Watercolor painting by Alexa Rose Howell
The Alexa Rose Foundation awarded me with a grant last year. Yesterday I completed my final report and sent it in. We’ll get to that in a minute. What I didn’t include in the final report was a statement about my energy, state of mind and emotion. I saved that just for you, Dear Reader.
Taking the time to create a project and have goals and to be held accountable by someone has benefits. Like the fact that it forces me to do something that I might normally just talk about, it makes me step outside of myself and look at things, i.e. my art career, in a different light, it wakes up parts of my thinking that I don’t dwell on and it gives me insight. Reflecting on my Alexa Rose project, the biggest insight I had was that I’m not as interested in selling my art as I am in sharing it. That’s not the end result I expected. I went into the project hoping to figure out ways to market my work and ended up redirected to figure out ways to share. Share my work, share my thoughts, share my process and share my enjoyment of it all.
The Alexa Rose grant provided me with the means to develop the business side of my art career. Before the grant, I spent much time and effort making and exhibiting my art while knowing little about how to sell or market it. My business experience was entirely dependent on my relationship with a gallery. The grant increased my understanding of the tools available to me and helped me to take ownership of my art business.
Here are the major steps I took during this project:
- Completed a class that taught professional practices for visual artists
- Created a project plan to identify goals and the steps needed to fulfill those goals
- Created a new website for selling my artwork printed on clothing and merchandise
- Applied for a trademark for my artwork
- Relaunched my existing website with a new focus
- Validated the quality of giclees and merchandise featuring my artwork
My focus changed from learning to doing
As I completed the exercises in the artist’s master class it became more clear to me that I already had established good practices for creating art, creating a brand and documenting my achievements. Instead of spending more time finessing my art practice, I worked to increase visibility of my art to people.
This project took place during the pandemic when face-to-face interaction with people was limited. So most of my work concentrated on establishing online channels for my art for increasing exposure and engaging with the general public.
This project contributed to my self confidence as an artist
During the class I wrote about my reasons for making art and I documented actions I’ve taken to sustain my art making practice. The class challenged me to plan next steps for making my art more likely to be seen and enjoyed by others. I discovered that my motivation is less about selling my art and more about sharing it.
As I worked through the master class, the pressure to use social media as a way to get people to buy my art became less important and my online presence became more reflective of my creative process.
For example, I recently wrote a blog post about how I decide when a painting is finished. Another post is about the layers in my work. Another is about my process for conceiving, drawing, carving and printing linocuts. The posts give lots of details about the steps I take in creating the work. This is a far different focus than I had before, which was to try to make sales.
My art practice now covers not only traditional painting, drawing and printmaking, but also digital painting, drawing and prints. During the period of this project I showed over 20 of my digital giclee works in a solo exhibition at Boise State University. Because the show occurred during the height of the pandemic, there were very few visitors. It was probably the worst time possible to have an art exhibit! But the show was shared online and included a virtual walkthrough. It became clear that the media doesn’t matter as much as the creative process. This realization has opened doors to my artistic exploration that did not exist before.
Here is a brief selection of artifacts made better by the Alexa Rose grant:
What I didn’t say in the Final Report
Thank you, Alexa Rose! With a new focus on sharing, I feel re-energized about my art practice. There’s so much work to do! I really need to get this show on the road.