Five ways of using Pinterest to enhance your art practice

Should you be using Pinterest as a serious tool for your art practice? If you don’t already do so, here are a few ideas you may like.
Five ways of using pinterest for your art practice
For years I was aware of Pinterest but just didn’t get it. The people I knew who were Pinteresters were in the midst of planning weddings and finding it hugely useful. They were curating boards for every aspect of the event. I thought it was just another planning tool so I dismissed it.

Planning is one of Pinterest’s applications, but it isn’t the only one, or in fact the most valuable. Pinterest is a huge visual search engine.  And unlike Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, your pins don’t just disappear into the ether. Pinterest boards have much greater lifespan.  As with all digital tools, the trick is to work out how to make it work for you.

Here are a few ideas for artists using Pinterest

  • Spread your reach

    This is probably the most obvious. Sharing your work makes you more visible. Discoverability is key. If people don’t know about your work, they won’t be buying your art.  I have had commissions and sales from people finding my pins.

  • Subject Research

    This is where Pinterest’s hidden boards are really useful. When I was working on a commission of a painting of a snowboarder, it was really important to make sure the body position was accurate. Making a collection of copyright-free photographs on a temporary board I was able to ensure my energetic subject was speeding downhill in the right pose. The board was only visible to me and a one click delete when I knew I was done with it meant it isn’t still there when it’s no longer relevant. A word of warning – when using reference pictures in this way, make sure you don’t copy. Use your pins to check details, but always produce your own artistic interpretation.  I use multiple images and take information from all of them.

  • Market research

    Do you want to find out what your ideal customer is interested in? Following some Pinterest users who are interested in your subject matter gives you a good idea of the other things they like. Does this provide ideas for more subject matter, or perhaps for places you could reach your target market?

  • Using Pinterest to hone your style

    Louise Fletcher recently sent out an email newsletter in which one of her suggestions really resonated for me. She suggested looking on Pinterest for work you like, and then working out just what it is that you like about it. This is something I’ve found hugely helpful for a while now. Becoming more aware about what you like will help you critique and curate your own work. Now that Pinterest has added the facilities to put sections on your boards you can build collections of collections. Putting artwork on a board gives me the ability to see different examples of work by artists I find inspiring. I can work out which aspects of their work I like and ask myself what that means to my own work.  It could be a colour I really enjoy, the artist’s use of media or the elements of mark-making. I’ve used this board to start thinking about which direction my work is moving in and to be braver about working outside of my comfort zone.  (Important note: When pinning someone else’s work, don’t forget to check that the pin gives them credit and links back to a site that gives them credit.)

  • Make connections through collaboration

    Take part in group boards or invite other people to pin on your group boards. Collaborating with other artists builds great connections and increases your visibility. Set up a board for your art society, or for fellow artists taking part in a challenge. I was hugely excited when I got my first invitation to pin on a collaborative board. It was a great boost to my Pinterest kudos to have someone consider my work to be of a high enough quality to be included on their board. It may take a while before you get an invitation, but keep on pinning and invite others to pin on group boards you set up. Choose your fellow pinners carefully.

Do you use Pinterest in any other ways? Do let me know in a comment below.

(Footnote: Louise Fletcher and Alice Sheridan produce a weekly podcast called Art Juice that is well worth following. They have become my regular studio companions.)

If you enjoyed this blog post, please subscribe to my blog or sign up for my monthly newsletter. And please do share it with someone you think might like it.

Storing watercolour paints: a studio hack

If you’ve been painting for any length of time, you may have accumulated a collection of tubes of paint and storing watercolour paints becomes an issue.

We all know that, in theory we only need a dozen colours. We know it, but those darned colours are so seductive. I don’t know a single artist who can resist the lure of an art materials shop. And there are a number I’ve been gifted by people who have decided not to paint any more, or didn’t like a particular colour. It all adds up to a lot of tubes.

A couple of months ago, at a workshop, I realised I was running low on a couple of my favourite colours. Sadly, I didn’t make a note of just which ones. When I next had a chance to go to the art shop, I dashed into the studio to check.  I rummaged through my plastic tub of paints to find the tubes that had been squeezed down to a stub. Only once I got back did I realise that in my haste, I had missed one of those I use the most.  I’ve tried various methods of storing watercolour paints. Most recently I’ve used three plastic trays: one each for transparent, semi-transparent and opaque tubes.  I lean towards the transparent colours so it helps to have them sorted.

Storing watercolour paints: my new solution
All laid out. You can see which colours I use the most.

My new solution to storing watercolour paints

I’ve seen various versions of branded pre-made boards with clips or the home-made nails in walls or boards.  My problem was that I didn’t really want to be putting nails in my studio wall.  I wanted something affordable and flexible. I was starting to think it would need to be screws in an MDF board.

While I was debating this, I saw a great post on the Making a Mark page about an artist who was using an Ikea board with clip-in trays to store his materials and I realised this could solve my paint problem too. I just needed a few amendments. So, board acquired, I looked for some appropriate hooks. The Ikea ones that go with the board come at £2 for 5 which doesn’t sound like much until you realise that to hang as many as I needed would cost almost £50. Added to the £18 for the largest of the three Ikea boards, that seemed a bit steep in terms of overall cost for this application.  They’re also quite long so they use up more board space than I wanted.

So, I scoured the web and eventually found packs of stainless steel hooks on a shop fitting website. The size is perfect and they cost me a mere £10 for the number I needed. Bulldog clips applied and paints sorted –  I can now see exactly which colours I have duplicated, which I use the most, and which are like those holiday outfits hanging in the wardrobe: seemed like a good idea at the time, but didn’t quite live up to expectations.

Storing watercolour paints by transparency factor.

The geek in me still wanted a way of easily sorting the tubes by transparency factor. I came up with an easy visual code: yellow dot for transparent, green dot for semi-transparent and blue dot for opaque. With the tubes sorted in a colour range, I can now easily pick the colour I want and know the transparency without having to check. Now I just need a solution for granulating and staining factors.

Studio Stories

I’m painting in Australia at the moment and I’ll be putting together a newsletter with some stories from my travels. Here’s my last newsletter if you fancy a read. Please share the love by sharing the link if you know someone who might like to follow my studio stories

Visibility

Twenty years ago, your sphere of influence was probably limited to the people you knew personally, and perhaps some who knew them. Most people didn’t create waves much further than that in their circle of family, friends and business Now:

  • Its much easier to talk to people all over the world, but
    • its also much harder to be heard above the noise
  • Messages on Twitter, Facebook and other ‘broadcast’ sites are quickly overlaid with new ideas, but
    • profiles and facts about you are on the internet forever
  • Its easy to hit the ‘send’ button and spread your ideas and your messages, but
    • each idea has so much more capacity to help or harm your reputation.

Seth Godin’s post about person brand tells three powerful stories illustrating why we should care about everything that’s ever written about us online. Your reputation is your most valuable asset – protecting it should be a priority.

So here’s a challenge for you – have you ever typed your name into Google and done a search on yourself?  What does your online personal brand look like? What does the world read about you? Hopefully there are no disruptions or dents in your image.  But if there are, what are you going to do about it?

Energy or engagement – which takes the lead?

swimmer

Have you noticed that people who are really engaged with what they do, also seem to have a special kind of energy. So here’s the question – what comes first: the energy or the engagement?

Can we be energised by being more engaged with what we do? Or should we find ways to boost our energy levels in order to become more engaged with our careers?

What do you think?

Effort vs Knowledge

Thank you Jacci for this great story about the impact of effort vs knowledge. Its not new, but the message is powerful:

Effort vs Knowledge - how does this apply to art pricing?Ever heard the story of the giant ship engine that failed? The ship’s owner tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure how to fix the engine. Then they brought in an old man who has been fixing ships since he was a youngster. He carried a large bag of tools with him. He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom.

Two of the ship’s owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know what to do.

After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer.

He gently tapped something.

Instantly, the engine lurched into life. The engine was fixed! A week later, the owners received a bill from the old man for ten thousand dollars.

So they wrote the old man a note saying, “Please send us an itemized bill.”

The man sent a bill that read:

…………………………

Tapping with a hammer – $ 2.00
Knowing where to tap – $9,998.00

Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort in your life makes all the difference.

So too with artwork – its the value of  effort vs knowledge

We’ve all heard comment about a piece of art: ‘My toddler could do that.’ (or something similar). The reality is that a toddler hasn’t spent years working on a creative skill. A toddler hasn’t had the insight, the inspiration and the perseverance to create a finished piece of art.  So often artists undervalue their own work – and I have been guilty of this myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that artists overprice their work. There is a sweet spot at which every painting will sell. Knowing where to find that particular price band is difficult and can be quite daunting for an artist. But make no mistake, the ratio isn’t quite as extreme as the case in the above story, but the skill of the artist is certainly worth more than many multiple of the material costs.  Its the sum of the artist’s effort AND more importantly, their knowledge.

If you’re an artist, don’t undervalue your work.

If you’re an art buyer, this is a gentle reminder that the price of the painting also encompasses a portion of all the hours and materials the artist has invested in work that led up to this piece of their inner world that will be hanging in your house from now on.

 

Enterprising Women

June 2008: Yesterday I had the privilege of talking at the Enterprising Women 2nd anniversary lunch. It was amazing to have the chance to talk to almost 180 women entrepreneurs. An inspiring experience.

There was consensus that one of the most motivating elements of hearing other people’s stories is the realisation that, even though you’re going it alone, others are having the same experiences. There’s a normalising effect in that.

Enterprising women – 2019 update:

Enterprising women - find your tribe

My blog was started long before I started painting. It was a way of tracking my thoughts as I grew my business. Now that its become a record of my painting, I am going back in time to re-focus. I am surprised at the number of posts that parallel my current experiences in the creative part of my life. But perhaps that’s not too surprising.

As an artist, a lot of your efforts are solo. Almost every aspect of your art and your sales are a result of you working it out on your own.  Hearing other artists’ stories and being able to learn from them makes it all so much easier. In the art world, its less about listen to formal talks like the one I did for the Enterprising Women group in 2008. Instead, it’s more about finding a group of other artists you can talk to.

Find your tribe

Not everyone is community-minded, even in the creative world. It takes bravery and generosity to share your knowledge in a competitive environment.  The trick is to make sure you connect with those who share knowledge and celebrate your success.