THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
Your art is important, and you are enough.
It’s the Inspiration Place Podcast, with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world insider podcast for artists by an artist, where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.
Hello, this is Miriam Schulman, your curator of inspiration, and host of the Inspiration Place Podcast. You’re listening to Episode #172, and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
For today, I’ve gathered up some of my favorite bite-sized bits of advice from the solo shows. Now, before I roll those out, I just wanted to catch up, just you and me, about what’s been going on in my world. 2021 has been a huge year for a lot of us, and I’m no exception. There has been big highs and also big lows.
Starting in January, we lost my father-in-law to COVID, who we miss dearly; but as life has a balance with the highs and the lows, that was also the same month that we fulfilled my husband’s dream to buy a farmhouse in that hometown, where he grew up. His father was a chicken farmer in the Catskills, and my husband always had a dream of returning there, so we bought a turn-of-the-century farmhouse. It’s very charming; there’s no closets there. We don’t live there full time. We mostly use it on the weekends. I like to joke, my husband is the country mouse, and I’m the city mouse. You’ll be hearing, I’m sure, in future episodes, how we worked that out. Don’t worry, I’ll catch you up on that later. I’m not going to catch up on every little month by month; but there were some big things this year.
In February, I found an agent to represent my book, Artpreneur, which we sold to Harper Collins; and we secured that deal by June. Everything moves very slowly, by the way, in the traditional publishing world. We submitted the proposal to publishers in April, and it wasn’t until June that we got the contract signed. And then I spent the rest of the year torturing myself with the writing process. As creatives yourself, you know how that is. I’m not so torturous with my painting, but writing, being a new frontier for me, and having such a… It felt like such a big deal to have to live up to other people’s expectations. So there was a lot of mind drama, to say the least that went on.
I certainly got a lot of mindset coaching myself, through my own mentors and coaches. So, not only do I help other people, but I practice what I preach. I invest in myself regularly, in getting all the help I need, whether it’s being coached on skills for marketing, or being coached on skills for the book. I do have a book coach that helps me; I submit chapters to her, she looks at them, she gives me feedback on them. This is outside of the publisher, by the way, because my publisher pretty much said to me, “Come back when you’re done in December.”
And I was like, “Wait. Don’t you know I don’t know what I’m doing?” So I hired a coach to help me with that. And actually, I won’t keep her name as secret. Candice L. Davis has been fantastic. If you want to look her up. We’ll try to add a link to her in the show notes. She’s been really helpful with not only helping me with the mindset blocks of writing a book, but really giving me solid editing advice that’s making my book even better.
And I am on track to finish this by the publisher’s deadline. But, because of the paper shortage, the supply chain shortage, which is real, they pushed my publication date to 2023. Yes, 2023. So, those of you who are thinking about self-publishing, by the way, that is the big advantage. If I was self-publishing, I could have a book out by this spring. But because I am going through a traditional publisher, it’s taking me a whole extra year.
Now, don’t worry. You can still get a lot of that wisdom that’s in the book. I’m sharing a lot of it here, right on the podcast, so make sure you hit that follow button in the podcast app, or open my email, so that you know when I release a new episode. I don’t want you to miss out on anything.
And if you’ve been disappointed with your art sale results in 2021, how would you like to be coached by me, with live and direct access every single week for a full 12 months? I can be your guide to help you get bigger results in your art business, faster. Many Incubator members double their sales in a year or less.
As you might have heard, are two levels of the Artist Incubator Program. Both programs offer a full end-to-end success system that’s meticulously designed from the ground up, to grow your mindset and learn the skills of sales and marketing you need. Whether you want to get more exposure for your art through publicity, or whether your goal is to sell more original art, and build your email list, or teach online art classes, the Artist Incubator Program includes all the training you need, in a way that’s designed just for us artists.
It’s not just the entire five-part Passion to Profit framework. Yes, it’s laid out for you. You learn everything you need from production, pricing, prospecting, promotion, and productivity, as well as busting through your limiting beliefs. But it also comes with live coaching and support from myself and other experts, to make sure you’ve got everything you need to succeed.
Now, although you get everything you need inside the self-study version of the program, those who want more direct access to me on a regular basis through private sessions and on-demand advice, I offer an exclusive Mastermind level of the Incubator to accelerate your results.
For the Mastermind level, I don’t accept everyone who applies, and I usually only have one or two openings at a time, since I consider applications on a rolling basis. Right now, as of December, 2021, there are two spots that should be opening up in January. To see if you qualify, go to schulmanart.com/biz. Biz, as in B-I-Z. We’ll also put the link to that in the show notes. I’d love to be your guide to making 2022 your best year ever.
Okay. I’ll catch you up a little bit more next week on what’s been going on with me and my family. But until then, let’s get on with the show.
It’s the Inspiration Place Rewind: Best of the Solos. Restore your artist heart.
And I know for myself, personally, that yes, I can process emotions through my art. However, if I have a lot of stress in my life, I have to process that first, separately, before I can produce, creatively. Now, if I don’t get adequate rest because I’m anxious, whether that anxiety is about myself, my business, my family, the world, whatever it is, I can’t just push through the next day.
The idea that you can use grit or self-control to stay focused and productive every minute of the day is not merely incorrect, but it is potentially damaging your brain. What does that mean for us? If we try to push through because, the stress of the pandemic, because regular stresses of life; so if you’re listening to this and were like, “God bless. The pandemic is behind us.” It’s still relevant, because it’s just life.
All the stuff, all the things, all of it, you can’t push through it, because that’s what leads to burnout. Burnout is the loss of meaning in one’s work, coupled with the mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion, as the result of a long term, unresolved stress. Now what I’ve been finding these days so clearly, so acutely, in myself and in the artists I coach, and in my friends, and in my family members, I see their sadness and their rage. I’ve seen it in so many people who just burst into flames, literally, lava flames raging with not enoughness: sadness, rage, and the feeling that you are not enough, are forms of loneliness.
When you experience these emotions connect. If you’re feeling lonely, you’re going to feel emotionally exhausted. You’re going to feel burnt out. If you’re feeling not enough, if you’re feeling this way, the antidote to this, to restore your artist’s heart, is to connect. I know each time I connect with humans, even when it’s imperfect, I do feel better. And I hope you do, too. Your art is important, and you are enough.
Famous artist formula.
If you want to be a standout artist, otherwise known as a famous artist, there’s definitely a formula to doing it. There are three ways, and really only three ways, to build a following of raving fans. So I’m going to go through all three of them, and then we’re going to dial in to what I think is really the king of all the formulas.
So, first of all, you can have a really big platform like a podcast, popular blog, or a huge social media account. However, what I’ve noticed, is that people who become famous on Instagram usually are famous off Instagram first. Stop wasting your time researching hashtags. Stop wasting your money on Instagram courses. If you want to build an audience and sell more art, focus your attention on getting more publicity.
Now, what I wanted to share with you today, is a story about how an artist recession-proofed his business. And he did this 400 years ago. So what he did to get more recognition for his art, still works today. So let me tell you a little bit more about it. You’ll know this artist, perhaps: Peter Paul Rubens. He was working in the Dutch Golden Age. Obviously, he didn’t have Instagram or Facebook, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t shrewd about getting more eyeballs on his art, and building attention and buzz.
Here’s what he did. He was an artist, diplomat, and shrewd entrepreneur. Just like now, he lived during a time of great political upheaval; but he didn’t let that get in the way of his art sales. After a truce in the Dutch Revolt, his workshop could barely keep up with the orders. But since he was also involved in politics, he was a diplomat, remember? He knew that the peace wouldn’t last; and that was going to be bad for his art business.
So he had engravings made of his finest works, and distributed them among the Royal Courts of Europe, meaning he did publicity. As a result, he generated demands for commissioned paintings throughout Europe. Other countries weren’t suffering financially from the war inside the Netherlands, so neither was Rubens. It’s one of the many reasons why Rubens is now famous. And what worked for Rubens 400 years ago, what works for artists like me, can also work for you.
How to sell more art, even if you hate posting on social media.
A problem with that pricing or profit area; now you might call this a pricing problem. This most commonly shows up as artists who are afraid to charge more. Now, your reasons for not charging more may sound good to you, but really, it’s your fear that is driving the bus on this. Your fear is showing up as a doubt.
Now, as humans, we’ve evolved to let fear run the show, because anytime we feel uncomfortable, whether that’s leaving the cave, or raising your prices, or asking more for your art; whatever that is, if you have a fear and you feel uncomfortable, your smart brain is going to come up with all kinds of reasons why you shouldn’t do that uncomfortable, scary thing. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between leave the cave and getting eaten by a tiger, and raising your prices, and you’re afraid somebody may not buy from you, because you have a higher price.
Now, artists with this problem think that low priced art is easier to sell. But the truth is that high end art collectors will think something is wrong with art that is under-priced.
What art sells.
Understanding why people collect art is a critical part of the sales process. There are many reasons that motivate an art collector. And once you understand these reasons, it will help you sell more art, and at higher prices. First of all, don’t make assumptions about what’s motivating them. What I see so many art artists do, is they price their art low, because they think price is a motivator. And for art collectors, the Victoria Secrets underwear cost four times as much as the cheaper Hanes underwear. So what motivates women to spend four times as much on underwear? It’s how the underwear makes them feel. To be associated with the Victoria’s Secret brand, people will pay more for how something makes them feel.
And that is the lesson for us as artists. That’s why, when you listen to other people teaching marketing on the internet, it can be confusing; because they’re always trying to tell us, “Focus on the problem.” When it comes to selling art, what you need to focus on is not how it solves a problem. You need to focus on how the art is going to give them pleasure.
Five things I wish I knew before I started my business.
You’re not going to go any further than your dream. If your dream is too small, that is going to limit you. You must have a dream, and you must have a vision, which means you also must have a goal. Not having a goal is kind of like getting into your car, and just driving around aimlessly until you run out of gas. And I’ve also learned to set the goal beyond the goal. That means I’m always shooting for the stars, and casting a big vision to grow my art business.
I want to say a few more things about how sometimes we actually lie to ourselves, and make that dream smaller than it needs to be. You have to be honest with yourself. And part of that starts with wanting to dream big, and being honest that you want something. And it’s okay to want it and own that desire, because you’re not going to grow without wanting it, because it’s too hard, it’s too uncomfortable. So you have to want it, and you have to recognize that you want it.
If your dream doesn’t require other people, then your dream is too small. The more help I get, the further I go. When I first started, it was all me, all the time. And guess what? That’s really limiting. When I first started getting help, it was just a few hours a week. I do suggest you start with what I like to call the “business babysitter.” So what is the “business babysitter?” That’s something that I started off doing when I first started hiring help, was I would think about the help that I was getting in my business as like the babysitting type of help. So instead of paying a babysitter to watch my kids, I paid somebody to help me, basically babysitting rates. That’s what my first helpers were making, the going rates of babysitters.
And I started small. I started at $10 an hour, for 10 hours a week. Now, I probably wouldn’t pay $10 an hour; I think the going rate’s a lot higher. So maybe it’s $15 an hour, for 10 hours a week. It’s a small investment to really give you a lot of freedom. Because it’s not just that your time is limited; your energy is limited. You might have more hours in the day, and be willing to put in more hours, but it’s going to drain you of all your energy. So, if you want to grow big this year, get help. Hire help. That’s your brain keeping you safe, telling you to play it small, telling you to go back in the cave, and not to take a risk, not to do it. Don’t listen to that. Don’t listen to that second voice. You need to get uncomfortable.
Now, if you want to attract customers who are decisive, and they’re a “heck yes” or they are a “no” about your art or services, the way to get there, is to start getting better at making decisions yourself. Now, it’s super important to uncover where you’re uncommitted, and why. And you may be sabotaging yourself with this indecision; but I can promise you, if you are doing it, if you’re uncommitted, if you’re indecisive, I can promise you the reason why you’re doing it is because you are enjoying an upside to staying stuck. Yeah, you are.
Let me explain. By staying in indecision, you don’t have to take an action, and your brain is keeping you safe. There are so many decisions that we have to make to move our life, our art, and our business forward, and know that staying in, “I don’t know” energy is going to keep you safe. Because as long as you don’t know the answer to which direction you go, you don’t have to change. And change is what you’re ultimately avoiding; that and failure.
The reason why you’re having so much trouble deciding, is because you’re afraid of making mistakes, afraid of failing. And our customers do this as well. They’re afraid of buying the wrong art, of making a mistake, or looking stupid. Now projecting a strong belief about yourself, a strong belief about your art, is going to help shift that; and your art collectors will worry less about making a mistake. What not deciding means, is you don’t have to take action and move forward. And that, my friend, is what is keeping you stuck.
Now, the mistake many people make is they think, “Oh. If I have a decision, and it’s making me feel uncomfortable…” They think if they give themselves more time to think about it, that will change that emotion; that will lessen their discomfort. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. In fact, if anything, thinking about it more is going to make you feel worse; because your brain will have more time to come up with reasons about why it’s a bad idea, and why you shouldn’t change. It will come up with more negative stories.
So staying in indecision or “I don’t know” energy wastes your time. Making decisions increases your action. By not making decisions, what you’re doing is postponing the decisions. But it’s more harmful when you postpone, because then you are also postponing your actions. When you make a decision in your life, it moves you forward. When you say, “I’m going to do this thing.” Or even when you say, “I’m not going to do this thing.” It moves you forward to the next thing. Unfortunately, most people don’t do that. They live their life on autopilot. They’re living at the effect of decisions that were made by no conscious just choice, they’re defaulting into previously made decisions, or unthoughtful decisions, or as we discussed today, staying in indecision, which is actually a decision. It’s a decision to stay the same.
What is the reason why we leave decisions unmade? The reason why is because we have this belief system that there are right and wrong decisions. And we have this belief system that we should make the right decision. We also don’t want to make decisions because many of us know that once we make the decision, action will be required. And risky action is what makes you feel uncomfortable.
The belief triad for selling art.
What’s important for you to know, is you have to continue to take inspired action, even when the evidence seems to say that it’s not working. You have to love your art so hard, and believe so hard, to come from this place that the world would miss out if they don’t take you up on what you’re offering. You have to take massive, committed action consistently, even when there’s no positive reinforcement.
If you are committed to taking inspired action, when you believe in yourself, when you believe in your product, whatever your product is, product can be your art. Product can be your writing. Product can be your services. Product can be your new online course. You keep taking action, and you believe in your customer, in this case for me, it was an agent. You keep taking action, and you keep tweaking the process of how you’re asking, until you have a match.
It’s just like job searching or looking for a romantic partner or even trying to lose weight. There may be many times during these sorts of journeys when you think you’re doing all the right things; and maybe you are doing all the right things, but you’re not getting the results. Your body isn’t changing, the scale isn’t budging, you haven’t met your true love.
I know we’ve all been raised that if we do the hard work, we’ll get an A+. But once you leave school, and you’re doing these other things, it’s very easy to give up and say, “It’s not worth it.” So when you’re thinking about what are the actions you need to take in the face of rejection and resistance in order to learn, to keep moving forward. “How long am I going to have to do it? How am I going to measure it? How am I going to keep moving forward, and keep being excited, and keep pushing forward, even when it hurts? No matter how long it takes, no matter how many nos, no matter how much failure.” That is commitment. And I don’t mean it in a desperate, graspy way. But you can be committed in a calm and sure way, especially when you feel confident in what you have to offer. You don’t feel bad for you, about them saying, “no.” You feel bad for them, because they missed out.
Someone from college, she’s not in college now, someone I went to college with, recently asked me the other day, “How much time do you spend on your art? Because you’re doing so much.” And I told her, “It’s all my art. Writing is my art. My podcast is my art. Coaching is my art. My life is a work of art.”
Answer the call, and commit to your art.
The hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events. Everyone’s story is different; for me, I was working on Wall Street. That was my ordinary world. For many of you, this might be a day job; could even be an art teacher job, or you’re juggling other responsibilities along with your art. Your day-to day-life, as you know it, is your ordinary world.
In the wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s ordinary world is Kansas. For Harry Potter, it was living with his aunt and uncle. But then what happens? The hero receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events. For Dorothy, that was to go over the rainbow. For Harry, it was to learn to be a wizard. For Luke, it was to become a Jedi. And for us, well, for us artists and creatives, it’s to become an artist. Whatever kind of art you create: artists, author, sculptor, ceramicist, whatever that is.
And that’s why I like to say, “Art is a calling.” And becoming an artist, well, honestly, it’s not that much different than becoming a wizard. Your wand is your paint brush or your pen or your computer; and creating something just with the power of your imagination is an incredible gift, an incredible superpower.
Now these heroes never have a smooth path. Even the yellow brick road had poisonous poppies, mutinous apple trees, and flying monkeys. But there’s something important that you need to know. You don’t have to do this alone. Every hero’s journey includes a guide or a mentor. From Dumbledore to Obi-Wan, these successful heroes rarely do it alone.
But often the biggest burdens we carry are our own indecision, our indecision to commit fully to the call. “Is this the right dream?” How do you know if you pick the right dream? By doing it. Then go all in.
One of the easiest ways for me to describe to people what I do as a coach, is that I help them make decisions. The better you are at making decisions and sticking with them until you see it through, whether that means you succeeded or failed, the faster you will grow. Failure by trying does have strategic byproducts that teach us things. Failure by failing in advance, by not trying, teaches us nothing.
In Hollywood movies, the greatest character growth always occurs when the hero cannot return to the ordinary world. The house lands in Oz. Luke’s home planet is destroyed. Or in book seven, when Harry leaves the Dursleys for the last time.
How can you make this a regular part of your daily life, so your art practice no longer seems like dabbling? In what ways are you bound to the ordinary world, and not fully committed to the magical realm of art?
Lessons learned, from Alice Neel and Julie Mehretu.
Alice Neel was born at the dawn of the 20th century, and she wanted to be an artist. But her mother told her, “I don’t know what you expect to do in the world, Alice, you’re just a girl.” Now don’t forget; Alice Neel was born in 1900. But instead of accepting the severe limitations of the Victorian Era that her mother knew, Neel went off to study at Philadelphia’s prestigious Philadelphia School of Design for Women, which is now known as the Moore College of Art and Design.
And by the way, in an interview, she shared with art historian, Cindy Nesmer, that her mother’s words, instead of destroying her, here’s what she said. “Instead of destroying me, they made me more ambitious, because…” I think you know, “I’ll show them. I’ll show her. I’ll show everybody.” This is what a hundred percent belief in yourself looks like. This is what belief in your art looks like.
Neel’s relentless commitment to her art did pay off. And at the end of her life, she enjoyed a retrospective at the Whitney in 1974, at the age of 74. She was born in 1900, so she was a child of the century. That’s a big deal for a living artist. In fact, our next artist is also having a retrospective at the Whitney, as a living artist. We’ll get to her in a moment.
When Alice Neel passed away in 1985, she had, let’s call it, a Joan Rivers-worthy memorial service at the Whitney Museum, which was attended by then luminaries, such as Mayor Ed Koch. And in addition, the poet Allen Ginsberg gave his first public reading of his poem, White shroud, at her service. So the 2021 blockbuster exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art places Neel and her art in the canons of art history, as one of the greats.
Next, I want you to meet Ethiopian-born American artist, Julie Mehretu. Now, she didn’t have to wait until her seventies to have a retrospective. I believe she’s 51. And she’s got a boundary breaking, mid-career exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art.
And this is a powerful symbol of progress. She’s an example of a contemporary black female painter, who is already famous. And it’s interesting to compare her career trajectory to that of Alice Neel. So, Mehretu paints abstract; and Neel paints figurative. Here’s the kicker. You would expect Mehretu to paint figurative paintings, because what’s popular right now, especially among black contemporary artists, is figure painting and portrait painting. Here is an artist painting contrary to what you expect. So, Alice Neel was painting in the 1950s, when abstract painting was in vogue; she was painting figurative art. And Julie Mehretu is painting abstract art, when you would expect her to be painting figurative art.
What that shows us, is that you can paint in a style that’s contrary to what’s popular, and still make it as an artist. If you have a hundred percent belief in yourself, and a hundred percent belief in your art, you can follow your passion and be true to yourself.
Matisse’s selling secret.
Art collectors aren’t going to be chasing you. And I’m not saying that you need to chase them, but you need to take the lead. And then finally, why it’s not enough to just be awesome, you actually have to actively nurture these relationships with collectors. Artists, dream, dream of having collectors like these, taking an interest in their art. So, collecting provided her with a sense of identity, a sense of purpose and freedom from convention. And Matisse understood that it was his job, as the artist, to pursue her, pursue the collector, not the other way around. He didn’t wait in his studio, waiting for these trips to Paris. He courted the sisters. He pursued them. He even created work specifically with Etta Cone in mind, and would write to her about them.
So when you’re looking to build your own audience of collectors and patrons, there’s no better way to do that than with the art of the letter, or in modern terms, the email. So if you want to build an audience of adoring fans, when you email people, it’s not just about marketing to them or selling to them. It’s about building that relationship.
And that’s a wrap for the 2021 Solo Highlights. To listen to full episodes, find links in the show notes, schulmanart.com/172.
Don’t forget, if you like what you learn on this show, then imagine what 2022 would be like with my guidance. I do have room inside the Artist Incubator Mastermind Program. So if you’re lacking a solid strategy and a winning mindset, and you’re disappointed with your current art sales, I can show you how to accelerate that. Go to schulmanart.com/biz, as in B-I-Z, to apply, and see if you qualify.
Next week, we have the best of the interviews; and trust me, you don’t want to miss that. So make sure you’re subscribed to the show. Just hit the “follow” or the “plus” in your podcast app. And if you’re feeling extra generous, as my Christmas present or Hanukkah present, or whatever present, New Year present, why don’t you leave me a review? It’s the best way you can repay me. So leave me a review wherever you listen to the show.
Okay. My friend, thanks so much for being with me here today. I’ll see you the same time, same place, next week. Have a wonderful holiday, and stay inspired.
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