“Art is an Active Force in Life.”
* An original excerpt from 2001 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market.
Another inspiring fine art package came from Nadine LaFond. The outside label featured a sketch of a smiling flower ad the words “Art Lives.” Looking inside, I saw that LaFond’s business card and letterhead are also imprinted with the same sketch and words.
LaFond wrote to report that one of her paintings, Sisters’ Oath II had been chosen for inclusion in Syracuse Cultural Workers’ In Praise of the Muse women artists datebook for the year 2000. “I was paid $100 for the piece used for the datebook, and I alone hold the reproduction rights for the chosen piece.” LaFond enclosed examples of her highly symbolic mixed media artwork, her resume and artist’s bio.
Without having ever met LaFond, I found out she was born in Brooklyn and is of Haitian descent. I also learned she lives by a philosophy she calls simple “Art Lives.” LaFond believes her art plays an essential nurturing role in her journey through life and uses her art to illustrate the direction of her heart and mind. I also learned that LaFond often uses her artwork to raise funds for organizations doing progressive work. How do I know all this? Because it’s included in her “bio.”
LaFond says that including a bio and artist statement with her submission material helps others understand her approach to creating art. “Letting my audience know where I’m coming from helps to connect them with the intent of my work,” says LaFond. Without appearing at all commercial (in fact her presentation and bio are almost the antithesis of what’s generally considered “commercial”) LaFond’s presentation helps her art reach the hearts and minds of potential buyers, clients and the media without “selling out” or betraying the spiritual nature of her work.
But first she had to sit down and put into words what her art means to her. “I had to ask myself on paper some questions. Why do I create art? How does it fit into my life and with my convictions? How did I begin as an artist? Who and what has influenced my work and my current path?” It’s an exercise she recommends to all artists. Writing about yourself and your work can be a big challenge for those more comfortable with visual rather than verbal expression, but according to LaFond, it is well worth the effort. “When people feel a personal connection to something, they are more likely to engage with it. All of my collectors have felt a very definite connection with my work. They tell me that they identify deeply with many aspects of the paintings and, therefore, they purchase the pieces in order to have them as part of their personal symbols. I think that’s a wonderful thing.”
“The term ‘promotion’ is still a dirty word to a lot of artists because it seems to reek of total selfishness,” says LaFond. “I have also heard my peers say that the business end of the art world soils their work and somehow threatens the integrity of what they’re doing.” That’s why the myth of the ‘starving artist’ continues to thrive in the minds of artists, collectors and potential funders,” says LaFond. “This idea of the disorganized establishment-loathing bohemian creates an image of a person who is ill-suited to anything involving practicality and investment,” says LaFond. “Most people would rather deal with a gallery director, auction house or anyone else but an artist when paperwork and negotiations are required since we’ve deemed ourselves unfit.”
It’s easy to accept it when others receive recognition and ample exposure for their work, says LaFond, yet artists believe “we should remain martyrs of the mystic studio. We deserve and are obliged to move forward, especially while funding to individual artists is decreasing year by year.”
Even though “marketing is key to professional progressive movement,” she observes that most schools still do not prepare students to making a living as an artist. LaFond learned the business of art on her own. “I have had my face in one book or another regarding art and business for the pas ten years. I research and study all I can about marketing, specifically where it involves fine artists. I go to seminars geared to our particular issues, I haunt libraries and bookstores, I seek advice and keep a notebook to jot down ideas. I am the first to contact a director of a museum, gallery, university, organization, magazine and so on in order to begin a relationship that has the potential to benefit us both. I deserve that.”
Looking at one’s life as an artist in a healthy, whole and practical manner is key, says LaFond, and that includes marketing. “If no one knows you’re having an exhibition, why should they come? After we emerge from creating in the studio, which to me is a spiritual act as well as an academic and technical undertaking, we must exhibit and ultimately sell our work.
When I’m in my studio creating, I am not booking shows, filling out invoices, or addressing envelopes. I enter the space with meditation and great passion. The kind of artist I am is wild and playful as well as contemplative and centered. Where these two worlds meet is through taking risks and acting thoughtfully and genuinely. One has to separate these two aspects of the same path in order to dedicate the ample focus each deserves. Of course, I’m still learning – always learning. So I’ll make mistakes just as anyone will but I’ll take notes and go another route next time.”
LaFond advises fellow artists to imagine in vivid detail what a successful artist is – even down to the sights, sounds and smells of an active, successful studio life. Ask yourself what is required to get there, whether that means further education, enhancing your technical skills or adapting a different outlook. “Then begin to live it,” she says. Define fo yourself the meaning of the word success so that it includes personal fulfillment and not just superficial niceties. “We have it in us to make things happen, including our most precious dreams,” says LaFond. “Sometimes, it is necessary to jump in head-first but it helps to have a clue where we’re headed.”