“close to a ghost town” 2009
“It takes a big man to cry, but it takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man” – Jack Handy
I have talked to many artists that all have their own method of doing what they feel is the best way of getting where they want to be with their art work…this is as individualized as a fingerprint…and what works for one person…does not necessarily work for another….while listening to others talk about their trek…I have found a few things that each have in common….the rest of the conversation becomes specifics…about a particular style of painting or sculpture…more a narrowed down version that unless you are doing the same style of work…it has no bearing…
the Most important topics I have heard and read about are:
As an artist:
Know what you want: Have realistic expectations and realistic understanding of who you are based on what you are capable of doing.
Know who you are: You need to be truthful about your artwork and not think about what it could be. When you are clear about who you are as an artist,…you will be able to describe your work and artistic message
Maintain your Focus: Being clear on your goals. Often artists encounter situations that seem to be opportunities when they drain energy from your direction and goal.
Do it Again: Maintain contact with people who can promote your career…not that are in your career. Contact these people regularly through a yearly mailing or newsletter.
Be Prepared: Always have on hand enough work for 2 shows….and all of your support material up to date.
Be Professional: Art is a business…how you run that business will show your level of professionalism.
Maximize your Opportunities: make opportunity work for you as it may lead to the next one….yet know….that what seems to good to be true…probably is….
Be Persistent: The art world is filled with thousands of artists….the more your work is exposed…the more likely you are to be seen….
Build Relationships: Build good quality fair relationships with those that can help your career…be cautious of those relationships that deal with the future….
Understand Timing: Your art career will take time…estimates from universities are that 90% (out of 100), of those with Bachelors degrees in Fine Art will in 3 years not be involved in the art world at all…of that remaining 10%…1 will become a professional artist….while the remaining 9 will be involved in art in some support system….to make make $50,000 per year as an artist….you need to sell over $150,000 worth of artwork…that is going to take time….what is considered a successful artist earns about $15,250.00 per year……so multiple streams of income will be necessary to survive until your artwork catches up…which will take determination and constant diligence to the above mentioned….A friend of mine who makes a very good living as an artist says….”Just being able to pay 1 bill a month from your artwork….is successful”……I believe that and I guess it depends on how you qualify success….
Your Relationship with a Gallery
Fit: both the gallery and the artist need to fit well…if you are an abstract painter…a gallery that promotes abstract paintings is the obvious choice ….you’d think…but many artists send work to galleries without investigating the fit…and fit is by far the most important aspect of the marriage between artist and gallery
Likability: I went to a seminar about promoting art work….the panel consisted of 4 gallery owners…2 artists…and 1 marketing person…the common thread between all the gallery owners was…”We have to like you”…..if the gallery owners and sales people like you….the chances of showing your work there increases significantly if it is a good FIT….
Gallery Presence: referring back to a few older very experienced artists who have sold art work through galleries for many years…Gallery Presence is very important….three questions to ask a gallery director or owner….before committing to showing your work are 1. How many artists does your gallery represent? 2. How many artists did you lose this year? and 3. How many new artists did you take on this year….the higher the number the less established the gallery probably is…the lower the number…the gallery has most likely established what and who they are interested in representing…they have either been around longer….or are more experienced….it is like hiring an attorney….do you want a new one with 2 years experience or an older more seasoned one with 17 years experience…..
Promotion: Is the gallery going to promote you and your career or just sell your work….if you want work sold only….find a gallery that only sells your work…if you want a gallery that promotes your career…that will be much more difficult…and a much more arduous task…as the gallery first has to believe in you enough to invest time and money in you over the long term….many retail stores call themselves galleries…when in reality they are nothing more than a gift shop with paintings…and will sell your work just like they do the beaded wall hangings and the cute dog and fire hydrant salt and pepper shakers….
Percentage and what’s it for: from an older painter I know…when he was invited to do a show at a gallery…the 50% commission was calculated based on a few variables….the gallery would present him with options….and each option took 50% of sales…the options were distinctive methods of exposing the artist to a variety of possible sales opportunities…all the advertising was paid for…he was flown to the gallery and put up in a hotel…the cost for the artists to be in the gallery was 50% of sales…nothing more….A few older very experienced artists I know say professional galleries…do not charge an artists for advertisieng…shows…flyers and postcards….or anything….the 50% commission covers all of the artists expenses…find out exactly what the commission pays for….if you are not getting promoted…..what does the 50% cover…is it one show a year and if so what is the advertising consist of…times in the art business have certainly changes and galleries have new creative ways of selling art….just be certain your commission is fair and you are getting what you pay for….
As a jeweler…I worked with galleries for many years….but as a painter…my relationship with galleries is relatively new….I’m know the approach is the same…the politics…the dance…and everything about it is the same….with the current economic state….galleries are having to change their method of working with and representing artists….just as artists are having to change their method of approach and producing art…all of this becomes a very unique and distinctive dance…one that either has a great deal of toe stepping or is as smooth as silk….either way….anything worthwhile requires dilligence…..and courage….I wish you well on your trek…..