Category Archives: Art Appreciation

Politics Brings Haters to Art

Art appreciation is complicated enough. Bring politics into it and… things get really confused and messy.

Could you look at art and appreciate it for the sake of itself? How would your perception change knowing the artist was someone famous, notorious even? How does your art appreciation fare knowing the artist was Hitler?

hitlerflowers

Of course, that brings up the question – Who is Hitler to you, personally? Were you born before his death? Is your family German, Austrian, Jewish or European at all? What real relevance is there about Hitler for you in a personal way? Is there anything real enough to change the way you look at the art he created at various times in his life?

I admit, other than reading history, Hitler has very little connection to my life. My family are Austrian but I hardly know anyone from that connection and I’ve never travelled to Europe at all, so far. I can remember my Grandmother (on my Father’s side) ranting about “never letting a German into her house”. This was a little shocking to me considering I thought of myself as German (on my Mother’s side of the family). I never forgot her saying that and the conviction she had, or how misled she seemed to me in that moment.

Hitler was an artist, as are/ were many other people who didn’t stand out in history. What matters in art? How much does it matter that the artist was a German politician and later a famous dictator? Is art about politics? Do you still believe in the connection between politics and religion too?

Some questions don’t have easy answers. However, I would not like to see Hitler’s original art defaced or destroyed. It’s part of our history, our culture and something one man left behind of the beauty he found in the world.

A batch of the Führer’s watercolours has just been sold at a controversial auction. But as well as having zero artistic value, most ‘Hitlers’ are probably fake – so why do we continue to collude in this grotesque deception?

Source: Littered with fakes: why the Hitler art trade is such a sick joke

The Stall & Craft Collective (Exclusive Interview!)

The Stall & Craft Collective is an online craft & gift marketplace, and events directory, which launched in June of this year. This October, they’ve reached over 30,000 unique visitors and 227,000 page views — and climbing. Part of their success lies in the fact that they have undertaken an extensive marketing campaign in UK craft magazines, securing over 25 full page advertisements that have reached a potential readership of over 650,000.

stall and crafts collective

If you’re thinking, “This is just like Etsy,” well, it’s not quite the same. But I’ll let the founder of the collector, Helen Eskins, tell you more about it.

helen eskinsHello & welcome, Helen! Tell us a bit about yourself, please.

My name is Helen Eskins and I’m a mother of two from Birmingham, West Midlands. My background is on the administrative side of Child Protection and criminal law. I have been self-employed for around 11 years now, after having started a company working from home transcribing court hearings and police interviews. My own little craft business is called Harriet-Rose Crafts.

I began to attend local craft fairs and met some wonderful people along the way. I soon began to get a bit disillusioned with all the local craft fairs I was attending due to the obvious lack of advertising and promoting being done by the organisers, resulting in very poor attendance by customers, so I decided to start up my own events organising company to help my fellow crafters, a lot of whom had become very close friends. This resulted in the formation of Moon & Light Markets some five or so years ago now. Moon & Light Markets have been incredibly successful and we organise events all across the West Midlands, Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire areas, until recently holding fairs once a month. This in turn then led to the idea of Stall & Craft Collective.

What is the purpose of Stall & Craft Collective:

The idea of Stall & Craft Collective was formed whilst organising craft fairs through Moon & Light Markets. I began to think how much easier it would be for event organisers if there was a website they could go to where everything they needed to organise an event was there all under one roof so to speak. My husband, Mark Eskins, had just taken redundancy from work so it seemed an ideal opportunity for us to take on a new challenge together and turn this idea into a reality.

product offerings stall craft collective ukWe want Stall & Craft Collective to provide event organisers with free advertising of their events, and in turn for potential customers to find their local events to attend. We also want event organisers and stallholders to be able to easily find and contact each other so that stalls can be filled. Stallholders are then able to list the events they are attending so customers can see where their favourite stallholders will be, and will also be able to look through the stallholders at an event they are going to, in case there is anything they can pre-order or have personalised etc.

Another wish I had was for our stallholders to be able to have a forum where they could sell their items at any given time to a nationwide audience, rather than just once a month at a craft fair. Having attended craft fairs myself as a stallholder and as an organiser, I was aware that a lot of stallholders find it difficult to make a living from their craft and I wanted to ensure that they had a selling platform without the high fees and commission taken from other high end shopping sites. We therefore decided on a small yearly fee with no commission or other charges to give an opportunity to every stallholder to join up.

We welcome all crafters, stallholders, and small business owners. There are categories to suit everybody including vintage, antiques, clothing, shabby chic, furniture, jewellery, home décor, cakes, wedding services, etc. and we welcome your suggestions for any different categories if you can’t find something suitable.

Is this just for folks in the UK?

It is at present but there may be plans to change this in the future.

(Fingers crossed!)

If you’re a buyer, just head on over to the Stall & Craft Collective Marketplace, look at upcoming fairs and events, or begin browsing news about products & sellers in the Spotlight.

If you’re an event organizer, register and list your event(s) now — for free.

If you are a maker or seller of things, however…

Here’s what you need to know about becoming a stallholder.

Prices start at just £15 per year; there is no commission on your sales.

Stallholders have three different registration packages to choose from which includes:

  • the creation of your own mini webpage
  • the opportunity to sell your items on our online marketplace
  • use of an individual noticeboard where you can advertise sales, promotions and news
  • ability to link your Social Media pages and website
  • promotion of your attendance at events
  • opportunity to submit news and interviews
  • use of a private message service

You can also keep up with the Stall & Craft Collective on Facebook & Twitter.

Canadian Vintage Postcards

Old Barrie, OntarioI have been a history fan since the day I first noticed old buildings with the carved and sculpted stonework, the majestic columns and the extras, like gargoyles. My Mother loves antiques. We still have some of the massive pieces of furniture which she told me were called Canadiana, over 100 years old made from trees far older than that even. The wood has become soft to the touch and the colour is lighter than the finished wooden furniture.

Anyway, nothing lasts forever. Isn’t that the sad part of history, architecture and antiques?

This is why I have always enjoyed finding vintage and antique postcards of old Canadian cities, towns and places I have been in the current time. In the old postcards you can see some of what once was and how a building (still standing) looked when it was new. The street views are my favourites. Horses still in the streets, sometimes sharing it with vehicles and sometimes, just horses and buggies. People along the sidewalks, some close enough to see a pattern in their clothes and the trimmings on their hats. Those were real, living people. Not a design someone created to add features to an illustration.

What do you think about when you see an old postcard? Travels? History? Collectibles and antiques? Maybe you see them for the art they are too?

Who The *$&% Is An Art Expert?

I’ve had one art DVD on my wishlist for years now, but I hadn’t given it much priority until today.

Who the *$&% Is Jackson Pollock? is the 2006 documentary about 73-year-old former long-haul truck driver Teri Horton, who purchased a $5 painting from a thrift shop. The painting was supposed to be a gag gift for a friend — but now Horton believes that the painting is an original Jackson Pollock.

If the painting is by the famous abstract expressionist, it would be worth millions. What the documentary does is show the lengths this woman has gone through to try to prove the painting is a Pollock work, including fingerprint identification. But the road is not easy, as Randy Kennedy explains:

The filmmakers were initially fascinated by the science-versus-art angle of Ms. Horton’s story, about how forensics may be starting to nudge the entrenched tradition of connoisseurship from its perch in the world of art authentication. But as they spent more time with her, they began to see the movie as being about something more important than whether the painting was a real Pollock, a question left very much for the viewer to decide.

“It became, really, a story about class in America,” [director Harry Moses] said. “It’s a story of the art world looking down its collective nose at this woman with an eighth-grade education.”

The story obviously catches my attention, but it wasn’t until I read Frank Messina’s article, Nicolas Carone: Jazz, Poetry, And Jackson Pollock, in which Nicolas Carone, an expert on Pollock discusses his role in the saga of Horton’s painting, that I became motivated to move the film to the top of my wishlist:

In the film, Carone is brought in to physically inspect the painting. In a pivotal scene, Carone is asked by the film’s director, Harry Moses, whether or not the painting is authentic. Carone said he could not determine one way or the other. And with those few words, the painting remained in a cloud of mystery. After all, if Nicolas Carone couldn’t tell if it was authentic, then who could?

Relaxed in his favorite armchair in his studio, Carone spoke at length about the movie, and admitted being less than forthcoming when Harry Moses asked him about Teri Horton’s painting. “I was worried. I worried. I was advised not to tell that it is or it isn’t.” When I asked who had advised him, he ran his fingers across his lips as if closing a zipper. He then referred to a particular scene in the film when the Horton painting is compared side-by-side with an undisputed Pollock, “No. 5, 1948”, once owned by art collector Si Newhouse, chairman and CEO of Advance Publications and Conde Nast, (New Yorker Magazine, Vanity Fair), and more recently, record producer David Geffen. “The thing is, when they spliced the painting from Geffen, and they showed it with hers and they put it together like that. It looked exactly the same. That made me worry,” Carone said. I asked in what way. “In a way that it could’ve been a spliced painting. What she had, I looked at the canvas in the back. You know how you turn the painting, like this, the canvas, you turn it around,” Carone said, shaping his arms into a square. “All this on the side is still a continuation of the painting, and it’s cut there. This part is cut. I think that that painting was cut from another painting. It’s cut,” Carone said. “As if Pollock cut it?” I asked. “Yes,” he said.

And while Carone wouldn’t outright tell me whether the painting was authentic or not, he did offer a cryptic assessment when asked about the recent offer of $9,000,000 Horton received and refused for the painting. “I think if she holds out a little more—I think the Teri painting will go for more than nine million,” Carone said.

Despite this, there’s no news that Horton has received the $50 million she’s been holding out for; or that she’s even sold it at all. However, knowing Carone’s thoughts certainly adds a new layer to the story and makes me want need to see this film. In part because the story simply will not die.

Like-Like Baby Dolls: Cute or Creepy?

Have you ever seen a reborn baby doll? They are dolls that look like real babies and are created/ bought by women and treated like real babies. Dressed up, taken for walks in the park, have birthday parties, given a car seat of their own and so on. I’m sure not every woman who keeps a reborn doll is going as far as taking them out in public. But, it’s those who do who have stirred up controversy or at least gotten people talking.

If you had always wanted a baby but didn’t have one (or had lost one) would you consider a reborn doll? On the plus side the doll won’t need diaper changes, it won’t wake up for a midnight feeding, no squirming around while you dress the doll up, and it won’t ever grow up and become a teenager (if you count that as a good thing).

I have my own Raggedy Ann rag doll, made by my Mother when I was a kid. I still dress up Raggedy Ann a few times. I like to keep her around, give her a spot in my bedroom where she can see and be seen. But that’s where she stays. I don’t take her to bed with me – even when I was a kid I wasn’t bringing dolls into bed with me.  It is nice to keep her though. I do like giving her something new to wear. It’s pretty easy, and cheap enough, to find second hand clothes at the thrift shop. Just about anything in the baby sizes will fit her. But, she does have a thick neck for the length of her body. Of course, she’s all doll, not a baby (reborn) doll.

Is is weird for a grown woman to keep dolls? In general I would say no. It could be a bit much if the dolls are taking over, like an obsession.  However, anything which becomes an obsession isn’t good.

Are the reborn dolls creepy? I’ve looked at lots of photos of reborn dolls since deciding to write about them. Some are a bit creepy, the skin is a bit too real – like a baby just born, still on the purple/ blue side. A bit too much reality, especially when they only look like that such a short time.  Some of the dolls have really adorable faces, cute and soft, a very romantic version of a baby. No doubt there must be some percentage of people who will find that creepy. I don’t.

In the end it is up to the beholder. Would you make a reborn doll? The process is interesting. The designing of the clothes is fun, if you want to make them yourself.

Plucking A Picasso From A Thrift Shop

Another thrift store find; this time a signed Picasso. Purchased for $14, the man sold the Picasso print designed to advertise a 1958 Easter exhibition of his ceramic work in Vallauris, France, for $7,000.

Aside from being a reminder that real art can indeed be found in thrift shops, there’s this tip on the value of numbered linocuts from Lisa Florman, an associate history professor at Ohio State University who has authored a book on Picasso:

There’s certainly some collectors who really place a premium on a single-digit number because it indicates the artist’s greater involvement with the actual printing, so those particular prints can fetch a higher price.

There Is Only Art!

In Memo to budding art collectors, art collector Paulino Que gives three tips for beginner art collectors — but the best part of the article or interview is this part:

[I]n the course of merely listening to him, you will realize that what you have been doing since the day you were born has been a big mistake. From the start, there was no need for psychoanalysis, higher education or your vaunted profession, even if you happen to be a mind reader. In fact, going to college or chasing after your career goals were red herrings if they did not lead you to life’s biggest bonanza which Que spoke of with much zeal: the pursuit of Juan Lunas and F.R. Hidalgos, the chasing-after of Fernando Zobels. If there’s one thing that explains itself, it’s “You should have been collecting art in the first place!” No need for repetition or explanation. There’s no golden pot somewhere over the rainbow. There’s only art, art, art!


Photo of Paulino Que posing before Imagining Identity, a selection of a hundred self-portraits by Filipino artists in Que’s private collection from the Business Mirror article.

Inspiring Art Link Round-Up

Stop Lounging & Be Inspired By Art

At Asylum 13 Riots!, an interview with artist Brent Dewell on how art helps him cope with Bipolar Disorder. (I agree in art as therapy.)

Biologically-inspired designs by Neri Oxman.

A look at the antique Alphabet-album.

Need portable creative organization for on-the-go inspirations? From the creators of Make Magazine comes the Maker’s Notebook.

Image: The Lovers, 1936, by Man Ray.

U3 Artsy Link Round-Up

Dark Mountain Book & Painting By Rima

1.) Collin David reviews The Art Hustle Trading Cards (Series 2).

2.) Breast drawing advice — hint: nudity in the illustrated guide.

3 & 4.) Midori Snyder shares A Bordertown Moment: Skateboards and Skulls and Lotte Reiniger: Silhouette Fairy Tale Films.

5.) Important cultural things to consider and respond to in Are Art Museums Sexist? Yes …And Maybe No (NWS).

6.) Artist Rima shares the inspiration and process behind painting the front cover of the second Dark Mountain Project book.

Apply Now For BUST Magazine Craftacular

Apply now to be a BUST Magazine Craftacular vendor at the World’s Largest DIY Festival — Maker Faire New York 2011! Maker Faire NY will take place on Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, September 18th at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows, Queens, NY.

Maker Faire is a newfangled outdoor fair that combines science, art, craft, engineering, and music in a fun, energized, and exciting public forum. Over 40,000 attendees are expected over both days.

For the second year, the BUST Magazine Craftacular will bring the most unique crafters and food artisans to Maker Faire New York — we’re looking for any and all handmade crafts and specialty foods!

This year’s improved BUST Craftacular at Maker Faire features:

  • A new, central location at a highly trafficked area within Maker Faire — foot traffic, and lots of it!
  • A large BUST Craftacular tent which will provide cover and shade for all vendors and shoppers (already included in your booth fee).
  • More live crafting demos, including demos from vendors.
  • Plus, returning vendors from last year’s Maker Faire New York will receive 10% off their booth fee.

Have more questions? Visit Frequently Asked Questions or e-mail us at craftacular@bust.com.

Inspiration For Making Your Own Frames

I like this post at Elemental Cheapness in which Sabrina Mantle shares her creative ideas for reusing items to frame art. Creativity doesn’t end with the artwork — display can be creative too!

Most, if not all, of Sabrina’s examples come from cheap discounted, discontinued and As Is items from Ikea. That means what she shows may not be pieces you can actually snap-up yourself, but there’s plenty of inspiration for keeping your eyes open to possibilities… Discount isles, thrift stores, garage sales… Your own basement! You know I love thrifty ideas!

The most practical idea, shown below, is the simple use of glass, strung and hung with ribbon.

I also got a bunch of 7×9 pieces of glass with holes in corner (which I threaded ribbon thru) at Ikea’s As Is department for 50 cents each, just finished mounting photos on those for upcoming show I am doing, they look great!

I really like the idea — both in terms of aesthetics and the re-usability. Just slide the photographs and images out, and put new ones in, so it would be a great idea for art shows. (Acrylic options might be more suitable for ease in carrying about and careless shoppers.)

Review: The Painted Backdrop: Behind the Sitter in American Tintype Photograph

The Painted Backdrop By Jim Linderman

Have you ever thought about the painted backgrounds in antique and vintage photographs?

No?

Well, you aren’t alone.

Until I read The Painted Backdrop: Behind the Sitter in American Tintype Photography, by Jim Linderman (with an essay by Kate Bloomquist), I hadn’t either.

In fact, the story of and between 19th century painters and American photography really has never been told — or, I should say, “hasn’t been explored” until Linderman came along and looked into it via his collection of antique tintype photographs.

Considering virtually every one of the millions upon millions of tintype photographs taken indoors from 1850 to 1920, (and a good number of the few taken outside) had a painted backdrop, it is remarkable  no one has ever written a book about them. This is even more remarkable given the importance of the background in motion pictures today. As entire films are produced by computer, the role of the actor has been reduced to standing before an empty screen mouthing words only later to be placed in a digital backdrop which never existed and never will. In a way, the early painted drops used by primitive tintype photographers of the late 19th century an unreal environment in a prescient manner; the thread connecting them to big-screen computer generated hyper-worlds is real but seldom considered.

He even dares to ask the question, “Could this be because photographers, even then, were so determined to prove THEY were doing the art and not the painter they relegated to the background?”

Antique Tintype Backdrop Being Painted

The author / collector states: “This is an art book about painting and photography (or vice-versa) and how they met in a certain time and place.”   Ever since the camera arrived, the debate about the merits of photography as an art form has raged (admittedly Ansel Adams helped sway a lot of people that it is), and this book and its 75 antique tintype images certainly is part of that debate. It also raises the question about whether or not the painted backdrops used behind the people in the photographs are art, folk art, or ephemera from the photographic industry.  But  it’s that last part, “how they met in a certain time and place,” which really gets to the core of things, the thrilling things, for me.  That’s where we get to the historical cultural contexts.

The book gives a brief historical overview of photography set in the context of culture, art and commerce. There’s a near ode to daguerreotypes and a rather sneering look at ambrotypes before we settle in to accept the (lowly fragile) tintypes as having won the hearts of the masses. While tintypes lack the gleam of their forerunners, the thin tintype’s popularity mirrors how the West was won: Easy, inexpensive, mobility.  The ease of mailing tintypes not only aligns with the power of rail road transportation, but in fact, photo studios sprung up near or at nearly every train station.

Two Antique Tintypes With Same Painted Backdrops

However, Linderman doesn’t end his considerations of the development of photography there; his (rather opinionated) narrative briefly covers paper prints, the Polaroid, and digital photos too. If you find the author judgmental, he is. But his thoughts are historically and culturally sane; and when it comes to art, we all have our preferences — or at least we ought to.

In many ways, Linderman’s brief text is more glorious than the many antique images he shares. For, agree or disagree with the author’s thoughts and opinions, you are rather forced to form your own thoughts and opinions. But none of us are really left with conclusions — at least those we haven’t, in part, jumped to.  As Linderman states, there’s just too little documentation, research and investigation, into what happened to painters when the camera came along — into the subject of photographic backdrops themselves — to reach any real conclusions.

The book raises more questions, really, than it answers. At least for me. But in that most excellent of ways which rather than being too light of a snack, leaving me unsatisfied, this book whets my appetite, makes me want more, leaves me with something to chew on… Technology, commerce, art, and culture collide at a crossroads, supposed “forward progress” exposing values, leaving the role of art and artists themselves as question marks… Not at all unlike the digital situation of today.

Tintype Of Painter Working On Photographic Backdrop

The very fact that we haven’t really put any effort into exploring “what happened” is a testament to how little we value photography, art, and artists, I suppose. Yet art, and more than a few artists, have managed to survive.

Collections and books like this preserve what was — not just for us all to see and enjoy, but to force us to look at what happened and to examine for ourselves just what is all involved in such technological advances and shifts in “style.”

The Interview With Collin David

Collin David

I’ve known Collin David for like 5-6 years now; we met when we both started writing for Collectors’ Quest. I quickly discovered his passion for comics, action figures, robots, cephalopods, etc. was entwined with something more… His art.

In the past year, Collin’s art work has been getting him more attention, respect, and, yes, money. So it seemed now was the time to sit down with him — you know, before he’s too busy for a “remember me” request for an interview. *wink*

Call me old, uncool — old and uncool, even — but I can’t seem to follow all your art news, projects, events, etc. on Facebook. (I am, after all, a Twitter girl *neener neener*) So help me out and give me a general run down about you, ResonantFish, what the heck you do as a freelancer art and design dude. You drop names like “Ninja Turtles show in Philly” and “Gallery1988”; so don’t forget those.

Well, my business cards say “Collin David makes stuff”, because that’s the most accurate phrase I could come up with.

This includes comics, sculpture, digital design (like icons, iPhone games, business cards), ink portraiture, painting, and even animation occasionally—every project calls for some new approach. I’ve never seen the merit of those artists who approach very different problems with the same approach, over and over. It’s completely marketable, but it’s transparent. There’s a way to find a balance, and it’s not by being creatively lazy.

As a freelancer, I tend to do a lot of digital art, because that’s what the freelance market wants right now. As far as my portion of the freelance market goes, a majority of it is technology-based, and people trying to make their technology pretty. While my brain is fueled by robots and meat and monsters, my bank account relies on icons for travel websites and improving old logos for businesses. Every so often, a project comes along where I serve as an art director and have total creative freedom, or I get to use real paper and ink, but those are far less common.

It all comes back to “making stuff”, for whatever purpose it may serve in the end. Every project is an education towards greater things. In my free time, I’m sometimes invited to do group art shows all around the world about things that I love: toys, Ninja Turtles, pretty girls, Star Wars. I don’t know how that happened, honestly, because that was just a natural progression.

Custom Robolucha For International Show

Ah, you sort of glossed over those art show invitations… Where have you your works, been seen recently? What’s it like to get the invite?

Right now, I have three ink pieces in Gallery1988 in California, in a show centered around Beetlejuice, Back to the Future and Bill & Ted.

Piece From 3B Show at Gallery1988

I also currently have an acrylic Ninja Turtles piece in Philly. Both of these shows are through The Autumn Society, a collection of great illustrators who just happen to do lots of shows together that seem to focus on 1980s pop culture. Recently, I was honored enough to show alongside Wallace & Grommit’s Nick Park in the UK for a group show (via a Twitter invite), an arcade in Texas, and a few other places I don’t remember. I’m horrible at keeping track, but should probably comb my e-mails in order to get my stuff back. I don’t want to say something stupid like “art is so pure that I keep it separate from business”, but 100% of my focus is on creation, and whatever happens outside of that to get it out there is fate and luck and whatever momentum gravity has granted me, or if Facebook is behaving properly.

MUMM-RA! For The Autumn Society's '80s POP!' Show

Invites always come with a sense of dread. Can I make something worthwhile? Will this show be worth my time? Will my art get destroyed by the gallery or post office again? Do I have enough time to make something? How do I approach this uniquely? I’ve had so many bad gallery experiences that it’s a process I’ve learned to hate, so I do far fewer showings than is ideal, and I don’t seek them out. I love a challenge, but I’d rather that challenge be creative over diplomatically begging for my art back for a year from an unscrupulous gallery director like Rocket Pop’s David Rodriguez or APW’s Hans Yim.

How is the invitation to group art shows “just a natural progression”?

It’s momentum. If you really do things that you love and believe in, it’s infectious. Eventually.

It’s a long, long crawl towards respect, and if you ever stop digging your nails in, you’ll slip backwards into anonymity. Some people (who I’m not going to name here) market themselves raw and have absolutely no skill to back it up, but they get a ton of work and notoriety. I’m just not the kind of person to write press releases in the third person or describe myself as “up-and-coming”. It’s one way to progress, and it’s tried and true and not invalid, but it’s not natural. There’s no foundation in that, and you don’t get a realistic perspective of yourself or your work. Some promotion, sure – but not a full-time marketing machine.

I make stuff constantly, and people see it, and sometimes they like it, and share it, and eventually, it falls onto the right eyes. And I wish it were more profitable, but I’ll take truth over an elaborate self-deception any time.

In-progress sculpt for "Into the Darkness"

"Into the Darkness @ 1:AM Gallery in SF

I’ve known you for awhile now, and there’s been a big change in the amount of work you’re now doing. I wouldn’t say this, but you recently commented to me that you somehow see this as “awful,” as if this wasn’t just one of the risks of going pro; explain to me how you see the increase in work, recognition, and, I presume, pay.

About six months ago, I was spread out everywhere, doing work-for-hire for a ton of different venues—most of it writing, and I burnt out. I decided to drop (mostly) everything and focus on seeing how far my art could get me, because that’s what really matters to me, at my core. I wouldn’t say it defines me, and I wouldn’t call myself an “artist” (because I hate that word), but it definitely made me feel the most complete.

As it turns out, the rise to credibility was faster than I expected, and it was great. I’d been doing spot illustrations for magazines and things like that since high school, just to experiment with the wide world of art publishing, but the Internet enabled me to pursue these things in earnest, at least 40 hours a week and in parallel with a full-time job. The “Artist’s Market” books never did me any good except for a rejection letter from Cricket Magazine.

The process of making art is never “awful”, but it becomes awful when other people start sticking their hot little fingers in it. As a freelancer, you’re doing work for someone else, and you’re being paid to serve. I don’t have a problem with that, at all, ever. Ideally, one would be hired on the merits of their talents, and not their ability to parrot their employer. It’s the difference between having a hard-working employee and a yes-man, and it shows in the final product.

From the VinylPulse Dragon Eats Knight Show

In terms of “awful”, I was recently hired to design a series of monsters for an iPhone game. The project started out with the client telling me that I had total creative freedom, because he liked my work. When the first drafts came around, he had changes to make : facial expressions, colors, and the like. In the freelancing world, these kinds of changes are acceptable. The employer has a vision which they weren’t able to articulate before (thought they should have probably tried harder), but now that they see the product, they can understand what they want better. A second round of changes was made, and I was sent back screencaps from Pixar films, which bore no resemblance to any prior work, and a few notes that essentially said, “Make it look like this.”

I obliged, while still giving these monsters their own uniqueness. When these monsters met his descriptions dead-on, he sent me back a picture of Spongebob Squarepants and asked me to trace it for his game, instead of all of the work I’d previously done. When I asked him to sign a contract to free me from all legal and moral responsibility when Nickelodeon came down to smite him and completely crush his business on the grounds of copyright infringement, we ended the project. I walked away with character design and consultation fees and a clean slate. He walked away with the sudden understanding that it wasn’t actually okay to plagiarize well-known cartoon characters for profit.

These are the “awful” things, and they’re pretty common, but not universal. Sometimes, you spend more time justifying yourself or explaining how “art” works than actually putting together work.

[Interviewer Aside: Check out Collin’s The Nine Circles Of Freelancing Hell for more on this; I giggled an groaned through the whole true thing.]

"The Golden Faces" for Multiple Personalities 2 @ LIFT Gallery, MI. "The Jello didn't making the trip because of last-minute damage, alas!"

And you can’t work on one project at once. Four seems to be the magic number, given the amount of time that clients can take to get back to you with revisions. You start on one project, work on a couple of others, and close out another one. This way, you generally always have something to do and a way to generate profit. It helps if your clients are in different time zones as well. Qatar is great if you work early in the morning or very late at night. It also helps to take breaks to play GoldenEye.

It’s all about momentum. Once you actually land a project or two by mastering the art of crafting a proposal, and can show these products off to other relevant jobs, the work will come.

"Something From Long Ago" by Collin David

Why do you hate the word “artist”?

The word “artist” is used like it’s an excuse for erratic behavior or a refusal to be a productive member of society. “Artists” don’t have to maintain jobs – not because they’re highly skilled, but because they’ve appointed themselves to the title of “artist”. It’s not a universal perception of the word, but it’s definitely not uncommon, and I really want no part of it.

I once had someone come up to the desk at the library where I worked who refused to pay late fees because she was an “artist”, and “artists” break all of the rules. I refrained from “artistically” punching her in the face, even though by her own definition it would have been perfectly acceptable.

I make stuff, and some of it is “art” because it’s totally impractical and self-indulgent. I don’t have any misperceptions that I’m making the world better by making pictures, but I hope I’m making tiny little parts of peoples’ lives better. Either way, it’s something I can’t stop doing, and I enjoy doing it.

APW Arts on Record Vol. 2: The Skeletron

“Sometimes, you spend more time justifying yourself or explaining how “art” works than actually putting together work.” Like this interview? 😛

Though, I imagine this sort of thing is preferable to schooling a client in the ways of intellectual property… At least it’s more fun!

I hope.

But seriously, in terms of being a guy who makes stuff, how important are interviews? First, in terms of making the stuff — do you find reading interviews inspiring or motivational or helpful at all? And second, what makes participating in an interview worth the time away from making stuff? Is it just the promotional aspects? (Links: How the internet was won!)

Interviews are fun! They force you to take a look at why you do what you do, and they open up your eyes to how others might perceive you, and every shade of this will color your work, whether you like it or not. Observing it changes the experimental results.

My favorite interviews are in Hi Fructose Magazine, because I find myself reading things I’ve been thinking for years coming from artists who I admire. It’s inspiring to know that I’m on the right path, and it’s always useful to be reminded to stay true to yourself.

I don’t think I’ve ever landed any work through an interview (yet), but the introspection makes them worthwhile to participate in. A lot of what I feel like I have to say about art may sound negative or like I don’t respect other artists, but it’s just passion for good, true creators and an impatience with the imitators – so I have to bite my tongue a lot.

Plush Custom Art Called Either "Fuckface the Fucknificent" or "You & Your Ugly Heart"

For many, making some money off a creative gig seems like the ultimate goal, the real mark of professional success; but as you’ve discussed there’s a clear divide between creative expression, making stuff for the sake of making it, and commerce, selling stuff &/or making stuff to sell. How do you best balance what can be at times such contradictory positions and determine success for yourself?

Well, I’m not yet in a place where I can turn down well-paying jobs, so they’ve taken over. About six months ago, I decided to focus on making commercially viable stuff and hunting down clients, and perfecting the skills necessary to work on the highly technical professional stuff. I’ve always done paintings on commission, and small works for small magazines, but I really needed to conduct a concentrated test about the viability of doing this kind of thing for a living. So, I dropped everything (including personal projects and writing gigs) and started researching what people want right now in the creative world, and how to do those things. Art school didn’t provide a single iota of information that was useful in finding an art-related job, so it’s a very do-it-yourself kind of education.

"The Spacemen: Burn-Up Re-Entry Model" Custom Toys, Edition of Four, by Collin David

For me, it was a solid moment of decision, so the “real” art happens between gigs. There’s never a shortage of work if you know how to ferret it out, and I’m never at a lack of ideas for personal art. I have five sketchbooks full of projects that want to be done. I don’t think I’ve found the kind of success I want just yet, but I don’t think I ever will. That’s the kind of thing that keeps you moving and evolving, so the dissatisfaction isn’t all bad.

I’d love for art to be a full-time job, but I don’t think I could do the corporate letterhead design thing for more than a few weeks at a time before losing my mind. There are too many ghosts in my head for that, and they all want to be painted.

Detail from 'Queen of the Bees', which is "about a cheating, lying ex-girlfriend."

If you had to pick one piece or project that you feel marked professional success or otherwise signified success to you, what would it be and how does it reflect success to you?

Star Wars cards. During middle school, and high school, and college, there were a few things that I held in such high creative regard that I never envisioned myself touching them, and Star Wars was way up there. Last year, I was asked to draw a whole bunch of original sketch cards which were randomly packaged with packs of Star Wars cards. They’re quirky and fun drawings of aliens, and they had to be done quickly so they’re not top quality, but I don’t think I could ever do anything cooler than official Star Wars art. Being accepted into such an established and impenetrable universe marks success for me.

Star Wars Series V Sketch Card by Collin David

Here at The Ungulate we try to focus on adding creativity and art (making and buying/owning) to your life, on inspiring people to just make stuff and to delight in stuff that’s made. One of the things we hear most often is how hard it is to just start. How do you respond to that, what advice do you have?

This is probably an answer that’s been given a hundred times, but just do it. I’ve created thousands of embarrassing drawings, and had even more terrible ideas, but you have to realize that creativity is flawed, and that’s just par for the course, like anything else. It’s not a perfect, pristine, inaccessible spirit that needs to be handled delicately. It’s a dirty, frustrating thing that you can’t be afraid to smack around. You need to throw away any delusions of preciousness.

I remember the moment in high school when I realized that I’d been holding back because I didn’t want to embarrass myself by drawing something dumb. And then I realized that no one ever had to see it but me. As long as art fits in the garbage, you’re safe, so just go for it. Also realize that no time spent creating is wasted time, because every second is an enormous education: how materials work, which lines are beautiful, which ideas are disasters, how to use color and space. These things are much more visceral when you’re doing them, and you really can’t learn them from a book without doing them.

And there you have it, good advice from an artist a busy guy who “makes stuff.”

I’d like to thank Collin for sharing all this — and encourage the rest of you to visit all the links to “all things Collin David”  in this interview.  (He’s got so much going on, if you only have time for two, it’s these two: ResonantFish and ResonantFish on Facebook.)

Creating Ceramic Mosaics Of Silent Film Stars

Annette Kellerman, The Australian Mermaid, "the Diving Venus"

A few months ago I was contacted by Nick Bannikoff, a graphic designer in Sydney, Australia, who had recently worked on the refurbished Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre in Marrickville. The centre is now finished, and Bannikoff was assisting with the creation of a graphic interpreting / explaining Annette Kellerman’s life to be installed at the pool. Because I’m rather well connected to Kellerman on the Internet, Bannikoff was hoping I’d be able to assist him finding decent quality images to include in the graphic; which I did, by connecting him to silent film collector Mary Ann Cade. Because I’m rather nosy fascinated with Kellerman, film and art — and unable to get to Australia myself — I asked Bannikoff to tell me more about the project.

 

Background:

The redevelopment of the pool was undertaken by Marrickville council a while ago. The existing pool was only 33mm and a bit dilapidated. There’s plenty of information on the project here.

Annette was born in the council area and the centre (AKAC) was renamed after her in ‘94 (I don’t have any information on that process).

As part of the project a separate graphic design firm was engaged to design the logo for the AKAC (along with several other facilities), and we were engaged as specialists to design the signage and environmental graphics. For a better idea of what we specialise in, you can visit Society for Environmental Graphic Design.

The Mosaics:

We wanted to create an inviting entrance to the change rooms, and decided that the best way to do this was to create life-sized graphics of people standing at the entrances. In effect inviting people in (it also has the advantage of very clearly differentiating the male and female entrances). Annette was obviously a natural choice for the Female change room, but being such an extraordinary character it was difficult to select a male counterpart. In the end we settled on Cecil, a contemporary of Annette’s (this was important to us) who was sadly killed at the Somme in 1918. Had we not been constricted in our selection to an Australian, we would have recommended Jonny Weismuller, whose career so closely mimicked Annette’s.

Knowing what we wanted to do we were inspired by two sources. A photo of a confident young woman in a bathing costume with a very contemporary lighting scheme, and the work of mosaic artist Brett Campbell.

We particularly liked the confident pose and dynamic lighting for the young woman. We felt if we could present Annette in the same way it would convey more of her life and story (than any photo) and make her more relevant to a contemporary audience. We engaged the services of a talented illustrator, Justine Missen, who over 2-3 weeks developed sketches of Annette and Cecil with the stances, shading and attitude we wanted. I’ve attached a couple of images from the process. As we always knew we wanted to create the final work in mosaic, Justine sketched to that end, mapping out the broad areas of colour that we knew could only accommodate a limited amount of detail.

As I mentioned, we had decided early on that if we could execute the graphic as a mosaic we would. The material would fit beautifully within a swimming pool environment, and given Annette’s life was a perfect medium with which to portray her. Brett Campbell, being part of the inspiration, was then engaged to create the final pieces. Brett helped out a great deal with the selection of the tiles. There is actually a very limited range of colours out there, and we wanted a nice glossy finish and a ceramic tile which we felt matched our aims (there is a much greater colour selection available in glass tiles). Due to the fact the entrances were a little dark and out of the way, we also wanted nice bright colours which made the selection even more difficult. He worked in his studio in Queensland (about 1000km away) and would send photos of the progress on a weekly basis, which we would then discuss and occasionally make adjustments or suggestions. This part of the project took about 2 months.

Finally, Brett visited site in late November last year and installed the mosiacs over 3 days, along with another mosaic that formed the background for the main identification sign for the AKAC.

Other things you may be interested in:

As part of the project the council also commissioned artwork for a couple of locations. One of the artists, Mark Wotherspoon, took his inspiration from the life of Annette.

The piece is entitled “Silver Screen Mermaid” and a plaque will be installed soon that reads: Inspired by the collective consciousness of Annette Kellerman, the divine silver screen mermaid and Hollywood starlet (1887-1975)

Whatcha Doin’ Saturday?

A reminder about The BUST Magazine Craftacular and Food Fair 2011:

This year, we’re bringing together 100+ unique vendors and food artisans for one day in the heart of SoHo. Stop by for the best in handmade jewelry, specialty foods, cards, clothes, posters, housewares, and more. Plus: raffles, DJs, book signings, and a free goodie bag for the first 300 people!

Saturday, May 21st, 2011
Between Broome and Spring
New York, NY
11am-8pm
1 day only!

I Love a Good House

If my life had gone differently in my earlier years I think I would have become an architect. I love buildings and all the trimmings. I’m still trying to teach myself all the right names for the parts of buildings. I go out and take photos of old buildings, mainly derelict farm houses here in Ontario. I also like going to the main street of a small town or city and looking up. That’s where you see the fancy parts of old stores, homes and banks. Most of the old parts below have been renovated away.

Maybe I never would have been a great architect. I like the old stuff too much to make the modern looking type of building with more right angles than curves and more sensible and practical elements than elegant columns, gargoyles and gingerbread trim. It would be hard to design something just to stand there rather than to pose there.

I am still very attracted to anything building/ house related. Art with houses draws my eye. Even fiction about a house stops me long enough to at least skim it. The old woman living in a shoe caught my imagination from a young age. How did she live in that shoe? Did she use the laces to cool the house off in winter and then tie them up tight again to keep warm in winter? How did she put a roof on the shoe, was the sock still around to be stuffed over head? Did she make the eyelets for the laces into windows? Did she put the door back at the heel where it would have been strong but had that higher step down or somewhere else? So many questions. Living in a shoe didn’t seem that appealing all things considered.

I’d rather live in a castle, except I’d like a much smaller and cosier version of a castle than a real castle. A castle like Dr. Who’s Tardis, bigger on the inside than the outside could work well. Like the Tardis, no one ever seems to need to clean it either.

I have drawn my perfect house. It was harder to pick the location than the decide on what I wanted inside the house. But the harder part still was to limit myself to less rather than more when it comes to how the outside of the house will look. There are so many great old things that could be added. Small like old iron doorknobs to huge like a dragon sculpture taking up a large part of the garden.

I enjoy drawing unusual houses. I’ve drawn the shoe house. I’ve drawn a house made in a teacup. I’ve drawn a plan for how very small people would live in the standard sized world. I’ve drawn magical houses for elves, fairies and of course dragons too.

There is something special about a house, any building really. People make them, plan them, live and work in them. Keep them. Repair them. It’s saddest of all when a place is abandoned and left to the elements. There is a mystery to the abandoned places. Something time and people forgot. I never feel they are creepy or haunted. just sad and yet still dignified and majestic in some way. We give a house a power by it’s creation and everything we put into it beyond that point. You can’t just lose that when the house is empty. It’s there, right in the very design.

I think I would have been an amazing architect.

Introduction To Korean Contemporary Art Exhibit

On January 22nd, Ahn-Nyung / Hello: An Introduction To Korean Contemporary Art opens at LeBasse Projects in Culver City. Curated by Jae Yang (of Art-Merge), the exhibition includes the works of Seok Kim, Yeonju Sung, Hyung Kwan Kim, and Jin Young Yu. These are a few of the works which most capture my fancy:

There’s scant info available at LeBasse; but you can read more in the press release (PDF).

The Dollypop Guild

Paul Richmond (whose upcoming exhibit, Cheesecake, will be opening in June at the Center on Halsted in Chicago) explores the path of his own identity and sexuality in his paintings.

Prints and original paintings available at Etsy — and there’s a book of his works, with text, titled Ins & Outs: A Collection. (Via A Slip of a Girl.)

Can You Remember My Dream?

In Can You Remember My Dream?, by artist Julia Hepburn, lanterns of diorama dreams surround a nested bed.

Hepburn’s work was exhibited as Come Up To My Room, the annual alternative design event held at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel.

See Also:

The artist’s own blog is Collection Hepburn.

An interview with the artist about the installation.

The Most Awesome Thing I’ve Discovered In A Long Time

I’ll admit, I get excited — I’m probably the definition of “easily amused” — but when I was told about Project ETHOS, I was giddy with excitement.

Project ETHOS merges fashion, music, and art in one event, at once creating a unique avenue for both participants (artists) and attendees. It’s not your usual “incubator,” shielding and nursing talent, but instead it launches and nourishes artisans.

Project ETHOS closes the gap between the Indie and Mainstream worlds with an experienced and focused eye for talent. Creating a link to decision makers is what drives us to be a niche portal of exposing all emerging artistry to the media, public and industry.

It’s the combination of concert, fashion show, and art gallery exhibition all at one event! Isn’t that just beyond mere cool?!

(If you think you’re ready, you can apply to become an Ethos participant.)

I was so excited, that even when I discovered their its first-ever red carpet event in San Diego (on Thursday, April 22, 2010 at the On Broadway Event Center, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.) isn’t something I can attend, I was still excited.

You can read the event promo piece for more info, but this first red carpet event will feature local bands and Space Cowboy (personal DJ for (Lady Gaga); hot new fashion designers, including former Project Runway contestants; and eight visual artists: Joshua Krause (abstract), Sam Luna (abstract), Kelli Murray (Illustration), Sherilyn Tanala Encabo (comic/anime illustration), Meghan Horsburgh (photography), Christy Pepper Dawson (macabre illustrations and paintings), Matt Haward (mixed media), Jeremy Asher Lynch and Yeara.

The event’s charitable partner is Love Cures Cancer, an organization dedicated to benefiting children with cancer while raising awareness and working to find a cure.

Tickets are $15 pre-sale, $20 at the door, $40 VIP and can be purchased online. All event attendees must be 18+.

If you can, you must get thee to this Project Ethos event — and if you do, please tell me all about it!

I Know It When I See It

There are two broad semantic categories in our society that are defined largely by intuition. One is ‘What is Art?’ and the other is ‘What is Obscenity?’. And the two are related in that anything deemed to be art, is generally excused from being suppressed as obscenity. Indeed this very relationship is enshrined in American Law.

Thus a recent legal judgement (pdf) may have very broad implications, not just be expanding that which is considered obscene, but contracting what is considered art.

Essentially what has happened is that an American man has been given a six month custodial sentence for the possession of drawn material depicting underage sex. These Japanese comic books (a.k.a. manga) were deemed to be “obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children.”

More importantly, in my opinion, they were not seen to be exempt from the obscenity charge due to having serious literary or artistic value. After seizing 1,200 items seven manga were used as the basis of the prosecution. And these manga, or perhaps manga in general, were not considered a legitimate art form for the purposes of this prosecution. There is no evidence that the accused has ever behaved improperly with children or purchased material that depicted real abuse.

Do we find ourselves facing that old argument, that degenerate art may not be considered art at all, and so not offered the protection ewnjoyed by “real” art?

Handmade Craft Shopping Parties

Back in the day, I offered and held a few home parties for selling my artworks. Being about 15 years ago, ish, I felt like I was charting new territories.

I had a bunch of catalogs and brochures from other successful home party plan businesses — and my vast knowledge of attending such parties — to build my plan on, but even then, the concept was just that — more concept than anything else.

I made sales at the parties (and secured plenty of commissioned works as well), but found I really had to sell the idea of such a party by educating the potential host or hostess more than anything else.

Now that home party plans are so mainstream that a woman between the ages of 20 and 35 fears invitations in the mail, the indie crafting party isn’t an educational exercise — and the lure of less common products is far stronger than say the usual home party suspects, resulting in more attendees and an increase of wallets being opened.

I mention this trend for two reasons.

One, if you’re a crafter, craftsman, or artisan looking for a way to make sales and connect with your local community, you might want to consider using home craft shopping parties. Even crafters who just have an over-load of made things could probably find an occasional party a good way to rid themselves of surplus handcrafted items, and those with mad skills could combine selling creations with workshops at parties.

If this sounds at all like you, Miss Malaprop has a great article, 5 Tips for a Successful Handmade Craft Shopping Party, which also includes links to some great resources. She even peddles the stuff other folks make at the home parties she demonstrates/sells at. (Keen idea for those who want to increase their offerings past their own skills.)

I respectfully disagree with CraftyTammie, when she says that she wouldn’t throw a party and invite her friends because “they all know i have an etsy shop, and i figure if they want to buy something they will let me know.” Shopping for art, for gifty stuff and crafts, is very much a visual in-the-moment thing. And people need to see it.

The second reason I mention the home party plan idea, is that if you are not a maker of things but a lover of them, you might wish to host a craft selling party in your own home. You and your pals can get together, shop, maybe even become inspired to make a thing or two yourself, all while you support arts in your community.

The only real tricky thing with hosting one of these home parties selling handmade things is finding a willing artisan or crafter. To that end, The Ungulate has started an Art Directory, including a category for listings of creative folks who are willing to do home parties selling their arts and crafts.

Image Credits: Handmade goodies from MissMalaprop’s shop.