I AM AN ARTIST

11/16/15

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Last year, I was at the book launch event for my business book for artists, Art Inc. I was signing books, one by one, and chatting with each person who came to the table. Two young women approached, with big, eager smiles on their faces.

“I am so excited about this book!” one of them exclaimed.

“Oh, thank you!” I replied.

And then I said, assuming if she was excited about my book it must be the true: “You are an artist!”

The young woman paused with clear hesitation. “Well, I do some graphic design…and I paint in watercolors, but…”

“So you’re an artist!” I replied matter-of-factly.

“Um, I guess so?” she said, her cheeks turning red.

I have long pondered why it is so hard for artists — especially women — to own their status in the world. It took me years to identify confidently as an artist. Why are we so hesitant – at least until we’ve graduated from school or until we feel we’ve “made it” or until we’ve hit some crazy apex in our careers — to proclaim, “I am an artist”?

Just the other evening I was with a group of women who I see regularly (all of us are established artists who make our full time living from our art). We get together monthly to draw and enjoy each others’ company. I brought with me to the get-together a new tote bag I’m selling in my shop and a few new notebooks to pass out to the women. These new products of mine are emblazoned with one of my favorite phrases: I AM AN ARTIST. I set the notebooks down on the table, and one of the women excitedly grabbed one. She looked it over and proclaimed, “I need this notebook! I sometimes have a hard time saying this out loud. This will be a good reminder.” For a moment, I was dumbfounded. This woman has made her living from her creative talents for her entire adult life. And then I realized that I would have said the same thing myself just a few short years ago.

I hear constantly from readers and followers and friends that, like I once did, they struggle with identifying confidently as artists. Some have no trouble calling themselves artists, but they have real doubts that they can ever make a profitable & sustainable living from their work. Some fear deep down that they don’t deserve success because they’re self taught or didn’t get started until later in life. Others believe they can’t claim their identity as an artist until they start making money from their work. And most just fear their work isn’t good enough.

For time immemorial society has seen artists as a different breed. We are “moody” and “temperamental”. We “starve” to follow our passions. If we are at all concerned with making money or if we do make money from our work – especially through commercial work – it must mean our intentions as artists are somehow corrupted or that we are not “real” artists. From all of this has grown the starving artist myth.

And, furthermore, most of us have been taught – either directly or indirectly – that if what we create brings us any reward at all (financial reward, a decent income, recognition, even industry awards) that this reward is fleeting. This notion that our endeavors as artists are built on a foundation of scarcity (which is no foundation at all) has permeated our society and our psyches.

Even some of us who do make a living from our art believe in some small way (or many of us in some big way) that at any moment it could all go poof! and disappear, that the people who pay for it today could go away tomorrow and pay for someone else’s work instead. And that is, in part, of course, because art is subjective. Our careers and our future careers as artists are based on whether people like our work, whether it becomes a commodity others want to own or pay us to create. We are always reminding ourselves that we could tomorrow starve, so we better be grateful for what we have today and hustle for what we want to achieve tomorrow.

Many of us spend a lot of time feeling like we are lucky at best and that if we are making money from our work we might not even deserve it. Even artists who have been at this for years and years (like the friend I mentioned earlier) may feel like “impostors” in this world, that at any moment they will be “found out” and exposed for not really being talented or legitimate.

This sense of impermanence, of treading lightly, of not knowing whether my future was secure, even after my work was in demand, has been a big part of my story. And I have come to learn from talking to scores of other artists that this an incredibly common story.

It has been 15 years since I first picked up a paintbrush. I spent much of that time feeling like an impostor. I didn’t study art or illustration formally in school. I did not follow traditional pathways to get where I am. A good part of what I do most days I taught myself how to do. I don’t even know most of the time if there is better or easier or more “right” way to do what I do.

And for that reason, I used to spend a lot of time feeling inferior; like for some reason I did not deserve the success I was experiencing. And worse than that: that’s what I feared others might think about me too.

But at some point, I decided, this is bullshit.

And that’s because I realized that these kinds of limiting beliefs and fears are damaging. They keep us feeling small and from expressing ourselves fully or living our best lives. While they feel real, they are just perceptions that we adopt from a culture that believes artists must struggle or that being a “real” artist is reserved for some chosen elite. These beliefs can also come from years of negative messages from people in our sphere of influence.

And so the next part of my story became my internal fight to think in broader, more confident terms about who I am as an artist and what I can accomplish — not just in the near future — but over my lifetime.

I began spending a lot of time reminding myself that regardless of whether this has all been luck or whether I have any talent isn’t what matters. Who cares about that? What matters is that I am happy getting up every day to paint and draw. What matters is that I make my best effort every day to be myself in my life and work. What matters is that I work really hard at my career. What matters is that I am thoughtful about the work I want to make and the people I want to work with. What matters is that once it started, making art for a living hasn’t failed me.

I have also come to own & embrace all of my experience, including my unconventional (and late blooming) path, including feeling like an impost0r, including my mistakes, including all of the less attractive parts of my story. Because all of those things, in addition to my hard work & my successes, have helped to make me who I am.

I am an artist.

If you can relate to any of what I’ve written here, you might be interested in my upcoming three-day eCourse, aptly called I AM AN ARTIST. Part of the course is designed to help identify and reframe negative or limiting beliefs that may be holding you back from your artistic dreams and goals. We’ll also delve into finding, honing & expressing your voice so that you can begin to more easily build an audience for your work. And we’ll cover key art-business building blocks — things like goal setting, workflow, task organization, email & social media strategy and seizing new opportunities. You can learn more about & register for the course here. Or join me this Friday 11/20 for a LIVE Q&A about the course! I am going to be doing a live broadcast on Periscope 12:00 NOON PST. Your questions about the course answered! Send your questions in advance to courses@lisacongdon.com and I’ll include them in the live Periscope chat! (You must download Periscope on the App Store & follow @lisacongdon to watch live broadcast). Can’t participate in Periscope? Email me with your questions about the course at courses@lisacongdon.com.

Happy Tuesday.

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Art Inc. Lives Among Us // Installment 6

09/02/15

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Hello! I am so excited to share with you my SIXTH Art Inc Lives Among Us Installment! Thank you to everyone who submitted photos of your copy of Art Inc with the hashtag #artinc on Instagram. It was again very hard to choose just 25!

You can see all of the Art Inc Lives Among Us Installments here. Want to be included in a future installment of Art Inc Lives Among Us? Tag your photo of Art Inc #artinc (creatively shot & well lit images are best) for a chance to be included in the next 25!

Are you interested in becoming a working artist, either part time or full time? Art Inc: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist might be the book for you! If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you can get yours here on Amazon, in my Etsy shop (signed copies available there) and anywhere books are sold. The book is all about launching and sustaining a thriving career as an artist, including the ups and the downs.

Also, just a reminder to aspiring illustrators that I have launched a new online professional practice class for beginning illustrators called Professional Practice in Illustration: Following a Creative Brief and Executing an Assignment. You can view & participate in the class through Skillshare here.

Have a great Wednesday, friends!

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Tools I Use & Love

07/22/15

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I am often asked, especially on Instagram, what tools I use and what resources I take advantage of in my business. While I am happy to share most of my tools and resources, I can’t possibly share all of them (both because I can’t remember everything and because that would take too long). The following tools are some that I use and love, and I hope you find this list helpful!

First, as always, my disclaimer: I do not speak for all artists here and what will work best for you or anyone else. I speak only for myself! I am also not representing any of these companies. I also can’t vouch for how any of them will work for you and your process.

I also link to many products here on Amazon, because they carry pretty much everything — and if you live in an area without a local art or printing store, Amazon is a great place to order supplies. That said, I encourage you to shop small local businesses for these products, and I also encourage you to search the internet for other places that sell art supplies if shopping on Amazon isn’t your thing.

Products, Hardware & Creative Software

Black pens: I love Micron pens. Most of you who follow me on Instagram see that I draw with Microns everyday. I love this pen, and I have several in each width, from very tiny tips to thick “Graphic” widths. I do all my lettering with Microns. They are permanent and acid free. Find the widths that work best for you (I tend to use .03-.08 the most often). Buy them here. I also like these black brush pens by Sakura.

Colored pens: I use Koi Brush pens and Gellyroll Pens, but mostly in my sketchbook. Some Gellyroll pens are archival, and those I use in the artwork I sell.

Gouache: My favorite brand of gouache is Acryla. The color selection is lush and they mix nicely. It is more opaque than many gouaches and might be because it’s an acrylic-based watercolor paint. Gouache is matte in finish and I like this, especially when I’m painting on paper.

Watercolor: I also use both Holbein and Koi watercolors. Both are rich and lush.

Acrylic: I use both Golden and Liquitex Professional acrylic paints for my larger abstract work on wood. If you are lucky enough to live near a Blick Art Store, they have an amazing selection of both brands of paint (along with the Acryla gouache I referred to above).

Brushes: I purchase whatever firm, flat head or tiny head brushes are on sale for either watercolor or acrylic painting. I go through brushes really fast, so I buy whatever is on sale or feels nice to the touch.

I also use X-Acto Knives and regular old scissors for paper cutting (note: be extra careful with these, especially if you have small children! Put the cap back on when not in use).

Paper: I am not a paper snob! I draw on vellum or regular drawing paper and paint on watercolor paper. I use so much paper that I usually purchase what is on sale. Canson and Strathmore are fantastic paper brands but there are many other great papers out there. Find the papers you like the best by experimenting. My sketchbooks are just regular everyday cheap sketchbooks, and sometimes if I want the pages to be thicker, I glue every other page together with an acid-free glue stick. I do occasionally work in a sketchbook with watercolor paper, which is a nice treat.

Computers: I have two computers. I have an iMac with a large monitor, which is great for Photoshop editing when I am working on illustration gigs. I print from that computer onto my Epson 3880 (see below). I also have a MacBook Air which I use for everyday stuff and some editing in Photoshop.

Printer: Many of you ask how I make my art prints. Since 2008, I have owned and used an Epson 3880 printer, and I make all of my open edition (non limited edition) prints on this fine piece of machinery. The ink is NOT CHEAP (about $60 a cartridge and there are about 8-9 cartridges) but it lasts a long time.

Printer paper: I find that Epson Paper is the best for Epson printers, and I use Premium acid free Epson matte paper for all of my art prints.

Scanner: I scan my work as a regular part of my workday and find that the Epson V800 scanner does the job well. Like with any scanner, you have to play around with the controls to make sure you are scanning in just the right way (scanning artwork is different from scanning negatives or photos). Once I scan my work, I edit it in Photoshop (see my note about Adobe Creative Cloud below). I learned how to use Photoshop to edit my artwork many years ago by taking tutorials on Lynda.com and also asking people with more experience for help or lessons. Then I practiced everything till I became an expert at it. Much of what I scan is larger than the scan bed, so I scan in parts and piece together with Photoshop tools. Another skill I taught myself over time.

Creative Software: I use the Adobe Creative Cloud for all my design software, and the program I use daily is Photoshop (I also sometimes use Illustrator).

I work with a Intuos Pro Wacom Pen Tablet for editing my images or for digital drawaing in Photoshop.

I don’t know how I lived without my desktop USPS postal scale (and I use Etsy’s shipping feature to make my USPS labels). Highly recommend both if you are an Etsy seller.

I really love Moo for business cards and postcards. I purchase their Luxe business cards for an extra “wow” factor! Their quality is gorgeous and mine are always a conversation starter.

My Website

I’ve been using Siteground for web hosting. I can’t recommend this company enough. They have hosted several of my web sites.

Since 2011, I’ve used WordPress for content management on both my blog and website. It’s user-friendy and free!

Sara Jensen Design designed both my blog and website. Sara and her husband Thor handle everything for me from design, development, site updates, and more. They are the bomb.

Other Resources and Tools

We use Mailchimp for email marketing, which I send twice a month. You can sign up for my email list here at the bottom of my website.

I’ve been on Etsy, the handmade online marketplace, since 2008.

I highly recommend the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines for crucial information on pricing your work, contracts, licensing information, and more. It is the best book out there on the topic, period.

We recently signed up with Hootsuite for social media scheduling and monitoring. So far so good.

My Business Classes and Book

Become a Working Artist (Online Course)

Art Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist (Book)

Online Art Classes

Sketchbook Explorations (online class)

Basic Line Drawing (online class)

More classes coming soon! Stay tuned…

A closing note: yesterday my 15 year old niece came over for her first day as my studio assistant. She is an aspiring and already prolific artist and has plans already to go to RISD to study illustration when she graduates from high school. Several times yesterday she said to me: “Wow, these pens are SO NICE!” or “Wow, this is the nicest Wacom Tablet I’ve ever seen!” and “That is such a cool scanner!” I said to her, “Someday when you are a professional illustrator you will have nice equipment too!” So this is all to say that much of what I own, I own because I make my living as an artist and using high quality materials and equipment makes my work better and my clients and collectors happier. I had none of this stuff (except for maybe the paint) when I started out as an artist. That said, there are many other alternatives to the stuff I’ve listed that are less expensive and still great. I encourage you to use the materials and equipment you have and find the stuff that works for you. Don’t ever use not having the “right” materials as an excuse for not getting your hands dirty and creating!

Have a great Wednesday, friends!

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Art Inc. Lives Among Us // Installment 5

06/29/15

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Hello! I am so excited to share with you my FIFTH Art Inc Lives Among Us Installment! Thank you to everyone who submitted photos of your copy of Art Inc with the hashtag #artinc on Instagram. It was again very hard to choose just 25!

You can see all of the Art Inc Lives Among Us Installments here.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my book, Art Inc: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist, you can get yours here on Amazon, in my Etsy shop (signed copies available there) and anywhere books are sold.

Want to be included in a future installment of Art Inc Lives Among Us? Tag your photo of Art Inc #artinc (creatively shot & well lit images are best) for a chance to be included in the next 25!

Have a great Monday, friends!

CATEGORIES: Art Inc | For Sale | My Books
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Art Inc for College Grads!

05/04/15

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Do you know someone graduating from art school or an art program at a university? Art Inc. is the perfect gift for art, illustration, design or photography graduates. Transitioning from making art for school to making art for a living isn’t easy. Artists who dream of turning their passion into a career need guidance. In Art Inc., I discuss the multiplicity of ways people can make a living from art—including illustration, licensing, fine art sales, print sales, and teaching— and I offer practical advice on cultivating a business mindset, selling and promoting work, and more. Trade secrets from art world pros including such luminaries as Paula Scher, Nikki McClure, and Mark Hearld make Art, Inc. the ultimate resource for aspiring artists ready for success.

You can purchase copies on Amazon or signed copies here in my Etsy shop!

 

CATEGORIES: Art Inc | For Sale | My Books
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