Twenty lessons learned the hard way about making a living as an artist
Trials and tribulations of learning to be an Instagram artist
Ty fixes all your problems in the first paragraph, then adds some filler
My gigantic basement framing operation, and by gigantic I mean not that but still big
How many artworks are in a show? I was pointing towards 7 or 9 but went nuts… what happened is that the 8 ‘big’ artworks are the show and the four smaller ones were added on because somebody told me that folks come to see the big stuff but buy the small stuff so I went buckwild.
Now comes matting, framing and marketing… I’ve said it a kajillion times, the doing-the-art part is a very small part of being an artist.
So in visualization, like mental affirmation, I imagine being at a big art festival like The Sunapee Craftsman’s league fair in the summer: It’s a beautiful day, and my white awning is set up next to dozens of other white awnings, each with an artist and her/his artwork. I’ve brought a drawing to work on because I expect to be sitting there kind of lonely and bored but no! Look at this, I’ve just set up and people are already checking out the artwork. First sale of the day not fifteen minutes into it! And then I’m shocked to just be a shopkeeper, selling print after print after print, mobbed and running my little paypal card swipe thing on the phone over and over. I have to run to the car to get more prints, call the sweety to have her drive some more from the studio! And at the end of the day I’m giddily exhausted and the inventory is wiped out, I’ve got $$$ in the bank and the whole thing was worth it! Totally worth it!
The thing that really kills that fantasy is matting and framing. Turns out it takes like an hour to frame an artwork really well. So that fantasy involves what, a hundred hours of framing? which means I’m not winning the lotto but actually working for the money after all, womp womp.
There are another three artworks in various stages of work… including one much larger one that I would need to set up a big clamped-screen contraption to make work. I’m looking forward to do that, but now I’ve got to focus on other things because, drum roll please…. money!
To get money, I’ve switching to illustrating a book for a client who swears they can pay for it (who knows?); and that will be my next ten artworks. Also I’ve set up an online store sunnydaystshirts.com/store/ to start selling prints, commissioned work, pet portraits and screenprinting services. And there’s always t-shirts to print, though that work can be hard to come by in the middle of the frozen New Hampshire winter.
Check out the store, I want to draw your dog!
Despite apocalyptic storm warnings we loaded the car and lit out for Massachusetts to spend the night at at my sig others’ childhood friends house in Westborough and then, in the morning, go to my kids’ gymnastics meet in Providence, Rhode Island. On the snowy road were DOT signs that blinked “Storm Alert: Limit Travel” and “Heavy Snow, Watch for Ice” and “Srsly, don’t go on a road trip this weekend” and “Ty Meier don’t go to your kids’ Gymnastics meet” and “WTF are you doing, stay home, we’re not kidding” and “Hey when you end up stuck in an eight car pileup don’t tell DOT we didn’t tell you” and “DOT is posting you on youtube, you idiot”
We got snowed in at the friends house in Massachusetts (I wish they’d warn us about stuff like this!) and never made it to the Gymnastics meet.
The ladies went on a Eskimo hike, the kids disappeared upstairs and left the fellow of the house, a 50 yr old sys admin, and I in the kitchen.I dreaded small talk but it went differently: The fellow had been diagnosed with Parkinsons a year ago and succinctly laid down his situation in life, and it was oddly wonderful.
He described the really bad things and interestingly, the really good things about being diagnosed with Parkinsons and I swear to god if I could bottle a conversation and pour it into my artwork, this conversation would be it. He talked about his goals, his deteriorating health, his kids’ attitudes, the medicines he was on (how he struggles to pay for them) and most importantly the community of people around him forming ranks and being supportive. Before I could give advice he kindly said “Everyone tries to give me advice”. His attitude to being in a terrible situation was so healthy that the rest of the weekend went easy, friendly, cathartic, fun. We ate, we drank, we watched the Patriots barely win the playoff against New Orleans and it was good. I drew this while everyone cooked, rode hoverboards, and played games:
When we drove home through the crazy bitter cold and got home to our snow-covered driveway, it turned out to not be snow covered at all because, knowing we were out of town, our neighbors had snowblowed it for us.
Cyr Lumber in Davisville is a hotbed of art talent; the guy behind the counter does great dog portraits and the lady in the paint department paints these wonderful little designs on turkey feathers; The paint lady is Rihanna Frost, and I would link to her work but the name Rihanna is ungoogleable. Adding ‘Feather’ doesn’t help a bit because the famous singer Rihanna often hides her naughty bits with feathers and thats broken the internet.
Rihanna Frost pointed me towards Aura paints as a way to smoothly and affordably prime backed artboards for drawing. I’m trying to make my original drawings classy and nice enough to sell.
The problem is that all my original drawings are done with cheap unsellable materials:
Why do I work with cheap unsellable materials?
1) Everything is scanned onto the computer and vectorized, so the originals are unimportant.
2) I’m busy! Being on the move all the time it’s hard to break out quill pens and brushes
3) It’s tiptoeing-through-the-daisies artsy to just draw and not worry about it.
4) Specialty art stuff is expensive and hard to come by here in this frozen tundra deep forest winterscape that is rural New Hampshire, I have to hike twenty miles with snowshoes, no I don’t.
Drawing boards with raised, hollow backs (like canvases) for hanging wires are classy AF, but they have to be primed, and gesso has a weird tooth to it for painting so I need to figure out a smooth primer for drawing. Not wanting to order gesso after gesso off the internet until one works, I headed to the hardware store to talk to Rihanna. Rather pulling a ripcord on the question (Hardware store people scatter before my art questions like I was the Mongol hoard and no deodorant), Rihanna was kind enough to really get into it, explore it, think it through and be super helpful, which was great.
Rihanna was wrong.
It didn’t work. The Aura paint rejected the India ink like jet black water off a ducks back.
I had some black Aura paint for framing so I added Flowtrol to it to smooth it out and tried to use a tiny brush to emulate quill ink lines but it was no go, the lines are too chunky and thick, it lost the calligraphic quality and I gave up on it. That was burn-down-the-malt-shop frustrating.
Also, doves in roses, meh.
So just for the heck of it I tried a different thing. Here’s a genuine doodle:
Wait- what’s the difference between a doodle and a drawing? To me, a doodle is a mindless, fun, stress-free drawing for no particular purpose, genuinely abandonable at any time . I did this one in a ski lodge killing time while my kid was taking ski lessons. Doodles are a lot of fun for me, If I’m good in this life then when I die I’ll get to spend eternity doodling while sororities of angels cheer wildly.
See those wrinkles in the doodle’s paper? In a misbegotten effort to turn this into a sellable artwork I tried to glue the doodle down to an art-board. I pressed it like dried flowers from my lost love but no go, and now like my lost love, it’s got wrinkles. Since the artwork is done with sharpies on Staples grey cardstock it‘s not a quality artwork anyway, but still, grr.
Finally, late in the week I got a commission to draw a trout for a fishing tournament t-shirt and knocked it out on a real artboard, and it looks much better:
However, there are still issues: How the hell can I hang that board? I can’t, is the answer, it’s got to be framed, which is what I was trying to avoid in the first place. WHY DOESN’T ANYONE SELL BACKED ARTBOARDS PRIMED FOR DRAWING INSTEAD OF PAINTING, ugh, okay, I’m off to rant and rave and storm around the house like a tornado in a trailer park.
I signed up for an 3 day ‘Explorations in printing workshop’ with some art bigwig print professor at Lakes Region Community College and made the hour drive up there on a Tuesday morning with “Hello fellow kids” jokes locked and loaded only to discover they’d cancelled due to a lack of interest in printing. Thanks for that kick in the balls, Lakes Region Community College, learn to work the email machine you jerkwads.
Gggrrrrr okay, something happier. With the suddenly free time I came home and finished the setup on this print:
And, satisfyingly, I got this one done the day before:
So that feels good. I feel like I need nine good artworks to make a show, (number based on exactly nothing). I have some Blue Jays to print and then I’ll be able to frame up a show at a time and go out like Johnny Birdartseed finding places to hang them.
Commissions are coming in via email and Facebook and singing their sirens song of actual money instead of theoretical future money, no brainer! Actually, brainer: I’m trying to morph from freelancer to fine artist because, well, THE GOAL.
THE GOAL: I would say *My* Goal but I think it’s the universal I-want-to-be-an-artist goal, we artist see it with perfect naivety when we set sail but it fades into the static of life and only becomes clearer long, long into the voyage, suddenly rising out of the fog to sink the ship. THE GOAL is, of course, to be able to just do the art we want to and make a living doing it. No clients, no commissions, no compromises or deadlines, no managing the print process or marketing the art, just sitting meditatively and creating genius artwork, then handing it off to someone else who will do all the other stuff.
I know, I know. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting three artists and none of them are at THE GOAL… but look at your candy crush screen, someone is at the top, and that someone is going to be me.
So the Occam's razor in deciding what artwork to spend my time on has to be: Will this artwork help me in the future? Or another way to state it: Will I remember doing this artwork two months from now? I have a huge portfolio a hundred artworks deep and the great majority of them are just gone from my considerations. They’re all commissioned artworks with a specific purpose that is over now, and they’ll never help me or anyone else ever again.
I did take on a commision this week for an old client who I can’t say no to and spent a morning working on it, it’s here (client made the color choices):
For the parameters and purpose of the artwork It’s a grand slam: The client is happy, it didn’t take long, it’s an easy paycheck (although God knows when they’ll pay me) and it’s a good commissioned project but the awful truth is now it goes on the pile of ‘done’ artworks never to be heard from again.
Everything is in entropy, nothing lasts forever, the vast majority of workers in the world work on things they won’t remember in two weeks and I should stop complaining. Alright, moving on
Yesterday, I went to the opening for the New Hampshire Art Association New Members Exhibit in Portsmouth (we seriously need a shorter name for that), walked in and saw this happy red dot:
The red dot means it sold! And that’s in the first day of the show, we haven’t even gotten started yet. That feels pretty good, I love selling art to strangers, it’s the highest compliment.
I had some good conversations with a couple artists: Jeffrey Wagner, PHD in Psychology, who has an Rod Stewart vibe (When he talks and doesn’t have a British accent and that seems wrong), who’s aggressively minimalist website is here: jeffreywagnerstudio.com -he must have built his own template to make it that sparse- explained that he uses glass cleaning squeegees cut to various lengths to apply his paint as if this is not astonishing. Deadpan serious about this, he was, and I begun to suspect that it’s a deeply dry schtick, that in his mind it’s hilarious… so I started stifling giggles, God I hope it’s true, it’s genius. If you had brainstormed an opposite kind of art from mine you couldn’t do better than his, check it out.
It’s in my nature to drop every single thing I’m doing to run out and get some window squeegies to try it out but I can’t can’t, too many things to do.
The businesslike Carol Reynolds, NHAA Gallery Manager cornered me about what the hell is screenprinting? And her every non-verbal communication broadcasted a deep wariness of wacky artist explanations; she’s been to the wacky artist dog and pony show and would like a clear answer, plz. There was a roomful of people and I tried to explain in a pithy way but it didn’t come across very well and she told me to write it up. “People looking at your artwork want to know and I’m not sure what to tell them” she said, and that’s the happiest problem ever, for me, I’m on it.
So here it is, knocked it out this morning:
I printed my Rooster and Chick artwork on paper this artsy frenchpaper.com Kraft-Tone warm grey paper and then, just as an experiment, got these canvases from Job Lots, brushed them with acrylic, spattered them a little, sprayed the edges black and printed my chicken on it. The goal is to create canvas artworks that don’t have to be framed. It’s perfectly fine to leave the edges of a canvas showing. Not futzing with a frame saves a lot of time and effort.
Here’s what the prints on the artsy paper look like:
is the brushed/sprayed canvas going down a Elvis-on-black-velvet hole that I don’t want to go down? It’s more striking to look at, but the paper print is probably classier. I asked on Facebook and got a lively discussion out of it. It’s an even split, like classy vs cool. Instead of a devil and an angel arguing I’ve got a swishy interior designer and a street level graffiti kid.
The crashing indecision over tiny useless issues sends me down philosophical rabbit holes that are going to bottom out over the banana house. ooOOoo Wouldn’t a banana house be nice? Like an old school asylum where if you got stressed out you could go there for a while and people would excuse everything you do because you’re clearly crazy? They feed you, make you sleep and take walks in the garden? “I can’t make a decision about how to draw my chickens, doc, you gotta help me!”
My wise-beyond-her-years 10 yr old and I trudged through 6 degree ear-aching wintery Concord cold to attend a League of New Hampshire Craftsmen opening last night. There was also a show from the New Hampshire Furniture Masters with many beautiful, beautiful things on display.
Oddly, the unseen furniture artists are the craftsmen I most identified with, they seem to have a similar wildly impractical love of the work that I feel. Somewhere behind their perfect, precise art is a mechanical mind contemplating tools & chemicals, trips to the hardware store and constant troubleshooting… but at some point those furniture makers decided not to use that mind on fixing cars or building solar panel arrays or something, but in creating beautiful things. I like that.
Looking at that amazing craftwork it became sort of crystal clear that my spray-painted chickens aren’t going to fly. Precise matting and framing is a big deal to those guys, and no mistake.
“Hello, do you like furniture?” asked some sweater-wearing middle aged schmuck attempting to engage in uselessly trite small talk and I did not yell “LEAVE ME ALONE I’M HAVING A CHICKEN EPIPHANY” but instead smiled and said “Sure, it’s beautiful” and awkwardly dove in.
Let’s do some self-tortured mental gymnastics, product of my self-diagnosed obsession, weee!
The Merrimack County Savings bank is a tiny bank in this tiny town in this tiny state, but they very kindly let me put a display up in their lobby and I sold eight artworks off the wall! it was great: I’d get a phone call, jump in the car, drive down and have a very cathartic discussion with a happy art-buyer. That feeds the obsession beast burrowed into my noggin, I gotta tell you.
The Everyday cafe and pub, which is the beating heart of this New England village has let me hang a five-artwork show. Very nice of Christian, the energetic fellow who owns the place (Has a cooking show on WMUR, srsly!). Those artworks been there for a couple weeks and nuthin.
Sometimes I go in there and sit there like a creepy homeless guy and act like I’m not watching: The crowd of happy diners constantly looks at the wall with my artworks! I finally went over to see the artwork from their angle and realized there’s a specialty drink menu over the art and that’s what they were looking at. Womp womp.
It’s an active, bustling place, people are talking to each other, deciding what to eat and drink, being social (Looks like fun, I should try it) and heavy art theory is last, last last thing on their mind.
Also, just to complicate things, the bank show was right before the holidays and the cafe show was during and after them so that’s a thing. It’s been superdooper icy and cold and folks are back to school, work, misery.
Also, law of diminishing returns, maybe this area is saturated by Ty Meier’s shenanigans?
I know my own mental space is saturated by Ty Meier’s shenanigans. I should go think about something else for a while. It’s very hard to think about anything else, which I guess is the nature of obsession.
If you are here from the 1st newsletter email I just sent out, welcome!
I’m using Mailchimp to establish an email list for shows and whatnot. It’s my goal to send emails sparingly, like every couple months at most Unless I become wildly successful, in which case I plan on NEVER SHUTTING UP.
Anyway if you would like to be subjected to that hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put you on the list.
And now an ode to Dude’s barber shop in the wretched city of Hookset, dudesbarbershop.us
Oh Dude’s barber shop, oh Dude’s barber shop, why the heck are you in Hookset? Hookset is acres and acres of franchises and car dealerships, all branding and no art. There are a ton of small business and I love a small businessman as much as the next guy but small businesses have to work so hard just to get by that anything cultural is jettisoned for lack of time or optimism. Hookset is like the great vast majority of American towns, miles and miles of nothing aesthetic or non-utilitarian. Fancy gun shops and lovely dive bars… but the rest of the city is designed by the kinds of bosses who squeeze every cent out of every bit of bandwidth, the kinds of businesses who can’t let their cashiers have a human exchange of pleasantries without forced to say “Would you like to sign up for our rewards card?”
Ah, but Dudes barber shop, what an oasis of counter-culture. Bikers and older hipsters in their funky cultural lair having genuinely interesting conversations and being pleasantly gruff about it, and they oh so gently and politely manage your random ear hair, wild rebel eyebrows or scruffy asymmetrical monster beard at no extra $$, which makes you tip them the title to your car. And then, then! They break out the straight-razor and do the detail work while this snarly happy bulldog storms around the shop crashing into the backs of their legs it’s awesome.
So now that I’m armed to trick people into believing I’m a respectable artist and not a basement-dwelling troglodyte screenprinter, I’m ready for the opening on Saturday. Bring on the light banter and boxed wine.
Okay, off to print print print
So I have three prints up at the New Members Exhibit at the New Hampshire Artists Association Gallery in Portsmouth, and there is a show opening on Saturday (1/12) from 3 to 5. I intend to go hang out Everyone I know in Portsmouth will be there! I don’t know anybody in Portsmouth.
I am not sure what I’ll do there, or what I’m hoping for.
The three prints are $110 each, the gallery gets 40% so its not enough lettuce to make me go all Cheesy McCheesball sales guy, “how YOU doin?”
I generally loathe small talk. I mean, I do it, I’m not an animal, but I wouldn’t drive to Portsmouth for it.
Building my email list, I guess? (do you want to be on my email list? It’s delightful! I haven’t sent out an email yet) It’ll be fun to meet the other artists, but they’ll be a pack of introverts like me. My crowning social skill is listening, I’m a fantastic listener:
Me: “How are you?”, other introvert: “Good, how are you?”
10 print “Ty: how are you?”
20 print “Other artist: how are you?”
30 goto line 10
1980’s BASIC humor will catch on if I keep at it.
Here are some good things that can happen:
A wise man wish a cosmic sagacity about him could to step out of the crowd, take me by the arm, focus his agelessly spiritual eyes on mine and say “Your work is relevant, Ty, it’s not a fool's errand, your time creating this artwork was spent with more life value then it would have been binging Game of Thrones season 7 even though it’s really good, or then by getting a real job, with dental”
Maybe a sorority of art students will show up and want booby drawings.
A blind person could push through the crowd, stand in front of my artwork and suddenly see, that would be cool! Oddly ranking lower than the sorority but still, cool!
A gigantic international corporation could give me a private office and studio off Central Park in New York and say “Don’t worry, Just do your art and take our money, and go to nightclubs, for some reason, even though you’re old for that”.
Fireworks? Blue Angels flyover?
Realistically what I’ll get is a crowd of middle-age people having pleasant conversation. Best case scenario I think is to meet gallery owners who might have space to put up a bigger show, or some other art contact like that. The second best case scenario is get advice from other fine art printers as to how to make my stuff better. The third best scenario is entertaining conversations with smart people, so I’ll focus on those things.
I’m thinking of printing a smallish artwork and just handing out prints of it to people, with my social media and website on the back. My 10 year old daughter says that would devalue the art (she’s smart), so maybe I’ll just give them to people who are interesting. FIRST TEN PEOPLE WHO MENTION MY INSTAGRAM FEED GET A FREE ARTWORK just kidding.
I wish I could say I was looking for commissioned artworks! That would be a great thing to market in an event like this. I might sometime in the nearish future so put a pin in that.
Strangers buying artwork from me is radioactive fuel for my Godzilla ego, and this blog is Tokyo, RAAAR
Four motivations in artwork, with notes:
The meditative ‘third pass’ of pencils/inks/design and the abandonment of art too late. This is a rabbit hole, bear with me: Art is never finished, it’s abandoned. Commissioned artwork is abandoned early because your eye is always on the clock. Fine artwork is abandoned late because Art. The first pass with pencils is just laying out the image, like a developed sketch.. The second pass is finishing up the pencil part of the drawing. Then the first pass with the pen is getting enough lines down that you can erase out the pencils, and the 2nd pass is finishing the drawing. The first pass on the computer is getting all the graphic elements together, and the 2nd pass is wrapping up the graphic.
I think of the 3rd pass as being the wholly unnecessary going-over-again of pencils, pens, or computer work for the love of the artwork. It’s usually in that phase that you fall into the timeless, mindless meditative state that’s like the zone for athletes. Like being deeply lost in thought on a long boring drive. The money part of art leaves you and your skill just does the thing, you just watch your hands work. It’s beautiful and amazing, and a big part of the reason artists do what they do. These artworks are much more likely to glow.
The amazement and appreciation of people who view the artwork… This motivation is tricky because everyone around you (except your significant other who is sick of your shit) is nice to you about your art. Compliments, for the most part, are more about the relationship between the artist and the complimenter then they are about the quality of the art. The only compliments that really count are from enemies and children, or when you are hiding under a rock somewhere nearby and hear an honest opinion. Which is why Galleries should have duck blinds. The highest compliment of all is a stranger buying the artwork with Money! I fly high when a stranger buys arwork off a wall without my pitching them, without them being my grandma, without them caring one bit less if I get hit by a truck. It’s beautiful and amazing, and a big part of the reason artists do what they do.
Money (sad trombone, womp womp) because it’s necessary… although any financial sense whatsoever is a detriment to pure artist-hood. If you have financial sense you’ve long before become interested in something else. For those of us to be lucky enough to not mind destruction just over the horizon, a big paycheck buys time: during that time it’s possible to take a risk on creating artwork that might or might not sell… which means diving into the meditative third pass, above, and unique and interesting art challenges, below. (As opposed to commissioned artwork, which is safer but less exciting). An artist become more stable and secure by *not* being motivated by unique and interesting art challenges, in fact if you can avoid unique and interesting art challenges as a motivation then financial life becomes much, much easier.
Unique and interesting art challenges. It’s awesome to level up! So you put your dog portrait portfolio together and got a bunch of work from friends and neighbors, and then amazingly, strangers, and it’s become clear that you can knock out a couple dog portraits a day and voila! Financial security! Steady work! The admiration of your community and a place in your tribe. And then something inside of you goes “Drawing fur has taught me all kinds of things that would apply to my own artwork” and off you go over the deep end again, lost in the world and unemployed, rudderless except for your Godzilla ego, which says “I’M AWESOME I SHOULD WRITE A BLOG”
In the early nineties, as starving artist in San Francisco, I found myself with two income sources: Working as a server at Bubba Gumps Shrimp Restaurant and drawing portraits of tourists on the street, illegally.
Being a go-getter, I won a big sales contest at Bubba Gumps Shrimp Restaurant. A person with ties to an art gallery told them about my sales and my portraits and they hired me as an art consultant, so I quit Bubba Gumps to join the art world.
On being an art consultant in an Art Gallery in San Francisco:
A disclaimer: I am sure not every Art Gallery is as tritely, cheesily, transparently money-grubbingly used car-salesmanly crass as the one I worked in. I am sure there are wholesome, philosophical, lovely galleries full of genuine art-lovers out there. But this one… was supercheesy. Classy like an Atlantic City Casino.
I was bad at being an art consultant. I am an anti-materialist and a Bohemian. The salesmen and women who trained me were of the shiny rolex-watch wearing, fast talking, “I could sell a freezer to an eskimo”, coke snorting badda boo badda bing kind, and I’m embarrassed to say I tried to fit in with them. To this day I wonder why the hell they hired me. Towards the end I asked, and they said they were trying something new with a genuine art guy. I only ever sold a couple paintings, and am haunted with guilt about them.
On luxury Items salespeople: We had salespeople come and go weekly. They drifted between luxury sales jobs, selling pianos, cars, home theatre systems, furniture, etc and they all called themselves master salesmen and not con-artists. Never, in their descriptions of themselves, were they anything but super rich and successful ( they weren’t). They boastfully knew nothing about art but knew how to sell, kid. One fellow was very proud that he wore a bowtie every day, said it disarmed people. Because of him I don’t trust anyone wearing a bowtie.
The clients who came in liked and expected the big sales routine. Qualified clients acted a gross caricature of rich people and I now wonder how many were in manic upswings, being on vacation, drinking, and blowing money. Men in their older sixties men wearing antique suits or Hawaiian shirts would strut in with aging Jessica-Rabbit bimbos and do a big man act of buying everything while buying nothing, and everyone was in on it, the salespeople too. It was, on reflection, stupid. I remember being astounded, over and over, that each time this happened (and it happened a couple times a day) everyone seemed to know each other beforehand. They didn’t, they just knew their rolls, and names were less important than the big “AAAAAAY” act. There were many other kinds of clients, too, but the “AAAAAAAY” ones stick out in my memory, twenty years later.
There were some tricks the salespeople taught me.
Choose your clients wisely, look at the shoes, the car, the watch to see if they have money. These ‘master salespeople’ believed in this to the point that if I was in a conversation with a genuine art person like an art history teacher or an aspiring artist, the other salespeople would come over to interrupt the conversation and tell me that I was needed in the back, just to ‘get me out of it’. They’d do this as a kindness. It was absurd: The gallery would be empty for hours and we’d standing there bored to tears and someone would finally come in and I’d be relieved to be able to talk about something genuinely art-related, and the other salesperson would come altruistically ‘get me out of it’.
A ‘Coconut’ is a person who walks in off the street and just buys a painting, without any salesmanship or negotiation, because coconuts just fall out of trees and into your hands, right? Coconuts, while lovingly discussed with great nostalgia, don’t exist.
At least three or four people coming into the Gallery on any given day are artists who’s work are showing. He or she is checking to see if anything has sold, please god, has anything sold?
Once you finally did get to talk to a ‘Qualified client’ (someone putting on the rich-person facade) anything the client said they liked about a painting became what that artist is famous for, and isn’t the client a discerning art-critic for noticing it? THE CLIENT HAS A GENIUS ARTISTIC EYE FOR NOTICING IT, THE CLIENT IS AMAZING, THE CLIENT IS PRACTICALLY AN ART GOD
Skin tones, gradients, plunging diagonals and triangular compositions are great art compliment catch-phrases. It is great to use names of art phases of history as long as you don’t go into explaining/lecture mode: Boredom is the death of sales, don’t analyze art, people hate that. But those art catch-phrases (‘Rococo’, ‘Expressionist’, ‘light-source’, ‘forced perspective’) were very popular with other salespeople: They’d say them for days afterward, incorrectly, with much better flair and self-confidence then I.
Get the client into the viewing room! Any painting looks good if you raise and lower the lights on it: The highlights pop out, everything changes, and it’s freakin magical. In the viewing room are drinks, music, comfortable chairs, and everything but a lock on the door to keep people in there while the consultant works them over.
Of course the client does not want to go to the viewing room, so here’s the trick: While they are looking at the painting, start telling them about what a genius they are for pointing out whatever they pointed out, and lift the painting off the wall (turning your back to the client) while talking. Don’t stop talking! Mumble so they can’t hear you and march the painting into the viewing room over any objection, acting like you can’t hear them. The befuddled client will follow from politeness and curiosity, and before they know it they’ll be in the viewing room with the lights trick and the drinks.
Get them talking about their house and where the painting will go when they buy it, and won’t it be magical? Won’t they be classy? The style, the sophistication! Get them to picture it in their minds and make it a part of their self-image. I don’t know if this works or not but every salesperson talked about it endlessly so okay.
In those glorious internet-free days, every artist is a rising star, very soon to be absolutely famous, and the artwork is always a wonderful investment sure to be worth much much more on auction in the near future. Didn’t you see that article about that painting from (make up name of painter) selling for 10 million the other day?
When the client counter-offers, (gallery prices are negotiable, you know) you have to go call the art gallery curator about that. You don’t call anybody about that, you just go hang out in the other room for a while and let them sit with the precious painting, nervously.
There was also lots of advice about negotiating art prices but I never got there, I awkwardly chased every potential buyer out long before negotiating happened, muich to the disgust of the other consultants. I think I never really understood my role in those transactions. I’d have done better pretending I was in improvisation theatre playing the role of cheesy salesperson. I only lasted a few months and became a waiter again.
Here’s a photo of a drawing that I took with my phone:
The question is, vectorize or halftone? Both have their pros and cons. Vectors looks sharper and more deliberate. Here it is vectored in three colors for grey paper. The colors are white, grey and black:
I trace vectors into the iPad using Graphic and an iPencil, and then I import those as an .svg into Adobe Illustrator on the real computer and work from there. Here’s what vectoring on the ipad looks like:
The problem with vecors are that they take a long time. It takes as long to vector an artwork as it does to draw it in the first place. I wonder sometimes if I should just draw originals and sell those instead of screenprinting prints. Using a nice quill pen and india ink…?
The alternative is halftoning the image out. Halftones are tiny dots that make up a picture, like pixels, only for print. You’ve seen them in newspaper print and t-shirt printing. So this is not vectorized:
The good things about halftones are 1) They retain some of the drawing-feel of the artwork, you can sense the original brushstrokes, and 2) They’re much, much faster then vectors.
I personally like vectors better, but I wonder if anyone else could care less? Does it really matter at all?
Before you answer that, check out the obvious vectors in this artwork, as compared to the original drawing below it.
Which is better? The drawing or the vectorized image?
Vectorizing takes hours, but I’m good at it. I could vectorize for living; I get bombed by spam from third world countries offering “VECTORIZE ARTWORK FOR $12”. I imagine a building full of kids click, click, clicking away in Illustrator… when I’ve tried them out by sending artwork they reply with ‘Oh, that’ll be $80”. A couple times I’ve bit the bullet and had them do it, but they botched it up. Not artists, them, just click click clickers. I could offer “Artistic vectorization!” and click click click away myself for $$$, it’d be easy.
There’s always some way to make a living around art that is not creating art.
I survived for years by color separating other peoples artwork for screenprinting, which is not creating art. I had a website called screenprintprepress.com and at the high point had several dozen screenprinters as clients that send art regularly. I quit that when I was able to build my own screenprinting shop.
Most of the t-shirts I print are not particularly artistic, they’re just branding. I create fancy design when I can… but mostly clients don’t ask for it.
People are more comfortable wearing branding then they are wearing art, it’s true!
Another not- art profession that there is constant pressure to become is an art teacher. If I were an art teacher my classes would entirely consist of me yelling at children “DON’T BECOME AN ARTIST IT’S REALLY HARD!”
I enjoy framing artwork; Framing shops are successful, Michaels and Hobby Lobby have framing departments, The overhead is tiny! It’s still not doing art.
Going to multi-media college in the 90’s, photoshop and illustrator were used to make web graphics, which led to webpage design, which led to wepage development… and suddenly you were coding, not drawing, and what happened? Why am I in this cubical?
For a while I worked in an Art Gallery in San Francisco as an art consultant, which is the used car salesman of the art world. I should write a blog about how extraordinarily cheesy working as an art salesperson is, I shudder at the thought to this day.
Now I’m realizing that all my skillsets are from industries I drifted into while trying to be an artist. I built a networking group called the Contoocook River Business Club and ran it for a couple years, just to sell t-shirts. It worked, and now I can run a networking meeting like a pro.
Alright, enough wool-gathering and navel-gazing. Back to click click clicking
Too many crows! Murder upon murder pouring out of artists. People really like crows and since I apparently hate success I drew this Cormorant. I went red-winged blackbird for a bit but every blackbird composition that squirted from my composition gland = 2nd rate crow. Then someone near me used the word Cormorant and since I’m a malleable lump of impressionable putty the poor red wing blackbird went on standby.
My California quail monster mouth artwork had zero filigrees or fluer-di-lis so I had to catch up my ridiculous quota on that. Why not a seascape for this sea-bird? asks the philistine in my mind (and zero real people) and I can’t answer except to say It's too obvious, or I like to draw swirly-dos, or... Get out of my face imaginary critic, who cares anyway? Nothing matters, the world is going to end, life is short and if I want to draw a page full of swirly-dos then strap in. It’s you, Nietzsche & me in this rowboat braving the storm of mediocre conversation topics, to-do lists full of items forgotten a week from now, franchise-filled towns full of branding but no art, money grubbing wage slaves terrified by media who insist we break our backs in terror about paying for college, paying for retirement, paying for a boring car that can fit into a stream of other self-obsessed and stressed-out boring cars... God forbid you get sick or injured because insurance companies are getting into making you set up a go-fund me campaign so they won’t just bankrupt you but everyone who loves you. And when in your desperate grasping you finally have a lovely child, she gets jammed into the mediocrity-stress machine with a classroom full of discipline cases who are punished and taught NOT ONE HINT of philosophy, morals, aesthetics, or anything else that might lead to happiness, since those are trite and a waste of taxpayers money. Our kids will learn math and writing so they can get a job, take out those loans get that credit, buy all the stuff and become owned by a series of corporations and the government, also own by corporations, and God, who is apparently on the side of corporations.
So instead of chasing mindless to-do lists today I’m going to draw all the goddamn filigrees and flier-di-lis I want to so neener neener, Responsibility.
Until the Mrs catches me and then it’s the to-do list.
‘It’s mouth looks like a comical monster’ she said, and now there is no unseeing it.
On Christmas Vacation in Mendocino county where it’s 60 degrees in December (now THAT’S a Christmas miracle, it’s freakin 20 degrees back home in New Hampshire), I was struck by the mossy, gnarled and arid beauty of Northern California, and thought, wow, I’ve become one of those old guys who tells their kid “Hey look it’s a particularly interesting kind of fungus’ when the kid just want to go go-karting or something.
I was particularly impressed with the oddly beautiful death and dormancy of winter plants: Old blackberry vines and oak, madrone and wide, frosted fields, misty and earth toned… wildly contrasting the New England omnipresent supergreen treelines/frozen snowy winterscapes. I took some photos but they do no justice; in the photos the immediacy of awe is lost, they’re just images.
Looking at the photos I have to ask myself is it really gorgeous? Or am I just programmed to believe it’s gorgeous because I grew up there? Only an artist would ask that question: Can I use this? If I draw these things will other people like them?
‘Will New Englanders like California birds?” is a perfect example of overthinking it. Just draw the damn birds, Ty, do your art and shut up. One in a thousand people could care less, the only reason this works is because there are millions and millions of people.
At a local cafe called the Brick House in WIllits, CA, Sara and Tom Mann, the owners and old, old friends, encouraged me to put an art show up towards the end of summer 2019 and I will. It’s impractical: If the show is wildly successful it’ll maybe cover the cost of the plane trip out and a week off work plus a little, but that’s alright: At that point I’ll have had my Portsmouth art show and with any luck the Sunapee Craftsmans’ fair, and will have a lot of prints onhand to display and some some brutal experience under my belt… and it’s a fantastic excuse to come to Northern California during blackberry season, so let’s rock!
2019 starts tomorrow… The trick is to back off on T-Shirt print jobs (so starve a little more) and get these fine art prints in full production. That will get me closer to my wildly impractical goal of being a pen and ink genius before I die. Pretty good use of a lifetime, I guess.
Okay, I gotta get to San Francisco to get on an airplane.
So this is a pygmy own, or a saw whet owl, which I found on a search for ‘New England Birds’. It’s about the size of a softball-sized hailstone. I generally stay away from predators and aggressive, team-mascot birds like Eagles, Hawks, Condors etc because I’d like my theme to be seek happiness via beauty and peace rather than hunting and killing things, and also because I like that humble creatures seek happiness, too.
I relate to insignificant low creatures, sue me.
Also I really liked the burning flowers of my airplane doodle (scroll down a bit) as light sources against the filagrees and fluer-di-li’s, so I threw in those lightning bugs. I have since taken a rasher of verbal excrement from close loved ones for drawing really gross lightning bugs, because I made them the beetles that they are.
Yeah, they’re not cute. Live and learn.
So this is grey paper first penciled as a sketch with an hard HB pencil, detailed with a 2B pencil, and then gone over again to get details right. After that I inked it with a sharpie marker, because I’m on vacation and on the move. Properly it should have been done with a quill pen, but since I’m drawing this in cars, cafes, on family game night, etc etc I stuck to an easier pen. Purists will tell me sharpies suck, and they're not wrong, but remember that this will be scanned and vectorized so the original really doesn’t matter. It’s like the first draft in writing, you throw it all out there with full creative energy and worry about cleaning up details on the computer. Writing is re-writing; drawing is vectorizing.
Then I went over with that damned 30% warm grey Blick marker that is actually pinkish, argh. Still haven’t gotten rid of those because it’s hard to get to an art store, and because Amazon and FedEx are slammed busy for the holidays and because I’m travelling. But I have to get rid of those, they’re terrible. I did greyscale out the image so don’t look for the pink, just rest assured that it’s there and be furious with me.
And lastly I went over it with white ink and a very thin paintbrush. In a perfect world it would be white ink on a quill but I’ve never gotten that to work.
I failed to put a philosophy quote on it because I’m worried that it’s a smallish artwork: I’m trying to create smaller prints so folks will have something cheaper to buy, but the problem is that very small words don’t burn well onto screenprinting screens, and this should end up being less then 10” wide by 8” tall. So I skipped the quote this time.