Work going in the van…
Ready to start….
One wall done…
All done – time to go home….
There’s the usual mild panic in the studio (or in some cases, not so mild) as we’re busy getting ready for our new London Printmakers exhibition, which is opening next week at Bankside Gallery on London’s Southbank.
We’ve decided to call it ‘Where’s the Original?‘ as that’s a question all printmakers get asked. The idea is that we try to explain how the print itself is the original and that there is no other artwork (a painting, for example) from which the print has been taken.
It seemed like a good idea at the time but it’s been more difficult than I had anticipated, trying to provide an insight into how I arrive at the finished print, and then finding a way to display it on the walls of the gallery, in a clear and visually interesting manner.
In the end, I decided to frame up a working drawing (above) and a series of printing stages (below), neither of which I’m entirely happy to inflict on anyone. Still, someone always has to suffer in the name of Art and it might as well be the viewer…..
‘Meet the Artist’ sessions are held at Bankside Gallery throughout the duration of the Annual Exhibition of the RE (Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers).
Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 1-4, there will be an RE member present at the gallery, ready to talk about their work. Admission is free and no booking is required – just turn up. There is a complete list of artists here.
I will be there this Sunday (29th May) and I’m always up for a chat about printmaking and my own work, of course. So if anyone feels like a trip up to the smoke, I’d be very happy to see you. Mostly it’s just tourists, mildly puzzled as to why I’m sitting there, and of course there’s always someone who’s come in out of the rain….
As an added attraction, Angie Lewin will also be there – normally there’s a crowd three deep around her table and one person at mine (possibly because they can’t get close enough to Angie.)
All this and some wonderful prints to see at the exhibition – well, you can’t ask for more than that, can you?
Here’s the thing – I have been told (more times than I care to remember, quite frankly) that more blog posts = more readers.
My response has always been to reply loftily, “You don’t understand, I’m not doing it to amass hundreds of readers”. Which is just as well….
“It’s a personal journal – the fact that it’s public is neither here or there” All lies, of course. Obviously I want to be famous…..
Anyway, worn down as I have been, I agree to carry out a little experiment – to blog at least four times a week for a month, and to link to the post on Facebook and Twitter. Then I’m to sit back and see what happens.
So here I am, two thirds of the way through, with bleeding fingers and a new facial tick – is it working? I’ll let you know at the end of the month….
How many times have I gone into a good gallery and seen badly presented work? Very rarely – because believe it or not, gallery owners and buyers really care about that stuff.
Unfortunately I know a fair few artists who don’t – they create wonderful work but then their frames are falling apart, the mounts aren’t cut straight or the print margins are ink-smudged…..
A good friend, who’s something of a repeat offender in this department, once left a short and curly black hair squashed between the mount and the glass of an etching of his – I’m cringing as I write this – I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when he actually sold it. I guess he’d argue that this proves his point, that presentation doesn’t matter and that it’s the work and the ideas behind it that count….
Well yes, of course the work is of prime importance but give a thought to those potential buyers. If they fall in love with your work, dodgy frames and all, then fine, they’ll buy it regardless (or they’ll buy it unframed and sort it themselves).
I find, though, that there are often several pieces that they’re looking at and so which would they buy? Probably not yours – they’d choose the one that’s beautifully presented and therefore ready to put up at home – it’s the easiest option.
And that goes for galleries too – they need a vibrant and immaculate set-up to get those buyers through the door. All those white walls and wooden floors will go for nothing if the display is second-rate. They want work that’s ready to hang too, as they have better things to do than sort out shoddy frames (like selling the work?)
And, in any case, what does badly presented work say about you, the artist? Does it show how professional you are? How seriously you take your work? Not really, no.
I don’t think I’m being finicky for choosing quality frames for my work – and I’m convinced that if the artist doesn’t think their work is worth presenting properly, then no-one else will either…
In the Observer the other day, I read an interview with author Sadie Jones. ‘I’m never happy with what I’ve written,” she says. “You imagine, before you start, there’s a cathedral, and the moment it starts on the page, it’s a garden shed. And then you just try and make it the best shed you can.”
It’s all about managing your expectations – I start off with the intention of producing a visual representation of the truth of the human condition and end up with, well, a linocut.
So I think, from now on, I’ll just go about making it the best linocut I can….
Here are my own personal thoughts on the best way to get a portfolio application together – there are no rules and sometimes it’s just a matter of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
1: Keep things simple. You only have one chance to impress and now is not the time to show how versatile you are. I know it’s tempting to put in examples of all the different aspects of your work but you only have one chance to impress. Random pieces that do not relate to the main body of work are pointless – try to keep the look fairly uniform.
2: Presentation. All applicants are expected to be professional and it’s very important that the work is presented to the highest standards. It goes without saying that all the work should be clean – no crooked mounts, no dirty or creased margins. If you don’t think your work is worth presenting properly, then there’s no reason to think anyone else will.
3: Supporting work. Make sure it is relevant – don’t put in life drawings to support urban scenes, as I once did. You want to reinforce the thinking behind the work and hopefully increase the appreciation of it. If you don’t use sketchbooks, then try to show examples of the process you’ve used to get from the initial idea to the finished piece.
4: CV. Make sure it’s up to date, relevant and preferably on one page – a good exhibiting history obviously helps but so does an interesting project, residency or commission.
5: Don’t get discouraged if you’re not successful – people sometimes get in on the first try but it’s much more usual to have several attempts. The panels who review the portfolios change all the time and what gets turned down one year may well be accepted the next.
And just one more thing – all this preparation is important but at the end of the day, it’s the work that really counts…..
Yesterday I was by the sea in Norfolk.
Today I’m back home in London, sadly twiddling my thumbs and avoiding any work or studio related thoughts.
This time last year I rather perkily blogged about New Years Resolutions and the tricks I use keep myself motivated. (I even managed to throw in a quote from Chuck Close – ‘Inspiration is for amateurs. I just get to work’.) If you’re interested, you can read it here.
This year I’m mostly thinking about how bleedin’ difficult it is just getting into the car to go to the studio, let alone arriving there ready to do some work.
Oh well, I might as well leave it until Monday now…..
I’m trying not to think about how I’m going to get several large deliveries of prints (including frames) across London over the next couple of weeks.
I have a custom made bag (and when I say custom made, I mean made by me, with bits of left-over canvas). This is embarrassingly huge but at least I can sling it over my shoulder. Unfortunately I don’t have a portfolio large enough for the biggest acetated prints so they will have to go in too. Curvature of the spine is not something I like to think about.
And, of course, transporting large work about on the train and tube is always an interesting way of meeting people:
Whack …sorry…oh God, I’m sorry…
Oh, was that your knee? sorry…..bang….sorry.
Yes it is mine, yes it is irritating….sorry for being alive, etc., etc.
A cab is probably out of the question but is extremely tempting……