Kim Thompson has a striking and memorable afro, the kind i’ve always been jealous of and wished i owned! She also had a memorable personality, she appeared vibrant, creative and determined. Whilst her main practice is illustration, she also covers a wide range of areas such as storyboarding, painting, mixed media, graphics and branding and advertising. Thompson told us how she has recently realised she has quite the talent for painting and so she paints dog portraits for commissions alongside her main practice as her bread and butter work; the stuff that keeps her going when she doesn’t have any illustration work coming her way. I guess this is important to know; You won’t just automatically break into the art world, You may have to do some not-so-enjoyable pieces that you’re good at and can do easily to keep a bit of money coming in.
Kim told us she uses blogs, newsletters, emails and business cards to promote herself. She regularly keeps her previous customers up to date by sending them a quick email or newsletter letting them know what she’s been up to recently. She always gives old, new and potential customers a business card with her illustrated, afro-ed self (pictured above) on the front so they can easily remember her, which she adds is about clever branding of yourself and the fact that customers are buying into you aswell as your art.
It is becoming evident to me just how much the visiting artists are always seeking out opportunity, always trawling through artsjobs.org.uk and constantly using the internet and other resources as a way of promoting themselves and finding new connections and opportunities. Also, another must is keeping up to date on your chosen industry and artists work. Keeping informed and up to date with newsletters, subscriptions, artist websites, gallery websites, magazines etc is vital and can only be of benefit to you in keeping you in the know of what’s going on and how your work will fit into today’s market. The creative industry isn’t an easy one to break into but it IS possible, As Kim said in her lecture; It’s never too late, be confident and wait it out and as long as you’re doing and you believe in yourself, other wills eventually believe in you too and it will pay off. The underlying message for the lecture though was to make your audience and customers believe in you and believe that they need you and your service(practice), this can be done with clever branding, advertising and perfecting your people skills and smile aswell as your art. They are all equally important.
So after arriving 20 minutes late to the first visiting artist’s talk, I very quickly began to kick myself for it. Within probably 30 seconds of walking in, I was already lost in her discourse. The way she engaged her audience was apparent straight away; everyone was silent and mesmerised. The way she spoke openly about her work, and in an inspiring manor but mostly the way she spoke honestly yet intriguingly about the processes and trials and tribulations of being a practicing artist. As much as she didn’t sugarcoat anything and say it was all a straight forward path of roses, emphasising how many hours a day she trawls through pages and pages on artsjobs.com etc, she just made me have the confidence to believe that I too, could achieve and succeed. She was inspirational.
It quickly became apparent that Woolston’s underlying backbone and motto was ‘Location/material/Relationship(commission)’. Whenever faced with a situation where she had an abundance of material or a too-good-to-be-true location she would consult this triad to see if it would work, or if she could make it work. Nuggets of information like this are those things that always stick in your mind, and hopefully, rightly so, as it seems to be doing her justice!
Robyn Woolston has a broad scope of projects under her belt, ranging from photography and moving image to print and installations but also covering and digging deep into environmental issues and impacts, waste and causes and effects. ‘Previous installations have included 7500 ice-cream containers, 45,000 carrier bags, a selection of trees from Ash to Silver Birch as well as a reproduction Las Vegas sign. From site-responsive interventions to socially engaged practice she activates spaces by confronting dogmas, re-appropriating ‘waste’ and initiating conversation.’ She is a woman who knows that she can’t single handedly change the world or force anyone to think differently, and she isn’t even saying she’s the epitome of an eco warrior, but she’s very aware that she can talk about issues, and put them in a context that can be seen, understood and hopefully make an impact on a few people and she damn well will when she gets a chance. Talking about it and acting on it is better than doing nothing at all.
One last thing that stuck with me from Woolston’s inspirational lecture, or ‘pep talk’ in this case.. And as much for you, as me, i’ll leave it on that note.. (I didn’t quite manage to get the full quote written down, which I do believe was her own.. but the latter part went something like this..)
‘Try not to allow the exhibition of your work be confined to the walls in your mind – Your work needs an audience; it’s in THEIR minds that the work becomes activated.’