Monthly Archives: January 2012

Icy hot.

My father has always enjoyed photographing wooded winter landscapes, while I like more urban and abstract scenes. The sun broke through the clouds yesterday just before sunset, allowing me to capture the winter woods as I see them (and then some).


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Out + About: Murals, Tagging, Graffiti, Mosaics

When we lived in Chicago, one of my biggest gripes was the lack of public art. Much of it is relegated to Millenium and Grant Parks and Michigan Avenue, conservatively doled out to mainstream consumers and tourist explorers. The city’s buttoned-up demeanor goes hand in hand with the obliteration of spray paint within city limits by the Daley administration years ago. In 1992, Chicago City Council passed to ban the selling of the graffiti artists’ medium, waging a hefty war from artists and Federal Court Judge Marvin E. Aspen, who deemed it unconstitutional. They subsequently lost when it was fully enforced starting in 1995 under allowance by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. To this day, you still can’t buy spray paint within city limits but a few promising murals have popped up over the last couple years.

A mural endorsing Wicker Park, one block from where we used to live

Approved tagging at Milwaukee and Evergreen Aves.

Don’t get me wrong. There is art in Chicago, it’s just not as spontaneous as one might think for a city its size. I like to visit Philadelphia for many reasons but one of my favorite past times is walking along South Street and seeing what new pieces have popped up. It’s a vibrant art scene which started in the 1960s by a group of artists that moved into the area, but most notably Isaiah Zagar who started the movement of creating mosaics on every surface.

Philadelphia, South Street Corridor

Philly just has a flavor that’s all its own. Every year close to a hundred murals are created as part of the Mural Arts Program. Very impressive for a city its size, or any size, for that matter.

Riotsound Graffiti

Fine Art America

Murals are ubiquitous in Philly. AnmlHse

Artists: Jason Slowik and Keir Johnston, 2005 Urban Horsemen

For us, it’s nice to just see organic and creative things happening whether it’s graffiti, tagging, wall murals, window painting or an impromptu performance. The other night we met Summer Medel, an artist and muralist,  painting a new spring themed scene for a storefront. We were really happy to see creation happening, especially since it was a pretty damn cold out. That’s heart.

Cool, huh? What’s your favorite piece of public art – painting, sculpture, graffiti or otherwise?


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Get a Job in the Art World: Branding Yourself through Resume, Grooming and Other Important Stuff

We’re pretty involved at our alma mater, the University of Michigan School of Art & Design. In a couple weeks we’ll be meeting with students at the Portfolio Expo, a great event where students get to share their work with professionals that can give them insight on internships and jobs, what approach to take to achieve their next goal and general advice for exploring the art world.

I remember how nerve-wracking it was trying to get my foot in the door at a gallery. There’s a steep learning curve involved with molding into the culture of dealing with clients and that’s something that can’t be taught. Since the bulk of my background has been in gallery and art administration, I’ve interviewed and hired a few interns over the years. For the most part, I knew my future intern within two minutes of meeting them. But before that, the resume tipped me off on who I should look out for. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Include organizations you're involved in. The 1st Slideluck Potshow Chicago, 2009 Image: Casey Kelbaugh.


You are a brand, and your resume is a product of that. I really appreciate a thoughtful resume with attention to font, spacing, color and if it’s relevant, a logo. It’s especially effective if the content of your resume stands up to the aesthetics. Many times I see gimick-y resumes but there’s little to no content or not enough text to tell me what skill sets students possess or what they did at their last job. Conversely, a resume that’s content heavy but runs text all the way to the margins when it says they’re graphic design majors, is just as disconcerting. Striking a balance is difficult and every interviewer or potential employer is going to look for different things. My advice is to send your resume to at least three professors and/or professionals in the field that have the time to give you feedback on both aesthetic and content.

Here are a few other tips:

  • Curate and edit. Keep your resume to one page, if possible. The second page is usually overlooked, mostly due to time constraints.
  • Don’t fill up the page with an extra large font if you’re short on experience. Own the fact that you’re green and be honest about your ambitions during interviews.
  • Please use spellcheck. I cringe thinking that you’re not only sending it to me, but lots of other potential employers as well. It’s indicative of the type of work you’ll produce.
  • If you don’t feel confident on your design skills, do a trade with a graphic designer to spruce up your resume.

A panel discussion on the artist's role in society


I once had a student show up for a 9 a.m. interview at 9:15 (Strike one. I’m a stickler on punctuality, especially for interviews)! We had a nice conversation but I knew right away that she wouldn’t feel comfortable on the gallery floor. The collectors I dealt with would walk all over her. Plus, she hadn’t brought a copy of her resume (strike two). As she was speaking, I noticed that her hair was a bit unruly. As she turned to the side, I saw a huge matted knot on the back of her head that stuck straight up. Bedhead. (Strike three. Must brush hair to work in gallery). After she left, I never heard from her again. Then there was the student who showed up in a tight white, see-through waffle shirt and dark, red lipstick – all over her teeth. She wasn’t called back.

Last year, our good friend John Luther, the Career Development Coordinator at the School of Art & Design, sent me notice that Kelsey would be calling to meet when she moved to Chicago. She was open to various positions but was really hoping to get into a design consultancy that handled all kinds of creative campaigns and products. Although it wasn’t my realm of expertise, we had a great conversation about the art scene. Not only did she show up on time and brush her hair, she was dressed appropriately, brought copies of her resume (although I had already seen it electronically) and had done research on the gallery. Consequently, Kelsey got herself a great position from meeting the President of a major company just weeks later.

It may seem obvious but I used to have friends during art school that didn’t shower. And one notorious friend who didn’t brush his teeth (gum was the stand-in). Whether you know it or not, people will recognize you from gallery openings and class which could affect your outcome in getting a job later. Brush your hair. And your teeth.

There are some great perks to working in a gallery.

There’s an old saying that goes, “Dress for the job that you want, not the one that you have.” There’s a lot of truth to that. My first year of art school, I couldn’t afford a lot of interview clothing. My “uniform”, as it came to be called, consisted of black long sleeve shirts, a black sweater vest, black dress pants and black boots. I pegged myself into the stereotypical artist garb but I never had a problem with matching outfits or looking underdressed. I always made sure my hair was coiffed and kept out of my face. I interviewed for two jobs this way and got them both. The point is, do your best and carry yourself like you mean it. Here are a few points to remember when interviewing:

  • Practice out loud. Make sure you can answer simple things like, Tell me about yourself? or Why do you want this job?
  • Answer the question. Don’t get caught up in telling long stories and forgetting what they wanted to know in the first place.
  • Research the organization or company you’re interviewing with. Even one factual tidbit will let the interviewer know that you’re serious.
  • Bring your resume, no matter how many times you know they’ve seen it.
  • Smile and try to have a good time!
  • Follow up. Thank you note or not, it’s a helpful reminder to email or drop a line to keep your presence fresh in their mind. If not for now, maybe down the road.

It’s a daunting but exciting feat to obtain an art-related job. Internships are competitive and really test your ability to thrive under pressure. In between final projects, tests and papers, it’s hard sometimes to figure out what you want to brand yourself as and ultimately, how. Think about your business card, your website and consider how cohesive they are to representing you and your work. Art school is a competitive business but don’t be afraid to show your work to peers and ask for feedback. We should all be well-versed in giving active and helpful critique by now so offer to do that same for your friends too.

We’re hoping to acquire an intern as our business grows down the road. Who knows, maybe it’ll be you. Best of luck to each and every one of you!


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s portrait time!

Victor Skrebneski and Marc Hauser tend to light from the front, just over head. I light from the sides. I certainly didn’t invent it, but definitely enjoy it. That being said, thank you Ann Arbor Arts Alliance for such a fun session!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Che succede?

Che succede is Italian for “what’s happened” or “what’s changed”. The English equivalent is “what’s up”. Although both phrases determine the same results, “what’s up” literally means to verify that which is above.


(photos c/o Art Azzaro and Nick Azzaro)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy Chinese New Year

We’re taking the day to celebrate the Year of the Dragon and eat lots of yummy foods and hand out hong bao to the kids. We’ll be back with a smashing post tomorrow.

To learn more about Lunar New Year and the animals of the horoscope, check out Chinese contemporary artist’s Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals piece here.

Xin nian kuai le!

There are still a few Enter the Dragon prints to commemorate this special year. They can be purchased here.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Taking Care of Art: Storage and Maintenance

I love watching Antiques Roadshow. Gleefully hopeful people bring in their family heirlooms, antiquing finds and favorite tchotchke in the hopes that they’ll be told it’s worth a ton more than they acquire it for. The part that kills me are when the appraiser says, “If it were in better condition, it would be worth about $30,000 but because it’s yellowed and there are creases in the corner of this weaving…” Then the person sheepishly admits that their grandmother’s piece has been, “sitting in the basement by the water pump for the last thirty years.” I shudder just thinking about it. Even if you’re not sure what it’s worth, there are a few simple steps to ensuring the life of your art and objects on the off chance that it is actually worth something.

MoMA conservation studio

Oil paintings

Works in oil are finicky. Whether they’re painted on canvas, wood, panel or even paper, there are a lot of things to look for with this highly effective and delicate medium. You can tell a work is done in oil if it has a sheen to the paint. (Acrylic can also give off a shiny reflection but oil is not as consistent as each color has it’s own properties). Now smell it. Oil has a tinny, warm odor that takes months, and sometimes years to dissipate. Paintings should be kept away from drafty areas and humid places in the home where the temperature fluctuates drastically, such as the foyer or mud room where a door opens frequently as this may cause the canvas or board to warp and the paint surface to crack. They should also be kept out of direct sunlight as it deteriorates the chemical make up of the paint.

Some oil paintings are done with a knife or have a lot of texture or impasto dust and debris can collect into crevices over time. Don’t ever attempt to clean this with a wet cloth, napkin, Windex or any other type of chemical cleaner — ever. Nix on the duster too, that’ll only make the situation worse and may cause bits of the paint to chip off. This goes for all mediums of art including works under glass. I’ll get to that later. An oil painting, if it means something to you, should be cleaned by a professional conservator. Locally, you can contact Celina Berenfeld at the Art Conservation Laboratory of Michigan, a trained and licensed conservator in all types of art.

Acrylic paintings

Because acrylic paint dries into a water-based plastic, more resilient and pliable than oil, it’s slightly more forgiving than its oil-based counterpart. That said, temperature and humidity can also play a part on warping the canvas or board and will contribute to deterioration of paint over time, albeit a bit more slowly. Like oil paintings, if you notice that over time, the color has dulled, or if you have a smoker in the house, it’s very likely that a layer of dirt has accumulated on the surface. The only way to treat this is to have it professionally cleaned. Please, do not attempt to clean it yourself!

Works on Paper

Some of my clients’ most favored pieces have been in the powder room. I can’t tell you the number of times, I’ve perched over a commode to peer at a print or watercolor. Bathrooms make precious little nooks for pieces that, shall we say, require a lot of attention or put the “sitter” at ease. For a 1/2 bath (just a toilet and sink), hanging art is fine. Even if it’s under glass, there’s little chance of splashing water on to the surface. The larger issue is a work framed under glass in an area of the home where humidity fluctuates or there’s enough steam that condensation could collect underneath the glass.

If your piece was hermetically sealed by a professional framer, there’s a good chance that your piece is not safe to hang in a full bathroom (where you shower/bathe). Even if you don’t see water droplets collecting under the glass, over time, microscopic amounts of water reach the paper and it begins to react to the moisture by growing tiny dots of mold. When you see yellow or green dots around the edge of paper over time, this is called foxing and it can only be chemically stabilized by a professional.


Unless there are really no other options, storing art in the basement is a bad idea. No matter where you store your work, remember to package it in case of flood or a leak. For canvases and pieces framed under glass, I suggest cutting a piece of corrugated cardboard to size and placing it on the face of the work. The exception is if the piece has heavy paint and the cardboard may leave an imprint or chip it. Then, with a large plastic sheet (garbage bags work great), wrap the piece with the cardboard snugly, tucking all sides in. Tape it securely and place it upright on a surface that’s high enough off the ground that it’ll stay dry.

Storing large works is a bit trickier. If you have access to them, paletts can be purchased inexpensively and some times are given away by lumber yards. (This is a must to place on the ground if you have to store in the basement, giving you a few inches of safety net in case of flooding). For storing large canvases, stand them straight up, not stacked on top of each other. Leaning a painting up against a wall at an angle may cause the wood to warp and the painting to become cockeyed. Make sure that all corners touch the wall surface they’re being stored against. If you don’t have plastic sheeting large enough to cover the canvases, use cotton bedsheets. Face the first two paintings to each other with a sheet in between. Place the next painting back side to back side. Now with that painting facing out, put a sheet in between and place the next painting face side in, repeat.

These are just tips to get you started. Every piece has its own set of needs and maintenance issues and some (like posters and reproductions) are simply there to look pretty and make you happy! Hang up what you enjoy and the rest will fall into place. Let me know if you have questions and happy art shopping!


Images: MoMA conservation studio via Art21 | Apartment Therapy | ULINE wood palett

Tagged , , , , ,

Take a picture, it lasts longer.

Two nights ago it was incredibly hazy outside. I noticed, as I’m sure everyone else did, just how amazing the night lights looked.The mixture of different color temperatures combined with the reflective moisture in the air gave way to some incredible scenes.


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Free Valentine’s Day template for the Kids (and the kids at heart)

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day now or not, I think most of us remembers the excitement of receiving a valentine from your crush. I was more excited about the Smarties, but that’s just me.

Here’s an original Valentine’s template for the kids to color, cut out and pass out. You can also use them year-round as gift tags. Enjoy!

Instructions for printing:

1. Click on the image below to blow up to correct size.

2. Feed paper into your printer (I suggest card stock for the best results)

3. Print as many as you please.

4. Have the kids color, cut them out and add names. (I would suggest just cutting a heart out, don’t try to cut around every ruffled circle)!

5. Tape candy to the back and you’re ready to hand them out!

Happy Valentine's Day from Chin-Azzaro

Tagged , , , , ,