What Spielberg, Williams, and the AFI Can Teach us about Collaboration


Sitting alone in a studio or at a keyboard can at times be lonely work. But solopreneurship doesn’t always have to be solo. As a 50% introvert and 50% extrovert, I like a mix of dedicated down time and stimulated social time. Collaboration with a team of people who bring their own unique talents to the table makes both possible and can be incredibly rewarding.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned that really good business and creative partners are hard to come by. But when you find people you can jive with, who get you (and your sense of humor), magic can happen.

Have you ever experienced this? Great teams and partners who not only complement you, but also get you creatively, can help take projects to new heights and make the impossible possible. Collaborations that motivate everyone on board can create an exciting team dynamic and communication style that propels productivity and makes things happen.

When you get to work with talented people who are just as excited about a project as you are, the results can be profound.

I recently tuned in for AFI’s (American Film Institute) Master Class: The Art of Collaboration, a live-audience interview featuring filmmaker Steven Spielberg and one of his most revered production partners, composer John Williams. Through their collaboration, the two have brought the stories we know and love to life, including Jaws, Indiana Jones, Shindler’s List, and E.T.

The audience for the interview was comprised of aspiring filmmakers, directors, score composers, and producers, who asked Spielberg and Williams a few questions about their collaboration:

  • How do you find balance between new themes and old originals in your work?
  • What language do you use in your process to get on the same page?
  • How did you get started in this business? And what advice would you offer others?

I’m curious to know what your responses to these questions are as they relate to your creative collaborations. The AFI audience was interested in the details of how Spielberg and Williams collaborate; your fans are interested in the same kinds of details about your collaborations. Everyone likes to see what happens behind-the-scenes because it helps them to understand your process and connect with you as an artist.

Feel free to use the questions as prompts for your next blog post and share a link to it in the comments below.

Behind every great person is a team of great people. Who are the great people on your team? How does collaboration with them inspire you and help you take your creative work further?

7 Ways Artists Can Make Social Media Easier

Showing up on social media is like showing up to a party that everyone is already at. You’re bound to make a few meaningful connections and see some interesting things!


If you are an artist who uses social media for networking, communicating with your fan base, and engaging with the world, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of social media options out there and the amount of time social media can take away from your craft.

So how can artists make the most of social media without feeling overwhelmed and bogged down? Here are a few ways to leverage social media as a helpful tool rather than a time-consuming burden.

1. Start by appreciating the fact that social media is meant to be social.

Let your social media presence be a continuation of your in-person interactions and relationships. The same rules of engagement that apply to connections made in your studio or at an art event apply in social media.

If you want to keep up with the people and organizations you interact with as a result of being an artist, use social media to stay in touch and keep relationships alive. It’s a lot more fun when you have meaningful connections and know who you’re interacting with on social media. Create a natural overlap between your social life and your social media life.

2. Remember that it’s not all about you.

Strategic social media is about elevating others, paying it forward, and adding to the conversation. It’s a “promoting without self-promoting” opportunity that inspires connection over common interests and relevant information.

This tip is particularly helpful for artists who are turned off by the idea of self-promotion. Think of the many topics you can discuss with people that have nothing to do with you:

  • How the newest season of Game of Thrones is taking everyone by storm!
  • The power of “selfies” for uniting generations and bringing families together.
  • Why the recent perigee-syzygy made nighttime bike rides much more enjoyable.
3. Approach social media as fan engagement and dialogue.

Often times, the best social media engagement doesn’t happen in studio isolation, but rather as an integral part of your “outside of studio” activities. New York City painter Loren Munk makes fan engagement possible by taking his video camera with him to gallery shows and recording art events. Then, he shares his experiences with his subscribers on YouTube.

4. Do one or two things well rather than doing several things so-so.

The truth is, you don’t need to be everywhere in social media. If you know which social media options are best for making connections and sharing what you do, make an effort to show up well in those places and get a better return on your social media time investment.

To decide which social media platforms are best for you, think about where you can have the most fun and be your authentic self. And, think about where your likely customers, buyers, collectors, and fans are hanging out, and impact your sales by showing up there.

5. Engage by commenting and adding to the conversation.

Illustrator Kyle T. Webster says, “There is no point in getting involved in social media if you are not aware of what is happening in your community, in your profession, or in the rest of the world.” When you’re aware of the bigger conversations going on it’s easier to be a part of them in person and in social media.

You can also try starting the conversation with topics you are interested and see what connections and discussions result. Some artists have even integrated social media with their artwork by using it as a source of inspiration.

6. Be a great listener and observer of your market if you want to be a good communicator within your market.

In his book, Permission Marketing, Seth Godin says, “When someone chooses to pay attention they are actually paying you with something precious.” If you use social media to engage with customers, buyers, collectors, and fans, be intentional with your communications so you’re not wasting anyone’s time.

7. Share your passion, your inspiration, and your gratitude.

Social media is a great place to do all three. Keep in mind the power of sharing pictures of your process and the “behind-the-scenes” parts of being an artist. People love to see what you’re working on even if it’s not complete!

Using social media to grow your brand awareness and connect with the world can be very rewarding. To make your time on social media all the more worthwhile, let it be natural just as it would be in any other social environment where some people have an agenda and others are just there for the free beer.

Textile Collage Artist Elaine O’Neil Takes on America

This July Fourth will be more than hotdogs and sparklers for textile collage artist Elaine O’Neil who will be celebrating the first printing of her inaugural Luv This Place® 2015 America Calendar and the sixth annual run of her Luv This Place® 2015 North Carolina Calendar.


I had the sincere privilege of peeling the shrink-wrap off a newly minted 2015 America Calendar last week with Elaine. It was like a Christmas advent calendar surprise in July: each of the twelve 11 x 14 single standing calendar pages features a different American place or theme. The month of July in the 2015 America Calendar depicts fireworks over Lady Liberty.

Elaine O’Neil’s calendar making process

For each of Elaine’s calendar pages, she begins with a rough sketch of the featured location or theme. Then, she chooses the fabrics for that month from a wall of colorful options in her home studio. From there, the fabrics are cut into shapes and forms that are sewn together to make each of the twelve 36 x 36 textile collages for the calendar.

After the pieces come to life in thread and fiber, Elaine has them photographed and begins the production process that takes her original collages from studio to printed page. As a complete calendar set, the collage images find their way into the homes of Elaine’s annual collectors.

Over the years, Elaine O’Neil has developed retailer relationships that help her distribute her calendars to collectors in the Carolinas. Now, with the creation of the Luv This Place® 2015 America Calendar, the artist will reach new heights in connecting place-inspired artwork with new audiences.

As a collector of the Luv This Place® Calendar, I look forward to owning both the 2015 North Carolina Calendar and the brand new America Calendar, and I’m already planning my holiday gifts! Luckily, I won’t have to wait until retailers put up their holiday decorations—Elaine tells me she is taking 2015 calendar orders for those who are ready to ring in the New Year in July.

To learn more about textile collage artist, Elaine O’Neil, and to order your 2015 calendar, visit ElaineONeil.com.

Feeling Grateful and Thankful

Today is my first day not in the hospital since 10am Sunday. Luckily, I’m just fine and so is one of the most important people in my life, my mom.

We were out for an early morning bike ride with my fiancé and his parents on Sunday, right after rainfall. We had our helmets secure and weren’t going very fast, but a slick wooden bridge will send any level of biking experience tumbling, and it did.

In a matter of seconds, my mother and to be father in-law were belly down on the bridge, and I was racing back get back to them. The fall left my mom with a trip to the ER, which revealed a highly broken humerus bone (that oh so important bone between the elbow and the shoulder), which was operated on two days ago.

As I sat in the hospital’s surgical center waiting room, surrounded by families there to support loved ones, I felt grateful knowing that I’d be there when she came out.

I’m grateful that it wasn’t more than a broken bone, but I’m also incredibly thankful that I get to be there for her as she adjusts to a month of not driving, not using her dominant hand, and not doing many of the simple, everyday things we often take for granted. It’s hard to put on a tee shirt when you can’t lift your arm. By the way, humerus bone jokes can go a long way when someone is in pain!

I’m also grateful that my location independent self-made work schedule allows me to be there for my mom right now. If I were not working for myself and only had two-weeks of vacation time for the entire year, I would not have the flexibility to be present for life’s important moments.

I want to be present for my own life and that of those I love. My guess is you do too. Today’s post is about being grateful and thankful for what we have and those who help make us who we are.

If you are a creative entrepreneur making your own schedule, tell me about a time when location independence and time flexibility made all the difference in your life.

6 Art Licensing Tips from Painter Andy Russell

Interviews with artists give artists insight into making, marketing, showing and selling art, from another artist’s shoes. Want your story covered in the next Interview? Visit the Call to Artists page and respond to an open call.


Painter Andy Russell knows a thing or two about turning his dreams into reality. After all, that’s where he got his start as a painter. The vision for his paintings came to him through a series of dreams in which he saw heaven-like landscapes filled with vibrant colors.

Without any formal art training, Andy taught himself to bring his dream world, which he calls “extended realism,” from mind to canvas, and is now selling originals & licensed art worldwide.

With his first licensing company, Andy’s art was turned into puzzles that gave him broader reach and exposure to new audiences. Then, Andy branched out to form other licensing relationships. As a result, his artwork is reproduced in the form of images for calendars, wall murals, checks in stylized checkbooks, and cross-stitch patterns. Andy continues to produce and sell original artwork, too.

Because art licensing is often unchartered territory for most visual artists, I asked Andy to share some of his tips and lessons learned from navigating the licensing frontier at licensing shows. Andy’s advice can be useful for anyone showing artwork at trade shows and indoor/outdoor markets too. Here’s what he said:

  • When showing artwork in order to attract a licensing company, it is best to have your own mock ups to give companies an idea of what the final product will look like. Think calendars, mugs, greeting cards, etc.
  • At licensing shows, make flyers and packets of information about yourself and your artwork so each licensing company can take with them a reminder of your work. People who have been doing licensing shows for a long time make very elaborate packets.
  • Travel light with light display materials because it can cost quite a bit of money to ship your work and marketing materials. Silk cloths are a good alternative for displaying your work because they are lightweight and easy to put up and take down.
  • Once you have a relationship with a licensing company, be sure to use resources like legal and licensing books, search engine results, and the aid of a trusted attorney when navigating and negotiating licensing contracts.
  • Put your efforts in a variety of directions and something will work for you. You’ll find traction so long as you stick with it and give it your best.
  • And finally, do what you enjoy. If you believe in your art and you enjoy it, just go for it. Follow your dreams.

To find out more about Andy Russell, visit AndyRussell.com.



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