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Getting a job after art school


Work = live = play = work

The other night we watched the PBS documentary Charles and Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter and so much of their experience rang true for us. We're collaborative partners on projects, the biggest promoters of each other's work, understanding the other's needs, sometimes better than our own. It's refreshing to someone else there when we can't step back and look at the bigger picture while creating work. It's like a constant, built-in "crit" environment. Each of us scurries away to our respective work stations on a daily basis but ultimately, it's our synergy as a pair that yields the best results. Our choice of tools have changed slightly over the years; mouse for me, DSLR for him, but we still feel compelled to produce. And because we work, live and entertain at home, our space has to be engaging and inspiring in so many ways. It's malleable to our needs and our hours. Did you know that we can do consultations in our home too? Chin-Azzaro is very much our "home-studio."

To me, being an artist and a consultant of creative things, there's no delineation between what is work and what is home. Our debates and banter of back-and-forth are oftentimes about a movement of art, an exhibit we saw or the latest trend in ________.  Sometimes the anxiety of starting a new sketch or a marketing idea jumps into mind and I can't sleep until I create it. But I never feel the "stresses of work" or want to leave it behind. To me, there are no limits and our lines are blurred all day long. I love it.

Where does work end and home begin for you?


Image: Eames, Library of Congress



Ninety-Eight Cents Out of a Dollar

Lately I've encountered many students on the verge of graduating college. Most of them are reluctantly looking ahead to more school. If I've learned anything in the last seven years it's this: don't do it if it's not what you want.

The last thing that will relieve the burden of books and instructors and deadlines is more school.

Now, I'm not saying more school is a bad thing, but it's more worthwhile to take a break and see the real world first.

Get a job in your field of study, or move to a big city and find part time work. Interact with people. Only then will you truly learn.

After seven years of working in the real world, I want to go back to school. I'll take it more seriously and get more out of it at every level than I would had I gone to school right after graduation.

Life experience has brought me focus and appreciation.




We've Come This Far: Writing Your Curriculum Vitae

Happy 2012! We hope you had as much fun as we did ringing in the New Year. New beginnings means getting things organized. I've been thinking about all the exhibits I've worked on over the years and have started to lose grip on what took place when. It's high time I put some effort into a curriculum vitae*. You might be thinking, I have an artist's resume. Isn't that good enough? Sorry, the truth is that a CV is much more expansive and detailed than it's cousin and you'll probably be asked for it some time in your creative career path whether it's for a job application, art contest or grad school. If you're considering a job at a museum, auction house or even gallery, you may be asked for one. Not only does it include general education and exhibits you've taken part in, they also want to know academic extracurriculars, what you've published, and whether you floss every night. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • If they want references, don't do the "References upon request" bit like I did, just include them in the cv
  • Travel is important for letting your potential employers know that you're adaptable and independent
  • Don't fib on your cv, they may ask you to speak French during the interview and if you don't, then - know.

Email us questions if you got 'em. Good luck!

*For the sake of privacy, I've omitted some important information you would normally include in a cv. 'Tis a shame if you were to steal my identity!



1% of the 1%: What Collecting Means to Each of Us

For five years I dealt American paintings and prints that the majority of us can't afford. We're talking tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars for art work. I've handled everything from William Merritt Chase to Alexander Calder to Robert Rauschenberg. The point of my sharing this isn't so that you can gawk at the list (although sometimes I still do), but to let you know that there are different stakes in every level of collecting. Recently, I've run into a couple of experiences where people wanted to sell or trade in their works. Unfortunately, it's difficult enough to sell a painting that has a known name, much less a contemporary unknown. When I say "known", I mean an artist that has been traded, sold, dealt as a commodity. Yes, it sounds crude because in many ways, it is. There's no real intrinsic value to a painting (besides the intangible and invaluable sense of enjoyment one gets out of it, but you and I live in a real world, not a fantasy one), so each work by an artist must be treated as such. Until it's been sought after or fought over, it's not going to bring you a return. Plain and simple.


Let's say you attend an art fair on the street. Each artist brings their blood, sweat, tears and hope that you will support them for their talent and craft. But you're also going to be buying at a premium. Consider the convenience, the ambiance and excitement of the fair. Take the set up time, the booth fee, the hotel, gas and food. These are all percentages that add up in the artist's mind and are offered to you, as the patron, to support someone's lifestyle. It's not an easy feat and an incredibly humbling career choice.

If you buy a contemporary piece of art work, you better buy it because you love it. That's what I always tell people. Bottom line: love it or move on. Because unless you just bought it from the next Gerard Richter and you just don't know it yet, purchasing low to middle end art is not a good investment for return.


Many wealthy people collect art. It's a rite of passage that tells people that you not only have a lot of money but that you have enough culture and taste to know what to do with it. It's also a commodity for them that can be folded into their investment portfolios.

Let's say you have money to burn. In a time when a movie like (Untitled) is more reality than farce, you have to ask yourself, how much of this art game do you know and how much do you really want to get into? Once you buy an original piece from an artist (NOT barter, trade, get a break from a friend but actually buy it outright), it's hard to stop. You start surfing for more pieces like it by the same artist or others like him/her. You set a financial limit and break it immediately. You start to think about framing and make considerations about the hue of the matte that you never thought you would. You attend art fairs where they serve champagne like water and dealers' faces brighten when they see you enter the booth. They call you by first name and tactfully insert your children's/pet's names as if they've been thinking about you during your absence. It's a relationship building exercise at every level of this game and you have to think about how much you want to be told/coerced into buying pieces. Because like it or not, you don't make many of the decisions at this point. You've probably been tainted a bit by rules and criticisms and you might have a room of things you don't even hang or look at or think about.

COLLECTING FOR 1% of the 1% (or really 10% of the top 1% according to the New York Times)

This is a wholly different game. These types of collectors collect installation, video, sponsor performance art that you may not even think is art. Art Basel Miami took place last week and just closed out its 10th year. There was a New York Times article about Eli Broad and his philanthropy, collecting and activity in the artworld over the last forty years or so. But the most valuable part of the piece was this line:

"And like many representatives of the 0.001 percent here, the Broads showed little sign of easing up on their longtime habit of getting and spending, or of easing up, period."

Besides the fact that during this recovery of the Great Recession many of the elite rich are still collecting, the percentage of the elite rich that collect at this level is even more minute. ".001" That's probably the most succinct and accurate representation of collecting at this level I've ever seen printed. Those that have the knowledge and the means to collect at that level are not walking among us unless you're standing outside Sant Ambroeus on Madison. It's a quick-paced game and dealers have to keep up appearances at this level in order to appeal to the next buyer. That being said, if you won the lottery tomorrow, you still probably wouldn't be able to walk into any high end gallery in New York City and buy a painting. Dealers want the provenance, the list of where the piece has been, to be renowned, pedigree, preferably celebrity. Longtime British dealer, Charles Saatchi, recently commented on Basel in a scathing article in The Guardian. I highly recommend it as required reading.

"Being an art buyer these days is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar. It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, Hedge-fundy, Hamptonites; of trendy oligarchs and oiligarchs; and of art dealers with masturbatory levels of self-regard. They were found nestling together in their super yachts in Venice for this year's spectacular art biennale. Venice is now firmly on the calendar of this new art world, alongside St Barts at Christmas and St Tropez in August, in a giddy round of glamour-filled socialising, from one swanky party to another.

Do any of these people actually enjoy looking at art? Or do they simply enjoy having easily recognised, big-brand name pictures, bought ostentatiously in auction rooms at eye-catching prices, to decorate their several homes, floating and otherwise, in an instant demonstration of drop-dead coolth and wealth. Their pleasure is to be found in having their lovely friends measuring the weight of their baubles, and being awestruck."

I had to keep from giggling out loud too many times while I was reading because there was so much truth in it. There's little rhyme or reason to the artworld and yet I still hold on to the Utopian fantasy of a just vetting system. That shows will introduce content and concept that will blow my mind instead of confuse and frustrate out of lack of representation. (Check out the finalists for this year's Turner Prize and comment back on your choice).

Perhaps supporting the local art fair isn't such a bad thing after all. At least you get to choose what you buy.



Sweet home Chicago.

All we can say is thank you to one of the greatest cities in the world. It may be known for its architecture and food, but that isn't what separates it from the rest.

It's the people. Chicago is home to the best photographers in the world.

They're not the best simply because they can do anything with a camera. No. They're the best because they're also teachers.

They're patient and willing to share their decades of experience with those that wish to learn. Good luck finding that in NY or LA!

Without a doubt, I wouldn't be the photographer or person that I am today.

Thanks, DUDES!



To infinity, and beyond.

Many times in life I've interacted with people that show up to work or class, and do exactly just enough to get by. They usually do what's required, but that's it. There seems to be no drive or personality in their actions. Brijit Spencer is currently an art student at the University of Michigan's School of Art and Design. Her interest is photography, which she has a firm understanding of, as well as some drawing and painting. It's photography, though, that she'd like to pursue, post graduation. It's no surprise that some of her favorites include Sally Mann, Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus. Her work, past and current, seems an ongoing documentary of the life she knows and is getting to know. Among other photos in her Integrative Project (which can be seen here) are two photos of a boy and his Halloween candy. Both images hold innocence, but the first leaves the viewer wondering if the slight frown worn by the child is just a random moment or in response to an unwanted request. The other photo perfectly captures the subordinate eyes of the child, as a piece of candy hangs in the balance. People are capable of acting out these emotions, but for a child this age, staged photos are extremely rare. The credit here is due to Brijit.

These images represent only a slice of her photography and style, and it's safe to say that as a student who is set to graduate in a few months, she has little free time. Yet somehow she is doing something that few students do: she's reaching out to people before graduation.

It's never too late for anything, BUT if you have the chance to contact potential employers and/or artists you admire before entering the fast paced real world, do so. Good grades and solid work are definitely good things, but they don't always set you apart. Be aggressive, be persistent. Simply put: be like Brijit.

More of Brijits work can be seen here.




Who You Know

How much of it is who you know? I'd say...80%. It seemed too cynical to say more and I couldn't wholeheartedly say it's less. There are an innumerable amount of artists out there that have and never will make a career out of doing what they love and what they're good at. Then there are the artists who you see over and over again in the media. You could argue that the artists of the former group don't get "out there" enough and that perhaps the latter group are much more marketable. Believe it or not, there are things that you do have control of and a big portion of that as an artist is your public persona. Be professional, punctual and follow-through on promises.

If you feel you don't know the "right people", how do you put yourself out there? Here are a few Dos:

  1. Go to gallery and museum openings. Get more out of it than some free wine and hors d'oeuvres. It's a free education in social behavior of collector-types if nothing else.
  2. Meet the artist* if you can. Ask them about their current work and if it seems appropriate, how they they secured the exhibit. *I would suggest doing research on the artist prior to going.
  3. Make a list of galleries with addresses that suit your work and would be a potential match. Fully qualify galleries and dealers before you send them examples of your work. See #4 below.
  4. If you're a painter/printmaker/whatever and you don't feel confident in your graphic design skills (be honest), hire or do a trade with a graphic designer to have them do it for you. Most importantly, carry cards on you at all times. 
  5. If you're an introvert (there's nothing wrong with that) rally a group of friends and family that will market the hell out of you and your work.
  6. Find a mentor in the field you want to pursue and stay in regular contact with them.
I used to interview and hire interns at the gallery and unfortunately, my list of Don'ts are a bit too real (and comical):
  1. Don't go to interviews dressed inappropriately. For instance, a skintight see-through white waffle t-shirt is not appropriate to work in a gallery much less interview for a position - especially if you have a large rack. Neither is coming to an interview fifteen minutes late with a rat's nest on the back of your head - brush your hair.
  2. Don't show up late.
  3. Don't show up unannounced and solicit a show during a normal work day, gallery opening and/or any other function looking for a job or show.
  4. Don't send your work to galleries that will never exhibit it. Meaning, the gallery down the street that shows marine paintings is never going to represent you no matter how many times you email or send them your portfolio. This may seem like common sense but I got so many solicitations for work that I couldn't show (I dealt American Impressionism <more specifically the era 1890-1940> and market established contemporary). I felt bad for the hundreds of dollars worth of wasted mail I got over the years.
  5. Don't downplay or bad mouth your work. Ever.
Those are my most basic Dos and Don'ts of the industry. There are tons more specifics that go into areas of dealing, curating, researching and creating fine art but those are meant for one on one conversations. I take questions - preferably over hot chocolate.



Let's see a show of hands. How many out there have been to an art museum or gallery and seen a piece of work and said or heard someone say, "I could've made that!"? Be honest. I've heard it... and said it... dozens of times. Now I rarely say it anymore. Almost never, unless I'm on Etsy. When I would say it, though, I was at a point in my life when I knew everything and could do everything and anybody that told me otherwise could...  I was young, and lacked experience and appreciation. "That's just a few brush strokes!" or "Come on! It's just a solid square on a canvas!".












I wonder if it's possible for somebody to learn to appreciate without experience. Would that make them a genius? Art is too often a victim. Unfortunately by the time one may understand and appreciate the work, the moment has passed. Although, art is awfully demanding. Art expects you to know not only about it's creator, but also of the environment in which it was created, the political climate and what other artists were doing at that time. That's a full plate.
















Is it important to know that Constructivism was born in 1919, Russia, and was the promotion of art for more than just social purposes? Yes. It produced new ways of thinking about architecture, graphic and industrial design, film, and so on. It might also make you ask why that is. That would require further reading and learning about what was going on during that time. The achievements, the mistakes. Ah, now we're getting somewhere.

So,the next time you see something that "you could've done", I urge you to do so, you may better society.




Art + School = Career (?)

Last night Nick and I had a another talk about art as a career. And money. And whether those two concepts go hand in hand. I wonder how much I thought about it when I was an art student. I just figured I would work at a gallery, possibly run one down the road. (Turns out I did both but I'll get to that later). I graduated in 2003 and immediately set out for jobs in the artworld. There were few and far in between so I immediately opened up my search to anything administrative, education or non-profit. Somehow, after enduring (and enjoying) five years of art school, I had already settled. That's like going to a burger joint, ordering a burger and being told there are no burgers left. And the fact that we accept this is ridiculous.

A well-respected art critic once told me that Chicago has an over-saturated art scene. The rare art positions available will be filled immediately by graduates and the rest will have to head East or West. That made me sad because art should be an integral aspect of every community but sometimes it's just overlooked due to lack of funding, interest or initiative. In a city the size of Chicago, you'd think that positions in curatorial, art admin or art education would be more readily available. But they aren't.

My dear friend Megan Williamson, is a painter (below: Still Life with Rabbits, 24 x 18 inches) and says very matter-of-factly that she just wants to make what a bus driver makes. I couldn't agree more. Not every artist is as active as Megan but she volunteers, teaches art to children,  dutifully practices painting en plein aire and meets with politicians as a voice for the working artist. Artists serve a public service but can't get medical benefits or a fair wage to do what they do best.

So you're probably asking, "Why then, did you leave a cushy gallery position to make a go of it on your own?" My answer is simply "Why not?" I had achieved my goals of running a gallery where I got to curate shows, meet clients and see extraordinary private collections. I had handled major paintings and traveled. But for us, the biggest goal in our careers was to ultimately work for ourselves. And since the stock market plummeted in 2008, the industry and particularly commercial photography has changed drastically. (This is also largely due to the onslaught of digital imagery in the arena but you should ask Nick more about that). This was as good of a time as any to make our own way since our positions could be or would be precarious in the near future.

Create that non-profit art organization, make your own opportunities, start an Etsy site, create jobs for yourself and others, even if it's unpaid at first. What I'm telling you is that you can wait tables, usher, paint houses - whatever it takes to pay the bills - but don't give up chasing the art dream. As few opportunities as there are out there, one day your number will be drawn and it'll be even more incredible that you made it happen. You may not make a boatload but you might just be happy doing it. So don't pass up that burger so easily. Especially since you waited long and patiently for it.