How to Use Social Media for Artists: Blogs, Social Networks and Mailing Lists

Hi I’m Brainard Carey. I’m an educator, an author and an artist. I’ve written three books for artists – one was called Making It in The Art World, the other was called New Markets for Artists and the last is called The Art World Demystified. I’ve also shown work at the Whitney Biennial, having a show now in New York, different places, and also, I host the Yale University radio series called Lives of the Artists. I’ve interviewed over 700 artists, architects, curators, writers, about their world and how they navigate it. And today I’m going to tell you a little bit about social media training for artists. A basic strategy for social media for artists – how to use blogs, and an email list as well as various social media out there.

So, to begin with here are the steps. Number one, start a blog. Whether you have one or not what I would suggest is using a blog attached to your website. So, if you have a WordPress website, you could easily attach a blog. If you have a Squarespace website or many other template-based website, which is primarily what websites are now, you should be able to attach a blog or at least link a page to it. I think it’s good to have a blog on your website.

What you do on that blog and how do you use that blog?

Essentially, this is how it works: You write something once a week in your blog, on Fridays, and it could be, and ideally is, anecdotal. Not necessarily about your art, but more about what you’re doing – went to a movie, got a new dog, you traveled, anything. But write a little bit about what you’re doing and with an image. So, you put an image in your blog and maybe just a few paragraphs. If you’re not really a writer, just a few paragraphs and an image from where you were. Again, it could be a book review, a movie you saw, how you feel about current events, whatever it is. But write something that’s small and points toward your art. You know, you could be talking about what you’re doing in the studio, what you’re exploring lately, but it shouldn’t always be by your art. It should be about things that you think about, that you’re interested in.

So, you do this blog post let’s say once a week of 500 words or less. And then that blog post has a link that goes directly to it. So, you go to Facebook, if you’re on Facebook, and say something. Say, “This week I’ve been thinking about your dogs and cats, and I saw this movie, take a look at what I’ve written here,” and then you put a link to your blog post. That same thing could be done on twitter and other social media platforms. That could also be done on Instagram. With Instagram it would be slightly different – you’d upload the photo and then you would either put a link in the comments or have your profile link on Instagram go directly to your blog. So, this is how you share the blog. This is step one, in other words, is starting a blog, open one up writing, it once a week. Step two is sharing it to social media.

And step three is how you share it to your mailing list. The way you have a mailing list is you tickle your contacts rather than just sending them all out in one email with a BCC or CC. What you should have if you have a mailing list greater than 10, is an e-marketing program. MailChimp is one of them, so is Aweber. Aweber’s what I use as I contact. I’ve used a lot of different ones – I think Aweber is a great one. MailChimp is free for the first 500. Aweber costs $20 or something like that a month. So, what you do with this service is very important. You put your emails in there, your email contacts. And it’s important for them to all be in this because when you send out an email through, an e-marketing service which you’re in control of everything, people have the chance to subscribe or unsubscribe. They can subscribe to it through your website even – which I’ll talk about in in another installment of the series. But essentially, this is the this is the last step. You send out a letter once a month to your contacts and you tell them that you’ve been writing about so-and-so. It’s friendly. It’s plain text. There’s no images in this letter you’re sending out through your newsletter service or e-marketing service – which is again MailChimp, or Aweber or similar. And you just act a little chatty, write a little, a few words that are chatting about what it is that you’re doing and then have a link to your blog. That’s the last step.

And the reason you’re being chatty and sending a link to your blog is, you’re giving them content. You’re not just saying this is my new work or waiting for something to happen like a show or something big. You can write about your work and of course link to it and send that to them. But the idea is that everybody that subscribes to by email, everybody that’s interested in you in social media, and even the people who don’t know you on social media now become interested because you’re writing about interesting things that they like. They like your voice. And that drives traffic to your website, because your blog is on your website so people have a reason to look at your art every single week. That’s the strategy.

To summarize, number one, open a blog on your website. This should be one page in your website. Number two, post that link to your blog post at least once a week, on your various social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and similar. Then number three, using an e-marketing service to send out emails to your list once a month, and you should be slowly collecting more and more names which I’ll talk about in another episode. But send out a letter once a month, be chatty and give a link to your blog. This is the whole story with social media strategy initially in terms of getting the word out there. I’ll talk about more steps and more advanced steps in the following episodes. I wish you the best with your art and your studio practice.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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How to Price Your Art: Finding Your Market & Bargaining with Buyers

Hello my name is Brainard Carey and today I’m going to present a short talk – a video for you on how to price your work or price your paintings or other visual art.

I’m an artist and an author. I’ve written this book New Markets for Artists, which came out in 2012. And I’ve written this book, which is the best seller Making It in The Art World which came out in 2011. Both books are designed to help artists build their professional careers, whatever that means, in the visual arts. And in the case of the book what that means is doing what you need to do in order to be a professional artist. It has (it means) different things to different artists because artists have all kinds of mediums and ways of working in different parts of the world. But essentially it means, for the purpose of the book, developing your professional career – doing what it takes to be a professional artist.

Today we’re talking about how to price your paintings, how to price your artwork. To begin with, if this is a question for you, not knowing how to price or where to begin pricing it, then most likely you haven’t sold very much artwork. If you haven’t sold very much artwork and one of the questions that you’re having if you’re involved in open studio or an art fair or any process – like people coming into your studio where they may be interested in purchasing work. If you need to price work now, what you have to keep in mind is that what’s very important is that you sell the work. It’s important to come up with the right price – not too high or too low ideally. But essentially, you’re an artist that wants to sell work and this is the time when you’re trying to figure out what prices should be so that it will sell well.

So, one way to figure this out is to look at what other artists are selling their work for. If you’re showing work, let’s say, in an open studio or a cooperative gallery or some situation like that, you can look at what other people are selling work for. And that’s a barometer of the general range that your work should be in.

Also, it’s okay to bargain with people somebody comes into your studio and they’re interested in your work or they’re interested in commissioning a work from you. What you have to do is decide how much it is that you want for it, ideally, and I would go high. Let’s say he looked around other artists who are selling work like yours and have the same history as you, same history of sales, then perhaps you can go a little bit higher than that. And tell the person in your studio who wants to commission something or buying something that this is the price. It’s $5000. If they gawk at that and say that’s a little too much for me, then the way to get a sale is to either lower or say to them, “Look for $200 this is yours.” And they’ll say “For $200? What do you mean?” “For $200 down – as a down payment you can own this work and we can work out payments however you want. If you want to pay me a $100 a month, whatever it is.” You give them the painting or commission when it’s done.

So that’s one way to manage a sale. It’s to start high. If people are surprised by it, sell it to and offer to sell it to them in time, over the course of time. And ask for a very small down payment to begin with. Another way to think about selling your work is developing a real market for it. And you know the old saying is always whatever the market bears, you know, whatever people would pay for your work is what it’s worth. It’s what it should be sold at. So how do we know what the market will bear – what that means is what have you sold work for before. If through your studio you sold a few paintings for $500, then that’s what the market will bear.

Another way to find that out, in a very real sense, is by artists like Abby Ryan and others who are selling work on eBay all the time. I talk about this a lot in my book. I’m not saying eBay is for everybody but it is a very real market. So, she would put up painting every day at D-Day – very small painting, 4×4 inches, for sale. The first year, first several months, some would sell, some wouldn’t. And it would sell for very little, under $100. As it grew and she kept posting every day – this is like over two, three hundred postings a year – which is pretty impressive, what happened is, people started buying them. And when people started buying them and the cost went up and they were spending $200 or $300 on a painting that was the market value. And the reason that was a very real market value is because other people started spending $300 for paintings or $400 – it would stay that value. So, every day she put up a painting, it would be for that price. Eventually what happened with her is, after two or three years the paintings started selling for $700 or $800. And to this day that’s about their market price. That’s what they all sell for every day. Because she’s established a real market on eBay.

So, in conclusion how to price your work, it’s something that is very individual. But there is a real economy out there. And there are real buyers out there. So, if you’re about to have a show whether it’s a cooperative gallery, regular gallery or non-profit space, your studio, studio tour or anything like that, look at what other people are selling work for. Not what they’re asking for. Have they sold work before for that price? And in general, bring people into your studio, ask for more and see if they’re interested. The line to use is, “Would you like to own this work?” If people are interested, if they say “Yeah, but I can’t afford it,” say, “Well I’ll work something out with you.” The piece is $2000, but you can have it for $200.” Again, as I was saying, you offer them a payment plan of $200 down. That’s the other way to resolve pricing issues and whether or not people can afford it.

Thank you for listening today. You can ask questions if you like. You can like the Facebook page that’s down below and ask questions on there. My name is Brainard Carey and thank you for listening today.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here.

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Episode 313 – New Markets for Artists / In Summary

In Summary

Let’s summarize how I prepared for the MONA project on Kickstarter. I made a simple MONA website with a small text block and a few widgets. I also revamped my regular artist website with a similar look of minimal text, a few links, and the “like” and “tweet” buttons. Free from advertising and other clutter, my pages were clean and easy to navigate. My primary goal was not to share content, but to get many “likes” on Facebook, and most of all, gather more email addresses. The email signup form is incredibly important, especially if you keep it simple so subscribers need only provide their email addresses and hit Submit. Having this kind of email marketing service is very helpful. It allows all persons interested in your work to receive updated information from you in a single email blast. That is the basic skeleton and summary of what I did online, but of course to be successful I also had to consider the content of the MONA project and recruit James Franco. There are many steps to making a project like this successful and the best it can be, and we knew we wanted to broadcast it inside and out of the art world. James Franco was essential in achieving that goal because of his popular appeal, and his mind for art. He has a way of thinking and working with art that is similar to ours, and we knew he would communicate to casual and main- stream art observers as well as those outside the world of art. We were so happy that he liked our idea, and his contribution fit perfectly with our project, just as we thought it would.

The Final Statistics

The Kickstarter project for MONA ended on August 31, 2011. By the end it had raised $16,000, had 1,012 new subscribers on the email list, got 2,780 Facebook “likes,” and got 165 project backers. Those are pretty incredible statistics for a ninety-day project. It also generated over forty articles in the press and James Franco promoted the museum on Jimmy Kimmel Live! The MONA idea was a good one, of course, but tools for generating that kind of success are clearly laid out in this book for anyone to replicate. I am grateful my project created with my wife worked so well, and that I could use it as an example in this book!

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 312 – New Markets for Artists / Networking All of Your Media

Networking All of Your Media

To summarize what I have said so far pertaining to networking, there are three things to keep in mind for your artist webpage. The first is the “like” and “send” buttons from Facebook and Twitter. The second is a signup form for your mailing list that you will get when you subscribe to a paid e-marketing service like icontact (which is what I use) or mailchimp, constant contact, patronmail or another, they are all the same more or less. The third is widgets that will stream information from your Facebook and Twitter accounts, providing your page with constant updates. And, of course, you have to decide how to handle the text and image layout on your website. If you really want a lot of images on it, I would suggest embedding a slide show that you can easily update and doesn’t unnecessarily clutter the page. Try to keep your text brief, and embed active links to essential information about you or your work.

All You Need Is Updates

That is really all you need to connect and automate your website to your social platforms. You can change the text on your website every now and then to reflect current news, but for most part the website will update itself using your widgets. There are several other sites which let you share and post information and you can always add new widgets to your website to include these as well, but I like a minimal look, as it makes content and aesthetic easier to maintain.

Clean and Simple Single Page Website

Pages that have minimal clickable buttons and links are nice because they are easy to navigate. Think of the Google homepage. It really only has one box, the Search Bar, that a user can interact with. I believe we all want our pages to be that elegant. Google is a good example of how less can be more on a website. I say this because I think that part of my project’s success was due to how easy it was to share online. Our art website was not just minimal, it was easy to read, and because it was also interesting, people “liked it,” shared it, and tweeted it.

News Media Design on the Web

Your webpage should have a similar design as that of an online news article. If you look at an article from the Huffington Post, or any other major online news publication, it only includes the article and relevant links embedded into the text, a few select photos, and “like” and “tweet” buttons at the top. Sometimes the all-inclusive “add this” button pops up to let you conveniently select which of the growing supply of networks you want to share the article on. The point is that these news sites are designed to be read and shared, and that’s how your site should be as well. You want people to understand who you are, what your project is, and what things they need to click on your page in less than a minute. The simplicity of this model means there’s actually less for you to do when you make your page. The hard part is having the restraint to not include unnecessary pictures and links.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 311 – New Markets for Artists / What We Want from Our Website

What We Want from Our Website

There are three things we want from our website viewers. We want their email addresses so that we can keep in touch and let them know about future projects; we want their financial support; and we want them to spread the word about our project on Facebook and Twitter. To help facilitate these activities, we made new webpages. One was for MONA, and the other was for Praxis, our general art page. Then we opened new Twitter and Facebook pages for Praxis. The next thing we needed was an e-marketing program.

E-marketing  Program

E-marketing programs, of which there are many, are used to create signup forms on your website so people can join your mailing list. When they do this, their information is stored in a database and they will be included in future newsletters and updates. These programs are very important because you want to be able to collect contact information from potential customers who visit your site. Artists’ websites are usually a bit of a mess, with lots of old work, and typically a homepage that hasn’t been updated in a while. I have an idea to solve this problem, a kind of web 2.0 artist homepage for the 3.0 world. And it’s really much easier than current website models.

New Web Design with “Like” Buttons

The MONA website that I designed with my wife is very simple. There is some brief text describing the museum, and above are two widgets and a simple graphic of the acronym MONA. One is a Facebook widget that allows other people to “like” and share the website on their Facebook page.  The other is a Twitter widget that lets them tweet about your website directly.  The page also has a  sign-up form which  I keep extremely simple so that subscribers only have to enter their email and click the “Submit” button. Additional things like email verification and more personal information is unnecessary, and may discourage people from signing up.

Simple Signup Form

The sign-up form is super simple, even elegant, and there are no other photos on the site—just a link to the Kickstarter project. The website’s simplicity is important because there is little to navigate, and just a few elements for sharing , so it works perfectly. People can read the entire page in less than a minute and they can post, like and tweet it without leaving the page. The only other thing they can do, also without leaving the page, is sign up for the email list. You can still see the site by going to thenonvisiblemuseum.com. However, at the time of this reading, the site has been redesigned by the Saatchi & Saatchi, who did it for me pro bono, and incorporates much of what I just said above.

A New Artist Website, Too

Another similar site focuses on all the work I do with my wife (twobodies.com). You may already have your own site or are thinking of building one soon. Twobodies and MONA have similar web designs—few to no pictures, the same “like” and “tweet” buttons, a sign-up form, and some descriptive text—but the big difference with Twobodies was four large live-feed widgets which constantly update and displayed portions of my Facebook page. On Twobodies, these four rectangular widgets sit next to each other on the bottom of the page showing new information all the time. One of the widgets is a Kickstarter widget tracking the progress of the project, and others are for Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Now, whenever I post something new to my social networking ac- counts, my Twobodies homepage updates automatically.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 310 – New Markets for Artists / James Franco

James Franco

We thought James Franco would be good, as he has done some very high-concept artwork himself. We decided to email him a short note inviting him to be in our video. The email was very brief, and there were no images or website link. We simply asked him if he would talk to us about being in our project. After a few days he wrote back, saying that his assistant would set up a meeting.

Arranging a Meeting

That meeting took over a month to plan, but he was and is a very busy actor and artist. Finally, we had a lunchtime meeting with him at a small cafe. He was dressed very casually and so were we. We only had about thirty minutes of his time, so after initial pleasantries, we told him our idea. We explained that if someone bought a piece of art, they would actually get a card in the mail with a description on it, which they could then put on their wall. If someone asked, or if the new art owner wanted to show the work, he or she could use the description on the card to talk about the art. James understood the idea and liked it. He told us that it made him think of film projects he has wanted to do, and maybe we could use those for our museum promotion. We liked that idea, and he told us about a film he wanted to make that never happened for several reasons. He agreed to make a five-minute video describing our museum and his movie project for our Kickstarter promotion. We were super excited.

Making the Video

After he made the video of himself describing the work, we edited it and submitted it to Kickstarter. A word of caution here: Kickstarter is not YouTube, and when you propose project to them they can accept or reject it. If your proposal gets rejected, as our first one (before MONA) did, don’t lose heart. Try again and make your rewards more interesting. When MONA was accepted, we began writing out our descriptions of the museum for our rewards. The following things we did to prepare the project for launch are things you need to consider for your own work, even if you are not fundraising or selling at the moment.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 309 – New Markets for Artists / All-or-Nothing Funding

All-or-Nothing Funding

Let’s say you are a musician and you want to make a CD, that will cost about $4,000 dollars to produce. Your Kickstarter video might be some creative form of you talking about your music and maybe playing a song. You are allowed ninety days or less to raise money. If at the end of ninety days only $3,500 is pledged, the project’s financial goal has not been reached and you will get nothing. The reason funding is all or nothing is so that the project actually gets done well. It also ensures that the donors’ money will only be spent on successful projects. The key to any project on Kickstarter is to create interesting rewards for those who donate larger amounts of money. For example, all donors will receive a personalized thank you email from you; or those who donate $5 will receive an mp3 of one of your songs, $10 will earn them a copy of your CD, and $15 gets them tickets to one of your shows. The more creative and enticing your rewards are, the more likely people are to donate.

You as a Philanthropist

The easiest way to see how Kickstarter works is by exploring the website. You will see that most projects never get funded, but the ones that do get funded all have promotional angles and good rewards that make them special.  Try funding a few projects for a dollar to see how it works. In the case of non-visible art, we wanted the rewards to be the art itself. We thought we could make a video describing the museum and raise $5,000. The rewards would be descriptions of the non-visible art. For a certain donation amount, we might describe a painting of a horse in a field. That is what we wanted to do, but the challenge was deciding how to make the videos and promote the project.

Promoting the Project

The reason project promotion is so important is because if you just post something on Kickstarter and wait for pledges to come in, usually nothing happens. You have to tell your friends on your various social networks what you are doing. And if you are trying to raise a significant sum like $5,000 or more, you may even have to make calls. Promotion is something you must tackle and manage well. In our case, we began with deciding how to make our video. Since we didn’t actually have anything to show we thought we should both talk about the museum. As we discussed that possibility, we also thought it would help to have someone else in the video who understands what we were planning to do.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 308 – New Markets for Artists / Having a Child

Having a Child

We developed different shows and exhibits over the next few years, but we also had a child and caring for him took a great deal of our time, because we also decided to homeschool him ourselves. Being able to spend so much time with our child was magical, and it influenced our work, adding a new sense of humor and playfulness. In 2010, our child was almost ten years old and could handle more things on his own. That gave my wife and I time to launch a major new project.

A New Museum

The project was almost like the non-visible wounds we were kissing before,  but this time we decided to make a museum that was not visible by describing how it would look. In other words, imagine someone is giving you a tour of a museum, only you are standing outside and there are no displays or walls with art on them. The tour guide gestures to the open air, or a  blank wall, and talks about art that isn’t there, and you have to picture what the tour guide is describing in your mind. But instead of doing a performance, we wanted to talk about visual art, like paintings, sculptures or installations, so this idea grew into a tour of a non-visible art museum. The more we thought about it, the more we liked it, because we realized the art that we described would not be limited by space or material concerns of any kind. We could describe giant sculptures that were astronomically expensive or physically impossible to build. There were no limits.

Sales  Strategy

We liked the idea but there was the issue of sales—how could we sell art that didn’t physically exist? We wanted to sell our ideas about the visual art in such a way that people focused on the art, rather than the tour of the museum. The next step in our thinking process was to develop a way to sell the art without the actual physical product. The solution we arrived at was to use the previously mentioned kickstarter.com because it is the largest funding platform for the arts in the world. Similar to YouTube in its layout, Kickstarter allows you to upload videos describing the projects you want funding for, and viewers can pledge their donations. The catch is that you do not get these donations unless you achieve the goals stated in your video.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 307 – New Markets for Artists / Art Has No Limits

Art Has No Limits

Artists can do all the traditional things like dance, sing, and paint, but they can also work, for example, with biologists or architects to enhance their work with new views and sensibilities. Everything influences an artist’s work, and that includes modes of exchange and commerce. Artists can have a personal impact on this as well. Especially now, with the web at their disposal, artists can use social networking media for their own agendas. The MONA story illustrates how many of these tools can be used for our artistic purposes, and how you can use them, too.

Non-Visible  Wounds

When we were giving out free hugs, we also gave out bandages for what we called non-visible wounds. We would ask people if they had any non-visible wounds of any kind and they would typically say no, or that they had headaches, stomachaches, heartaches, or other internal wounds of some kind. For those with heartache, we put Band-Aids on or near their hearts and give them motherly kisses on the bandage itself.

Community

Looking back on it now, those Saturday offerings were a great way of meeting people and sharing art. Everyone who came into our small 200-square-foot storefront for a hug or bandage was also exposed to the art decorating our walls. Artists do all kinds of things to get people into their studios (like having a party and giving away food and drink), but whatever you do, getting new visitors helps you grow. If you are not meeting new people whenever possible, there will be fewer new opportunities presenting themselves. The beginning of the Museum of Non-Visible Art story has its seeds in our first event that brought people into our studio for the non-visible bandage. Thanks to having good visibility in our storefront, we made many friends new friends this way.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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Episode 306 – New Markets for Artists / How We Did It

How We Did It

The story I am going to tell is about an idea my wife and I had for a non-visible museum. We not only sold a lot of art, but we improved our art careers dramatically and got international and national media coverage. You, too, can try many of the things we did to promote this project. This chapter assumes that you understand the basics of social networks, and if you do not know how to build web pages and manipulate HTML code a bit, you will have to talk to your web designer to understand some of what I’ll be describing.

The Beginning

The idea of a non-visible museum was conceived in 1999 and 2000 when my wife and I met. We were artists living illegally in a storefront in the East. We had begun a project where we gave out free hugs, foot washings, and bandages for non-visible wounds to the public. We opened the storefront every Saturday and offered those services. People liked our services and asked why we were providing them, and we always replied that it was because we were artists who wanted to do this. That was the truth. As an artist, you can really do whatever you want. When we told people who we were they seemed to understand. People assume that artists have ideas and motives that they may not understand and give you what has become known as an “artistic license.”

Artistic License

Clearly, my wife and I were taking artistic license by offering hugs to people. Of course, the hugs were not the only art we were creating; we also made paintings, drawings, and whatever else we wanted to experiment with. For starters, knowing you have artistic license to do anything you want will help you succeed. It’s incredible how much latitude you have as an artist. My wife and I once interviewed Vito Acconci, a great artist and very interesting thinker, who told us that art, unlike science or math, is the only field of interest that is non-field, meaning that it can incorporate anything. In other fields, there are limits to what can be brought in to study and influence things within the field, but art is limitless.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.

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