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Get ahead: Create more art that seems more timely, ahead of time

Last week’s Inauguration celebration of the United States’ first female and first Black Vice President seemed like a remarkable event, and it brought an array of images of Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden to our Instagram feeds.

Some digital, drawn or painted images were created weeks earlier in anticipation of their move to the top of American politics and others were created on the fly.  We recommended to Mint alumni Trinity Brown that she create a wire wrapped necklace similar to the one Vice President Harris wore to her swearing-in.  We suspect fabric fashion designers are recreating  the beautiful Maison Schiaparelli gold dove brooch Lady Gaga wore, signifying her hope for peace in the United States.

Then we realized that creating art that feels like it jumped from the headlines or captures the essence of our cultural experiences is a valuable trait for emerging artists to develop.  Offer art that is fresh, timely and relevant, even if you created it months or years earlier.

How do you do that? First look ahead to memorable or significant moments that resonate with you and your work. Perhaps it’s the reopening of schools after covid-19 vaccinations are widespread, or the the birthday of Rosa Parks, which we mark because of her ties to Detroit and because of our beautiful Mint print based on Mint worker / artist Bryan Wilson’s painting.

Second, set a Google Alert to be notified of news and information about your favorite subjects, those that show up in your art and imagery often. Ask for just the best results; some may provide inspiration or a reason to share your work.

Next create a calendar for yourself of events and dates that suit your

Martin Luther King Jr. collage by artist Isadora Gacel (used with permission)

creative style and interests – or buy our 2021 calendar to inspire and write them in.

If you photograph or paint beautiful buildings, note the birthdays and other significant dates of architects Albert Kahn, Norma Merrick Sklarek and Maya Lin.  If flowers and plants show up often in your images, perhaps key moments for botanist George Washington Carver or Arber or artists Georgia O’Keeffe or Claude Monet belong there. If your art springs from the fight for equality and civil rights, track important dates from Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and work to the anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death.

Whatever your subject, pour over media timelines and museum retrospectives for dates and events that resonate with you and your art. Look for lesser known events or people or ones that seem newly relevant.

Detail of Arise Rock’s winning triptych painting © Arise Rock

Document the Black Lives Matter movement and the demonstrations after the cruel killing of George Floyd, as Mint Youth Arts Competition winner Arise Rock did.  May 25 will be one year after Floyd died after pleading with police. Or create photos or mixed media slamming the growing gap between rich and poor, known as income or economic inequality.  Unfortunately, these images will be timely again and again.

Keep making more work that suits your cultural moments and themes. That way, when one piece sells, you may share a second and a third.  Consider which one may be powerful enough to be made into a print.

And if you think you’ve missed your moment with Vice President Harris, consider that she will have a very busy first year in office with many moments to shine. Plus she was born on Oct. 20, (1964), so that gives you plenty of time – and a clear deadline – for  creating a portrait or series of pieces about her.

© Vickie Elmer, 2021, for Mint Artists Guild

Watch for our guide to intriguing events in 2021 that may inspire your creative work. Coming up in February in the Mint blog.

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Artists, connect with collectors with these thoughtful tips

The Detroit Collects exhibit at the DIA features work by many African American artists, including the colorful suit by Nick Cave. (Photo: DIA)

The Detroit Collects exhibit at the DIA features work by many African American artists, including the colorful suit by Nick Cave. (Photo: DIA)
The Detroit Collects exhibit at the DIA features work by many African American artists, including the colorful suit by Nick Cave. (Photo: DIA)

Artists need collectors, and collectors want to know artists.

So how do artists create warm relationships with their collectors?

This question seems especially relevant now as the Detroit Institute of Arts has debuted its Detroit Collects show, featuring more than 18 collectors of African American art, including a few who support Mint Artists Guild.

Start with basics, such as recalling the collectors’ names and the art they purchased. It really pays off to create a log, file or data set of all your buyers and include details like birthdays and favorite colors if you learn that. Start now if you haven’t already.

Send your best collectors a holiday card – at Thanksgiving or in December.  Better yet, send them a card showing one of your favorite images. Birthday or anniversary cards are smart too, as your relationship grows. (Please, send them Mint greeting cards if you want to show you care about the future artists.)

Here’s other tips on developing your relationship with collectors:

  • Graciously answer all their questions, no matter how silly or simple they seem to you.
  • Arrange for studio visits, an afternoon for collectors to see your work, suggests Brainard Carey, author of several books for artists, who with his wife runs a business to help artists learn and develop. Then sign them up for your e-newsletters.
  • Give new collectors something extra, a small gift or carefully edited instructions on caring for the work purchased. Artist Krystii Melanie suggests offering 10 greeting cards with the artists’ own images on them as a thank you for a big purchase. Her advice is part of an excellent blog post from the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists on connecting with collectors.
  • Offer advice on building a collection in your blog or e-newsletter, Carey recommends.
  • The best venue to build relationships are art fairs; show up ready to talk about your inspiration, new work and more, suggests artist Jane Robinson.
  • When a collector invites you to an event or show, show up – and be ready to support their cause or to honor the other artist’s work. This could mean sharing photos on social media, a small donation or something else.
  • Offer your collectors a payment plan. This suggestion comes from Carey’s webinar Sell Online Like a Genius. Allow them to buy a $3,000 painting by paying $300 a month for 10 months and they may take it home after they have paid half the price.
  • Offer to go to the collector’s home to show how your work will look.  Bring a few extra pieces that seem in keeping with the collector’s tastes. Fingers crossed for a double sale.

Collectors likely have bigger homes and budgets than artists, and yet, both appreciate creative work and the beauty of a fine painting or photograph. So if you see a superb show, share details with your collectors, or better yet, invite them along on a Saturday of gallery hopping.  And if you are holding a yearend sale or celebrating your success, make sure your collectors are invited.

Read more about the Detroit Collects show in this Bloomberg News piece . Among the collectors who loaned work to the DIA are Linda Whitaker, whoserves on Mint Artists Guild’s board of directors, and our Mint Masterpieces hosts Judge Deborah Geraldine Bledsoe Ford and Jerome Watson. The Ford-Watsons contributed the Hughie Lee-Smith painting shown, which appeared on the cover of the DIA calendar, and three other pieces. Or visit it at the Detroit Institute of Arts through March 1, and please stop in at the DIA Museum Store afterward to buy Mint greeting cards.

This painting by Hughie Lee Smith is part of the eclectic, international collection of attorney Jerome Watson and Judge Deborah Geraldine Bledsoe Ford.
This Hughie Lee-Smith painting comes from the international collection of Judge Deborah Geraldine Bledsoe Ford and attorney Jerome Watson.

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Creative, beautiful art at Mint Masterpieces, Part 2

A beautiful mixed media painting by Anthony R. Brass


Mint Artists Guild long has depended on artists to support our youth, our programs and our growth. They lead workshops, donate art supplies, give advice and mentoring. And they give their inventive, creative masterpieces for our Mint Masterpieces silent auction.

This year, we are fortunate to have work from artists who have supported us for several years, and some who are new to our creative circle of generosity and growth.

Jewelry maker Jody Mitchell is donating an original necklace made from Tibetan agate and brass. The brass Ashanti stool pendant was purchased at from the MBAD African Bead Gallery in Detroit; the golden stool is the divine throne of the Ashanti people and the ultimate symbol of power in Asante, now central Ghana.  Believed to house the spirit of the Asante nation, living, dead and yet to be born, a royal stool may belong to any chief or any person of consequence.  Mitchell slowly “evolved” an intuitive process for making her one-of-a kind jewelry for more than 20 years. She has a strong affinity for rare and ancient beads because they tell a story



A metal painting by artist Mike Willenborg.

Mike Willenborg, a machine repair expert and artist, has supported Mint before, by making us one of the beneficiaries of the Scrap Fest, held at the Lexus Velodrome.  He bought tickets to Mint Masterpieces, then donated two pieces of his copper and metal paintings to our silent auction.  Willenborg used to discard old parts and metal pieces, but now he allows them to speak, with “whimsey and weirdness.” Gears, bearings, chains and copper plates all have long lives and many stories to tell. How they become tarantulas and moons and elephants with spider webs for ears, Willenborg says, no one will ever tell.


Henry Heading has donated this beautiful heart painting.

Henry Heading‘s beautiful work combine his talent as an artist and as a carpenter. He creates his own frames, and they are works of art that flow from the intricately painted piece. He donated this beautiful heart piece to our silent auction. Heading is new to supporting Mint Artists Guild, and a regular working with Mint co-founder Hubert Massey on large murals and mosaic projects. He also is one of the favorite artists of Mint Masterpieces’ hosts Judge Deborah Bledsoe Ford and attorney Jerome Watson.

Anthony Brass, whose orange hand-tree piece came to us after the Palmer Park Art Fair, is a new supporter of Mint. He learned about our nonprofit from his partner, artist Espacia Fotiu, who is a Mint alumni whose career started in the Mint tent. Brass considers himself a “contemporary surrealist artist” whose work is sold at fine juried art fairs and events. His beautiful orange hand-tree piece is eye catching and will certainly be a beautiful part of the evening of Oct. 19.

The silent auction also is featuring work from collectors. We will offer a wild zebras piece by California artist YESNIK / Dave Kinsey donated by 1XRun co-owner Jesse Corey; one by Detroit artist Ron Scarbough, donated by collectors David and Linda Whitaker, and by photographer Bill Sanders, donated by Mint cofounders Vickie Elmer and Mark Loeb. Also look for many pieces by Mint Artists and alumni featured in an earlier post.

If you want one of these pieces, or you want to be part of the creative future of Detroit, buy your tickets today to our art-filled party on Oct. 19.