Sunday, September 21, 2008

Familiar Themes

It's funny how I keep coming back to the same questions:

#1 - What am I going to do with my career?
#2 - Why share art?

I had an amazing time last weekend at the Streetwise Art Gallery at the second Annual People's Arts Festival. I got to meet Joe Crachiola and got to see VATO, A. Owen Layne, DVS, Eric Cain (the newest member of the Mid West Society of Erotic Photography), Gary Mitchell, Iris Dassault, RJ Berry, Mary40 an Mr. and Mrs. BT Charles!

While there I had a very long conversation with BT and his wife and it really inspired me. I mentioned to BT that I was really struggling with where to go with my art for a few reasons. First and most importantly, I'm head over heels in love with a man whom I want to spend the rest of my life. This is fantastic! Not through anything that he has ever asked of me, this is all completely something that I've been experiencing on my own and it's really very strange for me to say, but...

I don't want to share myself in any way with anyone else. Why is this strange? I've always been very open about everything in my life, whether it was sexual or not. I remember telling my mom that I wasn't a virgin anymore after about a year or two and my mom's response was, "Yeah... duh..." Hell, my dad even helps me matte and frame my art. So what's the problem? Well, I wouldn't call it a "problem" but it is a new emotion that I am experiencing... and I think it's modesty.

Erotica is a very personal thing for people to share... when you're looking at my photographs you are spying in on my dreams, curiousities, fantasies and even my quirkiness. Every time one of my pieces goes up on a wall, other people get to walk by and be a virtual voyeur into what is sexy to me and that is so very surreal. I have always loved watching people walk by my stuff and whispering and pointing to it. I love invoking reactions because it's a way of communicating without saying a word to them.

There's nothing new or kinky in my repertoire of fantasies (though there are definitely some things that haven't made it to print yet!), so what's my deal? Well... when I began, many of my portraits were of myself because I didn't have any one else to pose for me. I was too shy to ask others to model and even these days it's sometimes difficult to ask others, so I often default to just posing myself. There is also an advantage to posing in your own photographs because then you can feel like you are really emoting and expressing what it is that you want to share... versus trying to express it to a model, who will then express it to your audience.

But now? I don't know... I don't want anyone to see me in that way, but him. So, for now, the way around it is to work with other models... certainly no shame in that.

The other question is... why do I keep doing this? Why do I keep sharing my art? I've already partially answered this in this post, when referring to those who walk by and point to my work and smile. However, here's the sidebar to this question... when I was walking through the Streetwise Gallery, I was saying, "Yep... that's definitely a Frank Piccolo, definitely a Dave Levingston, definitely and Irakly Shanidze, definitely a Patty Izzo..." and so forth. It seems like every artist has their own style, or better stated, signature. I'm not sure that I do. I don't know if that's because I'm still so new to all of this or if it's because I just don't have one "style." I'm not even sure this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I think there is part of me that wants people to walk by and say, "Yeah... that's definitely a Lisolette Gilcrest." Like many others, I want to be able to leave my mark on the world.

BT and his wife had many kind words for me and some great advice... they (and others in the past have) said that "there's just something" about my work that draws them back. After the show, one of the aforementioned visitors sent me a message to say, "There is something very unique about your photos and I can't really put a finger on it at the moment... but... I like them very much. At any rate you are gutsy and I like it."

So what is this "something?!?" I feel like Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas trying to bottle the magic. BT's advice? "Stop trying. Stop thinking. Just keep doing what you're doing, because it's great." That felt so nice to hear and reminded me all over again why I love him so much. Not just because he said something nice, but his sage wisdom and his very daoist worldview.

So where does that leave me? Well, I have several shoots scheduled with brand new model collaborators over the next few weeks, including one tomorrow... so stay tuned!


An interview with Chris St. James of Univers d'Artistes...

How are you selling your photos these days? Galleries? Community websites? Your site? Exhibitions? Publications? Other?
Most of the first inquries about my art begin online... the majority of sales inquiries come from my official website and from deviantART, although I have also had great luck in selling my art at exhibitions in the kiosks. I have also heard that many photographers have had great luck selling their images on eBay, which I haven't tried, but I am considering because I would like to find more people to expose to my art. To be honest, I haven't really pushed selling the art, I've been more interested in just sharing the art. It is still quite surreal to me that others take my art, which is a very personal expression of my imagination and fantasies, and put it in their homes.

When somebody orders a print for private use, do you dedicate it?
As a general rule, I do not dedicate my prints unless specifically asked to. I do this to avoid lowering the resale value, as I know several of my collectors like to buy multiple pieces of my art during special opportunities and then resell or share them with others.

Do you make numbered series mounted on gallery quality?
Yes, I try to provide the best product with archival quality because I want my prints to last as long as possible for people to enjoy them!

How many per Series?
This is an interesting story... when I was first approached by a collector who wanted something of mine in a Limited Edition, I had never really given thought to how it was supposed to be done, so I went to several other artists to gain a better understanding of what exactly is "Limited Edition" for a digital photograph and how it could be "limited." The answers were all the same, in that there is no standard for the number in a Limited Edition series. Many people go with a nice round number like 10, 25, 50, 100, and even up to 500, 1,000 and 5,000. In my opinion, if there are 5,000 other copies of the photograph that I just purchased, it isn't very limited, so I decided to go with something under 100. When I heard that another Streetwise Artist went with the number "33" because it was his lucky number, I decided to go with own lucky number and so my Limited Edition series always go to 27. As another side note, the number 6 (another lucky number) is reserved for myself to give to close friends and the number 27 is reserved for exchanges with other artists. Occasionally, I will do a piece that is limited to one (1) print, just to mix things up and to keep my collectors on their toes!

How do you give to your client a real high resolution print? Do you use a high quality lab? How do you ensure the prints are available on time?

I use an online provider that does top notch work, with beautiful, crisp clarity and I usually print on Kodak ENDURA Metallic Paper because it really makes the photograph pop. The online print shop has all of my prints ready to ship and delivered within 72 hours.

What about frames? Do you send the photo with and/or without?
I am hesitant to send my art out in frames, at least frames with glass because the potential for the print to be damaged is so high that I'd rather just avoid it... especially if it's a Limited Edition print, but I will do it if the investor is willing to pay for the shipping, handling and insurance associated with such a delicate ship.

Who frames? You? The lab? Who chooses?
I always frame my own art for hanging in galleries and at exhibitions... not only do I hand select the frames, but my father mattes every piece, unless there's a stunning pre-cut matte that really complements the photograph.

How much time do you need to be comfortable from the order to the delivery?
Approximately one week. If I don't already have the print on hand, my printer gets things to me in three days... that, combined with the time needed to pack and ship it, means that most of my prints will take upwards of a week to get to the collector.

Do you handle the delivery?
I will personally deliver the art if I have the time and opportunity. Last summer, I flew out to Las Vegas and personally delivered a piece to one of my collectors there... I love getting the opportunity to meet my collectors, to see their faces when they get the piece and to talk to them about why they enjoy it.

What about other products? Calendars, mugs, postal cards...?

I've had this fun debate with many of my colleagues, some of whom think that these commercial products cheapen the art. I disagree... I think if you want one of my prints on a mug or a magnet or even a mouse pad, fantastic! I also recently started shooting a fun series which was intentionally meant for post cards and they've been a huge success! My thoughts are that it doesn't matter how the art is shared and displayed, as long as the person who is purchasing it is going to enjoy it and be able to share it with others.

What is your advice to avoid the inexperienced errors?

#1 - Make sure that your computer screen is color calibrated with your print shop. This way you can be sure not to see one thing on your monitor and be disappointed when something slightly (or even majorly) different comes out. I had one piece, "The Eye of Pele" which is a digital painting in yellows, oranges and reds, but when I first had it printed several areas of the print came out green! I rectified it quickly and fortunately the collector was very understanding...

#2 - Learn your printing options (i.e. glossy, matte, lustre, canvas, metallic). Depending on the type of paper that you print your art on, your piece will look different and the paper format can really add or detract from the mood and focus of the piece. There are certain pieces that I have that I will only print on canvas or metallic, which seem to be my two personal preferences, but everyone will develop their own preferences and style.

#3 - Let your collectors dictate your inventory. Don't immediately purchase 1,000 copies of something that you're sure will be a favourite... surprisingly, the ones that were the most personal to me and I did not think others would connect with have done the best in terms of sales, while others that I thought had tremendous appeal to large populations haven't always done as well as I thought they might. It's an intriguing way of getting feedback from those who love your art.

What could help you?

Knowing what others do, too! This whole thing is a constant learning process, with new techniques, print shops and mediums available. I'd love to hear what other photographers are doing these days and share tips and tragedies! So let's hear it!