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The Year the Art World Stood Still

The year 2020 will be remembered by most as the year people stayed home from work, students attended school online, or small businesses took big hits. The latter is most true for artists who make a living from art shows.

Almost all art shows were cancelled. Of the 10 or so shows I had applied for, only one went on. Although I made some good money at this event, it was nothing compared to what I could have earned.

I imagine some artists have retired or quit the art show circuit because they made little to no money this year. I am sure many tried online sales, as did I, only to find sales few and far between, or non-existent.

Many artisans will agree with me, I hope, in saying that art must be experienced in person to be appreciated. A photograph of a canvas or sculpture does not do them justice. Art buyers want to see, and perhaps feel, the work before buying it. This can only be accomplished through art shows or art galleries.

While us artists struggle with these hard economic times, there are things art buyers can do to help us out. Visit the websites, online galleries, and virtual art shows of all the artist friends you know. If possible, visit art galleries and art centers to view their creations in person. Also, look for local artists who may have displays in their own homes.

Artists tell me what you have done in lieu of art shows this year. Did you go online with shows or websites? Maybe farmers markets or local co-ops?

Art buyers, what can artists do to make their artwork more visible to the public?

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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What is Your Art?

What is your art? Is it painting, sculpture, writing, or something else? Is what you create your art? Let’s dig a little deeper.

The definition of art is: 1. The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing work to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. 2. The various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.

If we look at the beginning of each definition, we see that art is “the expression or application of … creative skill and imagination” and that it is a “creative activity.” Plainly stated, art is a creative process of expressing ourselves using our imagination. So, the process of creating is art, not just the finished product. Yves Klein summed it up by saying “My paintings are only the ashes of my art.” In other words, his work was the product of his art.

On the other hand, if we read further into the definition of art, we see it is “a visual form…to be appreciated.”  So, our work is art then, right? Yes and no.

Yes, in that it is something to be appreciated. We can see, read, or listen to it and enjoy it. It is a physical manifestation of our creativity. No, because it is only part of our art. It is the culmination of our ideas, labor, and a piece of our soul if you will.

When someone buys our art, they are getting the result, something tangible they can see or listen to. They may not realize the art they are getting is so much more. They are getting a piece of each of us. That my friends, is art.

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What’s In Your Wallet?

With apologies to Capital One, this is not a credit card offer. This is a serious question to all you artists reading this. What is in your wallet or purse?

Do you carry some of your business cards with you wherever you go? I tried a few years ago. Because I didn’t pass them out as often as I should have, they got stuck together. Not very professional, by any means. I bought a business card holder to keep them in shape, but somehow lost it. Now I keep about a dozen in my glove box. I pull a few out whenever I pull out my camera.

Are you a member of an art association, writers or painter’s guild, or other organization affiliated with your artistic endeavors? Currently I am a member of an arts association (Community Arts Council of Kankakee County
www.communityartscouncil.org)  I received a card upon joining, but it never saw the inside of my wallet. If I belonged to a group that had a card, I could use for discounts say, I would carry it.

As an artist that participates in shows, I frequently get cards from other artists. They go in my wallet until I get home. They are then removed, the information recorded, and the cards filed.

What is in my wallet that I can show people and say, “Yes, I am an artist.”? Nothing. Does that make me less of an artist? No. I have the knowledge in my brain, the passion in my heart, and the tools in my hands.

So, my question to you is this: What is in your wallet or purse to show that you are an artist? Is it necessary?

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

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Shows Cancelled? Get Busy!

As an artist, the cancelling of art shows has been a blow to my bank account. I am sure many of you can relate, as evidenced in an article in the Chicago Tribune titled “As coronavirus cancels summer art festivals, ‘the business model for artists imploded’” (read it here). However, instead of stressing out about it, I have done something productive.

I have created more art during all this down time. Along with this, I have decided to expand my range of what I do. I had focused on barns and related items as a way to preserve them. I have added a new line-up for me, Rust and Decay as Art. This focuses on rusty things such as old vehicles and abandoned buildings. Adopting this genre as given me a new focus (pardon the pun) on my photography.

Another thing I have done during this temporary lack of shows is to sell my work online. As my website does not have a store, I post items on my Facebook business page (https://www.facebook.com/RickDecoriePhotography/). This may not be ideal; it is better than not selling at all.

A good book kills time. A lot of business books does that and more. I have got a stack of books that deal with artistry to marketing and more.

My presence at art shows will be better after shows resume. I have been using this time to improve the look of my booth. New display systems, signage, and new art will enhance the shopping experience.

Speaking of new art, I have plenty of it, as well as new formats. Canvas wraps are my new selling point. I am phasing out framed prints as they did not perform well. I am even thinking of getting a few metal prints.

So, there you have it. Instead of lamenting about shows cancelling, I am preparing to jump into the remainder of the show season with a new look and new work.

My First Gallery Show

In September of 2020, I emailed several galleries looking for information on showing my work. One of them, Crete Creative Gallery and School, responded, saying they had an opening in May of 2021. I gladly accepted.

Since the initial email, I’ve gotten forms to read and fill out, and a request for the name of my show and a digital print representing my work. They also asked for an artist statement. I’ve read and filled out what I needed to. After some research on the web, and reading through the website of the gallery, I found the best name for a show is usually just two words. This ruled out my usual “Rust and Decay as Art” as a name for my show. I had to brainstorm this one. After coming up with about 10 choices, I ran them by my wife for input. We both thought “Time Lost” was a good fit for my work and what it represents. Picking a print to highlight my show was much easier. I ended up using my shot titled “Taillight #1” for it.

Taillight #1

An artist statement sounds like it would be an easy thing to do. Again, I researched the web and the gallery’s website for ideas and inspiration. After several edits, and suggestions from my wife, it was done. I also wrote a bio, so it could be consistent across all my media. The bio got sent in instead of the statement, but the folks at the gallery were happy with it.

Over the past several months, I have been ordering my prints in metal for the show. Most of them are black and white, with just a few in color. I have tried to get a good range of my work that fits into the show title.

Truck grill #2
Old boiler

The gallery has made postcards for my show. Once they are printed up, I can pick them up for distribution. I had no idea they were going to do that.

Front of postcard
Back of postcard

I have started labeling each box with a print name, preparing them for transport. I still must box up the ones I have out for display and mark them. Then come May 1, I can take them to the gallery. In the meantime, I do what I imagine what other artists do, which is wonder if I have enough work, will they be received with awe and astonishment, and ask myself if I forgot anything.

Once the show is up and running, I’ll write another blog about it. In the meantime, keep shooting.

My Favorite Shots of 2020

My Favorite Shots of 2020

Here are my favorite shots I took in 2020. Not all made it to print, but that’s okay. Maybe some day they will. So, without further ado, here are my favorites and why I chose them.

An abandoned building with some old wood doors. I just like the patterns and lines in this shot. Of course, anything old usually looks better in black and white.

This old barn was spotted on some property for sale along the Kankakee River. This was the most run-down building on the property. The combination of the red and green caught my eye, so I just had to shoot it.

Another old barn. I found this along side the road on my way home from some travels. All the windows caught my eye. I didn’t even notice the newer door until I was editing this photo.

A buddy and I went out shooting one day, just cruising around looking for things to shoot. We passed this truck and then made a U-turn to come back to it. After getting permission to shoot it, we each took multiple shots. This is my favorite of all the ones I took. The blue and brown colors just draw my eye into it.

At first glance, this looks like a car that can be easily restored. Far from it. There is no interior whatsoever. It is held together with wire and straps. Nevertheless, the blue and green compliment the rust color of this once grand car.

Once again, the blue sky and green grass compliment the subject. In this case it is an old elevator no longer in use. It may not be as tall as others, but it is not surrounded by old equipment or overgrown with weeds.

I spotted this truck as I was going for a walk. I had to hustle back home to grab my camera and get back to this before it was gone. After multiple edits, I was happy with the way this one turned out. I like it because it is from the same decade I am from, and it still runs.

This close-up of an old scale was found inside the office part of an abandoned silo. The old painted writing on the top is very cool, I think. I also like the blue of the door behind it.

This shot of an old boiler is a panorama of three shots stitched together. Not only is it all the lines in the shot, but the different colors as well which makes this a favorite of mine.

Empty seats covered in dust are part of an auditorium to an abandoned high school in Iowa. Imagine all the plays, assemblies, and graduation ceremonies that must have occurred in this once grand hall.

Late fall in Illinois brings with its muted colors. Along the banks of the Kankakee River, one can take in sights such as the remains of an old bridge. These supports blend in well with their surroundings.

If you go to enough salvage yards, eventually you will find unusual items, such as a yellow radiator. It just stood out from the surrounding junk. A few feet away lay another one.

I love old cars and the way they were adorned. In this case, a golden ball atop a silver fin adorns a fender of a long dead car in a salvage yard. Now pitted and scarred, it still is an eye catcher.

Another salvage yard find, this taillight fin begged to be shot. The single color of red against the monotone background makes me stop and look at it.

Upcoming Photoshoot

As I write this, I am counting down the days until I get to go to another salvage yard for a photoshoot. Judging from what I have seen from video and photos, this yard has a lot of old iron to shoot. This yard is tucked away in some woods out in the country. It looks as though everything has been there at least 50 years. Lots of rust, which usually means good textures, and great lines of automobiles built in the 1940’s and 50’s.

I’ve always liked old cars. I’ve been known to attend a car show or two. As pretty as the restorations are, there is nothing like looking at a hulk that has been in the same spot for decades. Imagining what it must have looked like. Wondering who the previous owners were, and why they gave up their vehicles.

Looking at abandoned cars in a salvage yard gets my imagination going. Not only do I think about the previous things, but I also try to mentally picture what the finished print will look like. Will it be a great black and white print with lots of texture and shapes? Will the patina of the rust and faded paint look better in color, with just a few tweaks in Lightroom? Other things that cross my mind when shooting include close-ups or crop later, bracket the shots for a HDR print, or even several side by side shots to create a panorama.

I have found myself more drawn to rust lately than the old barns I loved to shoot. I’ve been on several Urbex (Urban Exploration) trips in the past two years, as well as the salvage yards. Something about being able to get right up to the subjects, and be able to feel them, is something that was lacking from shooting barns. In a way, they are both similar in that the structures (both buildings and vehicles) are old, usually abandoned, and falling apart. The rust and rot speak to me. I cannot ignore their pleas. So, I will continue shooting both barns and Urbex.

Back to this upcoming shoot. After I am done writing this, I will go over my equipment, ensuring batteries are charged, lenses are clean, and filters in place. I am bringing both my cameras on this adventure. One will be equipped with the kit lens (18 -55 mm) while the other will sport a 50 mm lens. My tripod is already in my vehicle so as not to forget it. I will also make sure extra SD cards are in the bag, as well as the spare batteries.

Because this is a four-hour shoot, I expect to get between 150 to 200 shots between the two cameras. After getting them on the computer, this number will be reduced through culling until I have a nice number of shots to choose from. Of these I will edit maybe half of them, with perhaps a handful getting printed. Although this may sound harsh, it is not. Most of the shots will be what I call practice shots. This will be to check settings on the cameras, look for distractions my eyes may not have caught, and determine if I should continue to shoot that shot.

If you want to know more about Urban Exploration, there are many websites devoted to it. There are also a lot of pages and groups on Facebook covering this topic. For those that want to see some of my barn photography or anything in my “Rust as Art” series, visit my website at https://rickdecoriephotography.com/ .