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Nearly exhibition hanging time!

Good morning! Let’s catch up.

It’s the Monday before my first solo exhibition, and I have some thrilling news to add to the excitement: Due to a sudden availability of The Blanchminster Room (the other gallery space at The Castle, Bude), I’ve been asked to expand my exhibition into there for the first two weeks! That means, my exhibition has nearly doubled in size. OH MY GOODNESS!

I’ve mapped out 21 framed paintings for The Willoughby Gallery room (the larger of the two spaces), and 15 framed paintings for The Blanchminster Gallery room. That’s 36 works on the walls, plus I’ll have ready to frame, mounted originals in racks, and a postcard display with 20 designs available for only £1 each. This exhibition went from big to massive! The main exhibition is for three weeks (24 April – 14 May), and the additional room is from 24 April – 7 May.

I’m in the middle of waiting for the laser printer to churn out some A5 flyers and A4 posters for me to distribute around the local villages and towns. The to-do list is getting down to the last tasks. The art works have been done for a month, the framing wrapped up this past weekend, so now it’s a matter of updating my inventory database, finalising my exhibition pricing structure, creating additional labels for walls, and finishing promotional activities. I’ve been working my ass off since November for this show, and I’m so glad I’m in the home stretch before hanging later this week.
Containing Chaos exhibition

There will be photos, video, and probably some Periscope footage of the exhibition. For family and friends in far-flung parts of the world, I’ll arrange FaceTime and Skype tours. Links to all this online stuff will appear later this week.

Sounds like the printer is done. Back to it!

Framing highs and lows

Had a brief freakout this morning after I phoned my regular bespoke frames provider to purchase long length moulding only to be told they don’t do that… This is contrary to – an admittedly old – catalogue I have of theirs. I’ve experienced some particularly awful depression lately and so this news hit me hard. I cried. I have a major exhibition next month and to help with the huge expense of framing, I had decided to do it myself. No moulding was suddenly a big problem.

I got my cool back and hit the internet searching. The frame company has to buy their stock somewhere, so I started looking through wholesalers. The moulding I use is a very specific type; it is a “tray” style which can be cut two ways to accommodate either deep or standard depth canvases. A match for this somewhat unique product isn’t easy to find, but I have. For all I know, the framer I used orders from this company.

I called the wholesaler, spoke to a very nice guy, confirmed they’d sell to me and the 20 metres I require. They’re sending me their catalogues too. Oh, and I’m getting my order overnighted for free (which is standard practice for them). I’m so pleased.

Putting together a solo exhibition can be stressful, but I’ve been taking care of tasks for it since November of last year to avoid as many curveballs and late nights as I can. The frame moulding issue wasn’t a thing I thought would be a problem, so I didn’t concern myself till now to order. Just goes to show that you can’t take anything for granted and that a phone call can change everything. Fortunately, a phone call to a new supplier undid the mess I found myself in, and I am smiling.

Time to set up my mitre saw! I’m going have a lot of frames to make!

Waiting waiting waiting

I’ve been a busy bee over the past few days crafting a crowdfunding campaign… I’m hoping it passes the review stage today and goes live so I can tell you all about it!
In the meantime, there’s always plenty to do in the studio, especially since I’ve got an upcoming exhibition starting next month and then Open Studios 2015 after. It’s all systems go around here!

Storing paper in tight drawers

I have lots of wonderful drawers in my studio. Many artists (myself included) flock to the ALEX range from IKEA because it’s about as close as you can get to a plan chest on a budget, but they are also very clean and stylish looking. That said, they only hold up to a size A2 (420 x 594 mm / 16.5 x 23.375″) for paper and that fit is tight. For loose paper I often use a palette knife along the edge to pull up what I need, a sheet or so at a time, but pads are trickier to grab onto. Here is a really, really easy solution:

Get some duct tape (or packing tape) and tear off a strip, stick it to the underside of the gummed edge of the pad of paper. Fold it onto itself to create a lifting tab. Told you it was easy. No more struggling to cram a finger or ruler under the edge.
Simple is so often the best.

On preying on the vanity of artists

Having a nice looking website and a contact page means I get enquiries from businesses set up to make money off of artists. They are a plague out there and appear in other creative pursuits – say, writing – where they take on guises such as self/vanity publication and fee-charging anthologies. Let me make it clear: these people are not out there to help you develop your career; they are businesses. Businesses like to make money. Vanity* is the greatest motivator out there. It’s the basic desire to be recognised, revered, appreciated – known. We all fall prey to it from time to time and in varying degrees, but the key is to avoid businesses taking advantage of your desperation.

Sure, we all want to be in books, catalogues, on websites, in galleries, but what it takes to get into them is hard work. You must promote yourself. You need to do the legwork. Sure, I enter a few judged competitions (for a fee) here and there – and my business manager cringes every time I do – but the inspiration for this blog post came to my email inbox this morning. Let me share…

“Message: I’ve seen your work in your website and i [sic] found it very impressive.
I invite you to submit your work in “____” art book, volume ___. The book is distributed to major galleries and museums [_link to a list redacted_] and is sold in major wholesalers worldwide. If you have any questions, please contact me.”

I had a look. First, check for a fee. No fee? Be very, very suspicious. No one does a good deed like this for free. Find the catch. I did. So here is the response I wrote – but ultimately didn’t send, instead opting to write about it all here where someone might benefit from what I’m saying:

“Many thanks for your enquiry and interest in my work, however, I feel the burden of subsidising the book by requiring the artists themselves to purchase two copies of the volume – at an eyebrow-raising €170 total – is not an expense I’m willing to bear. While I understand there is no fee to enter, this in itself compounds the problem of unrealistic, naive expectations in non-professional artists of varying work quality looking for vanity publication.
If there is a change in your business model, feel free to contact me again at that time.”

You read that right. No fee, but – if chosen for inclusion – you must buy two books at a combined cost of €170. You can pay them €150 extra to have a second page in the book. This is vanity publishing disguised as ‘exposure’ for the artist. Sure, your work gets a page in a book. Sure it – according the the website’s word – goes to perhaps hundreds** of galleries, but if you pay to be in something, where is the quality control? A quick flick through the archived editions of the book show exactly what I expected to see: some quality works surrounded by – in my opinion – lots of amateur work. If that’s my assessment, what might a gallery owner think? In publishing, unsolicited manuscripts go into a ‘slush’ pile. This is where you may find a diamond in the rough, but mostly, the pile is garbage. I’m sure plenty of these books are appreciated by galleries – who doesn’t look through a shiny new catalogue when it arrives – but all the same, I fail to see the value***.

Respect yourself, your work, and do what it takes to get noticed. Paying the vanity businesses to include you in their ‘exposure’ projects will not benefit you. If anything, it may make you look desperate, and although many professional artists struggle, desperate is not a good look. Stay pro. Stay driven. If you’re good enough, you’ll make it. If not, at least you won’t have wasted money with the ‘exposure’ businesses.

* And sex too. Being ‘known’ is desirable… sexy. People fantasise about this stuff.
** The site says the print run is 6000. It says the book goes to galleries and wholesalers. If the average book (volumes are online digitally) is 400+ pages, that’s nearly 1000 of the 6000 run going to artists by requirement. They of course, let you buy more. Also, shipping is an additional €25 on top. Ouch.
*** The site does have a list of artists; this could be seen as valuable, but the artists have no links to websites or contact information.