Sunday, January 11, 2015

Two pieces of advice to new artists

"Strange Dance", Pastel and charcoal on paper, 22T"x30W", 2014/12/16 by John Terwilliger
When I began as an artist I had a friend who gave me good advice and encouragement about my work.  He always guided my visual growth with keen insight.  But his advice on career goals was as bad as all the other advice I received. He steered me away from galleries so I would not "sell out" and to keep doing diverse work.

In art school we were taught to always search for new things, new ways to see, to handle materials, to create.  This is a good and necessary thing for students but it can end up being detrimental if the student does see through it and focus.  In school if you did more than a couple pieces in a similar style, or the same subject, you ended up getting "talked" to not only by the faculty but other students.   

After I graduated I had a lot of dissimilar work and an attitude of "I've already done that".  Then I started trying to get shows and found everyone wants to see ten or twenty works.  And not surprising they want the works to be thematically and stylistically similar or you will always get rejected.  I had a lot of work that met those goals but they were on large paper 42" wide and up and I did not know how to display them.

Have enough work on hand to put together a Show

Enough works for a show?  What on earth does that mean?  The answer is dependent on the size of your artwork, how it is framed, and how much room is needed between the artwork so they do not interfere/distract from each other.  Some works want to be grouped tightly together in an intimate arrangement and others want to stand alone with plenty of wall between them.

Gallery/show spaces vary widely in size, ceiling height, and lighting.  But in general a 20'x20' space has 80' of linear wall space minus doors and windows.  The 20'x20' number is about what old warehouse posts are spaced at and is just a good mid-range for estimating.   My work is generally on 22"x30" paper matted in black gallery frames, so I put about one piece per four feet of wall.  So in this example assuming no doors or windows I need 20 works.

So ask yourself, "Can I I fill 60 linear feet of wall space with framed artwork?"

Learn how to mat and frame artwork

Your work needs to be presentable for the gallery.  It also needs to be wired and ready to hang.  If you are a painter and use gallery wrap canvas simply paint the sides black install hanging wire and smile.  Otherwise you need to frame the artwork.

Works on paper need to be matted and framed.  And soft pastel work needs to be set back from the glazing material to keep static from drawing your drawing up onto the glass or plexiglass. 

If you half to purchase frames you will need a lot of money.  Several years ago I had a frame shop I was showing at quote my frames for a 22"x30" drawing and it came out to over $300 each.  Simple math would say a show of 20 pictures then is $6,000 for the frames.  Needless to say I build my own frames.

You do not need expensive tools to make frames and to cut mats, you just need a few basics and training to use them.  I use a $50 chop saw to cut my frames (though I do have an $80 trim blade) and a basic mat cutter with a four foot straight edge for matting.

So go forth and create a bunch of artwork and dress it up for showing in public.