By Sherri L. McLendon
With an uncanny ability to craft an artful life both inside and outside the studio, her well-deserved reputation as an abstractionist has increased over the last two years. Cindy and I met in the line to film a Mutual of Omaha Aha! Moment, and decided to work together as she began to think about marketing her art in different ways. Over the months, we’ve become friends as well as colleagues. I’m privileged to share her thoughts as she speaks here about her higher calling to make art, and her tips for making money without selling out her vision as an artist.
About two years ago, the phone rang, and Cindy Walton answered it. On the other end of the line was Asheville Museum of Art curator Cole Hendrix. She was in the process of putting together an exhibit, Color Study, showcasing works of important regional and national gestural painters and color field artists from the 1960s to the present. And she asked if she could use one of Walton’s paintings in the exhibit.
“Living artists who get asked to be in museum shows know it’s a real honor,” she says. “I was matched with Hans Hoffman, who was a colorist of the mid-20th century.”
The work Hendrix chose, Water Source 2, depicts the sweeping beauty of Beaver Lake. The AMA curator would later remark that “Water Source 2 is a real tour-de-force of a painting—complicated, nuanced and rich.”
Walton’s work and Hoffman’s were displayed side-by-side in the exhibit. The recognition, she believes, was a big moment in her movement from local artist to enjoying increasing regional and national recognition.
But Walton didn’t stop there. Ready for challenges, she changed up her work. Though it remains color-driven, she introduced the medium of cold wax into her repertoire.
Cold wax allowed Walton to experiment with non-traditional tools and finishes. As she poured layers of emotion and color onto canvas, her work began to explore ecological perspectives of place at once tiny and intricate, sweeping and expansive. And she began to get clear about the types of galleries in which she wished to exhibit her work.
Identify the ‘Right’ Galleries
“I do my own research,” she says, explaining that artists have to be careful to protect themselves from bogus contact by art thieves. To complicate matters, the role of the gallery or the art consultant in the 20th century differed dramatically from that which artists experience today.
“The role of the gallery has changed a lot in the last 50 years, especially in the present economy. It was once thought a gallery was the best way to sell work. Today artists need to be proactive with their business and explore all the possibilities.”
These possibilities include the internet. A proliferation of artists online now use social media and online marketing, she explains.
Market with a Multi-Media Approach
Ultimately, when artists market their work in the 21st century, they need to “Know you’re going to have to market your own work,” she says.
That means marketing your own work to galleries or collectors, networking, and learning new skills.
“You really have to believe in yourself and be the one that starts the process,” she says. “As time passes, you will have people come into your life who can help you market.”
The key to both marketing and making art, she says, is consistency.
Honor a Consistent Commitment
“Consistency and perseverance means that you go to the studio every day,” she says, recalling those two decades after college when she stored her paints and brushes under the bed and focused on other things. “I tell young artists to go and paint on a regular basis. It’s consistency which keeps the skills going. In time, the work will continue to grow and become more accomplished.”
In addition to consistency, having a specific place for creating art is a big help, she suggests.
“A lot of artists have studios at their home, but people you don’t know are a little more apprehensive about visiting a home studio. So my step to the Wedge after painting at home for many years was that step to a professional space so I could be in a place where people see the art and connect with the artists directly,” she says.
“A lot of art is relationship,” says Walton. “Emotionally, it means a lot more for a person to have a piece of art when they know the artist and know what goes into a piece of art or what inspired the person who makes it. For young artists, talking with more established artists and finding out what they’re doing is helpful because you realize their successes didn’t happen overnight.”
Pay Attention to Divine Intervention
Almost two decades after hiding her paints under the bed, Walton found herself struggling with the decision of whether to renew her commitment to having the artful life she’d always desired. A lot of praying and thinking led to the day that she almost didn’t sign up for that first art class at University of North Carolina-Asheville. She found the computers and enrollment process completely overwhelming, as “I’d been raising kids,” didn’t understand the workings of the computer, and was on the verge of walking out the door.
“I said, ‘Lord, if I’m supposed to be here, I need help,’ she recalls. “And a young man came up to me and said, ‘Can I help you register?” She recognized the act of kindness as divine intervention. She took the class.
Spirit, divine intervention, and leaps of faith have their definitive place in Walton’s art.
A Christian by faith, she often journals and has conversations with God about her art.
“The reason I’m painting is because of my faith, in honor of the gifts and talents given me,” she says. Sometimes, Walton’s work in the studio or on a canvas may begin by writing out a prayer, and she often includes a note to purchasers that shares the inspiration for a particular work.
Cindy Walton, Fine Artist, may be found at The Wedge, River Arts District. Find out more at www.cindywalton.com.
Top 5 Tips to Craft An Artful Life
Cindy Walton’s art may be inspired by her spiritual connection to the divine. However, she understands that the realities of life require her to manifest that vision through the business of art.
“As an artist, the situation gets down to money and ways to support one’s self,” she says. “Plus, you have to buy art supplies. I simply want to be able to make my art, share it with people, travel more, and pay off the money I invested in my training when I went back to school.”
Here are Walton’s top five tips to craft the reality of an artful life.
1. Squirrel some money into savings for future projects. For example, she says, save when selling large paintings. Sales might rock from June through November, but other parts of the year can be dry. “Saving a little helps a lot.”
2. Networking is a must-do. “Getting out and meeting people makes a big difference.”
3. Be available. “I set hours to be certain I’m in the studio regularly.”
4. Find the right mix. When balancing art between galleries, representatives, and complementary artists, she suggests research followed by experimentation. “Leave your work for a period of time and see if anything happens.”
5. Decide what type of venue you really want to market your art. “If you like outdoor shows, do them. If not, find other ways to get your work out there, whether you’re knocking on doors or something else.”
Sherri L. McLendon, M.A., owns and operates Professional Moneta International, www.ProfessionalMoneta.com, specializing in mindfulness approaches to marketing public relations and feminine leadership.