Friday, October 29, 2010

About the Kindness of Strangers

“Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. …” — Blanche DuBois’ words in Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire.The phrase has been floating in my head for a while.

I recently had occasion to communicate with strangers. I was tempted to join an online gallery which requires an upfront fee from the artists it represents. I am, in principle, opposed to such charges. Galleries usually take fifty per cent of the sale price of the art they sell. The artist accepts that contract for many reasons, mostly because most of us do not want to engage in the business of selling art. And most of us have little ability as salespersons. The gallery, if it is doing its job, promotes our work and exhibits it. They often take care of designing, printing and mailing announcements and doing the framing. The director of the gallery I worked with in Seattle spent hours on the phone, calling clients to invite them personally to the opening reception, advising them that “the artist” would be present. The artist had only to dress up and appear to find wine being served, hors d’oeuvres set out and a crowd assembling. The gallery has employee salaries to pay and overhead. Good galleries do all this and more. They earn their commission.

The online gallery in question seemed to do a good job of promotion but I knew little else about it. I reviewed the site to find artists whose vision was akin to mine and whose prices were in line with my own. Then I sent a number of these strangers an email inquiry about what their experience had been with this company. Of sixteen emailed inquiries, I received sixteen responses telling me more than I needed to know and in many cases wishing me well with the venture. Many had visited my web site and included nice words about my work. How lovely. I was regaled with the kindness of strangers.

The general opinion was to recommend the site. Most had good things to say about it, a few hadn’t had much luck but nobody was critical. I will go for it.

The Image above is August, ©1995,  Mixed Media on Paper Mounted on Canvas, 48" x 17", exhibited and sold in 1995 by the gallery described above.

Friday, October 22, 2010

About Artist Prints

The tradition of artists making prints: etchings, woodcuts, lithographs, silk-screen and such, reaches  far back into art history and up to the twenty-first century.  Goya’s Caprichos, made in the eighteenth century, are aquatints, a process in use from about 1650. Albrecht Durer was an engraver in the fifteenth century. We also have drypoint, mezzotint and monotypes. And now we have the phenomenal advent of print by inkjet. I have a vested interest in promoting this process as, I might have mentioned before, I am hooked on it. But I have seen that it does not yet get the respect that I would like it to inspire. 

Today I will describe the process which produced the image above, an original print. Original because it exists (as do some of the other giclées I have exhibited here) only as a print. It is a lengthy, meticulous and expensive (the archival inks) operation which I revel in. So, in a rather large nutshell, I started with three of the Memory series that I described a blog or two ago. I took the flower shape from one; it was red in the original scan. The large red area came from another of these scanned old works, originally a flat opaque red on the top part of the scan. The pale pink area came from a finished piece in which I had achieved the desired degree of light. I made adjustments for contrast and scale, placement, saturation and color balance. The separate elements are arranged collage fashion, an operation for which Photoshop is well qualified. I have been working on this image for several days and will now start printing, making “proofs”, until I get the color and visible texture and interest as I want them.

I learned at school that editions were limited and each print numbered because the metal plate or wood block, or silk or whatever the print was made from deteriorated with use, making the first prints of finest quality. It seems that limiting prints done by the giclée or photographic method is about valuation or pricing. A case in point: Condé Nast is publishing a great  old photo from Vogue magazine for $2050, edition of ten. And this:  Recent auctions of giclee prints have fetched $10,800 for Annie Leibovitz, $9,600 for Chuck Close, and $22,800 for Wolfgang Tillmans.  April, 2004, Photographs, at Phillips de Pury & Company, New York. Limiting the editions in these cases keeps the price up and resale more profitable. My editions are limited because I want to go on to the next work when one has become all it can be. I print more on request but since even my collectors are interested in the next newer work, editions remain small. Numbering is an artificial embellishment; kind of silly, don’t you think? There is no deterioration of the giclée and the number printed is small by the very nature of the process.
I tried to keep this short, but got carried away again. Thanks for reading.
The image above is Red Blue Memory, 2010, giclée print, size varies. For information or to purchase any of the images on this site, please email Joan.
More information and an explanation of the term “giclée” can be found at: About Giclee Prints

Descriptions of the print processes mentioned above can be found at can be found at "P" | Subject Index | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Friday, October 15, 2010

About the Ivory Tower

A recent email brought this query: I am interested in your opinion on selling art commercially. That is such a touchy subject for me because I was always led to believe that marketing your work and promoting yourself in any kind of a commercial way was not "really how it was supposed to happen".

Why not? What begets this sort of thinking? Is art-making not an honest trade? Painting, writing, composing not honest work? Is the artist so above ordinary mortals that she has none of the basic human needs? Not the artists I know. Most have healthy appetites, like to be warm in winter and usually even want to own some kind of vehicle. Are these needs filled by some manna streaming down from the heavens? Somebody on a yacht in the Mediterranean who sends this note: “Paint; be happy”? (My personal fantasy.)

The Ivory Tower does not come replete with bed and board or money for the purchase of materials. Franz Schubert couldn’t afford a piano. Vincent Van Gogh needed his supportive brother. I replied to my friend: “not selling art is wholly unrealistic. Certain luminaries of the arts, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Beethoven, Mozart, amongst many, many others, sold their work and supported themselves that way”. They exchanged their work for the cold, hard cash that would enable them to go on doing what they did. If I put myself in their shoes (maybe have to stretch a bit), I know the issue is about how continue with the work one wants to do. Besides, if you are a visual artist, you might find yourself with a storage problem. Your friends and relatives might refuse to take any more of your gifts. Now wouldn’t that be disheartening? Let’s not forget the validation inherent in a total stranger whipping out his checkbook to buy a very personal vision, one that you were not comfortable exhibiting. It hurts to be ignored. It does not hurt to get paid for one’s efforts.

Well, I guess I have said what I think. Thanks for reading.

The image above is from a series created in 2002 called “Birthdays”. Mixed Media/Digital Image Collage on Tyvek, 8.25" x 33”. For information or to purchase any of the images on this site, please email Joan.

Friday, October 8, 2010

About the Blesssings

I don’t need to be reminded to count my blessings. It seems miraculous to have raised four children who developed into good people in good health with good lives. To have never experienced real hunger, or war at first hand. My life as the lives of most of those I know has been free of major tragedy. I just knocked on wood. Learned that from my mother whose beliefs must have come from her mother and the "old country". I don’t believe any of it but I knock, just in case.

I’m coming to the end of Wolf Hall, a historical novel that tracks the life of Thomas Cromwell in the time of King Henry the Eighth. The brutality of that reign and age is stupefying. The book is well researched; as I read I go to the web to investigate the characters and events and nothing in documented history has been embroidered on. I have had to skip over pages where another person was being burned at the stake or subjected to an even more horrifying ultimate agony. Too well written, too much information. One wonders how such cruelty could or can be countenanced.

We can choose not to believe what we see in a movie; it’s a movie. But this is our history. So I am grateful to have been born in this time, in this place, grateful for modern medicine (they bled sick people back then), and happy to have a computer and the internet. And let me not forget painting, a major blessing which provides solace and balance in this good life.

The image above is from a series created in 2002 called “Blessings”. Mixed Media/Digital Image Collage on Tyvek, 10.75" x 33”. For information or to purchase any of the images on this site, please email Joan.

Please note that at your right, on this blog, is the door to my new Etsy shop. I have five of my new giclées there and will be adding more as I make them. I invite you to click and visit, and if so inspired, leave me a comment here. I really like hearing from my readers.