cindy a. stephens: Blog en-us (C) cindy a. stephens (cindy a. stephens) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:24:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:24:00 GMT cindy a. stephens: Blog 80 120 My adventure in China Traveler Photos

By Cindy A. Stephens

It’s still true, I think, what Samuel Johnson said many years ago about traveling: “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.”

Shanghai, 2017

Shanghai, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

For instance you need to see firsthand, in modern China, the ear cleaners who go to teahouses in the People’s Park in Chengdu and offer ear cleaning services.  Yes, this is exactly what is sounds like! People can get their ears cleaned (in public) while they enjoy afternoon tea!

Zhujiajaio, China, 2017

Zhujiajaio, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

You might imagine a bustling, modern China with is myriad factories and populous cities.  But what of the reality in the village of Fengdu where dental services are offered in the street?

Fengdu, China, 2017

Fengdu, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

The China I saw was admittedly only a small sliver of how things are.  The reality I saw is what I was permitted and encouraged to see and experience.

Fengdu, China, 2017

Fengdu, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

The underpasses in major cities were pristine and planted with beautiful gardens.  I didn’t see homeless living underneath them as I did in neighboring India.  Is this because China has done such an amazing job at creating economic growth that there aren’t any homeless in cities whose populations surpass 20 million?

Fengdu market, China, 2017

Fenggdu, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

The cities of Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, and Shanghai that I visited are thriving cosmopolitan centers.  A friend put it best when she said they looked like “legos”.  Each city center was chock-full of apartment buildings as far as you could see.  One building, then another, and another.  Each apartment building appearing like its neighbor with little outward individuality.

Gianta panda breeding center, Chengdu, China, 2017

Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

Laundry adorned nearly every balcony of Shanghai’s modern apartment buildings like ornaments.

Rice noodles, China 2017

Rice Noodles, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty and now live in apartments in major cities. Children who earn enough money dutifully send it back to their parents who may still eke out a subsistence living in agricultural communities where the retirement age is mid-50’s.  A small house in the historic, traditional, hutong district of Beijing might sell for $1 million.  The family uses a public bathroom across the street, shared with many neighbors.

Along the Yangtze River, China, 2017

Along the Yangtze River, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

My visit to the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian was a highlight of my visit. I was surprised to learn that it is still an active archaeological site and see the team of scientists at work in pits.  I was amazed that over one thousand yeares ago an emperor was so concerned about his afterlife that he commissioned an army of 8,000+ soldiers to be built and buried across 30+ acres

Village life, China, 2017

Village life, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

It is true what they say, China is a land of contrast. I visited a city with more than 6 million vehicles; a bustling financial center in Shanghai; a village relocated due to the Three Gorges Dam;  a hanging coffin along the Yangtze, centuries-old Terra Cotta warriors; and a traditional family home without running water and modern apartment buildings.

Along the Yangtze River, China, 2017

Parasols, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

I enjoyed wonderful food, including Peking duck in Beijing, noodles in Xian, and a traditional hot pot dinner in Chengdu.

Muslim Quarter, Xian, Copyright 2017 by Cindy A Stephens

I learn something on each of my world travels that informs my perspective and world outlook.  On this journey I came away with the strong belief that there is more “gray” than “black and white” when examining different political and economic situations. 


Millions of people are no longer living in poverty and help other generations. This progress has come at a price, though, as farmlands and the environment have been eradicated to make room for cities as they expand ever outward.  And the constantly grey, polluted skies are a reminder of the many inherent trade offs of rapid economic development.


You might also be interested in Tibet Travel Diary and Photos.

(cindy a. stephens) fine art prints for sale travel photography asia traveler photos travelgram Thu, 04 Jan 2018 23:03:59 GMT
Tibet Travel Diary and Photos Eyewitness Account to Tibet

By Cindy A. Stephens


The first thing that struck me after landing in Tibet was the sky - how sunny and blue it was!  Having spent the prior week in Beijing, Xian and Chengdu where the sun was barely visible through a thick haze (a.k.a. smog), Tibetan blue skies were a welcome change.  The second thing that I noticed was the amazing scenery.  The third thing, was nausea.


I had been at high altitude without incident while travelling in the Andes so I was unprepared for what hit me in Tibet, which was really unpleasant.  Enough said.  Despite the altitude sickness that I experienced I would happily return to Tibet!  The three nights I spent in Llasa, Tibet were the highlight of my two week journey.


Potala Palace, Llasa

Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


Tibetan Growth

If you’ve read my other travel photography posts, or follow me on Instagram, you know that I love to experience places where the cultures are different from New England culture.  As a traveler I try to keep an open mind and immerse myself in unfamiliar cultures and experience them from multiple vantage points.  It isn’t always easy.  In Tibet, I couldn’t help feel that I had come too late to experience traditional Tibetan culture and was left asking myself: is Tibetan growth creating a better quality of life for the Tibetan people or erasing centuries of tradition?  Is it possible to do both at the same time?


(You might also be interested in this travel blog: Zambia, Botswana and South Africa: Photos from Africa)


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


Tibet’s growth and modernization were visible in bold and subtle ways.  It was evident in the construction cranes building modern apartment buildings that juxtaposed with snow-covered Himalayas.  Also too in the paved airport expressway that wound through tunnels blasted into the Tibetan plateau.  It was clearly visible in billboard advertisements that dotted the expressway beside lakes and golden-leafed Apsens.  In a more subtle way, it was present with the tree plantings designed to oxygenate the atmosphere.


I didn’t have to look beyond my hotel, though, to see signs of development.  The luxury Shangri-La hotel in Llasa is a scant few years old.  The number of tourists visiting the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) is difficult to pin down but it seems clear that tourism is on the rise. (Read this Washington Post article for more on calculating visitors.)  A stroll through the narrow streets surrounding the historic Jokhang Temple in downtown Llasa now feature a myriad of wares and trinkets for sale to passersby.  This commerce center has sprouted within the past couple of years.


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


Much of the influx into Tibet is from the Chinese people who see opportunities for personal growth in Llasa.  Our local guide told us she visited Tibet on vacation and “it was like a dream”.  Many are attracted to clean air, blue skies, modern housing and job prospects.


Non-Chinese tourism is on the rise too, though, and I can’t help wonder what its impact is having on traditional Tibetan ways.  In quantum mechanics our very act of observation can influence what is taking place. Is that happening in Tibet?  What am I influencing with my presence?  Money from tourists provides jobs and a higher standard of living while at the same time bringing visible changes to the landscape and culture.


Tibetan Traditions

Tibet is full of history and tradition.  I struggled out of bed to see for myself a few of the spiritual and historic sites. 


I feel very privileged to have visited the Dalai Lama’s summer palace.  Norbulingka has been lovingly preserved as it was when the 14th Dalai Lama fled in exile to India in 1959.  The expansive gardens and palace are stunning. Rooms are a rich tapestry (literally and figuratively) that depict the history of the world and also highlight the smallest of details. For instance, a clock is stopped at the precise time the 14th Dalai Lama fled in exile.


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


I am also thankful I visited the Johkang Temple in the center of old Llasa city.  After passing through metal detectors at the perimeter of Barkhor square I was greeted by a feast for the senses that included colorful prayer flags, the distant Himalayas and pilgrims prostrating themselves outside the Temple.


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens

Johkang Temple is the holiest destination for Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims.  Inside the temple there are two informal paths, one for pilgrims and the other for tourists.  Pilgrims, often wearing or holding white prayer scarfs, bring yak butter from home to pour and leave behind as an offering and in respect.  Among the many statues that are inside the temple is one (Jowe Rinpoche) that is purported to have been created during the lifetime of Buddha Shakyamuni during the 6th to 5th century BCE. It is believed to have been blessed by Buddha himself.


Lotus flowers in a cauldron at the Jokhang Temple during my visit to Llasa, Tibet.

Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


It’s hard to describe what it felt like to be inside this Temple and to be standing in Barkhor Square.  The best way I know how to describe it is to say that I was completely at peace and for those moments didn’t have another care in the world.  I was at once overcome with the smells (e.g., lots of yak butter) and sights (e.g., Buddhist statues) and sounds (e.g., soft Buddhist prayers). It’s a humbling experience to be allowed into the holiest of Buddhist temples.   


Mingling of Old and New in Tibetan Culture

In my view Tibet is at a crossroads.  Traditional Tibetan culture continues to co-mingle with Chinese ways and also other Western cultures.  I was told by one guide during my visit that of the three million people in the Tibet Autonomous Region one million are Chinese.  Whether these numbers are precise is not really the point.  More to the point is that Tibetan culture is changing, and changing fast.  China is driving its growth.  But so too, are the Western tourists that come in increasing numbers to experience for themselves what life is like at the roof of the world.  Tibet is not alone in this situation.  Case in point: during my visit to Antarctica I was acutely aware of the potential influence of humans in this fragile ecosystem.


Copyright 2017, Cindy A Stephens


Change is inevitable.  It will bring with it better standards of living as well as a melding of culture, values and ideals.  As a traveler my aim is to explore with my eyes wide open and question – exploring the good and the bad along with the ugly.  I’ve often said that I wish it were mandatory for every American to visit at least one place that is culturally different from our own so we can each broaden our perspective.  Maybe though, that’s unnecessary.  After all, America is already a melting pot of dozens of cultures from across the globe.  And in the end, isn’t that part of what makes America great?


You might also be interested in reading The Pink Monks of Myanmar: Eyewitness to Life as a Buddhist Nun or Pictures from Kathmahdu, Nepal


Stay tuned for another post soon on my travels to mainland China!

(cindy a. stephens) fine art prints for sale my travel photography original art for sale online travel travel blog travel blog photography travel blogger travel photos travel pictures Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:22:10 GMT
How to Build a Successful Fiber Arts Business Art marketing conversation with textile artist Susan Levi-Goerlich

By Cindy A. Stephens


Textile artist Susan Levi-Goerlich stitched her first fiber painting in 1984 and never looked back.  In the 30-plus years since then, Susan’s fiber paintings have been featured in The Crafts Report as well as on Maryland Public Television’s Artworks This Week and HGTV’s Sew Much More.  She’s a successful artist whose work has been featured in newspapers and magazines and included in the book Artistry in Fiber: Wall Art.


Becoming a successful artist isn’t easy.  “When you decide to be an artist you are really opening a small business,” Susan said. “The amount of time I spend in my studio creating is a fraction of the time I spend with everything else that goes along with running the business.  I didn’t realize that at the beginning. I just wanted to make stuff.  But it’s a business.”

















Copyright Susan Levi-Goerlich


In this post we discuss the Four P’s of Susan Levi-Goerlich’s fiber arts business:

  • Susan’s fiber art and business [Product]
  • How Susan prices her fiber art [Price]
  • Susan’s thoughts on using social media to promote her art business [Promotion]
  • Craft shows [Place]


Susan’s fiber art business [Product]

Susan’s medium is fiber.  She uses a combination of free-motion machine embroidery, silk and needle-felting.  She uses photographs as a reference to create landscapes using layers of richly colored silk.  She may use the same photo more than once as inspiration but, as she told me, “the individual stitched paintings based on a specific photo are more like siblings than identical twins.  There is a strong family resemblance but they’re not exactly the same.”











Copyright Susan Levi-Goerlich


Glance at Susan’s website and you’ll see that her business consists of making and selling fiber paintings, commissions, book sales, as well as teaching and lecturing.  Phew!


Teaching, Susan said, “tends to be an extra leg on the stool that we all need to support ourselves,” adding that “…if one leg gets wobbly the stool will still be supported by the others. Teaching is an additional leg for my stool.”


Tip: If you are interested in teaching you might also be interested in this blog archive - How to Make Teaching Art a Full Time Profession: One Fiber Artist’s Story


In terms of book sales, Susan started making books nearly 10 years ago and now has four self-published books to her credit. (You can read more about them on Susan’s website.)  They started initially when her husband suggested Susan create a book of her work.  Her first book, Stitched Impressions, was intended to showcase her pieces. “The book served as a portfolio,” Susan said. “[Buyers] could narrow-down what types of images they liked.”  Her next book, Garden Portraits, was developed to show customers that she could do a commission based on their gardens. It showed photographs of gardens and how Susan interpreted the photos to create stitched paintings. Originally, Susan had both books with her at craft shows for informational purposes.  When customers expressed interest in buying them, she had more printed.


How Susan prices fiber art [Pricing]

Figuring out how to price art correctly is one of the most challenging business activities for artists.  My regular readers know that I ask the artists I speak with to share their pricing approaches because it is tremendously helpful for other artists.  [One side note:  while each art medium has its own unique pricing considerations, I firmly believe that some ideas are universal and apply equally well to any artistic endeavor.]


In terms of how Susan prices her work, she has a pretty good idea of what she can charge because she’s been a fiber artist for over 30 years.  For instance, Susan doesn’t track the hours spent on a specific painting. “What I try to do is have a wide range of prices, from under $100 up to $5,000 or more,” Susan said.  “The little pieces are good because while the big pieces make a big splash when you sell one, you have to wait longer [for a sale].”


Susan likes to be busy.  She would prefer to be making (and selling) work regularly so she has a lot of smaller pieces. These are what she sometimes dubs “starter art.”  In her experience, buyers of starter art/the smaller work “often come back in future years to add to their collection or start moving up to larger pieces.”  In this way, she’s taking a longer term approach to building her business by encouraging smaller sales now for potentially bigger sales in the future.


For beginning artists Susan's advice is, "It is more fun to sell stuff than not. Even if you think a piece is worth $1,000 you also have to figure out whether you want to sit and look at it for a long time or move it on out so you can make more pieces.” She adds, “You can’t go backwards with your prices.  If someone buys a piece for $1,000 you are stuck.  You can’t sell a similar piece for $250 [next time].”















Copyright Susan Levi-Goerlich


There’s another reason that Susan likes to make art available within a wide range of prices. “If I have a piece that is $2,000 and another that is $5,000, the $2,000 piece doesn’t look quite as expensive when it is compared with the $5,000 piece.”


Case in point: “If have a $250 [piece] and a smaller [one] that is $100, a customer might feel like they can’t afford $250 but can spend $100.” 


This pricing approach does have implications for the way she works.  Susan simplifies her fiber paintings for the smaller pieces, and usually offers them in framed dimensions ranging from 8”x8” to 16”x20.” She makes sure that if she uses a certain technique for a smaller piece, all of her work with this technique and size will have the same price.


“You have to be consistent with your prices,” she says.  “If there is a discernible difference between pieces it’s okay to price them differently, but you can’t price things willy nilly.”  Her prices are standard whether she shows her work in a booth at a craft show, on her website, or in a gallery.


In terms of how to get started setting an initial price for a large piece (20”x24” framed and up) Susan uses a formula to figure out a square inch price.   This is similar to what Lesley Heathcote told me that she does with pastels (You can read more about Lesley Heathcote in a blog archive).


Using social media and the web to promote fiber arts [Promotion]

When it comes to ways to promote an arts business, opinions differ.  Commercial travel photographer Ken Kaminesky shared with me how he’s used Twitter extensively to build his business. (You might be interested in reading the full blog post, How can you use twitter to promote your photography business?).


In Susan’s case she feels it is “really important to make room in your life for work and for play.” This philosophy applies to her use of social media too.  In terms of her business she says “It [social media] is not something I’m willing to make the time for.  I know it could be useful but I know that it can also be a huge time suck.  I don’t want to get caught in that vortex and end up spending even more time on the computer than I already do.  I know that to do anything effectively I would need to put a lot of time into it and I’m not willing to do that with social media.”


Susan was willing, though, to spend three months revamping her website so she would have a site that she could update on her own (instead of needing a web designer to do it).  She says she “was willing to put the time in because I knew it was important, whereas with social media, it isn’t that much a part of my life.”


This traditional approach works for Susan and her art business, in part because of her medium – fiber/textile arts.  She feels that buyers needs to see her art in person to really experience it.  This is why craft shows are a great venue for her to sell work.  More on that in a minute.


“I am most comfortable using the web as a follow-up for people who have already seen my work in person. Otherwise they aren’t exactly sure of what they will be getting,” she says.  “My work is not captured well online.”


This may be somewhat unique to fiber/textile arts.  For photographers and other artists, it may be less of an issue to need to experience the work up close and in person.


So, how does Susan promote her work if it isn’t through digital means?  Teaching she says, can be a good medium for promotion. When she teaches at a craft school she brings samples of her work and often sells them.  Also, she’s open to having a show at a gallery.   Her primary means of promoting and selling work, though, is at craft shows.


Selling fiber art at craft shows [Place]

Susan started selling her fiber art at craft shows and they have been a constant in terms of how she has sold for the past 30 years.  She still participates in six to eight shows per year. She also deals with galleries but not that much.  Susan no longer sells her work wholesale because she said having to repeat pieces took the fun out of creating the work. 
















Copyright Susan Levi-Goelrich

Interestingly, craft shows give Susan something besides sales.  They also give her feedback, feedback that she says “is a whole lot less filtered when someone is standing in the booth [versus on Instagram].”  She believes that delivering comments in person in a booth trumps “likes” on social media sites. “At times, people in my booth have made fairly random comments that have sparked an entirely new body of work,” she says.  “I listen with open ears.  I also have developed a thick skin.”


Time, Susan says, is a finite resource. “With the business of making and selling art, you wear lots of hats—you either do everything yourself or you contract out tasks.”  The four “P’s” of her textile business (product, price, promotion and place) work for Susan.” Susan allocates her time on the things that matter most for her and give her the in-person feedback, ideas and motivations she needs.


“Doing craft shows, I have colleagues spread across the East Coast.  When we come together it can be a really fertile time to share ideas. There have been times when an artist friend solved something for me in an instant that I had been stuck on for days.”


I hope you’ll use Susan’s story as inspiration for your own art business and tailor it to what works best for you.  For instance, if you are a photographer and don’t have an original piece in the same way textile artists or painters to, you still might consider offering a range of work at different price points by having fine art prints as well as ready-to-hang canvas art or glass prints. Or, you might choose to spend some of your time meeting potential customers face-to-face instead of only promoting work using social media.  There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.  Do what’s right for you to build your successful arts business.


You might also be interested in this blog archive, Finding Customers for your Fine Art Business.


Susan began selling fiber artwork when she was living in Munich in the mid-1980's. Then, as now, stitching played a primary role in her work and she used the sewing machine as others would use a pencil or paintbrush. While in Munich, she learned the art of silk painting which prompted her to begin experimentation with different weaves of silk. Designing silk collages from layers of colored silk was a natural progression.  Her current work combines her passion for gardening and garden imagery with free-motion machine embroidery. 


(cindy a. stephens) art business art marketing contemporary textile art how to build a successful fiber art business how to price fiber art how to sell fiber art Tue, 05 Dec 2017 22:42:58 GMT
New! Fine art photography on Instagram @cindyastephensfineart

You can now see more of my photographs on my Instagram account.  I've been showcasing images that are currently available on my website and my shops on #ArtfulHome and #Zatista. 

I'll also be posting never-before seen photographs from my archives along with brand new inventory.  I hope you'll follow me and see at least one new pic each day. See what I've posted already, here




(cindy a. stephens) fine art on instagram fine art photographers on instagram fine art prints for sale instagram photography Fri, 20 Oct 2017 19:58:55 GMT
How to Make Teaching Art a Full Time Profession One Fiber Artist’s Story

By Cindy A Stephens


Contemporary basket artist Jackie Abrams has taught in Australia eight times, given a workshop in New Zealand, volunteered to teach in Ghana six times, and run numerous art workshops across the United States and Canada.  Teaching workshops has become Jackie’s primary source of art income but it wasn’t always that way.


Standing in Strength, Copyright Jackie Abrams

For many years (more than 40) Jackie’s primary markets for her fiber arts business were sales through galleries and craft shows.  She traveled as far away as Washington, DC and Philadelphia for craft shows, which required hauling pedestals and other materials that were needed for her booth.   It was, she told me, “a major thing to do a show in terms of time and money and exertion.”  The effort was worth it though due to the way people would come into her booth and respond to her work as well as the sales she made.  Jackie had a solid selling price point between $200 and $600. “Pretty much if it was a nice piece I could sell it,” she said.


Unfortunately that all changed in 2008 when the economy changed.  “Basket sales are unreliable [now].  Up to 2008 you could count on making a certain amount of money.  Then, sales just went down.”   The mid-market that was the backbone of her sales (between $200 and $600) disappeared.  Jackie was single and suddenly had to earn more income.  That’s when “teaching became a real profession,” she said.


Jackie’s journey from full-time basket maker to basket-educator, is uniquely her own.  Nevertheless, this fascinating story is full of tips for other working artists looking to make money teaching art and craft classes.


Hidden Memories: The Ravages of Dementia, Copyright Jackie Abrams

9 Ways Jackie Made Teaching into her Main Source of Art Income

1.Became expert in her craft.  With a career in contemporary basket arts spanning the decades since 1975 Jackie was already a skilled artist when she returned to teaching basket making techniques in 1993 after raising her daughters.  Her work had already been displayed in galleries from Vermont (her home state) throughout the United States and Canada.

2.Remained passionate about education.  Jackie had a passion for education and a head-start in terms of knowing how to teach.  Before Jackie began making baskets she was a classroom teacher with a Master’s in Education.  In terms of fiber arts teaching specifically, Jackie says that she started teaching early on in her career to have a connection, to share what she was doing, and connect with people and other teachers.  When sales slowed in 2008 Jackie had already been teaching for many years and was poised to make teaching a much larger part of her business to give her added income and the ability to travel.  Even with a significant head start Jackie nevertheless found that her journey had its ups and downs.

3.Offered bonus materials to earn extra income.  “My plan was to teach each of the six major [basket making] techniques and make a DVD - two per year - which would be my retirement money,” she said.  Jackie ended up making only one.  “It was very expensive. It wasn’t pleasant.”  And on top of the production experience Jackie still had to market these DVDs.  Now, she has a steady dribble of orders for DVDs that fluctuates between selling zero and six in a single month.  In months when she goes to a conference she may end up selling a few more.

4.Paid her dues and worked her way up.  Jackie started by teaching at basket conferences and worked her way up in terms of teaching jobs.  During the past 10 years Jackie has become more selective on which teaching assignments she wants to be involved with.  “I took [teaching] jobs that I wouldn’t take now,” she says.  In some instances, as with Arrowmount School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee, she still teaches there because she loves Arrowmount.  “It is financially barely worth it to go there [but] you know it will be a great week.” 

5.Loved meeting people!  What Jackie enjoys most about teaching at Arrowmount and other places is meeting people.  She was asked recently if she’d like to have a juried show of her students’ work in British Columbia.  The answer was a resounding YES! Jackie really loved seeing her student’s work particularly where they went beyond what she had taught them.  “What’s exciting is that they take what I have to offer and go crazy with it and take it in another direction.”

6.Knew what to charge based on the going rates.   In terms of making a living from teaching art Jackie began by setting her price for workshops and other assignments based on the going rate, which is different for individual fields.  “Jewelry workshops can command a higher price than rug making for example and I can ask less than they [jewelry workshops] do.”  She learned about these going rates from attending basket conferences and meeting with a lot of people (many of whom are now close friends).  Jackie also joined a group of national basket teachers that had an active email group, which meant Jackie could reach out to a community to learn more about going rates.  Establishing her network has proven to be very important for her business.

7.Developed her professional network. Jackie’s teaching has given her the opportunity to travel and make many friends, all over the world.  She’s woven together a rich tapestry that now includes fellow educators, other fiber artists, customers and mentors.  This desire to connect with people and meet other teachers has proven invaluable and according to Jackie “… turned out to be a fabulous community.”  It has also proven to be serendipitous.

8.Pursued new teaching opportunities.  When Jackie turned 50 she travelled to Australia with a group of friends for a basket gathering.  This is where she met one of her two mentors.  It was also where Jackie mentioned off-handedly that “if you are ever looking for an American basket maker who teaches let me know.”  Jackie got hired and has since been back to teach in Australia seven times.

9.Found two mentors.  As I just mentioned, Jackie has two mentors.  Steve is the other one.  This relationship has helped her get involved with craft development in Africa.  Initially Steve started out by visiting her at shows and buying her work.  A few years into it, Jackie told me, they realized that they had a common interest in Africa and in Ghana specifically.  Steve connected Jackie with a woman who was looking for someone to go to Ghana and work with people making objects out of paper that could be sold for money.  While this initial venture wasn’t successful it did lead to another opportunity at a woman’s trust teaching women a craft skill so they could make money.  Jackie was hired and did that trip three times.


In Conversation, Copyright Jackie Abrams

Lessons from Jackie’s transition to fiber arts educator

Jackie’s decision to share her passion for basket making has opened up many opportunities for her art business.  Expanding a business internationally isn’t easy.  And, doing this in the arts is perhaps even harder. 


It seems to me that these opportunities have also “taught the teacher”.  Her craft development in Africa and time spent with women in Ghana has had the profound effect of simplifying her art forms and distilling them to precisely what she wants to say – letting the work speak for itself.  And it does speak, loudly!  Her Women Forms and Spirit Women portfolios are elegant in their beauty and simplicity.   


Jackie’s students also get to benefit from these experiences.  “My newest classes are about simplifying the technique.  [It] is about what I want to say, not the technique.”


If there’s one lesson that you can apply from Jackie’s story to your own it may be precisely the sentiment Jackie eloquently expressed: have something to say!  When you combine a passion for teaching with something unique to say and hard work it can be a winning recipe for success.


“My favorite story [about craft shows] is the booth was busy and I was talking to someone. I turned away to look at another woman and she was crying [after reading my] few words about what the work meant to me.  Those reactions are what I miss.”


In the end having someone respond to your work either as an artist or as a teacher is a powerful motivator for doing what we’ve chosen to do.


You might also be interested in this blog archive, my discussion with award winning freelance photographer and photo-educator David H. Wells: How to build awareness for your work


Jackie has been a fiber artist for over 40 years, using and adapting well-practiced basket-making skills. Her materials include silk and cotton fabrics, archival paper, wire, sand, thread, buttons, encaustic wax, and acrylic paints and mediums.  She works intuitively, the colors and textures of the materials informing the vessels she creates.  You can read her complete artist statement on her website.

(cindy a. stephens) art business art marketing contemporary basketry fiber artists jackie abrams Tue, 29 Aug 2017 11:00:00 GMT
How to Sell Wearable Art Jewelry [Conversation with Designer Chris Lann] By Cindy A Stephens


Contemporary jewelry designer Chris Lann has spent the past 14 years pursuing metalsmithing and creating one-of-a-kind and limited-production jewelry.  He told me that “A lot of people buying art are really buying a piece of the artist, so letting them have that and knowing that each piece is individually made — strictly speaking one of a kind — helps a lot [in building a business].  It becomes a signature thing.”


Serpentine Lariat, Copyright Chris Lann

I couldn’t agree more. People are building a connection with a specific artist when they purchase an original painting, a fine art print, or a signature piece of jewelry.  It is why many collectors choose to buy an original fine art print directly from the artist instead of buying an anonymous, mass-produced item at a home goods store. 


Developing relationships with customers has played a role with many other artists I’ve spoken with, including Karin Rosenthal, Lesley Heathcote and The Lone Beader.  All of them have built successful art businesses.  The “Holy grail is people who come back again and again,” Chris said.


The critical question for artists to answer, then, is how do we find these potentially loyal customers and develop relationships with them?  Or to put it another way, where do customers go to buy handmade contemporary jewelry and other fine art?  Answering this question is something that Chris has grappled with since leaving his career as a newspaper editor and layout artist to pursue metalsmithing full time.


Selling Wearable Art Online with Etsy: the Accidental Marketer

Chris lives in Vermont and setup his contemporary jewelry studio in 2010 in West Brattleboro.   He estimates 90% of his jewelry sales are to female Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.


I asked Chris about his artistic presence on Etsy, Instagram and Facebook and how he thinks about them in terms of reaching these potential customers and building his presence.  "All my effort goes into making jewelry, marketing gets short shrift," Chris said.  "I'm always up against a deadline to have inventory to take to a show.  Marketing ends up being expendable."


Having an Etsy shop hasn’t come about as a way to reach collectors who are looking for the very best place to shop for jewelry online.  In fact, when it comes to Etsy, Chris said he “sort of feel[s] obligated to do it. It feels almost accidental.  In truth, having the website at all has been a lot like that.”


Cornucopia, Copyright Chris Lann

Chris thinks about his online web presence more as a way for people who already know him to reconnect, which is important because a lot of his business relies on repeat customers.  The integration of Chris’s Etsy shop with his own website came about purely because he used Wix to create a new website that he says “was slick and easy.”


“Etsy offers a page for your site to link to your shop, to plug Etsy into the furniture of the site. In [my] old site, it was setup like an online store. That was a lot of work to maintain, and was clunky.  [The] new site is sort of a gallery [for people] to become acquainted or get in touch for custom orders or know when I am doing shows.”


It is much the same with Instagram and Facebook.  Chris said that he feels like he has to have a presence on them but isn't sure he knows what he is doing with them yet.  He uses Facebook in particular to promote the art shows that he does and let people know when he is going to be at one of them.  This is important because selling jewelry at craft shows is a very important part of his business.


How to Price Jewelry for Craft Shows

Chris primarily sells his contemporary jewelry designs at craft shows and face-to-face from his studio.  His model is to stay within a 100-mile radius of his studio when going to a show.  That’s how Chris picks which events he’ll participate in. 


According to Chris it is “not the golden age of shows that it was in the 70s/80s when you could expect to make $10,000 at a single event.”  When he’s doing a show now, he said, he is primarily interested in meeting and speaking with several thousand people and in the process selling some jewelry. 


When it comes to craft shows, I asked Chris how he thinks about how to price jewelry for them.  How to price art for sale is always a hot topic. In fact, a reader of mine, Steven, contacted me a few months ago to ask my opinion about pricing his panoramic photography for an art show:  “Do you think I should charge a slightly less price at the art shows I will be doing, rather than what I normally charge?”


Here’s what Chris had to say about pricing:  “It seemed logical that I would have lower prices at a show or in the studio.  If I go to the source, I expect for it to cost less. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that isn’t the model.  Not only do galleries not want to deal with you if you do that; there is no reason for them to sell your work if you sell it for half price. They have no incentive to work with someone who will undercut them. That is not a good model.  It is better to find a price that is reasonable, which is a source of a lot of thought and grief.” 


Chris uses a formula that takes into account his overhead (which is low) and the hours he spent on a piece, but he often lowers the resulting price to what he would expect to spend if he were buying it.  The result is that he feels his jewelry is often underpriced. 


Unfortunately, I am beginning to see a trend about under-valuing work based on my conversations with artists across many different mediums.  For Chris, his current approach seems to work, though, because he has many repeat customers and doesn’t spend as much time finding new ones as much as selling more to current customers.


How to Get Repeat Customers for Jewelry

When it comes to selling his contemporary jewelry designs, one of the things that has helped Chris the most has been doing demonstrations at art shows.  He will be working on a piece and knitting silver chains when he is at an art show to demonstrate what the work entails.


“A lot of times people won’t think about how it is made, but if they see it made and see there is more work involved than initially thought, it is a chance to connect,” Chris said.


Building this personal and face-to-face connection with his customers is important. Chris was in a gallery for several years in Brattleboro and said he didn’t have the personal connection with buyers in that setting.


Flat Weave Bimetal Ring, Copyright Chris Lann

He found that the gallery had a different motivation to sell pieces and they eventually parted ways. “They want to bring people in the door,” he said, and aren’t necessarily motivated to do what is in the artist’s best interest.


For example, Chris has a piece he uses for demonstrations at art shows that is one of his most popular designs. He sells it at every show. At the gallery, he surprisingly found that people didn’t respond to it in the same way.   Chris may go back to a gallery at some point.  For now though, he also creates interest in his work through his involvement with Brattleboro-West Arts.  Chris currently is chairman of the Brattleboro-West Arts PR Committee.


As a former newspaper editor and designer, he helps write and produce BWA’s promotional materials.  What's neat is, because of his investment of time on PR, he feels that it has increased overall awareness and traffic to the Brattleboro-West Arts site that features all of the member artists. According to Chris, “being in a group can you get more traction.”


In the end, building your artistic presence and a successful art business may have as much to do with creativity and passion as it does good business sense.  According to Chris, “[You] have to follow your inspiration for the art, and if you create things you are passionate about, people will connect with that.  If you aren’t passionate about it, they won’t connect with it. Stay excited about what you are creating.”


Taking cues from nature, Chris employs techniques used since the dawn of metalsmithing to create pieces of wearable art that are at once organic and contemporary. From twigs and branches that seem to have grown to fit your body, to delicate hand-knit silver and gold chains, each item is made individually, completely by hand. To learn more about Chris visit:

(cindy a. stephens) art business art marketing buy jewelry online chris lann contemporary jewelry contemporary jewelry designers how to price jewelry for craft shows Thu, 20 Jul 2017 01:14:32 GMT
American Flag Wall Art Banner Yet Waves

Banner Yet Waves


There are a LOT of pictures of American flags!  I've brought together a few of mine starting with the most realistic.  According to Wikipedia realism in the arts "is the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, implausible, exotic and supernatural elements."  That couldn't be more evident in Banner Yet Waves with its fading flag, peeling paint and Summer sunflowers.


American Symbolism


We don't need to see an entire flag to immediately identify the national icon.  Sometimes, red, white, and blue stripes are enough to conjur a memory of the American flag.  This fine art photograph is from my Reflections from Main Street collection and doesn't show a flag however, it still seemed fitting to include it because of its strong symbolism: an American Eagle and an obvious red, white and blue color scheme.


American Flag Grill

Craving more contemporary flag pictures?  Fire trucks feature an American flag grill that makes a slightly abstract picture of an American flag.


Autumn Breeze


Sometimes it is fun to see just how little information we need to convey an American flag.


(cindy a. stephens) american flag photography flag pictures for sale pictures of american flags Sat, 08 Jul 2017 21:30:03 GMT
Boat Pictures Rowboat



Boating season is here. I find myself drawn to taking photographs that involve water, which are often accompanied by boats.  I've curated several of my boat photographs that involve strong patterns/textures, colors, and bold compositions.  


Sandals at Sea in a Multi-Colored Boat

Sandals at Sea in a Multicolored Boat


 These pictures of boats conjure carefree lifestyles and hint at a sense of adventure.


Italian Boatscape

Italian Boatscape


Speaking of adventure, each of these photographs was taken in a very different part of the world.  Can you guess where each was taken?  Hint: They span four different continents!




Shipwrecked (Prints available on request)


This last boat picture is one of my personal favorites, in part, because it brings back memories of a very special place.  Although it seems like a black and white photograph it is actually a color photo.  If you look closely you'll see numerous shades of white, grays and browns.


These photographs are available in limited edition prints that are made to order and then individually signed and numbered.  In contrast to wall decor/wall art that is available in local home goods stores, each print is made on a fine art paper for a very high-quality presentation.


(cindy a. stephens) art pictures of boats boat photography boat prints for sale Thu, 15 Jun 2017 01:38:17 GMT
How to become a successful full time fine artist [Interview with Animal Artist Lesley Heathcote] By Cindy A Stephens


Lesley Heathcote always dreamed of being a full time artist.  For many of us, that dream feels just out of reach.  Let’s face it, it’s hard for many working artists to earn sufficient art income to warrant leaving their “day jobs”.  Lesley’s journey from an architectural photographer’s assistant in New York City to full time pastel artist in Vermont shows that with skill, determination, perseverance, smarts and a bit of luck you can make it work.



Brothers, Pastel, Copyright Lesley Heathcote


Unconventional Journey to Full Time Artist

Lesley’s spell in New York City after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design (as a photography Major) was interrupted when she returned to Vermont to care for her parents at the end of their lives.  She got a lucky break when it came to selling her NYC apartment. Lesley says “My apartment had been in a rough neighborhood that gradually became a nicer one and so I made a chunk of money from the sale that enabled me to work part time and also have time to develop my art form.”


Knowing no one in Vermont she joined a cooperative gallery where she met other artists and developed friendships.  Through the people she met she was offered a job in the design department of a local stuffed animal company.  As her bio goes on to say, she took the job despite having no training in the field and found that the work further developed her design and drawing skills.


Gradually Lesley began to exhibit more and was able to grow her sales but they weren’t where she wanted them to be.  It was then that due to a series of personal issues she decided to leave the part time job (that involved a lengthy commute) and get a job closer to home.  As fate would have it, that job closer to home didn’t materialize.  Although Lesley still had money from the sale of her apartment to draw upon she was nevertheless thrust into being a full time artist.


“Suddenly I was without a job, she says.” “Art was what I had.  I kept pushing it and was able to bring sales up enough to get by.  Obviously this isn’t how I would advise anyone to transition to full time.”


Thrust into art business in a full-time role Lesley shared with me that art is different when you are suddenly focusing on it as a job.  “It is a transition in how you think about the work, the amount of hours and the discipline you put into it,” she said.


No doubt this resonates with all working artists – we have another source of income to rely on and aren’t 100% dependent on the art business to make a living.


Lesley says “If things had unfolded differently I would work part time and do more art, which is important because it is different when focusing on it as a job.”


Becoming a successful full time artist (building her art business)

You may be wondering at this point, how Lesley became successful having been thrust into a full time role earlier than expected? How did she learn the ins and outs of running an art business?  How did she develop her client base?


Lesley has always had a deep appreciation for animals and the natural world.  In her bio she says this appreciation of nature has always been a part of what inspires her work.  Lesley has also had a lifelong love of animals.


Snowy OwlSnowy OwlPastel

Snowy Owl, Pastel, Copyright Lesley Heathcote


One of the first series of animal portraits she did was of feral cats.  Lesley told me how she put together a show with information on them and showed the images in a variety of local libraries.  “I viewed it as educational as well as artistic,” she says.  “I wanted to drive awareness of what they go through and how they need our help and assistance.” To her surprise Lesley ended up selling some of the portraits and the exhibitions generated inquiries for animal portraits.


Sometimes serendipity plays a strong hand in our lives.  But it is more than that, too. Lesley’s motto was to say YES! “I said yes to any opportunity wherever it was.” She advises to get the work out there.  “The more you do the more it builds.”


After getting inquiries about animal portraits she put up signs in the community – in the pet store and different public areas letting people know that she did portraits. She also held open studios and art fairs. (Quick aside – I first met Lesley at a Vermont Open Studio weekend.  I wrote about open studios in my post on how to find customers for your fine art business.)


Gradually Lesley built her business.  She says that like many artists though, she initially had a lot of rejection.  “You need to learn how to handle that,” Lesley told me.  


Learning how to price fine art

Perhaps the hardest part of becoming a successful full time artist is mastering the aspects of running an art business in addition to your craft.   For example, how do you price your art?



Watchful, Pastel, Copyright Lesley Heathcote


How to price fine art is the most popular topic I’ve written about. Posts on this topic have more views than any other, such as How to Price Fine Art Photography and Tips on How to Price Commercial Photography.


In Lesley’s case she began by researching other people who were doing similar work and looked at how to get hers in the mid-range, a range that she said felt reasonable. “Once I was selling more I got a feel for where things will sell in this area,” she says. 


Importantly this research didn’t just happen when she was starting out.  Lesley told me she recently did research as to what pastel artists are selling at in nearby galleries.  “If you go too low people may question why it is too low.”


Lesley’s approach involves using a pricing formula.  As a pastel artist she has a base price that covers framing costs and uses a price per square inch beyond that. It didn’t always used to be that way though; she started with a more haphazard approach. 


“It has made the biggest difference having a pricing formula. Having a system is really helpful because it takes some of the emotional stress out of it.  Art is so arbitrary in a certain way with some artists selling at very high prices and others very low prices.”


Her advice is to find artists at a similar point in their careers, artists who are actually selling of course (presumably those in a gallery).  “Use their prices as a gauge to build your own pricing formula,” she advises.


Lesley’s advice is markedly different from the advice she was given which was “just sit with the painting and the price will come to you”!!


Here’s one other tip on how to price your art.   She also feels it is important to keep the price the same no matter what the venue is.  This way, your clients don’t see similar work at a lower price point than what they paid. I recently had a question about this very topic.  The artist was preparing for an art show and thinking of offering work at a lower price than it is available elsewhere. 


Winter FieldsWinter FieldsPastel

Winter Fields, Pastel, Copyright Lesley Heathcote


The Advice She’d Give Her Younger Self

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. I was curious, what advice would Lesley give her younger self?


She said that the first thing that came to mind is that it has been so important in her development is to be exposed to, and work in connection with, other artists.  “It has been tremendously helpful in terms of the development of my work, and style, and skill levels, and being an artist, the business and professional aspects of it.”


Her advice to others is to get involved in artist groups and organizations, at whatever level possible. In her situation she found it very helpful to join a cooperative gallery upon moving to Vermont.  Lesley is also a member of critique and community groups.  She finds it very stimulating to have interactions with other artists.  “It has helped bring my level of artwork up,” she says.


I hear this often from other artists and business professionals.  For instance I spoke with Stephanie Sammons about this a few years ago in terms of building your online presence. It is really important to build your network.  I’ve been a member of a critique group for many years.  I find it really valuable for staying motivated and getting candid appraisals of my fine art photographs. 


Lesley has also learned about bookkeeping systems and exhibition opportunities through these relationships.  She is now involved in a group collaborative opportunity as a result.  “It gives an infusion of new energy,” she says about staying involved in these groups.


Each of us will have to find our own path as artists.  Maybe it will be similar to Lesley’s unconventional journey and serendipity will play a starring role.  Or perhaps we’ll use Facebook and other online avenues to build our business like The Lone Beader (I interviewed Diana L. Grygo for a post on Starting a successful art business online).  Or, maybe we’ll continue as working artists and nurture our creative passions on weekends and evenings.


What are you doing?  I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and let my readers know about your successes and challenges.  Until next time …


Lesley HeathcoteLesley Heathcote Heathcote works from her own reference photographs and loves spending time outdoors exploring and photographing nature and animals and doing plein air studies.  Lesley Heathcote’s work combines accurate rendering with deep feeling for the natural world. Colors are heightened, light and composition adjusted, to reveal a poetic vision. The work conveys her sense of wonder and love of nature and the animal kingdom.  Animals and the earth are portrayed with sensitivity and grace.  To learn more about Lesley visit: 

(cindy a. stephens) Lesley Heathcote animal artist art business art marketing how to become a successful full time fine artist Sun, 14 May 2017 19:36:39 GMT
Skies Photography I'm delighted to have two fine art photographs in the "Skies" 2017 show with the Colors of Humanity Art Gallery.  The theme seemed to be a perfect fit for a collection of mine!


The show runs March 1 - March 31, 2017.  There were 94 accepted works that came from 17 states in the USA and 12 other countries.

Silver Sea

Silver Sea

Copyright 2016 by Cindy A Stephens


Twilight at the Beach

Twilight at the Beach

Copyright 2016 by Cindy A Stephens


More photographs from this collection are available in the Cindy A Stephens store on Zatista.


Artists -- you  might be interested in this post from my blog archive: How to build awareness for your work.  It features an interview with photographer David H. Wells on how to build awareness for your work.  Submitting to shows is one great way!


Don't forget to #Lookup

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens fine art prints for sale skies photography sky photography Sat, 18 Mar 2017 23:20:57 GMT
Zambia, Botswana and South Africa (Photos from Africa) A friend called Africa my "spiritual home".  According to the Cambridge Dictionary this refers to a place where I feel I belong because I have a lot in common with the people, culture and way of life (even though I was not born there).  


Regardless of its precise definition I can tell you that I have felt moments of absolute peace on my visits to this wondrous continent; a hunger to know its people, culture and way of life; respect for its inherent risks; and a passion to see its natural wonders.  I'm completely enthralled.


Leopard, Botswana

Copyright 2016, Cindy A Stephens


Last July I made my third visit to the African continent -- it won't be my last.  For me, visiting this magical place is not about checking a box to visit another continent or add another country(s) to my tally.  Africa is a continent of some 50+ countries, 2000 languages and more than one billion people.  Visiting "Africa" and only seeing one country would be like visiting America and not stepping foot outside New York City.  You'd have a feel for NYC but no clue about what the rest of the country was like.


On my most recent journey I decided to visit countries in the southern part of the African continent because it was a region that I hadn't explored.  Botswana, in particular, offered the chance to see the Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi (one of the world's largest salt pans).


Almost immediately this visit felt very different from my trip six years ago.  At the river crossing into Botswana (where Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe meet) there were long truck lines loaded with copper and other cargo waiting to cross.  This active commerce was a sign of a more prosperous economy.  Nevertheless, as with many experiences in Africa, this hopeful scene was punctuated with a bridge that lay unfinished and lazily tip-toed from the river bank as if testing its temperature.


Zambian sunset

Copyright 2016, Cindy A Stephens


I could say more about the economy of Botswana (regarded as one of the most stable and democratic African nations) but I am reminded of Alexander von Humboldt. My current Audible selection is The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World.  Alexander explored South America and the Pacific during the later 1700's.  His letters home spoke of how it felt to be where he was as well as what he observed. Let me try to do the same.  


I felt:


  • pure joy the afternoon we came across a leopard sunning itself on a dead tree
  • incredibly privileged to see African wild dogs and their pups in their natural environment.  There are only an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 remaining in Africa.  On this day we raced back to the den in time to watch adults feed their pups after a morning feast (these dogs regurgitate food for their young).
  • at peace walking in the desert with a Meerkat family as it foraged for food.  There were no cars.  No noise.  No buildings.  I was truly in the midst of the Meerkat world -- and these amazing animals live only in a few regions of southern Africa.
  • apprehensive to be out at sunset when the mosquitoes were more apparent as I was unable to tolerate the malaria medication.  I was understandably relentless about applying mosquito repellent and covering up, particularly at night.
  • lucky to be among the few who are able to sleep outside under the stars in the Makgadikgadi and watch the Milky Way and southern night sky, followed by a beautiful dawn and sunrise
  • happy to see absolutely amazing sunsets.  When the sun is setting the sky is dressed in its finest tapestry.  This is only a tease though for afterwards, when it seems to burn the most vibrant colors imaginable.


I often need time to reflect on my adventures before I am ready to share them.  Perhaps my photos will more adequately convey what this trip felt like even more than these words have.


See more African fine art photos in this gallery


“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

(cindy a. stephens) Fine art wildlife photography african photography for sale botswana fine art photos from botswana fine art pictures people and culture Sun, 12 Feb 2017 23:21:40 GMT
Selling your art online (Tips from the Working artist) Originally published on the Working artist (Thanks Crista!)


In April of 2016, art insurance company Hiscox released its fourth annual report detailing the state of the online art trade. Their findings show the general cooling of the global art market has not affected online sales - in fact, the global online art market is exploding!

In the last year, online sales jumped 24% to a high of $3.27 billion, online marketplaces are overtaking online auctions as the preferred method of purchasing art, and existing online art buyers are buying more.

So you can see, online art buyers are out there.  But in a complicated online world, how do you find them?

There are ways to succeed!

As with almost anything, you need a strategy...and I have laid mine out below.


(cindy a. stephens) Crista Cloutier art business sell art online the Working Artist Tue, 27 Dec 2016 23:05:16 GMT
Original Art Online in my New Store on Zatista Dear readers, I am writing today with some exciting news: I now have a store at Zatista featuring a new collection of original photography!


If you've been following my blog you know that I've written many times about selling art online.


Blog Archive: Building an Art Business: Is selling online right for you?


It seems natural to me that I would choose to offer my photography for sale online.  After all, I've been a digital marketer for many years.  I enjoy reaching people outside New England with my photography and making it available to many more households than I would if it were offered solely in traditional galleries.






New Collection

When I look back it is clear to me now that the seeds of my new collection were sown a long time ago. It wasn't until I stood on Antarctica that they took root, though, and the inspiration for this collection was born.


Irawaddy Sunset Sunset over the the Irrawaddy River in Mynamar is punctuated by the gold spires of stupas.

Copyright 2015, Cindy A Stephens


Walt Whitman said "The sun and stars that float in the open air. The apple shaped earth and we upon it, surely the drift of them is something grand."

Tweet: The sun & stars that float in the open air. The apple shaped earth & we upon it, surely the drift of them is something grand @tweetsofgrass


That's how it felt to be surrounded by open air, ice, sea and penguins. I began shooting using the widest lens I had to convey the massive scale of my surroundings.

Inspired by my experience on Antarctica I wondered if I could emulate that feeling and those types of images at home. We look down so often and walk bowed and hurried deep in thought or on the phone.

What do you see when you look toward the horizon nearest you?  What's at the edge of your sky?

Tweet: Don't forget to #lookup @cindyastephens






(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens fine art prints for sale original art online photography Mon, 17 Oct 2016 11:30:00 GMT
Finding customers for your fine art business By Cindy A Stephens

Fine art for sale
I was waiting in line at one of those big home goods stores recently when I spotted a very large canvas print sticking out of a shopping cart ahead of me.  It was probably $99 for a 4-foot square canvas print.  How, I asked myself, is an artist to make a living when inexpensive wall art (many, poor quality prints) is readily available?

That moment came on the heels of a completely different experience -- the Vermont Spring Open Studio Weekend.   In case you aren't familiar with the open studio weekend it is a wonderful event when Vermont craftspeople open their studios to the public.  Many of these studios are in their homes or in close proximity (e.g., a barn).  You navigate the main streets and back roads of Vermont going from studio to studio relying on: 1) your map listing individual artists who participate in the event and 2) your GPS (essential gear). You meet directly with the artist in the environment where s/he makes art.  It's an intimate event that brings the artist in direct connection with potential buyers.


I criss-crossed the Bennington, Vermont area visting with craftspeople making pottery, jewelry, encaustic paintings and pastels.   One said to me "... the weekend isn't about selling it is about speaking with people."  Interestingly, his display case was almost empty after the 2-day open studio event.


You probably can't make a great living selling your art unless you have customers willing to pay more than what they would at a home goods store or low-end online marketplace (unless you sell a huge volume of art).  And there's the rub -- why would someone pay more for your art than a cheaper imitation?


How to Be Laser Focused on Customers

1) Decide who you want for a customer!

The answer to that question is that not all customers are equal and not all are right for you - the right customer for you will value your work and be willing to pay a fair price!  Don't try to sell your art to just anyone - you need to have a focus.  The person who buys inexpensive canvas prints at the local home goods store may or may not be the customer you want.


As a marketer for a technology company I can tell you from first-hand experience that one of the most challenging things you'll do is identify the customers you really want.  You are looking for the perfect marriage of your interest in them and their interest in you.  A few potential customers to consider for your art are:

  • Individuals (located where? what age ranges? what income ranges?)
  • Casual art collectors
  • Serious art investors
  • Interior decorators and designers
  • Corporate buyers
  • Creative Agencies
  • Photo researchers (for book covers)
  • Stock photo agencies
  • Other craftspeople
  • Friends, family, neighbors
  • Associations
  • And more....


2) Get to know these fine art buyers

Being laser focused on customers means more than simply identifying them. It means truly understanding their needs.  As marketers we often speak of buyer personas.  I recommend this Hubspot blog for anyone interested in learning more about personas: The Definition of a Buyer Persona [in Under 100 Words].  


What you want to do is try to really personify your customer.  For example if you are primarily interested in selling to interior designers dive a bit deeper. How old is your target interior designer? Where does s/he live?  Does s/he have a certain style or aesthetic (e.g., rustic, traditional, modern, shabby chic)?   What are her areas of specialty?  Does she do urban makeovers?  Work in the suburbs?  Houzz, an online platform for home remodeling and design, can be a great resource for better understanding the market by reviewing its designer bios and profiles.


Now, you may ask: is all of this really necessary?  Yes!  How will you know where to find buyers for your art and what price to charge, if you don't really understand them?  Case in point: where are you most likely to find them?


3) Come up with a plan for where to reach them

Assuming that you have professional-quality art that is priced right, you'll be rewarded if you spend some time to figure out where to find these ideal customers. (You might also be interested in this blog post: How to price fine art - tips for emerging artists).  Let's take the interior designer example we used earlier.


Is your designer likely to be looking for pieces for the latest assignment at traditional high-end galleries?  On Etsy?  On Houzz?  Does your art fit with his/her style?  If your art would work best in a chic, contemporary residential setting there isn't much point in reaching out to designers who focus on corporate clients or those who do breezy, seashore makeovers for beachcomber clients.  


Depending upon your desired customer here are a few places where you might get started looking for them:

You might also be interested in this earlier blog post: How can you use Twitter to promote your photography business?


Remember: it is about them, not you!

Identifying and finding potential customers is only half of the equation.  Selling your art will come after you build relationships with them (either virtually or in person).  How to do this is worthy of its own blog post.  For more on this you might check out what professional photographer Karin Rosenthal had to say in an earlier blog post: Building relationships with art collectors.


I am a marketer.  I am also an artist who deals with these same challenges as my readers, every day.  If something has worked well for you I'd love to hear about it.  Please leave a comment and share your tips.



(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens art business art marketing finding customers for fine art business how to sell fine art Tue, 28 Jun 2016 02:08:15 GMT
How to price fine art (tips for emerging artists) By Cindy A Stephens


“It’s a nightmare”, Elizabeth told me when I asked her about how she sets a price for her original paintings.  Knowing how to price fine art can be one of the most difficult business tasks artists have to do.  Maybe this is why a blog I wrote on the subject – How to price fine art photography - is the most popular one I’ve written.


I was looking at pieces by English pop artist Sir Peter Blake, Robert Mars, and Damien Hirst in a modern gallery when some advice from my old blog post - telling artists to look at comparables to figure out what price to set – hit me as incomplete.  To be honest, this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while.


If you are an art collector there is software to help you manage your inventory, resources to help discover new artists, and databases where you can research recent auction prices and determine what you can expect to pay for art. 


What tools do artists, particularly emerging artists, have to help us set prices?  How do you know what a comparable is for your art?  How do you find a reasonable comparable if your work isn’t in a gallery (online or traditional)?  As artists, we need a better approach to pricing fine art – a more systematic one.


So, I’ve laid out a step-by-step plan to help emerging artists in figuring out how to price their fine art.  Importantly -- this is just a starting point!  Obviously the price will also be determined by your costs, demand (have you already sold a piece at a certain price point?); the audience you are targeting, your medium, your location and so much more.  I’ll have more to say on these in later posts.  For now, let’s get started.


Step 1: Collect relevant art profiles

When it comes to understanding what price to charge for your fine art print, oil, watercolor, sculpture, jewelry, furniture or anything else - be systematic.  Start gathering the most relevant facts about art in your genre.  You may find this art online, in traditional galleries, artist co-ops, art fairs, shows at local art associations, or in a catalog.  Don’t worry yet about trying to set your prices.  Just gather information.  And don’t try to remember it.  Write it down!


Sample Art Profile Template Profile Database TemplateDeveloped by Cindy A Stephens, Last Update March 2016


Here’s the data you’ll want for the art profile:

  • Location (name of the gallery, art fair, art show, etc.)
  • Date (when you saw the piece)
  • Artist name
  • Artist Level (I’ll describe this more in a minute)
  • Title of the art work
  • Series (if available)
  • Edition (if there is one)
  • Medium (e.g., mixed media, sculpture)
  • Dimension
  • Year
  • Asking Price
  • Selling Price (if available)


Think of step one as putting together a puzzle: get the pieces out of the box, put all the outside edge pieces together and look at the picture on the top of the puzzle box to see what it is that you’re trying to create. 


Step 2: Organize your art profiles


Take all of the art profiles you’ve assembled and begin to organize them.  I recommend a simple Excel spreadsheet for this. 


You can download a PDF sample of my Art Profile Template here:

Download Art Profile Database Template

Here are two techniques for how to organize the art profiles:

  1. Group by Location.  Assign each of the ones you have collected into a “Location” Category – where you saw the artwork.   To keep it simple start with perhaps 1-5 choices:
    1. Online gallery
    2. Traditional gallery
    3. Art Fair
    4. Show
    5. Etc.
  2. Group by Artist Level.  We all recognize that some artists have already mastered their craft and are well established. Others are just starting out.  Keep it simple.  Use a tiered approach and assign each that you have collected into one of these categories below. Just make an educated guess.
    1. Amateur
    2. Emerging Artist
    3. Established Artist
    4. Master Craftsman


Don’t forget to add your own work to this list too.  If you’ve sold a piece or two, write down all that information.  Actual sales are the best indicator of the minimum price you want to set for your work (notice I said minimum as you may be leaving money on the table and need to set a higher price).


Step 3: Look for patterns in the art prices

If you’re someone who loves Sudoku, crosswords, or puzzles you’ll enjoy this next part.  For others it may be out of your comfort zone.  You want to look for patterns in the data you’ve collected. 


Italian Boatscapeby Cindy A Stephens

Italian Boatscape, available at The Artful Home


Here are a few questions you might try to answer:

  • What is the average asking price of work that is most similar to yours (similar in terms of artist level, quality, medium and dimension) for a specific location?
  • How does the asking price vary by location?
  • How much do asking prices vary based on the dimension of the piece?
  • Have you sold pieces around a certain price point already?
  • What is the average asking price of work by artists at the “level” below you?  What about above you?


The idea is to use the information you’ve collected, along with your intuition, to find the right price range for your work – the price you want to start testing at.


Case in point: I have fine art prints available at The Artful Home and so I often look at other comparables at The Artful Home and other online galleries.  


Step 4: Set an initial price for your fine art

Keep in mind that the art profile data you’ve collected is not the whole picture when it comes to pricing your work.  You don’t know if the pieces you’ve seen are actually selling!  You are just looking at the asking price.  Maybe the artists whose work you are seeing are charging way too much for the quality of the art.  Or, perhaps they are undervaluing their work.  I suspect that emerging artists are not charging “market value” for their work and leaving “money on the table”.


Also, you’ll need to consider your cost for creating art – your time and materials.  For some artists this will be more of a factor in setting prices than for others.  And as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, you’ll want to consider the buyer for your work and other factors.


Having said all of that, you have to start somewhere.  This is a simple method for getting started.  That’s all.


Step 5:  See and be Seen

The Darkroom Gallery in Vermont offers a unique option to photographers who submit work for upcoming shows called View and be Viewed.  You can see entries from others in that exhibit who are willing to share.  These include entries that were accepted and also those who were rejected.


It’s a great learning experience and one that’s inspired me.  Let’s share the art profiles we collect with one another!  Let’s build a rich database of art asking and selling prices to use, independently, to price our fine art.


Leave a comment below with the information you’ve seen, or email it to me at [email protected]  and I’ll add it to my Excel Spreadsheet and share it back with my readers.


Let’s see and be seen!  Together we can help each other with the business of fine art and build our artistic presences.

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens art business art marketing how to price fine art photography Mon, 14 Mar 2016 12:00:00 GMT
The Pink Monks of Myanmar: Eyewitness to Life as a Buddhist nun It was easy to become enchanted by her.  Her unabashed smile was captivating.  And she seemed to radiate calmness, happiness and confidence.    


What do you know about Buddhist nuns?  You may have seen photos of Myanmar’s Buddhist monks in their saffron colored robes. Or, you’ve seen or heard his holiness the Dalai Lama. Nun, Saigaing HIlls, Myanmar

Copyright 2015, Cindy A Stephens


Before my visits to Nepal and Myanmar I had read about Buddhism, which has always fascinated me.  Most of the books are written from a male perspective, however, and don't illuminate the lives of women in monastic orders, either Theravada or Mahayana Buddhism.


The 'Pink Monks' of Myanmar

The ‘pink monks’ of Myanmar are girls and women ranging in ages from around 10 upwards.  They wear light pink robes and have shaven heads. Myuk told me she had been at the nunnery in the Saigaing Hills for 30 years, since she was a girl of just 10 years old.  (Note, I may not have the correct spelling of her name). 


Myuk spoke excellent English and pointed out their learning room where they receive a free education.  The 100-150 nuns receive two meals per day and clothing.  For many young girls joining the monastic order is a way to escape poverty or worse situations. 


The nuns in this Theravada Buddhist order do not farm or sell small handicrafts.  Like their male monk counterparts they rely on almsgiving - the generosity of others - for their food and goods.


My brief conversation with Myuk, and the opportunity to get a glimpse into her life, was a real privilege.  These types of encounters and memories are the reason I travel to countries and cultures that are different from mine (spending 20+ hours on planes!).


Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, Nepal

In 2013, on my prior journey to Asia, I visited the Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery in Kathmandu.  According to the Kopan Monastery website the nunnery is home to around 360 nuns many of whom are refugees from Tibet.


Whereas the monks of Myanmar practice Theravada Buddhism the monks and nuns in Kathmandu follow Mahayana Buddhist practices.  If you’re interested you can read more about the difference in these two schools here.


Incense at the Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, Nepal

Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


One of the things I remember most about my visit to this nunnery is learning about the incense the nuns make and sell to support the nunnery.  I had never seen incense made before and certainly never experienced anything like this.


I went inside a small room where four or five women were patiently bundling the incense that was drying on shelves near the room’s entrance.  Gift boxes of incense were sold in the monastery shop and used to support the monks and nuns of Kopan Monastery and Nunnery.


The day I visited the nunnery happened to also be an exam day for the nuns and I was privileged to get a brief glimpse of that part of their world too – becoming an eye witness to this important passage.


What I’m Reading

Often when I return from my latest main street or back road journey I find myself drawn to personal accounts of living in these exotic lands.  One of the next on my booklist is a story about the woman of Nepal called The Violet Shyness of their Eyes: Notes from Nepal


I've just finished reading a memoir by Inge Sargent (Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess) about her days as the Mahadevi of Hsipaw upon her graduation from a university in Colorado and marriage to a Shan prince.


More photos

You can see more photos of many of the people I’ve met on my journeys: here

You may also be interested in:


(cindy a. stephens) Myanmar fine art prints for sale photos of Myanmar people Sun, 24 Jan 2016 00:08:11 GMT
Generosity at Chauk Htat Gyi (Photos of the Myanmar People, Part I) Dear Friends: It has been several months since I posted a blog with new photos and I feel I owe my readers an explanation.  While “sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans” is apt in this case it isn’t a very specific answer.  During the past year I journeyed to the Antarctic Peninsula, my technology company was acquired by a large firm, I changed jobs to return to a small tech company, and I became the curator (e.g., legal guardian) for my Aunt.  The last of these was the most challenging by far.  If I’m being truthful though, on top of all of those things (which reduced the time I had available to devote to my art) I also needed a “creative break” – a time to step back and re-energize.  As we approach the end of 2015 I feel rejuvenated and am looking ahead to the New Year: to my new photographic collection (working title: “At the Edge of the Sky”) and to more journeys to main streets and back roads.  And with that, I'd like to tell you about a few of the wonderful people I met on my latest journey to Myanmar….


What I remember most fondly about my visit to Myanmar this Fall are its people.  As my readers know I am a traveler, having journeyed to six continents and dozens of countries. So, I’m not looking at this experience from a limited vantage point.  And I can honestly say that the openness, generosity, and warm nature of the Myanmar people set them apart in my mind from virtually every place I’ve been privileged to experience.  Remember too, this is a country that was occupied at one time by the British and the Japanese among others. And today Myanmar is a country of some eight major national ethnic races.


I can show you photographs of the Myanmar people and you’d get some sense of them.  You’ll get an even better sense of the people and culture of Myanmar if I share a few personal stories with you too.

Cho Myanmar, October 2015

Copyright 2015 Cindy A Stephens

Chauk Htat Gyi

Arriving in Yangon from Bangkok I felt a bit like the imaginary Dorothy when she set foot in Oz – as they say, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. It can take a while to get one’s bearings in a new country, particularly in one that has been closed to Western tourism for most of its existence and is about to hold its first General Election since 2010.  I had a few butterflies as I removed my shoes and socks (a Buddhist custom) to visit the enormous 64 meter-long reclining Buddha image at the Chauk Htat Gyi pagoda.


While I began to look around I caught the eye of a beautiful young girl who was looking my way.  She was smiling.  I walked toward her general direction.  When I got closer she thrust out her hand and in perfect English introduced herself to me with a sweet smile.  Her Mum and brother were with her, “picnicking” on a blanket near the Buddha image.  She introduced me to her family and we spoke for a few minutes before I said good bye.


Buoyed by this experience I continued along the edge of the reclining Buddha image.  On the other side I saw another girl, about 13 years old, also dressed in a beautiful dress – her holiday finest.  I motioned with my camera to ask if it was ok to take her photo.  Once again, she was with her Mom and was simply enjoying the day together.  After taking a few images and chatting I thanked Chou and turned to leave and rejoin the others I was traveling with. 


Here's the really amazing part -- a few moments later she came running up to me and handed me an origami flower that she had just made for me!!  Imagine that – I took her photograph and ought to be the one to give her thanks.  And, she gave me a present.  Then, she made another for my friend whom I raced toward to tell her what had just happened.  


Chou gave me a present in more ways than one.  This encounter occurred on my first day in the country and put me at ease about travel to this very far away place at a time of great change.  I immediately felt that this was a special country and one that I would enjoy visiting. 


In the next blog post I'll share a story about my visit to a nunnery.  Until then, you may also be interested in:

(cindy a. stephens) Myanmar fine art prints for sale photos of Myanmar people Wed, 30 Dec 2015 12:00:00 GMT
Black Friday Sale: Save 25% on fine art prints Black Friday Sale!

Save 25% on fine art prints*

Starts Friday, November 27, 2015.  Offer ends Monday, November 30, 2015.  


Dear friends, celebrate Thanksgiving with a SALESave 25% on fine art prints*  


Order online at

Please note: Prints ordered on or before November 30 are expected to ship on December 21, 2015.



*Offer  expires on 11/30/15 (11:59 PM ET).  Offer is good for 25% off one qualifying order. This particular offer code cannot be redeemed more than once per account and/or billing address.  Taxes, shipping and handling will apply.

(cindy a. stephens) Black Friday Cindy Stephens Fine art prints buy photography online Wed, 25 Nov 2015 02:17:45 GMT
Starting a Successful Art Business Online [The Lone Beader’s Story] By Cindy A Stephens


This Thanksgiving one of the things I am grateful for is having the opportunity to connect with, and learn from other artists through the tremendous reach of the Internet and social media.

The Lone BeaderYorkshire Terrier

Case in point: my recent conversation with The Lone Beader (a.k.a. Diana L. Grygo).  I didn’t know Diana until I reached out to her via Twitter.  I was intrigued with her artistic presence and wanted to learn about her experiences with #Etsy, her new iPad app, her experiences creating an art blog, building her Facebook following, and more. 


In short, I wanted to know:  how did you do it?  How did you start a successful beadwork business?   She graciously agreed to chat and share her story.


One thing that I immediately learned from The Lone Beader is - if you want to get free advice from other artists who have struggled to figure out how to price art, sell it and create a successful art business, then just ask them! Most people are willing to share their stories.


How The Lone Beader started a successful beadwork business

The Lone Beader is a self-taught beadwork artist currently working in Boston, Massachusetts.  She primarily sells her work through Etsy, her website, and some custom orders on Facebook.  She has some 2,700 followers on Facebook and more than 2,000 admirers on Etsy.


The Lone Beader is the culmination of a journey that began in 2006 when a friend suggested that Diana should start a blog to promote her beadwork.  She had sold a few pieces already and decided to try blogging. Diana began documenting progress of her beadwork, blogging every day.  While she knew that there is a huge community of beaders, what she hadn’t realized is how they’d help her build her business.


Side note:  I wrote about the importance of blogging in an earlier post: Building your online presence


Diana joined a forum online and connected with other beadwork artists.  A few linked to her and mentioned her blog.  Gradually her following began to grow.   Eventually, someone requested a beaded pin of a dog so she made it and sold it directly via her blog.  Other people began reaching out too via her blog.  


The Lone Beader

Image courtesy of the Lone Beader

“Someone commented ‘I was looking for you on Etsy’,” says Diana.  “I didn’t know about Etsy at first, but after doing some research, I learned that it would be a great place to sell my work.”  Diana opened her Etsy shop in 2008.


You might also be interested in:  Building an art business: is selling art online right for you?


Diana shared with me that her shop is slowly growing.  She worked hard to promote her name and started her Facebook and Instagram business pages.  She used her blog to promote them and vice versa.  Diana said that people looking for something unique will find her on Google through online searches – her use of keywords and hashtags help people find her.


“I use a lot of hashtags in my posts,” she says.  “They help a lot now.  Hashtags weren’t very common several years ago.  They became big on Twitter, then Facebook started to utilize them, too.  So now if someone is searching for #poodle, for example, my beaded poodle will show up in the hashtag feed.”


Diana says she has found two target markets for her business.  The first is the beadwork community who wants to learn what she is doing.  She now offers patterns for $10 to beaders who would like to create their own beaded dog pin.  She tells me that “others might worry about someone else copying/selling their design, but I don’t.  What I do is labor intensive.  You have to love it and want to do it over and over again.”  The second market is dog and cat lovers.


That brings me to the next chapter in her story, pricing her beadwork.


How to price art

The first time Diana sold something seriously, she told me, was in 2004.  She created a flamingo painting.  “The piece was being photographed for a publication and someone saw it and said he’d like to buy it.” 


The Lone BeaderFlamingo Beadwork painting

Image courtesy of The Lone Beader

Diana said she could make him a new piece and came up with pricing based on an hourly wage.  She asked for 50% up front.  Diana tracked the hours spent and billed her client for the remainder when the 8x10 painting was complete. The flamingo painting sold for $1,000.  She says it helped her gauge how much to price her work.


The majority of the cost for creating Diana’s beadwork is time.  She says that beads don’t cost very much.  Most of the beaded dog pins and pendants take her a full day to create due to the amount of sewing involved.


One of her most popular pieces is the beaded Yorkshire Terrier.  Interestingly, Diana started at a lower price and focused on building a following.  Eventually she decided to raise the price.  “As soon as I raised the price, it started selling,” she says.


Here’s Diana’s advice on pricing:


  • “If you are selling one of a kind work that isn’t easily duplicated, come up with a fair price that reflects the quality.  Customers associate price with quality every time.”
  • “If you believe in the work and it is as high quality as you can make it, and the customer can see exactly what they are getting, then they will be willing to pay that price.”
  • “It is hard for artists but they have to decide when they have popular items, to keep raising prices to keep up with demand.”  In fact, in terms of common mistakes artists make Diana says “try not to underprice the work in an effort to make a sale.”


With the busy holiday shopping season upon us I asked The Lone Beader if she does any special promotions this time of year.   Diana is planning to run a Black Friday promotion and another one a couple of weeks before Christmas for her ready to ship items.


Side note: You might also like my interview on pricing with commercial photographer Scott Indermaur:  Tips for how to price commercial photography or my blog on How to price fine art photography


Launching a mobile app based on her art

Diana’s art business continues to evolve.  She recently released her iPhone app in the iTunes store.  Diana has embraced social media and the beadwork community and patiently created her artistic presence and art business from the ground up.  She is a self-taught small business owner who learned about tax IDs, business bank accounts and the components of running a successful business.  In the next chapter she may take the plunge and make The Lone Beader her sole source of income and full time career.


One of the gifts that social media has brought to all of us artists is the opportunity to tap into a community – connecting artists from all disciplines, across all geographic boundaries and all stages of career.  Want to get free advice from other artists who have struggled to figure out how to price their art, sell it and create a successful art business?  Ask them!  Embrace it and tap into this rich artist community.


Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.

The Lone BeaderDiana Grygo The Lone Beader is a self-taught beadwork artist currently working in Boston, Massachusetts. She loves to create extremely dimensional beaded paintings by stitching glass seed beads to felt. Her work also combines images from history with ideas of the future using mixed media. Her current pieces are inspired by pop culture, classic cars, and rock'n'roll music. Join her on a journey and let her beadwork take you for a ride. Please visit for more photos & news, and please stop by The Lone Beader's blog to follow the progress of her bead embroidery.


Download my FREE iPhone app today!



(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens The Lone Beader art business art marketing beadwork how to price art marketing Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:49:05 GMT
Providence Cityscape


The morning after Waterfire in Providence


(cindy a. stephens) cityscape fine art fine art prints online providence skyline waterfire Tue, 14 Oct 2014 00:37:03 GMT
Preparing your ecommerce art site for holiday shopping by Cindy A Stephens


In New England we’ve been having a glorious Indian Summer so it may seem too early to blog about the holiday shopping season.  After all, it isn’t even Thanksgiving.  Consider this fact however: according to last year’s The DeepProfile study, one in three shoppers will start shopping before Thanksgiving.

Shopping for christmas goodiesShopping for christmas goodiesChristmas packages, ornaments candy cane and a bow in a miniature shopping cart.

The holiday shopping season can present unique challenges for art businesses:

• Art is not usually mass-produced like electronics or toys. Instead artists often have limited quantities of original pieces (e.g., an oil painting or sculpture).

• Selecting art is personal - what appeals to one person won’t appeal to another - so buying art as a gift can be especially difficult.

• Artists that aren’t represented by a traditional gallery or have their work in highly visited ecommerce sites (e.g., Etsy) will have to find creative ways to stay top of mind.


One way to overcome these difficulties is to do what fine art photographer Karin Rosenthal does, host an annual open house.


Karin told me she sells roughly 30% of her yearly print sales during the December open house.  This open house has allowed her to make a living primarily from the sale of artwork.


Read my interview with Karin Rosenthal, Building relationships with art collectors


If you want to sell online instead of in your home or studio, however, you’ll have to come up with another way to capitalize on the busy holiday shopping season that can represent a sizable percentage of your annual sales.  I have three art marketing tips to get you started.

Have some inventory ready to ship quickly


One way to overcome the unique artistic challenge of having limited quantities of pieces (versus mass-produced items) is to tell buyers what’s ready to ship now and what will be made to order.  And have some of the available inventory ready to ship quickly, in just a few days.  For example, in the Lone Beader’s Etsy shop (@lonebeader) she clearly tells visitors what inventory is available now and what will be a custom order.

The Lone BeaderEtsy Store

Sometimes, having pieces ready to ship immediately can be too costly for artists.  Consider this example: photographers who use outside printers. These artists would be paying to have prints created before they are sold, and incurring the printing costs up front.  One workaround is to have a few smaller-sized pieces made that are somewhat less expensive, and then offer larger sizes “made to order”.

Read my interview with Jessica Burko for more tips on turnaround time, Building an art business: is selling online right for you?

Offer gift certificates


A great way to make your art accessible to a wide variety of shoppers this holiday season is to offer a gift certificate.  Sites such as make offering gift certificates easy for artists.  You decide the amount of the certificates (e.g., $100) that you want. 

Zenfoliogift certificates for art businesses Providing gift certificates solves two problems.  First, it gives shoppers a way to purchase a gift without the stress of having to decide which piece to buy.  As I mentioned earlier, buying art is personal.  Second, gift certificates provide a low cost way for shoppers to buy even if they can’t afford to purchase an original painting or other more expensive piece.

Create holiday pieces (editions) and traditions

There’s no question that Black Friday sales are big business for major online retailers.  Buying online has become part and parcel of holiday shopping to avoid crowds, get a great selection, and terrific deals. 


As artists we don’t want to devalue our work and lower prices that we’ve worked hard to raise.  And let’s face it - it may be hard to compete with the more common holiday gifts.


That said, there are tasteful ways to tap into the buying frenzy.  One way is to concentrate on your current clients who already appreciate and admire your work.  Sending an early holiday card to wish them well and thank them for their business can go a long way.  You might also enclose a special discount coupon that s/he can pass along to a family member looking for gift ideas.


Another option is to create one-of-a-kind holiday pieces or limited holiday editions.  While there are many opinions on the concept of offering limited editions, stop for a moment to consider what Byers Choice Ltd. (caroler dolls) or Thomas Kinkade (painter of light) or Hallmark (ornaments) have created in terms of demand for their new holiday pieces. 


• Painters – Do you have limited-edition Christmas prints of your original oil? 
• Glass sculptors – Do you have holiday ornaments?
• Photographers - Could you create custom greeting cards? 


Get creative! We are after all, creative professionals.  In my opinion the best way to take advantage of this busy shopping season is not to try to compete with the mass-produced, always-on, retail frenzy.  Instead, consider new ways to delight buyers and show your appreciation for their business.    


Want more ideas? Check out  The Ecommerce Guide to Holiday Shopping & Marketing

Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens art art business art marketing buying art create artistic presence fine art online Wed, 01 Oct 2014 02:40:07 GMT
Five Tips for Selling Your Art on Your Website Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University

By Cindy A Stephens


Did you think that if you hung out your online shingle (i.e., built your website) buyers would find it and you’d be successful selling your art online?  Artist and arts marketing consultant Jessica Burko told me that the biggest mistake artists make about selling online is thinking “if you build it they will come.”


The truth is that selling art online through a personal website isn’t right for every artist.  It involves confidence, marketing skill, and perseverance.  And, even if you have all the “right stuff” to be successful selling online the time you devote to creating your artist presence is time you might prefer to spend creating new art. 


See my related blog is selling your art online right for you?


If you’ve decided that selling art through your website is right for you then you’ll want a few pointers to jump-start your activities.  After all, retailers like have made an art (pun intended!) of selling online.  The best approach is to think like a buyer and his/her shopping experience.


Below are five tips that Jessica shared with me to help artists be successful selling online:

1. Mirror common online shopping practices
2. Let buyers know they can purchase through your site
3. Have great photographs of your art
4. Tell your personal story
5. Figure out how to pack and ship your art before you make that first sale


Tip #1: Mirror common online shopping practices
“People that are regular internet users are also ecommerce consumers,” says Jessica,   “They are very accustomed to shopping online on clean, user friendly, beautiful websites with very easy to use payment systems.”  Artist websites should be similar.  For instance, she says there should be a smooth transition to whatever ecommerce tool or portal the artist has chosen to accept payments.  Visitors expect it. 


While it is important your website is well designed you don’t need to do something out of the box.  According to Jessica, “Do what is expected by internet shoppers for the ecommerce portion of your site.”  For example, she advocates that shopping carts should look like the familiar shopping carts you see on other sites.


If you re-invent something entirely unfamiliar you risk confusing your buyer.

Tip #2: Let buyers know they can purchase through your site
I asked Jessica to tell me the one thing that artists can do to make it easier for buyers to purchase art through their websites.  Her answer may surprise you (it surprised me): “What makes it easier for buyers to purchase art, is to tell them they can!”


“When someone goes to a show or your studio they might not immediately realize that they can buy the work online,” Jessica says.  She adds that “You have to tell them that they can buy the work online and have marketing to point them towards an online shop with easy to use shopping cart features.”  Having an online shop can lead to post-event sales.  “It is a great tool for after an event,” she adds.


As a professional marketer I can tell you that any traditional wall between online shopping and offline shopping (those activities that do not take place on a website) has been torn down.  Consider a TV commercial or program you saw recently that provided a hashtag or website address to visit. 


Increasingly buyers move back-and-forth between offline and online experiences and our role as small business owners (i.e., artists) is to recognize that and make the most of it.


Tip #3: Have great photographs of your art
It’s easy for photographers who use digital capture to incorporate great images of their work on their sites.  It is more difficult for painters, sculptures and other artists to have great photographs of their art.  They may need to learn the best lighting to feature their art and how to take a high quality photo of it.


According to Jessica artists need to “Learn how to photograph their work in a good way, and have multiple views of the work.”  This applies to photographers too.  She says photographers may want to have one image that shows only the work, and another that shows what it looks like framed and hanging on a wall.  “Showing your art in a different environment helps potential buyers imagine it in their homes.”


Tip #4: Tell your personal story
Last year around this time I interviewed Aline Smithson about describing yourself and your work.  It is my most popular blog post.  Jessica echoed Aline’s sentiment about the importance of telling your story.  She says that “Your inspiration, what your process is, can be a make or break moment between buying or not.”


If you are interested in learning more about how to tell your personal story I recently recorded a 30-minute webinar on writing an effective artist statement that you might find useful.  I give tips for using written descriptions of work as one element of an artistic brand; the do's and don'ts of writing artist statements; and the difference between an artist statement and a bio.


Listen to a 2-minute podcast preview of my 30-minute webinar:  writing an effective artist statement [webinar preview]


Tip #5: Figure out how to pack and ship your art
The fifth tip that Jessica provided about selling your art online may also surprise you: “Before you sell online figure out how you will pack and ship it.”  She said consider offering only matted work and not framed work or smaller prints versus larger ones.


In addition, she says it is extremely important to have accurate shipping costs (don’t forget to  list shipping cost accurately in the shipping portion of your check-out process) and to work out kinks related to packing and shipping in advance.  I agree. I sell through my personal website as well as an online gallery.  Figuring out the sizes of the prints I wanted to make available online and what it would cost me to ship them took time but was very important. 


As artists we often spend the most time learning our craft either from a creative or technical standpoint, or both.  The business aspects of how to make a living at our craft are often an after-thought, and one reason why selling art online isn’t right for everyone.  If you have decided to do it, take the time to learn from others.  It can save you a lot of time – time you can devote to making art.


You might also be interested in: is selling your art online right for you?

Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.

Jessica Burko Jessica Burko has been an exhibiting artist since 1985 and has displayed work in solo and group shows throughout the United States. She holds a BFA in Fine Art Photography from Rhode Island School of Design, and an MFA in Imaging Arts and Science from Rochester Institute of Technology.  To learn more about Jessica Burko and the Arts Marketing services she offers please visit: 


(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Jessica Burko arts marketing selling art online Tue, 01 Jul 2014 01:45:06 GMT
Building an art business: is selling art online right for you? An interview with Jessica Burko


By Cindy A Stephens



Do you create art for your own enjoyment?  Or, are you motivated to create art in order to share it with others for their appreciation?  Do you expect to make income from your art?  Why you create art is often a difficult and personal question to answer. 


If you expect to make some, or all, of your income from your art then you’ll need to think like a small business owner. And in this digital world that means you’ll need to figure out if selling art online via your personal website is right for you.


“When artists take the initiative to self-promote and also sell online, those things bring a realization that being an artist isn’t just doing something powerful for oneself, but it is also taking on the role of small business owner,” says artist and arts consultant Jessica Burko.  She says they start to realize “I own a business and need to make it viable.”


Photo by Jessica Burko

Selling art online is de rigueur but it isn’t for every artist.  When you put together an art marketing plan ask yourself these questions: 


1.       Do I have the skills needed to sell art online?

2.       If I build a website to sell my art will anyone come to it?
          (put another way, how will I drive traffic to my site?)

3.       What turnaround time will I offer for work that is sold?

4.       What control do I want to have over shipping and any printing of work?


Do I have the skills needed to sell art online?

“In no other profession would one go to graduate school for their craft and be taught how to create but not how to make a living at it,” says Jessica.  “No one turns out doctors without the knowledge of how to have a job as a doctor.”


When Jessica and I spoke she pointed out that artists are turned-out by the thousands often with no skills for working in their profession.  “There’s a mystique that artists are supposed to make a living solely by their art,” she says.  While this is possible Jessica acknowledges that even established professionals don’t magically sell their work and need to spend time on accounting, their websites, and a long list of other activities.


Read the blog post how to build awareness for your work


If you don’t have the skills you need to run your arts business and make income from your art through your website there are many organizations that will offer assistance.  One that I’m familiar with is the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston.  The A&BC offers programs like the Artist’s Professional Toolbox and a webinar library with tips on legal issues, estate planning, marketing, business basics and more. (I recently recorded a webinar for them on how to write an effective artist statement.)


If I build a website to sell my art will anyone come to it / how will I drive traffic to my ecommerce site?

According to Jessica, think of your website as building a retail store where no one needs it.  “You are putting your website on an overcrowded internet,” she says. The biggest mistake artists make she says is thinking that you build a website then buyers will just find  it.  “You can’t just build it and walk away.”


As a digital marketer I can tell you that driving traffic to a website takes skill and perseverance.  Having a blog is one way to begin to create artistic presence and drive traffic to an ecommerce site.  Online influence expert Stephanie Sammons previously told me that “most people give up before they reach their desired level of success with the volume of people visiting the site, growing their network or connecting with them.”


Read my interview with Stephanie on building your online presence.


If you don’t have the time or interest in driving traffic to your own ecommerce website you might consider making your work available for sale through an online gallery. There are many online art galleries that will promote artists. (See 5 considerations when choosing an online gallery for your work.)  “Let them create the platform for you”, Jessica says.


What turnaround time will I offer?

If you are going to sell art through your website you’ll want to mirror common online shopping practices.  These include reasonable turnaround times for your work.  Jessica advises “If there is a three-day turnaround time state that up front.”


For instance, if you are a fine art photographer who typically uses an outside printer and you don’t have a supply of prints [i.e., inventory] readily available she suggests you could sell only small prints online that you can print at home and ship quickly.


“Maybe you will only sell things in your online shop that you can get rush printed,” says Jessica.  “Because people buy online and are used to getting their purchase the next day it is recommended to have some portion of your art available for immediate shipping.”


Look at a few of your favorite retail shopping sites and online art galleries to get ideas about the common shipping times.  The Artful Home, where people can buy sculpture, art glass, and fine art prints includes shipping date information with every piece, e.g. “This piece ships on or before: Tue, May 6, 2014.”


What control do I want to have over shipping and/or printing of work?

As I said earlier, selling online isn’t for every artist.  If you produce wonderful three-dimensional sculptures, how will you pack and ship your work?  Are you prepared to have it crated for delivery?  Even photographers with light, two-dimensional work will need to consider what they offer for sale online.


If dealing with shipping first-hand isn’t for you online galleries such as Saatchi Art will make and ship prints for their represented artists.  And they provide instructions for their artists to pack unframed or framed paintings and other artwork.


I’ve considered each of these questions as it relates to my art.  Each of us has choices when it comes to whether, and how, we make income from our art.  For some, the right decision will be to have others handle the work of setting up an ecommerce site and promoting it.  For others, having more control over the details is important.  Whatever decision is right for you make a conscious decision and then have patience.


You might also be interested in:


SoWa Art Walk on May 4, 2014, 11am-6pm


Check out this blog about it by Jessica:



Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.


Jessica Burko has been an exhibiting artist since 1985 and has displayed work in solo and group shows throughout the United States. She holds a BFA in Fine Art Photography from Rhode Island School of Design, and an MFA in Imaging Arts and Science from Rochester Institute of Technology.  To learn more about Jessica Burko and the Arts Marketing services she offers please visit:

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Jessica Burko art business art marketing create artistic presence Sat, 03 May 2014 14:40:12 GMT
How to write an artist statement [webinar preview] Last year I interviewed Aline Smithson about describing yourself and your work.  It is my most popular blog.  


The idea that our work doesn't always speak for itself is a hotly debated topic.  As a full-time marketer who visually and verbally communicates my company's story, I believe that written descriptions of our artistic intentions compliment our art.


I recently recorded a 30-minute webinar for the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston on writing an effective artist statement.


Click on the red play button below to listen to a short 2-minute podcast and get a sneak peak at the webinar.



Note: This podcast has been re-recorded since the blog was originally published, to correct a factual error.


Click here for the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston webinar library where you can view the pre-recorded 30-minute webinar in its entirety for $10 (free for members).


Pre-recorded 30-minute Webinar: Writing an effective artist statement

Do you think that your art speaks for itself?  As visual artists we are comfortable sharing stories through images. Buyers are not visual artists and often want to know why we created work.  Artist statements are used to bridge the gap between our creative intentions and the audience of our work.


In the webinar you'll learn about using written descriptions of your work as one element of your artistic brand; the do's and don'ts of writing artist statements; and the difference between an artist statement and a bio.  You'll also come away with examples of statements and bios as well as a list of resources.


(cindy a. stephens) artist statement examples arts and business council of greater boston how to write an artist statement podcast webinar Mon, 28 Apr 2014 11:00:00 GMT
How can you use twitter to promote your photography business? Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University


I hadn’t expected commercial travel photographer Ken Kaminesky to tell me that he spends too much time on Twitter.  Ken has 103,000 followers on Twitter, which is impressive by most standards (certainly by mine).  Ken shared with me that his Twitter stream is slowing down significantly because he is on the road so much for business and also for his new photography tour business with upcoming tours in Italy, Iceland, and Jordan. 


www.kenkaminesky.comReprinted with permission from Ken Kaminesky

Reprinted with permission from Ken Kaminesky


 “I wish I could delegate it but that isn’t the point of social media,” he says.  “The point on Twitter is to be a resource and to get to know a person,” adds Ken.  In fact, answering, engaging and proactively reaching out to people on Twitter is what Ken attributes his Twitter success to.  It is rare, he says, when he doesn’t reply when someone tweets something relevant to him.  (Case in point:  Ken generously gave me an hour of his time to interview him, despite his extremely busy schedule).


Despite the rather large amount of time that Ken spends tweeting, he is confident that it has helped his career and has propelled him to achieve better strategies for marketing.  “My Twitter following gives me credibility.”    Ken says that his success on Twitter allows him to reach out to send a media kit to a tourism company, for example.  “They see my numbers and say this guy is for real.”  This means that what once might have taken months or weeks to make meaningful business contacts now takes days or hours.


How to use Twitter for business

Jack Hollingsworth recently told me “Sadly, photographers spend too much time in the social environment without monetizing their interests.  It’s a big problem.”  Ken says that he is still learning to be more strategic on Twitter adding “Twitter is the crack of social media – it’s addictive.”


There are many ways to use Twitter strategically to promote a business.  Ken shared three of his tips with me.


•      Marketing is a small part of Twitter.  Ken advocates a 10 to 1 ratio: Tweet 10 things that are of interest to you for every 1 that is about you.  People he says, don’t want to know about your business too much.  He sees that people who have good followings are those who talk about the industry and what they are passionate about.  “For me those things are curating, architecture, science, travel, and art.”

•      Be personable.  Seeing the person behind the photographer is something that Ken is passionate about.  He wants to really talk with people, as people not businesses.  This echoes Ken’s earlier comment about delegating – people can’t get to really know the person behind the tweets if those tweets are being done by someone else. “Talk to people,” Ken advocates.

•      Network and socialize with key brands.  Talking to people extends to magazines, writers, companies that are prospects for your commercial work, and others. “Show interest in what others are talking about and if you find them interesting use that as a strategy to be able to talk to them in their language.  Tweet at them.  Send a direct message.”  Ken advises that if you are researching someone for business perhaps reach them on Twitter first.  “It’s a more social thing.  Read their Twitter feed.  Engage them afterwards.  Be a social person and use social media to its full extent,” he adds.


Reprinted with permission from Ken Kaminesky

Reprinted with permission from Ken Kaminesky


Some of you may remember a marketing conversation I had with fine art photographer Annu Palakunnathu Matthew about building relationships with galleries.  Using Ken’s approach , consider reaching out to a gallery owner on Twitter before mailing an unsolicited portfolio. The point would be to develop a relationship first and connect on some shared interest.


See also how to find and work with a gallery


Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+

Facebook is also important, Ken says, for social engagement with people.  You can be more personal on Facebook but you can’t reach out to potential corporate clients.  “Facebook isn’t about that,” Ken says. 


One social media network that Ken would like more time for is LinkedIn.  “Networking and marketing, that’s the beauty of LinkedIn”, he says.  For Ken, LinkedIn allows him to connect with peers and collaborate on projects together, perhaps globally.


Google+ is also important to Ken in terms of photography these days.  He says “the Google+ team is doing a great job and makes it a great social sharing channel.  It will be a very important social media platform for years to come.”


Unlike these other social media networks Ken says “the beauty of Twitter and its 140 characters is that it respects your time.”  “It is really tough,” says Ken. “Social media has added to the workload for those who already have a full plate to begin with.  It’s also opened a lot of doors.  It is a double-edged sword.”  


Mostly Ken tells me that social media has been fantastic to him although he still wishes it didn’t take us so much of his time.  He’d prefer to be doing something creative, which isn’t happening enough these days. 


Do you really want tens of thousands of followers on Twitter?  Do you have the time that it is going to take to build your following and then engage with them every day?  Go into it with your eyes wide open, set clear priorities and monetize your interests to create your artistic presence.


See also 5 tools Ken Kaminesky uses for managing his photography businesses from the road 


Ken Kaminesky is a commercial travel photographer and visual storyteller. His work has been featured in numerous commercial publications, including the New York Times and on the cover of National Geographic. He communicates his passion for travel, and for the landscapes & people he meets along the way, through his popular blog, and through yearly workshops in places as far-flung as Jordan, Italy and Iceland. His favourite place in the world is always his next destination. He believes that everywhere has a story that will inspire people, and he’d love to capture it in an image. He doesn’t usually talk about himself in the third-person. 


Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.

(cindy a. stephens) Center Cindy Stephens Ken Kaminesky Marketing Photographic Resource Twitter using Twitter for business Tue, 25 Mar 2014 01:10:58 GMT
10 Resources for Using Keywords to Create Artistic Presence Posted by Cindy A Stephens


Figuring out how to get your art in front of a potential buyer can be challenging.  The truth is that there isn’t an easy, quick way to do it.  It takes patience, persistence and dedication.


Traditionally, picking keywords to optimize your website for search engines was one method for driving traffic to your website and getting your art in front of art collectors.  In recent months, however, this has become more difficult due to some changes that Google has made.


I recently refreshed keywords for my fine art photography website and want to share a few helpful resources on what’s changed recently and how to use keywords to create your artistic presence.


What’s changed recently?

1.       Search: Not Provided: What Remains, Keyword Data Options, The Future (Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik)

2.       6 Major Google Changes Reveal the Future of SEO (Search Engine Watch)


What can you do?

3.       7 tips for Winning Favor with Google (Stephanie Sammons)

4.       SEO Basics: 8 Essentials when optimizing your site (Search Engine Watch)

5.       Keyword Research and Optimization (ClickZ)

6.       Chapter Five Keyword Research (Moz)


Where can you go for more information on search engine optimization?

7.       Entrepreneur articles on SEO

8.       Search Marketing daily articles

9.       Search Engine Marketing articles (MarketingProfs)

10.   Social Media Examiner articles

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens SEO keywords Wed, 29 Jan 2014 03:00:00 GMT
Pictures from Kathmandu Nepal Posted by Cindy A Stephens


All of my senses came alive in Nepal.  From the moment I landed and disembarked I knew that I was going to have an extraordinary few days.  And I did.


Upon first arrival in a place as interesting as Nepal, I find everything new and fascinating.  So, one of the biggest photographic challenges is to stay focused on a theme.  Before I left for Nepal (and India) I decided to extend my fine art photography series about the main streets in America, to Asia.  It was one of two travel photography themes that I wanted to focus on during the trip.  What would the main streets in Nepal look like?  Would there be similarities to America?


Kathmandu, Nepal

Copyright 2013 Cindy A. Stephens


Leaving the beautiful Dwarika’s Hotel one morning, I was struck by the small shops along the many unpaved roads of Kathmandu.  In front of each small storefront a woman squatted, boiling tea for breakfast.  Row-upon-row of boiling metal pots sat upon small fires tended by these women.  Behind them bikes, cows, buses and pedestrians rolled past as the steam from their morning meals climbed, mingling with the smokiness from the nearby funeral pyres that burn 24 hours a day, 7 days each week.


Later, the corrugated metal storefronts opened to reveal a freshly butchered animal splayed on a counter top or clothing or sundries.  Everything was orderly and swept clean by straw brooms used to clear debris into the dirt roads.  I had the sense of tidiness and a way of life that seemed to function despite the poverty and lack of modern facilities. 


Durbar Square Kathmandu

One of my favorite ways to experience a new place is by foot.  Walking through narrow and winding passages I feel part of the daily hustle-and-bustle of local life (even though it is hard to blend in with my dSLR and sunhat -- to ward off the ultra-violet rays 4,500 feet above sea level).

Copyright 2013 Cindy A. Stephens

While the main streets of Kathmandu have a distinctly different palette from those back home, their basic orderliness and function and family-run shops were reminiscent of New England.  Walking through the labyrinth of merchants to Durbar Square, however, was a unique experience.


It is very difficult to fully describe the scene to someone that has not experienced the melee of rickshaw sounds mingling with the smells of incense mingling with the colorful silk fabrics for sale mingling with the feel of rough-hewn dirt underfoot mingling with an almost palpable flavor of the place.   Travel is often something one experiences wholly by all the senses at once.


Copyright 2013 Cindy A. Stephens

Every new twist and turn along the way to the palace in Durbar Square brought a new delight from glass merchants selling colorful beads to the women lighting candles at a small temple.  And, the shop owners leaning out of second-story windows to hang manikins draped in beautifully colored saris.  And finally the entrance into the main square, replete with cows, pigeons, children, a funeral procession, the old and the in-between.


My exploration on foot of nearby shop windows (glass not corrugated metal) for the purpose of creating fine art travel photographs yielded puppets, beautiful masks, jewelry, apparel and reflections of life in the streets beyond.  Exploring by rickshaw on the other hand, yielded a blood-pumping adventure along bumpy streets perilously close at times to cars, rickshaws and people.  I would not have traded that adventure for anything!


In all, I left with the observation that life is Nepal (and also India) is about living.  It is about: fetching water; cooking; eating; cleaning; tending to the sick, dying and dead; raising families; craftsmanship; spirituality; and earning a meager living. All of these are evident on the main streets of Kathmandu.  At home many are masked by the constant race to have more, do more, and be more.

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Kathmandu Nepal travel photography Thu, 23 Jan 2014 03:00:00 GMT
3 ways to create standout customer appreciation holiday cards On Saturday October 26th I happened to be at a local mall during its Halloween Trick-or-Treating event.  A week later, I ran into the same mall to replace a watch battery and was startled to find a large Christmas tree in the same spot where happy, costumed kids had stood just seven days before.  It's official - the holiday countdown has begun!


Acknowledging customers is something that artists should find creative ways to do year-round.  The approaching holiday season certainly makes customer appreciation top of mind, however.  Take a listen to my short podcast for three ways to create standout customer appreciation holiday cards this season.



(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens artists photography podcast Wed, 06 Nov 2013 12:30:00 GMT
How to price fine art photography Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University


Last month in this column, I reported on my conversation with photographer Scott Indermaur on how to price commercial photography.  This month I turned to D’lynne Plummer, from the Arts & Business Council, on how to set a price for fine art work.  In a time when many artists sell work in multiple channels (e.g., and direct to collectors from a studio), D’lynne advises them to “have different product lines”.


Create product lines for your work

D’lynne shared an example from her experience with the Artist’s Professional Toolbox program.  A recent graduate has very detailed, large and relatively expensive oil paintings.  These pieces are represented by a traditional gallery.  In addition, he sells prints on from different paintings, for a few hundred dollars.


D’lynne says “he would never have these less expensive prints available for purchase in his studio.  Similarly people on Etsy would not be likely to purchase one of his more expensive oil paintings, they would generally make that type of commitment in person.”

The concept of “product lines” and “channels” is a marketing one that may be new to some artists.  The easiest way to think of it is as having two different types of art, at two different prices, and selling them in different ways.  For instance in the example above the artist had:


1)      Online shop (channel); Prints or mass-produced items (product); Lower-price

2)      Gallery representation (channel); Originals or limited edition pieces (product); Higher-price


Alternatively, consider this example D’lynne shared of a book binder who also sells earrings at craft fairs once or twice a year.  The artist supplements her income from her book binding craft in this way, selling at a lower margin and having less of a direct relationship with the buyer online than in her book binding work. 


A word of warning: you need to be careful not to have the same work available at different prices in different channels.  “If one piece is produced in an archival way and in museum glass in one channel and that same image is produced on a greeting card or mug in another that is a bad strategy,” says D’lynne.


Also, “artists need to be careful.  If they are represented by a traditional gallery, before they do anything they need to speak with their gallery,” says D’lynne.  She cautions that you can’t bring the work that you are selling for $50 into a gallery space and have a conversation with them about selling that same work for $2,000.  However, she also understands that artists try to go where the buyers are.


“It is incredibly smart to go where people are.  For instance there are restaurants in Boston that have great shows with artists.  Most gallery directors will appreciate that you are a business person and are trying to meet buyers where they are,” says D’lynne.


Determining the right price for your work

Pricing is not “static”.  For instance it can change as your career matures as an artist or as the market you are in evolves.  So, the BIG question is what to charge for your work (realizing that you may have different products that will be at different price points)?  How do you figure it out? 


D’lynne suggests artists look at prices from two angles:

1.Make sure you are fully compensated for your materials and time of doing business: Understand and keep track of your costs, including computer software, your studio space, and the specific cost of producing an individual piece.  This includes your time.  How long did it take you to create it and what is your hourly rate?  She advises that by the time you come up with a number for your costs you should feel right about it.  Obviously you’ll want to more than cover your costs when you set a price (see tip 1 below). 


2.       Look at “comparables”. If you’ve bought or sold a home before you know that appraisers and real estate experts look at homes in your neighborhood that are comparable to yours in square footage and upgrades to determine the fair market value for your home.  Do the same with art.  D’lynne advises that you go to galleries and fairs to see what the work is, what people will pay, and set the “low” and “high” ends of the spectrum for what comparable work is priced at.  You’ll also want to consider whether the artist is at a similar stage in his/her career as yours. 


Gallerists also take into pricing consideration an artist’s education (e.g., MFA); how many people have seen the work before; and the quantity of pieces produced.  “Historically the more pieces were printed the lower the quality was,” says D’lynne.  “This isn’t necessarily true anymore now that printing processes have changed with digital technology.  However, setting a small limited edition of 100 pieces tells a buyer that the artist has created something special.  It drives value higher.”


Tip 1: Multiply your cost-of-goods by 2 to get started  

A traditional rule of thumb is to figure out what it really costs you to produce a piece and multiple that number by two to arrive at a price.  “This is the only way you can guarantee that the other things you didn’t control for are covered and gives you room to negotiate.”  D’lynne feels that for artists, they may give away a piece to cultivate a relationship or may have glass break and need to create some padding to account for these events.  Make sure that this price isn’t below the low-point that buyers are willing to pay, however. “You don’t want to have bargain basement prices for work that shouldn’t be priced that way.”


Tip 2: Negotiating

“Think of your clients as investors.  It’s a great thing to say that other patrons have purchased the same work at $2,000 and it would be unfair to sell their investment for less and devalue it.”  D’lynne adds that customers don’t want to see the same piece available for a lower price anywhere else.  She also advises artists to be prepared to address matting and framing.  Buyers will frame and matt a piece and may ask you to do this work for them.  “Decide in advance why you will, or won’t, negotiate.”


Tip 3: Tracking costs

I track my costs of doing business in an Excel spreadsheet, which allows me to update it when a cost changes, calculate my profit for a specific piece, and understand how my profit is changing as my costs change.  If you want something more robust for your recordkeeping, look at QuickBooks.


Tip 4: Resources

Check out the Arts & Business Council webinar library for tips for dealing with legal issues, business basics, estate planning, and finances and fundraising.


As artists we need to decide what is important to us. Some enjoy creating personal relationships with buyers, others will consider selling art online as one way to get their work out, and still others will secure gallery representation.  Choose the right path for you and then do your homework to set the right prices for all your art.


D’lynne Plummer is the Director of Professional Development for the Arts & Business Council, where she oversees educational programming and the Essential Training for the Arts program. Previous to joining the A&BC, D'lynne was a freelance arts journalist and essayist for various regional and national publications, including Art New England, and later worked as a marketing consultant and copywriter for clients large and small.  D'lynne has taught writing and marketing courses since 2007, presenting her workshops at the National Arts Marketing Conference and for arts agencies throughout New England.

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens D'lynne Plummer Marketing conversations for photographers Photographic Resource Center how to price fine art photography photography Thu, 10 Oct 2013 11:00:00 GMT
Tips on how to price commercial photography Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University


As a marketer I can tell you that knowing what to charge for a service or product is always challenging.  There are no hard-and-fast rules to follow.  Unfortunately for photographers, understanding how to price our work has become ever more challenging in the past decade.  The shift to digital imagery has heralded new considerations with regard to digital products, the length of time a digital image will be in use, multi-media work, and more.


Commercial photographer Scott Indermaur tells me that “even people with 20 years in the business, they are still sharing pricing suggestions with each other.”


This is the first of several blog posts designed to help photographers price their work.  While I can’t tell you specifically how much to charge, I can provide examples of how commercial and fine art photographers approach pricing: what are the pitfalls?  What are the best practices?  Should you negotiate, and if so, how?


Commercial photography pricing structure

Scott Indermaur is a commercial photographer. Most of his clients are companies ranging from Federal Home Loan Bank to General Motors.  His corporate commercial work often ends up on a company website or in a brochure.   In addition, Scott tells me he is focusing more in fine art.  During the past seven years his Revealed  project has taken off, resulting in museum exhibits, a book, mini-gallery exhibits and film. 


When it comes to how Scott approaches pricing, he says “For years I spent so much time creating estimates, including figuring out how long an image would be used.  Now I realize that simple is easier.  I try to kick out an estimate in 30 minutes.”  While Scott admits it is a gamble not to incorporate a limit on the amount of time an image will be used into his estimates, he believes that most of his work will be used for only 1-3 years before his client wants newer material.


Scott says that he is now more confident in what he can produce, and more confident of setting pricing so both he and his client can get a good deal.  The structure Scott uses for pricing commercial assignments includes four components:


  1. Visual Production: Scott’s visual production fees are based on his knowledge of what the market will support and also his competition.  He has two rates based on use: 1) for national/international clients that require high-end production; 2) for local/regional clients.  For example, if a global company wants an image of its CEO for its website to advertise the company, he’ll charge one visual production rate. If a local law office wants him to come in and take a photo of its senior partner, he will charge less than in the prior example.
  2. Digital fee:  Scott doesn’t include his fees for downloading, archiving, editing, and uploading images to an online gallery in his visual production fee.  This post-production fee is itemized separately as one line item.
  3. Post-production: Time spent re-touching images may be billed per image depending upon the assignment or as a post-production day rate.
  4. Travel and Expenses: Scott often travels for his assignments and he builds-in estimates for hotel, airfare, mileage, insurance, etc.  If the assignment takes a bit more in costs than he originally estimated, Scott will often absorb the additional cost.  “I don’t try to nickel and dime clients and spend energy on counting every penny,” he says.   “For example, I charge a per-diem on food for the day. I do this because I do not want to spend the energy in auditing an assignment afterwards by organizing all my food receipts.”


Scott’s pricing structure gives him a framework for determining what to charge for a new assignment.  Even with his many years of experience in the business, however, Scott often consults with contacts in his network to get a second opinion.  In fact Scott tells me he still shares pricing information with his friend of 15-years who is also a commercial photographer.  Pricing is hard!  Below are three tips to keep in mind:


Tip #1: solicit advice from your network

Scott and his friend do weekly video check-ins and are accountability partners for each other. “It is great to have someone in the industry that you trust, he says.”  Scott also recommends having agreements in place up front so that if both of you are bidding on the same job, you don’t share pricing until after the assignment has been awarded, just share the specs.  “Set the rules and respect each other and don’t share notes until after the assignment has been awarded.”


Tip #2: price fairly to where you are still enjoying the job

Scott tells me that his biggest mistake regarding pricing is taking the job at a relatively low price point that he later regrets.  He says, “sometimes you have to take a risk, sometimes you take on a job and it is a roll of the dice.  It might lead to good stuff down the road or involve feel good work for a non-profit or something else that feeds my soul.”  Scott’s philosophy is to price fairly to where you are still enjoying the job and don’t have any regrets.


Tip #3: include a contract with your estimate

“It adds a little clout, clients realize you are more serious,” says Scott of including a contract with his estimate.  Scott prefers a short, half-page agreement.  The American Society of Media Photographers offers samples of terms and conditions:


Trend in architectural photo pricing to watch

Part of what makes knowing what to charge so difficult is staying abreast of changes in the market.  Scott shared an example of a pricing shift that is working very well for some architectural photographers, which other artists may want to watch. 


He says that an architectural photographer would charge $2000 for a day (note – the amounts in this example are hypothetical).  What s/he would find is that a competitor would come in and offer $1,500 for the same job.  To combat downward pressure on prices and lost income due to competition, what some architectural photographers are doing now is charging a flat fee of $1,200 that includes three images.  Additional images are $100 each. 


What they have been finding is that they deliver three images and the other 12 they shot.  Generally, the client buys all of them, not just the three “ordered”.  The photographer has now reaped $2,400 and actually increased his/her total income.


“I think it is brilliant,” says Scott.  “It falls into the pricing structure of how someone buys on iTunes, you can buy an entire album or just one song.”


Pricing isn’t something that you’ll master and then not worry about again.  It is an ongoing part of the business that needs regular supervision and updating.  Scott advises “find as many friends as you can who are professionals at all levels, pros with 20 years in the business and also novices just starting out.” 


Case in point: Scott recently received the nod for a multi-media project and called three photographers for help on how to price the project (note -- if your networking skills are rusty check out 5 tips for building your photography network).


If you have a new pricing approach that you’d like to share, or know someone that is a pricing guru who you think would make a great interviewee, email me at [email protected].  Our photography community will be strengthened from sharing successes with each other.


Scott Indermaur has been sharing stories for two decades through the visual language of photography. His assignments have taken him from the smallest rural communities to the world's most urban environments. His gift lies in discovering the familiar in the exotic and the remarkable in the ordinary. Whether he's capturing a fleeting moment in history or cutting to the essence of a portrait, Scott tells the story in a language everyone understands.  He is located in Rhode Island New England and the Board Member for ASMP New England.

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens PRC commercial photography marketing scott Indermaur Fri, 06 Sep 2013 11:30:00 GMT
5 considerations when choosing an online art gallery for your work Posted by Cindy A Stephens


I believe that we are in the midst of a transformation in the way that art is (and will be) bought and sold.  This shift is just as seismic as the democratization of photography, which was brought on by the rise of digital photo capture technology (e.g., dSLRs, Smartphones). 


The way hobbyists and Pros capture and share photos has changed, and the way collectors will buy art is next.  Surely we don’t need a clearer signal than Amazon’s (re)entry into fine art at the beginning of the month -- the shift to online buying is well underway.


While some artists will prefer to work with an artist-run cooperative gallery or a traditional brick-and-mortar gallery, the plethora of online galleries available offers artists a new way to get better known and sell work.  


There is a vast array of these online art galleries to choose from.  Several resources offer lists of galleries for artists to research.  What I’ve found, however, is that few offer tips on what to consider when choosing one.  I want to share with you what I’ve found during my own research process, and give you five things to consider when choosing an online gallery. 


Listen to my 5-minute podcast.


Bonus tip:  try these two free resources for determining how much web traffic an online gallery receives:;


(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens online art buying online art gallery photography podcast Thu, 29 Aug 2013 11:30:00 GMT
Creating an effective photography website Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University


You don’t have to be an expert in html to create a website that showcases your photography.  There are many easy-to-use website development tools that help even the most technically challenged build a photography website. 


What does require some expertise, however, is an understanding of how to build an effective photography website.   Fortunately, the barriers to achieving this are crumbling for a photographer without the wherewithal to pay for a completely custom website.  It all starts with knowing who your customers are and what your goals are.


Get to know your audience

PhotoShelter’s co-founder Grover Sanschagrin tells me a common mistake photographers make is to “design their website for themselves.”  He says “they ask other photographers for input, but spend little or no time asking their actual customers – photo buyers and editors – for feedback.”  Grover advises photographers to get to know their audience and don’t automatically assume that you know what they want.


In the case of award-winning nature photographer Robin D Moore, his audience is primarily conservation groups, humanitarian organizations and ecotourism outfits, as well as individuals looking to buy prints.  When designing his website Robin consciously omitted work that is not relevant to his core audience.  “I have shot weddings, events and portraits but I have left this work off my site as that is not relevant for my target audience and would look out of place.”


Robin also decided to prominently feature a recent project (Metamorphosis) because it represents the blend of science and art that he believes is his unique selling point as a photographer with a PhD in conservation biology.


Grover echoed these sentiments of being true to who you are.  “I don’t stray too far from things that have a natural interest for me,” says Grover.  He says “You have to be really into what you do.  Choosing subjects that you are not quite into will ring hollow, because everything has to be authentic.  If you aren’t really, really into something don’t do it.”


Grover operates to serve his primary non-photography passion.  He ended up moving to Mexico for a couple of years to immerse himself in the culture and become an expert in the niche.  He is also a founder and Executive Producer of  Grover mentioned that before he designed the site he made sure that he knew the community really well and then designed around that.


There’s an important point here: don’t try to be everything to everyone.  It is difficult to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.  These days, anyone can use web tools to put images online.  What really matters is that you have passion about what you do and find a niche and specialize in it.


Be authentic

Assuming you’ve done your homework and designed your website to suite your particular niche, a logical next step to creating an effective website usually involves driving traffic to it.  Understanding how to optimize your website for search engines (known as search engine optimization, or SEO) can play a role in that.


“In the early days, it [SEO] was a big mysterious thing where everyone wanted the secret formula,” Grover says.  “What we’ve noticed is that authenticity is the key to successful SEO.  The more you are authentic the more people like it and the more people talk about it.”


Grover tells me that search engines have become extremely smart and can tell what sites are getting traffic, which then helps them rank higher in search results.  His advice for photographers is to spend time on the quality of the content and not stuffing keywords into pages.  “Create a steady stream of text-based content, too.  That means creating blog posts that involve your niche, because these are the things that search engines can index, and users can share with others through social media.” 


  • Check out Brad Mangin, sports photographer, who Grover thinks is a good example of someone who uses his blog for marketing in his niche.


Robin includes captions and location data with images.  “Quite a lot of people come upon my site through image searches and so I think this metadata associated with each image is very important,” says Robin.


The take-away here is: don’t ignore text.  As artists we are natural visual communicators and are comfortable sharing ideas and information through images.  Relevant written content is important for building your online presence too (you might also be interested in this blog: How to build your online presence). 


Trends in e-commerce

Robin tells me successful commissions are a good indicator of his website’s effectiveness.  Robin has received some great assignments from it.  For artists represented by galleries that sell their work, having an e-commerce site is probably not a top priority.  For others who have chosen to sell online, it is critical.


Grover says he’s “seeing a trend of less is more when it comes to e-commerce”.  “In the past, it was thought that you needed to include every possible option in the world and cover every possible combination of features so that the customer could get exactly what they wanted.”


What he’s been seeing is that this has actually led to fewer sales because it introduces confusion as the buyer is overwhelmed by choices.  It slows down the buying process and in some cases “even stops the process entirely as they plan to come back later but never actually do.”


Grover’s advice? Offer only the most popular packages and explain everything clearly with pictures of the finished product when possible (such as the framed piece). 


According to one photo buyer quoted in 11 secrets to a great photo web site, “a big mistake photographers make is when their website creates a terrible user experience.” Clearly creating a great online experience for visitors to your website isn’t always easy, especially for photographers who may prefer spending time shooting rather than on web design.


According to Grover it is “usually the little things that count.”  He says to know your audience and talk to them about what they like and don’t like, and what they expect to see in your website. 


Responsive websites

Do your buyers go online on their mobile phones?  Do they use tablets or laptops or desktop computers?  One of the latest trends in website development is “responsive” websites that are capable of re-designing themselves on the fly based on the type of device being used to view it.


Robin has a responsive website, which is on the new PhotoShelter platform.  He says that the new platform “does what an effective photography website should do – it showcases my images without unnecessary distraction and makes navigating around the site easy.”


For more examples of the new responsive technology check these sites:


What it all comes down to regarding creating an effective website is that it doesn’t neatly fit into a “one size fits all” approach with handy shortcuts.  A website is dynamic and will evolve as your business grows and your goals change.  Keeping it current will require persistence. 


If you understand your target customers and your goals then you’re in a great place to take advantage of the many tools that are available today for creative professionals.  Stick with your niche.


 “We’ve seen lately that websites that go deep into a niche of some sort do extremely well,” says Grover. “They attract a better quality client or customer, they convert better, and there is less competition.”


Grover Sanschagrin is Vice President of Business Development and co-founder of PhotoShelter. Grover is also founder and Executive Producer of, the largest sports photography website on the Internet, and operates to serve his primary non-photography passion.

Robin D Moore is an award-winning photographer and author who brings a unique blend of scientific training and artistic flare to paint a compelling portrait of our world. Since gaining a PhD in biodiversity conservation, Robin has been a powerful voice for amphibian conservation, and as an Associate Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

(cindy a. stephens) 11 secrets to a great photo website Cindy Stephens Grover Sanschagrin PRC Robin Moore photography effective photography website marketing photography responsive photography websites Tue, 06 Aug 2013 11:00:00 GMT
Building relationships with art collectors Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University


It’s a wonderful feeling to know that as an artist your work has touched someone and that they have purchased a print to have in their home or collection.  In fact, many collectors purchase work not because they believe it will appreciate in value but because they love it.  (See: Collectors Buy Art Because They Love It (Or Want to Take Out A Loan With It) by Kathryn Tully). 


If you are represented by a gallery you may not know who purchased your print and will leave it up to the gallery to market future work to these same collectors (See: How to find and work with galleries).  For others, interacting directly with buyers is a fulfilling and enjoyable part of their artistic process. 


Ask yourself, do you want to interact with your customers, personally?  Some artists opt for gallery representation while other artists opt for greater engagement with customers and sell work directly to buyers.  Beware that galleries might view it as a conflict of interest to do both.


Regardless of how you answered the earlier question, building relationships with art collectors (directly or indirectly) makes good business sense.  It helps generate repeat purchases and spreads positive word of mouth communication about your work.  “They become fans and want to encourage you,” says accomplished photographer Karin Rosenthal


For Karin, staying in touch with collectors of her work is about cultivating relationships and not about a marketing program.  “It’s not a strategy for me.”  It is an intrinsic part of the way she shares her craft.


Get to know collectors on a personal level

Karin really enjoys one-on-one interaction with people.  She’s been fortunate to have the best of both worlds: gallery representation that puts her work in front of people she would otherwise never be in contact with (e.g., a dermatology clinic in Seattle that purchased several prints through her gallery) and also the opportunity to build personal relationships with collectors herself.


Karin says “For me, having people come into the house and talk to me directly about the work is wonderful.  I never get tired of it.”


Many collectors have turned into friends or students or both (See Karin’s workshop: An Introduction to the Human Landscape).  One collector who has purchased several prints of hers over the years, has taken several of Karin’s workshops, and has become a personal friend.  A couple that started out as collectors became models as well as close friends.


“It all blurs together for me,” says Karin.  “I really enjoy getting to know people and speaking with them about my images, particularly if they are tuned in to what it is about.  The communication quickly moves to a deeper level.”


Tapping into the emotional connection between artist and collector

Karin’s photography has been collected by people ranging from curators to Nobel Prize winners to artists, lawyers, literary agents, and doctors.  She says that “getting to know these collectors has expanded my world.”


Karin told me a story about a man in England who contacted her and asked her the story behind a piece.  She responded via email explaining what had prompted the piece and he wrote back that he had sensed there was something different about this particular work.  He said "Thanks for your detailed response. In a weird way I thought your comments would be close to what you said which is the power of the work." 


To Karin this experience shows how art communicates all on its own to total strangers.   “What could be a more rewarding experience for an artist than creating a universal language?” asks Karin.


Karin says that the emotional connection between the artist, the art, and a collector “cuts through the superficiality of daily routine and makes life more meaningful.”


Creating an annual open-house tradition

Karin was holding a personal open house every year long before open studies were commonplace.  It is an approach Karin uses to promote her work that allows her the one-on-one interactions with collectors that she enjoys.  It also provides a deadline for printing new work and an opportunity to live with and contemplate the new photographs.


During the first week of December Karin has an event at her house with an exhibit of her newest images and also some of her older pieces.  She’s been doing this annually in her current home since 1986 and it has become a tradition that people expect and talk up.


Karin told me that “The idea started in 1981 when I came back from a traveling fellowship to Greece.  A colleague said to me why don’t we draw up a list of names and invite people to your apartment to see your work?  At first the idea was too radical for me to accept.  Galleries showed artwork, not artists.”


But she was gradually persuaded. “To my great surprise lots of people came and I sold some work.”  For many years, she sold anywhere from 15-20 prints during the December open house, roughly 30% of her 50-60 print sales on average per year.  The December show allowed her to make a living primarily from the sale of artwork.


This approach is one that works for Karin who enjoys communicating directly with her buyers.  She’s given the tip to several others who also use it successfully to build relationships and sell their work.  If you do have gallery representation you obviously need to be mindful not to undercut the gallery by selling work directly at a lower price than the gallery charges.


In addition to holding an open house Karin has an email list of 1,700 names.  She uses it to inform her followers about important news, like her recent interview on (Read photo-eye blog: Interview& Portfolio: Karin Rosenthal). “I use email to announce pending shows and update my followers on other significant happenings in my career.”  And she sends traditional snail-mail mailings yearly to a list of about 1,400 people.  She’s careful to point out however that she views what she is doing as communicating, not marketing.


Karin is a wonderfully warm and engaging person.  And it’s easy to see how events and the “personal touch” are such an integral part of the way that she builds relationships with collectors and promotes her work.


The rest of us will have to make our own decisions about what is right for us as artists.  One thing is certain – that in a world where it is getting harder to make a living by selling prints, developing a personal connection with a buyer elevates the relationship to a whole new level. 


“They become ambassadors of the work.  The more images are on people’s walls, the more ambassadors there are.  Sales of my photographs started with friends back in 1981 and have expanded exponentially ever since,” says Karin.  That makes smart business sense in my opinion.


Karin Rosenthal’s photographs of the human figure in the landscape reside in numerous private and museum collections including the Boston MFA, Boston Public Library, Brooklyn Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Fogg, Rose, and Danforth Art Museums, the ICP, and the Yale University Art Gallery.  In 1978, Rosenthal received a year-long alumna traveling fellowship from Wellesley College to photograph in Greece.  Since then, her nudes have been published and exhibited internationally.

Cindy A Stephens is a Vice President of Marketing and a fine art photographer. She specializes in developing high-impact marketing strategies using digital and content marketing to build brands and expand market share. As a photographer Cynthia specializes in photography of main streets and back roads using unusual framing and multiple planes of perspective.

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Karin Rosenthal PRC art collectors marketing photographic resource center photography Fri, 28 Jun 2013 11:00:00 GMT
Historic Manitou Springs Colorado Posted by Cindy A Stephens


When the opportunity arose to speak at a conference for bank and trust executives in Colorado Springs, I jumped at the chance to extend my business trip by a few days to mix business with pleasure. 


There are few things that I enjoy more than exploring with my Nikon camera to photograph main streets and back roads.  Also, my vacation in neighboring Wyoming last October (read my blog on the Cowboys of Wyoming) wet my appetite for further visits to the Rocky Mountain States.

Historic Manitou Springs Colorado

Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens

The plan for this post-conference day was to take the Cog Railway in Manitou Springs to the top of Pikes Peak, a dizzying 14,115 feet above sea level.  What’s that quote? “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” 


I have been at an elevation of more than 14,000 feet while traveling in South America.  I took several days to get acclimated to the thin Andean mountain air before reaching that altitude.  So the idea of ascending by railway in one hour to the top of Pikes Peak, spending 20 minutes at the top, and then spending another hour to descend had lost its appeal by the time we reached Manitou Springs from Colorado Springs.


It was a spectacular morning and I wasn’t in the mood to get lightheaded or dehydrated.  So I went in the opposite direction of the tourists that were eager to see one of the area's most popular local attractions (ascending Pikes Peak) and decided to enjoy Manitou Springs instead. 


Historic Mantiou Springs Colorado


Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


Manitou Springs is a small city of 4,900 people.  According to the local website it is where “life and art merge”.  I suppose its artistic and slightly quirky vibe is why it held immediate appeal for me.  It had interesting art galleries, trading posts and quaint shops.  These shops aren’t what caught my eye photographically, however.


What drew my attention were an old fashioned ice cream/hot dog stand and a Hemp Store.  They immediately caught my attention for different reasons.  The stand looked like it had been transplanted from one of those traditional fairs that you find in New England during the fall. I loved the sense of nostalgia that it radiated in a vibrant downtown.  I am always intrinsically drawn to scenes that have elements from the past juxtaposed with the present.  I was like a kid in the proverbial candy shop (pun intended) with Colorado Mountains in the background and the beautiful downtown in the foreground reflections.  Also, this was something unique that I hadn't seen before while photographing other main streets. 


The hemp store was interesting for a different reason.  With its Colorado-themed wares and the iconic Adobe architecture across the street these images would be distinctly non-New England in flavor.  Part of the reason for extending my business trip was to expand the Reflections from Main Street USA portfolio to new states and add geographic diversity so I knew I wanted to spend time photographing in front of this storefront.


Taking the time to slow down and enjoy the relaxed artistic vibe that historic Manitou Springs had to offer turned out to be a great way to start the day before exploring in nearby Garden of the Gods.  Manitou is a Native American word for spirit.  And this main street definitely had lots of it.   

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Colorado Manitou Springs Pikes Peak main streets reflections from main street Sun, 23 Jun 2013 23:18:10 GMT
How to find and work with a gallery Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University

Do you want to be represented by a gallery?  Many of the graduating students from the Montserrat College of Art that I met during their portfolio review had answered that question for themselves with a resounding YES.


There are many advantages to working with a gallery.  Galleries have established relationships with individual collectors, museums, and other buyers so when a gallery agrees to take on an artist they also agree to promote that artist to these important audiences. Fine art photographer, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew tells me ““Some artists are looking for a brand name gallery which can definitely help with their career but I would be cautious if that is always the best match.”


So the real question becomes: how do you find the right gallery for your career?  The gallery landscape is more diverse than a decade ago:  there are artist-run cooperative galleries (e.g., Galatea), online galleries (e.g., Saatchi Online) and traditional brick-and-mortar galleries (e.g., Howard Yezerski Gallery), making it a challenge to find the best match between artist and gallerist.


And, common misconceptions about galleries add to the challenge among artists seeking representation.  Annu shared a story with me from her personal experience that illustrates this point. 


A former curator at the deCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass., Rachel Lafo, had setup a meeting for Annu with Bonni Benrubi, the late owner and director of the well-known NYC photography gallery of the same name.  Annu told me she had the misconception that “as soon as she saw my work we would be talking about representation!”  While Bonni was generous with her time and advice, and loved the work, she made it very clear that her collectors would never buy it.


The moral of this story for artists seeking representation is while you may love the work that a given gallery shows, Annu says you should look critically about whether your own work will fit into the work the gallery sells.


For artists that are seeking representation the best advice to getting started boils down to:

  • Finding a gallery: Do your homework.  Research a gallery before reaching out.
  • Approaching a gallery: Ask for a personal introduction or referral and build relationships over time
  • Working with a gallery: Be in it for the long haul


Finding a Gallery

Jason Landry, owner of the Panopticon Gallery, says he is looking for energy or excitement in new artists.  “I want to work with artists who can see past their current body of work toward the future.”


Jason recommends that artists visit their local galleries to get a “lay of the land”.  He says that “not all galleries will be a perfect fit for your art.”  You want to see if the artists that the gallery represents work in a similar vein to your own.  “Most gallery owners and directors have certain tastes,” says Jason.  “Try and figure out what their taste is.”


Jason attends a lot of portfolio reviews to find new artists for representation.  Annu agrees.  “Portfolio reviews are a way that professionals in the field can advise artists which galleries to look at and sometimes put artists in touch with them,” she says.  Consider this case in point: Annu met Rachel Lafo at FotoFest.


Tip: The New England Portfolio Reviews will take place on June 7-8th in Boston.  Online registration is open until May 22 (late registration is May 22 – 24) for artists who want the opportunity to present their work to leading curators, gallerists, and established photographers.


Annu also recommends attending art fairs like AIPAD to research galleries and determine the kind of work each gallery represents, and then add the galleries to a mailing list “as the first step in a long process of cultivating a relationship.”


Resources for researching galleries


Approaching a Gallery

Jason says that some galleries are looking for new talent, while others have their stable of artists and are not seeking new representation.  “It usually states that clearly on their website,” he says.  Jason recommends visiting their website first before reaching out.


Often when emerging artists identify a gallery they want to work with they mail a CD of their work or reach out directly.  Imagine how many times a gallerist receives these types of pitches from artists they don’t know?


Before approaching a gallery directly, consider these tips from Annu and Jason:


  • Introductions: If you have a friend who is represented by a gallery that you’d like to be associated with, Jason suggests you ask for an introduction.
  • Competitions: Apply to competitions where the gallerist is a juror to get your work in from of him/her/
  • Reviews: Go to portfolio reviews where the gallerist is a reviewer and slowly build relationships.
  • Grants: Apply for grants.  Annu says “even if you don’t win the grant, the jury panel will see your work and sometimes that leads to other opportunities.”


One word of caution, Annu says “Do not approach a gallery at an Art Fair.  They are there to sell work and not find artists.”


Working with a Gallery

According to Jason, the primary responsibility of a gallery is to market and sell the artist’s work.  “It’s easier for a gallery to get the attention of collectors, magazine editors, curators and museum professionals because as peers, they respect the fact that we are knowledgeable and know that that we wouldn’t be contacting them unless we thought the work was top notch.”


So, when you are finally in discussions with a gallery make sure that it offers you the type of resources you are looking for and will be a good fit.


“I would rather spend my time doing my work and pass on all inquiries to my gallery for them to follow up on”, says Annu.  “Personally, it gives me time to do my work and creates more trust between me and my galleries.”


When discussions evolve into the specifics of a contract, both Jason and Annu agree that a contract should include information on whether or not the gallery insists on exclusive sales in the geographic area the gallery covers.  Check to see if the contract or arrangement also covers:


  • How long the agreement is for
  • Who pays for what pertaining to framing, shipping and insurance
  • How print sales (commissions) are split
  • What is covered by the gallery’s insurance
  • Who does what in terms of exhibitions, publicity, PR, openings


You might also explore a gallery’s expertise in social media.  Annu says the Yellow Peril gallery in Providence, Rhode Island does an excellent job of promoting their shows.


Having gallery representation is not right for every artist.  Go into the relationship without misconceptions and with realistic expectations for what you expect it to deliver.


I think that Annu sums up working with a gallery best by saying “I would look at the relationship like a marriage or a long term commitment.  You have to respect, trust and like dealing with the gallery since the relationships can and often will last many years.”


Annu Palakunnathu Matthew is Professor of Art (Photography) at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, Rhode Island and is represented by Sepia Eye, New York City & Tasveer Gallery, India


Jason Landry is the owner and gallery director of the Panopticon Gallery.  Panopticon Gallery is one of the oldest fine art photography galleries in the United States specializing in contemporary, modern and vintage photography.


Cindy A Stephens is a Vice President of Marketing and a fine art photographer. She specializes in developing high-impact marketing strategies using digital and content marketing to build brands and expand market share. As a photographer Cynthia specializes in photography of main streets and back roads using unusual framing and multiple planes of perspective.

(cindy a. stephens) Annu Palakunnathu Matthew Cindy Stephens Jason Landry PRC marketing photography Wed, 29 May 2013 11:30:00 GMT
Images from Cripple Creek Colorado Posted by Cindy A Stephens


One of the first things that struck me about Cripple Creek was its unmistakable historic heritage interwoven with contemporary culture.  Nestled in the Rocky Mountains at a heady 9,494 feet elevation, this picture-perfect town of roughly 1,100 people juxtaposes its historic gold mining traditions with gaming.


I was absolutely charmed with this beautiful historic town.  I ambled slowly (due in part to the elevation) along its main street and soaked up what it had to offer.  From the perspective of American main streets it was a visual feast.  Now that I’ve returned home, some of the images that remain with me in my mind’s eye still conjure up what it felt like to be there.


Cripple Creek Colorado Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


Gaming was introduced to Cripple Creek in 1991 and is now a major industry.  Slot machines are tucked-away in 100 year-old buildings.  The feel of the town is not one of the over-the-top neon frenzy of Las Vegas with its always-on strip and gigantic casinos.  Overall, the feeling is casual and relaxed. Even in May the outdoor heat lanterns provided welcome warmth for smokers and me in front of these establishments.  I caused some curiosity by casino security with my digital SLR, however, no undue alarm was raised.


Cripple Creek Jail Museum

At one end of the main street is the Cripple Creek Jail Museum, which I highly recommend visiting if you are in the area. This small jailhouse operated from 1900 to 1992, housing up to 100 inmates at one time in 14 cells (yep, 6 to a cell).  The town’s gold mining era brought with it prostitution and offenders from the Wild West.  According to its website, jail-house occupants even included Robert Curry (aka Bob Lee), a member of the “Wild Bunch” gang.


After paying a small entrance fee visitors get to walk into the actual jail cells.  What I found fascinating were the drawings on cell walls as well as clippings from the Cripple Creek journal that told the stories of prior inmates.  Many of the Victorian era offenses seem pale in comparison to today’s standards.  Truant children and Victorian women who didn’t keep up with housekeeping duties were behind bars along with prostitutes and outlaws.


We were the first two people who had been into the jail museum on this day so the proprietor was happy to explain a bit about the museum folklore and history.  Apparently, some believe that the museum is haunted.  Ghost-buster teams have visited the museum using paranormal equipment.  For me, visiting the museum and walking in history’s footsteps added to the allure of this charming, historic town.


Cripple Creek Colorado Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens

Lou’s Fudge

Sometimes it is the people I meet on my travels to American main streets that add flavor to a town’s visual feast.  Lou is a case in point.  We couldn’t pass up an opportunity to have homemade fudge and so we headed into the Cripple Creek Candy Store.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone around.  After a while a gentleman came into the store and asked if we’d been helped.  When we replied that we hadn’t he hollered into the back room “Lou, you have customers out front!”


When he finally appeared from the backroom Lou was chatty and friendly.  I enjoy the pace of these smaller towns -- the unhurried, friendly ease that people have with visitors.  It’s a welcome change to slow down at times.


It turns out that Lou’s wife makes the fudge herself. It’s wonderful fudge – too good not to cart home on the plane to finish every single piece.  The few minutes in Lou’s shop remains a wonderful memory.


In all, Cripple Creek’s legacy of gold mining, mountaineers and the Wild West continues with the town’s spirit of modern entrepreneurship and the adventurers who choose to live at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level in the shadows of Pike’s Peak.

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Cripple Creek Colorado main streets Tue, 21 May 2013 01:56:22 GMT
Building your online presence Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University

Issue #3 of Marketing Conversations for Photographers


“How do I drive more traffic to my website?” is a question that I hear frequently.  Creating a website is merely the first mile in a marathon of establishing your online presence, which is now fairly straightforward with the myriad digital tools that are available for photographers and other creative professionals. 


The answer to the question is that once your site is built, you need to recognize that you have just started a marathon and then make the commitment to complete the journey.  This persistence is critical to successfully building your online presence.  And that, says online influence expert Stephanie Sammons, “cultivates business success.”


Stephanie told me that “most people give up before they reach their desired level of success with the volume of people visiting the site, growing their network or connecting with them.”


It all starts with getting clear on what your goals are and aligning your online presence with those goals, which Stephanie says is “very, very critical to building a successful online presence.”


Are you a commercial photographer marketing your photography to specific corporate buyers?  Do you want to set up an ecommerce site with lots of visitors in order to sell prints online?  Or, perhaps you seek lower web traffic but need to attract a few key gallery owners to secure art gallery representation.


“When you are clear on these goals you can be a better leader and use your art to position yourself as a thought leader and person of influence.”


According to Stephanie, if you are committed to staying in the race until the finish line and have clear goals then your formula for success will be:

  1. Content – showcasing your art and telling stories
  2. Community – build a network of the people you need to connect with


Content: Use blogs to build your online presence


“I really think that blogging is the secret sauce,” Stephanie says.  “It is the best way to get found online through search engines and to build your community through social networking.”


Stephanie recommends that you share the stories behind the photographs, as well as your passion and techniques and says that the more you reveal about yourself the more powerful blogging is going to be.


There is a caveat, however.  You have to be committed to blogging and be consistent in order to build traction and online presence.  “Trying to blog once a week is a great goal,” says Stephanie.  Stephanie averages three times per month on her blog


The tipping point, according to Stephanie, is reaching 100+ posts on your blog. “It is an amazing difference in starting to get traction.  Every new blog post creates a new page for your site, so Google looks at your site as being more legitimate and having staying power.  The consistency and volume together are what makes a difference.” 


Consider this: the tipping point means if you post one per week, as Stephanie recommends, it could take you two years to reach your tipping point.  This is why commitment is such an important point.


Stephanie suggests that there are ways to get there faster.  For instance, you can accelerate traction by contributing blogs for other sites that are more established.  If these other sites reach your desired audience, such as gallery owners or art collectors, they can be a “great way to get exposure and build your online influence.”  Stephanie also suggests making sure you have a unique opportunity to stand out when contributing to other blogs.


Community: Build your network using social media


Building your online presence is not just about content.  “You can crank out content and hope to get found but the other key piece of the formula is community,” says Stephanie.  “Community is building a network, such as through Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.  It is the idea of franchising yourself on different networks.”


Stephanie says that you want to identify who the influential people are that are important for your business and build a presence on the networks that matter to get in front of them. 


One way to help identify these influencers is to do some searches on networks and forums.  Think about which gallery owners you want to build relationships with.  Are they in any LinkedIn groups?  Could you follow them on Twitter?


“I have seen a painter in California, John Kraft, do a phenomenal job using Facebook,” says Stephanie.  “He runs specials and promotions.  What he has done so well is build a community around his art.  John’s Facebook page has more than 2,500 fans.”


Resource list of digital tools for getting started and tracking progress


Getting started in blogging and community building, and tracking your success, can sometimes be a challenge for marketing novices.  Below are a few digital tools that Stephanie recommends:


  • Nimble: a social CRM
  • Blogging/Wordpress resources: WP Engine and WP 101
  • Hootsuite: for social media monitoring
  • BufferApp: for social media content distribution


Descriptions of each of these tools can be found in the digital tools section of Stephanie’s site.


According to Stephanie, you want “all roads to lead back to your site.”  Whether you are at the 1-mile mark in building your online presence or at Heartbreak Hill (as it is affectionately known to Boston marathoners), commitment and patience will ultimately be rewarded along your journey.


You may also be interested in:

  • Issue #2, Describing yourself and your work
  • Issue #1, How to build awareness for your work


Stephanie Sammons helps business professionals build online influence.    

Cindy A Stephens is a Vice President of Marketing and a fine art photographer.  She specializes in developing high-impact marketing strategies using digital and content marketing to build brands and expand market share.  As a photographer Cynthia specializes in photography of main streets and back roads using unusual framing and multiple planes of perspective.

(cindy a. stephens) Main streets Stephanie Sammons build online influence marketing photography Fri, 19 Apr 2013 04:00:00 GMT
Worldly, Keene New Hampshire Posted by Cindy A Stephens


Main streets and back roads of Keene, New Hampshire


Keene is described on the town website as “rural and folksy in some ways, but it's worldly as well.”  I suppose this is an apt description for Main Street Keene, New Hampshire, which is home to quaint stores (selling handicrafts and homemade candy) and also to an adult store selling adult toys, videos and smoking equipment.


I had been to Keene only once before.  On this sunny afternoon I was making my way North, from Gardner, Massachusetts, where I had stopped to photograph on Main Street (read my Gardner blog).


I remembered Keene as a charming, vibrant downtown that didn’t show any ill effects from the difficult economic situation of the prior few years.  There were plentiful cafes and restaurants, numerous quaint shops, a movie theater and lots of Main Street visitors.  I also remembered the store for adults.

Keene New Hampshire

Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


The store seems rather incongruously situated next to its more traditional neighbors.  And indeed, articles in local newspapers report a mixed perspective on whether the store is appropriate for Main Street.  For a photographer’s eye, however, it delivers good photography subject matter. 


I have mentioned previously that one of my favorite things about photographing on main streets and back roads is discovering unexpected memorabilia in storefront windows, like Smith and Corona® typewriters or a black and white photo of Donny and Marie Osmond.


It is just as rewarding, photographically, to find modern paraphernalia to work with.  These seemingly mirror opposites each tell Main Street’s stories.


Keene New Hampshire

Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


Finding myself in front of this adult store window I took advantage of the happenstance (I hadn’t planned to visit Keene) to create better images than on my prior visit.  On my first visit 18 months prior, the store had only been open for a couple of weeks.  The storefront window was relatively sparse and the overcast day led to fairly unimpressive lighting.


Today, the sun was shining, the store appeared well stocked, and there was a man demonstrating glassblowing.  Quite a difference from the scene before me in 2011.  When a pregnant Mom and her young son stopped to watch the glass blowing I knew the photography “gods” were smiling upon me.  I had an opportunity to juxtapose the adolescent scene outside the store with the more adult one inside.


For me, Main Street Keene exemplifies contemporary America, one where old traditions survive alongside new customs.  This is exactly the concept of Main Street I want to personify in my Reflections from Main Street work – one that is flesh-and-blood and not merely the opposite of “Wall Street”.


Until the next journey to main streets and back roads… - Cindy

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Keene, New Hampshire fine art photography massachusetts main streets Tue, 09 Apr 2013 01:54:20 GMT
Describing yourself and your work Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University

Issue #2 from the series Marketing Conversations for Photographers


As artists we are natural visual communicators and are comfortable sharing ideas and information through images.  It is written and verbal communication, however, that is often used by artists to bridge the gap between our creative intentions and the audience of our work.  It acts as a translator to the language of photography.


Whereas artists are comfortable at storytelling using imagery, the rest of the world (including art collectors) often needs a verbal translation from these visual clues to discern the intended meaning. Reviewers and jurors sometimes need this verbal translation too when reviewing work.


Photographer and founder of Lenscratch, Aline Smithson, tells me that the way photographers share work has changed in the past 10 years.


“Prior to 10 years ago artists were bringing in portfolios of beautiful images unrelated to each other.  A lot of the focus was on the mastery of the darkroom print.  Now in the digital age, reviewers are looking for artists to have explored an idea in a deep way with at least 20 images.  Often times that work is enhanced by the written articulation of it.”


Describing yourself and your work now goes way beyond defining yourself by the photographic genre you fit into, such as landscape or nature photography.  “That’s old school,” Aline says.  “Now you are articulating ideas.  Why are you making those landscapes? What is that other layer that makes the work deeper?  How could a gallerist or curator convince a buyer or museum director that your project is meaningful?”


Aline shared an example from her experience jurying a body of work.  It was an architectural series that wasn’t resonating with her.  Then she read the artist’s statement.  It was from a person who had been homeless.  He described his experience looking at these buildings from the outside while he was lying on the sidewalk at night.  His personal experience brought a whole new meaning to the work.  She understood why he had taken the photos and the work was charged with new layers.


Describing your work generally involves three elements:

  1. Bio: a brief description of your background
  2. General artist statement:  your philosophy about photography
  3. Artist statement for each portfolio: explanation of why you created this specific body of work


Creating an effective bio

I asked Aline to define the elements that she believes makeup an effective bio.  She suggests that the key is to make it very personal and keep it to half a page.  Aline looks for personal details such as where they were born, where they are currently living, and perhaps their education.  If it gets too long she believes the reader will lose interest.


 “It’s harder when you first start out [as a photographer],” Aline explains.  “When I started, my bio was more about my jobs prior to photography. As my career grew my bio grew too.”


Aline’s 345-word bio now includes short paragraphs on where her work has been featured, awards she has received, and information on exhibitions she has curated or reviewed.


There’s an important point here: a bio is not static.  It evolves over time as we mature as photographers and our professional careers advance.  Start with what makes sense for where you are in your career.


General artist statement

Aline believes that each body of work should have its own statement.  Photographers, however, also need a general statement that is broader and not focused solely on one idea.


“Describe what drew you to photography, what kinds of things you are interested in, and your philosophy on being a photographer,” she explains.  “When you start getting your work out into the zeitgeist, the photo world wants to understand your point of view.  People will be curious as to your philosophy, not just your bio, so it’s important to talk about why you make work.”


Aline’s 172-word general artist statement is concise yet wonderfully personal and expressive.  She speaks about what imagery she is drawn to and enjoys making, what has influenced her, and the cameras she uses.


Portfolio specific artist statement

A statement that is specific to one body of work “usually starts out with someone talking about what led them to make the work, what they responded to, and how they are able to see the work contextualized to the bigger picture,” Aline says.


“For me, it is about recognizing that the photographer truly understands their project, why they are making it, and what they learned from the experience of creating it.”


An artist statement doesn’t work, Aline says, when “a photographer strings together photos and says it is a body of work.  But it wasn’t made with intention.  And then they come up with some art-speak statement that doesn’t convince me the work was made with intent.”


So, what’s the bottom line? Be personal and explain why you do what you do – what the intent is behind it and why that is important to you.


Susan Worsham is a photographer who Aline says does a very good job describing herself.  “She starts out by describing her childhood and the world she lives in now and the people she is drawn to,” says Aline.  “There is no artifice to it at all.  That’s what I really love.” 


Tips for describing your work and yourself


  1. Be honest:  “Do not over inflate things,” Aline says.  “Be honest about where you are in your career.  If you are new to photography, why not talk about that other career and what made you pick up a camera and start now.”
  2. Bring something fresh and original: “Your life and your world is the only place that no one else can shoot.”  Aline suggests if you “make the work within the ideas in your head, the things that concern you and interest you it will be unique”.  If you want to do something on a topic that has been done before, Google the idea and bring a freshness to it.
  3. Check out Critical Mass portfolios:  Photolucida, a big portfolio review, happens every two years in Portland.  They have a call for entry for Critical Mass. “This is a great place for people to view significant contemporary portfolios and read their statements and see how photographers articulate their work,” Aline says. 


About jurying Review Sante Fe, Aline wrote “Most importantly, the work has to have authenticity – it has to convince the viewer that it has come from a genuine place and it needs to persuade us that there is meaning and purpose behind the efforts.  That meaning can be reflected by a statement that helps elevate the work, but most often from the perfect marriage of intention, writing, and unique visual expression.”


That’s a language that needs no translation.


You may also be interested in:

  • Issue #1 in the series, How to build awareness for your work


Aline Smithson After a career as a New York Fashion Editor and working alongside the greats of fashion photography, Aline Smithson discovered the family Rolleiflex and never looked back. Now represented by galleries in the U.S. and Europe and published throughout the world, Aline continues to create her award-winning photography with humor, compassion, and a 50-year-old camera.  Aline founded and writes the blogzine, Lenscratch.

Cindy A Stephens is a Vice President of Marketing and a fine art photographer.  She specializes in developing high-impact marketing strategies using digital and content marketing to build brands and expand market share.  As a photographer Cynthia specializes in photography of main streets and back roads using unusual framing and multiple planes of perspective.

(cindy a. stephens) Aline Smithson PRC Boston marketing photography Thu, 28 Mar 2013 11:00:00 GMT
Gardner, the Furniture Capital of New England Posted by Cindy A Stephens


Main streets and back roads of Gardner, Massachusetts


About 60 miles Northwest of Boston, you know that you have arrived in Gardner when the billboard on Route 2 proudly exclaims you are entering the furniture capital of New England.  I had packed my camera gear and set my course for this Worcester County city on a beautiful late winter day in March.


Upon entering downtown Gardner one of the first things I wondered was where all the furniture was?  As it happens, the furniture manufacturers, showrooms and outlets are generally sprinkled in hub-and-spoke fashion not far from Main Street.  These rather nondescript buildings on the outside offer a feast of well-crafted American-made furniture on the inside (a rarity these days in the "supermarket" furniture stores that offer entire bedroom sets for just $999.)


Gardner, MA Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


In Bill Bryson fashion I parked my car and then set off on foot to meander along Main Street.  I had spotted a diner on the way into town and headed back towards it.  The Blue Moon Diner was a beehive of activity on this Sunday morning.  It was one of those wonderfully quaint Worcester Lunch Car style diners from the first half of the 20th century.


The friendly locals smiled upon entering and exiting the diner upon seeing me, camera in hand, shooting at the town reflected in its front door.  And two friendly down-on-their-luck gentlemen, that had previously been resting cat-like on sunny storefront steps, smiled and asked if I wanted to take their photo as they sauntered past.


Gardner, MA Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


I took my leave of the diner, without sampling the fare, and journeyed onward along Main Street.  The small storefronts housed apparatus for the hobbyist and bric-a-brac for the collector. 


Generally as I wander I look for interesting window displays and scenes being reflected in their glass. First and foremost I want something photographically interesting and new for my body of work, which also needs to convey interesting memorabilia or showcase the town.


My stroll in Gardner was a leisurely one designed to let me focus on these multiple planes of perspective.  Gardner did not disappoint.  The relatively quiet streets were easily shown off as prized wares in stores befitting this 20,000 person, 90-year old city.  


Gardner, MA

Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


After a couple of hours I made my way back to my car to warm my cold hands and reflect.  It was early afternoon on this beautiful day and I was enjoying myself.  I pointed my car north upon back roads toward New Hampshire, not yet ready to let this walkabout end. 


I ended up in Keene, self-described on the town website as “rural and folksy in some ways, but it's worldly as well.”  An oxymoron, surely?  I aimed to find out. 


Find out in my next story from the main streets of Keene. - Cindy

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy A Stephens Gardner, MA main streets Sun, 24 Mar 2013 20:57:42 GMT
How to Build Awareness for Your Work Originally published on Boston Photography Focus, a blog from the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University

Issue #1 from the series Marketing Conversations for Photographers


We are witnessing the democratization of photography.  The rise and rapid adoption of digital technology has made photography accessible to the masses in a way that wasn’t possible a generation ago.


Millions of images are now shared on social media sharing sites by hobbyists as well as emerging photographers and established pros.  Some work is superb and other images are merely mediocre.


The result of this seismic shift is that it is increasingly difficult to stand out in a very crowded marketplace.  Technical know-how and creative genius is no longer sufficient to becoming an established fine art or commercial photographer.  Marketing acumen — the ability to differentiate you as an artist — is now a required skill for photographers.


Free-lance photographer David H. Wells tells me that marketing is as important a skill for a photographer as the actual photographing.


“I would argue that marketing is more important [than photographic skill], proven by the wild success of many photographically mediocre artists who have great marketing systems,” David says.


I found it startling that David spends only 10% of his time photographing.  The other 90% is spent on marketing activities.  Like many photographers, he has multiple revenue streams including stock photography, assignments, and teaching workshops and he spreads his marketing efforts across them.


Find out what makes you unique and use it to differentiate yourself

“Compared with assignment work and workshop teaching, stock is one area where it takes less promotional effort,” he explains.  “I am always looking for new agencies to work with but do not have to promote myself to them in the way I do with the other two markets.”


In order to build awareness for his work, David uses Tumblr® to post an image a day from his travels, currently to India and South Asia.  He submits work to various contests and works on one or more personal projects that enable David to tell his assignment and workshop audiences what he is up to. 


David also has an educational website (The Wells Point) where he blogs, posts podcasts, and sends newsletters to share information about the world of photography. 


It isn’t unusual to have a website.  Many, if not all, serious photographers have websites today.  What I find refreshing about David’s approach, however, is that he has found a way to stand-out by helping to educate other photographers instead of relying solely on the excellent quality of his images.  From a marketing perspective, David’s differentiator is his ability to educate, relying on his superb teaching abilities.


Two examples of successes

I asked David to provide an example of a fine art photographer who succeeded in getting his/her work better known as an artist and then give me his opinion on how they did it.


“I would say that Dave Anderson and Elinor Carucci have used the conventional channels of portfolio reviews, word of mouth, networking, entering competitions and now social media to become better known as artists,” David says.


Dave Anderson:  Dave is a former MTV producer and director of television production in the Clinton White House.  His project Rough Beauty was the winner of the 2005 National Project Competition from the Santa Fe Center for Photography and became the focus of his first book.  “Because of his experience with MTV and the White House, he has a good feel for marketing, media, and popular culture.  When he was starting out he also studied with Keith Carter, a very successful and well established fine art photographer.”


Elinor Carucci:   “Elinor’s strength is taking a subject matter [family, the human form and intimacy] and then photographing them in a way that is simultaneously intimate, human, and yet not vulgar,” he says.  David tells me that Elinor’s work is interesting on its own and so the marketing that she needed to do to promote the work was similar to any other fine art photographer.  “You need the work first and the marketing second.  You can’t put lipstick on a pig and get very far,” he says.


Three tips for building awareness

Many photographers find the thought of marketing themselves, as Dave and Elinor did, a daunting task.  Where do you start?


David tells me “while marketing is important, first and foremost have work that is interesting.  If it is too derivative of the work of others, work that is already out there, it will not generate interest.”  He offers three tips:


  1. Research other photographers:  “Spend a LOT of time understanding ALL the other work that is out there, especially the work that is similar to what you are doing,” David says.  “The folks looking at your work will know what else is out there, so you should too.”
  2. Understand possible revenue streams, career paths and tools: “Understand that less than 1% of fine art photographers actually make their full-time income selling prints.”  David suggests looking at other revenue streams and finding out which of those might apply, how other photographers developed their expertise in those areas and how they marketed themselves.  He specifically recommends looking at articles about established photographers and interviews with them.
  3. Create a marketing plan: “Only after doing all that, start to develop a serious marketing plan. Make a calendar with short, medium and long term goals and stick to it.”


David tells me that “Photography, whether working commercially or as a fine artist, is a profession.  Like any profession, it takes time, planning, persistence and repeated execution.  If you are not up for that, consider another field and keep photography as something done solely for yourself.”


That is great advice that all of us.


David H. Wells is a free-lance photographer affiliated with Aurora Photos and photo educator in Providence, Rhode Island. He specializes in intercultural communications and the use of light and shadow to enhance visual narratives.

Cindy A Stephens is a Vice President of Marketing and a fine art photographer.  She specializes in developing high-impact marketing strategies using digital and content marketing to build brands and expand market share.  As a photographer Cynthia specializes in photography of main streets and back roads using unusual framing and multiple planes of perspective.

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens David H Wells marketing photographers Tue, 19 Feb 2013 23:00:00 GMT
Discovering Typewriters in Downtown Portsmouth New Hampshire Main streets and back roads of Portsmouth, New Hampshire


When was the last time you saw a Smith Corona typewriter?  This is just a wild guess but I’d say “not very recently" (unless you’ve visited Hoyt’s Office Products on Market Street in downtown Portsmouth).


One of my favorite things about photographing on main streets and back roads is discovering unexpected memorabilia from our past in a storefront window, such as typewriters. 


It hit me tonight as I was watching a program on the making of Antiques Roadshow® that these memorabilia help tell the stories of Main Street and are its living visual history. 


Like the thousands who apply for the chance to appear on the Antiques Roadshow with an item that has a personal significance and past, main streets have their own stories to tell.  I enjoy finding those unexpected stories that involve items from a prior era.


Portsmouth New Hampshire

Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


Living Visual History

Downtown Portsmouth is a vibrant center humming with numerous restaurants and breweries, which proved welcome respites from the bitter cold 15-mile per hour gusts I encountered when I visited in January.


In 2008 Portsmouth was named as a Distinctive Destination by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The elegant seaport of Portsmouth, the nation’s third oldest city, is one of the most culturally rich destinations in the country with its mix of historic buildings, sidewalk cafes, great restaurants, art galleries, jazz clubs and distinctive artisans’ boutiques.”, they said.


The Storyteller

With such rich cultural and historic material, a question that I've asked myself is how do I choose what stories to tell from Main Street?  I posted a discussion in a LinkedIn® group for fine art professionals recently, which was a blog post by JM Colberg about why we photograph.  What compels us to do it?  I was respectfully asked by to answer my own question (a fair request).


Downtown Portsmouth New Hampshire

Copyright 2013 Cindy A Stephens


My answer was this:  I use photography for storytelling and to communicate.  Do I photograph to document and record what I see in the world around me, and tell those stories?  Or, do I photograph to tell my stories, and reflect my personal values and what I find important? For me, the answer is the latter.


So, the images I took in Portsmouth were for me the most photographically compelling and also those that were personally interesting – like finding typewriters on such a vibrant and busy main street.  I want my images to bring to life the activities, interests and traditions we all value in small towns across America.


Until the next journey to main streets and back roads… - Cindy


All company names or marks mentioned herein are those of their respective owners.

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Portsmouth New Hampshire main streets Fri, 01 Feb 2013 03:29:00 GMT
Wassail Weekend in Vermont Posted by Cindy A Stephens


Main streets and back roads of Woodstock, Vermont


“What’s a Wassail weekend,” my family asked?  I had just announced that I had made plans to spend my birthday weekend in Woodstock, Vermont for the annual Wassail Weekend.


Clearly my family did not share my unbridled enthusiasm for driving two hours to Vermont in December.  I’d change that.


“What’s Wassail Weekend?”  Wassail Weekend is one of the top 10 holiday things to do, I practically shouted.  “It will be a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of finding the perfect gifts and mailing Christmas cards.”


And with that, and some pleading, they were resigned to humor me on my birthday weekend.


Wassail Weekend, Woodstock Vermont

Copyright 2012, Cindy A Stephens


All kidding aside, when I think of the main streets and back roads in our communities, one of the things I am reminded of are small town celebrations that bring neighbors and visitors together.  Like Fourth of July parades, local festivals and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies.


Woodstock held their 28th annual Woodstock Wassail Horse and Carriage Parade on December 8th.  It was a festive parade of horses and riders dressed in traditional Christmas costumes from the 19th century.


I can’t imagine a more quintessential Vermont experience than this Wassail Parade, steps from a covered bridge bright with Christmas lights, and a warm bonfire on the Green whose pathways will be lit by hundreds of luminaries. 


Only the classic White Christmas movie of 1954 (one of my favorite holiday movies) could muster more of the traditional Christmas feeling.  It felt great to be away from hectic mall shopping and the trappings of a modern-day holiday.


We went in search of hot mulled cider after the parade to warm cold feet (theirs) and hands (mine, from shooting).


Wassail Weekend, Woodstock Vermont

Copyright 2012, Cindy A Stephens

Farms and Food

The main streets of Vermont also conjure images of local craft fairs, quaint inns, artisan-quality gifts, general stores, and local produce.  Woodstock does not disappoint in this. 


Strolling the main streets I had the feeling that life in Woodstock is more connected to the “here and now” than the high-tech hustle and bustle in neighboring Massachusetts.


On my list of “must do’s” for the weekend was a visit to the Billings Farm and Museum.  It operates in partnership with the Marsh-Billings-Rockerfeller National Historical Park.  It was delightful. 


Wassail Weekend, Woodstock Vermont

Copyright 2012, Cindy A Stephens


Imagine the sight of walking into the nursery and seeing a calf born just hours earlier, at 7:30 that morning!  Or, smelling squash pies baking on a wood stove in the Farm House that is decorated for Christmas.  


Wassail Weekend was a success from the warm hospitality we experienced at the Blue Horse Inn, to a superb dinner at the Prince & Pauper, to beautiful main streets adorned by parades and parade watchers.


Until the next journey to main streets and back roads… - Cindy

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Wassail Weekend Woodstock, Vermont main streets Sun, 30 Dec 2012 22:01:21 GMT
The Cowboys of Wyoming Does the word “cowboy” conjure up idealistic images of the American West, or a way of life that no longer exists?  I had the privilege to see Wyoming unadorned - without sentimental stereotypes - through the reflections of a modern-day cowboy.


In September I visited a working cattle ranch outside Jackson Hole that has been owned by the same family since the 1920s.  This ranch has thousands of head of cattle and is a member of a natural beef program.


The word “cowboy” now conjures hard-working, tech savvy and expressive men and women.

Tom, Wyoming Ranch hand

Tom Angle,  Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens

As Tom Angle, one of the ranch hands said, “Jackson is a hard place to make a living”.  Tom lives on his ranch in Oregon but spends May through October working in Wyoming.  He isn’t alone in this pattern -- many folks work multiple jobs and come to Jackson to find them. 


Jackson swells in the tourist season with an influx of people from Russia, Poland and other Eastern European countries. They flock to Jackson Hole during the peak tourist season to work.


On the ranch, Tom speaks about the work required to run an operation of this size.  It is an all day, every day routine to keep the cattle healthy, fed and watered from the Snake River.


The ranchers double as veterinarians.  Tom delights in provoking a reaction with his tales of pulling calves and removing disease from an animal’s eye socket.


Ranching has become high tech

Tom tells me that horses are still the best form of transportation on a ranch, the best way to get the job done.  Don’t mistake this “a man and his horse” attitude for a quaint adherence to the old American West.  Horses are merely the most practical way to accomplish daily business. Nevertheless, ranching has become high tech.

Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens

Ranch hands on the Snake River Ranch communicate via cell phone with each other.  And they use computers in their sophisticated beef program. With a quick scan, the computer system can tell how much weight an animal is gaining, how quickly, and what the animal should weigh upon sale.


A passion for the life

Everyone I met in Wyoming demonstrated unvarnished passion and respect for the area.  Jake, an experienced kayaker and our guide for a scenic Snake River rafting trip, spoke with real affection for “his office” – referring to the river and its environs.


Guides in Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks spoke of visiting the area and then being drawn back year after year.

Tom Angle, Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens

And, Tom?  Tom expresses his love for Wyoming and his way of life through his poetry, songwriting and singing.  Tom’s website (yes, cowboys have websites now) says he specializes in cowboy music and poetry.


Wyoming got under my skin and into my soul.  My glasses are no longer rose colored.  However,  the passion of the people I met, the way of life that is tied closely to nature, and the unbelievable scenery of the open West inspire me to go back.


Until the next journey to main streets and back roads… - Cindy


(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Jackson Jackson Hole Wyoming Mon, 29 Oct 2012 01:22:53 GMT
Salem's Bewitching Main Streets There probably isn't another city more renowned for witch tourism and witchcraft folklore than Salem, Massachusetts.  Unmatched in its witch legends, Salem's main streets portray a unique cultural and historical heritage.  I was spooked (pun intended) by my reaction to this historic city during a recent visit and came away with three reflections.

Copyright 2012, Cindy A Stephens

First reflection: the city has widely commercialized its historical legacy of witchcraft folklore.  Salem's Witch House, along with many historical artifacts from the witch trials era of 1692, are important symbols of our cultural heritage.  In stark contrast, Salem also boasts a plethora of shops devoted to inexpensive witchcraft souvenirs, carnival-esque figures and ghoulish attractions, which distracted me from the city's important legacy.


Second reflection: there is an eclectic blend of old and new culture.  You'll find signs of the past on almost any New England main street since many of these towns still pay homage to their 1600's heritage.  In Salem, I also saw the efforts of the Salem Main Streets program that guides the revitalization of the downtown district.  The vibrant pedestrian-only streets reflect an unusual mix of the city's heritage alongside trendy restaurants, small businesses and artist studios.

Copyright 2012, Cindy A Stephens

Third reflection: Salem seems to embrace individuality, in contrast perhaps to its witch trials era.  A vibrant artist community includes Artists' Row and the well-known Peabody Essex Museum, which includes collections of contemporary and historic America, Asian, Maritime, Oceanic and other culture.

Copyright 2012, Cindy A Stephens

Wikipedia defines intangible culture as folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge.  I found Salem resplendent in it.  Perhaps you'll be one of the more than 100,000 visitors to the city this October to enjoy its month-long haunted happenings celebration.



You might also be interested in:

Other images from main streets across New England (online gallery)

Photographing a Summer Evening in Downtown Nashua New Hampshire (blog post)

Celebrating the 4th of July on Main Street, Wakefield, MA (blog post)


Until the next journey ... - Cindy

(cindy a. stephens) Cindy Stephens Salem, MA main streets Sun, 30 Sep 2012 21:15:02 GMT
Photographing a Summer Evening in Downtown Nashua NH What do you do on Friday evenings in summer?  On a recent Friday I recalled my photography coach and mentor telling me "You should get out and photograph at different times of day.  Many of the images you have are in bright sunshine."


In spite of my tiredness after the workweek, and with this advice echoing softly in my head, I drove to Nashua, NH with my photo gear in search of great light to add some depth to my portfolio.


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens


Nashua is the second largest city in New Hampshire.  It was ranked among Money's list of America's best small cities in 2010.  Within the downtown district you can find eclectic shops ranging from a store selling old fashioned candy to one selling pianos.  You'll also see stroll past a cigar shop and a tattoo parlor.


Downtown Nashua gave me a great palette to work from.  And the angle of the light added nuance.  There is something wonderful about the quality of light on a summer evening.  It exudes warmth that bathes even the most mundane of scenes in softness. 


When I arrived in Nashua I found couples out for a stroll, sitting arm-in-arm on benches, and enjoying dinner at tables spilling from restaurants onto the street like strewn marbles.

Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens


When I found an outdoor seating area near a home medical supply storefront I knew that I had discovered something worth spending time with (again, my mentor's voice echoed about not moving too fast: "find something you want to shoot at least 50 pictures of".


I tried to juxtapose the diners with the town's need for special shoes, canes and other aides for the infirm or elderly.  It served as an all-too-frequent reminder of making the most of what we have, NOW.


I walked up the street a bit farther, contemplating whether it was time to head home.  As I rounded the corner I saw the most wonderful reflection of a building steeple in a multi paned window.  I probably took another 50 images in this spot too.


Satisfied, I finally headed home.  Despite my tiredness I thoroughly enjoyed the outing and added some interesting perspective to my Reflections from Main Street, USA portfolio.


Until the next journey. -- Cindy


Other recent posts:

Celebrating the 4th of July on Main Street, Wakefield, MA

Standing Tall in Winchester, MA



(cindy a. stephens) Nashua, NH New Hampshire main streets Tue, 31 Jul 2012 11:15:00 GMT
Celebrating the 4th of July on Main Street, Wakefield, MA It would be difficult to think of another holiday that is more synonymous with the concept of "Main Street" than the 4th of July. 


On what other occasion will you find American communities coming together en masse in a family-oriented celebration irrespective of age, background, ethnicity or religion?  Children, parents, grandparents and extended families celebrate the 4th with memorabilia and parades on main street.


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens

As a photographer of main streets and back roads I couldn't pass up the opportunity to photograph a main street resplendent in her red, white and blue on this holiday occasion.


The 4th of July parade in Wakefield, MA is the largest in Massachusetts and the second largest in New England.  Wakefield is a quintessential Massachusetts town roughly 10 miles from Boston.  It has a beautiful town green on the shores of Lake Quannapowitt.


Apparently I wasn't the only person with a desire to help Wakefield residents celebrate America's birthday.  Due to the heavy traffic I parked beside the lake about two miles from the town center and then followed the crowds toward the parade route.


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens

I opted to carry a small stool with me to elevate my photography above the crowds and I left my water bottle in the car.  In hindsight my choice of photography gear versus water wasn't the wisest given the 95+ degree temperatures.  Nevertheless I marched toward what I hoped would be some very good images to add to my current body of work.


I chose to use reflections to create images that were not what first comes to mind when you think of pictures of parades.  I wanted to provide a different perspective on the celebration.


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens


I was ultimately rewarded for my sweat and blisters.  The street was lined with colorful balloon vendors, supporters and floats and were a main street photographer's paradise. 


(cindy a. stephens) Wakefield Wakefield, MA main streets Tue, 10 Jul 2012 11:30:00 GMT
Mirrored Reflections of Southern Italy My wanderlust took me to Southern Italy in May where I visited Rome, the Amalfi Coast and Capri.  There were too many tourists for my taste.  I prefer the quieter main streets and back roads in more remote locations.  Alas, there I was.


So, the proverbial question was: how do you make a unique photograph in the world's most visited cities and countries?  I knew that I wasn't content to take the stereotypical images of the Colosseum.  And our guided tour of Pompeii at Noon, accompanied by a blazing overhead sun, didn't bode well for making memorable images.


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens


If you have been to the Amalfi Coast one of the things you'll well remember are the coastal roads that twist and turn like corkscrews.  To drive on them is not for the faint of heart.  I began to notice the mirrors near the entrance to the blind curves that were designed to alert drivers of oncoming traffic (as well as the liberal honking of horns).  It occurred to me that driving the Amalfi coast was a fact of everyday life for residents of the Sorrentine Peninsula.  This is what drew me to the mirrors.  I decided to use them to tell a story about Southern Italy.


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens


I focused on finding creative ways to use mirrors (and later windows) in my compositions to reflect the surrounding scenes.  Some of these "early" images were successful and others were experimental.  What I found was that this approach gave me a new way of "seeing".  For instance, upon my return to Rome it allowed me to juxtapose historical Rome with the modern-day reality of getting around in a crowded city. 


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens

And it led me to take what I think is an unusual image in Saint Peter's square.  In all, it gave me the opportunity to use multiple planes of perspective in my images -- a favorite approach of mine.


If I had to sum my photographic learnings I’d say: 1) have a point of view to tell; 2) don’t play it safe; 3) travel off-season!


Until the next journey.

(cindy a. stephens) Amalfi Coast Italy Rome Saint Peter's square Tue, 12 Jun 2012 11:05:00 GMT
Standing Tall in Winchester, MA Winchester, MA did not make Travel + Leisure magazine’s May 2012 list of America’s Greatest Main Streets.  In fact, the only Massachusetts town to make the cut was Nantucket.  Neighbors Littleton, New Hampshire and Woodstock, VT also earned spots.


I doubt that the curators of the greatest main streets visited Winchester on a warm spring day.  It would have made the list if they had.  Downtown Winchester is a picturesque and classic New England center with its white clapboard church presiding over the town green, quaint stores and eateries. 


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens


I have always liked Winchester.  It is an affluent bedroom community of Boston that is home to around 20,000 residents.  Beautiful Victorian homes with manicured lawns and gardens lead to a walkable downtown area and commuter rail station.


The day I chose to visit it was an idyllic spring day – the kind of day that brings New Englanders out of their homes and, temporarily, away from TVs, tablets, and the other devices that we are increasingly drawn to.


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens


One of the first things that struck me was the beautiful First Congregational Church with its rolling front lawn.  You could see its steeple standing tall over Winchester from almost every angle in downtown.  The original church was destroyed by fire in 1853.  The new building, with its renovations, is a feature of downtown and many of my images.


I chose to highlight the church steeple in images, finding ways to convey what a central role it plays in the town center.  In others, I highlighted the coffee shops and bakeries that spill out on the sidewalk, a treat everyone after a winter spent largely indoors.  On this warm, sunny day they were a natural meeting place.


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens


During my travels in downtown one friendly store owner offered me samples of fresh, baked bread.  It was an offer too good to refuse!  Several minutes later I left the store with a huge shopping bag of fresh breads and rolls.  It was time to go home.

(cindy a. stephens) Massachusetts Winchester, MA main streets Wed, 02 May 2012 11:30:00 GMT
Seeing Signs of Tough Times in Clinton, MA For lease signs, broken windows, and empty storefronts are visible signs on many New England main streets - evidence of difficult economic conditions.  There is hope of revival, however.


I hadn't been to Clinton, Massachusetts since 2009. Clinton is a town of roughly 15,000 people that originated as a mill town in the mid 1800's.


One of my favorite images of main streets is a photo that I took in Clinton in 2009.  The image highlights the historic Strand Theatre, which is a wonderful movie theatre that remains open today.  It represents a cultural and historical heritage that is disappearing in many small towns.


Copyright 2009 Cindy A Stephens

On my return to Clinton I discovered that the image I took almost three years ago couldn't be replicated today.  Thriving stores, including the vintage one opposite the Strand Theatre, now stand empty.


I was struck by Clinton's decline during the past three years.  That is one reason why I chose to use a broken, taped window to frame main street in the background during this visit.  For me, these broken windows reflect the difficult economic conditions that have befallen many local communities.  I did, however, find a sign of re-birth amidst the broken windows and empty storefronts.

Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens

When I am out photographing I am often approached by strangers who are curious about what I am doing.  This outing proved to be no exception.  A passerby, Thomas, came over to ask me what my project was about.


Thomas has plans to revive the local storefronts with displays of vintage cameras and industrial equipment as well as create a studio for local artists.  His love for the town and desire to revive it was contagious.


I'm a natural optimist.  Main Street conquers images where small businesses dominate the landscape, communities gather to socialize and traditions are passed down from one generation to the next.  With Thomas at the helm championing new projects I am confident that Clinton's main streets will once again thrive.





(cindy a. stephens) Clinton, MA Massachusetts Strand Theatre main streets Tue, 03 Apr 2012 11:30:00 GMT
Reflecting on Negative Space in Ayer, MA I am fascinated with reflections.  They give me an unexpected way to interpret a subject using multiple planes of perspective and to create depth in two-dimensional surfaces.

Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens

Several years ago I enrolled in a drawing class.  I discovered at least two things about myself from that experience: first, I do not have a natural talent for drawing; and secondly I am very competitive and don't enjoy being at the bottom of the class.


I will never forget my confusion when the instructor asked us to draw the negative space around an object.  For anyone that isn't familiar with this topic it is one that can cause even the best student to falter at times.


Whereas drawing negative space was difficult for me I do have a knack for using multiple planes of perspective to interpret a subject photographically.  I can distinguish between what is directly in front of me as well as the often less obvious reflection of what is behind me.  I use this negative space as a way to draw (pun intended) the viewer's attention to what is nearby a storefront window, instead of merely observing what is in the window.


Copyright 2012 Cindy A Stephens

On a recent visit to Ayer, Massachusetts I was rewarded with a cornucopia of reflections.  My resulting images aren't the classical interpretation of negative space.  These images are disorienting and create relationships between what is typically seen and the often overlooked (such as reflections in glass).


I enjoy causing the viewer to ask: How a photo was taken? What is the artist trying to tell me?


The concept of Main Street is not new.  It has been a mainstay in literature, film and daily lives for decades.  By using reflection and multiple planes of perspective I hope I've found a new way to tell the story of everyday lives in these communities.



(cindy a. stephens) Ayer, MA main streets Mon, 02 Apr 2012 11:30:00 GMT
Finding a Quiet Moment in Harvard Square Have you been to Cambridge, Massachusetts?  On my recent visit I was struck by the buzz of a thriving student-dominated city.


One of the reasons I enjoy photographing in cities, small towns and villages across New England is discovering the scenes that remind me of the quiet moments in our everyday lives.

Copyright 2012 by Cindy A Stephens

I recently took advantage of volunteering at the Cambridge Art Association to photograph in Cambridge, a city that I hadn't been in for quite some time.


Almost immediately I had visual overload amid the hustle and bustle of the city:  the movement of the students, traffic noise, myriad coffee shops, aimless pleas and conversations of the many homeless.


I searched for storefronts to single out elements that define everyday life in Harvard Square, which is dominated by students of Harvard University.


What struck me about the storefront window I stopped at was a theatrical poster.  To me, this image clearly says "New England" with its huge white pillared brick building in the background. The urban feel and cheekiness from the poster give this street scene a mood that you wouldn't find in other small towns.


I experimented with alternative versions of this scene.  The one pictured is one of my favorites with its dramatic sky.

(cindy a. stephens) Cambridge, MA Harvard Square main streets Sun, 01 Apr 2012 21:59:22 GMT