Fun Fact: Oscar Wilde was not the originator of the first half of this quote. He did add the bit about mediocrity, though. I always thought this was quite the burn.
An artist friend of mine recently sent me an image of a post another artist posted on their social media of a couple different pieces that were extremely similar to my friend's work. No, they weren't exact copies of any specific pieces, but they were distinctly my friend's style, palette and compositions. The sting, I think, is that they know each other.
The first half of Wilde's quote, the original proverb, was the first thing I said to my friend in hopes to lessen the frustration and insult she felt. But, I think the second half is more important for the other artist:
Don't be mediocre. Be the great one.
I'm not going to get into the whole copyright infringement issue in this post. That's a beast in and of itself. I do want to talk about being your own artist and finding your own style. Yes, artists out there paint in the style of Impressionism, Realism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, on and on. There's a difference between influence and copy. But, a Hirst is a Hirst, a Slonem is a Slonem. Do start carving up sharks or doing quick paints of bunnies and call it your own.
Another impressionist-style artist friend of mine took a private class from an abstract artist and walked away enriched from the experience. She didn't turn into an abstract artist, but she did incorporate different tricks and tools to create pattern and texture.
I always encourage artists that are learning their craft to take workshops and classes from other artists. These opportunities, though, are to walk away with nuggets of information and different ways that artist creates.
Find the inspiration of who you admire and see how you can apply it to your work... but don't copy.
(How did my friend handle it, you may be curious? She was the bigger person. She left it be and moved on, knowing that she has established herself and her work to be something not only sought after by collectors but by artists as well.)
NFTs... Non-Fungible Token. Huh?
In May of 2014 a Charleston-based digital artist named Kevin McCoy created and sold the first-known NFT for a whopping $1.5 million at a Sotheby's auction. And suddenly the whole world was nuts about NFTs. But what are they and how are they being used to scam?
Full disclosure, I still don't completely get NFTs, and I am probably not 100% accurate in the workings of how they're done. But, NFTs essentially are a high res digital file of a work of art. In McCoy's case (and the intended purpose of NFTs) is there's a single high res digital piece with a single buyer... and that's it. It cannot be reproduced.
NFTs are bought and sold through cryptocurrency. Originally it was to move digital money around. But, these days NFTs are pretty much done and worthless as a commodity... but not as a scam. They're used to capture real currency from you and convert and move it into cryptocurrency.
The scam, as always, is to get your money.
What they do is make you an offer (that's too good to be true), and invite you to upload the digital images to a specific site. But, that site requires a credit card payment for each upload. We're talking around $150 for each upload. And then there's something they call a Gas Fee, which is a and $500 a pop to "convert" the file to an NFT.
Fortunately, I do not have any direct experience with this to carry on in explaining the manner of the scam beyond this. All I can say is DO NOT BUY INTO NFT OFFERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
If it's too good to be true, it is. Don't engage.
Have you ever received an email inquiry like this:
If it's you're first, you may be tricked into believing it's authentic. But, chances are you'll received another one, close to exactly like this one but the name and where they're from has changed. Sometimes they'll be more specific and list artwork they want to buy.
It's not even about getting your artwork. It's about getting your money. What they do is they find a high ticket item on your site, offer to buy it full price plus whatever your shipping cost is. Then they mail a check... or what looks like a check.
When you see the check, though, it will be fore more than the agreed upon amount. Usually by a couple thousand dollars. So, you contact them. They apologize 'ohhh, my accountant sent the wrong amount. How about you send me a cashiers check for the difference and send that along with the artworks?'
You shouldn't even bother going any further with this conversation.
If you deposit the check, the bank will hold it because the funds cannot be verified. And then, boom - you can be hit with your own bank fees for their bounced check.
I used to receive emails like this at least once a week... sometimes three or four times. At first, I would reply and string them along. After while, I would email them simply "I'm reporting you to Gmail for using their platform for nefarious reasons." - because 100% of those I received were coming through Gmail. Now... I just delete.
Engaging with scammers opens the door. Who knows what they do with your information if you do reply. Who they share it with. So, I highly encourage you to just delete the email.
I met Alice Williams work before I met the artist, herself. About two years into working at Hagan Fine Art in Charleston, the opportunity to carry her work presented itself.
I quickly grew to love her manner of painting with vivid colors, energetic brushstrokes, and so much personality. Her buildings come to life with their own unique personalities. You can hear the breeze blowing through her landscapes. Her still lifes create a quiet moment that will be broken any moment with the sound of laughter.
So, when I finally met her, face-to-face, in 2017 I immediately understood that everything she paints is a self-portrait of her own energy. She inspires joy, romance, beauty, and imagination. People collect and bring her paintings into their lives because they want to escape into the worlds she creates... which also just so happens to be the world she lives in.
At the beginning of September, I had the wonderful opportunity to fly out to Provence to meet with Alice, her husband Don and her daughter Christine, to start our adventure together.
I am proud to announce I am now the Agent and Business Manager for Post-Impressionist artist Alice Williams!
What exactly does this mean? It means I am here to help Alice build out and manage her business, marketing strategies, and goals to help her strengthen her legacy in art history. She's had a wonderful team, aka her family, to provide the support to help her grow her business relationships with the galleries that represent her. I'm here to help expand that.
During our time together in Provence, Alice expressed so many ideas and dreams she wants to achieve... more than sharing her art with collectors and art lovers. My goal is to help introduce her work to more people, build up her online presence, and help her educate others through her teaching (yes, workshops, lessons, and more!)
We have many plans already in the works. So, please follow Alice on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for her bi-weekly emails to stay up-to-date with her latest pieces, her life, and our projects.
And most importantly - Support small businesses! Visit her galleries storefronts and websites.
I caught Covid. It's been about twelve days since I tested positive, and five since I have tested negative. I am so grateful that I didn't experience the terrible side of Covid like so many others. Fortunately, it's been more of an inconvenience than anything. But, having had it, I still think of how much worse it could have been, and feel for those that are still dealing with the effects of other, previous strains.
I lost my voice and am still hoarse from all the coughing, which I'm still doing. The headaches were more than just an inconvenience. They were debilitating at times. Fortunately, they're subsiding. The waves of fatigue that hit are annoying, as they typically happen right when I'm trying to really get into something, like make dinner or take a little walk around my property.
My perspective of this experience helps me appreciate how this too shall pass and I need to continue to learn patience. I'm usually more patient when it comes to others than with myself. So, it's a test of one's Self-Care. I tend to silently deal with pain and stress - not even letting myself think much about it, much less talk about it to others. It's all just too inconvenient to impose on others or trouble myself with, because it'll stop everything I have in motion.
And so, it's time to get back my focus and build on my goals of success.
Fun Fact: I'm a beekeeper.
For my husband's birthday in 2016, I got him all the fixin's to start beekeeping. We joined the area association, took the beginner's tests and got to keeping bees.
We would spend hours just watching them fly to and from their hive, working hard to build up their colony and their pollen and honey reserves. Every two weeks we would go into the hive to inspect their progress and their health. It's hard work, and you do have your failures, but the payout of learning about them and observing their world has been amazing.
Honey bees have a broad range of careers in their short life. (They only 30-60 days!) From the moment they hatch out of the little cell, they get to work. First, they're cleaning service, then they become nurses, then builders and undertakers, then guards...
It's when they graduate to become foragers that they reach their prime (and the last half of their life) they get to go out and see the world... within a 5-6 mile radius.
I cannot compare myself to the magic and talent of the honey bee.
But, if I look at my career, I see that I have taken a variety of steps to reach this new moment. I was one part winging it, two parts making a wish list of what I wanted to experience. I sort of took a jack of all trades approach - wanting to learn what it's like to work for the artist, the collector, the museum, the auction house, so on and so forth. Other than maybe Curator of MoMA or the Met, I've pretty much checked off that list of wishes. From this, I have gained a lot of perspective on what it takes to build a successful career in art.
And now, I'm happy to share what I know to help those that are foraging for knowledge on how to find their success. So yeah... I'm not the honey bee. I'm the flower.
I love my career. I have had the privilege to experience so many facets of the art world and work behind the scenes of many amazing places, as well as met so many artists and art aficionados over the years.
When I was working in the Charleston gallery, I met artists almost every day. Most were coming in to admire and find inspiration. Many also bought. (Which is such a great compliment, by the way - artists buying other artists' work!) Quite often these conversation would turn into Q&A sessions.:
How do you select your artists?
What's the trick to getting into a gallery?
How do you know an artist is good enough?
Are you accepting submissions?
Will you look at my work?
All are great questions that I am happy to answer. However, that last question, when asked, can be the hardest one because of what proceeds...
Usually, the person is already pulling out their phone, scrolling through thousands of images of family, foodie pics, vacations and selfies to try and find examples of their work. Meantime, I'm standing their trying to be pleasant, patient and accommodating. It is for this reason I no longer will look at artwork on phones. As nice and quickly as possible, I decline and invite them to email me.
So, if you're an artist just starting out, here's a free tip:
Don't put a gallerist on the spot to look at your work on your smartphone.
Find out the submission process and follow their guidelines.
Remember, gallerists are there to sell the work of the artists in their gallery.
And besides... a little screen is not going to justice to show your art.
Despite the occasional awkward moment, I've always enjoyed having conversations about the gallery business and the process. Maybe it's my loquaciousness. More so, though, I just really like what I do, and by nature I like helping people. And, if I may be frank, I think it's important to give people the know-how of what NOT to do so they don't waste their own time or make a bad impression on the galleries they really want to work with.
I want to help artists cultivate their career and get a little insight from the Gallerist's Perspective. So... that's exactly what I'm going to do.
In 2008 in Brooklyn, New York, I met the man who would later become my husband. Two years later, we both confessed we wanted to go somewhere else. He had shown me his hometown in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. So, that was the goal.
The timing never seemed right. We both had very special niche careers which, outside of major metropolitans, are few and far between. So, we cast the net a little wider and landed in Charleston, SC, in 2013.
Eight years passed, then COVID became a world-changing and life-changing experience. We found ourselves stuck at home and daydreaming of getting a little cabin in the mountains to escape to (and maybe one day move to.) Then, somehow, that dream became a reality when we found a cabin tucked away in Saluda, NC. It was only a matter of time before we made the decision to take the leap and move their perminently.
With this move, I am taking another leap.
Throughout the nine years managing Hagan Fine Art in Charleston, I have met hundreds of artists and have given many of them advice on everything from how to approach a gallery for representation to how to structure their websites to how to photograph their art, among so much more. I've thought for many years of turning this advice into consulting. So, now that I am where I want to be, I am turning my sights to what I want to do.
I am turning my knowledge and experience into a successful business for myself. Wish me luck!