Archive for May, 2007

Design Seminar at the Life and Arts Festival

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

The Life and Arts Festival in Kelowna, BC, is an amazing cultural event with street performers, art shows, workshops, music, drums, lanterns and fireshows.

Fire Show at the Kelowna Life and Arts Festival
On May 13th, I attended two design seminars in the ‘Design for Life’ exhibit. In the first presentation, designer Phred Martin spoke about the evolution of a design project. He stressed that design is not all about the creator; design stems from the client and in order to acheive the best results it is important to research your client’s interests, goals, and their target market. It is important to really know what the client wants, and then to interpret their needs, make a decision and get going on it!

One of the ideas that stood out in my mind was when Phred said that “excellence is great”, but “perfection is ugly”. He said that in his work sometimes he strives not to make his designs perfect. Perfection can be cold and boring, whereas imperfection can be interesting and unique.

In the end, perfectionism will also cost you more money and eat away at your bottom line. Unless your clients want to pay for your extra time, you need to be able to wrap up a project confidently and be happy with your work.

Don’t overwork design to hardened perfection; walk away while it is still alive and fresh.

From my experience with watercolours, sometimes the best thing you can do for a painting is to put down your brush. It’s when you keep working on a painting too long that you mess it up. With design there must be a parallel.

Furniture designer Judson Beaumont said he looks beyond the obvious to keep his work fresh. He said you have to be able to take critism, but don’t listen to people when they say “you can’t do that” or “it’s not done that way”. He said comments like that make him just go ahead and prove them wrong. He said you should take chances with design and challenge yourself to try new things.

Star of lanterns made with tissue and jars by elementary school studentsThe panelists also talked about clarity of expression and how good design means that even if it is bare bones, you don’t feel deprived. Someone mentioned that “the more you know, the less you need.”

Many businesses want to put everything about their business in every advertisement, even if it is a 2 inch ad. By researching your client’s needs and being familiar with compositional strengths, a good designer can say a lot more with less. Done well, simplicity always gives a stronger message than clutter.

The speakers also talked about social responsibility and the impact of design on the environment and on society. It is important for all designers to look at their work from a global perspective. It is so easy to get enmeshed in your work. Take some time to pull back and see the whole picture.

In the end, the most inspiring part of the festival for me was the lantern display in the Island Park. Jars covered in tissue paper by elementary school students from all around Kelowna were lit with tea lights, and they were set about to adorn a gazebo and the path up to it. Glowing in their simplicity, colourful and bright, they lit up the night in their imperfect beauty.

Lantern display at the Life and Arts Festival: jars covered in tissue paper lit with tea lights.

marketing tips for artists…

Saturday, May 5th, 2007

There are so many talented artists in this world and yet we may never get to see their work. Many artists are private people, are shy, or simply aren’t aware of how they can get their art out there to be seen.

Here are some tips on how to market yourself from scratch as an artist:

  • To begin with, attend art shows of other artists. It is fun and a great way to find out what other artists do at their shows, see how they represent themselves and to meet art enthusiasts. It is inspiring to be around art and its a good way to make connections.
  • Craft fairs, summer markets and Christmas shows are excellent forums for marketing your work and also an inexpensive way to do market research. Up close to your customers you get to know first hand what they like and don’t like and what your most popular designs are. These events can expose you to a large number of people in a short amount of time and help you become better known. It’s a great place to start off, and I have made some important contacts through simple markets.
  • Internet marketing will help you develop a following. Make sure your email address is a professional sounding email address rather than too personal and work on developing a web presence. If you don’t have a website yet, post your work on a blog or a photo sharing site. You can also join art conversations on Twitter. A website doesn’t have to cost a lot of money upfront; you can start with just a few simple pages and your designer can add new work to it as you send it to them. Even if you build it piece by piece, your website will open a personal link to art buyers around the world. Your website is your digital business card and portfolio. Gift stores, gallery owners, and collectors alike will have your catalogue at the tips of their fingers
  • Put your email address or website on the back of everything you sell. Many of my new retailers and corporate clients are obtained from this kind of networking.
  • Whenever you have the chance, browse through galleries and gift stores to get a feel for the gallery culture and to compare prices and styles. Ask questions to store owners and learn about the business side of art.
  • You don’t have to be ready for a gallery to be ready for an art show. Enlist a local artsy cafe or fancy restaurant to host an art show for you. It could last for two hours or for a month. Sometimes one night shows are great because they produce a sense of urgency. Also, people love meeting the artist in person and you are more likely to have sales at a show during the times when you are present.
  • When you have an artshow, no matter how small, send out invitations to everyone you know. Put posters up everywhere. Make business cards and professional price tags, labels with your email address and biography, and even brochures. Bring a guest book and have people sign their name and email addresses. Add these names to an ongoing email list for that area and then whenever you have another art show or event in that town, email that list of people and let them know about it. People will appreciate that you keep in touch with them and it is a great way of growing your list of contacts.
  • If you can’t afford to get brochures and posters made, ask a local company if they will sponsor your marketing and in return put their logo on your printed materials.
  • Make appointments with appropriate galleries or gift stores and ask if you can show them your work. Tell them you would love to have a critique and find out what gallery owners are looking for in terms of a portfolio. Work up the courage to ask a local gift store if they will sell cards of your work.
  • Once you have your work in some stores, send out letters to your retailers to show them what you have that is new. You can recruit new clients with phone calls, catalogues in the mail and with personal visits. Networking is important since most of your business might come from word of mouth.

Best of all, have fun. If you really enjoy what you do, it will shine through and draw people to your art.