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Five ways to connect with a creative mentor


A teacher may be able to recommend a mentor – or he could become one. (Photo Photo by Monica Melton / Unsplash)

Gil Ashby figures he has mentored thousands of young people, through his career at College for Creative Studies and outside it.

The illustrator joined CCS in 1999, and was its first African American department chair. Ashby  always strives to give mentees “the notion that they have power within themselves,” he told an audience at the Detroit Institute of Arts in February. He appeared with one of his mentees, and with artist Hubert Massey, one of Mint’s co-founder.

Ashby has an impressive track record of illustrating graphic novels and children’s books and more. Read more about him in the Society of Illustrators award and feature. He has helped many CCS students with their careers.

So how does an emerging artist in Detroit land a mentor? Mint asked Ashby and the DIA panel. Here are five answers, two of them from Ashby and the rest we added ourselves:

  • “Be curious,” Ashby said. Ask questions at panels and webinars.  Seek new information and new people. Read up on the speakers beforehand. All this will make you a standout.
  • Be kind.   Your chances of landing a mentor improve if you volunteer regularly because you will meet new people.  They also improve if you bring homemade cookies to the meet-up, or offer to help your teacher after class. People are more likely to help those who are helpful.
  • Get out there. “Go where the action is,” Ashby said.  Now that things are opening up again, show up at gallery openings, at artist talks and creative group meetings and “that person will reveal himself.”  Or try Creative Mornings, the Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club or a university club or organization. 
  • Know what you need.  Identify the essential insights or assistance you hope to gain. A mentor could help you hone your artist’s statement or search for a job. You may want a mentor who can help you set up a website, or connect you to the decision makers at an influential museum. Or maybe you want someone who has a studio full of tools and equipment. Be clear what you are seeking and ask for a short – 15 to 30 minute – conversation about it.
  • Search online. Seek mentoring organizations and organizations local, national and international. Re:create offers free virtual mentoring for graphic designers, creative directors and more.  Detroit has many youth mentoring organizations, some based on athletics or geography or other topics. Search the National Mentoring Partnership’s database to find one.  Or look on LinkedIn and spend some time creating your professional network too.

Want more advice? Read this excellent guide to landing a mentor by Barking Up the Wrong Tree  and five tips for choosing the right mentor. Or follow these  step by step instructions on researching and approaching a professional mentor who’s a stranger, offered by coach Sabina Nawaz.  

Share your mentoring ideas with us in a comment, or send us your suggestions.

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Smart affordable ways to have a well-stocked artist space

Take care of your tools if you want them to last. (Photo: Thom Masat / Unsplash)

Artists, this is the season to make more art.  Using this gift of time to create makes sense, and we are here to share ideas on creative projects – as well as how to stock up on art supplies, creatively and cheaply.

Let’s get started.

Know what you need. Create a list of all the supplies that you likely need for the next six to 12 months.  Add extra items to cover the bursts of creativity  and productivity from staying at home during coronavirus.  Then separate the list into must haves and wish you could buy.  Unless you have a rich uncle or patron, now is the time to focus on the must haves.

Buy together.  Identify a purchasing partner – an artist who works in your medium who you like and respect. Or join an artists group. If you join forces with three painters, buying canvases in bulk makes sense.  This works equally well for jewelry artists, photographers and others to share raw materials or finishing supplies.

Go to bargain hunter buying places. Go to garage sales or head to Arts & Scraps, once it reopens, on Detroit’s East Side. Or if you’re close to Ann Arbor, go to SCRAP Creative Reuse. Estate sales work, and sites such as allows you to search to see if they offer the supplies you need most.  CraigsList Free and junk yards may yield great items for sculpture, frames and more.  Just practice safety online and when you meet in person to collect supplies. Also: Look for artist-to-artist sales. These take place sporadically for artists to sell off extra or unused supplies and creative work.

Care for your tools. Buy a better quality and then take a little time to maintain. “Well kept art supplies can last for years,” according to a post republished in FineArtTips. So carefully wash your paint brushes and pat them dry after each use. Do the same with other creative equipment. 

Track your spending.   This can be as simple as a shoe box for all receipts or more high tech: a digital  log of every nickel spent on supplies, frames, packing materials and more. These are business expenses and they may be tax deductible. Read more about artists’ tax deductions in this post.

Set aside funds.  Each time you sell a piece of your creative work, place 20 percent of the proceeds – more if your material costs are high – in a special bank or credit union account to pay for supplies and equipment.  This practice will provide funds to replace canvases or silver wire or whatever runs low.

If you still cannot buy all your supplies, you may need to borrow money – from a family member or close friend – to stock your creativity. Just be clear about when and how you will repay this.

Perhaps your favorite aunt or pal will be glad to receive a painting or pendant instead of cash for a loan.

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Why artist Judy Bowman believes in Mint

Artists Charlene Uresy and Judy Bowman at the first Mint Masterpieces.  Judy Bowman will be involved again this year. (Photo © Barbara Barefield)

Judy Bowman’s success as an artist started after she retired from her career as an educator. Yet if Mint Artists Guild had been around when she were a teen, she wonders whether she might have pursued creating and selling art more earlier in her life.

A new video, created by Mint marketing lead and board member Kelly O’Neill, shares Judy’s story – and her appreciation for Mint.

The award winning collage, mixed media and more artist, also shared some advice she would give her 18-year-old self.

“If you keep plugging at it, you’ll get there. … Keep doing it because you’re going to be a success. You’ve got the drive. You’ve got the energy.”

Judy has supported Mint Artists Guild with her time and experiences, her art and more. She serves on the honorary committee for Mint Masterpieces, our party with a purpose on Oct. 19.  Buy your tickets now and enjoy art, music and fine food in a major art collector’s eclectic home. Or please follow Judy’s lead and donate to Mint today!

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Emerging photographer grant: Win $5K

This photograph by Mint Artists alumni Omari Norman tells a story of a prom couple. It may say something about their lives – or about life in Detroit.

A grant for emerging photographers seeks those who “communicate their interpretation of the conditions affecting their lives.”  Luminous Endowment will award $5,000 to a photographer ages 18 to 30 through the A.J. Zelina Emerging Young Photographer Grant  Deadline to apply is Feb. 28.

Luminous Endowment offers other grants for photographers – providing opportunities to travel to Armena and other new countries, and one that preserves memories and stories.

Mint will share other grant opportunities for emerging artists next month.

Photo © Omari Norman 2016,

Blog post © Vickie Elmer 2017