DIY marketing

A Fond Farwell

 

Untitled (wave) (c)2009 Jane Boyer

Untitled (wave) (c)2009 Jane Boyer

 

What can I say?  It has been a sheer delight working with Becky and I will miss her.  But I take comfort in knowing that even though my public association with Becky will no longer be, we are still in regular contact sharing our knowledge and love of art and our passions for helping independent artists.  That’s where Rebecca started after all, and that is where we still connect.  So, in a way, nothing is really changing; our friendship and professional association simply is returning to its private state.  Becky is moving onto some very exciting things.  With deep heart-felt thanks, I wish her all the best in her new life with Mike and with each new endeavour coming her way.  I know she will succeed brilliantly – she is a rising star!  Do keep in touch with her on her site.

In the meantime, it’s business as usual here at Rebecca, albeit with a few readjustments and realignments.  Rebecca – writing services for the arts will adopt the name Rebecca Projects and will be a full service arts consulting business – still offering all the great writing services as before but with many other expanded areas of service.

Rebecca Projects will provide:

Independent art career coaching covering topics:

Creating an artist archive and organizing your practice

Professionalizing your presentations

Pricing your work

Developing your career history

Exhibition and promotion strategies for getting your work seen

Business consulting for artist-led organizations including:

Finding income generating assets

Consultation in writing organization documents such as business plans and member charters

Marketing and promotion strategies

Writing services including:

Press releases

Catalogue essays

Artist statements and biographies

Web copy

Editing services

In the coming weeks the Rebecca site will undergo some changes as things are reorganized, please bear with the transformation process and stay tuned, I think you’ll be interested in what’s coming…

Getting noticed online: 5 simple plugins and widgets to improve your blog’s visibility

Google Welcome Sign, Wikimedia Commons

In December’s post, “How do I get people to read my blog?”, I promised to write again with a little more detail on search engine optimization (SEO) and integrating your website with social media. So, here I’ve outlined five key WordPress plugins – add-ons that improve the way your site functions – that will smooth the way to getting noticed online.

All In One SEO Pack

To recap, SEO is (according to Wikipedia) “the process of improving the visibility of a website or web page in search engines” without using paid advertising. After installing and activating your SEO pack, you will receive prompts to provide additional information on each blog post, image, and page that you create. All In One’s great features allow you to add keywords to your post titles so that Google can easily match up your article to someone’s search, and include excerpt descriptions of each post to draw readers in.

Sitemap Generator

Google recommends submitting a sitemap – put simply, a list of all the pages on your website – in order that the search engine can make your blog public and easy to find in its entirety. Using a Sitemap generator can streamline this process, and this one in particular is highly popular.

Twitter Tools

I love Twitter Tools. When social media gets overwhelming, this plugin allows you to take a break from tweeting by automatically sending information on your blog posts to Twitter. But that’s not all, it will also broadcast your tweets from your website, and create blog posts from your tweets. There’s more to explore and this plugin is always expanding.

Tweet Meme / Share This

It seems to me that most online interaction between creative people goes on via Twitter these days – rather than commenting directly on a website, a Twitter conversation will start up around an interesting post. An effective (and painless) way to get the tweeting going is to include a TweetMeme button on your blog. The button also hooks up the TweetMeme site, where popular tweets and posts are displayed. Also, if you’re not familiar with Share This, check it out, though personally I find it a little clunky.

SEO Tag Cloud Widget

Lots of bloggers choose to use “tag clouds” to succintly sum up their site’s themes in a pleasing, visual way. You’ve probably noticed that we have one on our right sidebar here at Rebecca – the frequency that a specific tag or category is used corresponds to its size in the cloud. But often these thematic maps are not readable by search engines. Switch to the SEO Tag Cloud Widget and you have looks and functionality in one!

A little more advice

If you’re not sure what a plugin is, or how to use one, My Social Media VA provides a helpful summary, as well as advice on how to select them. In short, plugins “allow your blog to do more than it could when you first installed it,” and you can usually search and install them directly from your WordPress dashboard. For other blogging platforms, such as Blogger or Tumblr, just google “my platform” + “my desired plugin” and it should be smooth sailing from there.


Further Reading

I contributed to jotta.com’s 10 Social Media Tips for Artists back in January
Excellent content strategist Gabriel Smy explains Google’s advice for for getting ranked in online searches
Mashable presents the top 20 SEO plugins for WordPress
Google’s own tips and warnings about SEO
Smashing Apps has collected 40 examples of creative social media/website integration

“Duett” at Grizzly Grizzly, Philadelphia

Matt Giel, Seascape Work, 2011

Matt Giel, 300 Ft Seascape (Atlantic City), detail; unique C-print; 8” height, variable diameter; 2011

Becky has curated (or, rather, “facilitated”) her first exhibition in Philadelphia, USA, at fantastic collective space Grizzly Grizzly. It features work by artists Matt Giel and Alanna Lawley exploring the physical experience of the photographic image through three dimensional, installed objects and constructions.

We thought you might like to read, and compare, the press release (very nicely drafted by the gallery), the exhibition statement (by Becky), and the project website. Each text feeds into the other in terms of content, but remains distinct by way of writing style, objective/subjective language, reliance upon images, and level of theoretical depth.

Do you use separate texts for different purposes, or adapt one text to various audiences?

Stay tuned for news of Becky and Jane’s curatorial, research, and written work in between regular, in-depth advice posts in 2012.

How do I get people to read my blog? The basics for visual artists

Becky Hunter's art blog

There are a host of reasons to set up a blog around your art practice. Blogging allows you to reflect on your work, or on the specific issues that artists face on a daily basis. These include overcoming creative block, getting paid, relating to art history, and balancing a search for community with the much-needed isolation of the studio.

You’ll learn new skills, such as HTML, CSS, photo editing, and writing for new audiences. Of course, if you blog with a little forethought, you’ll also promote your sculpture, drawing, painting, or performance, and meet some wonderful co-conspirators along the way.

Whether you already keep a blog, or are thinking about setting one up, at some point it’s likely you’ll find yourself asking: “How do I get people to read my blog?” I’ve written this post in questionnaire style with the basics in mind, and will get into more depth in the New Year.

Do you read other artists’ blogs?

Blogging is all about community. If you want people to read your blog, first read theirs. If you enjoy – or disagree with – what they have to say, leave a polite, informed comment, or send a friendly email. Alternatively, respond to their writing with a post of your own, linking back to their site. Especially within creative circles, building meaningful relationships is more important than having sky-high visitor numbers.

Have you enabled pingbacks and trackbacks?

On your blogging dashboard you should be able to click a box which enables pingbacks and trackbacks. These odd-sounding functions automatically let other bloggers know when you have linked to them in one of your posts, and similarly will inform you when someone has linked to you. A simple way to initiate a conversation.

Do you keep up with art news or debates in your field?

I’m definitely not a fan of living life online, or obsessively following everyone’s blog, tweet, or tidbit of news. But if you sometimes post a timely, thoughtful response to a provocative debate your site will maintain a relevant edge that will draw people in.

Are you helping anyone?

One of the main reasons that people read online material is to find out how to do things. As well as writing about your practice, share your expertise. Perhaps you know how to stretch canvas so that it will never ever buckle, or you can succinctly explain the financial ins and outs of artistic self-employment. Write about it.

Are you being honest about your life?

I wouldn’t recommend turning your blog into a whinge-fest, but occasionally being open about problems, challenges, and feelings – as well as triumphs – builds genuine intimacy and engagement with readers. Two artists that do this well are Emily Speed and Rosalind Davis. They share difficulties, such as a gallery damaging their work, or being evicted from a studio building, and then use their experiences to fight for better working conditions for artists.

Do you update your blog regularly?

Google and other search engines favour frequently updated websites in their ranking system. It’s best to post three times a week, but this can get time consuming, especially for portfolio career-juggling artists. Google now ranks on post quality as well as quantity, so fewer, well written pieces may pop up in searches just as well. Experiment with posting schedules that work for you, but don’t let it become a source of anxiety. For artists, making art has got to come first.

Do you use SEO software?

SEO means Search Engine Optimization. This translates to: the things you can do to help Google find your blog and understand what it is about. Most blogs come with certain SEO tools inbuilt, such as tags, headlines, categories, and space to type in descriptions when you upload images. Make sure you fill in all of these with relevant information. I’ll be writing a full post on this later, but consider checking out SEO Plugins too.

Do you talk about your blog on your social networks?

If you tweet, or use Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn, send a quick reminder to your friends, colleagues, and followers each time you upload a new blog post. Also, use your social networks to find out what people want to read about. You might set this as your status update: “I’m writing a new painting technique advice column on my blog. Send me your questions!”

Do you engage with online artist communities?

Posting extracts of your blog on sites like Artists Talking, commenting on artists’ blogs hosted there, or uploading your portfolio with a link to your site at Re-title, Rise Art, or jotta should attract some new readers.

If you’re interested in growing your blog, but this list is a little overwhelming, just pick one thing to work on each week, or even each month in 2012. It’s about trial and error – but gently does it!

Extra Reading

Rachel Hills on building a readership that cares about your work
Problogger presents Darwin’s survival of the fittest blog
Thoughtfully styling your text will draw in more readers, says Copyblogger



This post is the first in an occasional series on art websites and blogging. If you have a burning question on art blogging, ask Rebecca via Twitter or email and we’ll do our best to answer it here.

Biography Matters

 

Perhaps you feel like many artists, your work speaks for itself.  Appealing as this thought is, in reality if you don’t have good supporting texts, your work is liable to remain mute.  Everyone needs a jumping-off point in order to engage with art whether that is through visual means or textual concerns.  Think about the last time you visited a gallery or museum and saw new work by a favourite artist.  Did you understand immediately what the artist was doing?  Probably not and the same applies to your work.  People need a little help to orient themselves to your vision.  Art needs words and artists need texts.

All emerging artists should have at least two written texts in addition to a CV – an artist statement and a biography.  Often artists just call their CV a biography, but if you don’t have a biography written in prose you’re missing an opportunity to share more insight into your work and to tell an audience who you are as an individual.  Your biography personalizes your CV and lists achievements you shouldn’t put in your artist statement.

The very nature of an artist statement focuses primarily on one aspect of your work.  It pinpoints the relationship of your media to your influences and states your aims.  You don’t want to muddle that clarity with other aspects of your work or your experience.  But those other aspects of your practice and experience are very important, that’s why you need a written biography.  In a biography you can go into a little more depth about your process or you can highlight another aspect of what you do.  This is also the place to talk about your achievements; a very important thing and something which should not be included in an artist statement.  An artist statement is about the work, a biography is about you.

A biography, written in the third-person, should include these things:

Place and date of birth

Education and degrees

Awards and career achievements you are most proud of (just one or two, the best of the best, not a laundry list of everything)

All of this information should come in the opening paragraph or two.  Then leading on from those awards and achievements you can springboard into talking about your work in more depth.  Did research for an award winning presentation lead you to study an artist in depth and did this in-depth study inspire your work?  Was an award winning piece inspired by an author whose work has changed your perspective on the world?  Have you been engaged in independent study which informs your practice?  This is the opportunity to get at what lies behind your work, the foundation it is built on.

Finish with these things:

Current art-related work activity or associations in art groups

Any major personal life changes and dates, i.e. like moving to a different county, being awarded a civil or government honour, a change of citizenship etc.

Where you live now and your marriage status

Your biography needn’t be long winded, like with all good artist texts it should be succinct.  You may think there really isn’t any foundation to what you do; you just do your work.  But that isn’t true.  Look deeper at what inspires you and why.  Follow a thread back in time on the progression of your practice; there are things that steered your course.  You have a history and as your practice develops you will need to articulate that history, start now while it’s fresh in your mind.

 

Further Reading:

Keith Bond writes a straightforward comparison between an artist statement and a biography.

Traditional Realism poses some good questions for you to consider when writing your biography.

 

You can find my biography at www.janeboyer.com, click on artist info, biography.

 

Ask Rebecca: Twitter Advice Session

First published on Jotta  – 15.11.2011

Ask Rebecca: Twitter Advice Session

We tuned in to Twitter last week for the online launch of Rebecca, a new writing service to aid artists in all the mind-numbing yet necessary tasks that get in the way of what they’re best at – making art! From how to tackle writing projects as a dyslexic, to figuring out Search Engine Optimisation, these are the burning questions that artists hit them with during their Twitter advice session.

 Press Releases

@rebeccaprojects- Right my computer say it’s 6:00pm GMT Time to chat use #AskRebecca to ask your questions

@RebeccaProjects. Well, I’ll start off … I had a tweet from @nicola_anthony asking how to approach journalists once you’ve written great PR copy. BH

What do you think Jane? My first piece of advice is to start reading plenty of art magazines of various different styles/levels #askrebecca BH

From there, start to pick out writers whose style/interests resonate with yours. #askrebecca – It’s really important to target writers personally rather than send off PR to everyone in a big bundle. #askrebecca – BH

@rebeccaprojects JB- yes, it’s a very good w ay to find other writers to connect with. Everyone likes to hear their work is appreciated.

Rebecca Projects it’s quite easy to google writers once you’re familiar with their work. Then just make contact! #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects JB- is there something that makes a press release stand out for you Becky? #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects Hmm… I always mention a brilliant press release sent to me by Rebecca Goodyear about an artist collective show in London. #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects It had a clear, concise story about artists banding together to beat the commercial system, and the logo was beautiful! #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects What makes a PR stand out is simplicity – bullet points, key points, and keeping it short. If it’s pretty that’s a bonus. #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects JB- so you would advise using a logo and being direct and concise, bullet points. How about using quotes? #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects Yes, absolutely use quotes from project/show participants or from someone who has given you some praise. #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects But make sure the quotes back up the main “story” you’re trying to get across in the release. Keep it streamlined. #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects JB- and where should the detail info of date, time, location etc go, top or bottom? My preference is bottom. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects My preference is bottom too. it’s nice to be able to scan the release for interesting info, then have it summed up neatly. #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects JB- It’s important also to have the f irst tw o lines be really striking. They’re the hook into the rest of the text

Rebecca Projects Yes if the first two lines are vague, jargony, or spelled badly, that will put me off reading the rest. #askrebecca #pickycritic – BH 2

Dyslexia & Dictation

Amreen Khan #askrebecca what about if you’re interested in writing but you have dyslexia, is there a way round that? or made simple? @rebeccaprojects

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx JB- that’s an interesting question & a difficult one. Most programs come with spell checkers, I would start there. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx JB- there perhaps is some software available to assist people with dyslexia, would be worth looking into. #AskRebecca

Amreen Khan @rebeccaprojects i got the spell check software but they dont tend to help when I keep on repeating myself and cant get the wording right.

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx – What do you find most difficult, if you don’t mind me asking? & what r you interested in writing? BH

Amreen Khan @rebeccaprojects I would say the most difficult would be I tend to repeat myself but word it differently, but i dont notice it

Amreen Khan @rebeccaprojects i have not started any writing yet, i guess my dyslexia has held me back

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx For anyone who has difficulty writing, I suggest breaking the task into small chunks, focusing on 1 section. #askrebecca–BH

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx – also using visual means to sketch out your ideas before committing them into words. #askrebecca- BH

Rebecca Projects @rebeccaprojects @amreenkhanx JB- how do you mean Becky? #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx – not sure exactly, but maybe as James Elkins suggests re: art history writing in The Story of Art. Will try to locate image.

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx JB- perhaps you need to write, then put it away for a day, come back to it and then maybe the repetitions will be more visible

Amreen Khan @rebeccaprojects yeah that would be good to do and also sketch would be good to do as well thanks

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx – or perhaps talking through your writing project w a friend, so you’re using words and ideas without the pressure of writing

Amreen Khan @rebeccaprojects i have found talking to people about a project helpful, maybe i could record myself talking to someone and then write it

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx JB- yes! Brilliant idea! #AskRebecca

Amreen Khan @rebeccaprojects thanks you JB and BH, you have been really helpful

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx Great, glad to have been of some help. Perhaps we can read your writing when you’re done? Would enjoy that. Best. – BH

Amreen Khan @rebeccaprojects I have written some text on a-n blog but nothing good at the moment, but I let you know if I do write something

Rebecca Projects@amreenkhanx JB- yes do let us know . If you are really interested in writing just keep trying and get people’s feedback. #AskRebecca

Maša Kepic @amreenkhanx Maybe smartphone dictation app? Just a thought…sure some type as you speak, or is it just Siri?#AskRebecca

Retweeted by rebeccaprojects RT @masakepic: @amreenkhanx “Dragon Dictation” app for iPhone types your dictation, says @zebglover , but haven’t used it. #AskRebecca

Email Newsletters

jottadotcom Hello @RebeccaProjects do you recommend artists do regular email newsletters or updates to their contacts? #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects@jottadotcom JB- yes but not too many because then it just becomes annoying. You want to inform not annoy. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects@jottadotcom JB- I would suggest once a month max. Once every two months or quarterly even is good too. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects@jottadotcom JB- there are good programs to format and design email campaigns allowing you to plan and design in advance #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects JB- It’s important 2 keep contact w / ppl who have expressed an interest in yr work, or they fall by the wayside.@jottadotcom #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @jottadotcom Yep, Mailchimp is a great one that is easy to get your head around. & free if you have less than 5000 contacts! – BH

Rebecca Projects @jottadotcom JB- another important thing about email campaigns is to keep them concise too. #AskRebecca

@Nicola_Anthony @rebeccaprojects: – layout of an artists newsletter -simple email or jazzy? Is a proper layout 2corporate? #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @Nicola_Anthony JB- No a proper layout is never too corporate., you look professional, which is important. Idea of looking corporate is not real, so proper layout always.#AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @Nicola_Anthony I would prob go for simple email, if possible to match your website colours/layout? #askrebecca –BH

Rebecca Projects @Nicola_Anthony I find crazy colours a headache… But mainly, do what you feel represents you the best. #askrebecca – BH

@Nicola_Anthony @rebeccaprojects Here is my current layout – its quite simple and taken from my artwork. though Im never sure if i should periodically change the drawing http://t.co/xJskKLMb #askrebecca

Rebecca Projects @Nicola_Anthony JB-I think yr layout is lovely. Only change it when U’re tired of looking at it or U wnt 2 promote something new #AskRebecca

@Nicola_Anthony @JaneBoyer thanks! Would love 2add a little drawing in here &there each month like a spot the difference… if i had the time! #AskRebecca

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Rebecca Projects My f ingers are getting tired from all this typing! #askrebecca BH

Rebecca Projects JB-Twitter is forever pain is temporary – to misquote Peter Jackson #AskRebecca

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jazzgreenartist @rebeccaprojects group i am in wants 2 develop art collector base who don’t use internet/email. i suggested exhibition walks/talks. ideas?

Rebecca Projects jazzgreenartist: This is true. Not everything should go at lightening pace. You’re absolutely right to engage in other ways.

Artist Statements

masakepic Maša Kepic @rebeccaprojects A general query as many Artists will possibly mainly write only Statement & Press Release…

Rebecca Projects @masakepic JB- Yes, I think it is important to use whatever method feels comfortable. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects JB- start your statement by talking about your media, it will lead you into why you do what you do in you art.#AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects JB- it is just as important to stay concise in an artist statement as it is in a press release. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects I agree with Jane on concise statements. When you read 200 for a competition, you’re so happy to see short ones! #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects @masakepic Are you hoping to use your blog or statement for a particular purpose right now ? Thinking about the audience my best advice BH

Rebecca Projects @masakepic – are you trying to attract curators, an artist community, educators, or obtain writing or lecturing work? #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects @masakepic I’m not the expert on statements, but I would say, start simple, with your materials & what the work looks/sounds like BH

Blogging and SEO

Rebecca Projects @masakepic JB- writing a blog is certainly a very productive w ay to inform. So many things can result from a blog…#AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @masakepic JB- for example our very own REBECCA is here because we met through blogs. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects Just remember to put some “hidden words” for Google to find, using your blogging softw are or SEO pack. #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects @masakepic @rebeccaprojects JB- how do you do that Becky? Hidden Words? #AskRebecca

masakepic Maša Kepic @rebeccaprojects Is this equivalent to Tag Words in Tumblr/Wordpress/Blogger? #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @masakepic Yes I mean things like tags, categories, but also add as much description as you can to every field…#askrebecca – BH

masakepic Maša Kepic @rebeccaprojects What are ‘alts’? #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @masakepic “Alt” is one of the fields you should get to fill in (on WordPress, Blogger, etc) when you upload an image to your blog. – BH

Rebecca Projects @masakepic …e.g. title, alt, description, and turning your images into links too.

Rebecca Projects @masakepic JB- alts are the alternate type you use in case an image isn’t visible. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects MT @rebeccaprojects “Alt” means “alternative”, provides text 4 search engines to read to label your image

Rebecca Projects @masakepic JB- when U add an image, yr prgrm usually asks U 4 alternate text 2 identif y image in case it isn’t visible #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects Other blogging tips include: install an SEO pack and then use it! Fill in all the extra fields it gives you. #askrebecca -BH

Amreen Khan @rebeccaprojects what is a SEO pack?

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx JB- Search Engine Optimization. Ways to make you come up higher on search engines. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx See this link for more info… wordpress.org/extend/plugins… #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects @amreenkhanx Here’s a video on SEO, so you don’t have to read loads of text… youtube.com/w atch?v=hF515-

Rebecca Projects @masakepic – It’s important to think about your intended audience and their needs if you w ant your blog to be useful to you

Rebecca Projects Blogging tip: As a visual artist you don’t have to write an overly wordy blog. Experiment with podcasts or even video. #askrebecca BH

Rebecca Projects @carolynlef ley Thanks… Also, think about problems you’ve had with your work/surrounding issues and how you overcame them. #askrebecca BH

carolynlefley @rebeccaprojects Great tip, thanks. I really struggle with what to blog apart from just the work

Rebecca Projects @carolynlefley JB- I think it is absolutely fine to have an image only blog. #AskRebecca

carolynlefley @rebeccaprojects Thanks Jane, still inspired by your blogging talk @CoreGallery – need to get my blog started!

Rebecca Projects @carolynlefley That’s always a good place to start when giving advice in blog format, making it personal. #askrebecca BH

Rebecca Projects @rebeccaprojects @carolynlefley JB- I agree Becky, make it real, make it personal but also engage with things outside yourself . #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects Blogging tip: Be your “best” self online. (I stole this from megablogger @galadarling). Share solutions rather than only problems.- BH

Rebecca Projects @carolynlefley JB- I think a photographic blog would be really beautiful and I think you should do it. #AskRebecca

carolynlefley @rebeccaprojects Thanks Jane, I already have this photo blog – http://t.co/NDG5VvBZ – now I’m encouraged to expand & continue! #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects MT @rebeccaprojects: Blogging tip: Have RSS set up, but add an email subscribe button for people who aren’t up on tech – BH #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects JB- yes of ten a nonverbal post is most eloquent #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects A blogger who does really good marketing and portfolio advice for artists and designers is @nubbytwiglet. #askrebecca – BH

masakepic Maša Kepic Buzzwords/advice for funding applications/grants? That would be a great indepth blogpost. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @rebeccaprojects JB- @masakepic Yes, we’ll make a note to do that #AskRebecca

Over & Out

Rebecca Projects Phew ! This is exhausting, but really interesting too. #askrebecca – BH

Rebecca Projects JB- funny how press and social media are still the main concerns. It’s hard getting the word out there. #AskRebecca

Rebecca Projects @JaneBoyer @rebeccaprojects We’ve passed our tweeting limit for the day. Oops!! #askrebecca

Rebecca Projects @speedina @rebeccaprojects haha, sorry, we’ve just finished up, but you’ll see the session published at jotta

Nicola_Anthony Fab – well I’ll say good night from London then, thanks @JaneBoyer @rebeccaprojects @musehunter #askrebecca keep in touch.

masakepic Maša Kepic @rebeccaprojects Love a good Arts twitter debate, thank you! Sure lots of people will find this Q&A helpful, & I’ve learned something too.

 

enquiries[at]rebeccaprojects.net

Writing workshops at Vox Populi collective gallery, Philadelphia

Writing workshop for artists at Vox Populi Gallery

Becky has been giving a series of popular writing workshops for artists at Vox Populi, Philadelphia’s longest established collective space. Artists have enjoyed workshops on blogging, press strategy, statements, and critical writing.

She’s now looking for writers, artists, and other arts professionals who engage with writing as part of their practice or job to continue the series.

If you’re in North East USA and would like to give a talk or lead a workshop based on the ways you work with writing, drop Becky a line.

Statement Writing Basics

There’s no question that writing an artist statement is difficult, enervating and is the ultimate fail-proof method to forget everything you’ve ever known about creating art; sit down to write that statement and you immediately go blank.  It’s happened to all of us.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through the basics of writing an artist statement and give you a structure to build on.  Artist statements can be quite simple or very intricate documents but they all have a structure and it is this structure which will give you flexibility in writing statements.  I’ll also touch on some common questions like should it be in the first or third person (I’ll explain that too, if you’ve forgotten your English grammar).

First, there are three rules to always follow:

-          Use plain English, not art-speak.  Even in the most complex of statements, the use of readable clear English will reflect better on you and it will immediately convey professionalism.  You want people to understand your work, achieving this starts with good English.

-          Discuss your work, not what you think art is.  An artist statement is not a document to convert non-believers; it is a document to give insight into your practice and creativity.

-          An artist statement is not marketing text.  It should not contain exaggerations, jingle-like phrases, or in any way inflate your reputation.  You’re not trying to sell yourself or widgets with this text.  You are trying to highlight something unique about what you do.

But where to start?  The best start for an artist statement is with your media; an opening sentence which states immediately what you do and what materials you use will clear the decks for further understanding your work.  It can be annoying to read a beautifully written statement only to wonder what material is being discussed.  Often it is through the discussion of media that you can find your way to the theory of what and why, you do what you do.

This opening sentence on media should not be a dry list of materials you use, but rather an intriguing opening which says what you work with and gives a clue to further working theory or method.  For example, ‘Jane Boyer is an abstract painter who uses very little paint in her paintings, preferring the contrast of powder and liquid in the creation of surfaces; powdered graphite being one of her favourite media.’  From here, a discussion of influences on your work can easily be made simply by answering the questions, ‘why do I work with this material and what does it allow me to accomplish in my artwork?’  You can also make a connection with past artistic practices if they are relevant to your current practice.  For example, if you were a sculpture and now you’re a painter, the use of sand in your paintings could be significant.

All this information; media, working methods, influences, any significant link to past artistic practices which is contained in the first section of your statement gives a clear picture of your background, your research interests and your working methods.  You then can concentrate on the theory behind your work to finish out your statement.

Having spoken of your background and interests, now is the time to discuss the philosophical quote which has inspired you and how you are interpreting it, or the overall goal you are trying to achieve with your work; are you reinterpreting a style or method, have you made a breakthrough discovery, are you responding to your environment?  The use of a quote from an artist who has influenced you, someone who has written about your work or even something you have written about your own work is good to use here.  It should give a sense of relevance to art production in general.  End your statement with a succinct sentence or two summation of what you are working to achieve.

Finally, the one question most artists ask, should you use the first or the third person?  If you’re not sure what that is, the first person uses ‘I’ as when you are speaking about yourself, the third person uses ‘he’ or ‘she’ like when you are speaking to someone of another person.

There is no hard and fast rule with this.  Many people feel the very nature of the term ‘artist statement’ suggests an artist speaking of his or her own work.  However, it has become very popular to use the third person because it then is very easy to use information in the artist statement in a review or an article written about the artist.  I suggest fitting the statement to the use.  If you’re using your statement for a proposal, the intimate first person could be appropriate.  If you’re including an artist statement with a press release it might be best to use the objective third person.

Just remember to state clearly what you do, how you do it and why and you will never worry about writing another artist statement…at least that’s what I tell myself each time I sit down to write mine.  It usually works once the blank-out has passed.

 

Further Reading:

Certified art coach Molly Gordon explains How to Write and Use an Artist Statement

Statement writing Advice from Alan Bamberg at ArtBusiness.com

Artist Hannah Piper Burns from the Abundant Artist on writing an artist statement

Read Jane’s artist statement here

 

How to Write a Killer Press Release

How to write a killer press release

This week’s post focuses on the fundamentals of PR copy.

In An Artist’s Guide to the Press, I dealt with the nuts and bolts of PR strategy, involving good timing, careful research, personalized communication, and a punchy press release. However, once your press release is, safely and punctually, in the right journalist’s inbox, what will make it memorable? And, as an independent artist competing with the well-oiled press machines of commercial and public galleries, how will you project a professional image, while remaining true to your unique story?

This article is my answer to those questions, based upon experience receiving and writing hundreds of press releases, and talking to writers and magazine editors. To get the most out of it, I suggest downloading a press release or two from an established gallery website, for example Tate Modern, BALTIC, or Sadie Coles HQ, or from an arts PR firm like JB Pelham. These will serve as a “model” for best practice as you work through my advice; they are also invaluable as you get to grips with layout issues, such as working out how much space (or how many words) each section of the release should use.

So, first things first, at the top of your document indicate that it is a press release simply by typing “For Immediate Release” accompanied by today’s date. In the case of time sensitive material, such as top-secret competition results, instead type “Embargoed Until [future date]”. As a header, include your logo or name as it appears on your website, which will provide visual continuity for writers who receive your information regularly.

In terms of text, the release’s first two lines are the most important – if they’re vague, dull, or full of jargon, the journalist may not read further. You might like to highlight them in bold, or separate them from the rest of the piece. Take a while to think about the overall concept or feel of your project – brainstorm it on a big sheet of paper if you’d like – then whittle it down to a maximum of two informative sentences. For example, these are my most recent opening lines:

Philadelphia, PA – Vox Populi hosts a special summer party on First Friday with music, video and performance events by Jim Jeffers & Lydia Grey, Micah Danges and Jessica Gath.

Building upon the success of last summer’s event, SOUND/STAGES II is an exciting First Friday one-nighter channeling themes of collaboration and participation in music, video and performance.

The first, bold sentence communicates the location, event type, approximate date, media, and artist names, using “special summer party” to set the tone. Placed underneath a hi-res image, the second line puts the party in context, outlines key themes, and reaffirms the type of art to be expected, leading onto more detailed descriptions of each planned performance.

The main body of your press release should expand upon the intro, providing specifics on anything you’ve mentioned thus far, and weaving a narrative around the most interesting aspects of the project. Basically, you’re coming up with a “story” that a busy journalist can quickly lift into their article. For the Vox Populi release, my story circled around participation, collaboration, and fun. You might choose to highlight a technique that you’ve invented, focus on a theme or curatorial premise as I did, or go into some depth on how your firsthand experience of nuclear physics, motherhood, or a residency in China has influenced your current work.

It’s also a good idea to include a quote from a project participant, previously published review, or key theoretical text, as time-challenged art writers like to have quotations to hand if there’s not time or scope to arrange an interview.

It’s worth keeping in mind that most emerging writers (and many established ones!) are overworked and underpaid, fitting in exhibition reviewing and feature writing after their day job, or alongside full time study. The easier you can make it for them to grasp and enjoy the key points of your project, the more likely it is that you’ll get reviewed. In light of this, be sure to include a section headed “Key Information” or “Notes for Editors” either at the very top or bottom of the page, where it is easy to spot. List here, in clear bullet form, important dates, opening times, event address and nearest subway/tube/bus station, your contact information, plus useful web-links where appropriate.

Your completed text should be no more than 300 words, or one page long. Longwinded copy just doesn’t get read. End with any sponsors’ logos, and a simple call to action to prompt your reader to visit the show, or to pitch your story to their editor. This might read, as mine did: “Join us on First Friday for this special night,” or you might encourage the journalist to get in touch: “Contact me@myshow.com for high resolution images, information, and interview opportunities.”

After final careful spelling, grammar, date and time checks, your press release is ready to send as a PDF together with one or two images under 1MB each. With a bit of luck and persistence, you’ll get a fantastic response!

Extra Reading

DIY press release tips from Young, Fabulous, and Self Employed
PR advice at Pressbox
Journalism.co.uk teaches how to write the perfect press release for journalists


Based on a workshop given at Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia, and first published at We Like Artists.

An Artist’s Guide to the Press

Artist's Guide to the Press

As an emerging freelance art writer I receive fifty to one hundred press releases and email queries from galleries, artists and their agents each week. I love to discover new work, ideas and creative projects – it’s how I make (part of) my living, alongside writing catalogue essays and other less glamorous pursuits – but I’m often disappointed by the lack of care and attention put into these vital communications.

After all the hard graft you’ve put into your show – making art, earning and allocating cash, finding an exhibition space or a willing curator, printing up invites and catalogues, and planning an ace opening night – I’m guessing you want to give it the best possible chance of being written about. And all it takes is a little research and planning to move your press release from the trashcan to, potentially, the top of a journalist’s to-do list.

Firstly, timing is essential: however awesome your exhibition, if you submit a release too late it will be ignored. National and international print magazines, such as MAP or Artforum, plan their issues four to six months in advance; local print monthlies operate with a two or three month lead time; while newspapers and online magazines are more flexible, sometimes able to respond to events with two or even one week’s notice.

If there’s a particular magazine you dream to be featured in, check their contributor guidelines to find out how and when to approach them – but be sure to get in touch with writers and editors before their own deadlines kick in. Then, once you’ve identified a handful of magazines on various levels and timeframes that seem a good fit for your work, the next job is to put yourself in the shoes of a writer (read: do your research).

When I decide to approach an art publication with my freelance writing, I tend to buy a couple of copies of the magazine and read them cover to cover, sneakily make notes in the bookstore, or browse online. I want to make sure my pitch matches their overall style, tone, content, and position. For example, if I’m pitching to Dazed Digital I’ll focus on providing striking images; for Art Papers I’ll put contemporary art into a socio-historical context.

As an artist, you’ll also want to note down the names of writers whose articles resonate with your concerns. Usually, it’s quite easy to Google them, find their blog or portfolio site, and send a brief, polite email explaining that you enjoy their work (give an example!) and would like to send them occasional news on your own practice. While not everyone will get back to you, many critics will be flattered that you’ve taken the time to understand what they’re about, instead of just spamming them with irrelevant content.

Finally, when the time comes to write your press release, abide by the following rules. Make your first two lines punchy, summarising what’s interesting or unique about your show– that will convince the journalist to read further. Build a “story” paragraph, expanding on the opening sentences, using quotes from people involved in the exhibition and further points on the show’s concept.  Include key information (who, where, when, etc) in bullet format at the very top or bottom of the release so it’s easy to locate, and attach your best image to the email.

As a writer, I’d love to receive more press releases that correspond to my actual location (currently East Coast USA) and interests (contemporary twists on abstraction, modernism & feminism, for example), and am sure I’m not the only one. Building relationships with the art press may take time and care, but will surely benefit your practice.

Extra Reading

Danielle LaPorte’s inspirational guide to marketing with integrity
In-depth marketing plan advice from Businesslink
Self-promotion tips tailored to artists by Artquest

Originally written by Becky Hunter for We Like Artists, based on a workshop she delivered at Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia.