Sunday, August 29, 2010

Derivative work

In one sense, all artwork is derivative work. Everything we do is based on what came before us. None of us invented artwork. While I paint in oils, I did not invent them. I don’t grind my own colors nor do I weave my own canvas. Nor am I the first artist to paint on canvas. And although I many look old enough, I assure you I did not invent the pencil.

My work is based on what came before me. I looked at artwork. I saw what was there and was inspired by it. My mom was always buying prints of great artwork. These were all over my house growing up. Later I did take art and craft classes. I studied anatomy, and along with drawing from life, I saw how other artists before me and around me solved the problems of rendering the image of the live figure onto paper.

To Derive or Not to Derive

Being inspired by classic artwork is normal. Often I will encourage new students to spend time looking at and even coping some of the great masters. It is an excellent way to learn to paint and draw. This used to be quite common. Touring art museums, you would see students painting or sketching from the paintings on the wall. Since 9/11, most places don’t allow this anymore. Nor do most they allow photography, but that is another subject.

Are these derivative work? Well, of course they are. As you gain more and more experience, your own work will diverge more and more from those of the masters. One of the first paintings I ever did was based on a Normal Rockwell poster. I was new, and did not know anything about copyright, and I would never display this, but I learned a lot. But I no longer try to paint this way. I no longer feel the urge to copy. And as you progress, you should get away from copying others and do work based on your own esthetics's.

One artist I know, selects a new artist each year to study, to work from their work, and learn their processes. What she learned can become part of her own artistic psyche. This work is done only for self education, and does not become part of her portfolio or ever make it to display. It is a way of stretching her artistic muscles.

I have done this myself. I love Monet, especially his earlier works. After seeing a traveling show of Monet canvases, I and several of my students did our own version of one of his water lily paintings. Can you tell these are based on Monet’s paintings? Well. It is hard to do any water lily paintings that does not harkens back to Monet. Water lilies are so closely connected to Monet that any water lily painting will be compared to his. I have done other water lily paintings that are not based on his water lilies but on my own photographs of water lilies taken at Longwood Gardens. But it is enviable that it will be compared to Monet. The first may or may not be recognized as a derivative work. Frankly, I have been painting too long to copy well. And I never was that good at copying others work. The other is not. It is clearly my own work.

Same with “Starry Night”. Who does not recognize this work by Vincent? A year ago, we at The Renaissance Art Gallery did a group project to do our own rendition of that famous painting. It was a great learning experience, and we make clear it was based on this old painting. Which is not uncommon, and anything in the public domain can be copied to various extents. One reason the old masters turn up in ads so much. But these are all derivative works, and although not illegal still not eligible for competition.

Artwork to the right, both inspired by Monet's many water lily paintings. One is derivative, the other inspired by but based on my own visits to botancial gardens with lily ponds. And of course, we all recognize "Starry Night"

Monday, August 23, 2010

So here we start

So here we start
At the beginning of time?
Back to stone & fire
Grease and dirt
Marks in the sand

By gestures & looks

Change from running away
To stalking
Grazing to gathering
Saving and planning

Now we have time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Entering Shows Part 5- Dating the Show

Dating the show

Take careful note of when the show is, and also when you must submit work for consideration in this show. These are usually two different dates! Also note the format for submitting work. Traditionally, in juried shows the artist must submit photographic slides of their work, but more and more are accepting digital files. Still, you need to make sure you submit the right format and size to be considered. Do not assume that your work is so special that they will accept whatever you choose to submit. This is not only wrong, but also insulting to the sponsoring organization. Not the way to make a good first impression.

If the show has a theme, make sure any work you submit fits that theme. Do not try to shoehorn it in. If it does not work, it does not work, no matter how much you like that particular piece. If you want to enter that show, do something else. Also, make sure it fits other criteria for this show. Some shows emphasis a single medium, such as watercolors, while others exclude certain media, like photography or collage. Submitting work that are illegible for the show not only wastes your time, but frustrated the sponsoring organization.

Nothing upsets me more than having to turn away work from an artist who has driven 40 miles because the show they are trying to enter restricts work to only a certain medium or theme. This past spring, we had to turn away some really good photographs because the spring fine arts show did not accept photography; photography is reserved for the summer show. Sadly, the artist did not re-submit the work for the summer photography show. Reading the prospectus would have save them a trip at the wrong time, and allowed them to enter the correct show.

I hope this information is helpful to you. And if there is anything else I can help with, please let me know.

I know that people who orgainize these shows really hope for a good turn out, both with submissions and people viewing the show. When you enter, mark your calendar to attend the opening. A lot of people attend these to meet the artists, so attending is important to both the show and to you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Delivering your work. Entering shows Part 4

Getting your work to the site of the show and on time is vitally important. Depending on the size and prestige of the show, it can make or break your entry. The larger the show, the more important timing can be.

Some shows and groups are rather strict on this, and being either too early or too late will disqualify your entry. Also, some larger shows can have several different delivery/ship addresses. These may or may not be the same as the location of the actual show. I know of one larger miniature shows (I know, a large miniature show sounds like a counter diction in terms!) that has a long list of delivery/shipping addresses depending on your last name! If you last name start with an A-E, you send to one address, etc. Others, will divide things up by category, portraits to one address, landscapes to another, etc. None of these addresses are where the show will hang. That is another address. You need to be clear on this, also on when to either bring in your work or ship it. Volunteers staff most of these shows run by art associations. And the addresses may be only temporary shipping addresses so timing can be important. Also, these groups may not have their own buildings but depend on other groups or locations for their shows. These can range from real estate offices to banks, local museums and even government buildings.

Read the prospectus closely for this information. This might sway your decision to enter this particular show. If at all possible, you should plan on attending the artist’s reception. This is your chance to mingle with other artists and patrons. The group putting on the show will work hard at getting press coverage, and this is also your chance to come to the attention of the public. Don’t be shy! It is your time to shine, whether you win a price or not.

Another thing I want to bring up. Pick up your work on time. There will be a location and time frame listed, usually in the prospectus, but certainly when you drop your work off. Be sure to mark this on your calendar. If the group does not have its own location, failing to pick up your work can put it in jeopardy. While every group will try to take good care of your work, if you fail to retrieve it, well, anything can happen. If they have no actual location, it will no doubt be left in someone’s storage room. More and more shows are stating the consequences of failing to retrieve your work. You would think this would not be a problem, but it is not uncommon for us that The Renaissance Art Gallery to have work for over a month after a show comes down. This is a burden on us, because we have a new show going up, and lack any substantial storage space.

Groups without a location may even dispose of unclaimed work. This is their right. It is your responsibility to collect your unsold work.

Of course, if your work was shipped, this is a mute point. You have provided a carton and label for return shipping and should have no problem getting your work back.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Entering Shows, Part 3 - Finding Shows

How To Find Shows To Enter

How do you find these shows to enter? Look around. Most areas have some kind of arts group and different organizations sponsor art shows and contests all the time. These are usually published in local newspapers and on community bulletin boards. Many papers now have on-line versions and ways for you to subscribe to news feeds. You can subscribe to those feature things you are interested in. You might want to become familiar with your local Life style/community editor for this.

The Renaissance Art Gallery advertises its open entry shows in The Artist Magazine, as well as other art-related magazines and on many on-line art lists. And list these on our website. Most art groups will do this, so even if you are not a member of a local art group, you might want to subscribe to their newsletter or bookmark their website.

Many art magazines have places to list art shows and workshops in the "white pages" at the end of their magazine. This is especially nice for people who specialize in a single medium. A magazine for that medium will often list many shows for that medium.

Most art societies also have magazines, such as "To the Point" the magazine for the CPSA [Colored Pencil Society of America] lists all their regional groups and these each have shows specializing in Colored Pencil art.

We also have an active mailing list for artists, to whom we send new prospectus when they are ready. Many groups do.

Also keep in touch with groups who run fundraisers for causes you believe in. While most of these are designed to raise funds, some of them can be a good way for you to begin showing your artwork.

Don't forget your home territory. Most states have cultural departments, etc that have departments whose business it is to help develop artists. Do not assume you are not good enough. Work with them. It is their jobs to help you become good enough. And you do not need a fine art degree to get help from them etc. But check closer to home to, with your town/city and county. Check the local colleges and see what they have. Check your state website and see what arts groups are listed. Check the surrounding states. etc. That goes for other countries beside the US also. Both Canada and the UK have such agencies. And Europe is lousy with art promoters. But do your homework, so you understand just what is going on.

There are many on-line listings. Look for knowledge bases and such that list art shows and opportunities

A word of warning, not all of these sites are free, many require a subscription for both those submitting events and those looking for events to enter.

Also, be weary of these events. Not all are legitimate. Remember that all shows have agendas. Mine do. I do not apology for this. We, as a gallery expect to get something from all the hard work. This is OK. So do the artists who enter. They expect to get something from the experience. When we all get something but no one takes advantage of the other, it is a win-win situtation. But if the artist or the sponsoring group feel taken advantage of, well. It is not a happy scene.

There are a number of shows that seek to take avantage of artists, so read the fine print before you even send for the prospectus. Many groups see having and "art contest" is a way of getting free artwork. This is especially true for "design" contests and many, many photography shows. When you enter these shows you all up give up all rights to your work. This is not ok. While all shows will need to use your submissions to a certain extent, I would be cautious about entering any show that says that all submissions grant copyright, extented royalty free rights or simply have a lot of jargon you do not understand.

Fair use is pretty straight forward and there is no reason for a lot of complicated legalise in either the entry forms or prospectus. I steer clear of any group or organization that have a lot of fine print! At my age I can't read it anyway and no way am I signing anything I don't understand!

So start small, with groups you understand and can trust, then branch out into larger groups.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Entering Shows, Part 2 - Getting the Facts

How to Get the facts
Read the prospectus!

Whether it is an art group or some other organization holding the show, you need to be aware of just what is going on. To do this you need to read the prospectus.

Carefully. Fully. Again.

When you understand what is being done for this show, then you can decide if it is for you. Don’t dismiss the show it if has a special venue or theme. Many local shows will, especially if the sponsoring group is not an art group.

Many artists do not want to create work for a specific show, but I wonder “why not”? Why not meet this challenge? Just my thought on it.

The prospectus, or outline of the show, should tell you what you need to know to enter this event.

The Prospectus

Art shows generally will have some kind of prospectus, a document that tells you how to enter and what to expect. This can be anything some a simple one page letter, to a small book. And for many these are inherently confusing. Don’t let them scare you.

Most are fairly small and straightforward. After all, a really complicated prospectus will discourage artists from entering that show. The bigger the show, the bigger the prospectus! And I have seen some that were really complicated! And long!

Understanding them is very important to successfully entering any show. Once you have the prospectus in hand, read it carefully. Take your time. Note when the show is and when you have to have your submissions ready. These dates are seldom the same! It takes time to get a show together. Trust me on this!

If the show is a juried entry, meaning, you must submit work to be juried to even enter, the show will clearly state this. Some shows require an entry fee even if the jury later rejects your work. So be prepared for this. Most entry fees are non-refundable. And some arts organizations are very hard-nosed about this.

If you must jury in, seldom is the actual artwork required. Usually slides are required. Or rather, this was the way it was done in the past. And many shows still accept them, but more and more shows are accepting a digital file in replacement of film slides. Read the information carefully and stick to it exactly. This is especially true on format. If you submit files in a format not suitable for the selection committee, they will not ask you to resubmit, they will simply put you in the reject pile. Make sure the file is the right size. Not too big and not too small. A small file will not allow enough detail to truly evaluate your work. A too large file might freeze up their computers, not a good impression to make! This mean conforming to the dimensions stated in the prospectus also.

In either case, the quality of these photos makes a big difference, and the care in which they are made does matter. Do not simply snap off a few shots with a point and shot and e-mail them in.

Photos that are off center, on an angle, poorly light will cause your work, however good, to be rejected out of hand. You might think that your painting is so good that it will overcome any deficiency in photography, but it will not. If you don’t know how to take good photos, ask a pro. Do not include the frame in the photo if at all possible. Many will allow or even require a black border. You do not need to photograph your artwork with this border, it can be added to the photo after cropping.

Make sure the painting is clean and dust free. Dirt and dust will show in the photo. A stained and ill-fitting mat will also detract from your artwork. If the work is on paper, photograph it before it is under glass! Reflections and glare will also disqualify your work. If they cannot see the work clearly, and see the colors truly, they will not be able to appreciate it. Do not give into temptations to “tweak” or enhance your work in the computer. Make sure the photos are as true to the work as possible.

Read all the requirements carefully. If you are unsure of anything, call or write the group. Contact information will be given.

Larger shows may have multiple shipping addresses, so read this carefully also. It is not uncommon for the shipping address to be different from the address the show will be displayed in. They may have detailed shipping instructions that must be followed. This is to insure that the artwork not only arrives, but also arrives in good condition.

Always insure your work

Enclose a self-address return mail label. Do not depend on the staff to fill this out. They are busy, and have lots of packages to pack and ship, and mistakes happen. If you include a return shipping label already filled out, your work will find it way back to you. Most shows require this along with return postage. Include this. Your shipping company can usually calculate this for you, and most will print you a special label for return shipping. Don’t skip this thinking to save money by making the showing organization fork over the shipping fee. More and more shows state that work without return shipping included will not be returned but considered a donation to that group.

Make sure you understand size and framing requirements. Oversized works will often be rejected, even if the work makes it through the jury process. Once the work arrives if it is oversized or not framed properly many shows will not hang it and all your work and expense will be for nothing.

Contrary to popular belief, putting on an art show is not the road to financial success for any arts organization. Most of us do it for the love of art, and hope to at least break even. These shows are expensive to put on. And they are detailed. To me anyway, very much worth the effort, but there is little money in it! I just hope to get seed money for the next event!

While some shows detail the prizes and awards given, many do not. Do not assume because it is not detailed in the prospectus that there are no awards. If you have questions ask.

I do not put the awards list in prospectus because for us this list can be fluid until shortly before the show. We work hard to not only make sure we have good cash or merchandise awards for the winning art; we also canvas the area for purchase awards and award sponsors. So our basic awards list can grow, almost doubling by show time!

But more and more shows do not give cash or merchandise awards. A growing trend is giving awards “for the honor” of art, and they simply give ribbons and/or certificates. Be clear on what to expect.

Also, it is wise to understand just who is judging this show. It is a committee made up of the organization giving the show, or has some effort gone into the selection of a judge or judges.

Even if this is not in the prospectus, it is ok to ask what kind of judging happens. For The Renaissance Art Gallery’s Major fall show, the Miniature Exhibition, we often have members of local university art departments. But we do from time to time draw on the greater art community and import a judge from an organization specializing in miniatures. The strength of the judge can reflect on the merits of the award. We also have a category of awards that we call “people’s choice” awards, where the public, passing through the gallery during the show will vote on their choices. There are three of these awards given each year in addition to the regular and purchase awards.

Purchase awards are just that. A person or group will commit to buying a piece of art in that show. They will donate a dollar amount to buy a work of their choice before the opening of the show. After the juror(s) make their selections, those with purchase awards will go through and select the works they are “awarding” and those are usually marked as sold prior to the opening of the show. It is possible to win a major award, like best in show, and a purchase awards. Kind of a double whammy! Of course, if your work is not for sale, it is not eligible for this kind of award.

A word about commissions

The vast majority of shows will take a commission of the purchase price of the artwork if sold. This is standard practice and can range from 10% to 50% of the purchase price. Be aware of this.

Larger shows with more opportunities for sales will often take have a greater percentage of the sale price. The increased likelihood of sales offsets this larger percentage. 20-30% is reasonable for expenses. This is still lower than most galleries must take. The gallery is also going to collect any state sales taxes required, but this should not affect you. But don’t count out smaller show in smaller venues. They can have surprising sales records!

Shows that depend on sales to break even may require that work be for sale. If not, they may require that you submit additional works that they can sell.

Most shows will state that images of artwork may be used for publicity. This is important to the show to get public interest. This is also standard practice and in no way affects your rights to your artwork. Also be aware that fair use allows reporters to photograph your work on display and use it in their stories. This is a good thing. They take care to identify the work and artist. Publicity will not hurt you!

Last year I send press releases to the papers in the hometowns of our Miniature winners, and that resulted in interviews and newspaper stories of several of our artist/entrants.

For an example of a prospectus, you can visit The Renaissance Art Gallery website at: and download the 2010 Miniature prospectus.

I think I pretty much covered this subject. Any Questions? Have you run into anything you did not understand or did not make sense? Any funny stories?