Sunset Over Bald Butte

Oil painting by Tania Nault of the sunset over Bald Butte, Cypress Hills.

Tania Nault, Sunset Over Bald Butte. Oil on panel, 6 x 12 inches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park this week for the Saskatchewan Summer Star Party. On Tuesday, I decided to head out in the morning across the Gap Drive over to the West Block and on my way back stopped at both Bald Butte and Lookout Point. It was late afternoon by the time I hit Lookout Point, so I decided to set up and paint en plein air. I painted one “afternoon view” and then, when the light started to change towards sunset, set up to paint the second painting you see above.

The Point is a popular place to watch the sunset and I had several people stop to take a look and ask questions as I painted. I find that when the work is going well, as it was yesterday, it’s a lot easier to talk to people as I paint 🙂

The painting is on canvas (I usually paint on panel) that I had primed with Winsor & Newton’s oil painting primer (I usually paint on acrylic gesso). It took a bit to get used to how the paint went down on the slicker surface, but I must say I prefer how the oil paint looks on the oil primed surface.

Glen Canyon

Oil painting by Tania Nault of Glen Canyon from the river.

Tania Nault, Glen Canyon. Oil on panel, 6 x 9 inches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In May my husband and I took a “canyon-themed” road trip into the United States. We visited the “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and rafted on the Colorado River in the Glen Canyon! I took the photo reference for this painting on our rafting trip.

Arts Entrepreneur Course, part 2

This post is part two of a series on my participation in the Arts Entrepreneurship & Business Development Course, specifically the first two days of workshops.

AEBDC 2016 Regina Participants (left to right) Back row: Adam M., Brad C., David G., Tania N. Wendy B., Carrie G. Middle row: Mark S., Susan J-G. Front row: Richard G., Mike, and Krysta I.

AEBDC 2016 Regina Participants (left to right) Back row: Adam M., Brad C., David G., Tania N. Wendy B., Carrie G. Middle row: Mark S., Susan J-G. Front row: Richard G., Mike, and Krysta I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1 of the first workshop started with facilitator introductions, XX from XXX and XX from XX*, and of our fellow participants by way of turning parts of the pre-workshop activities into an elevator pitch. It was interesting to compare XX and XX’s comfortable, experienced introductions with our awkward, second-guessing as we spoke. (But as the course progressed over the weeks we would get plenty of practice with our pitches as we introduced ourselves to presenters and special guests.)

But the second activity was a real eye-opener. “The Marshmallow Challenge is a design exercise that encourages you and your team to let loose your collaboration, innovation, and creativity skills.” We were put into random groups, provided a meager handful of supplies that included a marshmallow, uncooked spaghetti, and 18 minutes on a timer. The team with the tallest free-standing structure topped by the marshmallow won glory and bragging rights. No spoilers, although one team’s structure was successful, none of the teams started the activity with the end in mind. Which provided the segue into the next activity: goal setting.

We discussed why setting goals is so powerful, goal setting strategies, and SMART goals. We were asked to consider how what we learned about ourselves in the entrepreneurial self-assessment fit into our long-term goals. But I think the most important thing we learned about goals was how to use our long-term goals to walk ourselves backward to set mid and short-term goals and then use those to create a calendar of activities.

But the biggest revelation of the day was the introduction to business model generation via the business model canvas:

The Business Model Canvas "allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business model" http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas/bmc

The Business Model Canvas “allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent, and pivot your business model” http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas/bmc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Business Model Canvas was developed by Alexander Osterwalder,  Yves Pigneur, and a team of 470 co-creators and because it uses a visual template seems particularly well-suited for use by visual artists. The Business Model Canvas is divided into nine building blocks:

  1. Customer Segments: Who are your customers?
  2. Value Propositions: Why do people buy your art?
  3. Channels: How do you communicate with, distribute and sell to your customers?
  4. Customer Relationships: How do you establish and maintain a relationship with your customers? How do you serve them?
  5. Revenue Streams: How do your customers support/pay you?
  6. Key Resources: What physical, financial, intellectual, and human assets are required to create, offer, deliver, and sell your art?
  7. Key Activities: What do you need to do to sell your art? (production, marketing, sales)
  8. Key Partners: Who else do you need to involve to accomplish all the activities related to your art?
  9. Cost Structure: What do all the activities to your art (production, marketing, sales) cost?

We were encouraged to use sticky notes to quickly map out what we knew, not overthink, simply get down as much information as we could. A classic over-thinker, I’ll admit to struggling with this, but I was reminded that we were using sticky notes to make changes easy. It was during this process that I came to the realisation that I continued to include my work in scratchboard not as a sustainable art form – but as a life-preserver – something I could cling to in the hope that it would keep me relevant as an artist. In subsequent drafts of my canvas I decided to remove references to scratchboard. Does this mean I’ll never work in scratchboard again? Of course not. But what it does mean is that I can’t rely on it as my primary means of expression.

On Day 2 we continued to work on our business models, focusing on our value propositions  and customer segments, particularly on the fit between our how what we offer matches our customer’s needs. I initially bristled at being asked how my art “fit” my customer’s needs but I quickly realised that we were talking about how art meets emotional or social needs (not that I was limited to making work that would match someone’s sofa). We were also asked to consider how we meet customer needs before, during, and after the sales process? What could we do to make our work and sales process more exciting, easier to do, or a better experience?

At the end of the day we discussed (a) how to take all the work from both days and weave it into a narrative, to “tell our story”, to describe:

  1. our company
  2. each value proposition as it relates to each customer segment as well as each customer channel
  3. our customer relations strategy
  4. the activities we undertake to operate our business
  5. our partnerships
  6. key resources
  7. revenue streams and price structures

and (b) how to test the assumptions we made in our business model. The “tell our story” activity became our homework assignment and testing our assumptions became an ongoing task we would do as our business models evolved over time.

*Please note: The Arts Entrepreneurship and Business Development Course was offered by two provincial programs that are in a media blackout (ncluding “goodwill marketing”) until after the Saskatchewan provincial election (on April 4th), therefore I can’t include the names of the organizations or facilitators at this time. However, after the provincial election is over I will edit this and the other AEBDC posts to include this information.

Arts Entrepreneur Course, part 1

This post is part one of a series on my participation in the Arts Entrepreneurship & Business Development Course, specifically the application process and pre-workshop activities.

“The Arts Entrepreneurship & Business Development Course… assists artists and arts entrepreneurs to develop sustainable, secure careers, and/or businesses in the province of Saskatchewan. By the end of the program, participants will have developed a career or business model, a long-term plan to activate the model, and a business-to-business/peer-to-peer network.”
~Arts Entrepreneurship & Business Development Course Program Information Application Package.

I’d seen application deadlines advertised for the Arts Entrepreneurship Course for a few years, but each year convinced myself I wasn’t ready to apply, “Next year, after I’ve [insert excuse here] I’ll submit an application.” However, this year I noticed that the XXX and XX* had extended their application deadline. In my day job there is really only one reason to extend a deadline: Because there hasn’t been sufficient number of applications. I made up my mind to submit my application.

For the most part, the application was relatively straightforward: describe my work, goals, challenges, and experience and training. I’m hardly a “fine art” snob, but I did find it somewhat unnerving to think of my art in terms of a “creative venture”. The application was followed up by a telephone interview with one of the facilitators, XXX. And success! I was accepted.

To prepare for the first workshop of the course, I received a package of pre-workshop activities  designed to “introduce you to the course, help you identify what you want to take away from the course, and allow you to consider your entrepreneurial characteristics”. Reading the course overview was eye-opening because, although I grasped the commitment in terms of time, seeing all we were to cover and learn was both exciting and daunting. The package also walked me through a few exercises to help me better describe myself and my work, and to self-assess my strengths and weakness as an entrepreneur. For that exercise I ran through the questions and then asked my husband to answer the same questions about me as a sort of reality check. Of 20 questions we differed by one mark on only four questions and we chose the same three characteristics as my particular strengths. So I either answered my questions realistically or my husband and I are very well-suited. Either way, I was pleased with the results.

But the pre-workshop activity that I found at the same time the most insightful and challenging was the “Start with Why” based on the work of Simon Sinek, enthnographer and author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. According to Sinek, individuals and businesses alike find it easy to define what they do and how they do it, but few clearly define why they do what they do. And according to Sinek, those who do define their why find it much easier to connect with others who may be interested in their work.

After much emotional backing and forthing, I’ve come to realise that what drives me is the process of taking plain materials and turning them into something wonderful, beautiful even. In the words of author and lecturer, Ellen Dissanayake, “Art transforms the ordinary into the extra-ordinary.”

*Please note: The Arts Entrepreneurship and Business Development Course was offered by two provincial programs that are in a media blackout (including “goodwill marketing”) until after the Saskatchewan provincial election (on April 4th), therefore I can’t include the names of the organizations or facilitators at this time. However, after the provincial election is over I will edit this and the other AEBDC posts to include this information.

The Arts Entrepreneur Course has Ended

My Arts Entrepreneur & Business Development Certificate!

My Arts Entrepreneur & Business Development Certificate!

Today was the last day of the 2015-2016 Arts Entrepreneurship and Business Development Course* in Regina. The course was one of the most informative, insightful, and productive experiences of my life. I expected the course to be full of information about business goals and plans, marketing, financial management, grant writing, legal issues, and resources for entrepreneurs in the arts – and it was – but what I didn’t expect was to have the course turn into a process of personal and creative self (re)discovery.

I had originally planned to blog after each workshop date, but the homework kept me very busy between sessions! Which turns out not to have been such a bad thing: We have one last personal coaching session next week and, in preparation for that, I will write a series of blog posts as a way to reflect on my experience:

  1. The application process and pre-workshop activities
  2. Day 1: Entrepreneurial self-assessment, goal-setting, business model canvas
    Day 2: Business model analysis, telling your story
  3. Homework: Business model refinement and experimentation
  4. First coaching session
  5. Day 3: Marketing presentation, marketing strategies and tools
    Day 4: Actions plans, financial responsibilities, accounting presentation
  6. Homework
  7. Second coaching session
  8. Day 5: Marketing & finance presentation and artist presentation
    Day 6: Grant writing presentation, legal presentation, wrap up
  9. Final coaching session

*Please note: The Arts Entrepreneurship and Business Development Course was offered by two provincial programs that are in a media blackout (including “goodwill marketing”) until after the Saskatchewan provincial election (on April 4th), therefore I can’t include the names of the organizations or facilitators at this time. However, after the provincial election is over I will edit this and the other AEBDC posts to include this information.

Acrylic painting on panel by Tania Nault of magnetic alphabet letters spelling "TOYS" on dark background.

Tania Nault, #33 TOYS. Acrylic on panel, 5 x 7 inches.

How I see the world hasn’t changed, but how I work as an artist has.

And a new way of working demanded a new website. Therefore, I’m updating my website over the next few weeks and I invite you to visit again to see my progress.

Thanks for stopping by; I look forward to seeing you again soon.