Monday, June 3, 2013

"Schools Kill Creativity" Ken Robinson (TED Talks)

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

(Direct Link - Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

“The Art of the Profession” workshop - Ani Art Acadamy Waichulis

On Friday, May 25th Anthony Waichulis founder of Ani Art Academy a fine art/painting atelier located in Bear Creek Township, PA, (with international locations in Anguilla, Dominicana and growing) offered a one day workshop titled “The Art of the Profession”.  After about a decade of correspondence with Anthony, participating with him in multiple group Trompe L’Oeil exhibitions, following his and many of his students works and careers, and finally relocating from California to Pennsylvania myself – I finally had the opportunity to pay a visit to the Ani Academy Waichulis.  Not only was I able to visit but I also was able to attend the first in their 2013 summer workshop series.

Here's the workshop description as stated on the Ani Academy Website:
The Art of the Profession is a one day clinic offered by artist Anthony Waichulis to explore basic strategies for artist brand building, promotions, and representation 
Workshop Schedule: The Art of the Profession 
  • Goals, skill sets, and resources
  • Deconstruct and analyze previous efforts
  • Establish a strategy for success
  • Establish a work schedule and commit 
Analysis of resources
  • Education
  • Publication
  • Websites
  • Email
  • Grants
  • Competitions
  • Associations 
  • Identifying a viable/compatible representing entity
  • Protocols for approaching a representing entity
  • Presentation
  • Pricing strategies
  • Building an exhibition
On top of the fact that I really wanted to visit the school, the premise for the workshop seemed to fit my immediate needs as a career artist. Artists generally want to spend the majority of their allotted "artist time" making art and it's very easy (and sometimes convenient) to forget that you must maintain and constantly progress as a business, which I am guilty of sometimes neglecting. But recently I've been searching for ideas, theories and strategies to further advance my career and a workshop taught by Anthony Waichulis, who not only has knowledge from his own career but also that of his many students, some of which have gone on to be successful artists and teachers, so this workshop seemed to be an excellent opportunity to learn from their collective experiences.

First off, I have to say that the location is gorgeous. The building is nestled within the lush bright green leaves of the close surrounding trees, on a hillside not far from the road but just far enough to give the illusion of being a rural studio hideaway. I'm still amazed by my first spring in PA, having been born and raised in Southern CA where lawns are watered and green year round and because the evergreens out-number the deciduous trees, there's little difference between seasons. Spring is gorgeous in PA and Ani Academy Waichulis is in a particularly beautiful wooded spot.

Upon arrival I was greeted at the door and led into the school where I felt like I was finally meeting some of my long time pen-pals. I've been facebook friends with some of the attendees for years, I've even been in group shows with a few, so it was nice to meet them in person. Everyone was friendly, talkative, eating the catered breakfast (graciously furnished by Ani), and fueling up on coffee.

Anthony started off the lecture by disarming everyone with a few art-market facts, stats and charts. "It's a $50,000,000,000 industry!" he said repeatedly. Yep, that's a lot of 0's. 50 billion dollars are reported to have been spent on fine art in 2008 - one of the hardest hit years in the recent recession. This is an inspiring number if you're trying to build and/or maintain a career as a fine artist. Although the "$50 billion" was a recurring theme throughout the day, he went on to tell some personal stories about his beginnings as an artist and some of the opposition and pessimism that he met along the way...which he obviously overcame. The stories hit home. We all face people who would have us believe that being an artist is not a "real job" and he set off to dispel this myth that has somehow rooted itself into social consciousness. He then pointed out that there are many who have and continue to be successful artists and that success is a byproduct of "defining clear goals", "charting your course carefully", and "dedicating yourself completely" - a solid outlook for any business. He also led every artist to ask themselves "What do I want to do? What do I want to say?" and to "analyze your previous efforts" and "always learn". Expression through mastery of materials and technique seems to be the goal of Ani Academy and it was nice to see Anthony pushing everyone to also find there own style and voice.

Before lunch he touched on all of the bullet points in the 'Introduction and Analysis of Resources' sections, with emphasis on the importance of 'web presence', 'brand image' and creating a purposeful and professional presentation. 

Note:  Having had a part in the product development to establish a "brand image" for some very well known artists, I can attest to the fact that these artists work very hard and carefully to craft their business, look and PR.  And to prove the "$50 billion", one of the artists that I worked with had a warehouse stocked with $16 million in picture frames waiting to be filled - and this is just one of many examples from many artists. Working with them was a great learning experience and it is inspiring to know that this kind of success is currently possible. 

Lunch was catered, and I had the chance to get to know few more of the artists. Also, there were paintings displayed by some of the Ani students, alumni and Anthony...all of the work was fantastic and a pleasure to see in person!!!      

The second part of the day (the 'representation' segment) was presented with a quicker pace, packed full of info, and well...pretty funny. Anthony's humor and quippy comments kept everyone engaged and it felt more like a focused social gathering rather than a dry lecture. We were told what to watch out for, what to expect, and how to best conduct yourself and business when dealing with a gallery. In this segment, a few myths were shattered and seemingly illusive answers to hard to ask questions were answered with authority. For me, this was the most enlightening part of the day. "...hmmm...really? it!...thanks Anthony!!!" The last hour or so was reserved for Q&A and personal art/business problems were address.

It was a very informative workshop, a great group people, good food, and overall...a good time! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Best Canvas Pliers!

John Annesley Canvas Pliers
I've mentioned in a previous post that I worked in the picture framing industry for about 16 years.  During that time I've stretched every type of canvas and fabric that you could imagine.  In fact, for one employer I managed the stretching department that had crews of people stretching hundreds of canvas edition prints I've used just about every type of stretching device that you can think of, from pneumatic machines to cheap art supply store pliers.  For high volume work, you really can't beat the big machinery, but for hand stretching these are the best tools on the market...

John Annesley Canvas Pliers.  They offer three models:  
I personally use the "Three Inch Side-Tack Pliers" because I prefer the traditional side stapled approach where my paintings are stretched on standard bars and are finished with the picture frame, rather than the gallery wrap approach where the painting is on taller stretcher bars, stapled on the back and hung without framing.  I've used all three versions and they all work great for their intended uses.  The main difference between these and other canvas pliers is that stronger gripping and leverage can be achieved with considerably less effort which makes the process faster, more controlled and with less hand fatigue.  Their website says it best...

"All three of our canvas plier designs now fit in your hand even better. Our new comfortable handle grips are ergonomically-designed with a soft rubber top where the force of your hand engages. Plus a slightly longer handle gives you more leverage and more room to comfortably position your hand. The fulcrum is what really gives you the power, the lever action helps you really pull tight. You can maintain even tension with much more ease. When you release pressure, our pliers still spring open the machine-textured jaws. The jaws are also angled toward the front edge, leaving a gap at the back of the jaws for excess fabric. Plus some people have requested a locking mechanism, now all three models have one available."

I guarantee that you'll love these canvas pliers, and that they are guaranteed to last your whole lifetime." - John Annesley

Agreed!  They are a must for anyone who stretches their own canvas.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hackman Frames Review

"Without Delay" by Slade Wheeler.  Framed with a Hackman Frame
Beautiful handcrafted closed corner frames. Having spent 16 years in the picture framing industry, I am very particular about my frames. In fact, I'm so particular that after months of searching, trail-and-error, and never being completely satisfied, I finally decided to design my own "signature" framing moulding to better display my trompe l'oeil paintings. Hackman Frames custom mills the moulding to specified dimensions, applies exquisite hand-finishes and ships them in packaging that is so well protected that I usually reuse it when shipping the framed piece to the gallery. They offer a nice selection of moulding/framing options in various metal leaf and traditional multi-layered painted finishes and they're more than happy to "tweak" the colors or undertones to meet the needs of the artwork. Their email and phone communication is excellent and they're not shy about calling or emailing if they have any questions so that the frame is made right the first time and on time, which I always end up appreciating - especially when working with a strict deadline.

As far as prices, you'll always pay more for custom finished closed corner frames, but in a gallery setting the frame becomes an important part of the look and feel of the piece. It can be a unifying link between multiple works (i.e. brand image), and has the potential to accentuate and lead the eye into the piece or detract from it. We've all seen beautiful works in horrible or even mediocre frames (yuk!) and this can be a huge distraction, so I'd always suggest using the most complimentary frame for the matter the cost. Art collectors have discerning eyes and they'll appreciate the finished look of high quality frames. Hackman Frames are very reasonably priced for custom closed corner frames, in fact I doubt that you'd find the same quality for a lower price...I searched an was unsuccessful. They also have an accurate price calculator on their website which bypass's the steps and wait for a quote...nice touch.

The Bottom Line: Every frame that I've ordered has been of the highest quality, the finishes are beautiful, the customer service is friendly and helpful. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a high quality framer.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Impressionists - Docudrama

Based on archive letters, records and interviews from the time, the series records the lives of the artists who were to transform the art world. A tale of poverty and of a struggle for recognition, set against a backdrop of war and revolution.

Part 1 (direct link)
Part 2 (direct link)
Part 3 (direct link)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Dimensions of Colour - by David Briggs (Website)

"All painters, whether working in traditional or digital media, are in a real sense navigators in space. Whether they are aware of it or not, each touch of colour they apply can be considered, using various systems, as a point within a space defined by three dimensions." - an excerpt from David Briggs's website "The Dimensions of Colour".  

His site hosts a large amount of well organized/concise information coupled with informative illustrations, including 3D modeling and animations, all of which make this one of the best online color theory resources that I've been able to find.  Thanks Mr. Briggs!  

Direct link:  The Dimensions of Colour