Blog / 2020 / Artists and COVID-19: One Way to Keep Your Career on Track

March 20, 2020

Real talk: the only reason I’m not in panic mode right now is because my current project is a book. That means that, despite the fact that I won’t be exhibiting the original artwork anytime soon, I will still be doing a kind of public display that most media outlets see as an “event” and therefore something worth writing about. In other words, even though there’s no party to promote the series, this work will still help my art get seen by new people.

Books are always a good idea for artists.

Even when we’re not dealing with a pandemic that has fundamentally altered the way society functions, creating a book is very useful for artists:

  • Thinking of a project as a book can help you focus your ideas, giving you a more cohesive and imaginative result, like it did for me with Crime Against Nature.
  • Along with the artistic benefits come the promotional perks. Beyond their ability to garner press coverage, books can help nurture relationships with clients, something that the coloring book version of Crime Against Nature has done particulary well.
  • Books prolong the life of a project well after you’ve sold the original artworks, as has happened with the catalog for my series about what it means to be an American, Apple Pie.
  • The passive income from books is invaluable when you’re a freelancer, something that I’m reminded of every time someone buys a copy of my e-book Art Marketing: It’s Not Just About Selling Art.
  • Books take up space in the physical world but also in the minds of readers, filling up more than a single visual artwork usually can on its own and helping to saturate society with the voices of independent artists. This was my inspiration for writing a whole book about questioning copyright, You Share Good.

COVID-19 is scary on so many levels, but it could be a chance for more artists to explore publishing their own book, and I cover a lot of the basic questions around doing just that in this article.

work in procress civet painting Gwenn Seemel

Even with four art events canceled this year, I am feeling tentatively optimistic right now, and I know I am incredibly lucky that I just happened to be making an animal alphabet book when COVID-19 hit. My heart breaks for all the artists whose expected income has completely evaporated with physical distancing.

Hopefully, we can continue to share new and evolving techniques for boosting the arts sector during the pandemic. In the meantime, there are artist relief funds popping up to help stop the hemorrhaging, including this one in my hometown of Portland, Oregon.

African civet art by Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
C Is for Civet
2020
acrylic on panel
14 x 14 inches

C is for definitely civet and not COVID-19! The first names embedded in this image are Caitlin, Caleb, Calvin, Caroline, Casey, Cathy, Chao, Charlie, Charlotte, Chelsea, Cheryl, Cheyenne, Chie, Chloe, Christine, Christopher, Claire, Claude, Colin, Connor, Cora, Cory, Courtney, Craig, and Crystal.

The painting featured here already has a forever home—it was one of the paintings that was pre-purchased via the Kickstarter for Baby Sees ABCs. That said, if you want prints or other pretty items with this image, check out my Redbubble shop! The full book will be available later this year.

civet wildlife art
detail of C Is for Civet

Here’s what I’ve finished reading since my last alphabet book update:

  • Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers

    This is the third in the Chambers’ Wayfarer series and it’s definitely fun and interesting, just not as fun or interesting as the first two. Reading it, I was reminded of Cixin Liu’s Three-body Problem series in the focus on humanity leaving earth. Liu’s books are not as humorous as Chambers’ but they are fascinating.

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

    This book is a follow-up to Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, written 35 years later. It is deeply satisfying to see that story closed, especially in such troubled times.

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