Friday, August 26, 2011

Free Art Supplies

I love free art supplies. Art is expensive. Getting stuff free from favorite art material companies is great! You get to try new products without going to the store or shopping on line and buying blind.

So the idea of getting a free sample from a top art material company sounds appealing.
Inktense Block

When it comes to Derwent products, I am a repeat offender, so I had seen ads and lead-ins for this product. I have used Inktense water-soluble pencils successfully on a number of projects. The concept of a block of intense color is appealing to anyone who has had to cover a large area with an even, saturated coating of pigment.

Wasn’t long before a nice big square of blue came in the mail

Now To Try It

As I said, I do have Inktense pencils. You can use them dry, you can use them wet, you can use them dry on wet, wet on wet. Very versatile pencils. I enjoy drawing, and an Inktense pencil dipped in water is a fine drawing tool. And wet, these are very blendable. When dry, however they are permanent, so working over them even with another damp layer will not move the ink.  This is different from using traditional watercolors in an underlayer.

But as with all pencils, covering large swatches can be tedious, and often less than satisfactory.  You want to get good coverage, even in the nooks and crannies of fine art paper, but you want to avoid denting the paper, and losing that fine texture. How many times have you tried to cover the background only to end up with small white “flakes” all over the background? The water-soluble pencils does make this easier, as you can dampen the background and scrub in the color, but you still have to contend with the finer lines made with a pencil.

I have used pencils, but they are still pencils and not the ideal solution.

Using the Intense Block

Using the block.
Using the square block is similar in feeling to using a conte’ crayon. It handles much the same. You can use the broad side to cover large areas. For this trial I used watercolor paper instead of pastel or charcoal paper.

I used the blue block to color large areas of background in a tint. I did try to color everything except what I wanted to remain white. I did not use a frisket, as this is just a trail and I mostly wanted to see how the block performed.

After covering the large areas I used a stiff, damp brush to work the Inktense colors into the paper. I used both the block and my pencils to see how the block performed verses the pencils. I went in small circles to work the pigment into the paper.

I wet the background and “floated the color on to get just a tint on the area behind the floral arrangement I was going to draw. Here, I had to use more pencil than block, and can see how the broad edge of the block would make a much more satisfactory background. I had trouble scrubbing out the enviable lines of the pencils. Mostly at this point I wanted to get the “white” off the background of the picture.

Since the paper was wet, I had to let it dry at this point. While it was wet, I did work in some more pigment on the hydrangeas.

Working with the single ink block let me see just how different a medium this can be. I tend to think of the Inktense pencils as another colored pencil, one that makes saturating a drawing easier, but essentially a pencil. These blocks are sticks of color, water-soluble, but of concentrated pigments that allows a heavier hand in application. You do have to work quickly when wet and with concentration. I got a phone call during the background wash, and I did not get it entirety scrubbed out as I would have wished. Unlike watercolors, once it is set, it is set. Think INK this can be a bad thing at times, but overall, it gives a versatility to working that you don’t get with a watercolor pencil or stick. It does make it easier to work over with standard colored pencils. You can even work over it “wet” and the underlayer stays put.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Putting on your first Show part 4: the Reception

All the pieces should now be in place!


You have worked hard and now the show is coming together. All the pieces should be fitting together. Last step, is the opening reception or the meet and greet!

Having an Opening 

Depending on where and when you are displaying your work, you might want to have a little meet-and-greet with the public. The most successful shows do have a reception. For art galleries this is standard. So depending on your venue, you should plan on a reception near the opening date of your show.

Reporter interviewing guess at reception.
Even offices often have a lobby reception when they have artists in. This can be co-coordinated with the public relations department, or owner in a small office for an after-hours party. Coffee houses will often have a small party for new artists, but restaurants can be a little difficult for this. But you will find that your show will be more successful if there is a way for you to interact with people viewing it. For restaurants, having a night that they can say the artist will be present will make it more successful for both of you.

Eat Drink And Be Merry

The refreshment table should be neat and clean
What exactly should be involved? Something simple is called for. The emphasis is on the art, not the refreshments, but that does not mean the refreshments are unimportant. Keep it simple keep it relatively mess free and have lots of it. Finger foods that are easy to eat and hold are what is called for. Crackers and cheese are good stand bys, as are chips and dips, but with any dip, be a bit cautious. You don’t want something really drippy. While salsas are popular, most are drippy. So go easy on them. Cake is fine, but make sure you have time to cut it before hand. Cup cakes and mini muffins usually work better, the smaller the better. Bit size is the way to go. Finger sandwiches are really good, but unless you really enjoy making these, they can be a bit tedious. Cocktail rye is perfect along with easily spread-able spreads. Easy spread-ables! If they are too chunky and awkward people become uncomfortable with it, and that can have a negative reflection on the show. Sounds silly, but it is true. Easy things. Have many drinks; Coffee, tea, cold things in a chest of ice. Small serving drinks are usually easier on everyone than large 2 litter bottles that must be poured. And there is not waste later if all are not drunk up. If possible, ask a friend to be in charge of this. Receptions can easily become overwhelming and crowded. Having someone in charge is really necessary. Have paper plates, napkins, drink cups, etc. and have a good-sized waste can. And the table should be neat and presentable. A nice table cloth, neatly stacked plates, etc.

If you are having an opening in a coffee house or restaurant, you want to be a little backwards on what is served free. Coffee houses and restaurants are in the business to sell food, and usually they are having you in for little or no pay. So do not backhand them. I know one artist who brought in several carafes of coffee so his guests would not have to buy coffee from the shop owner. This is not good! She was very disgruntled to have a full restaurant and not sell but cups of coffee for the entire night! Yes, you can have a small tray of finger foods, but this was a slam on the owner who allowed the artist to display his work for nothing, she did not even take a commission from sales. So openly telling his family and friends not to patronize that coffee house was insulting.

People come to see the art.

Extend the Invitation

Go over what to expect at the reception with the venue. Each place has its own “rules” and expectations.

If the venue is a gallery, they will have established customs for this, and can guide you. Make sure you add to the reception by having your own list of people to invite. And invite everyone! This is a case where the more the merrier!

All For Sale and Sale for All

You art is most likely for sale. So prices should be either on the tags for each piece for in a catalog. Where this is displayed will depend on the policies of the venue. But there should be clear information on this. Most states require that you collect sales tax, and many towns or counties now have their own sales tax. Make sure you understand this and are prepared. Many states have sales tax charts you can download.

Handling Sales

At the reception, you should not handle the sales. There should be a helper whose job this is. Make sure you have a 3 sheet sales book. And make sure the sales person understand just how to handle this. Sales receipts are important documents. Receptions can get quite hectic, so make sure everyone knows what to do.

Have a 3-sheet book. You can get these at office supply stores. Top sheet stays in the book. Yellow or second copy is for the patron. Third or pink sheet is for the venue. The sales receipt should be filled out completely, with name, address, etc. This information will pay off in the long run. You really want to know who is buying your work. And make sure the person who is supposed to handle this understands it. My first show, my husband was to do this, but he had a great time with everyone and simply used the first sheet for the first sale, the next sheet for the next, etc, and did not use the 3 pages right. It did not matter to him, and afterwards, I had no records of what was sold or for how much. The only written copy was giving to each person as a receipt. It was very discouraging. It was not important to him, it was only my hobby, and he had a great time when he did not expect to enjoy himself. Grudging help is no help. This is where having someone who understands business and how important this is to you is really important. It is really hard to reconstruct afterwards!

Receptions can get quite busy!
Tagging Sales

If the venue requires that artwork remain on the walls for the length of the show, make sure you have sold tags. Nothing encourages sales like other people buying it. When that first sold tag goes up, it can start a feeding frenzy. People seem to suddenly realize that they can buy this stuff. You would think the presence of prices would clue them in, but such is not the case. It is like a light bulb goes off! I have see this happen time after time. When the first sale goes thought, people start thinking seriously of buying. In the art world most people are sheep and like to follow others. So have those tags ready. And sold should be in bright read letters. Nothing subtle here!

If people are going to be taking the artwork home as they buy, so much the better! Nothing encourages sales like things coming down from the walls. Know if the place wants you to replace art as you go, but do not replace it at the reception. empty spaces speak for themselves! wait a week before restocking!

Dress the Part

Press Comes to visit too!
This might sound silly, but please, dress the part. This is a reception highlighting your work and your art and you should be presentable. I don’t care what the stereotype of the mad artist is, but respect yourself and your guests. Dress the part. You are an important player here and neat clean dress is appropriate. Shower and if you are male, shave. You don’t have to dress fancy, but please be clean! No need to go the route of black tie and tails, but you should be able to put together a nice outfit. Make sure it fits. Too tight and too sexy detracts from the artwork. Expect the press and expect to have your photo taken. This is your first show, and how you present yourself will live forever in those pictures! Remember that publicity you worked so hard for, Now it pays off!


Relax and enjoy the reception. If you have done your homework, it should be an enjoyable experience. Smooze with everyone. They want to like your work.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Putting on Your First Show Part 3 Publicity

Build a better mouse trap and the world will bet a path to your door……..

…………………………………..not if they don’t know about it.

Which brings us to another painful topic,


Publicity is not a four-letter word! And it is not only necessary for a successful show it is vital!

 Getting the word out

Your artwork is unique but you have to tell people just what it is that makes you unique and why they should care. So you need to get some publicity.

There are a not of way to do this. One of the most effective is still print. People relate to art and artists they see in local newspapers. These are their neighbors. It feels friendly.


Local Papers cover local people
Depending on where you live, it can be easy-difficult to get. If you are in a major market, submit the press release to the big papers, but also, to any local papers. Local papers will bring out local people; just who you want.

But don’t dismiss the big guys. They might surprise you, especially if you are home-grown. People love to read about people in their communities who are doing things. To try and contact the feature-writers and editors of all local papers. If you are not sure how, go to your library and talk to the Liberians. Also, ask other artist for their contacts. They might be able to pass along some information about you and your show, which will mean more to the reporters. Do this enough in advance that they can do a story on you and your show.

And think of it this way, they have to write about something, it might as well be you!

Most of
Us are shy

Yes, most of us tend to be shy. But grit your teeth and do it. I was shocked when the first reporter I tentatively contacted responded. Not only responded, but met me for an interview, came over and photographed me working, and gave me advice on photographing my work! A nice feature article on the show and me really helped to make my first show a success!

It took me a while before I got up enough nerve to contact TV and radio, and I am sorry I waited so long! Most TV stations have news desks, and often need short feel-good stories for the weekend. A nice 2-minute spot on the local guy who makes art out of tin cans, etc is often just what they need. So supply that need!  These contacts can lead to more.

After a few years and meeting a number of reporters, when an art show came to town and a local feature writer was told to do a story on it, she contacted me to find out just who this guy was and why he was important. So I got a nice quote about that artist and mention for me and for my gallery. Let them begin to think of you as their go to guy for art.

Don’t underestimate yourself

You are interesting, or at least your art is. Supply the press with your bio, artist statement and good clear photos of your work. If you have a good camera, and can create a cd with digital files of selected work, this is a good thing. I will include a doc with the bio, statement and high-resolution photos of my work. This can work to your advantage because conditions might not be good to photography the work in the gallery or shop. They will most likely want a photo of you with your work, but clear photos they can use in print help.

Press Release
Press Release

You will need to write a press release. Scary? Yes, but you can do it. A simple letter stating that you will be opening an art show at…… on….. Cover the who, what, when and how. Include contact information, phone number, e-mail, etc. You can include examples of your work, but they should be very good photos! Not snapshot with your cell phone. The advantages of a gallery show is that the gallery generally knows how to do this. A shop, office or coffee house will not.

So Learn. This is not hard, it just takes time and determination. And Humility. For some help, you can see what other artists have done.

Marion, from writes

Press Kit

All those documents you have already worked on can now to put to good use!

Have a handy little Bio
Have the bio and artist statement ready for them. The easier you make their job the more they will like you and the better coverage you will get. You can also have a list of the artwork in this show. Name, theme, etc. Give them something to write about, and maybe help them get a handle on how to interview you. Give them all the help you can to give you good coverage. In the press kit you can include a Bio, Artist Statement, Inventory/catalog of show and even photos of  your artwork. I know several artists who print up small brochures of their shows. These are limited printings and not expensive, but go a long way to making your show look professional and helping the press to give the right slant on your show. They are not mind-readers, help them!

A few words about photos for Press Release and Press Kit

Just some notes that I think you will find helpful when including artwork or graphics with a press release. I have found that newspapers and TV stations are much more likely to pay attention to press releases that include art. This can mean photos of paintings or people doing things.

But they will not print this artwork unless it is identified. If it is a painting, clearly identify the artwork and artist. I usually name the file with the artist last name and a hyphen title.

In the press release, below the -30- I will name the file attached, identify it and anyone in it. Then include the credit, ea. Who took the picture. By including the photo you are giving permission for the media to use this in either print or broadcast. If there are people in the photo, these must be identified also. Standard is left to right back to front. First initial and last name is enough. After all this is done, I will include a line, such as Photo by name of photographer.

Press will by default use their own photos from their morgue if possible. But they are much more likely to even think of it if we include something.

Photos should be a good quality, in focus. It is better to not include a photo than to include a poor one. Always take the photo at the highest resolution settings of your camera. You can always downsize for the Internet, but print does require a larger file than the Internet or a website.

Next: Opening Reception, the meet and greet, a necessary Evil!