Living at the convergence of faith and art.


Telling Our Story

Harlequin ArtI know I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again, I really love our bi-weekly artist’s gatherings with Seattle Art & Coffee.  Friend and Arts Advocate Christy Tennant Krispin recently opened an art show of works from the Krispin Collection, the works that Christy and her husband Karl have in their private collection.  At the opening event at Dubsea Coffee near West Seattle, she gave a talk about some of the how’s and why’s of their choices.  It was wonderful.

We were so interested in this insightful relationship between collector and artist that we asked her to facilitate a discussion at one of our gatherings on the same subject.  So off we all went early on a rainy, cold Friday morning to sit together and talk about their collection and the promptings which drew them to the works they’ve chosen.

Our Creative Stories

All throughout both occasions the idea of relationship and story kept showing up.  Christy talked about her relationship with an artist and the story behind her finding that artist or that piece of work.  She talked about their relationship with a given piece of art, how it speaks to them and why it’s now a part of their lives.  A singular message rang out loud and clear; develop relationships with buyers and collectors by telling our story.

Each one of us, as artists, has a story.  In fact we have many stories, as many as the works of art we create because as Gregory Wolfe says, “Faith and imagination reach out to explore the mysteries of heaven and earth and then return to the community with the symbols and stories that help us know who we are.” pg 60 / Beauty Will Save the World/ Gregory Wolfe.  New stories are created with each journey into the making of a work of art.

To my mind, these are stories on three levels, 1 – the story of the artist’s own journey; 2 – the story which lead the buyer/collector to the work; 3 – the story found in the work itself.  What I got from these discussions is a powerful reminder that my art, my life, and my relationships with others (buyers or not) centers around how well and often I tell my story.

Christy’s collection of artworks centers entirely around story, those of the artist, those of her journey to discovery and collecting the artworks, and the story the piece of art holds for she and her husband in their home.

Telling Our Story Well & Often

My “take-away”; tell my story often. Tell it clearly, and tell it to anyone who’s interested.  Telling my story, my personal story, or how I came to make a work, or what I see in a finished piece of my work, all add up to building a relationship with anyone willing to encounter my work.

I’ve written about this before, that the one constant in my work is story. How often and how easily I forget that my relationship with people interested in my work is forged in a willingness to tell my story.  By telling my story I attract those who are engaged, open, and interested in the work.  It’s an invitation, not a seduction (selling/pushing).

COMMENTS: I’d love to hear from you!

What has been your experience, as either buyer/collector or artist, with this relationship?

Do you know your own creative story and can you share it well?

What experiences do you have in making a work; what’s the story there?


More Work – Less Think


"Elemental" / Detail / Latex Collage on Masonite Panel
(c)2012-Lewis M. Curtiss jr~

I’ve got to laugh at myself whenever I get into one of my mental tail chases.

I need to develop and enlarge my online presence. I need to post to my blog at least once a week. I need to read up on promotion and marketing for my art. I need to develop a reputation and earn the respect of friends, colleagues, and clientele. But to do all of that, I’ve got to get to work making my art.

I don’t know exactly how it happens. When I find myself stuck in the ditch I’m almost always surprised at how I got there. I don’t remember avoiding a “deer” standing in my way. I don’t remember any on-coming “traffic”. Then it hits me, I fell asleep at the wheel. I was “day-dreaming” about what it is I must get done to get my work out there to show & sell.

I was thinking too much. My left-brain completely took over. My right-brain was being ignored, and I stopped making. I was hyper-planning, guessing at what I ought in response to what might happen. Blinded by visions of maybe’s, I lost focus and drove off the road and into the ditch. It’s a balance thing with me, and is possibly the biggest skill God has me working on this year; mental balance.

When I come to, I hear the Lord’s Spirit saying, “More work. Less think.”

It’s something I was mis-taught in school, the kind of thinking Seth Godin talks about in his book Brainwashed: Seven Ways to Reinvent Yourself. I was taught that my creative right-brain didn’t matter. All that mattered was memorizing the Three-R’s – Reading, wRriting, and aRithmetic. What America needed in the 1960’s were left-brained scientists, inventors, and teachers of the same.

According to Betty Edwards (Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain) not only am I right-brained, but I’m a bi-lateral. It’s a sort of mental ambidexterity, but to the point; I’ve been in a wretched conflict for a very long time (decades) and to this day I still have to work at getting these two mental forces in balance. It’s a matter of creating new habits and neglecting old ones so they die off like weeds.

There’s a need and a time for both left and right brain work, or we humans wouldn’t have been designed this way. I need my left-brain thinking for brief periods of planning, marketing, and such. And I need to learn to give spacious, voluptuous periods of free-flight creativity to my right-brain. The right-brain’s just got to learn to lead, and that’s the lesson for me. I’m an artist and need to give my right-brain permission to blossom uninhibited and unjudged.. My left-brain can just go sulk in the corner if it’s going to be a judgmental curmudgeon.

If I’d just get into the studio and “make a mess” I’d have the body of work I’m so concerned about learning how to market. Self criticism is futile.

Art-making is an act of non-judgmental faith whenever we Creatives get into our workspace and without knowing whether what we’re doing is going to work / be any good / make any sense / we simply begin. Once we’ve begun, we keep on, ignoring fears, concerns, doubts, and anxieties about the work itself.

Gotta laugh. Gotta make. Gotta think less, and make much more.

Art Making and Social Media

Yellow Leaf - DetailSorry, I’ve been absent for the entire month of March.  A lot’s been going on. Which brings me to the need for balance, and the need for balanced communication.  What’s awesome about the on-going communication is that it’s two-way and relational.

I’ve just recently began the process, very new to me, of linking my blog (Creative harmonies) to my Facebook page (Lew Curtiss/Visual Artist); and to my ETSY store (Fingerprints); my Facebook page to the blog and to the store; the store to the blog and to my Facebook page.  In time I may “evolve” into consolidating the store and the blog into my own domain / website / gallery (Lew Curtiss (dot) com.  But for now it’s first things first.

In promoting and selling my art, I have several options:  1) I can make a “body of work” and run around seeking galleries to represent me;  2) I can create inventory and post it to ESTY/Fingerprints; 3) I can hoof it as a booth vendor to art-shows and offer my work through direct sales.  Or I can do some sort of a mixture of any two or three of these options.

I’m not an art marketing guru, but visionaries like Seth Godin all tell me that these days a viable, well-followed, online presence either enhances my opportunities for art sales, or it flat-out becomes the single most powerful vehicle for the sale of my work.  It’s all about building a good, open, transparent reputation; about making and offering quality work; about minimizing impediments of purchase to the buyer.  The internet allows me to host my own gallery instead of running around trying to get my work into brick & mortar venues.  It also makes my work available world-wide with one effort.  All of this happens only when I link my digital assets so that one thing logically leads to another.

I need to say here that I’m not against galleries or art shows.  I’m in favor of them and will use them, but they’re not my only access to exposure.  Today, because of digital-media tools, I can go around the gatekeepers and get to market on my own.

I repeat; I’m rapidly learning this stuff and am not a marketing guru.  I’m an artist, and if I want my work to “show & sell” I’ve got to make it known through any means I can, hence the reading and research.  You need to understand, I’m nearly 60, nearly, but not quite.  And what I mean is that  I’m “old school marketing”.  I’m telling you this because my generation, the last of the so-called “Baby Boomers” has had to learn and re-learn to invent and re-invent themselves.  This is something our parents and grand-parents told us would never happen.

In college, part of my communications degree centered on media-driven marketing.  The internet was still a big secret.  DOS had just been created.  Computers were the size of semi-trucks.  And the Jobs / Wozniak partnership that would become Apple was just getting started.  What I learned in old-school marketing is what Seth Godin calls marketing “at” people.

“Marketing by interrupting people isn’t cost-effective anymore.  You can’t afford to seek out people and send them unwanted marketing messages, in large groups, and hope that some will send you money.  Instead, the future belongs to marketers who establish a foundation and process where interested people can market to each other.  Ignite consumer networks and then get out ot the way and let them talk.”

pg 6 / Idea-Virus Read & Share / Seth Godin

My kid’s generation is so lucky, and I am so jealous.  Why?, because the digital tools I’m learning to use to promote me, my art, and I, transform my reach into global-reach, and it didn’t cost me a penny!  That’s just plain alchemy, and I’m totally excited.

What Godin and others are writing about is the cultivation of relationships.  Buyers want to know something about the artist whose work they’re buying.  They want to see the artist in studio creating their work.  They want to know how the piece was made, why it was made, and why the process is significant.  They’re a generation in search of meaning and significance wherever they can find it.

Developing relationships is the basis of offering who I am and what I create to the world, hence the on-going need to learn how to employ these tools.  Social Media is promotional, relational, marketing media.  It is, if not complete transparency, at least translucence.  My “business” is not just my business, but yours as well.  That’s part of the reason you’re here, reading my blog.  We’re developing a rapport, a relationship, and while we may have never met face to face, we’re getting to know one another, one link, one post, one aspect at a time.