May 31, 2010

Marketing Tips for Artists...OR...Marketing/Schmarketing

The Chris Tyrell talk I mentioned last week, Marketing Strategies for Artists, was on this past Saturday. Seeing it as a great opportunity for getting some “trade secrets” from a man who's been actively involved in the art world for a couple of decades (as artist, curator, writer, teacher), I sacrificed a precious Saturday morning and drove an hour in the rain to take it in.
I wanted some practical ideas on how to make the unsavory part of the creative process, self-marketing, more appealing.  More user-friendly.  More "try this at home kids".  Surely not too unreasonable an expectation from a talk on "marketing strategies" is it?  Well, an hour and a bit and some personal anecdotes later, I was no wiser.

The man talked, and told some stories, and said some stuff that might sort of, loosely, be interpreted as advice on marketing strategies.  But, ultimately, he said nothing new.  Nothing that made me want to run home and start self-promoting.  If anything, judging from some of the comments I heard around me, and the looks on people's faces, what he said was actually discouraging to a number of the people there.  
Here are the main points he made:
  1. You need to be creative in your marketing strategies.
  2. It doesn't matter how good your work is (with a few exceptions); what really matters is how many people you know, how good your contact list is, and how well you use that list. You really don't need a lot of talent at all, just good contacts.
  3. The art world today is a much different place than it used to be, traditional approaches are vanishing, and you'd better be computer savvy or you won't succeed.
  4. Exhibitions in galleries are usually a waste of time and money and so is publicity.
  5. There are too many artists. Most people who make art will not sell it.
  6. Those people who do sell are people who have a good story behind who they are (i.e. a man who's huge success had more to do with his being a firefighter in "real" life than with his art itself).
  7. Abstract, impressionistic work is impossible to sell.
  8. People will buy your work if they feel indebted to you somehow so try to give something away for free and then call in the debt.
Ok now everyone, get out there and create something... 
The thing is, all of the above is no doubt true. Abstract art is a bitch to sell; a lot of fantastic art will go unsold; the art world is changing and computers play a huge part so you'd better learn as much as you can about them; most artwork is sold to people the artist has some kind of relationship with; it sure helps to have some kind of story that sets you apart from all the others.
But I bet most of the 30 (plus) people who came to hear that talk on Saturday (many of them of a "certain age" and not super comfortable with the whole computer thing) already know all about the hurdles artists today face. That's why they came to the talk, hoping to hear the guy who wrote the book offer suggestions on how to get around those hurdles.  They sure as hell didn't come there to be told: "Yeah, being an artist these days is tough isn't it? "  And because that's essentially what was given, I left that talk more bummed out than inspired.  I went away with: "Wow, that Chris Tyrell is clearly a better writer than a speaker".
Still, it's got me thinking.  Was I expecting something unrealistic?  Are there really any strategies for marketing beyond the obvious?  Ultimately, if you want to sell your art you have to get out there, get to know as many people as you can, tell them about your work, engage them by telling a good story about it, and about yourself, and just keep at it.  You have to learn how to be a "people person".  I know that don't I?  So did I maybe go to that talk because I was hoping for some kind of "cheat" around that?  Or was the guy just a bad talker?  Could he have given more?  
I guess I'm not totally decided on the answer yet am I?

May 24, 2010

Prints, Plants, and Lint

So here we are, another Victoria Day and another day to give thanks for the birth of a queen without whom we, in Canada anyway, would not have a long weekend.  If nothing else, it gives all of us gardeners, and reluctant gardeners (me), a marker on the calender to denote the "official" day the veggies get planted.  This is the BIG gardening weekend pretty much all across Canada I think and I, not wanting to mess with tradition, managed to get out there and plant some squashes and soy beans and broccoli.  This, despite the weather which, a little cooler than normal, isn't necessarily cooperating with the whole BIG gardening weekend concept.  But so be it...

Next, those of you in the Vancouver area may be interested in checking out the Maple Ridge Art Gallery next Saturday for a talk by Chris Tyrell, the author of Artist Survival Skills and a regular contributor to the Opus Newsletter. You can get more info here

Last but not least, the folk floral is now complete and I'm happy, happy, happy with the way it turned out.  

  Folk Floral
Reduction Linocut - 7" x  8"

I've liked working on this print so much that I've got sketches done for two more floral-themed prints on the go.  They still need colour so I can't show them yet but will next time.  I have to hold off on starting on them for a week or so anyway; I'm getting ready to take some work into a fledgling co-op gallery just opened by a friend and I've been busy matting and framing.  

And once again, as I always do when I'm framing, I can't help wondering:  Why is it that those tiny specs of lint that get trapped in between the glass and the print never show up until after the whole frame is put together?  Where do they come from?  There's a lesson in there somewhere but I haven't quite figured out what it is yet.  

May 16, 2010

Folk Floral Print Gets the Blues

Today I don't have a lot of words so, a picture will have to be enough for this time round.  

This is the second to last colour in the print (hopefully it does come across as blue on the computer screen).  This then leaves a bold green for last; I'm really looking forward to seeing how it changes things again...


May 09, 2010

Making the Most of Mother's Day

M is for May, and mother, and multifaceted, and marvelous, and...masking tape.  It's been a great day so far but then, waking up to sunshine flooding the room is generally a good way to start things.  We've had a couple of weeks of sort of iffy weather, cooler than normal for this time of year and rain almost every day, or at least for part of it.  This weekend, warm, sunny and glorious, has been a welcome change.  Specially since there was lots of work waiting in the garden.  

I spent the whole of yesterday afternoon outside crawling around, weeding and monitoring the baby peas, lettuces, and chard happily growing in the new raised beds R built a month or so ago.  And I added a couple more strawberry plants to the ones already in the planter.  Last year, we had three strawberries.  My mother ate one and the slugs got the rest so this year I'm hoping for a few more than that.

Today, I relaxed and enjoyed the fruit of all the labour we've put into the place in the nine years we've lived here.  The garden is at it's most flamboyant this time of year, the rhododendrons are vying for colour supremacy, and the air is sweet with all the blooming things around.  Not a bad view to have while printing either.

I came up with an idea for fixing the registration issues I was having last week i.e. the paper shifting in my hole-punch registration system as a result of it being a lighter weight.  I taped pieces of masking tape over both sides of the holes I'd already punched in the paper.  Yes, I could have taken a single strip of tape across the top on both sides but, and maybe I'm taking trying to be green to extremes here, I couldn't justify the waste.

Yeah, it was one of those fiddly and tedious sides of printmaking I'm glad not to deal with too often.  It was made even more fiddly and tedious because, after I cut the 78 little pieces of tape, I actually had to use a hand-held single-hole puncher to re-punch the holes exactly where they already were.  So, note to self, next time I use a lighter weight paper for a reduction print, the top edge needs to be reinforced with something stronger before punching the holes in. 

The work paid off though.  The tape did the trick and the paper stayed where it was supposed to so, for all but one print that was the most severely misregistered, today's colour pretty much hid last week's flaws.  But then, red usually has a pretty powerful resonance anyway doesn't it?

I was, actually, almost reluctant to print over what I had so far; I was really liking the green/yellow combination.  Visions of a totally different colour scheme came and went while I entertained thoughts of maybe adding in just a darker, maybe forest green, and leaving it at that.  In the end I chose to stick to original plan and to consider doing another, similar, print and experiment with the colours there.  Now, seeing the red added, I'm pretty happy I stuck to the plan.  That's one of the things I love about reduction prints: all the different faces a print can wear before it's finished.  It's that Wow! Cool! thing that goes on. 

Anyway, printing done and feeling on top of things, I finished off a good weekend by baking one of the magnificent (another "m" word) breads I've been making since I discovered Jim Lahey and his amazing bread technique.  I used the recipe as it is here (except with whole wheat bread flour) but  I now also have Jim's book so I can try out some other things.  

Yes, I really did make this bread!  And yes, it really does taste as wonderful as it looks: crackly crust, moist and chewy crumb, and everything else you could possibly want a bread to be.  Not bad for something that involved less than 15 minutes of actual labour.  It was a perfect match to the Salmon Bisque R makes for us all each year on Mother's day. 

May 02, 2010

Misregistration Irritation

Trying to decide which colour will be next in a reduction print is often a bit of a shell game for me.  This is because the whole "print from light to dark" concept isn't always 100% applicable.  Like in my current print, where the values of the three colours still to be printed (red, green, and blue) are much the same with none really lighter than the others.  In such a case, which colour should go down first?  Luckily, or unluckily, I delayed that decision for one more week by remembering I planned to add another, lighter, colour before the last three.  So, today, I printed the pale sage/mint green here:   

Although I didn't have it in my original colour sketch, I'm adding it in to flesh out the leaves around the blooms.  Because it is a green, I figure it won't really take me away from my yellow, red, blue, green theme.

But what an F-ing frustrating printing session today!  I ran into issues with registration and, no matter what I tried to get around them, I couldn't get my colours to line up.  In most of the prints it's minor, as in the image above, and I'm hoping the next darker colour will overshadow the problem.  In one or two cases however, it's really obvious.  In the example below, none of the yellow shadows are supposed to be there.  Grrrrrrr!

I'm pretty sure this is because I'm using a lighter-weight paper than I normally do.  My favourite is BFK Rives but, because it can get pricey, I usually print on Rising Stonehenge 250 gsm.  It's a sturdy paper that stands up well to the many ink layers I often end up with in my reductions.  The thing is, I also like the look of lighter, Japanese-style, papers and a while ago bought several sheets of Masa: a machine made, Japanese type hybrid, smooth on one side and textured on the other.  At 77 gsm it's way lighter than I'm used to and I've only used it so far for the single-ink prints I've done.  But I was curious to see how it would stand up to more than one colour and, since I'm not using that many colours in this print, I thought I'd give it a try. 

The registration problem I'm running into is not with the paper as such, but with the registration method I use:  a three-hole punch attached to a piece of plexi-glass laid on top of my press bed.  I've got a couple of images of it at the bottom of the post here along with the link to the Andrew Gott original WetCanvas post I based my system on.  Just to be clear, so far, this method has worked supremely well for me.  But I've always used a heavier paper.  Now, the holes I've punched into the top of the lighter-weight Masa are stretching a bit and the paper is sliding around.  Very little but enough to throw off the registration.  I'm going to have to figure out a solution for this problem by next time or I'll be screwed.  And, I'll end up with a lot more prints to turn into bookmarks than I have need for.