showing your work – photographing your art

Remember when I said that  one of the most frustrating things for a juror when looking through a pool of entries, is trying see past poor photography. Having unprofessional photography simply makes your work look bad. Hiring a professional photographer is expensive and I believe YOU can figure it out. The minimum equipment you need is a tripod and great lighting.

The fabulous Sarah Ann Smith recently posted a really wonderful tutorial on photographing your artwork that I think is really useful. She links to several other great articles, all of which I have used. (Reposted with her permission.)

I just read a fabulous article on photographing your artwork here, at textileart.org.  I highly recommend it!   I was thrilled that they link toHolly Knott’s instruction page for textile artists and art quilters, and they also had embedded a very useful YouTube video put up by the folks at Saatchi Online (see the video at the bottom of this post).  Those posts inspired me to share with you how I do my own photography.
2014.02.28.PhotoQuilts004-2I’ve become adept at photography through self-education and practice, and you can too.  My photographs have been used in my book (AQS even gave me a photography credit!), in Quilting Artsmagazine (which has some of the best photography out there),Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine, and a number of Lark Books including 500 Art Quilts, so I think I’ve reached proficiency–at least with the best of my shots.  Here’s a little of what I do in hopes that it will help you!

Set-up and level:  In the photo above, I’ve shown how I set things up in my studio.  I am very fortunate to have a LARGE (vast!) design wall, which I had built and installed when we moved into this house three (!!!) years ago.  I can pin my quilts to the wall and photograph them easily.  If you don’t have a design wall, you can create a temporary set-up easily and inexpensively:  purchase either foam core or rigid foam insulation.  Place the foam core or insulation flat (or as flat as you can get) against the wall (poster tacking putty may be helpful).   If you have to tilt the board, make sure the camera lens is parallel to the surface (see the Saatchi video, at the bottom of this post).

2014.02.28.PhotoQuilts002

Hotshoe bubble level and first screen on my camera. The hotshoe (if your camera has one) is where one attaches a separate flash mechanism. On my camera, it is on top of the built-in flash. These small bubble levels are inexpensive, about $15. Mine will show you level whether the camera is positioned in landscape or portrait orientation.

I purchased a small “gizzie,”  a bubble level that fits into the camera hotshoe (the place where one attaches a separate flash) of my camera so that I can be sure that the camera is perfectly parallel to the vertical wall and also level, because my basement floors definitely are not perfectly level.  I purchased my camera level fromB&H Photo Video, a vast emporium (a real store and online) for all things photo and video; they have really expert sales people who can help you with expensive decisions (like a DSLR!) and great prices.  They are a Jewish business, so they close for the Sabbath (Friday to Saturday evenings) and holy days, so check on the website for special closings.  Otherwise, they are there.  Type “Camera level” into the search box on the site to find their current offerings.  If my eyes are telling me one thing and the hotshoe level is saying another, I often use a small “torpedo” level to double check.  When I turn the camera to vertical on the tripod, because the barrel of the lens has ridges, I make certain the front of the lens is level (see photos below).

With this particular lens, I notice that the lower right corner isn’t sharp no matter what the focal length, so when I want ALL the quilt to be super-sharp, I allow extra room around the edges.

With this particular lens, I notice that the lower right corner isn’t sharp no matter what the focal length, so when I want ALL the quilt to be super-sharp, I allow extra room around the edges.

 If you want to get REALLY obsessive (guilty!) you can make sure your quilt is exactly vertical using a small bubble level from the hardware store:

Making sure the sides of the quilt are vertical (or that the top is horizontal)

Making sure the sides of the quilt are vertical (or that the top is horizontal)

 

If you have the option, turn on a grid in the viewfinder. This will help you see if the now-truly-vertical sides of your quilt are parallel to the grid on the screen or at an angle. If they are at an angle, you can adjust the camera so everything is squared up correctly.

If you have the option, turn on a grid in the viewfinder. This will help you see if the now-truly-vertical sides of your quilt are parallel to the grid on the screen or at an angle. If they are at an angle, you can adjust the camera so everything is squared up correctly.

To obsess a bit more, you want to make sure that once the QUILT is vertical/level, that your camera LENS is also vertical/level.  The floors in my basement studio (painted that grass green!) are anything but flat and level.  So I triple check with not only the hotshoe bubble level, but I use the small red torpedo level (seen in the photo at the side of my quilt and below) to check if the camera LENS is vertical.  If the lens tips up or down, you will get distortion called keystoning, where a true rectangle appears wider at the top or at the bottom.

Using the bubble level on the top of the lens is a challenge because of the grip and changes in the surface.

Using the bubble level on the top of the lens is a challenge because of the grip and changes in the surface.

 

Instead you can use the hotshoe bubble level to make sure the front of the lens is in fact truly vertical (assuming of course that your wall is truly vertical!)

Instead you can use the hotshoe bubble level to make sure the front of the lens is in fact truly vertical (assuming of course that your wall is truly vertical!)

or…
2014.02.28.PhotoQuilts011Distortion:  Through trial, error, and observation, I have learned that when I use my Nikon DSLR with the extra long zoom lens, the lower right of the lens has some distortion:  it just isn’t sharp in that lower right corner.  So when I set up and take photographs, I know that I need to have my tripod far enough away that I can avoid having a corner of the quilt in the not-so-sharp zone.  Next on my agenda:  take out the shorter zoom lens that came with the camera and see how that does.

A focal length on your zoom of about 50 is optimal. If your camera doesn’t tell you the focal length, just don’t do way zoomed in or really wide-angle.

A focal length on your zoom of about 50 is optimal. If your camera doesn’t tell you the focal length, just don’t do way zoomed in or really wide-angle.

Focal length:  I’ve also read that the optimal focal length for still photography like this is 50 mm (well, the digital equivalent of what 50mm was on old film cameras).  You definitely don’t want to go wide-angle because you will get distortion:  a square quilt will bulge out like a fish eye, the sides will appear to push out in the middle.  When I set up the tripod, I set the camera to 50mm, then I move the tripod so that the quilt fills the viewfinder (while avoiding that odd spot with my particular lens) but still allows me room to crop the photo in Photoshop Elements.

Center focus on center of quilt. Note hotshoe bubble level. Notice that the tripod is about ten feet back from the design wall and the quilt of Pigwidgeon dancing for supper nearly fills the screen, but avoids that lower-right area.

Center focus on center of quilt. Note hotshoe bubble level. Notice that the tripod is about ten feet back from the design wall and the quilt of Pigwidgeon dancing for supper nearly fills the screen, but avoids that lower-right area.

Tripod:  I cannot overstate how important it is to have a perfectly still camera.  As you push the button, your hand introduces shake to the camera.  My first tripod was purchased used for $27.  Yep, that inexpensive.   And photos from that set-up made it into books!  I eventually replaced with an “enthusiast” level tripod, but which still didn’t cost more than $150.  Since this is my business, it was a business deduction (and honestly, the only time I’ve ever used it for anything other than work is to film Eli at a few wrestling meets–I can videotape from the tripod and take still pics sitting on the floor!) and well worth it.  My tripod head has a built in bubble level on it, too, but I rely on the level on the camera to make sure the camera isn’t tilted on a level tripod.  If you don’t have a tripod, find a ladder, chair or other stable surface and put your camera on that.  Use the self-timer, press the button, then let the camera trigger the shot; this avoids wiggling from your hands pushing the button.

At the enthusiast level, tripods and heads are sold separately.   Some photography books urge you to buy a tilt-pan head, which swivels on a ball head.  I have found for photographing a quilt, I prefer the heads that allow you to level horizontally, then vertically, using two separate knobs.  I know that once I get horizontal level if I have to adjust for vertical, I would knock it out of level.  By having the head have two separate knobs, I can adjust in one direction, get it right and lock it in, then adjust for the other direction of level.

Tulip bulbs in inexpensive shop light reflectors. The bulbs cost about $35 each, so I store them carefully! But they are the most expensive part of your lighting set up and are still far less expensive than hiring someone to shoot your quilts! Unless you drop them, they last a long time.

Tulip bulbs in inexpensive shop light reflectors. The bulbs cost about $35 each, so I store them carefully! But they are the most expensive part of your lighting set up and are still far less expensive than hiring someone to shoot your quilts! Unless you drop them, they last a long time.

Lighting is CRITICAL!   I followed the information on Holly Knott’s website (paragraph and links below) to purchase the tulip bulbs that give even light when correctly positioned.  I screw them into inexpensive shop fixtures from the big-box hardware stores (about $9 each).

If you use only one light, or have it too close to the quilt as in this photo, you will get a “hot spot” or uneven lighting. Notice how bright the right side of the quilt is compared to the other three sides. This inconsistent lighting does not show your quilt at its best!

If you use only one light, or have it too close to the quilt as in this photo, you will get a “hot spot” or uneven lighting. Notice how bright the right side of the quilt is compared to the other three sides. This inconsistent lighting does not show your quilt at its best!

Instead, follow the info on Holly’s site and move the quilt stands (made from a 2×4 and four basic shelf brackets each, construction details on Holly’s site) back from the quilt to get good, even lighting.  Play with the White Balance on your camera to adjust for the type and color of light in your studio combined with the tulip bulbs.  If I recall, they recommend NOT having the overheads on, but I find that my studio is so dark that I really need my daylight-bulb overhead lights on to get a good shot.  Experiment to see what settings and lighting give you the sharpest, most color-correct photo.

Light stands and tripod set up at a good distance from the quilt.

Light stands and tripod set up at a good distance from the quilt.

Holly Knott’s Shoot That Quilt:  For fabulous instruction on how to “Shoot That Quilt,”  visit Holly Knott’s very helpful site, here.  She collaborated with a professional photographer, and I can say unequivocally that her information–especially on lighting–has made a key difference in improving the quality of my photos.  In particular, take a good long look at the “Gallery of Wrongs” which shows common errors and how to avoid them.

And watch this video prepared by Saatchi Online, a mongo huge online art gallery.  It is very well done, with a lot of good information.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!  Now go make art, then photograph it well! 

 

showing your work – judged vs. juried

Just a quick post delineating the difference between a judged and a juried show. Because I am a word junkie and a dictionary geek….

ammoniteV_600px

 

Jury:
1 – a group of persons sworn to render a verdict or true answer on a question or questions officially submitted to them.
2 – to judge or evaluate by means of a jury: All entries will be juried by a panel of professionals.

Judge:  
1 – a person appointed to decide in any competition, contest, or matter at issue; authorized arbiter: the judges of a beauty art contest. (although I love it when art is beautiful!)
2 – a person qualified to pass a critical judgment: a good judge of horses art. (honestly now, judging art is SO subjective and I think it’s a great thing that we all have different opinions!)

IMG_2330

If an art show is juried, one or more people will be looking at all of the submitted works to choose which will be accepted.

If the show is judged, the accepted artworks will be evaluated against each other and prizes of some sort of recognition will be awarded to a few of the pieces. Prizes range from ribbons to cash awards, and purchase awards. Sometimes a future solo show at the venue is awarded. If the award is a purchase award check to see if there is a certain amount that will be paid. If your artwork is priced higher than that amount you might not want to enter the show, or at least check to see if there is an option to opt out of consideration for the purchase award.

Sometimes the juror returns to judge the show after it is hung, sometimes the jury and judges are different people.

Many smaller shows are not juried at all but accept entries based on membership, media, or location. Many shows have judges that award prizes even if they are not juried. Many shows are juried but not judged.

And for all your fabulous quilt show fanatics out there – here is an excellent article – a conversation with a quilt JUDGE. Click the link then scroll just a bit to read. Remember, these are the criteria QUILT judges are trained to look for.  She talks about QUILTING techniques as having priority over COMPOSITION because she is a QUILT JUDGE. If you are an artist making quilts and entering quilt shows, this is something that you need to understand. It is quite seldom that a traditional quilt show will hire an artist as a judge. I personally, don’t think it’s a bad thing at all because it’s a QUILT SHOW my friends. If you want to be judged as an artist enter an ART show. (I enter both, just so you know.)

showing your work – a museum experience

One lovely reader, Sandy Snowden from England, shared her experience with getting work into a museum and graciously allowed me to share with you! Here is what she wrote:

Showing in a museum… we sort of fell into this. I was with EquilArteral, a small group and we started looking at the idea of exhibiting.  We gave our name and details for entering a sort of open community exhibition at a small museum in a nearby city. We were declined. But then they got a new museum curator who found that the community exhibition was booked for the next year, but no one had been invited!  So, our details came up and she invited us.

8300001

Destricted by Sandy Snowden

Then, while there, we got really excited about the eclectic collection in the museum – things connected with the history of that city. So, we spoke to them about the idea of our larger textile art group doing a challenge inspired by items in the museum (this expanded to things about the city) They thought it was a great idea! We also offered to do workshops – which ticked their education boxes, etc.

363490

Slough Town by Annie Hamilton

So to make a long story short, from that, our group and the museum were awarded the London 2012 Cultural Olympics Inspire mark! The mayor of the town where we meet came to the opening. Also another gallery owner who came to see the work invited us to show it in her gallery – actually in our own town.

1967116

Embrocations 1-5 by Jane Glennie

So, I don’t know if you have small eclectic museums near you, but you could approach them with the idea of making work inspired by their collection. or if your work has a theme that would fit – say a museum about music and your work with the musical instruments. On a larger scale, the V+A has similar opportunities to make work inspired by the items in the museum. I don’t know anything about how this would work in larger museums in America, though.

5476183

Some items could actually be displayed near the items, ours actually had a gallery, but they did discuss the idea of displays with the artefact. Some of the problems with that would be that your materials would have to be vetted for any off gassing or  affects which would result in harming the artifacts. 

4895305_orig

Taplow Vase Reconstruction by Margaret Ramsay

Unfortunately, the museum has had funding cut because of the credit crunch, so have had to move to a part of the library, so no gallery, or we would do more with them. (Actually, I have had a small display of work in my local library. the larger library in town has some opportunity for this as well, but are more inclined for groups strongly connected with our town rather than individuals.)

2344370

Flat Irons (Grandad’s Kitchen) by Christine Restall

Anyway, even though it was a very small museum, now we have ‘shown work in a museum’ on our CV. Looks good to those who are impressed by those things when you want to aim for something further. You can read the Artist Statements here.

243481

L to R, Sandy Snowden, the Bracknell Mayor, Jane Glennie

 

Another outcome was that there was a schools/museum liaison person (before funding cuts) who worked with Langley Academy who have a specific museums focus. Some of the work was displayed at the school in glass cabinets. the art students did a term based on the concept of being inspired by museum artefacts and our work was a main focus for their study. The blog gave them opportunity to see how other artists developed ideas. Our ‘exhibitions officer’ also had opportunities for speaking in schools.

We also exhibited the work at the National Needlework Archive (which again is not anything remarkable if you know it! but if you don’t, well, it sounds impressive!)

Most of the images of the exhibition were taken by Jane Glennie ‘exhibitions officer’. Both the blog and the website were built by her.  Somehow we start simple and the world of opportunities fall into our lap! Sort of another step on the ladder. and we still don’t feel like we are anything particularly amazing. 😉 We just started out as mostly Contemporary Quilters who wanted to think outside the box. There are back stories of the work and design development on the project blog.

The group has an exhibition called Halfway Between in one of the gallery spaces in the Spring Knitting and Stitching show at Olympia in London next month.

All the best,

Sandy

showing your work – your audience

OK, so we’ve talked a little bit about the different kind of venues available and thought about your goals for showing your work.  Today let’s chat a little about who goes to these venues and how each might meet your goals.

Quilt Shows

Road to California

Road to California

Most of the people attending quilt shows, the kind sponsored by quilt guilds, are quilters. Some are ginormous, huge, great big shows like the International Quilt Festival in Houston with over 50,000 attendees each year. Well, no. Only THAT show is that big. There are lots of other big shows and lots and lots and lots of other lovely local shows. In my experience, the majority of quilters who attend are traditional quilt makers. The others who attend usually come with a quilter. I show my work at some of these shows for the chance to win prize money, to get my work seen by people who might hire me to teach, to win a ribbon, and just to share with others that I KNOW will appreciate quilts. At a bigger show your work might be seen by a magazine editor or publisher. It happened to me.

Shops and Cafes

Ann Flaherty's work at Coffee & Crepes in Cary, NC

Ann Flaherty’s work at Coffee & Crepes in Cary, NC

The kind of customer who comes to a retail establishment depends entirely on the kind of retail establishment doesn’t it? Fancy five star restaurants will attract a different crowd than a hole in the wall cafe. I don’t turn my nose up at either. Although I’ve never sold a piece off the wall at a retail place I’m just happy my work isn’t sitting in the closet. You never know who is going to see it. I show my work at these kinds of places just to make the world a more beautiful place, no real expectations.

Community Art Centers

ARTQUILTS at the Durham Arts Center

ARTQUILTS at the Durham Arts Center

I love showing my work in community art centers. People who love art frequent these places. They might not be there specifically to buy art but they are always interested and often not as well versed in textile work. I find children in these places more often than anywhere else and I love that. I’ve sold a few pieces from group shows held at art centers even though the center itself wasn’t set up to handle sales transactions. I’ve won an award or two at shows. Mostly I’ve been able to interact with a lot of people who love art. And most of them are not textile artists. It’s fun to get outside of our little world sometimes.

Art  Galleries

The Schweinfurth in PA

The Schweinfurth in PA

In my mind, people who walk into art galleries are there because they love art. Some of them even go there on purpose to buy it. The gallery owners really want people to buy the art – that’s how they stay in business. A really good gallery owner will do the work it takes to sell your work for you. I’ve had work in juried shows in fancy art galleries and won a couple of cash awards in those shows. Really what I keep hoping for are sales. Someday when my production level is more consistent (as in, I actually MAKE more artwork!) I think I’ll look for gallery representation.

Museums

Micheal James at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC

Micheal James at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC

This venue to me seems to be on the high end of the venue spectrum. I think if a good sized museum purchased one of my pieces for a permanent collection I would feel as though I had really, really, really accomplished something in this part of my life. It’s a big dream. It might happen someday. Who goes to art museums? Like the community Art Centers, people who love art. Lots of educational opportunities are usually provided so children go there as well. I don’t think people go to museums thinking they will buy art, but people who are art patrons might see one of your pieces at a museum and look you up.

Oh, and by the way, Autumn Adams is the lucky winner of the giveaway for Pam Hollands book! I totally forgot about it.

showing your work – local venues

So lately the first question I ask myself regarding what show I might want to enter is – where is the show? In other words – what is the venue?

One of the reasons I got burned out sending my work out around the country is that it takes a lot of time and, lets face it, money, to ship your quilts. I’ll talk about that a little bit in another post.  Suffice it to say that over the past couple of years I chose to only enter local shows. That way I can just pop in the car and drop off the artwork. Fortunately there are many venues available in most cities and larger towns like mine.  Lots more than there used to be.

Kinard_malachi's_promise

Quilt Shows:

There is a very active quilt guild in Raleigh that hosts a members show every other year. It’s held at a local college in their gymnasium. I have to say that they do a lovely job of hanging it. It’s mostly well lit and fairly roomy and I’m always amazed at the calibre of talent displayed there.

Shops and Cafes:

Whether it’s a coffee shop or a fine restaurant, many a local eatery will work with the local arts community to hang work on the walls. If you see a place like this – ask to talk to the owner and find out who is in charge of the art exhibits. Ask things like, is the artwork insured (usually not), how long does the work stay up, do you have a contract? How long in advance do you schedule exhibits?

IMG_9366

Community Art Centers:

My town has a beautiful new art center with two dedicated art galleries. They also have another arts and history center and also show artwork on the walls of each community center and the town hall. Cool eh? They exhibit solo shows (I had one at a community center), group member shows, and special exhibits. These are usually booked up to a year in advance. Find out what the process involves. It’s usually a portfolio application process. The Professional Art Quilt Alliance – South (their show Whimsy has a deadline of March 1!) exhibits both our members exhibit and our internationally juried show in these art centers and the sites are beautiful. IMG_0687

Art  Galleries:

Raleigh boasts a very happening art scene. A newer arts district has sprung up over the last couple of years. I’ve not applied to any of the regular commercial galleries.  If you want to be regularly represented by a gallery, you need to have a solid body of work and a regular production schedule. I’m lacking the latter at this point in my life while I still have kidlets at home. I am also a member of the co-op  gallery Visual Art Space and have had work there a number of times in both juried and non-juried member shows. They also have reserved walls at the front of the gallery for featured artists and I did that as well. My suburban town has several smaller galleries and I’ve had work in them off and on as well as a solo show there.photo 1-21

Museums:

If you know how to get into one, let me know. Being shown in a museum is a big dream for me. Of course – I need to make a LOT more work before I feel that I have something worth saving forever. That isn’t a self-depreciating-lack-of-confidence kind of remark. I like the work I do now. I just don’t think it is stuff that will hold up design-wise down through the ages.

I’ll go on in my next post about what kind of shows each of these venues have. 

 

showing your work

I got a “fat envelope” today.
I love the word “congratulations!”IMG_7999

It’s from a show that I’ve entered at least four times without ever being accepted. There are a few shows that I keep trying to get into even if I know my chances are slim – just because they are either very prestigious or have a really great venue. This is the Raleigh Fine Art Society juried show. Raleigh isn’t a huge city, but it is nice. And the venue for this exhibit is NICE!
memorial-auditorium-Raleigh1-676x450The Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts houses four theaters and is the home of the symphony, ballet, and lots of the big cultural performances (and lots of the little ones too) that come through town. The walls are always hung with lots of art and people wearing fancy clothes look at the art before the show and during intermissions. That’s an exciting thing.

Dream_600pxI haven’t really been gung-ho about entering my quilts in national shows over the past number of years. I’m thinking about it and it must be at least five or six years, maybe eight (can it possibly be that long!?!?) since I had as much of my work as I could get out there in rotation to various quilt and art shows. I got tired of it. Lots of paperwork and packaging and shipping. So I’ve entered pieces as I felt like it in local art shows. I’ve also been honored to be included in several invitational shows such as the ones sponsored by Leslie Tucker Jennison and Jamie Fingal over at Dinner@8.

So this surprise acceptance (I’ve come to think of my jury fee as a charitable donation) has set off some musings that I think I’ll share with you over the next little while. What kind of shows do YOU enter… and WHY?

I’d love it if you joined the conversation. Ask me any questions you have. Share your opinions. Pull up a comfy chair, grab a cup of something yummy (my current favorite is herbal ginger lemon tea) and let’s chat!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...