I attended the Survivor workshop this weekend (May 30-June 1 2008)
offered through the Dumbo Arts Center. Below are my notes and brief
summaries of what was discussed. I attended all of the workshops,
except for the website workshop and the GYST workshop (I do have
synopsis for those two presentations.)
SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE
A panel discussion of 3 mid-career artists, talking about their
experience in the art world.
Artists: Kanishka Raja, Heide Fasnacht, Jane South.
The panel discussion started with Kanishka Raja stressing the importance
of building connections within your art community and among your
peers, and offering as an example his experience of going to Skowhegan
and meeting fellow artists there who later recommended him to New
The moderator pointed out how competitive Skowhegan is, to which
Kanishka responded: it took me 3 times to get accepted...
and rejection is awful. I can't tell you how refreshing it
was to hear established artists admitting that rejection is never
easy, no matter where you are in your career. It seemed more honest
than the usual advise I have gotten over the years which has basically
boiled down to Get over it!. The artists on the panel
had different ways to deal with rejection: applying to as many opportunities
as possible to dilute the pain of rejections; getting angry instead
of depressed and using that energy in a positive way; allowing themselves
to feel bad for a day, and moving on to the next application.
Rejection is an unfortunate part of an artist life, and I applaud
the panel for being honest and human about the sting of having work
Moving on in the discussion, the general consensus among the 3
artists is that an art career is non-linear, meaning you can have
great success one year, and sell nothing the next. In order to sustain
those ups and downs, artists should concentrate on making art consistently,
and making art that is honest: don't try and second-guess what the
market wants because chances are that the market will change its
mind! Be true to yourself and your art.
These artists also stressed the importance of networking: networking
as creating friendship among your peers, helping your fellow artists,
and creating a larger sense of an art community. So don't forget
to venture out of the studio and meet other artists, and don't hesitate
to help your colleagues who might one day help your career as well.
Tips on putting together the perfect artist packet by Melissa Potter.
Artists should ideally have ready a basic information packet that
can be used and built upon to apply to different types of opportunities:
grants, gallery opportunities, residencies, etc. The packet should
contain at minimum: an artist statement, a resume, a CV, and visual
The art statement should illuminate elements of the work that
may not be apparent. At its core, it should follow the what/where/why/when/how
rule. For example, it should present the medium, scale and any references
that will make the work more understandable.
Resume and CV
An artist resume will typically exclude non art-related experience,
and concentrate mainly on lists of shows, residencies, and an art
bibliography. A CV will contain a wider scope of experience, and
can include additional background and skills: you could include
consulting work for example, or work you may have done as an artist
assistant. Guidelines for building a resume and CV can be found
at the College of Art Association's website: www.collegeart.org/guidelines/
Although slides are quickly going out of fashion, it can be helpful
to have a portfolio ready with both digital images and slides. Smaller
art associations have not moved to digital yet because of the costs
associated with converting to digital. It is perfectly acceptable
to shoot artwork with a digital camera and convert the file to a
traditional slide. Some Internet services who offer such conversions
Be aware of the fact that different monitors display images differently
and it is therefore very important for you to check your images
on multiple computers. The speaker also pointed out that digital
projectors which are used by nyfa for example, will not show the
image the same way as your monitor. The projected images will tend
to be more washed out: if you know of anyone who use such a projector,
try and use it before you send your images to maximize quality.
Here, I want to dispel an urban legend that came up during the
presentation. Some folks are under the impression that jpg images
will lose quality as they are opened and closed. This is simply
NOT the case. You can open and close a jpg a million times, and
it will appear the same way. The confusion comes from the fact that
SOME image editors will re-compress the jpg file after you edit
the image AND either save it or save it as a different
When you send a slide list, consider having a mini-statement with
each file, beyond medium and size.
Have all reviews of your work ready to be sent, either printed or
in a digital format.
Consider having print-outs of your images on good quality paper.
When making a CD, consider making the jewel case sleeve a print-out
of thumbnails of the images contained on the CD.
Do your homework: don't apply to organizations or galleries that
do not show the type of work you do. When applying for a grant,
look through the previous winners to get a sense of the type of
work that was accepted.
And one more time: network! Do go out and meet other artists, create
or grow your art community and help your fellow artists.
Use good follow-up protocol: if you have been accepted or have been
helped by someone in your community, be sure to thank them in writing:
and not email! A thank you card says that you have spent the time
and energy to show your appreciation.
Presentation of the nyfa source website by Linda Park.
Nyfa source is a searchable database of grants, opportunities and
services for individual artists. Though I have found their new login
protocol to be quite annoying, NYFA is not only free but it is the
best and most comprehensive websites for artists.
NYFA source lets you do basic searches (such as awards based on
geographical location and types of awards) to more advanced searches
such as searches by keyword, or types of discipline. NYFA source
will launch its new site at the end of June with more filters and
capabilities. I highly recommend you spend some time looking for
TOOLS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
I did not attend this seminar but the synopsis seemed
to follow design advise I have given in my article 20
tips for a good website design and Make
your site work for you.
I did not attend this seminar because I use Indie
Band Manager as a database tool. GYST is a software that was specifically
designed for visual artists and is more complete than IBM (it's
also more expensive). It is a database program to help artists keep
track of their artwork, proposals, mailing list, etc. I have put
their link online under Resources,
and I highly recommend you check it out.
MAKING A STATEMENT
Writing workshop to help artists write their art statement by Sarah
Sarah has different opinions on the role of an art statement than
Melissa Potter, which made the presentation both interesting and
confusing for me! For Sarah, the main goal of an art statement is
to be a point of entry leading to the work. As such, it should be
direct, honest, simple and clear, and mainly be descriptive as opposed
to offering a critique of the work: let the viewer interpret the
work themselves, don't necessarily do that for them before they
see the art.
The speaker's advise was to establish a writing process similar
to an art making process: generate ideas first, and let the writing
flow completely uncensored, then go back and edit the statement,
clarifying and organizing your ideas. Her suggestions were to keep
the statement short (100 words to 300 words maximum) and to let
your own voice come through. She felt there was no need to contextualize
the work, but instead to aim at giving a mental picture of the work.
She suggested artists read art listing blurbs in the
newspaper, looking for descriptive language as opposed to critical
language or opinions. Use formal art elements to describe your work
(color, composition, line, form, etc..), but do not use too many
elements in the description: don't give the reader too many choices.
The statement needs to be a narrative that grabs the reader's attention.
As such, ask friends and colleagues to read your statement and give