Category Archives: Business of Art

Making art that does not fit on a cell phone

What do you do when what you create does not look its best on a cell phone? I have been struggling with this question ever since I wanted to post my first monoprint collage. Take a look at my latest monoprint collage, Benediction for an Unlikely Journey and I will explain.

©Elizabeth Busey. Benediction for an Unlikely Journey, monoprint collage, 18 x 24in.

I am drawn to small details and want to see how the compilation of details creates an energetic, continually interesting whole. I cut details out of monoprints I have created and maps on which I sometimes print colors. When people take a look at my work in person, they first come close to see all of the details, and then back up to see the work as a whole. I find these dual ways of enjoying artwork means my imagery that doesn’t get boring.

Sadly, many of the people who see my work will never see it in person. It is largest when the image is clicked on through my website. I also post it on Instagram and Facebook. Imagine how tiny the image becomes when viewed in the Facebook platform on a small cell phone. The details are completely lost. Does this make a difference?

Getting up close and personal

Detail of Benediction for an Unlikely Journey.

To counter the problem of the tiny screen, I have started including details in my social media posts and even on the webpage of the work. I’m hoping that between the two images, viewers can get a clearer idea of the work despite the problems of scale. It takes some work on their part, however…

Making the art feel at home

Benediction for an Unlikely Journey in my living room.

In my quest for image clarity, I created an in situ photograph of the work. I popped the collage into the frame matted, but without the glass to avoid reflections. Now people can see the scale of the work and how the details read from a few feet away.

Will all of these images help with the problem of the tiny screen? It will probably be some time before I know if it is a reasonable substitute to visiting the work on my living room wall.

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How to get (and stay) in your groove

One of my goals for 2018 is to develop a more consistent and intentional studio practice. I imagine myself like those famed artists and writers who march off to their studios each day to produce great art. I find it hard to create in the bits and pieces of time that my real life often provides.

I find I can really concentrate on airplanes. Not a good daily option, however.

What does the Emperor have to do with studio practice?

I often feel just like the Emperor in the Emperor’s New Groove. Remember the memorable scene with John Goodman as Pacha, who discovers an old man hanging upside down from a fabric banner? (more…)

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Can artists do math?

Besides the joys and challenges of art creation, artists are always faced with making decisions about how they will display their work. The options are many, but I have been lately struggling with the question of “national” juried shows. The following musings may be heresy for some, but I do think artists who wish to be professional — i.e. actually sell their work and make a profit — must remove their rose colored glasses for a moment when considering these shows.

I’m frequently tempted, especially by the shows that specialize in printmaking or works on paper. When I had work accepted into the Boston Printmakers 2013 North American Print Biennial, it was a heady experience. I even made a pilgrimage to Boston to see the show. The Boston show is arguably one of the premier printmaking shows in North American, and having it on my resume is probably beneficial.

Breath Intertwined

Breath Intertwined was featured in the 2013 Boston Printmaker’s Biennial.

The importance of reading the fine print

Whenever I see a call for submissions, I always have a rush of “oh yes! let’s enter this one!” But I make myself read the fine print regarding commissions and shipping requirements. My work is larger than some printmakers, and even when framed with plexiglass it is cumbersome. This makes it difficult and expensive to ship. In these juried shows, the artist is almost always required to pay for shipping both ways. Some places require proof of return shipping payment before they will hang the work at the show. (Note: if you get a Fed Ex business account, they will print a return label that will only get charged to your account if it is used. I haven’t been able to accomplish this with UPS.)

And then there are the commissions. I have seen required commissions on any sales between 30 – 50% for these shows. This is after I have paid a $35 – 50 entry fee for 1-2 images, with additional costs for more submissions.

Asking the forbidden question

When you do the math (yes I said math) I wonder just how much this “exposure” is worth. Even if my work was sold (and didn’t have the return label used) after my materials and framing costs, I would lose money.

I realize it sounds crass to talk about losing money… But why are creative professionals expected to exist on such a ridiculous financial knife’s edge?

My own decision-making plan

I don’t have the answer this question, just some guidelines that I have set up for myself to balance my desire to have my work seen, with the realities that the IRS needs to see me make a profit if I am to be considered a professional artist and not a hobbyist.

  • I look for shows that are within four hours driving distance. Transporting my larger work by car is still cheaper than shipping.
  • I look for works on paper shows that still ask for the work to be sent unframed — possibly just matted — to be displayed under plexiglass. The Boston Printmakers Biennial did this is 2013 and it made all the difference. Sadly, they have changed their requirements and now require black metal frames — something I never use.
  • I look for shows that have 30% commission or lower. Any higher, and I lose money because framing works on paper is expensive.
  • I spend most of my effort and marketing dollars on local and regional efforts. I am more than willing to drive the four hours to a group show opening, in the hopes of making another regional contact. These efforts have been much more fruitful than many of the juried shows I have entered. I know this limits me — as I’m close to Chicago, but not to the coasts.

Saying no to oneself is difficult. Weighing (very unlikely) accolades against your bottom line requires the cold light of day. This artist still needs to do the math.

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