Friday, October 31, 2008

A big eye and coloured pencil classes...

Portrait course eye exercise, approx. 5" x 6"
coloured pencil on Stonehenge, copyright Teresa Mallen

Happy Halloween! Did my big eyeball scare you? Hopefully it isn't too ghoulish!

Here at Teresa Mallen Studio, November is portrait month. Over the next four weeks I shall be teaching a course on how to do portraits in coloured pencil. I have been having an absolute blast creating new exercises. I love it when a subject comes to life on paper and it is even more thrilling when it is a face.

This is a real nitty gritty course, chock full of fabulous info on how to avoid common drawing errors. There is also lots of practice in creating skin tones. The big eye is one of the exercises. There are so many mistakes made with the eye. Usually it is because we think we know what an eye looks like, but when it comes to drawing and capturing a likeness, never assume anything!

I shall share some of the other face parts next week. For now I shall leave you will some photos taken two days ago. Mother Nature got in an early Halloween trick as we have had a snow and ice storm. Now before you start thinking that here in Ottawa we must live in igloos and have no sun for nine months of the year - we are not that far north! We never get snow in October and often not in November either. So this snow will melt when it warms up next week.

My husband snapped this picture. I am in our backyard (decked out in one of his old coats) and no I am not raking snow. I was using the rake to get ice off of a lilac tree.

You might wish to scroll down to the October 18th post to see how this tree looked just a week and a half ago.

Remember the picture of one of my favourite spots? Well, here is how it looks now.

Forget the costumes and carved pumpkins...isn't Halloween just an excuse to eat candy? Enjoy! Just adding beauty to my life, right? :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

creating your brand - marketing ideas for artists

The previous post had us visiting the world of reincarnated tea. Here are some more of my thoughts on marketing and some ideas on how artists can set themselves apart.

Before I get started, let me encourage you by saying that you have everything in you that you need to succeed at marketing yourself and your art. How do I know this? Well, as an artist you have already proven that you are creative and good marketing is just using creativity to sell! It really is that simple.

So lets get creative. First of all, what is your brand? Do you have one? Do you even know what I mean by brand?

Brand refers to one's identity.

If I say the following words to you, what comes to mind? Campbell's Soup, The Red Cross, Sara Lee, Betty Crocker, Amnesty International, McDonalds, National Geographic, Neutrogena, Ben and Jerry's, Heinz. Brands are not just for corporations. Think of Oprah, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart, Madonna.

Perhaps you immediately pictured a logo. Perhaps certain colours came to mind when you heard a company's name. Did you think of other things? Did you suddenly visualize a hamburger when you read McDonalds? Perhaps you saw golden arches. Did you immediately think of a company's advertising? Perhaps you thought of a slogan or a jingle from a commercial. What sort of photography do you expect when you think of National Geographic images? What sort of work comes to mind when you think of The Red Cross or Amnesty International?

Our brand refers to what people associate with us when they hear our name, our company's name (if you have one) and when they encounter our work. Ben and Jerry's hope that you perceive them as offering very high quality ice cream. Heinz wants you to think that they have such a superior product that when it comes to ketchup "there are no other kinds". National Geographic consistently produces a magazine offering thought provoking articles and world renowned photography. As a consumer, we know what to expect from them and they don't disappoint us. To be a successful humanitarian organization, you must work to build trust. If we do not believe in their strong values then we will not financially support their efforts. So are you getting the idea?

To establish an identity or brand isn't as scary or as difficult as it seems. To get started all you need to do is think of ways to promote what is unique about what you do. Here are some ideas:

  • Perhaps the style of your art is quite distinctive. Ideally, there should be something about your work that makes it different than your peers. This could be something like your stroke technique or the colours you love to work in.
  • Maybe you work in an unusual medium or with unusual methods. For example, perhaps you work in coloured pencil on board instead of paper or perhaps you always use solvents.
  • Do you work in an unusual location? Perhaps you work in a renovated chicken coop and you offer workshops there too. That isn't too common.
  • Perhaps your choice of subject matter is rather unusual.
  • Consistency is an easy way to achieve branding. You might wish to have a certain font used in all of your correspondence - from business cards to your website. Choose colours that reflect you and use them in all of your press - from media cards, advertising, letter head, to mailing labels etc.
  • Use consistent framing so that if someone were to see your work in a show, they would know who the artist is.
  • Display consistent values. Become know for integrity, fairness, and honesty. Display a consistent level of quality in your work. Why not make excellence part of your brand? How about being consistently passionate and enthusiastic?
  • You might wish to create a logo. Or how about coming up with a tagline?

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. Marketing can be fun and creative, in fact I think it should be. For more info you can surf the web, you can look at books at your library or you can check out magazines (yes, there are marketing magazines, you can find them at larger booksellers). If you would like some input from others, why not invite a few friends round? Together, have a look at the product(s) you produce and ask for ideas. What do they think is unique about you and your work? How do they perceive your 'brand'? Do some brainstorming. Don't forget that you can get great ideas from your mentors. Who do you look up to? Think of some local artists that you know and admire (they can be woodcarvers, potters, not just painters). What do their business cards and media cards look like? How do they advertise and promote themselves?

As you can see, this isn't difficult stuff. Maybe you just need to take some time to consider this aspect of being an artist. Why not get creative about selling your work? Maybe all you need to do is to focus on this for a bit. Why not ask more from yourself? Maybe you just need to commit to coming up a bit higher in a few areas - some key areas that will help you perfect your branding. For example maybe you need to commit to having all of your framing look great (no sneaking in some cheap frames, or poorly cut mats hoping people won't notice), maybe you commit to only showing your best work (no sneaking in a few lesser works in the hopes that someone won't notice and will buy them - remember these works reflect on everything else you are showing), and perhaps you commit to being enthusiastic in front of your customers (no more complaining about slow attendance or poor sales).

I hope these posts have started you thinking about your marketing plans. It really doesn't take thousands of dollars and a team of marketing professionals to give your business a boost. You are more than capable of doing this yourself. If any readers have some ideas they would like to share, please start a discussion and write a comment. Are you ready? Get branding!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

marketing outside of the box

If you are an artist that seeks to sell your work, how would you describe your marketing strategy? Is your approach fresh and innovative or are you doing the same things everyone else does? Or yikes, maybe you don't have a marketing strategy. Perhaps you have business cards and media cards...and you're thinking "isn't that enough"? Well today I have a really great example of marketing outside the box. I hope you will be amused and inspired...

Sometimes great business ideas come as easily as observing the best practices of other companies. I have recently been inspired by a tea company. Yes a tea company...not just any tea company though, as you shall see...this is Tazo tea!

I was given a couple of boxes of Tazo tea for Christmas last year. From my first encounter with their product, I have admired their creative approach to marketing. They have done an excellent job in defining their brand. Once you encounter this company, you won't forget it, nor will you confuse it with other tea companies. Basic marketing 101, find a way to set yourself apart from the crowd.

So how does this company set itself apart? Well, primarily they have very creative packaging and text. Think Peterman catalogue from Seinfeld. :-) Their tagline is "Tazo, The Reincarnation of Tea". From here they build on this mystical, new age theme. For example on their website you can return to the "OM Page". You can get a newsletter or as they say "Be Enlightened, Sign Up For Free Tazo Wisdom", or you can contact them, "Enlighten Us Via Email or with Thought Waves". On their package they say that you can write to them but "Allow two weeks of this lifetime for a written response." Their box defines Tazo as "a calming herbal portion able to carry the drinker to a transcendent state of peace", and it also says that "Tazo has surfaced among the more advanced cultures of the day as a solution to the angst of daily life".

Here are two examples of text from the individual tea packets - On the Tazo Chai packet the text reads: "Throughout India, chai wallahs can be found serving up steaming cups of sweetly spiced chai to wandering souls. You're with them now." On the Tazo Calm package it states "A single cup of Tazo Calm has been known to have the same effect as sitting for 45 minutes in a mountain meadow on a sunny day with your shoes off." I confess this is the marketing statement that I like the most. Wow, this is just a chamomile blend and it does all this?! :-) When talking about the ingredients of the Calm blend, the final statement is "There's also a bit of magic involved, but it's really nothing we can talk about."

Whew...are we really just selling tea here? This is a very innovative approach to selling a rather ordinary product. Black tea, green tea, herbal teas, these are not new products and they are available everywhere. So if you were attempting to break into the tea market and you wanted to stand out, how would you do it? You might be interested to know that the company that is selling "reincarnated" tea is not located in Egypt but in Portland Oregon!

So what does this have to do with you? First of all, why not have a look at Tazo's website. What do you think of their approach to selling tea? In tomorrow's post I will share with you some of my thoughts on how you might set yourself apart from the crowd as an artist.

For now, I shall get back to my drafting table but first I think I shall pour myself a cup of Tazo Calm so I can experience that 'sunny mountain meadow with my shoes off' effect.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

stop and look back...

This is one of my favourite spots on our property. Our leaves are falling now but this place is sheltered from the wind and the leaves should last awhile here. Deer liked resting in this spot last winter.

Do you ever stop to look back over your artistic journey? I had the opportunity to do that this week as I redid my resume. I was submitting a resume and a course proposal to a college that offers a summer school program in the arts. I am looking ahead at the possibility of new opportunities for 2009. Anyway, as I prepared to write my resume, I looked back over the last year or so to record my accomplishments. You know what I discovered? I have accomplished more than I thought! Isn't that nice?! If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that my husband and I bought and sold homes in the past year. You will also know that my Dad was sick this summer and that I was out of town staying with him. What surprised me, is that despite all of the upheavals to my life in the past year or so, I have managed to be quite productive. I am so glad I had a reason to look back or I might not have realized this.

So my suggestion for the day is that you find a few minutes to pause and look back over your own life. What have you been doing artistically in the past year or two? Perhaps you have taken a workshop, read some art books or magazines, perhaps you have tried a new technique or two, perhaps some new surfaces, perhaps some new subject matter. No matter what you have done, you are now further ahead on your art journey than you were back in the Fall of 2007 or 2006. Take a moment to celebrate this. We all tend to feel overwhelmed by our ideas for new projects, or overwhelmed by everything we haven't yet tried or don't yet stop for just a bit and savour what you have done. You will probably be surprised like I was.

Now for a few more pictures...

This next picture is of a trail that leads off from our backyard.

The view above...

The view below...

I love this tree. It makes me think of something animated from a children's movie - a talking tree. It also makes me think of a guy in a rubber tree outfit, with the face about three quarters of the way up.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Getting connected part two - with your help!

In yesterday's post, I was encouraging people to get connected to their local arts community. Rose Welty left a wonderful comment which prompted me to write this post. Rose (her blog is Rose's Art Lines) shares that connecting to an arts community was important to her as it gave her encouragement, advice, technical help and camaraderie. But, Rose's community isn't local, it is on-line. With three young children, Rose finds that the flexibility of the on-line community suits her current needs.

So here is where I need help from the readers. If you have found meaningful community on-line, perhaps at some teaching forum etc. that you would like to recommend to newbies, please leave a comment and provide the web address.

I know of Scribble Talk and WetCanvas. If any readers have feedback on these two, please share. Of course coloured pencil enthusiasts can join my community of Newsletter Group Members! :-) To read a newsletter, click here.

I look forward to reading your suggestions!

For Canadian readers, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. May you have a wonderful weekend and do take an opportunity to be mindful of everything you have to be grateful for. For those of you in the Ottawa area don't forget about the studio tours this weekend - Perth, Westport, Almonte, the Thousand Islands...goodness, see you out on the backroads! The foliage will be spectacular!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Are you connected?

As an artist, are you connected? Are you in some way plugged into your local arts community?

Now, before you start thinking that this doesn't apply to you because a) you don't work full time as an artist, or b) you are just a beginner and you don't even feel comfortable calling yourself an artist or c) there isn't an arts group in your community, give me a chance to convince you otherwise.

What is the value of being connected? Well, for one thing you meet kindred spirits, people who love art and who make art. These kindred spirits can provide you with helpful tips and suggestions - great for beginners - like where they got their fantastic business cards printed and how much they cost or who they know that does beautiful framing. These folks will also provide support. Perhaps your friends and family don't really understand your passion to spend hours creating art, but your new artsy friends will!

So what do I mean by a local arts community...I'm referring to art clubs, art societies, whatever they are called in your area. Art groups will often provide opportunities to get together. For example they may organize a trip to a new art exhibit, they may have regular painting days where people get together at some location to work on their art, they may have monthly meetings with guest speakers and they will probably organize an art show, at least one per year. The good news for beginners or for people who do art as a hobby, is that many arts clubs have open membership, i.e. everyone is welcome. Of course there are art associations whose main focus is holding exhibitions in their gallery space. For these, your work will need to be juried. But I'm not referring to these groups in this post.

You have nothing to lose. If you don't know of an arts group, find a local artist and ask them if there are any such groups in your area. If there isn't one in your area, why not start one? It is as simple as placing a small ad in you local paper asking for interested folks to come out to a meeting at a stated location. Call a few artists and ask them to help get the word out. You can meet in a church hall, a special events room in a restaurant or library, or around a few tables at your local pub. Gather ideas and watch your new group grow and shine!

Where is all of this coming from? Well, last night I attended the October meeting of the Kanata Art Club, an art club located in west Ottawa whose membership is open to any and all. The guest presenter last night spoke on advertising and marketing. Next month, the presenter is scheduled to be a very talented local mixed media artist. I know her and I am really looking forward to learning how she works. Last May they had a wonderful artist presenting on coloured pencil techniques. Okay, it was me :-) See how diverse the topics are?

For another example, a local arts group called The West Carleton Arts Society is holding their annual exhibition this weekend. They also put on an annual arts conference in the spring. Again, membership with this group is open to one and all. They have a fantastic email database and members receive updates on such things as classes being offered, galleries looking for work, artist open houses etc.

So why not consider getting connected? Try out a group, go to their show, attend a meeting, introduce yourself. It will do wonders for your sense of being an artist, you will pick up some useful info, and you will probably make some friends. Go on, just do it...

Hey, my Mud Lake outing yesterday was fantastic! Here are a few photos...thanks Grace for such a wonderful idea!! It is kind of hard to see the ducks in these compressed images but take it from me, they were lovely. :-) And to think that this wonderful spot is just minutes from downtown Ottawa.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tomatoes - finished

Tomatoes, Coloured Pencil on Pastelbord, 8" x 10"
copyright Teresa Mallen

Here is the final image of my tomatoes that has been a work in progress recently. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get an accurate picture although I tried several times. The colours in real life are darker, especially the areas with dark values. Oh well, you get the idea.

Now I just need to think of a name for the piece, spray it and then frame it.

I was up very early this morning to get some work done as I am taking a break later. I am meeting with a friend to go walking and bird watching at Mud Lake. Mud Lake is located on the shores of the Ottawa River, in the west end of the city. I haven't been to this conservation area before and I am looking forward to exploring the forest as well as seeing the birds that gather at this lake. My blog heading says 'add beauty to your life'. This is one of my ways today, what is yours?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Arts, essential to the economy?

If you work in the arts or you support the arts, give yourself a pat on the back. The arts are essential to the economy...and I will give you some numbers to prove it.

First let me say that this post is inspired by the writings of Margaret Atwood in the Globe and Mail, September 24, 2008. This esteemed author asks the reader, "What sort of country do we want to live in? What sort of country do we already live in? What do we like? Who are we?".

Margaret Atwood's article is intended to get Canadians to think about where their elected officials or those running for office stand, with regards to the arts, as we approach our federal election.

What got my attention was her statement that the arts account for as many jobs as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas and utilities combined. Could this be true?

So I did a bit of my own research and here is the wonderful news:

In August of 2008, an economic report was released from the Conference Board of Canada and it estimates that in 2007, arts and culture directly benefited the country by providing over 600,000 jobs, and providing $46 billion of the overall economy or about 3.8% of GDP.

When one looks at the direct and indirect economic benefits in 2007, the report argues that arts and culture generated $84.6 billion, 1.1 million jobs, at 7.4% of total gross domestic product!

The arts are a major contributor to the economic and social well being of our country. Something to think about in these interesting economic times. Do we really need song writers, actors, playwrights, potters, painters, dancers? Yes we do and not just for the feel good stuff of entertainment. Our society needs the arts because it contributes to the financial health of our nation and ensures a strong economy.

So if you support the arts congratulate yourself. If you work in the arts, hold your head up and be proud.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October issue of Coloured Pencil Newsletter is ready!

I can't believe it is October already but as least the October issue of my newsletter is ready to read.

To read my newsletter for coloured pencil artists, click on Newsletter.

Why not become a Newsletter Group Member? Membership entitles you to ask questions, to promote your business, get free critiques, get help with a work in progress and as well it is a forum for you to submit tips, suggestions and work for viewing.

And hey, did I mention that membership is free? Just go to the newsletter link above and contact me. You will be on the mailing list immediately.

Your feedback on the newsletter is most welcome.