Friday, February 26, 2010

Reinventing Yourself as an Artist

If you know me, then you know I've re-created myself many times over as an artist. Originally, I was a cartoonist where I grew up in my father's art studio as a kid. Some parents keep their house well stocked with whole milk and good food, my father always made sure I had a fresh sketch book , plenty of art supplies and an eccentric posse of artists to inspire me.

As a kid I would have "art-sleep-overs" with my guy friends. We would check out football books from the library on a Friday and spend all weekend copying the pictures into our sketch books. When I hit middle school I started playing the keyboards in a country band with a bunch of adults across town. I answered in ad in the newspaper and my parents would drive me to band practice each week. In high school, I fell in love with The Police and was in various alternative rock bands through college.

During my junior year at Radford University,  I fell in love with jazz and I discovered fiction writing. I started working as a freelance writer - or at least I tried to, while bringing home the bacon with various day jobs and touring with a jazz fusion band.

After college, I went to grad school to study creative writing and started a career as a full blown traditional jazz pianist. That lasted until I hit the age of 30 and then I gave it all up and went back to my roots. I started making my living as a visual artist in Portland, Oregon, selling my cartoon-like oil-pastel prints at the Portland Saturday Market. This led me back to the east coast where I rented a 1,200 sq ft studio in Easthampton, Ma and started painting on canvas - Large chakra paintings with water based oil paints - some as big as 8ftx8ft.

After a few years, I went back to the stage as a solo-performer which led me into my current work as a professional storyteller.

Hearing Raghava give his talk in the video below was very helpful especially since he and I seem to get a lot out of working with kids. Through the years my kid workshops like Raghava's, have always  comprised a large portion of my work. The world likes to dismiss people like us as "Renaissance Men." But, I don't think this term quite fits. 

Originally from TED TV: Raghava KK: Five lives of an artist.

For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are You Responsible for Your Friends Behavior?

About 4 years ago a friend of mine, I’ll call him Henry, e-mailed a bunch of his contacts. He said he had just finished reading a book called Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time  by Keith Ferrazzi and he suggested that anyone that took him out to lunch could have a copy of the book for free. I thought it was a pretty incredible and unusual offer and I came home from that lunch with a great book.

The gist of the book was about sharing your network freely and openly and after reading it, it sent my own connection gears into overdrive. Most of my friends have, at one time or another, gotten an e-mail from me where the subject bar reads SUBJECT: FRIENDLY INTRODUCTION. In the e-mail, I introduce two people to one another and explain why I think they should know one another. I’ve done this thousands of times through the years.

Right after I read that book, I connected Henry with an artist friend of mine. The artist stood Henry up twice and Henry was pretty pissed at me. I didn’t see the connection. Once I made the introduction, wasn’t the connection out of my hands at that point? It wasn’t like I was introducing a guy to a potential girlfriend where my vouching for the person might endanger her safety. (If you're interested in this topic in particular check out Andrea V Lewis' blog) This was simply business right? Wrong. According to Henry, the actions of the flakey artist directly reflected on me.

After that experience, I became a bit more cautious in how I handled my network switchboard. Though my new approach went against Keith Ferrazzi’s philosophy, my new path was eye opening. By pre-qualifying connections I was actually ensuring the strength of a connection.

What I found was this. Most artist’s are flakes when it comes to time, organization and business skills. (Sorry artists, it’s true) If I connect an artist who doesn’t show up on time with an important business connection, then I’ve wasted my time and my business connection’s time.

But there's more to the story than meets the eye.

Flash forward 4 years.

Henry asked me to team teach a workshop for his organization on a topic that I am extremely passionate about. He had another friend whom he thought would be a great co-teacher. Guess what happened? This great co-teacher scheduled a time to meet with us to discuss the proposed curriculum and he left us waiting in a café. He no-showed - twice. The co-teacher had great excuses, but Henry was understandably upset and apologized though I saw no need to. I simply do not think that a business connection reflects back on the connector.

This is what I have found in terms of those who "no-show" to meetings.

If our mission is not aligned with a proposed topic, then something interesting happens. We will unconsciously create a series of distractions that will prevent us from making the meeting.

For instance, if you asked me to give a talk about men’s gymnastics (I competed in the sport from middle school through college) I would probably say “Yes” and then when the time came to speak, I would either forget to show up, get delayed at the bank which would make me late, or something else would come up, etc. I simply am not passionate about the topic, even though you might think I’m qualified to speak on it. My mission does not include gymnastics anymore. If you asked me to speak on the topic when I was in college, when it was part of my mission, I would have probably driven across the state to speak for free.

The same goes for Henry. He was in a fraternity in college, but I doubt he would want to give a talk on the topic since the core of his mission now is on social issues. If he didn’t say no right away, he would create circumstances that would prevent him from following through.

And so although Henry thought this co-teacher would make a great addition to a this seminar, this co-teacher should have said no. When things like this happen now, I simply see through it for what it is. It’s not a priority for the co-teacher because it’s not a part of his current mission. It's not good or bad, just a reflection at something deeper.

I think when we see through the noise to what is really going on, it helps us see our own role in how things play out in our lives.

What are your thoughts on this? Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear what you think.

For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

10 Ways to Love Twitter Better

As many of you know, Twitter and I broke up a few weeks ago. If you read my break up letter then you know that things weren’t going well between us. I know this may sound weird, but we are living together again and thanks to some good counseling sessions with @Joannefunch and @iknowtiffany , and @Mox_eMediaGirl , I really think we might be able to make our relationship work.

As you might know, I was introduced to Twitter about a year ago and we maintained a cordial relationship during that time. I didn’t really understand her very well nor she me, and I didn’t share that much of myself with her. To be honest, I was still in a relationship with Facebook and a lot of my energy was still going toward that relationship. Even though things with Facebook had started to take a turn for the worse, I guess I was still holding out that things would eventually get better.

I guess it has a lot to do with my Sicilian blood. I sometimes like to throw the baby out with the bath water. Often, my lack of patience gets the best of me.

You see, my first step in changing things with Twitter was downloading THE TWEETDECK. I say it like Donald Trump refers to himself as THE DONALD. With THE TWEETDECK I felt like I had gone from an “elementary school puppy love lets hold hands during film strips kind of guy" to a full blown “going together junior high school romance kind of guy"

If you are newbie to Twitter then you may find yourself in the same frustrating relationship I found myself in. I can honestly say though, now, 1 month after downloading THE TWEETDECK I'm already looking on-line for engagement rings. Let me explain.

1)      Understand Twitter Baggage
When you sign up for Twitter it gives you the ability to open the front door to the on-line world and scream your bloody lungs out. It’s the equivalent of me going into K-Mart and yelling, “Hey everybody. My name is Slash Coleman. I’m a storyteller. I have a PBS special called The Neon Man and Me. Does anyone want to help me?” For a moment, K-Mart gets quiet and then everyone returns to what they were doing. I am now utterly alone and feel stupid. My scream is soon forgotten.

But you not only have the ability to scream, you also have the ability to be on the other side of those screams. If you sign into Twitter, you basically get to see a bunch of other people screaming their bloody lungs out too. Once you choose to follow someone, you now get to eavesdrop on every scream they make. The more people you follow, the more screams you’ll hear. I’m following 726 people on Twitter. That’s a lot of noisy people!

2)      Learn to use “I” statements:
When you download THE TWEETDECK (free) it gives you the ability to have individual conversations with specific people inside the K-Mart. And you and everyone else inside the K-Mart will now be wearing name tags. This is so you will know who you are talking too.

Each name tag in Twitter has the @ symbol in front of it. My name tag on Twitter is @slashcoleman. Remember my friend Tiffany Glass Ferreira, founder of the Real Small Art League, who I wrote about a few weeks ago? Her name tag is @iknowtiffany.

Whenever I want her to see something that I’m screaming, I’ll make sure to put @iknowtiffany in my message. Cool huh?

3) Wait 30 minutes before you go into the pool after eating

THE TWEETDECK  will give you the ability to divide all the screams up two ways. 1)By a persons name tag and 2) By topics that might interest you. You can divide THE TWEETDECK into columns and follow these two types of screams.

As I said before, name tags have a @ in front of them. Topics have a # symbol in front of them. The # symbol is also called a hash tag. For instance if I want to mention something going on in Richmond, VA when I tweet it, It’s better to type, “I love the #rva #snow and drinking warm coffee with @iknowtiffany” rather than “I love that it’s snowing in Richmond and am drinking a cup of joe with Tiffany.”

One is a scream. The other is a part of a global conversation.

I have one column that follows #rva topics (Richmond topics) and in my Tweetdeck I put people I follow in Richmond into that column. Now, whenever anyone uses the topic #rva I can see those specific conversations.

4) Look in the mirror and say, “I love you.”
Rather than screaming downstairs, “Hey baby doll, is dinner ready?” You can now walk down the stairs and go up to your lover and whisper in her ear, “I can’t wait to eat dinner with you. I luuuuuv you. Is it ready?”

In one of my Tweetdeck columns I’ve set it up so if anyone mentions me (@slashcoleman), I can now see it immediately.  That’s pretty dang cool! When I set Tweetdeck up, I was surprised to find, within minutes, mentions of me that dated back almost a year.

5) Take it to the next level.
I’m not one of those Tweeters that has a fancy phone to send tweets out all day. Plus, it's not my style. Hoot Suite allows me to sit down in the morning and create all the tweets I want and schedule them to be sent throughout the day. Since I’m sending tweets out to every PBS station for my campaign, this application is the bomb! Plus, Hoot Suite, like Tweetdeck, allows me to break up all the screaming into columns to follow certain people or conversations. In less than a month, I’ve gone from a bonified Cro-Magnon man to a civilized bird. Tweet! Tweet!

6) Go on a Twitter Cruise
Still want to go to the next level? At, you can type in a hashtag (a topic) and you’ll find out who’s using it on Twitter. Better yet, it even breaks usage up by date, hour and number of times it's been used with a really cool graph.

7) Visit the Swiss Alps and Marvel at their Beauty
At, you can type in a name or a hashtag and all the tweets using that name or hashtag will be displayed in a stunning, incredible and quite trippy way. Put some good music on your I-Pod, type in some hashtags and be prepared to be wowed. For those who are looking for an artistic way to find out what to follow on Twitter - this is it.

8) Be Up Front About Your Intentions
Adam Ant sang a song in the 80’s about this topic or maybe he had an album under the same name. Anyway, will allow you to type in your Twitter name and it will tell you which followers aren’t following you back. Is it important? Sometimes it is. It looks bad if you’re following 1,000 people and only 13 are following you back. If you’re using Twitter to develop relationships most of the people you follow will want to follow you back. The best advice I was given in terms of this was from Jonah Carla Holland. She said, "You need to look at why you are following someone and see if their mission aligns with yours and reevaluate if you still want to follow them, even if they aren't following you." After that, I went through my list and un-followed a lot of people that weren't aligned with my mission. She was right. Once I did that, I found I was able to get more focused on why I was using Twitter.

9)Remember Our Anniversary
There’s a trend or a holiday on Twitter that happens every Friday called #followfriday or #ff. When you want to thank someone for helping you out or want all your peeps to follow one of your own followers, you can make a list like "@iknowtiffany@Mox_eMediaGirl #followfriday" and send it out into Tweetland. This results in friends of friends finding out who your friends are. They in turn sometimes follow your friends and you've just made the world a better place. A website that has taken the Follow Friday concept to the next level is It’s kind of like a chain letter for Twitter. If you actually want more followers and you don’t care who they are, then this is a good way to get them.However, there's something to be said about too many on-line friends.

10) Be Etiquette!
What does this mean exactly? If you follow the rules of social engagement in your everyday off-line life, chances are you’ll want to follow them in your on-line life too. As Kimberly mentions in her blog post (see above) it's good to know your neighbors. How? Use the following steps in this order to develop stronger Twitter relationships.

a. After a day or two of following someone, send them a direct message that shows them you’ve been following them, visited their website or at least read their Twitter bio. When I found out that @GingerTice loved making artwork I wrote," I'm looking forward to checking out some of your artistically inspired tweets."

b. If developing a relationship with followers is important, then re-tweet some of their tweets, which means you copy and paste a previous tweet of theirs into your tweet bar and send it off into tweetland with a RT before it.

c. Find ways to begin to ask your followers questions or include them in your own conversations. This is an example of something that doesn’t work. A performer was trying to get on the Ellen show and wrote, “Hey @theellenshow I know a great performer you should check out!” This is just a scream.

And speaking of screams, my Jewish grandmother Hilda, when I would say something weird and funny to her would say (with her Yiddish accent) "Oh Slashtipher, Yewr such a scream!"

For more info about "The Neon Man and Me" and other storytelling projects by me - Slash Coleman - please visit