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Wednesday 27th August 2014Email Marketing for Artists

Like oil and water, artists and email rarely mix. It's a serious problem, because email marketing is one of the best ways to make sure that your adoring public knows what's happening in your artistic life, and what they can look forwards to in the future. Many artists think they don't know have the know-how to use email as an effective outreach tool, or that nobody would want to read their emails. This may have been true 10 years ago, but in 2014, it couldn't be farther from the truth. You've already realized that you need a website to keep yourself going - adding an email signup system isn't very difficult once you've mastered your own website.
The easiest way to integrate a mailing list in your artist marketing toolkit is to use a service like Mailchimp. It's free to start, and you only have to pay once you reach a certain number of subscribers - something around 2000 - by which time, you'll no doubt appreciate the value of what email can do for your artistic career. They make it extremely easy to integrate into your website, and soon you'll be starting to build a list of people who are dedicated and interested in you.

If you just sit back and hope for people to sign up, however, you're probably going to be a bit disappointed unless you're already fairly well known. Yes, you're going to have to sell yourself a bit to make this work! But that's often what separates the well-known artist from the artists nobody has heard of - it's not their talent or their skills, it's their ability and willingness to market themselves. You could be the best artist in the world, but if nobody knows your work, well... nobody will ever know your work.

I can hear you know, 'but what would I say?' and it's a good question. But if you stop and think, you'll be able to come up with a few different ideas that you can regularly use. First of all, you're probably maintaining a blog - and if you're not, you should be - so you can mention your latest blog post when you mail out to your adoring fans. You can also mention upcoming gallery shows, pieces you're working on, thoughts on art, experiments you're doing, and what's next for your artistic career. Just make sure you don't over-contact people! That's one of the fastest ways to make them unsubscribe. Try to contact them at least once a month, to make sure you stay on their artistic radar, but don't contact them too much more than that unless you have some really exciting and important news. Good luck and happy emailing!

Posted on August 27th 2014 on 01:07pm

Monday 25th August 2014More Works in the Art Trove

If you read the news on a regular basis - or this blog - you'll probably remember hearing about a stash of artwork that was found in Germany recently in the house of an aging and now deceased collector. Discovered in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in May of this year, the surprising number of works - well over 1200, at last count - were at first considered as a means of settling the debts he had incurred due to tax evasion, until it was discovered how valuable many of the pieces are. The German government assigned a team to research the works and their provenance, and came to the awkward conclusion that many of them were likely looted by the Nazi armies of World War Two. There was immediate outrage that the government hadn't come forwards with the news to assist in restitutions to the families whose property had been stolen so many years ago. When news of another trove in Salzburg, Austria surfaced, further excitement and media speculation settled on the reclusive Gurlitt, who left his entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland.

Recently, however, it has come to light that there are two more unexpected works by grand masters in the collection, which has come to be known as the Munich Art Trove. While it's not yet completely confirmed, it appears that two sculptures found in the Trove are actually works by Auguste Rodin and Edgar Degas. The German government currently maintains a website full of images of stolen and looted artwork, and these pieces will definitely be added to the collection in the hopes of connecting them with their previous owners. To date, only one of the looted pieces has been returned to a verified owner, a Matisse portrait that was the property of Paul Rosenberg, although now that Gurlitt has died, there is a long grinding bureaucratic process underway to wade through before the piece will actually be returned.

With any luck, the image databank run by the government and the dedicated art sleuthing by the investigative team in charge of verifying the artworks will quickly have these masterpieces returned to their rightful owners, where the art world can once again appreciate the grandeur of the European artists' missing works.

Posted on August 25th 2014 on 12:42pm

Friday 22nd August 2014Artist Spotlight: Ansel Adams

Often when we zoom in on an artist to learn more about their career and their accomplishments, we tend to focus on the up and comers. This week, however, we're going to take a look at a truly accomplished photographer who has inspired entire generations of photographers: Ansel Adams. While known and revered among photographers the world over, Adams is not always known to those outside of the photography sphere - at least, not by name, although many would recognize some of his most iconic images of the American landscape.

Definitely known as a landscape photographer first and foremost, Adams travelled around America in the mid-1900s with a station wagon and a large format camera, which he'd often mount on the roof of his car to get the perfect shot. It sounds like a photographer's dream, really. He brought the beauty of the American wilderness to the people, even if they didn't know who had taken the picture.

Adams wasn't just a consummate landscape photographer, although that he certainly was. He was also extremely talented in the darkroom, which in those heady days before digital photography, could often make or break a photograph. Along with fellow photographer Fred Archer, he developed a system of image retouching still used today (albeit in digital form) known as the Zone system, which is entirely dedicated to ensuring that an image has the optimal contrast ratios and exposures. An early proponent of dodging and burning (lightening and darkening sections of an image in the darkroom, respectively), his proficiency helped push his images from beautiful to downright stunning, with a depth and clarity that was rarely matched by and photographer of the day.

Considering that he worked exclusively in black and white, his works had an incredible impact, and not only inspired a generation of photographers but also a generation of environmentalists, who saw the beautiful spaces of America and felt moved to act to protect their wild beauty. If every artist and photographer could have such a powerful impact on so many people, the world would be a much, much better place. Art is a powerful thing, and should never be underestimated in its ability to inspire and change the world. Ansel Adams passed away in 1984, but his dedication and vision will live on forever in his work and his passion for protecting the planet we all find so beautiful.

Posted on August 22nd 2014 on 12:56pm

Wednesday 20th August 2014Art Animals

We sure do seem to get the strange ones, don't we? Just after we posted our recent Artist Spotlight on Cai Guo-Qiang, a piece caught our eye from the very same artist, although with a slightly more argumentative tone than our own. The famous Chinese artist has recently debuted an installation piece at the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado, and it's not the ire of the Chinese government he's aroused this time, but rather that of some American animal rights activists. The installation piece, has some rather unexpected components: namely, three tortoises. Three tortoises with Apple iPads attached to their backs. Yes, you read that correctly.

The piece is entitled 'Moving Ghost Town', and the tortoises wander around with the iPads in tow throughout the rooftop sculpture garden, a feature of the museum which has been added as part of a $45 million dollar building that has recently opened, designed by celebrated Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. The tortoises are African Sulcata tortoises, and they appear to be in perfect health, despite the protestations of the animal rights activists who want the trio of tortoises to be trucked towards a shelter. However, it has transpired that the three were rescued (though from what is not mentioned) from an Arizona breeder, meaning all are captive-bred and not wild caught specimens. The tortoises are regularly checked by an accomplished veterinarian on a regular basis, and the local Turtle Conservancy has apparently been consulted as well.  

And so what, do you ask, are the iPads showing, exactly? They're showing footage of three ghost towns - film that was shot by the tortoises themselves. Or, rather, shot by cameras mounted on them as they wandered through the empty streets and decaying buildings under the watchful eye of Cai Guo-Qiang. Presumably, the cameras were mounted using the same non-toxic silicone adhesive that is used to hold the current iPads in place, as it leaves no residue and causes no damage to the shells once removed. The animals appear to be in perfect health, as the negligible amount of weight to carry doesn't inconvenience them in the slightest.

Regardless, it's interesting to see how this will play out. Art and activism often go hand in hand so regularly, it will be curious to see what happens when they come to blows. A petition from concerned activists has gathered over 1000 signatures at the time of writing, but the Aspen Art Museum seems unmoved, and simply appreciates the extra publicity!

Posted on August 20th 2014 on 03:04am

Friday 15th August 2014Taking Art Classes

One of the staples of night school and weekend classes, art classes for adults can be incredibly rewarding experiences that open up new bodies of technique, new connections, and new realms of creative possibility. They can, on the other hand, also be boring, pointless, and depressing - it all depends on how you go into the experience, who the instructor is, and how you interact with your classmates. Many of us artistic types are fairly introverted, and rarely ready to show off our first attempts at new styles or techniques to total strangers - but at the same time, showing total strangers as opposed to friends and family can be liberating. After all, if you choose, you never have to see any of those classmates again. It really does depend on what you put into the situation.

In order to make sure you don't waste your time (and maybe your money, depending on where the class is and what supplies you might need), take a bit of time to explore the program before you sign up. Naturally, looking at the instructor is essential. See if it's possible to speak with them before class, to get a sense of their teaching style, personality, and general skillset. Do they specialize in a medium you've always wanted to try? Don't just sign up after meeting the instructor, though. See if there are examples of the work the past students have created - if they were able to create something they were pleased with, they would no doubt take it home when the class ended, but the teacher would likely want to keep photographs or copies of digital files in order to showcase the works their students have completed under their tutelage.

If you go into the class with an open mind, ready to experiment and to learn, then you're going to have a much more rewarding experience than you would if you go in afraid of what might happen. Take it as an opportunity for growth, not an opportunity to show off how much you already know. Experiment with media that you otherwise wouldn't get a chance to use. Talk to people with an artistic inclination you otherwise wouldn't meet. Broaden your horizons, and you never know what could come of it. Maybe the person at the next easel over is starting up a gallery!

Posted on August 15th 2014 on 10:06pm

Wednesday 13th August 2014Do You Compete?

Competition isn't usually one of the first ones a person thinks of when they're thinking about art. It's generally high-flying ideological pursuits, pretty pictures, and maybe the whole starving artist thing. But there is a whole world of art competitions for those who are ready to start taking their work out of the studio and putting it in front of the world. Many artists have no desire to do so, and that's a perfectly acceptable choice - but for those that do, we're going to take a look at some of benefits and pitfalls of the art award, whether it's having your work up in a local library or something a bit more prestigious like a juried competition.

First of all, it's important to point out that many artists go their whole careers without winning awards - even the world-famous masters that have many works in galleries around the world often went unappreciated by the artistic sensibilities of their peers. If you have no desire to join an art competition, don't feel bad! Art is fulfilling on many levels, and adulation is not a prerequisite. Even if you do enter but don't win, don't let that discourage you - try to use it to motivate you to work even harder on your next piece.

The juried show is probably the most prestigious type of competition that is run in the art world today. Typically, a number of accomplished members of the art community - gallery owners, museum directors, and even a couple of more well-known artists - will make the final decisions about the winning entries. Even if you don't win, it's often a great way to start building exposure for yourself as an artist, and if you do win, then you'll obviously get a great exposure boost, and probably a nice little award in the bargain.

That being said, don't hesitate to get your art out into the world any way you know how, whether it's on a crowd-sourced platform online that lets the viewers vote or some other channel for getting exposure. The only route to exposure that's a bad door to open is to do commissioned works for free on the simple promise of "getting exposure" - that tends to be code for "someone is trying to take advantage of you because they don't think they should have to pay for your work". Steer clear of that, and stick to methods that give you and your work the respect deserved.

Posted on August 13th 2014 on 10:04pm

Friday 08th August 2014When Museums Sell Their Artworks

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 6 years (and nobody foreclosed on your rock), you're probably aware that the world has been going through a serious period of economic turmoil that has rocked industries from one side of the globe to the other. Despite what we hear about art auction prices and record sales numbers, the art world isn't immune from this economic instability, and some of the most venerable museums in the world have had to variously tighten their belts, whether it comes in the form of reduced hours, smaller collections or, in the case of one recent museum, actually beginning to sell off parts of their collection.
Needless to say, it must be a fairly difficult decision for a museum to decide to sell off some of its collection - even a single piece, hard-won, can be difficult to let go of. The cautionary tale of the troubled and essentially bankrupt city of Detroit and its museums should have given some idea of what the backlash would be like when selling assets, but as it turns out, the directors of the Delaware Art Museum weren't paying such close attention.

In fact, they recently sold what is arguably one of the most famous pieces in their collection at auction in order to help their financial situation. William Holman Hunt's 'Isabella and the Pot of Basil' was sold at auction by Christie's. The museum claims that the it was all to settle a debt that was incurred by expansion that had no other solution, as well as adding the museums endowment coffers. The Association of Art Museum Directors was so enraged at this flagrant sale they formally sanctioned the Delaware Art Museum in June, preventing any other member museums from loaning works to the Delaware and preventing them from helping with any exhibitions.

Amusingly - or irritatingly, depending on where you stand - Christie's had valued the painting between 8.4 and 13.4 million dollars US - which would be quite a substantial part of the $19 million debt they wanted to settle. However, Christie's only managed a $4.25 million sale, just barely over half of their lowest valuation. Embarrassing for all concerned.  

However, the Delaware hasn't learned its lesson, as it has announced plans to sell an additional two works from the collection, Winslow Homer's 'Milking Time', and Alexander Calder's 'The Black Crescent'. Admittedly, their membership is down nearly 50% compared to 2001 levels, but still, it's hard to see how reducing the collection is a sustainable strategy for building membership numbers for the future.

Posted on August 08th 2014 on 05:30pm

Wednesday 06th August 2014Because 'Art', That's Why!

Many people, both artists and non-artists, fall into one of the following categories: those who love modern art, those who are confused by modern art, and those who are confused by modern art but pretend to play along so that other people won't think they 'just don't get it'. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell which category you fall into, and it's possible to transition fairly rapidly between groups, especially when artists seem consistently trying to one-up each other with even more bizarre and conceptually ridiculous projects. It should perhaps come as no surprise, then, that 4chan, those internet superheroes/villains (depending on who you ask, and which day it is), has recently played a vital role in what has to be one of the most ridiculous art sales of all time. Assuming, of course, that the whole thing isn't a hoax.

A 4chan member took a bad digital photograph of a computer screen displaying a post from the 4chan message board, and subsequently sold that photograph on eBay for almost $100,000. Yes, you read that right. Titled, 'Artwork by Anonymous' (anonymous being the appellation given to users of the message board who refuse to provide any other name), the piece sold for $90,900 USD on August 1st, 2014. The seller, named xhacker02, has been a member of eBay since 2007, and has generally positive feedback, and the person who bought the artwork appears not to have retracted the bid. As a sideline of the eBay system, however, it is possible that if the buyer and seller discuss the matter and for whatever reason - say, if this whole thing was a joke/hoax - decide not to go ahead with the transaction, we the lowly viewer will never know that the sale never actually happened. As if that wasn't enough, now there is a similarly styled post entitled Artwork of Artwork By Anonymous, although that has yet to receive any bids.

Does it really matter if the sale happened, however?It's important to realize that much of conceptual artwork happens within us the viewer, rather than that which is projected by the 'artist'. In that case, literally anything is art if it causes us to reflect on the world and our role in it, the role of other actors and objects and life, the universe and everything. Kudos, 4chan. Welcome to the art world.

Posted on August 06th 2014 on 05:53pm
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