As an artist I am often, no, always, stuck for money for materials. As it is all my extra income goes towards my art. I spend very little on clothes and going out and nothing on things that other women take for granted like tanning, waxing, manicures etc. Even at that I cannot afford things like frames for my pictures.
I put all I can put into my work with what resources I have to hand but when I compare my last two shows, Shore Things and Down By the Sea to my show Road Trip there is, to me, a gap in the quality of the presentation. Some of this is probably due to the fact that Road Trip was in a dedicated gallery space whereas the other two weren’t but there were two other things missing:frames and a catalogue.
Yes, I know, the work is the most important thing but we need to also let the world know that we cherish our work. How can we expect anyone else to take our work seriously if we don’t?It’s noticeable when you take care over your work, give attention to details:the quality of materials used, where and how you show it, even the quality of the wine or refreshments on offer if you have an opening. We can’t of course do everything the way we would like but we can do our best, even if we are poor. We can make an effort.
It annoys me no end to see the amount of people calling themselves artists these days who present their photographs rippling over warped cardboard mounts or paintings hung willy-nilly, without thought or a plan. It costs the same to mount something carefully as not and costs nothing to plan but, this post wasn’t to be a whinge, I’ll do that in another post 😉
For Road Trip, I was able with the help of the gallery, to frame the pictures the way I wanted and to design and have printed a nice little catalogue too. The show looked pretty sleek in fact. I’m not always for sleek, it doesn’t suit everything but it suited Road Trip.
A catalogue is probably the least necessary of these two things but, I like putting together a catalogue. I like giving my pictures context and giving the viewers a starting point from which to wander. It is also nice to provide the people who can’t quite afford to buy a work with a sample of your show not to mention having a souvenir for yourself.
As for frames, the pictures in the last two shows I had were unframed due to necessity. The works were strong and often pictures can go without frames but frames can create a space for your work to fully inhabit. This is probably especially important for shows that are not in conventional galleries like Shore Things and Down By the Sea.
And so I have a problem. I still have quite a few unframed works lying around which, if I go the gallery route, something I think I have to do, in part at least, I need to frame at least some of my work. How to do that on little or bugger all money?
The answer came from my artist friend Laura Cull who has a framing business in Connemara. She offered to sell me moulding at cost price and allow me to to make frames in her workshop. In return I was to fix her website for her and give her a few pointers.
So, a bargain for us both. I got 17 frames made, frames that I can easily be moved from painting to painting and she got a website page through which she can sell her work. Not only that but she put me up and fed me for three days, took me to a table quiz, which we won, and got a couple of my pieces into an exhibition for Sea Week in Letterfrack. How bad?
This kind of barter system works very well for artists as we often have different strengths and weaknesses and different experiences to bring to the table. It also, happily, extends to picture swapping. My own collection, which gives me great pleasure, is growing because I have work I can swap with artists I admire. Its one of the biggest perks of the job.
Nearly all of us artists spend a lot of time alone. It’s the nature of our job and there’s a lot to be written about the vital need for artists to make an effort to connect for inspiration and encouragement. The wonder of it is all the solid things and solid friendships that can come out of making such efforts and how this can make not only our work but our lives flourish.
Now, I just have to befriend a printer…. 😉