Friday, January 25, 2013

People Fund Success....How To...

I had the good fortune last night to attend a lecture by Thomas Werner.  He's an Assistant Professor, past Photography Program Director, and current co-chair of the Faculty Council in the School of Art Media and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design.  Other accolades include: former Chelsea gallery owner, curator, State Department's cultural representative for the USA in Russia, photography consultant for COACH, Rodale Publishing and successful commercial photographer.  The official title of his talk was "The Artist as the Producer" or "how to spend other people's money to support your art work".

An intelligent, practical insight into the world of grant writing, Thomas provided a detailed deconstruction of actual grant applications and discussed the required elements.  Even though I could share some of these more technical strategies of a detailed grant application, I want to focus on the motivational and marketing axioms that most artists either fearfully approach or neglect altogether.  Here's a sample of some of Thomas' just plain brilliant guidelines, questions and thoughts that made incredible sense; for example:

  • Ask yourself, "Who needs to fund my work?"
  • The outcome of your work should affect multiple communities
  • People fund success; build your credibility
  • We limit ourselves to what we think we can't do
  • Aggregate importance
  • Success builds; this brings gravity to what you do
  • Success gets funding but it doesn't guarantee the next step
  • How does what you do/did get you to the next step?
  • Let people learn about your success so your next step is created
  • Manifest yourself in multiple ways
  • When riding the wave of success, plan for the next wave
  • Keep your sponsors happy
  • Always remember to thank your sponsors (e.g., at the end of a presentation, follow-up thank you letter)
Overall these guidelines are not rocket science but do require practice, forethought and a strong dose of confidence.  In today's art market, the artist has to generate visibility and develop new revenue streams in order to not just survive, but thrive!  So keep the rah-rah guidelines in the back of your mind when you venture out to develop and fund your next personal project.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Experiment: Art of the Mundane

In the northern climates of long winter months it's often an effort to maintain one's routine of going outside to explore potential sites let alone haul equipment to even capture images.  It's always something.....below freezing temperatures or mounds of snow to contend with.  But take heart, even the most inspired minds and willing bodies need to kick-start their creativity now and again. That's why I'm sharing this "inside day" experiment I created for myself last winter when the environment was just too intolerable.

This experiment might seem a bit bizarre but the mindset was to continually challenge myself and fine tune my skill of "seeing".  The hope is that I would not only see the beauty in familiar objects of my indoor environment, but at the same time continue to build a collection of images over time that would develop into a cohesive theme.  The additional benefit was to use my equipment to my advantage, without any constrictions or restraints.
The experiment consisted of these basic parameters:
  • Stay indoors
  • Focus on familiar objects, scenes, or elements of everyday life
  • Slow down enough to actually "see" what you take for granted or pass by on a daily basis
  • Take a playful approach to using your equipment...."what if"
  • Create art from the mundane
Mundane 1
© 2011, Joanne Scherf
Mundane 2
© 2011, Joanne Scherf

I can happily report that the experiment in "seeing" and searching for "art of the mundane" was extremely successful.  I have tons more images for my new collection that I liked but I think you get the idea. So it's not all that crazy to spend a day indoors, out of the winter elements, to just play.  You'd be surprised at the outcome!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

3 Steps To Getting Published or Into Juried Exhibits

It's that time of year to review the professional opportunities available for the new year of 2013.  More specifically I'm talking about submitting and gaining acceptance into professional fine art publications, juried exhibits and such. Long term it's always a good idea to target a few opportunities and identify the submission deadlines.  More short term however, it's critical that you familiarize yourself with the details; one small misstep and your chances of acceptance are decreased considerably.

This is all leading to a short introduction as how to actually accomplish this; that is getting accepted into fine art publications or juried art exhibits.  Actually the process isn't rocket science but it does require some thought, and yes, attention to detail.  I've tried to reduce it to three easy steps; see for yourself.

#1:  Do Your Homework
This sounds minor, but it's such a critical step.  A mismatch here could lead you into a situation where your work would go unnoticed and land on the large pile of rejections, even if the image is magnificent.  Review the fine art photography magazines on a regular basis and you'll soon get a sense which one (or several) makes a nice fit with your particular niche.
  1. Target publications and/or juried exhibit that suits your style of photography
  2. Assess your competition; review past winners and identify what "got in"
  3. Research the juror panel for any clues to background, likes/dislikes, image preference, etc
  4. Identify any patterns among the style of winners and juror panel preferences
  5. Assess whether you have images that fit the profile

#2:  Follow the Rules
Beware of the details.  Yes it's tedious to follow the long list of specific standards and requirements but be forewarned.  Better that your work should be rejected on its own merit rather than be tossed aside because you submitted too many images, wrong file extension or resolution, to name just a few.  This is the 2nd step of 3 so you're almost there.
  1. Follow the guidelines for file format (psd, jpeg, tiff, etc)
  2. Follow the guidelines for image dimensions (sometimes specific length or width is mandated)
  3. Follow the guidelines for file naming conventions (e.g., your name, title, location, year)
  4. Follow the guidelines for resolution (dpi)
  5. Follow the guidelines for color space and bit (8 vs 16) requirement
  6. Check the required image quantity; don't exceed it
  7. Review what other items are required (money, separate image list, contact info on CD, etc)

#3:  Edit, Edit, Edit
Did I happen to mention you should edit?  Editing one's own work is next to impossible because of the myopic perspective one gets; besides it's hard to shake the emotional connection you have with your images.  So this step will definitely require several cycles before you have the "a ha" experience.  Never trust your first pass, go with your gut and seek a trusted second set of eyes.
  1. Start with a large selection of images and perform several cycles of editing
  2. Review previous winners and keep that in mind on successive edits
  3. Review the juror panel and keep that in mind on successive edits
  4. Edit and then "sit on it" for a few days before going back to do more edits
  5. Self-edit even more
  6. When you've edited down to a manageable and somewhat final selection, invite editing and comments from trusted sources; not just those people who always agree with you
  7. Take another break for a few days and then do your final edit
One final word.  Give it your best shot and submit your entries with confidence.  Photography is such a subjective business that even though you have exceptional images it might take a few attempts to break into the publication or juried exhibit circuit.  Keep in mind that the juror panel often changes from year-to-year so if you don't get accepted one year, try the following year because odds are that the panel will be composed of different people.

Overall,talent is imperative but it isn't everything.  Patience, perseverance, and resiliency are the true characteristics of a successful artist.  If you don't succeed the first time, try again until your talent is recognized.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Image of the Month: January 2013

Another year begins.  New challenges, new opportunities and more questions await.  As I pondered which image to highlight I kept coming back to a series.  It's not that the subject matter or composition is all that extraordinary but I truly liked the not so subliminal messages.  I found the message of DREAM, LAUGH, EMBRACE and VISUALIZE as particularly appropriate to get the juices flowing at the start of yet another year.  Although brief in delivery, the key words hold great potential depending upon one's translation.  Have a great 2013.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

© 2012, Joanne Scherf


© 2012, Joanne Scherf

© 2012, Joanne Scherf