Upcoming Classes

Interested in learning hands-on, process-oriented photographic techniques? 
I'll be teaching several community college classes this year that offer just that. 

Photography I: Hands-on black and white film and darkroom photography. Learn about design, composition, and vision. Take your camera off of AUTO and learn how to use the manual controls on your camera to fine-tune your image-making. Students will learn about professional presentation and complete the class with a portfolio of mounted gelatin silver prints. NO art or photo experience needed! Offered Summer 2015 and Spring 2016 at St. Louis Community College at Meramec. 

Non-Silver Photography: Learn antique photographic processes using a variety of hand-painted emulsions and printmaking techniques with the opportunity for mixed-media applications. You will learn how to print ortho-litho film from 35mm film negatives and also print digital negatives for contact printing. Processes covered will include Cyanotype, Van Dyke brown, Gum Bichromate, and photopolymer printing using Solar Plates. Offered Fall 2015 at St. Louis Community College at Meramec.

Special Topics: The topics of the special topics courses change all the time. This semester you will have the opportunity to learn about using plastic cameras, such as Holgas, and making pinhole cameras, as well as mixed-media techniques in photography. Offered Spring 2016 at St. Louis Community College at Meramec.

 

Art Review on KDHX.org

Hi, everyone! I want to let you know that in addition to making and exhibiting artwork, I'm also doing a little arts writing. My first review for KDHX is on Dail Chambers' exhibit "Itshanapa: A Surreal Sankofa Experience" on view at Beverly Gallery through April 19. This is your last week to see it, and I hope that you do. It would be a shame to miss it. 

Here's the link: http://kdhx.org/arts/visual-and-performing-arts/itshanapa-a-surreal-sankofa-experience-continues-through-april-19-at-beverly-gallery

Donations

Most professional artists are often asked to donate artwork for various charitable auctions. I have very mixed feelings about this. I like to support charities and not-for-profit organizations when I believe in them. However, there are a few problems. One is money. Money is something of which I have very little, so I try to be pretty judicious about how I spend it. 

I love it when someone buys a piece of my artwork. LOVE IT! But, that doesn't happen as often as I'd like. I also don't want to sell my work for less than I think it's worth. 

Where does the selling fit in with auctions? People bid on my work. They buy it. However, I generally don't see any of that money. And I hate it when it goes for less than its retail value. It seems crummy to me that someone might get a donated piece for a lower price than they might spend on it in a gallery. It seems unfair. It also seems like it could discourage people from buying in a gallery if they expect they can get a nice piece of artwork for a deal at an auction. 

Of course, not all auctions are created equal. I did do an event called Wall Ball that included the artists painting the work during the bidding process. It seemed fun and interesting, and I was happy to have been asked. I liked that the money was going to help SCOSAG. This past fall, I accepted an invitation to participate in Art Attack for KDHX. I had declined the previous year because I couldn't bear to see my artwork cut up if it came to that. However, they added a great website showcasing the artists with quality photographs and links to their websites. KDHX did a great job promoting the event, and the artists all got tickets to the event, which was really fun. I always wish that I could donate during their pledge drives, so I felt it was something I could do for them, especially since they were supplying the canvas. 

So, those were fun, and I'd definitely do the KDHX event again. But sometimes the organization doesn't do much for the artists. They just want the work. They aren't going to do anything to promote you other than have the work there. And if it's an event with expensive tickets, they probably aren't going to invite you either. And they certainly aren't going to give you a cut of the profits. 

But you can write it off! That's bunk. You can write off the supplies, sure, but I already do that on my tax return. I can't write off the retail value, and I can't write off my time. So what do I get out of it? Not much. If I write the organization a check for $300 I can write off $300, but if I donate a piece of artwork that retails at $300, I really can't write off anything, since the supplies are written off under my business expenses. 

So what's an artist to do? We can't just go around giving our work away for free, but how do we also support the organizations that we love? Artist friends, what are your thoughts? 

Teaching!

Teaching is a part of many artists' professional lives, mine included. 

This spring I will be teaching a printmaking class and a cyanotype workshop at the St. Louis Artists' Guild. I'm very excited about the opportunity and am looking forward to sharing my knowledge with other people who want to make beautiful things. 

 

Copyright Erica Popp 2014

Copyright Erica Popp 2014

Disappointment and Frustration

Sometimes it feels like as a professional artist I am living the dream! I get to spent long days in the studio, make beautiful things, get work into shows, get to feel like an art star, have flexible days, etc, etc. But, as I like to say, artwork is still work, and it's not always glamorous. In fact, the past two weeks have been simply frustrating. Some frustration or disappointment is normal, of course. Not getting into a juried show I wanted to be in, having an exhibit proposal turned down, not receiving the grant I spent probably a month worth of life applying for, these are things I expect. But this last two weeks was a whole different level of frustration. A lot of things haven't worked out the way I planned or hoped. There were three major things happened/didn't happen:
1) A gallery "lost" my work and didn't display it in time for the opening reception. (It was found and hung later.)
2) I had a deadline for a show with a quick turn-around. I needed some new printmaking supplies. One order of crucial supplies was delayed, and when it did arrive, I hurriedly opened an empty box. Then I cried. Just a little.
3) I used up nearly $200 in printing supplies and still ended up with nothing that looked good. 

Such a frustrating two weeks. However, I try to learn from everything. Here are lessons from each of the big disappointments:
1) I learned to check in with the gallery to which I ship my work. I also learned that shipping with FedEx with signature required was a great idea. That way I knew who signed for my work when it was delivered.
2) I learned that good customer service includes the company overnighting the items that it didn't send me. 
3) I learned that a significant increase in print size means a significant difference in process. Despite my success with smaller plates, this larger one presented very different issues. I also learned that I can't push my creative process for a quick deadline. I work with processes that take a lot of time, attention, and careful adjustments. It's just not possible to push it quickly and still have the quality that I want. I had to submit a print in a different process in order to still get work into the show.

Although I already knew this, today I see it very clearly: I chose a extremely difficult career path, and not just because it's hard to make money. A career in the arts is filled with uncertainty, frustration, disappointment, and sometimes a lot of wasted materials. However, it is also varied, exciting, and rewarding. Although this week was frustrating, and although I had some disappointing days in the studio, tomorrow is always another chance to make something beautiful.

On Thinking Visually and On Getting Paid

I want to talk about getting paid for artwork, and I also want to talk about how I think about my experience differently when I'm a photographer for an event rather than a participant.

I was thinking about how, although I'm a photographer, I don't bring my camera everywhere I go (unless you count the camera on my iPhone).  I like taking photographs when I feel like it or when it's my job. I think it's because being the photographer is a different role and a different mindset. I recently started reading a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain  by Betty Edwards, and in the introduction (yes, I read introductions to books) she talks about perception as being a different type of thinking, and about the brain's difficulty in, "simultaneously processing two modes of information" (xx). I think that's why I don't photograph events that I'm participating in. It's very difficult. However, it seems that photographers are often expected to do this. 

In the summer of 2012 I went to a teaching workshop for new faculty from several small colleges in Illinois. I was the only photography instructor, and on the second day, the workshop facilitator asked if I wouldn't mind taking a few photographs during the day. I did mind. First of all, photography is something I get paid to do. You're really asking for professional photographs for free? (Let's come back to that.) Secondly, I am here to learn about making syllabi and stuff. That's a way different mode of thinking, and I'd really rather just participate in the workshop. I hate switching modes of thinking, and I hate it when people think that art and photography are so fun for me that I'd delight in any opportunity to do it, even unpaid. Certainly that workshop would benefit from using any photographs I took. They'd probably be on their website to promote the program. But what would I have received? Maybe a byline, but probably not. The facilitator seemed surprised when I refused, and tried to convince me to agree. I had to stand firm though, not just for me, but for photographers everywhere. 

So let's talk about getting paid. I just read this article from Bmoreart $Art$: Artists Unite, A Call for Sanity by Cara Ober in which the author asks creatives to unite to figure out how to change things. She focuses on Baltimore, but the issue applies to all creatives. We can't offer our work for free. We are professionals and we all deserve to eat and pay our rent and raise children.

I think one root of this problem is our anxiousness in and just out of college. We really want to get our artwork out there. We really want to add lines to our resumes. We accept "great exposure" as currency. I know that I did a lot of that in college. Now I'm more picky. I scout out venues before applying for shows. I try to choose venues that will be beneficial to me in some way. Is it likely that I will sell work out of this space?Do I get to give a lecture (and get paid)? Do I get to teach a related workshop (and get paid)? Could this opportunity possibly lead to a (paid) teaching job? I refuse to donate artwork (with some very particular exceptions). Exposure is no longer currency in my book. 

I spend a lot of time and money making artwork, framing artwork, marketing artwork. And although I love the work I do, at the end of the day it's still work. When I go home I don't want to keep making artwork. I want to cook dinner for my family, hang out with them, play a little Candy Crush, and snuggle with my cats. And there is nothing wrong with that. Even on days when nothing seems to work out, even when I feel unaccomplished, I still worked. It's not frivolous. 

Although I love making artwork, and although I make it regardless of the (lack of) money, there's no reason that I shouldn't get paid for what I do. This goes for all creatives. Don't give away free websites, don't give away free writing, don't give your artwork away to organizations that aren't doing anything for you. Value your work. Value yourself. And value the work of other creatives. You deserve to be a well-fed artist.

 

Dream Job

So, you might already know that I'm in graduate school part-time. I spend the rest of that time making work, showing work, doing art fairs, marketing, looking for exhibition opportunities, applying for grants, etc. I also have a part-time job as an artist's studio assistant.  Basically, I want to be a professional artist, so I'm behaving like one. And I think it's possible to earn a living as an artist, although not everyone feels that way. 

At an event not too long ago, I ran into another woman artist. We hadn't seen each other for a while, so we got caught up a little bit. I told her I left my teaching job, got engaged to a wonderful man, and was going to graduate school. Then it went something like this:

Friend: "What will you get when you're done?" 
Me: "An MFA."
Friend: "But what will you get for a job?"
Me: "Job?"
Friend: "Yes, what will you do for work?"
Me: "Make art, I suppose."
Friend: "Yes, but how will you make money?"
Me: "From the art."
Friend: "But that's just so hard to do. You need to have a job."

Oh my. Why are we so quick to squash our dreams? And why are we so quick to squash others' dreams just because they seem a little impractical? The practical career path isn't for everyone. I tried it. I really did. 

 A few years ago, while I was working in a college writing center, I started an MA in Education because it was a practical means for me to get a stable job. But I didn't like it. I learned enough to know that I didn't want to be a reading specialist even though I could, and even though I care about literacy, and even though it would probably be not terribly hard to find a job in a private school or a in community college writing center. Even though it would be a totally adequate career path, it became clear that I would be unfulfilled. It was not what I really wanted to do. So I quit. 

I decided instead to pursue art. I spent a little extra time on artwork. I took a class. I stopped feeling guilty for spending a little less time on grading and lesson-planning and a little more time on artwork and social life. I applied to graduate school. When I was offered only one 2-semester hour course in the upcoming semester, I said "no" and started grad school and my art career instead. I'm very busy, I hardly make any money, but I'm happy. I'm learning a lot about my work, myself, and my career. I think it will be difficult, but I'm so excited about the possibilities, so please don't tell me to be practical. I know how to make ends meet, even if I don't have a lot to work with. 

Art Lecture = I Heart Students

Last week I had the pleasure of giving my first-ever artist lecture at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley. I LOVED it! Why? Because of the students.

I love talking with students, especially when they are engaged and curious. I haven't been teaching in the classroom since subbing for my friend's writing class in January, and I thought I didn't miss it. However, speaking with these young art students was very interesting. They had great questions. They answered my questions. One young man, Dominic, gave me a tour of his paintings in the art building, including works in progress in his studio.  He was in the printmaking class I took there last fall, and it was fun to see him and some of the other students that I met in that class. 

I look forward to more opportunities to talk with students, and I hope that in the near future I can get back to teaching college part-time. 

First post! Current Exhibits and September News

Hi everyone! It's taken me a while to get around to posting on this blog. I have so much new web stuff happening, as well as lots of art stuff (of course). I'm so happy that right now I'm able to spend most of my time making art and doing the business stuff that goes with it, like contracts, marketing, etc.

I hope you'll take a little time to check out my upcoming events section. I have a lot going on and a lot coming up, in both St. Louis and in Illinois. I have a solo exhibit, Urban Landscapes, at By Design Gallery in Alton, Illinois, which I'm really excited about. I think my prints look really great in the space. I also have work in two juried group exhibitions: a collaborative textile piece in the Under the Influence exhibit at Art Saint Louis, and a solar plate print in The Cedarhurst Biennial at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon, Illinois. 

I'll also be doing some art fairs: Art in the Park at St. Francis Park on September 29 (10am-6pm), and the Dutchtown Harvest Festival on October 19 (11am-5pm). You can pick up some of my prints and pottery at either of those events. 

Remember, you can always check the calendar for when my shows are up and when. I try to post the gallery hours for each exhibit in the info section. (If I miss any, please let me know.) You can also follow me on facebook to see my day-to-day posts from the studio.  

Thanks for reading, and thank you for you support!