I said "2012" as if it was a certainty but it was actually 2011. That was the year I set up five pinhole cameras in the window of the New Britain Museum of American Art overlooking Walnut Hill Park. Four and a half years ago.
One of these images was printed on paper for an alternative photography show in New York juried by Christopher James. It was a small 8x10" piece. It looked ok but I was not convinced this was the way to present these long exposures. I also had a light box made and although it was more interesting, the quality wasn't as good as I had hoped.
So, when I say this is the first time I've had these images printed and am very happy with the results-- it's mostly true. It's the first time I've had more than one printed and the first time I'm happy with the results. The aluminum panels are the best physical presentation I've come across.
I did large scale projections before and that was an experience to be immersed
in these light images at 10 feet high.
It's the second day of open studios in New Haven, aka City Wide Open Studios (CWOS.org), and a steady stream of interesting people stopping in with good questions. I'm tired though, still fighting the head cold I've had for a week, and more than a few nights of substandard sleep isn't helping. But the energy it takes to do this I get back x10 from the interest of the people who come through with their own unique perspectives: Young people who've never used a film camera, older people who remember their own experience with oatmeal box pinhole cameras, photographers who "know all about it" but there's actually much more to "it," and fellow artists and friends with encouraging feedback.
All year I'm alone with my work and then I get two days (12 hours) of steady feedback and questions from 100s of people. It's something I look forward to.
(Camera Lucida Diagram)
It might seem as though I haven't been doing anything since last October, but I have been busy. Unfortunately not so much with art.
I did find some time to prepare and put up more pinhole cameras a few weeks ago and in the process found an old cam from two years ago!
I haven't had the chance to scan it yet, but I hope to very soon.
The sign-up for CWOS (City Wide Open Studios) is happening now. I have a lot of work I want to do but not sure if I'll have things ready for October. I have to set a side some time to think about what I want to do and prepare: Use the ole Project Management skills/experience I have to make it happen.
I don't want to promise tons of new pieces since I really only have three months to prepare. It seems like a lot of time but it's really not. I have some new ideas and new work I want to do based on some things I've already done. Hope to start in the next few weeks.
Last week, at this time, I was operating on less than five hours of sleep for the seventh day in a row, trying to finish preparing for City-Wide Open Studios and the curator led tour Friday night.
I was prepping the studio, in general, meaning moving all of the stacks of storage bins and boxes, and art project remnants out of sight, to have a nice, clear, open space for people to come in and see my art.
That part, the preparation of the artwork, as still in flux. Not only did I have to figure it out, I had to come up with something practical, technically appropriate, and it also had to be curator-ready, not to mention accessible for the average person to view and understand. This was all on my mind while I was moving box after box, and packing up loose ends.
As of Wednesday night, I still wasn't exactly sure how I was going to present the pinhole camera project, my most recent work, to the curator led studio tour.
It may have been all that time moving around 3-D objects, or inspired visions due to sleep deprivation, but I realized I wanted to present both the thingness of my process as well as the unique, intangible properties of light and image.
My artist statement, the personal narrative about the work, was also in gestation. It was there, here in my brain, in fragments, but nothing really cohesive. Not until I started talking about it did I come up with what I thought made sense. Always a struggle, I approached this version of my artist statement with the idea that it can be good enough, no need to be perfect. And from there, I was able to relax and just write in a much better frame of mind.
Then I put pen to paper and jotted down some key points. I moved to the computer and started to work from a previous draft, incorporated some of these new thoughts and phrases and kept paring it down until the essence of what this project was all about was clear and distinct.
Back to the installation challenges:
There were technical issues to consider: the paper negatives are fugitive, still light sensitive.
I needed to protect the paper negatives from exposure to light and from handling.
I wanted to display the pinhole cameras but didn't want to put them on a shelf or a table.
I needed to devise a way to display the metal cameras, and wanted to do it with as little hardware as possible.
Then there was the challenge of presenting the digital positives.
My idea was to go ahead with a large projection. I could actually see it, in my mind, the end result, and I knew I could make it work. I've created unique installations before. This one was no different, but it was. I had to ask myself, would a curator be OK with this?
And with that question, I began to doubt myself immediately, to the point where I was searching online for confirmation that it was an OK thing to do. Somewhere, I thought, I'd find my doppelganger out in the artworld that was doing things without doubts. I didn't find him.
And the handful of art people I talked to had differing opinions ranging from don't do it, to yea, that would be cool.
So, I decided to go ahead with the projection. Put the paper negatives in shadowboxes and cover them with rubylith cut to size, install the pinhole cams on top of the shadowboxes and secure them with strong magnets.
I loaded the digital images in Keynote, the Mac version of powerpoint, but realized the transitions I wanted weren't going to work, so I reloaded all of the images into iMovie. I hadn't used iMovie in a while so I forgot how to turn off the annoying Ken Burns effect. (Ken Burns, I admire a great deal but this effect should not be the default.)
After I got the images and transitions the way I wanted, I exported to Quicktime and played that as a loop. ON the laptop screen it looked good.
I borrowed the projector from Artspace and the dongle (aka the connector for the Mac to projector) from Catalina (this year's Artspace Artist-in-Residence). I climbed onto the top of my darkroom with the projector, adjusted the keystone effect and got the image to the size I wanted, exactly how I imagined it would fill the wall.
All that had to be done at that point was sweeping the floor and getting ready to talk about my work.
[illustrating the point, awesomely, Melanie Gillman: http://www.melaniegillman.com/]
Thank you Weebly for being smart enough to save my post as a draft. I thought it vanished when the battery died.
Had a reminder of the value of an artist's time yesterday. It makes sense to say you should never give away your valuable time (knowledge, skills, experience) in a business scenario. And always paying even alittle something is better than nothing.
The comic makes a good point: why should an artist be treated differently? Well, it's because we're living IN A WORLD WHERE ARTISTS ARE NOT VALUED, (A la Don LaFontaine)
And I can tell you, people only value what they, um, er, value. What the market will bear, is another cliche but based in reality/truth.
It IS about marketing.
Tastemakers: Alittle Art History:
Without Clement Greenberg or Lee Krasner, or even Pegs Guggenheim, you might never have heard of Jackson Pollock, let alone seen work by him hanging in major museums. Krasner saw value in Pollock. As did Guggenheim. But it was Greenberg, who gave Pollock positive press, that made an enormous difference.
So, you can give away your artwork until you create some positive buzz. You can set your rates at a professional level and expect to be paid for your professional expertise. Or you can do both. It's really up to you.
There's a bad precedent of not paying artists (and I include designers and writers in this). But slashing prices and underbidding are also realities. As is creating some good will. But good will can be had by keeping your rate/prices at a professional level AND adding some value, like quick response times or free delivery.
It doesn't make sense to give it away from the buyer's viewpoint either. I got it for free, or BOGO (buy one get one) makes sense for the grocery store, but it doesn't really say much when it comes to artwork or creative output.
I did what you're not supposed to do, so learn from my mistake. Don't write for 45 minutes with out noticing your computer battery life. There's nothing like spending tons of time on something and then seeing it all vanish because your computer didn't warn you you had a low battery.
I'm charging now and at 53%, yay.
There’s a simple formula for figuring out your hourly rate: add up your costs / expenses and divide by the number of hours spent on the project. What’s missing here? Profit.
Profit is above paying yourself above and beyond your actual costs. It’s your salary plus a %.
Say you want a profit of 10%, then figure out your actual costs and tack on 10%.
Let me break it down for you:
Costs / Expenses to include:
So, if you can add up your costs for the year, or a typical month (use caution here, as some month’s expenses will exceed your average) you can divide by the number of hours you will likely be working at your BusinessArt.
Add up all of the ACTUAL costs for the past month:
number of hours on BusinessArt that month: 40 hours
880 divided by 40 = 22
$22 / hour is the break even hourly rate, meaning, meeting all of the expenses for the month.
The price you set for your artwork should reflect your time and materials. Yes, there’s some circular logic in there, since some materials costs are already factored into your hourly rate. But if you have to purchase any special materials to create the artwork, have it framed, etc. those are the hard costs for the specific artwork.
So additional materials costs specific to a body of work consisting of ten pieces: $1500
Divided by the number of pieces (10) = $150
+ your hourly rate to create each piece (10 hours each at $22/hr) = $220
Total break-even price of $370 per piece.
That would be if you sell all ten pieces.
What if you only sell one piece?
Then don’t divide the $1500 by 10
Leave it at $1500 $1500 divided by one piece = $1500)
add the 10 hours per piece x ten pieces (not just the one) = 100 hours
100 hours at a rate of $22 per hour = $2200
So one piece would go for $1500 + $2200 = $3700
That would be the break even price if you were to sell only one piece of an entire body of work.
Again, that’s the break-even price.
Now, figure out your profit.
10% of $3700 = $370
Is that enough to meet your living expenses plus some extra for savings, special occasions, or meeting some unexpected expenses along the way (e.g. car repairs)?
One month living expenses: $2000
Add $3000 to the $3700, and the price nearly doubles to $6700 for one piece, or $670 if you can sell all ten.
That's almost 100% "profit" if you double your prices.
So, somewhere between $670 and $6700 is your artwork price if you want to maintain your current living expenses.
Things to consider: What the market will bear?
Maybe you think $670 is way too high? You can always lower your prices, but expect to have to supplement your income by doing non-BusinessArt work.
Maybe you think $6700 is too low? Maybe you want even more profit, or have extra cash on-hand to set-up a retirement account, save for a downpayment on a house, pay for college, etc. Well, add that into the equation.
There are no real rules here, except what’s legally OK as far as taxes are concerned.
Parallax 2012 - 2013, West Rock, Digital Positive of Paper Negative, Solargraphy (c) 2013 Colin Burke
The above image is from the handmade pinhole cameras I out up on West Rock Ridge last summer, and retrieved a couple of weeks ago.
Still thinking about how to present the images. Ideas...There may still be a week left in August, but it might as well be September. The deadline for signing up for City-Wide Open Studios is 9/6. In my last post (has it really been three months?), I was all about re-focusing on deadlines.
The truth was, and is, I am very deadline driven. It was my NEW tricky way to try to fool myself into thinking my deadline was earlier that fouled me up. Kind of like when I used to set my clock ten minutes fast. I always KNEW it's ten minutes fast so it never did anything other than give me something else to think about.
But I digress... City-Wide Open Studios in New Haven is set for October. The kick-off party is October 4th at Artspace New Haven. The following weekend, October 12 and 13 is Open Studios Weekend at Erector Square, where I have my studio.
So, I have a few weeks to get some things together for that. Maybe some new work. Could be exciting to do a new series of cyanotypes.
And that is what will keep me busy between now and 5pm October 13.
Colin Burke's observations on becoming, being an artist, art related news and analysis, features, reviews, tips, popular culture and historical references, facts and creative non-fiction.