Art, Work, & Business

April 19, 2009 at 10:34 pm (Uncategorized)

 I recently took a new job and surprisingly enough, I’m really liking it.  The time had come to bring in some steady income until there seems to be some clear signal that the economy is picking up. While I considered the job as a temporary gig,  I can already see many lessons to be learned on management, budgets and business. They are lessons that are not only NOT taught in art school, but lessons that we feel are not necessary to artists and how we do business.

 Maybe it’s the fact that it is so opposite is why I am enjoying it, and seeing it all as a new challenge. Pushing me onto a conservative business model is the polar opposite of where I have been the last few years, and working within  very strict parameters doesn’t seem as confining as I thought it would. In fact, it feels quite cozy at least for now.

I have to admit that as I am looking over spreadsheets, sales reports, and the proper way to set budgets, I am staring at all this information thinking “Shit, had I put these types of procedures into place, my life would have been a hell of a lot easier”.  The paper and forms in front of me seem to come to life with the names of art clients screaming at me saying:

 “If you did this, you could have made an additional $800 off the Collins job”

 “Didn’t you realize that the large job that sent you out of town would cost you an additional $900 in marketing since those three weeks out of town you were not able to market and were required to take two full days to catch up with bill paying and paperwork? You never calculated the true cost of your lost time”.

What I am seeing is a distinct difference between how the rest of the world does business, and how the artists do business.  As artists we are great justifiers, and can easily create a thousand reasons why we need to have a new set of brushes or a new brand of paint, an how our work will suffer without it. If the money is available, we feel we need it and buy it. After all, it’s professional development.

 Art schools should include business school with classes on maximizing profits, reducing costs, projecting budgets and payroll. We might think that a program like Quickbooks is effective, but it is only as effective as the information we plug into it.Most of us have found ourselves on large jobs with large price tags, and at the end of the job looked at the total profit only to find that the profit was far less than we had anticipated. Somewhere along the line, through labor costs, materials, job time, or another reason, something ate into the profit of the job and left us with the same amount of money as a smaller job would have but with much less aggravation. 

I’m not saying that my life would be much different if I had all those business skills, but more than likely, I would have received much more sleep, and been able to effectively charge my clients based off the true cost of doing business, not simply what the square foot price seemed to be.

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Nine Lessons To Learn The Hard Way

April 13, 2009 at 5:18 pm (Uncategorized)

If you enter into a creative field, there seems to be a list of lessons that artists always learn the hard way. At first, I thought it was a bad thing, but in retrospect, learning these things early, by living them, is far cheaper than learning them later down the line.

Putting your artwork in restaurants and model homes is a great way to get our name out there. Go ahead, try it. And after 6 months, try and retrieve your tomato sauce stained painting, or your cracked sculpture from the model home. There’s a good chance also that it is gone, and nobody knows what the heck happened to it.

First off, these people are not your market. Sooner or later, you need to spend the time getting your work in front of people that are looking to buy it. If you spent a year putting your work in restaurants, its a full year you didn’t market to the right people.

Local boutiques and speciality storesEvery town has a few boutiques and speciality stores that will hang artwork on a commission basis. Are they out trying to help artists? No, they are collecting free inventory to make their shop look better. And most think they are justified in charging outrageous commissions, up to 50%! For any commission larger than 10 or 15%, they should have a background in art marketing and promoting artists. If not, they are just using you to get a freebie.

Artist co ops are a great place to hang my work and make friends. Not all co ops are bad, but the majority are filled with insecure drama queens who love being the big fish in the small pond. They are full of politics, and are very friendly until your work sells better than theirs. Then, look out, which leads me to the next item.

Collaborating with other artists is fun and great networking. Let’s face it. This is a business, and it’s filled with alot of people who will never be able to get their business off the ground. Instead, they try to ride on the coat tails of others, thinking its an easy way to jump start their careers. Be wary of the friendly artist, chances are, they are out to use you.

To be an artist, I have to look the part. Cool, go buy a beret and walk around town wearing a smock. The truth is, if you stop being yourself, and begin wearing all black because “that’s what artists do”, then you have already sold out your unique vision, and will have a hard time creating anything worthwhile.

Take work based on what’s “to come”.Every creative person runs into potential clients who promise tons of future work and tons of referrals if they are happy with the price and quality of the first job. Your best course of action? RUN!!!  There is a very specific personality type that throws this type of comment out there. You will never get a referral and never get any future work from a person who makes this claim.  And they will make you jump through hoops to get paid off the original job.

Borrowing money from yourself against future work. You may have the work lined up, or have an agreement for future work. The reality is that you have nothing until it is in the bank. Borrowing from yourself thinking you have work lined up can easily send you scrambling or directly to the poor house. It only takes one time for this to happen. It’s not a done deal until the money is in the bank.

When times are lean, offer more services. There are many artistic business practices that operate the opposite of regular businesses. This is not one of them. When times are lean, you may have the idea to spread yourself out, and offer new and exciting services. The best course of action is to take your best selling, proven items and effectively market them. Every new item or service you offer requires marketing, time and money. And if times are lean, do you want to focus on learning how to market a new idea, or market something that is proven to generate cash and you already know how to market?

Online communities are great networking tools. Every field has an online community. And online communities all go through different phases and growing pains. For most fields, online communities play a vital role in professional development, NOT marketing. While it’s nice to create relationships with other people in your field, this time does not market you to your potential clients. Watch where you spend your time.



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Frescoes, Erotica and I Modi

April 12, 2009 at 10:31 pm (Uncategorized)


imodiThere used to be a show on PBS along with an accompanying column in Scientific America magazine called “Connections”, where the host took the viewer on a historic journey that connected, through events, people and technologies, people and inventions from the past, and created a road map that showed how seemingly unrelated items and people helped develop new technologies and artistic movements.

 There is a large part of Renaissance history that goes unnoticed, and minimizes many important aspects of art, connections, and technological advances. The main reason for the revising is that it deals with erotica. By leaving out or minimizing the erotic in Renaissance art creates a large gap  in technique, artistic theory, and how murals and frescoes played a vital role in the advancement of other artistic techniques. 

 While many are familiar with the erotic frescoes of Pompeii,  fresco painting in Italy during the Renaissance included a substantial body of erotic depictions. Mostly in private residences,  these depictions became the basis of future sculpture and painting in Italy, including Church commissioned pieces. One large commission in particular, in Palazzo Te, is a great case of collaboration between art forms, and in the theme of connections, helped further the art forms of engraving and print making.

Gulio Romano was an Italian artist working in the studio of Raphael, assisting Raphael in the commissions of the Vatican, and after Raphael’s death, took over the studio and finished many commissions, including  Coronation of the Virgin and the Transfiguration. To give a timeline perspective, much of his work alongside Raphael in the Vatican was done at the same time Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

After the death of Raphael, Romano was left in charge of Raphael’s studio, including finishing incomplete works, and carrying on the studio. After 4 years, Romano left the studio, which in many ways is rather odd. Of all the Renaissance painters, Raphael had business sense, and had his studios finances down to a science, and left a solid business plan in place.

 After leaving the studio of Raphael, Romano was commissioned to work in Palazzo Te, the recreational home of Federico Gonzaga. While much history is written that Romano left after the Sack of Rome, which diminished artistic patronage, there are writings that indicate Romano was planning on leaving Rome as early as 1521, with the blessing of the Pope.  It might seem a bit odd at first, considering Romano’s work in Palazzo Te would consist of large erotic frescoes. The reality is that the position of Pope was very much a political position, and artists were typically used as ambassadors of goodwill, and lent out for future political favors.

The frescoes at Palazzo Te would consist of erotic depictions of sex and sexual positions. As a sort of cover story, the individuals in the depictions were made in the form of the Roman gods and goddesses. Therefore not human, but deities, the sexual acts within were now slightly outside the realm of humans, and elevated to the gods, making them more acceptable.

The frescoes at Palazzo Te would become the inspiration for I Modi, a collection of sixteen engraved prints showcasing sexual positions and each accompanied by a sonnet.

   In the popular history, engraver Marcantonio Raimondi acted either on his own, or in collaboration with Pietro Aretino, a poet who created sonnets to accompany the individual prints based on the earlier work of Romano. The collection quickly became popular, and caused such outrage that Raimondi was jailed and Arentino was forced to flee Rome. Romano, on the other hand, was depicted as a victim, who’s work was appropriated by Raimondi and Arentino.

I Modi quickly became a commodity, and is considered one of the important documents in the history of reproductive prints. It’s popularity in bound form and  loose form as art prints signaled the beginning of reproductive prints using engraving, and was reprinted in various forms over the next 30 years, in many cases in the black market.

 There is evidence to the theory that Romano, Raimondi and Aretino collaborated from early on. All three had a history, with Raimondi also working in Raphael’s studio alongside Romano. Looking at Romano’s early plan to leave Rome and leave the fate of Raphael’s studio to fall, it’s more than plausible for him to leave Raimondi with sketches and drawings of the Palazzo Te project and in some form acted to either leave Raimondi with a plan for the future or plans on how to use the sketches. Only within church history  is Romano treated as the victim,  and this is the popular history we have today.  It seems more than likely for Romano to be spared by Pope Clement VII for political purposes, as Clements relationship with Romano was close, and would have caused Clement much grief if Romano was seen as a conspirator in the I Modi saga.

I Modi is still considered a pinnacle document in art history, and the concepts of collaboration of various art forms , fresco, poetry and printing, that would help create new technological advances in art and printing make it more valuable, especially for modern day artists.

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Western Sexual Mysticism

February 20, 2009 at 1:44 am (ramblings)

 I ran across this great article on Western Sexual Mysticism, the subject of which fascinates me more as time goes by.

In a way, the article taps into the core of what I find fascinating. Various forms of mysticism change over time. Interpretations become reinterpreted, and often times, their original intent and meaning becomes lost. The changes happen so slowly, like erosion, and the original meanings are often hard to pinpoint, except through the work of people like Joseph Campbell.

Sexual mysticism, on the other hand, changes like an earthquake,  a quick fracture that often leaves the original meanings intact, and many times can be pinpointed to a specific event, political figure, or era. Even within the Christian faith, which in many cases likes to deny to existence of previous interpretations, changes in sexual mysticism happened quickly. Polyamory, even among priests, was acceptable until 1139, when Pope Innocent II voided multiple partnerships among priests. Augustine’s rise to power within the church brought about much change, bringing with him many bizarre interpretations, who along with some contemporaries, created concepts of God being an unfit creator by not handling issues of procreation in a better way.

 While Augustine and Innocent II were acting according to the times, and certainly not alone, the changes to Christian sexual mysticism were relatively quick, making it easier to trace the original concepts. The previous interpretations are simply left behind, and intact. Being impure, there was no reason to play with those concepts anymore.

In most cultures, the original core elements of sexuality, creativity, music, dance and art are interrelated. The goddess of love and art are often the same, and feminine power is embraced, not diffused.  That’s the fascinating part, finding the early versions of mysticism, and using sexual mysticism as the road back to the origins.

 The fun part now is playing with those concepts, and using modern day technology and resources to reinterpret them.

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Back To My Blog

February 20, 2009 at 12:39 am (Uncategorized)

I’m back to writing. As a matter of fact, that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing lately and finally feel like I have the energy to devote to my blog here.

The past few months have been a whirlwind, and we left Florida, and are now settled in the Carolinas. It’s nice. It’s cleaner, both physically and mentally. We left quite alot of bullshit behind, most of which was affecting my ability to work. Now I’m looking at the possiblity of over 10,000 square feet of studio space, and developing a plan to parcel it out.

 I’m not going to create some idiotic co-op or anything along those lines. All the co-op scenario seems to do is attract a bunch of nut jobs that create drama and don’t have the ability to work alone. The future scenario will take the following hard lessons learned into account:

  1. People Suck. People in general suck, and artists can suck even more.
  2. People like to be around when the think they can get something from you. When theres nothing left, they seem to disappear.
  3. Being nice is often mistaken as a form of weakness. Therefore, don’t be nice.
  4. My work is my work, deal with it or leave me the fuck alone. Constructive creative critisim is welcome, telling me that I am nice and should paint nice things is not.

I’m still in the process of getting things in order, an unfortunately, I have been so unorganized that I missed the deadline for the annual juried show at the Kinsey Institute. Time to get my act together. The Baltimore Erotic Arts Festival is coming up in June, and it looks like a promising venue.

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George Barbier

November 14, 2008 at 5:22 pm (artworks) (, )


Originally uploaded by beastsofprey

80 years after his death, George Barbier’swork is being shown in his first posthumous exhibition at the Fortuny Museum in Venice.

Barbier was a French illustrator who was quite successful in his theatrical costumes, book illustrations and couture fashion illustrations. In his later career, Barbier designed wallpapers, glass and jewelry. He died at the height of his career, with no fanfare, and his remaining family had little appreciation for his work, and his name quickly fell into obscurity.

“His library, containing many rare editions, was auctioned off and his collection of Japanese and European erotica was donated to the Bibliothèque Nationale, where it was placed in the restricted “Enfer” section, reserved for works considered threatening to public decency.” – International Herald Tribune

For decorative artists, erotic artists, lithographers, writers, and designers, Barbier was the fusion of them all, and was able to span them all while still creating a unified body of work.

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Following the market

November 1, 2008 at 9:59 pm (ramblings) (, , , )

I’m posting this here because……I want to. I posted it elsewhere and I really like it.

Everone remembers this commercial. It was only played one time, during a superbowl, but left a great mark on culture.

20 years later, here is what the market research group revealed. Another reason to never create for the market.

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Art & Math

October 31, 2008 at 2:56 pm (ramblings)

One of the consistent themes throughout my work has been that the lines of nature repeat themselves on every scale. A dish soap bottle, made to be ergonomically correct for our hand is the same basic shape as the female figure. Taken to a larger scale, the same shape can be seen repeated in intertwined branches of a tree.

There are reasons that nature repeats the same lines. It is efficient, and works on sizes from large to small.

The other night I was watching PBS, a show about fractal mathematics, and was blown away. The theories I have been playing with can be broken down to a basic mathematical formula.

More to come…….

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For the Love of God

October 21, 2008 at 10:33 pm (Uncategorized)

For the love of God

Originally uploaded by PetefromBookham

Damien Hirst’s “For The Love Of God” is hitting the auction block.

The diamond encrusted skull originally contained a pricetag of $100 million. Read the article here

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Guiness Commercial with Ainsley Burrows

October 21, 2008 at 4:23 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I just found this link to a commercial with Ainsley Burrows. Surrounded by technology, still the most powerful force is the spoken word.

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