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Have you ever opened up an email that feels like a generic cold-call?
You know those emails that ask you to give your art away for “good exposure” – from someone you’ve never even met?
Artists don’t like it when people ask them to do things for free. Things they do for a living.
No one does.
I get emails from artists all the time that say, “Hey Crista! Here’s my work, will you sell it for me?”
Or worse, just a faceless message with a link to their website, or an attachment with 20 pictures of their paintings.
When these artists throw empty messages at me, they’re ruining that first impression. And first impressions last forever.
How would you respond to messages like that?
Probably the same way I do. *delete*
But I’m not the only person who deletes unsolicited emails.
Do you know who else deletes them? Art-World Decision Makers also delete them.
Why? Because we’re busy!
So what’s the best way to approach Art-World Decision Makers instead?
Firstly, do your research to find out exactly whom this person is and what it is they do.
Next, find out what their submission policy is. How do they prefer to be contacted and what kinds of information are they looking for?
Finally, write a professional letter, establishing your credibility, acknowledging theirs, drawing connections between what you do and why you want to work with them.
In other words, don’t make them work to figure out why you’re writing to them and what you’re after.
The art world, like every professional world, is about relationships. It’s about establishing a professional relationship based upon mutual respect.
Try thinking of it this way: instead of reaching out to people you don’t know and asking for something, start by offering something.
Something that they want.
Follow them on social media and show your support there. Send an article that might fit in nicely with their blog. See if they’re having a challenge that you can help with. Offer your services as a gift.
I’ve done this myself many times, and it works. In fact, it’s the model that a lot of young solo entrepreneurs are following and I love how it’s changing the culture of how we do business.
Artists can even do this with prospective collectors through their websites.
What can you give? What can you share without charge? What would delight your customer to receive and make them feel connected to you?
The saying goes that it is far better to give than to receive. It’s true.
And it’s after that bond of mutual trust is formed that you can ask. Then you shall receive.
Try it and watch how the world opens up to you.
In a world that often thinks being an artist is not a responsible thing to do, The Working Artist course gave me the ‘permission’ and the confidence to pursue being a full time artist. –Tom Waters
Prior to finding The Working Artist, Vermont-based Tom Waters described himself as a frustrated graphic designer and a “Sunday painter” who channeled art as an escape from everyday pressures. “I’d taken up painting landscapes late in life to flirt with a dream held long ago. I was afraid of taking it seriously. I kept listening to all those voices that said being an artist wasn’t a real option.”
Tom certainly had his hesitations. Would this be another online class more focused on upselling additional programs? Could the content actually help him constructively make the transition toward professional artist?
Ultimately, he admits that it was Crista’s personal story that compelled him. “Sometimes you question how deep someone’s experience is for teaching a course. This class gave me the sense that finally, I had permission to pursue this from someone who has truly been there.”
One year later, Tom markets himself through his website, through Facebook and Youtube. He now has over 1300 subscribers to his Youtube channel, with over 135,000 views, an exploding network of Facebook followers, and he’s expanding his mailing list.
The two biggest Working Artist take-aways for Tom include Crista’s constant encouragement. “She makes me feel like the most important person in her world during the class,” he mused.
He also remarked on how well thought-out the coursework is designed. “Regardless of which way you learn, Crista has anticipated and included all modes of assimilating knowledge into the course. This includes plenty of deadline-driven material, which gave me some much needed structure.”
After taking the course, Tom was able to overcome his obstacles—both real and in his head—to move from practicing art as a hobby to working as a professional artist.
In addition to seeking out a painting mentor, building his Working Artist Kit, crafting a 10-year business plan and entering a myriad of juried & group shows, Tom also started working in a prestigious Vermont gallery, where he was quickly promoted to Gallery Manager.
Best of all, Tom has doubled his sales in the year after completing the course and began winning several awards for his work. He’ll have his first solo show at the Gruppe Gallery in Jericho, Vermont in fall 2017.
“Literally, every time I am faced with what would normally be an obstacle to moving forward as an artist, I hear Crista’s voice, in that confident, reassuring manner, telling me to ‘Jump.’ It is the most tangible example of how taking her course continues to propel me forward. I went from being someone who was never ready to someone who now can ‘Jump’ every time there’s an opportunity.”
To see Tom's work, visit his website at www.creativewatersart.com
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I believe that the best artists are Artist Warriors.
But instead of taking up arms, we take up brushes and cameras and clay.
Artists are warriors of the spirit.
Like any warrior, artists must be tested, must be prepared. You must prove your courage and your commitment.
Haven’t you seen this is your own life?
As an Artist-Warrior, you must find your power, which is your craft and your voice, and you must sharpen its blades in preparation for battle.
It’s not easy.
No, the most difficult crown to wear is that of Artist-Warrior.
Because you must earn it.
You earn it through working and learning and growing. You earn your power through countless rejections, through overcoming obstacles such as time, money, and support.
As an Artist-Warrior, you break through all barriers to the reality you wish to create.
You are a maker.
You make art. You make meaning. You make beauty. Like alchemists, you transform base materials into gold.
As an Artist-Warrior, you already have this power. Like Dorothy’s red shoes, you simply must believe.
For artists are on the Hero’s Journey.
And heroes, as everyone knows, slay those dragons that threaten to harm us. To an Artist-Warrior those dragons are rejection, money, and time.
On the Hero’s Journey, the Artist-Warrior will fall down sometimes.
Hell, we fall down all the time!
But we always, always get back up.
For that is what it is to be an Artist-Warrior.
So learn to own your power and let it flow. Use that power that is your creativity to carry you through this journey. Nurture your spirit.
Engage with an inner life beyond gadgets and obligations and all those things that try to define you as something different than who you truly are.
Have a significant relationship with your work.
Have meaningful conversations with your Self.
Choose carefully those opinions you let in.
Believe in magic and alchemy and beauty.
Trust your intuition.
Try, and risk.
And say to fear, “You shall never stop me for I am on the Hero’s Journey.”
With your courage and your integrity and your work, you will light the way for others who follow.
You are an Artist Warrior.
For years I wished that I could be a writer and an artist.
I wished on every shooting star, straining my neck from the constant upward gaze.
I threw a small fortune of pennies into wishing wells.
I’ve got bad posture from the persistent search for four-leaf clovers.
Imagine what life would be like if I wrote and made pictures for a living? I wish I could have that life.
It seemed so out-of-reach, so unavailable to me. Maybe that sort of thing happens to other people who had the education, the money, the support, the opportunities and the talent that I could only wish for.
It was when I finally decided to be a writer and an artist that my real journey began.
As writer Scott Adams says, “Wishing starts in the mind and generally stays there.”
When you decide however, you take action.
You get a lot more clear about what it would look like.
You acknowledge the price you have to pay to achieve it.
And then you begin taking the steps. Even if they’re baby steps.
I believe that wishes have energy. I believe that wishes exist to show you what’s really possible. Those siren songs that whisper to your heart reveal what you’re truly capable of achieving.
If you can wish it, you can do it.
There’s only one thing a wish needs to become real.
So are you going to decide to make your wishes come true?
The decision is yours, if you wish.
Artist David Foster has had a passion for nature photography for nearly fifty years.
He focused heavily on photography during his twenties. Then life carried David through cross-country moves, marriage, kids and thirty years of employment in the non-profit sector.
All the while, he maintained his interest in photography.
Ten years ago, friends finally persuaded him to show his work publicly rather than keep his talent hidden. He has been exhibiting his work regularly since then.
Recently he decided to take The Working Artist course so that he could continue to extend his reach.
“I have been, at best, a reluctant entrepreneur,” David explained. “After my long stint in the non-profit world where I created many mission statements and strategic plans for work, I have typically resisted similar goalsetting for my artwork. Crista’s instructional style is very effective at working through my internal obstacles so that I could get out of my own way and move forward.”
For David, sales and money are not the ultimate motivators for his artmaking. “My passion is about getting the work out there and having helpful, positive ways in which it can be experienced,” he mused.
The Working Artist helped him overcome his resistance to those important business steps. David notes, “The Working Artist offers tools and experiences that support finding and implementing your artistic vision.”
He also reports feeling more energized, disciplined, prepared and bold with a more deliberate, focused agenda for his work. “Since the course ended, I have a heightened sense of proactivity and intentionality. I’m more assertive about seeking out specific exhibition opportunities that are in line with my vision to express the healing power of nature photography.”
David’s class completion also rides on the heels of his largest exhibition to date: 70 images marking his 70th birthday at Georgia’s stunning Callaway Gardens this past spring.
This October, David will be installing a solo exhibition featuring over thirty-five images as part of the Augusta (Georgia) Photography Festival.
In spring 2017, he will have a solo show at the Taubman Health Center, University of Michigan Health Systems. He is thrilled about this opportunity for his nature photography to nurture an environment that promotes well-being and healing.
In addition to the course itself, David also praises the benefits of Working Artist Network. By being connected with other artists who have taken Crista’s course, David was recently invited (by TWA alum Karen Thurman) to create four photo essays for upcoming issues of the online magazine On Your Doorstep that promotes nature’s preservation.
“Crista’s class continues to give back by providing ongoing support for my artist’s journey” he said.
We invite you to experience David’s beautiful imagery at www.davidfosterimages.net.
“Dear Crista,” the email began. “How can I achieve a high level of success in the art world?”
Ah! That elusive goal of "a high level of success." Artists ask me about it all the time. And this is what I say:
You’ll never get there.
I say that because once you attain what seems like success to you now, you’ll set your sights even higher. And then higher. And then even higher yet.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting more, but be careful not to live there. Every day that you’re alive doing what you’re meant to do is a high level of success.
So you can spend the rest of your career chasing the elusive, or you can enjoy the journey.
Once you own that, once you start living it and feeling your success, the more good stuff comes to you.
So is there a better goal?
I don’t think so.
A lot of insiders say that goals are for losers. And I tend to believe them because systems, they say, work better than goals.
Goals set you up for failure. Goals are adversarial, it’s you versus it. And until you achieve “it,” you’re losing.
But a system not only helps you achieve your desires, it can be modified to achieve more.
Let me give you an example.
Artists often tell me, “I want to make $100,000 a year from the sale of my work.”
My first question is “why?” Why do you want to make $100K a year? Most often it’s an arbitrary number that they’ve emotionally attached their worth to. If I make $100K a year, it means I’m a great artist.
No. It means you’re a busy artist.
I know an artist who makes $300K a year. She works, literally, from the time she wakes until bedtime. Her husband cooks dinner when he comes home from work and maybe they’ll watch a few hours of TV – but she never stops painting. She paints in front of the TV too!
She often complains about her market and how she’s long since stopped creating work that interested her. Now she’s just fulfilling a demand.
She doesn’t know how long her 15 minutes of fame will last but she’s determined to see it through, at the expense of her passion, her health, and her relationships.
I’m not saying that this is what happens to all artists when they hit the big money. But money as a goal is fraught with difficulties.
And to be honest, I know very few artists who are truly motivated by money.
What most artists are motivated by is a strong desire to spend more time in the studio creating what they love and then sharing it with a wide and appreciate audience.
Isn’t that what really motivates you?
To do this, I believe it’s best to create a system. Your system could include spending more time in the studio as if you’re making $100K a year.
Your system could also include sharing your work with a wide and appreciate audience.
Maybe you have an audience of 20 right now. Terrific! Let’s call that wide and appreciate and give them all you got. Develop a marketing plan to share your work with them and to grow this tribe.
Your marketing plan is a system. It’s an action plan that you adhere to that will take you where you want to go.
So now your focus is removed from the chasm that stands between you and the $100K, but instead you’re focused on taking joy from the activities that will get you there. These are the same activities you’ll be involved in once you attain your goal.
Do you see that?
So by acting as if you’ve already got what you want, by doing the work, you’re showing The Universe that you’re committed and on your way.
When you come up against brick walls, you make adjustments to your system. Real artists never stop learning, so keep tweaking your system to bring you more joy, more time, and more success.
How do you achieve a “high level of success” in the art world?
You imagine what that would look like on a daily level and you put a system into place to start right now.
My heart stopped when I saw it.
How could I have lived in this house for the past five months and never known it was even there?
But sure enough, it was. Tucked under the shelf.
A bathroom scale.
Since moving to France last spring, I have become what you might call a Wild Woman.
I’m living in a 600-year old stone cottage in the middle of the countryside. I can go days without seeing another human being. There’s no TV, no radio, no outside distractions whatsoever.
Every artist dreams of escaping to the middle of nowhere to focus on the work, don’t they? And this summer I was lucky enough to make it happen.
In my “real life,” I’m pretty regimented. Because one thing I’ve learned from working with world-class artists for so many years is the power of discipline.
And I came to France with the intention of being even more disciplined. I brought a long list of creative projects to complete.
But a funny thing happened while working with no distractions. Instead of discipline, I went feral instead. Feral, savage, uncontrollable…WILD!
Instead of my structured routine of getting up with the sun and going to bed early, I go to bed whenever I damn well feel like it. Which turns out to be much later than usual. I even find myself taking naps in the middle of the day.
I eat everything I want to eat when I want to eat it. My usual stringent diet out the window. I mean, this is France after all.
What about my work? Well, that’s interesting too. Rather than stick to the rigorous schedule I created, I now find that I work whenever I want to.
Who works like that and actually accomplishes anything?
Me, as it turns out.
I’ve indulged in a different tempo than my usual strict marching orders. In fact, I’ve found my own rhythm.
This summer, I’m dancing to the beat of my own wild music.
And I like it.
I’ve always clung to discipline, afraid that left to my own devices, I wouldn’t accomplish my goals. I’d shirk off, spend my time reading novels and daydreaming.
As it turns out, there’s a fair amount of that.
But the truth is that I’ve formed a new relationship with my work, one that’s based on trust, on faith, on my own rhythm.
I’m accomplishing everything I need. I’m making new connections, both strategically and creatively. And I’m having fun.
France is delicious in every sense of the word and I’m licking the spoon of this experience.
But the presence of a bathroom scale put a screeching halt on all that. Now is the time of reckoning.
Can I truly trust the rhythm?
When I came here, I told myself that this would be the summer I hit my Magic Number. You know your Magic Number, right? The one you hit that time when you were 20 years old and miserable because you just got dumped, just as that bad stomach flu came on? And for one glorious moment in time, your bathroom scale hit a number that was forever etched in your brain as the one you would always aspire to?
The Magic Number.
Funny how we do these things to ourselves, isn’t it?
So when I found a bathroom scale peeking out at me from under a shelf, I panicked.
I’ve been living radically for months now. A Wild Woman.
Meringues, bread, wine, olives, all the French cheese I can keep down. Good Lord!
Surely, it’s a recipe for disaster.
I step on the scale and close my eyes. Who am I to think I can dance through life at my own rhythm?
But there it is.
My Magic Number.
Isn’t that wild?
So, now I ask you:
Are you ready to let go, trust your instincts, and become WILD?
Then it's time to dance to the rhythm of your own music.
“But Crista,” they ask, “How can I make a living from my art?”
“I want to be wealthy! I want to live on a beach and be dripping in jewels! And I want my art to pay for it!”
Then I reply with something that artist Kiki Smith once told me:
Your art doesn’t have to support you. You have to support your art.
That’s right. Turn it around.
You weren’t given this talent so that you could take from it.
You were given this talent so that you could nurture it. You were given this talent so that you could share it. You were called to be an artist so that you could serve your work.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t live on a beach and make huge amounts of money. Maybe you can.
But it does mean that you’re looking at your gift the wrong way.
Instead of cursing it, instead of being angry that the collectors aren’t banging on your door clutching fistfuls of cash, try asking yourself this one simple question.
Are you supporting your art?
Are you continuing to learn those things that will make you a better artist? Are you contributing to your community? Are you leaning into those difficult tasks that get your work in front of a larger audience?
Imagine your artwork was your child, are you investing your resources into its future?
I challenge you to list 3 ways that you could support your creativity even better than you are now. And then take the steps to follow through.
Because the best way to make a living from your art? The best way to attract support from others? The best way to build a lucrative career?
Starts by investing in it yourself.
I don’t know about you, but I live at the mercy of an evil task-master.
I work and I slave and whenever I dare step away, it follows me. I feel guilty, anxious, because no matter how much I do, it always piles on more.
And its name is TO DO LIST.
Don’t get me wrong, TO DO LIST has gotten me where I am today.
It’s guided me through all sorts of challenges. From selling all of my belongings to start a new life in Europe, to crafting my workshop for artists, and TO DO LIST certainly helped me win my crowd-funding campaign to bring The Working Artist online.
People often look at the business that I’ve built and the international life I’ve created and they tell me that I’m “lucky.” Nothing makes me laugh harder.
Because all of those years that I spent head down, toiling until I felt absolutely wrung out, sure didn’t feel like luck. It felt like bloody hard work.
And my only friend during those lean times was TO DO LIST.
Now I’m setting my sights even higher. And I still believe that the key to success is TO DO LIST.
But somewhere along the way, we’ve fallen out of love.
TO DO LIST is too demanding. Yet when I complain, it threatens that I’ll never accomplish anything without it.
I’ve created a monster!
Has your TO DO LIST taken over your peace of mind?
It’s not that I don’t want us to be together anymore, it’s just that I’m no longer interested in working maniacally.
I want to work gracefully.
At the end of the day, I want to own what I’ve accomplished. I want to work at my best - rather than just work.
Unable to divorce, TO DO LIST and I are in need of some sort of couple’s counseling to learn how we can get along better.
So I turned to my community.
You’ve heard me talk about the importance of community in the past. I belong to a small group of art professionals who engage in the same sort of work I do, coaching artists. Many people might call them my competition, but we prefer to think of ourselves as colleagues.
Once each month we have a Skype meeting to discuss our professional challenges with one another.
“Help!” I cried out at our last meeting, “TO DO LIST is ruining my life!”
Their wisdom was right on point. And I think it may speak to you as well.
They said that when you engage with work you love, you’re engaging with the most authentic and important part of who you are.
How can you take time off from who you are? You can't.
But at the same time, when you work like a fiend, you’re cutting yourself off from your deepest source of creativity. It’s important to find ways to weave your work with your life.
My colleagues suggested that the heart of the problem is that old song that we all sing, “I’m not enough.”
Do you know that tune?
Well, it’s time to take the needle off the record and play some new music. “I am enough. I have enough. I’m doing enough.”
It’s time to change our beliefs that our dreams are out of our reach because it takes too much work, too much money, too much time.
I am enough. I have enough. I’m doing enough.
It’s time for you and I to celebrate how far we’ve come, all that we have, and all that we are.
I am enough. I have enough. I’m doing enough.
In fact, I’m going to put that mantra on my TO DO LIST!
I learned to do the work without expecting anything in return, and to concentrate on the things that I can do now and in the near future. This is how I made the “Jump” with The Working Artist. If one is doing the job, it will pay off soon. It’s hard work, but it does work! ~Tsvetomir IIiev, Artist.
Tsvetomir Iliev is a young self-taught artist from Bulgaria who ventured down the creative path by chance six years ago.
It all started when he was drawn to collect tiny pieces of fallen tree bark in the forests near his home. From that moment, Tsvetomir began experimenting with the bark’s rich, thick textures as the unlikely surface for his acrylic paintings.
This exploration of such an unusual painting surface gave rise to organic, nearly three-dimensional rippling landscapes, undulating seascapes and a feast of visual journeys with outstretched trees, pulsing moonlight and curling hills.
As Tsvetomir’s amassment of paintings on tree bark grew, so did his curiosity about the business side of art.
His first steps included visiting galleries in Bulgaria and abroad, as well as looking for information on-line. That’s when he discovered The Working Artist. “The information available left me without any hesitation,” Tsvetomir explained. “I was immediately compelled to try it and see what could happen.”
Initially, the course helped Tsvetomir better communicate about his art and organize his time. He also learned how to work through things that he didn’t necessarily enjoy doing, such as social media.
But after pushing himself, he realized that social media is likely one of the best available tools for an emerging artist such as himself.
Tsvetomir was eventually given a solo show in the Bulgarian town of Veliko Tarnovo. He took Crista’s lessons to heart: he practiced his presentation, prepared food & drinks, and even planned a give-away gift, but, still, nothing sold at the show.
“I continued with my efforts. I also decided to retake The Working Artist course again to go even deeper into what I’d already learned. That’s when I began to sell my work and attract my first true fans.”
Since then, Tsvetomir has been very busy.
More than seven artworks have sold, two more are reserved and one of his paintings was awarded Honorable Mention in an on-line contest.
Media accolades are rolling in and he recently made his first website sale too. Exhibition invitations and art fair opportunities are also on the rise, including participation in two upcoming Bulgarian fairs in August and September. And Tsvetomir’s work recently made second-round of judging for the prestigious Summer Exhibition at London’s Royal Academy of Arts.
And this is just the beginning. More opportunities are sure to be on the horizon as Tsvetomir continues to grow as an artist and do the work.
But see for yourself! Learn more about Tsvetomir Iliev and his work at http://www.barkflower.net