Thoughts on “Calls to Artists” from an artist who coordinates and curates

I do a lot of shows in Kelowna and the surrounding area, some as an artist, some as curator/coordinator, some as both.

Two of the major ones that I have put out Calls to Artists are The Okanagan Erotic Art Show, and Evergreen Art Gallery (formerly Gallerie Diamante). Clicking on either of these two links will open a new window. If you have pop-up enabled, then each of the websites is itsname.com – so www.okanaganeroticartshow.com.

The calls themselves for each of these show are Okanagan wide – which means that it covers an area from Salmon Arm to Osoyoos – about a four to five hour drive – or about 500 km lengthwise. We are lucky in the Okanagan to have such a rich cache of artists.

Calls always include:

  • Images (high res usually is requested)
  • Art information (for labels, such as title, medium, size and price)
  • Artist Statements – (usually a one liner, or else 100-250 words)
  • Biography (short – about 100-250 words)
  • Timeline (deadline for call, when to drop off work, when to pick up work etc)

When I receive the information, out of every ten artists who answer, at least six of the packages are incomplete. The reasons they are incomplete follows:

Images of the Artwork

Images are one of the most complicated things for an artist to do it seems. The problem stems from not understanding your camera. Usually, with a camera, you point it at the object, and you click the button. Seems easy enough right? Well it is, once you get your camera set up! So instead of phoning me to ask me how to take a picture or to complain that you don’t know how to take a picture (no, I am not doing it for you!) learn how to do it!

Go to the camera shop where you bought your camera, whether London Drugs, Future Shop, Walmart etc. Tell them what you are doing – what size you need (largest), what light you are using, and ask them to set the camera up for you (ensure it is cmyk). Alternatively, you could read the manual, a highly recommended and effective way to spend your time.  (If you want to know more about the differences between cmyk (print) and rgb (web) please click here.)

After the camera is set up, the most important thing is to make sure it looks good in your little window, point and shoot. Ensure your hand or the camera is supported on something solid and you won’t get any fuzzies.

Size of file

The size of your file can be changed in the “tools” or “image” section of your imaging software. In Photoshop it is under “Image/image size”. In other programs, look for something similar.

For Print
Large files are required for print. By having a large file for print means that if the image is suitable for printing.

It fulfills these requirements:
a. it is 300 pixels resolution
b. it is 1500 pixels wide minimum
c. is cmyk

For Web
Small files are required for the web. By having a small file for the web means that it can be viewed on the web with minimal disruption (ie wait time) to the webpage visitor.

It fulfills these requirements:
a. it is 72 pixels resolution
b. it is 500 pixels wide
c. is rgb.

Type of file image
Some people are proponents of certain file types for printing and web. Quite frankly, if the curator or gallery manager needs a tiff file or a different file, they can change it over from your 300 pixel print jpg file. Don’t worry about that – just keep it simple unless you know what you are doing. Save it in jpg format. When you are completely comfortable with that and have the inclination to explore, by all means, explore and have fun. After you have take the picture, pull it in to an image editing software (preview on the mac and paint on windows), and crop it down so ony the artwork is visible (without any frames or mattes), and save it to your cd or your harddrive.

Make sure you know where you saved it.
The system I have set up on my computer is like this:

webpage
>scans

  • >2003
  • >2004
  • >2005
  • >2006 you get the idea

or you could also do something like

Documents
>shows

  • >artimages (ie in here you would have your large original images and your cropped images)
  • >artistdocs (ie in here you would store your short bio, long bio, short cv, long cv, pics of you)

How to label the artwork image file

Many different galleries and calls to artists have different requirements. Me, I like it really simple. lastname#web or lastname#print. So a large file for print can be used in anything printed: invitations, media releases, etc.

My image filename would look like this: trops1web.jpg or trops1print.jpg. No capitals.

Your image filename ie #1 or #2 etc, should correspond to the label information you have submitted. Please whatever you do, do not name your image the name of the artwork. Keep it simple: your name, the artwork # and if it is for web and print. When I am scanning for images to use, I need to know right away if it is print or web friendly, and to be able to access it quickly and efficiently. You save ME a lot of time by doing this.

Artwork Information

On a separate sheet or even within the email you send, label the artwork with the number which will correspond to the image, your name, the medium, the size and the price.

Unless specifically told otherwise, the size should always indicate height first.

For an artwork image trops1print.jpg or trops1web.jpg (it’s the same artwork but two images, so only one label is required.)

ie
1. Rising Waters
Julia Trops
Oil on Canvas
20″x16″
$750

Artist Statements

This is one I get asked about a lot. I am not an expert, I just know what I personally like and appreciate. I am not a fan of artist statements that require a PhD to read but if that is your aesthetic then by all means…. maybe you should take up writing instead of art? Just a thought. Anyway – you don’t know who your audience will be and likely they will read (or try to read) your artist statement. By keeping it simple, you are keeping it inclusive to all levels of understanding. But it is your choice.

When submitting to shows, you will require one of two types of an artist statement, well, perhaps even both: a short one sentence no more than 30 words, and one long, no more than 250 words. The short one can easily go by the artwork, if the curator wishes, or it can be published in the newspaper as part of a quote or it can be on the web. Long artist statements go in catalogs (if there is room) or on the promotional materials around the gallery if it is a solo or small group show.

Try to avoid putting three sentences in one, separated by commas, okay? Just do a straightforward honest one liner.

A name for this file could be something like trops_artiststatement_long.rtf or trops_as_long.txt. Save it as a rich text file or text file in order to be easily transportable across platforms (mac or pc) and programs (word etc). By saving it in an .rtf or .txt file means it is also easily copied in to webpages without much hassle. Other programs such as word etc tend to add little codings that can screw up a format on a webpage and cause havoc to the webmaster, so, keep it simple.

Artist Biographies

I have already written a primer on artist biographies, you can find it here. A few quick notes: an artist biography is not the same as a cv. A cv is something where you say what you have done. A biography is where you have come from. A cv is in point form of your accomplishments and involvements. A biography is a story about you. Yes a biography can include things from your cv, but it is a story.

Two types of bios could be asked for – a long one and a short one. Please, whatever you do, don’t write a book. Think 300 – 500 words for a long biography. For more information, visit the link above.

Title your file name the same manner you did for the artist statement.

Timeline

And last but definitely not the least of which is the timeline.

The timeline is a schedule that I set out as coordinator which will dictate when I do things. I broadcast this loud and clear in the Call to Artists, and I say where you can find it on the web. If you are in the habit of not having your materials in on time and requesting extensions, please do not enter, but alternatively, you could consider counseling for lack of self-discipline or a disregard for other people’s time. A really good webpage to get you started back on the road to mental health is here.

Respect the deadlines.

If I tell you where the timeline is placed (usually on the web, and I even supply the web address!) then bookmark this page and go back to it if you have forgotten dates. Please do not write me three or four times in a month, and call me on the phone to find out when the deadlines are, I will think you are a flake. If you have trouble with calendars, or don’t have a calendar, sign up for google mail, and get their calendar. It is fabulous and will even email you reminders if you want!

Conclusion

Remember I am an artist too. I know how tough it is to do some of these things, but if you get them done, think of how easy every other call will be! If you want me, as curator or coordinator, to respect your professionalism, then please respect the Calls to Artist requirements. It isn’t rocket science, and with some careful planning in the beginning, entering a Call is a snap.

Good luck!

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