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2. Artist’s Agent or Rep Services: What’s Included?

In Fine Art, Fine Art Agents, Fine Art Business, Fine Art Representatives, Fine Art Terms on October 22, 2010 at 8:30 pm
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Image via Wikipedia

This is the second blog in a series of three blogs about Artist’s agent or representative services.  The first blog is a general introduction to these services, the second is an overview of the various services included, and the third is an overview of what the various services cost.  As always, I welcome your comments and opinions.

Artist’s Agent or Rep:  What the Services Include:

The scope of services is whatever  the artist and the services provider agree upon.  I don’t believe in the “one size fits all” standard services package and, for that reason, will not recommend one here.  Use the following as a shopping list, or as points for discussion between artist & agent or rep, to create a services package to meet the needs of the artist:

  1. Ongoing Sales Representation: The agent or rep pursues sales opportunities for the artist by promoting the artist’s work to potential art buyers and intermediaries with those buyers, either individually or collectively or both.  This involves using existing contacts and networks and developing new contacts and networks.
  2. Sales Support Services: The agent or rep processes the sales and handles any required packaging and shipping for the artist.  In local situations, the agent or rep does the delivery and installation of the artist’s work and, when doing so, tries to expand the sale for the artist.
  3. Ongoing Internet Marketing: The agent or rep uses the Internet via websites or blogs to promote the artist and the artist’s work.
  4. Internet Marketing Support Services: The agent or rep finds and coordinates services for website design, hosting and search engine optimization (SEO).  The agent or rep helps the artist with website or blog content development, maintenance & improvement, and helps with SEO efforts to draw traffic to those sites.
  5. Print Media Marketing: The agent or rep searches for, finds and identifies opportunities for print media advertising and/or promotion and helps find or develop content (images and copy) for the advertising.
  6. Business & Social Networking Marketing: The agent or rep promotes the artist by attending local business and social networking events on the artist’s behalf.  At such events, the agent or rep makes connections and promotes the artist, seeking & developing leads  for sales & venue & award opportunities for the artist.
  7. Searching and Identifying Venue Opportunities: The agent or rep searches for, finds and identifies venue opportunities for the artist such as art shows, exhibitions or festivals.
  8. Venue Application/Registration Support Services: The agent or rep obtains the venue application or registration materials and prepares the submittals, including securing photography of the artist’s work and writing submittal documents (such as an artist’s statement or resume).  The agent or rep prepares & submits the electronic and/or hard copy submittal package.
  9. Venue Sales Representation: The agent or rep represents (in person) the artist during or throughout a sales opportunity event, such as an art show, exhibition, opening or festival, to service buyers and negotiate/close sales.
  10. Venue Display Logistical Support  Services: The agent or rep helps the artist with the set up and take down of the artist’s display for the event.
  11. Searching and Identifying Award Opportunities: The agent or rep searches for, finds and identifies award opportunities for the artist such as for juried competitions or commissioned work.
  12. Award Opportunity Support Services: As with venues (#8 above), the agent or rep handles the support tasks to position the artist for consideration for award.
  13. Searching and Identifying Gallery Opportunities: The agent or rep searches for, finds and identifies opportunities for gallery representation, including promoting the artist to galleries.  This includes visiting the galleries to see their facilities and to meet the gallerists, and promoting the artist to selected galleries.  Note: This service is less typical than the others because an agent or rep is usually an alternative to gallery representation.  With gallery commissions running around 50%, there’s nothing left for the agent or rep paid by sales commissions, if the artist gets the other 50%, unless the gallery and agent or rep work together on a split sales commissions basis.  If the agent or rep pay is on a fee or hourly basis, the compensation is part of the artist’s overhead supported by the artist’s 50% of sales.
  14. Finding and Coordinating Art Support Services: The agent or rep searches for, finds and coordinates art support services such as photography, scanning, printing, framing, casting, packaging and shipping.
  15. Performing Business Operations: the agent or rep  helps the artist with business operations such as developing business practices, procedures, standards & forms.  The agent or rep processes sales transactions and assesses proper taxes, shipping and other costs as appropriate.  The agent or rep identifies art, studio and business supplies vendors and helps the artist  buy the  supplies economically, including arrangements for delivery and storage.
  16. “Agency” Services: the agent  acts in an “agency” capacity for the artist by assuming certain legal and fiduciary responsibilities for the artist.  Such responsibilities include signing applications, agreements, purchase orders or other documents on behalf of the artist and managing the artist’s accounts receivable and payable.  Unless the agent is a lawyer, the agent cannot offer legal services to the artist.

So what package of services is right for you? Only you can decide what is valuable to you, affordable to you and ultimately right for you.  The least is probably sales representation as described in #1 above.  The most, everything described above or more.  I suspect that most artists that use an agent or rep will use a package of services somewhere between the least and most as described here, and will pay for the services with a mix of sales-based and services-based compensation.

The more services, the higher the cost for the services.  The more services that are not pure sales, the higher the sales-based  (percentage) compensation (to cover those other services) and/or the higher the likelihood of added services-based (fee or hourly) compensation beyond the sales-based compensation.

To help you decide what package of services is right for you, you need some idea of  the cost of the various services.  That is the subject of my next blog in this three-part series, “Artist’s Agent or Rep Services:  What’s the Cost?”

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1. Artist’s Agent or Rep Services – An Introduction

In Fine Art, Fine Art Agents, Fine Art Business, Fine Art Representatives, Fine Art Terms on October 19, 2010 at 7:32 pm
Bernardo Torrens "The Art Dealer" 20...

Image via Wikipedia

This is the first blog in a series of three blogs about Artist’s agent or representative services.  The first blog is a general introduction to these services, the second is an overview of the various services included, and the third is an overview of what the various services cost.  As always, I welcome your comments and opinions.

Artist’s Agent or Rep:  An Introduction to Services

As an alternative to gallery representation, some artists prefer having an independent agent or representative who works for the artist. The titles “artist’s agent” and “artist’s representative” are, to the best of my knowledge, not legally defined professions and therefore are subjective in meaning.  Ultimately the services that each provides are whatever is understood and agreed between the artist and the services provider.  In a previous blog, for clarification and points of discussion purposes, I described the roles of each of these services providers as follows:

  • Artist’s Agent: An artist’s agent, as it sounds, represents an artist (or usually multiple artists), is normally independent and is either a person or a business entity.  The agent will have knowledge, expertise and experience in the selling and pricing of art, the business of art and promoting of artists.  The artist pays the agent, usually on a commission and/or fee basis, to primarily market and sell the artist’s art work.   The agent may also act on behalf of the artist to find and secure venues for the display and sale of the artist’s work, such as art shows, exhibitions and festivals, or to find and secure opportunities for juried competitions or commission work.  In representing the artist, the agent may have an “agency” relationship with the artist (where the term “agent” comes from), including responsibilities to conduct business, such as processing payments, negotiating deals or signing purchase orders and agreements, on behalf of the artist.  The agent may even receive direct payments (from art buyers) for the artist’s work, much as a gallery receives payment for the artist’s work that it sells.  This is most likely in the case of Internet sales via the agent’s website.  In such cases, the agent assumes the associated legal and fiduciary responsibilities to the artist.  However, unless the agent is also a lawyer, the agent cannot offer legal services for the artist.
  • Artist’s Representative: Much the same as an “Artist’s Agent”, except without the “agency” relationship.  The services are more marketing and sales, less business.  The “artist’s rep” is more of an assistant to, “matchmaker” and advocate for the artist without being a conductor of business for the artist.  The rep will market and sell the artwork, but will not have the transactions run through the rep’s business.  All transactions remain direct between the artist and the art buyer, even if processed by the rep.  The rep will seek venues for the artist, and perhaps prepare applications to those venues for the artist, but the applications, and any resulting agreements, will be directly between, and executed by, the artist and the venue sponsor.  The rep may find promotional or advertising opportunities for the artist, but the artist will directly authorize any related purchase orders and sign any related agreements.  The rep may also help the artist by handling shipping and/or installation of the sold art work on behalf of the artist.

By contrast, an artist’s agent or rep is not typically an “artist’s advisor“(who helps the artist with career development),  an “art consultant” (who works for art buyers to find art for the buyers and negotiates the purchase of art on behalf of the buyers), an “art dealer” (a person or entity that purchases and sells art) or an “art gallerist” (a gallery owner or director who represents a gallery first, an artist second).  This differentiation is offered simply to clarify the usual meanings of the titles.  It is not to say that an artist’s agent or rep could not also be an artist’s advisor, art consultant or art dealer as part of diversified business activity.

Artist’s Agent or Rep Services:  The Intangibles & The Tangibles

With either an agent or a representative, an artist is buying services.  Services consist of intangibles, such as knowledge, skills, experience, education, reputation and contacts/connections put to use to achieve tangible results, such as sales, venue & commissioned work opportunities and completed tasks.  The intangibles are delivered in units of time and the tangibles are delivered as accomplished goals.  

Caution:  no one can guarantee tangible results such as sales, acceptance or awards, because such results are dependent on the actions of others that no one can control.  An agent or rep may be able to increase the likelihood (or probability) of such tangible results, but certainly cannot guarantee such.

Artist’s agent or Rep Services:  Value & Benefits

There is value to both the intangibles and the tangibles of services, but, as for any given transaction of business, the value is only what the consumer (the artist) will pay and the provider (agent or rep) will accept for the services.  So, what are these services worth to the artist?  The artist needs to consider several potential benefits of these services when trying to assess the value of such services to the artist:

  1. The likelihood of increased sales and/or profits due to the agent or rep’s ability to expand sales and/or increase the value of the artist’s work;
  2. The likelihood of increased artist productivity due to the delegation to the agent or rep of  tasks, activities and supporting research that have been typically performed by the artist, thereby freeing the artist’s time for more art production;
  3. The likelihood of increased exposure for the artist due to the efforts, connections and contacts of the agent or rep;
  4. The likelihood of increased business operations efficiency and profitability due to the efforts, techniques and ideas from the agent or rep for improved business and marketing practices;
  5. The convenience and reassurance of having an “on call, go to” consultant, who is familiar with the artist and the artist’s business, to help the artist when new or unforeseen business matters crop up and need quick troubleshooting or problem solving efforts.

For some artists, these services may be unnecessary and/or unaffordable luxuries.  For others, these services may be valuable necessities that pay for themselves or better.  For any artist to make such a value judgement, they need to know:

  1. what the services include, and
  2. what they cost.

These are the subjects of my next two blogs to follow shortly hereafter.


Intaglio Prints: Original Works of Art

In Fine Art, Fine Art Prints, Fine Art Terms, Intaglio Prints, Itaglio Etchings, Printmaking on September 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm
"Cotoneaster"

Itaglio Etching Print by David Smith-Harrison

Ever wonder why someone would sell a “print” as if it were an “original”?  Setting aside the unscrupulous motive of deception, there are prints that are original works of art.  Say what?

The term “print” has developed in modern usage as synonymous with “reproduction” or “copy”.  In many cases this is certainly true.  A giclee print of an original painting is an example of a reproduction.  Regardless of how excellent the print is, it is still a copy of an original and it is valued and priced so.  The same is true of prints made using a four-color offset printing process and similar methods of reproduction.

In the world of fine art printmaking, however, exist various media that are printed images on paper where the prints are the original fine art. The Print Council of America (PCA) issued a guide, in 1961, establishing some criteria for what is an original print, that are quoted below:

  1. The artist alone must create the master image on the stone, or whatever material would be used to make the print.
  2. The print -if not printed by the artist- should be hand printed by someone under the artist’s direct supervision.Each impression should be approved and signed by the artist and the master image (the matrix) destroyed or cancelled.
  3. The original print is not a copy of anything else, not a copy of a painting or another print. If an artist chooses to copy his own work, originally done in another medium, it would be a print done after an oil (or other medium). An original print is a creative endeavor by the artist and therefore is as valid an expression as is any other form of visual art – may it be a painting or a sculpture. The original print is a work of art in it’s own right

Definitions such as this one continue to evolve, but this one seems to me to do well to describe what is an original print.  The International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) also has some published material on this subject.  I have provided links to both the PCA and the IFPDA below in this blog for your reference.

The concept of original prints came to my attention as I was learning more about the fine art media of intaglio etching printmaking used by an artist that we represent at The Marshall-LeKAE Gallery in Scottsdale (AZ, USA), specifically the exceptional work of artist David Smith-Harrison.  The term “intaglio” comes from the Italian word “intagliare”, meaning, “to incise” or “to engrave”.  The term is commonly used to refer to either the process or the finished work.

The intaglio process is an etching process where the artist uses a stylus (needle) to hand incise the image into a “ground”, a thin, protective coating (either soft or hard), on a metal plate (usually copper or zinc).  The artist draws directly into a hard ground, that is firmly adhered to the plate’s surface, removing it from the plate’s surface in the process. With a soft ground, the artist will over-lay the ground with paper and draw on the paper. Where the lines are drawn on the paper, the soft ground, that is less firmly adhered to the plate’s surface than a hard ground, sticks to the paper and, when the paper is lifted, lifts from the plate’s surface.

The ground coated & image incised (into the ground) plate is then dipped in an acid bath where the metal plate surface is “bitten” (chemically eaten away) by the acid wherever the plate’s metal surface is exposed (by the removal of the ground coating).  This acid etching creates grooves in the plate’s surface that match the image incised in the ground coating.

The acid-etched plate is then coated with high quality ink (as used for the intaglio process).  The ink is gently wiped off of the surface leaving ink within the grooves of the etching.  The plate is then pressed together with high quality paper (also as used for the intaglio process), using a press with rollers to produce high pressure contact between the plate and the paper to force the paper into the etched grooves in the plate’s surface.  The ink that remains in the grooves transfers to the surface of the paper pressed into those grooves.

The resulting image, on the paper, is the original intaglio print.  With a good press and high quality print, the ink image will have a raised feel to it.  To produce each print, the process repeats, so the printer must clean, polish, re-ink and wipe the plate after the printing of each impression (image) and before the printing of the next image.  Each print normally is hand titled, numbered and signed by the artist.  When the printer completes the total run (total number of prints made, or edition), the plate is then “cancelled” (holed or scratched over) or destroyed so that more original prints cannot be made.

The process that leads up to the run of the original prints includes some trial prints along the way.  Such a print is a “Work Proof” (W.P.) or “Trial Proof” (T.P.) and is one of a kind.  Because a W.P. or T.P. is unique, it may have a higher value than those original prints in the run. When a print is the one approved by the artist for the run, it becomes the B.A.T. print from the French words “Bon A’ Tirer” that mean “good to pull”, or “right to print”.  This proof is the first good impression that an artist approves for the master printer to use as the standard for the run (or edition).  The first prints made after the B.A.T. are each called an “Artist Proof” (A.P.).  Several A.P.’s may be made, for the artist’s personal use, before the printing of the numbered prints of the run.  These A.P.’s are not numbered, simply labeled as A.P.’s.  Because they are the same as those prints in the numbered run, the A.P.’s have no special added value above the value of the numbered prints in the Edition.

Print numbering is typically in a format such as “64/200”.  The “64” is the specific number of the print.  The “200” is the total number of the run or edition.  The mark “64/200”, written by the artist on the print (usually to the lower left, in the margin), simply means print number 64 of a run of 200 prints.  The artist marks proof prints W.P., T.P. or A.P., as applicable.  The artist’s signature usually appears to the lower right in the margin, although the artist may choose to include the signature within the print image. A print is still an original whether signed and numbered by the artist or not.  When done by hand, the artist will sign, title and identify (the number or proof) each print in pencil to contrast with the print’s ink image thereby showing that the hand markings are original and not a part of the printed image.

In trying to grasp the “original print” concept, I likened it to the making of bronze sculpture.  In this case, the artist’s hand work is the artist’s creation of a clay sculpture (that I liken to the printmaker’s etched plate) that the artist makes a mold from.  I liken the mold to the printmaker’s plate after its acid bath.  Bronze castings (that I liken to the printmaker’s prints) are then made from the mold and numbered and signed by the artist as “original” bronze sculptures (that I liken to the printmaker’s “original” prints). Upon completion of the series (total number of castings), the artist destroys the cast and re-uses the clay for the next sculpture.

Here are some links to some websites that I found particularly helpful to self-educate about fine art prints as original works of art:

Diptych, Triptych, Say What?

In Fine Art, Fine Art Terms, Types of Paintings, Uncategorized on July 19, 2010 at 10:40 pm
The bell as depicted in fine art: This triptyc...

Triptych Image via Wikipedia

A couple of fine art terms that you may hear commonly used around an art gallery or an art show are “diptych” and “triptych“.  Just what do these terms mean?

Diptych and triptych are terms used in the fine art world to refer to works of art that consist  of two or three panels respectively  The terms derive from the historic words for ancient tablets consisting of more than one page and most commonly hinged together.  Today, in fine art circles, the terms apply to works of art, including paintings, carvings, photography, glass and other media, where the completed work consists of more than one panel and the panels are designed to display next to each other, although not necessarily (or even normally) hinged or otherwise connected.

Fused Glass Diptych by Christina Lynn Johnson

A diptych or triptych is a single work of fine art consisting of more than one panel, and is not complete unless both or all three of the panels are displayed together.  The artist intends the work as such, and the panels that make up the composition are not intended for display or sale individually.  Otherwise the two or three panels are simply two or three individual works of art.

However, some artists will create such work with the intention that the two or three panels can be displayed and sold either way, as a single composition or individually, whatever the art buyer prefers. In the fine art world, as in so many other realms of activity, nothing is absolute!

What’s an Encaustic Painting?

In Encaustic Painting, Fine Art, Fine Art Terms, Types of Paintings, Uncategorized on July 11, 2010 at 1:35 am

Perhaps you have visited a fine art gallery and seen some interesting paintings labeled as “encaustic on panel” or “encaustic and oil”.  Just what does “encaustic” mean?  Here’s a brief introduction.

Encaustic painting uses a thermoplastic process (medium is softened to liquid when heated, hardened to solid when cooled) that uses wax, usually 90-95% clear beeswax mixed with 5-10% damar resin (a hardener), melted to liquid state and then mixed with quality dry pigments and applied to a rigid panel, most typically wood or hardboard.  The damar resin additive raises the melting temperature so the wax is less susceptible to heat damage,  allows the encaustic to cure and harden over time so it is more durable, and prevents “blooming” (a whitish haze that can appear on the surface of a painting). Resin also results in a harder surface for polishing of the encaustic to a high gloss.  The  process repeats in layers until the final image is complete.  Then the final image is carefully heated to fuse the layers together into a fully integrated whole.

The thermoplastic, fluid nature of encaustic is conducive to variety of application techniques and methods of manipulation.  A distinctive benefit of encaustic painting is its durability due to the impervious (to moisture) characteristic of beeswax.  Encaustic paintings do not need a glass cover or a protective top coating, and are very resistant to fading, yellowing and cracking.  Encaustic painting is also a very clean process that is free of chemicals, solvents and the fumes associated with them.

I’ve found some very good descriptions of the encaustic technique of painting at the following websites that I recommend for you to read to gain a better understanding of this process:

The last link above provides a helpful set of FAQ answers that address encaustic paint durability.

What’s a “Giclee” Print?

In Fine Art Prints, Fine Art Terms, Types of Paintings, Uncategorized on July 9, 2010 at 9:47 pm

You may have heard galleries or artists refer to prints of 2-dimensional fine art as “giclees” and wondered why they didn’t just call them prints.  It’s not just a fancy term that is synonymous with print.  It refers to a particular high quality type of print.   In short, “Giclee” is just a fancy term for a high quality ink-jet print, made from a digital image, that uses fade resistant archival inks and papers.
Turn your digital photos into canvas giclee prints

Here’s a more detailed description:

The term giclee (pronounced “jhee-clay”) comes from the French word “le gicleur” meaning “nozzle”, or more specifically, “gicler” meaning “to squirt, spurt, or spray”.  It was selected to describe this type of print because the image produced on the print papers is sprayed on with pigments by nozzles in the printing process.

photo of the epson stylus pro 9600 large format giclee printer

A large-format, ink jet printer, as used for the printing of giclees.

A giclee, as a fine art term, means a high quality reproduction of an original, 2-dimensional work of art (such as a painting, drawing or photograph) made from a digital source using a high quality ink-jet printing process with fade-resistant, archival quality inks printed on archival quality fine art paper or canvas. This process, that evolved in the 1990’s, is different, higher quality and more expensive than the earlier process traditionally used for fine art prints that was the four-color, offset lithography process.  Offset lithography prints and are still common today, particularly for large volume printing projects, but the giclee process digital print has become the standard for high quality fine art reproductions.  The process continues to evolve as technology advances.

I found some very good descriptions of the giclee history and process at the following websites that I recommend reading to gain a better understanding of this topic:

Sometimes an artist will use a giclee print and add some paint to it to give it more of the look and feel of an original painting, or to change the look of an original painting to meet the request of a buyer.  A “paint enhanced giclee” or “hybrid giclee/painting” is still based on a reproduction of an original and is priced much less than the one-of-a-kind original.

Now when someone refers to a giclee, you’ll know exactly what they are talking about.  Perhaps you’ll even know a little more about giclees than they do!