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SEA Conference for Self Employment In The Arts 2018

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

SEA Conference self employment in the arts 2018
SEA Conference self employment in the arts 2018 Program Book Cover

Last weekend it was the Capricon Science Fiction Convention This coming weekend it will be an art business conference. The SEA (Self Employment in the Arts) Conference is a two day conference focused on helping creatives (artists, photographers, authors, etc.) manage, market, and grow their creative business. This conference is packed with panels, round table discussions, and how-to sessions. There is also a juried college art competition and an idea pitch competition for artists, not to mention entertainment. I had the good fortune to be able to participate in the 2017 SEA conference and was really impressed by how well organized it was and by the quality of the programming.

To give you a quick idea as to the nature of the conference programming, here are just a few of the programming items:

  • Branding Workshop
  • Busting Legal Myths: Contracts and Business Entities
  • Creative Career Exploration
  • Death to the Starving Artist Myth:  How to Eat, Live and Succeed as an Artist
  • Getting Exposure for Your Creative Work
  • Getting Started as a Creative Entrepreneur
  • Making a Career as an Illustrator
  • Making Money with Writing
  • Pricing Your Creative Work
  • Social Media Tools and How to Use Them

My participation in the conference will consist of being on one panel, leading two round table discussions, and being available for one of the conference’s One-On-One mentoring sessions.

In the panel Marketing your Creative Talent or Business, we panelists will be addressing the wide range of ways in which creatives can market themselves and their business, including both traditional marketing methods and online marketing. Besides myself, the panelists are Ross Egan, J.C. Geiger, Lauren Ramsey, and Brandy Sales.

One of the round table sessions I’ll be leading is Print-on-Demand (POD) where we’ll be discussing how an artist/photographer/writer can go about comparing the different online platforms that are available and determining which one will best serve the individual’s needs. In addition there will be discussion of how to market both your POD (Print-On-Demand) account/storefront and products.

The second round table will be Analyzing Your Web Site. While this will be most beneficial to those artists who already have a web site, individuals looking to create their first site will also benefit. The approach I hope to take with this roundtable is to use a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis methodology in conjunction with an implementation of web design best practices.

I will also be available for one of the conferences many One-On-One Mentoring Sessions. The topic areas that would be of highest value are those of web design, content creation, HTML/CSS, WordPress, SEO, Print-On-Demand (POD) platforms, and web site analysis. Of course if someone wants me to mentor them on the subject of creative coding using the Processing platform, I’ll be happy to oblige them.

As a part of supporting the SEA Conference, I’ve donated three items to the conference’s raffle. One is the Eyeo Converge to Inspire 2011-2015 conference speakers and art book I got at the 2016 Eyeo convention. The book is a 1st edition and is out of print so this will be a nice prize for someone. The second and third items are two certificates each good for a two hour (120 minute) complimentary web design consultation (for more see my Web Consulting Services page).

Web Consulting Services Certificate
Web consulting certificate for the SEA raffle

Lastly, I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the conference program book cover includes one of the artworks I submitted. The artwork Welcome to the Machine is the rightmost of the four images seen in the image at the top. Sorry folks, this one is not on my web site nor is it available in my Redbubble store.

SEA Conference 2018

February 23-24, 2018

Hilton Hotel, Lisle, Illinois




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SEA (Self Employment in the Arts) conference

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

SEA Self Employment in the Arts conference 2017
SEA Self Employment in the Arts conference 2017

This weekend I will be both attending and participating in programming at the SEA (Self Employment in the Arts) conference for artists which is being held at the Hilton Hotel in Lisle, Illinois. The first SEA Conference was held at Columbia College in Chicago in 2000 and has been growing since then. The conference is currently hosted by North Central College, Naperville IL.

The focus of the SEA conference is on helping artists, particularly emerging visual, performing, literary, and media artists, succeed by providing relevant programming as well as providing networking opportunities. With more than 60 speakers, the lineup of programs, presentations, panels, roundtable discussions, workshops, and one-on-one mentoring is really impressive. And yes, portfolio reviews are a part of the conference.

For students, the conference also features the SEA Juried College Art Competition, which is open to all college students. There is also an Idea Pitch Competition open to those students who either have a creative business or an idea for one. The Idea Pitch Competition has over $3,000 in prizes for competition winners.

There are multiple parallel programming tracks with the track blocks divided into sessions based on time. The good news is that with the number of concurrent programs going on, attendees will have no problem identifying a program they want to attend. The bad news is that there will be many times when there are two or more programs you want to attend and will be forced to choose just one.

The presentation I’m leaning towards attending during Session 1 is The Art of Networking by Brandy Sales where she shares her insights into networking and how those insights have helped her art business.

During Session 2 I would have loved to attend the workshop LICENSING KNOW-HOW – Creating Profits from Art + Design as that is an area I would like to learn more about. Unfortunately I will be a panelist on the Marketing your Creative Talent or Business panel which is at the same time. The panel consists of Larry Brown, Lauren Ramsey, Jessica Segal, and myself. Our discussion will be addressing the various marketing strategies that we have used and the role changing technology plays in marketing. For my part, my area of expertise is in the online aspects – although I hope to have the opportunity to comment on some other devices that have worked for me.

During Session 3 I’m looking forward to attending the panel Which Way to Go: Paths to Publication which addresses the multiple issues associated with getting your book published. This is very relevant for me since I have not one but two books in the works. In fact the first book, which is a portfolio of my algorithmic art, is largely done – and has been for some time. However, identifying who and how to publish the book has been a stumbling block. I initially thought I would go with Blurb or Lulu but quickly came to the conclusion that those options, though the easiest, were not the best. This session will be led by Jennifer McCord and Robin Strachan and I look forward to peppering them with questions.

Friday’s conference dinner will feature a keynote address by Tom Varano whose topic is Live Life with Passion.

Session 4 begins after dinner and is sponsored by Illinois State University. This session consists of a total of 17 roundtables for artists to choose from. Subjects of interest to me include publishing, crowdfunding, social media, and artist management. Unfortunately I’ll be missing them since I will be leading the roundtable discussion on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – an increasingly important aspect of being "found" online.

Friday evening concludes with a variety of entertainment choices for the attendees. A drum circle, dancing, and comedy are all attractive options but not as appealing to me as the Electroskip demonstration which features dancers wearing motion sensors used to generate sound. Wearable computing and interactive digital art have long been a subject of interest to me and I have previously given presentations that have the audience creating art on-screen via their vocalizations.

Saturday starts early with an 8:00am breakfast and is followed by Session 5. I would have liked to attend the Selling Yourself and Your Art panel discussion. For many artists, myself included, selling (marketing, the act of talking up, etc.) our art can be a challenge – not that we don’t know what to say or how to do it but considered from the emotional angle that turns the artist from creator into something of a used car salesman – if you get my meaning. Leading this session is Dr. Sean Flanigan from Colorado Mesa University.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend that session since I’ve been slated to provide one-on-one consulting during that time. People sign up for the opportunity to ask me questions about web design, technical writing, HTML, SEO, and digital photography.

For Session 6, I am undecided on whether to attend Gallery Chat or Trademark. Gallery Chat is a workshop led by Chris Cosnowski that teaches artists how to improve their odds of getting accepted into juried art competitions. Trademark looks at the risks and legal issues associated with trademark law and is led by Elizabeth Russell and Russell Law.

The keynote address for the luncheon is by Gene Weygandt whose topic is Go into the Arts, I’m not kidding.

For Session 7 I would have loved to attend the Freelance in the Visual Arts panel discussion featuring Catherine Borzym, Elaine Luther, John McDavitt, and Tim Plum. The panel is slated to address legal issues, getting your first client, building your client base, and other related issues. For my part I’ll be leading a roundtable discussion on Print on Demand (POD). Specifically I’ll be looking at issues associated with platforms, commissions, marketing, and the steps involved in evaluating the many print on demand offerings available.

I’ll close with a quotation from Pablo Picasso that is prominently displayed on the 2017 SEA Self Employment in the Arts conference web site: "Action is the foundational key to all success." So what are you waiting for?

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Space Art Program At Elmhurst Art Museum

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Space Art and the Exploration of Space Program
Space Art and the Exploration of Space

This Saturday October 29 I’ll be giving my presentation Space Art and the Exploration of Space at the Elmhurst Art Museum in Elmhurst IL. It will actually be a somewhat modified version of my normal presentation because of the why of why I was asked to speak. I was contacted by a representative of the Elmhurst Art Museum after she read about the Bigelow Aerospace BEAM inflatable module on the International Space Station. She was looking for a way to connect ISS/BEAM with the museum’s BLOW UP: Inflatable Contemporary Art exhibit.

Unfortunately inflatable space art is not a "thing". However I was taken up on my offer to give my presentation about space art – which would be modified to include artist impressions of inflatable space architecture – an idea that is much older than you might think.

Many may remember TransHab, a NASA effort from the 90’s to develop an inflatable habitat for the International Space Station. While the project was canceled, all was not lost because Bigelow Aerospace had the foresight to purchase the rights to the patents developed as a part of that NASA project. This lead to the Genesis I, Genesis II, and now the BEAM inflatable modules – which makes very real the prospect for the commercial availability of private, inflatable space stations. Thank you Robert Bigelow for your vision.

Others may remember the Goodyear inflatable space station prototype from 1961. Much earlier references to inflatable space structures are to be found in the imaginations of science fiction authors. For example, from 1939 is the story Misfit by Robert Heinlein where he writes about covering an asteroid valley with a tarp-like roof and inflating.

So if you are in the area and are up for a presentation on space art, I invite you to attend my talk. Note that while there is no charge for my program, you do have to purchase a museum admission to get in. Museum admission is $8 for adults and $7 for seniors, but admission is free to all students and anyone under 18. For more about the Elmhurst Art Museum, visit the Elmhurst Art Museum web site. To learn more about my presentation, see Art and the Exploration of Space.

Program Description at Elmhurst Art Museum Programs
Saturday, October 29, 2016 – 1:00pm
Space Art and the Exploration of Space
Jim Plaxco, President of the Chicago Society for Space Studies, will be giving a lecture which explores the development and evolution of space art from its beginnings in science fiction to its use as a tool to illustrate and promote space exploration. His lecture will demonstrate the large role that inflatables have played in the exploration of space as well as the creation of space art.

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Fresh Brewed Coffee Digital Art

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Fresh Brewed Coffee Art
Fresh Brewed Coffee Digital Art

Fresh Brewed Coffee is a digital painting I completed a few days ago. Just as macro photography provides us with extreme close-up views of things, Fresh Brewed Coffee is a work of macro art in that it represents a close-up view of the bubbles on the surface of a freshly brewed cup of coffee. What I particularly like about this macro perspective is that it lends the artwork an abstract appearance. You can click the image above to see an enlarged wallpaper of this art.

Now I’ve been making coffee using a coffee press (aka French press) for years but I had never really "looked" at those bubbles that were floating around on the surface. Perhaps it was the lighting, but it was this one instance of brewing coffee that inspired me to create this particular artwork.

To create the artistic effect I wanted, I did some rewriting of one of my generative art programs. This involved modifying both basic functionality as well as the variety and scope of the parameters associated with the paint brush engine. FYI, what initially inspired me to write my own painting programs was a combination of the limitations of the Adobe Photoshop paint brush engine with a desire to create art that was unique to me – since I do not make my programs commercially available. For those digital artists who are also software savvy, I suggest checking out Processing (Java), openFrameworks (C++), or Cinder (C++).

The version of Fresh Brewed Coffee shown here is the open edition version and is available for purchase online at the following print-on-demand (POD) sites:

Fresh Brewed Coffee artwork on Redbubble

Fresh Brewed Coffee artwork on CRATED

If you are interested in a limited edition framed canvas print, which is 29 by 19 inches when printed at 300ppi, please contact me.

Here’s to starting the day with a good cup of coffee.

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Winners of 2016 NSS Space Settlement Student Art Contest Announced

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Space Settlement Student Art Contest Grand Prize Winner
Space Settlement Student Art Contest Grand Prize Winner
Pioneers of the Cosmos by Adrianna Allen

The National Space Society has announced the winners of its 2016 NSS Space Settlement Student Art Contest. As one of the contest’s art judges, it was once again an interesting experience. While I did not write about my experiences judging last year’s contest, I did write about Judging the 2014 NSS Space Settlement Student Art Contest. As an art contest for students, entries were received from grade levels 5 through college with the vast majority of entries being submitted by non-U.S. students.

A number of entries were disqualified for failing to meet the contest’s few but clearly stated criteria. Unfortunately some of the art disqualified was pretty good. Even worse, there were a few submissions of plagiarized work. For example, taking an existing work of space art and running an edges filter on it does not give an "artist" the right to call it their own art. Worse yet is lying about the process and claiming it to be a drawing by hand.

Aside: As a digital artist who enjoys writing his own image processing and digital art software, one of the self-challenges I used to do quite regularly was analyzing digital art and attempting to figure out exactly how it was created and what software was used. This process helped me to develop my own programs and to have a better feel for the overall digital art creation process.

The judging of the art consisted of two stages. In the first stage, I, Lynne Zielinski (contest manager), and David Brandt-Erichsen (fellow judge) went through the art eliminating those entries that clearly failed to meet the stated criteria regarding size, subject, and content. Once this was done, I created a browsable version of initially valid submissions and distributed that package to the panel of judges (there were six of us judging the art). We had a total of 125 entries to judge with a remarkable 66 coming from 5th graders, the largest grade submission category by far. In contrast, there were only 2 submissions from 6th graders.

It was two weeks ago that all contest judges had a web conference to judge all the accepted entries. It was quite the marathon session with some of the art submitted generating significant discussion. The structure of the art contest’s rules provided us with complete latitude when it came to selecting winning art entries. In fact, we judges were not required to select any entries as winners if we decided that all were of sub-standard quality. Fortunately that was not the case. It was at this stage that we looked more seriously at whether or not the submitted art fully met our subject and content criteria. Unfortunately a large number did not. The most common shortcoming was the failure to show any people in the artwork – as showing people living and working in space was a central theme to the contest.

The easiest part of the entire process was selecting the art to be awarded the Grand Prize. We judges immediately and unanimously chose Pioneers of the Cosmos, a digital painting submitted by Adrianna Allen, as the Grand Prize winner. Adrianna attends Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI.

The judges awarded one First Prize for the submission Space Aviary by Vindya Malla, an 11th grader from India.

There were also three Honorable Mentions awarded. A very well done work of 3D digital art was the piece Micro-Gravity Lunar Orbit Research Center Apollo submitted by Hidayat Saad, a college student from Malaysia. Frankly I thought this artwork to be deserving of a First Prize. The second Honorable Mention went to The Martians submitted by Pranab Kumar Padhi, a 12th grader from India. The artwork depicts a settlement on Mars. What most sold this artwork to the judges was a table of people in the foreground having a meeting. The third and final Honorable Mention went to Shuttle Transport Station (shown below) submitted by Anushka Hebbar, a 9th grader from India. Given Anushka’s wonderful depiction of an O’Neill Colony, this was my second favorite submission to the contest and I thought it should have been awarded a First Prize. So Anushka Hebbar: consider this my personal congratulations to you for your wonderful submission.

Space art contest honorable mention - Shuttle Transport Station
Space art contest honorable mention – Shuttle Transport Station by Anushka Hebbar

A gallery of the winning art and the art submissions that met all the contest’s criteria is now online at Gallery for NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement International Student Art Contest 2016. Enjoy.

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Nabaroo for Artists Review

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Jim Plaxco's Nabaroo Account
Jim Plaxco’s Nabaroo Account

A few days ago I received an invitation to join an online site for artists named Nabaroo. I had never heard of them but as stated in their email, Nabaroo is a new network for artists and I was being extended an invitation "based on your exceptional work." I regularly receive unsolicited invitations from businesses marketing one service or another. In fact I recently received an invitation from another online service for artists – that one being a print on demand site. In checking them out I decided that they were not a site that I wanted to do business with. You can read my review of their service in the article A Review of Selling Art on Artist Become (

So I decided to give Nabaroo a look. In some respects, UI/UX for example, Nabaroo is similar to Pinterest. In other respects it is unique. It has a clean design and it is easy to create collections so you can organize your art into groups. They also make it very easy to add new content. Aside from being able to post/share your art and videos (in a process called nabbing), the site offers a Discussions feature and a Jobs section where artists can search for employment opportunities.

What I found particularly appealing, and unique, is Nabaroo’s Shop feature. When an artist shares their art on Nabaroo they are given the opportunity to add a link that directs viewers to the product page for that artwork, where ever that may be. Upon learning this I decided to do some fast data mining. I grabbed the first 500 artworks that showed up in my Buy Original Artwork from Nabaroo Artists stream. Following are the top print-on-demand/art products web sites that were linked to.

Online Vendor Artworks 174 68 37 17 17 11 7 6 5 5 5

I was surprised by the dominance of Society6. Notably absent from this list are such popular print-on-demand art print sites as Artflakes, CafePress, FineArtAmerica, Imagekind, and Zazzle. At this point I must offer the following supplementary information. The above is simply a count based on the number of artworks and not artists. For example, all of the 174 artworks for Society6 could have come from one artist. So these numbers should not be used to judge how popular a platform is with artists. I could have produced that number but the process of associating artists with individual artworks would have required much more work on my part. However, I can say that these 500 artworks came from 221 artists and that the number of artworks per artist ranged from 1 to 11 with an average of 2.26 artworks per artist. So it is safe to say that based on this information, it appears that the three most popular platforms for artists who are active on Nabaroo are Society6, Etsy, and Redbubble.

Also with respect to the above table, it is worth noting that a few of the artists, rather than linking to a product page, directed their "Buy on" link back to non-product web sites like their Facebook fan page or their Nabaroo account. I don’t know that this is a strategy that I would use but it is clearly an option.

Adding Art to Nabaroo

Adding art (or videos) to Nabaroo is quite simple. The dialog for adding (nabbing) art gives artists the option to either upload an image or video from their computer or from a web page (a very nice option). Artists are offered the following fields to describe their art/video:

  • caption – a text field for providing a description of the art
  • collection – a drop down list that allows an artist to add the art to a collection (or to simultaneously create a new collection to which the art will be added)
  • Buy on link – a field for providing a link to where the art can be bought
  • tags – tags for categorizing the art for improved searches

When adding (aka nabbing) art, you also have the option to share your nab on one or more social networks simultaneously.

My Nabaroo Account

In reviewing Nabaroo, I really like what I’ve seen and have created an account. While I have yet to really begin posting content you can see my account at:

Jim Plaxco’s Nabaroo Account

My only concern is with respect to their business model. At this time the site is free of advertisements and is free for artists to use. The only source of revenue I see is with respect to companies wanting to post job openings on the site – and even that is free for Nabaroo artists. As Nabaroo grows in popularity the site will require ever more computing resources to support that growth. I will be very curious to see what steps Nabaroo takes to generate the income they will need to pay their bills.

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