Saturday, February 7, 2009

Validate Yourself...Question 2

Approximately a year ago, I was interviewed by Adjoa Burrowes, a member and blog writer for the Black Artists of DC (BADC) on "The Importance of Documentation for Artists." Adjoa posed a series of insightful questions on various aspects of documenting with the intent that the series of questions would constitute an ongoing dialogue on documenting Black art. However, the series was not completed. For the beginning of that series, focusing on the first question posed, "Why is it important for Black artists to document their work?", please see the Black Artists of DC (BADC) blog: The continuation of the series will appear as a part of the Black Art Project's blog. The answers to the questions are presented as they were for the interview. Additional information will be added to these questions as requested from viewers.

How exactly should an artist document and what tools should be used?

Documentation simply requires the artist to be proactive and take charge of his/her career without minimal disruption to the creative process. This can be done by keeping brief notes on ideas and concepts that you are attempting to convey in your art. If writing is cumbersome, then turn on a tape recorder as you work and think out aloud…talk to yourself. Capture thoughts at the end of your day or the beginning of the day…whatever is best for your style. Keep drafts or studies…just throw them in a bag, don’t try to organize, leave that for an archivist. Save discussions and communications via email or written format that you have with other artists or with galleries. Have digital images or traditional photographs or slides of your work that can be kept and printed later as the need arises. Insist that any gallery or space showing your work create a catalog or brochure. At minimal, certainly insist on an exhibition announcement card and ask for a press release. Make certain to have images of your artwork as it hangs in the gallery or venue and keep the price list; this affords tangible documentation that the exhibition occurred. Keep images of the full body of your artwork and maintain records of what you sold and to whom it was sold. Even when art is sold through an art gallery, the artist wants an on-going record of what was sold and to whom. As the artist matures, these records will make it easier to call works of art in from around the world for his/her major retrospective, saving thousands of dollars in research and magazine ads to locate the art.

If this sounds too cumbersome to undertake, then outsource many of those tasks to another person for a nominal cost and factor that cost into the price of your art when selling. Because each artist’s creative spirit and style of working will vary, so will the way in which each will handle the process of documentation. I just hope that there can be a happy medium between being creative and working smart to document.

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