How NOT to Approach an Artist

This past month,  I had work in a group show in downtown Phoenix. It was a great experience, and I was happy to show my work for the first time since my solo BFA show. Even more awesome- I had some interest from buyers in a large triptych of mine that I honestly never thought of selling. Not so awesome, one person who approached me did it in a, quite frankly, insulting way.

Now, these being large oil paintings, the price on them was appropriately set. I’m no dummy, I understand that not everyone, hell, most everyone, can afford a rather pricey triptych. Regardless, the price is what it is. Basically, I encountered an individual who had no respect for my (more than reasonable and competitive!) pricing.

Now, If someone is really, truly interested, I’m willing to be as accommodating as I can in offering a payment plan, a smaller commission, or even a small (SMALL!) discount on the purchase of multiple works. If they’re  nice.

This individual wasn’t mean, per se, they just had a very entitled attitude. Basically,  they offered to pay me 40% of the asking price. Yes, less than HALF of what I was asking for. They said that affordability was an issue for them, of course, and asked for my thoughts. I offered them all of my accommodations listed above,  including the small discount. I also explained that I could not offer such a deep discount as I had to keep my pricing consistent with my gallery (as giving buyers a disincentive from buying from your gallery is a GREAT way to ruin a gallery relationship.) They curtly message me back offering 50% of my original asking price. Um, no.

I mean, you encounter so many things in life that you may want but can’t afford. One of those things may be my art – and that’s incredibly flattering.  But it’s also not my job to cut into my own wage – my payment for my work, to make what in many ways amounts to a luxury item affordable to you. This person’s attitude just reflects an entitlement and an ignorance of the fact that being an artist and producing great artwork that people actually want to buy in the first place  involves incredible skill and  expertise, time, equipment, and  accompanying financial risk. Artists don’t pull their prices out of their ass.

The worst part is so many artists don’t realize this, especially emerging ones like me. Thus, they may feel pressured into caving to lowballers out of desperation to make a sale. And that’s a supremely shitty situation to put someone who is already financially struggling in. Asking an already struggling artist for a discount most would reserve only to their closest friends comes across as incredibly arrogant.

So, inexperienced art buyers, please respect the prices of artwork,  ESPECIALLY those of emerging artists. Understand what you can and can’t afford. And if you do see someone’s  pricy magnum opus and fall in love, it never hurts to ask an artist if they have any more affordable work, like small paintings or sketches, available. In fact, most emerging artists would probably love that. Simply respect the artist and the value their work over the shallow desire for a “bargain.” If the latter is what you want, I’d suggest avoiding art galleries and instead taking your business to the local swap meet.

Playing Designer

One regret I have in regards to my time getting a BFA is that I never took a real graphic design class. I did some mild stuff while taking an animation class, but I still felt pretty unfamiliar with the likes of Illustrator and Photoshop. I’ve learned a thing or two about a thing or two by trial and error (or, rather, I NEED TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO THIS NOW THE SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS TOMORROW-esque urgency), but didn’t take the time to really indulge the genuine design-ey inclinations that I have until I graduated and opened up my humble little store on print-on-demand site redbubble.

Like a lot of young girls who were into girly things, I went through a phase of wanting to be a chic fashion designer. A desire I mostly explored by playing the Barbie Fashion Designer CD-ROM game for hours on end:

barbiefdSo.Much.Printer.Ink.Wasted

When I started my store and saw that I could put my work on things like tee shirts, pillows, and (newly) pouches, all these long-buried emotions came roaring back. Problem is, a lot of my work just doesn’t, well, work on things like tee shirts. So I’ve been playing with how to make painterly graphics to mix and match with by painting with acrylic on duralar transparency:

Duralar GREEN STROKES_Hmm..I simply paint on the transparency, scan it at a high resolution, and  rid of all the white/ close to white areas (super simple, as my skilz still aren’t too impressive.) Then maybe some mild cleanup and color adjusting. I know this is total baby stuff, but I really enjoy playing around like this. I had this one printed on another baseball tee (MY LAST ONE, I SWEAR) and it surprisingly came out pretty true to the bright colors in the file (which won’t always happen when printing on shirts.)

Green Strokes Tee

I’m goin’ all the way to the top for you, Barbie. I really like that I can use the skills that I already have (painting) with a little graphics know-how to make these fun little designs.

If you’re so inclined, you can purchase my tee shirt [here] or peruse my redbubble portfolio [here]

Artbook of the Day: Vision and Revision

VnR Thiebaud_COVER

Since I love playing with monotypes, and since I am so enamored with everything by Wayne Thiebaud, I immediately fell in love with this book while browsing amazon. Not many people know that Thiebaud actually has made a sizable body of work in printmaking.

VnR Thiebaud_Sardines

Wayne Thiebaud, Sardines, watercolor over hard-ground etching, 1990

It’s interesting to see his trademark subject matter and aesthetic translated into this medium-  a medium that is in many ways similar to painting. Interestingly, part of the “revision” of these works becomes apparent as Thiebaud works into the prints with other mediums, like pastel and watercolor:

VnR Thiebaud_6 Candied Apples

Wayne Theibaud, Six Candied Apples, watercolor over hard-ground and drypoint etching, 1990

The forward, written by Thiebaud, starts:

“I think the most compelling part of drawing and painting is the continuing thrill of learning how they can be made. Working on prints is an extension of this constant search.”

It’s this clear enthusiasm for the formal, raw process of painting that makes Thiebaud so easy for me to admire. A true painter’s painter… Who also makes amazing prints.

Ghosts of Painters Past

I’ve been reading a book called Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, and one particularly salient point I found (among many) was this:

“Your reach as a viewer is vastly greater than your reach as a maker. The art you can experience may have originated a thousand miles away or a thousand years ago, but the art you can make is irrevocably bound to the times and places of your life.”

Which also reminded me of a conversation I had with one of my painting professors, where he essentially said that “you have to live in your own time. You can’t be Monet.”

This is incredibly valuable advice. It’s normal to be a student or developing artist and to have artistic heroes- people who you look to and just think, “wow, if I could paint like that…” The problem comes when you essentially try to replicate work from a certain artist or era with the intent that it all but pass for one of those works. There are plenty of painters out there, for instance, who fancy themselves to be Monet-esque impressionists. But their work, being produced in the present and therefore divorced from the context that the original impressionists painted in, just looks like a cheap imitation- and that’s because it is.

meme art

 

The Impressionist’s work was highly innovative in their time because from their cultural context, they were solving a problem and presenting something new to the world. They actually took incredible creative risks in doing so. People today who try to imitate these artists (or artists from any other historical period,) however, are merely piggybacking off of their innovation and banking on the nostalgic feelings that some retain for the group. As Bayles and Orland go on to say, “There’s a difference between meaning that is embodied and meaning that is referenced.”

Admiring artists from the past is completely natural, and a great way to see different approaches to solving formal or even thematic issues. And I know and understand the whole Joseph Campbell, “nothing is truly original” thing and all that. But taking bits from the past and mixing them with your own personal point of view and painting style derived from the actual, present world around you is much more worthwhile and brave than just chasing after the ghost of Monet.

 

Mugs!

As you all know, I have a little shop on print-on-demand site Redbubble.com, and recently they added mugs to their lineup of products. I ordered some for myself (well, to give as gifts and one for myself!) and I’m, again, pleased with the printing quality. The price is also, surprisingly, only as much as a tote bag.

MUG Ocarina Pic

Above is my Pop-Art Ocarina Tilted Pattern

MUG matchsticks

Mug Matchsticks 2

Above is my Many Matchsticks pattern.

Never thought I’d ever see any of my work on a coffee mug, but I must admit that I like the result! As more of a “fine” artist, I also love that I get to indulge my more design, graphics oriented ideas and inclinations through my store here.

 

Monotyping

Monotypes are a medium that I have been playing with off and on for a few years. For those who don’t know, a monotype is a kind of print that, rather than being made using a printing matrix (like woodcuts), instead involves basically painting a non-textured plate with inks. The plate is then placed with a piece of paper and run through a printing press, producing a one-time, unique printed image. It’s basically the closest printmaking comes to painting, and is probably the least structured or technical form of it. I personally don’t own a printing press (the small ones run in the thousands of dollars,) but a good friend who is kind enough to let me into her studio every once in a while lets me use hers. Here are some pieces from the most recent session:

Doe Eyes Monotype_Grey_MeganKoth (582x800)

 

The above was the first one I made. I wanted to see how my recent “Doe Eyes” series would translate from watercolor to printmaking. I basically painted some pretty straightforward, normal eyes and lips and decided to let the press add the more unique, abstracted aspects to the image. This one didn’t satisfy me in that the end result looked too “normal,” so I decided to really glob the ink on in the following prints:

Doe Eyes Monotype_Tongue 2_Megan Koth_WEB

I added too much ink to the lips, and the run through the press made a really happy accident by creating this tongue effect. Miley Cyrus would love them.

Doe Eyes Monotype_Tongue Ghost_Megan Koth_WEB

Above is the “ghost” print made from the same plate. It’s made by running the same plate through the press again. The ink residue left over makes a lighter, ghost-like version of the first print. I often favor the ghost prints over the others.

Maybe someday I’ll have a great studio space and enough money saved up to buy my own press and do these more regularly, because they’re so fun. It’s often exhilarating to see the image that the press will give you. My tendency with painting faces is always to make them look controlled and clean- I have a hard time abstracting them. With monotyping, I can paint a pretty structured image and then let the press create the abstract elements for me!

Filling the Silence: Part Deux

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

Being an artist who spends many hours alone working in the studio, sometimes I want to fill the silence that accompanies, but I don’t really want to jam to some tunes. Listening to podcasts, I’ve found, fixes this. They’re long, not usually super sturctured, and you can usually fade in and out of listening to them while working. Podcasts also just often end up creating a really interesting vibe to work under.

Janet Varney’s JV Club podcast is amazing. You may know Janet from FX’s You’re the Worst, or as the voice of Korra in Legend of Korra, or just from many things on Nerdist.com (which JV Club is hosted by.) She has a fabulous radio voice, for one, and she interviews many great comedians and actors about their awkward teenage years. And every episode ends with a game of M.A.S.H. Awesome. Listening to really funny, talented, successful people parse through their teenage fumbles and embarrassments is, of course, an entertaining and affirming experience.

Another podcast I’ve been listening to a lot lately is comedian Paul Gilmartin’s The Mental Illness Happy Hour. I’m lucky enough not to seriously struggle with any mental illnesses, but the podcast is great in that the guests own struggles end up being incredibly relatable even if you’re not a sufferer of their particular illness or have personally experienced their trauma. As the homepage says and the entire podcast affirms, “you are not alone.” It’s like an unofficial, often hilarious, sometimes deeply sad, therapy session for both the guest and listener. I’ve definitely been listening only to later be brought to tears at my canvas. The episode with Ashly Burch is particularly gut-wrenching.

Podcasts are kind of an odd thing. They’re sort of old-fashioned, in a way. They’re so low-tech. We have thousands of HD movie channels at our fingertips, access to millions of artists on spotify, and yet, a lot of people just want to sit down and listen to an audio recording of some people having a conversation. That’s pretty cool. And I totally get it. That stripped-down format allows you to really learn about the participants in a way that feels more intimate than even a televised interview. I can’t get enough!

Watercolor Revisited

I’m beginning to notice a pattern wherein during the times when I don’t quite know what to paint with my “core” work, i.e my oil paintings, I frequently retreat to fiddling around with watercolor. Although, like a lot of painters whose preference is to work in oils, watercolor’s unpredictability and permanence tends to frustrate me. However, over the years of working off and on with the medium, I’ve started to get more comfortable. Not to mention, I work small and on pretty inexpensive (none of that 300lb stuff) paper, so I’m okay with it not turning out great every time and simply being happy when it does.

Previously, I’ve only been interested in non-objective forays into watercolor. Recently, however, I’ve become interested in portraiture. Stylized, of course.

Face 1 Megan Koth SCAN (569x800)

Doe Eyes, watercolor on hot press. By Megan Koth. Prints, etc. available from my store.

Doe Eyes 3_Sml_Megan Koth

Doe Eyes III, watercolor on hot press. By Megan Koth. Prints, etc available from my store.

Sometimes, it can be beneficial to use a medium that you’re not all that invested in. Although it doesn’t always work out, during the times that it does, the results can be refreshingly interesting.

 

My Foray into Redbubble (cont.)

I wrote recently about some products I ordered from my shop on print-on-demand site Redbubble. The site had a 15% off promotion recently (sadly, it’s ended now) so I decided to order some more of my products to survey the quality once again (this time I had to pay for everything, boo.) I’m pretty relieved to say that I am pleased with the quality of both products!

The first thing I bought was this throw pillow with one of my watercolor grid patterns printed on it:

Pillow composite (1000x581)

 The pillow and painting for comparison

The printing came out really true to the colors, and at a great resolution as well! The pillow material itself is pretty soft and sturdy. However, since this is a throw pillow, it’s more for decoration than actually lying on to sleep (and it’s dry/spot clean only because of the printing.)

The other thing I got was this tote!

Totes COmposite

     Closeup this time is of the actual tote, not the original painting.

I was a bit afraid that it was gonna be one of those terrible cheapo, super thin totes that get given away for promotional reasons, or that you see for 99 cents at the grocery checkout. I was pleasantly surprised that it was made of a sturdy and thick material- a little thicker than the typical artist canvas. The printing also came out really nice and clear! I got this design partially because, it being a watercolor painting (which are notoriously hard to photograph,) I was concerned with the picture quality. I’m relieved to see that it turned out so crisp!

Overall, my feelings are that Redbubble products are good quality. However, the catch is that they are kind of pricey. For instance, my pillow, with the cover and insert and shipping, came to a bit over $30. Obviously, there are cheaper places to get throw pillows (hello, Ikea!) but here, you’re more directly supporting an individual artist and their work, at a much cheaper cost than buying original art. Overall, I’m just having fun with the whole thing, which is really the important part.

You can visit my shop here!

Artbook of the Day: The Art of Kiki’s Delivery Service

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Ah, Kiki’s Delivery Service. Along with My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki is certainly my favorite childhood movie. I remember seeing a commercial for it either on TV or on a VHS (remember those?) and immediately demanding that we go out and rent it from the video store (remember those?!) My parents would let my sister and I take turns choosing a movie, and every time (to my sister’s annoyance) I chose Kiki– until, of course, my parents just bought me the VHS for my birthday since they’d already paid the cost of the movie many times over in rental fees by then.

So, naturally I own the Art of Kiki’s Delivery Service book from Viz. It’s filled with beautiful concept work, sketches, and commentary from director Hayao Miyazaki and others on the development of the film.

Art of Kiki (5)

I totally recognized the above painting from its fully realized use in the film:

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There are also some interesting early explorations of Kiki’s appearance:

Art of Kiki (6)

This drawing was one of my faves:

Art of Kiki (1)

Looking back, I can see why Kiki intrigued me so much. The fully realized female characters (including the protagonist,) the story of being on one’s own for the first time and finding one’s independence, and the fact that the whole “teen witch” thing is really just a metaphor for being an artist. Kiki has a seemingly innate talent for flying on her broomstick, but gets into a funk and loses her ability. She confides in her artist friend Ursula, and realizes that she needs to find “her own inspiration” to fly. Of course, she eventually finds this inspiration and gets her “powers” back in the end through self-discovery and an act of bravery. I think it’s great that a “kids” movie explored something so complex. And it’s no surprise, being an artist myself now, that I was drawn to such a story!