Memphis Art Project (MAP) is a website designed to document and showcase public art in Memphis. I wanted to do a series of blog posts that showcased Memphis public art and I ran across this website while I was researching for the blog. So I figured I would share it because they already did the work and its a nice site! Memphis has some hidden gems that are worth a visit if you live in, visiting or new in town and want to see some cool art. Check them out!
Growing up as a budding artist I used my sketchbooks pretty sparingly even though I wanted to be that art nerd, furiously writing, sketching or doing amazing stuff in one but never could remember to keep up with it. Then in college I was forced to use them. Seemed like I had one for every class and I spent more time working in those than I could on my class projects. It took me a while to get to where I enjoyed working in them and actually having it with me 90% of the time. They have become not only a personal journal but also more of an archive for my art and life. My sketchbook yields an environment for me to record ideas, life experiences, or experiment with how I want to tackle a new work of art or technique. I depend on them so much now I feel lost with out it and it's my go to for anything creative or personal that ties those two together for creating my art. Well, and the fact that I use it for both work projects and my art helps me to keep up with it. So when you go to an art store to buy one to suit your needs the choices can be pretty daunting especially if you are unfamiliar with the different types of sketchbooks out there.
Here is my take on what works and what doesn't, my likes and dislikes about sketchbooks - Honestly... it's that most of the cheap one's suck. Some of the expensive ones suck too. I personally need one that can take some abuse. A lot of the sketchbooks that I have used that don't work for me are the perfect bound stitched books. They look really nice at the store but usually fall apart in very little time and if you add to the pages pages, glue in photocopies or work in any type of multi-media art they don't expand well which is why they tend to break apart. The spine of this sketchbook to the right completely split apart and pages are falling out so I had to stop using it.
Moleskin brand sketchbooks are saddle stitched and are conveniently sized which is great if you need to travel or if you tend to work small. I have tried them and haven't really had much success with them. But they hold up well and they even have sort of a cult following. For those who haven't heard of it, the sketchbook project is a project where you pay for a book, work it under a set theme and send it back to the project and then it gets national display in a traveling exhibit as well as becomes part of a permanent collection. Pretty cool deal if you are a super sketcher/journal type person. I tried it but couldn't finish in time so I never sent it in. Working on 2 books at once was hard so the project book got left out a lot.
For me, my favorite type of sketchbook is a spiral bound book. I have had several that I loved (I can't find them any more actually) they had a hard plastic type cover and thick plastic spirals. Very hardy and well designed. The sketchbooks I use currently are pretty sturdy and last several years with some heavy abuse (these are wire bound spirals, shown below). What makes them great is that the spirals allow them to be expandable which helps them to not fall apart over time as it fills up. Paper is decent quality, can handle most mediums and once the page dries it stays flat. Covers are rugged and some even have a hard cardboard backing behind the paper just before the back cover that strengthens them even more. I even go so far as to customize my books and I make DIY pockets for the inside covers to hold loose cut-outs, and articles I find that I want to collage in when ever I find the right page for them.
I currently have the sketchbook on the left and I just finished filling up one similar to the one on the right. It took me almost 2 years but I filled every page and it held up great. Edges of the covers are pretty tattered but the spirals are in tact, it opens and closes and the paper is all there. The book on the left, the space in the spirals is handy for your hand when you carry it around. It's a pretty nice design feature actually.
Another part to consider is the paper inside. Obviously you can't try it before you buy it in a store so you have to rely on touch. Sketchbook paper comes in a wide variety of surfaces (tooth) and weights (relating to thickness of the paper) each suited to a different range of media. The cheap sketchbooks tend to have the worst paper and are only good for pencil or pastel work. The tooth of the paper is non-existent and feels very thin with some sort of coating on it and not very opaque. Remember that if you use markers, sharpies etc. it will bleed trough and you wont be able to use the other side. Hold it up to the light and if you can see your hand through it even a little bit stay away from it. Pricer sketchbooks will have better paper, that feels softer, thicker and have a nice tooth to it. I will do another post on papers that talks about weights, tooth, and gives examples on usability. In the mean time...
Several Brands I Recommend:
I was out walking around the Memphis downtown riverfront area the other day with my family and I ran across this bit of "street art" advertising and It caught me by surprise really because it's a printed decal with a painting on it and a QR code for an artist's work and web address. It really got me thinking about an artists’ audience, quality of work and how to market your self as a working artist.
I grew up in and around the graffiti culture so I am used to seeing gratuitous tagging, bombing, guerilla art, band flyers and all the citizenry screaming for attention that a street corner brings, but a website and QR code for a more traditional painting website… is this really the right place for this kind of art advertising? Well, part of me says no, part of me says yes, and it bothers me.
First off let’s start with audience. Is this particular street corner even the right place to engage an art buying audience? Well it can be, location, location… right? What is even this artist’s audience… a tourist, Memphians, the random passerby, anybody who will buy art? That’s a lot riding on one painting with a website and QR code on a decal on a light pole. Now the work pictured in the “ad” seems like it emulates the Memphis folk art style of the musician performing or even a reflection of Memphis’s musical roots, so from that standpoint I can make a connection with a potential audience on this street corner, but a small one. It is placed close to Beale Street, a big musical tourist destination and walking distance from a decent size arts district where you can view and buy art, so there is potential to reach this audience again and “make a sale” from this ad so that’s two positives working for it.
Ad execution: I am interested in more info so as I stand on the street corner waiting to cross the street I use my phone to “learn more” about this artist and the work pictured. Instead of a landing page it takes me to the artist main website which I now have to dig through a clunky mobile version and learn he does a myriad of art endeavors not just the type of work pictured. The work in the sticker is bigger than what I can see on my device so I am left wondering and as I keep walking and I put the phone back in my pocket because I lost interest and didn’t want to spend the time searching the site for answers on a busy street corner. Why did I lose interest? Well, in that slim opportunity I allowed the artist my time and attention when I scanned the QR code I wasn’t directed to a map, address, or landing page that guided me somewhere close to visit a shop or gallery to actually see the work, albeit prints or postcards, something tangible I might buy. Instead I was left to fumble around in the site that had more than I cared about which forced me to wait till I got home to look at it on a larger screen to dig for what I was looking for and to contact directly if I was even still interested. Who wants to go through all that?
The ad failed to do what I hoped it would do as an interested art enthusiast. Think about your site the same way. Do people come to it and “bounce” right out. Are their questions being answered by the design, layout and information presented? Are they interacting with you positively and commenting, or even buying? If not, ask why not?
Now as an artist and a potential buyer I want to see the work up close, my interest in scanning the ad brought about multiple questions that the result didn’t answer so I went on with my life negatively impacted. I would also venture to assume some other potential art buyers who scan would have similar questions and want to see the work too and this is where I feel like this ad missed entirely. Interest brings in a lot of factors that this ad or even website didn't offer an answer to, on a street corner, in a few minutes of a potential customers time. Yes, I now know that this artist exists. But if that is all this person wanted was to be apart of that clutter like a tag or a sticker bomb then he overly succeeded. Why go to the trouble of adding a QR code and web address is what bothers me. The message of your advertising and quality of your website, is just as important as the time and effort you put in to the quality of your art work. Remember that; don’t leave your customers out in the cold because you are speaking to the wrong types of people with the wrong message. As you produce work, as you think about self-promotion, advertising your art, because yes, you want people to know you are out there… remember ultimately you want to sell your work. You have to attract and hook those types of buyers.
Think about this sticker and its attempt to draw in customers. Are you throwing away time and money with your efforts just as this person did? Thinking about and being smart with your advertising really does matter and it can really effect how people remember and respond to you or your art the next time they see it.
If you are like me I am constantly looking for free downloadable resources to help me make rad designs, so I put together some FREE VECTOR watercolor splatters and brush strokes for anyone who wants them. Please give me credit if you redistribute these on your website for download. The AI file is FREE and is saved in CS4 format for anyone to use. If you want me to custom make you some vectors email me and we can work something out. Thanks!
I graduated from the Memphis College of Art in 2001 and came to the college on scholarship from CO and never really knew the history of the college (even after I graduated) other than the design of the school building was the result of a competition the city held in 1956. I recently attended an alumni weekend and was unable to see this newly created documentary about the college everyone was talking about and I finally got around to watching it today, and whoa… what a rich history the school has. Such a beautifully put together documentary about the history of the college and its faculty. If anybody is looking to get a BFA or MFA I would recommend this school in a second. Check out the documentary below created by True Story Pictures for an in-depth look at MCA.
The Art Academy
from True Story Pictures
(image from video, I don't own this image but all rights reserved to it's owner(s). I'd give credit to the photographer if I knew who it was.
Do you have any favorite art books to recommend? I am always looking for books, whether its on photography, graphic design, street art, graffiti, famous artist retrospectives or old renaissance master drawing notebooks.
My Amazon wish list is full of bargain deals. Cheap, cheap, cheap, I try to buy art books under $3 dollars and you would be surprised at how many you can find in great condition for under $3 plus shipping. I just picked up the book laying outside the stack. Its called Backyard Shakedown Photography Book . Put out by UPPER Playground and FIFTY 24SF Gallery. "It is a collection of the most active and exciting contemporary photographers and serves as a great cross-section view of relevant image making today"(excerpts taken from the book description).
I am a museum junkie... I try to go when ever I have free time and I have already taken my 8 month old once, that is how much I love looking at art. I could spend hours a day furiously taking notes, researching a specific painter, dissecting a work of art to figure out how it was created. I am fascinated with technique, and an artists methodology.
Well this past weekend my wife took me to the Mississippi Museum of Art and what is pretty unique about this museum is that the majority of the work is from Mississippi artists. Weather they were born in, work in or lived their entire life in MS and have passed away, it was all by Mississippians. Below is a detail and the full view of Arcola, 1982, 81 x 120", oil on canvas by painter Valerie Jaudon. What is fascinating to me about this painting is how she was able to get such precise thin lines and such thick impasto painting with consistent color at that size. This piece was one of my favorites in the museum.
Here is a review of Valerie's work in Art in America Magazine
Great photographs of one's artwork is something that is essential to a portfolio, website, artist catalog, or just about anything you need to do for self-promotion. So, it's imperative that time is spent to take professional quality photos of your work. Whether you pay a pro photographer with a fancy studio to do it or buy the lights and equipment and do it yourself this needs to be done right if you want galleries or potential buyers to take you seriously. I used my home made DIY light set-up to photograph my latest painting. I still need to do some post production on the final photos but check back to the site in the next few weeks as the final will be posted in the painting section.
Photographers I have worked with to shoot some of my work:
and local photographer, Brian Anderson
I try to watch a lot of art history videos, interviews with painters, old Warhol flicks, what ever I can find on Youtube or on DVD'd to expand my "art knowledge". This past weekend I ran across this series produced by the BBC about the history of 3 colors of paint called "A History of Art in Three Colours". It was really fascinating to say the least. The documentary on Blue was probably my favorite
Here is part 1 of the Gold
and part 1 of the White
If you have a favorite video please leave a link in the comments. I am always looking for new things to learn about.
This particular piece is part of a series (of 5) that surveys the landscape from the sky. Like the rest of my work they are various sized mixed media drawings on paper with a lot of line work, transparent muted color, multilayered, with ink and pencil.
I am still trying to work out the composition and get the balance of the larger shapes and smaller areas defined at this stage, so I photograph it and study it. Most of the time I will work variations of it in my sketch book and then the next time I am back in the studio I have detailed notes on where I want to go with it. Surface and structure are very important in this series and throughout these works I am relying on the unintended relationships between the shapes and letting them evoke memories through texture, division and form.
Art Blog of Mississippi Artist Jason Falconer