Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Final notes from the Portrait Conference before Taking off to Europe!

I've got Europe on my mind (flying out tomorrow)... but before I forget, I wanted to post the last of my notes from the Portrait Society. This last segment was a panel of professional portrait artists giving us tips on “Steps to Professionalism." So here you go:

Gordon Whetmore:
One of the first steps to professionalism is the sale of your work.
- Make a portfolio of excellent photos, including a biography and price list. Include only your best work.
- Make a client list of at least 20 prospecta, and make appointments to speak with them about a portrait.
- Paint demos for prospective clients
- Paint your best sample portraits - don't show anything you're not proud of.
- Build a solid reputation by being timely in your completion and delivery.
- Set up an article about you and your work with the local paper
- Develop a thoroughly professional attitude. Take on the attitude that the customer is always right. Be sensitive and take clues from your clients, even if it means you have to start the painting all over.
- Participate in charity auctions.
- Work with agents, such as Portraits, Inc.
- Organize get-togethers or luncheons with live demos
- Mentor others; teach / have workshops
- Give greeting cards, prints, and other gifts to your clients as a thank you; keep in touch with your clients; send them notes and Christmas or birthday cards
- Your best prospect is always your previous client

Jennifer Welty – on Competitions
- Don’t let competitions define you as an artist
- Don’t allow rejection to get you down – just keep painting.
- Learn to paint well, and paint what you love.
- Photograph your work well
- Be willing to pay your dues
- Set aside a yearly allowance for entering competitions, and enter a lot of them
- Hang with professionals and watch what they do

Rich Nelson – on Building Good Relationships
The client is as nervous and uncomfortable as you are, if not more. Find out if they’ve bought a portrait before – if not, make it stress-free for both of you. Clients can tell if you’re nervous, but on the flip side, if you are confident, they’ll also feed off of that.
- It’s not always stress-free. Use good common manners, especially when things get ugly.
- Good communication and good listening. Pick up on their signals. A lot of people are not comfortable telling an artist there’s something wrong
- If you’ve taken good photos, send them along with the client.
- Pick up the dinner tab.
- As far as working with agents, remember that they’re clients too. Try and make them look good. Include them in every aspect so that you don’t blindside them. Copy them on emails. Be ready for the unexpected or things you might not have originally thought of.
- If you’re doing everything right, we can all get through this together. They’re willing to put up with our weirdness as long as we can connect on some level.
- Finally, deliver amazing work.

Bart Lindstrom – on Organization and Time Management
- Have a place for everything, and have everything in its place. This is especially true of your studio.
- Set your studio up so you can sit down and paint quickly. It should embrace you. Same is true for your business side of lie.
- Try to write one thank-you note per day.
- Record your mileage. Keep a notebook in your car. Write on your receipts – note as to why it’s a business expense.
- Try to have some time during the day to clear your desk and re-organize.
- Have a to-do list. Prioritize, and pick the hardest one to do first.

Patricia Watwood – on Goals
- Most artists only produce about 500 paintings in their lifetime. How many great paintings are you capable of making in a year, or in your lifetime?
- What is this painting you’re working on right now and how does it fit in your lifetime of work? MAKE IT COUNT.
- Think about what it is that defines your work. No matter what your subject matter, there’s a particular quality about your work that is uniquely yours. Learn to recognize That quality and how to make it shine. Show it off to its best advantage.
- What is it that really gets you up every morning and keeps you going? You’ve got to have something bigger than you to live for. We all have to deal with rejection and uncertainty, so you have to dig deep and find a source of strength and inspiration.
- Inspiration doesn’t come by repeating what you did before. By nature, it’s always original. Think about continuing to grow and challenge yourself. People know inspiration when they see it.
- Think long-term – you have to keep growing. The very best artists are never too proud to study and go back to the basics.
- Develop good relationships. The art world is a mystery, so you’ve gotta trust in good people. Be genuine. Always put people first.

Judy Carducci – on Volunteering and Advancing our Discipline
- Why teach? Those of us who are in traditional art lost several generations worth of instruction during the 20th century, and we are working to get it back.
- Don’t teach until you can learn not to trample on your students’ vision. Let them discover their own style and taste. When you solve your own problems, then your work takes off.
- Judy started by giving a local workshop and doing a pastel self-portrait. Someone there asked her if she’d like to teach in France. One thing led to another.
- Mentoring is less teaching skills than it is encouraging and helping someone through their ongoing career. Develops out of a friendship and teaching relationship. Can be a lifetime thing as long as both people want it.

My own thoughts on this (in case anyone cares about my two cents!):
Gallery work is “safe” and “predictable.” Competition pieces should be more creative and take more risks. I try to set aside time from my commissions for 2-3 competition pieces per year. Ultimately, those will end up being my best and most creative work.

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