Gone quiet

watercolour sketch
Putting the garden to bed (watercolour sketch)

I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks and that may last a while as I’ve got a lot to get through at work right now. But I will be back to my old pace of blogging some time and in the meantime I’ll try to post whenever I can manage it.

A couple of weeks ago we went across to West Point Military Academy to watch Nic compete in the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition as part of the team sent over by RMA Sandhurst. I know. It’s confusing having a Sandhurst team competing at West Point in a US hosted competition named after Sandhurst – but that’s just history. It all came about in 1967 when Sandhurst gifted West Point an officers sword which became the top prize in their competition.  This year 58 teams competed from 10 countries in what is considered the toughest military skills competition in the world. And it was fantastic to be there and to be able to watch them all in action.  Our photos of the day are in this drop box file.  We were hugely proud, when Sandhurst Blue Team came in first place.

This post has a military theme overall as that’s been quite high on our activity list recently. I wrote a while ago about supporting charities.  I have always chosen to support charities that I feel connected to in some way, if not personally, then because they are important to someone I value.

For almost a decade now, I have been a supporter of Starfish Greatheart Foundation (more about them in another post some time). And a little while ago I mentioned the fact that I support Care for Casualties because Nic is now in Rifles Regiment – so it’s a very personal choice for me.  When I delivered a commission last week and Marc sold some of his greeting cards, it was great to be able to put the first £70 into the charity page.  I’m now in the process of adding more paintings to my Red Bubble page as all the profits from any of my Red Bubble sales will go to my Care for Casualties page. Unfortunately, Red Bubble doesn’t have a way of making a payment directly to Just Giving, so I’ll need to make the transfers when I receive payment from them. It’s a bit of a clunky process, but worth it for the cause and a nice way of supporting a charity I think is important.

So if you know anyone who is in the market for a red shoe iPhone cover, or some greeting cards – please point them at my Red Bubble page.  And I hope you will forgive me if I post about my chosen causes from time to time.

A snippet about the image on this page – I’ve started a monthly sketch diary in my lovely watercolour paper book. It’s running a bit behind (what a surprise) but I will catch up in time. This little winter grass sketch is from the January page – we were very late putting the garden to bed this year and were still cutting things back in the freezing cold weather so we would have less to do in spring. I have vowed to do it on time next year.  It’s just gone up on Red Bubble and is available as a greeting card or print.


Advertising your exhibition

The success of an exhibition is partly due to the advertising and marketing. Naturally, the purpose is to get as many people to see the exhibition as possible. But in addition that, it’s also worth considering who you want to be in that group. Ideally, you want to be targeting people who are interested in original art, and likely to:

a) buy original art

b) spread the word about work they like (word of mouth can be the most powerful marketing of all)

c) provide you with valuable feedback on the work.

Here are a few ideas you may want to consider:

Develop a mailing list

These are people who know your work and would like to be invited to a preview event.

  • When you mail them the news of your exhibition, ask them to forward the news to others they think will be interested, or bring friends along to the event. People sometimes need to be reminded that they are welcome to do that (and in fact that you actively encourage it – it’s a good way to build your mailing list).
  • Keep track of who has accepted so that you can cater adequately at the preview event, and also so you can;
  • Send a reminder email out 2 days before the event. Include map and parking information in this one, as well as any other last-minute information
  • Expect at least 10% to drop out at the last minute. Stuff happens in people’s lives.


Put out a press release about the exhibition and send it to the local press (newspapers magazines and online)

  • Include a photograph of a painting that has great impact. The more attention-grabbing, the better. We included Girls’ Best Friends on the event poster and that resulted in it being used by a number of publications to illustrate their piece about the event.
  • Compile a spreadsheet to track the publication names, contact person and email addresses of all your local media. This will make it easier to get in touch with them for future events.
  • Think about the demographic of the readership of the magazine, particularly in light of the audience you would like to attract. If a publication has a high proportion of readers who are interested in the arts, it is more likely to publish a piece about an art exhibition. Double bonus: better chance of publication, and the opportunity to reach a higher number of the people you want to attract.
  • Be mindful of deadlines. In particular, printed publications often have quite long lead in times for publications. It’s worth finding out what they are. We left it a bit too late for some of ours and missed out completely on getting into a few key publications.

Cambridgeshire Journal, March 2013

 Look out for local ‘what’s on’ websites and e-bulletins

  • Get in touch with them to get a listing in at the right time. For the weekly editions, a couple of weeks run up to the event should be sufficient.

Put up posters in the local vicinity if you are allowed to do so by councils

  • If you can’t get them onto pavements or public spaces, ask a few people who live close to the venue if they would mind having a temporary sign on their gate or fence. This may only work in villages. It certainly worked in ours.

On the exhibition days, make sure the signage is good

  • People will give up and go away if they can’t quickly and easily work out where you are.
  • It is also a good way of attracting serendipitous visitors. People who have a bit of time to spare and see your signs may well want to pop in for a browse.

Social Media

  • Set up a Facebook Event and invite the Facebook friends who are based in the area where your exhibition will be held.
  • Tweet your event when you announce it.
  • Post news on Facebook and Twitter as your plans develop and things get done.
  • Post news about event publicity. The publications get additional exposure so they love it too.

Get creative

  • Partner with local businesses where you can.
  • Think about what public holidays are taking place during your exhibition time and see if you can take advantage of them some way.

exhibition invitations

What other ways have you advertised your event? Please share them in the comments.

The more people get into the habit of buying original art, the more they will buy original art in the future.

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Meet the Artist: Mary Frances Millet

What or who inspired you to start painting?

Vintage Kitchen Tools - by Mary Frances Millet. Watercolour
Vintage Kitchen Tools – by Mary Frances Millet. Watercolour

My mom worked at Mayfair Gallery in Glenville and she asked if I wanted to try art lessons there. I said, sure. At age 8 I was exposed to my first art class and was hooked. I was then placed in Dorothy Fredericks class at the Burnt Owl until I was a teenager.

What mediums do you use for your artwork? – Which is your favourite and why?

Watercolor, textile and paper collage, acrylic. I have also worked in clay.

Formally trained or self-taught?

I graduated from the Professional Institute of Commercial Art in Maryland which is gone now. I also took class for several years from Karen Rosasco, AWS.  I also have degrees in Occupational Therapy and Sociology as backup careers.

What is your greatest frustration about art or the art world? (If you have one)

That we need to be better marketers. Being an artist is wonderful and we should all know how to narrow down our choices of what to do with it. It’s very confusing trying to figure out which way to go. There’s so many opportunities.

Which contemporary artists do you admire?

Charles Reid, Mel Stabin, Jeanne Dobie, Karen Rosasco to name a few. There’s many many more. Old master artists: Hopper, Homer, Matisse.

What has been the highlight of your artistic career so far?

Past: When I exhibited at e Wiregrass Museum in Birmingham, AL and was the top bid and top seller at the art auction.  Present: partnering with MVP Healthcare offering art workshops to their employees as a team building and socialization effort. It’s so much fun. I am impressed that they would include art as part of a healthy lifestyle.

If you had one wish (regarding your art), what would it be?

To run worldwide watercolor workshops. I’m working on one right now in Greece.

How would you characterize your style?

Loose, splashy, colorful.

Collage by Mary Frances Millet
Collage by Mary Frances Millet

Do you have a signature painting?

Yes. It’s a watercolor/paper collage of two boats with fisherman talking to each other.

What’s in your calendar for the coming year?

I teach private individuals, groups and corporate art workshops. I’ll be at the Clifton Park Library teaching watercolor to kids in April. I’ll be exhibiting my Uncle Sam statue in April also. It’s a program sponsored by the Troy BID to install 5 ft fiberglass life size statues of Uncle Sam embellished by 20 local artists. Sept brings the workshop in Greece. May brings my first grand baby.

Watercolour and collage by Mary Frances Millet
Watercolour and collage by Mary Frances Millet

If you had one tip share with other artists, what would that be?

Think big. Get a social media coach.i have one and she’s the best. It’s tough to do it all yourself.

New question: how do you keep inspired?  

How do I not?? Inspiration is everywhere! A tree, a window, a shadow, a color, seasons, flowers, people. Im distracted by everything.

How can people find you on social media? (Twitter, facebook, blog address, any other social media?)

Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Pinterest and www.maryfrancesmillet.com. Workin on a blog and placing more things on etsy, eBay and Pinterest. There’s so much to do! So many paintings! 🙂

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An unintended consequence of violence

Today I received a link to this video of the story of the 9/11 boatlift – something I hadn’t even been aware of until now. If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, this is worth watching. It’s an account of a remarkable response to a crisis. There’s no denying the horror of the events that took place that day – but good to focus on a positive aspect of the events as well.

It makes me think there’s an unintended consequence of acts of terror. In the process of trying to invoke fear, the perpetrators of violent acts manage to also strengthen the inner resolve of their targets. An attack from outside, brings members of a clan together to protect and support each other, and in the process, reinforces their bond.

Business and art – never the twain shall meet …

Last wednesday was leapday. For me and a group of adventurous businesspeople, it was #Leapday.

Organised by Doug Shaw, the day was set up as an opportunity to try something new.  The brief was simply to bring your curiosity and an open mind.

We usually tend to operate in silos and it strikes me that we are the poorer for it. There’s a perception that if you are an accountant, a lawyer, a businessman – you can’t also be an artist. And conversely, if you make your living in a creative pursuit, well naturally you can’t possibly be any good at management or leadership. We seem to be surprised that someone like Madonna is both a singer and a talented businesswoman. We remember Winston Churchill lead Britain through the Second World War, but forget that he was also a talented artist,

If you believe the theory that exercising both hemispheres of the brain leads to better cognitive function, then business should be fostering creativity in their staff as much as possible.

#Leapday was an experience of  breaking down the silo thinking, and getting business and art to converge and meld.

The setting was unusual – a group of tables at the back of a health food shop in South London. We started with a bit of poetry to set the scene.

Then had a chance to do a sketching exercise. This was followed by a minute of question-based coaching on the subject of he sketch, after which we sketched for a further 2 minutes. It was remarkable how much difference the minute of coaching made to our drawings.

Finally, we opened up the watercolour boxes and I spent some time talking about some basic techniques, and then everyone had a go at painting. For some this was the first time they had painted. I suspect that for everyone, it was the first time they had painted in a health food shop with a group of other business people.

At lunch time, a charming gentleman in a wheelchair joined us at out table to eat his lunch. Before he left, we’d discovered that he was an accomplished watercolour painter and he had sketched a small oyster catcher with some watercolour pencils.

By the end of the day everyone had explored colour, the mix of pigment and water on paper,  painted a grape, and most had tried their hand at a small landscape.  The conversation naturally turned to the question of how business and art could work better together. Hopefully, those of us who experienced #Leapday will keep on looking for ways to make that happen.

Here are a few blog posts from our #LeapDay event:

David’s thoughts on The Art of Business

David’s landscape

Doug’s post about his Leapday output

The Anonymous Artist

Doug Shaw’s Aspects of Spring

(If you were at #LeapDay and you posted something about it, please let me know and I’ll add the link to the list).