Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Curious Classroom

If you've read my blog post Reverse Craftology you probably already know that I'm hitting the sketchbook hard in '09. I've been having a lot of fun using the sketchbook rather than just making them all the time! I've been learning a lot along the way too, and from the most curious of classrooms: Etsy.
(Turquoise Sketch Roll by Beacon Hill Goods)

Now, I'm one of those people that feels that artistic inspiration can come from anywhere so I shouldn't be surprised by this. What I did find surprising is that Etsy is full of prime examples of what makes visual art successful and does a better job conveying that than most lesson books or lectures. Here are some of the things I've noticed, as taught by Etsy:

1. Perspective is key. Using close-ups and smart angles makes a more interesting visual than a static, face-on composition in almost all cases. In Etsy, this is your first image and those gracing the front page use smart perspective to catch our eyes. (See StudioCherie's blog post on this) In fine arts, this is also true- an interesting composition is half the battle.

2. Leave them wanting more.
The difference between someone looking at your work and someone really looking at it is how much you reveal at face value. If someone feels like they've seen everything at first glance they will move on quickly. With Etsy this is evident in the difference between "clickable" photos and those that aren't. I tend to click on interesting photos that leave me wondering what an object is, or what it is made from.
A good piece of art stops someone in their tracks and holds them for that extra moment.

3. Find your voice.
The way to stand out above the crowd, whether it's artists or Etsy shops, is to find your own style. Maybe that means that you only make one type of item, or you have a central theme to your work. Whatever it is you do, give it your own twist. With Etsy and fine arts that means embracing your own style and licks that help identify work as yours.

4. Produce work often.
Its obvious that in order to sell a lot on Etsy, you have to have a lot to sell. Plus, keeping your shop full and updated keeps you at the top of the searches. The same principal applies to fine arts. Very few successful artists have small portfolios, plus, if you want a solo exhibition you have to have enough to fill a gallery, right?

5. Network, baby!
Sometimes it's not what you know, it's who you know. Develop strong relationships with others in your field. In Etsy this is done by joining teams, posting to the forums, hitting alchemy, and strong customer service. A personal interest in you helps direct people to your work. The same concept applies to fine arts- attending gallery openings and being seen can make the difference between a quiet career and an eventful one.

Don't turn in your student parking pass yet- any school is a great opportunity to meet people (network a little, won'tcha?) and learn a lot about yourself. Seeing other people in the working process through a shared studio is a priceless experience, but don't forget that the learning isn't over when you graduate. Sometimes the lessons keep cropping up in the most curious of places.

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