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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.

Prepping for a spring exhibition

It’s official! I have a the dates for my big solo exhibition in the spring. I’ll be showing my work in the Willoughby Gallery at The Castle in Bude, Cornwall from Friday 24th April 2015 through Thursday 14th May 2015. There is a Private View/Meet the Artist event on Sunday 26th April from 2-4pm, and there will be refreshments. Opening hours for the exhibition are 10am-5pm Monday through Sunday.

So what next? Well, I’m painting and prepping for the exhibition, of course, but also busy with getting a variety of printed materials sorted. I’ve just ordered thirty postcards to check colours on three of my paintings and will be ordering more if I’m satisfied. I’ll be offering postcards for sale both online and at the exhibition. I know I buy them up by the handful every time I go to the Tate Modern, so I’m certain they’ll go down well. Postcards should be all figured out by the end of the month.

A press pack has been assembled and is available now. It’s a new thing for me, having ready-made blurbs and quotes, photos and press links. Exciting. I feel terribly organised now.

More information for you as I have it, and I’ll be releasing a newsletter soon, so if you want to be the first to know my happenings and also subscriber offers on my art, you’ll want to sign up. There’s a subscriber box on the Contact page and also most other pages of this site.


First dabble in printmaking

I attended a two hour introductory workshop held by the Swan Skin printmaking group yesterday. The session accompanied their exhibition (still on till 14 November 2014 at The Castle in Bude) and gave a group of about a dozen or so a hands-on dabble at the monotype print process.

I say this is a first dabble for me, which isn’t strictly true, as I have used elements of printmaking in my work over the years and was even an early rubber stamp collector, but this was my first time purely printmaking (with proper printing inks) for the sake of printmaking. I didn’t get a chance to use the press, but I did covet it from a distance.

We created monotypes, which The Tate Guide to Modern Art Terms defines as: “A unique image printed from a polished plate, such as glass or metal, painted with ink but not a permanent printing matrix. A monotype impression is generally unique, though a second, lighter impression from the painted printing element can sometimes be made.”

It’s been a long time since I felt new and inadequate in an art skill, but I have to give huge respect to the printmakers out there. This stuff ain’t easy, though at times it can look deceptively so. What I created isn’t particularly attractive, but it’s growing on me. The important thing is that I learned and had a play. I gave myself a chance to be new at something and, frankly, suck at it. You have to crawl before you can walk after all.

swanskin workshop Jen Dixon

Printmaking isn’t for me right now, but I know I’ll incorporate more in my mixed media work after yesterday. It’s in my brain now, and perhaps a corner of a future studio space will permit a press and other printmaking materials. I have had books on the subject for a long time and was a print professional for years (with an industrial scale, direct mail printing company), so I know I’ll revisit.

Thank you, Sophie and the other talented Swan Skin printmakers, for getting my hands inky.

Exciting news

Truly exciting news from this afternoon… I shook hands on securing a large (probably at least 20′ x 40′ room), three week, solo exhibition of my work in spring 2015. They were very impressed with my art as well as the range of pieces I offer. (I typically sell a range between £50 and £2000, up to £6000+.) I’m looking forward to bringing a big showing of my abstract work to the area.

There is a special Sunday afternoon party planned (wine and nibbles, casual) and perhaps several appearances (possibly workshops) by me over the exhibition weeks. I’ll have more details after the contract is signed.

I am one very smiley artist this afternoon.