Opportunities - bought or earned?

I've just had an email from a gallery in New York titled 'Gallery Representation'. Wow great!! Well, no it isn't actually....there is an annual charge of $3450 a year. It's got me thinking about opportunities which are not as they seem. Don't get me wrong - I appreciate that paying $3450 for a New York group show with all the provided publicity and contacts  may compare favourably with say hiring a gallery space in London - provided it is well done it may lead to all sorts of further opportunities. However, it seems to me that if a gallery is going to 'represent' you - they should do so because they think it is a worthwhile investment - and expect to be able to sell your work to recoup up front expenses (because they have faith in their selection, publicity skills and client base) and not charge you for the privilege. What this gallery is actually offering is the hire of their space and access to their publicity department and mailing list. It is actually group shows - so probably more comparable to an Art Fair? (To be fair this particular gallery did describe it as 'promotional services' in the body of the email which was much more accurate).
This leads me to my other bugbear - 'residencies' which charge for participation - in effect 'a holiday with a studio'. (Maybe that's a bit harsh - lets call it a 'working holiday with a studio'). I'm not talking about for example residencies which provide a studio and/ or accommodation but the artist is expected to cover travel, living or other expenses, I'm talking about opportunities where as long as you have the money you can pay to go and the venue contributes absolutely nothing.
I think my problem with both of the above is the lack of transparency - we all know that some artists have the luxury of an independent income/ source of support which enables them to be able to produce work and to undertake a great many opportunities  without having the restrictions of a  'day' job and the worries of paying the bills. They can also, if they want to, buy a few lines on the C.V. or hire an alternative studio for a while. If it is made clear that the 'representation', exhibition or 'residency' has been paid for then I have no problem - it's when something bought is presented as something earned that I get really annoyed.....

Traditional drawing with a digital pen?

I thought it might be helpful to do a visual step by step of how I've approached my recent large digital drawings. (The aim at this stage is to make is as close as possible to how I approach executing a traditional drawing). I use Corel Painter 11 and an A5 Wacom intuos 4 tablet/ pen which has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. The experience of drawing with the wacom pen is pretty similar to traditional drawing. It doesn't feel exactly the same as drawing with graphite pencil but I would say it is in between using a graphite pencil and ballpoint pen so definitely within my tolerance levels. 
Above is my tablet set up - those of you familiar with the intuos may wonder why it looks a little odd - the reason is that it currently has acetate and carbon taped to it  (...changed daily) to execute Activity (Year 2). This makes no difference to using the tablet - and in fact gives it a bit of 'tooth' - more of a 'real paper' feel when drawing.
I set up the canvas as 101.6 x 137.2 cm or 40 x 54 inches (above) the same size as my traditional drawings on paper and aluminium panels. The image below is my screen proportions and the relative size of the drawing when the entire drawing is visible.
I zoom out to see the drawing as above regularly - but I do the actual drawing at 100% i.e. life sized. (below is the screen with the section of the drawing at 100%.) A few people have asked me whether looking at the screen (as opposed to the surface the pen is actually drawing on) is disconcerting - but I find it completely natural and haven't had any problems with it. It may be because I used a pen/ tablet as a mouse alternative long before I started drawing digitally.
I always work on a single layer and I use the 'real pencil' tools (the name always makes me smile), default 2H, 4H, 2B & 6B. I use the smallest size setting -  size 1 - the size remains the same throughout the drawing and all variations are done via pressure or 'tilting' the pen (a similar effect to using the side of a traditional pencil as opposed to the point). This is a little different to my 'real, real pencil' drawings where I rarely use a pencil softer than 3B.
When I've finished the drawing I export it as a tiff and send the file to be printed 1:1 scale. To date I haven't proofed so as not to alter the final result. (i.e didn't want to subconsciously try to make it look more like a graphite drawing). At the moment I've only printed on paper and aluminium panel - but I intend to explore other outcomes in the future.

Pencils made from newspapers!

I've just ordered some pencils from TreeSmart not because I need any new pencils but because they look so good!! Recycled pencils don't always show the materials they're made of and I just love the look of these.

On-line presence: is it a waste of time?

I'm currently in the process of sorting out my on-line presence and it is a bit of a nightmare! I've written a list of all the sites I need to post to, update etc. and the current total is:
- Facebook page
- Twitter account
- 1 websites
- 2 blogs
- 14 networks, galleries etc.
This is just my art stuff and doesn't include both my day jobs ( fb account and a second page, another twitter account, 2 more blogs, website and shop front!). It sounds like a lot - but there are actually loads of others I have contemplated but so far resisted! If all of these were productive the time spent updating etc. would be worthwhile but I am not convinced that this is the case and currently have no method of evaluating it?
One of my day jobs is studio-sweepings which is a fairly recent thing (not sure how long the other day job will continue and needed an alternative source of income). Almost 3 months ago I began to sell on notonthehighstreet. It involved a one off registration fee which was a bit scary but was the best thing I could have done - early days but a steady stream of orders (and a brilliantly well organised, effective, supportive company) means I should be able to earn a reasonable income over time. The time spent on 1 facebook page, 1 twitter account, 1 blog and noths shop front maintenance is measurably productive and worthwhile in terms of income received.
This has focused me on how I can measure the productivity of my online art stuff. Obviously the aims are different  (I do the day jobs so I can make the work I want to without compromising) and income is not a priority (although I'm don't object to selling it!) so evaluating it is trickier. Someone once said to me that you don't have to sell work to be an artist but you do have to exhibit and I think I agree with that - it is important to me that my work is seen and responded to. It seems, for me, there are a number of reasons for being online - to promote myself, my work and my exhibitions, to network & socialise, to hear about and participate in events, exhibitions and opportunities, to be informed about what other artists, galleries etc. are doing, to document, discuss and to sell. The first step is, I think, to go through all of the above sites and work out exactly what I am hoping to achieve from them, how much time they take and then try to work out how to evaluate and measure if they are successful (and also if they are worthwhile continuing with). The second thing I want to do is to link as many sites as possible so that I don't have to go to each site to input identical information. I have made a start by linking blog, twitter and fb page but I also have high hopes of Smish (image above) which promises to implement even more integration and also make it easier to have a visual overview (pictures instead of a written list :)) Fingers crossed it's as good as it sounds. Until this is done I shall steadfastly resist adding more on-line content or maybe a 'ditch one before you add one' attitude may be the answer?

Patience is a virtue.....

Blue Print, each 838 x 1143 mm drawn with a different brand of blue ballpoint pen

Currently I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Wacom Inkling – (once it does arrive I’ll do a review here). In the meantime I’m considering why I’m so interested in the whole idea? I am not particularly interested in making sketches or preliminary drawings to develop further on the computer which is obviously the main reason it was developed (although I’m sure it will be useful in this capacity). I’m more interested in seeing how it can inform my current interest in the traditional/ digital, source/ outcome and unique/ multiple - producing a drawing which can then be repeated on a variety of surfaces. Repetition is an important element in my work. Back in 2002 - 2004 I was hand cutting stencils and then drawing through them with a variety of media – each one was an original but also part of a series. The image was repeated but the outcome was different in each case. I also did a lot of drawing using carbon paper – triptychs which consisted of the original, the carbon paper ‘negative’ and the carbon copy – again repetition but with variation. This is one thing which has resurfaced with my current work – the potential for using an original digital drawing as a direct source for a variety of outcomes (and ‘direct’ is probably the important thing for me at this stage). What I think interests me about the inkling is that I will have an original paper drawing, a digital file which has been created without any further interventions (e.g. scanning) and as I am also considering using carbon paper - a further two images.  The fact that the inkling can produce the digital file as both raster and vector is also intriguing. I am looking forward to seeing how the pressure sensitive drawing translates into a vector file – particularly as the inkling will only be able to cope with paper up to A4 and a vector file will potentially allow outcomes of a much larger scale.  Lots of things to think about and very frustrating that I still have to wait 2 – 3 weeks for it to arrive.......

Post Exhibition Blues..

For the last two years I have been planning and working towards the two current solo shows. Now they are both up I'm very aware that this is a time of reflection and planning for the next stage. Past experience has taught me that this can be a difficult time - and I am determined not to succumb to the post exhibition blues.
The temptation is to try to fill the void - to try to immediately replace that very focused sense of purpose which has suddenly disappeared. Other areas of my life - non art based - are also going to undertake major changes in the (hopefully) near future and this has also left me feeling in a state of limbo which doesn't help.  I've decided that the best thing to do is to take my time and give myself permission to do very little work-wise for at least a month. I currently have 3 works in progress - 4 digital drawings (one is a dyptich) which I want to use to explore digital/ traditional source and outcome - but these will take a while to complete as they are large drawings.

Although I have a general idea of where I want to go next - I definitely need to spend some time considering
my options and formulating a clear plan. The above drawings need finishing and then decisions made about printing - which means I will need to do some tests on a smaller scale and have some practical questions to answer - what, where, how much it will cost, funding options etc. I also need to spend some time considering my on-line presence -  the list of sites, images etc. which need maintaining is growing and I want to consider whether all of them are worth continuing with. The time/ benefit ratio needs to be applied! My initial plan is to spend some time on all the recently neglected areas of my life and to embrace the idea of slowing down for a while......