My Art Aligned Toolkit: Part One [Tess, wrap-up]

Written on August 9, 2011 by in Business savvy, Guest bloggers

Hello again. It’s Tess Pierson Kefalonitis, guest blogger. Eight weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a new Art Aligned workshop, aimed at artists who want to be business people, and actually make a living at their art. The group that came together was all made up of photographers. And all of us were at different places in our careers—from just making the transition to a new career to having done it for awhile and in need of some new ways to differentiate self and business. It was a good group: well mixed, from all over the world, at all levels of expertise and a breadth of experience. I didn’t know what to expect, really, and I was willing to give it a try. I’m so very glad I did. I learned more during the eight weeks than I ever imagined.

The business of photography. Photo inspiration by UggBoy♥UggGirl (Flickr)

Kate did her homework and put together an interesting and useful curriculum. She thought of things that I hadn’t yet. And not only thought of them, but figured out how to deal with them so as to get on with business, and getting clients and increased professionalism. She covers everything from psychology to style, and she does it well.

Now I am not a new business owner. This is not my first time around that block. Yet there were things that I just wasn’t making the connection on, things she brought to my attention week after week that became breakthroughs for me both personally and professionally. Each week she brought another quite useful tool to my attention, showed us all how to use it, gave us a handout or three, set up appointments to review our progress. She was prepared, thoughtful, and she always always always made her point.

During week one, Kate (re)introduced us to the “What Are Your Strengths?” exercise. I have done this exercise at least five other times. Yawn.
And yet.
And yet it provided just the right combination of think and write it down and think again, and I made a great breakthrough that first week. Totally unexpectedly.

I remembered who I was, and it was amazing! Amazing I tell you. In fact, I hadn’t even realized I had forgotten who I was. It sounds ridiculous to me to write that down. True though. I broke through months of mental gunk and got to the heart of the matter in minutes.

Sometimes it’s not something new that we need, it’s something we already know or came into contact with, and we need to be reminded. That was the case here. And it was just the tool needed and at just the right time!

One of the things I realized, as the weeks went by, was that Kate put a lot of thought into the order of her presentation. Each tool was presented in just the right order, so each built naturally on the one from the previous week.  So remembering our strengths from week one led quite naturally into week two, when Kate brought Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to our attention. This is something else from my long ago past, college psych classes to be precise, and still quite applicable today it turned out. Maslow discusses the fact that low level needs must be satisfied before high level needs, and if there is a conflict between the two, the higher level needs go poof. In fact, his theory rather sums up doing business the last couple of years during this recession.

Kate then added a discussion of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, and the inherent conflict between the two. Sounds dry and (cough) boring. It ain’t. It led me to discard that old ‘seat of the pants’ business model once and for all. I now have a plan!

Next, week three brought the Inspiration Review tool. Something else I did another time in the far distant past, and thought was a waste of time. Wrong again. (Are you seeing a pattern yet? I sure was.) Getting my inspiration file together was a bit of a technical challenge: new phone, pix on old phone, wouldn’t sync up, yada yada…once I had it though, I was amazed. Again. (I am kind of getting bored with how dumb I sound. I mean when was I just going to get it? Kate has good ideas, and good reasons for those ideas. Duh. So please could you just shut up for a minute Tess, and listen and maybe get a new idea, or reminded of an old idea that works??!! Jeez Louize. This is how the voice in my head sounds sometimes.) I ended up taking pictures of old magazine tears I hadn’t looked at in years and falling in love all over again. It is simply mind blowing how happy looking at all that stuff made me. And inspired? Absolutely. Fired up is closer. Passionate. Creating. Finger itching. Dreaming of shooting stuff. Out of control.

I am still looking at it every day, and adding stuff. So happy.

The inspiration file led easily into week four, the discussion of style. Now style can be rather complicated, it turns out. Who, what, why, where, when, and, most especially, how? It turns out that how questions really help us understand style. For instance, how can I bring my vision to life through choices of my medium, composition, lighting, equipment, …? How am I going to express my vision so that other people understand what it is?

Kate then went on to break style down to two components, stated vision and motivation. We covered a lot of ground here, from how to define our unique styles to fads and trends and their place in it all, as well as introducing us to a couple of photographers new to me whose work I love. They are not in my field so I can stalk their blogs all I want! Yay me! (We were warned about blog stalking messing with our own native creativity and to be leery.)

I found the easiest way to approach style was to think about the jeans I wear and why. Color: dark wash. Cut: modern boot cut. Pockets: deep, with a watch pocket. Length: slightly drags the ground. Fabric: cotton. Brand: Calvin Klein. Love these things. I have lots and lots and lots of them. I’ve worn them for years, and I buy them several pairs at a time, just in case the company stops making them. I know I am not alone in this. 

It always comes down to comfort, style, and practicality with my jeans. I need to work in them, crawl around on the floor in them, or in the sand like I did today during a beach shoot. And I need deep pockets for CF cards. Style, in my opinion, is what works for us, what we like, what we are attracted to, what we seek out again and again. Yeah, my jeans are sort of boring. I mean boot cut? It’s so two years ago. So what? I prefer to think of them as classic!

Stay tuned for part two of Tess’s experience… 

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