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Digital coffee table art book gives local artists big exposure

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 06:32 PM

Like many up-and-coming artists, Reid Jenkins works tirelessly to get his artwork into the hands of interested art lovers.

"I'm just starting and my career is progressing, but it's a slow road," said Jenkins of St. Petersburg, who specializes in acrylic and mixed-media work. "You want to expose your work to as many people as you possibly can, and that can be difficult to do."

Local artists such as Jenkins have a new palette helping them showcase their work, a digital art book called "Artbook Tampa Bay."

The art book is an interactive application by HD Interactive, a St. Petersburg-based web development company.

The digital book, which is sold through the iTunes Store for $4.99, is designed like a coffee table book, where users can simply swipe through the works of hundreds of local artists.

"We really hope that someone that has never seen (the artists' work) sees it, contacts them and buys their art," said Kevin Hohl, chief strategist for HD Interactive. "We wanted to start a conversation between somebody that sees the art and somebody that makes the art."

The 732-page digital book is lavishly designed and includes 70 local artists, many with a bio page, their picture, and websites embedded on their page so browsers can just click and go directly their digital portfolio.

The release of the first volume of Artbook Tampa Bay, in March, featured more than 800 pages and 86 artists.

Both books are available through the Artbook Archives app.

The works are put into four categories: painting & mixed media; photography & digital media; drawing & printmaking and sculpture & installation.

Browsers also can find information on every major art museum including the Tampa Museum of Art and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in downtown Tampa and the Dali and the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, with images from each museum.

Like the first edition, creators put a call out to artists around the state for submissions.

Artists were able to submit as many works as they wanted, but a juried selection process whittled down entries.

"We wanted to ensure there was an equal level of quality and the experience was always a positive thing for the user," Hohl said.

So far, browsers from more than 30 countries, including France, Norway, South Korea, Russia, Denmark and Finland, have downloaded the app, Hohl said.

Still, there's a long way to go for creators to break even.

"We didn't know if we were going to have three, 30 or 3,000 people that were going to buy the book," said Hohl. "It hasn't performed to what we expected, but we're hopeful more people will check us out. Where else can you see all of these original works from local artists for just $5?"

By the end of the summer, the company hopes to release more apps for digital books in Austin, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Miami, Hohl said.

While featured artists don't get a cut of the proceeds, it's the exposure that is the most rewarding.

"It's just such a great, unique idea," added Jenkins, who has eight pieces in the digital art book. "Everything seems to be adapting for technology, and being able to display our work and giving it a new life and feel from a digital media standpoint makes a lot of sense."


ccabrera@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7656
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