“Art for art’s sake” is a phrase that derives from the nineteenth century French expression “L’art pour l’art”—meaning that the intrinsic value of art is the art itself, separate from any utilitarian function. Wikipedia goes on to explain a connection to “inner-directed” or “self-motivated” individuals.
Artists—and I use the term both specifically to mean those who create fine art with their hands, as well as those who practice and live by other art forms such as acting or composing or writing—most certainly have to be self-directed. For one thing, no one in their right mind would recommend the life of an artist to anyone who could happily do something else. (I remember the first day of being a theatre apprentice when the program director begged us all to leave and find some calling less difficult than theatre.)
So the age-old question arises: how shall the artist make a living? Alyson Stanfield addressed this issue by creating a successful business as an Art Biz Coach. Her mission is to teach artists how to promote their work more effectively and sell more of it. Seems likely that every artist who hears about her expert coaching, classes, and blog would sign up immediately. She’s also the author of the wonderful book I’d Rather Be In the Studio. Visiting her site is like stepping into a studio—one designed to connect the artist to every possible resource and outlet. And to be a guest on her blog, I had to provide something of tangible value to her followers. I shared what I call the “Be’s of the Artist Biz”, such as Be Authentic, and Be Brave.
Alyson studied art throughout her student days and began college as a painting major, but soon discovered she preferred her art history classes. “But I know the artist’s life from the inside. Metal smithing, pottery, photography development, painting . . . even though I don’t have a studio practice myself, the studio as a professional and emotional space is still real for me. I understand the making process—the physical, the emotional, the mental.”
This was one key connecting point for Alyson and me, because the protagonist of my Milford-Haven novels is artist Miranda Jones. Like Alyson, I studied painting every summer of my childhood and feel a primal resonance with processing through my own hands that which I see. My college roommate was and is an artist, and we often shared studio time while she painted and I wrote. As I write my novels I consult with artists on all manner of technical details, working closely in particular with Mary Helsaple who paints the watercolors for my book covers.
But Alyson and I also found common ground in our synergistic approach to finding our audiences. I’m happiest when I know I’m serving and inspiring my readers. This same philosophy echoes in her attitude. “The favorite part of my job, what keeps me going on a bad day, is the way I connect artists with one another. Artists meet each other in a virtual space I provide, and then they make the effort to meet in person. They form coaching teams to help each other achieve their goals.”
I thought back to the famous artist-collectives we read about: the Romantic Poets; the French Impressionists. Alyson continued, “I have this really romantic vision about how artists work, fed by my knowledge of art history. Artists have always found a way to hang out together. There’s tremendous support that artists need. Often they don’t get it from their families, and may not even get it from society. It’s very satisfying to help make these supportive connections possible.”
In my books I tackle the theme of head versus heart. Perhaps balancing the two is part of what Alyson does so well. She has the heart of an artist, and the head of a business entrepreneur. So whichever side of the equation you’re on, you’ll find something to inspire or instruct. Come feed both the spirit and the soul at www.ArtBizBlog.com.
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