This blog must be read with the soundtrack of Joe Cocker’s (1944-2014) famous cover of the Beetles song: With a little help from my friends! For me, this is one of the key secrets of becoming an artist, something that in the literature is called “social capital”, but really it goes beyond that, because it is all about sharing, friendship and trust and these are rare and precious values!
People talk about capital: financial capital, human capital and of course, natural capital, as requirements for any enterprise. Stories are told about the first million dollars in revenues or the grow of a company symbolized by a change of premises, from cottages industries to shiny new offices; but nobody talks about the value of friends, contacts, suppliers, collectors and partners. Without them, however, the journey of becoming an artist (or an entrepreneur, or an academic, or any other profession) would be a solitary and frutiless one. And it is not only because I personally highly value friendship (which I truly do!) but because during this year, those new and old friends, their words of support and the trust developed in new working relationships have been crucial for my art.
In the literature Social Capital is defined in terms of networks, contacts, institutions and trust. It was American sociologist Robert Putnam who is known to have put this issue in the social map in the 1990s through his groundbreaking book Bowling Alone, and another co-authored book with Lewis Feldstein: Better Together. Although he was not the “first” person to mention the importance of these social relationships, based on trust, voluntary work and solidarity, his work made possible to have an “economic” account of these kind of relationships, so proper of human beings living in groups.
Indeed, just today, my dear Ann Rippin blogged about the “invisible” relationships that are weaved in certain groups: artists, carers, volunteers, etc., and she hit the nail in terms of the importance of these relationships not only in economic terms (which contribution has not been measured but it may account of a high proportion of the economic growth in any country) but also for the “meaning” that these relationships have in any journey.
With the talented Ann Rippin, academic, quilter, imaginator, creative blogger and shoe maniac!
So who are those contacts, networks and social capital, that we have access and that are so important in becoming a professional artist?
The 3 F’s: Family, Friends and Fellow Artists: Sometimes taken for granted, the people who are your major fans are so close to you. Husbands, wives, family… they have been amazing! Coming from a family of high achievers, I thought it would be a bit of a shock to announce my decision of coming out of the closet and “sacrifice” my academic career to move to part time employment, but my parents were so thrilled with it all. They say: “go for it!” with all the faith and trust that anything I do will turn fine! Husband has been simply amazing, bearing the highs and lows, checking all the admin details to ensure that everything will be running. And of course, my friends: Guys, I cannot thank you enough for your support! Not only you have acquired my work (and with that giving me a huge vote of confidence) but also your words and letters, have been so timely.
And as in a rich set of pencil colours, each of you have bring something new to the picture! Thanks a lot!
With a huge help from my friends: Ana Maria Carreira, Sam Warren (DJ and Professor extraordinaire); Romas Malevicius (PhD and creative monster) and Antonis (fantastic filmaker)
Also, this year I’ve been so lucky to meet such a talented fellow artists: Lesley Longworth and Jill Taylor, the conversations with you guys have been just amazing! So many ideas, so many projects, and most importantly this feeling of not being alone, of bouncing ideas with professionals, down to earth but ready to dream! I also joined the Artist Network of Bedfordshire, who have been super in terms of doing collective exhibitions and sharing ideas. I really think that cooperation is much more effective than competition, and joining forces we can do much more than individual efforts! Conversations with the talented Charmaine Lenisa, who have witnessed my evolution since we met in 2001! And more conversations to be had with talented designer Erwin Michalec, botanic illustrator Shevaun Doherty and those artists in Facebook that inspire me and make me improve my game!
with the talented Lesley Longworth!
Suppliers and Working partners: At the beginning of the year I was looking for a great local printer and I found him: the talented Tim Street, whose work is impeccable and so professional! Please let me know if you need his email address, I cannot recommend him enough! He is superb! For those based in London I can recommend the talented team of DigitalArte (webdesign and art printing in London, highly recommended); the professional work of the framers in the Picture Framer in Hitchin. In terms of suppliers I am still exploring GreatArt for materials (they do good prices although it can take a while to deliver since they are based in Germany). I also worked with moo.com, a quirky design company for business cards, as well as vistaprint, both excellent suppliers. It is so important to have the best quality suppliers in order to produce the best quality art. Because, one thing that it is not normally said is that you are not only “selling a picture” but the whole package: the frame, the quality of the print, the labels, the package, even the type of tape you use!
Gallerists & Collectors: I am so grateful to Emmeline Webb of the Art Nest in Hitchin. It has been a fantastic collaboration and it is not only about having a space for my work, but the advice, trust and enjoyable company are simply a delight!
With the joyful team at the ARt Nest: Maisei, Emmeline and Me (and Frida!)
Thanks to her I’ve been able to reach a different type of collector, beyond my lovely friends, and realise that my work can be appealing to certain type of people. And it is for them that I do my work. It has been such a delight to receive their feedback and their words, and indeed, as a token of my gratitude I’ve given to all of them a high quality Xmas print to add to their collections.
Elegant Jenny Headlam-Wells, collector, counsellor and women activist!
I feel that this relationship with collectors is so important, and I try to keep communicating with them via mailchimp, my newsletter and my blog. It is really worthwhile to invest a bit of time in learning how to manage mailchimp. When you are starting you think you can manage few contacts, but the idea is that this list grows, and also the quality of your communications needs to remain the same: personal, friendly and discrete!
Advisors and Experts: There is a lot of people out there willing to share their knowledge and expertise to help you to become an artist. Not only the many groups in facebook, but also special websites and advisors. I have mentioned many times the excellent work of Cory Huff from the Abundant Artist, and Melissa Dinwidie on Living a Creative Life. These two guys are amazing, they are generous, down to earth, uplifting and always able to share their advice. They also do professional consultory! And just recently I just joined the group of Lilla Rogers, an agent and artist who knows about art that sells! I am so looking forward to this six months creative bootcamp with them.
Finally, I am so grateful to Dawn Jordan, my “coach” or rather my “dream enabler”: Dawn is such a clever and warm person, she is down to earth, propositive and a great listener. Thanks to her I’ve been setting the basis for a more realistic approach to my art, in terms of finances, strategy and governance! She is based in the East of England, but you can always contact her by Skype. If you need her email, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org, I will be delighted to link you with her! I really think that having a good coach is an excellent help for any project, personal, professional or simply to go through topics and ideas… it is like a good therapist, but somehow more practical.
So, yes, what would I do if I paint out of hue… I cannot become an artist without this HUGE help from my friends! Thanks to all!!!!!