Don’t become Human Spam

Human Spam is a concept introduced in the book “Show Your Work!” by Austin Kleon, which is the follow up to the bestseller “Steal Like An Artist”.

The concept of Human Spam is basically someone who puts out a lot of output but doesn’t consume any input.  Think of the writer who never reads or the photographer who never looks at other people’s artwork.

Human spam says “look at me, look at me” but doesn’t return the favor.

The chapter in the book reads “Shut Up and Listen” which is tried and true advice.  When you listen or see other peoples ideas, thoughts and work, it is something that you can absorb and learn.

The writing community is full of lame-o people who want to be published in journals even though they don’t read the magazines they want to be published in, ” says writer Dan Chaon.  “These people deserve rejections that they will undoubtedly receive , and no one should feel sorry for them when they cry about how they can’t get anyone to accept their stories.”

Human spam.

If you want people to go to your art opening, you need to go to theirs.  You need to support the scene not just take.   The experience of art is a two way street between artists, fans, other artists, the press, etc.  Its not “I’ll drop this amazing work for my fans to snatch up”.

To avoid becoming human spam you have to remain a fan and continue to be curious within the art world.

 

Austin Kleon, Show your work

Austin Kleon, Show your work from Confab Events on Vimeo.

Good work is all about process, yet we tend to only share the products of that process, and not the process itself. Learn how opening up and sharing your process brings you closer to your audience, adds value to your work, and makes you better at what you do.

Useful Articles for Artists

A compendium of articles about art and the art business for artists. A valuable resource of information for artists about the art business.

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6 Reasons to Love Pop Art

I’ve been creating a lot of pop art lately. My subjects range from TVs to classic VW buses. I’ve been exploring colorful and repeating themes. What has drawn me to pop art lately has been this long drawn out winter. Who doesn’t like a injection of bold colors and classic subjects that speak to fun and perhaps summer? Here are a few reasons that I personally like Pop Art. See if you agree”

1. Pop Art is fun. Lets face it, when you visit a museum, the pop art section is pure fun after looking at all of the carnage, rape, war, beheadings etc in the old masters section and the sorrowful commentary of modern society in the contemporary art section. The pop art displays are pure, unadulterated fun.

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2. Pop Art is approachable. Taking clues from popular culture, pop art’s subjects are things the general public deals with every single day. From soup cans to superheros, Pop Art reflect what we like best about the world around us – food, entertainment, products, consumption.
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3. Pop Art has no hidden meanings to decipher. Sure complex artwork is intellectually challenging and fun when you have the inside scoop on the hidden meanings and symbolism behind the work but often one attends a modern art exhibit and leaves with the feeling the joke is on the ticket buyer. Pop Art eliminates by simply presenting itself honestly and openly. No hidden meanings except perhaps making a statement on our commercialized world. Pop Art simple states that art is part of the overall commercialism and isn’t somehow above it.
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4. Pop Art is affordable. Prints, silkscreens, books, products – pop art embraces mass production and modern reproduction methods as such there is more available at lower prices than that one of a kind oil painting. It fulfills its message that we live in a world of industrialize, mass produced products.
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5. Pop Art is cheerful. Usually pop art deals with bold colors, fun subjects and wild design. Rather then put you in state of depression, pop art is typically an uplift experience that might just bring a smile to your face.
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6. Pop Art has a sense of humor. Artist dealing with everyday objects and elevating them to something worth of hanging on a museum wall have to have a wicked sense of humor. And the nice thing is the public is invited in on the fun.

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What is Pop Art?

Pop art is now most associated with the work of New York artists of the early 1960s such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Claes Oldenburg, but artists who drew on popular imagery were part of an international phenomenon in various cities from the mid-1950s onwards. Following the popularity of the Abstract Expressionists, Pop’s reintroduction of identifiable imagery (drawn from mass media and popular culture) was a major shift for the direction of modernism. The subject matter became far from traditional “high art” themes of morality, mythology, and classic history; rather, Pop artists celebrated commonplace objects and people of everyday life, in this way seeking to elevate popular culture to the level of fine art. Perhaps owing to the incorporation of commercial images, Pop art has become one of the most recognizable styles of modern art.

“Pop is everything art hasn’t been for the last two decades. It’s basically a U-turn back to a representational visual communication, moving at a break-away speed…Pop is a re-enlistment in the world…It is the American Dream, optimistic, generous and naïve.”

Robert Indiana

How to Sell Yourself Without Selling Out

“Unlabel – Selling You Without Selling Out” by Marc Ecko is a great lesson on following your own path and getting past the gatekeepers – those who think they matter, the curators, gallery owners, teachers – to reach the goalkeepers the actual fans, users, buyers of your creative work.

The book follows Mark Ecko’s path from overweight nerdy grade school-er to owner of Ecko UnLtd a billion-dollar fashion and media empire. Along the way lessons and mistakes are make as a brand strives to maintain authenticity while growing from niche to mainstream.

Embrace pain, take risk and at all costs be yourself. You are a brand – it’d down to you to create something, authentic, and lasting.

It is the gatekeepers of the world who make it their business to label you like a product on a shelf but its the goalkeepers who matter – the consumers who can only be reached by peeling off the labels and unleashing the power of your personal brand.

Master Photographers: Andreas Feininger

Feininger was by training an architect who was unable to support himself in his profession and so began doing architectural photography.  By the end of the 30 minute interview and a visual sampling of his work one can see the obvious connections with engineering.  Feininger seems like a person who was very precise in his thinking and his work.  He is able to speak quite clearly and directly about his intention and motivation. He knew the science of photography and worked with his equipment to achieve specific results.  He even built his own cameras.

Hot Air Balloon Art

Hot air balloon in Vermont
Hot air balloon in Vermont
A colorful hot air balloon floats over the Quechee covered bridge near Woodstock, Vermont.

Edward Fielding sold a 15.50″ x 20.00″ print of Hot Air Balloon Woodstock Vermont to a buyer from Worcester, MA

Note: The watermark in the lower right does not appear in the final print.

A colorful hot air balloon floats over an old covered bridge in Quechee, Vermont.  Note – this is the old Quechee covered bridge before it was destroyed by the flooding waters of hurricane Irene and then replaced.
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Landscape photography by Edward M. Fielding

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The Quechee Bridge is a one span 70 foot long steel stringer bridge. It carries Waterman Hill Road, in Quechee, the over Ottaquechee River. This bridge was built in 1970.

The Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival

The longest continuously running Hot Air Balloon Festival in New England is at its traditional location on the Quechee Village Green. The festival has been chosen by Yankee Magazine as one of the top 20 events of summer. It features over 20 hot air balloons.

Vincent Versace “The Lens is the Brush” | Talks at Google

The Lens is the Brush, The Camera is the Canvas, the File is the Sheet Music and the Print is the Symphony

 

In this talk, Vincent Versace will discuss his use of cameras, digital infrared black and white, the choice camera resolutions for what he shoots, as well as the lenses and software he uses and why. All focused towards one goal: the print. It is not about taking a photograph, but how to be taken by a photograph. The file may be everything but the print is all.

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Google has a series of lectures in which photographers were asked to come and speak at Google office.  Thankfully for photography fans, Google has made this fascinating series of talks by photographers available to all via YouTube.

AtGoogleTalks (or @Google Talks or Talks@Google) is a series of presentations by invited speakers sponsored by Google given at various Google offices throughout the world. The series has feature categories such as Authors@Google, Candidates@Google, Women@Google, Musicians@Google and others. For technical topics, there is Google Tech Talks (also known as EngEDU[1]) which is dedicated to exploring areas of technology and science. Guest speakers range from present and past world leaders to little-known poets and artists. Talks range from about 40 to 70 minutes. As of February 2009 there had been over 1700 guest speakers.

I particularly enjoyed Vincent Versace’s talk after enjoying his book “Welcome to Oz” which provides a cinematic approach to digital photography and how one can use Photoshop to post process images, create dramatic lighting effects and image harvest.

Image harvesting is one of Vincent’s skill sets and it shows up a lot in his work. He often takes multiple photographs of a certain scene and then combines them for the final print.

Photoshop is not a verb. It is a noun. It is the means to an end, not the end itself. Vincent Versace

In the talk Vincent describes how his collection of lens and camera are brushes in his work. Certain cameras serve different purposes as well as lenses. As Vincent points out all lenses can produce a point of sharpness. That is what they are created to do. But that plan of focus exists at a single point and the rest of the image has varying degrees of un-focus. Since the unfocused area of the image make up the majority of the image, this is why you buy one lenses over another. Better lenses produce better unfocused areas or bokeh.

By understanding the quiver of arrows in his bag (camera bodies and lenses) combined with what he can accomplish in post production provides the brushes for his artwork.

I enjoyed Vincent’s rather eastern approach to the art of photography with his references to martial arts and the Art of War. It refreshing to listen to a real artistic approach to photograph rather than a product review. Its much more difficult to talk about the creativity behind photography then it is to talk about sharpness graphs and megapixels.

A still photograph is called a still photograph because the picture doesn’t move, not because the objects in the picture are not in motion. The photographer’s mission, should he decide to accept it, is to capture motion with stillness.Vincent Versace
In Vincent’s view the process of photography is in service to the magnificent end result which is the print.  This is one of the best Google Talks on photography in the series.

Books by Vincent Versace:

When you are ready, success will come



I was hanging out with a group of artists at the AVA Gallery in Lebanon, New Hampshire, my hometown arts center where I had a few pieces on display in the Holiday Arts member show.  There were young artists just starting out and older more established artists in the twilight of their careers.  The younger artists were eager to learn from the seasoned artist about how to make it in the art world and how to make sales.

One of the respected well known artists in the group had this to say:

When you are ready, success will follow.

I thought this statement was rather profound. In any career, the freshly graduated are eager to seek success, but there really aren’t any shortcuts to the top when building a career. Ask any one hit wonder in the music world if they would rather have a chance to do it all over again. Perhaps have that hit single when they were ready to back it up with a full album or even a developed style. Maybe then they would still be putting out music instead of waiting on tables and picking the occasional royalty check when some gets a hankering for a “Best of the XXs” CD or a period movie soundtrack.

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Any career is a series of small steps all leading towards a goal. Each step along the way one learns more about the business, their art and themselves. The short gamers fall out as its gets too tough and their passion is too weak. Along the way growth and maturity occurs as the artist develops their style and unique vision. They begin to find their own special way to put their mark on the medium of choice. Or they find out that being an artist was just something they thought they wanted instead of discovering that being an artist was something in their soul.

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My own journey has been a series of steps in which I’ve found myself ready for the next step as my skills and creativity have developed. I got back into photograph after a long slumber as I focused my attention on job of stay at home Dad. Once the little guy reach the age of more independence I found myself rediscovering photography. There was a lot of learn as photography had transitioned from film to digital in my absence.

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Luckily the learning curve with digital is so much faster with the instant feedback available. No longer did I have to wait to finish a roll and send it off to the lab to see the results a few week after pressing the shutter. Even in my days of carrying around a vintage 4×5 Graflex press camera and shooting Polaroid Type 55 Positive/Negative black and white film in which you could obtain a rather instant negative (after a process of chemical pod spreading and water bath clearing), the expense of the film, $50 for ten shots, was prohibitive for learning and improving rapidly.

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I started out with an inexpensive camera quickly figured out that photography is an expensive endeavor. I sought out ways to earn money for better equipment. Discovering micro stock sites, I started submitting images to the agencies. Early on my rejection rate was probably around 99%. Undaunted I learned from the rejections. I started figuring out the technical requirements (microstock site have some of the highest technical standards in the industry) and learning the business so I could provide the type of images that were in demand.

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You will find success when you are ready, Grasshopper. I started seeing more of my images accepted and some sales start to happen. I still did not have the quality needed to get into some of the market leading agencies that required a portfolio review to join. So for three years I concentrated improving my skills. Then when I thought I was ready, I re-approached the higher level agencies and was accepted. This required leaving exclusive status with the first agency so I took a six month financial hit when I became a free agent. But eventually I worked my portfolio with the new agency to achieve better results.

By this time I was starting to become tired of producing the same technically proficient images that everyone in the game was producing. I invested in professional equipment, learned studio lighting and started producing more creative, artistic work. I started selling prints on fine art sites.

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When you are ready…When my technical and creative skills reached the point of artistry I started selling prints on a regular basis and began creating a deep portfolio of images. From this I was able to create a series around a particular theme and package it as a book for more exposure.

My book “the Quotable Westie” was both something to sell as well as a promotional vehicle and a way for people to be introduced to my artwork.

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Learning the promotional and business side of being an artist and putting it into practice lead to my discovery by a gallery in Berkshires who requested I show my work at their photography show.

Fine art photographer Edward M. Fielding at the Gallery W photography exhibit.

When you are ready…At this point I was ready to expand into a higher level of stock. I approached a small boutique, curated stock collection which specializes in the book cover market. Accepted by the owner, I started to develop a portfolio of book cover worthy images and sold a few book covers as well as editorial magazine images.  With higher quality product and exhibiting along with higher quality artists, the financial rewards are also at a higher level.

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Working with the book cover market allowed me to discovery new ways of introducing more story telling into my work.  I started to develop a more cinematic approach to my work.  I also improved my post processing skills to further enhance my imagery to create the images I see in my mind.

Now I have a multi-pronged but interconnected group of markets for my photography and artwork, always striving for the next level of quality.  The next level of achievement along a long career path.

An art career is a staircase with several landings along the way to the top.  The goal of reaching the next landing requires learning and skill development.  There is no elevator to the top and no ways to skip a step along the way. You build your career one step at a time and you will know when you are ready for the next one.– Edward M. Fielding