Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It Happened One Day

Sunset Lost, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
So, yesterday I was having a bad day or something. I don't know what was wrong with me, but I was in quite the funk. Did you ever have one of those days when things just don't seem to go right and nothing, no matter what you try or how hard you try to fix something, anything, seems to go your way. Man, I really hate that.

Then, it got me to thinking. It's not just yesterday, really. I mean, I think I've been in a bit of a lull, a sort of a funk for a bit now. It seems like I just can't get myself going, like I can't do what I want to do. I don't know, sometimes anyway it just feels all wrong on so many levels.

There are some days, and I'm certain that all artists have these, when you just feel like throwing in the towel. You feel like maybe you should not be doing this at all and, perhaps you should seriously reconsider your career in fast food or seriously give up the possibility of ever quitting your day job. If you're an artist, you know what I'm talking about here. These are the kind of days that are filled with mountains of self-doubt. These are those days when that little voice inside your head saying, "No you can't!" starts to drown out anything else productive up there. Now, I don't often get these days, and I'm smart enough to know that they can actually be a good thing (seriously.) What I mean by that is that this self-doubt often brings with it (it escorts in with it if you will) a new wind of change. It forces you to re-evaluate that which you do and to make you make some changes. To reassess, to regroup, to recharge, to reload (OK, I really hate that expression but, in this case anyway, it really does fit.) A lot of the time new work, exciting new work, comes after a period of self-doubt. Yes, it's true. Artists often ride this roller coaster of self-doubt, "Waaaah! I'm not good enough," "OK, let me try this," "Yay! Look at me, I'm really flying now!" far too often. I know. I've been there (here?) before. Being an artist can be a series of never ending one day up, one day down head trips of epic proportions.

I went to lunch with a friend earlier this week and we were talking about this. I told her, "it got really quiet and then, suddenly, almost as if out of nowhere, opportunity comes flying in and lands in my lap." Working in the arts can be a bit like that. It's not a constant steady stream. To put it another way, this ain't your typical 9-to-5 job, kiddies. Success comes when you can get it and opportunities don't come evenly. It gets quiet for a long period of time and then, just when you think it will never happen to you and maybe your phone isn't even plugged in anymore, the phone rings with your next big deal, your next big show, or whatever. And, you'd think that really, as you get better at *this* (whatever "this" really is) this kind of flying high-to-sinking-low cycle would balance itself out but, sadly, it seems like it's an even deeper wave. The highs get higher yes but the lows? Oh, man, the lows can kill you.

Of course, this doesn't stop me from every now and again thinking "Maybe I should really just give this all up. Maybe I really should spend the rest of my days being content working at a desk job and just put all of this art stuff out of my mind. Maybe I should just put down all of the camera gear and just throw in the towel."

And then I remember the simple things. It's the simple things really. That's why I'm posting this image today. I like to paint. Really, I do. And I like to take pictures. And, I think, I'm good at it. I mean, sometimes, when the light is right, the mood strikes, I like to think I can take a good one every once in a while. And that? Yeah, that kind of thinking is what keeps me going because the rest of it? The shows and the gallery talks and the friends with Canon Mark cameras with blah, blah, blah lenses that cost gobs amount of money, the travel, the airports at 3 am, the frame sales at Jerry's, the studio visits, portfolio reviews, and crap? Yeah, man, that's just noise. You can fill your days up with that kind of noise but it really doesn't get any different, any better than taking a simple camera out when the light is good and firing off a few shows or laying down some great paint on canvas and making it all unfold before your eyes.

That's the real magic of a new day and *that* yeah, that's so what keeps me going.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just Checking In - Blah, Blah, no really, BLAH

MutedWindows_5601, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

I thought it would be a good idea to post tonight, if for no other reason then to let everybody know I'm still here. I've been kind of busy lately, and have had a lot of (recent) demands for my time. Seems like everybody always wants me to help with this or help with that, and, sometimes anyway, it hardly feels like I have time left for myself. (Apologies if you are on the "help" list and I have not yet gotten around to you. I promise, help is on the way.)

Meh. I guess you could say that, for tonight anyway, I have a serious case of the "blahs." I kind of thought that this "Muted Windows" image falls in line with the way I've been feeling today. Did you ever have a bad day? Does today feel like Monday to you? Gosh, it so feels like Monday to me and yet, somehow, deep down inside, I know it's not. I should be up and all happy and, why frankly, usually I am just that way. But not tonight. Tonight? No, tonight I'm sort of "blah." In fact, I'm worse than "blah" I'm more like "blah, blah, blah, BLAH." Oh the humanity! I hope that your "virtual Monday, no really it's Tuesday you fool" day is going a heck of a lot better than mine, that's for sure. (Did I mention Blah? Yeah, thought I might have.)

God, how I wish I were on a beach somewhere in the tropics. Or maybe a nice house along the south of France. Or just, you know, just going somewhere, anywhere but here. Instead, me, nope, stuck, stuck, stuck. (Makes me want to rip the walls down, but that's another story.) I suppose I should not be too discontent, as things are moving along and I am actually getting some stuff done. Boring stuff too, stuff like "clean out my studio a bit" (check) and, I don't know, "catch up with laundry" (um, er, check!) Still, it feels sort of blah -> me -> me -> blah if you know what I mean. (Blah, blah, blah, BLAH!)

Somebody, please make some excitement around here! Can't like the Stig drive through my life or maybe like a winning lottery ticket blow my way? Man, now that? Yeah, that would be cool.

And, you know, not so "BLAH!" wouldn't it?

Until next time...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Dirty Joke of Olympic Proportions

A little levity for today's post. This image comes from a recent trip to my local grocery where they had on display (I swear I am not making this up-I could not make up stuff this good!) an entire floor-to-above-eye-level display of greeting cards featuring none other than Justin Bieber. Oh groan! I am going to have nightmares about this, I swear.

On another's joke! This is a dirty joke of Olympic proportions. Enjoy.

So, the Olympic ceremony comes to a close and, at the closing ceremony Dolly Parton is singing for the Queen but, unfortunately for the free world, terrorists strike and set off a big bomb. Both the Queen and poor Dolly are instantly killed.

Each goes up to Heaven's gate where they meet St. Peter. St. Peter gives them the news. "There have been a lot of deaths today and so, because it is so busy up here, I've only got room for one of you today. Because of this, I will need each of you to tell me why you think you should be let into Heaven. After reviewing what you both have to say, I will then decide and let one of you in. The other will have to sit and wait until tomorrow."

Dolly Parton jumps at the chance and goes first. "I'm the great Dolly Parton!" She cries out. "I've given the world many great country songs and I've entertained millions with my singing, songwriting, and craft. Not to mention I have these wonderful great breasts that God has given me. I now would like to share them with all of Heaven!" She opens her top to reveal her large breasts.

St. Peter nods and says, "Very good. I'll make a note here," while writing in his clipboard.

Next up is the Queen. She waves her hand and asks for a glass of water. She takes the glass of water and goes over to a nearby toilet. She pours the water down the toilet and pulls the handle to send the water down the drain, back to Earth.

"Most excellent, Your Majesty!" Says St. Peter, "You may now pass into Heaven!"

The Queen then goes through the gate and into Heaven but not before Dolly complains. "What was that all about?" She asks, "I mean, I told you about my wonderful singing and songwriting and showed you my impressive breasts and all she did was...was flush a toilet for Pete's sake!"

To which St. Peter replies, "In Heaven, as it is on Earth, Dearest Dolly, a royal flush beats two of a kind, even if it is a really big pair."


Until next time...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Moment It Clicks

GoldenSea_9362, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
The other day, I was talking with somebody about photography and the arts in general. He told me that he had, "thought about photography" a bit but had also done music and tried a few other things, some art-related and some not. This is when I was reminded how lucky I am.

You see, I too played some of the "monkey toil" games. I played music for a while, I wrote a novel, I did a bunch of stuff before I happened upon a camera and my life changed for good. I've always said I was very lucky because I knew, almost from the moment I picked up the camera, that *this* now *this* was what I was supposed to do. Sure, I picked up the camera a bit later in life then maybe I would have liked to and, yeah, it would have been just *ducky* if I had discovered my love of photography when I was younger and could maybe go to school to pursue my dreams (rather than "wasting" my time in engineering school) but, on the whole? Yeah, I'm so much better off. Allow me to explain.

Some people, you see, never find out what they are *supposed* to do. Some people never find their bliss, as it were. They never have that moment, that single moment of clarity when it all just hits them upon the head and BAM! they suddenly (or maybe not so suddenly!) know what it is they are supposed to do when they grow up. Some just waddle through life like a lost duck, like a Roomba in search of dust bunnies hiding in the elusive corners of the universe only stuck perpetually bumping into the stairs or the closet door. Trapped. Trapped is what they are, I tell you, trapped. And me? Yeah, I'm so much luckier than that. I know what I want to do, I just have to figure out a way to do it. I just have to take what it is I want to do, what it is I've discovered as "my calling" (as it were) and make it happen.

So, I told my friend, the one I was talking with about this, "I'm very lucky. You see, I know what I want, I just have to figure out a way to make it all But, to not know what you, that's like some kind of horrible torment." And, it is, it really is. Tormented by that nagging feeling that you should be, you want to be doing something else, anything else but you just don't know what that something is. That's a cold, dark place really and I'm happy I don't have to languish there. Frankly, I'm glad I didn't have to stay in that place for long. No, for me, learning how to make it work is so much better than trying to figure out what you want in life.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

More About Going Pro - Scenarios, aka Life Lessons

So, today I thought I would actually start to "talk turkey" and go over a couple of scenarios with you. These are actually drawn from past experiences and photographers I know, so they are not entirely made-up, although I have changed the names to protect the "innocent."

As you read these, I would like you to think about what you would do in each of these scenarios. What you would recommend, what you would say if each of these people came into your studio (or your life!) and asked for advice. What would you say to them about "going pro?" In turn, I will also share with you the recommendations I gave to each of them and you can maybe see how close (or how off the mark!) we are.

OK, so here goes.

Case 1: "Frank."

Frank makes about 50K a year and currently works in a bank. He has saved 100K (in savings, mutual funds, etc.) and has a small 401(k) (not enough quite yet to retire but a start at a nest egg.) He has a show record, having done a few shows here and there, mostly local (local shows with local art groups.) He specializes in wildlife photography and, when he can, travels to places like Alaska and northern Canada so that he can go and shoot animals like wolves, moose, etc. in their native habitat. He generates about 10K per year in sales, although he does not promote himself all that much (other than the local shows he feels comfortable doing.)

My recommendation: Work one more year to generate increased sales. Increase on-line presence and try to establish a gallery "foothold" that you can use as a storefront for your sales. Work to establish a relationship with a gallery owner and get your work actively carried in a gallery that has regular sales. Get your work out of the local market only and show stuff outside of your comfort zone-start going "national" to help increase the prices your work can fetch. (Build more of a national name for yourself.)

What he wound up doing: Staying at the bank. In this case, "Frank" was not that excited about photography. Sure, he loved shooting pictures and, yes, he had some sales but, to him, his photography was more a hobby than a "day job." He wound up keeping his job at the bank, taking a few courses at local art schools, and continuing doing shows with local art groups in which he felt comfortable. Truthfully, he is in a very good place, because he can later decide to "go pro" while keeping his day job and gradually increasing his sales (if he is so-inclined.) He has also gradually started to show his work to a broader audience (he's getting more comfortable in this regard.)

Case 2: "Sally"

"Sally" makes about 35K per year working at a non-profit. She hates her job and has always shot local bands. She never thought about "going pro" before, having always shot bands on the side (nights, weekends, etc.) She has a publication record, as some of her band shots have been used in publicity, magazines, newspapers, etc. and she has done some shows, mostly group shows from local art and photography groups, though she has done some larger shows featuring multiple pieces of her work. "Sally" has very little savings and lives paycheck to paycheck. She has no 401(k) or IRA to speak of and shares a home with other folks who help with the rent.

My recommendation: Save, save, save! Create a cushion for yourself (even if it's only a small amount of savings) and go pro. Use the time you are continuing your job (working) to get more shows and start to think about promoting your work to maximize the publications.

What she did: After a big "blow up" with her boss, "Sally" wound up leaving her job suddenly. She was unemployed for a spell, a time which she used to promote her photographic work as best she could. She is now working again at a semi-photography related job and hopes to find steady work doing something in marketing or in a field that will allow her more of a creative outlet. She still shoots bands a lot and is making it work.

As an aside, I have always thought that "Sally" would be the one to really "make it" from the Austin art scene. Because of her low-paying job, she has nothing to look back upon (she's not going to miss that 35K a year job with an angry hot-headed boss) and because she is focused on music photography she could really carve out a niche for herself. Also, it would not be hard for her to generate 35k a year in photography sales, especially since she has shot bands for a long time and now has shots of artists who have passed away (Stevie Ray Vaughn, for example) that can generate revenue for her over time. My advice to her is to stay the course, continue shooting bands, and grow her photography into a full-blown career, even if the "day job" route takes her in a few different directions. Of course, since she is one of my friends, I still yell at her for not having enough savings.

Case 3: "Norm"

"Norm" makes about 100K a year as a computer programmer. He works in a cubicle behind a desk all day at a very boring job. He hates his job and really wants to be outdoors more often. He has a 401(k) from work with matching benefits and a great health plan, plus he is able to afford the latest in camera gear, new printers, etc. but he is not able to generate much in the way of sales from his photography work. He is lucky to post 3k a year in sales, although he does not work very hard at getting sales. He has shown his work a bit, mostly in group shows with his local camera club. He really dislikes high-tech and wants to shoot professionally. He would love to be a stock shooter, working for a place like Getty or Corbis.

My recommendation: Again here, it's save, save, save. Create a financial cushion for yourself by saving up a nest egg and use the cyclical nature of the high-tech industry to your advantage. High-tech is prone to large boom and bust cycles so, when things are low and jobs are harder to find, use that time to further your photography. Start selling your work! It's very easy to invest in new camera gear but to conveniently "forget" to invest in business cards, a good website, and really build a good portfolio of work. You need all of those things to be a successful photographer, not just the shiny new camera fear. Get your business lined up so that you can capitalize on any industry downtrends and use that time to focus on your photography. Consider doing contract work that allows you more freedom to do some shooting and gradually "phase-in" your photography career as you "phase-out" your high-tech career (if you can.)

What he did: Stay put! "Norm" felt he was making a lot of money in the high-tech industry and, even though he did not care for it, the money was too good. He decided to continue with his passion (photography) as a hobby and build up a business gradually, opting to travel on exotic workshops (which he could afford!) and also devote some time to social media and web sales (which were easier for him to fulfill given his day job.) He sells his work though sites like ImageKind that allow him to keep shooting (what he loves to do) without having to pressure himself to generate a specific amount of sales every year. At some point, given his rate of savings, he will be able to "retire" and do nothing but photography. His work is gradually improving and he is learning a lot about photography so I expect him to one day be a success (and be out of the office for good!)

I hope these scenarios will help you see some of realities of going "pro." Please look for more from the going pro series in posts to follow.

Until next time...

Monday, August 06, 2012

More About Going Pro - Part One

UndertowInPink, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

A few days ago, I posted about not quitting your day job. It's great to tell somebody "hey, man, don't quit your day job!" but probably not very nice to skip over how to quit your day job. That's where this post comes in. Today, I'm going to start (please notice I did say "start" and not "finish") discussing how to go about the business of going pro (just to "complete the set" as it were.)

Now, before I start, let me just say that "going pro" can mean different things to different people and, even if you are talking about the same thing, the same "version" of success, if you will, there are always different paths to get there. I didn't pickup a camera until after I had played music and written a novel-bummed around in other areas of the arts, until I really found my "calling" (as it were) as a photographer. Other people? Maybe come from generations of photographers or maybe had a camera stuffed in their kiddie hands when they were like two years old. Likewise, some photographers do a lot of magazine work and never print their own images while others (I tend to fall into this camp) do a lot of printing and sell matted/framed work (maybe in favor of shunning the magazines.) I've talked here about success before, how success is what you make of it and how photography includes a lot of these things, so I won't re-hash that in detail now, rather I'll just admit that this topic, this line of topics really, is intended to take you from "guy (or gal) with a camera" to "somebody who makes most of their money from photography." Use it as you will, it's worth everything you have paid for it (which, if you're reading this on the blog, is probably nothing anyway.)

Next up, you might be asking, where does this advice come from? Well, I've gathered it from a few different sources, and will try to credit those as I go along, but suffice it to say, I know enough photographers and have been there enough myself to know some of this stuff. I'm not going to bore you with the outer reaches of my bio-you can read that on your own terms (head on over to if you are really interested in this) instead, let's just dive in and get to talking about all of this "pro" stuff. (I will leave it open for you-if you do feel something I'm saying is not valid, please do leave a comment and I will attempt to address these as best I can.)

OK, now we've got that out of the way, let's start with some basics. For starers, you should be comfortable with your camera and be able to take pictures well-enough. Of course, it helps if you can take the best pictures possible but going "pro" isn't always about the best pictures-it's about being professional and providing what the client needs when the client needs it. Quality is nice but it's not everything. It is, however, a start, so it helps if you start good right out of the gate. I always strive to take the best images possible with what I have at the time-always. There is no substitute for quality so it's a big help if you can start with that. (If you feel your images are not up-to-snuff as it were, you can try to increase your picture-taking ability by practicing, joining a local photo group, attending classes, even on-line style class, and just plain ole shooting a lot-tons actually. The more you shoot, the better you tend to get.)

Other than good shots, you'll need to start with a few, more mundane things.

For starters, yes, I'm going to say it. It really helps if you can save up to about 2 years worth of salary. Having money in the bank helps get things moving along, it also helps give you that all important safety net. Two years of salary is a good springboard and I always recommend to my students you get as close to that as possible. So, save, baby, save!

It also helps if you can start with a show record. I always tell my students, even if I are planning on doing mostly print (read: magazine) work, start by sending you work out to shows. You need to figure out how to matte/frame your work (even if you go simple here, and just get cheap materials from a local hobby store) and start sending you work out to be considered for shows. I've talked about juried shows before, they are a great way to get your work out there, and I recommend every photography try to get into some kind of a juried show, even if it's just a local show. It establishes your "timeline" as an artist and sort of sets your clock rolling. If you're scared of doing juried shows, the show I posted news about just this week, ("Open Walls") at the Blackbox Gallery in Portland, Oregon is a fine example of a way to build a show record without having to face the fury of a juror. There are tons of open shows every year, including "Open Walls" and also "Long Shot" at the PhotoCenter Northwest (in Seattle.) Also, check with a local arts organization and check restaurants, coffee shots, hair salons, etc. in your area. There are tons of shows going on all of the time and seldom enough artwork to go around, so start by getting your work out there like this, as soon as you possibly can.

Now, here's some freebie Carol advice, worth every penny you paid for it. If you are staying at your day job long enough to save up your two years worth of salary, you can also use these two years to get your work "out there" and start doing shows. Most of the shows are easy enough to do while one is holding down a full-time job and you don't have to be in hundreds of shows to start. Just 3-4 or so is even a good enough springboard so, while you toil away at that pesky day job, start setting your photo career in good motion by starting the process of getting your work out there and start showing. Just as a lot of bands don't really "come together" until they book a gig, showing work is very important in your photographic development, so you'll want to do it as soon as possible. Don't wait, get going as soon as you can on this.

Next up comes the dreaded business plan. Now, you can take the words "business plan" to mean whatever you want to-this can be as formal as doing an actual plan or as informal as a few notes in your personal computer (one which nobody but you will read.) Doesn't matter really, just have some kind of plan to go about your business. Are you going to do portraits? Sell prints? Do magazine work? To whom? What is your target market? How much do you hope to make? How will you make money? What will you sell? Business or service? How will you handle expenses? Taxes? Who is going to pay for your pet poodle's haircuts while you are doing all of this? I'm sorry if I sound like a wet blanket here, but you have to put some of this down in writing, otherwise you will be a sea of confusion adrift in an ocean of aimlessness. Doing a business plan will get you thinking (and talking) about money, about plans, about solutions, not just throwing stuff in front of your camera to see what sticks.

Speaking of money, my next topic will be more about finances, specifically, I'll walk you through a couple of "fake" scenarios so you can decide who is "pro" and who doesn't yet make the cut. Maybe seeing some real world examples will help you get a handle on your own path to professionalism. And, as usual, do please email me with specific questions or comments so that I might address them as part of this new "path to pro" series for the blog.

Until next time...

Friday, August 03, 2012

Open Walls - Opening Tonight in Portland, Oregon

Large empty white room, VFW Hall, rural Leander, Texas. Architecture of empty space
VFWInteriorEmptyHallNo1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
For those of you in and around the Portland, Oregon area, tonight there will be an opening reception at the Black Box Gallery for a show called "Open Walls."

The Gallery is located at 811 East Burnside Street, Suite 212 Portland, Oregon 97214. The show is called "Open Walls" and features work from many different photographers, hung salon style as a fundraiser and photography event.

You can see an online version of the show (pictures from the exhibition) here.

The opening is tonight with a reception: Friday August 3, 5-8:30pm. It's part of the First Friday Art Walk on the East Side.

I will have work in the show. Should you happen to be in the Portland area I hope you can stop by and check it out.

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Notes from a Gallery Talk - Don't Quit Your Day Job

Blue water abstract from along the Texas coast, Port Aransas, Texas, Gulf of Mexico
BlueWater, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.
This post might as well be entitled "Don't Quit Your Day Job" because the world is filled with people who want to quit their day jobs, turn "pro" (whatever they have taken this to mean) and start making a "killing" shooting photography. After a wonderful gallery talk last night and, of course, over years of experience, I'd have to advise: Don't Quit Your Day Job! Here are some of the details (notes really) on what I discussed last night.

There is a lot of good photography out there. Your work might very well be unbeatable but, before you quit your day job and just start "taking snaps" you need to ask yourself some hard, downright difficult questions. Who is going to buy it? Who will hang it on the wall? Who do you expect to sell your work to?

You have to know what might sell before you can even think about starting to sell. You have to build a market, build an audience, build a following, before you can sell. This is not always easy to do.

There are many reasons to take pictures. Some people like history, some like to document what happened when, some people like mementos, cherish memories, some like to visit landmarks. Each of these is a good reason to stop and take a photo, yes, I'm not saying don't do that, I'm just saying it's going to be difficult, if not impossible to pay your bills, put food on the table by doing that (and that alone.) Many of the people who are so-called "successes" of the industry have worked for years. (You've read here before how long I have been doing this, and also can probably gather that, not only have I been doing this for 20+ years now, I don't have children or a lot of distractions and I live very frugally to allow myself the "luxury" of "doing" photography.) Even the Houston Center for Photography, sure it looks like a big place now, but seven years ago, they were about to close. There are shows, there have been in the past, where not one piece has sold. Big shows, in big places (bigger than what you are doing, I'm sure.) Take that to heart.

Many people assume art is an "event" and not a product. They don't even realize, connect the dots if you will, that when they attend a fancy function, the artwork is actually for sale. Many artists go to gallery shows, get all dressed up, and only attend with other artists. You have to work (hard!) get the public involved. Too many people are disconnected. They think they've gone to a show and they've "done art." It's your job, as an artist, to work and change that, to build that following, to get people into that gallery that are there to purchase, not just peek, and not just other artists.

In the old days, the galleries were overrun (they still are!) with other photographers, asking about paper, chemistry, cameras, etc. It was almost like the space was divided into two groups: the photographers and those there to meet the photographers. Not one, not one single person buys a photo and cares about what camera you used to take it. This is important, so let me repeat that.

AHEM....May I have your attention, please! Not one, not one single person out there, will likely purchase one of your photos because of the camera you used. Buyers care about pictures, they are not interested in photography! (Get that through your thick head, no matter how hard it might hurt to hear it.) Yes, you spent tons of money on a great camera, I'm happy and proud of you, but the sad reality is that not one person will buy your work because you have a great camera. They buy the shot not the camera.

Nobody asks what kind of camera was used. NOBODY. Let me say that again. NOBODY ASKS WHAT KIND OF CAMERA YOU USE. If they are asking, odds are they are just another photographer and not a true buyer. Some buyers are drawn to things like "squares" they like square images, for example, and, yes, it's true, many photographers use the same type of camera gear but your camera gear will not sell photos, you will. Use a pen and paper. Get business cards. Talk to people. Talk to a lot of people to sell work and don't just talk to other artists.

What buyers do like, and what they can recognize is the BEST PRINT. Learn how to print. Master the print. Be the print. Anybody, almost anybody off the street can walk into a gallery and, when presented with two prints, will be able to pick out the best one. Invest in good prints, in a good printer, don't cheat here. Learn how to do it right and do it well.

Tastes change over time too. Prints from back then now look dated. We tend to look at them and go, "man, that's harsh!" Get used to it. It's a bit like fashion. (Don't bell bottoms look a bit silly now too?)

If you're thinking about selling prints for a living, lay your work out next to a Keith Carter or a Jack Spencer or a *something that is selling* in your area (in your market.) Ask yourself, be does it compare? If you cannot A/B your work next to this type of work, if you cannot honestly look down at the table (with the two prints laid out) and think, "I'd rather have that one!" while pointing to your print, you will not sell. Nope. Not going to happen. Deal with it.

When somebody walks into a galley, or into one of your shows, one of these people who are not fellow artists (or photographers) have 1001 things to talk about besides art. That's the key there: BESIDES ART! People coming in and buying are asking themselves, "what do I want to look at everyday?" Make art an outside circle. A successful show is almost always one where there are few other artists there but a lot of buyers. To get people to buy (and not just walk around) let people make their own connections to the work. When they feel it's personal, when they relate to the story of the piece, that's what they buy. If a piece touches the heartstrings, they are hooked and will buy. Aim for your art to be transcendent in this manner. Work that sells will hook 'em this way. Think about Keith Carter's fireflies shot. In that photo it's Keith and his brother (it's not actually) it's Whittliff and his brother, it's you and your brother. It's any man and his brother when they were kids. Bingo! There's a top seller. The overlaps, the connections, are what draw people in. When they see themselves in your work, that's when you know you've hooked them. When you evoke their memories, when they pick up on your vision, that's when you know you have them.

It's all about quality. Work hard to get the best prints. Spend the time. Branch out and do other stuff. Almost all successful artists do other arts as well. Ansel Adams played the piano. Many play music, draw, do lots of artistic things. Cross-discipline brings a lot to the artistic table so practice it. One of my favorite quotes from the night was, "it all goes together to make a gumbo," and it does, it really does.

Jack Spencer spent years perfecting his printing process before he started selling. Now, he sells lots. He trained himself to varnish, perfected his "chemistry" and worked hard at getting just the right "look" before he started selling. Spend the time to do this and it will have its rewards. There are few overnight successes in this field. Just like music and acting, many other arts, you have to work long and hard at it. There are a lot of hours and lot of time spent doing stuff you would rather not do, but have to do to get ahead. Printing here comes to mind. You must perfect your printing, even if it means giving up some time shooting, but you must shoot too, so be prepared to just work, work, work at it all. All of this while your daily life goes on, marches on.

Finally, have so much work. Produce, produce, produce! The more work you have, the more you can edit, the more success you will have. Strive to have a lot of high quality (the best quality!) work and then work to sell it.

These are my first notes from the gallery talk, I will have more later, including my (new!) take on "cohesive" shows (aka "The Cohesive Body of Work is DEAD, Jim!)

Until next time...