Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Keeping track

Almost every AOM entry has a unique number, although not in sequence. The number is the shortened URL of the prospectus or other information, with the digits representing the first issue it was published in. Fo example: AOM138a, AOM138b, and so on. You can leave off the "AOM," as that is the prefix for each. If you use Adobe Reader, Adobe Acrobat or one of the other readers, such as Foxit Reader, you can search for the number or any other unique word or phrase in the entry.

If you print AOM, you can use the page numbers plus the position on the page; for instance, "18+2" would mean page 18, two down from the top, "9-4" would mean page 9, four up from the bottom.

If you are not using the sophisticated search features of a PDF reader, you should give it try. Say you want to find all the grants, simply open the universal search box and enter grant. That would give you a list of everything that had that word in it. You want to find things in Chicago? enter "IL 606", things in SF and the greater SF Bay Area, use "CA 94", etc. The secret: the two letter state abbreviation followed by the first two or three digits of the ZIP code, depending on whether you want a city or the general area including the city. Of course, for the state, you'd use just the two-letter code. Works for media (see the code key), for things that are free to enter (search for "No fee"), etc.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ma'am, Drop the Pencil and Back Away from the Easel

From the Benicia CA police report:

7:35 p.m. [Sep 15]: A woman called and complained to police that someone was doing drawings of her daughter. Police arrived and asked the artist to stop drawing. The artist complied."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Brick Lane Gallery Stumbling

AOM subscribers with work in the AOM gallery are getting emails from the Brick Lane Gallery in London. The writer says she "stumbled across" the artist's work on the "Arts [sic] Opportunities Monthly website and was really impressed with your work. "

The gallery describes itself as a "rentable gallery space." But "rentable" simply means vanity: you buy your way in. As I have stated many times, there are very few advantages to showing your work in any kind of vanity space and many disadvantages.

The advantages are that you get to see your work outside of your studio and having it on your resume will impress your co-workers and relatives who don't know anything about art. The disadvantages include: having it on your resume will negatively impress those who do know something about art -- the real dealers and collectors -- and in fact will often be the kiss of death; it will cost you a lot; and the odds of your selling enough to meet your expenses are terrible (real collectors steer clear of such places although tourists may not know any better).

There are programs which can search the Web to find art-related sites and copy all the email addresses. Brick certainly used one of those (although a human with very low salary requirements could do it by hand) and then sent everyone the same email.

Love your work, baby! Let's do lunch.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Celeste Prize Deadline Extended to Sunday 7 August, midnight

Celeste Prize has sent this announcement:

Artists entering the prize may also be selected for other exhibitions organized by Celeste, residencies, an art course, receive priority exposure for their work, and of course our continued pledge to open and verifiable selections by our prize committee:

How do artists submit artwork to the prize?Link
If they are already registered onsite: simply click on the orange button 'Buy / Renew Prize 2011' in their personal admin.
If they are not registered onsite: they should register http://www.celesteprize.com/eng_auth_login/ , and then upgrade by clicking on the orange button 'Buy Prize 2011'.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Business Plans

It's popular now for emerging artists to have business plans.

I think it is important for a beginning artist to not have a business plan. For the first few years out of art school, or the equivalent if self taught, the artist needs to be concentrating on her art practice and, as far as the business end of it goes, learning what's out there -- going to galleries, juried shows, other venues. A sort of post graduate course if you will.

When the time comes to enter the market, a business plan is often a good idea. But the main advantage of making one is thinking through the possibilities and working out which seem most suitable for your particular type of work and personality. The document should never be the goal; it should be the result of working out which plans of action seem best, at least for now.

It's important to get as much feedback on the plan as you can. People may come up with objections or cautions or courses of action with things you hadn't thought of. And keep in mind, that every criticism is simply data; it's what you do with it that counts. A negative comment may make you re-examine an idea or belief but ultimately cause you to be even more firm that it would be the right thing to do.

The odds are that as you get more information, as various things happen, as you carry out your plan, you'll have to change it. There's a character in Joseph Heller's "We Bombed New Haven" who says something like, "Things never turn out the way they were planned." The guy to whom he is speaking says, "That's really cynical." To which he replies, "No, I didn't say they turn out worse, only different. Sometimes better, sometimes worse."

Virtually every business that stays successful makes changes, sometimes radically so. Shell Oil, for instance, was originally a shipping company. They got stuck with a couple of tankers full of oil the intended recipients couldn't pay for, so they sold off the oil and discovered selling oil was more profitable than simply transporting it.

I forget their name now, but the biggest computer company in the UK for a long time started out as a pie company. In the early days of mainframe computers, they needed a program to keep track of all their orders and deliveries. One didn't exist, so they started building one. Soon, no more pie, but maybe pi.

The goal of a business is to make the biggest profit it can for as long as it wants to, while avoiding those things that would get it in trouble with the law or the taxman.

The goal of the artist, however, is to keep painting. And the reason for painting is not to produce paintings but to make the discoveries that end up in the paintings. And here we get into a realm too difficult to articulate in a few words, but you know what I mean.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How to figure your price before commission.

If you know how much you want (your share) for a particular work you have entered into a competition or are showing in a gallery, how do you figure out the selling price?

If the commission is 50 percent, it's simple: just double your price.

For any other commission, the basic math is really the same, but since the relationship between the two numbers isn't as obvious, you have to do step by step what you did so easily in your head above. And here are the steps.

1. Change the commission from a percentage to a decimal. To do this, simply remove the percentage sign from behind the number and put a dot in front of it. Thus 40% becomes .40 (or .4; they're both the same).

2. Calculate your percentage; that is, the percent of the selling price you get. To do this, subtract the commission (expressed as a decimal) from 1. Using .40 from above, you'd get .60 (1-.40 =.60). If you can't do that easily in your head,, add two zeros to the 1 and remove the decimal point from the commission, so 100 - 40 = 60, then put the decimal point back, so it becomes .60.)

3. Divide the your percentage (the result above) into 1. Go ahead and use a calculator if you need to, but if you can do simple fractions in your head, you'll quickly see that .6 is the same as 3/5 (6/10) and that dividing any fraction into 1 is simply turning it upside down, so that you'd come up with the number 5/3, which is the same as 1 2/3. If you did this with a calculator you'd come up with the number 1.67, which is the same.

4. Multiply the result from step 3, above, times your share. So if your share -- the amount you want -- is $1000, the list price will be $1670, which you could round off to either $1650 or $1700 if you want.

The formula is list price = 1/(1- commission) x your share.

Using the figures above:

list price = 1/(1-.40) x 1000
list price = (1/.6) x 1000
lit price = 1.67 x 1000
list price = 1670

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Macs Now Vulnurable to Malware

Many artists use Macs, because of their longtime reputation as being more user- and image-friendly than PCs. Windows machines are now probably just as good in their ability to handle images, but they don't excel in any sort of comparison except one: the number and variety of malware -- viruses, spyware and such -- that infects them.

Until very recently, Macs simply didn't have malware. That changed with the recent introduction of a very nasty program that puts a warning on your screen saying you have a virus. The warning is a lie but it could turn into a prediction. When you first see the it, you don't have a virus. If you believe it and download the fake antivirus software as instructed, however, you will. And that new malware will steal your personal and financial information. Big problem.

Apple has released an update that will protect against these new forms of malware, at least the ones that are in the wild. Not only should you get that pronto, make sure you have Software Update set to automatically check and install any new updates. That may not be enough but it is a start. What will help even more is if you do not believe any warning that pops up on your screen -- or comes via email. Google it to see what it really is. Prefer accounts on reliable sites such a www.pcworld.com, www.macrumors.com, www.zdnet.com or even Apple's support site (which unfortunately can be a little slow to react.)

For more information, see http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4650 and or http://xrl.us/AOMmacWarning ).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hear of this gallery?

Q: I came across this online gallery that charges a fee to show the artists work but the artist takes care of the actual sales, shipping and all that. It says it selects the work from that submitted rather than just showing something just because someone sends them a fee. Have you heard of it and is it a good deal?

A: Hadn't heard of it but always happy to find about such things. I did spend a fair amount of time looking through it.

It looks legitimate. Rather than having artists upload images, she links to the images on the artists' sites. Saves time and bandwidth for her. The question is whether you can realistically expect any return on your investment. Just having work sitting on a site calling itself a gallery doesn't mean there is a probability of sales.

If she isn't doing a lot of heavy marketing to the right kind of audience, she's just another one of the hundreds if not thousands of sites calling themselves galleries. There must be a total of millions of images on such sites, ranging from crude copies of popular commercial images or cartoons to sophisticated original work. So the chances of a casual surfer or shopper finding your work are tiny. The dealer has to invest serious time and money in finding and attracting a real market. So far, virtually all attempts at having a successful gallery selling original contemporary work online have failed. That's not to say a few artists here and there haven't done well, but they are the exceptions and they usually already had reputations and/or other ways of promoting their work.

A good rule is this: Whenever a site (or gallery or anything else) charges the artist money up front to show work, the owner -- the businessperson -- is saying she can probably make a better profit by getting money directly from the artists than by selling their work and taking a commission. And in so doing, she decreases her incentive to sell the work. Selling work is a time-consuming and costly affair, so why not just get the money directly from the artist and take the rest of the afternoon off?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Letter to an artist

What follows is a slightly edited copy of a letter to an artist at the start of her career and who took a couple of workshops and read a book about "how to get into galleries." She was quite excited and hopeful because the book gave her lists of Do's and Don't's and was explicit in its rules of how to become a success.

Dear -----

I said I'd write again and so I am. Perhaps the most important thing for someone just starting out to promote her work is confidence and the belief she has the necessary tools. You have been given that, so you are on your way.

What comes next is a lot of trial and error. I have known hundreds of artists in my lifetime and interviewed and written about several, some of them quite famous. The one thing I can say about all of them and career success is: they each did it a different way.

In the last five years or so, there has been an explosion of people becoming art-coaches and art-marketing gurus, often promoting the basics of merchandise marketing as ways to market art. It is important for an artist just starting out to learn about these things, but it is, I believe, even more important to adopt only those which fit ones work and personality, adapt those which need to be altered, and discard those which don't fit.

I'm betting that as time goes by you'll also learn that there are galleries and then there are galleries and then there are galleries and that the method of "getting into" one that caters to one type of clientele will get you shunned by a different type. And that even amongst any one particular type of gallery, different directors/owners will have different requirements and turn-offs about how they are approached, and even those will change as the owner/director's needs, desires and experiences change. That doesn't mean that one doesn't need to have good images and clearly written statements, etc.

But it sounds like you have a really good start and nothing I have written is meant to or should diminish that. It's really exciting. Let me know when and where your work is up on the _______ site. And good luck.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Some grant and other applications ask for a short bio, 100 - 300 words. This should be clear but not too detailed (that's what your resume is for).

It's just a thumbnail sketch, not a full blown portrait. The point is to give an overview of who you are. You can think of it as the answer to someone asking: "Tell me a little about yourself." If, in your answer, you start to list a lot of specific details, you would see your listener's eyes glaze over. You don't want that.

So: where you were born, where you live now, where you went to school if that is relevant, how long you have been a practicing artist (don't, for god's sake, say something like "as long as she can remember"), some twists and turns in your art career -- major changes in subject matter or medium, for instance -- what you have been doing lately and where you might be headed, and anything else that might give a sense of who you are. You don't have to include all of these things, of course.

Working ourselves out of a job

A subscriber recently wrote about why she would not be renewing.

"I have decided not to renew, primarily because AOM has been such a good resource that I am now busier than I ever imagined, and so for this year at least am not looking for new opportunities.

"Thanks so much for providing AOM and best wishes for the future."

We don't want anyone to pay for something they can't use, but I can't help wondering: if we didn't work so hard to find, edit and publish so many good opps would she still be a subscriber. The answer is that she probably wouldn't have subscribed in the first place, as she is, like so many AOM subscribers, a serious, intelligent artist.

We're about to launch a new free three issues campaign. The link is http://www.artopportunitiesmonthly.com/AOM_3_free_sub.html in case you want to pass it along to your colleagues who would like to find such a resource that is so good they may not need it in a couple of years.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Liability in Oregon

According to Oregon Statues 359.200 to 359.255, “'Art dealer'” means an individual, partnership, firm, association or corporation, other than a public auctioneer, that undertakes to sell a work of fine art created by another."

Section 359.210 (c), states: "A consignee [the dealer] is liable for the loss of or damage to the work of fine art while it is in the consignee’s possession where such loss or damage is caused by the failure of the consignee to use the highest degree of care. For the purpose of this subsection, the value of the work of fine art is the value established in a written agreement between the consignor and consignee prior to the loss or damage or, if no written agreement regarding the value of the work of fine art exists, the artist’s portion of the fair market value of the work of fine art."

And, furthermore, in 359.230: "Any provision of a contract or agreement whereby the consignor waives any of the provisions of ORS 359.200 to 359.255 is void. [1981 c.410 §7]."

Meaning, at least in Oregon, anyone showing or offering your work for sale -- regular art dealer, nonprofit gallery, virtually anyone acting in the capacity of art dealer -- is liable for the damage or loss, under normal circumstances, and anything that person makes you sign to the contrary isn't worth the paper it's written on.

I believe that you cannot sign away a right a law gives you, in this or any other state. I have a sharp lawyer looking into this whole question of liability for art work and will report on what I learn later.

Liability in Montana

According to lawyer Bill Frazier, writing in the March/April 2011, Montana Arts Council's State of the Arts, "In Montana, anyone taking possession of an artist's artwork, for show, sale, auction, gallery display or any other purpose, is liable for it, whether there is insurance coverage or not, and the liability cannot be waived by the artist."

Frazier, in private practice, was chairman of the Montana Arts Council for years.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

More on Gallery Liability

I'm still troubled by the information I got from the lawyer recommended by California Lawyers for the Arts. It doesn't jibe with what I had heard in various workshops and read elsewhere. I'll have to look into the matter further. In California at least, the law is pretty clear about artwork in a dealer's care.

According to California codes Civil Code, Section 1738.6 (c) an art dealer who takes in works by an artist on consignment is responsible for the loss of or damage to the work of art. It reads in substantial part:
(a) The art dealer, after delivery of the work of fine art, shall
constitute an agent of the artist for the purpose of sale or
exhibition of the consigned work of fine art within the State of
(b) The work of fine art shall constitute property held in trust
by the consignee for the benefit of the consignor, and shall not be
subject to claim by a creditor of the consignee.
(c) The consignee shall be responsible for the loss of, or damage
to, the work of fine art.

It goes on to state in Section 1738.8:

Any provision of a contract or agreement whereby the
consignor waives any provision of this title is void.

In plain English this means that a dealer is responsible for what happens to your work while it is in her/his custody and anything the dealer makes you sign to the contrary isn't worth the paper it is printed on.

Why this should not apply to a non-profit art center -- which is acting as a dealer when it accepts your work for a show from which it can be sold -- I don't know.

I don't want things to be harder for non-profit art centers, but my main concern is the individual artist. Even if it is true, as the one lawyer told me, that insurance for the individual artist is cheap, allowing the art center to absolve itself from all responsibility is disrespectful toward the artist, and, as I mentioned before, only encourages carelessness and poor security from the center.

In my opinion, forcing the artist to sign a release of liability only further marginalizes the artist and the value of his/her work. If the law is indeed what the one lawyer said it is, wouldn't it be so much more respectful for the center to say something like this: "We have a very meager budget but we value your work highly and will do our very best to see that it is not damaged, lost or stolen. If, in the unlikely event something should happen to it, we will work with you to make it right to the best of our ability."

Comments and information welcome.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A couple of selections about AOM from Caroll Michels's "The Newsletter." (Michels is the author of How To Survive and Prosper as an Artist: Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul, 6th ed), generally considered one of the best books on the subject:

Art Opportunities Monthly is now providing a completely free version of “their highly acclaimed opportunities list for visual artists. The new AOM Free is the largest free list available anywhere. Each entry is vetted to eliminate the scams and the for-profit soak-the-artist schemes that flood other lists and sites. Each issue of AOM Free contains 250-350 carefully screened and condensed entries, delivered as a PDF directly to each subscriber's email address. There are no passwords or URLs to remember. Each issue may be read with Adobe Reader or other such free programs or may be printed in part or in whole. Each email and URL is hot, so the user can send an email or go right to the prospectus for more information or to apply. There is also a sophisticated search system to find listings by media, geographic area or terms such as ‘grant’ or ‘no entry fee’.” Link: http://www.artopportunitiesmonthly.com/freeversion.html

- Be sure to check out Benny Shaboy’s blog http://aomednotes.blogspot.com . He is the editor of Art Opportunities Monthly (see above). He provides insights into some suspicious so-called “opportunities for artists,” and dialogues with AOM subscribers. In the AOM Newsletter he writes: “Unlike other services, we do not knowingly include outright scams, for-profit galleries that charge fees to enter, individuals pretending to be galleries or contests that exist only to take money away from artists.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

Artist Trust Revamped Site

Artist Trust has launched a "fully re-engineered new website." Their mission "to support and encourage artists of all disciplines in order to enrich community life throughout Washington State."

In our opinion, the new site, both in content and design, is one of the best of its kind out there.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cartier Award Postponed

Frieze Foundation's Cartier Award, which allows artists living outside the UK to realize a major project at Frieze Art Fair, has been postponed. An announcement of its new deadline and entry requirements is expected in late January.