This is draft #5 above: photographed outside, then inside under my studio lights, followed by a complex digital transformation. The images below are the previous draft, minus some detailing and leafy additions!
Adding color to an older polylitho black ink ghost print… and then going digital! In addition to some digital transformations, I have added a digital variation of a drawn & colored figure for a bit of fun.
After a few years of working without showing my work beyond a small circle of artist friends, family and neighbors, I prepared to open my studio and show my art in the annual Port Townsend Studio Tour. This was exciting and a little bit unnerving; most of us want to be liked and want our work to be admired!
I spent nearly two months preparing for this two day weekend free tour. I organized and cleaned my studio, after almost eight years of use, and some months of neglect, it really needed a spring cleaning! I retrieved favorite work hung in my home, I mounted & framed more work, and I made my studio walls my gallery. I cleared and organized my work stations, shelves, and racks and set up some show of my process: the steps for making molds, the tools for carving stone, and “before and after” examples for digital transformations. I wanted to honor the true spirit of a “studio” tour. I created written descriptions of my processes, and I made copies of my short artist biography/statement, printed art cards and had lovely business cards to give away. I went all out, and it really was great! I loved the way my studio looked, I loved my work on display; I was so ready for the crowds! I even warned all my neighbors in my cul-de-sac, and arranged extra parking.
Well, the crowds did not arrive. Promotion was poorly handled this year, the brochures printed very late, and there was very little advertising. When I realized this a few weeks before the event, I started a Studio Tour FaceBook page, paid for a bit of online advertising myself, and distributed a few brochures at the last minute. With some sixty artists listed on the tour, studio visitors could hardly visit them all, and I am guessing most visited less than a dozen.
But many friends arrived, and few had spent time in my studio or seen much of my work. And a steady trickle of strangers arrived throughout both days, so I was never alone for long. I really had a fine time, and my husband and friends helped me take breaks and feel totally relaxed. My friends and most visitors were enthusiastic and engaged with me once I introduced myself. Several visitors really entered into the event, asking questions and looking at everything. And wonder of wonders, I had more sales than I ever expected. Part of the surprise was what sold: a few “big” pieces, and some small things I made that I considered experimental studio decorations, rather than finished artwork! Mind you, I started out with very low expectations, and I set very low Port Townsend prices, further discounted for friends!
I am so very glad that I don’t need to profit from my art in order to eat or keep a roof over my head. My years as a computer geek paid off, and I am pretty comfortable in retirement. I don’t need to have a new car or take expensive vacations. But real art sales could provide a special trip, or more likely more and better art materials for larger art projects!
The real lesson learned from Port Townsend Studio Tour 2019 has been the sheer pleasure of sharing my work with interested visitors, whether friends or strangers. I think I want more of this than I have had for the past few years. But I don’t really know what that looks like, or how to get it.
I don’t think I can get the same satisfaction from an annual open studio. Many friends have now seen what amounts to a retrospective, covering years of making art. They will hardly have the same level of interest every year, and also it took me two months to prepare the show I put on this year.
I do have more artwork, and with considerable effort and some expense, I might be able to display a new and different exhibit next year. But I can not do that every year; I won’t have enough new work. And it would be a huge disruption and distraction from actually making new art! I don’t produce finished work quickly, I don’t have help, and I can’t pay for professional framing or mounting; I do all the presentation work myself.
So maybe Studio Tour might work for me every other year, or even every three years, and probably on a bit smaller scale. I might work up a live demonstration for some additional interest.
That may give me a few sales every other year, to help with the stockpiling of work, and it will help me stay on top of actually finishing work and clearing out the chaff! But I would still like to have a few more sales, I think.
And I do crave more engagement: it was really lovely to have that. I wonder how to get this without trying to be an extrovert, which is not going to happen!
To be continued … in Making Art, the Journey #5
Currently, as an artist, I struggle with my ambition, my sometimes inadequate knowledge and proficiency, and with increasing problems with my aging body. But these things are to be expected, to be coped with, and will be managed!
Setting these issues aside, I am still have immediate questions to resolve, questions I seem to need help with! I don’t where to start resolving my twofold dilemma:
- What do I do with all my finished artwork?
- And how can I best find sufficient rewarding interaction and affirmation around my artwork?
And preferably without hours, days and weeks away from actually making art!
There are many artists who do not have a gallery contract or regular venue to show or market their work, yet they persist in making art. Artist creators who do not have agents, or galleries, or much of an audience. Most visual artists create alone, and do almost all their work alone, without paid assistants, interns, or other helpers. Some of us must share a need to find homes for our work, or to engage with a broader audience.
When I thought my work was ready, I started entering local juried art shows. At first I was delighted to have work accepted. This let me feel successful communicating something in my art: I was evoking a response in others, not just for myself. Also I had hopes of sales: I wanted to at least pay for some art materials & frames. For some years, I entered a 2 or 3 juried shows each year, and was pleased to exhibit a few pieces. But nothing sold. After a bit, I developed a body of work and more self-confidence, so I made the effort to arrange my own shows at local businesses. It is common in town for restaurants, banks and a few professional offices to display the work of local artists on a rotating basis. Generally artists simply self-nominate, and are put on the schedule. I have been lucky enough to have help selecting and displaying my work in this way.
So I have exhibited some work in the past, and sold a few pieces at my own shows, or to friends at other times. I don’t remember ever selling work from a juried show. And yet artists pay fees to enter juried shows, and must meet gallery guidelines for presentation. The fee is usually a small one; a base price plus a bit more for each submission, but framing can be pricey, and the gallery will keep a significant percentage of any sales. After submitting, the artist must wait in some suspense, with the likelihood of rejection. We may submit 3-5 pieces to a particular show, but given the number of entries, we will be lucky to have 1 or 2 accepted. At an exhibit opening, there will a dozen or more artists present, each showing just a few works. Few attendees take time away from their personal friends and from refreshments to engage with unknown artists about their work.
As you may guess, I no longer find it appealing to enter juried shows. Even when work is accepted, the experience is not rewarding. Quite the opposite, in fact. So I have not entered a juried show in several years. Nor have I made the effort to create an exhibit of my work at any of the local business venues.
Instead, this year, I signed up for the local Studio Tour, an annual Port Townsend event promoted with a brochure and some advertising. Participating in Studio Tour has been an ambition since getting my current studio space in 2011. I am lucky enough to have an excellent, heated, comfortable studio, with enough wall space to actually showcase quite a lot of work, and August is a good time for me to show some outdoor work also. So I finally made the commitment to have my studio and my work on display.
When I show art in an exhibit, I may never hear from viewers, and if something sells, I may never meet or talk to the buyer. And it is difficult for me, as an introvert, to engage with strangers looking at my work. My artwork is always personal, and I, the maker, am vulnerable to criticism even when I am most proud of my achievements. And of course there will be people who do not like my work. I don’t really want to overhear critics who may not try to be tactful.
The occasional sale does communicate something; it tells me that I have reached someone. There has been some sharing, and there is a response, and presumably appreciation! This does help me enjoy making art. I may never know what my work evoked: a sense of mystery, a bit of beauty from a balance of colors and shape, a definable message, or perhaps a personal memory. But some shared response was evoked in the buyer.
Is that enough? It seems that I crave a bit more interaction.
To be continued … in Art Making, the Journey #4