Thursday, January 29, 2015

Getting your act together - aka the backside of being a fine artist.

Beyond making great images/sculpture/'re going to need to think about the business end of being an artist.  If you're just starting out here's some suggestions for getting your act together. I'm assuming you already have a computer. If you don't, then take an intro to computers class at a community college.  I'm also assuming that you already have one or more bodies of work that have reached the "showable" stage.

1. Online presence: this is really two parts - your domain name and then the space (website host) where you will show your work. Your domain name is the personalized "" item that you register and pay for individually.  GoDaddy is usually an inexpensive way to go - you can just register your name, or you can also use them as a website host as well.

For the website part - there are many free versions (look at where you're reading this) and that's a good place to start. You want something that's easy to update. Don't get fancy with the name (this from someone who has over 20 letters in her address!) since folks have to type it in. Start posting now to get the hang of it. You NEED this - everyone wants to check out your work online. Blogger and Word Press are the two biggies. You could also consider another approach - using Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr etc., to set up your online interaction - but it's still good to have a more "stable" version as well where you can include a bio and resume/cv.

From my portfolio box which contains three series - I use a title page for each set. 

2. Some type of physical portfolio to show (this is geared to photographers...other areas may have different norms).  I've got two boxes now - a 17x22 for my new work and a 13x19 that has a sampling of three previous series. A simple black clamshell works fine. I consider these "showing" portfolios and just use the prints without mats or in-between tissue - you want the process of looking at the work to be simple. If I was showing silver-gelatin prints, then I would protect them a bit more. I will say that I've always been impressed with custom-made clamshell boxes, but they usually run between $300-$600. One of the best SoCal custom fabricators is Kater-Crafts Bookbinders.

What to show and how much? Most importantly - only show the work you know is your BEST!!! Don't feel you have to pad - if you've got 8 great pieces, then only show 8. Showing between 10-15 is a good bet in terms of giving the person a sense of your work. You can always have a blank page at the end with additional images underneath...that way, if they really want to see more, you've got them. Make sure the prints are well printed, etc. Too often I've had potential part-time instructors show me work they know has printing errors, which leaves me doubting their eye.

What if you're work is in different sizes/formats? Then standardize as much as you can. If you're showing published work,  bookmark the specific pages so you're not frantically searching under pressure. Group the sizes in a logical order - also consider how it will look when you first open the box - take a moment in the car to make sure it doesn't look like Hurricane Sandy hit it. 

3. Software: Obviously you need some type of word doc - but my favorite organizing tool is FileMaker Pro - I LOVE this program - and use it for everything: labels, catalog sheets, invoicing, shipping info etc. Basically, you create a record for each image with various "fields" of information - and in a second you can create a new layout featuring only the details you need. I also use it at school for grading and scheduling. There's another software that you should look at which was created by artists - GYST and it's a terrific way to go - I would have chosen it if I hadn't already been using FMP for so long.
Here's a sample screenshot from a FileMaker Pro layout I use to catalog the work. 

4. Business Card: there are tons of permutations on this - many of my students have gone with the type of card that has a different image on each card - very fun. I tend to go a bit more minimalist. There are a couple of places that I've used: Moo, Vista Print and if you really want to do it up right - there's Aardvark Letterpress - these guys are amazing and have a great history here in LA. If you're doing this all on your own (designers are a good idea, ya know) then go in person to look at different types of papers and weights. Consider partnering up with a designer or a design student and getting it done right. 

5. Legal smegal... If you're making sales (of goods, not services) then you'll want to get a Resale License and they now have a very easy online process for it - plus there's very nice people on the Help line if you get stuck.  There are a many solution for processing sales: Square, which is this great little "square" that you put into your cell phone to process credit card payments, PayPal has been around forever and is a very handy way to process payments. There are tons of others...but these are the ones I use. Keep all your receipts!

So, that's a start. For PhotoLA, my gallerist made binders of our work, with press clippings and statements for the various series - it's a nice thing to have on hand. Otherwise, don't let it get you too crazy, make sure you do #1, 2 and 4, then slowly work on the other stuff. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Photo LA - one photographer's weeklong experience.

I've been going to Photo LA for decades - my first one was at an auction house on Sunset. It was so fun to scout around in the cramped low rooms. I was working as a commercial photographer at the time and really felt like I'd discovered this gold mine. Lisa Sette Gallery was probably my favorite of those early years because they had such a non-traditional approach to photography. But this is the first year I participated as an artist. I did the whole gig: Gala on Thursday and then Friday through Sunday until closing. So, here's what I experienced.

Wednesday morning: You get an assigned time to deliver work so it's up early.  Loading up the car, then coordinating with the other artists, hitting the loading dock (amazing helpers!) only to be faced with loading my black portfolio cases onto carts covered in plaster...note to self: always have paper and bubble wrap. Then you're faced with figuring out how much work will really fit on the walls, which turn out to be full of supporting pillars. Then it's hanging out, trying not to bug the gallerist as she selects and arranges. Did a few walk throughs exploring the other exhibitors. There's a terrific guy from Chicago - Paul Berlanga or Berlanga Fine Art who spoke so passionately about his artists. Hanging out with the folks from Verge - a terrific group of local artists.  One of the strongest exhibitors is always The Queensland Center for Photography - and they're terrific people as well. Then it's getting all the last minute emergency stuff - picking up lettering, getting a better card made...and realizing what you still needed to do. We had a great location - apparently, you want to be to the right side - some kind of crowd tendency thing.

Thursday evening - the Gala bash: Well, this was a fairly crazy, but finally, fun event. The place was jammed and this year (unlike last) they didn't seem to have any planned activities. Mostly, it was a good chance to see everyone's booth and to speak with the folks who were walking by. This is the night that most of the curators who will be doing "curatorial tours" come by and preview the work to see which booths they want to feature. It's not really a great night for showing portfolios, more about talking with people, grabbing cards and generally socializing. Saw a few celebs...all in all, a nice evening, even for a committed crowd-o-phobe!

Friday: Ok, this is the first day of the event in terms of the general public coming and seeing the work. It was a bit slow, but there was a good steady stream of people until the late afternoon. Then, let's face it, it became drinks and M&M's time. I saw a lot of familiar faces, got a chance to talk about my work to a lot of people and connect with a few more on a deeper level. By 6:30...we were dragging. Came home, passed out on the couch.

Pano courtesy of Martin Cox

Saturday: I must say, this was a good day although I think that the "crowds" are much less than last year. Evesdropping on several gallery directors talking - the thought is that people just aren't collecting at this time. The sales I did see were rare...and I'm sorry to say we didn't have any either (except for a book). But, on the plus side, I spent the day talking about my work to a very wide range of people - and I met a few that I'd really like to keep in touch with (mostly photogs).  I was able to introduce my new direction (of constructed imagery) to people who were unaware of what I'd been doing - and got a lot of positive maybe, who knows? I also got to have the gallery experience from the other side - so now I was the individual keeping an eye on people - trying to find a balance between ignoring and stalking them. Note to photographers looking for a gallery representation: just a quick "hi, I'm a photographer, what's the best way to contact "X" about reviewing my work? is a good approach.  What I really loved was spending the entire day talking about photography - well, maybe we lapsed into a few "lowbrow" areas, but mostly I really enjoy the company of other artists. Felt energized by the end of the day.

Sunday: Ok, we're now into the part of the journey that isn't for the fainthearted. On the plus side, it was as busy as Saturday, or maybe a bit busier. On the negative side, the marathon aspects are starting to really hit. By 3:30...I gotta admit, I was toast. Walking around,  I found it hard to really take in the images - thought I'd spend more time looking at work, and I just couldn't take it in.  The last rush of people seemed to happen around 4:30-5:00 and then we settled into pure exhaustion. At 6:00 it was time to break down the booth, making several trips to the car for the wrapping materials stored since Wednesday. Having a system for packing your artwork really helps (I have a bubble wrap pouch for each) so that part went relatively fast. Even so, it was 7:30 before we hit the road.

Monday: technically not a Photo LA day...I'm considering it a "snow day" as in, no work gets done.

Tuesday: feeling parched for input after all that outflow, so I'm heading out to shoot.

So, what do I think of the experience as a whole? I've heard it proclaimed that Photo LA was crap and all the good galleries were elsewhere...while others acknowledge it's not Art Basil, but still plays an important role.  Art, like every other field, is in freefall distruption - and the current system is falling apart. In the early years I found PhotoLA much more stimulating. It felt like galleries were taking chances - now, I just don't have that feeling anymore, but that's probably a factor of the $$ involved. My overall viewpoint is that I think that it's all an aggregate - an art business is one that is built in layers over a long period of time. People want to watch the artist develop and see what they have to say - to build a relationship - and so, I see this as another layer. Spending a concentrated time in our photo community was a very good experience for me - many thanks to all who came by.

My thanks to Sarah Lee for curating me into this project. To my fellow artists - many thanks for the wild ride: Aline SmithsonMartin Cox and Sara Jane Boyers

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Patience and Courage

Today is the first day of Photo LA and I have been fortunate to be curated into Sarah Lee Projects @ Photo LA 2015 with three other amazing photographers (more on them to come). The upside is that I've had the chance to work with terrific people and hopefully find the 4 day event rewarding, exciting and fun. The potential downside is it exposes me to everything I normally try to avoid in my everyday life: gobs of people and selling myself. It got me thinking about how often I find myself on scary paths.  

Truth is, all goals have difficult steps. Actors want to have an audience, so they have to hit the talk-show circuit ("what if I sound stupid"), writers want someone to buy their book so they do book-signings ("what if no one shows up")...we all have the same issue of doing the crap we're not wild about to continue doing the stuff we can't exist without.  

I've had students tell me that "I just want to make the work, that's what important, not if anyone sees it." My response is usually: "well, let's think about the difference between therapy and art. If the work is therapy...then I agree, that an audience is not important. But, if you're striving to make art, then art is a process of communication and part of your responsibility to the work is to find it a place in the world." Yes, it's excruciating to bare one's soul (or even to bear one's soul) to the world...but if you can somehow pretend that's not happening, or focus on your end goals, it can help you find the courage to move forward. 

I believe that once you've created a work, it has its own rights and it needs to find its place in the world. Sitting in your studio/closet/drawer isn't enough. What if no one wants it? Well...every creative has worried about that from year 1000BC...maybe not those early cave painting guys, let's face it, they had a captive market. Ok, let's say no one wants the work. It could mean multiple things.  Maybe they're idiots. Maybe it's crap. Maybe it's too personal. Maybe it's the wrong market. Maybe it's ahead of its time...who knows? Maybe it's really just a step in your process of becoming a better artist...and you'll realize that in a few years and that takes patience.  It's important to remember that making 2015 the year you get better will mean doing some of the crap that makes you crazy. 

Patience and Courage. 

xxx from the front!

p.s. if you go to Photo LA, come by and say hi...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Photo LA and Making Books in Lightroom

Next week I will be participating in Photo LA and I've been working (like a dog!) getting ready. Funny thing is...I already thought I was fairly organized as an artist - I guess it's good to have a reality check.  As part of my presentation, I decided to make a few photo books, one for each body of work. 

There are an enormous range of possibilities in terms of self-publishing and I chose to use Blurb (as an experiment) because they're part of the Lightroom Book Module and MagCloud because it's super affordable. You can design a basic book in Word or Pages - or get more advanced with In Design or Photoshop. 

Lightroom is a terrific way to design a book quickly, and once you become familiar with its quirks, there is still a bit of customizing you can do. My big complaint is that the available sizes in Lightroom do not match up with the sizes in MagCloud (which is the best low-cost method for quick catalogs I've found). So, I came up with a work around method. 

I only like the "perfect binding" available in MagCloud - the three sizes that are available with perfect binding are Standard PortraitSmall Square and Digest. Here's the easiest way to use and adapt Lightroom for MagCloud's Standard Portrait - which is the format I used for Multiple Viewings.

This is how I created a standard 8.5x11 magazine style book with no full bleeds (where the image goes from edge to edge) in Lightroom 4 - it should work for the newer versions of LR as well.

Creating a MagCloud publication using Lightroom and Acrobat Pro

1. In the LR Library module, create a Collection of the images you want to make a book from. 

2. Move to the LR Book module and use these settings for "Book Settings." 
a. Book: PDF
b. Size: Standard Portrait
c. Cover: No Cover
d. JPEG Quality: 100%
e. Color Profile: use whatever profile you normally use - I use Adobe RGB or ProPhoto (yes I know which is bigger...that's a different discussion). 
f. File Resolution: 300
g. Sharpening: Standard
h. Media Type: Glossy

3. You are now in a format that is 8"x10" - and when we print in MagCloud it's going to be .5" larger side-to-side and 1" larger top-to-bottom. This means you can place type very close to the top or bottom of the page - but I'd watch the sides since that extra space can get lost in the fold and trim. 

4. Layout your publication - but our first "work around" involves knowing that your Page #1 will be removed from your final pdf, which means Page #2 is your real cover and you must end on an even number - that last page is your back cover.  

5. When you're happy with the design - "Export Book to PDF" is at the bottom of the right column. Then open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro. Click to show the thumbnails (icon on left) and to show the "Tools" column on the right. The image below illustrates that the first step will be to select and delete page one using the "Pages" tools. 

6. Next, select the "crop" tool from that same right side column tools and double-click in the page, which will bring up the window you see below. Towards the bottom where it says "Fixed Sizes" select "Letter" and also check "Center" and over on the right under Page Ranges, check "All." This will add the additional space to your pages. I've found that you can still do double-page spreads with this method. 

7. Important step that is often ignored - make a quick printout of this new PDF, image quality is not important. Then put it together like a book and "proof" it for flow, readability and layout. I cannot stress enough how important this step can be. If you need to make changes - you'll need to repeat from step #5. 

8. When you upload the pdf to Lightroom, you'll get a warning, just ignore it and "continue with this file." Then you just need to double-check that nothing falls in the trim area - also, don't forget to specify that you want "perfect binding" when you get to the pricing part and consider what color you want that side bind to be. 

Good luck!

p.s. if you'd like to have full bleeds (on the cover, for example), you'll need to make those full size in Photoshop, save them as Photoshop PDFs and then use Acrobat to insert them. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Resolution...

I love January 1st! I love a new year in the same way that I love a new sketch/notebook - all the potential of those wide open spaces with none of the reality bumps.

To be honest - 2014 was not a year I'll be reviewing fondly. It was one of those years that hit you with crap every few months. We lost two very amazing friends - both creative, vital, inquiring, active women that one would never have guessed would die this early.  It seemed like the year was continually tossing something up that we'd never have expected.  So I struggled to figure out what the hell I was supposed to make of all this crap?

What it has come down to is fairly small and simple: pay attention. Pay attention.

Pay attention when you have a "feeling" that something's not right.

Pay attention when there's something you need to do...but you just want to finish one more obligation before you get to it.

Pay attention when life tells you to slow down, or speed up.

This year, my resolution is to pay attention and to move towards the people and experiences that feed me. I'm starting this blog back up on a weekly basis - so please check back for more next week!