Category Archives: Advice for Artists

Freshen Up – Try Experimenting!

Have you ever experienced the feeling of being stuck in a rut, artistically speaking? If you’re comfortable with and proud of your skills – but somehow they don’t seem to be opening new vistas for you in the way that they once did, or you’re feeling frustrated by your inability to break through the communicative wall in your work, then you’re not alone. One of the best ways to get over this creative block is to experiment with new methods and materials. Whether you end up using them in your daily work or not, the experience will reignite your enthusiasm and give you a new way of looking at your art – and the world around you.

Karen Greville-Smith

Karen Greville-Smith is one of Agora Gallery‘s talented artists, and her work is appearing in Divergent Realities, at Agora October 10-30. In addition to creating art herself, she also teaches others – children who seize enthusiastically on new forms of creativity, elderly people who find reawakening interest in life through the skills she shares, and people suffering from a variety of mental health disorders who value her workshops as providing a fulfilling expressive outlet.

In both her own art and her teaching, she has found that working with unusual techniques – breaking into new creative ground, as it were – can be a powerful way to develop new ideas and gain fresh perspectives which feed into art. In this interview, she discusses some fun and innovative artistic techniques which have benefited her development and that of her students – and tells you how to do it, so you can try it, too!

Karen Greville-Smith, Tealights

Karen Greville-Smith, Tealights

Where do you get inspiration/ideas for your art workshops?

I go and see exhibitions at various galleries and museums around the UK, looking at fine art, textiles, fashion, ceramics and printmaking shows. Shops, including their window displays such as those in Anthropologie, can be very inspirational as well. I pick up ideas from chats with fellow artists, from magazines, books and postcards, visiting gardens, travels, going on courses and workshops as well as looking and playing with new materials in my local art shop. Getting emails from art manufacturers such as Derwent announcing new materials can also be very informative. Don’t overlook even the mundane; be alive to the fact that inspiration can come from anywhere, as you deal with your letters or walk down the street.

Selection of sketchbooks

Do you have any general pieces of advice for artists looking for something ‘new’ to inspire them?

Exploring the work of famous artists is always worthwhile for me, and I often introduce well-known works to my students at the start of a class. You can encourage yourself, or others, to look for either the obvious or for details which you might sometimes overlook. For instance, I’ve brought to past classes the works of Emil Nolde (watery splashes of colour), Jasper Johns (splashes of colour with letters and words), Helen Frankenthaler (colour staining on unprimed canvas), Paul Klee (textures & patterns), Klimt (patterns in the backgrounds of his work), Jim Dine (hearts), Basquiat (buildings & graffiti), Jessica Cooper (UK artist with minimal use of line in her paintings).

I have used a sewing machine and black thread to stitch straight onto the pages of my sketchbook

I would also say that recording information can be invaluable. I encourage everyone to use a sketchbook, even young school children. I think of sketchbooks as visual notebooks so that they can include drawings, painting ideas, tear sheets from magazines or drawings or patterned/textured papers etc – it can become a very personal journal. I think that these books can contain a variety of different types of information and don’t have to be all on one subject unless it is intended to have a theme – a specific holiday journal, for example.

I encourage people to get creative with their pages – stain pages using tea or coffee, or pre-paint some pages, or stick in coloured paper (e.g. brown postal paper) to offer an alternative to the white or off-white paper pages in sketchbooks.

I suggest that they have a variety of sizes of sketchbook – portrait, landscape, large and small – including little ones which are easy to carry about. I personally like a square sketchbook as I love this format.

A little sketchbook made using watercolour paper

A camera is another handy tool for recording information as sometimes there isn’t an opportunity to sketch when you are out and about. But remember to go through the images and save the good ones afterward!

In fact, it’s important to make a habit of going through your sketches, photos and so on from time to time, and especially, turning to them when you’re looking for new ideas. You’ve created a treasure trove of inspiration, but you have to remember to use it!

What techniques have you used for your workshops?

There are so many great options! I’ll share some of the techniques I’ve found best for adding new life and inspiration to art, both for myself and my students.

Momigami

Momigami

I learnt this technique from a very talented UK textile artist, Cas Holmes, when I went on one of her weekend workshops at West Dean College.

* Tear pages from magazines. Don’t use glossies like Vogue as the paper mustn’t be too thick. Sunday newspaper colour supplements are ideal. Experiment with other types of papers.
* Scrunch up magazine page. Pour a little ordinary cooking oil into the palm of your hand and place the scrunched up magazine paper into the oil in your hand.
* Open up the page and scrunch it up again then open it up and scrunch it up again and keep repeating this so that all of the magazine page starts to absorb the oil. After a while the paper takes on a fabric-like quality. (Don’t use too much oil otherwise the paper will be too greasy.)
* The resulting momigami paper can be used in various ways – collage, surface for stencilling, it can be stitched into either by hand or by sewing machine. I’ve stuck momigami paper onto a page in a sketchbook and then machine stitched into it – ‘drawing’ using a sewing machine thread.

Momigami, detail

Collage, white gesso and carbon pencil

The idea with this technique is to create a background then add an image only after that. You are working in reverse from the usual starting point of planning the composition of a picture first by plotting in elements. It might sound counter-intuitive, but it can really get you thinking from a fresh perspective.

Collage, white gesso and carbon pencil

* Place pieces of torn patterned and plain papers randomly onto a piece of mount board (or similar thickness of card such as back of a sketch book or ‘beg’ for off cuts from your local framer from his mount cutting).
* Stick papers down in position.
* Brush over the whole surface with diluted white gesso to ‘knock back’ the patterns/colours of the papers.
* When gesso is dry, draw an image/composition using a carbon pencil e.g. a simple still life or landscape suggested by the stuck down papers.
* This will result in a black drawing over a textured background.

Creating patterns using Indian fabric printing blocks and other textured surfaces

oloured tissue papers, Indian fabric printing blocks, leaf patterned plate, Neocolor II, neopastels and finished collaged patterns

* Place tissue papers (coloured, white or white painted using coloured inks) on top of the little wooden Indian Fabric printing blocks which have images of animals, flowers, leaves, patterns etc on them.
* Rub over the surface of the tissue paper using coloured and metallic coloured pastels such as Caran D’ache Neocolor I, Neopastels or Neocolor II to create a series of patterns.
* Create collaged pictures, sticking the tissue paper down using a glue stick. The resulting collages can then be stuck down onto black card for display.
* Other effective surfaces to use are the patterned soft rubber plates used in ceramics to create decorative surfaces in clay. Textured wallpaper can be used as well as the backs of leaves and tree bark. (Look at Max Ernst and his frottage works!)

Neocolours and coloured tissue paper

Mono printing

A
* Cut squares or rectangles from a sheet of ‘Funky Foam’ (available from Hobbycraft)

Sheet of uncut Funky Foam and printing blocks created using Funky Foam and mounting board

* Draw shape or image into the ‘Funky Foam’ using an HB pencil and then stick the ‘Funky Foam’ onto a piece of mounting board (or thick card) which is the same size as the ‘Funky Foam’ using PVA glue to create a little printing plate.
* Roll printing ink (water based) out onto a sheet of Rhenalon (transparent acrylic sheet) and then, using an inked up roller, ink up the surface of the printing plate.

Funky Foam printing blocks and prints on collaged textured papers

* Place the inked printing block onto a flat surface, inked side upwards, and place a sheet of paper (110gsm) on top, pressing it gently down with your fingers. Roll over the surface of the paper with a clean roller or use the back of a dessert spoon to rub over the back of the paper.

Monoprinting D again
* Peel back the paper from the printing plate to reveal the image (print).
* Shapes can be cut out of the ‘Funky Foam’ using scissors or a craft knife and stuck down to create patterns.

(You can also use the polystyrene base of a pizza in place of ‘Funky Foam’.)

Monoprinting D

B
* Create a printing plate using ‘Funky Foam’ and thick card as above.
* Spray the surface of the plate with water.
* Use inktense blocks (Derwent) to add areas of colour to the surface of the plate.
* Place a sheet of paper (110gsm) on top of the plate and rub gently over the back of the paper using fingers, then roll over the paper using a clean roller or the back of a dessert spoon.
* Peel back the paper to reveal the print.
* The wetter the printing plate is, the more the print will have a sort of watercolour quality to it.

Monoprinting B

C
* Place a simple line drawing under a sheet of Rhenalon (transparent acrylic sheet).
* Dip a wet brush into some squeezed out printing ink (water based) and ‘paint’ the outline of a drawing onto the Rhenalon sheet.
* Use other printing inks to add colours to this image. Work relatively quickly while the printing ink is ‘open’.

Painting onto a sheet of Rhenalon using printing inks to create a mono print

* Place paper (110gsm) on top of this ‘painted’ image and rub over the back of the paper gently using fingers then roll over the paper using a clean roller or the back of a spoon.
* Peel back the paper to reveal the print.

D

Black line mono print created by drawing onto the back of a sheet of paper which is lying on a thin layer of black printing ink

* Using a pencil, draw an image onto the back of some white tissue paper which has been placed onto the surface of a very thinly rolled out layer of black printing ink on a sheet of Rhenalon.
* Very gently rub over the back of the tissue and peel back to reveal a monoprint.
* The ink must be very thinly rolled out. Pressure marks from your fingers can appear on the print but it all adds to the ‘printerly’ look of the final result.
* You can also use 90lb (190 gsm) smooth hot or soft press light weight watercolour paper and once the printing ink is dry watercolours can be used on the print.

Someone Has To Create the Masterpieces. Why Not You?

Agora Gallery is proud to represent Jennifer Gough, who creates works that exist in the playground between order and chaos, making a compelling case for self-evolution. The way Jennifer came to art reflects this idea, and her story is an inspiration to anyone who would love to spend more time on their art – and just needs a bit more self-belief!

Could you tell us how you initially decided to move into art and what influenced your decision?

When I decided to become an artist, it was almost like a switch flipped in my brain. I was happily living my life, (for the most part) and then one day I just wasn’t. It was like all of a sudden a light went on and I started to question where I was headed and what I really wanted to do. I began to think more about being fulfilled as a person and less about fulfilling other’s views of who/what I should be. I asked myself “If you could be or do ANYTHING, what would it be?” The answer was immediate and unarguably clear: Be an artist. Just like that, be an artist. And so I did.

Would you say that you try to share your story in the hope of inspiring others to do likewise?

Absolutely. I find so many people have big dreams of being or doing something amazing, and while some are making it happen, many are not and feel they aren’t able or their dream is unattainable. I’ve had many conversations with people asking “how” I managed to create a life and successful career out of being an artist, and I hope that sharing my story helps open people up to the possibilities in their own lives and careers.

[Tweet “Art has opened up my life to the realization that anything is possible.”]

Do you think the way that you entered art, and the reasons you became an artist, have had an impact on the work you create?

Without a doubt, art has opened up my life to the realization that anything is possible. My work reflects that and helps shape the person I am and the person I will become. Art is my way of navigating that process. Art allows me to explore and grow as an individual and my work is always changing and evolving through those experiences.

Jennifer Gough, Distraction

Jennifer Gough, Distraction

Personal growth and the pursuit of happiness are key factors in understanding your art. Is this something that you pursue through art, or a part of the rest of your life that you reflect on artistically? Would you consider this a message for your viewers?

When I think about my work and my life now, it’s almost impossible to separate the two. Each day that I approach the easel I am thankful for the blessing of being able to create for a living. This is definitely evident in the work I produce. I try to channel that feeling of joy and freedom into my work and by doing so it becomes a representation of my life’s direction and the message I hope people take away from what I create.

You host a weekly arts and culture radio show. Would you say that this experience, or the show’s emphasis on local art and artists, have influenced your work?

I don’t know that doing the radio show has really influenced my work per se, but I do know that interviewing artists and hearing about their personal struggles and successes continues to inspire me to keep reaching for my own goals and aspirations. In fact, that’s the whole idea behind the New Art Radio show. There’s no manual on how to go about becoming an artist, but by sharing the stories and experiences of people who have created their lives around their passion for art, music, dance, writing, etc., we can all learn and feel more connected to our own purpose and possibilities within.

Jennifer Gough, One

Jennifer Gough, One

What would your message be for someone who was considering devoting more time to their art?

Do it! There’s no time like the present to add inspiration and enjoyment to your life. Do a little or do a lot, it’s up to you, but if you’re driven to create, allow yourself that freedom, that pleasure. Without the arts the world would be a pretty dull place. Someone has to create incredible symphonies, paint the Sistine Chapel, write epic novels and perform The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House. Why shouldn’t it be you?!

[Tweet “Someone has to create incredible symphonies, paint the Sistine Chapel. Why shouldn’t it be you?”]

You can see more of Jennifer Gough’s work on her ARTmine page or in person at Agora Gallery in Beyond Borders, October 10-30.

How To Promote Your Art on Facebook

You’re on Facebook, right? You’ve shared photos of birthday parties, and status updates about that concert you were at, and boasted about the amazing meal you had recently. You’ve even complained about days when nothing went your way and reached out for support and encouragement when you needed it, the way you support your friends when they need a boost. But do you use Facebook to benefit your artistic career?

Capture

If the answer is ‘no,’ then you’ve got a lot to think about . But even if you do already use Facebook for work it’s probable that there are more things you can learn about how to use it effectively. (And before you get started, don’t forget to ‘like’ Agora Gallery on Facebook, if you haven’t already!)

Here are some tips to help artists make the most out of Facebook:

Create a Page, and Use It. You join Facebook with a personal profile – this is what you use to share personal photos, status updates, and so on. But to promote yourself as and artist and spread the word about your work, you’ll probably want a page, not a profile, though the page will be attached to your personal account. This will help you keep personal updates and contacts separate from your professional ones – although there may be overlap, this way you can be sure that the person who bought a painting from you last week isn’t seeing those party snaps in their newsfeed. As a bonus, you won’t have to worry about Facebook deleting your account because you’re using something that should be personal as if you were a business.

Brenda Ness-Cooper, Venice Lagoon

Brenda Ness-Cooper, Venice Lagoon

Emphasize What Makes You Special. This is important in marketing more generally, but it’s something to consider when setting up, updating and promoting your Facebook page as well. There are lots of artists on Facebook, so you need to make clear just what it is that sets you apart. Whether it’s your subject matter, the source of your inspiration, your technique or something else entirely, you need to identify what makes you special, and make it part of your page – and its promotion.

Publicize Your Page. There’s no reason not to let your personal friends know about your business page – many of them may love your work and be interested in following along your page updates as well as your personal ones. You can also respond to art-related discussions as your page, rather than in your personal capacity, and join groups – and join in group discussions – which are art-related in the same way. Additionally, make sure a link to your page is at the bottom of the professional emails you send, appears on newsletters or email updates you send out, is on your website if you have one, and also is on your business card (possibly as a QR code).

Nancy Stella Galianos in her studio

Nancy Stella Galianos in her studio

Update Regularly. It’s common for people to be excited about sharing in the beginning and then run out of steam or simply forget about it later on. But if you want to utilize Facebook properly, you have to keep putting the effort in. You might not always have a new piece of work to show, but you do have works in progress. Share photos of yourself at work, or of scenes or sights that inspired you. Share ideas.

Engage. Facebook isn’t like traditional advertising – it’s a conversation, not a megaphone. However counter-intuitive this might sound, the fact is that in order for your own voice to be heard, you have to listen to other people’s as well. Share your experiences and solicit your fans’ stories too. Ask questions. Request opinions or inspiration. Respond to what they say and give the discussion a chance to develop.

Dorothy Slikker, Sharing the View

Dorothy Slikker, Sharing the View

Share Your Emotions. The best way to get people excited about what you’re doing is to show that you find it exhilarating yourself. Don’t be shy to admit how much you’re looking forward to an upcoming exhibition – it’s a great way of making frequent updates and reminders about it interesting to your fans. Don’t go overboard, of course – remember this is professional, not personal – but let your enthusiasm shine through.

Be Honest. You wouldn’t pretend when it came to your art, would you? Then don’t here. There can be a temptation to make statements or answer questions in the way that you think people expect from a brand, just because you know that this is business-related. But in reality people are sensitive to both integrity and its lack – so be polite, and be sensible, but be honest, and be yourself.

You may also want to consider paying for ads on Facebook to help promote your page and gain new fans, or, when you have build up a larger fan base, paying to promote certain posts so that they show up better in newsfeeds, to boost engagement and awareness. These paid options can be useful, but they aren’t something you necessarily need to worry about at the start.

SM

The same lessons can be applied more broadly to other social media as well, though the specifics will vary depending on the platform. Twitter, of course, limits each tweet to 140 characters. LinkedIn is business-focused so you might want to concentrate there on art professionals and other artists, people who can be important to helping you develop your career. You can join art-related groups to discuss issues or ideas with your peers, and in the process show your own expertise and experience. Google+ is linked to your email account so remember that, as with Facebook, you can set up a business page if you want to keep your personal and business lives separate.

But the essential thing to bear in mind is the same, regardless of the medium you’re considering. You want to be honest, engage with your followers, and keep putting in effort. If you do, you’ll find that you can make social media work for you – and for your art.

[Tweet “Be honest, engage with your followers and keep putting in effort. Then you can make social media work for you – and your art.”]

How to Promote Your Exhibition in 9 Steps

So you have an exhibition coming up? That’s great! Have you given some thought to how you’re going to promote it? No? Not so great. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: However wonderful your art is, no one will buy it if they haven’t been exposed to it. And most of the time, that doesn’t happen by accident – you need to put effort in to make it happen.

Hein van Houten at his reception at Agora Gallery

How much effort depends on where you’re exhibiting – there are some galleries, including Agora Gallery, which provide considerable promotional material and make efforts on your behalf. You must make yourself aware of what is being done by others to promote both the exhibition and your work so that you can plan your own promotional activities.

1) Press releases and artist statements. You’ll need both a press release and an artist statement for yourself, personally, and you may also want a press release for the exhibition – though this may well be provided by the exhibition coordinators. Agora Gallery provides both of these for its artists, but if you’re exhibiting somewhere that doesn’t and you don’t want to write them yourself, check out Everything For Artists.

E4A

2) Printed material. Press releases, artist statements, catalogs, posters, exhibition cards, invitations – all of these can be extremely useful in print form before, during and after the exhibition. Beforehand, you can place them in strategic places to advertise the event, during the exhibition you can have them near your work, at the reception desk, and so on, for those who have admired your work and would like to know more, and afterwards, you can use them to show off your work and your experience. Again, Agora provides these, but not all galleries do; you can go to Everything For Artists if you need to arrange them yourself.

3) What makes this show different? Just like with your artwork, you need to know what makes this exhibition special. This is relevant both on a personal level – what is unusual about this for you? Is it your first exhibition in New York? Does the work represent a new departure? – and regarding the exhibition – is it in an interesting location? Is it an annual event? These details can help your show stand out.

Juan Fernando Silva, New York of Gold

Juan Fernando Silva, New York of Gold

4) With this uniqueness in mind, approach relevant organizations who might be interested in it. Let journalists know about your particular twist. Think outside the box and try to come up with connections to specific groups or individuals who would be likely to be especially interested in your exhibition.

5) Work with others. Is it a collective exhibition in a gallery or fair that doesn’t provide promotion? Then you might want to be in touch with other participating artists, so that you can work together to produce a greater effect. You can share the costs of printing materials, and make sure that your promotional efforts don’t overlap so that you cover more ground.

Vali Kolotourou, The Collector

Vali Kolotourou, The Collector

6) Don’t ignore the local scene. It’s true that art lovers will go some distance for an exhibition or art fair, but the obvious population to target is always the one that lives next door. If there’s a local art scene, then that should be a priority, but local businesses, newspapers or magazines, cafés and cultural centers can all be useful places to advertise. Explain the appeal in local terms and they’re more likely to let you put up a poster or leave some exhibition cards.

7) Target people who already love your work. You probably have a list of collectors who’ve purchased your work in the past, a mailing list of those who have expressed interest at some point, friends and family who could all help to spread the word – make use of them! If they love your work, they’ll want to see you succeed. Make sure they know that they could really help, and make sure to thank them when they do.

Family at a reception at Agora, June 2014

Family at a reception at Agora, June 2014

8) Use social media. Do you have a Facebook page to promote your art? If not, you might want one – and no, it’s not the same as  a personal profile. A Twitter feed? Do you participate in art-related discussions on forums or groups? These are great platforms to get the word out, because it’s so easy for people to reshare the information with others. If you don’t spend much time updating your Facebook page, you might want to put more effort in, especially coming up to the show, so that people who see the posts in their newsfeed start getting excited too.

9) Share your excitement. This really is important – with anyone you want to help you in any way, from a journalist, to a café owner, to your cousin, you’ll find they’re more likely to respond if you show them how exciting this opportunity is. It’s infectious; you want them to start to feel that way too.

Good luck!

Learn From the Art of Your Past

Working at Agora Gallery, we get to talk to a lot of artists about their creative process and the development of their work. This is always fascinating as well as a pleasure, but there is something that has come up from time to time that is worth mentioning here. As an artist, it can be tempting to engage constantly in the search for the next thing. This has its advantages, but remember – letting the past into your art can be valuable, too.

Mark Salevitz, Left Looking Back, 2012

Mark Salevitz, Left Looking Back, 2012

Do you ever feel that your brain is overflowing with new ideas? Does it seem that there are never enough hours in the day to try all the things you’d like? Many artists feel like this, sometimes frequently. This is a wonderful thing – living with, exploring and enjoying this level of creativity is an integral part of being an artist, and is probably a big part of why you wanted to spent time creating art in the first place.

In many ways this is something to be proud of – and certainly, despite the challenges it can occasionally present, you should use it to fuel and guide your work. When there’s more than you can cope with all coming at once, capture your thoughts in a notebook, sketchbook or with a camera; you can always come back to them later.

Yukihiro Murai, For Vincent, 2013

Yukihiro Murai, For Vincent, 2013

But this leads to the risk of all that creative impetus. It’s possible that you’ll always be so set on the next thing that you’ll lose track of what you’ve done in the past. Those notes in the sketchbook might go unconsidered for years, perhaps for ever. Don’t let them settle in your mind as being only associated with that particular project or piece. Just because the project has wound up or the piece has been completed, that doesn’t mean that it might not have more to give you.

The same goes for your previous styles, techniques or stages. I was talking to an artist recently who had spent a lot of time after college working with wood and metal. One thing had led to another and his next stage involved found objects and mixed media – something he enjoyed very much. But it took him years to remember that he’d initially intended to develop his carving skills to allow him to sculpt in wood as well as incorporate wood into metal pieces. It wasn’t until his son started woodwork in school that he remembered this plan – and, going back to it, he found he enjoyed it enormously. It now informs his current artwork.

Varda Yoran, Solo

Varda Yoran, Solo

That story had a happy ending (not least because he and his son now sometimes practice together) but the fact is that if it hadn’t been for good luck, that artist would never have remembered that he wanted to learn to carve. Yet it has been a valuable addition to his artistic ‘bag of tricks’.

Remember those things you learned when you were starting off, in a class, in college, from a friend, from a book, on YouTube? You left them behind when you moved on – but don’t be afraid to go back to them. Even simple things such as color wheels or exercises in perspective can provide a fresh, interesting angle for you, now that you have the benefit of experience.

[Tweet “The message is simple: always be ready to learn from your past.”]

That doesn’t mean ignoring the potential of the present, the exciting ideas that you want to follow up today. Just remember, tomorrow, that there are other possibilities, too – other paths you can follow to grow and develop as an artist. The ones you looked down but didn’t have time to take, in the past.

7 Tips for Turning Tourism Into an Art Marketing Opportunity

At Agora Gallery, we’re used to seeing artists on vacation – in our case, visiting NYC! We know that while the artists themselves are taking a break, they never really leave their work behind them. Even if there’s no chance to engage directly in their creative process during their vacation, they’ll be visiting art galleries or museums, taking photographs and making notes that will all feed into their art once they’re back home. It’s part of the way many artists enjoy themselves while they’re on vacation – it enriches and gives a little structure to their time away.

Brenda Ness-Cooper, Ready for Summer

Brenda Ness-Cooper, Ready for Summer

What many artists don’t realize, however, is that vacation time – either theirs or other people’s – can be good opportunities for building contacts who might be useful later on. As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, it’s not always about active marketing – taking advantage of an opportunity when it arises is just as important! Here are 7 tips to help you make the most of this time of year, when so many people are on vacation.

1) If you’re in a new place, and want to explore the art scene there, go ahead and enjoy it – and don’t forget to bear your own career in mind while you’re at it! Check out the differences between this place and where you live, consider whether your art could be appropriate here, talk to local artists, dealers or gallery owners and see if there’s anything you can learn from the way things are done.

Steven R. Hill, Sultry Summer Day Richmond

Steven R. Hill, Sultry Summer Day Richmond

2) Keep an eye out for local events. Is there an art fair being advertised for next week? An art auction announced on posters around the town? Pay attention and pick up on these things – you never know, they might be of interest!

3) If you’re on vacation, it’s likely you’ll end up engaged in conversation with both locals and other tourists at various points in your time away. You don’t want to be pushy with personal advertising, of course, but there might well be times when the conversation naturally comes around to what you do. Don’t be off-putting – encourage their interest and chat about your work.

4) Carry business cards, ideally with your website address. Yes, you’re away from the studio, yes, you’re not working. But there’s no harm in carrying a few business cards around with you! And that way, if someone does express interest, you have an easy way of encouraging them to follow up later.

Iryna Brown, End of Summer

Iryna Brown, End of Summer

5) Maybe you’re at home, but there are tourists around for the summer? Don’t groan every time you see them – welcome them as part of the scenery. If they disturb you while you’re working out of doors, don’t snap at them – start up a conversation about your work. Invite them to look more closely or even visit your studio. You never know where your next client might come from.

6) If you are at home, and you know in advance that it’s likely that tourists will be arriving soon, consider how this might play into your ideas for promoting your work. If the visitors are enjoying the local sights, they might well be open to purchasing art which reminds them of their vacation. Think about where you could display work to take advantage of this.

Patricia Brintle, My Summer Garden

Patricia Brintle, My Summer Garden

7) Be prepared for conversations with interested strangers. Pinpoint the factors that make your art special. Whether you’re at home or away, be clear in your own mind about the things that inspire you and the way that you work.

Don’t let these considerations intrude on your vacation, and don’t allow them to make you stressed instead of relaxed in the hot weather. But if you think about these things beforehand and take them seriously, you’ll be prepared to make the most of any opportunity that is offered – and you never know where that will take you!

Away from the Studio this Summer? Make the Most of the Opportunity.

It’s officially summer, and that means that the summer vacation is approaching. Schoolchildren all over the country are delighted, but their relations aren’t always as thrilled – and at Agora Gallery we know that for artists, if they’re affected by this, it can mean precious time away from the studio. Even an artist going on a vacation they’re looking forward to sometimes finds that being away from their usual creative tools and routine means they don’t engage in creating art – and this can be frustrating.

Donna Shaffer, Sumer Time

Donna Shaffer, Sumer Time

What looks like a limitation, though, is really an opportunity. To start with, being away from home or being at home but with an enforced change in your routine and activities can be stimulating. You may see things with fresh eyes – and even if you can’t begin to work on those ideas at once, you can capture and develop them in photos, sketches or notes. Carry a camera and sketchbook or notepad with you – you might be surprised what you pick up!

In addition, you’ll be surrounded by things that can become part of your creative process. Often, these things are not the kind of items you would look for in an art supplies store – they may be totally banal objects you see and overlook every day. But anything can turn into art!

Brenda Ness-Cooper, Ready for Summer

Brenda Ness-Cooper, Ready for Summer

Are you on a beach vacation? Then the sand has potential, as sculpture and as a canvas. Explore that tactile medium and see what it can do for you – and don’t forget to take photos! You might be surprised by what you discover… Or, on the other hand, if you’re somewhere cold and enjoying the snow, then don’t forget that it can be a sculpting tool as well as something to ski down!

Are you out in the countryside, surrounded by grasses and straw? Well, that’s a potential source of inspiration as well. See what you can come up with! Do you have children who love to draw but leave pencil shavings everywhere afterwards? Don’t just throw them away…

Carol Brooks Parker, Newly Mown Hay Field at Sunrise

Carol Brooks Parker, Newly Mown Hay Field at Sunrise

One of the advantages of using anything that happens to be around is that it can be fun for the people you are traveling with as well – let them join in, if they’re interested. Whether they’re adults or children, everyone can enjoy playing with and seeing the potential of these everyday items. It will be a memory all of you love to look back on, and you never know – you might get some useful ideas from them, too.

As Cordell Taylor found when faced with bicycle parts and told to somehow create a sculpture, the challenge of having to work outside your ordinary comfort zone can be stimulating. The project itself can have its own fascination, and will keep your creative energies ticking while letting you avoid the frustration of not creating.

You might even find that you come back to your studio wanting to explore the new direction further, and make it part of your creative process. Be open to the possibilities – and make the most of the opportunities that the summer offers you.

Good luck!

What We Think about Creativity – and Why You Should Care

At Agora Gallery, we’re in constant contact with people for whom creativity is both a natural part of their daily existence and a drive to self-expression that is almost an extension of themselves. It’s easy to take it for granted – but sometimes it’s worth taking a step back and reflecting on what it looks like from the outside.

Clemencia Uribe Rivera, Calentamiento en Barra 2, 1993

Clemencia Uribe Rivera, Calentamiento en Barra 2, 1993

It turns out that the way we think about creativity is informed by hidden preconceptions – slightly surprising ones! A series of recent studies indicated that for many people, eccentricity is linked to creative success. People introduced to artworks they’d never seen before were more likely to appreciate them and enjoy the viewing experience if they were told that the artist was eccentric rather than conventional, or if they were shown a photograph of the artist wearing ‘unconventional’ clothes rather than ordinary ones.[Tweet “People introduced to artworks they’d never seen before were more likely to appreciate them if told the artist was eccentric”]

In part, of course, this merely reflects a stereotype which is obviously more powerful than most of us working in the art world realize – the idea of artists as people who prefer to work in the middle of the night, keep paintbrushes behind their ears, break off conversations to scribble in their notebooks and run a risk of cutting off their own ears (ok, that one might be just Van Gogh). While one or two of the attributes of this mythical being might sound familiar, few artists embody many of these traits. We’re people, just like everyone else!

John Wolter, Ride that Moa

John Wolter, Ride that Moa

But as well as that, there is something interesting here. That unconscious bias is an indication that people expect artists to be a little different – to be able to think outside the box, to view things with a perspective not available to everyone. Essentially, there is an expectation of vision.

Why should you care? Well, for two main reasons – neither of which is that you ought to start behaving eccentrically when clients are around!

Etsuko Shida, Creative Thinking

Etsuko Shida, Creative Thinking

1) The time that you spend developing ideas, the occasions when you’re taken aback by how differently you perceive an issue to the way everyone else around you does, the moments when you worry about whether you should make an effort to fit in and not stand out… These are all connected to your vision, and your drive to create. Not only is this a positive thing for you as an artist, it’s what the rest of the world expects of you anyway. Embrace it.[Tweet “Everyone expects artists to be a little eccentric – so embrace it, and maintain integrity in your work”]

2) Remember this when you’re wavering about whether to maintain integrity in your work. Have you started to find yourself thinking first of the audience, and second of your art? Do you wonder about what will sell more than you think about your creative process and how to engage with it? Don’t. Your work will be better if you’re honest with it and with yourself – and that’s what your viewers expect, too, even if it’s on an unconscious level.

Neema Lal, Dream

Neema Lal, Dream

Of course, you shouldn’t ignore the practical considerations; you do need to be aware of your market, and how to work within it, and you should work on presenting yourself and your work appropriately to potential buyers. But approach these challenges from the perspective of someone who respects and is rooted in their own creative drive – you might be surprised by how much this helps!

What Makes Your Art Special?

Can you describe your art in a sentence or two?At Agora Gallery, we’re proud to represent artists from all over the world whose talent allows them to create memorable, beautiful and thought-provoking creations. It’s our privilege and our pleasure to help these artists to promote themselves and their work. However, not every artist has people to help them with marketing, and even those who do know that their helpers can’t be there all the time. It’s important for an artist to be able to engage in the promotion of their own work. Crucial to this is the ability to introduce people gently to your work.

Robert Kirov, Atresia Ani, 2013

Robert Kirov, Atresia Ani

So, do you have a specific word or s0 that encapsulates everything a stranger needs to know to understand the basics of what your art is about? Can you tell people what it is that makes your art special? If the answer is ‘no’ or if you’re not sure, then this is something you need to think about.

Of course there’s more to your work than can be captured in an elevator pitch. Of course one word isn’t enough to describe your style, your inspirations, your subjects. But you’ll never get the opportunity to give the full version if you haven’t captured someone’s attention first – and for that, you need a version you can say ‘standing on one foot.’

The first stage of developing this approach, of course, is being clear in your own mind about what is going on in your art. You know your work is special – so what is it about it that you want people to know? What makes it different? Unique? Imagine yourself surrounded by other artists you know or have come across, each with their own portfolio. What makes you stand out?

Cheli Sanabria, Three Thorns

Cheli Sanabria, Three Thorns

There are 3 reasons that this is important.

1) It’s a worthwhile exercise for you, as an artist. Appreciating what’s unusual about your art makes it easier for you to focus on that aspect, give it the respect it deserves, and develop it.

2) You’ll be a lot more convincing when you’re talking to others about your art if you are able to give a clear, coherent and concise explanation that allows your passion for what you do to shine through and highlights the things you’d like others to notice in your creations.

3) It has an impact on the market you should be targeting. An equine artist, for example, would have a niche at horse shows, fairs and races. An artist who portrays a particular country or culture has a naturally interested audience locally or in places connected to that area or group.

Liz Hernandez, Curious Horses

Liz Hernandez, Curious Horses

Although art-making is fundamentally a creative activity, there is also a business-related side to being an artist. Any advertising, marketing or product specialist will tell you that to sell a particular product, you need to identify something that makes it special and make sure your potential customers know about it and why it’s good for them. It’s the same with your work.

So what kind of artist are you? A volcano artist, like Cathrine Oberg? An underwater photographer, like Michele Davino? A sculptor of smooth curves, like David Uterman? Make sure to describe yourself this way when people ask what you do. This will encourage them to ask further questions, piquing their curiosity and giving you an opportunity to engage them.

Michele Davino, Free Under Ice, 2010

Michele Davino, Free Under Ice, 2010

Be as specific as you can. Don’t say that you’re a nature artist. What kind of nature? Forest, sea, flora, fauna? The more information you can pack into those initial few words, the more likely someone is to be intrigued. Don’t say you’re a landscape artist – there are lots of those. What sort of landscape do you favor? Are you passionate about a particular country or area? These sorts of details are valuable. Identify them, and use them to identify yourself as an artist.

Naturally, it’s impossible to cover everything about your work in a brief description. You probably have some work that doesn’t fit into the main category you’ve identified. That’s ok. Once someone is interested in your work, they’ll be more receptive to the finer detail. But to start with, you need to offer them the big picture. Make yourself – and your art – memorable.

1 2 3 9