Promoting Your Work: A Creative Capital Recap

The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition recently hosted the Creative Capital Core Weekend Workshop, an intensive weekend retreat for 24 artists focused on business training.

A good amount of time was spent discussing key elements for promoting your work. Two of the most important tools you can have for promotion are images and words.

Much of the world will never have the chance to see your work in person. Think about this: how many people would recognize the Mona Lisa? Now, how many have seen that work in person? Most haven’t, but they are familiar with it because of the images they have seen.

Not only do your artwork images help with promotion, they also serve as an archive for you.

The quality of the image matters, too. Which of these images looks better to you? 

Stuart Asprey, Dog Can, Ceramic

Stuart Asprey, Nutz 3 Ways, Ceramic

Hopefully you agree that the 2nd image looks better. It is cropped well, the work is evenly lit with shadows that accentuate rather than distract, and it has a clean and unobtrusive background.

Check this previous blog post for more examples of good vs. bad images.

This means anything you say or write about your work. Words are important for artist statements, press releases, artist talks, cocktail parties, openings… the list goes on. When communicating about your work in words, think about these things:

  • What do you want people to know about your work?
  • What are people curious about? Listen to your viewers. What are they asking you?

These questions are a good starting place for determining what’s most important to express.

Need more help?

If you need more help with the images and words related to your work, I encourage you to attend our upcoming Portfolio & Proposal Boot Camp workshops, offered in OKC on September 8 and Tulsa on October 13. The workshops will cover photographing your art, writing an artist statement and resume, and successful proposal writing tips.

On both dates, we also offer appointments to have your work photographed for just $10 per piece.

Visit for details.

Getting Seen: Website Essentials

Author: Kerry Azzarello
Operations Manager, Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition 

You make great art, now give others the opportunity to see it. At the recent Creative Capital Core Weekend Workshop we hosted in Oklahoma, facilitator Jackie Battenfield emphasized the importance of artist websites as a key component to a successful art practice. What follows are five essential website rules that will help you get and stay on the art world radar.  

Creative Capital Facilitator Aaron Landsman presenting at workshop

Rule #1 – Have one. 

Let’s face it, we all want to wait until we have the ‘perfect’ site built before making that leap. Alas, facilitators stressed that artists have more to fear from obscurity than by not achieving perfection with their web presence. Remember that your website is a stand-in for you and your work. Make sure you are present.

Rule #2 – Keep it simple.
HTML, Java, C++, YMCA. Tech-speak and acronyms can be intimating. Have no fear. Numerous companies including Weebly,  WordPress, and  FolioSnap offer easy to use, pre-designed templates that make getting your work on-line relatively painless. Custom-made websites can be costly. A little research could save you time and money, without sacrificing content and professionalism.

Creative Capital Core Weekend Workshop Participants & Facilitators

Rule #3 – Cover the basics.

As a visual artist, you know better than anyone the power of images. It is imperative to include samples of your work (complete with title, medium, and dimensions of course). However, it is just as important to include a moderate amount of explanatory text. Not only does it help provide valuable information to viewers (and potential buyers), it also helps Google bots boost your site in its search ranking.  Images + Text = Success!   

Rule #4 – Encourage a conversation.

Be it a gallery, a PO box, or your studio address ALWAYS include your contact information. Make this easy to find and large enough to read. Point 5 font hidden away at the bottom of the page won’t help spur a dialogue and may result in missed opportunities. Including links to any professional social media sites you may have can also keep a dialogue going.  

Creative Capital Core Workshop Participants Milissa Burkhart & Benita Brewer

Rule 5 – Update, update, update.
Once you have the website, be diligent in your updates. Adding new content, advertising your upcoming exhibitions, and posting current work are all great ways to keep collectors and the public up to date. Some artists choose to include work both for sale and previous sold. Others opt to only include works currently available. Pick what feels right for you and set aside time every month to update your site.

Ready to learn more? If you are tweaking a current site or making the leap to create your first one, I highly encourage you to visit Creative Capital’s Internet for Artists.

What do you think? Please comment and share your tips, successes, horror stories, and advice for creating amazing artist websites.

Applying for Fellowships: Debby Kaspari

In preparation for a workshop focused on grant funding for artists, Norman artist Debby Kaspari reflected on some incredible Fellowships she’s received and dealing with realities of the opportunities. See the interview with Kasapri’s co-presenter Liz Roth, Stillwater, for more introduction to the topic. 

Debby Kaspari leads a workshop
funded in part by an OK Visual Arts Coalition grant
Q: What are a few of the key grants you’ll address in the workshop? 
Debby Kaspari: I’ll be talking about my three grants: the Eckelberry Fellowship, the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, and the Charles Bullard Fellowship. I was awarded two out of three, and I’ll discuss why, and why not.

Q: Why have they been so pivotal for your artistic practice?
DK: These were high-profile grants which allowed for some interesting travel, research and showcases for my work. The Bullard, in particular, funded 8 months of art-making and scholarly research and exploring new ground.

Q: What is the biggest opportunity to which you’ve applied? Why did you want to apply?
DK: The Bullard, with the Smithsonian a close second. The Bullard is through Harvard University, funded my work for 8 months and opened many doors that are still leading me to other interesting places.
Debby Kaspari’s sketches of lesser prairie chickens from a project 
funded in part by an OK Visual Arts Coalition grant
Q: What do you do when you get a rejection letter?
DK: Try to find out what I could have done differently, ask someone in the know, if possible. If I’m still interested in a particular grant or residency, I’ll reconfigure my proposal or redesign the study and resubmit in the next cycle. 

Q: What else should I have asked?
DK: What do you do when you get accepted? (after you finish doing the happy dance) You need to find out what’s expected and how to physically carry out your project. For instance, the Bullard Fellowship meant moving cross-country to Massachusetts for 8 months, renting an apartment, setting up an automatic deposit for the fellowship payments, getting a Harvard ID, meeting people to work with, scouting locations and learning how to use the archives. Once that’s in place, you can get into the creative work and have fun.

Kaspari and Liz Roth will lead artists through funding options and proposals at the “Applying for Artist Grants” workshop on April 28. See for more information and to register. 

Proposals for Grants, Residencies & Exhibitions

Three months in Japan working on your artwork along with a travel stipend.   

A large cash prize and six month drawing in a New England forest. 

Cash support for preparing art for an exhibition.  

These may sound like dreams, but these are real awards that transform artists’ careers. Liz Roth and Debby Kaspari have applied for and received many such awards. They will share tips and ideas at the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition Artist Survival Kit workshop on April 28, 2012. Roth answered a few questions about proposals and opportunities below. 
Presenter Liz Roth explains her Art 365 project in 2008
Q: What do you do when you get a rejection letter?
Liz Roth: When I get a rejection letter, I have a 24-hour rule. The rule is:  I send out an application within 24 hours of receiving a rejection.  I am able to do this because I keep an ongoing list of opportunities in a document on my laptop, organized by date. I update this list constantly. I always want to have something (a possible acceptance) to look forward to. So I generally have between 5 and 9 applications “out” at any given time.
Q: What is the biggest opportunity to which you’ve applied? Why did you want to apply?
Roth: The biggest opportunity I applied to that I received was the Kamiyama Artist in Residency in Japan. It is a three-month long, remarkable residency. Basically, I like to travel and wanted to go to Japan, so I applied.
What happened was, I went there and it pretty much changed my life and the direction my art would take.  I have had a fair amount of experience working abroad, but being in a foreign country where your job is to be an artist and to complete a project you proposed was fantastic and quite challenging. 

I learned how to really think about a place and create an esthetic experience tailored to the community’s interests. I learned how to push my esthetic agenda, while remaining respectful. I created more work in three months than I though was humanly possible. And my final work was so interesting to me, that I have been using that project as a springboard for other projects in the ten years since.
Q: What will you address in the workshop?

Roth: My role in this workshop is nuts and bolts. I will talk less about the grants and residencies I have received, and more about how to think about transforming what you already do into a project that will be attractive to grant and residency review committees. Also, I will demonstrate how to find these opportunities on the web, and how to prepare your application materials. We’ll have a brainstorming part of the workshop, but by all means, bring your ideas and your writing and we’ll look at them!

Q: A good question to ask is, what percentage of applications that you submit are accepted?
Roth: The answer is it depends upon what I am applying for. But usually, 1 out of 10.

Roth and Debby Kaspari will lead artists through funding and proposals at the “Applying for Artist Grants” workshop on April 28. See for more information and to register. 

Artist Survival Kit Wrap Up: The Artist and Curator in the Studio

by Sarah Hearn, ASK Workshop Liaison

Saturday, November 19 marked the second OVAC Artist SurvivalKit Workshop of the season. The topic of discussion was The Artist & Curator in the Studio: Professional Development for the Emerging Artist. Presenter and independent curator Shannon Fitzgerald demystified the symbiotic and sometimes long-term relationships that flourish between artists and curators. Individual Artists of Oklahoma gallery was the host venue for the workshop and the talk was well attended.

Fitzgerald opened with a brief slide lecture exploring the history of artists in their studios.  This fun, voyeuristic trip through time peered into the disparate creative spaces of artists such as Rembrandt, Francis Bacon and Polly Apfelbaum.  Fitzgerald also addressed the importance of artists maintaining an active studio practice.  She provided frank, but sincere advice about hosting or participating in studio visits.
Although Fitzgerald’s workshop was informative and relevant to any artist working in the studio, it brought to my attention a major need for more curator/artist interaction. Currently there just aren’t enough local opportunities for artists to work directly with curators; therefore, many are unsure of what this experience entails. It is true that Oklahoma has the occasional contemporary curator or critic visiting specific arts institutions and universities, but it is rare that these people visit local artists studios or stay in state for any length of time.  It is also true that there are a handful of curators at local arts institutions, but very few of them deal directly with contemporary artists on a regular basis. Those that do, are often so overwhelmed with their respective institutional responsibilities that these interactions can be infrequent or rushed.
I believe the artists of Oklahoma should respectfully cultivate change!  How do we do this?  Well, I propose we start by visiting each other’s studios.  In fact, since November 19, I have hosted one studio visit and participated in two others.  Each experience has been uniquely enriching; I intend to make these visits more frequently among my peers.  If we want to be better artists, we need to discuss the content and outcome of our work, obtain and offer honest, critical feedback, and collectively celebrate the triumphs of local artistic success.  Furthermore, there is no law against artists acting as curators themselves.  Local artists should curate and organize more exhibitions among their peers. This experience can lead to not only a better understanding of the important role curators can play in artists careers, but lead to better visibility for emerging artists and curators alike.  Advocacy should also factor into this cultivation.  Once we raise our visibility collectively, we should request that institutions consider offering their guest curators, critics and lectures the opportunity to visit local studios.  What do you think?  Any takers?

Curator’s Perspective: Professional Development for Artists

Curator Shannon Fitzgerald discusses Art 365 artwork
placement with Liz Rodda & Frank Wick.

Independent curator Shannon Fitzgerald has worked with artists from students preparing for their first exhibition to internationally-known artists enjoying their museum retrospective.
Since Fitzgerald leads an Artist Survival Kit workshop on November 19, I wanted to revisit some past interviews with her about working with artists, studio practice and more.  She will share her experience as a contemporary curator, giving artists an understanding of professional development and mindful career steps.
Read an interview Fitzgerald about working with local artists, studio visits and her selection process for the Art 365exhibition in this Art Focus Oklahoma issue.  
See this blog post with her ideas about curators visiting artists’ studios.
The workshop, “The Artist & the Curator in the Studio: Professional Development for the Emerging Artist” will be held Saturday, November 19, 1-4 pm at Individual Artists of Oklahoma Gallery, in Oklahoma City. See more information or register here:

Artistic Collaboration: Artist Survival Kit Workshop Recap

Guest Author Sarah Hearn, Artist Survival Kit coordinator
Satan’s Camero, This music is kind of slutty,
Screen print and smoke on panel, 18 in x 18 in, 2010
September 29th marked the first ArtistSurvival Kit (ASK) workshop of the season.  This year’s topics were nominated by the ASK committee with much discussion and input from previous workshop attendees and voted on by OVAC members in an online Facebook poll.  The topic of creative collaborations was of interest to many OVAC members and the actual workshop did not disappoint.
The 22 participants heard lectures from local forensic artist Harvey Pratt who works closely with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and artists Justin Strom and Lenore Thomas who make collaborative art under the name, Satan’s Camaro. The topics of discussion and means of collaboration were drastically different and had many in the audience thinking of different ways they could adopt collaborations into their own practice. The workshop was co-hosted by the School of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma and was followed with an intimate gallery preview of Satan’s Camaro, Medieval Tehno Show currently on display through October 21, 2011. 
Pratt’s lecture was intense, interesting and graphic.  He showed detailed examples of how he works with victims, witnesses and psychics to create forensic sketches to identity suspects.  He also discussed his role in working with law enforcement to identify bodies, create age progression assessments, and ultimately, capture criminals.  His lecture provided great insight on collaborating with a much larger organization such as the OSBI and suggested the unexpected collaborative nature of working for the good of those who are no longer living. 
After a brief question and answer session, a talk by the printmaking duo Satan’s Camaro followed.  Strom and Thomas are an eclectic and likable pair. They each discussed their individual projects prior to collaboration and showed examples of their early collaborative efforts.  Their newer work has evolved to become complimentary yet cohesive- the fruit of compromise which has matured over the past 5 years. Strom and Thomas share vital roles in their practice and manage to make work that is of each of them, yet different.  It was truly refreshing to see great work being made, collaboratively without egos spoiling the fun.  More information can be seen on their website at
The next Artist Survival Kit workshop will take place November 19, focused on curators, emerging artists and preparing for exhibitions.