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   Welcome to my blog! I'll be posting thoughts about art, photos, happenings, and other things that strike me--and hopefully my readers--as interesting. And please visit my website by clicking the link to the right--thanks!

   Also please check out my second blog, The Painting Archives to see older (pre-2004) paintings for sale.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The painting above, Tangled, is now at Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe--one of several 12" square pieces I sent out last week.

For the past few days I've been thinking about the issue of self-promotion for artists...how much is too much? When I got back from my last workshop, and posted some photos of it on Facebook, that seemed fine to me. Then I realized I should do the same thing on my Facebook "fan page" (since not everyone who is a "fan" is also a "friend.") Then, naturally I wrote about the workshop here on my blog, since it was a major event for me, and my blog readers are all over--many are not connected to me through Facebook. However, my blog appears on my Facebook page as a "note"...so if we count the photo of the class that I posted on my Facebook "wall" there were four items about the workshop that went out to all of my Facebook friends. Which was probably about three too many. At least I no longer "tweet" so Twitter followers were spared!

As anyone who has delved into social media knows, there are a great many places now to post information--for me, besides Facebook, my blog, and website, there are also a number of professional sites like Plaxo, and also artist information sites that request announcements of shows and workshops. It's all good, and I've been amazed at how information travels on the web. (In the past few weeks alone I've had emails from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Singapore--in both cases artists asking about my techniques.)

On the other hand, it can seem like a chore (and sometimes an uncomfortable one) to continually go on about myself and what I do. I've spent the past 30+ years in the Midwest, where there is a strong cultural taboo against "tooting your own horn" and I sometimes cringe to hear how casually I now do so. Yet I recognize the necessity for a professional artist to self-promote. We've all heard the saying, if you don't do it, who will?

Once you've been well-received by a gallery owner or workshop organizer, it's a lot easier to approach the next one...but in the beginning, self-promotion is a very daunting obstacle to overcome. It's not just sending around announcements and descriptions of what you do--it's having some confidence that this is news someone wants to hear. Many of us pick up the skills and avenues of self-promotion gradually as we go--for me there was never a huge hurdle to jump, just a series of small steps that get somewhat easier as time goes on. (Though now on the internet they seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate, and in sheer numbers are hard to keep up with.)

I still do find it tricky to know the right level of self-promotion for each situation, though, or to correctly sense whether it is appropriate at all. I'm most at ease with situations that come with unwritten rules or guidelines--for example, in making initial contact with a gallery or in giving a slide lecture, I know that talking about myself and my work is expected. That's true also for this blog--I figure that my regular readers must be interested in my work and my feelings about it if they are sticking around. From my own experience and from the comments of others, I know that an artist's successes, failures, insights, and experience provide valuable information for others on the same path.

There are definitely situations, though, in which speaking about what I do beyond just stating the facts is not well received. Talking about my work with any degree of emotion or enthusiasm can easily be heard as boasting--causing eye-rolling and a "who does she think she is??" reaction. Because these situations are not so well-defined, it's possible to stumble into them and to end up being quite embarrassed. I'm guessing that most artists have had these experiences, and try intuitively to avoid them. (It's interesting to note that many who offer business advice for artists advocate fairly relentless self-promotion--with strangers in all sorts of situations, as well as with acquaintances, friends and family...but I can't see it.)

The key to self-promotion seems to be, who wants to know and how much do they want to know? And the people who don't even know they want to know...can you second-guess them? There are lots of pitfalls, and the truth is that in the course of self-promotion (even if you follow well-accepted, appropriate channels) you will at some point be embarrassed, misunderstood, disrespected, and/or ignored. Accept that and the way is cleared to reap much more positive outcomes. I continue to have moments of discomfort, but the rewards of growing recognition and exposure make that all pretty much OK. I wonder what other artists reading this have to say on this topic? It seems to be on many people's minds, and there are no easy answers, only individual opinions and anecdotes.
I find that now my blogs have started taking off, I need to set aside time for correspondence, as much as I do for maintenance, composing the text, creating art and commenting.

In the end I have found it all to be worthwhile because out of the mix one establishes a few here and there real friendships that otherwise one would not have had.

It is however important to keep it all in perspective and not lose sight of ones art.

As for the painting you kindly share with us, is one I would love to just close my eyes and gentle caress the surface, feeling its textures, letting it speak to me on another level.

Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful Sunday,
I know what you mean about being told to self-promote endlessly. But, like you, I think there is a tipping point, where too much causes as much harm as good. But where is that point? I don't know to be honest. I guess all we can do is what feels comfortable and try to measure how well it is working for us.
This is quite a thought provoking post about an important topic. And I agree with cathsheard...we each have our own comfort zone in this regard. And I imagine this "zone" changes as we develop as artists and depending upon the forum or the audience.
I enjoy following artist blogs, and I rarely find them to be too self-promoting - certainly not yours. As an emerging artist I love to learn about the experiences of other artists regardless whether their style and mine are different. It is sharing the creative experience I guess.

And good heaven's an artist who doesn't enjoy the process of creating their art or appreciate the outcome - not that would leave me feeling uncomfortable about the artist.

I hope you continue to share your art and your experience - I find it worthwhile and enjoyable - and adds dimension to art that I enjoy.
Hey, just want to say hi. I'm new here.
Scrolling through your blog posts . . this topic caught my eye, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who has felt discomfort in putting oneself "out there." Seems that "letting go" of what others may think (last paragraph) is the key.
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       Rebecca Crowell