Creative Inspiration and Shadows

Creativity. What does it mean to you? To me it means letting your self go. Getting out of the box. Pushing the envelope. Walking the path less taken. Opening your mind to accept new ideas and directions. Is it the release of creativity and artistic stagnation? Is that creative in and of itself? For those of you who follow the Red Dog News blog you have read similar posts from me about creativity.

rp_Suttelle-5036-300x243.jpgLast year my creativity was definitely stagnated. I was publishing Red Dog News and I had just finished a new Shadow & Light Magazine, but that was it. I really (In my mind) wasn’t being creative, although there are those who would disagree. It took a walk through my house to reignite my creativity. Just as I was walking around turning out lights and locking doors, something caught my eye (pictured, left). It was a graphic image created by the outside power pole-mounted security light, which is very bright. The light came into our enclosed back porch and the image was created by the shadows of window frames, shade pulls, etc. I hadn’t done any new photography for quite a while but that image ignited my creativity.

Suttelle GraphicI immediately went into the room and started rearranging furniture so I could create what was in my mind. I set up tableaus of stuffed animals (pictured, left). I worked for about an hour setting up different scenarios until I had exhausted my ideas for the night. It was almost midnight! That did it for me, however.

From that point on my creativity has surged, but not necessarily by picking up the camera. Lately, I have been spending quite a bit of time going through my archives and re-imagining the finished images with a different “eye.” I have been very surprised and pleased by what I have found. Most of you have already seen “Angel,” (below) but I wanted to share it because it is a good example of the creative process.

Angel by Tim Anderson

A couple of weeks ago I opened up Photoshop to a blank screen. In a very short time (for me!) this image “brought” itself together. Granted, it had to come from somewhere. I had to have all the parts. I had to want to create it… and I did.

The point being that we are all creatives and even though our main focus: be it printing, photography, writing, etc., may seem to get stale from time-to-time, we just need to get up and get out!

Becoming a Successful Photographer

Woman behind cameraAfter mentoring a wide range of photographers during the last few years I have come up with a compilation of what I think it takes to become a successful photographer in today’s photography marketplace.

You can choose to mix-and-match, but for the most part all the items on this list are pretty much necessary.
• A talent-based body of work ready to sell, (this means a defined visual approach around a specific subject with enough samples to build trust in potential clients.)
• A database of appropriate contacts (and a smaller more researched group of contacts for in person visits)
• 4-5 different marketing/sales channels including direct sales, social media: Facebook, newsletter, other
• Marketing materials that are visually branded to move the visual message forward business cards, flyers, sign-up sheets
• Perseverance: Whatever you do, do it consistently
• Patience (allowing for a 2-4 year timeline before seeing consistent, quantifiable results)

Once you decide that being a successful photographer is the path you want to follow, of course the primary thing you MUST have is quality images, not just in your opinion.
• Ask for opinions from a variety of people, not only photographers, but other artists as well.
• OK. Now that you know your work is good, what do you want to do with it?
Sell?
Admire?
Make your best friend jealous?
• Start building a data-base (email list) for future use
• Site or no site? This is a no-brainer. If you want to do something “real” with your work, you have to have a website, not Pinterest or Instagram or anything other than a real site.
• To build or not to build? In a past life if you were a programmer, then go ahead and brush up on your HTML and build your own site. If not, then a template-based site may be the ticket. It’s what I use.
• Shopping cart or PayPal?
• Join a peer group, one that resonates with you and your work and will offer positive insight on you work.
•  Work together to organize a group show at someone’s house…
• Subscribe to ALL the news letters you can that focus on the information you want.
digitalmarketer.com
beatechelette.com
photoshelter.com
problogger.com

Read, read, read, read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Did you notice there was no mention of equipment? It all begins above the shoulders!

Plan the work, work the plan!

When you hit the wall

Guest Post by Beate Chelette

The Wall Beate Chelette
All Creative Entrepreneurs hit the wall sooner or later. You know the wall I am talking about. The one that just won’t move. You push and push, working your butt off, talking to potential clients, sending out estimates—but it doesn’t budge. The wall remains standing, unaffected.

Jobs are not coming in fast enough, the ones you do land are not in the big leagues where you want to play, and profit margins are too tight. It’s like dancing the tango on a dollar bill. You keep moving but stay in one spot.

I remember when I hit my wall. It was a long time ago when I was a photography representative and a producer. I knew I had a lot more in me and that I was playing too small. I kept thinking there had to be something else out there for me, something bigger and better. Frankly, I was ready to play with the big boys.

When you are ready to step up it means what you are doing now is too small. When you change your energy to a higher vibration by playing bigger, all the small stuff has to break away and is mostly left behind. Why? Because the small stuff is your security net and as long as it’s there, you have no reason to venture out too far and take risks.

For me, in my heart I knew there was something else I needed to do. And that’s when I entered my decade of bad luck. My trusted employee got too close to a key vendor and they decided to set up their own shop that was just like mine, but without me. That sparked a lawsuit which spanned a year. My photography representation business went down the drain and I never recovered from this betrayal. Nine months later, 9/11 happened and the production business shattered leaving me and what was left of my business in ruins.

More>>>

The Creative Use of Photography

Throughout the years I have had my photography used by artists for many purposes: sculpture, painting (from watercolor to oils and just about everything in between), graphic design, etc. It is very gratifying, indeed, to have another artist think enough of your work to want to emulate it.

Irish Waterfall in County Connemara Ireland by Tim Anderson

Lazy River, Connemara, Ireland. ©Tim Anderson

Such is the case with the first image illustrated here. I took it while on vacation in Ireland recently. It was in Connemara  along the western coast. It was a day of scenic beauty, no matter where we went. Most of the time in situations like these I photograph what looks good, with little regard to settings, although I do a basic setup before departure for a day of photographing.

While in Ireland I captured almost 3,000 images of landscapes, portraits, birds, ancient ruins, and monolithic remains.  Each evening, back at the hotel, I downloaded the day’s images to my laptop, in the proper folder. I find if I don’t do this daily, I get “lost” immediately when beginning the editing process.

Upon first edit after returning home this image immediately grabbed my attention. Guests who came over for dinner last night agreed by saying it should be a painting. With that in mind I thought I would play with it a bit.

I took it into Photoshop and played with a few filters, and finally settled on the second image in the post. The filters were canvas and splatter. I could have spent much more time on it, but I was just playing, trying to see with a painter’s eye.

Irish Waterfall by Tim Anderson, edited

Lazy River, Connemara, Ireland. ©Tim Anderson, edited.

Well, what do you think? I have often said that to be an artist is a multi-disciplinary creative pursuit and that some of the best artists see much more than the “normal” person. If you are a painter and you view the photography of a friend, do you envision what you could do with that same print?

If not, you might want to try it.

Just the facts, ma’am!

frustrated womanMany centuries ago there was a series on TV called, “Dragnet.” The main character was a detective and when a person he was questioning began to go off-track, he would simply say, “Just the facts, ma’am!”

Never has that been more true than today. As many of you know I build WordPress sites. Recently, I was working with a new client who had a site URL with a company that had many artists on one site. All fees were paid to that entity, and you were promised many things.

Today, I was in the process of setting up the site, and did a “WHOIS” on the URL that she thought she owned. Not! Apparently, the company that was paid the fees registered the URL in its name, with offices in China. At this point there are two main options:
1. Fight the previous site owner for your old URL
2. Chalk it up to experience and select a new URL

My choice is usually the second option, because unless the URL you are in the process of losing is extremely perfect and you don’t have any other option, then fight. If the old one is something like “redchilisauceNM.com” then you have every reason to fight because the name tells you what the product is and where it is made.

By changing one simple letter we made my client’s new URL much better and there is no question about who she is, now. This could have all been averted if the client had asked the right questions when first signing on with that company. It really isn’t ALL her fault, however. The company really should have been more forthcoming with that fact. You’re right! It was probably hidden in all that small print that very few of us read.

You can see by the information below that all the information for my site, “cygnetpress.com” is listed correctly (see bold items). That is what you want to see when you do a “WHOIS” search.

When I build sites, I use all the proper information from my client. I set it up in his/her name, using their payment info, etc. That way, when and if they are ready to take over the site there is no issue with the transfer. It’s a no-brainer!

There are two main questions you want to ask if you decide to sign up with any site host:
1. Do I own the URL? (if you don’t own it, don’t do it!)
2. If I decide to opt-out of the site, what is the process?

Domain Name: CYGNETPRESS.COM
Registry Domain ID: 1028683513_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.godaddy.com
Registrar URL: http://www.godaddy.com
Update Date: 2016-06-15T16:50:20Z
Creation Date: 2007-06-14T15:13:41Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2018-06-14T15:13:41Z
Registrar: GoDaddy.com, LLC
Registrar IANA ID: 146
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abuse@godaddy.com
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.4806242505
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
Domain Status: clientUpdateProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientUpdateProhibited
Domain Status: clientRenewProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientRenewProhibited
Domain Status: clientDeleteProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientDeleteProhibited
Registry Registrant ID:
Registrant Name: Tim Anderson
Registrant Organization: Cygnet Press
Registrant Street: PO Box 3941
Registrant City: Albuquerque
Registrant State/Province: New Mexico
Registrant Postal Code: 87190

Why You Need an Editorial Calendar

Why You Need an Editorial Calendar (and How To Make One)

An editorial calendar is a road map for your marketing content.

An editorial calendar buys you peace of mind because you don’t have to scramble for what to say or share. Ideas are stored and worked on over time rather than in a panic at the last minute.

©Kristen Watson, Digital Immigrant. Used with permission.©Kristen Watson, FEED (Alone, together). Mixed media installation, part of the Digital Immigrant project. Click image for more details on media and dimensions. Used with permission.

Wouldn’t it feel great to have ideas lined up for your newsletter or blog for the next six months?

Another big reason to use an editorial calendar is that it helps you remember the important things you want to say. You know … those things you forget about until immediately after you’ve clicked the Send button?

For example, let’s say you are teaching a workshop six months from now. You would add promotional content to your editorial calendar for the month or two prior to your workshop, and perhaps even before that time if you had an early registration period.

Those are placeholders for the future. When that time comes, you just open up that file, page, or document and get to work. In the meantime, you are continually adding notes to your ideas.

Newspapers, magazines, and bloggers use editorial calendars to plan their content.

You can do the same by creating an editorial calendar for your newsletter, blog, and social media.

©Niall Leavy, Mesmerize. Watercolour and goldleaf on paper, 50 x 54 centimeters. Used with permission. ©Niall Leavy, Mesmerize. Watercolor and goldleaf on paper, 50 x 54 centimeters. Used with permission.

What to Include

When working on your editorial calendar, pull out your big calendar and review your projects, exhibitions, and events.

What do you have coming up?
What could you relate to seasonal or current events?
What do you need to tell people about? Invite them to?

Your editorial calendar includes these five items:

  • Topic to be featured (original and curated articles, images, audio, and/or video) – always focused around your art
  • Notes about the topic
  • Additional people involved or required to make it happen
  • Dates of publication
  • Deadlines of note

The amount of detail you include depends on your needs.

©Ellie Harold, Bejeweled. Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 x 1.5 inches. Used with permission. ©Ellie Harold, Bejeweled. Oil on canvas, 36 x 48 x 1.5 inches.

Used with permission.

How to Store Your Calendar

The key to storing your editorial calendar is to make it as user-friendly as possible. If you’re always tweaking the format or refreshing your memory on how it’s organized, your calendar isn’t working for you.

Keep. It. Simple.

I always caution my students and clients not to try fixing something that isn’t broken. If you love pen and paper, I wouldn’t take that away from you. But make sure you have a storage system for your ideas that makes it easy to find.

I have tried using a spreadsheet in Numbers (Apple’s version of Excel) and keeping my plan in a FileMaker Pro database. Neither worked for me, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work for you.

I eventually settled upon using Evernote for my editorial calendar, where I can add to the ideas as I research or discover information that might contribute to the article.

Alyson’s six-week “Creative Content Camp” begins tomorrow. If you want to discover:
• Generate at least 100 ideas for your newsletter, blog posts, and social media updates.
• Measure the success of your efforts and tweak what isn’t effective.
• Create and use an editorial calendar (so you know exactly what to do and when to do it).

Take a FREE Social Sharing Style assessment to see how you might be wasting your time online and
discover the steps for better results.

Alyson Stanfield-Creative Content Camp-2016

 

The Price We Pay…

Tim Anderson-The Dress

In the last Red Dog News Update I announced the beginning of what I called Print of the Week. For one week I would offer one of my prints in a small, un-editioned, unsigned, flat, no matting format for only $45, including shipping. I received several notes that were critical of my decision to offer my prints at such an affordable price. The thought was I should be offering them at much higher rates.

My first print (above) on offer was “The Dress.” I have sold several of these prints at much larger sizes and a bit higher pricing. Since that first offering I have sold about a half-dozen of them at the affordable price. If you would like to purchase the next image in this series, just click on the P.O.W. tab in the header, above.

There are many schools of thought on the pricing issue. Some say high. Some say low. Some say whatever the market will bear. My good buddy Brooks Jensen (LensWork) is in the affordable price arena. I’m with him. The question consistently raised is “Would you rather sell 25 prints at $45 or one print at $450?” If I sell 25 prints, then 25 people get to enjoy my work, and they will hopefully tell their friends, and so on.

If I sell one print, then only one person gets to enjoy the work and the “word” will not get out as rapidly and in as wide of an arena as the previous example. I would also make more than $1,000 on the more affordable price point.

Brooks will be sharing much more of his thoughts on this subject in the May/June 2016 issue of Shadow & Light Magazine.

In this age of digital push-button printing, once the work is done, it really doesn’t take much effort to push the “Print” button to get a perfectly-produced print. Each print will look perfect, barring, that is, mechanical challenges.

My usual work-flow goes like this once I have finalized all aspects of post-production:
• Print 15 prints at about 16×20 or 20×24-inches. I don’t consider this a limited-edition print because if the demand is there I will print more.

• Print a handful of smaller sizes for arenas like the new Print of the Week series.

That’s about it.

What are your thoughts on this never-ending sensitive subject?

Careful what you say…

red-dog-news-crowd-graphicWe’re going to take a break from newsletters, to give a shout-out to my friend, David Bram. Last week on Facebook he listed his favorite New Mexico photographers. Well, as you might guess, less than 10-minutes had passed when he was receiving many notes about photographers he had not mentioned.

Even though he had been clear that this was his list, I am sure some people felt slighted. Which brings me to the topic of this post. No matter how many mentions you make of just about anything, you will miss something or someone. It doesn’t matter if you created a list of hundreds, you will leave out some. It is just the nature of the beast.

I probably know at least 50 or so photographers who would deserve a place on that list, but when I took a close look at it, again, after the dust had settled, only a handful of my people made it. Now, that is not to say that his list was of a higher caliber than the photographers I know. It’s just that we each have our own circle of friends and acquaintances. I have mine, you have yours. David has his.

The bigger point of reading that list, however, is how much it illustrates the abundance of talent who call New Mexico their creative home. Since David’s original posting I am sure the “complete” list is now at least doubled. I am sure most of you realize, as well, that no list can realistically be considered “complete.”

So, kudos to you, David, for being brave!

 

Email Newsletters: an introduction: part three

OK. You have made the decision. You are going to send out email newsletters to your fans. Good for you! It doesn’t matter whether it will be sent to 24 or 240 or 2,400. Oops! That last number just slipped out. It took me a few years to rise above that number, but the message is the same. The message is also the same no matter whether you are addressing the first or last number.
Email Newsletter Platforms
We move on, now, to platforms (above), those entities that will take care of putting it all together and sending it out. You have many choices, but you should also have a few questions.
• What is the cost?
• Can I get a Free trial?
• How many contacts do I need?
• Is customer support responsible and “human?”
• Do they have good statistics?
• How do they rate against competitors?

Fortunately, in this age of instant information, the answers to these questions are fairly close at hand.

Most of those providers will offer a free (or limited) level, usually allowing no more than a few hundred contacts. You should take advantage of that offer, at least in the beginning stages of your quest. Depending on the level of your anticipated growth, make sure that their levels fit your needs. Most should be more than happy to offer clear explanations of those contact and pricing levels and guide you through the process. If they don’t, move on!

Besides ease-of-use, I think the most important feature should be how sophisticated are their statistics? Do they offer information on opens, both unique and actual? Can you access click-through rates? Can you compare your campaigns? Can you figure out where each newsletter was opened, geographically? Can you get an email list of those who clicked on certain sections of the newsletter so you can send them a more targeted message? Most of the time, in the “Free” stage you will receive limited access to many of the features that are available to paid customers.

Since, structurally, they are mostly very similar, the final decision can be made very simply. Find out who in your circle is using any of these platforms and ask them what they think. You can also ask those people who send you email newsletters. If they are small operations you can usually talk to the owner. Take a closer look at the newsletters you receive. Pay attention to things like the headers. Are they attractive? Do they “grab” you? How does the body of the newsletter “read?” Do you like the design of the layout? You can use all this research when you begin your newsletter.

At the present time I use both Benchmark and Mail Poet, which is a WordPress (WP) plugin. I use Benchmark for Red Dog News and Mail Poet for an email newsletter I send out to Shadow & Light Magazine newsletter subscribers. In the past I have also used Constant Contact and Mail Chimp. Mail Poet is the new kid on the block but is catching up rapidly, and I am hoping that I will utilize them much more in the future simply because they are a WP plugin.

As always, if you have any questions or considerations, let me know.

You can click on the PC Magazine link, below, to read the reviews of all those mentioned in the graphic.

More>>>

 

A Website is Your Best Bet For Exposure

Gallery show-miscYou have previously read my comments about the importance of having a website. The impetus for writing this post came about in a very familiar way for me: reading about it elsewhere.

My good friend Alyson Stanfield has a new post in which she writes about overhearing two curators discussing an upcoming exhibition.

“Last Sunday I went to hear two curators talk about how their new exhibition came together. What was fascinating (and not surprising) was to hear how strongly the artist’s statement and website were considered during the process. The curators emphasized repeatedly how important the statement was to help explain the work. They then described how they used an artist website to shine light on anything they were unsure about.

The statement and website were even more important when they were on the fence about whether or not to include the work.”

In the course of reviewing work for upcoming issues of Shadow & Light Magazine, I had to do the same thing. Aside from the submissions we receive, my art director and I visit many platforms in search of great work by photographic artists. We are often left wanting.

Many times the person only has a Facebook page, or a blog, or any number of other platforms that really don’t present their work in a compelling manner.
red-dog-news-websites-post-smithson
A website (above) completes the process and illustrates to the viewer that you take your creative pursuits seriously. I feel the same way as the curators mentioned above. When I decide to publish an artist’s work it is because I can readily see that they are serious about what they do. They care about their work and how it is viewed. They have a site that is easily navigated and work is presented in a manner that illustrates the quality of the work with little (if any) distraction.

In the above illustration, Aline Smithson has decided to have the simple unfettered look, one that is easy to navigate and simple to understand. There is a slideshow beneath the header that illustrates the breadth and quality of her work.

There are many template platforms that make it very easy and affordable to create your own site. This may be (next to creating the art) the most important decision you will make in advancing your creative career.

Good luck!