still life (plus Moms Who Click)

It’s Thursday…

Cape House 1

At the writing desk today, but I wanted to pop in and say hello and to share this feature Moms Who Click (Thanks, Ladies!) did with me. It’s a great site for the creative/photo minded. Read more, here.

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Conversation with Lisa Congdon (Art Inc.)

I recently had the pleasure of talking to artist Lisa Congdon about her new book, Art Inc. It’s an essential guide for creative types who dream of making a living as an artist. Lisa debunks the starving artist myth and offers practical steps to create, build, and sustain a profitable business. She details a variety of ways to make a living from their art: illustrations, licensing, fine art sales, print sales, teaching, and more.

 

Art Inc cover

Lisa also shares experience from her own career as well as advice from successful art world pros, including Nikki McClure, Mark Hearld, Paula Scher, among others. Art Inc. will change the way you look at art + business, in a good way. It’s a must-read-then-apply for all creative types! Be sure to check out the book trailer for Art Inc., it’s so good.

 

Onto my conversation with Lisa. Enjoy!

You first started making art as a hobby in 2001, five years later you began showing and selling your work. Today, you make a full-time living as an illustrator and fine artist. Looking back on your art career, what key steps did you take in order to turn your art practice into a business?

I did so many things, and all of them I cover in Art Inc, but the most important step I took was putting my work into the world, both sharing it on the internet and also sharing it publicly through participating in art shows. It often feels incredibly vulnerable to share your work publicly. We wonder, “Will people like it?” But it’s an emotional risk we all have to take at some point if we want to find our audience – the people who appreciate and pay money for our work. Another thing I did was spend a lot of time thinking about what I really wanted to do as an artist. I brainstormed all of my dream projects and then worked slowly and methodically to try to make them happen. In some cases this meant learning new skills and in other cases it meant reaching out to people I wanted to work with. I still do that on a regular basis, because as we meet some goals, we have to make new ones that feel exciting to us in the present.

 

What made you decide to write a business book for artists?

I was actually approached by Chronicle Books to write the book! I’ve worked with Chronicle as an illustrator for many years and have a great relationship with them. I had never thought about writing a business book before that point! But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that sharing what I’d learned as a working artist and interviewing other people who had things to share could be a great service for people who were starting out. I didn’t have a book to help me when I was beginning, and I had to figure a lot of stuff out on my own. There were books out there, but none of them felt current or relevant. I hope this book helps fill in that gap for some people.

 

As an artist, what was the experience of writing Art Inc. like for you?

It was really challenging, actually! I have never written a book before (I’ve illustrated many) and so I had to learn about not only how to write seven separate but connected chapters, but also to write a business book – which is a very different kind of writing that what I do on my blog, for example. I am used to writing personal essays, but business writing has to be much more straightforward and super clear and precise. This was tough for me at first, but my editor Meg Ilasco was a tremendous help at that. The more I got into writing the book, the easier it all became. And I really loved interviewing people for the book and learning from them too. When I turned the manuscript in, it was almost 50,000 words and we had to edit it down to 30,000. Editing sometimes feels more difficult than writing. Figuring out how to pare the book down to the essential elements was a really interesting – and ultimately satisfying – process!

 

How much time do you spend promoting your work verses making new work?

I would say the things I do that fall into the “promotion” category make up about 30% of what I do, but that includes interviews, blog posts, preparing for speaking engagements, book events, social media time, newsletters, and more. But really the main focus for me always has to be studio and art making time. It is my life’s goal to always keep that stuff at the forefront.

 

What role has keeping a blog played in both your artistic process and sales?

Blogging is a very natural and easy place for me. I love keeping a blog, almost as much as I love making art. I think because it feels so natural to me and I love doing it, I have generated a large blog following. I think when your enthusiasm shows, others enjoy it too. I use my blog as the “home base” or “landing place” for most of my content – new work, event announcements, personal essays, features on other artists, etc. And then I share that blog content on social media platforms like my Facebook Fan Page and Twitter. This has helped exposure and sales of my work tremendously. I think having a “place” on the internet where people can find you is key – for some it’s a blog, for others it’s Instagram (I love Instagram too), for others it’s Tumblr or Pinterest.

 

Can you offer a few ideas for artists on how to grow an audience online?

The first thing to remember is that your following will not come overnight! So patience is key. I have over 50,000 fans on my Facebook fan page, but at one time I had 2. You have to start somewhere, and over time if you keep at promoting what you do, people will follow and your audience will grow exponentially. I recommend finding the visual places on the internet that feel like a good fit for you – whether it’s Instagram or a blog or a Tumblr page (or all three) – and use them every day to share what you are doing, share your creative process, and give people an inkling of an idea about who you are as a human being beyond your art. Always be genuine. And be consistent in your posting – make sure you are posting at least once a day Monday through Friday. But also, don’t over post. Remember not to bombard people with too much. Find your sweet spot and slowly, day by day, your audience will grow.

 

How do you handle rejection?

Oh, rejection is tough. For me, it has gotten easier over time. One of the gifts of getting older (I am 46 this year) is the ability to separate the personal from the professional. In other words, over time I have learned that if someone doesn’t like my work or doesn’t think it’s appropriate for a particular project or award or whatever, it doesn’t mean my work doesn’t have value OR that they don’t like ME. It’s not personal. Of course, rejection still always stings! I just try really hard to go quickly back to focusing on what I have accomplished or thinking about how much I love what I do. And that helps.

 

You have an incredibly strong and beautiful artistic voice. Do you recall a moment when you realized this is the work I want to make?

First, thank you! Second, it’s important to remember that always in the early years of your art-making process there will be a lot of experimentation and you may feel very lost. That was certainly true for me. Up until about 2011 (and I started making art in 2001) I felt fairly vague about where I wanted to focus my art and illustration practice. And then in about May of 2011 – after 10 years of painting, collage, drawing and sewing – a light bulb went off in my head. That rare light bulb moment (I don’t actually have many of them) came after a period of intense struggle. And I did realize, yes, this is the work I want to make. And my career took off in a really significant way after that. And I don’t think that is a coincidence! Of course, since then I have discovered other kinds of work I want to make (I am always exploring and experimenting). And I have always refined my art practice even more. But I hope that never changes. I always want to be shifting my voice slightly.

 

Who or what inspires you and why?

I am inspired by my own desire to create, mostly. Of course there are people – writers, artists, athletes – who inspire me (too many to name). And I am clearly inspired by nature, design, color, shape, typography, and all of that. But what gets me out of bed every day is my desire to create and also to share what I create. I spent the first part of my life till not knowing what would make me happy, and feeling frustrated. So once I discovered what it felt like to create – the sense of total satisfaction after a day or night of hard work on a piece of art – there was no going back. It is the feeling I get inside that inspires me. I am very internally motivated.

 

Any advice for aspiring artists?

Making a living as an artist is not something that happens by sitting back and dreaming about it. There are specific and strategic things need to do to get your art into the world, build an audience and start selling your work so it can become your livelihood. Those are the things I talk about in Art Inc. Of course, everyone’s path will be different – you have to find the path that works for you and that you are willing to put time and energy into. But the good news is it’s possible if you stay true to yourself, are strategic and do the work.

 

What’s next for you?

Oh, gosh, so many things! The big projects I’m working on right now are two more books with Chronicle. They are illustrated books (no more business books in my near future!). One is due out in 2015 and the other in 2016. I am also excitedly preparing to teach a business class based on Art Inc at the end of September through CreativeLive, which you can learn more about and register for here.

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yesterday

Hi, just a quick note to say I’m sharing a story about marbles, authenticity, and advice from strangers (oh and photography too, of course) over at Mortal Muses today.

Northampton Alley

p.s. Jump over to Life in Black & White for to enter a spot in my new photo e-course or a Polaroid camera with film!

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color field + ground

A quick glimpse of a new film series: color field + ground.

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Read this short story earlier, Last Meal at Whole Foods. A young man’s mother is dying. He’s practical in his storytelling and is unable to show physical tenderness. What is left out is the heart-wrenching part.

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intact

over at Mortal Muses today with thoughts on embracing change.

leave it (archives & acceptance)

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hello august + new photo e-course

Hello. So much is happening this month, where do I begin?

Art Saves

The second session of my Develop Your Photo Habit & Style E-course opens today. Yahooo! Jump in and join the fun. Sign-up for session one, two, or if you’re feeling super inspired, both.

Summer Beach Read

I’m spending the next 31 days over at habit with photo and word snippets of my everyday. Habit is one of my favorite little corners of the internet, come on over and have a peek.

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Two of my mobile photos were accepted into Expanding Vision, a gallery show at The Arts Center in Corvalis, Oregon. Off to pick up the framed prints and ship them to Oregon.

Other spots to share your photos this month:

Share your daily monochrome pics at Life in Black and White

Capture photos of Language (think body, signs, pieces of text, symbols, numbers, or notes) with fellow Muses

Daily prompts from Susannah’s August Break

That should keep us all busy. Phew. In and out (+ a blueberry and cream tart, if we’re lucky)!

 

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walnut-pear tart

Hey, there. It’s the middle of July, already! We’ve grown weeds in our garden beds and kept a mama raccoon out of the house after she tore into a bag of cat food. What’s in that cat food? The neighborhood wildlife loves the stuff: we caught an opossum hovering over the cat’s dish and traced the shredded food bag back to the raccoon. Luckily, the local bears have stayed away. Life in the wild hills of New England…

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As for the rest of our days, we’re stumbling through teething and sleepless nights and summer camps just fine. Our annual hurrah on Cape Cod came and went with the sunrises and sunsets we were lucky enough to witness (the perks of having two early risers in the house).

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I reread To Kill A Mockingbird at the beach, and was blown away once again by Harper Lee’s storytelling: the way she slowly reveals characters and paces the novel like a slow accordion fanning in and out. Lee also addresses large themes like race, class, justice, and growing up in a small Southern town during the Depression with wit and compassion.

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I can’t seem to start another novel after this one. The two I recently picked up from the library fell flat. I’m still caught in Lee’s Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s.

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Despite time away and stolen moments in books, our kitchen has been bustling with jam, jellies, sauces, and tarts. A month or so ago, the good folks at USA Pears sent a box of organic green anjou pears to try. They looked as good as they tasted straight from the box. We ate half the pears unadorned — sweet and juicy with a hint of citrus — and the rest were split between Homemade Vanilla Pear Sauce (think stove top applesauce with seeds from a vanilla bean added in) and this raw walnut-pear tart, subtle yet sweet endings to summer dinners. Now I’m thinking about a plum variation as well.

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Pears on Film | Pentax K1000 | Fujicolor 200

 

Walnut-Pear Tart
makes one 9-inch tart or two 4 1/2-inch tarts
adapted from Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods by Renee Loux Underkoffler

Walnut Crust
2 cups walnuts
5 medjool (or other soft variety) dates, pitted
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of sea salt

Vanilla Cream
1 1/2 cups raw cashews (whole cashews or cashew pieces)
1 cup medjool (or other soft variety) dates, pitted
1/4 cup lemon juice
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean pod
1 tablespoon coconut butter

4 firm ripe pears

Garnish
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon zest

To make the walnut crust: In a food processor or high-speed blender, chop the walnuts into a fine meal. Add the dates, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt and process until the mixture comes together. Press into the bottom of a tart pan.

To make the vanilla cream: Soak cashews in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse. Soak dates in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes to soften. Drain and save the soak water for the next step. In a blender or food processor, blend cashews, dates, lemon juice, vanilla seeds, and coconut butter into silky smooth yet firm. Spread the cream evenly over the crust.

To prepare the pears: Peel and halve the pears. Remove the seeds. Cut the pears into thin slices and arrange them over the cream in a decorative fan (or other) pattern. Garnish with a sprinkling of cinnamon and lemon zest. Refrigerate the tart for 1 to 2 hours before serving to allow enough time for it to set.

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the view from here

Some recent film shot with Impossible color spectra of the annual trek to Cape Cod. Off for more summer fun. See you back here soon.

from the Cape

from the Cape

from the Cape

from the Cape

from the Cape

from the Cape

from the Cape

from the Cape

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lately in black and white

(before) on the verge of summer

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spring afternoon bw118

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spring afternoon bw120

with the Yashica Mat 124 | Tri-X 400

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almost there

I’m typing this note with one hand, cradling my sleeping babe with the other. Summer vacation begins soon, which means picnics, novels, sandcastles, afternoons at the lake. A night at the drive-in. Whoopee!

still life of tea

still life of tea | Polaroid Spectra | Impossible Color Film

Off to it, ready for summer to begin and to wrap up projects in the making. Plus a few photos from a new series: still life of…

(read more about my inspiration for the photos at Mortal Muses.)

still life of fruit (close)

still life of fruit (close) | Polaroid Spectra | Impossible Color Film

still life of fruit

still life of fruit | Polaroid Spectra | Impossible Color Film

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