Thursday, April 23, 2009

Focus On: eyeful

Tricia McKeller is a self-taught artist from North Carolina who embraces a life of sharing and collaboration. She's got two shops here on -- a mixed media and assemblage art shop and her photography store. Tricia is not a "trained" artist. She led a life watching and looking at art and wondering if she could do it herself. "Then one day, about 7 years ago, I had an epiphany, 'I could make art and it would be okay if it was ugly.' I didn't have to be a 'good' artist, I only had to be the artist that I could be. That was an amazing moment." A woman who studied math and computer science in school found herself through her art.

Tricia is also adept at marketing herself and her work with a great degree of success. We spent time chatting about how she's done so well at selling her work and about the equipment she uses to her advantage.


Ann: You have two Etsy shops, a website and a beautiful blog. How do you manage all of these so well and find time to create and be inspired?

Tricia: This is actually an area in which I really struggle. I have a full-time-plus day job. My dream is to be a full-time artist. I tell myself that slow and steady wins the race; I should work a little on each thing regularly, but it doesn't really happen that way for me. I tend to work in spurts -- if there's new work in one shop, the other shop probably hasn't been touched, and chances are my house is a disaster. My blog has been neglected...writing is rather hard for me. I try not to be too hard on myself about these things. I'm a big-picture person; if I have the big picture in mind and think I'm making progress toward the goal, then I try not to beat myself up over every little thing I could and maybe should be doing.

My goals for this year are to work on my photography (shoot more, get better at my craft) and get my art business in order (put everything in Quickbooks, make a budget and goals, work hard on selling my photography). I think I'm on track, but I admit I have a notebook of ideas for my photography, mixed-media art and art business marketing and no idea when I'll get around to even half of my ideas. Sometimes, I enjoy the marketing almost as much as making the cool images. So many ideas, so little time...

A: Yes, it's so true there's just not enough time. What aspects of marketing do you like? This is really helpful stuff -- your work is on display at a medical center at Duke University and on a book jacket (that's so cool). How did you accomplish this?

T: I try to think of marketing as ripples in a pond. Sometimes a little event can make bigger things happen. I had two big sales earlier this year: Duke Hospital bought one of my textile art pieces, Path, and five framed prints of my digital collages, Insect Machine Series.

Another local doctor bought 17 framed pieces for her new medical office; some are the Departure series (see Tricia's Etsy shop, eyeful) and some are digital collages with Luna moths. It's been a really big year for me so far! Each event was started in motion two or more years ago. Each came about after someone saw my work at a small exhibition, and that turned into another invitation to exhibit, and that turned into someone buying my work. You just never know when an invitation to show somewhere will put your work in front of someone who may want to buy it or invite you to show elsewhere.

I've become addicted to Twitter lately and found IttyBiz there. I love her blog, and this is one of my favorite posts. It reminds me that a little bit consistently is going to make big things happen.

And, speaking of blogs, I just have to mention I'm also in love with Christine Kane's blog.

My photograph, Escape, is on the cover of a new book. The publisher found me on Etsy and asked if I'd be interested. How cool is that?

A: How would you advise an Etsy photographer to get themselves into an exhibition?

T: For someone with no exhibition experience, I'd recommend joining a local artists group and first participating in their member shows. I used to do a lot of textile art and PAQA-South -- Professional Art Quilt Alliance South -- it was really helpful to me as a new artist.

A: That's great advice. How do you handle the presentation of your pieces? Do you do your own matting and framing?

T: I do my own matting and framing. I've been ordering mats and frames from An example of how I frame a 12x12 print is here.

I bought a mat cutter last year, but I still haven't pulled it out and figured it all out! I hope to do it soon and offer mats in my shop.
A: Tell me about the camera equipment you use.

T: My camera is a Canon Xsi. It was new last year, but I think Canon has released a newer Rebel DSLR since. Sometimes keeping up with camera technology feels like such a rat race! I'm hoping to purchase a full-frame sensor in the next couple of years.

I have a wealth of lenses. My most favorite and the one most often on my camera is a Canon 70-200 f/2.8L. It's a dream, especially for my bird photographs. On it I often keep a warming polarizer. I swear by Singh Ray's LB Warming Polarizer.

One of my least expensive lenses is also a favorite -- a Canon 50 f/1.8. I think I paid about $80; the new ones are around $90. It's my fastest lens; it's small and lightweight, and I just love the bokeh.* It's always in my camera bag.

(* Bokeh: from the Japanese, is a photographic term referring to the appearance of out-of-focus areas in an image produced by a camera lens. Different lens bokeh produces different aesthetic qualities in out-of-focus backgrounds, which are often used to reduce distractions and emphasize the primary subject. [from Tricia's Etsy shop as cited by wikipedia].)

I want to mention something about equipment: I do find nice equipment a joy to work with, but I think compelling imagery can be shot with less expensive equipment. Sometimes I'm just wowed by a magazine filled with photos from plastic cameras -- it reminds me the idea behind the photograph is the most important thing.

Thank you Tricia!

A world traveler and self-taught photographer, look for Ann wandering around city streets and tromping through woods and hiking trails with her camera. After owning an international transportation business for many years, Ann has found her creative spirit again through the lens. See more at Ann's shop and her website, and say hello to her on her blog too.


Anonymous said...

What an interesting interview - really enjoyed getting an insight into the photographer behind the images :)

UrbanJunkies/zuppaartista said...

wonderful interview as always ann!
tricia's work is beautiful and she is such an inspiration, thanks for sharing ladies! :)

readingsully2 said...

Beautiful work. Iloved all the shots.

Kelly said...

great interview!

Allie said...

What an informative interview - just filled with so much helpful information for those of us hoping to make our Art our "real" job. As a self-taught photographer, myself, this really spoke to me. I have bookmarked the blogs and this interview. Thank you so much, Tricia, for sharing your story. Thank you Ann for your excellent questions.

green is the new black said...

these are really lovely!

i love your borders, too.