THE ART OF SELF PROMOTION

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The Kustom Paint, Art, and the Airbrush Industry all have one thing in common, the need for self promotion at one level, or another. While self promotion may not necessarily make you a better artist, it will make your work more accessible by the public, and increase your networking abilities with other artists. Magazines, Galleries, and clientelle, all are similar in the respect that they want, and need artists. Whether it be for asthetic reasons, or business, the artist is the commodity, just as much as the work. Getting this commodity to the market should be the focus of any artist that deems his work worthy of being seen. Even if money is not of a consideration, (this is of course a hypothetical situation,..heheheh. ) networking, and promoting yourself, as well as your work is invaluable to the artists to promote self growth. Being constantly aware of your position, and the surrounding climate of the art field is a distinctly important technique in keeping a pulse on the industry itself. Also while you may feel that the spotlight is an open arena for critique, (both professional, and personal) this level of critique can be constructive in improving your work. I find that the constant challenge I meet everytime I teach a workshop, or give a demonstration is not just to entertain the crowd, but to show them something new. In short to give them their money's worth. This has less to do with ego, then it has to do with the inportance of the constant critiques I am faced with on my final work. These critiques literally lite a fire under myself to keep up my standards, and to keep shooting for something new, and better in my own work. The danger of lack of publicity in ones art is only partially financial, the real hazard is in losing touch with your field of work, and missing out on the opportunity for self improvement.
When I first began working in airbrush 20 years ago, and automotive a decade ago, I noticed that there where two distinctly different personalities in the industry. There where the hardworking painters, that cared little for publicity, and focused on production, and there were the more flamboyant painters, who also had very charismatic personalities, and used them to promote their work. Now there were quality artists in both categories, as well as those that were not so good,...this is a given. The one thing that I noticed was that the longevity of the artist was only partially due to the art. The publicity of the artist in conjunction with quality of art worked together to make the artist, and his work a complete entity. The publicity with quality work would open more doors for the artist increasing his sales venues, as well as his influence on and by the industry. Many of the production workers with little or no concern for publicity would burn-out, while the well-rounded artist was constantly being challenged by the constant critiques, accolades, and influences of other artists. To sum it up, you get what you put in. If you want money, and all your work is geared soley towards that with little concern for the industry, continueing education, or it's publicity, then that's what you will get. It's not about ego, nor money, both are an important consideration when dealing with any artists career. One persons ego is another persons reputation. If dealt with in balance, and not in excess, you will be successful, not just in the short run, but in the long run. Everybody likes to get the recognition they deserve, the trick is deserving it. The best thing is, that it is in every persons grasp. I love the art industry because you get back exactly what you put into it.
 
REACHING THE MEDIA:

One of the worst kept secrets in the industry is how to get peoples attention. I say this because all the information is out there to be had, but many people feel that they will fail before they even try. The tricks to getting this attention are usually as simple as just being persistant, here are a few techniques to try out when making your contacts.
There are currently two primary ways in which to represent yourself, and your work: Directly, and Indirectly. Since few of us actually have personal contact with someone in the industry, or the magazine editors, and gallery owners, the indirect approach is the most practical. There are 3 ways in which to contact these individuals, and nearly everybody has access to them. Phone, E-mail, and Snail-Mail. I assume everybody reading this has access to E-Mail. No one of these is more important then the others, but all should be used equally. I will use E-mail to set up a contact, use the phone to verify, and follow up the initial E-mail, then use standard postage for sending photos, portfolios, or work transparencies. Since the latter is the most costly per exchange, I reserve it for when I am sure I've got a contact at the other end with a heart-beat. If somebody does not return your phonecalls, or E-mail it is a given that they will also ignore your letters, and packages of costly transparencies. I mentioned the term "costly" to refer to transparencies. But if you have ever mass produced a working portfolio to send out to prospective clients, magazines, or galleries, then you know it takes a big bite out of your budget sending them to people that may not be interested. Verify this interest with a followup to your initial contact. Another form of contacts are artists forums, and internet web-rings. While these are relatively new, I see them as being the future of artists networking, and a necessity for the artist that wants his work see. Another place that JW recently showed me is findmeanartist.com Since these networking systems are either none, or nil on the cost, I highly recommend getting involved with as many as possible.
If you are interested in contacting a magazine, I always recommend a cold call to determine what their system is for accepting, and puting on file artists works. You will usually find this contact phone number on the index, or editorial page of the magazine. For example, the phone number contact for Autographics Magazine is (800) 669-0424, contact with the editor is Dirk Vinlove at dvinlove@nbm.com--This is all the information you need to establish your initial contact, and you will find it in whichever magazine you wish to contact. It is important to realize that the magazines need the artists more then the artists need the magazines, and because of this they are very interested in finding the new faces, and new look of artwork to come in the industry. Try and show your most unique pieces, a portfolio of work that looks like a current contributors work will be appreciated, but it will not stand out as much as something completely different. Entering a "readers gallery", "readers rides", or magazine contest is another good way to get the attention of a magazine, no matter what title you are looking at getting into. Remember persistence is the key. I'm not talking about being obnoxious, or becoming a stalker, just be sure that you can get the people working at the mag to assign a voice, and personal reference to the artwork that they recieve. Remember, you are one of thousands to contribute, any little thing to make you, and your work standout, is a benefit. As a positive note, about 90% of the people that mail in their work do not follow up their initial contact, so if you do, the persistance will pay off.
Galleries can be a bit more elusive, and since their primary focus is selling your work, and making money for you, as well as themselves, they tend to be a bit more picky. Can't blame them really, but it doesn't mean you can't send in your work. Just be sure no matter what you send, or what portfolio you put together, make sure it is your best work. Whether it be for magazines, or galleries, it is a general rule that quality will win out over quantity every time!! With galleries, I suggest getting to know the gallerys personally. If a gallery does not reflect your style, not only will they probably not be interested, but they probably wouldn't be the best at selling, and representing your work anyway. I recommend getting involved with group shows. A group show is usually a theme show where certain artists are invited, or selected to contribute one or two peices in a large forum of other artists. Not only are they pretty fun, but they are great ways to network with other artists, get great critiques from professional critics, as well as your fellow gallery contributors. Plus,...you don't have to come up with 20+ peices of work for the show, and if the show does badly, it's not necessarily your fault, and if it's a success,...you can feel what you like,..heheheh. Remember if you get accepted for a gallery show, and contracts will be signed. There is nothing worse then making it in the door, to only drop the ball by missing a deadline. Be sure that you don't bite off more then you can chew in the excitement of the moment.
 
PHOTOGRAPHING, AND REPRESENTING YOUR WORK:


All the best contacts in the world can't help if your notes can't be read, and the pictures are not print quality. Because of this, it is important to ensure the quality of the work that you send, whether it be a magazine, gallery, or client. The easiest method to guarantee this quality would be to hire your own professional photographer, and publicist, but if you're like me, this is an expense that is not too practical. This leaves the photos, and info up to you. The good part is, if your editorial skills are not up to snuff, the magazines have their own fleet of copy editors and art directors, waiting to turn your notes into Shakespeare. The first thing I'm going to focus on is photography:
While digital cameras are the latest craze, and most likely will be the medium of choice in the near future, the majority of magazines still work from transparencies, mostly 35 mm. I recommend using a digital format to submit work for approval,(cost is a lot less then slide duplicates) but since the magazines still do the art-directing, and scans from 35mm, you will need to get used to taking these for future articles, or feature prints. If you've ever taken a photograph before, you will be relieved to know that it is no different then taking a slide/photo. The only real difference is the film. I recommend using FUJI Provia 100 speed film. This is the film of choice by the professionals, and gives the best color representation I've seen. FUJI Sensia is good too, I just think the Provia has better color. I normally try and find 36 exposure over 24 since in the longrun you get more slides for your buck after developing. The reason I recommend 100 speed is not necessarily because of light conditions, we will discuss that later, but because the higher speed films also have a tendency of being a bit more grainy. (Plus your artwork should not be moving around, so there should be no need for fast film,...heheh) A program/manual camera is preferable over a point & shoot, but not mandatory. I actually got a shot that was used for a cover photo using a little automatic with 35 mm. What is important is the use of a tri-pod, especially for a tech article. Besides the tripod keeping your camera steady for the shot, it also keeps the frame in reference, and angle of photo consistant.
When photographing stills of work, a black backdrop, or peice of carpet is the best way to make your work stand out, with little background interference. The black background will also make it easier to crop the shots later, if need be. I like to work outside if the weather permits with the sun at either 9, or 3, but never 12. Overheard sun is a little nasty for hotspots on automotive, and while there are better shadows, it is a little harsh. I personally love a little overcast, or a strategic cloud overhead. Acts as a nice filter to get rid of the glare. Since none of us can predict the weather, inside studio shots are often the norm, and that requires a little lighting.
You can purchase expensive photolights, but that gets back to the problem of spending money. I discovered, quite by accident, that by combining overhead fluorescents, (often in most shops, and offices anyway) along with tungsten, or preferably hallogen spots can give you a good balance between yellow, and blue. If you want to get a little tricky, set up the lights that you have, (hallogens, tungsten, mercury, sodium, cigarette lighters,...mood candles,..whatever), then shoot a couple of shots moving the lights around, trying different F-stops, and shutter speeds on your cameras to bracket the shots. (For most of us, set the camera on Program, or the little green "A" and start shooting.! It would take a separate article just to scratch the surface on camera settings, and I'm not the best expert on that anyway.) After developing, take the slides to your local photo shop, and ask what type of filter would be best for the lighting that you used. Often times the filter is much less then the cost of new lights,...and most artists and kustom painters have quite a few lights layin around the studio.
When photographing a how-to, I actually use a timer on the camera to take the shots: focusing on the area to be shot, then stepping into the picture to pose for the shot. This is the easiest, since sometimes I have no one around to help with the shot. It takes a little getting used to imagining yourself in the shot, but try and use reference images in the background to help eliminate the possiblity of cutting off your head. (Remember I said to use a black background for stills,...it is equally important to have a background set when shooting a tech. The more information you can include in a tech photo, the better. )While the subject matter your painting is the focus of the article, you should still include photos of yourself working on the element to help direct what area you worked on in each shot, and to give scale to the work itself. There is nothing more boring then a tech article with nobody in it. Alternate your close-ups with wide angle shots, to help the reader see the over all progress of the peice, yet still see your detail. Since I am right-handed, I prefer to have the camera over, and above my left shoulder for the shots, at about a 30-45 degree angle to the work. I have a spotlight slightly behind and above the camera to eliminate any shadows I may cast, yet not cast any from the camera and tripod. I also use the flash, in fill-in mode to eliminate any other shadows, and to really punch out the work I'm working on. This is why I have the camera at an angle, to prevent the flash from bouncing back into the lens. If you have a low ceiling, you can also accomplish this by bouncing the flash. A light meter can help at this point, but usually that initial slide role you took to establish the quality of light will give you time to experiment with the flash angles, and camera angles. (Just be sure to make notes as to what you did in each frame of your practice role,...this will save confusion later.!!) Since I use the camera's flash I keep the camera within 15 feet of the image. Not to close though, I also like to use a telephoto lens and keep the camera a minimum of 6 feet away, and zoom in on details. This eliminates the need to move the tripod, and your lighting when you go for full frame shots. Whew! Hope I didn't innundate, and confuse any of you. If I did, feel free to drop me an E-mail, and I can help clear up anything that I muddied.

One thing that has radically changed in the industry since I first wrote this piece, is the digital photography being used. As you noted above, while I recommended the format, the magazines were still not using it, at least not for practical application. (I originally wrote this in the mid 90's) Since then, and currently in 2003 the mags have gone nuts for digital. You just have to be sure to give them enough resolution so they can use it. The DPI requirements differ from mag to mag, you need to ask to make sure. I will say that the minimum camera size you can successfully work is 5 megapixel. This will give you enough leeway, you should be able to deliver quality shots on a regular basis to the magazines. The small point and shoots are fine, but I would lean towards the ones with the quality lens. My sony cybershot is 5 megapixel, and has the new Carl Zies lens set up. Nikon also makes an excellent, and affordable camera with good quality lens that is also 5 megapixel. Probably the best affordable highend with removeable lens would be the new EOS digital by Cannon. Whichever one you get, just remember, unlike the older camera setups, your digital will be sort of like your home computer. Which means don't be depressed, when you see new, and better ones popping up every 6 months to a year. One year after I got my Sony, Sony came up with an 8 megapixel,....go figure. I'll probably wait until it is a 10, and has removable lens before I turn it into the hobby camera, and get the new badboy for my article work. Equipment is important, but be sure you are not one of those types that has the best equipment, but is broke,..kind of defeats the purpose. heheheheh.

THE TEXT, AND NECESSARY BIOS:


If writing text for a tech article, the information is very necessary, but most importantly is your bio. Your bio is the part of your presentation that describes and represents you when you are not there in person. It should reflect yourself, as well as your work. The standard Bio should include a brief history of your art, and any specifics you think are necessary. The length of time airbrushing, or painting, is often put in, but in the end it is really up to you. A client list is nice, and I personally like to read about what tools, materials, and medium that the artist prefers to work with. Besides a Bio peice on yourself, it is also quite common to include a descriptive bio of each of your submitted peice. (ie: materials used, artwork size, date of completion, and even price if the piece is for gallery consideration. ) By the way, if the peice is for Gallery consideration, you must remember that the gallery will assign it's own price as well, the price you are submitting, is what you want out of the work. Don't be surprised if the gallery doubles your asking price, this is quite common, and shouldn't really matter, if you were happy with the price you quoted. Don't forget: Gallery clientelle realize this, and don't have a problem. Often times the clients will approach you privately to later commision prices. If you have no agent, then you can negotiate on future work. Be carefulnot to try and sell your peices behind the gallerys back. This is a gallery/ethics no-no. After all the gallery did spend the money on advertising, display space, mailers, and opening, and closing parties,.....they do deserve their cut.
As for the text for a how-to, or feature: Write the best you can. Most of us are literate, and many editors are quite adept at desiphering the work that comes in. What is important, is if you work is going to be edited for content, as well as quality, then you should make a point to request a final proof before the text goes to print. This will eliminate any future missprints, or missquotes. I have never come accross a professional editor anywhere that had a problem with this, you just need to make sure that they know you want it. When writing, my best advice is to write as you speak. If you read your work aloud and it sounds bizarre or dry, then try and smooth it out. Often times a friend proof-reading, or listening can save a lot of frustrating re-writes. If you write as you speak, then you will not only convey your words but your personality as well, which is very important for the readers to make a connection with you, and not just your work. While hand-written notes will work, I'm again going to assume that if you are reading this, you have access to a computer with word-processor capabilities,....and of course the blessed Spell-Check! Making your work look as professional as possible, will be rewarded by you being treated as a fellow professional.

THE ART OF THE FOLLOW UP:

The art of the follow up is literally that. The only reason I gave it a separate category is to remind you all of the importance of following up your contacts with either phone-calls, E-mails, Snail-Mails, or skywriting,...heck whatever works. If they don't return a call right away, don't take it personally,....if they personally know you, and don't call you back,...then you can get mad. Realize that you are one of thousands that send in their work, and letters. In this industry it is often the squeeky wheel that gets the attention, so go ahead and squeek. Heck all they can say is no. I pretty much got ignored for the better part of a year, it did'nt stop me, and it should'nt stop you. Your artwork, portfolios, and transparencies are valuable commondities. You should make every effort to be sure that they are at least looked at, otherwise, it was just a waste of time. I'm not talking about being obnoxious, just persistant.
Now if you want to get your transparencies, or any of your sent work returned after being sent, never assume that the company will do this out of the kindness of their heart. The postage is not necessarily the issue, it is the entire chain of work needed to get those slides returned. I personally never send one-of-a-kind peices, and always include a self-addressed stamped package along with the work, so that it can be returned with as much ease as possible. I also recommend including a separate letter, or note requesting all work to be returned. If the company advertises that they keep all submittals, don't be upset, this is not necessarily because they are lazy, but often times they wish to keep works on file for future reference. In this case, be sure to send expendable items, and have copies of all your transparencies sent. I have gotten many jobs from magazines, and galleries that have kept my work on file. Consider it a compliment if they want to file your work.

THE REALITY OF IT ALL:

To sum up this novel: Here are the tools, the rest is up to you. It is a basic fact of the industry that promotion is important, and self promotion, while requiring some work, is the most satisfying, and truly representative of the artist. As I've said before in my posts, and in this letter, nothing is guaranteed, but hey, if I could do it, there is no reason that anybody else out there cannot. While it is true that the magazine, and fineart/gallery industry are wraught by politics, the same can be said for every other aspect of mankind. Whenever you have two differing viewpoints, you will have politics. This is fine if you are a politician, but as an artist, I value my art, the field of art that I consider a home, and the friends, and fellow artists along the way as being the only truly important things. The politics were just there along the way, and were dealt with. If you want something, and it is worth fighting for, it will be worth more then anything that is given freely. Try and view any pitfals, and criticisms along the way as necessary, and character building, and you, and your art will be better for it. The important thing is try. Good luck, and keep on painting.
Paint to live, live to paint



!!! some of my own self promotion !!!

Craig Fraser
Kal Koncepts / Air Syndicate
5501 Aldrin Ct. #A Bakersfield, Calif.
(661)-836-3084
www.gotpaint.com | fraser@gotpaint.com
 
 
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