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June 2009

HELP WANTED with my artist statement!

Dear Harriete,

Fillius_0043 When I decided to become a painter, 14 years ago, I hired an artist consultant to write my artist statement. It was well written and served its purpose over the time I was painting. Now I am working in tin and don't have the cash flow I once had to hire someone for this task (I save any extra $ for the photographer). Could you tell me please, what is your best recommendation for writing one's own artist statement? Any guidelines to follow that you know of? I am at a loss here. Thank you for any suggestions you may have on this topic.

Sincerely, one of your fans,

 Jenny Fillius

Dear Lost for Words,

This is a great question because, other than your work itself, the Artist Statement is your best opportunity to connect with the viewing audience. People rely on the artist statement to gain context and insights about the work.  I love reading a superb statement.  It is also one of my pet peeves when an artist allows a poor statement to be associated with an otherwise good work of art. 

If words are going to represent your work, those words better be good, as good as your artwork.  A personal guideline is that composing the artist statement should take about 5% of the overall time spent to make the piece.   It may sound like a lot of time but remember that your audience may actually spend as much time reading your statement as looking at the work. 

Each series or important piece should have its own specific artist statement.  A good statement focuses on the artwork (not your life history or philosophy).  While working on your piece, start writing down thoughts and bits that you’d like to include in the statement.  Then organize these thoughts into a coherent statement as you finish the piece or immediately after.   It will be more difficult (almost impossible) to remember your inspiration months later when you’re thinking about different work.

The investment of time could really pay off since the artist statement can be used in multiple scenarios including:

  • Grant proposals;
  • Submission to exhibitions;
  • Exhibition proposals;
  • Catalogs produced for an exhibition that includes your work;
  • Submissions to publications such as books, or magazine;
  • Information for lecturers, writers, reviewers or bloggers talking about your work;
  • Statements on your web site;Information to post with your images on social networking sites;

Below are a few suggestions for a better artist statement.  Since writing styles vary considerably, keep in mind that these are only suggestions.   

One final thought, do not confuse your artist statement with your bio. The artist statement should be about your work only, and the inspiration behind it. Make your artist statement as inspiring and interesting as your work.

For more details and additional examples about artist statements check out my blog ASK Harriete at  http://askharriete.typepad.com

TIPS for A GREAT ARTIST STATEMENT

1. First line needs to convey the most important insight about the piece.  Make the first line good enough to stand alone -- full of information, but not too long.

2.  Use descriptive language.   Explain the source or inspiration of some key details.  Minimize the use of the words “I”, “my” or “me“.

3. Connect with your audience by modifying your statement and writing style.  The artist statement for a coffee table book should be engaging and entertaining. A statement for a grant application should be constructive and insightful. Think about what the audience would like to know. Ultimately you may need more than one version of your statement for each piece.

4. Keep your statement short, specific, and sincere preferably one paragraph or two very short paragraphs. Stay concise!  Avoid repeating the same concept with different words – a common problem in artist statements.

5. Include STRONG CONTENT such as unique features, special techniques, themes, content issues or historical origin of a technique.  Do not mention old work, past exhibitions, or awards in your artist statement.


6. Never say anything negative or complain. Negative statements devalue you and your work. Everyone struggles with finding time to do their work.

7. Never puff up your statement with positive self appraisement. Such comments sound like bragging with no substance. Do not include statements about how you are attempting something. Be confident, either you are “there” or don’t say it.

8. NEVER write “No Statement” in a proposal requesting a statement. You will be immediately disqualified for failure to fulfill the requirements

9. Technicalities - have two or more people proof read your statement.  Ask for constructive criticism and feedback. 

10. Update your Statement. Each time you use the statement, reread it thoroughly as if it were your first time. Is there anything that might make it more relevant to the new audience?


Documents to sell a work of art.

Vanes1casey
Casey by John van Es

Hi Harriete,

I've painted all my life and I'm now 45 years old.  I recently created my own website and linked it to other portfolio sites to display my work.  I only show a handful of what I've created.  A buyer is interested in two paintings and is asking for papers and documents. What should be given to the buyer?  I never tried to sell before so don't know what to do.    Thanks in advance for your advice. You can  visit my web site if you want.
Signed,

Unsure,

 John van Es

       
Dear John,

Thanks for your question and for labeling your images correctly!

The following information should be sent for artwork that you want to sell.

  • A polite and business-like letter thanking the collector for his interest in your work and itemizing the materials enclosed with the letter (below).
  • CD of digital images. These images should be professional guality images at least 8"x 10" at 300 dpi. Read the new Professional Guidelines documents about digital images for more information.  Include a full view and some close up images for each piece.
  • Contact sheet with thumbnail images of the digital images on the C.D. This Contact Sheet is for quick reference. Read Working with Digital Images Effectively for guidance in making your contact sheet. 
  • Resume (1-5 pages with your mailing address since it doesn't appear you are working through a gallery).
  • Artist Statement (about the particular artwork on the C.D.)
  • Description for the artwork on the C.D. including title, copyright symbol, date of work, media (be specific), dimensions (height x width x depth)
  • Photo Credit for the image.
  • Retail Price (label the price as "Retail Price" to avoid confusion with wholesale or artist's price.)

VanEs3geronimo
Geronimo by John van Es

If you have exhibited this particular artwork or if it is included in books, then you might want to list the exhibitions or publications that show or have shown the work. Also if you have any postcards or articles from newspapers or magazines that included images of the artworks, that would be very nice, but it is not necessary.

I have heard about a “Certificate of Authentication” from some people, but this seems more like a fluffy promotional sound bite when buying a souvenir plate.  There is no such organization or ''Certificate of Authentication" that is recognized universally. 

You letter could document that you created and own the copyright for the artwork. The information listed above should be all that is necessary to give the collector confidence in the fact that he is buying an original painting directly from the artist.

IF you think that "price discounts" may be raised by the collector, I recommend that you read the Professional Guidelines document Discounts.

After the purchase is complete, you should send a receipt for the purchase along with a "thank you" note.

Good luck with the purchase.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info



Superhero images - now animated

Great pun  but this is no cartoon movie.  On the Web an animated image is actually one image file that has two or more rotating images.  It can all be incorporated into one image file with a .gif  ending.  

Boston Chinese Tea Blue and White teapot by Harriete Estel Berman
Boston Chinese Tea
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen


To the right is an example. This digital image file is titled   CaD-a.gif on my computer. The small "-a"  is my way to remember it as an animated image file. 

GIF files are the only file extension (.gif) that supports an animated image. The downside is that the images are limited to 256 colors.  But for smaller images, I rarely feel that this compromises the impact more than the benefit of eye-catching animation.  

I love animated images, it's a great way to show multiple views of one object, painting, sculpture, etc. You can actually adjust the timing on the rotating image rather easily. The rotating images can even be set to turn off after a few cycles and show only one image thereafter.painting, sculpture, etc. You can actually adjust the timing on the rotating image rather easily. The rotating images can even be set to turn off after a few cycles and show only one image thereafter.

If you own PhotoShop most likely you own ImageReady (the software that creates animated images).  All you need are two or more images that are all the same size to combine together into one file. I learned how to do this in about an hour.

Multiple close-ups plus the full view of the same artwork are an ideal application for animation.  This is one of those special features you can easily add to your web site with fantastic impact.

Animated images are like a strong spice. A little bit goes a long way. Don't put more than one animated image on the same page of your web site. It looks very confusing when several animated images are moving at the same time.

WARNING!  Do not send animated images in a portfolio of your work or in emails. These animated .gifs are compressed files. Because the image keeps moving it is not suitable for close inspection. The limited color selection and compression means that these images are not suitable for print. GIFs are a fantastic option for an animated image on your web site, just keep in mind the limitations.

Frankly, I am not sure if Web 2.0 social networking sites will support animated images. The sites often say that they will accept GIF images files, but when I tried to upload an animated GIF, the animation did not work.  I have a feeling that animated images are best on your own web site. CLICK HERE to see how I used this animated image on my web site as an example. 

One more issue related to animated images: Make sure you include the ALT tags (image description) in the HTML code for better SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for your images.


Create an "image description" for every artwork.

When you have selected which images will represent your work, you need to immediately compose an "image description."  The image description is a permanent supplement to your photographic image. Once created your image description can be used over and over in a wide spectrum of opportunities. Copy and paste the description into jury applications and exhibition opportunities and when posting your images on line with Web 2.0 social networking like Facebook, Crafthaus and more! In addition, include it in your own  Inventory Record, Artist Statement, press releases and art/craft newsletters.

Reality Studded with Thorns Hides the Front Door from the Street.tihf
Reality Studded with Thorns Hides the Front Door from the Street Photo Credit: Philip Cohen




 

Your image description should include the following.

  • Artist's name
  • Title of the work
  • Copyright symbol
  • Date of work
  • Media or materials
  • Dimensions (height, width, depth)

Here is what my image description looks like if it were printed on an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper. CLICK ON THE BOX below to see this example clearly.
SlideDESCRIPTION
 
Sometimes I will include a very brief description of a unique aspect of a particular piece such as opening,closing or functional aspect not apparent in the photo. CLICK ON THE BOX below to see this nice a clear.

Bermanbunsdescription 

Your image descriptions can develop professional opportunities. Give your superhero images the captions that they need.  Use every opportunity no matter how small or large to give the viewer the information they need to understand and interpret the photos of your work.  

BUNSinOVEN- Bunsoven_back 

Jurors, editors, and curators  always want to select the best  work, but in reality all work submitted is evaluated on the quality and interpretation of the photographic images.  Give the jurors as much insight as you can with an appropriate image description.  

For more information, use the two new documents in the Professional Guidelines to help evaluate your photos. The Guide to Professional Quality Images offers concrete issues to consider in your photos.  Working with Digital Images Effectively will assist you in practical aspects of digital images.


How to "name" your digital image files for distribution.

 

YelRUFFLE
Ruffle Bracelet
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

Collection Museum of Art and Design

Every time you send your digital images to a fellow artist, writer, editor, customer, store, gallery, or museum, the "name" of your digital image files can help the recipient organize your images for easy use and more likely exposure for you.

Effectively "named" digital images will assure that your files stay together on another computer and not get lost or mixed up with other  images.

A document in the Professional Guidelines titled Working with Digital Images Effectively offers solid information for the arts community. I suggest that you take time to review this document for more comprehensive information about digital images.


 

Names for digital image files should include (in this order): 

 

BermanObverseObsessions_front
Obverse Obsession
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Use your last name at the beginning of your image file names and adopt this as a consistent method when you send your images.

Here is an example for my images.  I added my first initial because my last name is common. 

  • berman-h-aol-earring.tif  (all lowercase example)
  • Berman-h-identity-chair.tif.  (lower and uppercase)

BermanPenguinDrop72 If you are sending a large group of images that you want to stay in a particular order (not alphabetical), add a number immediately after your name.

  • berman-h-1-bad-earring.jpg
  • berman-h-2-Penquin-Drop72.jpg
  • berman-h-3-aol-earring.jpg
  • berman-h-4-candy-earring.jpg

Do not add spaces or an underscore (_) in the file name.

  • bermanh_greenbr.doc

AOLBlue72 Try to make sure that your image names actually identify the photo and relate to your image description.  Generic names like "Earring1"  or "earring2" make it difficult to remember which item is in each file.  Instead use a descriptive name such as:

  • berman-h-blue-earring.jpg
  • berman-h-hearts-earring.jpg
  • berman-h-eye-earring.jpg

ConvHeart72 Capital letters are discouraged in web images.  If your images are for a web site, use lower case letters only. 

My web images are saved at 72dpi.  So I add "72" to the image file name to easily distinguish which are my web images.

  • berman-h-conversation-heart-72.jpg

This post is part of a series on improving your digital images and photography. Stay tuned for more practical and proactive tips for professional success in the coming weeks. 

RELATED POSTS:

4 TIPS to Improve Search for Your Images

Know your digital image file extensions and how to use them?

Best sizes for images and what format?

How to "name" your digital image files for distribution.

 


Know your digital image file extensions and how to use them?

Understanding the file extensions on digital images is a fundamental skill for managing your digital images. The most commonly used digital image file extensions are:

  •   .jpg
  •   .tif
  •   .gif
  •   .raw
  •   .psd

Immediately below are definitions for these terms borrowed from the Professional Guidelines document, Working With Digital Images Effectively.

JPEG is usually shown as  .jpg and .jpeg on your digital image file names.
JPEG is a file extension used specifically for images.
JPEGs are compressed images and consequently smaller files.
JPEGs can contain millions of colors.
RECOMMENDED APPLICATION: JPGs are good for emailing images because they are smaller files.  JPG is also ideal to upload to social networking sites such as Facebook or Crafthaus.  The compressed image files are ideal for these applications because they use less file storage space.
CONCERNS: Do not send JPG images for print media such as books or magazines. The compression of the images compromises the quality of the print image.

TIFF is shown as .tif and .tiff on your digital image file names.
TIFF is a file extension used specifically for images.
TIFFs are uncompressed image files and thus are larger.
TIFFs can contain millions of colors.
RECOMMENDED APPLICATION: TIFF is an excellent format for print-quality 300 dpi images. The large file size is usually too large for email.  Instead, burn your TIFFs on a disc and mail them (the old fashioned snail mail way) or use a file uploading service such as YouSendIt.com

CaD-a
California Dream Teapot
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

GIF is shown as .gif at the end of your digital image names.
GIF is a file extension used specifically for images.
GIFs are compressed image files.
GIFs contain only 256 colors.
RECOMMENDED APPLICATION: GIFs are the only extension that supports animated images which may include multiple or automated imagery. What is an animated image? It is just like the image to the right. If you want to see more animated image examples go to my web site and CLICK ON ALMOST ANY IMAGE.  Most of my website images are animated images.

PSD is shown as .psd at the end of your digital image names.
PSD is a file extension for images used only in Photoshop.
PSDs are uncompressed image files.
PSDs can contain multiple layers and millions of colors.
RECOMMENDED APPLICATION: PSD is a file extension for images that can save all your graphic design work and layers for future editing.
CONCERNS: The problem with sending PSD images to other people is that the images are usually too large to email and the recipient can only open a PSD file if they have Photoshop or a compatible photo editing software on their computer.  Not everyone owns PhotoShop or photo editing software, so check in advance before sending a PSD to anyone (including magazine and book editors).

RAW is shown as .raw at the end of your digital image names.
RAW image files contain the actual data captured by the camera sensor without any in-camera processing; these are the only files containing “pure” data. Working with camera RAW files gives you maximum control; you can set the white balance, tonal range, contrast, color saturation, and sharpening. Think of camera RAW files as your photo negative or original slide. You can reprocess the file at any time in Photoshop or image editing software to achieve the results you want. To create RAW files, you need to set your camera to save files in its own RAW file format.  RAW creates the largest possible image file in your camera.

RECOMMENDED APPLICATION: Book publishers often ask for RAW files to avoid amateur (poor quality) Photoshop modifications.
CONCERNS: The problem with sending RAW images to other people is that the images are usually too large to email and the recipient can only open a RAW file if they have Photoshop or a compatible photo editing software on their computer.  The professional photographer that I use to photograph my work will not send RAW images, but he will send TIFFs.

Hope this information helps you understand digital images better. It takes a little practice to understand digital images but this is the future, so don't resist learning the digital technologies. If I can learn this, anyone can.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Images, Marketing, and Superheroes

The photographic images of your work can be like superheroes at promoting your work.  They can zoom across the Internet at the speed of light, shrink to the size of a first class postal envelope, expand to super viewing size, keep working 24 hours a day, and show up in galleries, shows, homes, and offices around the world. 

Berman RECYCLE Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman in Fushia & Blacka
RECYCLE Fushia & Black Bracelet
© 2011 Harriete Estel Berman
Recycled plastic
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

This is a really important concept for artists and craftspeople to embrace.  All of us hope that many people will see our work in person, however, it is a near certainty that many more people can or will see the photographs of your work in print or on the Internet.

Your images can be in every library and every home in books, magazines, or the web constantly introducing your work to new audiences.

Champagne 5-30-07 Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman
 Champagne Bracelet
 Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

The photographic images of your work are the most powerful networking tool that you have in your possession. Yet all too often artists and craftspeople are not properly using or adequately developing this "super ability" available to everyone.

Paddleboat Teapot Bracelet by Harriete Estel Berman
  PaddlebBoat Bracelet with Tea © 2007
  Recycled tin cans
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
  Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

It is a false economy to think that you are saving money by taking your own photos with modest consumer level cameras lacking professional quality backgrounds, lighting, and other advanced equipment.  Is there any wonder that such pedestrian images are not performing as well as hoped for?  Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to promote your work.

 


If your trying to take your own photos learn from the experts.
The 2011 SNAG Professional Development Seminar offered a series of lectures with tons of information that will help you take better quality images. Find them all on the Professional Development Seminar page on my web site.

Oreo Bracelet by Harriete EStel Berman photographed by Stevie B Photography
Oreo Bracelet  © 2001
Recycled tin cans, brass,
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Steven Brian Photography

It is time to create your own personal superheroes!
Take a look at your images with a critical eye. This is not in the negative sense, but with the perspective of careful comparison to truly high quality images. Are the photographic images of your work achieving the high standard and visibility that you aspire for your work?

 

 

 

Use the PROFESSIONAL GUIDELINES

Use the two new documents in the Professional Guidelines to guide you in this evaluation.

The Guide to Professional Quality Images offers concrete issues to evaluate your images. Here are a few highlights covered in this document in more detail.

TIPS FOR BETTER PHOTOS:

Start with the focus, exposure and composition of the images. Every single element needs to be exactly 100% correct and interesting. Avoid over exposure, under exposure and harsh highlights.  Don't settle for "good enough."  Just like your work, everything should be perfect.

BadIMG_BraceletW Your photographic background should be white, grey or graduated light to dark.  Avoid distracting backgrounds such as leaves, branches, logs , stones,  or grass (as in this photo).

Colored, wrinkly and textured fabric or paper (as in the next photo) are not a good choice either.  These stylized attempts fail almost every time because they detract from the primary purpose of the image: to have the viewer focus on your work.


BadIMG_ear_fabric272 Fill the entire photographic image with your work. A common problem that I see is that the object or artwork is too small within the picture plane (as in this image) or shot at an odd angle. Be bold and confident; fill the picture frame with your work.


GrassCUside72
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

The close-up image should be memorable also.  The close-up image needs to convey a ton of detail information about materials, texture, and techniques within your work.  It should be like an intimate revelation of key elements that make your work special. 

Take time to evaluate your photos objectively and constructively.  Get in-depth, analytical opinions from friends, colleagues or your Critique Group.  Don't let them give you a polite passing comment.  Really dig deep and evaluate the elements of the image.  Use the criteria established in the Professional Guidelines Guide to Quality Photographic Images as a foundation or checklist. 

Money Game  Flower  Brooch by Harriete EsTel Berman ASK Harriete offers many posts on "superhero images."    Learn how your photographic images can work for you more effectively.  Check them out!

If you have examples of good and bad photo comparisons that you are willing to share, please send them to me for a new Professional Guidelines document with photographic examples.

Harriete 
www.harriete-estel-berman.info 


Do not add text to your photos!

Your photos are your best marketing tool.  Unfortunately some artists have stepped over the line and added their name or their business name into the photo. This distracts from the primary purpose of your photo which is to show your art work or craft at its best.  Anything else is a distraction and lends a commercial appearance that is inappropriate for fine art or fine craft.  All other information can be added elsewhere, just not in the photo. (Information for your photos will be covered in the next post.)

Do not add data to your photos.  Do not add your signature, date, object's title, artist's name, company name, business name, watermark or Etsy shop name to your photos.  Keep your photos absolutely clean so that they can be submitted for all sorts of opportunities like books, magazines, local newspapers, gallery promotions, juried shows, exhibitions and on line social networking sites.

When you take photos of your work, create a set of photos that will be suitable for as many opportunities and applications as possible.  And make your work so memorable and unique that everyone recognizes your work even without looking for the artists name. This is your signature!

Stay tuned for additional posts on photographic images and refer to the Professional Guidelines documents:

GUIDE TO PROFESSIONAL QUALITY IMAGES

And

WORKING WITH DIGITAL IMAGES EFFECTIVELY 


Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Your photos are your best marketing tool.

Artists often wonder how they can promote their work more effectively. There are many paths but they all start with having fabulous photographs as your number one marketing tool.  The Professional Guidelines now has two new topics to help you evaluate your photographs and advance your professional development.

The two new Professional Guidelines documents are:

Guide to Professional Quality Images

and

Working with Digital Images Effectively

Use these two documents to evaluate your photos. Over the next few weeks this blog will offer a series of helpful hints for promoting your work with your photographic images.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info