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Join me as we chat about leadership and why your art matters even more in 2021. 

This is the recording from the webinar that I did on January 8, 2021. Coming the day after the attack on the Capital, I widened the angle of my original topic, “3 Steps to Get Your Art in Front of More People in 2021” to talk about the impact your art makes, why it’s important to paint now, and why your audience needs your painting now. 

Then we discuss three steps you can take to grow that audience and create an impact.

I’ve been hearing from a lot of artists, both in my free ART+WORK+LIVING Facebook group and via email, that they are so unsettled from the past year that they feel like they can’t paint. They feel that there is no reason for them to paint and there is no reason to share their art. I recently read an email from someone that really does break my heart. She feels like there is no reason for her to try to sell her artwork now because too much bad stuff has been happening in the world. I want to say right off the bat, the world needs your art. The world needs your art now more than it ever has before. However you want to deliver it out into the world, whether you want to make it be the thing that is how you’re earning a living, or you just simply want to share it for impact. The world needs you because art is the antidote to chaos and if ever there was a time we need the antidote to chaos, it’s now. 

So now is absolutely the time to be sharing your work. 

The question is are we looking for excuses or opportunities? There are plenty of opportunities out there. Now more than ever people need to see it, so the secret sauce is when you show up and share your work on a consistent basis, then it’s not necessary for you to become salesy. You never have to cross that line into making conversations that feel uncomfortable.You can share your work and if you’re showing up for your audience that you’ve created through building community, then you don’t have to become a salesy person. You can simply share your work and sales will tend to follow, if that is your desire to do , but you’ll definitely have an impact with your work when you do that. 

You don’t have to ask for a sale to share your work, but you need to share it. It will benefit not just the people who are seeing it, but it’ll benefit you. One of the surest ways to navigate through chaos is to stay connected to the things that matter most to you, and I know your art matters to you. I want you to understand and believe that your art matters to other people and that simply seeing your painting, even if it’s of something that you don’t think matters, I’m promising it matters to somebody out there. It’s going to lift them up during a time when they’re feeling low. It’s going to lift them up during a time they need to focus on something else. It’s going to lift them up and give them a pause, a space to not be swept up in the chaos. So I think it’s super important for people to realize just how important it is to create. 

Please keep creating. Please keep painting. I know that this too shall pass and we can be part of the agency of helping all of us move through this. So, don’t let your paint brush down. We can paint the world back together again. We can paint our way through it, but you can’t stop painting. You have to pick your paints and brushes up and we have to keep moving on. We have to keep sharing our work with the world.

So, I want you to know your work matters. It matters on a very deep level to the community that you’re a part of, even if that community is only three or four people. I actually don’t think it’s just three or four poele. Our world is much smaller now and they used to talk about six degrees of separation. I think it’s down to, really, about three degrees of separation worldwide now because of the internet. You have a huge audience out there that you may not be aware of and everytime you share one of your paintings or your art you are sending it out to transform other people. Don’t shut that off. Don’t lock it away. And don’t lean into despair. Now is not the time where you’re going to get through this and we are going to be okay, but we have to keep sharing our work. Super important. I want you to understand that and I want you to know that you may never know the person who sees your painting and is impacted by it. 

Sometimes those things happen in a way that somebody sees something and it’s never shared with everyone else. You may hear what impact it has. But if you hide it away, then you’re hiding it from someone who needs to see it. So, I want you all to promise me that you’re not going to put your paint brush down, you’re not going to stop sharing your work, and that you’re going to focus on sharing the creativity that you’ve got inside with the rest of the world. Because I firmly believe that’s the responsibility we carry as artists.  You don’t have to make money from it. That’s completely up to you. It’s not bad if you decide that’s what you want to do, but you do have a responsibility to the world to share your creativity in whatever way, whatever form it takes. There are people out there who need to hear from you. 

So your audience already exists. 

It’s out there and they’re listening and paying attention to you. Now is the time to stand up and now is the time to share. It is absolutely crucial that you do, we have to keep going with our art. I know a lot of people may ask themselves the question, “how and why does my painting matter when there are people who have lost their jobs, people who are sick, people who are struggling with lots of horrendous things?” 

The reason is because what youshare has the potential to give them that little tiny piece that they need to keep going. 

It’s that important. Painting can put you in your happy place, and that in and of itself is enough reason to be painting. Because if you lift yourself up by going to paint, you’re sharing that uplifted self with everyone else around you. That is the important message I’d like to get across today. 

As an artist, we have a responsibility to share our visions with the world. It’s crucial that you do that. 

Nobody else has the voice that you have. 

That’s why it’s so important. Each one of us is unique and I see people all the time thinking a lot of people think that there are so many other artists out there, what does my work matter? Or how could I possibly compete with these people who’ve been painting longer than I have, or have had more education than I have, or whatever else it is that you feel like is blocking your ability to make it and share your work. They don’t have you, they don’t have the thing that makes you. There are people out there who need to hear from the person you are with the things that matter to you. 

I was talking to a coaching client recently about what it is that matters to her that she wants to share with the world. It really comes down to simple things…

What do you care about? What are you passionate about? What are the most important things to you? What are your values? What are the things you care about tremendously?

It’s not just painting. It’s also other things. An example being, I’m passionate about the landscape, but not just painting it. I’m passionate about preserving it, caring for it, caring for the creatures that live on it. That’s part of the passion that I share with my audience. There are people that need to hear it and need to hear it from the way that I say it in my paintings, the same is true for you. There’s an audience out  there for whatever the things are that are most important to you. Don’t try to be anybody else but you. When you’re you and you share your uniqueness with the world, you’re going to find that audience. 

Check out some of my other blogs about finding your why if you’re struggling to come up with answers to those questions. 

I think after 2020, community is more important than it ever has been before.

People have been isolated from their communities physically and we’ve turned to online communities as a way to maintain that sense of connection. One of the ways that you can share is to look for communities around the things that you value, around the things you care about, and share your work with them, not to promote it. 

So, I’m not talking about going into a Facebook group and saying, “Here’s my painting, buy my painting.” Don’t do that, most groups will kick you out. If you share your work in an authentic and honest way, it’s going to give value to that community. You’re going to be sharing our uniqueness with that community. Community is super important, and right now a lot of that is online.

Think about where you’re going to find those communities. You can find them on pinterest, twitter, you can find them on any social platform. We think about facebook groups first, but they are certainly not the only place. 

You can create your own community. If there is something you feel passionate about, start a Facebook group about it, that’s a great place to share your work. So, build community, and build an authentic community. One form of community is an email list. An email list is a way to share your work with your community authentically, but also share that sense of community, shared joint experience, and to allow people in in a more personal way. That’s the second thing that I think is even more important in 2021.

Community is crucial and it’s part of our obligation as artists. I know a lot of us tend to be a little bit shy and introverted, we can be more comfortable letting our art do the talking instead of us. I want to challenge all of y’all to not do that as much. 

Creating community is a big important thing to me. Connection is one of my values and I think it’s super important and I don’t want people to feel like they’d have to fall off track in a lot of ways because of what’s going on. So decide on an avenue for yourself to create community, decide, and commit to building those conversations. Having those one-to-one personal connections with people. Commit to the fact that you’re going into other people’s homes with your work through the internet. Pick that platform and show up in some way every day. 

It doesn’t mean you have to make a long, deep thought out post that dives in great depth and detail into the motivations behind your artwork every single day on instagram. That’s not what i mean. It can be as simple in the beginning as showing up and posting an image of your painting and talking about it, or showing up and sharing a video of the place you like to paint, or the process that you go through when you’re painting. There are all kinds of things you can share. 

Don’t hide away. Start talking about why your art is important to you. 

One of the most attractive things you can do for your audience is to share why it’s important to you and share it honestly. I know that y’all have heard the word authentic before in terms of marketing, if you followed any kind of marking stuff at all, and it’s another one of those words that gets overused. It becomes a little meaningless when people throw it out there all the time. So, I’d substitute the world honestly instead. Don’t try to be somebody else. 

One of the biggest downfalls that I see artists trap themselves in is trying to be what they think “the market” wants. Which means trying to make art for the market, and that just does not work. You have to make art that speaks to those values, whatever those are. 

And when your values are in alignment with the values of the audience, that’s when the exchange of art and audience happens. Even if it’s not a monetary exchange. That’s the important connection. And that’s the community. 

So, you build community when you share your work with people who share your values, and it’s part of the responsibility that we have as creatives to do that. It doesn’t mean you need to go out and rush to find that audience. But, just start sharing and the audience will gather around you. 

My number one suggestion for ways to share your work and to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, is to be in community. To share your work in a community. To be part of building a community. To be part of building connections. We really need that right now. Don’t overthink what you need to paint, paint what matters to you and the rest of that will follow. 

How do you know what hashtags to use on social media to generate community? 

The hashtags are just searched terms. Think of them as words people use to search for things. When you know what things you value most, those are your first hashtags. So, if you look at the hashtags I use, one of them is #landscape. That’s one of my big values and it’s there because I want other people who find the landscape to be important to find me through that. Start with things that are most important to you, the values that are important to you, then look at hashtags that other successful artists are using in the same niche that you’re in. You can also include things like location, either where you are, or the location of the subject you’re painting, because that’s going to draw in the local community. You have to test those to see if they’re going to work for you. You won’t know whether they’ll work for you and your audience until you have run them a little bit. You can see in the analytics which ones are getting the most reach, which ones are bringing the most people to your instagram account. Don’t use the same ones all the time, shift them, so that they’re appropriate. 

The second thing I think is super important, and more important in 2021, is that people need personal contact. 

What do I mean by that? Because certainly in the time of COVID that doesn’t mean running out and standing on the street corner giving everyone a hug. But what it does mean is that instead of trying to speak to an anonymous audience you want to begin to build personal one-to-one connections. You want to begin to build conversations with an audience within your community. 

So, number one, start building community. Number two, develop that personal contact. That’s how you’re going to impact people’s lives right now. That’s how you’re going to begin to build relationships. People don’t want anonymous connections and automation. They want conversation with a person, a real person. So, be the real person and respond to people. Answer questions. Like I said, I know we’re introverts, but this is not a time for hiding behind our introversion. That’s the beauty of being online, which is where we are right now for the most part. It’s the perfect space for us introverts. We don’t have to put on fancy clothes and go to an opening and actually talk one-to-one with people. We can talk one-to-one through the computer screen. In a way, that may feel a little bit less intimidating to you, but the more you begin to talk to people, the more impact you will have. Sharing your work one-to-one will have a tremendous impact. An impact that you may not even realize the time. 

I know plenty of artists that have shared stories with me about what’s happened when they share their work with someone and the impact it’s had. I’m thinking about a friend of mine that is a painter who shared her work with someone and it reminded him so much of someone who he had lost that he wanted to buy the painting. When he passed away it became a family heirloom because it reminded the family of how much that painting mattered to him. Your work has an impact when you build that relationship and that connection, you are literally helping to save the world. 

As Seth Godin says, “figure out what you stand for. It is the heart of your work.” And it is. I’ve said it multiple different ways and multiple different times, in my blogs, emails, and webinars. You need to know your why. You why, or your values. What’s important to you? What do you stand for? What is stuff you’re not willing to let go of? What is non-negotiable to you? That’s what you stand for, and there’s an audience out there that shares those values that need to see your work. I highly recommend any books by Seth Godin if you’re looking at how to find a tribe, an audience, or how to share your work with the world, especially the book titled, The Practice by Seth Godin. A lot of my ideas around creating an audience and growing an audience, go straight back to what I’ve learned from him.

Back when I was still teaching full-time for 30 years, there was one course in particular that I enjoyed and it was the senior exhibition course. As part of that course my students had to develop a body of work and talk about the concept behind it. One of the things that happens to 21-22 year olds when they are asked to come up with a concept for their work is that they’re young, they’re idealistic, and they want to save the world. So, they want to create artwork that’s going to save the world and they would talk about how their work was indeed to end world hunger, homelessness, etc. All of those are absolutely wonderful gols, but a single piece of artwork is probably not going to accomplish that huge, big goal for humanity. But, what it does do is impact one person that impacts another person and so on and so forth. Once those students realized they didn’t have to save the whole world all at once it was tremendously freeing. I would talk to them about not trying to solve the whole big problem, but how can you solve a problem? How can you address something you think is an issue? How can you speak to what is important to your values in a one-to-one conversation? 

Think of your paintings as being a one-to-one conversation. So they are sharing one-to-one with your viewer, they become the intermediary between you and your viewer that you may never meet, but your artwork meets in the middle. It’s the contact point for that conversation, so I want you to think about your paintings as being a one-to-one conversation. 

The part of your art that matters most to you could be as simple as beautiful color, appreciation of nature, beauty of design and form. That’s enough. It doesn’t have to be something that is part of a big picture, a huge solution to an issue, or something that will save the world.

Once you build an audience then you can figure out how you want to have impact, whether that’s through creating profit for yourself, creating profit for others, or simply transforming lives through the sharing of the artwork. It’s completely up to you.

You’re going to build community and you’re going to create conversations, and yes, you will make a difference when you do that. It’s not based on your skill level, your style, or your medium. It’s based on you and the conversation that you have with the world. 

The third thing that is super important is to remember that people are, for the most part, in their homes. A lot of people are working from home, so the internet gives you a chance to share directly with someone that you’ve never met. There are hundreds of different ways that you can approach delivering your work to the people that need to see it. You don’t need to be everywhere, you need to be in places that feel like the most normal and honest ways for you to share your work. 

People have asked me, should I be on Facebook or Instagram? Or should I be on Twitter or Pinterest? The answer is to use what platform or platforms feels most normal to you. What platform is your audience on? And then what you need to do is to show up consistently. Now’s not the time to put your brush down and hide. Now is the time to stand up and share your artwork with the audience that’s out there.

That means figure out which platform is the one that is most natural for you to enter somebody else’s home space on. Think about where people are when they are looking at your work online, they are in their homes. So have those personal conversations with them, create a sense of community. I promise you’ll be making a difference. You’ll be making a huge difference.

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