Face Your Fears - part two - An Artsy Journey #22
Facing fear is never easy, even when you’re thirty-eight, especially when you’re a self-employed, single mom. But, slowly, I was learning that if I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, swallowed my pride, and pressed on, I was building a bit of resilience. Even though my emotional reserve was getting stronger, a nervous storm brewed in my belly. I shifted from foot to foot as I mustered up the courage to confront Bill Serig – the art director who rejected my art skills one year ago.
I needed his blessing to complete the next step of producing limited edition prints of my artwork. Weeks ago, I committed to making these prints to offer a lower price point compared to my original paintings. Then, I had Larry Weller photograph the originals to make transparencies so I could print these lithograph reproductions. Now, added to my fear was the fact that I had acquired a daunting bill from Larry’s services. If I didn’t confront Bill Serig it would be like throwing money away, and my checkbook was already in the single digits.
Fake confidence until you make confidence had been my motto during this entire printmaking project. Silently, I ran that speech through my mind, squashed my queasy stomach, and marched into Bill’s office.
The short, stocky man was seated behind a broad desk and his broad shoulders were squared so stiffly a protractor could measure 180 degrees parallel to the floor. He had his head lowered with his eye focused through the squatty magnifying loupe. He was still muttering “Uh-huh,” like he had done earlier when examining the art transparencies with Larry.
I straightened my shoulders to match his and cleared my dry throat.
“The ink saturation and color absorption is fine. Mighty fine, indeed,” Bill said, finally lifting his head. He caught my eye and grinned.
All speech left me. I could tell he was taking great pride in my “fine art talent,” to quote his words from a year ago. Back then, at my initial job interview, my fine-art-skill left me unemployed because I was not strong enough in graphic design. Now, I felt my stiffened shoulders ease.
“Feel the quality of this paper,” he continued, sliding a pristine piece of crisp white paper across his desk towards me.
I picked it up. It was smooth like glass.
“That is an exquisite French paper," he said. "I’d like to use it to achieve the best quality of the prints. Air freight will have it here in five days.”
The man had been president of Serig Advertising for more than twenty years. I trusted his expertise, but all I could do was nod approval and scoot out of the room. I don’t know if I was overwhelmed by his confidence in my art or afraid if I stayed longer he’d say something to shoot down the excitement I was feeling.
Five days later I met Bill and Larry at Union print shop. Knowing this was the final step in the elaborate process of producing limited edition prints, I had a skip in my step.
I entered the shop thru a cozy, carpeted front office, and then moved into a cold, cavernous warehouse of cement floors, 20-foot high metal beams, and thumping printing presses that ricocheted thunder-like sounds off the walls.
Fifty feet away, Bill and Larry came out from behind a palette of paper. Larry’s large built loomed over the stocky frame of Bill’s. The two were wound up in laughter.
Finally, they spotted me and waved me over.
The front office door clicked open and a man strolled into the press room. He had on a crisp western shirt and shiny cowboy boots. As he approached I picked up a faint scent of boot leather among the smells of fresh ink and solvents.
“John Bauer,” he said, as he nodded to me and shook hands with the boys – Larry first, then Bill. Their grip was like an arm wrestle – firm clasp, crushing fingers, and bodies jerking in a quick rigid struggle. The three of them had a men’s club going, and I was yet to know if I’d be initiated into their group. I was here to evaluate the artist proofs – the first prints off the printing press – but I was certainly out of my league in this world of printmaking.
John led us to the largest printing press. “We’re all set on the eight-color press, the best in Bismarck,” he beamed and signaled the technician to run the first image.
My heart whirled faster than the spinning press. I wanted the limited editions perfect, yet I knew technology could only produce a close replica.
The first several images flew off the press. John pulled one out and instantly he, Larry, and Bill buried their noses into the print. My heart pounded in my throat; if I opened my mouth I was afraid it would jump out.
“Increase the cyan,” John shouted over the thumping presses and turned to me, “Do you agree? No?”
“No,” I croaked out. This men’s club was intimidating.
“No. You don’t agree?” John asked, confused.
“Yes, I agree, more cyan,” I said, my voice a bit husky even though I agreed the image needed more blue. I didn’t know a lot about printmaking, but I knew the basic color matrix consisted of the three primary colors.
The technician turned a handful of dials and pressed several buttons. Quickly the press was pushing out another proof. John gazed at the print, turned to me and waited for my opinion.
The print needed more red. I took a deep breath and shouted, “Up the red.”
“Magenta, I agree,” John said.
Twenty minutes later, we had tested five additional proofs. “By now, we usually get this right,” John said.
A heavy silence hung between us. I was smack-dab in the middle of pressure-cooker land of this men’s club. I had scrounged ever spare nickel to pay for the lithographs. I was the one who had to sell them. Looking at the three men, I took a deep breath. Fake confidence until you make confidence, I silently chanted my business motto.
“One more time,” I said, standing firm.
John sputtered, spit flew. But he didn’t hesitate. He waved the technician to roll again.
The prints came out star quality.
Then Bill asked, “Do you have your marketing brochure designed to go with these limited editions?”
Instantly his words pushed me twenty steps backwards.