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. 

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