Get the Call

RedSkyNight_5632, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

Recently, a friend of mine posted something on her blog about how she was “responding to an artist’s call.” The call for entries or “artist’s call” is quite common in the art world. Anybody who thinks that artists (or photographers) spend all of their days partying like rock stars or “puffing” model’s hair rather than doing any actual “real” work needs only to look once at an “artist’s call” to discover what it is we actually do all day long. Oh the humanity!

It starts when the galleries, curators, shows, art organizations, etc. put out the call for entries. This detailed fact sheet tells us about the show, the details of the show, the requirements for the show and all sorts of other information about the show. We basically have to read through page after page of requirements and information detailing how to enter, and that’s only when the fun begins. After this, we have to prep our digital files, which often means re-sizing things in photoshop, organizing, arranging, editing, sharpening, crafting JPEG’s with the proper names, in the right formats, etc. It’s a lot of work, believe me and, hate to be the one to tell you this if you have not discovered it already, but it’s time consuming.

Many artists who are not photographers have to spend a lot of time just taking photos of their work. It can be quite difficult to get good quality images of your work, believe me, I know how difficult it can be. It’s not always the easiest thing in the world to take a great shot of an oil painting, trust me on this (in case you have never tried it before.)

There is a long-running sort of “inside joke” about my Jacuzzi-if you have not heard it, allow me to fill you in-I actually use my bath tub/jacuzzi setup in my house to photograph my artwork. Since it’s white and the bath is very bright it makes for a great copy station and I seldom (if ever) take a bath (don’t worry, I don’t stink or anything like that…I just prefer the shower to the free-standing tub.) My bathtub has probably been home to more artwork than several museums, as I sometimes photograph artwork for other artists (for a reasonable fee, of course, but luckily most of them know me well enough and are comfortable enough with my photography skills to trust my “bathtub” results.) I sometimes refer to this as my “Jacuzzi copy stand” or “getting Jacuzzi results.” Anything that hints at the tub often results in strange glances from more than few folks and more than one knowing nod of acknowledgement. Many of the artists in Austin, it would appear, are onto this “Jacuzzi setup” and don’t seem to mind so long as it produces results (which it does, believe me, it does.) I think half the people know and want a Jacuzzi just so they could photograph their artwork and the others are afraid to ask what this “Jacuzzi” business is all about. Perhaps it’s better too if they are left in the dark about the entire “Jacuzzi” thing, because it might make them afraid to find out what’s going on in the tub, when somebody is not busy taking a bath in it, that is.

For those who are not photographers though, it can be daunting just to get acceptable images of one’s work and then, to have to go on and to re-size everything, re-format, fight with Photoshop, title everything with all kinds of special characters, etc. It’s downright madness. It’s enough to drive people crazy, let me tell you. But, alas, it’s something we all need to do. It’s how the galleries catalog and get information about our work, not to mention it’s how we get the work “out there” so it’s something we try to do. We all have to do it at some point, even though it’s not very fun and we each can probably think of a million things we would rather be doing.

I always feel like I should be sending out at least 8-10 submissions each month. Unfortunately, it seems like I seldom can manage to get even that much out the door. Between making new work and balancing the juggling act of submitting work all over the place, it can be quite difficult to manage all of this. On top of this, you have to remember who has what work and where you have submitted work to…which places have what…and it’s very hard to keep track of all of this.

If you’re not familiar with the process, I can tell you that it boils down to lots and lots of paperwork. There is a lot of time and energy that goes into these sorts of things and often it’s for nothing, as we can just as easily get rejected from a show as we can get accepted. It’s no wonder many artists have gone mad over the years-I can literally see why this happens, as it’s hard to keep all of this straight and it would be more than easy to just go crazy from all of this paperwork and red tape. Some days anyway, it feels as if we are lucky if we get to create in-between all of the mountains of paperwork and other odd things we have to do that nobody ever detailed in art class.

Then I remember how lucky I am that I get to paint. How lucky I am that I can afford paint and panels and pigment sticks (God, those are expensive) and wax and “shipping fees” and insurance payments to go along with the insurance forms we sent to the galleries as part of the artist’s call. I’m lucky to be sitting here typing this to you too-many people can’t do a blog or they can’t paint or they can’t show their work because it’s too difficult or they just don’t have the time, money, or inclination. I really do feel blessed and lucky that I get to paint and do what it is that I do when I get to do it. Really, I do. Even if it sounds like I spend too much time, much too much time, fighting with the mountains of paperwork. I do really love this. I love creating. Actually, lately it seems like I’ve been living to paint more than painting to live, that’s how much I love doing all of this. I really want to jump in, head first, and paint, paint, paint.

I’ve started planning for the new year too and I think this year might find me visiting New Orleans, Barcelona, maybe rural France. There’s a big world out there and I’m excited to be a small part of getting to go out into it, to explore more of it then I’ve seen already. I hope to get to go, to travel more this year. It will make all of the paperwork seem worthwhile, that’s for sure.

So next time we get the call, maybe it’s hard, but we should all try to remember how lucky we are. Lucky that the phone is still ringing, lucky that the artwork is ready, lucky that we can answer the call and that we have work to submit, for not everybody does. Yes, I’d have to say that, as the first artist’s calls for the new year go out, we should all try to remember how lucky we are that we can provide the “entries” in the call for entries that flood our in-boxes this time of year. Maybe next time you get the call, you’ll answer the call and your work will be selected too. We can only hope for that, right? Isn’t that what we all hope for, all of the time anyway?

To my artist friends, I hope the new year brings you lots of artist’s calls and finds you with lots of work going out, even if it means mountains of paperwork on the sidelines. Even if you get slightly buried under, I hope your work gets out there, where it needs to be, because that’s why we do all of this. It’s what keeps us all going, isn’t it?

(Enough waxing philosophical for the evening, I’ve got paperwork to attend to and images to re-size before the morning comes.)

Until next time…



  1. Great Grandma Lin
    January 17, 2012 / 4:24 am

    Being an artist is surely work…I've been working for a couple of months on poetry contest submission only to find out that the poems have to be unpublished and posting them on my blog is considered publishing. So now I'm unpublishing them so I can enter them. What a mess…especially because there is not money involved in blogging just time and opportunity for some feedback.

  2. Carol
    January 19, 2012 / 4:22 pm

    Best of luck with the contest. Yes, it's considered publishing to put things up on the web or in blog format, so long as it's a public blog (without a password and such.) As far as removing them, I guess it's ok as long as your sponsors and advertisers don't mind, you can probably get away with it. I never remove my older blog posts, but that's maybe just me. I don't know how they would feel about stuff like that, I would imagine I could do it once or twice but I won't make a habit of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *