Category Archives: Art Festivals

Art festivals are lessons in mindfulness

I sometimes get wrapped up in my own message. For me, creating artwork is a way for me communicate images and ideas to others via a particular medium. Sometimes people want to receive my message…and sometimes they don’t. My weekend at one of the nation’s top rated art festivals was a lesson in mindfulness.

The weekend started out auspiciously, because I avoided having my tent rolled by severe weather. I had a favorable site near a children’s activity area, and away from the talented yet resounding musical acts. The forecasted rain never materialized. It was staffed by numerous volunteers who wanted to meet my every need. Conditions were favorable for people coming to experience my message…

art festival tent

My art festival tent is set up to be peaceful and inviting. I wish I could bring a small settee…

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Adventures into the land of LEDs

My basement studio has no natural light. To get colors just right, I have been relying on a hodgepodge of halogen and fluorescent bulbs.  Over time I can tell that the halogen bulbs are aging — and I perceive them getting strangely yellow. Plus the halogens run very hot, which is quite a waste of energy.

Do bulbs really make a difference?

photo in studio

Taken in my studio

photo outside

Taken outside in the shade on a sunny day.

I use my Iphone to take quick images of the preliminary stages of my work. You can see that the camera perceives quite a difference, and I wondered how this was affecting my color choices. It was time for a change to something that more closely resembles natural light.

I spent some time on 1000bulbs.com, and came away with replacements for the various fixtures in my track lighting system. They were expensive. But considering that lighting can make up about 25% of household electrical costs — and that these lights are often on for many hours — I thought the splurge was worth it. The bulbs I will use in my studio state that they will last for 32 years — based on three hours of use per day — and cost $2.23 annually.

led bulbs

Part of a household LED upgrade order.

Which LED should I choose?

LED bulbs come in several color temperatures. When I wanted to light my art tent this summer, we did a test with three temperatures: 2700K (warm), 4000K (moderate) and 5000K (cool.) For illuminating my artwork the 5000K was clearly the best choice — mimicking natural daylight. So I ordered this temperature bulb for my studio and am using a narrow floodlight.

When I tried the 5000K bulb in one of our household recessed can lights, my husband objected to the harshness and the narrow spot. So I’m trying some 4000K wide spotlight LEDs in our living area. Many people might prefer the warmth of the 2700K bulbs, but I would love light that is closer to natural daylight.

UPDATE September 2016: My husband and I have compromised and have 2700K LED bulbs in our living areas. Warmth won me over!

Use LEDs (carefully) in outside displays

art tent at night

My art tent lit up at night in Columbus, Ohio courtesy of 5000K LED bulbs.

I invested in LED bulbs this summer for two festivals that went late into the evening and provided electricity. Having LED bulbs meant that my tent was brilliantly lit, and my seven bulbs came in under the power limit set by the show. The effect was spectacular. Because the bulbs are expensive, we take them out of the fixture after each show and nestle them carefully back in their original boxes. These bulbs travel in safety.

Tonight I will set up my art tent for the last time this year at my hometown art festival, The Fourth Street Festival of the Arts and Crafts. The show only goes until 6pm on Saturday and 5pm on Sunday, but my tent is situated under an imposing ash tree. On many hot Labor Day weekends I am grateful for this shade, but it does make the tent darker than I would like. Luckily my mensch of a husband has set me up with a rechargeable marine battery to power these very efficient lights.

A wise artist once told me that if people can’t see the artwork, they certainly won’t purchase it. We will be fully lit this weekend.

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The clouds and I …. on the move

I am suddenly longing to get back to carving and printing — as I have been consumed with gathering new imagery, and getting the work I have completed ready for new homes.

We recently escaped to Sleeping Bear Dunes in northern Michigan as a celebration of my husband’s milestone birthday. An unseasonable cold front had settled over the Midwest, so we were greeted with light snow, temperatures in the 40s and a furious wind. This gave us very atmospheric conditions to hike the dunes and the springtime woods, and provided me with lots of moving cloud pictures for inspiration. Here are some favorites…

cloud 2

cloud 1

The wind was blowing so hard — sometimes taking sand with it — that all I could do was point my Iphone in the direction of the clouds and push the volume buttons. We did take a moment to snap a quick self-portrait. Note the fleece headband — in May!

cold weather selfie

Back from our weekend, I have been madly framing and preparing to take my work to the Broad Ripple Art Fair at the Indianapolis Art Center. One of the greatest challenges — undertaken by my dear husband — was to create a way to transport all of my work and equipment in our RAV4. Here is his solution, complete with clips that hold the metal display panels together that he 3-D printed himself. Quite a mensch!

rav 4

And yes, if you thought the RAV4 was riding a bit low despite being on an angled driveway, you would be correct. Always an adventure…

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The truth about art festivals

I am thrilled to be in the beginning stages of my first commissioned linocut. It is so new, however, that my gradated blue rectangles aren’t ready for blog exposure. My other big project — the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts and Crafts — is coming up soon on Labor Day. So in honor of the festival I thought I would answer some of the most common questions I get about art festivals. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions, and these insights are from my own experience as a festival participant, a festival juror, and local festival committee member.
 
Who chooses which artists participate?
If the event says it is a juried art fair, then submissions are chosen by a jury. Most festivals use an on-line service called ZAPP, where images of the artist’s work and a picture of the artist’s booth are uploaded. Jurors only see the images — no names or other identifiers are allowed — so it is hoped that the process can be without favoritism. Jurors see artwork by category (i.e. jewelry, ceramics) and give each submission a numerical score.
The festival then uses these raw scores to develop their list of invitees. They keep in mind how many of each type of medium they would like to have. There are usually many more jewelers, ceramicists and photographers than there are say, printmakers. They want to make sure the festival has a good variety of offerings.
Being a juror can be a tough job. Some festivals do live jurying — where the jurors look at the images together for a brief time and then submit scores. I did this for the Broad Ripple Art Fair one year, and it was exhausting to look at so much art! Other festivals allow jurors to score on-line over a period of time from any location.

 

My first booth shot came from an early January mock set-up in my church hall.
Where do all those white tents come from?

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Putting your art on a T-shirt (UPDATED!)

Sometimes winning something can mean nothing much is asked of you… and sometimes it stretches you in new ways. Over the past week, I’ve been stretched — by a
T-shirt.
I am a member of the organizing committee for the Fourth Street Festival of the
Arts & Crafts in Bloomington, Indiana, which is held the Saturday and
Sunday of each Labor Day weekend. Each February, committee members are asked to
submit possible images for the event’s annual T-shirt.
For my design I took part of my linocut Sydney Afternoon and combined
it with vertical lettering inspired by the beach shirts of my adolescence in
the 1980s. It was the height of fashion to have a long-sleeved T-shirt with the
lettering of the particular surf shop running along the sleeves. I used Lightroom
to increase the contrast of the linocut a bit so it would read better as a
T-shirt.
A forest green t-shirt will now be the backdrop for my image.

When your design is chosen, you are in charge of the T-shirt production for the year — soliciting bids, dealing with the imagery, considering the numbers and types of shirts, as
well as supervising delivery and distribution. I have never put anything on a
T-shirt before, but employing the Busey family motto I thought “How hard
can it be?”

The T-shirts are intended for advertising for the festival, but the all-volunteer committee also wants to cover the cost of the shirts. So in planning this year’s shirt, I was
forced to grapple with many trade-offs:
• The more colors, the more expensive the shirt
The goal of the
T-shirts is to promote our fine art festival, so we really want fine art on the
T-shirt. This can mean many colors and gradations, all of which add additional
costs to the printing of each shirt. In traditional screen-printing, each color
is an individual screen and is printed separately. There was an option of a
Direct to Garment process (which is used for printing photographs on textiles)
but the textile artists on the committee felt very strongly that they wanted
traditional screen- printing.
• 100% cotton vs. new-century blends
Many of the exercise
T-shirts that are now sold are a blend of cotton and synthetic fibers. They
feel softer and more drape-y than the traditional 5.3 – 6 oz cotton T-shirts.
The thinner shirts might feel better, but also seem see-through, which might be
objectionable to some people. Other people object to the boxy stiffness of the
100% cotton men’s T-shirts. My compromise was to order a percentage of women’s
T-shirts, with the intent of creating some specific signage and labeling to
make sure everything sells.
• Where is everything made?
T-shirts are often a
promotional item, and are considered somewhat disposable in the United States.
In my city, the most popular college-town bar orders 2,000 shirts per week
during the university school terms. I use my family’s worn out T-shirts as rags
for my studio. I spent some time reading about the labor records of the
factories that produce the T-shirts most often used, and it was a sobering
read. This also doesn’t take into account the production of cotton and its
environmental problems. At least the shirts will be locally printed.
• How many do you order?
I am never so aware
of the risk of entrepreneurship as when I plan for an outdoor event. In the
four years I have participated in this festival, we have had searing heat, high
humidity and torrential rains. One year the remnants of a hurricane came to
visit. When it is very hot, people don’t like to shop, and they don’t want to
buy heavy T-shirts. When it is raining, it is hard for the information booth to
adequately display the shirts. Poor sales of shirts means more boxes in a
committee member’s basement, and T-shirt costs not covered.
So many trade-offs and considerations exist for something that is so ubiquitous in our culture. Consider this when you put one on this weekend…
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Putting art making in perspective

One of the more challenging parts of being an artist is marketing and selling my work. Juried art fairs are one of the ways that I try to find homes for some of my prints.  This past weekend I was a first time exhibitor at the Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff show in St. Joseph, Michigan. It was a weekend where I learned to put what I do into perspective.

Take a splash in the splash park, and then a dip in the lake.

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Sometimes a picture IS worth a thousand words

An amazed printmaker at the Broad Ripple Art Fair.

Sunday was a good day at the Broad Ripple Art Fair. I was surprised that morning with the news that I was the first place winner of the entire show. Words escaped me then, as they do now. What it said to me was that even though I am a printmaker who makes prints that don’t look like traditional printmaking…I should keep going!

For all of the no’s I have had this spring, finally a yes.

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A tale of travels, tents and travails

I have not been blogging for the past month because I embarked on the adventure of outdoor art shows. This year I applied to many shows and I’m trying them out to see just where my art is best received.

I attended the Broad Ripple Art Fair at the Indianapolis Art Center, Summerfair in Cincinnati, and the Art Fair on the Square in my hometown of Bloomington, IN. I spent lots of time talking with people, and found a home for some of my work. What I found most interesting was people’s lack of knowledge about printmaking. Either people had done some printmaking, and knew exactly what it was, or they had no idea, and thought my work was painted, airbrushed or computer generated.

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Impressions from my first jurying process

I spent the afternoon in the dark auditorium at the Indianapolis Art Center observing the jurying for the Broad Ripple Art Fair in May. This is my first year applying to shows using the ZAPP system. I had several thoughts as I watched. I should caution readers that I donot know if my musings are in agreement with the jurors, as the results were not announced that day.

Application process 

Artists were requested to submit three images of their work, plus a shot of their booth and a 200 word explanation of their process. The jurors were asked to judge over 800 entries, where only a bit over 200 would be accepted. A schedule of the media categories was e-mailed to applicants, and the categories were considered in alphabetical order. I arrived in time to see the jewelry, leather, painting, photography and printmaking categories.

 

Such a short time
The jurors would see a quick run through of each category, and then each entrant was given about 30 seconds for the consideration of the jurors. During this time, the artist statement was read.

I was struck by how short a time this is. I learned from a former juror that artists are ranked between 1 and 7, with four not being used. There was no discussion between jurors throughout. I wasn’t able to glean any particular criteria they were using, other than their personal assessment of the quality of the artwork, and the appearance of the booth.

Image quality

I am a printmaker, and was surprised to see that when my images were projected on the screen, the top two images looked washed out, while the bottom image and booth shot looked fine. I chatted with Larry Berman, an expert on the ZAPP system, about why this might be. He suggested that part of the problem might have been the angle from which I was viewing the images. The jurors were much closer to the screen, and lower in the auditorium, so my seat in the middle of the auditorium might have been compromised by the angle of the projectors and the light reflected off the screens.

 

Another possibility was that the two top images had too much contrast. He noted that sometimes you have to adjust the contrast of your digital representations to make your artwork appear more accurate to the judges. I realized that I would have to think carefully about my images, and choose ones that are both strong artistically, but also are the best when reproduced digitally. Thus my “Fibonacci”, the most popular of my fine art prints, may not be part of future entries.

 

My booth shot.

 

Booth shots
The range of booth shots was striking. Many jewelry entries looked very professional because of the display cabinets and cases used. I was struck by how distracting a busy print could be on the skirting fabric when viewed from a distance. The best jewelers had large photos at the back of their booth to further display their work.

For 2-D artists, the best booth shots in my opinion were those where simple fabric or carpet panels let the work be the center of attention. Racks of prints made things look cluttered. The best ones were photographed in a way that did not show the outside setting, but focused only on the work. Open wire mesh and wood lattices really detracted from the beauty of the work.

What I was most surprised about, however, was the number of booths that had either their identifying banner, or the artist themselves, or both in the booth shot. The jury facilitator told us that artists who had identifying signs in their booth shot were contacted, and given the opportunity to submit a corrected booth shot. I was shocked at the number of people who ignored this request. These artists will lose two points from their overall score.

Short statements
For this show, artists were asked to submit 200 words explaining their process. This was read during the 30 seconds their work was considered. For some, their process was unusual, and the statement served to illuminate their work. Others chose to state the obvious, like; “I paint with oils”, or make somewhat political statements like; “I will never make copies of my work” or say something puzzling like; “I have a recognizable unique style.” I am already writing memorable future explanations to accurately describe how I make my prints, but also give the jurors a peak into why I make my art.

Who will get accepted?
The facilitator told the audience that they attempt to represent all media categories, but that if none of the entries in a category are of high quality, that category will not be represented. In my case, the eleven other entries in the printmaking category were impressive, arresting, and tremendously varied. I would highly recommend that artists attend any jurying that is open to the public. It was definitely a learning experience.

As it turned out, I was accepted to the Broad Ripple Art Fair (May 21 – 22)!  Good luck on all of your entries.  Make them the best they can be.

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