Greenwich Art Society, Greenwich CT

Getting It All Together Photos & Website, with Peg Benison and Lucia Ravens

This month we hear from 2 Greenwich Art Society members, Peg Benison and Lucia Ravens, who are both offering valuable and needed services to the Greenwich Art Society and its members.  Peg, a member of our Advisory Board and “Info Tech” person who does all the technical work on our website, has started a business, AreaArtist, to help artists market their art via the internet.  She has researched the question very carefully and has come up with an idea that is artist-friendly, inexpensive and brilliant.  Lucia Ravens, a photographer, Greenwich Art Society board and Exhibitions Committee member, has offered to professionally photograph Greenwich Art Society members’ work for a greatly reduced price.  Both have volunteered to give a portion of the proceeds to the Greenwich Art Society – everybody wins!

Shauna:  So, Peg, let’s start with you.  Of course, you are an artist.  Let’s talk a little bit about you and your art before we jump into AreaArtist.  Tell us about your art.

Peg: The figure is and always has been the focus of my work. Occasionally I try and push myself into other subjects, just to get out of my comfort zone, but I always return to the portrait and figure.  While I usually paint in oil, lately I have been working on large drawings of the figure using white conté crayon on black paper.  This technique forces me to simplify the image and focus on the light on the figure. I've been having a lot of fun doing these pieces.

Shauna: I am continually amazed at the multitude of skills many artists possess, especially when someone can make both a painting and a computer sing.  How on earth did this combination come about in you?

Peg:  Well, I went to college (College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts) as a math major.  I had lots of advanced math and computer programming courses under my belt when I found and fell in love with the Fine Arts and changed my major. After college I studied both painting and computer graphics at Parsons. A teacher’s recommendation got me into working for publishers doing computer illustration for children’s software and educational materials and I’ve just continued on from there.

Shauna: How did you get involved with the Greenwich Art Society?

Peg: Another artist had mentioned your Annual Members Juried Show to me.  And I started by entering that show.

Shauna:  I also discovered the Greenwich Art Society in that manner as did many of the people who volunteer with us and make the organization work.  You designed our website for us and manage all the technical aspects.  I continue to be impressed with your point of view and opinions about “Art and the Internet”; they have guided the Greenwich Art society well.  Tell us how you developed your website skills and point of view.

Peg: Originally, when the internet started to take off, there were many people saying it would be a boon to artists everywhere; that through the web, artists would be able to sell their work directly to the world wide public.  I never thought fine art sales directly through the web would really work, due to some obvious limitations of the internet.  The simple fact is you cannot accurately judge a work of art by a small online image of the piece. Color varies from monitor to monitor, and every artist knows that a subtle change in color can have a huge impact on a work of art.  In addition, scale and texture don’t come through in a web image.  Viewing an on screen image is just not the same as seeing a work in person. I thought there had to be a better way to use the internet to help artists.

And that way had to include a website that was easy to use. You want the viewer toremember the artwork, not the fancy gadgets on the website. I was on the Board of an art organization that had hired someone to do a website for them. Unfortunately, the website didn’t work on many members’ computers.  That is why I feel website usability is such an important issue; that a website should be easy to navigate and it should be easy to access the information the user wants.  Anyway, since I had computer experience, I took over the project.  And I have been doing websites for artists and art organizations ever since.  

Shauna:  What else do you think is important in using the internet as a tool to help sell art?

Peg:  Well, I think the internet should be used to enhance what is already working in selling art. The internet doesn’t offer the experience that so many collectors enjoy: going to openings, seeing artists studios and meeting the artists.  So, the internet has to be used to make it easier for collectors to find artists and artwork.  We have large active artistic community that is too often operating under the radar.  If collectors could easily see a sample of the incredible work being produced and find the local venues where they can view it, I think it would be a tremendous benefit to artists and collectors both. It is all VERY local.

Shauna: Yes, it seems that many businesses tried to market art solely through the internet and went belly up.

Peg: True.  Many websites that started to market and sell through the Internet have shut down.  An article in the Wall Street Journal about the closing of Sotheby’s original online auction site, put it this way; “True, millions of people could log on and bid.  But without looking, touching and feeling that unique thrill one gets in the presence of something ineffably beautiful and satisfying, they didn’t want to.”  When I read that, I knew I had the right idea: not to sell work over the internet, but to use the internet to get more people in front of the art and in contact with the artists.

There are many other logistical problems involved as well. If the buyer is a distance from the artist, in order to view an actual work either the artist or the purchaser would need to incur considerable shipping and insurance costs, as well as return shipping if the purchaser decided the piece was not what he/she expected.  If the artist is expected to cover these costs…well, there goes the profit margin!

Shauna:  So what actually turned these ideas into your business, AreaArtist?

Peg: “Open Studio” days in Stamford, where I was born and raised, was getting a tremendous turnout.  People were obviously interested in what local artists were doing. Hundreds of visitors visited local studios during those few days but artists were not contacted very often the rest of the year.  It occurred to me that maybe people were intimidated, not knowing how to find the work they would like and not knowing how to contact an artist.  Or perhaps they were worried the work would be more expensive than they had expected.

Those issues were running through my head and I started to think about how the internet could be used to help artists and to give collectors advance information so they would feel more comfortable contacting the artists.

It is expensive and time-consuming for every artist to get their work seen and build a local reputation all on their own. It makes much more sense for us all to show our work together, like the open studios, to draw in traffic, only here it would be internet traffic.

Shauna: Et voila!  AreaArtist is born!

Peg: Yep.  AreaArtist.com is based on the belief that people want to see the actual piece before buying. In addition, the people who enjoy art also enjoy participating in the local art scene, attending openings, meeting artists and visiting artists’ studios. Therefore our focus is on building a reputation locally.  By concentrating on local artists, living and working in Fairfield County, CT and Westchester County, NY, collectors can preview artwork in the style in which they are interested and find out about the artist.  Because the artists are local, the collector and go view the work where an artist is showing, increasing traffic to local venues like the Greenwich Art Society or contact the artist directly to arrange a viewing.

  

Shauna:  Wow.  You really have the “everybody wins” concept down!  The artist, the gallery, the art society all benefit without stepping on anyone’s toes.  Tell us all the details.

Peg: Our artists are juried in, to maintain the high quality of the work shown. An artist must submit images for jurying in order to join Area Artist .com.

AreaArtist .com takes no commission on sales. The sales take place directly between the artist and the clients.

There are 2 levels of membership, basic and premium.

Basic membership includes 12 pages:

              1) Portfolio Page: 9 images, with individual enlargement pages,

                            including title, medium, and price.

              2) About the Artist Page: Resume, bio, artist statement or commission process.

              3) Contact Page: E-mail or phone number to contact you about your work.

In addition, AreaArtist provides a link to your personal website, if you have one, a web address for your portfolio (Your web address will be www.areaartist.com/yourfirstnamelastname), listings in our portfolios by name, subject and medium with an image in all applicable category portfolios, listing in our current shows section and listing as a featured artist on our home page in rotation with other artists.

The premium membership adds a second portfolio of an additional 9 images, with individual enlargement pages, including title, medium, and price; 18 images in all

Go to www.areaartist.com for full details and an application.

Shauna:  You can also design and maintain a website for Art Society members, right?

Peg: Yes.  On my website, www.pegbenison.com, there is a item at the bottom, “information on web design.”  It will take you to a page with links to a selection of websites I have designed.  As you will see from the sites I have done, I believe it is very important to keep the design simple and user friendly.

Shauna:  What about cost? 

Peg: Design costs vary depending on the size of the website, the number of pages and number of images for the website.  There are additional fees for hosting the site and domain name registration.

Shauna:  How can Greenwich Art Society members contact you?

Peg:  Feel free to email me at info@areaartist.com

Shauna: Wonderful!  Now the only thing we need is fabulous images of our work.  Fortunately, we have Lucia Ravens here it get it right the first time and she is another artist with a surprising background.  She is a new board member with the Greenwich Art Society and our official photographer.  Hi Lucia!  First let’s hear a little bit about you and your amazing family before we get into the resource you are offering to Greenwich Art Society members.

Lucia: I was born in Delaware but soon after birth went to Winston-Salem and grew up in North Carolina.  My mom and dad were both in medicine: my father, a neurosurgeon and mom, a phlebotomist.  (Phlebotomy is the study of blood.)   Dad was a founder of the medical school at Rutger’s and he made fabulous images of the brain.  I grew up with medical photographers and their beautiful images of the human body.  Mom and Dad had many friends who were doctors and many of them played musical instruments.  We often had Sunday “salons” where they would come over and play.  Our lives were filled with music and art.  It was a wonderful childhood.

Shauna:  Just the best!  So, did little Lucia have a camera in her hands way back then?

Lucia:  You bet.  Photography has always been a great passion.

Shauna:  But it seems you had other talents that sent you off into Science.

Lucia:  Well, I have 3 brothers and sisters and they all went off to be artists and I was convinced that I HAD to go into medicine.  So, I did my undergraduate degree at Rutger’s in the Biological Sciences.  (B.S.).  Then I was accepted to medical school at Bowman Gray at Wake Forest University.  I decided against going there and headed off to U.C.L.A. to do a graduate degree in kinesiology – the study of positions and movement of body parts by means of sensory organs in the muscles and joints.

Shauna: Getting farther away from photography every moment!

Lucia:  Yes, but it wasn’t far from my mind and I was still spending my weekends doing fine art photography.  Strange things happen in life and sometimes the right thing just falls into your hands and that’s what happened here.  I was visiting New York and saw a brochure on a bulletin board at the Juilliard School of Music about a theatre arts program at Oxford (Balliol College).  On a lark I applied and ended up going.  My camera went everywhere I did so off we went together to England.  After Oxford, I returned to New York and had a major fling with acting, landing on the hit series “Spin City” with Michael J. Fox.  I stayed with the show for 4 years.  In that show my character was a press photographer!

Shauna:  So is that art imitating life or life imitating art?

Lucia:  Not sure!!  But, I found that every time I went to set I found myself in the photography department.  I met loads of photographers and put my photography and acting together and became a still photographer for film and television.

Shauna: What an odyssey.  This explains the obvious depth of your photographs, especially your portraits of actors.  I understand you have won many awards.

Lucia: It’s something I never dreamed would happen to me but I’ve been very blessed in that department. I am blown away that my photographs are included in over 150 private, celebrity and corporate collections.

Shauna: Brava to you!!!  Let’s turn now to what you are doing with the Greenwich Art Society.

Lucia:  I am really excited about the opportunity to serve on the Society Board as official photographer and to bring a "voice of photography" to our community.  And I recognize the need that artists have in this modern digital world to have beautiful, usable photographs of their work.  Photography is a fairly technical medium anyway but the everyday use of computers has made it even more so.  There are things that artists need to know about sending photographs of their work out into the digital arena.

Shauna: Can you give us a partial list?

Lucia:  Well, you need to know how many dpi to send out for various uses.  For a website, you need only 75.  Newspapers need 300.  For a giclee print, it’s a whole different ballgame.  The point is, you don’t want to put an image of more than 600 dpi out on the internet because it would be clear enough that some nefarious person could easily use the image without permission.  It’s also a good idea to embed a copyright.  All this having been said, more dpi is not necessarily better.  It really depends on the size of the artwork and many other variables.

Shauna: Hey, looks like a science background is a good thing to have for all this!

Lucia: Right!

Shauna: Tell us about what you are offering to Greenwich Art Society members.

Lucia:  In essence, excellent photography of their work tailored to their usage needs.  I can photograph for website only (least expensive) all the way to giclee print quality (most expensive) depending on what artists want.  I can create slideshows and moving image DVDs and format the work in any other ways.  I can create a still portfolio printed on archival paper.  There are many options.  All of my equipment is very high end and I have all the equipment necessary to do whatever the artist needs.

Shauna:  Can you give us an idea of what various things will cost?

Lucia:  I want to make it affordable for my colleagues at GAS and want to support the direction the society is going in terms of technology.  I think what Peg is doing is a great idea and I want to make it easy for people to participate.  I also want to give a little bit (5%) to the Society for helping me connect with artists.  Each artist may want something different so I can only give an idea here.  These are special prices for GAS members only.

9 images, 300 dpi photographs (suitable for newspapers and websites) of similarly sized artworks in one location delivered on a disk, $600.  Less than 5 images, $100 each.

Images for giclee prints are more complicated.  There is a one time fee of $250 per work that includes high resolution digital capture of original art work, digital color lab work, color adjustment and color proof (8x10). There is an additional fee of $50 for preparation of a high resolution DVD file, only if you would like a DVD of your originals for your files. We use color management techniques to match your original art as closely as possible. 

We can make the actual museum quality archival prints (Somerset velvet 100% cotton rag paper - 255gsm) at .14 cents per square inch. (The size must include a border on the print for framing & artist signing.)  We can do sizes up to 24 inches by 48 inches.  Of course, we can package prints for resale and pretty much anything else an artist would need.

Shauna:  These are incredibly reasonable prices, Lucia!  And thank you so much for offering a little bit to GAS.  What is the best way to reach you and schedule an appointment?

Lucia:  Email me at lucia@luciaravens.com or phone me at 212-388-2822.

Shauna: You will be receiving my call sooner than later!  Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

Lucia: My pleasure.

 

 

 

 

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