Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Annie Interview or " How I got to be a bag lady".

Annie on Bag #1 of 6

With the launch of the Acme Annie collectible bag series finally going active, I thought that I might as well just go ahead and interview myself as if real media had done so because the story behind my collaboration with Acme Fresh Foods is more than just a pretty picture on a reusable plastic bag. It is a foray into bringing art to the masses whether they like it or not. By interviewing myself, I can't get blindsided by a rogue question or be taken out of context. (As Editor in Chief and Publisher, I get to supervise the quality control!)

I am not allowed to reveal too much here because the legalese is rather complicated, but I can elaborate on the process and purpose of the series named "Annie's Love Story".  Okay, so maybe the overall title isn't your thing, but  I did not pick it, I only developed the overall concept and I named the character because all jk paintings have names.  The powers that be and myself met several times and tossed around ideas. I provided sketches, they provided feedback and we eventually settled on telling a story. Because my work tends to tell a story, I like that aspect, it keeps me entertained. But more importantly. this series is something that  has never tried before. Read that again...NEVER tried before.  Every bag you will see in all the myriad of locations that sell them now are what I call "one and done" images.  Even if the same artist is doing several of them, the images are independent and some no more than reprinted patterns. Each one is as picture. The Annie series is meant to be more like a visual chapter book.

So if I were being interviewed for an article perhaps it would sound something like this.........

Not Me: So jk, how did you get hooked up with AFM for this gig?
jk: I get asked that often and if I told you, others might try it and then I would be out of a job, but I will give all the credit to MJ Albacete at the CMA. He has known me for 20 years, knows my work, my work ethic, my flexibility and my dedication to making art understandable and accessible to all people. We had a few conversations and I let him take the lead.

Not Me: Give us an overall, one line synopsis of the storyline.
jk: Annie's bags will tell a story, about her, about life, about marriage and  about motherhood along with some food, art  and fashion references and all within the confines of a grocery store. Of course this story comes with my typical  humor added to the mix.

Not Me: What was your intent behind building a story rather than a "one and done" as you call it?
jk: Actually the first bag, which is now the last bag or an extra bag, was a "one and done" design based entirely on art, artists and famous imagery then  given the jk twist. It will be a dynamic  bag for sure, but was deemed too overpowering for the storyline itself even though the images on the Annie bags are a direct result of that first design. I call it the inspirational bag X.  Now that it comes out later, it will almost serve as a wrap up image if people have been paying attention.

Not Me: What do you mean by "paying attention"?
jk: The series is not just about the character and the different situations within the AFM store, but I take imagery from each bag and work it into the next one, and then the next one and so forth so by the time bag 6 comes out....people will  be able to find references to all sorts of things depicted on all 5 previous bags before it. Consider it a sophisticated game of where's waldo if you will. I found it fun and challenging to keep reinventing and incorporating imagery.

Not Me: What was the production process?
jk: At first, I was given sheets of paper the actual sizes of the finished bag and directed to paint on those for production purposes. I tried. I could not do what I wanted to do in that confined of a space. So I got them to allow me to paint on canvases somewhat to proportional scale that we then photographed and resized. The original front panels are on 30" x 36" canvases and the sides are on 12" x 16" canvases.  Each one took a month to complete. The actual making of the bags in China from start to shipment arrival is about 20 weeks so this project has been underway for 18 months.

Not Me: Why so long for the actual painting process for each canvas?
jk: Because not only did I have to work in quite a few details, but I had to age the same character over the course of about 40 years keeping her facial structure intact while adding some wrinkles and different expressions. A male character also shows up three times and I had to age him too. I don't paint many males so that was difficult. A third character was introduced who has to look like a combination of those two so being true to the image took a bit of time as well.

Not Me: How did each bag's concept get decided?
jk: Collaboration. I was given a department in the store and a title for the bag. The side panels were also laid out for me. I then could build the scenes, the poses, the expressions, the action, the layout and the colors all as I saw fit. I worked on all 6 canvases at one time so I could keep Annie in my head and in my muscle memory as I painted her face.

Not Me: So what advice do you give people?
jk: Buy the first one even if it is not your type of picture. You are investing in a story. The subsequent bags get more complicated and involved so if you miss the first one, there may be no chance to go back and get least as far as I know, that is out of my hands.

Not ME: Besides as paintings, how does art really fit in here?
jk:  The level of detail will be beyond any "one and done" bag I have ever seen, photography ones excluded. This is art 101 with color, composition and elements of basic design all coming together. It was all done by brush work, no photos, grid layouts, or any other type of crutch process. They have not been touched up at any production level either. I shot the final pieces and AFM added their logo.

Not Me: So what does Canton get out of this since AFM is basically an Akron institution?
jk: It brings a big player to our end of the of highway. Acme is building a new store in Green, we have the North Canton and Whipple Road stores as well and the collaboration with the Canton Museum of Art will benefit them as well in multiple ways.  Also, my photographer, Cindy Nichols is getting her name out there too as she is credited with the official PR photo and she is now a Canton business.

Not Me: So what does this mean for you?
jk: Well....I can't go out in public without my makeup on anymore....and I get my face on a moving billboard next to the Amber Alert kid and the wanted fugitive of the week.  So please get out there and buy Bag 1! Bag 2 comes out in December and the original paintings will be on view at my studio on First Fridays.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dreams and Reality in the Art Biz

With permission, I am printing here the full copy of a Facebook post made by fellow local artist Tim Carmany. He makes some great points and I am adding my comments after his text is done. Mine may be a bit more blunt than his, which is probably why he has a lot more friends than I do!

Tim's Essay
The Hub in Canton's Arts District

Artists...I Am Your Biggest Supporter
September 29, 2013 at 1:48am
 I had a dream last night that I had failed.  The Hub was dismantled and more importantly what I had been working towards for years was meaningless. 
Paint and color and wire and solder and creation were meaningless.
I wanted to crawl back under the covers and just die.  It stuck with me all day--I couldn't shake it.
I need to let you all in on something: It does mean a lot to me.  Regardless of what it means to anyone else, it's always going to be an important part of my life.  I'm a nerd about it.  It moves me.  It inspires me.  It depresses me.  And it still blows my mind.  I've never seen a photo, a painting, a sculpture, a film and thought "Now I've seen it all--time for something else!"  There is still so much more we can do.  So much more inspiration and empathy and deep thought and humor and harmony that we can impart.  These are what make us human.
This is why it's not meaningless.
And so I ask politely and even beg you--support them.  Support us.  Help us.  Join us.  Ask us to help you.  Here are three things you can do.

1) If you care about someone who puts their work up in public--take the time to notice it.  "Like" it.  Share it.  Even if it's not mind-blowing, earth-shaking, or even very eye-catching.  Because they tried.  Hard.  And it represents something deep within them.  They made themselves vulnerable.  Let them know you get it.

2) Come to our shows and events.  If you've ever hosted a party you know it's stressful.  Those people who consider themselves artists often times have a tendency to be poor organizers.  Help them out.  Show up.  For my friends in Canton, OH--Come downtown on First Fridays and pop your head into our studios and galleries.  Translations always has amazing exhibits. 2nd April is chalk full of amazing art. Lynda Tuttle's place is always vibrant. Saxton has absolutely amazing photography. Journey is sparkling and an amazing space. 13th Floor has cool/creepy collections.  We're trying to create our own unique space at The Hub on 6th and all the studios on 4th st are incredible.  Not to mention Buzzbin, George's, Auricle, Frankenstein, and all the other music, food, drink venues downtown.  So much to do--come check it out.

3) Buy our things.  If you don't like our things, commission us to do something you do like.  A $20 bill seems to keep an artist working hard for a week if they're selling a piece of their art to a gracious patron.  Ask us to help you with a project.  Ask us for advice.  Keep us working.  Because we will create amazing things if you give us the chance.
I love the city and community I work in and I'd love to see it flourish.  Then...maybe then I'll stop posting sappy notes and sending fb invites to my shows. 
Keepin' it Canton,

Snarky Art comments….. Recently there have been several articles in the media about our CAD. All of which make note of how much there is to do and see and what great entertainment awaits! “See” and “Do” and “Entertainment” are great….but what about “Purchase”, “Commission” “Buy” and otherwise “Support” those whose things you have come to see?  I often make a joke about feeling like a trained monkey on First Fridays. Sit at the easel, paint or draw, and the people watch and perhaps even take the time to glance at my stuff, and then scurry off to the next location who might offer a bowl of free candy.  On the other 29 or so days of what I call the “off season” known as the time between First Fridays, there are not a lot of art shoppers to be seen. Shoppers…yes…sometimes…. for cards, shirts, small gifts, jewelry and things which fit into a standard sized bags, but odd shaped packages are not seen under the arm very often. Have we exhausted our local market? Maybe….  If I had the answer there would be no need to write essays like Tim’s or mine. We work hard to offer you new shows, different work, a chance to understand our world a bit or to rock yours with unusual or uncomfortable imagery. We send postcards, make announcements, post to media, email or whatever we can find to get you to come to where our wares can be seen and experienced. We are not on TV, you cannot Google us, download a show, or wander our display via a controller in virtual reality. You actually have to put on your pants, get in the car, park it someplace else (good luck with that….) get out of the car, walk up some stairs and read the dang labels next to the stuff you “don’t understand”. If it is too expensive, ask us why it costs that much. We do negotiate but we are also a business. Do you ask the plumber to give you a discount? I wonder how many people realize that some of our shows may take years (yes….YEARS) to assemble and create because art is what we are, who we are and why we get up every day. It is a job, but also a passion. Take it away and we might as well die. 

 On that last word, I want to leave you with a question from a recent newspaper article that I find very intriguing (which has nothing really to do with art, but with who you are…) Question: Are you living your resume or your eulogy?  Hmmmm……..