Category Archives: Making it in the Art World

Artist Profile: Kelly Ventura for Crate & Barrel

Kelly and I met in Book Arts when we attended art school years ago. I always remembered her pieces for being subtle and thoughtfully brilliant. We crossed paths again in Chicago when she was showing her incredible fiber pieces at the gallery where I worked and at The Renegade Craft Fair. Now we’re all back in the Ann Arbor area and Kelly is a full time product and surface designer. We were so thrilled to hear that a line of her illustrations had been picked up by Crate & Barrel to be reproduced for their Spring 2014 art print line. Congratulations, Kelly!

N captured some great shots of her working in the studio in preparation to send to C&B for their artist profile.

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Kelly works largely in watercolor and pen. She has a beautiful signature style that’s whimsical and saturated with color.

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See more of Kelly’s work at KellyVentura.com and her Minted site. We can’t wait for her collection to come out next spring – look out for it!

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To have your works of art or yourself captured in the studio, give us a call at 734-929-2498 or email us at info@chin-azzaro.com

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Beauty and the Beast: Behind-the-Scenes of Shooting Product

Photography is many things: meaningful, informative, brilliant. The path to reach the end result however, doesn’t always have to be.

A tipped light. A couple cardboard boxes for support. Some tissue used to help bounce light…

Presto! A glamorous rotor!

If you need products photographed, give us a call at 734-929-2498 or reach us at info@chin-azzaro.com

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How to Sell Your Art and Other Helpful Tips

Yesterday’s post on pricing student or “emerging” art work tackled the difficulty of pricing your works to move. But maybe even more difficult is gaining the exposure and putting your works in the right venue to be seen and sell. When I was talking to Paula Shubatis about the value of large scale oil paintings, I was also considering the proper space for the pieces to be hung.

She had a really great idea to have a non-profit sponsor so that she could apply for a permit to exhibit in an alley downtown. I immediately posed the question, “How will that make you money?” Yes, it would gain her intrigue and possibly some press, but I was concerned with how she was going to be rewarded for her efforts. Too many times we think about the work but we don’t know how to translate to tangible values. Most of society is already programmed to consume art in small manageable pieces so while seeing a painting in an alley might be exciting, it might not speak to a buyer or get a buyer to come out to the alley to begin with.

Paula answered that it probably wouldn’t be a money-making ploy but the alley would complement her painting. Although it would be for a short time, I had to agree. So we started brainstorming on how she could further the visibility of her paintings and who her potential clients were. This is what I suggested researching.

Corporate collections

Although many have been dissolved over the years, corporate art collections were and still are a barometer of a corporations success. The historical, educational and sophistication level of a curator’s choices can communicate a vast number of nuances to a client. Some focus on specific topics relevant to the company but most are diverse and worth millions of dollars. I suggested to Paula to research any collections that were still active in the southeast Michigan area and send a professional letter and images to those that collect contemporary.

Art Fairs

From creating enough inventory to sell to the logistics of travel to getting into the fair itself, the career of a professional artist is a tough one when you’re traveling cross country to sell your wares. But I know some very successful artists that make a living of this and they love what they do. Research each market, figure your costs (including booth fees, lodging, food, airfare/gas, insurance, shipping if needed) and try out a local one to see if you like the art fair circuit culture.

Representation

The art dealing culture has changed drastically over the last decade. Gone are the days of sending slides and lugging heavy portfolios to the gallery. While it may still stand as the pinnacle of an artist’s I’ve made it moment, getting representation is getting harder and harder each day as galleries downsize and restructure what it is to be in a gallery’s stable of artists. Now there are an infinite number of online galleries and stores to sell your work. Besides the ever popular Etsy, there’s also Big Cartel, a foolproof store that handles your art sales and monetary transactions safely.

If you are interested in going the traditional route of being represented by a dealer, read the instructions carefully and make sure you include everything they ask for and nothing they do not. Use the best materials you can afford and have friends or colleagues proof all text. Also, do not send unsolicited packages. I used to be an American art dealer (known impressionism, modern and contemporary works) and would receive numerous packets from artists. Had they taken the time to research the website, they would have seen that I generally worked with museums and collectors to sell paintings by deceased and market-established artists. Vet your galleries carefully and save yourself the postage!

If nothing else, having a website is a must. Take clear, well-lit photos of your art work and make sure your site is easily navigable and concise. Include an artists statement and any information that will intrigue your clients. Branding yourself properly is probably the most important tool of all.

Public and Temporary spaces

Like Paula’s idea to show in the alley, outdoor spaces garner attention from people that might not normally see art. It’s exciting, fresh and enlivens a space if it’s installed properly. Remember to consider the logistics of transporting the piece, whether you need electricity, if it’s safe from the elements, if you’ll need a lock or security overnight and whether you need to insure it for potential loss or damage. All these things considered, public art is also a great excuse to garner publicity…

Publicity

Getting in front of a buyer is difficult without a dealer or gallery. That said, there are many perks to representing yourself, namely not having to pay a share to the middle man. But that means you have to know how to talk about your work and how to publicize it. I always tell students and artists to learn to write a press release. It’s one page, has all the relevant information a magazine, newspaper or TV would need to cover your story. But make sure it’s newsworthy before you send it. It’s also important to make rounds at the art fairs, openings and museum circuit. Learn not only to talk about your work but art and design history in general.

There are tons of details that go into the success of an artist and these are just a few starter tips. Sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing the right person, being at the right place at the right time…but I like to believe that forethought, planning and talent matter too. Good luck!

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Emerging Artist: Paula Shubatis + How to Price Student Work

The last couple months have been a wonderful blur. We went on maternity + paternity leave and have spent some much deserved time at home with out little one. It’s an amazing adventure and it’s bittersweet to return to the real world after a long hibernation. But it feels good to be back.

One of the few trips that have led me out of the studio recently was a trip to meet Paula Shubatis, a senior at The University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design. She was having trouble figuring out how to price her works. When I arrived at her studio, I was in awe of the caliber and scale of her handstretched oil paintings. Not only were they superbly executed, the content of decaying architecture and complementing organic forms required real investigation.

Sous Bois

The following are thoughts from Paula about how she found her way as an artist and painter, what her process is and how she sees her career in the future.

I’ve always been a maker.  Whether it was drawing on the walls, or making my own iteration of the Sistine chapel on the underside my mother’s mahogany coffee table, I’ve felt the constant need to make and do throughout my whole life.  But, it was not until high school that I was able to get a better technical knowledge of making through art classes.  After taking AP art in high school, I knew that I wanted to go to art school.  I came to art school under the false pretenses that I would go into something practical like graphic design, but secretly always knew that I wanted to be a painter.  Experiences with design only affirmed that I was awful at it, and it gave me great anxiety.  Through this rejection of design, I found my love of physicality of craft, in the realms of painting and fiber arts.  Once I found my genuine love and passion for making, I not only knew that I wanted to be a studio artist, but I had to be one, because I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t.  

f. The Dance of the Arcadians

“Foraging a Vernacular Identity” is inspired by my curiosity of the mysteries which lie in the ordinary places which surround me.  I have a strong fascination with how systems of math and science are at play to create the poetry of a space, but could never hope to understand them.  I find myself drawn to painting nature and architecture because of their inherent relationships to math and science.  My paintings are a series of experiments through which I break down shapes, colors and forms of spaces into modular units, and reassemble them to try to figure out how they work.   I like to manipulate different variables like scale, directionality of marks and orientation to play with how the viewer might perceive a space. I often combine different variables of multiple spaces to create one hybridized space.  This process of experimentation and analysis becomes deeply introspective, and I find that I project myself onto spaces which I paint.  I convey my own sense of a fractured reality and disjuncture with the world though a dialogue between degenerate architecture and nature.          

Painting requires one to operate within a very peculiar state of being.  It asks one to be conscious, alert, and responsive at all times, and maintain a dichotomy between an idea, and how that idea actually translates into paint.  Painting asks one to suspend disbelief, and allow one’s self to become immersed in the surface.  Immersing one’s self in a surface demands a full commitment to the surface, and coping with the inevitable possibility of failure.  The surfaces which I grapple with aren’t just fictitious worlds, but they are also my own selfish spaces where I discover and share my most intimate secrets.  It can be very difficult to reveal the truths which I find within my paintings to both the viewer and myself.  It takes just the right mix of self-doubt and brazen confidence to have both the courage and motivation to make new discoveries.  

SnaggletoothPainting will always be something, which I always do, even if I had to dig up cadmium from the earth.  I see painting as a mode of visual communication.  I hope to share this mode of visual communication with others through making and outreach as a teaching artist, and also as a gallery artist.  As long as I have the means to do these things, I will be happy.  While the life and career of a studio artist might be more turbulent than those of other professions, the joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment which it gives me are well worth it.

It’s evident that Paula has a clear understanding of her work and how to talk about it, which is a great portion of an artist’s ability to sell their work. Her concern of striking a balance between asking too much and too little (since she is after all, a “student artist”) is a common one among the art school set. But here I was, staring at eight foot tall works that in any retail setting would go for tens of thousands of dollars or more and yet, I had to tell her something that would appeal to a collector, perhaps visiting the senior show with or without an intent to buy. There are two areas to consider when you’re selling your work: practical and sentimental.

The Prodigal Daughter

Practical

How much time did you spend on the piece?

How much did your materials cost?

Is this a special medium/something rarely seen?

What’s the market like in your area? (this may be a non-issue if you’re selling your work nationwide or on the internet)

Sentimental

How much are you willing to let it go for?

Are you just trying to make a first sale?

If money was not an issue, what would you pay for it?

Once you’ve considered these factors, you should have a clearer picture in your mind of what you’re willing to let a work go for. One issue that Paula brought up was her status as a student and how that may affect a buyer. There are plenty of talented graduates that go on to show and sell work immediately out of college and I don’t believe they should be shortchanged just because of their newness in the industry. That said, I encourage young artists to coin themselves “emerging” or “contemporary” to get away from the stigma of a “student artist.” Because yes, starving art students should make a dollar but it should be a fair amount that they feel is respectable.

On a side note, I want to address those that don’t want to sell. At some point, you’ll create a work and think, I’ll never produce something this good ever again. This is the best work I’ve ever done and I can’t sell it. But consider this – if you don’t sell it, then what’s the point? I see “NFS” (not for sale) on pieces at shows and that negates every reason to create work in the first place. If you document it with great photos and remember the process, believe me, you’ll create something even better in the future. Better to have a collector enjoy than to hold onto something so precious because you think you won’t obtain a higher standard of craft than where you are now. That’s silly, isn’t it?

e. Ponte d' Chaos

You may be wondering if I gave Paula a concrete set of numbers to work with. And yes, ultimately, I did. For the large ones that stood about 8 feet by 6 feet, I recommended a range of $8,000-10,000. For the smaller ones $4,000-6000. I took into account the number of hours, the polished nature of her work, the content and the overall feeling of her paintings. They’re truly monoliths, worthy of a large space such as a corporate lobby or a collector’s living room, somewhere with high ceilings. A few of Paula’s pieces will be for sale at the Senior Show coming up on April 19th and I’ll be anxious to hear the feedback she receives and give any pointers I can to facilitate selling her works.

The next post will be about how to sell the works and get publicity in the local market. Feel free to add to the conversation or post questions. We’re all in this together.

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Video : Alone in 1,000 Square Feet at Pecha Kucha Night

A few weeks ago, N presented at Pecha Kucha, an event where people in the community come together to show a series of 20 images with 20 seconds to speak about each one. With his most recent project of capturing six characters in vibrant scenery and scenarios, N ran with the opportunity to show off some of his performance skills by acting out each character as the slides changed. Check out the full video below and see some of the images from the series here: Alone in 1,000 Square Feet.

N is already working on the next series of photos for this project with some slightly different guidelines. If you’re interested in being photographed in character, let us know. We can make it happen.

Upcoming Pecha Kucha themes and dates are as follows:

Wednesday, February 20, 6-8pm: Technology

Wednesday, March 20, 6-8pm: International

Wednesday, April 17, 6-8pm: Anything Goes

If you’d like to be a part of the fun or know someone that would, contact Emilia White at northquadhd@umich.edu and help spread the word about this exciting event.

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An Incredible Photo that Made Us Stop | How to Protect Your Images

A couple weeks ago N had to deal with a snafu that the local paper here made. They ran a photo that belonged to him and subsequently had to take it down and pay him a nominal fee for usage. (It really was the right thing for them to do, after all). It really angered the both of us because it was blatantly taken and we feel they waited to see if they would be found out. This issue is not going to go away and will only proliferate in the internet age. Our working friends have had their images and design ripped off and there are many degrees of it.

Last week we came across a photo from the Herman Miller Facebook page and we were immediately drawn to the flawless execution.

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A time lapse of airplanes taking off from Hannover Airport in Langenhagen, Germany was captured in layered precision. In clicking through to find out more about the photograph by Korean artist, Ho-Yeol Ryu, we saw that it originated from a link at the Tropenmuseum.

The entire image via Tropenmuseum

The entire image via Tropenmuseum

What caused us concern however, was how big the file is. It literally covered the screen of my 21″ screen and then some. I could scroll back and forth, up and down. Now, you may wonder, what is our problem with seeing something so up close and personal? Turns out that Ryu has shown through a few contemporary galleries which means that he may have a great retail and/or auction record. But any time your image is shared at such a large file size, there’s potential for your image to be taken, printed and enjoyed without your reaping the benefits of your hard work. Take our blog, for instance. We share plenty of images but our resolution is low to medium quality, generally nothing larger than 5 x 7 inches.

A detail shot of just approximately a third of the photo.

A detail shot of just approximately a third of the photo.

More image to scroll over.

More image to scroll over.

And even more still.

And even more still.

If Ryu were just up and coming and not represented and sold to collectors, I would contact him to alert him of this potentially dangerous occurrence. But with his reputation, I’ll assume that those that represent and exhibit his work are aware that of their actions and would not do anything to dilute the value of his works. What should you do to protect your images if you’re worried about them being stolen? You can control the avenues in which they’re presented and limit or deny internet exposure. Or, you can watermark them. If that inhibits the viewing experience, you can just make them small enough, as we do, so there’s no concern over them being shared.

Yes, as visual artists, we want people to see our work. We just don’t want it to hang in your living room in a massive frame unless you support us. Thanks.

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A New Partnership : Tribehaus | Photo Studio Group

Sunday we shot our first of many sessions for Tribehaus, owned by entrepreneur extraordinaire Anna Bagozzi. With its eclectic and trendy inventory, Tribehaus is an online presence unlike any other offering women’s fashion with plans to expand to menswear. Anna has turned the brand into an empire with her insane marketing skills. Check out her Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages.

For model shots, we required a studio space that would allow for flexibility and a seamless or cyc wall, a panel with rounded bottom corner to lend an infinite spatial quality to the images. Not only is it an incredibly brilliant concept, Photo Studio Group, is a community-based resource, offering their space and equipment at a fraction of what it typically costs. We just started our membership and we urge others to visit them as well. It’s better than any other scenario we’ve come across during our years in commercial photography.

Image: Photo Studio Group

Every shoot depends on successful collaboration of the team. We were really lucky to have Amelia modeling. Not only does she have an incredible high fashion look, she was so personable and a breeze to work with.

No shoot is complete until you bring in hair and make up and Taryn Scalise is a master of both. She got us through two complete looks very quickly and was on hand to catch fly aways with the brush and lip stick touch ups between shots.

Amelia and Anna going over logistics on the set.

Anna from Tribehaus, Nick from Chin-Azzaro and Taryn from Tough Love MPD

We can’t remember the last time such a production went so seamlessly and we can’t wait to do it again. In the meanwhile, support our partners and let us know if you have any questions about buying from, visiting or hiring our friends. See you next week!

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Enter Stage Right

Our friend Amanda has been acting for the last ten years and we recently saw her in a riveting performance of Antony and Cleopatra, at the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor. Her next role, however, is more behind the scenes: she’s the director.

The plays were written by local playwright James Ingagiola and will be performed as part of the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s Studio Series, October 19-21. Exploring the various styles of writers such as Pinter and Mamet, the production will prove to be an exciting interpretation of Shakespeare. We can’t wait to see it! We were invited to snap some publicity photos of the amazing cast. Enjoy!

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Finishing the Look: Framing Your Pieces, Part 1

It doesn’t matter what you’re hanging on the wall, framing (and matting) a piece makes all the difference in the world. If you can afford to have a professional do it, I urge you to. (If it’s a piece on canvas, many times a piece won’t require framing, it’s simply an aesthetic decision. See instructions for installing eye hooks and wire below). Even if you’ve never done it before, it’s an enriching experience on top of purchasing the art itself. Additionally, a framer follows a process of securing and using materials that are acid-free which maintain the current health of a piece. Using masking tape and everyday tools can actually harm the condition of your work.

Tacoma Art Museum

When you arrive, the framer will ask you a few questions such as: Do you want regular or museum glass? Would you like a mat? Are you looking for metal or wood frames?

Glass

Regular glass is heavier and will have the glare that you’re typically used to. If you have a piece of art that you’re adamant about hanging in direct sunlight or an archival piece or photograph, you may want to spring for the museum glass which is UV-coated and will allow you to enjoy your piece with little to no glare or reflective qualities. Typically, it runs 25-50% more than regular glass. A third option for large works of art is plexiglass. In the unfortunate case that it were to be dropped, the plexiglass wouldn’t shatter, possibly damaging the art underneath – or the person carrying it.

Left: regular glass, right: museum glass

Matting

The mat is the heavy board piece that surrounds the actual art. You may not realize it, but there are an endless array of colors to choose from including dozens of shades of white. The larger the piece, usually the wider the mat. If a piece is very large however, say 24″ x 36″, it may not visually require a mat.

Frames

You’ll notice that there are a hundreds of frame corners surrounding you on the walls. These are meant to sit on the corner of the piece or mat for comparison. Don’t be shy about asking to see different colors or finishes in the same style, they’re usually available.

Typically, metal frames are recommended for contemporary or modern (mid-20th century) pieces. Wood and ornately carved frames are better fit for historical pieces or portraits and landscapes. There are always exceptions to the rule and your framer will have some great suggestions to handle each situation.  *Tomorrow’s post will be about the aesthetic aspects of framing so check back for that!*

Do(ing)-It-Yourself

If you find that you can’t afford to take a piece to the framers, look for pieces that are standard frame sizes such as 5″ x 7″, 8″ x 10″, 9″ x 12″, 11″ x 14″, 16″ x 20″, 20″ x 24″, 24″ x 36 and 30″ 40″. There will be other sizes depending on manufacturers but these are the most common. Remember to figure in a mat size if you choose to use one. They’re available at most craft and art supply stores and some carry frames with mats included.

Image: Lazy Peacock

Once you have the parts you need, find a clean, dust-free environment. Make sure you’re using acid-free tape for suspending pieces from the mat or foam board you’re posting against. Use a ruler and level so that all measurements and cuts are plumb.

Install the pieces of your frame in this order: glass, mat (if you’re using one), art attached with acid-free tape attached to backing, foamboard (if necessary to meet the back edge of the frame), staple back edges of frame.

Hold the staple gun at 45 degree angle, striking the staple in the inner edge. Push the staple over the back of the board as needed.

These are the first steps to framing your own pieces handsomely and securely. But as I mentioned before, there’s nothing like the archival and professional finish of a framer! Good luck!

Preparing a canvas for hanging

Here’s what you’ll need: eye hooks (make sure you buy the proper size for the weight of canvas you’ll be hanging), picture hanging wire, picture hanging kit (look for proper weight)

1. Using a ruler, measure 1/3 down from the top of the canvas on both inner sides of the stretcher (the wood vertical bar the canvas is stretched over). Mark with pencil. Don’t worry if they’re not level.

2. Screw in an eye hook into both marks. *Make sure you’ve screwed the eye hooks against the inner facing stretcher bar. Imagine if they’re sticking out from the back, they’ll leave scratches on the wall when hung. If you’ve done this by mistake, you can put rubber bumpers on each corner to keep this from happening.

3. Cut 10″ more than the width of the canvas. String the wire through an eye hook leaving a tail of 3 inches. Carefully (the ends of the wire are sharp!) wrap the tail around the wire in tight corkscrews. Repeat on the other side, leaving a slack at top of wire. If the wire exceeds the top of the frame when you pull it taut, trim the wire or wrap more on the other eye hook.

4. Voila! It’s ready to hang and dazzle you – and your guests.

Check back for Monday’s post on how to choose frames that complement the art. Have a great weekend!

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