I Now Pronounce You Art and Commerce: Lisa Nicole Bell on Building Creative Brands Without Losing Your Peace Monday 06 June, 2011

Art and commerce are the inseparable yin and yang for visionaries that want to create for a living. Even though they were destined to be together, marrying the business and creative aspects of our lives takes work. Lisa Nicole Bell counsels artists, entrepreneurs and organizations on how to enhance their brands without compromising their artistry or […]


Art and commerce are the inseparable yin and yang for visionaries that want to create for a living. Even though they were destined to be together, marrying the business and creative aspects of our lives takes work. Lisa Nicole Bell counsels artists, entrepreneurs and organizations on how to enhance their brands without compromising their artistry or truth.  She also offers her own brand of practical inspiration–not what she calls the “fluffy type”–through her radio show and various speaking engagements.  As an award winning filmmaker, media personality, social change agent, international speaker, and entrepreneur she has helped many women develop the tools to live their creative dreams by living her own.

Here, Lisa explains the union of art and commerce in her own life, breaks down the idea and importance of branding for artists and shares how she realized all of her accomplishments by working towards her highest self.

Can you tell us how you went about, as you say, putting art and commerce in a blender and blazing your own trail? Would you say you had a lot of guidance?

It’s a path that I had to find as I walked it, and continues to evolve. I didn’t have much help early on, but that actually turned out to be a good thing. I needed to really sort out what my identity would be and what I wanted to accomplish as a professional. I have released the need to fit into a box or a set of definitions. There’s definitely a lot of trial and error. I think most successful people will admit that they are successful because they’re willing to fail as much as necessary to attain success.

It’s nice to have mentors and support on your journey, but even when you don’t, you’ve got to mentor yourself. I have been a voracious reader from the beginning and much of my growth can be attributed to that. Above all else, I’ve been committed to growing as a person and making meaningful investments in humanity. I believe the rest will take care of itself.

Could you rank the art and commerce loves of your life? In other words, would you say that you’re an artist before you’re an entrepreneur, or the other way around?

I get this question often, and I’ve never been able to truly rank them because I believe both are necessary. It’s like saying, “What’s more important – your legs or your arms?” There are arguments for both sides, but when you have both, you maximize your physical potential.

My creative side supplies the concepts and broader ideals that I pursue. My entrepreneurial side supplies the vehicles I need to actually bring those things to fruition. For me, creativity and business are two sides of one coin. In order for the work to matter, it’s got to come from creativity, integrity and it’s got to be well-executed. I can say that I am a born writer and performer, but I couldn’t imagine not being an entrepreneur and resource organizer.

You also know a lot about branding and I’d like to talk about that. I was chatting with an artist friend about building her brand and she was resistant and said: “But, I don’t want to ever think of myself as a product.” How do you define branding and why do you think it’s important for artists? What advice would you give artists who have issues with the idea?

I define branding as owning a concept in the minds of those who matter to you. I don’t believe that anything is as important in this new digital landscape and new
economy. The people who are weathering and thriving through the economic transition are those who understand and leverage branding. It’s not logos and repetition. It’s a set of intentional and thoughtful signals sent to a group of people with the intention of creating a decision-making shortcut for them. A well-crafted brand saves us the trouble of research and contemplation; we see the brand indicator, and we can assume with reasonable certainty that the outcome will be similar to that of previous experiences with that brand. To achieve brand recognition that translates to the bottom line is an artistic feat in itself.

As an artist, you really can’t afford not to be branded these days. I was discussing this with the co-producer of Deal Breakers (my first full-length stage production), and we agreed that too many artists lack a working understanding of how marketing and branding impact what they do. Even the greatest artists can be replaced. The irreplaceable among us are those who have created unique identities around their talent and have developed intelligent ways of delivering that to us.

The internet has turned the branding paradigm on its head which is good for the average artist. Artists are now much more empowered to share their work with the people who care. If an artist is willing to do the work of figuring out who they really serve, they’re miles ahead of everyone else. Ultimately, an artist, in my opinion, has a responsibility to learn how to effectively brand themselves so that the people who need and want what they have can get it. I understand the need to maintain artistic integrity, but artists have to understand that marketing, branding, and money are not enemies of creativity; they create additional opportunities for it.

It’s clear that personal development and growth is important to you. You’ve said meditation changed your life. Why did you start meditating and how did it become so important to you?

I started meditating because I needed to achieve a level of mental clarity and focus that nothing else had afforded me. My first deep experiences with meditation came through yoga. I was one of the newbies who would let my mind race even though it was supposed to be still. I slowly eased my way into the
meditation and before I knew it, I was meditating at home every morning. Meditation is how my most brilliant ideas and wonderful solutions have come to me. Meditation time is the only time my mind is not “on.” I’m always thinking, solving, creating, pondering, reflecting, and musing. Meditation helps to quiet the internal noise long enough for me to make sense of it.

I believe that the average person has entirely too much noise in his or her life. This prevents us from being able to hear – hear God, hear ourselves, hear the small still voice that guides us to where we’re destined to be. The more still my mind became, the more peaceful I became.

I am able to stay in a grounded and centered place which is really important to me because my life is full. Meditation has opened pathways to a better quality of life and a spiritual depth I didn’t even know existed.

I like that you are also committed to making a transformative impact in people’s lives and, “not the hyped up type or the fluffy type.” I really get that sense from your radio show. Can you say more about that? Where does the “hyped up fluffy type” fall short and what ways of thinking and seeing the world do you think actually compel people to change?

The modern landscape is really calling for people and ideas that are change-inducing and sustainable. I have a disdain for things that are predictable and repetitious. I think this movement toward inspirational ideas and life coaching is good, but needs accountability in the form of forward progress.

People often tell me that I’ve inspired them in some way, and I love hearing that. I reply by asking what they’re doing to do differently. Sometimes that question startles people. But that’s the point. How many times have you read a self-help book or heard a motivational speaker and come away pumped up? And how many times have you been deflated a week later? It’s the equivalent of spiritual candy – it’s good going down and you’re high for a while. Then you crash and burn. The downward trend is due to a lack of meaningful action connected to the inspiration.

The fluffy stuff is the quotes and stories that shift your thinking but don’t shift your life. My goal isn’t just to inspire people. My goal is to catalyze them – to move them out of mediocrity and contentment into purpose and action. It starts with the inspiration – a book, a film, a presentation, a project, an interview – but it moves on to a thirst for more information and then a commitment to action. This is how real change happens, and it’s my intention to create that for as many people as possible.

Finally, what does living unchained mean to you?

Living unchained means having your mind take a backseat to your spirit. It means consciously releasing anything that impedes your journey to who your intuition tells you that you were intended to be. Living unchained means using what you have to get what you want. Living unchained means finding a way or making one.



  • Soraya Jean-Louis McElroy says:

    I absolutely loved this interview…it did something to my insides and came at the most wonderful time as i explore my own creativity and wrestle with ideas around branding and exposure! thanks so much for just being you and sharing your amazing insight.

  • Jaelma says:

    Great interview! It is great to know there are others out here working to merge the beauty of creative expression into a meaningful business enterprise! I am looking forward to learning more about Ms Bell! Thanks for sharing the info !
    wishing you all the best in positively “Living Unchained”

  • melissa cholak says:

    Great interview.

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