10 Winning Ideas to Create Successful Events

12 Renee Phillips book coverBy Renee Phillips, The Artrepreneur Coach

Throughout my career I have enjoyed hosting many events, from arranging small art parties in my apartment to staging large multi-media galas attended by celebrities, government officials, representatives from embassies, and members of the art and entertainment press. Some of these events were even televised and broadcast on radio.

As much fun as I had producing them, I enjoy sharing the tips and tricks that made them successful. With imagination you can create memorable events on a small budget. For this article I selected a few ideas from “How to Create Successful Art Events”, one of the documents in my “Artist Success Package”.

1. Pay Attention to the Details

Begin the process by preparing a comprehensive “to do” list with deadlines. Develop a detailed budget. Create your invitations with flair and provide detailed information including directions to the venue. Make sure the venue is clean, has superb lighting, good acoustics and safe traffic flow. Provide ample seating for guests who may be disabled.

2. Use Imaginative Themes to Ignite Interest

When setting the date for your event, don’t ignore the importance of selecting the right theme that is appropriate for that particular time of year. Consider traditional as well as non-traditional celebrations, for example: January is the month of new beginnings and resolutions. But, did you know that January 31st is “Inspire Your Heart with Art Day”?

3. Create the “Wow” Factor

Select superior art and display it with the utmost care. Create a “Red Carpet” atmosphere that will arouse excitement about what’s inside. A few suggestions: Literally roll out a red carpet, display large movie style exhibition posters on easels, have several wannabe “paparazzi” taking photos of guests… you get the idea!

4. Attain Sponsorship

Stretch your budget by approaching the public relations departments of small businesses or large corporations and request “out of pocket” expenses. To reciprocate, give them name recognition on your invitations, promotional materials and at the event. Many food and beverage distributors and even local restaurants are willing to donate their goods in exchange for product visibility.

5. Recruit Volunteers

I recommend you hire the best professionals you can afford. But, you can also reach out to your friends, relatives, college interns, and retirees to help with the organizational details, promotion and art sales. Offer them a commission and pay for their travel expenses. Show your appreciation by inviting them to a pre-event private showing or dinner. Acknowledge them publicly in print and in your verbal announcement at the event.

6. Give Every Guest A Take Away Gift
Every guest should leave with something tangible to remember you. A colorful and informative printed brochure or catalogue is a nice gesture when handed out by a friendly welcoming committee. However, don’t stop there: Add special items to their gift bags such as small, signed prints of your art or magnets, calendars, t-shirts or tote bags with your art or logo reproduced on them.

7. “Piggyback” Major Organizations’ Events or Major Celebrations
Use the art of “piggybacking” and ride on the coat tails of major events held around the same time as yours. My best events were orchestrated as team efforts. Choose organizations that share your values and mission. Offer to collaborate with them and help them promote their event. Catch the wave of publicity that their programs will generate. When you join forces with like-minded folks and organizations you’ll both reap many benefits.

8. Don’t Blend into the Background

Most artists shy away from the lights of cameras and attention of public displays. But, as the exhibiting artist, the star of the event, or the special host, this is not the time to be a wall flower. Wear a genuine smile and an outfit that will attract people to you like a magnet. One smart artist I know wears a purple dress to match her signature purple paintings.

9. Offer A Free Raffle to Grow Your Mailing List

It may be difficult to get everyone to sign your guest book so encourage them to insert their business cards or clearly write their name and contact information on a raffle card. Entice them by giving away valuable prizes that are worth their while.

10. Use Free and Low Cost Advertising and Promotion

Announce your event in online forums and social media sites including setting up an events page on www.facebook.com. Utilize Free event listings in newspapers. Post fliers in the vicinity of the event. Use online press release services http://service.prweb.com. Broadcast yourself on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/. Announce your event on Meet Up http://www.meetup.com

Renee Phillips is an author, art marketing advisor and Curator-Director of Manhattan Arts International. Visit her blogs: The Artrepreneur Coach and The Healing Power of Art. Learn more about her art marketing services at http://www.manhattanarts.com/ReneePhillips/consult.htm.

 

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Yolanda Kondonassis: On Musicianship and Evolving an Authentic Brand

World-Renowned Solo Harpist

12 Yolanda 1NPR Tiny Desk Concert

In pursuing a career as a musician, the common thread – both now and twenty years ago – is the need to sustain high quality in as many areas of your field as you can. Of course, the most important thing is always what you bring to the table artistically – and while luck may be on your side, you can’t depend on it. That is why you need to be educated in a variety of ways about the business that supports your work. No longer can an artist afford be remote and detached from all but their art.

It’s important to understand your particular audience and the market you serve. You should know how to read a contract and write a proposal. You also need to know how to present yourself and your work in a way that will resonate with both your colleagues and your audience. Know that you can’t afford to be complacent, even when you reach the level where you have arts managers and support systems in place.

I believe you should be in a position to know how you want to brand yourself, rather than having it done by someone who is an expert in marketing, but doesn’t know what you’re trying to do with your art, who you want to be, or what you’re looking to create.  If you leave it to others, you can get into trouble and find yourself promoting a version of yourself and your art that isn’t really you.

Artistry tends to be an evolution and it’s a long process. I tell my students that if they continue to evolve as they should, they will be very different artists at age forty than they are when they graduate from conservatory. The real education begins when school ends, I have found. The bottom line is that you can only be true to yourself at any given moment, but do recognize that your vision is going to change over time. No real artist decides who they are in their youth and stays that way for the duration of their career. That’s why it’s important for you to be in the driver’s seat and to know how you want to present yourself and your music. You have to think about how your music will make the leap from your studio to the eyes and ears of others and how you can be actively involved in that process.

There’s a difference between knowing your audience and pandering to it. On one hand, you can’t ever take your audience for granted and you must respect them, even when they may not know where you’re headed. But at the same time, it’s up to you to take them on your journey –  and if they trust you, they’ll go along for the ride. Ears and eyes move in new directions slowly, but they do move, and it’s an artist’s responsibility to persuade them to stretch and evolve.

With regard to marketing, there are so many effective things you can do, and the Internet is at the heart of most of it these days.I don’t think email blasts are that effective, but I do have a website, which serves me very well, though it does have to be updated regularly. With social media, I feel there is a certain disconnect between trying to focus on your art and checking your social presence constantly. You do need to engage, but not just to put out unformed thoughts or post random activities. While the immediacy of social media is wonderful, people can easily get into trouble with it, so my advice would be to think carefully about what you want to say, or skip it altogether.

Resources are enormously important and you need to know what the people in your particular field are reading, doing, buying, and joining. Read your instrument’s trade journal, join the musician’s union, and talk to people in your business and in other related fields. Stay up on what is going on in your arts area and ask yourself where they might gaps that could be filled with something you offer. Think about attending a conference, take a seminar, or give one. The Internet is a great tool, but face-to-face contact still matters.  It’s easy to get caught up in cyber-hype, but resist the urge to let it substitute for real relationships. The best and most valuable assets in my career have always been one-on-one relationships with trusted managers, producers, colleagues, and mentors.

As a final thought, I would say that while a good marketing system goes a long way in helping to get your art out to the world, make sure you stay grounded and avoid getting addicted to the hype and affirmation that will inevitably begin to follow you. Know your own nature and surround yourself with quality people whenever possible. At the end of the day, you will always go home with yourself, so you better be someone you know and respect.

Yolanda Kondonassis is celebrated as one of the world’s premiere solo harpists and is widely regarded as today’s most recorded classical harpist. Hailed as “an extraordinary virtuosa” and “sheer luminescence at the harp,” she has performed around the globe as a concerto soloist and in recital, appearing with numerous major orchestras such as The New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, to name a few. With fifteen albums and well over 100,000 recordings sold worldwide, Ms. Kondonassis’ extensive discography includes her recent Grammy-nominated release of music by Takemitsu and Debussy entitled Air, as well as the world-premiere recording of Bright Sheng’s Harp Concerto, written for Ms. Kondonassis. In addition to her active performing and recording schedule, Ms. Kondonassis heads the harp departments at The Cleveland Institute of Music and Oberlin Conservatory and has presented master classes around the world. Visit www.YolandaHarp.com.

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Peacebuilding and the Arts: Transforming Conflict

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Cynthia Cohen, Ph.D., Director of Programs, Brandeis University

Peacebuilding and the ArtsBrandeis University‘s Peacebuilding and the Arts program works to strengthen the practice and nexus of the arts and conflict transformation by generating and disseminating knowledge, and facilitating networks of effective action. Dr. Cynthia Cohen is the program’s director who works in cooperation with Theatre Without Borders and other artists using art to promote change in divided communities.

1. What are your long-term goals for the program?

In the long term, I would like to see the Peacebuilding and the Arts Program offer undergraduate and graduate degrees, and perhaps certificates for practitioners. I would also like us to continue to support practitioners — working towards peacebuilding in all different art forms — to document and reflect on their practice, and to create educational and training resources based on case studies and ethical inquiries into practice in all regions of the world.

 2. How does it fit Brandeis’s overall mission?

Brandeis’ mission includes education that advances social justice, and a commitment to excellence. The institution has a longstanding commitment to the arts. I believe that the peacebuilding and the arts program is strongly aligned with Brandeis’ mission.

 3. Why did you choose to partner with Theater Without Borders?

Theatre Without Borders approached me in 2005 just as it was forming and asked me to speak on a panel at its founding symposium. At that time, they were an informal network of theatre artists committed to theatre exchange, and they were very interested in looking deeply at how their practice contributes to peace. After that initial symposium and a couple of informal gatherings, we decided to work together on the anthology. I was drawn to TWB in part because of the stature of the artists involved and because of the passionate ethical commitment they had toward their work.

4. How can theater groups get involved?

Theatre groups can read the Acting Together anthologies, watch the documentary and use the resources of the toolkit to plan their own peacebuilding performance initiatives. They can send their members to trainings that we offer, and participate in the arts and peace commission of the International Peace Research Association. They can collaborate in their own communities on issues of justice and on bringing people together across differences.

 5. Do you have plans to reach out into other areas of the arts?

We already have worked with visual artists, filmmakers and musicians. I would very much like to engage in an intensive research project on the contributions of the visual arts to peace building.

6. What tips would you give to theater groups that might want to work to make a difference on a local or regional basis?

Spend time listening to the stories of the people of your communities. See what stories remain untold, or unheard. What inequalities are present that diminish people’s lives and their abilities to trust each other? What past harms need to be addressed? (All of these questions and more are part of the Guidelines for Planning Peacebuilding Performances in the toolkit that accompanies the Acting Together documentary. I would also suggest that members of theatre groups wanting to “make a difference” look at their own identities and how dynamics of power play out in their own lives. It is very important to know one’s own issues, to have one’s own identities in hand before embarking on “making a difference” in other communities. Also, it can be important to be open to collaborations with “non-arts” organizations — perhaps activist groups, cultural groups, human rights groups, governmental or intergovernmental agencies whose values are aligned with the mission of the arts organizations.

 7. Are there other ways interested artists and groups can help support your efforts?

Artists can join with each other to support each others work, to reflect together on ;how they can make a difference in the world. They can become ambassadors for the Acting Together project, share the film and lead discussions about it. They can use the tools in the Acting Together toolkit and document their own arts-informed peacebuilding efforts.

Cynthia Cohen is Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. She leads action/reflection research projects, and writes and teaches about work at the nexus of the arts, culture, justice and peace. She directed the Brandeis University/Theatre Without Borders collaboration Acting Together, co-edited the Acting Together on the World Stage anthology and co-created the related documentary and toolkit. She directs ReCAST, Inc., a non-profit organization partnering with Brandeis and New Village Press on the dissemination of Acting Together resources.

Cohen has written extensively on the aesthetic and ethical dimensions of peacebuilding, including the chapters “Creative Approaches to Reconciliation” and “Engaging with the Arts to Promote Coexistence,” and an online book “Working With Integrity: A Guidebook for Peacebuilders Asking Ethical Questions.”

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Partnering with the Arts: Fractured Atlas

Dianne Debicella, Senior Program Director for Fiscal Sponsorship, Fractured Atlas

Fractured Atlas supports 3000 arts projects across the country each year. The organization, which provides fiscal sponsorship and support services to artists and organizations has more than 25,000 members and averages more than 500 new members each month.

According to Senior Program Director of Fiscal Sponsorship, Dianne Debicella, “we get involved at all different stages. Some are brand new entities, and others are established organizations looking to raise money via donations. Overall, we’re the largest arts sponsorship organization in terms of the numbers of entities we serve, and we’re very proud of having served as a springboard for the arts for over 10 years.

The organization receives more than one hundred applications a month. Prospects need to be artistic entities, whose work is not for commercial purposes – so, not-for-profits that can demonstrate that what they’re doing has a public benefit. Some are to benefit a small community and others for a broader purpose, including those looking to use art in the cause of social good.

“Fiscally sponsored projects have to pursue their own funding,” says Debicella. “We don’t provide funds, rather we act as an intermediary so that they can qualify for 501c3 status without having to set up their own administration and incur the expense of administering a non-profit. This is important because, unless an organization has a sizable budget on the order of $500,000 or more, it can be prohibitive to become a 501c3 on their own both with cost and the administrative burden of forming a Board of Directors and structure to get underway”.

Fractured Atlas’ goal is to provide organizations and individuals the opportunity to get a strong, viable start, and then the artists or organizations may stay long- or short-term, depending on their needs. This enables them to focus on their art and audience development while having access to information and guidance as well as insurance for areas including health care, workers’ compensation, production and event venues, and art damage or loss.

Members also get access to Fractured Atlas’ Artfl.y software, which they can use to manage tickets, donations and contacts; Fractured U, which provides business education for artists; and services Spaces and Archipeligo which provide regional information on arts spaces, and data on arts organizations and arts resources that can provide artists and organizations with resources and support. Other Fractured Atlas services include arts consulting, arts advocacy on a local and national basis, and offering members special rates on arts-related goods and services.

Announcements on the Fractured Atlas site include calls for entries looking for directors, choreographers, puppeteers, poets, and people to produce documentary work, all of which can be helpful to artists looking to broaden their scope and contacts.

In all, it provides critical support to help launch and sustain new and exciting ventures throughout the arts world. “We’re in a challenging period for the arts these days,” Debicella says. “There’s been a decline in foundation support over the past four to five years, so it’s become even more important to help artists get started and enable them to find the help they need. One of the things we do is to advise on how best t seek that”.

Individuals and organizations interested in becoming part of Fractured Atlas should register at the website, www.fracturedatlas.org. Then you’ll become eligible to submit a fiscal sponsorship application to be considered by their Board, which meets once a month to review new applications.

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Orchestrating Jazz, Classical and Career Success: Josh Rzepka

Josh Rzepka, Jazz and Classical Trumpeter

Recording:  “Liam’s Leaving” Into the Night

Josh Rzepka, is a twenty-eight year old trumpeter and composer who’s exemplary of what it takes to be a working performer these days and, not only is he managing his own career, but he’s recently begun consulting with other musicians on how to make their arts business work.

“I have a lot of things going on right now,” Rzepka explains. “I book jazz and classical gigs, do my own composing and producing of my music, play in musicals, shows, and big bands. I also teach 30-35 students three days a week.

“I began to realize how much of a need there was to help other musicians with their careers, so last year I started a consulting business for jazz and classical musicians to help with everything extramusical. I have people who I work with for specialized services like graphic design and photography, and I also do consulting. I recently even helped one client get a Kickstarter campaign off the ground.”

Rzepka’s idea for doing the marketing came from seeing a lot of great musicians who he believed could be doing more with their careers, but then got discouraged because of all that’s expected of them in running their own businesses.

“These days it’s more and more common for musicians to go solo because there are fewer labels out there, and those that are there expect you to absorb the bulk of the cost. So a lot of musicians are working on their own which, because of the web is more viable, but it also requires a lot of extra work.

“As a musician, you need to get bookings, work with venues, and do outreach to the press on a regular basis. You need to be at the top of your game in all these areas because, for example with the guys in the press, they get 1000 releases a day. They’re all being inundated by inquiries from musicians, so you need to stand out and you need to know how to provide them with turn-key material – great copy, appealing photos, images and blurbs, and you need to know what their interests are, so they’ll pay attention to you.

“I’m definitely a great believer in people hiring professionals when they can to help promote and support their work, so that the experts can do what they do best, and you can focus on doing your music. For example, I hired a radio marketing group to help me with contacts and prepitching my recent releases – and it was very helpful. But it’s also true that you need to know what to do yourself for the times when you don’t have help and do have to be your own promoter.”

Josh Rzepka, whose most recent jazz CD, Into the Night, made it to the Top 10 on the Jazz chart, has been described as “a musician who doesn’t believe in limits” by the Tribune Chronicle, and as being “gifted” by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  He has been heralded not only for his jazz playing and composing, but also for his classical trumpet playing.

With his second jazz album Into the Night, he follows up his debut classical CD, Josh Rzepka: Baroque Music for Trumpet (2010) and his critically acclaimed debut jazz CD Midwest Coast (2009).

Quickly establishing himself as one of the most versatile upcoming performers in classical and jazz music, Josh has performed across the country at famed venues including Severance Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, Cleveland’s NightTown, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,  and the Knitting Factory in NYC.  As a soloist Josh has presented recitals and concerts ranging from the baroque, to modern, to original jazz. In 2011 Josh was recognized by the Akron Area Arts Alliance with their 2011 Arts Alive! Rising Young Star award.

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Japanese influenced painting: Bertille Baudiniere

Bertille de Baudinière, Painter

Bertille de Baudinière has distinguished herself and her work during her creative career with an aesthetic practice on three continents – specifically in Japan, USA and Europe – through its diverse nature and the integration of social issues in her art.

She discovered Japanese art, especially sumi-e and abstraction during her studies in the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris 1979-1982 . She was looking for a way to get out of Western culture. “I wanted to go as far away as possible. The Far East fascinated me in its approach to the abstract, it’s totally different spirit, its analysis of space and its taste for simplicity. I enrolled in Japanese language and literature courses and in 1986 obtained a research grant from the Japanese government studying the influence of occidental techniques used by Japanese artists.” She discovered space and simplicity (“two specific Japanese ideas”) and it became her golden rule until now.

The series that followed, Green Earth, 1989-1990, owes its title to a Nihonga pigment of the same name. Symbolic of the link that unites man and nature, Green Earth celebrates the cosmic dimension of Japanese Buddhism; the essential idea that man and the smallest blade of grass are both part of a whole.

The artist did not return to Europe right away. “The weight of the past is too heavy there; to create you must turn your back on the past.” She decided to expand her research to the United States. The earth of the Plains and of the native Americans inspired the second series of twenty paintings entitled Red Earth, 1991, with vast, deep, monochromed spaces irradiated with light.

In Paris 1993-2006 her return to France also marked her return to casein. Enriched by her experiences, she pursued her work on various series of paintings, convinced of the need to explore, test and clarify: Ecrans-Lumière, 1995-1998, Painting by numbers in 1999 (In response to the digital invasion, she covered her paintings with the numerals 0 and 1, retaining from the binary language the idea of combinations that tend towards the infinite), Planètes, 1999-2000, Voilages, 2001, Light-screen, 2001, Chênes-lièges, 2002-2003, Painting by letters, 2004, Blue Earth, 2005-2007.

In 2008, she decided to come back to the United States and live in New York with her family. Bertille de Baudinière found a studio in an artist community in Long Island City.  Since 2008 she has painted the series New York light and a huge American flag, Skype, a series of portraits about the internet, Colorimetry using wood sticks and color filters,  Harlem and some views of the city from above and, finally, Green Earth 2012.  She experiments with new techniques and uses different mediums in order to explore recurring themes in the work. This keeps it new and exciting, which is evident in her current Green Earth paintings.

The work is colorful, vibrant and powerful. Baudinière uses acrylic and casein, color filters, natural pigments, wood, piano strings, and a variety of found objects in her paintings, mixed-media works and assemblages.

My eye is always attracted by new and different materials, both natural and recycled. Sometimes I use these materials in my paintings, such as the natural sponges in my recent Green Earth series. At other times the material becomes a medium itself, such as the discarded wood lattice with which I made the Colorimetry series. With the help of these various materials I try to create constructions in which matter is transformed into light.

Bertille de Baudinière was born in Saint Malo, France. She received her diploma from Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts de Paris in 1982. In 1986, she was granted a research scholarship by the Japanese government and was enrolled as a Master scholar at the National University of Music and Arts in Tokyo. She received her MFA in 1990.

Baudinière has exhibited nationally and internationally including Islip Art Museum, US, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, US, Hainan National Museum, China, Tomura Gallery, Japan, Fondation des Etats-Unis, France, Zurdorfer Wehrturm Museum, Germany, Galerie Arte Noah, Germany and Dalian, China.

She has been granted residencies, given lectures, curated special exhibits and designed sets throughout the world and has created several videos.

Baudinière’s work is in the collection of Museum of Landau, Germany, Fondation Danielle Mitterand, Le GNG, l’Energie pour demain,  Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Queensborough Community College, and Fondation des Etats-Unis. Her work has been shown in Le Monde Diplomatique, Beaux arts magazine, Art Press, Editions Unesco, Nice-Matin, Omaha World Herald, and Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger.

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Documenting Protest: Granny Peace Brigade Art

Regina Silvers, Visual Artist and Art Organizer

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I draw, paint, and have been exhibiting my work since the ‘70s. Right now I’m engrossed in the most exciting art project of my career: The Granny Peace Brigade series.

In 2005 a friend of mine was arrested, along with a small group of older women– all members of various Peace groups like Code Pink and the Gray Panthers— for demonstrating at the Army Recruitment station in Times Square. They were cuffed, jailed, and eventually tried and acquitted.  Out of this experience they formed The Granny Peace Brigade. I’ve been a supporter and ardent admirer since then.

I drew them during their trial and later began to photograph them while I marched and demonstrated with them. After a while, I began using these photos as source material for new work.

Much of my previous work of the past 20-odd years had focused on nature-based motifs. Working from sketches made while hiking upstate NY, I created large close-ups of the rocks, weeds, waterfalls, and woodlands, drawing attention to their “ordinary” beauty and vitality.  At the same time – initially because I am devoted to drawing the figure – I created the ”Placard” series: paintings and drawings derived from images of protesters I found in newspapers. This however was a different matter.

As an older woman, and an activist since the days I marched with the Women Strike for Peace against the Vietnam War, this project is more personal and vital.  It gives me an opportunity to merge my aesthetic, political and social concerns, through personally meaningful, timely, subject matter. It’s been challenging and exhilarating.

It’s been said that “…the eye witnesses, the hand records.” As an artist I am following a long roster of artists who “bear witness” (think Goya, Kathe Kollwitz, Picasso, Ben Shahn, Leon Golub). While I’m not intent on painting a political polemic, I do want to pay homage to these feisty peace activists, and transmit their message that “Democracy is not a Spectator Sport”.

As I participate in documenting this piece of our history, I  show, close-up, what it’s like to be in the midst of the energetic Grannies, visually expressing the view that older women are concerned, and can have an active voice in our society.

To make a piece of art that conveys the energy, immediacy, and spirit of the narrative, I work quickly, making many large pieces for each motif, varying the composition, the approach, and the materials. The works range from 20 x 30” to 36 x 72”, in pastel, charcoal, acrylic, and/or oil paint. Some become finished “products”, others remain studies. I feel privileged to be able to hone my approach to making art while visually expressing something of such importance to me, and hopefully supporting the efforts of these heroic women.

I will be exhibiting this work in a one-person exhibition at Saint Peter’s Church (Citicorp) NYC in May, 2013.


Regina Silvers has been involved with fine art for her whole adult life- as a visual artist and an art organizer. Originally trained as a NYC art teacher, her varied career includes jewelry designer, gallery director, curator, art consultant, museum publicity/advertising manager, and always, practicing artist.

She was a founder and President of TOAST, the TriBeCa Open Artist Studio Tour (2000 to 2010), and co-founder and Director of the Gallery at Hastings on Hudson (1976-84).

Silvers has maintained a studio in TriBeCa for more than 20 years and, until recently, a studio in Woodstock, NY. Her work appears in corporate and private collections throughout the United States, and she has participated in more than 40 exhibitions nationally.

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How to Storyboard for Hollywood and TV: Robert Castillo

Robert Castillo, Award-winning Director, Animator, Storyboard Artist

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I was born with a pencil in my hand, or so the story goes!  Ever since I can remember drawing has been a vital part of my life.  It’s something I have been doing all my life. Drawing was the tool which helped me communicate with others. In 1977 when I stepped off the plane from Santo Domingo, I knew not a word of English and drawing was how I communicated.  I was born here in the United States, but was raised in the island of Santo Domingo and did not speak English.

My family has stories of me drawing on walls; on the furniture and doodling on my father’s college books.  In school, I was constantly in hot water because all I wanted to do was draw.

Today, I still draw. I am a Storyboard Artist. My job is to take a script and a story and illustrate it and bring it to life! I meet with the director and try to see what is in his head. A storyboard is similar to a Comic Book, where you have sequential images that tell a story. I love movies and I love to draw so I am very happy doing what I do.

For people interested in doing Storyboards, the first thing I would suggest is putting up an easy-to-navigate website that shows your best storyboard work. If you do not have any professional experience yet, just put up any samples that you do have. When a client calls, be honest with them if they ask you what project the sample work is from. If it is not from an actual job, then just say so. Do not let your lack of experience become an issue. Try to promote yourself and find an agent if you can. There are agencies like Storyboards Inc. or Famous Frames that are always looking for new talent. Storyboard agents are not absolutely necessary. It depends on what city you live in. If you are in a smaller market town, you may want to have an agent to see if it works for you.

Professional storyboard artists charge $600 per day and higher. It is up to you to know the value of your work. Rates are listed in The Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. It is published every year by the Graphic Artists Guild. When a client contacts you about your rates, get all the details you can and be able to tell the client how many frames you are able to do in a day or how long it will take you to complete the project. Negotiating the rate is something that you will have to get a personal feel for, and finally you have to draw well, so whenever you get a chance practice your story boarding skills. There are many books and videos out there full of useful information. Many DVDs also have special features, and of course the web is full of resources and examples.

Robert Castillo is a Storyboard Artist who lives in New Jersey and works in New York City. He graduated with honors from The Art Institute of Boston and has a Master’s Degree in Computer Arts from The School of Visual Arts.

As a storyboard artist, Robert has created boards for films including Lee Daniel’s “Precious”, the Christopher Reeve’s directed animation Everyone’s Hero, Queen Latifahs “The Cookout” and “Perfect Holiday” and the award-winning cable television programs  The Sopranos, and Smash.

 He has also done music videos for Alicia Keys, Ja Rule, Kid Rock, Lauren Hill and Don Omar; commercials for Phat Farm, Adidas, And 1; as well as promo work and music videos for MTV, Nickelodeon’s Ironman, Fuse, VH1, Court TV and ESPN.

His talent has been recognized with various awards and honors, including L. Ron Hubbard’s Illustrators of the Future and The Student Academy Awards in 2004 for his short film S.P.I.C. The Storyboard of My Life which has screened in fourteen festivals including Cannes and The Museum of Modern Art.  In 2005, S.P.I.C. had a special screening at TIME Magazine in New York and at Walt Disney Studios.  Robert has also lectured on “The Art of Storyboards” at NYU Tisch and Jersey City University.

Robert has given back by auctioning his artwork for The John Starks Foundation as well as Project Sunshine.   He also volunteers his time with The Ghetto Film School in the Bronx,  Mount Sinai Hospital and The Automotive High School of  Brooklyn.

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Bringing Your World to Stage: EbzB Productions

Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen, Founders, EbzB Productions

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EbzB Productions is a professional touring company dedicated to developing original theatrical productions to promote integrity, self-discovery and positive transformation of individuals, artists, audiences, and communities. They believe the performing arts encourage positive transformation through discoveries unveiled immediately and upon reflection.

1. What have been the key factors in evolving your careers and your business?

Understanding the business aspect of show business. Negotiating contracts, bookkeeping, public relations and marketing are just as important as raw talent to an artist.

Cultivating real and positive relationships with everyone you meet. We are not talking about “networking” or “social networking”, we are talking about developing real and respectful friendships with your community. Some of our most enjoyable and lucrative work has been the result of ideas generated among friends. We’ve had surprise opportunities with our latest productions from people we knew when we were just starting out – 40 years ago!

Everyone you meet has something to teach, offer, and benefit your development and career. For example, while working at Hedgerow Theatre near Philadelphia, Serena was offered a part-time position by Susan Raab of Raab Associates, a children’s book marketing agency (and now host of this blog). That job, relationship, and friendship not only gave Serena valuable experience in learning professional publicity techniques, database building, technology and relationship building; it also resulted in a valuable friendship which has returned thousand-fold for Serena. Twenty years later, Serena hired Susan’s son, Jeff Raab as an actor in a production she directed. These long-term, cultivated relationships prove most valuable to career success.

 2. What would you advise newcomers?

Educate yourself. Get your university degree. A broad-based education is mandatory because it enables empathy and understanding for the people, events and politics conveyed on stage. Take classes in marketing, business, and accounting as part of your major or electives. Design an independent study that focuses on organizational administration. Actor Conservatory training is great for technique and career networking, but it often doesn’t help you understand the content and context of the material you will perform. It is not enough to perform a song or monologue technically. An artist should be able to interpret, apply metaphor, understanding, and value.

Get as much experience as you can auditioning, performing, working on the tech crew, and volunteering in the theatre’s administrative office. It’s so important to understand all the jobs in the theatre so that you can appreciate everyone’s contribution to your success. You never know when the stage manager may have an opportunity to recommend an actor. He will recommend someone with whom he enjoyed working and who makes him feel appreciated.

Trust your instincts. If an audition or job offer violates your personal values, decline it. It won’t ruin your career to say no. Hold onto your integrity – it is the only thing you can be sure of in this business.

3. What about Do’s and Don’ts?

  • Do be kind and respectful to everyone you meet.
  • Don’t talk behind other people’s back. You never know when the God mic is broadcasting your intimate stage whispers to the crowd in the greenroom.
  • Do get a signed contract when you work.
  • Don’t go against your instincts.
  • Do get attractive promotional materials (head shots, website, resume, demo reel, classic audition clothing)
  • Don’t spend exorbitant amounts of money on your promotional materials. Keep it simple and within your budget. You can upgrade when you can upgrade.
  • Do have a support system. That system should not only include fierce friends who make you laugh, but also equally important activities that make you feel good about yourself when you’ve had a bad day at the theatre.
  • Don’t assume that Broadway and Hollywood are the only definitions of success in the acting business.
  • Do develop your talents to serve in other aspects of life – perhaps as a teaching artist, or drama therapist, or as a communications director. The skills of an actor are extremely useful in corporate, educational, and medical environments.
  • Don’t sell your soul for fame and fortune. Both fame and fortune are simply by-products of a job well done and a life well lived.

4. What resources have you found most helpful?

National Endowment for the Arts  – for information including on Presenter Consortiums

Unified Auditions – StrawHat, SouthEastern Theatre Conference, League of Washington Theatres

Unions – Actors’ Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild

Arts Councils – Local and State Arts Councils

EbzB teaching artists are dedicated to the promotion of dramatic art as a valuable educational tool. They’ve been trained by The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts “Artists as Educators: Planning Effective Workshops”; The Lincoln Center Institute‘s International Educator Program and the National Center for Creative Aging as teaching artists. EbzB is also endorsed by the North Carolina Arts Council‘s Touring Artists Directory.
Founded in 1998 by Serena Ebhardt and David zum Brunnen, EbzB Productions celebrates the profound impact of storytelling through theater in a repertoire of productions, flexibly designed for easy touring to all types of performance spaces. They’re an award-winning husband-wife, actor-manager team who bring over forty years of experience to the stage. Their careers have taken them from off-Broadway and the U.S. to Canada and Europe. In addition to performances, EbzB Productions, Inc. runs student workshops, residencies, and professional development seminars.
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Gilding Tips: Artist Karen Fitzgerald

My work is idiosyncratic – it’s round and it incorporates gilding extensively in its surface, process and idea.  In a wider view, my work is traditional in that I put paint on a substrate.

Gilding has wide applications in our world. It’s been found as far back as the early Egyptian civilization. We know the Chinese were gilding 5,000 years ago. While gilding in our modern world is usually decorative in application, traditionally it was used to signify something beyond the physical. It indicated the sacred, spiritual realm.

Learning gilding has been an experience of constant surprise. The basic idea is that a metal, beaten thinner than a human hair, is applied to a surface. The variety of glues (referred to as ‘size’) is astounding. Older German gilders used a mixture of beer and honey. A contemporary gilder uses the juice of garlic. Size falls into 2 categories: water-based and oil-based. Leaf is delicate to handle – I rarely use loose gold leaf. It is available in two forms: loose and transfer. The transfer leaf is adhered to thin tissue – handling it is less risky than loose leaf. When using loose leaf (I always use loose leaf in silver, copper and aluminum) you can tear it up, achieving an interesting non-gridded surface. By carefully sealing gilding you can gild in layers – for instance, adding linear elements on top of a gilded background.  Sealants are as various as size! One of the things I’ve learned is that gilding requires a constant attention to touch, and a constant willingness to change a habit of process. I recently gilded a copper ground.  I sealed it with shellac first, allowing the shellac to cure for 24 hours, then added a layer of Lascaux UV.  Overnight the Lascaux turned a deep brown!  Whatever reacted, the fact that it did signals me to that attentive mode, being careful not to assume materials will sit happily together.

I use gilding in a non-decorative manner. My intention is to signal to the viewer that they are not looking at a replication of the physical world. Gold is embedded in the core of our civilization, its dynamic energy often signals something beyond the purely physical. The precious metals I gild with indicate a quality of energy that expands beyond our physical world, a quality that is metaphysical and transformative.

Light suffuses our world – its energy shapes the mood of each day. I use color as pure light, physical energy, creating complex shades and tones that reconnect energies present in the everyday world with my own as well as viewers’ experiences. My work gives you a way to have a visual experience of your own energy. Similar to looking in a mirror, when you look into one of my paintings, you respond to the color, nuance and energy that is embedded in the piece. You have an experience of your energetic self, manifested in the physical properties of the paint. We know from scientists that energy can travel in waves.  Here-in lies the power of the wave: as you experience this energy, it has the capacity to shift your own energy to a higher level. I have always loved the action of wave energy in water. As the energy passes through the water, it lifts the water. As the energy of my painting reaches you, it lifts your energy.

In the New York area, a terrific resource is Sepp Leaf, international distributor of gold and metal leaf, gilding supplies, Liberon and decorative finishing products

Karen Fitzgerald’s work has been widely exhibited in the United States, including at the Queens Museum of Art, the Madison Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum and Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, the University of Arizona – Tucson, and at the United Nations in New York.  Her work is also in the Spencer Collection of the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Union Gas collection, the Rienhart Collection of Germany, the Museum of New Art in Detroit and many other public and private collections.

Workshop: Ms. Fitzgerald will be offering a day-long gilding workshop at her studio in Long Island City, NY on January 21, 2012. She’ll cover types of gilding, how to gild large areas, gilding in layers, working with copper, aluminum, silver and gold and related topics.  For information, contact Kbfitzgerald@gmail.com.

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