Retrospective Art Show (with benefits) – by Mary Kay Colling


This site is about generating publicity systematically, the way I did it, with a principled, proven method that that people used up until the day the internet arrived. The slides just a tad down this page are a retrospective art show, the work that got the publicity.

A good rule of thumb is to do something different if you don't like the level of attention you're getting from your current approach. Do something different. Do something new. Do something first. Whatever you do, talk to one person at a time.


CAST PAPER RELIEF & PAPER SCULPTURE:  This is the work that launched ten-thousand words.

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HI-TECH POCHOIR: This work caused the asthma attack that ended my career in fine art and gallery business.

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Handmade Paper Relief

Techniques shown are pulp casting (pressing paper pulp into molds), paper sculpting (hand-shaping newly formed sheets) and what I call assemblage - layering uncured cast paper over new sheets and hand-shaping the whole thing over objects like dowels and smooth stones. Under lights, the interplay of  texture and shadows makes the relief imagery seem dynamic.

Hi-Tech Pochoir

My collection of huge paintings are digital key prints painted with acrylic and metallic gold accents on 24x39" Ogura, fibrous paper from Japan. In normal room lighting at night, they seem to glow from within. After the painting series was finished, the line art went into the Evedom® Collection for repurposing, where it is still in use.

Pochoir is a stencil printmaking technique. It was used in the early 1900's to create luxe color illustrations for rare edition books and elite fashion magazines, among other uses. Hand-coloring allows for elegantly nuanced images that are just about identical.

My digital art work is on my two other websites: and




This site is a retrospective art show with benefits.

The benefits are seeing the beautiful art (of course) and then reading old perspectives on getting publicity for it and on writing purposeful marketing communication. See if the proven method of the pre-internet world has implications for getting attention in the current online milieu.

Passion, Paper & Publicity is the working title of a research project about publicity that I ran concurrently with my gallery operation, the entire twelve years of it. Since the project was a single real case, the plan had been for a valid first-draft complete in three years.

I thought I could use it toward a dissertation and send a refined version off to a self-help marketing book publisher.

When I wrote the research plan (with WordPerfect on my very own personal computer), pop lit business books were all the rage, only geeks and nerds had computers at home, and the public internet was still a twinkle in the U.S. government's eye.

Three years after my gallery's purple door opened, Civilization had its catalclysmic technological shift and the revolution was on. My research design had timed-out.

I was in the revolution, well enough ahead of mass society's entry to have a credible website showing photos and scans of my art work and gallery ready for them. My site was a standout because it had formatting, graphics and a white background. The vast majority of websites were homepages, black type running border to border on the monitor, standard gray field, no graphics.

I had a new story line for my publicity,turning on the weirdness novelty of an artist with sophisticated computer skills; and a female, at that. I already had a successful publicity effort in play for the art and gallery. The effect of those two lines of publicity running at the same time was a genuine halo effect.

As a result, I opened an online publishing division to license the outline drawings I had made originally as key prints for my hi-tech pochoir. A clandestine operation that led to an extensive tech-centered business fell into my lap because I already had good business publicity in my market. By someone else's calculation, I was the best selling artist in the Rochester area.

Small business owners, who thought I was a legitmate source because of my two-pronged publicity, wanted websites of their own. They needed assurance that their designer wouldn't blab details of their marketing intelligence to their competitors. Or maybe I put the confidentiality clause into the contract and pointed out that other web designers used their clients' sites as billboards for themselves. I don't remember.

They were new to everything: computers, software, internet protocols. They had to be conversant in those before I showed them the DOM and rudimentary html mark-up. Surprisingly, they were new to writing marketing copy and press releases for themselves. The solution for that was already on my hard drive. I gave them excerpts from PP&P I gave them very attractive instructional materials, designed with InDesign and printed on paper.

When I had a private cataclysmic business event, an asthma attack caused by the acrylic paints and papers I used for wall art, the two unexpected businesses that grew from the tech line of publicity filled the void. I had to stop painting, and close my gallery for lack of inventory; but I still had something to sell and a market for it.

What I lost was the real-world hook for publicity. That was not a predicament I would have chosen to test.

Consequences are now. For all the time I was playing my tech operation through its shelf-life cycle, which turned out to be ten years rather than the three years I planned, I was chomping at the bit to get back to research. In the time away, social media arrived with the promise that it changed everything about marketing communication.

Fat chance, but I wanted to give it a whirl with digital illustrations for posters mainly, since Communication is my field, but also for all the other paper and rag surface design markets that my style can serve. Best guesses aren't evidence.

Believe it or not, the first thing to do for a new project is give it a uniquely kicky name that keeps it separate in your mind.

So, I've had my say in public, in a site that scrolls like an e-book. Original mission: accomplished, after all. I would like to say my work is done but I'm from Rochester, NY.

Mary Kay Colling, August 27, 2016




Publicity is your story told by other people.~MK

In the publicity discipline, the other people to tell your story are still journalists (analysts, informers), and influential figures (experts, critics, the mayor) who have your public's ear. Nobody else matters.

A press release is still the way to connect. The active purpose for a press release is to score an interview.

Work for publicity is a focused, strategic affair. Follow the dots.

  • • You have a purpose for wanting specific information, wrapped in credibility, to reach your market.
  • • Advertising is not the right approach for the issue.
  • • The appropriate journalist(s) is a credible source of information for the audience you want to inform.
  • • Each journalist knows how to whip your information into the story to interest her audience.
  • • New outlets and the journalists they employ have objectives, too. Knowing what they are is part of the craft.


My market was local. The appropriate journalists were easy to find. Changes in beats were easy to track. To get the same targeted information online, where there are thousands of bloggers and journalists , use a web analytics program.

Opinion leaders were people with opinions that news media called for quotes. I skipped them. I also skipped TV journalists because they train the cameras on people in motion. Their lights wouldn't flatter my work, anyway.

Give them something to talk about.

The climate for getting ample good coverage from the print press could not have been better.

  • • Local journalists and their editors had generous policies about covering visual arts.
  • • They had color ink in their presses.
  • • A new trend for starting businesses gave them an audience who were interested in stories about doing that.
  • • A trend for building new houses with huge rooms and towering ceilings gave them an audience who were interested in decorating ideas.
  • • They had a traditional audience of readers who wanted to know what was new and different on the art scene.


I had available for discussion:*

  • • Art that was unsual, also beautiful, vibrant, photogenic, and huge. When their technology caught up with mine, I gave them hi-res digital graphics to print.
  • • Processes that were unsual, interesting, fun and accessible.
  • • Successful experience starting a sole proprietor business, both in the home and in a commercial location.
  • • Enthusiasm for discussing all of those subjects at any time.

*Demand for information about computers and internet technology had not emerged yet when I wrote this.




What's Yours?

This section is updated to address current state of affairs online.

"Ya gotta tell a story" is the internet's latest answer to the publcity issue. Empty advice, like predecessor "brand, brand, brand," that means the same thing, is impossible to apply. What does it mean and where are the directions?

This is the skeleton of an obituary story, not a business story that has to attract attention and inspire excitement.

  • [third person]
  • is known,
  • award-winning
  • has art in [private, public or both] collections,
  • and has been making art since childhood.
  • [Third person, last name only]
  • earned [a list of real and faux accolades] for her work.
  • She studied under [some artist],
  • got a degree from [some school]
  • and works in [some medium, or a whole slew of them.]
  • She lives [somewhere]
  • with [other persons] and [pet(s)]
  • and enjoys [doing something].
  • Sometimes [artist statement] provides a new paragraph in the copy and cause for head-smacking in the audience.

(Toward the bottom, you find out that she's a living person, indistinguisable from millions of other living people.)

Who cares?

What's the Alternative?

A business story is an unambiguous news story with a business purpose. Its first paragraph is a statement of purpose, tells what you offer, to whom, and what you want the target audience to do (the reason for telling them in the first place). People have to know that before they can decide to be your market.

You have to know it. Your statement of purpose is the crux of your business plan and the central driving force for all of your direct and indirect business activities.

In business, you have to focus on your own business objectives and ignore the objectives of other people, who will never be your customers, anyway. Customers expect to pay for your work.

versioning Your Story

Your private version is the chronicle of all your business activities, all your motives, all facets of your personal history that apply in any way to your business content and procedures. Its first purpose is to give you a "concrete" basis for analysis and evaluation.

Next purpose in line is to give you chunks of information to arrange in new ways each time you tell your public story. Pull together the parts that support the point you want to make or the tie-in you want to create. See an example. Hit home or backspace to return here.

Your story is a chapter story. You have more than one vantage point. My chapters are scholar, artist, business owner, geek. It's the same story, told from different points of view. Here is my geek story, updated and sanitized. Geek story example.

Slants, Hooks & Schedules

When you send a press release, you have an objective for it. You may even have a submissions calendar. Journalists have editorial calendars and series of articles in play, too. Chances of "hooking" them are greater if your copy (story) is from a perspective (slant) that is exquisitely relevant to their needs and interests at the time they receive it.

The value of having your story told by journalists is that it will be written well(!) and the audience will trust the information more than they might if it came straight from you. (Straight from you is advertising, even if you don't ask for a sale directly.)





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