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August 2009

Photo Editing: Learning to use PhotoShop!

Photoshop Many of my recent posts have talked about the importance of learning how to use photo editing software like PhotoShop or PhotoShop Elements.  Knowing how to modify, touch up and re-size your digital images can be a highly effective tool for every artist and crafts person.  Gaining skills in PhotoShop means you can edit your images AND produce your own marketing materials such as postcards and announcements.  This expands the possibilities to promote your work and enables you to take control of your marketing efforts.

PhotoshopTOOLS The Professional Guidelines topic Working with Digital Images Effectively offers some guidance but it is not a tutorial.  To learn how to edit photos and images, you need to take some lessons from a graphic design expert or take a class at your local community college or adult education classes.  One more alternative is online tutorials.  I will briefly discuss the merits of each option below.

Learning from an Expert    Taking lessons from a graphics expert might be a reasonable option.  If you have a friend who is an expert in PhotoShop, you could offer to trade some work or pay them for on-going lessons. 

Take a Class    Taking a class at your local community college has great merit.  Tuition is inexpensive and class schedules are usually very convenient.  You are also making a commitment to improve your skills.  One additional advantage to taking a class is that you may be able to buy the PhotoShop software at the student price. This is a significant savings and well worth taking the class.

Online Tutorials    There are numerous online tutorials that you can easily find with a dedicated search effort.  Online tutorials are often very inexpensive and you can learn at your own pace.  However, when you have a question, the lack of human interaction can sometimes be frustrating.  

LogoLYNDA My favorite online tutorial is Lynda.com which accommodates several tutorial options.  I like the yearly subscription because it provides access to tutorials for many different software applications such as Illustrator, InDesign, PowerPoint and Photoshop Elements. I even found tutorials for Flickr and Twitter (just to name a few of the many programs available) and learned some nifty tricks in the process.  I learned DreamWeaver through Lynda.com online tutorials and manage my own web site as a result.Dreamweaver There are over 650 different tutorial topics!

If you don't want the software subscription, you can purchase a CD tutorial for each software application. I am a BIG FAN of Lynda.com! The videos are really easy to follow and use.  Most artists are visual learners so it makes a lot of sense to watch a video for each skill and then practice it on your own.  Learning these skills from a book just doesn't work for me. Go to Lynda.com and look for some of the sample videos the site allows you to test for FREE.

There are also free software applications on the Web for editing your photos, but these are very basic and the features are intended for editing family photos. To create the superior quality images needed for your artistic success, you should strive for higher level skills, effects, and capabilities.

500HANDMADEbooks Beyond the Basics    Be sure to learn beyond the basic features.  Keep in mind that amateurish photo editing is a professional "no no."  No book nor magazine will accept your photos if poorly (or inappropriately) modified.

Having the ability to edit professional quality photographic images can save you a lot of money and significantly expand your promotional opportunities.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Save your rejection letters for the I.R.S.

Are you saving your rejection letters?  Even after getting such disappointing correspondence, STOP! Don't crumple it up and throw it away! This letter might have value.

REJECTsculpture
One of my many REJECT Letters
If you don't have reject letters
you aren't testing your boundaries.

Put that letter in a "Reject File"  in the back of your file drawer.  Yes, all the way in the back so, hopefully, you will never have to look at it again.  Everyone gets rejection letters.  Hey, my reject file is close to two inches thick.  But this file may help you at some point in the future.

IF the I.R.S. ever questions whether your business is a "hobby" or a "business" . . . these letters demonstrate and verify from third parties that you are diligently pursuing your professional efforts to market your art and craft work. This is only one step in keeping good records and improving your business practices.

So after shaking your head over the news, stuff that letter where it belongs.  Then get back to work and keep your focus on what is important.

Stay tuned for an ongoing series about other ways you can prove to the I.R.S. that you are a business instead of a hobby. 

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


What if a show has no insurance?

7extinctioncover.JudyHoffman
Extinction Book
Judy Hoffman

Dear Harriete,

Would you put your work in a show that has no insurance? Would you try to get your own, or do it as a group? Or send lower-priced work? Or just pass?  I'm wondering what to do about an invitational show at a local arts center.

Judith Hoffman
http://www.judithhoffman.net
http://www.judithhoffman.net/blog/

Judy,

I have frequently been asked this question.  For me, whether an exhibition includes insurance or not is always a deciding factor about whether I show my work or not.  The exhibition space must have insurance or I will not send my work to a show. 

PencilProjectMakerFaire_b
Harriete working on the Pencil Project
Metal Arts Guild display at Maker Faire

There have only been a few minor exceptions to this rule such as when I was at Maker Faire with the local Metal Arts Guild.  At Maker Faire, I was standing right next to the display, all the work was in a very heavy locked case, and I showed less important work.

Insurance during shipping is a related matter.  You can buy insurance for shipping from the shipping agent.  I try to use the U.S.P.S. (United States Postal Service) if possible for shipping my work.  At the post office, it is easy to either purchase insurance or send the work registered mail, insured for better handling.  Unfortunately, they have size limitations for the boxes they will handle.

Alternatively, the exhibition sponsor might have insurance that will cover the work while in transit.  Check with them in advance before shipping your work.

Make sure that arrangements for return shipping are handled in a similar manner.  Personally, I do not consider shipping work by UPS acceptable for one of a kind art or craft. Check in advance how the exhibition sponsor plans to return your work.

It is always your responsibility to pack your work carefully and professionally so that it will arrive safely.  Shipping companies DO NOT accept responsibility for damaged items - even if it is insured -- if it is not packed properly. Stay tuned, there will be a new Professional Guidelines topic about Packing and Shipping Art and Craft in the coming months.  In the meantime, if you ever need it, there is an excellent Professional Guidelines topic titled, "Artist Checklist: Claims for Damaged Work."

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


An intern's response about his internship experience.

This summer I had a student intern, Elliot Gaskin, from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, Ca. (Please read the previous two posts about internships for more information.)  After the internship was over, I asked Elliot to write a response about his internship experience.  Here it is:

Elliot Gaskin
Elliot Gaskin

FROM: Elliot Gaskin,
As a senior at the in Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California, I expressed interest in finding an internship to the director of Metal Arts Jewelry Program, Charlene Modena. Based on my academic standing and credits I was approved for an internship.

My interest in pursuing an internship began when a close friend and fellow classmate raved about her experience as an intern. An internship at Academy of Art University hip seemed like a great way to get my feet wet in the real art world. A few phone calls were made and an inquiry was published in the local metal arts guild letter by my director.  I was told that Harriete Estel Berman was interested in an intern.

Gaskin.50Pulleys
50 Pulleys Installation         2008
Elliot Gaskin, Photo:  by Ian McNemar

Two months later, I began my internship.  During the 7 week summer semester, I spent 135 hours as Harriete’s intern and learned an amazing amount of new and useful skills, tips, insights and wisdom!

This was a great opportunity to be "in the moment/life" of an extremely hard working successful artist. During the day, I watched her write emails, talk to museums and collectors, put together her artist packet, ship work, write professional guidelines, make aesthetic decisions, maintain her website and do a million other tasks, all at the same time.

Gaskin.PulleyRing72
Tagua Ring from the Pulley Series 2008
Elliot Gaskin,  Photo: Ian cNemar

Harriete was very open to my questions and ideas. She spent time critiquing my photos and the work I brought in. We also reviewed parts of my "artist packet."

I also enjoyed working and learning from Harriete’s three assistants, Emiko, Terry and Margo. They each had a different role in the studio. Some days I helped Emiko photograph work and on others, I assisted Margo as she personalized Harriete’s artist envelopes and did many other tasks. Terry showed me how Harriete stays organized on her computer and keeps track of all of her artwork, photos and documents.   

Gaskin.FashionJewelry72
Wire Necklace from the Pulley Series
Elliot Gaskin,  Photo Credit: Bob Toy

The experience was short, but well worth my time. Valuable information was learned that isn’t offered in any class. I got a great taste of the future and the world outside of school.

Best Regards,
Elliot Gaskin


Internships: Who benefits from this experience?

Harriete_Elliot72
Elliot Gaskin, my intern helping me at
Maker Faire. 2009

For the past six weeks I've been working with an intern from the local Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California   It has been an interesting and productive experience for both of us and only the second time that I ventured into this arena.

I have two children in college and have been aware of how valuable it is for young adults to gain real world experience.  I felt that giving an internship experience to a local student was my way, in part, to support all young people in advancing their careers.

The internship program sponsored by the Academy of Art University, San Francisco was fairly open ended but included the following statement in their materials:

The difference between an Internship and Employment
The difference, as set forth by the Department of Labor, for purposes of determining whether or not individuals must be paid for their work, is as follows:

An individual is an “employee,” and must be paid, if his or her activities benefit the company more than they benefit him or her. An individual is an “intern,” who may or may not be paid, if his or her activities benefit him or her more than they benefit the company.

Dilbert_front72
Dilbert Bracelet (front side)
from the California Collection

I learned that there is a real concern that some interns are exploited as cheap labor.  Basically, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that if the internship involves extensive productivity from the student and will not be allowing the opportunity for college credit, an intern must be paid for his or her work.  Consider carefully whether the internship falls under the category of Employment or Internship for credit.

I did some research on my own. This information is included in a previous post with more detail about the regulation of internships. 

As part of my internship effort, my intern and I covered a broad  range of professional practices, including:

  • Internet: Web sites, Dreamweaver, 2.0, blogs, SEO;
  • Images editing: Photoshop;
  • Image organization and Image Descriptions;
  • Promotional materials for galleries and museums;
  • Packing and shipping work ;
  • Preparing pedestals and didactic materials for exhibition;
  • Artist Statements;
  • Studio work: hallmarking, time management, pricing, studio maintenance;
  • Professional Guidelines;
  • Lecture preparation;
  • Tons of opinions about surviving as an artist;
  • and much more.

Dilbert_back72
Dilbert Bracelet  (back side)
from the California Collection

This was just a brief summary of the topics we covered.

In my next post,I thought that my intern, Elliot Gaskin, could talk about his experience as an intern.

In the meantime, have any of you had an intern or an internship. What did you think was the best and worst part of the experience?

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Intern or Employee? Legal issues

Dear Ask Harriete,

I've been thinking about finding an intern to help me with my small business. They could get valuable experience.  However, are there any legal restrictions or implications?  Can you help?
Signed,

Internship in need

Windows_full
Windows of Memory
Installation Dimensions:
75"height x 108"width x 19" depth

Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

 Dear Internship,

With this slow economy many students and people are looking for a new career and may be looking for internships to gain experience in a particular field.  Many people, especially students, may be willing to work for little or no money to gain such experience. The flip side is that many small businesses (such as artists and craftspeople) may consider having an intern because they don't have a budget for hiring an employee.

The issue boils down to a simple principal;  An intern is not free labor.   An internship must be a learning experience for the intern.

Quoting Jay Zweig, a labor lawyer at Bryan Cave in Phoenix, AZ;  "An internship, to be unpaid and legal, needs primarily to be a learning experience for the intern and not something where the intern is expected to produce work product that is going to benefit the employer."  Continuing, Zweig said. "All it takes is one disgruntled intern, or their parent or spouse or friend , to call the U.S.Department of Labor, and the company who follows this type of exploitative advice is toast," he said.   "The government is becoming increasingly aggressive in hunting down these situation.”

“The bottom line: You can’t just call people interns to avoid paying them..”.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has developed six criteria for differentiating between an employee entitled to minimum wage or above and a learner/trainee who may be unpaid. The criteria for learner/trainee are:

   1. The training, even though it includes actual operations of the facilities of the employers, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school.
   2. The training is for the benefit of the student.
   3. The student does not displace a regular employee, but works under the close observation of a regular employee or supervisor.
   4. The employer provides the training and derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the student; and on occasion, the operations may actually be impeded by the training.
   5. The student is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period.
   6. The employer and the student understand that the student is not entitled to wages for the time spent training.

Not all six factors have to be present in order for the individual to be considered a trainee. The experience, however, should look more like a training/learning experience than a job.

Windows_cu2
Windows of Memory (close-up view)
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Employers often question the fourth criterion -- that the employer derives no immediate benefit from the student's activities. This seems to contradict the contemporary practice of the use of internships by employers and colleges. To make the experience educationally valid, the same way that a student working in a college laboratory is expected to become actively involved in the work at hand, an intern is expected to participate actively in the work of the company. Several DOL rulings, while not directly addressing the criterion, seem to suggest that as long as the internship is a prescribed part of the curriculum, is part of the school's educational process, and is predominately for the benefit of the student, the fact that the employer receives some benefit for the student's services does not make the student an employee for purposes of wage and hour law.

For a valid internship position, you should be able to answer "yes" to at least half the following questions if an unpaid internship is being contemplated:

   1. Is the work that you are offering an integral part of the student's course of study?
   2. Will the student receive credit for the work or is the internship required for graduation?
   3. Does the student have to prepare a report of his/her experience and submit it to a faculty supervisor?
   4. Have you received a letter or some other form of written documentation from the school stating that the internship is approved/sponsored by the school as educationally relevant?
   5. Will the student perform work that other employees also perform, with the student doing the work for the purpose of learning and not necessarily performing a task for the employer?
   6. Is the student working and providing benefit to you less than 50 percent of the time and/or is the student in a shadowing/learning mode?
   7. Will you provide an opportunity for the individual to learn a skill, process, or other business function, or operate equipment?
   8. Is there educational value to the work performed, that is, is it related to the courses the person is taking in school?
   9. Is the individual supervised by one of your staff members?
  10. Is it clear that a job is not guaranteed upon completion of the training or completion of the person's schooling?

Source: Rochelle K. Kaplan, Legal Counsel, National Association of Colleges and Employers, 62 Highland Ave., Bethlehem, PA

Windows_cu1
Windows of Memory (close-up view)
Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

I hope this is enough to answer your question.  I am an advocate of internship programs that provide a learning experience for people, young or old.  I believe that an internship is a situation in which you are giving at least as much, if not more, than you are receiving.

For more information and personal perspective about internships, read the next two blog posts about internships. The first about my experiences with my summer intern, Elliot Gaskin, and the second Elliot's feedback about the internship.   

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Listen to Harriete on Blog Talk Radio

Harriete self portrait slight smile copy.72
Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: Aryn Shelander

Last week I jumped in with both feet to a new technology on the internet - Blog Talk Radio.

The program with Jay Whaley is regularly scheduled for Thursday afternoons.  I was interviewed "live" on Thursday, August 6, 2009.  You can listen to past interviews at any time via streaming audio or download the program to listen while you walk or exercise.

If you'd like to hear a fast moving interview about my work, the Professional Guidelines and more, go to Blog Talk Radio with Jay Whaley.

 

Are your image descriptions the best they can be?

Your image description is an important ingredient in the successful presentation of your work in all media. The image description can play many roles. Once written, it can be used over and over in multiple applications and situations.  Too frequently, artists are not taking full advantage of this important opportunity in developing an identity for their work.

Your image description should ideally be short and to the point. It is NOT an artist statement or bio. It should include:

  • Title of the work
  • Copyright
  • Date of the work
  • Name of artist
  • Materials
  • Dimensions
    • height
    • width
    • depth
  • Photo Credit

If your work has a mechanism or some element that is not apparent in the photo, add one short sentence about this feature in the description.

WomanizerFULL72 Write the image description as soon as you complete the work. Then you can use it over and over.  Get in the habit of including the image description EVERY TIME you  show your work. This includes all postings on the web for Facebook, Flickr or portfolio sites like Crafthaus. There is no excuse for not posting your description. It only takes a few minutes to copy and paste the description into any situation.

Do NOT use the term "mixed media."  It is not descriptive enough to help the viewer figure out if you used oil paint, or nail polish, glitter, sequins, rhinestones or gemstones, oil paint to enamel, just to mention a few scenarios.

Avoid using "fluff" terms that might be found in a T.V. commercial or print ad or catalog.  Terms such as "designer,"  "showcase," "special," etc. are not appropriate in your image description.  A selling situation is completely different than an image description. If you are selling your work or describing your work for a catalog, then you can modify the image description to suit a particular context.

Place or link your image description with all your work that appears online. This is not conceited self-promotion, this is sharing information with your viewers. 

Your image description can also be used for on line jury sites and applications. Keep the information to the facts. Advertising verbiage is inappropriate in this context. 

A sample image description is shown below.

Womanizer, Kitchen Queen    © 1982  Harriete Estel Berman

Blender body and lid are a painted copper construction.
Button panel has a plastic lamination with applied lettering reads:
     LOVE, HONOR, OBEY, CHERISH, MIX, BLEND, STIR, CREAM, SPREAD, BEAR.

Pierced Nu-gold brass lettering on button panel Womanizer, Kitchen Queen and
crown (Misstress of the Home).

Ballerina inside the transparent plastic blender container pirouettes in conjunction with the music by wind-up mechanism.                                            

15" height   x   5” width   x   5.5" depth

Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info


Email annoucements - Are yours effective and professional?

SAMPLE-ANNOUCEMENT-COMBINED
Sample postcard announcement
Front and Back are combined

In this day of modern technology it is acceptable to send an announcement by email. This can save money on printing and postage, and save trees. It is common for many people to have a larger list of email contacts than traditional mailing addresses. So sending out an announcement via email is definitely the way to go.  But far too many artists are making errors, I mean HUGE ERRORS, in the way they approach sending out email announcements.

DO NOT DO THE FOLLOWING:

DO NOT send an email with no text and only an attachment. Create an abridged version of the information and personal note in the body of the email. If you don't introduce yourself with a friendly note about who you are and the basic information included in the attachment, many people are not going to open an unknown attachment due to fear of viruses or spam.

Do not simply send two images of a scanned postcard (one of the front, one of the back).  Instead, take full advantage of PhotoShop (or another image editing program) and create a special internet version of your announcement with images and the information. This one item can be sent as an attachment. 

Try to make your email attachment as small as possible. Try not to send larger than 1 MB or 2 MB images. The best option and most professional is to send your attachment as a PDF.  PDF automatically compresses the file size of the attachment.  Most important, PDF's do not carry viruses and are safe to open. Your intended recipient will feel much more comfortable opening a PDF attachment.

I couldn't add the PDF to this blog, but a high quality PDF with images was slightly over 1 MB which is acceptable.

If you can't create a PDF, pay attention to the attachment file size.  As an example, I took an old announcement postcard, scanned both sides and combined them as one image (see example image above).   As a TIF at 300 dpi it was 23MB (which is too big).  When reduced to 72dpi and 8" x 10" it was 1.16 MB.  As a JPG at 72dpi using the SAVE FOR WEB option and compressed to 80%, it was 171KB.  A small file is a very courteous option to send as email.

TEST YOUR EMAIL FIRST before sending it out to your entire mailing list. Do a few tests to yourself first, then to close friends or relatives. Ask them in advance how the email looks when it arrives in their mail box with their specific computer or email program. Make sure it is working, especially if you are new at using a newsletter template or HTML EMAIL.

Harriete
www.harriete-estel-berman.info