One of my goals this year is to print new work weekly. This is partly to stay in practice with printing, because without some reason to print I could let the printer sit for months without use and that’s not good for either the printer or my printing skills. It is also partly to have an ongoing, growing body of work that is “print ready” should the need arise. I’ve learned that while sometimes you can get all of the settings right on the first print, other times it takes repeating the process (print – adjust – print) before it looks the way I want it to. Doing this type of work on a deadline for an exhibition can be stressful, but when I’m doing it as a learning opportunity to have new work on my wall it’s quite fun and interesting.
I’ve been posting these regular endeavors on Instagram, using hashtag #livingwithmywork or #lwmw, if you’d like to see how they progress over time. Here’s an example of my evolving wall display from mid-February:
All of this print practice paid off on Sunday evening, without me consciously realizing it. Here’s the story…
Checking my email last week while on our Spring Break camping trip to Northern California, I read about the upcoming Corvallis Art Guild meeting on April 1. There was an interesting program and there was the opportunity to be juried in as an Exhibiting Member. To be an Exhibiting Member of the guild means that you can participate in the opportunities to display and sell your work at various venues and programs they organize throughout the year. To become an Exhibiting Member, you have to go through a jury process: bring 3 pieces of finished artwork, framed and ready to hang, for review by a panel of jurors. This opportunity only happens twice a year, in April or October.
ACK! I thought, as I read the email. I’d been thinking to submit some of my mobile work, the “digital paintings,” to be juried into the guild. But would I be able to make it? We would be arriving home the evening of March 31, the meeting was the evening of April 1, and I only had one piece framed and ready to go. I would need to get two pieces ready – printed, matted and framed – on Sunday night after we got home. Could I do it? It was worth a try, or I’d have to wait until October. I jotted down a couple of notes about which pieces I might prepare and went on to enjoy the week. (Pics will be coming soon of the awesome week in the Redwoods!)
Sunday night, while unpacking from the trip, doing multiple loads of laundry, and shaking the sand and dirt out of everything, I sat down to print. I looked at my available mats/frames and my “print ready” pieces and selected two more to print, mat and frame. I got them all put together and packed up to load into the car Monday morning – I would need to go to the meeting straight from work – and then went about the business of getting other things ready for the week.
Monday was a loooong day between work and the guild meeting, but all went well. I was accepted as an Exhibiting Member of the guild and the jurors had very nice things to say about my work. (Side Note: It was quite nerve-wracking to go through an in-person jury process like this. Normally for juried exhibitions you send off a digital image into the nether and hear back a “yes” or a “no.” It’s not as physical, personal, as this process.)
It wasn’t until Monday night, laying in bed basking in the glow of this little success, that I realized just how far I had come in my ability to create finished artwork. Without even thinking twice about it, I was able to create two nicely finished and ready-to-hang pieces that I would be proud to submit to any gallery or exhibition. I realized that all of my print practice had paid off. A year ago, I had never printed a single fine art print on my own. In addition, all of the work to learn about matting and framing for exhibitions, paid off too. I now have a stock of mats and frames that work for the sizes I created my artwork. This is not trivial, since most of the work I create doesn’t fit “standard” photo sizes (8×10, 11×14, etc.).
A year and a half ago, I was struggling to figure out what to do for my first exhibition. I hadn’t seriously worked to get a fine art print on the wall before. Now I can prep for an exhibition – or something like this jurying process – without a second thought! These are skills and knowledge that I’ve integrated. Sure, I am always facing new challenges (like square artwork) but each new challenge just expands my growing knowledge base and is easier than the one before. I don’t have to work so hard to create a finished piece of art. That is huge – it means I can spend my energy creating new art and get it out into the world. It means my art can have a different impact – as something real and physical, not just on the computer.
If you are a photographer in the process of figuring out how to bring your art into the real world, keep going. I encourage you set a goal to do one thing new to bring your art into the real world. It’s worth it. It starts with getting just one image off of your computer, printed and hanging on the wall of your home. It starts with something as simple as a postcard. That’s how I started ~3 years ago – with ordering printing postcards to share – and look at what I’m doing now. (This is one reason I love the Liberate Your Art postcard swap! Who knows where this one tiny step will lead you?)
As always, I want to help you. You can cut straight to what I’ve learned by visiting my Online Services & Shops page, listed under Resources on the sidebar of my blog. I’ve just updated it with the latest info on my mat and frame sources, and I update this page periodically as I learn new things. Check it out.
And then go… PRINT!