112 – Presenting your art business professionally
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In this week’s episode, Laura and Nikki explore the basics of professionally presenting your art business – both online and in person. We cover everything from communication etiquette to curating your portfolio, creating artist statements and a consistent brand identity, prepping physical artwork for galleries and more. We know you’ll walk away with some great tips to put into action as you grow your art business. 

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Resources Mentioned

  • Sticker Mule for custom packing tape, stickers, and other packaging materials
  • MOO for custom business cards that can include multiple designs
  • Canva and Adobe Express for making free QR codes
  • YouTube video  on how to professionally wire your artwork with closeups of the knotwork

Nikki

0:01
Laura, I work with an art center that puts on a wide variety of exhibits from artists who are just getting started and haven’t shown their work at all to really experience professionals and the way people present their work is all over the place. I know that artists who are just starting out don’t always know how to present themselves as professionals.

Laura

0:20
But to stand out from the crowd, it is truly important to present yourself professionally. So what does that mean? And what practical steps can we take to do this? We’re going to cover all of this and more in today’s episode.

Hi, this is Laura Lee Griffin.

Nikki

0:41
And this is Nikki May with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:50
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

1:02
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

So most often, the first encounter people will have with your work is through photos on your website or social media or through online submissions. So it’s super important to have great photos or scans of your artwork. High res photos should accurately represent the colors, details and textures of your artwork. Especially if you plan to sell prints of your work. You can always downsize your original photos for your website and social media, but you want to make sure that you have beautiful high res photos of your work. And guess what, we have a whole podcast episode all about this that you can listen to. Check out our last episode to get all our best tips and tricks.

Laura

1:46
Yeah, that’s a good one for lots of tips and tricks on getting those beautiful photos. So if you’re submitting physical artwork to a gallery show, you’ll likely need to professionally wire your work, if it’s like 2D artwork that hangs on a wall, and we’ll link to a video on exactly how to do that with D hooks and picture wire in the show notes, because that can be tricky to figure out the first time. And you’ll want to also finish off the sides of your artwork if it’s unframed. And if necessary, seal your artwork with a matte or gloss varnish to protect it from UV light so that the colors won’t fade, and to protect it from the elements so it can be enjoyed for years to come.

Nikki

2:27
All right, and this one is going to be no surprise coming from me since branding is one of the things that I do for a living. But it’s really important to establish a consistent and cohesive brand identity. This includes having a recognizable logo, which I think for an artist can be as simple as like a nice, clean, crisp version of your signature, a consistent color palette and a unified aesthetic across your website, business cards, promotional materials, portfolio layouts, and your social media profiles. Consistency helps you build a really strong and memorable brand. And it gives people a feel for what you’re all about. And it makes you look a lot more professional. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about all of this here, since we’re planning an entire episode on branding for artists for the future.

Laura

3:15
And I just want to point out what a fabulous job Nikki did with our Startist Society brand. So we have very cohesive colors, I think we have like a magenta and an orange and a teal, that are consistent throughout all of the things that we produce. We have consistent fonts, the if you look at our social media, you’ll see all of that carry through over to our website. So it really is is awesome. And it’s also consistent on our email list. So if you join our email list by going to startistsociety.com, you’ll be able to also hear as soon as episodes get released every week.

Nikki

3:53
Well, thank you for the nice compliments Laura.

Laura

3:57
I know I couldn’t do it. So everybody needs a Nikki you know to to help them with their branding, for sure.

Nikki

4:03
And you can all have one, just go to nikkmay.com. And another thing we’ll be doing a deeper dive into in future episodes is websites for artists. But don’t freak out if you don’t have one yet. For now, you can just use your social media accounts, especially Instagram, to present your art when you’re first just getting started. But when you’re ready for a website, you’ll want to make sure you have a clean, well organized, easy to navigate site to showcase your portfolio, your bio and if you want to an online store. Make sure that your website is responsive, which means that it works well and looks good on all different devices from your computer to your phone, and that it’s optimized for search engines. Again, we’ll get into a lot more detail about all of these things in a future episode.

Laura

4:50
Or episodes.

Nikki

4:51
Or episodes. Yeah, likely more than one.

Laura

4:56
And you’ll want to craft a concise and compelling artist statement. Now this will be important if you want to sell your artwork to galleries, to sell in local markets or shows, you’ll want to clearly communicate your artistic philosophy, inspiration, and the themes present in your work. An effective artist statement can provide context and enhance the viewers understanding of your creations; it lets them know what you’re all about.

Nikki

5:21
I think it’s also good to have several versions of artist statements, especially if you develop multiple bodies of work. Or if you work in different styles or media or techniques. You might have a brief general statement that’s good for your homepage. And when you meet people that ask you what you do, almost like the elevator pitches we discussed in Episode 101. And also have a more detailed longer version of it for your about page or for shows or projects that you submit to. Yep, I also like to have a brief statement for each body of work that I do, you can see an example of this on my website at nikkimay.com/needs. The same is true for your bio, which is more about you than the specifics of your artwork. I like to have a few versions of that too, the elevator pitch short version, and a longer version for your about page or for all the future press that you’re gonna get.

Laura

6:11
Exactly. Now I’ve done some gallery shows in the past that I’ve been a part of where I have submitted like a CV like something official and an official sort of formal artist statement where it might talk about myself in the third person kind of thing. And then my bio, though, is basically my artist statement, kind of combined with my own story is on my website. So it’s a little bit closer to the elevator pitch type version Nikki, and that’s at lauraleegriffin.com/about. If people want to see, you know, an example.

Nikki

6:43
Yeah, there’s different versions for different uses, it’s perfectly fine to combine the bio an artist statement for your website. But there are places that you’ll apply where, for example, if you have to submit something online it might have a section specifically for your bio, and then another one for your artist statement.

Laura

7:00
So the next thing to think about and being professional is your portfolio, and you really want it to be curated. It’s really easy to want to put all the things in your portfolio, just like I like to do all the things, Nikki, every day. But quality is more important than quantity. So you want to select your best and most representative pieces for your portfolio. And as we’ve mentioned before, also the things that you want to be known for. So if there’s a type of artwork you really don’t like to do, don’t stick it in your portfolio.

Nikki

7:31
Don’t show that. Yeah, definitely don’t show work that you don’t want to do more of.

Laura

7:39
Exactly. So a well curated selection demonstrates your range, your skills and your artistic evolution over time. And you want to consider categorizing or organizing your work into series or themes. So I know in my case, I kind of may want to change that and redo my portfolio Nikki, because right now my portfolio has like digital art at the top, and then watercolor art beneath it. And then portraits which happened to be digital beneath that. Whereas I think I’d much rather reorganize that to be like flowers and holiday themed and you know, more like themes of art.

Nikki

8:15
Yeah, there’s not like one hard and fast rule about that you can you can categorize things however you want, as long as you’re consistent and thinking about who your target audience is. So yeah, so if you’re going after licensing jobs, putting it together by theme of floral versus holiday is a really great way to do it. And if you’re, if you’re going after gallery shows, it might make more sense to organize it based on the medium that you’re using.

Laura

8:44
And speaking of portfolio, there can be online portfolios, but you can also pull together mini collections, perhaps if you’re a surface designer, of several images of collections that go together and send those to people that you’re pitching to. And having a template to do that makes it very professional, versus perhaps just sending, attaching one single image. If you have something that you’ve organized nicely, maybe sending them a mock up of what your artwork looks like on a product, that can make a difference to sort of show that you’ve gone the extra mile and that you have the ability to create and work professionally with them.

Nikki

9:23
Definitely. All right. So most of the communication that you’re going to be doing for all of this is going to be through email. There’ll be some contact through social media, but email is king for communication these days. So it’s important to use a professional email address for any communication related to your art practice. For example, Laura, I know you have Laura@laura

Laura

10:18
I was gonna say like AOL, most of the people may not have been born yet that are listening to this Nikki.

Nikki

10:24
You shut up, Laura. I would also recommend to not use an email address that’s attached to your internet provider. So like, when you get Comcast and they give you a comcast.net email address. That way, you’d have to change your email address if you ever left them.

Laura

10:44
Right. If you left that provider, you’d have to do something else. So yeah, that makes sense. And when corresponding with galleries, clients, or other artists, you want to maintain a polite and a professional tone.

Nikki

10:56
Unless you’re me, and then always be snarky.

Laura

10:59
How’s that going for you, Nikki?

Nikki

11:01
Exactly as planned, Laura.

Laura

11:04
Okay, back on track, you want to respond to emails promptly and thoroughly. And we have a whole episode on pitching your artwork. And we talked a bit about communication there as well. And you can check out episode 21 to learn more.

Nikki

11:18
So, social media is another topic that we’ve touched on here and there and many episodes, but we’re also planning an in depth episode, or multiple episodes on social media. But briefly, use platforms like Instagram to share behind the scenes glimpses of your work, works in progress and completed pieces, engage with your audience and other artists in a positive and authentic way. Don’t ever respond to the trolls.

Laura

11:47
Exactly.

Nikki

11:48
They’re always going to exist and just delete their comments, block them and move on.

Laura

11:55
Yep, there’s always going to be some lurking in the background. And it really doesn’t serve anyone to respond to them. Just just get them out of your comments and move on. Unless

Nikki

12:03
you’re just bored and you want to screw around with them.

Laura

12:07
No, Nikki, no, no, no, we’re being professional today.

Nikki

12:11
Okay.

Laura

12:13
All right. So another thing that can help present yourself professionally, is to have business cards. Now, I was at a local pop up market show a few weeks ago, and someone asked for my business card. And I actually hadn’t printed any new ones since my new website went live. So I had to write down something and hand it over to them, which was not very professional, shame on me.

Nikki

12:35
Shame on you.

Laura

12:36
And though business cards themselves often can get lost. Like after you hand it over to someone, I think there’s a huge opportunity to have them printed now with a QR code to a links page, perhaps that has your website, your Insta, your socials, maybe the signup list for your email, things like that. And I plan to get some cards printed soon through the company MOO because you can add multiple pictures in one order. You can have your art on the front. And then you can have your logo and your social handle your website, your email and your QR code, you know big on the back. I think they let you do what something like five different designs or something like that

Nikki

13:17
You can have 50 different designs in one order. I’ve been using them for years. And I love it. It’s like carrying around a mini portfolio with you. They even come packaged in a really nice box that makes it super easy to carry ’em, pull them out and show them off.

Laura

13:35
Oh, that is so cool. I’m definitely going to use that. And having your artwork on the card reminds people of what you know type of artwork they saw if they maybe saw you out in a market. And then also if you’re just meeting somebody for the first time and trying to explain what kind of art you do, you can whip out some cards and show them. So it’s very cool to have your artwork on the card and not just have your card be text right.

Nikki

13:57
Whip it out Laura.

Laura

14:00
Stop it Nikki. So you want to ensure that the design aligns with your overall branding. You can also laminate that QR code and enlarge it and have a version of it sitting on your table if you ever sell your work at a live event. And I so wish I had that a few weeks ago when I had my live event because I looked around and saw, it was at an art collective and almost every artist had a QR code on there and you can actually get them for free through Canva.

Nikki

14:29
And also Adobe Express you can do them…there’s also there tons of places online that you can do them for free. But you just gave me the idea to get one printed out on a decal and put it on my bus.

Laura

14:43
Oh, that’s so awesome. You have like a 40 foot bus so you need like 80 of them.

Nikki

14:53
I will work them into my designs of flowers and insects and naked bodies.

Laura

14:59
Nice.

Nikki

15:01
Maybe I’ll have a nude female figure with a big QR code as a tattoo on her butt.

Laura

15:10
Oh Lord, only you, Nikki only you.

Nikki

15:15
Only me. All right, moving on, if you will, let’s talk a little bit about packaging. If you sell physical artwork, you definitely want to pay attention to the packaging, you want to make sure that you’re using really high quality, professional grade packaging materials so that you protect your pieces really well during shipping.

Laura

15:34
Yeah, shipping or even if you’re at a live event and you and somebody purchases your work, how do you give them the work so that they can walk around the rest of the day and have it protected. Also include a certificate of authenticity, if applicable. And I created one for myself in Illustrator with my logo on the top and then it has a space to put the title of the artwork in the year and my signature. And you can consider adding a personal touch such as a thank you note if it’s something that you’re mailing to someone that they purchased online.

Nikki

16:05
And if you’re going to be doing a lot of shipping, there’s a great opportunity for representing your brand by using custom packing tape, stickers and other packaging materials. Look for Sticker Mule’s weekly deals they have one every week for different products. I got some beautiful, thick heavy duty custom packing tape with my logo and one of my patterns on it in full color for ridiculously good price from Sticker Mule.

Laura

16:32
Yeah, I absolutely love their stuff. I bought some of the I think their their die cut stickers, like the stickers and then this they’ll cut out the shape around your image. I had some of those made and I think it cost like, I forget what it was. But it was

Nikki

16:49
They’re like $9 when they’re on special like.,

Laura

16:51
Yeah, and you get a ton of them. And then you can turn around, let’s just say it cost me maybe 50 cents for something I could turn around and sell for $4, right?

Nikki

16:59
Right. And then something that I’ve done. Yes, you can sell them but you can also tuck a few stickers into the package when you’re shipping with your thank you note as just a little nice extra. And I’ve also gotten stickers made that just have my logo that I put on the outside of the packaging. Or even also on a paper shopping bag with handles for people to carry around. With a sticker on the bag it’s a lot more affordable than getting like custom printed bags.

Laura

17:27
Well the other thing I’ve seen done Nikki is you can get kraft bags and then get a big ol stamp made that has your logo on it.

Nikki

17:34
I’ve done that too.

Laura

17:35
Yeah, like when then just with black ink, you just stamp them. I’ve even seen restaurants do that. And it looks really cool.

Nikki

17:41
I did that when I was selling jewelry. I got like kraft boxes and a stamp with my logo that I put on the lid of the box.

Laura

17:49
Awesome. We’re getting very excited about all of the different ways we can wrap things. So we just need to sell them now.

Nikki

17:54
Yeah, I don’t actually want to send people things. I live in a bus. I got no place to store inventory.

Laura

18:01
Well, I want to sell them.

Nikki

18:03
It’s print on demand for me.

Laura

18:06
All right, so the next thing that you can do in terms of being professional is to attend art events, exhibitions, and networking opportunities to connect with other artists, galleries and potential clients. Building relationships within the art community can open up doors to new opportunities and collaborations. And in our next episode, we will be speaking with an amazing expert who has literally written the book on this, Maria Brophy, we’re going to discuss some really great tangible ways to network at live events.

Nikki

18:40
She is the queen of networking at live events.

Laura

18:43
She is, she is.

Nikki

18:44
We can’t wait to share that with you guys.

Laura

18:46
So Nikki, what are our key takeaways today?

Nikki

18:50
Well, it’s important to remember that you just can’t do everything all at once. If you’re just getting started. Remember that presenting your work professionally is an ongoing process. You can continuously refine and update your presentation strategies as your art practice evolves. Consistency and attention to detail will contribute to a really positive and lasting impression on anybody who comes across you and your art.

Laura

19:15
For links to all the resources we mentioned and to read today’s Startist Society shownotes go to startistsociety.com/presenting.

Nikki

19:25
If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, we’d love for you to leave us a five star rating and review and share it with a friend. reviews help us reach more Startist like you and keep us inspired to create new episodes.

Laura

19:36
Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

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