Tina Garrett’s career as a fine-art painter soared as she won national and international competitions, and one of her mentors was armed not with a brush, but with salt and pepper shakers.
Garrett is a client of Robin Blakely, who helped the artist focus on her goals and finding her audience.
Both women practice their crafts from their Lee’s Summit homes: Garrett painting evocative portraits that are gaining attention from collectors, and Blakely running her Creative Center of America, conducting business online from her home offices.
Blakely helps her clients corral their skills and find approaches to balance and organize their lives to run successful businesses.
Blakely recently entered a national contest run by Linked In, the Internet jobs and careers site, which ran the promotion for ProFinder, one of its services for connecting freelance professionals. The contestants were asked to write the stories of their businesses, with the winners to be published on the website. Blakely won first place and $5,000.
In her words from her essay: “Every day I teach creative people how to catch lightning from their corner of the sky with a long pole. Then I help these people — mostly writers, artists, and others with talent — place their wild energy into glass jars. Then, when we get enough jars pulled together, I help pack a wheel barrow so that the jars full of lightning can be taken to market and sold to people around the world who need and love the bright light that is magically contained inside.”
One of her techniques is “Six Hats,” using salt and pepper shakers to represent six hats an artist must wear to conduct their business successfully, starting with Creative, but including the practical like Bookkeeper. The visual aids help clients to focus and remember, Blakely said. “Internally, they (the six hats) bicker with each other,” Blakely said. “I train them to understand their needs and the different roles they’ll play.”
Garrett said Blakely helped her a great deal and often refers her to other artists.
“She peppered me with questions. What she does is ask you questions that get you the answers to what you want to do,” Garrett said.
Garrett creates portraits that capture the mood and beauty of her subjects.
Several years ago, as she began the transition from a freelance illustrator to fine art painter, she relied on Blakely for encouragement and ideas for the career shift. She knew how to bill clients, but she needed an approach to find the market for her new paintings.
“What’s the point, if you’re in the basement with your paintings and no one knows you’re there?” Garrett said. “She really helps people who want to do art for a living.”
Blakely recently entered a national contest run by Linked In, which ran the promotion for ProFinder, one of its services for connecting freelance professionals. The contestants were asked to write the stories of their businesses, with the winners to be published on the website and get cash prizes. Blakely won first place and $5,000.
Blakely began as a journalist in California, covering crimes and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, but has moved to Lee’s Summit to be closer to family. She started a marketing firm and after a divorce, rebranded that business four years ago to its current form.
Her growing client list of more than 20 includes visual artists like Garrett, authors, and performers like Jim Cosgrove, Mr. Stinky Feet. She’s helping him broaden his audience beyond a children’s act to public speaking for adults.
Blakely likes to use a lot of visual aids and mnemonics, like salt shakers or a doll-house scale castle with rooms that represent different tasks.
Her offices, converted from the garage and other basement rooms, is full of props and mockups, cameras and lighting for putting together promotional materials, or creating storyboards to help her clients make their plans.
Sometimes she’ll tell a client their best move is to just outsource some of the work, like hiring a good accountant or an assistant. She communicates with clients weekly, using Internet, to help them stay on track. She employs interns and one assistant herself to keep the Creative Center of America humming.
She’s written several business books including “PR Therapy,” and “Crossing the Troll Bridge: A Marketing Guide for Artists and Writers.
Blakely’s goal is to help her clients to solve problems and create strategies for future endeavors.
She’ll also help clients think through who they think their audience will be for their particular works and the best ways to reach them, such as choosing the right social media: Facebook for baby boomers and Snapchat or Instagram for younger people.
“In my world, a lot of people don’t think marketing is fun, and I do,” Blakely said.
She consults for non-profits, such as the American Society of Baking, and one recent project she’s proud of is working with the Mid-Continent Public Library’s Story Center on a book it’s published: “The First Beverly Hillbilly.” It’s a biography of Paul Henning, written by his wife Ruth Henning.
Paul Henning, who was from Independence, became a writer for television series and went on to be the creator of the famous television show that was broadcast from 1962 to 1971.
Another client is Rebecca Forster, a USA Today bestselling author, who is known for her Josie Bates thriller novels.
Tim Raglin, an illustrator and author of children’s books, also is advised by Blakely.
Blakely said sometimes her role is to help an author who’s had a successful book that’s gone out of print, rebrand that work and push it to new markets.
In a different vein is writer Alexander Avila, a psychologist know for a bestselling book “Love Types.” She has a new book “Guy Types” aimed at helping women understand, well, men.
Her services include online courses for talent-driven brands, she said. She also works with not-for-profits and other businesses.
Blakely said she was using the salt and pepper shakers for years, before sharing them to clients. Even though they were represented powerful concepts, she thought they’d seem silly.
Blakely said “It is an honor to have my business story selected as the first-place winner by one of the most important social media platforms on the globe.”