So, I’m back. I hit the ground running in New York and didn’t stop until I stretched my legs on the trip back to Florida. Oh, and I won the airline lottery on that flight—no seatmate! Now you know how much I love humanity, but after a few days in Manhattan I was gifted with a tiny travel oasis when to my delight the doors closed at JFK and I realized I had two seats all to myself. And since it was a teeny aircraft there were only two seats on each side of the plane so I did not have to negotiate for the middle seat real estate with the aisle passenger. It was mine, all mine!
So I used the time to draw, read my magazine—use the other tray table for my coffee, water, yogurt and the extra cookies that the flight attendant slipped me—there are perks to the silver hair, people!
And I had a little space to reflect back on my trip. As you know from my newsletter, I offered 20 minute coaching sessions to the nine artists who scheduled with me first (plus I added a 10th person because I’m so nice).
All of these appointments were crammed into about 4 hours. Without food or bathroom breaks. Although I did offer one person $100 for a Tic-tac. Again–I am a professional. I received two texts from pals who offered to bring me food but I didn’t see them until afterward and even so, I didn’t want to squander my “coachee’s” time (or potentially grossing them out) by stuffing my face with Javit’s hot dogs.
So back to my “mini-first class”. I took out my journal and wrote down everything I learned from the experience. This is in no apparent order nor do any of them relate to one exact person, in case you are playing along at home.
What I learned from coaching 10 people in 3 hours*
- Scratch the surface for the really good stuff.
Lots of portfolios have “pretty good” art. The artist has taken “the classes” and has learned about typical arrangements of collections, developing a color story and presenting it a clear and concise manner. But where’s the soul? Where do you (your experience, your culture, your unique point of view, your heart and guts) fit into the equation? Dig a little deeper, honey—that’s where the good stuff lives.
- Follow your calling.
Does the thought of patterns and snowmen and the newest “it” critter make you roll your eyes and maybe even develop a twitch in that very same eye? Then don’t do it—leave it for someone else. Do your best work and don’t worry about the rules. Figure out the highest and best use of your art and remember there is room for the square peg. In fact there is a square peg writing this blog as we speak. And she’s a doll.
- Trust yourself.
If everyone who has looked at your book, your website, or your adorable bookmark has said some version of “hey, that’s pretty cool”, then believe them. And move it out into the world further and further until someone who can do something with your art says, “hey, that’s so cool, we’d like to develop that into something” or “naah, not right for us.” You are ready for that.
- Ideas are cheap—focus is everything.
We all have mountains of sketchbooks, paintings, notes on grocery lists, church bulletins and tiny slips of paper tossed all over our desks. Idea generation is usually not a problem for us—but moving them into something that can be received and evaluated and understood is the hard part. Some (most) ideas fall apart during the process—but you cannot know which ones are the winners and which ones just need to live in your sketchbook until you test them against a process to see if they have “legs” in the market. (hmmm…that sounds like another blog post—or a Periscope)
- Right rock, wrong hill
Each step of the process of getting a collection closer to actual numbers on a bank check can feel like pushing a rock uphill. Some of the hills are smooth and gradual while some end at the edge of a harrowing cliff. Some of the rocks you can kick along in front of you while others require Herculean (or Sisyphus-ian) strength. Sometimes you have amazing artwork that will not be appropriate for the market as we know it. Hey, it happens. So you need to march that rock over to that other hill which might just be the exact right one for your designs.
- Narrow your focus.
We are not all things to all people. We are not even some things to all people. But by golly, we are the exact right thing for some people. Find those people. Tighten your story, find your audience, be okay with responding with, “yeah, thanks, but that’s not me.”
And—I met ten of the most interesting, vibrant adorable artists that I am so excited to see blossom on their chosen path! Oh, and the rest of the time in New York? Super fun!
*actually I knew these things before but boy, did they become crystal clear to me with that kind of intense activity. Even without the hotdog.