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February 2007
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Hints & Tips: For Artists
Getting Into Print
by Sue Martin

No matter what your line of work, getting your name and work into print is a valid marketing strategy. It's especially helpful for artists because we have not only a name and a story, but a compelling visual to go with it! And the more visibility for our work, the more likely people will take note and decide to purchase.

In her honors thesis while a student at BYU, artist Elizabeth Matthews explored the benefits of using print publication to promote yourself and found that having a painting published enhanced the perceived value of the painting and increased the selling price. It can also increase your visibility among collectors, museums, and gallery owners. BYU grad and professional artist Roland Thompson told Elizabeth that publication of his art was an ego boost that gave him the confidence he needed to approach galleries. Richard Gate, another BYU graduate, told Elizabeth that having your art published legitimizes it for some people

Here then are strategy tips and a process for increasing your visibility in the print media:

1. Pick a publication that's right for your goals. You might think, "Why be picky? I'd be happy to get into any publication!" But it's better to take a strategic approach and think about: What's the market I'm trying to attract? Does my subject matter lend itself to certain types of publications? Do I want exposure to prospective art collectors? Or would I rather attract galleries? Do I want to aim for buyers in Utah, or am I ready for a broader audience? The answers to these types of questions may point you in a strategic direction.

You'll also want to become familiar with the publications that seem to be good targets for your work. If it's not a magazine you subscribe to, take a trip to your local book or magazine store, pull up a chair, and flip through some of the magazines on display. Notice the kinds of art they use – for illustration or with editorial copy about the artist. While you're at it, copy down the name and contact information for the editor(s), and any reference to editorial guidelines. If those guidelines are not in the publication, you can sometimes find the information online or you can call the editorial office and ask for it.

As you look through the magazines, you'll get a feel for the types of articles they like for their particular audience. For example, Art Calendar is more interested in articles about the business of art, while Watercolor Magic uses a lot of "how to" articles about techniques and tools. Southwest Art is more likely to have profiles of artists and their work, or articles about specific exhibitions. The more you know about the publication, the better able you'll be to tailor your pitch to their needs.

2. Prepare your pitch. Editors get hundreds of proposals from writers and artists and must, out of necessity, become skilled at making quick judgments based on about a 10-second skim of the material. This means that your material must be compelling, clear, and credible at a glance. If you are proposing to write an article about your way of creating art, give your proposal a clear but intriguing title, and write the first paragraph of your proposal as you would the first paragraph of your article. This will give the editor an idea of your writing ability and style.

Next give a brief synopsis of what you plan to include in the rest of the article. Do not send the entire article! Follow that with your qualifications to write on this particular subject. Have you spent 15 years perfecting this particular mixed-media technique that no one else is using? Have you found an unusual way to add luminosity to your work, or to get dramatic value changes? Is your work in museums and private collections? Present this in paragraph form, but also attach a more complete resume or biography. Finally, include 6-8 examples of your work. If you are submitting your proposal by email, be sure to keep your file size small and easy to download. If the publication decides to publish your work and needs a higher resolution copy of your work, you can send it later.

3. Send your material the way the publication wants it. You'll find in the submission guidelines of each publication directions for sending material – email or postal mail. Make sure your submission is neatly and cleanly presented, with no misspellings or other errors.

4. Observe exclusivity rules. Most publications will want exclusive rights to your article if they accept it. This means they do not want to see the same article show up in a competing publication before their issue is published. However, most publications will allow you to resell your article after they have published it.

"But I'm an artist, not a writer," you say. If you are a great visual communicator, but verbally challenged, get some help. For not much money -- or even for barter -- you may find a writer who would love to write for you or about you. The "win-win" for the writer is the experience of getting published, or payment by the publication.

You might also contact the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and ask if there are members willing to help on a pro bono basis (or barter). Or, you may find very capable students (PR or English majors) who could help you while earning class credit.

Sample Publication Guidelines

You'll find links to a variety of publications at www.freelancewriting.com. For are a few art-specific publications, along with a condensed description of guidelines and contacts: Click here

NEXT MONTH'S HINTS & TIPS : Getting Into Print Locally

Hints & Tips will be a continuing feature examining issues of importance to artists, collectors and art professionals. If you have suggestions for this column or something to add to this month's topic, you can do so by visiting our forums section. You can look at some of our past articles in our indexed section of the 15 Bytes archive: Hints 'n Tips.

The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa
reviewed by Tony Watson

Over the holidays I visited family in the Bay area and while there had the chance to visit the retrospective of Modernist sculptor Ruth Asawa. I was unfamiliar with Asawa before visiting the de Young, but was so impressed with her marvelous sculptures encountered there that I quickly developed a desire to learn as much as possible about the artist. Luckily, for me, the exhibition, The Sculpture of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air, has produced an excellent catalogue, published by the University of California Press. The catalogue is a marvelous companion to and expansion of the material covered in the exhibit and provides enough background, analysis and visuals to enchant even those who do not have the opportunity to see the exhibit in person (Contours in the Air has since closed in San Francisco, but will reopen at the Japanese American National Museum on March 10th).

Asawa was the daughter of Japanese immigrants who settled in California. Her family was interned during the Second World War; the mother and children were separated from their father, lost their home and were relocated to Arkansas. While in the internment camps, Asawa was allowed to study art, and when she graduated in 1943 she took advantage of the government's offer of a one-way ticket to the (Midwest) college of her choice. For financial reasons, Asawa chose the Milwaukee State Teachers College. During her time there, she took a trip with her sister to Mexico City, where she studied art from professional artists; among them was, Clara Porset, a friend of Josef Albers, who told the young student about what Albers was doing at Black Mountain College. When Asawa returned to Milwaukee she was unable to graduate from the Teachers College because no small town in Wisconsin would hire a Japanese American -- effectively barring her from fulfilling the graduating requirement of practice teaching. Because of the lack of teaching credentials and her eyes having been opened to a world of professional artists from her trip to Mexico, Asawa decided to enroll at Black Mountain College.

Black Mountain College and Asawa's classes with Albers were extremely influential in steering the course of Asawa's artistic career. As equally influential was a return trip to Mexico where Asawa learned a basic crochet loop from Mexican villagers. This simple and versatile process became the basis for much of Asawa's sculptures. With the crochet loop and industrial wire, Asawa was able to create marvelous biomorphic forms, suspended in the air, that became line drawings in space; her work expanded the figure/ground issues developed by Albers into issues of interiority and exteriority.

The catalogue's essays by Jacqueling Hoefer, Karin Higa and Mary Emma Harris all concentrate on Asawa's life, especially her formative years and experience at Black Mountain College. The essays frequently overlap and their repetitiveness made me wonder if the reader wouldn't have been better served by fewer authors. Thankfully, though, the essays were generally very informative and do a fine job of demonstrating how Asawa's life as a Japanese American affected her work without turning their appreciation of the relationship to a question of some inherent "japaneseness." Rather than an innate ethnic quality, it was the outside world's reaction to Asawa's ethnicity that influenced the development of her career -- without the internment camps she might not have studied art at college and without her discrimination as a prospective teacher she might never have attended Black Mountain college.

Emily K. Doman Jennings essay, "Critiquing the Critique" concentrates on the early reception of Asawa's work. This reception was based on an overemphasis of Asawa's position as a woman and of Japanese origin. Thus her early reception relegated her to a position of an ethnic curiosity, or, because of her method, a worker of women's craft. This critical reception did damage to the work of an artist who in retrospect was clearly a dynamic modernist artist.

Also included in the catalogue are an interview with Asawa and her husband Albert Lanier, largely concentrating on their time at Black Mountain College, as well as three essays on Asawa's later years and her experience as an instructor and community activist.

The visuals in the catalogue are wonderful and varied, including early drawings and paintings by the artist, the plates of the works in the exhibition and photographs of Asawa's work over the years. The exhibition plates, by Laurence Como, though excellently done, can seem flat and stale compared to some of the views of Asawa's works as they appeared in exhibitions, permanent installations or the artist's home (one of these latter, where more than a dozen sculptures hang suspended from the ceiling, looks like a sea of jellyfish). Daniel Cornell devotes his essay, "The Art of Space," to the installation of Asawa's sculpture, a very necessary examination considering that Asawa's sculptures are not freestanding and so can only be considered in the sense of installation.

If you're lucky enough to visit L.A. this spring, be sure to visit Asawa's exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum, but even if you aren't, you can discover an unfortunately neglected modernist sculptor in the pages of The Sculptures of Ruth Asawa: Contours in the Air