Monday, December 2, 2013

Make Art That Sells, doing what you love, and finding joy along the way


I recently completed Part A of Lilla Rogers' insanely rigorous yet wonderful online class, Make Art That Sells, which concentrated on bolt fabric, home decor, children's books, wall art, and gifts.  It's a jam-packed five weeks full of tips, tricks, advice, and info on five different art markets, lots of drawing, lots of self-doubt and ultimately lots of growth.

Some of us MATS students decided to do a little blog tour all about the class, and today along with Victoria Johnson and Emily Dyer, it's my turn!

I was seriously impressed with the talent of my classmates. Here are just two examples:

Victoria Johnson
Art created during MATS by Victoria Johnson

Victoria is so good at effortlessly combining hand-drawn and digital, and making them work together beautifully to create cohesive and awesomely cool things that would appeal to a wide range of ages, myself included. (I'd love to have those plates in my kitchen!)


Children's book illustration by Emily Dyer

And I was really impressed with Emily's cut paper designs -- she does them by hand, and it was such a treat to see her in-progress photos! The cut paper illustrations are incredibly intricate and beautiful all on their own, and make a bold and unique style when combined with digital, like in the illustration above, that reminds me a little of linocut, which I love.


Investing in myself

I went into MATS after a bunch of years in graphic design/illustration, with two licenses for my work, but no idea what to do next -- no clue what steps to take to get to that place I didn't even know I wanted to go to.

I decided, I'm at the point in my life where I know I reeeeally love art licensing, a lot, and I want to do more of it. And MATS seemed a good investment in myself so I can reach that goal.

There was a lot of talking myself out of it before I actually went ahead and signed up for the course (barely a week before it started, naturally.) I wondered, since I've been marginally successful so far -- or maybe just really lucky, would I get a lot out of this course? I've never spent nearly as much for an online course… is the cost worth it? Is it really as awesome and life-changing as others have claimed?

Well, if your average art/business of art class is a two-scoop ice cream cone, MATS is like a twenty scoop, five banana mega ├╝ber banana split with ten kinds of sprinkles, peanuts and pecans and a gallon of caramel and chocolate sauces, with a cherry on top, and you must eat the whole thing in about a half hour. Yes, it IS absolutely all that and a bag of chips.

What's it all about?

During five weeks, you get info and advice about five different markets. You get a ton of really useful tips about how to break down an otherwise Big Scary Important project into tiny, manageable and fun steps. You get advice on how to make the most of your time, despite your own personal circumstances (full time job, kids + pets to take care of, whatever else you're juggling.) You get advice about being true to yourself, finding joy in everything you do, and making stuff YOU love, work that will ultimately sell because all that joy will shine through! The whole course, from Lilla herself to all my fellow students, is infused with excitement, positivity and joy. Surprisingly so. I haven't felt this much a part of a like-minded community of artists since college!

My collage/digital hybrid wall art


Crying over plates

During the class, I hoped to get inspired to try mediums again that I haven't used in years (oil and acrylic, collage) and ones I still use but not as much as I'd like (watercolor), and possibly use them in new ways. My work has been feeling kind of stale and I hoped to figure out how to combine traditional mediums with the digital that I do 90% of the time nowadays. During MATS, I thought I'd pick up some insider tips about breaking into markets I haven't tried yet.

I started out excited, optimistic and inspired. After a week of struggling with my bolt fabric design, I was a bit discouraged. After two weeks I actually cried, my plate designs were that bad. After three weeks I thought maybe I should give up new markets and stick to what I know.

I was surprised to realize I have not much of a clue when it came to wall art, home decor, and gifts. In retrospect, I've never designed plates, and my oil painting days were many years ago, and I realized I need to just RELAX already and enjoy the process (that's where Lilla's brilliant idea to do minis --drawing lots and lots of icons before tackling the actual project -- really helped me out!)

Postscript

What I learned:
  • People buy your joy
  • There's room for all good art
  • Everyone is at a different place in their art journey, and wherever you are now is right where you need to be!
I just love that phrase: "people buy your joy." It's so true. Thinking back to my most successful work, those were also the ones I most enjoyed creating. The ones I'd get so wrapped up in, I'd forget to go to the bathroom and feed the children, and things I had cooking on the stove always burned.

Did I do everything I wanted to during MATS? Well, I got out my acrylics and collage stuff and painted on canvas. I found some new ways of working. I filled up a sketchbook. I drew in Starbucks. I have a million ideas for things I want to create. I now have more knowledge and confidence to make good work. And I'm excited to put all these ideas into practice. So yeah, in case you're wondering, I'd recommend the class… it was definitely worth it!

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And now, a list of blog tour participants!

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