Boundaries, Bracelets, and Biz Coaches - In Gratitude, Part 2

It's November, home of my favorite holiday! This month I'm spending a few minutes each day writing about something for which I am thankful. Here is the second batch. Sushi White Plate, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches, 2012 by Sarah Atlee. Private collection.

Sushi White Plate, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches, 2012 by Sarah Atlee. Private collection.

Alyson Stanfield, Art Biz Coach

Do you have a person in your life who believes wholeheartedly in your career? Who cheers your successes? Who's not afraid to ask you to ask yourself the tough questions about what you want out of life? Who can teach you to wield the tools of success? I do: Alyson Stanfield, the Art Biz Coach. Read her book and begin your journey.

My Artist Network

Earlier this month I attended Alyson Stanfield's Art Biz Makeover event in Golden, Colorado. It's not often I get to spend time with such an energetic, motivated group of artists. You know what I love most about working with these folks? Realizing that we're all in this together. We share many of the same challenges, and we celebrate success together. In a business like this, it's so important to know that you are not alone.

The Egg Timer

This friendly little gadget is my near-constant companion in the studio, whether I'm writing, painting, or working on business tasks. It's a tiny piece of decision-making power that allows me to stop asking "What do I do now?"

Looking for more ways to improve your productivity? Check out the Pomodoro Technique, Timeboxing, and Willpower.

[Benny voice] BRACELETS

Learning New Things

In 2013 I taught myself how to make friendship bracelets. At the time I was working on a series in response to growing up female in the 80s and 90s. I remember friendship bracelets as these cool things made by cool girls and you had to hope that a cool girl would make one for you, so you could be cool too, but she didn't, so it's a quarter-century later, and now I have the power of the Internet. I AM THE COOL GIRL NOW.

You can be the cool girl, too: Friendship bracelet basics, endless bracelet patterns, how to do anything.


When I put a task down on paper, that's when it starts to feel real. That's when I make a promise to myself to honor my responsibilities. And while I'm at it, why not have some fun with stickers? My list should be a happy place.

Lists can be happy places


You see this beautiful website? See how easy it is to move around and find what you're looking for? Thank Jason Ormand, my rock star web designer.

A long, long time ago, on a server far away, there were iterations of that I coded from the ground up. No more. Web design is not my area of expertise. My time is better spent doing what I do best - making pictures. So I delegate. Try it on, it's so roomy!

Boundaries Around my Creative Time

This is something all artists (really, all independent workers) must face. Making pictures is the most important thing I do. Why on Earth would I want to do dishes or go to the grocery store instead of painting? Because sometimes I let the minutiae of daily life distract me.

All it takes to correct this pattern is giving myself permission to let the small stuff go. After all, is anyone going to remember that I did the dishes today? Nuh-uh. If I use that time to create a beautiful object that a collector brings into their home, that's time well spent.

Orange, acrylic on canvas, 4 x 4 inches, 2014 by Sarah Atlee. Private commission.

Orange, acrylic on canvas, 4 x 4 inches, 2014 by Sarah Atlee. Private commission.

What are you thankful for? Express your gratitude in the comments below.

Read Coffee, Sleep, Paper - In Gratitude, Part 1 Read Monkeys, Quilts, and Toilet Art - In Gratitude, Part 3 Read It's the Little Things - In Gratitude, Part 4 Read Bonus Gratitude!


Marketing. BOOM.

These days I'm spending most of my workday painting, since my new solo exhibition is right around the corner. Yesterday was a little different. 20140306 postcards on desk

11:15 a.m. : Postcards arrive

I ordered my postcards from a new (to me) printer this time around. Their turnaround time was a little longer than I expected, but their rates are very competetive and the print quality came out looking great.


12:30 p.m. : Unpack postcards and affix address labels

Soundtrack: Valerie June, Pushin' Against a Stone

1:15 p.m. : Affix postage stamps

Between the day when I last ordered postage stamps and the day it was time to use them, I expanded my mailing list by about 50 names.* Was it a problem when I ran out of postcard stamps? NOPE. I had enough first-class stamps for the remaining postcards.


2:30 p.m. : Sort cards into ZIP code bundles

I heard once that this makes it easier for USPS to sort and deliver them. Correct me if you know otherwise.


Soundtrack for final push: Everything is Awesome

2:45 p.m. : SAFETY BREAK

3:45 p.m. :  Deliver postcards to outgoing mail drop


4:00 p.m. : Celebrate with hoagie from Southside Flying Pizza

Turnaround time: 3.5 hours.


Now back to our regularly scheduled painting.

I'd like to thank Alyson Stanfield and the members of the Art Biz Bootcamp and Art Biz Incubator Silver groups for their continued advice and encouragement. Y'all help me stay psyched about this business.

* Hey, would you like to get my postcards, too? You can sign up right here.

My Inventory Card System

Sample from my inventory card system.
Here's an example of my inventory card system. Click the image to see full-size, or click here to download a 1-page PDF version.

I keep my complete inventory in a stack of 3x5" index cards. When it comes time for a show, I make inventories for the gallery in spreadsheet form, and also in a document with thumbnail images.

Paper and pen are my preferred medium for most applications, but if you'd rather create a digital database of your work, try the GYST company.

Too many index cards cluttering up your desk drawer? Try putting them together into a Hipster.

End Matter - Finishing Touches on a Gallery Show

Aloe polyphylla Schönland ex Pillans by Flickr user brewbooks. Click image to view source.
Aloe polyphylla Schönland ex Pillans by Flickr user brewbooks. Click image to view source.

End matter or back matter is a book publishing term that describes all the written elements of a book to be dealt with after the author has finished writing the manuscript. These may include indexes, appendices, glossaries, the table of contents, notes, bibliographies, and so on.

As a gallery artist, I have learned to do a lot more legwork besides making the paintings. I have come to think of certain tasks as the end matter -- what remains to be done after the art is finished. The more of this work I do myself, and do well, before delivering my work to a gallery, the better my professional standing.

Following is some end matter I'm faced with before a gallery show.

Sign and date the work. Sometimes, as with the Normal series, I include a story on the back of the piece. Information like this can increase a painting's value and provenance.

Prepare the painting for hanging in the gallery, either by wiring or framing. I highly recommend Downtown Art & Frame in Norman, OK.

Attach a business card or other identifying information to the back of the piece. This is especially important for group shows where your work might be misidentified.

Photograph the piece. That is, take a good photo, not one with uneven lighting, or glare, or out of focus, etc. The digital formats I use most often are: 300 dpi, 1,000 pixels on a side (for print) 300 dpi, 4 x 6 inches or thereabouts (for print or application to juried shows) 72 dpi, 500-800 pixels on a side (for the web) 72 dpi, 150 pixels on a side (for thumbnails)

Make a backup of the photos, on cd, on the home server, etc.

Upload the image to my website, Flickr, Facebook, etc.

Add the piece to my portfolio, if it's among my best works. Add the piece to my inventory. I'll post more on this later.

Register the work with the copyright office. I keep a text file with an ongoing list of all the works I complete, called "Works By Date." When I finish a piece (or scan a batch of sketchbook pages), I add it to the list. I also keep a folder of small images at 72 dpi, which I will submit as a batch with my copyright registration. When I'm on top of things, I register my work four times a year.

Create an inventory for the gallery. This is so underrated. I make the inventory in two formats:

A spreadsheet containing the title and dates of the show, then the title, medium, dimensions, year, and price for each piece. At the bottom of the spreadsheet I list the show drop-off and pick-up dates, with space for my initials and the curator's. I print two copies: one for me, one for them.

A visual inventory with thumbnail images of each work in the show, followed by titles and prices. (Again, I print two or more copies, and file one for my own reference.) This helps whomever hangs and labels the show, and can also facilitate sales. When a potential buyer calls the gallery asking for the price of a piece, they may only remember it as "That yellow one, with the guy, and that thing in the corner." Having a visual inventory on hand can help avoid all sorts of confusion.

I've learned to leave myself a few days before my deadline to tie up these loose ends. When it's time to ship or deliver my work, I feel much better having all these ducks are in a row.

This post is part of NaBloPoMo for July 2009.