Friday, June 29, 2007

Hello, My Name is...

Today, I am speaking to all the shy artists out there. The ones that are humble, quiet, and hide in the corner during the opening of their own show. The ones that hang with their own clique and keep a low profile. The ones that don't stand too close to their own work at the gallery night. The ones, that after a few hours of standing, sit in the corner looking bored or tired , or they hold up the wall by leaning against it, hands shoved in pockets. If this is you, we need to talk.

First of all, I understand your discomfort. I know that walking into a room crowded with people can be unnerving at the least, and even more so when you must come face to face with these people and talk. Your work is on the wall and they came to see it, and meet you. Horrors!!

Personally, I love this part. I love talking with people about my work, getting their reactions, explaining my process, talking about my titles. This is exhilarating to me. Making art is such a solitary process, and creative works thrive when all is quiet and isolated. When I get to clean up and be in public and communicate this process- I come alive. It is a chance for me to come out of the studio and celebrate. I know that not all artists feel this way.

Showing your art can be a vulnerable experience, like putting a little piece of your soul out on the wall for people to pick apart, or judge. Even I suffer occasionally from this unease, I cling to my husband's arm too much, I stick with people I know... Some days I am on and some days I am off. That is how it goes, but most of the time I rise to the occasion and you can too.

Here is how.

First of all, look sharp- nothing fancy just wear something that makes you feel comfortable yet confident and put together. This will make you feel better, like a power suit of sorts even if it just your favorite jeans and shirt, as long as they look clean and put together. I have power shoes, that I wear. Most of the time, I wear super practical comfy shoes, but at events I always wear wedge shoes that give me like 2-3 inches extra height. I am only 5'3 so that helps me to not feel small, and it is an easy way to grab a little confidence. Now, my wedges are always comfortable as well, and that is important, as I am going to be up on my feet working it all night long...

Second, if you are given an option to wear a name tag at an event: Do it! If people don't know who you are, then how are they supposed to talk with you about your art? I know sometimes it feels odd or embarrassing to be branded with the big white sticker announcing you to the room, but it really is helpful in so many situations.

Third, think body language. Are your hands in your pockets, are your arms crossed? Check yourself and correct. Don't close yourself off with a defensive posture, try to appear open and friendly. I have to constantly remind myself about my arms being crossed. Believe it or not but I even sleep a lot of time with my arms crossed. So, if I can do this, so can you. Keep your head up and smile. You deserve the attention. Usually after an art event my face hurts because I have smiled most of the night. It's going to a long night, and the legs or feet might be killing, but try to stand for most of the event and look alive. You are putting out energy into the room. When you sit, slouch, or lean, it is like putting a "closed" sign on your office door. Let's stay open until the end. I mean, how often do you get to work a room anyway?

Fourth, stay near your work so you can talk with people about it, but don't guard it like a dog, or hover so much that you make people uncomfortable. This is a hard balance to strike but it can be done. Be a satellite and navigate the room, but keep your art in sight and know when to tune into folks that might want to talk. Usually, I look for people who step into the work by getting really close to examine it. I also look for people who talk with their friends while pointing or gesticulating about the work to each other.

Fifth, Introduce yourself. So, once I have been alerted to folks that may be interested in my work, all I do is walk up and say " Hi, I am Megan Chapman. I am the artist of this piece and if you have any questions about the work, please let me know, and I can answer them for you." That is it. They usually want to shake your hand, and they either say "Oh great, nice job- keep up the good work" and they walk away, or they are really excited to meet you and have all sorts of questions for you and usually want to share something about themselves as well. I love that part.

That is really all there is to it. The next time you are showing your work, try these techniques, and see how you feel about it. I am not saying you have to be like Annette Bening's character, in the film American Beauty as she prepares for an open house by repeating "I will sell this house today" in a crazed way. I don't want you to feel like you have to radically change yourself or have a freeze dried smile on your face all night either. Working a room, meeting people, and talking about your work, are skills that can be learned like anything else. I have confidence in you.

No more shrinking violets, and no more wallflowers. You are an artist, and you deserve to thrive and succeed. Now, work it!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Oh no! It's the post show blues...

The paintings are painted, the titles ring true, the work is signed, the hanging wires are on, and the show is documented. The press release has gone out. The work is expertly placed on the walls of the space that you are showing with.

The artist statement is crafted and placed on the wall, and all your tags are straight. Even your website has been updated to showcase your latest body of work. You are exhausted, happy and amazed that you managed to pull this off again. You are giddy for a day or two, you love the way the work looks on a well lit wall, and that there is space to stand back and really take the work in. Perhaps you feel this is the first time you have been able to really see your own work.

Oh, what a relief it is... Or is it?

Don't be surprised if a nagging hollow feeling sets in, a sadness, a "what now" kind of feeling. You've worked so hard for months, maybe even a year or so to pull this off and now people are complimenting you, and you are connecting to the public in a positive and powerful way, so you feel you should be over the moon, but it just doesn't connect. You are pleased but not giddy anymore, and now you are beginning to feel a bit adrift.

You may feel silly or even guilty for thinking this, so I am just going to say it. You have the post show blues. So now that you know, here's a few things you can do about it.

I still deal with this process after a large show is completed. It sneaks up on me and surprises me every time. My natural thought pattern after a show is "wow- good job that was a huge undertaking, it's time to kick back and be a zombie for awhile." I don't go up to my studio for weeks, I watch more TV/Internet than normal, I just kinda kick back in a major way, but instead of feeling any peace or relaxation, I start to feel worse, and more bummed out. So, even though it may seem counter-intuitive to get back into the studio after a big show, I recommend it highly.

Get back on the horse, and regain focus. Try little doodles, collage, perhaps even a medium that you don't normally work in-just keep moving, and don't let inertia take over. Create for fun, not for show, and take a little of the pressure off.

Realize that your life isn't falling apart, you are just in a jumble temporarily. If you think about it, it makes sense to feel sad after completing a body of work. While creating this body of work you had a strong sense of purpose, you had a goal, a theme, a deadline. You created these works, and you created the time and memories surrounding these works of art. When the show is done, you are then releasing all that to the public, and there is a letting go.
This is a wonderful part of it, the letting go, but is may always hurt a little. This just means you are emotionally invested in the work, or the process of creating the work. Trust me, this is a good thing, people who view your work can sense this.

Try to view this time not as an end, but as a beginning. The paintings are about to be thrust into a new life, a new understanding, and atmosphere. Many things were learned while creating this body of work and while these paintings have been fully actualised, think of all the little tricks and ideas that popped up while you worked on this body that you couldn't fully explore. This is your fuel for the next work and the next show.

Be honest with yourself or someone close to you about how you are feeling. It is hard to admit you are feeling less than stellar, when everyone around you is happy and excited for you, and you may also feel pressure to project a certain image to potential clients. Hopefully there is at least one person that you can express these feelings to or perhaps you can write about it in a journal and let it go. Keeping it bottled up will only make you feel more alone and stuck. Let it go so that you can start to free your energy up for the next exhibit or creative project that comes your way.

Take time to celebrate yourself and your accomplishments and then get back to work. Have a nice dinner, throw yourself a party, buy yourself flowers or a gadget, and then clean up your studio space, make it inviting, and start anew.Think of all the new paintings that are waiting for you. They can't be created without you. You make these paintings, your ups, your downs, your passion, and your perseverance.

Post show blues? Don't go down without a fight.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Free Publicity and the Press Release

So, you finally have an art show planned, no matter if it is big or small- it is your show and people want to know about it. So, it is time to publicize it. You might think, "I don't know anyone at the newspaper or the art rag in town, so I will just tell my friends, plus no one knows me anyway, and it isn't that big of a deal."

Stop that line of thought right now! It is a BIG deal, your art is about to meet the public, and you want to draw as many people out of their homes and away from the TV/Internet as you can. Unless art exhibits grow on trees for you, you need to maximize this opportunity you have been given. So, here is how.

First, make a list of all the local magazines, papers, and radio stations in your area that you have seen or heard art announcements on before, don't be afraid to think out of the box here. Second, call them up and ask who is in charge of posting their art events, or entertainment calendar, or you can just tell them that you would like to submit a press release, and ask for the email address of the person in charge of that. Also, another way of handling it is to gather up copies of all those papers and look for the contact info that is printed in the paper- if you don't want to call and have some time to kill. Keep in mind that press contacts change all the time, and by calling you are assured the most up to date information.

Third, start making a list of those emails. Your list might include email addresses of your local paper, your free entertainment papers, the paper for the community close to you but not in your town. If you are lucky enough to have a college radio station, they can be a great resource and very supportive of visual arts just as they are of music. Get them and your local NPR station to announce your show. Also don't overlook online bulletin boards for your city, or arts groups in your town, and then of course there is myspace.

Now that you have compiled this list, keep it handy because it is like a golden ticket to your future success. Even, if your press release doesn't get folks out of their homes, it has done something almost as valuable, it has gotten your name out there in print, and stating that you are an artist. This alone is building up your credibility. So, it really is a win-win situation, and aren't those nice!

So, about the press release, these are important but not nearly as scary to write as you think, and they are a piece of cake compared to the artist statement. A press release needs to have the basics (who, what, when, where, and maybe a touch of why) but be advised they will edit it, and perhaps reduce it to one sentence, so make sure all the information is there. It is important to include ways for them to get a hold of you, just in case they want to do a feature on you, or have questions about your work. Also, if you can include an image, do - you might be published! Make sure your digital image is sized to look good in print and not just on the web.

Here is sample of a press release I have sent out:

Contact person: Megan Chapman
my phone number
my email
my website ( if available)


Included is an image of the painting "Quiet Facade" Mixed Media on Canvas 40x30" 2007

Fayetteville Painter Megan Chapman to exhibit at Mullins Library- University of Arkansas

"The Path that Light Takes" an exhibit of abstract mixed media paintings by Megan Chapman will be featured May 1 – June 29 in the Mullins Library, at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. This exhibit includes nineteen new paintings never before exhibited locally. Megan's work has most recently been featured in a solo exhibit at Gallery Fraga in Bainbridge Island, Washington this past March. Her mixed media abstracts have been well received. This exhibit is free and open to the public.

Megan Chapman was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She received her B.F.A. in painting from the University of Oregon. Megan has shown her work over the past ten years in Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington, as well as in various publications, and in private and corporate collections. Megan is currently represented by the DDP Gallery in Fayetteville, Blue Moon Gallery in Hot Springs, and by the M2 gallery in Little Rock, Arkansas. Megan is also represented by Gallery Fraga in Bainbridge Island, Washington.Visit the artist's website at for more information about her work.

Chapman says, "This body of work is about my love of color, the subtle changes that occur when colors overlap, react, and create something new. I also love textures and how layers of color and texture come together. I enjoy space and balance. I have been exploring different motifs that I find natural and comforting. These shapes are repetitive at times, and often peek out from a hidden space in the painting or brazenly take the foreground. These shapes reflect my love of mark making and how I enjoy the imperfect smudge of charcoal or the gritty pencil line as it floats along the painted surface. Intuitively, I bring these elements together to create an otherworldly atmosphere."

Okay- that is it, this is longer than most I send out, and some people published the whole thing, and some people reduced it to "The Path that Light Takes" an exhibit of abstract mixed media paintings by Megan Chapman will be featured May 1 – June 29 in the Mullins Library, at the University of Arkansas.

It is nice to have options. I did include an image, so if they have space they can run it in the paper along side my press release. I have been fortunate to have had this happen many times, and that is such a bonus! My advice when you are starting out - keep the press release short, and to the point, but easy to understand, and some sort of description of your work to entice them to come.

So, the next time you have a show at a coffee house, a public space, a warehouse, a library, or a gallery make sure you get the word out there. Papers and other media outlets want your information, and will almost always publish it. People that you don't even know really would like to come to your events if they just knew about them. So, start preparing your golden ticket.

PS. Don't forget to save all your press clippings!! You're a star!