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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

This Blog is Moving!

Hey, all!  There have been some big changes behind the scenes for me, the first of which is a new website I've been working on and a brand new public face for my art.

 

New Website!


My old art site, Angelic Shades, is still up and will now be dedicated solely to my Art Nouveau and angel art.  This new Angela Sasser site will be for my fantasy illustration work, character art, book covers, and author identity.

The NEW Art of Angela Sasser site!

This Blog is Moving!


First off, this blog is moving to be hosted over at www.angelasasser.com instead!  Please update your RSS feeds, subscriptions, and bookmarks.

I'm going to give everyone a couple of weeks to update their end before I insert auto-forwarding code that will automatically take anyone who lands on this page to the new blog.

Art Marketing Articles and Reviews Moving!


My reviews of art books, art classes, and other art-related products are moving to The Muse's Library.  Any articles I've written on art marketing and promotion will also be posted to The Muse's Library from here on out.

ALL Art ALL the Time


The new(ish) art blog is going to be solely about my art and experiences as an artist.  All of your favorite old posts have already been imported!

From here on out, my art blog will also collect art from both Angela Sasser Art and Angelic Shades plus any news about my author personality so you can keep up with ALL the creative things!

See you on the other side!





Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Club: Artist As Brand Part 5 - Declaring My Name!

My reading of Greg Spalenka's Artist As Brand continues with section V.  Declare Your Name - Taglines, Blurbs, Business Cards.

I found the book for a great deal on the Nook.
Or you can buy it via my Amazon referral link
and give me a little kickback!
You can also buy direct from the author!
Spalenka gives a plethora of examples about how a business name can say a lot about you, but also cautions about being influenced by your 'tribe' to change what your identity represents.

I experienced this exact thing when showing off my logo from this workshop to my family.  They all saw a shrimp or a squid.  I'll admit to an aquatic vibe to my logo, but I still feel it represents me very nicely.  I won't be changing it any more than it takes to bring it more towards a wing/cocoon/seed vibe.  Feedback can be helpful, but it can also be dangerous, especially when you respect the critiquers!  It ends up being more about pleasing them than your original idea, if you aren't careful.

Cannot unsee the shrimp/squid in my logo now...
A more serious example would be my past experiences with being cautioned away from the book cover industry by very embittered artists I respected.  These artists were my 'tribe' and they were so very detrimental to my development.  Stick to your core beliefs!  This is all about having faith in your ideas and skills.

Next up, taglines.  I've never really had one before and I feel that has been to my detriment!  My 'Angelic Shades' name was a catch-all I started years ago for all of my art, but now I realize that using it this way just made it a very unclear brand with an unclear target audience.

Now, it seems I've splintered my business into several brands, all which I can link back into some form or fashion to my core virtue of 'unlocking potential through discovery'.  Here are the taglines I came up with for them:

Angelic Shades Studio (My Art Nouveau and angelic art brand)
Creator of Whimsical Art Nouveau and Angelic Art for Classical Souls.

Angelic Artisan (My masks and leather crafts brand)
Revealing the Being Within through Masquerade.

Angela Sasser Art (Fantasy covers and character art brand. This brand will possibly combine my fantasy author identity as well, should I ever choose to publish any stories.)
Exploring Humanity through Mythic Visions.

The Muse's Library (A new brand I'm working on inspired by this workshop!)
Creative Resources for Artists by an Artist.

Thinking about these concepts has helped me better understand what I'm attempting to do with my varied areas of interests and creative output.  (You guys remember that CRAZY Vision Board I did).

Somewhere along the way with this workshop, I realized yet another facet within Angelic Shades and that is my passion for providing resources (reviews, stock art, etc.) for other artists.  I've finally given this passion a name in the form of The Muse's Library, thanks to this workshop.  More on that later!

Other useful info included in this section:

  • Strategies for engaging people in conversation that extends beyond "I draw stuff" (aka. your 30 second elevator speech/blurb). This is especially useful if you're bad at small talk, like most artists I know, including myself!
  • Tips for creative and unusual business card design.
As ever, pick up the book and support the author if you want to learn more!  There's so much I can't capture here in my blog entries.

Next up: VI. Creating Your Market Niche
Back to Part 4
Back to Part 1


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Club: Artist As Brand Part 4 - Plan the Brand

My reading of Greg Spalenka's Artist As Brand continues with section IV. Plan the Brand.

I found the book for a great deal on the Nook.
Or you can buy it via my Amazon referral link
and give me a little kickback!
You can also buy direct from the author!

A lot of this section talked about the concept of job security being an illusion.  This comes up a lot in books I've read about creative professionals because so much of our downfall is that constant fear of where money for bills is going to come from.  

We struggle, we burn out, and then we get sucked back into the trap of 'security' and all the people in our lives (our 'tribe', as Spalenka calls it) help reinforce this illusion of safety because it is what they believe to be the most prudent way to go about one's life.  We want to please these people we care about, so we define our success by their values.

Unlike a more stable "real" job, there is no veil of safety convincing us that because we've worked 30 years at Such-and-Such Incorporated that we'll always have that income and nice, cushy benefits.  Freelancers have no such safety net.  We must accept the truth of the world as it is. (Though that doesn't mean we can't be smart about it by planning ahead, either.)

If this were a live reading, I would've stood up and cheered at the end of this section.  My whole thesis was based around the fact that audiences are evolving and finding new ways to connect with artists and that the old traditional methods of connecting via institutions were becoming obsolete. I believe this to be true.  Our modern age has allowed artists so many diverse ways to profit that aren't constrained to one institution or the other.  We are more in control in our destinies than ever we have been!

The rest of this section covered the familiar territory of describing the cost effectiveness and thought process behind planning products and ideas for varied income.  It's a good rundown if you're brand new to thinking about what goes into making products or considering less common income streams for artists, such as art licensing.  With several working examples provided.

Random Note - I learned from this section that the founder of Etsy is a young wood worker who was going to start a furniture company.  That company became Etsy, which is what he would've named his furniture company.  Cool!

The homework from this section was to start building a Business Plan starting with several prompts about products, including projecting how complex they will be, how long they will take, etc.

Including all of that would make this entry super long, so I'll just list off some of the products this book has me considering for my business:
  • Stock reference photos for artists.  I've been doing this in a small capacity, but now I feel like it's something I should be spending more time doing.
  • Educational resources for artists (ie. book reviews, product reviews, etc.). I've been doing this via my blog, but have never considered making it a commodity for my business.
  • Yearly sketchbooks based on themes.  Having themes and a yearly time table would help focus my very flighty muse!  Inspired by Cory Godbey's interview over at One Fantastic Week.
I've really been supercharged by this book! It has encouraged me to zero in on where my passions really are and to step back from other projects that were less appealing to my core interests.

As always, there's SO much I'm leaving vague.  Be sure to pick up the book from the links at the top if you've found any of this useful!

Next:  V: Declare Your Name - Taglines, Blurbs, Business Cards

Go back to Part 1

Go back to Part 3

Friday, November 7, 2014

Book Club: Artist As Brand Part 3 - My Vision Board

My reading of Greg Spalenka's Artist As Brand continues with section III. Your Vision Board.

I found the book for a great deal on the Nook.
Or you can buy it via my Amazon referral link
and give me a little kickback!
You can also buy direct from the author!


This section focused on another visual brainstorming exercise meant to help you visually map your passions and interests and connect them with products, people, and places.  I found a lot of value in doing this because I have a lot of interests, from video games to art marketing to folklore and beyond!  It's always so difficult for me to narrow down my projects and focus, which has been a constant challenge for me over the years.

View a larger version of my map here.

I went a little insane and fit as much on the board as I could.  What a crazy web I wove!  The text at the bottom represents the connections I drew with colored lines between my top three activities from the first circle, the products I can produce, and the people and venues I could reach those people through.

That's a pretty powerful thing to figure out for yourself!  So many of us just throw art out there with no thought put into who that art is meant to resonate with.  Creating with purpose seems a valuable way to focus your time and energies and make your brand more consistent, which is something a lot of novice artists don't do when they're first starting out (I'm guilty of it, myself!).

I also made a .psd template, since one wasn't provided in the book. Feel free to download it here for your own use.

Download the blank template I made here.

As ever, I have left some details of this exercise (such as the explanation of Mind, Body, and Spirit and other instruction) vague on purpose to encourage you to purchase the book.  It's a really worthwhile read thus far and I would recommend it based on the helpfulness of the exercises I've already completed!

Next up, IV.  Plan the Brand

Go on to Part 4. (coming soon!)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Club: Artist As Brand Part 2 - My Virtue's Shield

Chapter II. Your Core Virtue Emblem of Spalenka's Artist As Brand is one I was particularly looking forward to, as it deals with coming up with a logo or an emblem for your core virtue.

I found the book for a great deal on the Nook.
Or you can buy it via my Amazon referral link
and give me a little kickback!
You can also buy direct from the author!

I've struggled with coming up for a logo for years and was never quite satisfied with the images I developed.  I knew I wanted something related to butterflies, a personal totem of mine.  I identify strongly with them and now, having solidified my core virtue, I understand why.

Unlocking creative potential is a value I strongly resonate with and what are butterflies but the ultimate symbol of realized potential?  They start as unassuming larvae that morph into a chrysalis and emerge as something else entirely, something beautiful that always existed within that original form.  They carry the map of what they will become inside themselves always.

But how to make a butterfly logo that wasn't cheesy or gaudy looking?  Here were a few of the designs I made years ago before I gave up and moved on to a generic font logo:

Spalenka offers a strategy for logo sketching which I found to be particularly helpful.  Trying his approach helped me to break away from the geometric patterns that I was never quite happy with.

Again, I'm purposefully leaving some of this process and explanation vague.  Go buy Mr. Spalenka's book if you want the full explanation straight from the teacher!  This is merely my interpretation and specific results.

I knew I wanted something asymmetrical to represent my work, which I feel is more organic and flowing than hard lined and symmetrical.  I also needed something simple enough to be iconic and easily stamped on cards and other marketing collateral.

My rough sketches for each keyword based on
Spalenka's ideation technique.

Next we have the culmination of all of my sketching!  It's amazing what mental associations and symbols you can discover if you just sit and think hard enough.  I ended up leaning towards a design that echoes the form of the chrysalis and the wing of a butterfly all at once, while also incorporating the theme of a seed, another representation of potential which might also double as a keyhole.

2nd row, the last one on the right is my fave! What's yours?
This has been YEARS of frustration solved for me.  I consider this book worth the money spent just on this section alone just for the help it gave me when coming closer to resolving this personal struggle I've had with defining a logo.

Next up, III. Your Vision Board

Go on to Part 3. (coming soon!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book Club: Artist as Brand Part 1 - My Core Virtue

It's been an introspective week for me while I ponder my current re-branding efforts and enjoy a much needed vacation after the convention/Halloween rush.  I've been enjoying the time off to clear my mind and to start reading Greg Spalenka's book, Artist as Brand.  I thought it'd be interesting to write about my journey as I read this book and (hopefully) learn a little more about myself and my art!

I found the book for a great deal on the Nook.
Or you can buy it via my Amazon referral link
and give me a little kickback!
You can also buy direct from the author!

This book really called to me thanks to recommendations from other artist friends and for the fact Spalenka is also an artist himself.  I've read a fair few marketing books, all which read like dry instruction manuals.  Artists, however, are a different breed of business.  We are in the business of passion and vision.  There's an undefinable element to an artist that can't be quantified by marketing and price tags.

Spalenka has a unique insight having worked in publishing, entertainment, genre art, and fine art.  Artist as Brand compiles Spalenka's advice as given in his workshop meant for artists seeking to define their vision and business and also offers person to person workshops on the matter.  This book is the self-paced version of his workshop.

An example of Greg Spalenka's dreamlike art.

The preface of the book addresses Spalenka's experiences moving between various industries as an illustrator, all which seemed to keep an artist's visions at the whims of a larger machine at work, none of which seemed to satisfy his own creative instincts.  It wasn't until he saw artists selling well for themselves at conventions that he realized the potential of micro-businesses, or artist as self-representing entrepreneurs.

As an Arts Admin MA, I studied the potential of the internet to allow artists to connect directly to their audiences for my thesis and I couldn't agree more with this emerging trend.  Artists are now more able than ever to nurture private collectors through the interconnectivity of the internet and other opportunities outside of the expected ones.

But that means so many of us need to figure out what it is that we can offer when we don't have a business calling the shots.  What is our vision?  What is that special something that we have that no one else does?  This book is all about that discussion.

After Spalenka's bio, the first instructional section deals with defining what your Heart Virtue is.  This doesn't even relate directly to what you like to draw, which I found interesting, but also somewhat confusing.  What core defining value dictates your emotional reactions to the world around you?

I found this offputting, at first.  Wasn't this something only fine artists really needed to think about?  As a genre artist, I'm not too concerned with political or emotional statements in my art (if that was where this book was headed).

But the more I thought about this section, the more I realized just how deep the rabbit hole goes.  It's not just any ol' fantasy art that appeals to me.  Most of what I enjoy and what I'm passionate about creating is fantasy art that makes an emotional statement, that says something beyond the surface prettiness of glamorized and idealized figures that most fantasy art portrays.  Fantasy art and literature, after all, are a mask with which we can tell the spiritual and moral stories that pertain to humanity as a whole.

Spalenka guides this introspection with several questions which help you to figure out what your heart virtue might be. Mine ended up being this, which I suspect will change and be refined as I go along:

I am devoted to unlocking the potential of creativity in myself and in others through self-discovery and acceptance.

How this pertains to my art, I'm not quite sure yet, but I'm looking forward to finding out!  I'm purposefully leaving some of this discussion vague so as to not give all of Spalenka's knowledge away for free.

This book has been an enjoyable revelation thus far and I hope you will go show him your support, if you find my journey with his book interesting and helpful!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Re-branding an Artist - Part 1 - Tough Questions

So, you like drawing, but also painting, writing, candle-making, and beading?  I know how you feel!  Being multipassionate seems to be a habit of most of the creative people I know.   Our minds like to wander and play and that's part of how we keep ourselves creative!

However, this characteristic usually leaves most of us with a huge problem - an unclear sense of artistic identity and, therefore, an unclear brand.

I've had this problem for years and it's only been until recently I've sat down and put a magnifying glass to my brand.  For example, just look at the mess that was my website last year.  I had masks, Art Nouveau, surreal work, miniature work, sculpture, anything and everything all thrown together on my site:

My Angelic Shades site back in 2013.

After discussing my fractured identity with fellow artists and a friendly Art Director, I realize that this Anything and Everything approach was really killing my sales and my presentation.

What an AD might think:
"She has so many styles!  She must still be a student and probably isn't very reliable.  She hasn't quite mastered anything."

What an average person might think:
"Wow, this is all really cool!  But later on, I probably won't remember what it is exactly she's selling." 

Echo this sentiment for selling at conventions, too.  After seeing all the masks, art, etc. at my table, most people aren't sure what I'm selling or if it's all by one person, since the themes differ so vastly.  This also made my sales pitches extremely complicated, as I wasn't sure how to address all of the products on the table.

Or my other favorite.

"Wow, this is cool!  I'm going to ask this person for a commission that she's not necessarily interested in doing because she's obviously interested in doing everything and is very versatile." 

In truth, I'd actually prefer it if people ask me for work that I specialize in, rather than work that I don't specialize in.  Most of the time, the work I don't specialize in doesn't go into my portfolio and is never seen again.

The Tough Questions


I had to start asking myself some important questions and coming up with answers that faced my fears as an artist.  These burning questions have been on my mind for a long time now:

What am I passionate about and what is just fun to do?


A lot of people think 'hey it'd be fun to make my hobby a job!' but what they don't realize is that once you make your hobby your job, it's not fun anymore.  If you turned to that hobby for recharging and relaxation, chances are that being forced to do it for monetary purposes is going to destroy that sense of fun and play you had with it.  You'll most likely have to get another hobby now that the last hobby has become the job.

My Answer:  I realized over the past few years that Art Nouveau and soft watercolor work is my 'fun' art.  So is mask-making.  I turn to these modes of expression to refresh my creative well.  Making them my job meant I had less time in my life for the mature fantasy work I am passionate about.  Admittedly, the money is nice and that also swayed me towards these other forms of expression.  This choice of splitting focus resulted in much burnout over the past couple of years.

My art as a body of work has so many facets.  What should stay and what should go?


Think about what target audience there is for your work.  Does your work actually target the same people?  Did you do something for random fun but it just doesn't fit in with your other work?

Sometimes it's just better to leave things off of your professional face for storage on something more casual, like tumblr.  Keeping unrelated work can make you look like a student or unreliable in your ability to finish consistent work.  Stop thinking of what is your 'best overall work' and starting thinking 'what is your best work for what specific audience'.

My Answer:  For me, I ended up dumping the ACEO and Surreal sections from my site.  These works were all older and I'm not exactly interested in being hired to work in that vein anymore.  On the other hand, I still wanted to share my artisan crafts and Art Nouveau, as I've put many years into them and still find them as viable professional faces to share.

And thus my brands Angelic Artisan and Angela Sasser were born!  Angelic Shades is my original studio name, which will now be purely for the work I created for my book, Angelic Visions, and for my Art Nouveau work.

My mature fantasy work is going to be housed on a new site that I'm currently working on (sneak peek here!).  Angelic Artisan has also been moved off to its own cozy website dedicated solely to my artisan crafts (a move which happened last year, actually).

I chose my real name as a studio identity because I feel like this brand is finally me.  I have found MY voice and what I feel is going to be the artistic identity I want to become known for.  Another perk to deciding what my 'main' identity/studio is going to be is that I now realize where the majority of my time needs to be spent.

Angelic Artisan and Angelic Shades will both now be downgraded to side projects that I only do for fun.  This is a huge weight off me and one that I feel will allow me to focus my time on my passions instead of being torn between too many tasks.  It's going to be hard saying no to the commissions that come in for artisan and Art Nouveau work, but decreasing my stress levels and focusing on my long-term goals is what needs to happen for me right now to stop feeling so overwhelmed by the tasks ahead of me.

Bonus perk - my sites just look sooo much more beautiful and professional now that they have 'themes'!

Since I am re-branding mid-career, how do I mitigate changing my identity in the face of collectors and AD's?


This one is my toughest question right now.  How do I change what I'm doing so that people won't be upset by my switch of direction?  Most of the other multifaceted artists I've talked to worked to become known for one thing and earned the respect of AD's and their market before they branched out.  They were stabilized by the fact their fans would follow them and that they still have the respect of AD's whom they have proven their reliability to in the past.

My problem is I got good at one thing I realized later on is not the thing I want to be known for.  I'm not sure if I'll be burning bridges doing this.  It's quite intimidating!

My Answer:  Right now, my plan is to completely break my art styles up into Angelic Shades and Angela Sasser with their own corresponding sites and outlets so that when I hand a business card out to an AD or anybody else, the linked site on each unique card will present a consistent body of work with a clear theme.

As for AD trust, I will probably only be showing AD's my Angela Sasser brand, unless their projects specifically call for soft watercolors and/or Art Nouveau stylings.  They shall never know my secret identity as a soft flowy watercolorist and mask-maker!

I have no idea what this means for my social media faces, however!  I'm so entrenched in the Angelic Shades username that I'm not sure if people will actually follow me to a new name, if I start one.  Brand consistency for 'Angela Sasser' demands a new Twitter, Facebook page, blog, etc.  I'm not sure I'm going to do this yet, but you will be the first to know!


STOP!  Do you really want to do this?  Are you just messing up a good thing?


If you're doing well as you are and enjoy what you're doing, maybe you should just leave well enough alone?

My Answer:  It's taken me many years of struggling and burnout to realize I've invested my time in the wrong places because I was more focused on making money than taking the risky path and following my passions in illustration and concept art.  I was afraid and didn't trust myself.  I let bad advice and pressure from loved ones dissuade me from focusing on what I really wanted to do.  I also didn't really have an idea of where I wanted to go back then, so I did what was fun and acceptable.

Just because you might be capable of creating something that someone enjoys and will pay money for doesn't necessarily mean that's what you're meant to do, especially if your heart lies elsewhere.

Knowing all this, I feel my mistakes have helped me to refine a laser focus I'm looking forward to implementing now that I've identified where my heart truly lies.  It's only through experiencing these early struggles that I know myself better and can look forward to the future with more confidence!

Reader Questions:

Do you have multiple creative businesses?  How do you  handle running them all at once? Share your tips in comments!

Next Up: Part 2 - Brand Design
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