Body of Work, New Art

Going small: a wee little personal project

My sketchbooks are a mess. I don’t pick up the same one every time I need one. The scrawlings inside range from thoughtful drawings of vacation scenes to spare scratches that vaguely map out my next abstract painting, with doodles and pattern exercises in the mix. Utilitarian, yes. Cohesive, no.

Last week I came across this lovely little blank book that had been stashed on a studio shelf. It’s a 3.5-inch square book of 100% post-consumer waste paper, an artifact of my graphic design days, most likely a sample left by a paper company rep. For some reason, it called to me, launching a personal project totally unrelated to my paintings or assemblages. Just something to satisfy the soul at day’s end, and push different buttons than those triggered on a daily basis in the studio. The project? Fill this little book with something akin to a body of work, diminutive though it may be.

The first assignment I gave myself was to draw a different face every day for a month. So far, I have a week’s worth of faces. Some are caricature-ish, some more realistic, but so far, they are all products of my imagination. Maybe I’ll use reference photos later on. My aim is that, after 30 days, I’ll have a tiny sampling of the infinite variety seen in the faces of the human family. Wide lips, thin lips; round eyes, snake-like slits; hair curly, wavy and straight; double chins and graceful ones; soulful looks and piercing ones. Thirty diverse and divinely human faces.

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I’m using simple tools—colored pencils, an F drawing pencil, and a micro-point Uniball pen—all scattered on the end table next to me as I sit on the sofa with a lap desk for support. Oh, and a sharpener too. But nothing to interfere with this simple process. Ten, maybe 15 minutes and done.

I have no plan after the 30 days. Maybe continue doing faces. Maybe fill the whole book with faces. Possibly start a new theme. I don’t have a page count, but it is a thick little tome, and I do want every page to ring true to me, and to have a compelling, cohesive quality. For now, there are 23 faces waiting to come to life in this wee book. More to come.

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All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2018 Laura Hunt


Spreadsheets and The Artist’s Life

The process of making art occupies considerable space in the stewardship of my time and energy. Not surprised, right? Isn’t that what artists do? Indeed it is. But if you imagine a day in the studio is always about me getting all starry-eyed while making the next idea tangible, I gotta pop that bubble. Yes, I do get into the zone, that right-brained flow when my sense of time stalls and nothing else matters and it’s all about the pleasure of creating. I do love that! But today I want to share with you another side of my art practice, the left-brained part that’s totally disassociated with making paintings or objects. Here’s where I trade the beret for a pocket protector.

I make spreadsheets. Spreadsheets? Really? Yes. Here’s why.

Every work of art that is going to see the light of day, that I deem good enough to make public, must be documented. Each work has an inventory number, title, and several descriptors. Knowing which pieces are off-site, like at galleries and exhibits is crucial info as well. Oh, and some pieces may have been accepted into upcoming shows. If the show is weeks or months out, those works need to be reserved. Some works are on layaway. Can’t sell those out from under the patron who has committed to making payments. It gets complicated, but my spreadsheet helps.

Spreadsheets are also indispensable for establishing prices. I use a formula of size (square inches or volume) multiplied by rate plus cost of materials plus gallery commission, if applicable. Now, to make that more interesting (or not—are you still with me?), the formula for works on canvas differs from the formula for works on paper, which differs from the one for three-dimensional art. That calls for another spreadsheet. Are we making any art yet?

Our digital world presents the expectation that just about everyone, artists included, accept credit cards. Having a service and the necessary devices to make transactions digitally requires another non-art activity: entering inventory numbers, titles, images and prices into the online database. I’ve found the art buyer’s experience is enhanced at checkout if my items are all listed, and with a swipe or the reading of a chip, it’s done. The service delivers a professional, descriptive email receipt directly to my patron.

Sharing my art gives joy to me and to the art buyer as well. Reaching the state of that particular joy requires another non-art activity–marketing. That includes gathering email addresses from interested folks, sharing images on social media, developing newsletters, and producing invitations for email, print and social media. Toss in writing blog content for good measure.

You can guess that all of this requires a time commitment. Yes, it does. But this might come as a surprise to you. I actually don’t mind the non-art tasks. I realize they are integral to making my art practice run as smoothly as possible. Having a system in place clears my head of minutiae, allowing me to plunge into an art-making session with gusto! Which is what I’m going to do next. Excuse me while I get into the zone. Have you seen my beret?