“Marketing is a sound. Those who hear the sound you make and resonate with it will follow.”Bill Sanders, project management and process consultant at Roebling Strauss
Clients don’t grow on trees. We all know that.
We can’t expect them to find us if they don’t know we exist. In order for them to discover our needle in the online haystack, we have to make noise. Lots of noise. But what kind?
Some say the answer lies in Massive Marketing.
The truth is, most voice talents are pretty good at doing someone else’s marketing. That’s what they get paid for. But when it comes to tooting their own horn, a lot of them are as clueless as a hamster in outer space.
If marketing is not your forte, you’re not alone.
Recently, the online magazine VoiceOverXtra polled its readers and asked the following question:
Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.
Good old Double Dutch had to make way for the new Nethervoice. It might take some time to get used to, but believe me: it was inevitable. Let me tell you why.
If you have your own domain, do you know how many visitors come to your website in a day or a week; how they found your site; what they were looking at during their visit and for how long they stayed before going somewhere else?
If you don’t, you are in trouble. It’s like owning a store and having no idea how many customers come in and what they’re interested in. You cannot manage what you don’t measure.
As I was going over the Google Analytics stats for nethervoice.com, I had an epiphany. It turned out that in the last six months over 50% of my visitors had used a mobile device to access my website.
With millions and millions of tablets and smart phones sold, that was not exactly a revelation. My epiphany came when I realized that my site was never designed with mobile devices in mind.
DRIVING BUSINESS AWAY
Nethervoice.com looked okay on a 20″ monitor, but on an iPhone it was dreadful. Important information was cut off, buttons had disappeared and it was very user-unfriendly. No wonder my bounce rate was way too high.
Unknowingly and unintentionally, I was driving most of my visitors (= potential clients) away!
Now, do you know what your site looks like on an iPad or an Android?
Would you like to know?
Why don’t you visit this site right now and type your url into the test field. You can select “width only” or “device sizes” to find out what others see when they look at your website using a mobile device. If you’re on a desktop, make sure you enlarge the screen all the way to the right to reveal the iPad Landscape setting.
In my case the conclusion was crystal-clear: I would have to build a new site from the ground up. These were my criteria:
It had to be mobile responsive to allow my site to automatically change layouts according to the visitor’s screen size, whether on a desktop, smartphone or tablet
My content management system (CMS) of choice would be WordPress. Because my old Double Dutch blog was WordPress-based, I already knew how easy it was to create pages with little or no knowledge of html code. If you’ve never worked with WordPress, here’s what you should know.
The look and functionality of a WordPress site is determined by a template called a theme. Right now there are thousands of themes available, but not all of them are mobile responsive. Most themes can be customized to your suit your needs and reflect your style.
Some templates are specifically designed for bloggers, photographers, restaurants, bands et cetera. Many themes are free, but premium themes cost anywhere between $35 and $100.
The theme you’re looking at right now is called ProMotion. Try changing the screen size manually and see what happens. You’ll notice that the layout changes but that the content remains visible.
EASY DOES IT
The functionality of a theme can be enhanced by plugins and widgets. For instance, the Subscribe box in the upper right-hand corner of this blog and the list of Popular Posts are both plugins. Once installed, they can simply be dragged and dropped to the sidebar as a widget. No programming experience necessary. Because this is open source software, you can choose from a database of more than 18,000 plugins!
The WordPress platform itself, as well as the themes and plugins, are regularly updated. When an update becomes available, it can usually be installed by clicking a button. It’s that easy. If you’ve ever worked with a more traditional CMS, this is like going from a stick shift to an automatic. And since I’m not a computer geek, I prefer automatic.
ENTER THE EXPERT
I do know my limitations, and to make sure the transition would be smooth, I asked Joe Davis to give me a hand. Joe knows WordPress inside out, and he recently helped Dan Lenard, the Home Studio Master, with his new site. It was particularly important to me that my entire archive of blog posts would migrate seamlessly.
Before my new site went “live,” Joe uploaded the theme to his server and put the main building blocks in place. That way I could see what the site would look like as we worked on the individual pages. It’s almost like writing a book: you go through several drafts before coming out with a finished product.
I asked Joe about the biggest hurdle he had to overcome in this migration project. This is what he said:
When working with someone like you Paul, who has such a good understanding of what a website can do and brings out that functionality with plugins, it can be a challenge to make sure they all play nice with each other. The more plugins you have, the greater the risk of a conflict between some of them.
You work a lot with the WordPress content management system. What are the advantages of WordPress as opposed to the more traditional CMS systems?
This may come as a surprise to some of your readers but although WordPress started out as a blogging system, it has turned into the world’s most popular CMS. WordPress is a very fast, easy to use, robust framework to build a site in. With the enormous list of plugins available you can add almost any functionality you are looking for. The way themes are handled by WordPress also provides lots of flexibility for the creative folks among us.
With WordPress, web design seems to have become a lot simpler. But not everything is as easy as it seems. What are some of the things you recommend people get help with?
It depends on what the goal of the website is, but generally I would say the areas that people need the most help with are theme/layout design if they are creating a new design and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). On site SEO can be the difference between a great website that nobody sees and a great website that needs a new welcome mat because so many people have stopped by.
What basic mistakes do you see when you visit websites?
Everyone wants their website to be attractive but it is also important to remember why people are on your site. They are looking for something and that should be as painless an experience as possible. Many times I see websites that have huge beautiful headers with lots of pretty graphics. The problem is users have to scroll in order to see the content and must do so on every page. To add that extra step in order to get to the meat and potatoes, on a platform like the Internet where people decide if they are going to stay or leave within seconds, is not a gamble I’m willing to take. Other common mistakes include poor usability, content disorganization and lack of SEO.
Your main job has to do with SEO. Any tips for the uninitiated to improve their SEO?
There is so much you can do, but you will be ahead of most if you remember these life basics that apply just as much online.
If you are interesting, people will come talk to you! Content, content, content! If you don’t have good content, the search engines won’t give you much attention and humans won’t either.
Speak their language! What does someone do with a magazine they pick up that is in another language? Usually nothing because they can’t understand it (or maybe just look at the pretty pictures) but either way the text is lost. Often people will put important keywords that they want to rank well for… in an image. This is a big mistake. Be very careful what you put in graphics. Search engines can’t read anything that’s in an image and will ignore it.
You are associated with who you pal around with! Relevant inbound links arecritical. Regarding linking up: Pretend you are looking for a date. Makesure that person is from nice folks with similar interests. If you are avoice actor don’t have your buddy with the real estate company link to youunless the page he links from has content directly related to your field. Alink from an audio production house will have a much better result.
Where can people best reach you?
Well, let’s practice a little SEO here. Please visit us for more information about Voice Over Websites and Marketing. See what we did there? We created a relevant inbound link with relevant anchor text to a special page I created solely devoted to voice over that opens in a new window. And you linked to a relevant page which is good for your site. Everyone wins!
Meanwhile, why don’t you do some site-seeing and let me know what you think of the New Nethervoice. Your feedback is much anticipated and appreciated!
So, you have this amazing idea for a new service, a movie, a video game or a CD. Your plans are in place. Your team is ready. What’s the one thing you need to make it happen?
One way to get your hands on a chunk of startup cash is to pitch your idea to investors. A few years ago, Priscilla Groves and James Kennedy did just that. They went on the TV show Dragon’s Den, to raise cash for their budding business called “Piehole,” an online voice casting service.
Did they get the money they asked for? Find out for yourself:
Audio book publisher Karen Wolfer had a different idea. She used crowdfunding to pay for the spoken version of “Safe Harbor,” by Radclyffe. You can find her project on Kickstarter.com.
Since launching in April 2009, Kickstarter has successfully funded more than 20 thousand projects backed by 1.8 million people who raised over 200 million dollars.
The idea is simple. Once your project is approved, you post it on the site and you list how much you’d like to raise within a certain time frame. Visitors to the site can pledge a dollar amount and in return they receive a reward.
If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers’ credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged.
Winning projects don’t get to keep all the money raised. 3-5% goes to Amazon Payments for processing the donations and 5% goes to Kickstarter.
Video game developer Double Fine Productions surprised everybody in 2012. They were shooting for a 400 thousand dollar investment. Within 24 hours they had received over 1 million. An hour before it closed, the project had reached the 3 million dollar level.
Entrepreneur Eric Migicovsky outdid them. He created Pebble, a futuristic watch that syncs with Android or iPhone apps. Migicovsky raised over 10 million dollars!
Compared to them, Karen Wolfer was asking for a modest $4,700. Why did she decide to raise funds using Kickstarter? Karen Wolfer:
“With Kickstarter, the money is collected before the recording project is started. Fees can be paid for narrators, sound engineers and materials up front. And by involving fans of the story or of the narrator, it becomes a form of pre-advertising for the finished book. Social media is utilized in a big way, so buzz is created from the first stage of an audio book’s life.”
You need a minimum $4,700 for this project to get the green light. Is this your entire production budget, and if not, what does it cover?
“Yes, this is my entire production budget. It will cover travel expenses for the actresses (Diane Gaidry) we signed to do the book, her fees, the sound engineer fees, and a new pre-amp we need.”
How do you reach potential backers?
“Social media: Facebook, Twitter, emails. Lots of them!”
Your company, Dog Ear Audio specializes in lesbian literature. What has been the response, so far?
“Pretty darn good! There is a passionate fan base for these stories, and Dog Ear Audio is the only audio publisher serving this niche market. The biggest surprise so far is the dollar amounts being pledged. We’ve had more pledges over the $100 amount, than we’ve had of the expected $5 and $10 amounts. The biggest pledge was a whopping $500 from folks in the Australian Outback! That floored me. But it also showed me there is a hunger for these books.
All the money is coming from fans of the author our narrator, and of course, we also have fans of Dog Ear Audio’s other titles. They have been very loyal customers. We’ve had pledges from the aforementioned Outback of Australia, the UK, and all over the US. I wrote to my brother about donating, but have not heard back from him. If he doesn’t help, boy, is he in trouble.” 😉
What will happen if you don’t reach your goal on June 1st. Will “Safe Harbor” still be recorded?
“Lol…I won’t let that happen now that we are so close. There are still lots of people to meet and share our project with. It’s all a matter of finding those ‘friends’ and groups that this story would appeal to. It is very much like any sales campaign, only the sales work is done first. You get paid first, and then you create the product.
The great thing is, there are still sales to be made after the book is published through the normal sales pathways. But to further answer your question, yes, I would still record “Safe Harbor” because I believe in this project so much, and I know the fan base is there.”
Based on your experience with Kickstarter, will you be using it again?
“Absolutely. The site is so beautifully organized. It is easy to create your project, all the answers are there to help you with the process, and I love the energy the creators of Kickstarter put into all their communications. Someone has put a lot of thought into the entire process.
A huge side benefit to launching a project this way, is that you can measure the likely success rate of your book, or any project, before you invest considerable time and money into that work. I have seen some projects receive no money, so maybe that idea needs to be revamped or even abandoned. But the person now knows that there may not be a market for that idea without having invested a lot of their own money.
Or, it may be that person needs to hone up on their social media skills. That can make or break a project, too. And as you see with Kickstarter, if a project does not receive full funding, no money is collected from donors. It is safe for anyone pledging.
I understand that it helps if a person donates to other projects before they launch their own. It is a form of ‘payback karma’; you help me, I help you, not only in donations, but in advertising of a project. I have ‘liked’ other projects that are similar to mine, and they have done the same to me, so the social networking is wonderful. Sooooo, if anyone needs a place to start, I would greatly appreciate any help from this voice-over community toward our goal.
One last detail. We are donating a percentage of any monies collected to the Safe Harbor Prison Dog rescue in Lansing KS. There are more details on this on our Kickstarter page. Again, it is in the spirit of paying it forward, and sharing the abundance that is out there.”
RISKS & RETURNS
Karen reached her goal three weeks before the deadline plus and extra $1,000. It doesn’t always work out that way. In 2011, 46% of the projects posted on Kickstarter were successful. In 2010 the success rate was 43%.
Let’s assume a project reaches its minimum limit. Who will hold the fundraiser accountable to live up to his or her promises? Kickstarter writes:
“It is the responsibility of the project creator to fulfill the promises of their project. Kickstarter reviews projects to ensure they do not violate the Project Guidelines, however Kickstarter does not investigate a creator’s ability to complete their project. (…) At the end of the day, use your internet street smarts.“
Pledges to Kickstarter projects are generally not tax-deductible and if you live outside of the United States, the site will tell you that you might “experience a problem trying to pledge.”
Then there’s the fact that the success of a Kickstarter campaign heavily depends on word of mouth. It’s the number of backers that determines what gets funded and not necessarily the quality of what’s being offered. It’s a popularity contest.
If we would leave it to public opinion, the paintings of Thomas Kinkade would now be in the Museum of Modern Art. Indie artists looking for funding might think twice about seeking support for their work on Kickstarter.
Last but not least, funding Kickstarter projects is not an investment. You might get a T-shirt out of it, or some public recognition from an author, but that’s it.
What if Eric Migicovsky’s Pebble watch becomes a huge hit? We know that Kickstarter and Amazon together take about ten percent of his 10 million dollars raised.
If you have pledged $99, all you get is a watch. Okay, it’s a very cool watch, but still…
His name is Jake Foushee and he’s an online voice-over sensation. Over one million people have watched his movie trailer man impersonation on YouTube.
If you haven’t seen the video, you might wonder: What’s the big deal?
Well, even though he sounds like he’s in his fifties, Mr. Foushee was actually fourteen years old at the time he shot the video. It’s creepy. Fortunately for Jake, we like creepy. Regular Joes rarely make the headlines, but we all love the bizarre and the eccentric, don’t we?
Next to the bearded lady we now have a 14-year old who sounds a bit like Don LaFontaine. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Ellen DeGeneres had him on her show and like a docile puppy,
Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.
SaVoA, the Society of Accredited Voice Over Artists has imploded.
Six members of the executive board resigned in April of 2012, citing irreconcilable differences between them and SaVoA’s founding father.
On hearing the news, I was stirred but certainly not shaken. To me, the real news was how the worldwide voice-over community responded. The overall reaction can be summarized in two words:
Of course a few inner circle members -sorry, make that “certificate holders”– reacted as expected by telling their version of the break-up. And yet again, thousands of voice actors answered silently in unison and said:
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
You see, in the five years of its existence, SaVoA managed to attract and accredit a whopping 170 people, and it never became the organization it set out to be. Instead, it was regarded by some as an old-boys network.
The idea was to bring together a group of voice artists who had proven to their peers that they could provide “vocally and technically proficient, broadcast-quality voice over services” and who would “conduct business in such a way that it enhances the profession as a whole.”
Apart from a few discounts on trainings and gear, accredited members received a SaVoA certificate and a seal that could be displayed on websites and business cards. Like the Good Housekeeping seal, it was meant to reassure prospective clients that they were about to hire an established, highly qualified voice talent.
Upon seeing the seal, most clients said:
“What the heck is that? Just because some unknown body has accredited you, doesn’t mean you’re a good fit for the job. Let me hear your demo. You’re a voice-over. Words speak louder than actions.”
Many colleagues responded the same way. Why would an experienced talent even need to be accredited? Paul Payton:
“My accreditation is 24 years in the VO business, 22 without a back-up job, working with great clients including many who bring me repeat business. If a certificate works for someone, great; for me, every check I cash is an accreditation. Color me grateful.”
Others like Todd Schick questioned SaVoA’s technical standards:
“How good are standards that can be easily faked? What good is legal gobbledygook to a consumer who hired a SaVoA talent, only to find out that they didn’t have a phone patch, the editing was horrible, the sound sucked because they had a -40dB noise floor… and couldn’t work after 5 pm EST because they had a day job?”
The SaVoA certificate still hangs on Danish voice talent Jacob Ekström‘s wall. Even though SaVoA as we know it is no more, he believes it’s useful to set standards.
“Certification in general is not a new thing, and in an industry like ours where clueless noobs armed with a $20 RadioShack microphone can build a website and/or sign up to a p2p-site and think they can compete with VO-veterans with $10.000 studios, it certainly could be an asset to voice seekers with limited time to listen through 500+ auditions or demos. But alas, not if they don’t know what it means, and I guess this is where SaVoA failed.”
“As a well-established talent you can always argue “Sheesh, why would I need this, a $75 badge on my website isn’t going to get me more gigs anyway!” – and that’s true. But for the remaining 90% of us, just maybe it could. Mind you, the original idea was NOT to build a “boys club” – it was to make the industry better, not only for our clients, but more importantly for ourselves.
Having a SaVoA badge on your website should be something everyone should want to strive for, not because it looks good, but because it means you’re serious and you want your clients to know. And yes, we all know you don’t need a $75 badge to actually be serious, but all the $20 microphone guys who clutter the p2p-sites do not, and, apparently, neither does the industry. And that’s why I feel it’s a damn shame SaVoA never made an impact.”
Audio producer, script writer and voice actor Matt Forrest has a different take on the viability of a professional organization for voice actors:
“Unless the standards or code are adopted by an organized group (like a union or SaVoA) and used – and promoted – for the benefit of its members, I’m not sure what good any of it would do. Being individual contractors, we all know how we want to treat our customers and our craft, but getting everyone to abide by them would be like trying to herd cats.”
Dan Lenard is one of the former members of SaVoA’s executive board. He strongly believes the voice-over community has to have a SaVoA type of organization:
“We have common needs. We need to come together in an organized manner to harness this energy that has created this unique virtual community, and work together to deal with the unique marketing, legal and technical issues involved, along with the socially isolating nature of our trade.”
OUT OF THE ASHES
Together with other ex-SaVoA directors, Dan has been building a new and more transparent voice-over organization, modeled after a Trade Association. It was incorporated on April 25th 2012, and it was launched a day later. It’s called the World-Voices organization. Lenard explains:
“It’s an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry. An industry trade association participates in public relations activities such as advertising, education, and publishing, but its main focus is collaboration between businesses, or standardization. Many associations are non-profit organizations governed by bylaws and directed by officers who are also actual voting “members” of the association, not just certificate of Accreditation holders.
This is a model that makes sense for us, the independently based freelance voice artist, here and now. To have an individual competitive advantage we need to have agreed standards of business to strive for. Marketing wise, legally and because of the new territory of being able to produce quality audio at home, Accreditation of technical skills based on the reality of today’s digital marketplace, not outdated, obsolete broadcasting standards.”
“Our founders are Dustin Ebaugh, Dan Lenard, Chris Mezzolesta, Robert Sciglimpaglia, Andy Bowyer, “Kat” Keesling, and myself. All are SaVoa ex-patriates. With certain obstacles out of our way, we’ve been able to organize, conceptualize, implement, and carry-out an amazing array of technical, foundational, and legal collaborations in just a matter of days.
The newly established World-Voices Organization will actively work to promote certified members to potential voice seekers through its website and in an aggressive marketing campaign. Materials explaining a proposed structure will be posted on our website.”
And what do I make of this?
If teachers, lawyers, roofers and even DJ’s see value in building a business organization with a code of conduct and professional standards, I see no reason why voice-overs should not follow in their footsteps.
I am in favor of defining criteria for excellence and ethical behavior. It’s important to create programs that will further our field and promote professionalism. Let’s show the outside world what being a voice-over pro entails!
We have a vibrant, supportive and growing community. It’s time to take ourselves and our line of work seriously. If we don’t, no one else will and we’ll forever be known as a bunch of bickering amateuristic blabbermouths.
We need and deserve this professional organization for ourselves, and to help the outside world separate the wheat from the chaff.
Now, to make sure that good people with good intentions will fail, you and I will only have to do one thing:
It’s very easy to stand on the sidelines and ridicule, criticize and discourage the efforts of a few. It takes no commitment whatsoever. It’s safe, it’s lame and it’s lazy.
I’d like you to consider this.
SaVoA did not fail to grow because the founder had no vision. The fact that SaVoA wasn’t thriving cannot be blamed on directors supposedly sitting on their behinds. Most of them worked their butts off!
The way I see it, SaVoA failed because part of the voice-over community paid lip service to the organization (VO’s are good at that), but never invested in it. The other part looked at it from a distance and said:
Existing members did not succeed in making the organization relevant. Some of them adopted a wait-and-see attitude and vented their frustration that nothing was happening.
Many will look at World-Voices and ask themselves this question:
“What will I get out of it?”
Those who are primarily focused on themselves ask that question all the time. If that is going to be your approach, I predict that this new association of voice over professionals will die a quick death.
This is not going to be a ME-ME-ME organization. This is a WE-organization, working to benefit our entire community and beyond.
I challenge you to ask this question instead:
“What can I do to make World-Voices relevant, strong and successful?”
If you want to make it matter, you have to be involved.
Otherwise, another tree will soon fall in the forest without a sound.
Just like desktop publishing changed the printing business, home studios have forever transformed the world of voice-overs.
If you enjoy hanging out in a stuffy, cramped, dark claustrophobic enclosure all day long, having a home studio is heaven.
Most clients seem to love it. They no longer have to hire an audio engineer and a director and pay for studio time. Theoretically, hiring voice talent with a home studio may save a lot of money, but it can come at a price.
Let me tell you about the downside of home recording.
At some point in your voice-over career you want to get rid of the egg crates and the moving blankets hanging from a pvc frame, and move into a real recording space. You have two choices: Prefab or DIY.
Even the cheapest Whisper Room™ will cost you more than three grand and this does not include shipping (these booths weigh as much as an elephant). The standard, single wall models usually don’t offer enough isolation. Double wall is your best and more expensive bet.
Most booths sound boxy and you will need bass traps to tame the “boominess.” Imagine putting these huge babies in your 3.5′ x 3.5′ space. If you enjoy breathing fresh air, add another $500 for a ventilation system.
Of course you can always build your own recording cave. This is not a project you can do on a Sunday afternoon. It might take many months and eat up all your spare time, energy and extra cash.
I designed and built my own booth, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of a contractor-friend. Thanks to him, I was able to keep the costs down. I couldn’t be happier with the result, but if I ever move, my studio stays and I’ll have to start from scratch.
2. More $$$
Read the rest of this story in my new eBook. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.
My very first website was based on a rather generic template, and to tell you the truth: it was just okay, and “just okay” doesn’t cut it. That’s why I had to rebuild it from the ground up (more about that in “The New Nethervoice“).
It turns out that I’m not the only one.
Whether you’re redesigning or starting from scratch, there are some important do’s and don’ts you have to keep in mind.
Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.
A number of years ago, I paid a visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
At that time I was a reporter, producer and presenter for Radio Netherlands International. The museum had just announced the discovery of a new Van Gogh, and I was on my way to get a first look.
The curator was visibly excited to share his find with the world. So-called “new” Van Gogh’s had popped up now and then, but most of them turned out to be poor imitations or brilliant forgeries. This time around, the authenticity was not in doubt. Why? Because the actual painting was invisible.
As I walked down the climate controlled basement, I saw canvas after canvas radiating with vibrant colors. Some of them were in the process of being restored. Others were carefully wrapped up, ready to go on loan to a museum abroad. Then we stopped at what looked like a huge file cabinet with wide drawers.
“This is it,” said the young curator, as he opened one of the drawers. “Here’s our discovery. It is a portrait of an unknown woman.”
“I don’t understand,” I said. “All I see is a painting of a Patch of Grass.”
The broad brush strokes of vivid green seemed to be sculpted onto the canvas, making this magnificent meadow an almost three-dimensional work of art.
The curator smiled and said: “That’s because you can’t see the portrait. Van Gogh often re-used his old canvases to save money. The painting you’re looking at right now was painted over the image of the woman. Let me show you what the X-ray revealed.
A HIDDEN MASTERPIECE
We believe the painting underneath was made in 1884 or 1885, during a period in which Van Gogh painted several portraits of peasants in the Dutch village of Nuenen.
The colors are kind of gloomy, certainly compared to the work of Impressionists, and that’s probably why Vincent decided to paint a brighter and more commercial scene over it when we was in Paris. As many as one-third of his paintings may conceal earlier works.”
In 2008, researchers used a newer technique to penetrate the layers of paint, revealing more details and color of the unknown woman hidden underneath the green grass.
In March of 2012, the Philadelphia Museum of Art had some 40 Van Gogh’s on display at their “Van Gogh Up Close” exhibition. I don’t think “A Patch of Grass” has made it to the U.S. but a work like “Undergrowth With Two Figures” from 1890 is part of the exhibit. Looking at it, one can almost feel the waves of wind whispering in the weeds.
MY U.S. TELEVISION DEBUT
The catalogue for the exhibition was in part funded by the Netherland-America foundation and NBC 10 provides promotional support.
As part of that promotion, Eileen Matthews produced the documentary “Van Gogh Up Close” which aired on March 17. Lori Wilson was the narrator, and you can hear me as the voice of Van Gogh, reading quotes from some of the many letters he wrote.
NBC wanted me to add some authenticity to this production and that made for an interesting challenge because we don’t really know what Van Gogh sounded like. He was born in the South of Holland and at age 20, he moved to London to work for an art dealer. Some scholars believe these were the happiest days of his life.
Van Gogh returned to England for work as a supply teacher in a small boarding school and later he became a missionary’s assistant. This leads me to believe that he might have spoken English with Dutch-British accent.
Here is part of a letter Van Gogh wrote in 1881 to his brother Theo who was an art dealer. These are the actual words Vincent wrote:
[audio:https://www.nethervoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Letter-to-Theo-Dutch.mp3|titles=Van Gogh’s Letter to Theo in Dutch read by Paul Strikwerda]
Listen to the same letter in English:
[audio:https://www.nethervoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Letter-to-Theo-English.mp3|titles=Van Gogh’s letter to Theo in English read by Paul Strikwerda]
Talking to non-Dutch speakers, one thing always comes up when discussing Van Gogh. Nobody seems to know how to correctly pronounce his last name. Is it “Van Goff” or “Van Goh”?
The correct answer: neither.
If you wish to impress your friends and family, here’s how you do it:
[audio:https://www.nethervoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Untitled.mp3|titles=Dutch pronunciation Vincent Van Gogh]
A NEW DISCOVERY?
Even today, people claim to have found new masterpieces by van Gogh. On Wednesday March 14th, Joshua Tree resident Michael Wilson announced he had discovered a long-lost painting depicting beech trees at sunset. He bought it for $50 in a junk shop. If the painting turns out to be genuine, it could be appraised at approximately $200 million.
During his lifetime, Van Gogh only sold one oil painting. He lived and died in poverty, but he knew he was leaving an extraordinary legacy.
He once said:
“I can’t change the fact that my paintings don’t sell, but the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.”
Well, that’s certainly one of the most prophetic understatements in the history of art. Especially if you take into consideration that some owners of a real Van Gogh might actually have purchased two pictures for the price of one!
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