“Artwork is work”

This one’s for the artists. (In more ways than one.)

It’s also for the people who care about the artists.

As I was thinking about what I wanted to write, I had one of those weeks where the same thing kept coming up, over and over, in different contexts. And given that this is a topic that’s important to me, I’m happy to give in and just write about it.

If you’re an artist or if you care about an artist, the question probably comes up every once in a while: how can you support that artist? (Hopefully, if you’re an artist, people are asking you this question.) I’d love to get a conversation going in the comments, but here are some answers I’ve come up with as I’ve pondered this.

First, a note to the artists: When people ask you how they can support you, it’s good to have an answer. It’s even okay to have an answer. Like anyone who works hard, it’s okay to promote yourself and to try to move ahead with what you do. Now is not the time to have no answer or to feel like you aren’t allowed to be honest. (And I’m talking to myself here, too…)

Of course, as a musician, most my answers will obviously apply to that, but I’m pretty sure you’re clever enough to sort out things that apply to other arts as well.

How can you support the artists in your life? Well, here’s one of the random things that crossed my path this week:

Bumper sticker that says, "Artwork is work. Supporting the arts means paying the artists."
I think artplay is what we call hobbies…


I’m not going to dance around it, because one of my responses when I wasn’t being thoughtful about how someone could support me was, “Well, if you’ve got loads of money or music connections…Heh.” (I laughed when I said it, but definitely wasn’t joking about either.) And it’s just a fact. What we do costs money, so one of the ways you can support any artist in your life is with money. Here are a few things you can do in that regard:

Feeling flush? Most of us wouldn’t say no to a gift with the one criteria being we spend it on our art.

Alternately, if you’ve got gear or studio time or something else we might need and you’re willing to donate, that can also be helpful. (Want to support budding artists? Find a local program, like Rain City Rock Camp for Girls, and offer your gear, your skills, or your time.)

Other artists: We can talk about trade! I’m always looking for photos and flyer design (cos I’ve done all but one of the flyers on my own…). Let’s see if there are ways we can help each other out.

Taking my own picture
Because this kind of photo shoot lacks something…


Buy our stuff. Whether it’s our albums, our merchandise, or something else…Whatever we do, when you buy it, that both shows financial support and emotional (it says, “I like you and/or your art enough to buy stuff”). You can even throw in a little extra, tell us to keep the change, that sort of thing.

I once had an older friend tell me that what we were doing wasn’t really to her tastes, but she could tell we were talented. Is that how you feel? You can always give it as a gift to someone else. This also works if you do like our stuff. Heh.

Come to our shows. This is a nice little transition, because it both helps to get a little money into our pockets and helps others see that we have fans. Venues notice who brings in a crowd. Jason and I have one friend who is older (I’m guessing she’s at least in her late 60s), who doesn’t really enjoy loud music, but who shows up now and again to watch our first couple songs. Every time she shows up, I get a little grin.

So, the second broad group of suggestions has to do with boosting our signal and being counted as a fan. In addition to coming to our shows, you can:

Bring your friends to the shows with you. Give them a chance to discover us!

Other ways to help your friends discover us:

Tell your friends about us. (It can be as simple as, “Have you guys heard this band?” or you can mention us when your friends are looking for new music, as a couple examples.)

Play us when other people are around. The fact is, we are a lazy, lazy species. As easy as it is to click a link and listen to something online, sometimes that’s just too much effort. Take the link out of the equation!

Put our songs on a playlist or CD you make for a friend.

If you follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter, like and share our posts or tweets. That puts us in front of your friends and, with Facebook, increases the likelihood that we’ll be seen at all. (Curse you, Facebook algorithms!)

With that in mind, follow us on Facebook or Twitter and actually pay attention. (Studies show we are now wont to click that link that lets us follow/like a group and then never pay attention again. Yowch!)

Also in that vein, make sure you’re seeing our Facebook stuff. We posted a note about how to help us be visible in your feed in spite of the accursed algorithm.

Oh, and because I haven’t mentioned it in ages, making fan art is cool. Draw a picture, make a gif, paint a shirt, get a tattoo, make a video…As long as you remember to credit us so that the people who dig your art know who inspired you, we’ll be chuffed. We’ll make an album online to show you off even!

Wear the merch you bought from us. In public. Maybe even take pics of your pretty self sporting that stuff. It’s kind of the same as fan art…(And the more of you who are up for buying merch, the sooner we’ll have new stuff!)

Amber and a Varnish dog tag
Dog tags don’t care what your t-shirt size is…


Make your own or use free things we’ve made. Use our avatars, use our banners in your signature, make our quote your “what’s on your mind” for your IM or when Facebook asks about that. (We have a few variations on what’s there, so feel free to ask…Or make some changes to make the colours and/or quotes more to your liking.)

This next idea is thanks to a friend who did this for me on my birthday Wednesday: As his gift to me, he posted Varnish stuff on his Facebook. I’m going to try to remember to post things about friends’ books, art, or music on their birthdays. It made me smile and might even have gotten some new attention.

If you get pictures or videos of our shows, we’d love to have those to share and to add to our digital scrapbook. There are fans all over the place, and we can’t take pics of ourselves whilst on stage, so you help everyone feel a little more connected when you do that.

(Note: I hate to even have to say this, but I’ve watched this happen to others…If you make money off of your fan art or things I’ve mentioned in this post, you’ve likely violated copyright…If you make money off stuff to do with us and it’s just fan art–whole different story if we show up in your commercial without permission, for instance–let’s chat and work something out. Or make a fair donation to us. Something. Let’s all play fair 🙂 )

Amber with nerf gun and stuffed hunting companions
Don’t make us come for you. Adventure Penguin and Hedgehog will get you!


When we do social stuff outside shows, come hang out! Don’t assume we mean everyone else. When we post public invitations, we mean everyone. Show up. Bring a friend or come alone. Drop in just long enough to say hi or stay for some conversation. You might make a new friend, discover a new band, or at least have someone to nod at when you come to our shows.

Learn the lyrics and sing along (dancing would also be cool) at shows. As humans, we assume something is more valuable if we see others value it. Your singing and dancing helps this. It also makes me extra happy (someone just posted a note about my lyrics on a forum and I got a giddy grin). And, honestly, isn’t a show more fun when you find yourself dancing with a friend or singing the same line together? (At least that’s the case with me!)

When we say we want to make a community of fans and musicians and other artists, we’re serious! If you help build that, you are supporting us. All this stuff I’ve listed already is part of it. But you can also:

Be friendly to all our other fans.

Come out to shows for the other bands we dig.

Suggest other cool local bands to us.

And, once we hit the road, you can help us sort out good places to play and good bands to play with in your town. If you want, you can start pointing us at other bands in your area now. We know a few folks who live nowhere near here with whom we’d like to play someday.

If you’re an artist (musician or otherwise), we’d also love to see you out at social things. So far, we’ve done things where we hoped to have multiple groups represented, not just to promote Varnish.

Related, if you’ve got a site, link to the artists you dig! (I probably need to go check out our Links page…And, if you’re an artist, you probably ought to at least set yourself up with something simple others can link to…)

I’m hoping you’ll use the comments to talk about ways to apply this to or to support other kinds of artists, as well as to talk about this topic in general. I decided to put this in my blog instead of the Varnish blog so that I could feel okay about this being long (longer than planned…eep!) and because this is important to me with all my projects and all the ways I try to pursue art. Plus, I’ve got loads of talented friends, and I’m always thinking of ways to support them, whether or not I’ve got money.

Now, your turn! In addition to choosing one of the many suggestions in this post and applying it to one of the artists in your life, leave a comment!