Four Ways to Tell a Story With Your Images

Think of each application for an exhibition or public art call as a job application. It’s imperative to adjust our “resumes” every single time to meet varying application and call requirements. But one thing remains constant: images.

Your goal is to be selected and get the job (or make it to the next round, be added to the roster, etc.). So, how can you tell the right story with impactful photos and smart image selections?

  1. Know your audience.

What do you want administrators and jurors to see or understand immediately? Start by selecting the artwork examples that best embody the parameters outlined in the call. Order your most powerful photos first and last, then rearrange the other images to fit what the audience is looking for. Think of the competition and what others might be including. Then, narrow your images to those that best set you apart.

When you view the images you’ve selected for the application, does each image stand on its own as a singular piece? Do the images make sense together as a cohesive body of work? Think of a theme and stick with it. Don’t get too cutesy, but especially if the event to which you are applying has a theme, show them you’ve read the prospectus by tying in motifs and concepts from their summary.

Portfolio, grouping of artwork samples.

Bonus Tip: Aside from your photos, categories matter. Make sure you apply in the correct medium and for the types of calls that are appropriate to your work.

  1. Use your space wisely.

One thing you don’t need: A detail shot. In the analog and early digital age, these images were once common. As online and digital technology has improved, detail shots have gone the way of the dodo.

Put yourself in the juror’s shoes. The artist knows which images are detail shots, but a juror may not quickly identify the detail view as a smaller section of a larger work. Jurors score based on images; do you want to waste your most valuable opportunity to score high marks? Wouldn’t you rather showcase a second artwork to really show them why you’re the right artist for the job?

  1. Add where you can.

When uploading images to your CaFE portfolio, you have the option to include descriptive details, such as dimensions, price, year created, and artistic medium. Why not include all relevant information? For photographic exhibitions/contests, captions can elevate an already strong image to the next level.

Some calls are set up to collect video, so use this to your advantage. Submit video when available and applicable, especially as video is far more impactful than those old school detail shots. Sometimes calls are set to collect a link to outside media sites, such as Vimeo. If you’re given the opportunity to show your stuff, use it!

Artwork No. 1

 

Artwork No. 2

 

Bonus Tip: Don’t overdo it on the photo editing. Photoshop can be your friend to even out certain areas, but also easily becomes too much.

  1. Bigger is better.

As digital photography—including smartphone cameras—improves and evolves, access to quality images has never been easier. Images uploaded to the CaFE site can range from 1200 to 1920 pixels on the longest edge, meaning artists can submit sizes based on their camera access.

If you can, start with a larger size image for even more options. Using an image with more resolution and greater PPI and DPI, ensures an excellent, versatile image. PPI refers to pixels per inch and is the pixel density for viewing images on a computer screen. DPI means dots per inch, which is key for printing items like posters, brochures, and catalogs. By starting with a bigger image, it’s also easier to size down (or crop) it than use an image that’s far too small to begin with.

Remember too that one of the benefits of the CaFE system is that it’s always being enhanced to improve applying, jurying, and managing calls for all users and stay on top of changing best practices and technological trends.

1200 pixel JPG

1920 pixel JPG

Bonus Tip: If the magic words in real estate are “location, location, location,” then the magic words in art application photos are “lighting, lighting, lighting.” We know you’ve taken great pains to get fantastic images, but if you need help with how to best photograph your work, visit these additional resource links:

Better Your Chances at Landing a Public Art Commission: Advice from the Field

Is landing a public art commission your white whale? Want to increase your chances of being selected for an RFQ?

We get it – public art commissions are competitive. We want to help you succeed in your career and start landing those projects.

We sought out the advice of Beth Ravitz, a public artist and public art consultant in southern Florida, and Carolyn Braaksma*, a public artist in Denver. Here is what they shared:


Q: When you first started applying for public art commissions what is one mistake that you made and learned from?     

BETH: The importance of EXCELLENT images of projects.


Q: How can artists get feedback during the application process?

CAROLYN: Quite often the public art programs will host an info session to give new artists insight on applying for Calls for Artists.               


Q: Has applying to RFQs online improved the submission process for artists or are there still challenges?

BETH: Online submissions have improved the applying process 100%! CaFÉ has made the process so much better for artists.

CAROLYN: The new way with online applications is definitely more cost effective. We now aren’t paying hundreds of dollars for slides.


Q: Public art commissions are very competitive. How does an artist stand out?

BETH: Again….artists must make sure they have excellent images of their work.  

Be sure to write a tailored letter of interest that ties into the specific project and site that is requested.

Keep it short! Committees do NOT like to read; they have enough work going through images.    

Another hint – artists should make every effort to contact the Public Art administrator and develop a relationship with that person.  Ask for advice on your submission. If you are a semi-finalist and do not get the project, ask for feedback.

I developed a relationship with an artist from Portland, OR as the administrator for Lauderhill, Florida. He kept contacting me for information about his submission.  At first it was annoying, but then along the way he became very interesting to me as we began an art relationship of exchanging ideas.  He did not get the project, but we became friends. I got a project a year later in Portland, and contacted him.  He was extremely helpful!!  He went to the site for me to accept the art shipment and found me an installer!  As a result, I invited him for a short list for a project in Lauderhill.

CAROLYN: That’s a mystery because as the application process has become easier, there are many more artists applying for the projects. Making the shortlist has a LOT to do with what the panel wants for their project and what their agenda is. It’s a crapshoot to make the short list unless the artist has a big reputation.


Q: If you can improve one thing in the competition processes what would it be?

BETH: I would limit the number of submissions allowed.  Each administrator should tailor it to their City. Does a committee really need 300 submissions? I think the MOST submissions allowed should be 200. The first 200 artists to apply get their applications accepted. Or, the number could be less if the City is smaller. Again, it should be left up to the administrator/consultant. Many times, to ease the process, I invite a limited amount of artists to submit.

CAROLYN: Eliminate proposals and RFPs. Use RFQs ONLY that are based on our past work and qualifications. From that, the panel should be able to determine how the artist thinks and processes. The more evolved programs do not use RFPs – as programs that do oftentimes ask too much of artists especially when the honorarium doesn’t cover a site visit.

Feeling more confident? Find a public art RFQ on CaFE and apply today!

*See Carolyn’s public art works on Public Art Archive!

Author: Elyse McNiffKoglmeier

CallForEntry Update to Save You Time!

Great news! The CallForEntry™ (CaFE™) software has been updated to save you more time!

You can now upload images as small as 1200 pixels on one side. This change will allow you to upload images to your portfolio without taking the time to reformat them to the previously required format of 1920 pixels on one side.

As a result of this change, CaFE users may:

  • Upload JPEGs that are 1200 pixels or greater on the longest side (either H or W).
  • Spend less time upsizing JPEG files and use your upload-ready image files more easily.

Current images in your CaFE portfolio will not be affected by this change and you may continue to use these images when applying to calls. The reduced pixel size only affects new JPEG uploads.

NEW image specifications for uploading to CaFE:

  • File format: JPEG or JPG only
  • File dimensions: 1200 pixels or greater on the longest dimension
  • File size: under 5 MB

Questions? Contact us at cafe(at)westaf(dot)org.

 

Author: Elyse McNiffKoglmeier

10 Art Business Books to Ignite Your Art Career

There are over 73,000 results for “Business of Art” books on Amazon. That’s overwhelming! We’ve curated the list down to our 10 favorites.

These art business books will help grow your career whether you need advice on art marketing, legal issues, selling or grant writing.


The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

Author: Jackie Battenfield

Jackie Battenfield, a successful artist and professional development coach, wrote this comprehensive guide to teach emerging and mid-career artists how to build and maintain a professional art career. Battenfield provides strategies for all aspects of the job – marketing, online promotion, grant writing and portfolio development. It’s all easy to comprehend through her real-life examples, illustrations and step-by-step exercises. Keep this book by the nightstand!


I’d Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion

Author: Alyson Stanfield

“Enjoy sharing your art as much as your enjoy making it.” – Alyson Stanfield

Self-promotion is a big part of succeeding in the art world  and unfortunately for most artists, it doesn’t come easy.  Luckily, Alyson Stanfield, an art marketing expert, consultant, and author of the popular The Art Biz Blog, helps artists market themselves authentically and genuinely. This book focuses on Internet marketing – building a social media presence, blogging and newsletter secrets, and getting your name into search engines.


Legal Guide for the Visual Artist

Author: Tad Crawford

Whether you like it or not, the legal system is a part of our professional lives. Art law expert, Tad Crawford, crafted an informative guide of the legal implications artists face. He walks through contracts, taxes, copyright, litigation, commissions, licensing, and artist-gallery relationships with practical examples. He also shares sample legal forms and contracts, and offers tips for connecting with affordable attorneys.


Arts & Numbers: A Financial Guide for Artists, Writers, Performers, and Other Members of the Creative Class

Author: Elaine Grogan Luttrull

Budgeting, taxes and cash flow, Oh My! Books about finances are usually dull and boring, but not this book by CPA and artist, Elaine Grogan Luttrull. It’s filled with engaging stories and examples to help you succeed in your business endeavors. Luttrell will boost your confidence and expertise in taxes, budgets, money management, business etiquette, and much more.


The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing

Author: Gigi Rosenberg

Are grants your white whale? This guide gives you all the fishing supplies you need like writing tips and marketing strategies from grant officers, grant writers and fundraising specialists. Tap into the fundraising resources at your disposal and finance your artistic endeavors with this accessible read.


The Artist’s Guide to Selling Work

Author: Annabelle Ruston

How do you sell your work in today’s competitive market? This guide covers selecting the right gallery, approaching galleries, pricing, terms and conditions, artist agents, working with publishers, and public art commissions. Ruston also gives advice on social networking and e-marketing so that you can seize digital opportunities.


Show Your Work!: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Getting Discovered

Author: Austin Kleon

“[The] subtitle could just as easily be, ‘How to Self-promote Without Being a Jerkface.’ It’s an incredibly useful and compulsively readable short book.” — The Fast Company

Austin Kleon helped readers unlock their creativity in the New York Times bestseller, Steal Like an Artist. Now, he helps artists get known in his 10-step journey of self-promotion in which he encourages creatives to share their work and voice. The book is small and short, but it packs a punch.

Kleon emphasizes audience building as a process, not a product. Chapters like “You Don’t Have to Be a Genius;” “Share Something Small Every Day;” and “Stick Around,” contribute to the manifesto of being open, generous, brave and productive in our digital age.


Art Inc. – The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist

Author: Lisa Congdon

“Art, Inc. is a revelation. At long last, there is a resource to help creative people articulate their aesthetic values, successfully brand their business, and manage their artist’s income.” – Debbie Millman, president, Sterling Brands

Professional artist, Lisa Congdon, helps artists do what they love and make a career out of it. Learn how to set actionable goals, diversify your income, manage your bookkeeping, copyright your work, promote with social media, build a standout website, exhibit with galleries, sell and price your work, license your art, acquire an agent, and much more.


Sell With Confidence

Author: Barry Watson

Sales does not have to be sleazy. Barry Watson shares actionable techniques to improve your confidence and skills as a salesperson. Understand the true nature of selling, discover the “secret sauce,” be yourself, positively redefine rejection, turn setbacks into comebacks, and create a sales-confidence game plan. You’ll also get a downloadable 7-Step Sales Cheat Sheet!


Art/Work- Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As you Pursue Your Art Career

Authors: Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber

No matter where you are in your professional career, you’ll get incredible value from this comprehensive guide. Heather Darcy Bhandari, a gallery director, and Jonathan Melber, an arts lawyer, give you the business and legal tools to stay in control of your career. The book covers business basics like inventory tracking and preparing invoices; legal precautions like registering a copyright and drafting consignment forms; promotional tools like websites and business cards; and how to approach career decisions like choosing the right venue for showing your work. Don’t learn these lessons the hard way!

 

Author: Elyse McNiffKoglmeier

10 Essentials to Keep in Your Camera Bag

Your camera bag needn’t be a 800-pound gorilla. It can be well-equipped, but still manageable to carry. Here are 10 lightweight camera bag essentials to ensure you’ll always be ready to snap the shot.


1. Plastic bags: garbage and zipper

 

Head to the grocery store and pick up garbage and zipper bags to protect your gear. If it pours, you can toss all of your gear inside a garbage bag and tie it up for extra waterproofing. You can also make a poncho to keep yourself dry. Zipper bags can serve as a lens waterproof cover; poke a lens-sized hole in the bag, place it over the lens, and secure it with an elastic band. Store your extra lenses and camera body in gallon bags to avoid dust settling on your gear.

 

 


 2. Microfiber cloth

 

It’s not the most alluring item, but it’s possibly the most useful accessory to have in your camera bag. It cleans dust and dirt off your equipment. It also serves as a protector of all things expensive – wrap it around your lenses and other accessories to avoid scratching.

 

 


 3. Mini tripod

 

If you don’t want to carry a tripod around everywhere you go, but don’t want to sacrifice the quality of your photos – purchase a small tripod like this Manfrotto mini tripod. Prop it on a surface to avoid camera shake and avoid blurry photos in low-light situations. Flexible tripods are great for mirrorless, point & shoot and/or smartphones; wrap them around a pole, tree branch, etc.

 

 


 4. Tape: Gaffer or Electrical

Gaffer tape is as versatile as it comes. It holds things together with a strong grip, but doesn’t leave residue when it peels off. You can MacGyver anything with this tape –  secure your tripod to a surface or fix a broken camera strap – problems be gone!

Want to save even more space in your bag? Get yourself some electrical tape – Gaffer’s smaller sibling of a lifesaver. You can find it for less than $2…and probably already have some in a drawer. You just have to be OK with the residue it will leave behind.

 



5. Circular Polarizer Filter

Polarizers are great if you’re photographing landscapes. They help eliminate reflections and glare, especially over water. They reduce haze in landscapes and provide greater color and tonal saturation. They aren’t cheap (~$60) but the price of rich blue skies, vibrant foliage, contrasty clouds and reflection-free water and glass are worth it!

 

 



 6. Mirror

 

Small, acrylic mirrors are lightweight, cheap and easy to find. They serve as handy reflectors and give you directional light for dramatic shadows or luminous fill.

 

 

 

 

 


7. Micro screwdriver set

 

Hopefully you won’t have need of a screwdriver set. But, if you need it, you NEED it –  loose tripod heads, broken sunglasses, or dare I say, broken camera. These sets are cheap and can be found on Amazon or at a dollar store.

 

 

 



8. Flashlight

 

If you’re venturing out for a night photography adventure, an inexpensive flashlight will keep you from fumbling with your camera controls and digging through your bag in the dark. Consider a LED headlamp if you don’t want to store your flashlight in your mouth. A pocket LED light is great for playing with light painting. Your smartphone’s flashlight app also works, consider the cost of a dropped flashlight vs. dropped smartphone…

 

 

 9. Paper serving ware – plates & cups

 

You can get a lot done with a paper cup and plate. Next time you’re at a picnic, grab a few extras. Cut the bottom off of a paper cup and ta-dah, you have a cheap snoot. Line the cup with electrical tape and you have a lens shade. A paper plate can be used as a ring light and a reflector. Cut a slit down the plate to create a funnel and direct the light more precisely.

 

 



10. Spare battery & memory cards

 

Nothing is more depressing than running out of space on your memory card or your camera battery dying. Don’t have that moment of disappointment and regret! Pack an extra memory card and battery in your bag so you can keep shooting!

 

 

 

 


With a well-equipped camera bag, you’ll set yourself for shooting success…without back pain.

Check out photography open calls on CaFE and submit those masterful shots today!

 

 

Author: Elyse McNiffKoglmeier

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!

 

Author: Elyse McNiffKoglmeier