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Alumni Profile: Summer Lydick

Summer Lydick is a Working Artist.

After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drawing and a Master of Arts in painting, Summer continued her work in fine art while developing The Painted Wall, a decorative painting business. There, she created large-scale public and private murals and plaster finishes for homes and corporate offices.

Summer began as an abstract painter, but has found her true voice in her current work, which centers on the “spiritual simplicity of the mandala.”

Summer found The Working Artist at just the right time in her career. She and her partner, also a painter, were both just beginning to stretch their wings as career artists when they discovered the course. “Crista came swooping in with the answers we needed at just the right time.” 

Through taking The Working Artist, Summer was able to clearly see the steps she needed to take to become a successful working artist. “Every morning is like Christmas morning now! We wake up so FIRED up about our possibilities as artists.”

The Working Artist helped her see that her work is her brand. “We’re artists! We make art! We have a unique product to sell, so now we’re salesmen. And suddenly the business of art is like any other business model.”

In addition to building her website, and participating in local and regional art exhibitions in Texas, Summer is focused on building her inventory.  And she recently created a pop-up exhibition of her work in conjunction with a public reading by author Elizabeth Gilbert in Miami.

Because of the lessons she learned through The Working Artist, Summer understands that possibilities are all around her. “It’s SO EASY now to see the big picture!”

Check out Summer’s work at

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So You're An Artist. Now What?

So you’ve taken the jump and chosen to be an artist.

Now what?

Where’s the fabulous gallery opening in New York City? Where are the international collectors to lavish praise and money on you? Where’s the gallery to take care of all those pesky marketing tasks and details?

Instead, you battle rejection. You wonder where the money is going to come from. You find closed doors and indifference.

This isn’t what you signed up for.

Some of us are still so shaken from taking the jump that we don’t even realize that we’ve already landed.

Stop. Take a breath. Look around.

You’re an artist! You’ve taken that giant step toward authenticity. Do you recognize how very blessed you are? How many people never choose to take that jump but continue to hide their light in fear? How many more never even have the opportunity?

Don’t look at your world with eyes that see lack. Instead, search for the blessings. Be grateful for all you see.

Yes, there are things that need to change to get to where you want to go next. Guess what? There always will be. As soon as you get to the next level, you’ll badly want to get to the next one. And then the next, and then the next.

Art world superstar Kiki Smith once admitted to me that choosing to be an artist is like choosing to be in a free-fall for the rest of your life. And this is an artist who’s got the fabulous openings, the attentive collectors and caring galleries. Yet she still feels that way!

So instead of complaining about what you don’t have, identify what you need to do to get it. Then start taking the steps. Baby steps. Every day.

Bless the fact that you’re an artist; that you’re doing what you love. Acknowledge the courage it took to take that jump.

And then enjoy the ride.

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Who's Your Hero?

I like a hero as much as the next girl, maybe more. Probably more. But my heroes aren’t action stars, sports legends, nor Kardashians. They’re not even all artists.

My heroes tend to be the special teachers I’ve had over the years.

A few of them worked in a classroom, most of them didn’t. But they each showed me new ways of looking, seeing, working, and being. And that’s why those special teachers are my greatest heroes.

My Companion doesn’t talk of heroes. They frown on that kind of exuberant language in England. Instead, the Brits nod approvingly and say things like “jolly good.”

But over the years, Companion has spoken softly of his college art professor in tones that suggest great fondness and admiration.

It was many, many years ago now. Arthur Bell Foster was already an old man. He was a landscape painter whose medium was watercolor and whose subject was the breathtaking, yet sometimes monotone, grandeur of Engand’s Lake District.

Companion always smiles when he remembers Mr. Foster’s hand-tied bow ties, brown tweed jacket, mustard colored waistcoat with a discreet crimson check, his old-fashioned exactness, and his habit of referring to everyone as “Old Chap.”

He remembers that each day Mr. Foster was asked what he’d like for lunch. And each day Mr. Foster thought hard about the question, as if he was hearing it for the first time. And then he’s always order the same: “A tongue and mustard sandwich and perhaps a cheese and pickle one as well, if you don’t mind.”

Companion remembers how the new art teachers, with their long hair and radical ideas sniffed in disdain at Mr. Foster’s outmoded work. It was the era of the “Pop Art” mobile and daubs of abstract color, which in the hands of anyone a few leagues below Rothko, bore an uncanny resemblance to the color charts released by manufacturers of mass-produced household paint.

He remembers how Mr. Foster would be pushed out of education, replaced by these young men who were more interested in chasing their own careers than in teaching their students.

But mostly Companion remembers the lessons, the attention, and the care Mr. Foster put into the craft of painting.

It took me a long time to find a painting by Arthur Bell Foster. History has long forgotten him and his work. One might wonder if his whole career was in vain?

But though it’s been decades since he’s seen it, and the gift was a surprise, Companion recognized his Teacher’s work the moment he unwrapped that package.

He showed me where Mr. Foster had used wax with his watercolor to give it texture. He showed me how he used color, his brushstrokes. He remembered the lessons he’d learned that had become a part of who he is now and the work he continues to do.

Arthur Bell Foster had been more than a teacher. He’d been The Teacher.

And to me, that’s heroic.

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The One Word That Changed Everything

Once upon a time, I was stressed to the breaking point. Nothing, it seemed, was going my way.

Have you ever felt this way?

I had plans to visit a friend that night. He plays live music and I wanted to catch his show. We’d been friends forever, and I refer to him as my “Guardian Angel” because of the wisdom bombs he drops.

He didn’t disappoint.

After the show I climbed up on stage to say hello. “How you doing?” he asked as he packed his gear. The tears started flowing. Right there on stage!

But we’ve been friends for a long time, so he knew just what to do. He quickly led me to chocolate.

“Tell me what’s going on.”

It all spilled out. I’d worked so hard, stated my intentions to the universe and put in the effort. Yet when I looked at the results, nothing had gone the way I’d wanted.

The universe had not given me what I requested within the timeline I set.

And my Guardian Angel said one word that changed everything, “Allow.”



“Stop bossing the universe around! Stop dictating your terms! Instead, state your intention, do the work, follow the path, and bless the journey. Walk in faith that the universe has its own timeline and agenda, and it’s far greater than what you can ever imagine.”

In that moment, I could clearly see all aspects of my life: in my relationships, my career, and even my creative work… I was not allowing. And something inside shifted. I let go of my need for control of the outcome.

I allowed.

As artists, we often feel we have to try harder than everyone else. It doesn’t help that our very work puts our vulnerabilities on display for all to see. But what happens if you stop trying so hard? Stop pushing your agenda on the universe?

What happens if you simply do the work and do it joyfully?

My Guardian Angel explained, “Stress is a signal that your ego’s in charge. Doubts push success away. You’ve gotta learn to love yourself on a higher level. Staying focused and intentional is different than obsessing, it’s different than stress.”

Allow. That one word rocked my world. And today, it’s my mantra.

But what about you?

Maybe you’ve also had an exhibition of your work with high expectations of sales and critical acclaim? And when those expectations weren’t met, you used the experience to turn against yourself. You used words like failure, disappointment, not good enough.

We’ve all been there. But I’ve also witnessed what’s on the other side.

Someone sees the show and remembers it. They tell a friend who works as a curator and a few years later, those pieces are going to a museum. It’s a good thing they didn’t sell because now their value has greatly increased.

The point is you never know what door is going to open. Allow the universe the space to do its magic. Don’t curse what may well turn out to be a blessing.

And when it all gets too much, when life has you against the ropes and you can’t stop the tears, do what I do: share some chocolate with an Angel.

And allow.

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Watch This Space!

It's been exactly seven years since I stepped on that airplane to France. I was so frazzled that when I arrived, I slept for 24 straight hours.  

Selling everything you own, saying goodbye to everyone you know, especially your Mom, and then taking a one-way flight to a new life is exhausting. 

Particularly when there's nothing waiting for you on the other side. 

It takes faith in the invisible to be an artist. Think about it, we're always working with ideas that are unseen until we create them and make them real. 

Only this time, I was doing it with my life.

Luckily, when I jumped the universe caught me. Several times, actually.  

And over these past seven years, I've learned a lot. About life. About art. About business.

But you don't have to run away to France to learn these lessons. 

I'm just putting the final touches on a very special new workshop. It's called The Working Artist Manifesto: Making Sense of Art, Life, and Time.  

These are the lessons I've learned from life inside the art world and what it means to be an artist. It's the hard won knowledge about our relationships with time and money and with our work.

But this workshop's not really about me. It's about you. 

Because by the time you finish it, you'll have created your very own Working Artist Manifesto. 

The Working Artist Manifesto will be released next week. I'll be sharing this powerful new workshop for FREE. But only for a very limited time. 

Because on November 16th, I'll be opening the next session of The Working Artist! (cue applause) This new session will be bigger and better than ever. 

So watch this space!

It might just change your life.

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Do You Hear That? It's Life Asking You A Question.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

Do you think we ever stop asking ourselves that question? It seems to be one of life's great mysteries.

When I was young I yearned to be a child prodigy. It seemed an easy way out. Let fate and genetics take the wheel, it was exhausting trying to sort life out on my own. It still is!

When my natural talent failed to reveal itself, I thought about other career options. I tried to imagine what sort of tasks I would do. And more importantly, what would I wear?

I carefully considered every job I saw portrayed on TV and in films. I thought I might like to be a detective, like Kelly Garrett, the sensitive one in Charlie's Angels. But I try as I might, I just couldn't run in high heels.

Dismayed, I looked to my parents and their friends for career inspiration, immediately turning away with a shudder.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

This seemingly innocent question carries a false implication -- that what we do determines who we are. The truth is, we're better served by letting who we are determine what we do.

When faced with any decision, particularly life decisions, I like to begin at the end. So picture yourself at the very end of your life and look backward.

What do you want your life to have stood for? What do you want to leave behind? What kinds of experiences would you like to have had?

Dream big! Why not?

The point is to have fun with it and see where your imagination takes you.

Thinking about your heroes also reveals a great deal about yourself. Who are the people you admire most? What qualities do they have that attract you? Are these qualities you hope to cultivate in your own life?

What about your favorite fictional characters? Are they clever, adventurous, funny, or artistic? What challenges have they overcome? Can they run in high heels?

My friend Guy had the luxury of knowing that he wanted to be an architect from the time of his first Lego set. But many, many years later, ready to retire after a full career as a high-school English teacher, Guy was a sad figure.

As I sat amongst the dozens of architecture coffee-table books in his library, and moved aside those piled upon his coffee-table so that I could find a place to actually put down my cup of coffee. 

I asked why Guy he never became an architect? He obviously still loved the field.

He replied with a shrug, "My math skills are weak." I was shocked. Guy may never be a physicist but certainly, with some hard work, applied thinking, and maybe a patient tutor, he could have improved his math skills.

Guy chose not to attain his dream but to spend his working life in a career he admittedly wasn't suited for, because he did not give himself permission to learn.

As your own dreams whisper to you, remember that we never really "grow up." We never stop changing or dreaming or grasping toward new experiences -- until we die.

Or decide to stop.

So as you reach for your dreams, don't let ignorance or fear stop you from attaining them. Yes, sometimes learning is awkward and uncomfortable and even difficult. But it's always possible.

What matters most is that once you choose a path to walk, you begin to take the steps toward your goal. Even if they're baby steps.

And I promise you that in no time at all, you'll be running in high heels.

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The Day The Paparazzi Chased Me

It was a Monday morning and I trudged to the gym in the London drizzle.
I was wearing no make up and my hair was piled atop my head. I was wearing baggy sweats and a mighty fine hangover. Let's just say it wasn't my best look. But hey, I was only going to the gym, who's cares?
Suddenly, the sidewalk got crowded. Someone motioned for me to GET BACK but I ignored him. I just wanted to get this workout over with, I didn't have time for tourists.
But then there were people all around me and I found myself in the middle of a very strange crowd. Who were all these people? Why were they so thin? What were all those lights? And why were those photographers taking my picture?
Oh my God! I'd wandered onto the red carpet of London Fashion Week.
And I couldn't get out!
It was mobbed with models and designers and other fashionistas in very nice shoes. AND ME! In my sweats and ponytail with no make up! I struggled to find my way out of the sea of well-dressed skinny people holding poses.
Photographers stood behind ropes, snapping away while screaming at me, "Get out of the picture!"
I was mortified.
It took ages to escape. I looked a fool out there. As I stumbled down the walkway toward the gym I wondered what kind of God would allow me to leave the house dressed like this?
Suddenly, a small band of photographers ran right in front of me, crouched down, and start snapping like mad. "Are you kidding?" I screamed at them.
Then I realized that there was a very tall skinny girl walking behind me. The photographers were trying to shoot around me but it was like she was using me as a human shield. And I couldn't shake her!
I ran, serpentine, to escape the model and her paparazzi. I ran as far away from London Fashion Week as I could. As I ran I thought of all the nice clothes I had at home and why couldn't I have been wearing those? How had I let myself become a Glamour DON'T?
So what's this harrowing (and true!) story go to do with being an artist? I'll tell you.
Be prepared!
You never know who you're going to meet or when opportunity will arise. No matter if you're going to the gym or an art gallery, always have business cards on hand and for God's sake always dress the part. I don't mean you have to be ready for the red carpet, but do represent yourself.
Because take it from me, you never know when the paparazzi are going to chase you!


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The 8-Year Old Artist's Message

It was Day 16 of my crowd-funding campaign and I had only cried in public once. Twice. Online crowd-funding is not for the faint of heart.
This was a few years ago, when I was raising the funds to create The Working Artist. It was my dream to create an online business school for artists and photographers. I'd spent years working with blue-chip art stars and introducing new names to the market. I wanted to share what I'd learned from my career in the art business so that others could succeed too.
The launch party for my fundraising campaign was a huge success and I exceeded my initial goal in terms of donations. The next two weeks were a whirling dervish of emotions and bloody hard work. I was glued to the computer constantly posting, tweeting, imploring, and pleading. 
And when I wasn't at the computer I was out on the streets handing out promotional materials, chatting up artists, and speaking to every art and photography group that would let me in the door. The month, it seemed, would never end.
And thus, Day 16 began. I was halfway through the campaign, I'd begged every friend, relative, and ex-boyfriend I knew and had raised just over half my goal.
Now what? I was exhausted, and feared I was having a crisis of faith. 
On my bicycle whizzing down a hill under a bridge when something caught my eye. A little boy was drawing with chalk on the concrete wall. 
My camera was at home with a dead battery. But I have a phone, I reminded myself. I hate photographing with a phone and I don't photograph children but something told me to turn back. 
I asked his mother if I could take a picture. I tried to get a shot of him as he drew, apologizing for not having my good camera. "So do you just ride your bike and take pictures of things?" he asked. 
Yes, that sums me up pretty well. He looked impressed, "I want to be like you when I grow up." 
What's that? "An artist," he smiled.
He showed me some of his other, earlier, chalk drawings. There was a large piece called "People Pasture" of a unicorn eating people. I moved to shoot a picture of it but he stopped me, "I don't think that's my best work," he said gravely. 
His name was Harrison and he was 8 years old. His drawings filled the walls with their childlike graffiti, he'd even written poetry. "Faith. Justice. Believers matter," he wrote.
"Sometimes," he confessed, "I have doubts about my work." Harrison wanted to be a famous artist.
We spoke for a long time. He told me how it hurts when people don't like what he does. I pointed him back to his own words, "Believers matter."
I told him what it is to be an artist, how it's important to always take chances, to make your life an expression of your work, of your self. I spoke of integrity. 
He drank my words in thirsty gulps. I told him how fame is a false prophet and how his life's work, as an artist, is to work hard to develop that which lies inside and to always look for ways to express it, leaving everyplace he ever goes more beautiful for him having been there. "Like you do with these walls," I told him.
I told Harrison about my crowd-funding campaign and he encouraged me not to give up. "Look how much you have helped me today," he said. "Crista, this is your work." 
He added, "It's so good that I met you." But it was I who was blessed. This 8-year old artist had given me faith again.
I asked to take his picture with my phone and he made me wait so he could put on his glasses. He posed proudly.
As I left, he told me that he would be back tomorrow, making another drawing, should I want to visit him. "I will photograph you again," I promised.
"Bring your good camera this time," he said.
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What Will Become of You?

I found myself at a crossroads when I was eighteen years old.
I'd grown up in a family where science and mathematics made proper courses of study for university. But my behavior gave my family reason to pause. We didn't have the vocabulary to understand what was wrong with me, why I was different.
I wrote poetry, took pictures with the camera tilted at a jaunty angle, and added purple food-coloring to the mashed potatoes at dinnertime.
The word "creative" was not part of my family's lexicon - but the word "strange" was.
"What will become of her?" they nervously asked one another. I wondered that myself.
Unable to envision a career path that didn't reduce me to tears, I would put off university for several years. Instead of focusing on what I would do for a living, I decided to think about the experiences I wanted to have. What did I want my life to be about?
Adventure and beauty became my calling. And this search would eventually lead me to college, to study art. I just took my own way of getting there.
Is your life's journey a true expression of your self?
Many people don't realize that we create our own lives. Instead of color, texture and line, we use our choices to paint life's canvas.
Choice. The word is deceptively simple.
But if, like me, life has sometimes found you putting your fate in a tossed coin, you know that making decisions can be difficult, especially if one is creative. Our interests are usually a little wider, our dreams a little larger, thus the risks a little greater.
And putting off decisions is a long-cherished pastime of creatives. We would much prefer to continue mulling the possibilities, perhaps begin a new project, or even watch paint dry -- literally.
This is where courage is called upon.
Our creativity is the most authentic part of us. So why do we often let our fears dictate our decisions? Why not trust our creativity to lead us? This doesn't mean that you're at the whim of some vague, artsy-fartsy fancy, it means you're living with authenticity.
Ask yourself, "What do I really, really want?" Then engage with your creativity and listen to where the work takes you.
If you find yourself hesitating to make an important decision, remember poet Rainer Maria Rilke's words, "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves."
Choosing to love the questions instead of scrambling for answers begins a journey toward real creativity.
And though it's scary as hell to take the road less traveled, it's this journey that will bring you more adventure and more beauty than you ever dared imagine.
Every moment holds the promise of being a defining one.
It's your choice.
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How To Get Into An Art Gallery

Emerging artists with little sales and exhibition experience often struggle to find doors that will open. It's difficult to break into the art business!
In a recent interview with art superstar William Wegman, I asked him how he was able to get into an art gallery when he started out? He said, "Other artists recommended me to their galleries. I didn't really go around with my portfolio; that was kind of a sad sack situation and pretty much a dead-end, I think. And if you want to be discouraged, just start doing that."
Exactly! Showing up at a gallery, unannounced and uninvited is a fast track to nowhere. 
Even worse is sending out emails with links or attachments when no one asked to see them. Do you know what happens to unsolicited emails to galleries? Delete! Delete! Delete!
So, how can artists get into an art gallery? 
Here's my list of the do's and don'ts.  
Do your research to see if the gallery is a good match for your work and level of experience.
When I had a gallery, artists approached me daily about showing their work. 
The problem was, my focus was on works on paper and photography. I also leaned toward work that made some sort of political or social statement. But sculptors, landscape painters, video artists, pet portraitists, religious iconographers, all submitted work anyway and seemed surprised when I turned them away. 
Gallerists are creative agents themselves, they have strong interests and aesthetics. Believing that your work is so good and so important that it will change the course of the gallerist's entire enterprise is egotistical and even a little bit rude. 
A gallery is not just a gallery. It represents someone's creative vision. Take the time to find out what a gallery is dedicated to showing before you even think of submitting your work.
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Do develop a relationship with the gallery.
The primary way that galleries choose artists is through relationships. That means that either someone introduced them to the artist's work or they met the artist first and then were introduced to the work.
If you've identified an art gallery that would make a good fit for you, develop a relationship with them. Go to their events. Sign up for their mailing list. Spend time on their website. Like their Facebook page. Get known within their community as a supporter. This is the best way to get on a gallery's radar. 
If you know someone who's already part of that gallery's community, all the better! Ask to join them when you go to events. Have them introduce you to the staff. 
Let the gallerist know how much you enjoy what they do, show them that you know who they are and what they're about. Then submit your work.
Don't approach a gallery before finding out their submission policies.
Finding out a gallery's submission policy is easy. Check their website and see if it's posted there. If not, call them - that's right pick up the telephone and ask. Or ask the gallerist while you're visiting -- because you should try to visit the gallery in person.
If they say that they don't accept submissions, then you have your answer. They don't accept submissions. Do not submit your work anyway. The best way to crack this nut is through an introduction. And this all goes back to becoming part of the gallery's community.
If they do accept submissions, try to follow their guidelines. If they ask for 12 images, don't send them 50. I know you're an artist and we're prone to breaking the rules, but submission policies are best followed to the letter.
Don't ask what the gallery can do for you, but what you can do for the gallery.
No, seriously. Artists are always wishing they had a gallery to "handle all of this business stuff for me." But what are you offering the gallery?
Instead of looking at galleries in terms of what they can give to you, turn that question around. How would your work add to their stable? What would it bring to them? How can you help them with marketing? Are there introductions you can make? Do you know how to build websites? Maybe they need some help with theirs. 
Giving an artist an exhibition is a very expensive gamble. And as any gallerist can tell you, demanding and egotistical artists are seldom worth the trouble. There's a long line of very talented people who would love to have an opportunity to get into an art gallery, people who are givers not takers. So be a giver.
Don't ever think of the gallery's commission as something they're taking from you, but of each sale as something they're giving to you.
Do you think it's expensive to be an artist? Try having a gallery! The overhead is tremendous. And don't even get me started on the price of art fairs.
Artists often complain to me about galleries who take 40, 50, even 60%. True, if you're paying that much you have a right to expect a lot in return. But don't deny the gallery their commission. They aren't taking anything from you. They are giving you a sale that you otherwise wouldn't have had.
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Do be prepared to talk about your work.
I've asked many artists to tell me about their work over the years. The ones who mumble, "My work speaks for itself" are wrong. If it did, I wouldn't have asked. 
Trust me, being reticent about your work is no way to get into an art gallery. But being interested enough in your own work to engage others is the best sales tool there is.
Do develop an audience before approaching a gallery. 
For example, having an engaged following on Facebook carries weight. It shows the gallery that you understand how to promote and market yourself. 
Too many artists put this off saying that it's a gallery's job. It is not. It's your job to build and maintain your audience.
There's no hard and fast number of fans you need. But being able to tell a gallery that you've got a loyal following will give them a sense of security. They'll know that you understand marketing and that you can fill a gallery with people come opening night.
If you absolutely hate social media, don't worry about it. You don't have to engage online. But it's a very powerful tool for artists if they're willing to embrace it. 
If you are going to engage online, I'd suggest you choose one platform and rock that. You can have a presence on the others and even push notifications out to them, but you don't have to be everything to everybody all the time.
And if you decide to opt out of the social media scene, then think about how you will engage your audience? Do you have a mailing list of people who have visited your studio and bought from you in the past? Start now!
Even if you have a gallery who handles client relations for you, you'd be best served to have some control over your audience. What happens when the gallery closes? Don't shrug, I've seen it happen many times before. And artists who had been selling consistently have found themselves starting over from the beginning.
These tips will help to open doors for you. I've seen it happen again and again. But it's your work that will seal the deal. Make sure that the work is ready, that you've honed your craft and are showing the best that you can do. 
It looks easy, but I know that it's difficult. Hang in there and DON'T QUIT.
Because this is how you DO get into an art gallery!
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