Sunday, March 29, 2015

How to Write Your Artist Statement


I've had a lot of requests lately from artists asking for help with writing their artist statements, so I'm reposting this article on the subject that I wrote several years ago for Art Calendar magazine. I hope it helps make the writing process easier for some of my followers!

Writing Your Artist Statement
By Annie Strack (c) 2007

Sooner or later every artist is asked to provide an artist statement. If you sell your work through galleries, you’ll find that most of them will ask you to provide a statement that they can refer to when talking about you and your work to a client. Art festivals sometimes require artists to display their statement in the booth. If you find yourself being interviewed by the media, the information in your statement helps to provide them with your background information and serves as a written resource for them to garner direct quotes. More importantly, buyers like to read them. As an artist, people are interested in you and what you do, and genuinely want to know.

There used to be a time when artists would fold their arms across their chest and haughtily say “my work speaks for it’s self.” In today’s world, that attitude and response finds little acceptance. An artist who is prepared and willing to talk about themselves and their art has a distinct advantage when it comes to promoting their art. The artist statement conveys that you are professional and serious about your career, passionate about your work, and dedicated to your creative mission.

The Artist Statement is one of the three basic building blocks of your marketing plan, the others being your resume and your biography. Your Statement is an essential component of your overall plan, explaining who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. It clarifies and explains your artistic mission, philosophy, and ideas to the reader, and also sometimes to you.

You can start the process of developing your Artist Statement by answering four basic questions:

  •  Who you are
  •  What you do
  •  How you do it
  •  Why you do it.

Write your answers in first person, using descriptive adjectives but leaving out any technical jargon that the reader may not understand.

Who are you?
Think about what has influenced you and your work. Have you lived in interesting places? Have family, friends, mentors, or schools influenced you? Have you had a life altering experience? Write a few sentences about how these, and other things, shaped who you are or guided your work. For example: “In the course of building my own boat and sailing it around the world, I spent several of the most inspiring years of my life on the islands of the Caribbean. The people I met and the places I visited influenced me tremendously, and stimulated my desire to record my travels in the form of art.” Or maybe: “As a child living in the remote mountains of Montana, I grew up surrounded by the unspoiled vistas of the wilderness. At an early age I acquired a passion for the environment, and often hiked the verdant trails sketching and painting the beauty of nature.”

What do you do?
Now write a few sentences about what you do; the style, genre, and subject matter of your art. For instance, “I paint tropical landscapes in an impressionist style, hoping to convey the beauty and lushness of the hot steamy jungles and sun drenched beaches.” Or, “I paint wildlife in its natural setting, to share with others the majesty of these creatures and the splendor of their environment.”

How do you do it?
Write a few sentences about your artistic process, from start to finish. Do you work in the studio, or on location? What media do you use, and how do you use it? Why do you prefer this media, subject, and style? For example: “I paint in the studio using reference photos gathered from my travels through the Caribbean. I choose to paint in oils because the richness and thickness of the paint allows me to build up the texture of the painting and express the vibrant deep colors of my subjects. I prefer to paint in the impressionist style, using broad loose brushstrokes to convey the sultry hot breezes of the tropics, and the dancing light and shadows of the tropical sun.” Or, “I travel the world on photographic safaris with my camera, to seek out my subjects in their natural habitat. I prefer to work primarily with colored pencils because it affords me the control to accurately capture details and to effectively portray the individual character and personality of each animal.”

Why do you do it?
Write a few sentences about your life as it relates to your art, and what message you are trying to convey to the viewer. Explain what you find to be rewarding or meaningful about your work. Think about your own emotional connection to your art, and what you want viewers to think or feel when looking at your art. Maybe you have a personal philosophy about life or art that you can share in your statement. Here are a few examples: “Each painting portrays my own private sanctuary, and I hope to share with others the peace and serenity I feel when I paint. I want the viewer to be able to take a vacation in my paintings, to escape to my tranquil beaches and stand with me under my swaying palms and tropical skies.” Or, “Each of these wildlife paintings is a way for me to share my passion for nature and the environment with others. I strive to raise the viewer’s awareness of our environment, and share with them the fragile and fleeting splendor of our natural resources.”

I’ve given you a few examples, now it’s your turn. Think about these four basic questions and jot down your own answers. Once you have all of your ideas written down, it’s time to string them together and arrange them into meaningful sentences and paragraphs that will fit onto one page as your finished Artist Statement. Compose it as if you were writing poetry, using descriptive words that paint an image in the readers mind of who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why.

Don’t forget, your artist statement, resume, and bio are useful tools that you can use and refer to when creating other promotional materials. Once you have these materials prepared, you can excerpt information from these documents for your future press releases, brochures, flyers, interviews, etc., making each of these processes simpler to accomplish.

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This article was first published in Art Calendar magazine in 2007 and reprinted in the book (The Artists Guide To) Art Business and Marketing in 2008. Annie Strack is an Official Authorized Artist for the U.S. Coast Guard and has earned Signature Membership in eight artist societies. Her artwork has received hundreds of awards and hangs in more than 1,000 public and private collections worldwide. In addition to being a highly acclaimed juror for art shows and popular workshop instructor, she is the producer and host of Painting Seascapes in Watercolor, which is broadcast on television stations worldwide and also available on DVD. Annie draws experience from her former career in corporate management to build a successful art career, and she shares her knowledge of business and marketing in her articles for Art Calendar, Professional Artist, and The Crafts Report magazines. 

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posted by Annie Strack @ 7:24 PM   1 Comments

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Little Problem with the Pumps

I just realized I hadn't posted for over a month. Things have been a little hectic -- I haven't been feeling well, which made it hard to keep up with classes and exhibits. I thought maybe I had a mild case of pneumonia, or maybe a touch of the flu, and I figured it would run it's course and I'd be back to my old self in a few more weeks.

Then when the snow melted, the sump pumps in my studio failed and I had a huge mess (but no damage!) to clean up. My darling hubby fixed all the pump stuff and it's all working just fine now, but my studio is still all tore apart from the mopping up and it will be a week or two before I can put it all back together and resume classes again.
(my hero, fixing the sump pumps in my studio)

The clean up was a little too strenuous for me, and what started out as shortness of breath had progressed to  feeling like suffocation. I went to the doctor  the next day, and it turned out to be Pericardial Effusion. So, I had a little bit of heart surgery on Friday and spent the weekend in the hospital getting that pump fixed. All is now well, and I'm back at home and almost at 100% again.

I can't thank you all enough, for all the messages, emails, and comments on social media, wishing me well.
In the movie "Peter Pan," there's a scene where Tinkerbell is fading away. Peter Pan looks into our eyes, and he tells us that we can save Tink -- we just have to believe and clap our hands loudly.

I feel just like Tinkerbell. Every comment you wrote, every message, every email, and all the phone calls -- every word made me stronger. Everyone reaching out to me and clapping louding has healed me faster and better than anything they did in ICU. I can't thank you all enough! <3>

posted by Annie Strack @ 12:15 PM   0 Comments

Monday, February 2, 2015

Art Tip: How to paint a Sunset

One of my most popular 1-day workshop subjects is "How to Paint Skies." I teach my students how to paint a variety of different atmospheric conditions in skies, such as different types of clouds, sunny weather, rainy skies, stormy skies, fog, etc. My students always enjoy painting sunsets, which are the most difficult because of the multiple colors introduced to the wash.

The most common mistake that watercolor painters make, is layering colors or letting the wrong colors mix on the paper, resulting in the odd colors. For instance, both yellow and blue can be found in the sky during a sunset, but if the yellow and blue are layered or mixed on the paper they will result in green -- a color that is not found in the sky.


(Sunset, 9x12 WC, $85)
The second biggest mistake artists make when painting sunsets, is not painting the colors in the order of the color spectrum. The colors in a sunset (or sunrise) follow the same spectrum order as the colors in a rainbow. The color closest to the Sun is yellow, the next color is orange, then red, with violet being the color that appears furthest from the light source. The sky might be dark blue or light blue depending on the position of the Sun. Values will also deepen as they get further from the light source, with the lightest value being the light source, itself.

The third mistake artists make, is not realizing that sunset colors only appear on clouds. The sky doesn't reflect the colors -- the colors are reflected on the clouds.

In this demonstration painting, I started by painting a wet-on-wet blue wash for the sky, and blotted out the edges of the clouds. Then, starting with the Sun's position in the center of the horizon, I used yellow ochre and worked my way outward using cadmium orange, permanent red, and dioxide violet. Some of the colors overlapped each other, which is fine because the overlapping colors are analogous so the order of the color spectrum is still maintained. A few more cloud layers were blotted out while the colors were still wet. To create the reflection in the water, I did the same thing but without the blotting, and I kept the water movement horizontal in appearance.

I teach this in workshops pretty often, so keep an eye out for a workshop near you!

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posted by Annie Strack @ 2:52 PM   2 Comments

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Classes, Demos, and Workshops!

The new year is really starting off with a bang and I've barely had time to keep up with everything I've got scheduled! I have new classes starting monthly at Artists Network University, but the classes fill up very quickly so don't wait to sign up or you will miss the one you want. I currently have a few openings in my weekly classes in my Kennett Square studio on Wednesdays. Email me if you want to come! This Friday is my monthly Open Studio, and which is a wonderful opportunity for you to come watch me paint in a relaxed atmosphere in my studio. I have small one-day workshops scheduled in my studio throughout the year, focusing on painting, drawing, business, and other topics.

I also travel a lot to teach workshops, jury shows, and conduct demonstrations. My schedule is filling up fast, but I still have a few openings and I'd love to come to your community. Be sure to tell your local art center or artists organization to contact me for information about hosting an Annie Strack Workshop. My workshops are very affordable and always sell out to capacity, making them extremely profitable money-making events for the art centers and organizations that put them on!

posted by Annie Strack @ 9:34 AM   0 Comments

Friday, January 2, 2015

Free Painting Demonstration at Jerry's!

Come watch me paint at Jerry's Artarama of Wilmington on Elvis' Birthday!  
January 8th from 1-3pm, watch me paint a watercolor seascape from start to finish! I explain my processes in great detail during my painting demonstrations, just like in my classes in workshops! Learn how I mix colors, plan a compostition, use values, manipulate the properties of pigments, use different types of brushes for effects, and more! Jerry's Artarama, 704 N. Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801




posted by Annie Strack @ 3:06 PM   0 Comments

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How to Develop your Personal Plan for Success!


Develop Your Personal Plan for Success

By Annie Strack 2006 © (First published: Art Calendar magazine, October 2006)


In business, success is seldom an accident.  It is something that must be carefully planned with defined goals, and a strategy mapped out to achieve those goals.  

Ask five different artists what the definition of success is, and you’ll get five different answers.  We all have different ideas as to what constitutes artistic success.  Some artists believe it is when sales reach a certain level.  Some believe it is the quantity or prestige of awards, while others may measure success by attaining educational degrees or teaching positions.  The common definition of success is, quite simply “achieving a goal.”  But before you can attain success, you must first define what success means to you.  In other words, you need to define what your ultimate goals are. 

Once you have determined what your ultimate goals are, you can then identify the steps needed to attain those goals.  You can then break these steps down into smaller goals, and develop a time frame for achieving each of them.  As you determine what your goals and steps are, assign them to spaces on a timetable.  Start this by creating a table of columns, and in the last column list your ultimate goals.  Once you’ve created that list, think about the things you need to do before you can achieve those goals, and list those items in the preceding column.  Now think about the things you need to accomplish before you can reach those goals, and list them in the next preceding column.  In other words, work backwards from your pinnacle goals.  Keep going in this manner, filling in the columns from right to left, until you reach the point where the things you need to do are things that you’ve already done.  

Now that you’ve filled in your table with your goals and the steps needed to achieve them, you need to assign a time frame to each of the columns.  You can assign any time increments that you want.  You can use biannually, yearly, skip some of the years, whatever.  You can also move goals into different columns if you think that those goals will take more or less time to achieve.  When you are finished, your plan will resemble a chart with all of the steps you need to achieve your goals clearly spelled out in chronological order.
  
Let’s say that your ultimate goal is to be a rich and famous artist.  Your business plan chart might look like this:



Year one goals
Year two goals
Year three goals
Year five goals
Year ten goals
Local solo show
 solo show in important gallery
solo shows in other states
Museum show
Major museum show
Set standard prices
Increase prices 20%
Increase prices 30%
Double prices
Triple prices
Produce posters for local sales
Produce S/N L/E prints
sell prints in multiple markets
License images for other products
Licensed images in national markets
Develop workshop teaching plan
Teach local workshops
Teach regional workshops
Teach national workshops
Teach workshops in Tahiti and Paris
Write bio, resume, statement
Design a brochure
Create a catalog of work
Featured in magazine articles
Publish art book
Sell at local festivals
Sell at juried festivals
Sell at regional festivals
sell at national festivals
Sell at national art expo
Enter local juried shows for awards
Enter regional juried shows
Enter national juried shows
Begin judging art shows
Judge national art shows


This is just a brief sample to give you an idea of how to create your own plan to achieve your goals.  Your business plan will contain different goals and steps from this one, depending entirely on what your specific ultimate goal is. For instance if your goal is to teach art at the university level, you would have to add a series of steps that included teaching experience and advanced degrees, but you may want to leave out steps that include items like art festivals which could take you off course.  However if your goal is to open your own gallery, you may find that teaching experience or advanced art degrees may not be among the necessary steps to achieving your goal.  As you develop your own business plan, you may need to add more spaces and years to your chart, and define and break down the steps even further.  For instance, if an opportunity pops up for to do something that sounds like a good idea, you can look at your business plan chart and see whether or not it fits in to your goals.  If it does, fine, you can add it in.  If it doesn’t, it could end up being a distraction that is not necessary to help you achieve your goals. 

 Remember, this is your business, your goals.  You need to set it up in a way that you can manage it.  If you need to make changes along the way, do it.  You want to write a plan that motivates and inspires you, but you also want to keep it realistic with goals that you can achieve in the time frame that you’ve allotted for yourself.

For example, my art business plan is written on a large dry erase board that hangs in my studio.  Next to it is another board that has “to do” lists on it.  The “to do” board reminds me to focus on things related to the plan that I need to work on now, either this week or this month.  Hanging on the walls of my studio, they serve as a daily reminder of what I’m working towards, and help to keep me focused and on track.  The dry erase board works best because as the business grows, the goals tend to evolve.  New ideas can be added, other ideas can be erased.  Goals and steps can be moved to different columns, and additional time can be worked in as needed.   
  
All too often, we artists find ourselves jumping around from idea to idea, getting distracted by other artists and trying to measure our own successes against the successes of other artists.  In doing so, we often end up spending enormous amounts of time and energy while accomplishing very little.  There is no generic business plan for you to follow; you have to develop your own.  Goals and steps that result in success for other artists may not necessarily work for you.  Those other artists probably have different ideas of what constitutes success, so trying to do everything that everyone else is doing may not help you to achieve your goals.  

One of the advantages of having this kind of business plan is that it will keep you on track for achieving your goals, and help to keep you from getting distracted by other things.  It will also help to remind you to work on your goals in a chronological order.  You can’t just wake up tomorrow morning and say to yourself, “Gee, I think I wanna be a rich and famous artist today.  I’ll start by having a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”  It just doesn’t work that way.  Major museums only want artists that possess proven track records of showing at plenty of galleries and other museums.  By the same token, you don’t want to start your art career by publishing an expensive coffee table book of your art.  If you haven’t acquired a list of galleries that are selling your art to eager clients, then you probably won’t have anyone eager to buy your book, either.  There are actions that you must take before you can achieve those goals, and by following a course of action that will take you through your steps in an orderly fashion, you will have a better chance of achieving those goals, whatever they may be.  

When finished, your plan will be a customized roadmap showing you all the steps that you need to follow in order to achieve your success, starting from where you are now.  It will serve as a guide to allow you to monitor your progress, and help you to identify any areas of your business that need additional planning.  Your plan is your guideline for the future of your business.  Once you create it, all you have to do is follow it to success. 

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Annie Strack earned Signature Membership from 8 artist societies and she’s an Official Authorized Artist for the U.S. Coast Guard. Her art has received hundreds of awards and hangs in collections worldwide. She’s a popular juror for art competitions, and is a much sought after lecturer and workshop instructor. Annie draws experience from her former career in corporate management to build a successful art career, and she shares her knowledge of business and marketing in her articles for Professional Artist magazine. Visit her at http://AnnieStrackArt.com

posted by Annie Strack @ 9:46 AM   3 Comments

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Classes Starting this Week!

My online art course, "Watercolor for the Beginner" starts this week at Artists Network University! This is a great class for beginners, and also for artists who want to take a refresher course to brush up on techniques. Students in my online classes receive individual attention and personal feedback, just like the students taking private lessons in my studio! Sign up now to kearn how to paint luminous watercolors from an award winning, professional Master Artist! 

Speaking of which, I currently have a couple of openings in my weekly studio classes on Tuesdays -- email me if you want to sign up. My studio is in the south east corner of Pennsylvania, near the border of  Delaware and Maryland. Half-day classes meet weekly in my studio for four weeks, beginning on the 1st Tuesday of each month. Students work individually and receive personal attention and guidance on their paintings and exercises.

As a classically trained artist with decades of professional experience, I am able to offer my students real instruction that is concise and easy to follow. My students learn how to use and manipulate their mediums and materials, and they leave my classes armed with new skills and the knowledge to use them successfully. My students learn to create -- not just copy! 

(Seagulls, 9x12 watercolor, sold)
I've got lots of new classes, demonstrations, studio events, and workshops coming up in the new year -- be sure to check out my Calendar Page often to keep up! New events are added continuously!

posted by Annie Strack @ 8:00 AM   0 Comments

Monday, November 24, 2014

Plein Air Painting at Wilson's Vineyard

One of my students opened a gallery at her family vineyard earlier this year, and it has been a wonderful destination for painting en plein air. Painting and wine tasting -- a perfect combination! Wilson Vineyard is located in Oxford, Pennsylvania, and the gallery is open weekends and for special events. I painted these over the spring and summer at the vineyard. See one you like? Send me an email to purchase it. Price includes domestic shipping and handling, frames are not included.
Wilson's Drive, 5x7 oil $79.

Wilson's Trees, 8x10 oil $195.

Wilson's Vines, 8x10 oil $195.

Blue Door, 8x10 oil $195.

posted by Annie Strack @ 4:04 PM   0 Comments

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More PLein Air Paintings!

I painted ten paintings in the Plein Air Brandywine Valley competition last month, and these six paintings are still available. Prices include shipping and handling, frames are not included. All are painted with Rembrandt oils on Fredrix canvas panels. Email me if you want to get one!
 
Little Stone Shed, 8x10 oil, $195.

Auburn Heights, 8x10 oil, $195

Fredricks Pond, 5x7 oil, $79

Gahagan's Maples, 8x10 oil, $195

Neilsons Farm, 8x10 oil, $195

Morning Glow, 8x10 oil, $195

posted by Annie Strack @ 1:29 PM   0 Comments

Friday, November 14, 2014

Artist Tips: Original Work in Art Shows


Several artists have asked me in the last few weeks about “originality” and how it relates to entering artwork into shows. So many artists misunderstand rules in art shows because they are vague and poorly written, and often times, the art show chairmen don’t understand the concept enough themselves to write clear rules about it. So, I’ve posted a conversation I recently had with one of my followers in hopes that it will help clear things up for other artists and show chairmen.

 Dear Annie,
I haven't shown my work except for my art group's art show. However, the comments you mentioned in your article seem to be common sense to me. One question about source material. Can you use someone else's photo if you get permission from that person...say if it's a friend?

Annie Strack:  That would depend on a show's rules. Each show has their own rules, although you often see the same rules with just slight variations in many shows. For the most part, most shows put it in writing that the entry "must be the original creation of the artist," and many get much more specific and state that any reference material used must also be the original creation of the artist. Many smaller shows and non-juried shows allow artists to more leeway when entering, but competition is pretty stiff in the more prestigious shows, and artists are usually required to develop and work with their own reference material for their paintings.

(Students in an Annie Strack Workshop in Delaware)


 Question:  So...better just to stay with your own reference material and not have to worry about it, huh.
 Annie Strack:  Exactly! Although not all shows require artists to use their own reference material, it's better to always use your own and then you won't be limited from entering any shows.
(Students in an Annie Strack Workshop in Mississippi)
 Question:  Annie, I have another question about this. It is an argument I hear in my painting group quite often and it is something to the effect that it isn't "copying" if you change...I think it's something like 25% of the image used. So the idea is that you can crop an image substantially or paint only a portion of it. Does this hold any water with art show jurors?
Annie Strack:  I hear that all the time, too, and it's completely false. Most copyright infringement is a Civil law issue. If an artist thinks they've been copied, they can sue the copier. Each case is argued and determined individually -- there is no set formula like a simple math equation. If someone, anyone, can recognize the work of another in an artwork, then the artist could lawyer up and file a suit, or even just threaten.

(Students in an Annie Strack workshop in Madisonville)

But this has nothing to do with art shows -- despite what some ill-informed art show chairs believe. Art shows are not courts of law, and art show chairs and committees have no right to determine what is - or is not - protected by copyrights. Many show chairs and committees confuse the words "original" and "copyright." This is where the question of using someone’s photo with permission creates confusion -- is it copyright infringement? -- no, not with permission. But -- is it original? -- no.
Art shows must write concise rules and then follow them, and if they do not write something into their rules then they cannot punish an entrant for it. Show rules have to specifically state what can or can't be entered -- rules cannot be made up after the entries are received, nor can they be enforced retroactively. For instance, if an art show doesn't state that artwork must be original, then they must not reject something that is copied. Many artists are students, and they enter work in smaller local or school shows that they did in classes or workshops.  

(Students in an Annie Strack workshop in Baton Rouge)

Feedback from outside sources such as local shows is important for amateur and student artists so that they can continue to learn and grow. It is quite common for these types of shows to accept copied work, especially from students. My own students often exhibit work they’ve done in my classes, and I’m quite flattered by it (Although, I’m not flattered when I see copies of my paintings by artists who don’t acknowledge or credit me as the original artist!).  
Generally, the smaller local and regional shows are a little more lax on rules, Local and regional shows tend to have more amateur and student artists entering, and their shows are more to encourage these artists. The mission of local art leagues is usually more social and educational, whereas the mission of artist societies on the national level usually lean more towards rewarding established professional artists.
National and international shows have big money and credentials at stake, so they draw the big name professional artists. Competition is stiff, and the rules are stricter. They usually have very specific wording in their rules and go into fine details to describe exactly what is eligible, and what is not.

(Students in an Annie Strack workshop at Nunez College)

With regard to jurors -- that's a different story! If a juror recognizes the work as belonging to another artist, or if the juror thinks the work is partially copied, then she will likely regard it less and may even dismiss it. Jurors look for originality and creativity as well as other elements, and most will reject work that they think is not original, even if it is skillful. Occasionally an inexperienced juror will let copied work into a show, just as occasionally an inexperienced juror will let bad work into a show -- jurors aren't perfect. But for the most part, jurors will penalize work that appears to be unoriginal.
Any time an artist needs to defend their copying -- that is a sure sign that they've obviously copied too much. There should never be any question about the originality of an artwork.

posted by Annie Strack @ 8:07 PM   0 Comments

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Google+ All images and content copyright Annie Strack 2008 Although I occasionally receive compensation for some posts, I always give my honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own.