Play It Again, SAM: How To Win Friends and Get Good Art At the Summer Art Market

I’m not sure how many Summer Art Markets I’ve done, but this year’s must be close to 25, if not there. I’m in booth #100. I’m entering the final week of preparations, and I think it’s going pretty well. Some years- especially the earlier ones- were frantic. There have been a few like this year where I had a good start, and though it’s always work, it’s been pretty calm the whole way.

The Art Students League #SummerArtMarket2019 is one of the better shows for artists, and many long time shoppers believe, for art buyers. It combines experienced artists, many of them, like me, on the faculty at the school; with newer artists doing their first festival show, many of whom are students at the school. It has a real community feel, and tends to emphasize the art, rather than the food vendor and sponsor booths, and it is the school’s biggest fundraiser. Only media taught at the school can be exhibited in this show, so various ‘craft-ish’ items are not allowed, giving the show a real focus that true collectors have learned to love.

A nice feature of the Summer Art Market for buyers- Giclees and other reproductions that represent themselves as ‘fine art prints’ are not allowed, so one can shop for original art with confidence. At some shows, you might see these offered in “limited editions” at inflated prices, as if they themselves were art. At SAM, you can buy actual handmade art, often for prices as friendly as others charge for their Giclees. It’s worth pointing out that at any of the many printmaking booths at this show, only true, hand-pulled fine art prints are for sale.

“Ladder at Moonrise”, Monotype, 15×11″. An original fine art print differs from a Giclee, or other commercial reproductions, in that it is hand-pulled by the artist ( in my case) or Master Printmaker under the artist’s supervision. Etchings and woodblock prints can have larger edition numbers ( 1/10; 1/25; etc, meaning: 25 total prints from the same plate or block), but in the special case of a monotype or a monoprint, only one unique print can be created: thus, 1/1

You’ll probably find art bargains there. The beginning artists, many of them quite good, tend to keep their prices very low, whereas the more well known need to protect themselves from the competition in this large show, and many probably also try to keep prices as low as they can, or offer smaller more affordable pieces as I do. Many of us are trying to maintain a consistent, gallery price level, so higher prices from established artists are not a surprise, either, though Denver in general has low prices for art, so it can be hard for a full time artist to generate sustainable sales in a year. Great for buyers, though. This is the balance an aspiring art community must attain.

Haggling is a personal issue with artists, though a show of this type, especially on Sunday afternoon, would probably be as good as any a place to try it . Some artists seem to see it as an insult. I personally don’t mind it, though it should be reasonable, for the issues of consistent and sustainable prices mentioned above. Even galleries offer discounts, especially when a multiple, or larger sale is being considered. Repeat buyers also get nice prices. Be respectful, is my advice. Again, if you’re shopping for art in Denver, you’re probably getting a deal, anyway.

If you’re just looking, that’s fine, too. Questions about process and philosophy are fun for me, anyway- they break up a long day; and questions about my classes are certainly encouraged (you can register there too!). But be mindful of monopolizing an artist’s time for too long, as this may be a major source of income for their year, so they must make sure they don’t miss the opportunity to speak with any potential buyer. If you are a buyer, monopolize all you want. Enjoy being a hero. Not only have you paid some nagging, distracting artist bills, or even launched a career, but you’ve put money into the creative economy, money proven to be beneficial to a region’s economy and quality of life, especially as it tends to be returned to the economy quite quickly!

Other situations call for common sense: Solicitations for donations for your group’s charity auction, or for your new framing business or whatever are not that welcome if they’re going to take up valuable time. I certainly don’t mind if you leave your card or a flyer. No artist is going to make room in their crowded booth for your ad flyers for CFE’s, shows, etc.

The real value of the show is interaction and feedback from peeps you wouldn’t normally meet in a gallery, so don’t be shy. I certainly enjoy it- all conversations about art are more welcome than say, any conversation about the Broncos. Stop by and introduce yourself, make a comment about the art, get to know the community.

Search: #sam2019, summerartmarket2019, #asld, #artstudentsleague, and my personal favorite, #sambooth100.

Landscape Monotypes Negative space Summer Art Market

Walk Right In?

Textures and graphic effects are a way of bringing energy to a print composition. A highly detailed texture will attract the eye and demand attention, a subtle one will invite mental rest and contemplation. A heavier, darker texture or a very transparent one will tend to create depth by playing off what’s behind or underneath it. In this three staged monotype, I had some fairly unique coloring and a balanced, if plain image, and I put it aside with a vague feeling of disappointment as it really didn’t have a lot of intrigue. Intrigue can be defined in prints, probably in all art, as something, a bit of mystery or surprise that might keep the eye exploring the picture, possibly to extract meaning ( or determine if meaning is indeed there), or to solve the puzzle of its composition, or simply to bring the visual exploration to a fairly logical stopping point.

In this case, I didn’t want to give up on the print because I liked the sense of calm, or is it desolation? which I think comes from the pink light and the fairly empty expanse on the left side. So I wanted to heighten that distance and light, without cluttering the picture.

I did this print last year, and while I loved the strange colors and stylized interplay between positive and negative elements, it seemed too sparse to call finished.

The picture was also a bit sparse though, lacked a real focal point and featured mostly hard edges. I wanted to add a bit of visual richness and narrative movement while maintaining the graphic simplicity.

First I added in some more visual elements in the foreground which enhanced the designerly, modernist look of the first layer, and although these are also hard-edged shapes (created with mylar overlays), I think the addition of more complexity in the foreground makes the emptiness in the background more pronounced.

I added some foreground darks to create a focal point in opposition to the rather empty background.

Then I thickened the glade at the right avoiding too much clutter, by adding some trace monotype lines.

I rediscoverd trace monotype, a favorite from Paul Klee’s early work in my art history class days, and decided to experiment with it to see if it might add to these pictures I’d never finished. It has a fairly spontaneous and softer-edged feel to it as opposed to the hard edge of the mylar stencilling, which might, given the subject ( strangely lit glade) add some visual balance. The softer-edged elements were placed in front of the earlier graphic elements, not usually how you do it, but as in photography, the depth of field is being manipulated to sharpen and highlight middle ground elements, an example of what I mean by visual intrigue. When you highlight or sharpen the middle ground, you are, in effect, asking the viewer to “enter” past the foreground elements. Like pushing to the front of the crowd for a street busker, say, it asks for a bit of commitment.

It added a bit of “dirty” look to the print, which adds an edgy but also timeless feel to the modernist hard edges. Blacks ( not too heavy) always add depth by bringing out color and balancing tones, which here were sitting mostly in the middle-light to middle-dark range except the ghostly whites. I used the trace mainly for spindly forest brush (plant) images and ground debris which adds a bit of suggested perspective and realistic “bottom” to the pic, but also a kind of synaesthesia in that one can imagine the crackling of twigs, which draws one in to the place depicted. It’s also somewhat calligraphic and hints at a story in the scene. The second layer of leafy designs in mylar  plays off the twigs to create a sort of diversity of textures and heightens the original play of positive negative space in the pic. I like that the imagery is denser, but the two image sets are now in a bit of visual tension with each other in a sort of necker cube shift of dark and light. Is the white log stencil some sort of border treatment, or is it a log that has shifted to another dimension. A ghost log? I always enjoy signal-to-noise problems, and this one suggests information degradation or decay, since it exists at the edge of the picture plane, where an image might be expected to fade anyway.

Whether this all works is of course for the viewer to decide, but as the “first” viewer, it made me happier.  This was a print which seemingly had no chance of ever being seen by the public, until I decided that other textures might make it just intriguing enough to show ( Yes, I have to see intrigue, or at least stylistic interplay in something before I can bring myself to show it). It seemed to lack any sort of visual grace or interior dialog beyond the pink and brown coloring, which I always loved, and which probably kept it near the top of the stack of unfinished items, rather than buried in a flat file. It seems to have a fair amount of depth and “placeness” in it now. It’s a place I would like to go to and walk around in, so I went there.

You can see it and judge for yourself at the Art Students League Summer Art Market, June 10-11, Booth #96, where I’ll be showing it along with work by my booth mate, Taiko Chandler.

The finished piece has quite a bit more texture, including rub marks from the trace monotype.

Summer Art Market Workshops

Summertime Update

Sincere thanks, as always, to the folks who came by during the Art Students League Summer Art Market a couple of weekends ago. It’s always a fun show, and this was another successful one. It’s also a lot of work and often comes during the year’s first full-on heat wave, as did this year’s, so I rewarded myself with a week’s vacation on the back porch with a stack of new reading material. So I haven’t posted, but expect a book post soon; it’s already being written.

I also hied myself down to the DAM for a first peek at the “Women in Abstract Expressionism” show that is attracting a significant amount of national attention. I wanted to get in while the conversation is still just beginning, and I’m joining it soon with a post of first impressions which may be posted here as quickly as a day or two, as I’m in the final edits with that.

My Summer workshops have started again. Most are sold out, but one, “Monotypes for Advanced Beginners“, starting in July, still has space left at last check. It’s intended for people with recent printmaking experience, so contact me if you are in doubt.  If you missed out on one of the others, the Fall schedule for those will be confirmed, and posted here in not too long.

I’ve tentatively added a free Meininger’s Demo and Dialogue to the schedule for November’s Denver Arts Week. I’ll post on the Workshops page when I confirm date and time. I don’t have a lot of free stuff going on this year, but the Meininger demos are real fun, with a great space and usually a good crowd, so I thought you should know.

I hope you are having a great beginning of Summer!



Art Shows Books, Comics, Music Summer Art Market

Drawing a Crowd

Unlike past shows, I’m sharing a booth at the #SummerArtMarket2015 with another monotype artist, Taiko Chandler. I’ll post some of her work soon. It has allowed me to dial back the preparation of the small-to-medium-sized prints that usually sell there in favor of some larger work, which I will still need more of to crack into a more sustainable position from a business perspective, but also to more fully develop creative ideas. I’ve worked hard in past years at creating a large inventory of smaller pictures, so I should be able to fill a half of a booth to please the mostly smaller, middle income collectors at the show and continue to make bigger works for a higher end gallery market.

I’m also mentoring to a certain extent. Many past students in my workshops have been moving into a more professional approach to creating and selling and the SAM is a good place to test yourself. I try to help with some of the more practical concerns of presenting, showing and selling art. Taiko is one of those artists, though she’s made a fair amount of progress without me so far, so I find myself wondering what her very polished work will bring to the booth in terms of eye appeal and new visitors- two heads are better than one?

At some point, usually in May, those practical concerns start to outweigh all the aesthetic issues. I’m sorting, wrapping, and framing art. I’m digging through the garage to make sure I have important items to transport it, hang it and keep it dry.What’s an important supply item for artists? Trash bags! They help you to transport, store and protect art at an outdoor show, and they double for the same purpose for buyers bringing it home. Art supplies include bungee cords- mundane items, yet so useful when the wind comes up.

I’m also making art, mostly smaller items again to fill out the bins and to cater to beginning collectors with small walls. I’ve made some larger work, especially in April and early May, which I’m taking to the photographer this week. I’ll post some pictures and add them to the gallery next week.

I’m doing another free library workshop this week as well, and my Summer workshops are open for registration now. The weather is still wet and cool, so I’m still reading a lot too. I’ve started a “women in comics” post which will inevitably grow too large and be chopped into separate parts. My comics posts, as I’ve said, are an attempt to post something that taps into a larger conversation about the culture wars than just my studio work. It allows me to “think out loud” about the things I’m reading, which in turn helps me to process them. It turns out that conversation -and the reading stack- is large and getting larger. My supposedly brief foray into mainstream comics has extended into a larger inquiry into comics’, and all pop cultural, expression of societal change, and that subject is starting to get a lot of attention in some very high places. There’s actually a lot of material out there, and I’ve enjoyed digging into it. I imagine I’ll continue posting about where my library and bookstore excursions lead me.

Art Spiegelman (Raw Magazine, Maus) speculates in Dangerous Drawings that comics started taking off in the mid-19th Century after printing presses began the expansion of reading into lower, less well educated classes of society. Libraries often use them to perform the same function with immigrant populations today.
Art Spiegelman (Raw Magazine, Maus) speculates in Dangerous Drawings that comics started taking off in the mid-19th Century after printing presses began the expansion of reading into lower, less well educated classes of society. Libraries often use comics to perform the same function with immigrant populations today. Marginalized creators, too, such as Second Wave feminists in the 70’s and 80’s could get access to cheap printing and spread messages in underground comics about social change.


Summer Art Market

Street Wise


Summer Art Market, 2013
Summer Art Market, 2013

I talked last time about organizational things that make the Art Students League Summer Art Market a favorite show of mine. Details like this make a show meaningful and worthwhile for both artist and public. But what makes it personal and fun- people. The SAM has retained, throughout its growth, the feel of a neighborhood block party. That makes it fun to do all the work.


I’m following up on this show in case anyone wondered how it went for me. It was great! I had a lot of help this year, so physically it was easier, though it’s always draining, especially when the heat hits. But just talking to all the people is really rewarding.


I get a lot of returning buyers at this show. They are very loyal, very enthusiastic about my work and the League and the SAM as well. One woman, Nicole, told me that her entire art collection comes from this one show!


The usual Saturday morning feeding frenzy didn’t really happen this year. Instead, it was steady traffic all weekend long. There are a lot of events in Denver every weekend now, but somehow people still made time for SAM. It’s become a destination for longtime and beginning collectors alike. I can’t recall this happening before, but this year, Sunday had more sales than Saturday. Overall, it was my 2nd or 3rd best show ever, so I was very happy.


Owen and Jennifer, my brother and his wife, always come down to help break down. We had beers toward the end of the show, and my friend Dee and her friend came by, we had a lot of laughs when we should have been packing up, but when we did, the traffic and loading was smooth and easy. Then Owen and Jen and I went for pizza and tasty craft beers in our neighborhood. The show pays bills yes, but also serves as a great social occasion. I meet new friends there, too, then have to be reminded of their names next year, though I try to remember.


It usually takes me a week or two to get back into a steady schedule after this show, but I don’t have that luxury this year. A workshop begins tomorrow, a large piece is being shipped to Connecticut, and this web site needs a bit of fleshing out. So I spent a couple of days watching soccer and now- back to work.


Related side note: I was really too busy preparing for the show and didn’t notice that several comments had come in on the new site. It turns out that though I criticized WP’s clunky, glitchy publishing software, their spam defense is great. Too great- among the many links for “Fake Oakley Sunglasses” etc, I found several comments from friends and comrades. I must have assumed I didn’t need to check the “approve” list- rookie mistake. I’ll learn, and I apologize for late replies.


I welcome comments and discussion of any topical matter, really, and in the next few weeks I’ll link to some of my favorite blogs and sites to get the discussion rolling.

Art Shows

Street People

The artist will see you now...
The artist will see you now…


Art shows of the street fair variety have become popular.They come in a wide range of styles and sizes, but what makes for a good one?

Many new show are popping up along with the many that already have long histories. Organizers of art festivals typically charge $4-500 for a booth spot for the opportunity to meet those new potential collectors. It’s a real benefit for artists, especially emerging ones.  At my favorite show, the Art Students League Summer Art Market, I see more new and returning collectors and would-be collectors than I see in all the year’s other shows combined. It’s a lot of work, but worth it. Other attractions are thrown in to create a crowd: food, music, merchandise sales. But the main attraction at a show should be the art, and there, not all shows are created equal.

Some shows, especially newer shows, don’t seem to put much thought into just who is showing. With the drive to sell all available booth space, there’s a temptation to welcome all comers. Democratic, yes, but often repetitious and limited for this reason: If not deliberately balanced by a jury or by category quotas, most shows are heavy on photography and crafts such as jewelry and stained glass. These are the people who have always found the art show circuit to be a good way to make money, and they apply in large numbers.

A new festival, such as ArtStir, which was held for the first time at Denver Pavilions downtown this last weekend, can be flooded with these sorts of exhibitors, leading to a large spread of artistic intention, and wacky pricing. Some booths seemed to feature unique personal visions. Many others showed fairly routine wildlife images, or tchotchke-like items for home decor.  Photography, though clearly one of the century’s great art forms, is also often used as hobby or craft by those who simply love wildlife and mountains.  Jewelry can be creative and fun, but low prices and stock-in-trade designs don’t attract the kind of crowd a show needs to sustain itself. An art show, even a street-level one, needs to be curated for diversity and creativity, or dedicated art buyers get bored and leave, leaving only lookers and strollers. Hey! Where’s the beer tent?

Another difference in a quality show and a newer or less curated show? Reproductions. These mostly take the form of “art prints” or “Giclee prints” which are digital images printed onto canvas or good paper. It’s one of the nicest forms of reproduction one can find, but essentially, they are fancy posters.

Giclees and “art prints”  can really muddy the waters for traditional fine art printmakers such as me, since they are deliberately marketed as “fine art prints”, even though they are machine reproductions. Some shows control for this confusion by setting quantity limits on clearly marked reproductions that can be sold, but many, such as last weekend’s ArtStir, clearly do not. I saw one booth that was nearly ALL giclee-style reproductions with only a small legend, e.g. ‘canvas print’ to help customers distinguish. The organizers should know better.

By contrast, the Cherry Creek Festival places a target on number of exhibitors in each category and clear, strict limits on what can be displayed. Exhibitors juried in to the show tend to be polished in their work as well as their presentation, but this, along with high end booth fees naturally leads to a higher price scale.

The Art Students League Summer Art Market offers one of the more pure selections in town, as it controls by category and no reproductions whatsoever are allowed. By coincidence, this means no jewelry or photography since only things taught at the school are allowed ( this may change, as the school has formed an alliance with Colorado Photographic Arts Center to team up on photography classes).

At the same time, the League resisted charging market value booth fees for a long time, allowing novice artists to try their hand and learn the trade. Even now, fresh new faces and students can enter by demonstrating involvement at the League, and simply teaming up to defray costs.  Faculty and established professional artists make for a nice mix of work. Yet prices remain within a reasonable range, since many showing have talent, but no commercial track record.

The Summer Art Market features food and music, demos and kids’ activities. But the League makes few mistakes when it comes keeping the focus on the actual art and artists. The show is very interesting and walkable with wide lanes and a variety of styles. Many people make it a must-see each year and the dynamic, especially on Sunday morning, is relaxed and sociable. That makes it a favorite destination for people looking to add to or start their collections, and for artists like me, our favorite show of the year.