Showing posts with label The Academy Program. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Academy Program. Show all posts

29 November 2014

Glen Kessler: How to Market Yourself as an Artist

Photo Credit: Evan Goldman
The following interview about marketing your work as an artist is based on a lecture that Glen Kessler, founder of the Glen Kessler Atelier in the Academy Program in Rockville, Maryland, gave to the Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association on November 13, 2014.

1. Who should think about marketing his or her work as an artist?


In all seriousness, marketing is a skill - just like making art is. You don’t want to wait until you are producing masterpieces at the easel to begin learning how to apply to shows, develop a website, manage a social media presence, or talk to prospective galleries and buyers. You want to go through your "awkward- student phase" of marketing while you are still going through your student phase of making art.

Another way to think about marketing is to understand that cultivating a career in the arts is like owning a company. Like with any business, in order to be successful, you need a CEO to chart the course, CTO to work on the web and social media aspect, CFO to check on the financial viability of your operation and on taxes, legal department to handle contracts for commissions, PR department to advertise for you, and of course, a sales force. All of these people are you! Making the art itself represents just the "manufacturing plant" of this business. If you don’t advertise, learn how to sell and use technology, and network, then, you just might end up with a warehouse full of unsold merchandise.

2. To whom should artists be marketing?

When you start, start locally. It is cheaper, easier, and you are more likely to net results when targeting your local community. As your reputation builds, and you learn what works and what doesn’t, only then, you might want to expand your range, budget and ambition.

Many artists exhibit their work in juried group shows, many of which are listed on sites like or There are thousands of shows to apply to. One factor I encourage emerging artists to consider is geography: Determine a distance that you are willing to drive your artwork (30 minutes, 4 hours, whatever) and only apply shows within this distance. This is recommended in part because of the high cost of shipping. For modestly sized works (up to 18x24"), it can cost $30 to box up a painting, $30 to ship it, and don’t forget about the return shipping fee, which you must purchase in advance. So, you’re in for approximately $100 a piece, per show, in addition to the entry fee.

Delivering your own artwork to local exhibits also gives you an opportunity to talk with the organizers. They might be more inclined to advocate for you if they know who you are, have talked with you about your work, or even like you. I once got a solo show out of such a conversation. It’s good to be a person to them, and not just a piece of art.

Another important aspect of marketing is learning how to talk about your work. You want to project an air of professionalism at a show of your work, whether it is a group or solo show. You may still consider yourself a student, but that is not something to tout in a public forum, like in an exhibition, an application proposal, or to prospective patrons. Also, learn certain buzzwords or phrases that easily convey what your work is about. Try to boil it down to as few words as possible, practice those phrases, and begin to own them across all platforms of your public persona (website, promotional materials, and in conversation).

3. What are some basics Do's and Don'ts of marketing your work as an artist?

Do cast a wide net. Apply to group shows, join local arts organizations, go to art events in your area, apply for competitions, grants and residencies, talk to other artists, accept speaking, jurying or teaching opportunities. Build your brand through repetition.

Don’t get discouraged. I wear it with pride that still, after 20 years, I get rejected from half of the shows I submit my work to. If I’m not getting rejected, that means I’m not being aggressive enough.

Do study what others have done, and make it yours. Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” So, observe other artists’ websites and social media, exhibition records and talking points, and then own the best lessons you can draw from them.

Don’t only apply to things you think you will get. Apply to shows, competitions and residencies that you don't think you can win. You will be surprised just how many you might get.

4. Why is this an important topic to lecture on? How do you integrate marketing know-how into your curriculum at the Academy in Rockville, MD?

There is only one other topic that is more important to discuss in a program that claims to offer students the ability to become professionals in their field  - of course, that other thing is how to paint, which we do quite admirably in the atelier.

It has always astounded me that discussion of the business side of one’s art career is a taboo topic in so many art schools. It’s as if these institutions believe that upon graduation, their students will be magically endowed with a skill set that often contrasts the sensibilities that brought them to their chosen artistic field in the first place. It’s an absurd notion, of course, and one whose time has expired.

In the atelier, we devote a significant portion of the third, thesis year to learning about the business. We cover everything from how to enter shows, photograph artwork, frame and price art, write grant proposals, develop a website and social media presence, and we even discuss how to teach. I sincerely want every one of my students to be able to operate at a professional level of art making, and I believe that every one of them can in fact achieve that.

25 February 2014

The Academy Program: What if You Never Had to Take an Art Class Again?

The Academy Program (at Glen Kessler Studio) begins in April 2014, in Rockville, Maryland and is currently enrolling students. It offers a structured, comprehensive curriculum to fine artists who are looking to advance their skill from the fundamentals to mastery level over three years, with weekly meetings. The program aims to provide a guided and unified studio art experience, foundation in art history and theory, as well as professional experience for artists, who might otherwise be trying to attain these goals by taking classes at different institutions without an organized curriculum at hand.

"By its conclusion students will have a profound mastery of painting techniques, a knowledge of anatomy, perspective, art history and art theory, and have developed a thesis body of work that can catapult them to a professional career in the arts," says program founder Glen Kessler, a classically trained professional artist with teaching experience and an understanding of contemporary methods.

Classes will be held in Kessler's studio at Capitol Arts Network (12276 Wilkins Ave, Rockville, MD 20852), a nonprofit arts center offering artist residencies and art classes. 

1. How many students and instructors can participate?

Each section has between 4-6 students.  It's important that that number stay low, so each student can receive nearly individual attention throughout the course.

I will hire as many instructors as we need to satisfy demand for classes. The first round of instructors I am in the process of hiring are some of the finest painters and teachers in this area. Each possesses the unique combination of master-level technical skill and an appreciation of how to use that skill in the service of contemporarily relevant artwork.

In addition to myself, classically trained at the New York Academy of Art but passionately interested in modern art (see my work at, I can tell you about one other instructor who has been hired to start later this year, Marjorie Forgues. Marjorie has studied and worked alongside some of the greatest technical artists of our era: Robert Liberace, Nelson Shanks, Ray Kaskey. I am very pleased to have her on board (see her work at
2. Is it a fine arts program? Is there a specific style, in which the students will be taught?

It is primarily an oil painting program, and realism is our focus, at least at the beginning. The course builds from the basics of rendering, through historical painting methods, to anatomy and perspective, literal and metaphorical storytelling, and finally, to a thesis body of work. 

We cover art history and art theory as well, so that students will have a firm understanding of where they come from, and where they are now in the grand history of art-making.

In the end, students are free to paint however and whatever they like, but with the great resources of knowledge and confidence that this course endows them.

3. How does it compare with an accredited program?

This program does not purport to offer a degree or any sort of certification. It is about the accumulation of knowledge. The Academy Program is a natural evolution of my observations about teaching adults in this area.

This idea arose from the observation that most of the open-enrollment painting students I have seen cobble together lessons in a random, piecemeal fashion over years (and years) of study with a number of instructors, in a number of different classes, and with varying levels of satisfaction. Progress can be slow, since most simply repeat the same success and failures over and over again.

Wouldn't it be nice to have someone arrange all the necessary information into a single curriculum with no holes and no overlapping? Everything building from square one up to master level? 

Comprehensive and efficient. That's The Academy Program.

4. What is the scope of the connection with Capitol Arts Network?

The course will take place in a large studio I have rented at the Capitol Arts Network (CAN) building at 12276 Wilkins Avenue, in the Twinbrook area, in Rockville, MD. It is not a CAN-run event, but rather a product of the Glen Kessler Studio, whose operations run out of CAN. Enrollment is through Glen Kessler Studio, at and

5. According to you, what is the most important skill an artist needs to learn?

There is no single most important skill an artist must know. Artists must possess a mastery of craftsmanship (in whatever mode they work), deep concepts of relevance to the world, and a personal connection to their work and process, or else it will be unsustainable over a lifetime. 

In addition, artists must appreciate that they are not just the manufacturing arm of their operation, but also the CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO, PR department, and sales force of their own personal company. An inability to learn how to handle the business side of being an artist can be just as challenging to an artist's success as having poor craft or weak concepts. 

In The Academy Program, students will be challenged to master ALL aspects of what it is to be an artist. We will visit galleries, they will be encouraged to apply for shows, learn how to develop a professional portfolio, and even how to organize the information they know into a teaching curriculum of their own. These are all things I have had to pick up in dribs and drabs over 20+ years as an artist. I aim to help my Academy students possess them in just three.

6. How is the curriculum organized? Is the history and theory component tied into the studio component? (Will the instructors in these fields be studio artists or primarily historians? Will they be lecturing or somehow incorporating an idea into a studio lesson? Is there homework? How many hours can students expect to devote to the program on a weekly basis, both in and out of class? Will they be exposed only to a western art tradition or also other traditions?)

The art history and theory elements are indeed woven into the the studio practice. The instructors are studio artists, although they understand art history well and will present it in usable terms for the students: from a perspective of how artistic movements are created and the elements that define those movements arise. This is not about memorizing dates or what museum holds what painting. Some art historical periods will be examined more closely through working in that period's method (Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classicism). 

Weekday, daytime classes may even get the privilege of painting inside the National Gallery of Art, copying a master work directly from the original (I was a copyist for years and consider this one of the best ways to truly understand an artist's methods and life). 

In addition to the 3-4 hours in class each week, students are expected to work an additional 6-10 hours per week practicing and embellishing the week's lesson (more time is not a bad thing either).