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Trying to Find Fame - AN ARTSY JOURNEY #33

Posted on July 24, 2017 by Kate Moynihan | 0 comments

I was certain this was my fifteen minutes of fame! Painter, Andy Warhol, was credited for using this expression: "Everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” and right now, I thought the poster contract I scooped from the mailbox and was clutching in my hand felt like my fame!

Kaplan Fines Arts of New York City would be producing one of my floral watercolors in their 1000-page poster catalog. In the early 1990’s this was considered hitting the big time in the world of art reproductions.

As an artist I would receive royalties for each poster sold in this golden era of bargain metal framing.

I was ready to celebrate, but when I looked around the basement apartment, I was alone. Beth and Bobby-Jean, the glue-gun gals of the cottage industry, hadn’t been in the studio for days. We were at a lull in reorders.

Waving the paper, I raced through the utility room and up the side steps to show my landlord, Marge, only to find her kitchen door closed. She wasn’t home.

Tromping back downstairs, I picked up the phone to call my best friends, Cindy and Jennifer, but before I dialed, I looked at the clock and realized they’d be at work.

So I called my mother.

She was caught by surprise as I routinely telephoned on Sunday morning, not mid-week. Not mid-day.

Mom rallied around my news, but I knew she hardly had a grasp of the business world of art. She and my dad were retired in Florida, modestly living off his pension after thirty loyal years with one company. My entrepreneur spirit was a bit much for her.

But I was ecstatic to share my fifteen minutes of fame with someone, so I shrieked all about it. When my raving ended, she simply said, “Well, that’s nice, Kathleen.”

Mom has never been one for a lot of conversation or exchange of ideas and thoughts.

It seemed most of our family dynamics circled around my older brother, Gregg. First, he was scared of kindergarten and at an early age and struggled with school. In fifth grade he needed special reader classes. At sixteen he smashed the car into a telephone pole and in college protested the Viet Nam War. My parents spent a lot of time and energy being concerned about my brother.

With the focus on Gregg, my independence grew. My life seemed to roll along fairly smoothly and Mom was there if I needed her. She taught me how to test the soft-ball stage of homemade fudge and when I fell in a mud puddle she had my cheerleading uniform washed and ironed in an hour so I made game time. She always lightened my load, pitching in, helping out.

I never pushed more conversations with Mom and neither did she. Looking back I realize I missed the art of learning how to communicate and build stronger relationships.

Therefore, after our two minute conversation about my fifteen minutes of fame, I hung up the phone. Mom’s short response was predictable so it didn’t faze me. I still danced around the studio, elated, for at least a week.

Then the sample copies of my poster arrived. I snapped off the lid of the cardboard tube and carefully unrolled the tightly curled paper. The print was pink.  Very pink. (Unlike the original painting below.)
Kaplan had selected a traditional apple blossom branch I had painted in watercolors. The original had many values of pink matching the current trend of mauve and grey. But the poster colors appeared slightly faded – a common outcome of a ten dollar poster reproduction. I had a sinking feeling this would not be a top seller for Kaplan. Or for me.

Kaplan was a great publishing partner. Their marketing and distribution channels were top notch. But I sensed my “pretty pink floral” had another weakness. It debuted at the end in the color trend cycle, not the beginning or peak, so it had a lot of mauve competition. Also the slightly botanical style was a bit traditional for the emerging contemporary style.

My fifteen minutes of fame didn’t last long.

I submitted other images, but Kaplan never launched another poster. If I had gotten an expanded line of published posters from Kaplan it would have been like spending years on the New York Times best seller list. I would have really enjoyed that!

Although the paint dried up on my relationship with Kaplan, I received another dab of luck. Art Business News – a national art news magazine for the wholesale market – featured a glossy colored photo of my corporate art.

It is a fact that a story byline is said to be worth three times more than paid advertising. And for me, the free placement was even more valuable since I couldn’t afford to a buy an ad.

This time I didn’t call Mom, but the byline gave me a reason to skip once around the studio, pulling me up a notch from the disheartening news with Kaplan. I did one more skip and rallied up some faith that the byline would produce another option. For that I would have to wait, and wait some more.

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