Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So Last Minute

While getting ready for a show the other day I was speaking with an artist. We were talking about last minute things. Now I’m not talking about packing for a 10-day vacation the morning you leave. I always pack the night before, give or take a few minutes before midnight. I’m talking about last minute painting or creating. Every artist has done this. Some call it “finishing touches.” For me personally, there are a lot more than touches that need to be done. It usually starts with “if I could just…” followed by, “make 3 more paintings.” Or “make 20 limited edition prints.” The other phrase I play in my head is, “Wouldn’t it be great if…” That expression could be completed with, “I printed 100 t-shirts for the show.” or, “I changed all my matts to white and reframed everything.”

Here is the best part of the story. It usually is a great idea. When the artist and I discussed this we both agreed that whatever was created was usually good. Better yet, it usually sold. This has happened to me time and time again. The last minute phenomenon happened in high school when I submitted my work to an art show. The entry forms were done way in advance and I had committed myself to many categories. I had everything done except one pastel drawing. I just couldn’t get it together. I finally scraped the 1st idea and did a quick drawing to satisfy the entry forms. I have to say it was rather sweet. The judges thought so too and awarded it “Best of Show.”

So maybe the pressure of deadlines puts a little more confidence in your stroke. The ticking clock makes your hand quicker while enabling the brush to dance across the canvas. Procrastination brings focus to your mind and an acute tunnel vision for perfection. It’s not the finishing touches but rather it’s the heat of the moment that drives the desire to create.

Yes, I should have wrote this Sunday night and posted it Monday but I’m so last minute. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Judge, Jury, and Thief

I had the honor this week of being a judge for the Wallingford Art Center’s member show. It is a great art center tucked away on a side road outside of Philadelphia. I actually had my Snap Crackle Pop Show in their gallery last May. OK, enough about the great space. It’s about what’s inside that counts. There was art in every medium and every medium had a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize.  On top of that, the mediums were broken down into professional and non-professional categories. So there were a lot of awards to hand out and a lot of work to look at. The good part and bad part about it was that these weren’t monetary awards, just ribbons to make artists happy.

I thought it would be a daunting task but really it wasn’t. It was kind of obvious. I took a quick walk around and saw some stand out stellar pieces. I now knew that I was going to judge all work against these great pieces. The awards were about great pieces and quality.  Quality is always in style.

Quality is what played a role in the professional and non-professional categories.  I asked the gallery director what were the qualifications for the professional and the non-professional categories. She said it was up to the artist. Oh the pride and ego factor came into play. Fun! Now it was a personal choice and a jury’s bias. My pet peeves are bad frames, crooked pictures, and badly cut mattes. There is no need for this. Tighten the screws in your corners to secure your frames. Use a ruler or something straight to cut your mattes. Use framers corners or archival tape to hold your pictures in place…thanks for listening. This is why not every artist got an award. This wasn’t a time to celebrate mediocrity. Since I am venting, another pet peeve of mine is when my kids play a sport and come home with a trophy because everyone got one.

The awards were handed out and the word quickly spread. I could hear the members and artists talking. “Congratulations!” they would say. “I can’t believe I won!” was exclaimed. Then I eyed a really sweet piece, which I gave first place to. I looked at the price tag, $90 non-professional. It was a steal! So, I purchased it! Luckily, in a world of ethics there were no monetary prizes so I didn’t feel like I was going to change the volatility of the art market

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The best artist is a dead artist.

It’s Sunday night and we just feasted for Mother’s Day and blew our calorie count with fried snickers for dessert. I preface this blog thought with my eating habits because it’s quickly getting me closer to the dead artist.

I have been told this little fact more than once by gallery owners. Not sure if I should take this as an insult or a goal. I do a quick assessment of my art history classes and recount the more famous artists, the ones that are selling for high dollars at auction houses or don’t even hit the market because they are in museums. Then it occurs to me. It’s a business model. Art becomes a commodity. Once the artist is dead, the commodity becomes limited. As long as I am still alive and kicking I’m making stuff.

Take Van Gogh for instance. Everyone has heard the story about how he never sold anything while he was alive. Once dead he could no longer make the stuff, so his sister in law takes the reigns and starts shopping his art around. I’m sure with a little marketing, a little luck, and a limited quantity she could create a demand. Everyone knows how the story ends. He is everywhere, on umbrellas, totes, handbags, and even has a line of vodka.

Then I think of Patrick Nagel. Believe me it isn’t that great of a leap. He is an artist that captured the epitome of the 80’s. Every Miami Vice viewing house had at least one hanging over their black leather sofa adjacent to the black lacquered side table. He did tons of prints and editions, but I never saw an original. Can’t really say they are hanging in museums. So I googled him and lo and behold he died in 1983 just at the beginning of the 80’s and the end of his career. Now I’m wondering if he has a sister in law or family member that is business and marketing savvy.

I could go on with examples of dead artists. Even artists that created tons of stuff like Warhol. Everyone wants a Marilyn painting or a print now. I’d be happy with a Indian Head Nickel or Kachina Dolls print.

What does this have to do with my artwork and career… nothing. It’s inevitable, I’m going to eat more fried snickers and I’m going to have to pay more taxes

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm going to need a bigger stove.

I am going to continue on the food and eating theme. Last week, I needed a bigger plate so I could fit more things on it. But before you start serving yourself all of this good food you have to make it. So now we go back into the kitchen.

I worked as a sous chef through high school and for a few years during my college summers. Where I worked in our area was considered a “fancy” restaurant. I was the person between salads and meat.  I took care of anything that had to be fried or sautéed. Maybe this is the start of my high cholesterol, but I digress.  The following remark is not meant as a slam regarding the eating habits of America, but I was indeed busy every time I had a shift. We used to call the busy time, “the weeds.” This was the time when it seemed everyone came to eat. The orders piled in and while I needed a bigger stove more importantly I needed to prioritize.

Prioritizing projects seems to be the cliché of the week. Deadlines, planning, and future events all need to be maintained, stirred, and kept warm. Some projects need to maintain a constant boil. These have to go out right away. I love this stage. Creativity is flowing and things are humming. It’s hot and ready to serve. But…wait, here is a better analogy. The waiter comes back to the kitchen and says the client is still on the salad and not ready for the main course. I curse, and then move the meal to the back burner and turn down the flame to a simmer.

I move some projects or “pots” around to make room for something new. There are things marinating, waiting to be cooked. These are ideas waiting to be created. There are things simmering on the burners. These are projects in the works. Then I find out the customer excused himself to head to the head. Time passes, ideas idle, things get crispy, but never burnt. I think to myself, hit or get off the spot. I have things to make and serve