Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Doing Impressions

“There are few times in our life when it isn’t too melodramatic to say that your destiny hangs on the impression you make.”  Barbara Walters

What impression are you making?

Sure one of the perks of being an artist is not having to dress like a banker. You roll out of bed at ten o’clock, grab a cup of coffee and walk into the studio and pick up a brush. You don’t even have to worry about the wash if you sleep in the nude.

You probably don’t want to start that quickly if you are a sculptor, sculpting in the raw carries its own hazards.

But you can do it if you want to and no one can tell you not to cause you don’t answer to anyone but yourself, well the Long Sufferin if you have a spouse but that’s a whole different kind of hazard.

The question of impressions doesn’t come up when you go to work cause you don’t actually go, you can wait until you have to bring in stuff for a show, or meet a gallery owner or attend an opening.

So it is easy as an artist to get slack. If you don’t have to give a hoot why would you give a hoot?

But the whole thing gets turned on its ear when you do have to get out cause you are way out of practice. Suddenly you have to think about what you are going to wear and how you are going to present yourself and what you are going to do when you do all of that.

Fortunately some of the regular stuff isn’t so hard; you are an artist so a little bit of bohemian goes along way. If you like angora socks and a beret or tam you can probably get away with it. Dress a bit better, say sandals and jeans and you move up the food chain and start to look prosperous. Want to really put on the dog? It doesn’t take nearly as much as it would if you were an investment banker, no power suit, no red tie, no polished wing-tips, oxford cloth shirt and maybe a battered jacket and you have just the right war correspondent look, maybe even Hemingway if you can manage a beard and a bit of heft.

Okay, not the best look for the female, lady, women part of the program, but you can do a great Georgia O’Keefe without a fiscally ruinous wardrobe. You know, sometimes a bit of paint on the smock and a touch of clay on the pants can give the right serious artist look, so don’t spend too much time on the wash.

So you managed to dress yourself and get out of the house, now what about the approach? Are you smiling? It is hard, I don’t myself, never did and it has been brought to my attention that I would look a lot less like an out-of-work troll if I could manage an occasional smile but it just ain’t gonna happen. Growing up in Gravel Pit and surviving both twelve years of public schooling and heat in Texas just baked my mug solid.

But for those of you who did not have Texas Public Schools to scare their lives a smile can be a wonderful tool. It is the first thing a person sees when you approach and should be warm and welcoming.

Speaking of which, you should be too. Warm and welcoming, I use that sort of thing to make up for the fact that I look a lot like Rondo Hatton and scare mirrors at first site but being warm and welcoming can take that Hannibal Lecter approach and make it something you can work with. People are a bit afraid of artists, seeing as how they are, (artists), all crazy and creative and stuff and don’t work or think like real people.

Don’t wait for people to come to you, get the ball rolling and get over there and meet them. Chances are they are more scared about doing the meet and greet thing than you are and if you do it first you won’t have to worry about when someone is going to come over and talk to you and what you will say when they do. Say anything and my guess is being an artist will so intimidate them they will chatter like magpies trying to impress you.

And for God’s sake have a card with your name, studio name, website, phone number and anything else you can think they might want handy.

There just is no excuse for not having a business card. Way back in the dawn of time when people liked Ike and drove Edsels, getting a card printed was something only real estate agents and politicians could afford. Now if you have an inkjet printed and Avery forms you can make a descent business card. Vista print will do 250 for ten bucks and Staples will do it almost that cheap so don’t say you can afford it.

And let’s get on thing settled right away; pick a name that makes you visible, memorable and exciting.

As a writer one of the things I have to deal with all of the time is creating names. You can’t tell a story if your characters don’t have names, (Okay Dashiell Hammett did do it both in the Continental Op stories and in the Dain Curse, [The most complex and convoluted mystery ever written], but he was Dashiell Hammett and that means ordinary people shouldn’t try this at home) and those names better be something a real person would have cause you are going to be in deep trouble if you try to name your characters Eugenia Clattersnip and Baron Tumblegutt.

Keep it simple and keep it strong, remember your card is your first line of introduction and marketing. You want to make a good, serious, strong impression and keep making it every time the recipient looks at that card.

Haven’t got a clue how to do that, take a look at some of the artists around town and see what they’ve done. Susan and Steve Dimmock have great cards, Kim Wurster and Susan Lehman have wonderful studio names and the ole Trawler himself has a card that will make you whip out your glasses for the fine print.

Make the right first impression, with a great card, a warm smile and a positive attitude; it will pay off far more than it costs.

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