In order to build acceptance and understanding, it's important that the world sees gender diversity as relatable, natural, and beautiful. It's equally important that gender nonconformists see themselves that way because a common theme among transgender people is a battle to let go of self-shame and find love for who they are.
Gender Portraits is a painting series that celebrates gender diversity through beautiful paintings that are inspiring and informative. With your help, we can change how the world views gender.
The art is the most important part. But that's not where Gender Portraits stops (or starts).
Each painting starts with an interview. The interview helps guide what gets painted, and is used throughout the project. It's boiled down to a summary of the subject which is displayed next to the painting to strengthen the diversity education. The interview is also used as material for blogs and videos as direct quotes/excerpts, or by influencing what I talk about by adding perspective and expertise.
The interviews, blogs, and art should work in balance. The idea is to make people curious with the art, so that they seek out information instead of it being forced upon them.
We also post about transgender news that comes our way on our Facebook, Twitter, and Goodle+ pages.
You're funding the initial run of the series (10-15 paintings). This includes resources to create the art, business-level web support for online art sales, simple marketing materials, and a printing run of archival quality paper prints (the largest expense).
While canvas prints are expensive (and come out of the raised funds as rewards) they don't need to be counted as start-up overhead because I have a local printer that lets me order them as sales come in. This won't work for paper prints because it increases the cost per print too much.
After the series is launched, the project will turn self-sustaining. This means that the sales of current paintings/prints will fund future paintings/prints, and the series can continuously grow. Without backers like you, I can't afford the first round of expenses to start the cycle.
Prints are mandatory for Gender Portraits to work as a movement. Art usually has the following problem: If it's affordable art, it's poor quality. If it's high quality art, it's no longer affordable.
An art based social movement can't succeed if it's confined to a wealthy minority. So, to keep Gender Portraits high quality AND accessible, I need to make prints.
But when it comes to prints, I want my fans to have access to substantial art, not a cheap, flimsy posters. After a lot of research, and consultation with a similar company (Bye Bye Robot), I broke my prints into two categories.
Limited Edition Canvas Giclee:
For the modest art lover, wanting something special! When art is printed well on a stretched canvas, it takes on the look and feel of an original painting. The print will be beautiful both framed, or unframed depending on taste.
The term Giclee is well known in the art collecting world, and is synonymous with quality and longevity. When signed and numbered in a limited series, they can even hold a trading value. If you've seen a painting gallery on a cruise ship, you've seen a giclee and probably didn't know it. Artists sometimes even paint a few strokes on top of a giclee to sell them as "enhanced prints" or even "originals" in those galleries (Gender Portraits won't be partaking in that practice).
Archival Quality Paper Prints:
For the art lover on a budget! This took some research because the quality I want was initially too pricey to sell cheaply. The solution lies in bulk orders. With your help, I can deliver high quality art at a low cost through this method.
My paper prints are going to be be acid-free for longevity, and on a sturdy, heavy weight paper. This gives the look and feel of artwork painted on watercolor paper or bristol board. These prints have a white border so that they look good without needing to be matted if framed. The prints also look good framed with matting, or unframed like a poster.
While a couple paintings can show gender diversity as natural and relatable, it takes a larger series to show the full scope of what gender diversity is. There's a lot to show:
- Gender diversity can start from any birth gender
- Gender identity doesn't indicate sexual preference
- Some gender nonconformists are full time, others part time
- Some people want to pass as the other gender, and others don't
- Gender diversity can be cultural or religious
- Sometimes gender divergence is an identity, other times it's for entertainment or expression
- You can be born biologically outside a standard gender
- There are common struggles between gender nonconformists that are easy to empathize with
- There are relatable similarities of gender nonconformists to the rest of the world
- Gender expression isn't unusual
A single painting can communicate multiple messages, but sometimes a single message can only be communicated through multiple paintings.
I believe 12 paintings is enough to communicate these messages, but as any artist can tell you, things change as a series develops. I might find that the full message can be accomplished in less paintings (though I want at least 10), or I could find that more art is needed than I thought. That is how I decided that the first run would be 10-15 paintings. I left the number as a range so that my hands aren't tied artistically, keeping the work from suffering in the end.
I've wanted to be an artist since I was old enough to want to be something, and art remained as a constant in my life. Instead of a traditional college, I enrolled in an art trade-school to be classically trained in an art apprenticeship environment for 4 years. By the time I graduated with distinction in 2008, I was already working for my second employer as an artist.
Since the start of my career, I've worked for 2 years as a freelance illustrator, and 5 years as a video game concept artist. Though I always loved my work, my artistic passion was always painting. But making a living as a fine artist is tough, and I couldn't even figure out what I wanted to paint.
Just as early as I wanted to be an artist, I remember being jealous of girls in my class. I daydreamed of dress up, makeup, and cute shoes. I'd sneak into my mother's closet or stored Halloween costumes to sample the forbidden world. I believed I wasn't supposed to like these things as a boy, so while I flaunted my art, I suppressed my gender expression.
Skipping ahead to avoid a novel, lets just say that suppressing my gender curiosity didn't help. As an adult, I finally admitted that I was gender fluid. Which is like the bisexual of the gender world. Finding answers was difficult, but even harder was trying to explain those answers to others. I was using vocabulary that people hadn't heard to talk about concepts they weren't familiar with. The lack of mainstream trans information, and how to solve that problem, began haunting my thoughts and conversations.
In hindsight, it's obvious. Here I was, dreaming of being a painter with no clue what to paint, and living gender fluid while begging the world to bring gender diversity to the masses. When the two concepts finally met in my brain for the first time, solving each other with beautiful simplicity, I don't think I slept for 3 days. There was too much to do!
Risks and challenges
The most complicated part is the printing and shipping process. From what to offer, what companies to use, and designing a process to fill orders. I've never sold and shipped a product before, so it's all very new.
Luckily, I found some amazing help through a good friend of mine who owns a similar company, Bye Bye Robot. I show their Star Trek print in the video. They kindly walked me through their business model, printing, and shipping processes. They even gave me pointers on different printers and products they've tried in the past. They cut my research in half, and gave me expertise I couldn't look up online. If you ever want some amazing Star Trek art, go to www.byebyerobot.com . I can't begin to thank them enough!
The next challenge is juggling the business, and art sides of the project. I'm only one person, and there's much to do. That's why, at the start of this Kickstarter, I only have 4 paintings, and a few blog updates. If I had been painting and blogging about gender issues this whole time, I wouldn't have a working website, Facebook Page, kickstarter campaign, and Gender Portraits' first big event.
But I have solutions. I'm getting the business foundation and planning done now so that the system is well oiled before I'm in full painter mode. I could paint 2.5 paintings a month if undisturbed, but I'm only planning 1.3 a month so that I have time in my schedule for business minutia. If I'm still bogged down after that, I'll start delegating the social media, event planning, and web maintenance to friends. If sales are good enough after launch, I will pay someone to fill orders part time.
My last challenges are artistic challenges. They aren't as tangible, but they're still important to talk about.
Struggle and darkness is often a more interesting subject than celebration and light. That makes darkness tempting to paint, but Gender Portraits should be about the beauty of gender, not the pain. Not all paintings will be happy, some even controversial, but they can't take over. I have to keep balance in mind. I started with some of the calmer works, so that when I try more extreme pieces, I can easily see how they change the set. Making light as interesting as dark isn't always easy, but I've got some fun ideas up my sleeves that I'm excited about.
These challenges aren't new to me as an artist, or scary. They're what makes my work exciting and fulfilling. Just talking about them makes me want to go paint!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)