The Challenge of Self-publicity

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It’s not easy, self-publicity.

On one view (the view of a certain generation older than mine but uncomfortably still too influential on some matters), self-publicity is just simple showing-off. Arrogantly believing yourself to be so interesting/newsworthy/important that the rest of the world just has to know all about you. This mindset (I’m sure) has stopped many a putative blogger in his or her tracks.

I grew up overwhelmed by these burdensome messages. I internalised them to such a degree I recall refusing to record on tape for a teacher a ‘perfect’ history essay I wrote. Someone else eagerly stepped in to tape for posterity my thoughts on Why the Versailles Treaty was an Unsatisfactory Basis for a Lasting Peace.

But in my early adult years, this conditioning didn’t seem to matter much. I qualified as a solicitor in the mid-80s in an era when marketing and advertising by law firms in the UK was actually prohibited. What better reinforcement of a childhood injunction could there be?

Times change though. I never managed to learn the difference between boasting and pleasant public enjoyment of valuable and meaningful achievement, and when even law firms finally accepted that marketing and advertising was a necessary and important part of doing business (even -sharp intake of breath- for professional services), I was left trailing behind and disconcerted and troubled by this brave new world of self-promotion and publicity.

Finally, I decided to make art my career. I was inspired by the purity and integrity of an art world where the work alone would speak for itself and I could hide in the shadow of my paintings, popping out occasionally to beam in delight when anyone made a nice comment about my work.

As if. The truth is, art without the artist isn’t worth a lot these days. Art without an audience may as well not be made. And in essence, the business of art is like any other business. Like it or not (and yes, of course there will be exceptions) you have to be known ‘out there’ to truly succeed. It’s rare these days that anyone sees success without some form of self-publicity, whether it’s simply networking the art world socially, or a more focussed campaign to become better known.

It’s taken a long time, but I have finally internalised this new truth. Blogging and tweeting was the start of the process, I suppose. And my participation in the Debut programme for emerging artists has positively reinforced my entire approach to telling people who I am and what I do. Quite honestly, it’s even become good fun. Amazing things start to happen when you emerge from self-imposed isolation, and I’m glad I didn’t leave it all too late to realise that without press-releases by others there wouldn’t be such amazing stuff out there to read about and to inspire you to get out and go and see.

All this is by way of introduction to an article in January’s Good Housekeeping and on their website. About me n’ the rest of ’em on a life-changing family holiday six years ago. An Italian editor/curator published my artist’s book on the journey, and I decided to issue a press release.

The story as published was more about the trip than my work, which was initially a little disconcerting, but it didn’t matter. What matters is that this article represents a real achievement for me! Publicity of this sort in a major-circulation magazine takes me out of my proverbial comfort-zone to an unimaginable degree. My words have been re-phrased, there’s a photo of me I would sooner not have seen in the absence of a more up to date publicity shot, but it doesn’t matter!

I’m out there in the real world. It’s a great feeling.

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