“You have 30 seconds to wow me,” Temple Grandin. Spanish version of this blog here.
By Debra Muzikar
Many people on the autism spectrum have great talent. They may be superb artists or talented musicians, yet they and (often their parents) lack the business knowledge to create an income stream which is in alignment with their talent and passion. Many autistic people don’t seek out traditional employment but prefer to work at home making a living off their talent. At the Art of Autism we often receive blurry photographs of art or paintings that are not properly framed for exhibits. The images may be on spiral-bound notebooks or lined paper.
The Art of Autism is working on a project to create training videos for our community. In doing this I had an opportunity to talk to Temple Grandin yesterday about her advice for artists and musicians on the autism spectrum (The advice is good for any artist or musician).
She has advice for both parents and autistic people themselves.
Advice for Parents (we know many parents manage their child’s art and music career)
Step Back Mom!
• Let your child do things for themselves. “I was at McDonalds and I told a mom to let her child order their own hamburger. The mom looked at me wide-eyed when I suggested this. Don’t overprotect your child. I was roofing at the age of 16. Not to suggest they should be doing the same.”
• Carry your child’s portfolio on your phone. “Don’t just say my child is a photographer. Show me their portfolio.”
• Get your child out of the house. “There are too many moms who can’t let go. Let your child walk the dogs for neighbors or edit a film for a neighbor. Get them out of the house.”
Advice for creating a professional portfolio:
The 30 Second Wow and other advice
• Presentation is everything. Create a professional portfolio
• “You have 30-seconds to WOW me with your portfolio. Create a 30-second WOW.”
• Have your portfolio easily accessible on your iphone
• Create a professional website to show your portfolio
• “I used to carry my portfolio on my laptop and I had a shabby case to carry my laptop. Have a professionally looking nice bag to carry your Ipad or Laptop. Presentation is everything.”
How to professionally present your images:
• No blurry photographs
• Don’t take photographs of your art with the spiral binding showing from your art page. Crop your art and make it look professional.
• Don’t show your art on lined notebook paper. Invest in good paper to create your art.
• Professionally frame your art. Invest in at least one good frame to show how your art will look framed. Photograph your art pieces in that frame so people will know what your art looks like in a good frame. “Presentation is everything. You can sell your art for 3 or 4 times more if it is professionally framed and properly matted.”
• When photographing your art, look at the background. Make sure the background looks good. “I photographed cow figurines on back of my pickup truck. Noone knew it was on my pickup truck because I covered it with fabric and it was in natural light.” And don’t have the “kitchen sink in the background. Place your art on fabric and photograph it.” The Art of Autism has a page on how to professionally photograph art.
• Backgrounds don’t have to be elaborate. You can create nice backgrounds with fabric.
• Create a professionally looking brochure to show your art. This can be printed on your home printer. Make sure your brochure is on high-quality paper and your images are high-resolution.
How to create a professional website:
• Your website should load fast. Don’t have anything moving on the front of it (moving gifs). Don’t have music. Don’t have videos that don’t load fast. Make sure your videos are on youtube and you click them to start. Don’t have them preloaded from your website. That takes bandwidth and a lot of time to load.
• Your fonts and colors are important. Don’t put a yellow font on a green background.
• Don’t have dashes in your website name. Longer websites are better than websites with dashes.
• Your website should load with a 30-second WOW. Make sure your good art is front and central. Have the ability to click the art with information about the art – medium, title, etc.
• Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. No drop-down menus. “Look at your website on different phones.” (Editor’s note: when creating a website look at it on different browsers as well).
• Create separate websites for different art forms. “Don’t put photographs of kittens and puppies on the same website as your Sci-Fi alien art. Buy two separate domain names for your art.”
• Don’t tie your autism with your art. Your art should stand on its own without your diagnosis.
The power of keywords
• When posting youtube videos or blogs think about the keywords. “There are six words for cows –cattle bull steers calve calf.” (I didn’t get the sixth word) When you write a title incorporate keywords in smart ways into your title. “There are also other words associated with cows such as growth-rate, feedlot, mothering ability.” Find out the important keywords for your titles.
• There are cultural differences in keywords. For example, “in the United States they use the word ‘corrals’ in Australia they use the word ‘yards.’ I mix-up my keywords on TempleGrandin.com for different countries.”
• Use keywords effectively in your titles. Make sure your titles are smart. Google search engines will pick up titles based on keywords.
• Put videos on youtube with good keywords . Your video can go viral on youtube.
Getting Your Art Out There
“Don’t worry about people stealing your images. I’ve had lots of drawings ripped off. I just had 2 patents ripped off. It’s more important that you get your art out there for people to see. I was a consultant with different plants. What I found is that when they had me sign confidentiality agreements and kept everything secret it was because they were obsolete. The secret was they were obsolete. You have to share your stuff and get feedback to not be obsolete.”
• If you want to make money and sell your art you have to show your art.
• “Get your art out there. You have the original image. If they steal your image you have the original art.” (Editor’s note: you can always watermark your art if you are afraid of someone stealing an image).
• If you don’t share your art no one will see it and you will not make money.
• There are many places to show your art on the internet (social media, Etsy, Zazzle)
• Some autistic people don’t like to let go of their art. If you are like that create prints of your art.
Advice for Musicians
• Create a professional video of your music
• It can be in your own living room but clean it up – no paper cups in the video or ugly couch or Superman pillow on the couch.
• Move the furniture if you have to
• Make sure your clothes look good. No t-shirts with beer advertisements.
• Get your video out on youtube with good key words
Some Other Advice:
• Presenting and selling your art doesn’t have to be expensive. You can do it yourself. Use fabric or curtains for backgrounds. You don’t have to be elaborate you can present your art with a limited budget.
• You don’t have to be perfect, “Some autistic artists are perfectionists. They overdo their art. You art doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t spend too much time making it perfect. It’s more important you get it out there!”
• If you want to make a livelihood from your art you should be able to reproduce similar pieces. Crank it out.
• Gmail emails are unprofessional. Use emails that are through your domain name.
• Incorporate your business.
• Create your business one project at a time. Don’t stress over it.
• Solicit commissions. You don’t always have to paint what you like. Paint what others want.
Advice for The Art of Autism
• Use your domain name www.artautism.com instead of www.the-art-of-autism.com
• Use your email@example.com email instead of your gmail.com email.
• Don’t wait for a grant to do the training videos. Just do it!
• Think about the business of critiquing websites and portfolios as an add-on to what you do.
Thank you Temple! Great advice for The Art of Autism and for artists, musicians, and anyone who sells things on the internet.
Other blogs the reader may like: Lunch with Temple Grandin: Eleven Recommendations for Artists
The ethics of when disability makes art important and collectible