Saturday, August 20, 2016

Tips on Scanners, Printers and Copiers for Artists

An artist asked me to give her some tips on Scanners, Printers and Copiers for Artists.

What follows are some general principles, considerations and criteria to consider prior to making a purchase - as opposed to recommendations on specific technology.

At the end I ask you for your recommendations as to specific machines you use and are happy with.  You'll see what I use in this blog.

What do you need it for?

Sit down and write out a list of what you want your machine to do.

  • What are your priorities in terms of functions? Are all functions - scanning, printing copying of equal importance - or is one more important than another. For example I do very little copying but at times in the past I've used the scanner as much as I've printed
  • Is space an issue? Does it need to be an "all in one" scanner/printer/copier? Or do you have the space for separate devices?  There's no question that one device is easier to house - but this tends to come at the cost of performance which fall short of the best that is available in terms of the different functions
    • standalone scanners tend to deliver better performance than scanners bundled into printers
    • photo printers provide much better colour printing compared to 'normal' printers
    • all devices have become better designed and tend to occupy a smaller footprint over time.
  • What quality are you aiming for?  Is the printer for personal or professional use? (i.e. do you aim to sell anything using images printed from your machine?)
  • What quality does the black and white printing  need to deliver? A machine which is excellent at printing text is not the same as a printer which delivers good quality black and white photos. They are totally different outputs and need totally different printers with completely different printer inks
  • Does colour printing need to give you good quality photos?  Colour printing quality varies enormously - from photos to party invites. Some printers are designed to print photos - while others just print in colour - but not to the same standard as a photo printer. If you want photo quality colour printing you have to be buy a photo printer.
  • Is the cost of ink tolerable? The cost of ink is never reasonable - but you can decide whether or not ink costs are excessive.  Look at how much ink costs relative to the number of sheets it will print. I discovered when deciding what my next printer would be that very cheap printers are often associated with more expensive inks - so beware!
  • Consider the paper that a printer needs to use. Printers are very fussy about the different types of surfaces and weights (gsm) of paper stock that they will use. Many a person has totally screwed their printer by attempting to use the wrong type of paper stock which just gets stuck in the printer and refuses to come out!  So first define what sort of paper stock you want to print on. If you want to print on high quality fine art paper designed for inkjets then you need to check what weight they will take.
  • Are standalone scanners better than those bundled with printers. They generally are if they are a decent scanner - and very often have additional functionality (eg scan film). However you need to ask yourself whether you can justify the extra cost for the difference in functionality.  For example being able to upgrade from A4 to A3 size is a big thing for a lot of artists - however A3 printers in the past have either been expensive or not performed well. The first A3 printer which gets ace reviews from everyone will sell well!

After considering all the above, this is the machine I currently use which I got last year.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Why artists need to be business-like with expenses and tax

My latest published article - with more than 40 tips about tax for artists - in the September edition of the very popular "The Artist" Magazine somehow managed to lose its proper title during the process of transferring it from my submission to the printed version.

Article about tax in the Artist September 2016
This is what it should look like - complete with its proper title!  It starts...
You can’t ignore tax if you make an income from your art. You also can’t claim business expenses if you are just a hobby artist.
The article covers what you need to do when you start out as an artist - and how to avoid fines from HMRC! Many of the succinct tips provided relate to every artist. Some only relate to artists in the UK.

They cover:
  • when/how to complete a tax form if you sell your artwork
  • how you can help yourself without needing professional help
  • simple ways of organising paperwork that reduce stress
  • simple and efficient ways of creating tax records and completing a tax return
  • what an artist can and can't claim against tax - including...
    • who can and who can't claim expenses against tax
    • a checklist of typical artists' business expenses
    • ways in which HMRC make it simple by allowing flat-rate expenses
  • how to go about claiming a tax loss
  • if you are successful - why you need to "up a gear" and think about a range of issues which are not relevant to smaller operations.
There's absolutely no way it's possible to cover every aspect of tax related to artists on one side of A4. However 
  • the article does point you in the direction of various places online, forms and guidance notes you may need to know about! 
  • don't forget to seek professional advice in writing if you need to deal with any complex issues.
You can find the article in the latest edition of The Artist (September 2016) which is available in all good newsagents and also online (The digital version now has the right title! :)

You'll find I also update regularly on tax matters in the news blog of my Art Business Info for Artists website.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Guerrilla Girls at the Whitechapel Gallery this Autumn

Come October there will be a new artwork in the Whitechapel Gallery in London which expands on the statement created by the Guerrilla Girls - "It's even worse in Europe" - within the original 1986/7 collection of posters.

The contention at the time was that nobody needed any explanation about what was worse in Europe given the main topic of Guerrilla Girl activity!

The 1986 Guerrilla Girls Public Service Message "It's Even Worse in Europe"
The Whitechapel Gallery has commissioned the Guerrilla Girls to create a new artwork as part of an archive display at the Gallery. Following their 1986 poster which states "It’s Even Worse in Europe", the new work will present the results of fresh research based on questionnaires sent to over 400 European museum directors in 2016, including the Whitechapel Gallery.
This is the Guerrilla Girls response
“With this project, we wanted to pose the question ‘Are museums today presenting a diverse history of contemporary art or the history of money and power?’ Our research into this will be presented at Whitechapel Gallery this fall.”

Exhibition:  Guerrilla Girls: Is it even worse in Europe? 

  • Venue: Pat Matthews Gallery (Gallery 4) in the Whitechapel Gallery, 77 – 82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX
  • Dates: 1st October 2016 and continue until 5th March 2017.
  • Admission: Free.
The exhibition will:
  • address relating to the representation of artists in recent exhibitions who are female, gender nonconforming or from Africa, Asia, South Asia and South America. 
  • present new statistics on the state of museums and galleries in Europe.
  • include a broad range of research and production materials which throw light on how the group works. The Guerrilla Girls will give a special public presentation at the Whitechapel Gallery about their 31 years of activist work on 1 October.
In addition there are other events

At the Whitechapel Gallery

  • Artist Talk: Guerrilla Girls on Saturday 1st October, 3pm | £9.50/£7.50 conc - The Guerrilla Girls will present a lecture illustrating their work over the past 31 years, and the work that still needs to be done.
  • Curator's Tour on Thursday 8th December, 6.30pm | Free - Co-curator Nayia Yiakoumaki leads a guided tour exploring the Guerrilla Girls’ exhibition.

At Tate Modern

  • The Guerrilla Girls will also lead a week-long major public project at Tate Modern (4-9 Oct.), as part of Tate Exchange (which opens at the end of September).

Who are the Guerrilla Girls?

They've gone from being the conscience of the art world to cultural icons.

The famous 1989 Poster which the Public Art Fund refused to use on a billboard in New York
and was subsequently banned from NYC buses as being too suggestive

Interestingly Guerrilla Girl posters are now included in the collections of the
New York Public Library and the Museum of Modern Art, among other institutions.
We’re feminist masked avengers in the tradition of anonymous do-gooders like Robin Hood, Wonder Woman and Batman.
We undermine the idea of a mainstream narrative by revealing the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair.
The Guerrilla Girls, a group of anonymous, feminist activists was founded in 1985. Each member takes the name of a dead woman artist as a pseudonym and in public their identities are hidden under gorilla masks. Using facts, humour and fake fur, they produce posters, banners, stickers, billboards, projections and other public projects that expose sexism, racism and corruption in art, film, politics and the culture at large.
The idea of the Gorilla masks was that it always keeps the focus off the individuals involved and on the messages they want to promote.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Gender imbalance: Are women artists under-represented in art?

This is a round-up of and commentary on surveys about women artists and gender imbalance in art around the world.

Regular readers will know that I've regularly commented on this blog about the representation of women in artists selected for art competitions, exhibitions in galleries and on the committees running art societies and museums etc. Indeed I have been known to comment also on the "get on and do" approach of a number of societies run by women!

Part of a very effective graphic for the admirable "Countess Report "
- published on a regular basis in Australia. The latest (2016) report draws on 2014 data.
This post started from one recently published survey report in the UK - and then grew and became international!

Representation of Women Artists in the UK

Earlier this year a research report on the Representation of Women Artists in the UK was published. I've summarised its conclusions below.
  • The report was commissioned by the Freelands Foundation and the author of the report was Charlotte Bonham-Carter
  • The report addresses the question "Are female artists under-represented in Britain?"  and seems to have started from the presumption that they are not.
often people think that equality has already been achieved in the arts due to the fact that things have indeed improved. Inspirational figures such as Tracey Emin, who have defied the statistics, exist in the public arena – but the truth is that women are still severely under-represented in the art world.
I don't know if the link to the report I've highlighted above is the complete report or a related presentation. (Does anybody know?)

Context - previous reports

I'm providing the hyperlinks to the resources it built on as these are either missing in the document itself or the links don't work in the online version.

if only we could!
It built on The Great East London Art Audit - conducted by the East London branch of the Fawcett Society in 2013.
This report Cultural Value and Inequality: A Critical Literature Review written by Dr. Dave O’Brien & Prof. Kate Oakley is also cited as an influence. It was commissioned by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Cultural Value Project
Inequality has become essential to understanding contemporary British society and is at the forefront of media, political and practice discussions of the future of the arts in the UK

Representation of Women Artists in the UK Conclusions

In summary, the conclusions of the the Representation of Women Artists in the UK report (in the document I've read) are that:
  • female art and design graduates outnumber men
  • men outnumber women in activities relating to a relevant career for an art graduate eg solo exhibition at a large gallery
  • representation of female artists has increased over the years. An audit of female representation at non-commercial artists showed that 42% of shows were by female artists in 2014/15 compared to 31% in 2012/13
  • representation of female artists drops outside London (down to 33%)
  • gender imbalances persist at and beyond the mid-career stage
So - bottom line. It's very clear that there's a gender gap - but we already knew that didn't we?

My concerns are that the report essentially 
  • Fails to rather than formulate and test a hypothesis in statistically robust manner. Consequently it does not demonstrate that its conclusions are statistically valid (speaking as one who crunched data for a good part of her career! See NOTE at the end of this post re. some of my statistical concerns)
  • Fails to test other dimensions which ALSO contribute to levels of progression and 
  • Describes rather than analyses statistics collected - e.g it does not look for any patterns of correlation with any other relevant factors
For example, many women who choose to combine having a career with motherhood often pursue very different career patterns over the life of their career due to a desire to provide stability for children when they are young.  It's a matter of choice for some - not the dominance of a male sub-culture in the "Art". Not everybody wants to hand over their children to childminders - some are happier to allow a career to take more of a backseat role for a period of time - with a view to pursuing career development and achieving career 'markers' (e.g. get selected for the Venice Biennale; get short-listed for and/or win the Turner Prize) at a later date.

At the same time very few artists (of any gender) are ever going to achieve the 'top level' achievements. The top artists come out of a big pool of those who don't quite make it to the top.
The bigger that pool is, the more women artists will eventually make it to the top - so long as there is fair-dealing and appropriate processes to support career development.

Of much more concern - and I would argue of much more relevance to the expenditure of research funds - is the ability to
  • identify those factors that make the biggest difference to how most artists progress their careers - and become part of "the pool" and then climb out of it.
  • ensure that the data framework and sampling frame and methodology are statistically valid i.e. if you're going to count do it in the right way.
  • identify and track relevant data on a regular and consistent basis - e.g. by ONE project. (See The Countess Report below for a more methodologically sound basis for collecting and analysing relevant data)

The scope and breadth of relevant context

I'd have thought a more thorough-going review would have looked at a wider context e.g.
  • the extent to which ALL art graduates (i.e. analysed by gender) remained in full time art-related activity - thus creating a gender-related baseline for measuring engagement and progression
  • whether studies of gender imbalance in relation to other vocational degrees (eg medicine and the law) and/or other areas of creative professional activity (drama/music etc) also contribute to understanding better how 'being a woman' impacts on career progression. 
I suspect there are a fair few longitudinal studies out there for other areas where the progress of women in career fields continues to be an area of concern.

See for example the following articles highlighting the even worse gender imbalance at music festivals.
Half of music festival attendees are women. But on stage, the numbers tell a different story.
from : Where are all the women headlining music festivals? | The Telegraph 08.08.14

Plus here's an interesting observation from one female musician commenting to The Telegraph - suggesting that it's not unusual for those sitting within one area of the arts to not look to closely at what's going on in another area!
"When it comes to mindfully representing women with the right message, music is out of date in comparison to art and literature.

How do gender differences in art vary around the world?

Another consideration is whether the progression of female artists is the same around the world - or whether it varies from place to place. Study of such factors says a lot more about the influence of general culture and attitudes to and support for the progression of women.

For example if we look to the southern hemisphere....

Sunday, August 07, 2016

London Portraits by Carl Randall

Carl Randall's London Portraits - on display at the National Portrait Gallery

When Carl Randall won the BP Travel Award in 2012, he produced an exhibition of portraits of the people of Japan at the National Portrait Gallery the following year which demonstrates a cross-section of old and new Japanese society and placed all the people in the context of both traditional and contemporary Japanese places.  

'In The Footsteps of Hiroshige: The Tokaido Highway and Portraits of Modern Japan' proved to be very striking and memorable and you can see the images and read my thoughts on his paintings in my review Carl Randall's Japan - the best BP Travel Award Exhibition ever!

Now he's back at the National Portrait Gallery in 2016 with a new series of portraits - this time of London and featuring places in London.

London Portraits

His most recent project is called ‘London Portraits’.  This is a series of 15 portraits of people who have contributed to British culture and society.  His Japanese influenced style makes for a very different sort of portraits and they're very striking.

He met all the participants in person and asked each of them to choose a place in London which was meaningful to them for the background of their portraits.

A documentary video ‘London Portraits’ has been made which shows the making of the paintings and sitters explaining their choice of location.  Do watch it - it's really interesting about process and sitters.

Documentary about Carl Randall's 'London Portraits' 
11:06mins. © Hawkeye Productions 2016.

The participants

Jon Snow - presenter of the Channel 4 Evening News
in the Channel 4 studios

© Carl Randall
  • Newscaster Jon Snow - who as usual has a very luminous tie for newscasting!  (I sketched Jon Snow once in the Restaurant at the top of the National Portrait Gallery.) 
  • Comedienne Jo Brand - outside the Comedy Store in Oxendon Street
Comedienne Jo Brand
outside the Comedy Store

© Carl Randall
  • Animator Nick Park - (of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep fame) in the Dinosaur Gallery
  • Illustrator Raymond Briggs - outside 65 Ashen Grove where he was born and brought up
  • Novelist David Mitchell - in St Paul's Cathedral
Novelist David Mitchell
in the Whispering Gallery in St the dome of St Paul's Cathedral
© Carl Randall
  • Actress Katie Leung - outside The Shed on the Southbank
  • Poet Benjamin Zephaniah - in Epping Forest
  • Illustrator Dave McKean in front of St Giles Church
  • Movie producer Jeremy Thomas - outside Bar Italia
  • Film-maker Julian Temple - outside Temple Station
  • Poet Simon Armitage - outside the Royal Festival Hall
  • Dancer Akram Khan - in a skate park
  • Zoologist Desmond Morris - at London Zoo
  • Actor Antony Sher and Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company Greg Doran - at the Noel Coward Theatre
  • Actress Julie Walters - across the River Thames from the concrete monolith known as the National Theatre
Julie Walters
with the National Theatre in the background

© Carl Randall
The portraits are available as prints from the National Portrait Gallery. You'll find a display of them in the basement next to the cafe.

Display of the London Portraits as prints next to the NPG cafe
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