Do.

Most of us don’t have a problem with Quads 1 and 4. If it’s Quad 1 we just go ahead and do it. If it’s Quad 4, we just never do it – no big deal. It’s Quads 2 and 3 where the issues arise because many of us gravitate to Quad 3 at the expense of Quad 2, meaning things that do have to be done don’t get done.

The Blanchard advice is to do them in the order Quad 2, Quad 1, and spend little or no time on Quad 3 items. To use this model, once again chart your To-Do’s and plan accordingly. You will be better “organized”.

Working With Quadrants – A Suggestion

My problem with both of these is that, in my experience, none of us will continue to do things we don’t want to do unless we’re forced to do them. We may be forced by a boss. But if the boss is us, then unless we can get pleasure from the very knowledge that we’re now “organized” (and some can), we’re still not going to stick with it.

If that sounds like you, then you’re normal and sane and you’re not weak and you’re not poorly disciplined – so get off that kick. And here’s the good news – you’re not condemned to have less in life than those mythical “other” “better organized” people out there!

If you’ve considered the Blanchard quadrants, think for a minute about what determines why you would ever “want to” do something. Answer – because it’s fun, because it brings you joy, lets you feel good. I’m going to suggest we substitute the words “inspired to” rather than “want to” because it implies what’s actually happening here – there’s a collaboration going on between you and your inner self – your inner being – that’s causing this feeling. And nothing nada, zilch, zip ? is more important than feeling good.

Now let’s look at the “have to” bit. I’m suggesting here you think about these as the “must” do’s and the “should” do’s. The rest are “could” do’s.

1. Should/Must Do, Inspired To Do
2. Should/Must Do, Not Inspired To Do
3. Could Do, Inspired To Do
4. Could Do, Not Inspired To Do

Now segment your To-Do items and look at how many lie in each box. Starting from the bottom, Quad 4 is sort of a catch-all bucket for all sorts of things. There’s not much energy involved so you can safely ignore these items.

Next let’s look at what’s in Quad 2. If you’re typical, you’ll have lots of entries here. You may find that this is where you hang out a lot.

Quads 1 & 3 are where you need to be. In other words, in order to be truly “organized”, the task is to get the stuff in Quad 2 into 1, 3 or 4. You can work in Covey mode, or you can work in Blanchard mode. But if you truly want to break out of the rut, your “work” is to change the way you think and get inspired.

First things first

True time management and personal development means that you need to spend some time each day in quiet mode – either meditating or visualizing what you want. If there’s no time in your busy day to do that – make time. This is your truly important task. And as you do, ideas will come.

You don’t have to take quantum leaps. You don’t have to put yourself into a tailspin by quitting your job, or your relationship. If you spend quiet time, ideas will come to you and opportunities to take advantage of those ideas will come to you. In an easy and relaxed manner, your life will become what you’re visualizing.

A few quotes

“Follow your bliss, and doors will open for you that you never knew existed” – Joseph Campbell

“What we ponder and what we think about sets the course of our life. Any day we wish; we can discipline ourselves to change it all. Any day we wish, we can open the book that will open our mind to new knowledge. Any day we wish, we can start a new activity. Any day we wish, we can start the process of life change. We can do it immediately, or next week, or next month, or next year.” – Jim Rohn

“Whatever your mind can conceive and can believe, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill

“Stop thinking trouble if you want to attract its opposite; stop thinking poverty if you wish to attract plenty. Refuse to have anything to do with the things you fear, the things you do not want.” – Orison Swett Marden

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep. – Rumi – a Sufi poet

Robin Retallick is a business owner and CEO who, like many of us, is on a journey of discovery seeking some of life’s answers and learning how to achieve abundance. From early involvement with Christianity, he’s moved to an understanding of the Law Of Attraction with all that that implies. As modern physics merges more into the world of the “supernatural”, he sees the potential reconciliation of the spiritual with the scientific. He shares his insights, and processes and resources that work. http://www.money-health-relationships.com/

Article Source: http://ezinearticles.com/?Putting-First-Things-First—The-Quadrants-Revisited&id=184739

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Trademarks, original ideas, and copycats

Copying is a regular topic of discussion among artists. Recently, someone suggested copyright and trademarks as ways to protect clever product or workshop names that we use, and so on.

I can’t give you legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. But, here are a few of my experiences and opinions:

 

I’m not convinced that it’s worth the time or trouble for a small business to trademark a zine, eBook, or workshop name.

My opinion is, unless you’re the first one to do something, or the first to do something WELL, you don’t have much protection when it comes to ideas, titles, or names. Ultimately, it has to be about you, personally, and the energy that shines through in everything that you do.

Of course, those of us with slightly neurotic Virgo tendencies, get caught up in the “if you can’t do something well, don’t do it at all” trap: We don’t follow-through with great ideas because we can’t do them perfectly.

Likewise, don’t hold yourself back from great ideas because you’re neither first nor the best to do them. Or, because you’re afraid you’ll be copied.

But, unless it’s the most blatant act of copying AND you’ve got deep pockets for a protracted legal battle, don’t get bogged down by fears that you’re “copying” someone else (even inadvertently), or that you might be copied, yourself.

Oh yes, a clever workshop name makes your class stand out from the rest, sometimes. But generally, students take a class because they want to study with YOU, first & foremost.

Quirky brand/business names–such as Yahoo, Google, and Amazon–are just funky enough that people tend to remember them. “Branding”, as it’s called, is an entire field of study in itself; Internet marketing expert Seth Godin has given his books such stand-out titles as “The Big Red Fez” and “Purple Cow.” That’s a good idea.

From there it becomes a PR game, so that you (and your project) are well enough known that anyone else who does the same thing, is labelled as a copycat.

Be the very best YOU that you can be. Don’t copy, of course. But also, don’t worry about the copycats, and don’t fret if it turns out that your original idea was–at the same time–being developed in someone else’s studio at the same time.

Do what you do, and do it as well as you can. And, as you approach the big leagues, get attorneys to sort out trademark issues for you. That’s my best advice on the subject.

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Copyright and the ‘three stroke’ rule

The popular “three stroke” rule suggests that you can copy anyone’s art as long as at least three brush strokes are different.

No, that is NOT a law.

In fact, even within clear copyright law, every legal case will return a different decision.

My background in copyright law

Copyright and the 3-stroke ruleI’m not a lawyer, so this is opinion and based only on personal experience.

When I worked as an editor at M.I.T., I often helped professors rewrite portions of their own textbooks for publication elsewhere.

And, since the textbook publisher (not the author/professor) often held the copyright, I had to be sure that the professor wasn’t plagiarizing his own work.

So, I spent several days with teams of attorneys, discussing just how many changes are necessary to avoid lawsuits.

And, even in publishing, there are no clear rules.

We settled on “three to five major changes, per page” as a cross-your-fingers guideline.

Since then, and for my own art, I’ve followed copyright cases closely.

Simplest answer: Use copyright-free materials

Working for M.I.T. – with its own team of lawyers – is different from being an artist on a limited budget. You probably don’t have the resources to consult an attorney, much less hire one if you’re sued for copyright violation.

This is one reason why, from time to time, I offer products & freebies for artists to use without those headaches.

It’s also why, in the past, I’ve organized tours to popular (and picturesque) European destinations: So you can take copyright-free photos for use in your art.

Don’t make copies

Basically, you can’t copy someone else’s work (art, music, writing, etc.) in a way that deprives him or her of income that would otherwise go to that person. So, a “knockoff” is illegal.

Photocopying or otherwise reproducing someone else’s art/images to avoid buying a copy (or extra copies) is also illegal. (For personal use – for example if you want to photocopy part of a book that you own, to keep copies of those pages in a reference notebook for your own use – you can sometimes photocopy others’ work.)

Reproducing others’ art online (without permission) is very definitely a copyright violation, unless the art is old enough to be in public domain. (But, if you’re posting someone else’s photo of the art, the photo itself may still be protected by copyright. Again, the tours I’m scheduling will include museums, so you can take your own photos for use in your art.)

Additional opinions

  •  Protecting your art, online –

http://www.rightsforartists.com/copyright.html

Copyright, in general and online –

http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html

About.com on copyright for fine artists – http://drawsketch.about.com/cs/resources/a/copyright.htm

Copyright and collage

Collage is where the debates get heated.

If you use an item that you purchased in a collage that you sell, and there was a copyright notice on it, the copyright notice needs to remain visible, if possible. You may also choose to document the sources of the images in your collages, on the back of the work. (I generally don’t, but I may in the future, if only for my own reference.)

And, some artists will argue that you can’t use any copyrighted material in your collages, even an original item that you purchased. I’m not sure that I fully agree with this, but I recommend reading this and checking with an attorney if you are very concerned about this.

Every artist – especially those of us who aren’t lawyers – will interpret the law differently.

Many attorneys (and even judges) will disagree with each other, too.

We’ve all seen collages in artists’ published journals and diaries, and some of them feature copyrighted materials.

The days of Andy Warhol’s free use of the Campbell’s soup can… well, that’s ancient history.

But, copyright can be less of an issue when the individual copyrighted image is a small part of a larger work. Nobody can give you a firm rule about this, not even attorneys; use common sense.

Also see Copyright law and art – Just my non-legal opinion for collage & assemblage artists.

Fabric in art that you sell

Likewise, fabric designs are copyrighted too… but I’m not going to hand-paint every piece of fabric that goes into my quilts and other fabric art that I sell.

So, yes, my collages – paper and fabric art – include material copyrighted by others. I try to be careful about reproduction rights, but I’m less anxious about the original work, especially if I’m not creating it to sell.

Then again, if you make clothing, accessories, or even dolls from a commercial pattern and sell the finished item, you can sometimes get into trouble.

Many pattern companies specifically state whether you can sell items made from their patterns. Check the fine print.

Is this sounding confusing, murky, and just plain weird? Well, copyright laws ARE confusing, murky, inconsistent, vague… and sometimes weird!

Avoid the bulldogs!

Certain companies and estates are more watchful than others when it comes to copyright: The Elvis Presley estate, the Walt Disney company, National Geographic magazine, Sony, and Star Trek are among the more well-known copyright watchdogs. There are many others.

But, National Geographic was also sued by its own photographers when it reprinted past issues on CD-ROM, and used photos from those issues without the specific okay of the original photographers.

And, when Barbie owner Mattel sued artist Tom Forsythe over his “Food Chain Barbie” art, Forsythe won.

That said, Mattel still tries to shut down websites and artists who parody Barbie using the original dolls. If you can use any other doll for your parody art, avoid using Barbies and you’ll avoid lawsuits.

“Fair use” is not always an excuse

“Fair use” is a tangle. And, just because someone else gets away with “fair use”, doesn’t mean that you can use that same image without risks. The issue of willful intent and where the profits go, can make a big difference.

Linkhttp://fairuse.stanford.edu/commentary_and_analysis/2003_07_minow.html

The hazards of derivative works

“Derivative works” are also considered “transformative” and enter a truly gray area. But, if you’re obviously making money off someone else’s work, you’re risking lawsuit.

If you take a unique-to-one-artist concept, color scheme, or mimic someone else’s general style AND subject matter, you’re generally in “derivative” territory. How closely it matches the original, and which state you and the original artist live in, will determine whether or not a lawsuit would be successful.

Linkhttp://www.chillingeffects.org/derivative/

And, unless something is actually trademarked, you can copy the “look and feel” of someone else’s work with fewer worries.

Linkhttp://www.dreslough.com/dee/Legal/Primer1.html

“Stealing” ideas

On the other hand, ideas canNOT be copyrighted.

So, yes, if I talk about a book idea online and, say, Somerset Studio takes it and announces their own version of the exact same idea, I can’t do anything about it. Ideas -and book titles – cannot be copyrighted. (Sometimes they can be trademarked, which is a different topic. So is “intellectual property.”)

Parody is a very limited field

Parody is another blurry area. Sometimes, it’s similar to a kid who taunts a sibling and, when caught, tells his mom, “I was just kidding.” But, in other cases it’s clearly intended as parody, not to be confused with the original.

Linkhttp://www.chillingeffects.org/protest/faq.cgi#QID542

There’s also the question of celebrity images, privacy, First Amendment, and so on, such as the Winters brothers’ case.

In summary

Copyright is a confusing field for artist. The “three stroke” rule is practically an urban legend, not a law. You may need more changes – or less – to avoid copyright problems. It varies from work to work and case to case.

And, don’t forget that you can win in court and still lose your shirt in attorneys’ fees.

Personally, I’m careful about art that I sell or commercially reproduce, and generally shrug off worries when the art is for my own journal or other personal use.

My own resources

Remember, you can use artwork & photos I specifically create for reuse. (I’ll always make that clear, with whatever-it-is you’re downloading.) You can use those graphics in your art, even art that you sell.

Some other artists offer similar copyright-free images, but be sure to read the fine print before you buy or use those images.  Be sure that there aren’t conditions that may limit their use.

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9 Ways to Communicate a Rock-Solid Identity

Aisling’s notes: Bob Baker, author of “Unleash the Artist Within” and “Branding Yourself Online” offers some very helpful advice about creating interesting and helpful websites. This is a reprint of one of his articles. I wish that I’d read some of this years ago.

9 Ways to Communicate a Rock-Solid Identity
by Bob Baker

Branding has been a business buzzword for many years. But the term has implications far beyond corporate logos, mission statements and theme songs. Effective branding is all about telling customers who you are, what you do and how you do it. Despite recent tragedies in the U.S. and the bad rap that the Internet has received over the past year, more people are spending time and money online than ever before. That’s why it’s vitally important for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs alike to use the Internet to make an impact. Here are nine tips to help you carve a focused identity online.

1. Define your brand up front. When visitors arrive at your web site, let them know immediately what you do and why they should care. Far too many web sites shroud their identity in flashy graphics and ambiguous slogans without telling people what the company or person actually does. View your Web site through the eyes of a new visitor. Does it spell out exactly what your brand stands for? If not, redesign it so your purpose and identity are unmistakable. For example, Terri Lonier’s Working Solo site at www.workingsolo.com does a good job of establishing her as a resource for freelancers. The opening paragraph lets visitors know exactly who the site is for.

2. Lead with what you do, not who you are. It may defy logic, but making your company name the most visible element on your home page may not be the most effective way to reinforce your brand. A Web-based or e-mail marketing message should state a benefit right off the bat. Which of these paints a clearer identity: The business name “Dog Owner Central” displayed in large letters or the more specific description “Training tips for busy dog owners”?

3. Use a real person as a figure head. The online world can be a cold, mechanical place. Your branding efforts are more effective when you add a recognizable, consistent human element. Think of the way Dave Thomas promotes Wendy’s. If your company has a CEO or spokesperson who is closely identified with the company offline, make sure that connection carries to the cyberworld. If you run a business by yourself, by all means, put your name, photo and personal message on your web site. Nothing creates mystery and distrust more than a site that is void of a human contact and asks visitors to send e-mail to the “webmaster.”

4. Develop a fan-club mentality. Most online marketers try to generate readers, visitors or users. I encourage you to switch gears and create fans. “Users” are people who visit your web site, subscribe to your newsletter or buy your products and services. “Fans,” on the other hand, cheer you on, rave about you to their friends and eagerly follow everything you do. Which would you rather have?

5. Make good use of words. Verbal content is not only king, it’s the entire kingdom. Even though designers try to squeeze as much graphic impact as they can out of limited bandwidths, what matters most online are the words you use. I don’t buy into the less-is-more, bullet-point mentality of writing for the web. To create fans online, you must deliver useful brand-related information and speak to readers in a conversational tone. If it takes more than one or two scrolling screens to do that, so be it. As an example, illustrator Bob Staake has designed a web site that uses his personality effectively at www.bobstaake.com.

6. Make sure visual elements reinforce your identity. While words are important, the look of your Web site must also support your brand image. Is your brand best served by hard edges or softer, rounded shapes? Do primary colors capture your personality or would earth tones be a better match? Find the design scheme that best compliments your identity.

7. Become a one-stop destination. Let’s say your company sells unicorn-themed knick-knacks, posters and greeting cards. You might simply post an online catalog and a few profiles of your products. However, a far better approach would be to set up your site as a clearing house for all things unicorn-related — articles on the history of unicorns, personal stories from customers who have been touched by their unicorn possessions, unicorn-related photo galleries and message boards, etc. Your online presence should establish you as the primary resource in your field. For a great example of this concept in action, check out Hot Air Ballooning at www.launch.net.

8. Publish an e-mail newsletter. Having a brand-centered web site is great, but you must rely on people taking it upon themselves to visit it. Offering a free e-mail newsletter allows you to build a database of subscribers who are specifically interested in what your brand represents. Best yet, being able to deliver your message by e-mail puts you in control of the frequency with which your audience is exposed to your brand. Repetition is crucial. To generate subscribers, place a newsletter sign-up form on every page of your site. Note how I’ve done this at my www.BrandingYourselfOnline.com site.

9. Be visible through online forums. Small business owners should also regularly post to online forums, such as message boards and discussion lists widely read by people likely to be attracted to the brand. If your area of expertise caters to motorcycle enthusiasts, make sure you offer useful information — not just a sales pitch — in the places where motorcycle enthusiasts gather. Be sure to include a link to your web site in a signature file at the end of each message.

The Internet is still a gold mine of opportunity, especially for those who use it to create a recognizable brand identity. Use these tips to create your own indelible image online.

— Bob Baker is the author of “Poor Richard’s Branding Yourself Online: How to Use the Internet to Become a Celebrity or Expert in Your Field.” Download two chapters and get free branding tips by e-mail at www.BrandingYourselfOnline.com.

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Be friendly at shows

It’s important to be friendly when you have a booth at an art show, a crafts fair, or any art-type festival.

Often, owners of new art galleries visit shows like this, to spot new talent. You may be invited to participate in an upcoming gallery show, or find a similar opportunity to “move up” to galleries.

Here’s how it works for me:

I’m painfully shy in real life. Oh, with enough preparation, I’m fine in front of an audience. But, one-on-one such as fairs & festivals… I tend to stammer and blush a lot.

Don’t just stand there, do something!

I set up my portable easel or create a work space at my table. I casually work on some art. That helps me to dilute the focus. When someone approaches, I’m less self-conscious; we’ll usually be discussing my art, not me, personally.

Curiosity–wanting to see what I’m doing–also attracts people to my booth. Because my attention seems primarily on my work, visitors feel less “stared at”, too.

I look up regularly and smile, even if no one is watching me. I’ll usually break the ice by saying, “Isn’t this a GREAT day!” or something. Most people agree, and we chat a little about the weather before talking about whatever I’m working on, and/or selling.

Be memorable with freebies

I usually give out freebies of some kind. Maybe it’s a simple crafts pattern… a single b&w sheet that I’ve photocopied. Maybe it’s a dish of sweets or wrapped candies, with a “take one” sign next to it.

(If you can, put your name and URL or contact info on each one. That’s smart advertising!)

But, I try always to give my visitors something. It brings them into the booth, and they leave with a smile. I’ve been amazed at how many remember me for that, years later, and come back to buy something as a “thank you.”

I’ve tried professional arts/crafts festival circuit, and–especially for beginners–I recommend smaller fairs instead. I prefer the less expensive shows & fairs; at them, I can relax more. It’s not much cash out of my pocket if I don’t sell anything, and–worst case–if I create art all day, I’ve accomplished a lot.

Also, at the less expensive venues, my booth has a chance of shining in the crowd. I always work on looking professional, whether it’s a small fair in a church hall or a glitzy festival show.

At smaller fairs, the other vendors are among my best customers, too, so it’s good to be friendly. Yes, I suppose that we’re competing for the customers’ dollars. I never see it that way, myself, and I try never to act that way.

And finally, it’s vital to have items at the lower price range for people on a tight budget. Or, for people who’ve never bought original art or crafts before, and won’t fully appreciate an item’s value until it’s been displayed in their homes for awhile.

Plan to make the day fun for people who pause at your booth or display. You’ll go home with a bigger smile, and perhaps more money in your wallet as well.

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When a student copies

In the days of the Old Masters, apprentices and students would copy their masters’ works over & over again, until they could mimic the technique perfectly. Then, they’d develop their own styles.

When a student (or someone who’s learning a new technique) copies my art exactly–or very closely–I like to think of them in that context. It takes the oh-my-goodness gasp out of the moment.

From my experience, in every class of 30 students, one will want to copy my work very closely, or even line-for-line.

I encourage them to use the class to explore their own creativity. However, some students need to copy, to get comfortable with the materials or the technique.

That’s okay with me. After all, I love to teach, and I’m thrilled when people choose to take a class with me… no matter what their learning modalities.

You may have to exercise your diplomatic skills if one student copies another, or if a student suggests (correctly or not) that another student’s work isn’t entirely original. This rarely happens, but it needs to be addressed swiftly.

Often, it’s best to ask the complaining student to step outside the classroom to discuss this. If the issue doesn’t resolve quickly, you may need to ask the other student to join the conversation.

If you’re out of the classroom for very long, it’s not fair to the other students. Sometimes, you may have to leave it as “Let’s all agree to disagree,” and get back to the class. (When that happens, I usually discover that this has been an ongoing issue with one or both of the students. If so, a five-minute discussion isn’t likely to resolve it; let it go and get back to making the class fun and educational.)

We can’t evaluate every student’s vision, to see if it’s original, copied, or inadvertently “borrows” some elements from existing art. But, in the classroom, I bring up the Old Masters example. That generally takes some of the edge off this volatile subject.

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Copying and coincidence in art

Many artists–especially new and/or tired ones–talk about being “copied” by others. Sometimes, it’s not clear who is doing the copying, if anyone is. And, artists–even established ones–are often influenced by the same things as others, and develop startlingly similar ideas as a result.

RICE’S MILAGROS DOLLS

For example, awhile ago I visited Rice’s website, voo-doo-cafe.com, and saw milagros-type dolls almost identical to the ones that I’d been quietly working on for several months.

(Mine didn’t turn out as well as hers did. I sold a few and then abandoned the idea. Rice shines in this area; I don’t.)

There is no way that Rice knew what I was doing, and vice versa. It was simply coincidence.

LESLEY’S ‘FRAGMENTS’

Likewise, in the early 1980s I made pieced and appliqued quilting squares for other artists to use in their fabric art vests, wall hangings, and other art. I sewed them on my favorite treadle sewing machine, using a variety of techniques including primitive image and text transfers. These squares sold quickly in shops along coastal Maine, but by the mid-1980s when I moved to Florida, I’d stopped making them.

Nevertheless, I was stunned when I saw Lesley Riley’s “Fragments“, which are almost identical to what I was making in the early 80s.

Was she “copying”? Of course not! I doubt that she ever saw one of my fabric art pieces. Nevertheless, after seeing Lesley’s pieces I delayed plans to make more of them myself. I’m a little phobic about being accused of “copying,” I guess.

(Note: Both Rice and Lesley are very good friends of mine. And, I’ve mentioned my dilemma to Lesley, who immediately laughed and told me to go ahead with my fabric art, and not worry how it looked to others.)

SIMILARITIES ARE INEVITABLE

My point is, we’re working with similar materials, often similar inspirations… it’s impossible NOT to be on the same wavelength as other artists, whether you share contact or not. You really do have to just plunge ahead with your own projects, products, visions, and dreams. As your work evolves, your unique signature style will be there, and make the differences clear.

But, it’s vital to keep these kinds of coincidences in mind, when you think that someone has copied you, too. It could be simple coincidence then, as well, no matter how “just like mine” their art/workshop/project seems to be. And that’s difficult to detach from, sometimes, when the similarities are overwhelming… especially when you’ve invested a lot in an idea or project.

Yes, my visibility makes people think that I invented the techniques that I use. I didn’t. NObody “invented” them really… we’re all inspired by different resources, or at least in different ways.

Oh, people do research some techniques. I’m responsible for several in popular use, including one kind of gel image transfer. But, that’s still not “copying” as far as I’m concerned. I stumbled onto a few things that worked and cheerfully shared them with others. We all do this. Techniques generally aren’t proprietary.

What makes our art unique–not “copying”–is how true we are to that individual, internal voice that speaks from our respective souls.

COPYRIGHT

Copyright issues come into play when someone is using your notes, or copying your art, line-for-line. But, you cannot copyright an idea, a trend, or a project, per se.

You can trademark a name or a slogan. You can patent a specific design, including the essential points that make it distinctive. But, to do this formally can be complex and expensive, and making it into a legal issue if someone copies is generally more expensive than it’s worth. And, nobody looks good when you sue. There are always hard feelings.

This is an area where we may always have confusion and problems. We must keep moving ahead and creating from our own visions, and take a chance that someone 100 or 1000 miles away isn’t acting on the same impulses and inspirations.

YOUR VOICE IS WHAT MATTERS

Stay true to your own voice. Always be yourself, and trust in that. Art has the most vitality when it is authentic.

When you’re expressing your deepest self, your message will be uniquely yours, but it will also have elements in common with what everyone else thinks and feels, because–underneath it all–we share more than people may realize.

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