Who Says You Can’t Make a Living Doing What You Love?

Highlights of the SEA Conference

Friday, February 22 and Saturday, February 23

I attended the 13th annual SEA (Self-Employment in the Arts) Conference at the Lisle Hilton with my colleague Jennifer Piehl and our Creative Boot Camp students.

COD Creative Boot Camp students (center and right tables) listen to award-winning musician Tom Sharpe’s talk and drum performance during the February 22 Keynote .

We attended a variety of informative sessions, including Shooting a Conference for a Magazine Spread, led by Crain’s Chicago Business Staff Photographer Erik Unger. We also heard from panels on Utilizing Social Media as a Tool for your Art Business, and How to Create and Present and Effective Portfolio. Students attended sessions on Contracts and Business Forms Basics, Overcoming Under earning, and signed up for One on One Mentoring Sessions. Students also interviewed artists and researched prospective clients for their Final Project.

Brodie Sturm and Mike Castillo listen as Crain’s Chicago Business Staff Photographer Erik Unger critiques photos students shot during his Shooting for a Magazine Spread Workshop. Unger has been published worldwide, including publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes Magazine, London’s Daily Telegraph and Italy’s Panorama Magazine.

Boot Camp Students also heard from keynote speakers such as musician Tom Sharpe www.tomsharpe.com, who won the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and Greg Forbes Seigman, www.gregforbes.com who spoke about how the lessons learned from art which can build our businesses as well as impact our communities in a positive way.

Photojournalist Erik Unger shows students his flash as he discusses what he includes in his camera bag to be prepared for his assignments.

 Quotes from Erik Unger

“Look for moments. Look for interaction. Shoot insurance pix first to cover your ass. Build on that and work around the outside of the main event. Look for what will set you apart, make you look different and lively.”

“What makes great photography is access. The best pictures are from the best access. That’s why backstage passes are best.The goal of a photographer is to show people pictures they won’t see otherwise.”

“You don’t go into photography for the money. You have to make sure you get paid what you deserve.”

Panelists (left to right) Eileen Braun (Ceramic Artist) Margaret Peot (Costume Designer) Erik Unger ( Photojournalist) and Janet Bloch (Director of Lubeznik Art Center) give students advice on preparing their portfolio.

Advice from the Portfolio Panel:

“Don’t show everyone that you can do everything. They might not care. When you look at art and it’s amazing, it’s that thing that they thought of that was original and true to themselves.”

“It’s important to show up on time, be polite, kind and civil. Be interested in them. That’s always remembered equally to the work. Put your best foot forward.”

“There should be no misspellings in your Artist’s Statement. Your portfolio should be the best of your best! You are competing with professionals, even as a student.”

“Everyone should have a website. To be a serious artist you have to update it every 6 months. Take out older work and put in new. Clients want to see your website changing. People are watching.”

“Submit to juried competitions. Start looking for opportunities as a student. Answer calls for artists in group shows. See if you get chosen.”

Advice from the Social Media Panel:

“Social media is a tool and you have to learn how to leverage it. These tools should galvanize your community and promote you.  Social media is a tool that has an incredible reach, but you need to make it meaningful.”

Advice from musician Tom Sharpe:

“There’s a connection between mental and physical fitness. I run 3 to 5 miles daily. I don’t do drugs and alcohol. For me, it’s mental – I want to have a clear head. For me, there’s no time not to have a clear head.”

“You don’t have time for stupid things. You are your decisions. Keep it positive. Keep the train rolling. Everything is circular. Make your decisions positive and watch how that grows.”

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