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Miscellaneous Adventures at SGCI’s First West Coast Convention

April 12, 2014

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure and expense of attending (for the first time) the Southern Graphics Council International conference. It was all rather quick and full, and I really didn’t take many photos. I was blissfully caught up the multitudinous moments, and thus the very best things are documented only in memory.

Rather than write a post about my experiences (though I may yet sit down to do my experience a proper service word-wise), here are the photos I took (with one exception) during my three-day, whirlwind tour of SGCI San Francisco.

Scholarships for Summer Workshops at ARAC

February 20, 2014

The Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado has scholarships available to help artists interested in attending their summer workshops in printmaking, painting and drawing to access these opportunities. ARAC has accommodations and meal options available to attending artists.

List of ARAC Workshops in Printmaking

List of ARAC Workshops in Painting and Drawing

ARAC Scholarship Opportunities

Workshops aren’t listed through my Calls & Contests page (unless there’s a special exhibition attached), so you won’t find this info there. After the jump I list the ARAC workshops I would attend if I could.
Read more…

What’s the alternative to formulaic artist statements?

February 18, 2014

Explicitly or implicitly, [various parties that assign and request artist statements] endorse the conventional wisdom, the codified model for fill-in-the-blank, forced prose meant to serve as the ultimate linguistic record of an artist’s work. It’s worth noting that according to many scholars in writing pedagogy these factors—checklist writing prompts, prescribed outcomes, external rather than internal motivation, and one-shot attempts—prohibit expressive and effective writing. Writing is better practiced as an ongoing process in which a series of self-discoveries unfold in organically organized form.

But what’s the alternative to our formulaic norm? Far from uncovering some definitive ur-statement, the selective history of artist statements offered here shows them to be as varied and complex as the conditions that brought them forth. Comprehensibility, tastefulness, and brevity were clearly not always the goals. These statements, rather, are generous, adventurous, defensive, incisive, vindictive, eccentric, experimental, bombastic, sly, sad, funny, personal, political, and poetic. It’s hard to tell when they even began. Indeed, the difficulty of locating a precise “birth of the artist statement” is both explanatory and potentially liberating, since many of the genre’s most depressing examples seem to be written as if the writer is trying—and failing—to emulate some kind of “correct” model, one which he or she has never actually set eyes on. Artists have become convinced they’re supposed to say “my work explores the notion of self-reflexivity” rather than “I paint about paintings,” but they aren’t sure why. It’s like sitting down to write a poem and throwing in a bunch of thees and thous because that’s how poetry is supposed to sound. The results are obviously less than artful.

Excerpt from “Toward A History (and Future) of the Artist Statement” by Jennifer Liese

This is an excellent look at the conundrum of artist statements. Liese’s proposal on how to undo the damage that seems inherent (and “depressing”) in the typical artist statement is like a breath of fresh air. This is well worth a careful, thoughtful read – not just for artists, but for all arts professionals who must request, read, edit and/or write artist statements.

Calls & Contests: Updated (Finally!)

December 27, 2013

Photo by Matthew Miller for PNCA

 After neglecting the Smidgeon Press Calls & Contests announcement page for nearly six months, I have finally updated it with a host of opportunities that should keep intrepid printmakers busy up to and through the SGC International Conference at the end of March and into April 2014. As always, if you know of an opportunity that you think should be listed in that handy compendium, please bring it to my attention via the contact form at the bottom of the Calls & Contests page, and pretty please include a link where I can find the prospectus.

It takes a lot of time to snoop out all these opportunities, and help finding them is very sincerely appreciated.

May you all enjoy a productive, creative and happy new year.

Online Art Scams

December 18, 2013

With the increase of online art sales for small galleries and individual artists, it’s no surprise that there are also scammers looking to rip-off artists and galleries. Scam e-mails typically start out like a genuine inquiry into the work, and may even include questions about specific pieces. The scam usually comes in with shipping.

The “client” will have some crazy reason why they want to overpay the artist for the work(s) in question and then have the artist pay a shipping courier specifically chosen by the client (“my son has cancer and I’m in another country”; “I live in a tiny place and big companies won’t ship directly to me”). These are bullshit reasons that usually make the targeted artist feel squeamish. If the artist goes along with it (the scammers are counting on the artist to be eager and maybe slightly desperate), the client will send a check for the amount of the art plus extra for shipping. The check appears to clear; the artist then wires the extra to the shipper. Then the check bounces, no one collects the work, and the client and shipper disappear. This scam is actually pretty common, and is applied to all manner of individual-to-buyer transactions.

Recently, I’ve been getting this e-mail (with different names on it) sent to my work address:


Subject: interested in some of your work

Are you a painter or a photographer? Do you have a website with an online gallery where you display your art? I would very much like to have a look at more of what you have.

Thank you. 


The e-mail address they contacted is only listed on the gallery website, so one could reasonably assume that if it was an actual person sending this (and not a search bot), “Kristos” would have already seen the work on the website and could reasonably determine that (a) the email address is not for an individual artist, and (b) that our website has many online galleries with paintings and photography, among other things, most of which are clearly labeled regarding availability.

Artists and galleries are always so eager to talk, to make a sale, to work out the details – these scammers know this and prey on that, as all scammers do.

My advice is to listen to your instincts, use only shipping companies that YOU trust, and never take a check for work unless you have already established a sound financial relationship. (Personal checks can be cancelled for up to two years after issuance, even if they clear, people. Keep that in mind.) With the availability and affordability of more reliable ways to get paid, don’t be afraid to demand secure payment. Any reasonable person will understand, and anyone who doesn’t is probably trying to steal from you.

If you’re not sure if an inquiry is a scam, you might want to check out Katie Moe’s Stop Art Scams blog, check to see if a U.S.-based business or courier is legitimate through resources like the Better Business Bureau, or try searching for the company name with the word “fraud”. Most countries also have systems like the Better Business Bureau that you can check, if you get the “I live abroad and don’t like major international couriers” routine. Though really, the best course of action is to just delete that nonsense and move on.

While I don’t endorse any payment system, the most common ones I’ve encountered as a buyer are Square (by a landslide) and PayPalIntuit has the benefit of connecting to QuickBooks if you use that to track your finances. There’s also Dwolla – which might be the cheapest option for people who aren’t regularly making large sales, or if your average transaction is less than $10. It’s worth noting that PayPal and Intuit are the only ones that are BBB accredited, though the other companies are listed through the BBB (and have accompanying complaints, of course). When I did my Christmas shopping at Crafty Wonderland, all I saw were little Square card readers and change pouches.

Good luck out there, and remember to trust your intuition when it comes to potential scams.

Practice, Nonsense

October 20, 2013

“I hate when they call it creative ‘practice’,” someone said to me other day. “We’re not attorneys and we’re not just monkeying around.”

I nodded. Sometimes I nod to indicate that I am, in fact, listening. That can be meaningful, if you know me well enough to have seen me tune-out mid-sentence, but it can also mislead people into thinking that I agree when I do not. I began to wonder about the word ‘practice’ and the phrase ‘creative practice’ in particular. I stopped nodding.

I am newly appointed ‘gallery manager’ at a contemporary art gallery.  I began in early September, on its fourth day of public operation, and it is the first full-time position I’ve held that involves a regular paycheck and tax forms. So the notion of ‘creative practice’ and what it might mean to me personally has grown like a tumor on my consciousness over the last six weeks.

‘Practice’ does not bear a negative connotation, as far as I know.

I haven’t been producing much or working in my studio (more accurately described as the corner of the desk where I can leave copper shavings without sullying my partner’s pristine inks and papers). I’ve been working, establishing a rhythm and setting up calendar reminders for my job. I’ve been living 40+ hours a week in a beautiful white box, surrounded by the manifested ideas of others. I love my job.

I haven’t been ‘practicing’ anything and my need for it is going to reach critical mass soon.

I did make a small, experimental edition for an annual print exchange hosted by Rainbow Ross. I listened to Raidolab and made relief ink from gouache and honey. It smelled odd and dried to the velvety matte finish I wanted.

Anyway. Creative practice: to me it seems appropriate, the phrase. The final work that winds up in a gallery (if one is lucky) or on a collector’s wall (if one is luckier still) is often the tangible result of much scratching around, working out, seeking, destroying, rebuilding, and thinking. Are all of those unshared, unseen moments and movements something as prosaic as ‘practice’? Well. Yes, I think so.

Putting down a mark is a banal gesture (or pushing into a daub of clay, chunking off a piece of granite, or manipulating a pixel, etc. etc.). An artist is made not by a single gesture but by a multitude; one must put in the time to practice, to doodle, to experiment, fail and learn. Most of that mark-making stuff can be learned by nearly anyone with the will to dedicate time and effort (that is an unpopular opinion, I know). The artist is one who dedicates, one who practices. Even if someone has an unusual degree of innate ability, it’s meaningless without practice.

I must redefine a work-life balance, to carve my practice into the structure of my days. It is, in some ways, the hardest part. My excuses are good: new job, looking for a new apartment, waiting to find out if I’ll have grant money to fund this project that’s simmering in my back of my brain. But they are not not good enough.

Even if my life feels distractingly full, I must practice in small ways, so that I am ready when I am finally willing to admit that life is made of distractions and the only thing standing in my way is myself.

@smidgeon on Twitter

August 27, 2013

@smidgeon on Twitter

Hey loyal followers:

Just FYI, if you follow this blog primarily or even partially for the Calls & Contests for Printmakers page, you might want to follow me on Twitter. Sprinkled in with pictures of my lunches and my cat, I regularly post/repost calls and contests that are open to printmakers. I’m a little more fast and loose with those than I am with what I publish on my Calls & Contests Page, but I do still favor international and other opportunities that are open to U.S. artists.

I also tend to tweet about contemporary installation art, video, and new media. Love that stuff.


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