Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Anxiety Attack

Funny thing. I make the art because I love doing it. It piles up in my studio. In order to justify doing more painting, I need to give the finished paintings a home. So I enter exhibits and make sure my work is out there, being seen and being purchased.

In a group show, well, there are a group of artists, who in turn have a group of friends, and friends of friends, and collectors, family members and so on. You can show and still be fairly inconspicuous. If no one comes to see the work, well, whose fault is it?

A solo show is a different kind of animal. It's just all about me, me, me and more me. The questions that arise are: will anyone at all show up? Or will the gallery be full of people (almost as frightening for a social phobic like me)? It'll be a little hard to hide when all the paintings on the wall are mine. And here I am with a solo show, opening on Friday night!

There are a lot of people out there, helping with publicity for the show. I just discovered several wonderful posts by Kristin Shears, owner of Willo North Gallery. Patricia Sahertian has been sending out press releases and doing lots of social media, and my husband, Jim Cowlin, just put me on our (hot off the press) US Route 89 newsletter. Todd Daniel has been schlepping postcards all over town in the heat and humidity.

It humbles me to think of people going all out for me and for my work. It's funny, alright. It would be so nice to just be able to hunker down in my studio and never, ever leave. Of course, then I'd miss out on meeting all the nice people I'll be meeting on Friday evening. I hope you're there, too. I hear the food is going to be great!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Bevy of Postcards

In several previous blogs, I've talked about what it takes to get a piece of artwork out the door, into a gallery, and last but not least, seen by someone other than the immediate family and close friends. One of the traditional ways of doing this is through postcards.

Of course, a postcard doesn't just drop off of the nearest tree. First comes the decision of what painting (or paintings) to put on the front of the card. Hopefully, it will attract the recipient's attention enough to flip over and read the details. The wording on the other side of the card is generally just the basic facts about the show. If you've never tried to do this, you'd be amazed at how easy it is to goof up an address, a date, a time. Even when other people proof it, it's always a relief to receive the printed card and see that all is okay.

I should have mentioned that one of the first steps is to choose a company to do the printing. In my case, friends Pat and Jacob recommended a printer I hadn't used before. It's important to know who's doing the printing, because different companies have different specs for getting images and text ready to be printed. I'm lucky that husband Jim is an expert at all things technology, so he did all of the technical preparations for me. Voila! Off the information flew over the internet and landed at Got Print. After a few days, I received a proof via email. I noticed a few items I wanted to change on the text side. After doing this, about a week or so later, a box of 1000 cards arrived via UPS at my door step. I am very pleased with the quality of the printing.

With the postcards in hand, I proceeded to work on my mailing list. This is another of those time consuming yet important jobs artists need to do. A good mailing list is critical. It's made up of friends, acquaintances, collectors, people who have signed guest books at shows, business associates and others. At 28 cents per stamp, it's important to have accurate and current addresses.

Next step, getting the stamps. An easy yet painful ($) part of the process. I like to hand address my cards rather than print out labels. It seems more personal, plus I get a chance to look at the list again to catch errors or do some last minute eliminating or adding of names. It's slower but it works for me.

Finally, the postcards are sent off to their destinations. This time I remembered to get my return address printed on the cards. Any that come back to me can then be corrected on my mailing list. What happens to a card when it reaches its destination? Well, I don't know, but I hope at least some people look at it and are intrigued enough to come to the opening or check out my website. Mostly, I'll never know.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Tweet Friend

About a year ago, the confluence of a brand new laptop computer and a workshop on social media by photographer Don Giannatti caused me to start tweeting. Now, for those who know me as a person who is phobic about all things technological, you might be surprised to hear of my involvement in Twitter. Don literally (practically) forced me to sign up and give it a go.

So, I started. I got involved with a group of 32 artists doing an art postcard exchange. I made 32 unique postcards and sent them out. In return, I got wonderful postcards from people all over the US, UK, Canada and Australia. I'm still in touch with a few of them.

A Twitter book club, started by Alyson Stanfield, got me caught up in the recent autobiography on William deKooning at about the same time.

Last but not least, I met my friend Pat. It started with a tweet from Pat, after I'd posted the news of my solo show at the Burton Barr Central Library last September. She told me she's an artist in Phoenix and would come to my opening. And guess what? She did, along with her husband Jacob. We hit it off right away. And began to communicate via email.

I introduced Pat to my good friend Carole Hanks, another Phoenix artist. They became friends. They came down to visit me in Oracle. We've had lunch at a half-way point between Phoenix and Oracle. Jim and I have had dinner at Pat's home. They've had dinner here. Pat and I either talk on the phone or send emails on a regular basis. In short, we've become good friends.

And now, I'm in a solo show at the Willo North Gallery, all thanks to Patricia Sahertian! That's another whole story. Here we are, talking, talking, talking at the first First Friday at the gallery.

And am I still tweeting? Well, no, Don, I'm not. But maybe I should start again. So many good things came of it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What Do People Think?

In the last couple of blog posts, I've shown a series of photographs of the sequence of physically getting art out of the studio and onto the walls of a gallery. One of the reasons I started this blog several years ago was to demystify the process of making, viewing, marketing and exhibiting art. Many people have no idea how to talk to artists, how to talk about art, how to come to understand the process in any way. Part of the problem is the mysteriousness deliberately cultivated by the art world. Part of the problem is with the lack of education around art.

I can't begin to say how often, when I tell someone I'm an artist, they tell me about how much fun I must be having and wish they could be having such a luxurious life, too. The other response I've been getting lately (now that my hair is a frank, non-dyed, gray), is about how lucky I am to have a nice hobby now that I'm retired.

Full-time, serious artists must be amongst the most misunderstood of professionals. A recent development in terminology is to refer to one's work as an "art practice". I have come to like this and hope it adds some dignity and weight to what artists do. I think those of us who work in the arts have an obligation to try to demystify what is involved in the process. Who can blame people for being confused when we don't offer art education in schools on a regular basis and when the media sensationalizes the shenanigans of a few art stars.

When people walk into any kind of art exhibit, they may or may not like the work that's being displayed. By being more informed of what goes on behind the scenes, my hope is that the viewer will appreciates the effort involved regardless of their feelings about the art being displayed.Unless you've been involved in the process of getting from point A (getting the idea, making the art) to point B (the viewing of the art), it may be either a mystery as to how the process happens or have never occurred to you. And since a really well displayed show should look seamless and fit so well together that it seems effortless, who can blame the viewer for not noticing the effort behind the scenes?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Willo North Solo Show: August First Friday

The View from Outside Looking In

Last Friday evening was a Phoenix First Friday and the Willo North Gallery was open, showing my work. The actual reception will be the next First Friday, on September 3. I'll be sending out cards and the gallery will be doing advertising for the opening. There was a nice crowd last Friday, and with more advertising, there should be even more people next month.

Another view from outside looking in.

Installation view of the north end of the gallery.

The southeast side of the gallery.

Another view.


Todd, Stacy and Dan, checking out my use of perspective in a painting.

Thanks to Jim for the photographs of the evening. There were a lot more good shots, but son Mathew told me that any more would just be boring. So there you have it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Comes Next After the Painting is Done?

Before a painting ever leaves my studio, I make sure to have photographs taken. Luckily, since I'm married to a professional photographer, this is easily accomplished. I just have to be sure to give Jim enough time to fit this job into his schedule. He'll do this for other artist's, too, only he charges a fee.

Here is Jim, checking the color balance. That why there are dangling items hanging from a string over the painting. I have no idea of the technicalities of all this (note the poor quality of all of the photographs I've taken for the blog!), but I do know it's critical.

Lighting equipment helps to control things. Here, Jim is testing the lighting and the color balance. He works until everything is just right. With digital photos, he's pretty sure when he has what he needs. The next step is to download the images to the computer. He does more color correcting at this stage of the game, too. If all is well, he is done his part of the job.

At this point, I transfer the photos into my computer. Isn't it all magic? At least if everything goes well and I don't do something stupid! From there, I organize the photos and put them into Bento, a program I use for keeping track of my work. Then, I add the new painting images onto my website.

Ah, ha, here's the little UHaul I rented to transport my paintings. All set to load up.

Jim is carefully stacking the paintings.

Next comes tying the paintings down with lots of bungee cords. Don't want them damaged in transit.

After arriving in Phoenix after a two hour drive, we unloaded the paintings. Son, Mathew, is rushing about (hence the blur), rehydrating himself after moving the paintings from the 110° outdoors into the cool gallery. They are randomly placed around the wall space to start with.

What you aren't seeing here is all of the work the went into getting the gallery ready for my work. First, the previous show had to be taken down and the art work needed to be picked up by either the new owner or the artist. Next, the walls were moved around to create a space especially for suitable for the new show. Holes had to be spackled. Walls needed to be painted. The yellow was chosen, because it complements the colors I use in my paintings. All of this was done with great care by a group of artists who volunteered their weekend to do the job.

Here's another view of the space. It's a beautiful gallery. Polished concrete floors, high ceilings, great lighting. It even has a bathroom and a kitchen. Deluxe! After much moving of paintings to see what fit where and what looks good with what, the show was ready to put on the wall.

My heroes, Patricia Sahertian and Todd Daniel are discussing their strategy for hanging the art work. They are a meticulous pair. The mathematics was beyond me. My job was to write down numbers on a little pad of paper. Actually, I do know how to do all of this, but am usually too lazy.

They are deciding on the spacing and height.

Figuring out how far the wire is from the top of the painting. This is the last step before actually pounding the nail into the wall.

Getting everything just right is a lot of effort, both physically and mentally. And it takes lots of time and patience. Thank you to Patricia and Todd for the beautiful installation. Both are artists with limited time to make their own work, making the time they spent even more appreciated.

Stay tuned for pictures of the August First Friday reception.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What's Up With Blogspot??

I've been trying since Monday to upload photographs and write a blog, but there seems to be a technological snaffoo of some mysterious sort. Being pretty busy, I haven't tried to figure out how to contact Blogspot to find out what's going on.

Tonight is the August First Friday opening of my solo show at the Willo North Gallery in downtown Phoenix. The show will be open from 6 pm to 10 pm. The gallery is located at 211 N. 7th Ave. It'll be fun to have some low key time to visit with friends.

The real actual bona fide opening will be on September 3. I'll be sending out postcards, and doing the proper marketing activities for the September show.

Stay tuned for more information and photos!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Where Oh Where Has Barbara Been?

I inadvertently dropped out of the blogosphere while I was binge painting. Yes, I admit it. After our 32 day working trip along US Route 89 and celebrating the return of our younger son Mathew from 5 months in New Zealand on his junior semester abroad, I made my way back into my studio at last. And didn't really emerge until today.

As I was painting away, day after day, I avoided looking at the mass of paintings being stored in my studio. I didn't allow myself to question why I was madly creating a 48" x 60" painting of a wall with a window in it, or why I was making a bunch of small panels of water reflections. I was just so happy to be back at work. Occasionally, I'd come up for breath and those niggling doubts would start to pop up, but I quickly quashed them by making a fast return back to painting.

Then, 3 or 4 weeks ago, my artist friend Patricia Saheriatan contacted me and asked if I'd like to do a solo show in Phoenix. Opening the first week of August. Of course I said yes. It was a complete surprise, and the perfect excuse to stay immersed in my studio. No blogging, no marketing, nothing but painting, painting, painting. It was heaven.

Yesterday I delivered a load of paintings to the gallery in Phoenix.

More about the back story about how I met Patricia, where the gallery is located, and what's involved in putting together a solo show, along with some photos. Tomorrow.