Wednesday, January 20, 2016

New Year's wish for all

(Better late than never :-))

Monday, February 23, 2015

Extraneous work (10): the studio

The studio of a contemporary mixed media artist can be quite a messy affair. -Wikipedia

The occasional need to clear this mess is not what I mean with extraneous work, in fact there is part creation in reorganizing, and I always come across drawing/paintings/sculptures that need some finishing touch... which means I seldom arrive at clearing and cleaning in a straight line.

The real extraneous work lies in procuring a studio. The reason to post on this subject is this: after 5 years I've had to move out of my very excellent painting studio in Nijmegen (10 years if i count my sculpture workshop). This meant I also had to move all my equipment and storage elements, all my paintings and sculptures, quite a small disaster.

Over the past 23 years, I've had 7 different studios, and number 8 is now a happy fact (pictures to follow).

This moving around is extraneous to my creating art. However, a studio is a very important thing and I cannot afford to not put my energy in finding a good one. As always, things would be different if my budget were less tight. Paying around €300 a month is no small change, but I know it is hard to get a comparable studio for the same price. For this reason I m happy with the non-profit foundation SLAK, which provides artists in Nijmegen and Arnhem with affordable studios (temporary) and semi-affordable ones (permanent).

I would qualify for a permanent studio from SLAK (being a tenant for 22 years), but the price tag accordingly is much higher. Finally as an emergency back-up I have a small studio in our garden. It served me well during a time in my chronic illness when I could not even muster energy to work away from home.

Anyway, the past three months (!) have been largely spent on moving (I am happy to say that my new studio is excellent as well, although it is twice as far from where I live than my previous one). Seen over the years, it becomes clear that the studio is responsible for quite some extraneous work. Not only for me, but for many artists, since my situation is a very common one.

All in all I hope to have made clear in this series (on extraneous work as an artist) that apart from all the directly-art-related work, an artist has to put in many hours of extraneous work simply to be able to create art and to be seen and recognized in doing so. As a consequence, most artists ask prices for their work which yield very low hourly rates when all the extraneous work is factored in. And yet many people still consider these prices to be high :-).

Now for the good news: moving to my new studio has indeed forced me to reevaluate, reconsider, reorganize,... almost every aspect of my artistic endeavour. GOOD! I have started on a new sculpture. I am also working in my head, planning, evaluating, considering... where do I want to go next with my painting? Change has come, and I feel just a little excited about this.

Finally some mobile pics (poor quality):

dismantling the old studio
dismantling the old studio...

new painting storage
my new painting and drawing storage

furnishing my new studio
furnishing my new studio

Thursday, January 8, 2015

new year's wish (2)

new year's wish 2015 (frank waaldijk)

anders = different
zijn = to be
samen = together
doen = to do
open = open
voelen = to feel

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

new year's wish for all (1)

new year's wish 2015 (frank waaldijk)

anders = different
zijn = to be
samen = together
doen = to do
open = open
voelen = to feel

Friday, October 31, 2014

extraneous work (ix): modern communication - social media, networking, facebook, smartphones

(also see the previous post, since this is very much related to selling art and branding in the broad sense.)

modern communication ~ frank waaldijk
modern communication (illustration for this post, own work, 2014, 10 x 15 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

i've been reading on art, and also about specific artists... and i'm very tired of all the yada-yada that surrounds art. 'art is the new religion' is the often heard catchphrase, very true unfortunately. often the inanity of seemingly-deep-but-oh-so-shallow `justifications' why the art which is presented to us is so very special makes me laugh and cry at the same time.

which is why i would like to keep this post short. the drawing above explains my feelings on social media, facebook, smartphones etc. instead of interacting directly with the people around us, we are all glued to some screen, together alone... in this half-virtual world, facebook / google-plus and the likes serve as broadcasting media for our own thoughts / experiences / feelings / ... as a result, to me it appears as if everyone is sending sending sending out messages, at a speed which makes real interaction difficult (or so it appears to me).

i do not like facebook, nor google-plus, and i really hesitate to add my broadcasts to these social media. it is a bit of a paradox, you could say, since i do broadcast all these things on my blogs. the difference to me is that my blogs don't send anyone notifications, they do not compel anyone to look, they are there for anyone interested but they do not impose themselves.

this leads me to admit that i am in my core a shy person, and i dislike to claim attention. i do not like to shout from the rooftops that my art is excellent (although i do believe this to be the case), and i dislike to spend energy on creating yada-yada buzz around my art. these character traits practically guarantee that i will not become a `successful' artist in the economical / social sense... but they also enable me to focus on what is essential to my art, and to pursue my search with little compromise to the craziness of contemporary art.

in my opinion, much of our modern communication is fleeting, and inconsequential in terms of content (not in social terms, e.g. texting has been compared to the grooming of primates). so what happens to `slow' content? it gets drowned out, i believe.

extraneous work for an artist in this respect: to tailor a combination of art and communication, such that people are enticed to take notice of the art and the artist.

for this, in my not so humble opinion, a certain shallowness is almost prerequisite. if a message has real content, needing time to be digested, it will certainly be ignored. my character traits are such that i value content, and have little patience with the art of distorting such content into sound bites for a not-too-interested public. however, in order to gain some recognition, i could and perhaps should consider hiring an agent to take care of the extraneous work of social media, networking etc.

Monday, October 27, 2014

extraneous work (viii): selling art, networking, social media, branding, marketing

by selling i do not only mean the actual sale of an artwork. i mean the work that is necessary to create appreciation for my art, in a broader sense. there are various ways to go about creating such appreciation in wide enough circles, and i would like to discuss some of these ways from my personal perspective.

one cannot expect to raise appreciation of one's art without taking some trouble to at least show it to one other person. in the most fortuituous case, this might start a snowballing effect, and the end of the year sees thousands of artistic pilgrims coming to your studio, begging for an artwork, any artwork, as long as it carries your signature... :-)

in reality, art appreciation usually works a little differently. i've had many individual art lovers be enthusiastic about my work, but i hardly sell enough. in order to make a living i should have much better access to people who are really looking for art to buy. and then, as with so much other endeavours in life, competition and all sorts of extraneous parameters come in. in the contemporary art world, the valuation and apppreciation is often most difficult, even for experts. there is a lot of hot air...extremely so even.

let's just take two quotes from germaine greer on damien hirst (she comments on robert hughes' criticism of damien hirst, in the guardian 2008)
What is touching about Hughes's despair is that he thinks that artists still make things. It's a long time since Hirst actually made an artwork with his own hands.
Hirst is quite frank about what he doesn't do. He doesn't paint his triumphantly vacuous spot paintings - the best spot paintings by Damien Hirst are those painted by Rachel Howard. His undeniable genius consists in getting people to buy them. Damien Hirst is a brand, because the art form of the 21st century is marketing. To develop so strong a brand on so conspicuously threadbare a rationale is hugely creative - revolutionary even.

damien hirst is the well-known extreme example of how contemporary art is more about marketing than about the art itself. but these mechanisms also impact on a small-time (at least economically speaking :-)) artist like myself. so, according to the experts, what should you do if you want to succeed as an artist - which is always interpreted in terms of selling your art, by the way-? the gist of it, as i perceive it, is as follows:
  • be recognizable: do something different, but don't change this: your own style
  • work on a branding strategy: brand yourself as an artist, brand your art (your own style)
  • work on your cv by participating in many events, show your art in many places, according to your branding strategy and pricing strategy, get your name noticed
  • network, and use your networks, look for endorsements from `art experts'
  • use all social media to draw attention to you and your work

some of this stuff is new (sometimes in its extreme form only), but other aspects already plagued artists in medieval times i think. strikingly, together with marketing dominating art, as a logical consequence of postmodern value confusion, (acclaimwise) successful contemporary art has officially lost connection with aesthetics. this actually leads to a shadow world: the world of `stuffy' traditional visual art values, in which `small-time' artists like myself operate.

another quote for you, from a very nice review of the book: seven days in the art world (review by adrien favell, book by sarah thornton).
It is perhaps this socially mobile dynamic in the book, that accounts for the fact that Thornton mostly dwells on success and fame in the art world, not its obverse—despite, in fact, the truth that this world is driven not by the stars who made it, but the also rans, in vast numbers, who get smashed trying. Only once do we get a glimpse of this other side of art: in a light and sensitive portrait of a day amongst slacker students at a California art school. The lockjaw of theory and conceptualism on contemporary art is graphically illustrated in the scorn these struggling and mostly hopeless young artists pour on notions that art has anything to do with “beauty” or “affect”. Everyone in the art world today talks this talk today, but it has to be noted how much a role these desperately old fashioned notions still play in motivating the big auction sales—something well observed by Don Thompson. But apart from the students, Thornton has much less to say about the lives and work of the legions of those who are always hopefully (or euphemistically) referred to “emerging” artists, trying to make the leap across the chasm from art school to Turner prize nomination. The book analyses the anxieties of the Turner prize nominees, but these are already “successful” artists; the everyday action in the art system is generally going on well below this, at a more intermediate level, in the mundane actions of dealers and artists to scratch out a career and living against its brute statistics of failure.

please read the review, you will notice that its author has far more stamina in writing about these things than i do. some people write really well, to the enjoyment of many. i hope that my writing, impatient as it may be, still contributes something too...since there are so few artists entering the fray of writing about art. i commented on this earlier, it is a bit comparable to having the discipline of complex surgery being dominated by non-surgeons.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

extraneous work (vii): storing art, transporting art, restoring art

most people don't stop to consider that many sculptures are fragile, and that the storage and transport of such sculptures is not trivial. even during shows it happens that sculptures get damaged by --- i have no suitable adjective --- visitors. over the past 32 years, strangely enough i've observed that storage is the hardest. because no storage is permanent (for me, with limited funds), which means that sculptures need to be disassembled, repacked and transported... and this is where the loss of components and damage hazard creeps in. i have lost around 10 sculptures completely, in this way. and about the same number of sculptures has been damaged to the point where serious restoration was necessary.

storing --> restoring

as an example of fragile sculptures consider:

man woman relation, left view, frank waaldijk
man woman relation (20 x 15 x 15 cm, own work, 2005)

the slow triumph of death ~ frank waaldijk
the slow triumph of death (own work, 2010-2011, 30 x 15 x 30 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

but also the ceramic sculptures tend to be fragile and accident-prone. so one learns how to disassemble, reassemble and package sculptures. and one learns how to restore. restoring paintings and drawings actually seems to have become a fruitful artistic sideline for me! (see the series on finishing old work). so then the word `extraneous' must be dropped. but it was meant to be a bit provocative in the first place, since i think all these endeavours are fruitful, and in some sense related. just wanted to share something of all the hidden aspects of being an artist.

xerophyte, frank waaldijk
xerophyte (26 x 30 cm, own work, 1994-2013, click on the image for an enlargement)

the unfinished original of the above drawing had completely faded, due to my using iodine as ink, until only the outline of the original was visible. now the original was left unfinished since i did not know how to proceed with it. restoring always means reconsidering, and this time i chose a simple background to better focus on the plant and its supporting table itself.

i like to draw plants, but it demands some patience...all those leaves (mother nature at all times remains the greatest artist).i can't resist another drawing of a xerophyte, since also in this drawing the supporting table plays a major role:

xerophyte, frank waaldijk
xerophyte ii (20 x 30 cm, own work, 2010, click on the image for an enlargement)