Estate Planning for Artists: A Glossary of Need-to-Know Terms

Dead artists leave two bodies, their own, and a body of work.” —Harriet Shorr, Artist

There’s no sugarcoating estate planning; it’s not easy to talk about and it’s no small feat, especially when you’re an artist. Makers leave behind a large, valuable, physical body of work that must be dealt with at their death.

As an artist, it’s imperative that you have a plan for your artworks so that you can control what happens to your assets and make sure you’re not leaving behind a big, convoluted mess for your loved ones to clean up, like properly sorting, storing, insuring and/or selling your works.

This post provides a list of key terms to help you navigate the ins-and-outs of estate planning.


Art Inventory

This should be a familiar term. An art inventory lists all of your works of art, their locations (studio, on loan, etc.), and descriptive information like dimensions, date, title, and medium. The inventory should also include installation and maintenance information, contracts, exhibition records, and intangible assets such as copyrights, trademarks, and other intellectual property.

Even if you don’t sell your artwork, a complete inventory of your work will help determine the monetary value of your artistic estate.


Attorney (aka Lawyer)

Estate planning for artists involves much more than just drafting a will. Ideally your attorney is someone you trust, is familiar with your work, and is knowledgeable about the art world along with the laws of trusts and estates.

Make your lawyer aware of your concerns whether they are avoiding estate taxes, providing income for your family, ensuring your work remains publicly accessible, etc.

Many states have a Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts division, which provides legal assistance and education for artists. Here’s an example of New York’s VLA.


Attorney(s)-In-Fact

A privately appointed fiduciary who handles your legal and financial matters in the event you become incapacitated or disabled, either temporarily or permanently. It can be a family member, friend, or professional fiduciary. It does not have to be an attorney.

What’s a fiduciary? Read below for the definition.


Beneficiary

The person(s) receiving the benefits of the deceased’s property, aka the trust.


Codicil

Document that amends a will.


Cultural Executor

Aka Art Advisor. This person is a legally-appointed representative responsible for representing and carrying out the wishes of the deceased with regards to their cultural property (e.g. artwork). It is a more specific type of executor (definition below). The cultural executor is ideally someone familiar with both the testator’s body of work and the art market for the work. Who is the testator? You! The artist.


Estate Tax

Federal tax on property (cash, real estate, stock, or other assets) transferred from deceased persons to their heirs.


Executor

The fundamental duty of the executor is executing the estate. If there are assets to be sold, the executor has to sell them. If your estate is owed money by galleries and such, the executor must collect it. The executor also pays bills like funeral expenses and income or estate taxes, and files insurance claims. The executor follows the instructions in your will and distributes the property in accordance with your wishes. The executor also chooses an appraiser to appraise your art work.

When choosing your executor, choose someone who is knowledgeable about the art world and sympathetic to your work. Make this person aware of your priorities. And, don’t be afraid to have multiple executors; it alleviates a lot of pressure.

An executor’s job usually lasts 3 to 4 years, but may last considerably longer if there are assets to dispose of or manage, such as copyright interests.  

Your executor bears the burden of sorting, cataloging, caring for, and disposing of your work and other assets if you don’t organize it beforehand. Find an online artwork management system and start organizing your artwork!


Fiduciary

Somebody who is charged with legal duty to act on behalf of somebody else, like trustees and executors.


Roadmap

Craft a roadmap for your executors to follow. This is like a “how-to” for your will.


Testator

The person making the will (aka, you).


Trust

It’s not just for the 1%. A trust is a legal entity created for the benefit of the testator’s designated beneficiaries. It is a living and breathing document that can stay private.

Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trust: You can change a revocable trust. You cannot amend an irrevocable trust once you set it up. So irrevocable trusts are rarely set up,  unless, you’re planning for Medicaid or life insurance.


Trustee

Privately appointed fiduciary who manages the assets in a trust. You can liken the Trustee to a CEO – (s)he runs the business, but does not own it.


Will

The document that states how you want your property to be disposed of at your death.

60% of people die without a will. If you pass away without a will, the State will govern how your property will be distributed. Generally, property goes to your family in this order: spouse & children > parents and sibling(s) > other relatives).


Stay tuned for more posts about estate planning!

8 Photo Editing Tips for Artists

Thanks to our recent post on photographing your artwork, you should have true-to-life depictions of your artwork. To make them polished and professional-looking, all you have to do is make a few easy adjustments in the “digital darkroom.” Here are 8 simple but effective photo editing tips to set you up for success!


Crop Your Image

Crop down your image so you see only the work, nothing more.

Remove the background and make sure you don’t crop into the edge of your works!

TIP: If your artwork was positioned slightly at an angle, a rectangular crop will not give you an even cut. Rotate the canvas of your photo editor to get the work on the proper axis to crop evenly.

In Preview: Drag your cursor over the work to outline your desired shape. Select “Crop” under Tools to crop image.


Correct Colors

Do your images’ whites look a bit yellowish or blueish? Despite your best efforts to adjust your white balance and avoid mixed light sources, the colors in your photo may still be a bit off when you view them on your computer. You can adjust color with the white balance, hue and saturation tools in your photo editor to accurately reflect the real-life colors of the work.


Adjust Brightness and Contrast

If you didn’t get your exposure right in-camera, fear not! You can easily adjust in your photo editor. If there was not enough light at the time you took the photo and your image is too dark, boost brightness.

Adjust the contrast filter if you have a detail shot or a 3D work that needs to showcase form.

In Lightroom: Exposure and Contrast are two sliding adjustments on the right tool bar.


Sharpen to Reduce Blur and Grain

Photo editing softwares like Lightroom and Photoshop will have a sharpening feature to reduce any blur or camera shake that may have occurred while taking the photo.

In Lightroom, the sharpening feature is on right side toolbar, under the Detail section.

If your ISO was set too high and your image is grainy, you can reduce the noise. The tool is also found under Detail.


Resize the Image

You’ll want to resize your photo to a smaller size and resolution so that you can quickly send your photos to potential buys and submit to juried shows and competitions.

Your photos come off your digital camera in large dimensions measured in pixels (px). Resize your image so that the longest side is at least 1920 pixels – that is the minimum size for online juried shows and a CaFÉ requirement.

Don’t forget to change the resolution! If your photo is only being used for the web, change the resolution to 72dpi. If it’s going to be printed, adjust the resolution to 300dpi.

DPI stands for dots per inch, and the higher the dpi, the better the photos will look when printed. But, if the dpi is too high and used on the web, your images will load much slower and slow down your website speed.

In Preview: Select “Adjust Size” under Tools. Make sure Scale proportionally and Resample image are both checked.


Save for Quality

Save your finished digital image as a TIFF or PSD so that you don’t lose any file quality. Save it again as a JPG if you will upload it to the internet.


Stay Organized

Make things easy for yourself and label each image consistently with detail. We suggest including title, medium, dimensions and year for the piece. Save yourself time later; no one wants to hunt through hundreds of images.


Backup Your Images

Go one step further and export your images to folders on your desktop, on a hard drive, and on the Cloud. Save batches in folders by year, medium, or theme. Don’t make me tell you the sad tale of a MacBook that died during grad school and the hundreds of lost photos.

Upload your photos to CaFÉ’s Portfolio so you have them ready for your submissions!

TIP: Artwork Archive is a powerful, easy-to-use cloud-based inventory system available for artists. Sign up for a 30-day free trial and start organizing and managing all of those great artworks in your collection!


A note on editing software: Most of the edits mentioned in this post can be made in free software like GIMP. Find more free editing tools in CaFÉ’s blog post. If you want more tools and features at your ready, invest in Adobe’s Lightroom and/or Photoshop. If you don’t want to drop that much cash, take a look at Photoshop Elements, a cheaper and lightweight version of its older siblings – Lightroom and Photoshop. Try them all with Adobe’s 7-day free trial.

Artpreneur Provides Business Skills for Artists

Feeling lost around the business of art?

Artpreneur gives you the tools to succeed. Its resources range from budget management to insurance coverage to estate planning. It also covers topics that will give artists a leg-up like uncovering the RFQ/RFP process and tips for writing an effective artist statement.

Artpreneur is an online library of art business articles, webinars and videos for artists (including musicians and public artists) and art organizations. It was created by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, a chapter of Americans for the Arts, to support artists and creative entrepreneurs in creating sustainable business practices.

Here’s a highlight of some of the resources available to you, for FREE, from Artpreneur.

 

Arts & Numbers: Budgeting for the Creative Class

Budgeting: Where do you start start? What decision-making tools are available? How do you manage cash?

This webinar covers strategies for combatting the four major financial challenges artists face every day: managing the “professional treadmill”; budgeting; combatting cash shortages; and finding creative fulfillment through professional goals. Elaine Grogan Luttrull, CPA and founder of Minerva Financial Arts, and author of Arts & Numbers: A Financial Guide for Artists, Writers, Performers, and Other Members of the Creative Class leads the 25-minute webinar.

 

Understanding Entities for Artists

This webinar walks through the different kinds of business entities and structuring options. Learn how to get started and maintain the entity. Hear the pros and cons of sole-proprietorship and discover the differences between an S-Corporation and C-Corporation. Understand basic tax consequences and make the best decision for your career.

 

Insurance for Public Artists

Insurance is a standard element of public art projects. Chris Hawthorne from TGA Cross Insurance speaks to the different types of liability issues that arise during public art projects and the kinds of coverage available. Work with subcontractors? Learn about risk transfer agreements. Discover how you can insure your studio and your works whether they are being installed, hanging in a studio, or placed in storage.

 

What You Need to Know About Estate Planning

Protect your legacy and develop an estate plan with the help of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA).

In this webinar you’ll learn key estate planning basics and vocabulary. Understand why artists need to take extra care when planning their estates. Webinar hosts,  Jim Grace, Executive Director of the Volunteer Lawyer of the Arts and the Arts & Business Council, and Peter Caruso of Prince Lobel Tye LLP, walk through the estate planning process. You’ll get the low-down on inventory, storage, funding plans, valuation, distribution of work, and copyright planning.

How to Photograph Your Artwork: Professional Photos Without the Cost

Your artwork is done and ready to be sold or entered in a competition. Now, you just need to photograph it.

Did I just hear a big ugh?

Photographing your artwork can be a hassle, but it’s what makes or breaks a sale or call for entry.

Avoid images with uneven lighting, distracting glares and shadows, and incorrect colors. Start photographing your 2D* work like a professional with these easy and affordable best practices.

*3D artists, there’s helpful tips in this post for you – check ‘em out. A more focused post on 3D works is coming!


The Set Up: Position Your Artwork and Yourself

Arrange the artwork.

  • Remove matting to avoid shadows.  
  • Hang the artwork on a wall and make sure it’s level to prevent shadows.
  • If you have to lean the work against something, tilt the camera so that the edges of the work are square in the viewfinder; otherwise your work will be a trapezoid.
  • Photograph the work against a neutral color, like white. Colored or patterned backgrounds distract the viewer and reflect color onto your piece.

 

The “trapezoid effect” from not shooting the artwork straight-on.


Line-up your camera.

  • The camera should face the artwork head-on. Line the lens up with the center of the subject. Make sure the plane of the artwork is parallel to the back of the camera.

Get closer.

  • Fill the entire frame with your artwork to get the most out of your camera’s resolution.
  • BUT, do not fill the frame with a zoom or wide-angle lens. Both can distort images by zooming in closely.

Avoid glare and reflections.

  • Glass reflects light avoid reflections and glare by photographing your work before it’s framed. If you can’t, angle the camera to minimize glare.
  • If your work is oil or acrylic, photograph it before adding a glossy varnish.


Lighting: Portray Your Work in its Best Light

Indirect light is best when shooting indoors.

  • Shoot in a room with plenty of windows and natural light, or, use natural light fluorescent bulbs. Avoid direct light since it creates hot spots.

Use cheap materials to diffuse light.

  • Soften glare and the intensity of light by diffusing the light source. Place a white sheet over the light source whether that’s a window or standing light. Or, direct your light source at an angle against a white piece of foam core to “bounce” and soften light.

Wait for a cloudy day if shooting outdoors.

  • Why? Cloud cover acts as a giant diffuser. Your subject will be evenly lit.

But, be willing to embrace mid-day sunshine.

  • If you’re under a deadline and it’s sunny, photograph mid-day (between 10am and 2pm) when the sun is high in the sky and will not cast any shadows. Early morning, late afternoon and evening light casts a reddish light.

Beware of colored walls and objects.

  • Colored walls or large colored furniture reflected color(s) onto your art.

Avoid mixing light sources.

  • Different lightbulbs give off different colors. And, unblocked windows let in light that is brighter than your indoor light, which will cast blue colors onto your work.

Equipment: Easy-to-Use Gear for Professional-Looking Photos

Use a Tripod to avoid blurry photos.

  • If you don’t have a tripod, prop your camera on something solid like a shelf.
  • Don’t have anything that’s the right height? Use your body as a stabilizer. Stand or sit still; hold your elbows against your body; take a deep breath and release it before taking the picture.

Two cheap standing lights will do.

  • Tall “dorm lights”: like these are useful, cheap light sources. Put a light on either side of the work. Situate the lights between the camera and canvas. Point them at a 45-degree angle towards the work to eliminate shadows.

Borrow or buy an affordable DSLR.

  • DSLRs give you more control over the quality of the photo you’re taking than a point-and-shoot or smartphone.
  • Get the most out of your DSLR with the online photography class, Basics of Digital Photography. In 9 lessons you’ll become more familiar with your camera’s settings, learn the fundamentals of light and exposure, and much more. Click here to get the class for only $19.99 – that’s 66% off for CaFÉ  blog readers – with the coupon code DJADW5Z.**
  • TIP: Clean your lens! Dust on the glass will mess with your camera’s automatic focus. 

Camera Settings: Get the Most Out of Your Camera

Adjust White Balance.

  • When you take photos of your works do they come out too warm or blue-toned? That’s because your camera is improperly reading and capturing the color white. Fix this by adjusting your white balance – the setting your camera uses to determine what color is white depending on the temperature of the ambient light.
  • Set your white balance to “Cloudy” if you’re outside on a cloudy day. Set it to “Daylight” on a sunny day.
  • If you’re inside, set the white balance to match the kind of light you’re using, i.e. Fluorescent or Tungsten.

The same painting was photographed indoors with natural light using different white balance modes in-camera. 

Fluorescent white balance mode generates the most realistic colors in this instance.

Clockwise from top left: Tungsten, Fluorescent, Daylight, Shade.


Set the ISO to the lowest setting.

  • Setting ISO accurately will give you a clear, crisp photo. ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor; the higher the number, the more sensitive the sensor will be to light. Higher ISOs generates noise and grain in your image so it’s best to keep your ISO at 100. 

Use Aperture Priority mode (Av).

  • It’s recommended to set your aperture between f-8 and f-11. This will allow enough light to pass through the lens and guarantee your work will be in focus.

Make sure your flash is turned off!

  • It will create hot spots on your work.

Editing: Fix Common Mistakes and Perfect the Image

Correct color.

  • The goal is to get your whites white and your blacks black. If your light source was different from the color settings on your camera, you’ll have to change the temperature of the image.

Crop the image.

  • Crop so that your work fills the frame.

Resize the image.

  • Images for the web should be 72 dpi and images for print should be 300 dpi. The minimum image size for online jurying is typically 1920 pixels on the longest side. Check out this CaFÉ blog post featuring 5 free tools to resize your images.

 

Now it’s time to get shooting so you have professional-looking photos ready for your

CaFÉ portfolio page!

 

Paintings by Shaun McNiff.

 

**Terms & Conditions: Get 50% off the full retail price of the Craftsy class, Basics of Digital Photography. Limit one per customer. Cannot be combined with any other coupons. Expires August 19, 2017.

Applying to a Call for Entry on CaFÉ: A Checklist

Are you an artist looking for opportunities? Tired of mining numerous websites? Good news: there’s a free and easy tool available for you! It’s CaFÉ (CallforEntry.org).

CaFÉ is the leading online application system for managing calls for entry. Whether you’re an established artist or a creative looking to jumpstart your career, you’ll find a comprehensive list of call for submissions including art commissions, public art RFQs, invitationals, residencies, fellowships, mini grants, awards, and more! CaFÉ allows you to cut down your application time and devote more time to what you love doing – making art.

There are only 3 steps to apply to calls on CaFÉ:

  1. My Portfolio – Upload work samples.
  2. Apply to Calls – Select a call to apply to and complete all the application requirements.
  3. Checkout – Finalize, make payment (if required), and submit your entry.

 

Here’s a checklist to help you boost your chances with the hundreds of opportunities on CaFÉ:

  • Register on CaFÉ.

  • Create a CaFÉ profile.

    • You can set up your account as an individual artist or a team of up to 3 artists. Create separate CaFÉ™ accounts if you work individually and collaboratively.
  • Format your work samples to meet CaFÉ Portfolio requirements.

  • Upload work samples in your CaFÉ Portfolio.

    • Easily access your uploaded work samples when applying to calls.
    • Your portfolio can store:
      • Image Files (JPEG)
      • Audio Files (AIFF, WAV, XMF, MP3)
      • Video Files (3GP, WMV, AVI, MOV, ASF, MPG, MP4, M2T, MKV, M2TS)
  • Search for calls.

    • Click here for a list of open calls.
      • Filter by Call Type, Eligibility, City, State, Entry Fee
      • Save your Favorites
      • Rather search by deadlines? Check out CaFÉ’s calendar view.

  • Prepare your application materials.

    • Refresh or rewrite your artist’s statement
    • Write or update your CV/Resume.
      • Find helpful tips for creating a standout CV or resume in this CaFÉ blog post.
  • Apply to calls!

    • Provide your Artist’s Statement.
    • Add images from your Portfolio.
    • Tip: CaFÉ allows you to apply to multiple calls at one time!

  • Keep track of the submissions you’ve started or completed.

  • Stay organized. Archive old entries and remove works from your portfolio that are no longer being used.

  • Keep applying!

 

Are you a visual learner? CaFÉ has a helpful tutorial that’ll walk you through the application process.

Find the tutorial here.

How to Write an Artist CV: Advice for a Standout Curriculum Vitae

Crafting a Curriculum Vitae (CV) is like creating art; you need to understand and master the fundamentals before taking creative liberties. Below are a handful of best practices that will set the foundation for a professional and compelling artist CV.

Before we get started, let’s answer one question you may be asking yourself. What’s the difference between a CV and a resume? A CV is the record of all your professional experiences and often used in academia. A resume, on the other hand, is an abbreviated record, usually 1-4 pages, and often modified for a specific expertise, i.e. exhibitions, residency applications, and public art proposals. That being said, the advice provided here can be used for both CVs and resumes.

Modify your CV to match the application.

Elizabeth Keithline, artist, curator and previously grants and public art manager at Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, recommends artists rewrite and reorder their CVs every time they send it. Why? “Each application is different and it helps to tailor to it,” Keithline asserts. Make sure you highlight the experience and works that relate to the particular application. Include keywords from the application in your CV to demonstrate that your qualifications match the requirements and that you are an ideal choice.

Play to your strengths.

Similarly to the best practice above, it’s important to rearrange the order of your CV according to your individual strengths as an artist. Place the more important and relevant information near the beginning of your CV. For instance, you could put exhibitions before awards or honors if you have a great exhibition history.

Tell a story with your CV to convey your personal brand.

Liz Iracki, artist and former art consultant for Shapiro Art Consultants, believes in the power of an artist’s personal voice: “[CVs and resumes] are becoming more informative and less formal, illustrative rather than prescriptive. It is the job of the artist to tell a story through the work itself, the canvas, the clay, the charcoal. A CV further illuminates the artist experience, the philosophy of exhibition and the ingenuity in securing opportunities. Outside of an academic or museum setting, when appealing to personal and corporate collectors, artists should realize that their personal brand is often what pushes a sale over the edge. Many collectors want to relate to the story or be part of the story, so artists can be well served to embed potential for them to do so.” Be true to who you are as an artist and let your CV convey your unique story.

Keep your CV up to date.

This may seem obvious, but we often forget to keep records of our accomplishments. Develop a habit of documenting your exhibitions, grants, promotions, artist talks, etc. so that you do not lose track of relevant experience. We usually remember our positions and major exhibitions, but we may forget an accolade, publication or artist talk – the details that round out our experience.

Keep it simple and easy to read.

Layout and design are very important; hundreds of CVs will be read for one opportunity, so yours should be easily scannable so that the reviewer can quickly see your qualifications and experience. Organize content with clear headers. Select typefaces and sizes that facilitate reading. Consider simple and straightforward fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, or Palatino. Depending on the font, size 10-12 should be readable. Note: Times New Roman is very small at 10-point size. Avoid unusual typefaces that may detract from your content. And most importantly, use white space; margins are your friend!

Edit. Then edit again. And again.

This one may seem obvious to some, but you’d be surprised what typos make their way into our CVs. Thoroughly edit your work. Make sure your format is uniform. For example, if you use bullet points in one job description, use it in all job descriptions. And, don’t forget to have someone else review your CV. Fresh eyes are extremely helpful.

Keep a Master copy.

You should always keep a comprehensive master copy of your CV. This allows you to craft a shorter CV that speaks to a particular audience, opportunity and required length. This way you can easily add or subtract relevant categories and items.  You don’t want to forget all of the incredible work you’ve accomplished along the way!

Save as a Word document and send as a PDF.

It’s good practice to save your CV as both PDF and Word files. If you maintain a master copy as a Word document, you can easily edit and update the content. PDF files are the recommended format for submission because spacing, margins, and formatting are retained across computer platforms. You should always choose to send a PDF.

Check out these helpful resources for more recommendations and exemplary templates: