Tag Archives: gallery

On Making Art

Framed

With my work framed, the illusion of a fake movie leaflet for a fake Japanese animation about Canadian residential schools is complete. A friend of mine is not a big fan of these works. I don’t think she really likes it when I stray away from my traditional drawing styles. It’s hard enough to sell my current work as it is. It’s even harder to sell my works especially if I’m making fake movie posters or action figures.

The problem is what sometimes works in my mind doesn’t really translate into the image. Or I have trouble putting myself into the viewers’ shoes, especially since there’s often a lot of context I’m putting into the work which viewers may not particularly know nor care about. Let’s look at this work in particular.

The work is titled “Residential School,” but the idea of a residential school is way too subtle. There’s an obvious reference to religious boarding schools, but it would be rare to find someone who would assume that the girl in the center is an Aboriginal. The work is one from a series of posters inspired by Canadian history. I resent that not much of Canadian history is known outside of Canada, especially when a lot of our neighbors’ histories (particularly our neighbor in the south) is told in books, movies, and are part of the global consciousness. I think the horrors of residential schools and the silent genocide of Aboriginal communities should be told just as much as the plight of the slaves or the persecution of the Jewish people. But then again, borrowing imagery from Ghibli Studios might be a bit too tongue-in-cheek and not many people might see it nor appreciate it when/if they do.

Also, I’m not sure if there are many people who like Japanese animation, are appreciative of Canadian history, and are willing to pay good money for fake leaflets that cater to both.

My Japanese is non-existent. My wife speaks Japanese and she’s confused by Japanese I use in the image. They translate in the most basic Google-translate sort of way, but I don’t really mind. The characters make for an interesting visual. The Japanese names don’t mean much either.

“Himax” and “Colby Digital” are rip-offs of “Imax” and “Dolby Digital.” But I doubt if anyone would notice that. “Blamco” is a fake company name I once used for a line of toys I made. Again, no one would know this.  “Taken” is a reference to the Liam Neeson movie. Children were very much kidnapped by the Canadian government.

In any case, these decisions were made for my own benefit and not with the audience in mind. The use of the name “Taken,” a small part of the credits, is for my own amusement, not to provide more insight to the viewer. This method of making art doesn’t normally produce compelling, saleable artwork, but if the purpose of the work is get over my depression, to just be active, or to just make images to amuse myself, I think it’s a job well done. Make art! Make art because it makes you happy or because you simply need to. Making art in order to sell them fine, but really, it should be the least of your motivations.

With that in mind, it’s great to see my work framed. Framed to ultimately end up hung on my own wall years from now.

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The Beauty of Studio Galleries

Moose_funny

My good friend, Jordan Miller, just aired her woes regarding running a studio gallery. I want to reply with my two cents.

First off, for the holidays, I doubt if many people buy art, especially in a city like Winnipeg in this economy. People do love looking at art… they love looking, but not just Winnipeg in particular, but the whole world in general. For someone to actually buy art, they often have to be invested in the piece or the artist already. That or they just have money to throw around at that moment. So yeah, either you have a fan or you’re lucky enough to come across someone truly compelled to buy your work.

And really this holiday, galleries and all other shops are competing against Amazon and Walmart when it comes to shopping for presents. When it comes to compelling imagery, they’re competing against the whole Internet and the world’s ADHD culture. It’s an uphill battle, and it’s a small miracle and badge on the artist every time someone buys art.

This is where I think a studio gallery has to utilize the artists it has. I think many new artists are under the assumption that once they’re in a gallery, it’s the gallery owner or curator’s responsibility to shepherd new audiences to them. To some extent, this is true. Being in a gallery brings about art enthusiasts as well as other gallery owners. But in a generally static market like Winnipeg, artists cannot expect their audience to grow if they keep on showing their stuff at the same studio gallery. To grow an audience, each artist in a collective should be introducing their friends to other artists in the collective, and thus, growing their community and their audiences. So let’s say there’s an open house, each artist in a studio gallery should at least try to invite friends to come over and see their works as well as the other artists’. “Studio artists tell me they want new people in, not just the people they know.” True. So each artist should bring the people they know and maybe they’ll buy their neighbor’s work and vice versa.

Another way to solve the “new people in, not just the people they know” dilemma is for gallery owners and artists to be sharing information regarding calls for submissions. I was once a part of an art collective in South Korea, and one thing I liked about the community is that people were sharing information and leads regarding opportunities. The organizer would encourage members to take part in shows. This encourages artists to be more productive and be part of the community. It also gives them more experience and hopefully leads them to a much better portfolio. Artists don’t have to be limited to their local community. It’s what the Internet is for. And with several eyeballs scouring the Internet for opportunities and sharing them, that should make the world of artists in a studio gallery a little bit bigger.

My friend mentioned that some artists make deals with buyers and sell work to them privately instead of going through the gallery and losing a commission. Now, there really is no way to work around this unless galleries start forcing artists to sign exclusivity contracts. But really, I think this comes down to the artists themselves. Personally, I feel grateful if a gallery hung my work and happened to find a buyer for me. That’s one person who may have never run into my work and I owe it to the gallery for making the connection. I believe artists should do the right thing and make sales through galleries rather than wait for their work to come down. Buyers wouldn’t normally care if the artist loses on commission or not. And artists, despite finances and all, should really be willing to support galleries who gave them a chance in the first place.

Now, with the two things considered: artists wondering why my gallery owner friend is not shepherding in new audiences for them and artists making private sales, I would assume this comes to either selfishness (and laziness) in the artists’ part or a fundamental opportunity missed by everyone. Perhaps the economy is bad that artists cannot afford to be generous to galleries in return, or perhaps the artists don’t realize how a small studio gallery in a city like Winnipeg could work for them.

So there you have it. If you’re an artist in a studio gallery, take advantage of your community and share resources and opportunities. Be more proactive, if not in your local arts community, then at least over the Internet. Maybe I’m biased because Jordan, the gallery owner, is my best friend, but don’t leave everything to the gallery owner or curator. There’s only so much they can do to help you.

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Opportunity for Artists!!!

Stampede

Been getting the occasional offers to submit my works to a show, enter contests, or be included in some magazine. Most of them would ask me to submit my works for a fee. I try to ignore a lot of these things, but one in a while I’ll respond just to see where it goes or if my initial impressions that it’s not worth it is incorrect.

It’s really sad how a lot of these operations prey on artists. With a mass-mailer asking for $50 per submission, a few artists are bound to respond. And for what? For a magazine that many art buyers don’t really read? A show in New York that goes unnoticed? A one-night event where a person’s art is barely seen? Good artists end up wasting their time and money participating in such ventures, while other artists just end up applying for things for no other reason than to basically get scammed.

Now I understand that some contests or call for submissions would require some small fees in order to cover gallery costs, but a lot of times, the gallery or magazines’ history is too dodgy to justify the cost. It’s not just applications, it’s also time wasted and sometimes cost of framing and shipping. And if you do the math, if a contest awards a winner $1000 in a contest that requires $50 per entry, then the gallery just needs 20 entries to start making it worth their while. That is, if a real winner is awarded a prize to begin with. And the thing is outfits like World Art Media and NY Arts magazine would charge artists upwards of $500! It’s like phishing for ambitious, naïve artists.

Can we stop taking advantage or artists who just want to put their work out there? Artists are already paying a heavy price for dreaming. It’s just depressing to see cynical reality teach artists a cruel lesson.

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Can’t we just draw, paint, or sculpt?

Bee

Bee

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2239504/As-prices-Damien-Hirsts-works-plummet-pity-credulous-saps-spent-fortunes-tosh.html

Yes!!! Yes!!! Please, art world, please! Let’s make this happen. Let’s stop alienating the rest of the world with pieces that we all pretend is high art but is nothing but schlock.

Apparently, Hirst’s works are now dropping in value. What were once hot commodities are now failing to sell, and people who invested on his works are losing money. While the British press has always seem to have been against Hirst’s bombastic brand of kitsch, it seems like the rest of the world is finally starting to catch up. I hope this trend continues. I hope we all stop paying attention to what is shocking and excessive, and not trust people trained in sales to see what is really not there. “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” Sure… maybe… or it could very well be just pieces of fish submerged in formaldehyde. Was it hard imagining such concept? Maybe?  It’s also not hard imagining a bicycle wheel stuck on a stool. But the difference between Marcel Duchamp and Damien Hirst is that Duchamp’s readymades seek to arrive at a higher purpose, to find an antidote to art that is purely visual. Duchamp’s works gave form to conceptual art, where the idea came first and the visual arrives soon after. There is humor in them. He challenged what is and what is not art. The rise of Hirst however tells me nothing but the story of excess. Of how a good salesman who knows the right people could make ridiculous amount of money selling pointless art that shocks. Nothing else.

Like a scary movie based on jump scares, as opposed to a psychological thriller which haunts you… you get over it and move on with your life. The makers of the movie however, make off with your money.

The reason why I’m happy about the news regarding Hirst is that I believe that the art world, if it continues to celebrate shocking, pointless art, it’s bound to self-destruct. Artists will be creating pointless, self-promoting pieces in the hopes of getting rewarded, while traditional artists move on with their life and get “real” jobs. It reinforces the stereotype that art is pointless and weird, and lay people would continue to devalue it. Instead of learning how to paint or draw, young artists would be incentivized to thinking of schemes on how to grab headlines. A vagina painting here, a semen painting there. Forget drawing or painting figures, how could you make a story go viral? And that is the danger. That is the nail in the coffin. “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone” is like the “Gangnam Style” of the art world. It’s a shallow concept with an interesting visual. If anything, most of the beauty of the piece stems from the shark’s very nature. A person would be better off looking at a real shark in an aquarium. The work grabs headlines, but in the long run it is not as significant conceptually and artistically as Duchamp’s name on a urinal. It does not teach us anything. What shocks a person now would not shock a person ten or twenty years from now. That makes whatever is viral right now utterly boring and forgettable in a few years.

The Guardian piece notes, “Artists should be able to draw, paint, or sculpt, says the ordinary person, but all Hirst and his ilk can do is shock.” I agree to this sentiment to an extent. One of the criticisms to the movie “Whiplash” is that it pushes the notion that you can train someone to become a genius. True, great artists are sometimes just born, and training and technical accomplishment alone does not make someone a great artist. But what about the work? Let us judge artists by their works and not the artist as a person (although I could talk forever about my frustration with some artists marketing themselves instead of their works). Is the work in itself genius? Is there an incredible amount of skill involved in its creation? What I despise about the rise of Hirst, is that the works are called genius despite the fact that there is no skill or technical accomplishment displayed in the pieces. And as for genius, I believe the idea is schlock and not that special at all.

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Winnipeg and Awesome Art Communities

cheese_tunnel

One of the things I really miss about Canada is the art community. In Canada, I believe the art community is democratized, where many galleries primarily make money through selling artists’ work. There are pros and cons to this approach. It might limit what the galleries show, only exhibiting what is currently trendy or commercially viable (like Hong Kong galleries, in my opinion). But it also puts all artists in an even playing field, where making and exhibiting art is not a rich man’s hobby.

In the second day of my trip, I visited quite a few galleries in Winnipeg. Many of them were open to new artists looking to exhibit. Reading through some of the bios, I see a lot of people who were self-taught and many who were exhibiting for the first time after (or in the midst of) careers in other fields. The galleries, like many I apply to in North America, will screen works, review proposals, then work with artists. I’m not sure to what degree sales fit in the equation, but as an artist, I don’t see a big financial investment on my part outside of the money spent framing and shipping works to galleries.

Now maybe it’s just my limited experience as a foreigner, or perhaps my lack of Korean language skills, but from what I see in Korea, galleries tend to make their money off the artist first. Selling the artists’ works is just a secondary thought. With real estate prices skyrocketing, galleries in Korea would cover their expenses first by billing artists exorbitant gallery rental fees. The fees don’t cover promotion. Like many galleries in North America, it is usually up to the artist to drum up audiences for their shows. (I don’t think many gallery owners cared about my CV.) Now, the advantage of such an approach is that as long as the gallery fees are covered, the artist is free to explore new ideas. This makes the scene rife for Dadaist approaches like Marcel Duchamp’s fountain. If anything in the gallery space is considered art (as long as the gallery fees are paid), does that not make any object a possible art piece and any person a possible artist? Rent a gallery, challenge the system, and go crazy. Explore!

I would like to think that that is what’s happening in Korea, but sadly, it doesn’t work that way. From what I’ve seen, art here is a rich man’s game. Many people don’t live off of their art. They’re often independently wealthy and art is a hobby they can afford to pursue. I remember a friend of mine who met an artist whose works were currently being exhibited in the Seoul Museum of Contemporary Art. They became friendly and he bought one of the artist’s works. It was a small and affordable painting, not like the ones he had in the gallery. To his surprise, the artist got a bit teary-eyed and was touched by the gesture. He said that he was the first person to ever buy one of his works. He was the first person to buy the artist’s works.

Now how could a living person be in the Seoul Museum of Contemporary Art and not even sell one piece?

Our guess is you go through the art school/scene in Korea, rent galleries for a few shows, know a few people, then hopefully build enough of a reputation to get yourself in a major gallery. Building up a CV would require a lot of money in this country, something that most artists cannot do.

In Canada, or in North America, it’s much different. Sure, a person can throw money at galleries and have their works shown, but there’s also a more honest, albeit harder and more humbling approach: apply to galleries, listen to their recommendations, apply again, and keep on applying until someone finally pays attention. I’m not saying the Korean system does not exist in Canada. I’m sure it does, and I’m sure that’s how many galleries work, but what I don’t see in Korea too often are galleries willing to take a chance on artists and not have a massive pay wall to have their works shown.

art_box

I found this in my sister’s basement. A bit of a blast from the past. I miss art school. I miss lugging around a tackle box full of art supplies and being surrounded by artists. To my surprise, some of the paint is still good! The whole thing is now donated for other artists to use. Supplies are expensive. Recycle or donate your art supplies, folks.

Another blogger who loves Winnipeg. http://straightondetour.com/how-i-fell-in-love-with-winnipeg/

 

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Drawing Alone

Trees

 

The problem with art compared to music is that artists usually work alone. Its very nature lends to being lonely. Art is for the loner. Just look at movies with artists. They’re often portrayed as misunderstood, loner geniuses.

Despite music having its fair share of loner-type musicians, music by its nature is more social, musicians get in a group, they get to form bands. Artists get to spend time by themselves. Despite artist groups and shared studios, the process of creating great art is often solitary. Even if a person is making art in the same room, what’s hung on the wall is often from one person alone. This is not the same as music. Great music is often the product of a collaboration; the combination of people’s talent in a band.

I regret not having that form of camaraderie. I regret not taking guitar-playing more seriously.

 

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Art, “Terror,” and a bit about Godaddy

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An art opening, an art opening! Got a gallery show opening this weekend with a couple of other artists. Exciting stuff. It’s always good to meet new artists and see what kind of works other people are into. I also learned that I’m not the only foreign artist in the country who dabbled in making action figures.

Despite Korea being quite small, I’ve never been to this city right next to Seoul where we’re having the exhibition (Ilsan, northwest of Seoul). The place seems quite young and the architecture feels foreign to me. It’s almost as if I’m walking in Japan. I would hang out in Ilsan more if it wasn’t an hour and a half away from where I live. And really, there are far too many bars near where I live for me to wander far in order to get a drink. My neighborhood has made me lazy.

Are we feeling better now, Canada? Are we all good? I gotta say, the overall reaction to the shooting a couple of days ago was far more level-headed than one would expect if it happened down south. No giant panics and no moral outrages. No one is going after swaths of Muslim populations. What troubles me though is the almost too-canadian rumored reaction from our Prime Minister during the shooting: that he hid in a closet. How Canadian is that, eh? “Mr. Prime Minister, a gun man is causing trouble outside, you’d better get inside this closet!” Can’t we at least get a panic room or something?

On a more serious note however, I’m more troubled with Canadian politicians and Americans calling the whole thing an “act of terror.” Glenn Greenwald made a good point about it, and it’s something I always felt was the general bias when it comes to the liberal use of Western force in other countries. The shooter targeted Canadian military. As cowardly in terms of the attack coming out of nowhere as it is, there appears to be an effort not to harm civilians, but only to harm soldiers and those in power. Sure, there was an element of “terror,” but wouldn’t the act of combatants attacking others who are technically combatants be classified as par for the course in war? It wasn’t an act of terror. It was war, and Canada has been at war (against vague terror) along with the United States for over a decade now.

Calling the attack an act of terror, in my mind, does two things. One, it is used as another piece of propaganda for more war, more money for the military, and more kids being sent to fight overseas. What exactly are we doing in Afghanistan? For what purpose are we there for? Couldn’t Canada find a better way to achieve these goals outside of military intervention?

The other thing it does is that it defines the word “terror.” It was an act of terror when a man targeted soldiers and a government facility. I’m not going to argue against that because it definitely was terrible and I do feel for the victim and his family. I’ll give you that. It was an act of terror. He did not shoot civilians, but that poor soldier did not see it coming and did not deserve getting shot that day. But how do we define the actions of the US military when they bomb innocent civilians through signature strikes? How do we define the thousands of deaths in the vague “war on terror?” These are actions which kill not only supposed terrorists, but also civilians. Aren’t the people living in these neighborhoods also terrorized?

Now, I’m not saying that United States is a monster for conducting a terrorist campaign on several nations in what appears to be a disproportionate act of vengeance. What I’m saying is that “terror,” “acts of terror,” and “war against terror” are all horribly vague and maleable terms. They are trump cards which justify horrible actions and push forward shortsighted government policies. Sure, we can call something an “act of terror.” What happened in Canada was an act of terror. But let’s also examine our own terrible actions and see exactly how terrible we have been.

Problems with Godaddy again. Well, I don’t know if it’s Godaddy, Korea’s fickle Internet, or whatever. Ugh!

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Websites Mother Fish

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I found this Website which caters to artists, allowing them to have a fairly decent portfolio online. Here’s my Website: https://www.works.io/joseph-m-reyes. The layout is pretty clean and the interface is pretty easy to navigate. A lot of free sites offer a general Website or blog and people just customize it to show their works. This site has the artist in mind. The basic account is a little limited, but I guess that pushes people to either upgrade in order to display more images or just simply put their best images forward. I’m still not sure how accurate the site’s Web statistics works, like how do people find your page, especially since most of the artists on the “featured works” page, I assume, are paid accounts. There also isn’t a sort of function that allows artists to network with one another. I think that would’ve been interesting. But I guess that’s not the point of the site. Anyway, it’s a pretty interesting site with lots of what I’m guessing are European artists, https://www.works.io/. I suggest people check it out before it becomes like deviantart and get filled with too much anime.

Speaking of Websites. I’m having a bit of trouble with Godaddy and editing my Website’s mobile version. There appears to be a glitch on one of the tabs in my site. I couldn’t edit it out, so I’m chalking it to a combination of my lack of knowledge with html and the glitchy nature of the mobile version editing interface.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Well, it’s still Mother’s Day today in Canada. Happy Mother’s Day Ma! We miss you. Happy Mother’s Day as well to every mother out there who happens to wander to my site for whatever reason.

 

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