This month, I had the pleasure of getting a few minutes with award winning artist, Joseph Craig English. Craig is a serigraph artist, who has been creating masterpieces typically inspired from the culture and beauty of the D.C. area for 46 years.
I asked Craig what advise he would give to a young artist today, he replied without hesitation, “That’s really easy, the best advise is to always be observant and see how other professionals present their work. Try to incorporate the things that you see that are applicable in your own work. When you first start, you might have it together with your work, but your presentation won’t be professional. So, you need to see how to best present your work. You pick up tips from the other people you are displaying with and borrow those ideas. Presentation is key, if good work is presented poorly then the sales opportunity is lost.”
Presenting has not always been as easy as it is today. When Craig started his career in 1972, it was a time before commercial displays were readily available. His solution to that problem was before he got to the show, he went to the local hardware store; got 2x4’s and tarps and basically build a house on his rented space. It would all be trashed by the end of the show and he’d have to recreate the same thing at the next show. As the art festival industry grew, and artists had more competition, presentation changed. Craig would go to the hardware store and get large panels, hinge them together to create walls. The issue was, while they worked, they also weighed a ton and were not the most efficient to transport.
As an artist who consistently wins awards throughout the country, I asked where he finds his inspiration. Craig will set aside time to go on the streets, with his camera and an open mind, walk around and he says, “certain things will speak to me”. Other times there are specific trips such as with his new series; the Cherry Blossoms, where he got in contact with the park service to know the day of peak bloom to take photographs.
Another piece of advice that Craig would give to younger artists, is create a niche. After years of traveling the country and being asked time and time again to create local pieces, he decided that his time and energy would be best spent on creating works of art representing his hometown. Craig’s process only allows for 12 new serigraphs each year. Each piece takes approximately 4 weeks to complete. Commissions often represent ¼ of a year’s work.
Lastly, as someone who has been in the industry for many years, I was curious on his perspective of how social media has impacted the industry. He said, “social media has generated more business, because people see it online, and then want to see it in person at the shows”. Everything looks better in person; the colors aren’t the same online and everything pops more in person. A part of his Facebook communication, he will post at the end of each day the progress of the current pieces he is working on. Seeing the process, interests and excites his customers, which leads to sales. It was not something easy for him to understand, but his daughter told him to get on it, and saw the potential an artist has on social media to communicate to their clients.