Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Afraid of the Dark

Dark days and darker nights, just the sort of thing to take the drive out of an artist, where’s the golden light of summer?

You can stick your head in the sand and wait for the brighter days of spring to appear or you can start doing some of the drudgery that gets put off when things are sunny and the light is good.

Have you checked all of your frames? Sure you do. You have a bunch of frames just waiting for some new work of art and they’re there for the taking. How? Just take that picture out, the one that’s been in the frame for the last five years and been to every show and art fair up and down the coast and you still love it, but darnit it just won’t sell.

You can’t let your affection for a piece cloud your judgment and supplies are hard to come by. If every artist could frame every picture they produce and keep that frame on the image even when it doesn’t attract any attention the frame shops would be gold mines. I think if you ask Ken and Jane Snoddy they’ll tell you artists are a penurious lot, they don’t like to let go of a dime until they have to and even then they squeeze and pinch it’s no wonder Liberty has nothing to wear but a gown and had to be retired and let Mercury have a turn cause we only get to see his head and that’s not all that shocking even if it does get nekkid.

No, frames are a resource in short supply and if you let your old images take up all the space between the slats there’ll be no room for your new and even better images.

So maybe when the days are dark, it’s time to put on the work gloves, get out the miner’s light and excavate the closet and see if there are any frames you can salvage.

Don’t toss the images you take out of those frames! You might just need them in the future, but now is the time to take them out of the frame and roll them up if they are prints or canvas which can be freed from the stretcher and label them carefully and in a place which you can see without moving all of the furniture in the room and put them in the space cleared by moving the frame out.

Now you see, you have a frame. It probably isn’t the nicest frame, might have a dent or two or a scrape and you’ll need to take care of that before you put some new art in it.

Rule 1, if it has been sitting for any length of time it is dusty so clean it. You know that closet is full of dust bunnies and you’ve avoided it for just that reason, a heard of dust bunnies can be dangerous. They charge if they get spooked and turning on the light is just the thing to spook them.

If the frame has been dinged or scratched you have to fix that before you can use it again. If you put fresh art in it, nothing will stand out like a big, ole nasty scrape. Don’t wait until you are carrying your work into a gallery to see and gasp. Fix it now before you re-use it.

Buy two cans of shoe polish. I know, I know that’s just not the right way to do things and maybe a more exacting and aesthetically driven artist wouldn’t even think it, but in truth I’m just a yeoman and do think it and with one can of black and one can of brown, or ox blood, I can make an emergency repair on most wooden frames and some metal frames which will pass even under gallery lighting.

This is where I urge you to standardize your work. I know because I’ve done it a lot, some pieces just scream for gallery-sized canvas. There’s nothing like seeing a wall-sized bit of art headed for the culture starved eyes of the public. But for you, the artist, gallery-sized work is full of pitfalls. You will have to order a custom frame. No one makes a 40 X 65 frame and they certainly don’t stock it so that it will lie around their show room gathering dust. They do love it when you order it cause they can charge you an arm and a leg for making it and then ship it out so that storing it becomes your problem.

Try to work in standard sizes. For a photographer, oh, that’s me, standard is the name of the game, 11 X 14 fits nicely in a 16 X 20 frame and for eye-catching work 16 x 20 will work in a 20 X 24 frame and that is what I try to target my images at.

But if you paint, the bigger the better, until you have to frame it, maybe gallery wrap is the way for you to go. Give it some thought.

So you’ve emptied out the closet, changed out the frames, standardized your work, what’s left? Review, review, review.

All of those images you took from the frames need to be looked over. Some will be scrap and maybe you should consider painting over them. Some will still call with a siren’s song and you probably need to keep them until the pounding in your brain and the rushing of your blood go away.

But look at them. You can’t make a decision if you have no earthly idea of what you have.

Of course if you take time, right now, to get out your camera and set up a flat lighting space and record all of these images digitally so that you can load them on your computer and make an index for quick search and recovery then you won’t need to do this all over again next January.

And while you are at it you can get Giclees made of the best ones, set up a Zazzle shop to link to your web page and start trying to bring in some money.

Yes, it is never ending, the artist’s quest for money to feed the supply demands of your art. But if you take the time now when the light is lousy and the days are wet then when you get that glorious spring you’ll be ready for Teddy.

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