In part one I discussed how I was able to get a gallery to exhibit my work. There are a lot of books out there that will give you the formula for how to go about doing this. These books sell very well, I've bought a few of them myself. The problem is that the methods they give don't really work. If there's one rule in life that always seems to hold true it's that the squeaky wheel always gets the grease. Not the cleanest wheel, or best made wheel, or most unique wheel, THE SQUEAKIEST! So you have to throw away the rule book and get your stuff seen by any means possible. One key ingredient that the books don't mention is chutzpah, it's an old Yiddish word for having a lot of nerve. I'm sure I would be a lot further along in my career if I had more of this essential ingredient. Of course it goes without saying that you have to believe that you are doing good work that is worth being seen and that's saleable. In the first mailing that I sent out I mentioned to the gallery owners that if they put my work on their walls that it wouldn't be there for very long, the stuff would be flying out the door. That got their attention. That's a little bit of chutzpah, I certainly could of been a bit bolder and told them that in person, but I chickened out!
Anytime I hear or read a gallery interview they always say that the biggest no-no is to walk in with your work unannounced. Yet I have read on more than a few occasions of artists walking in and doing just that, and the gallery taking them on. The bottom line is that if your work blows them away they are not going to reject you just because you barged in! They are looking for the next big moneymaker! Sure they don't want it to become a common practice, but it has occasionally happened and worked out for the artist. I have practiced a few sneaky introductions myself. One year I took a letter box at a post office in Soho so that the galleries would think I was a New York City artist. It almost worked. I can remember retrieving my mail and opening a letter from the OK Harris Gallery that started with the line "Congratulations", I almost passed out. But then it went on to say that my work was really first rate and deserving of a gallery, just not his. He went on to list galleries that he thought might like my work but said that he didn't want me to say that he recommended me. "Say what?" Wahh-wahh! Being the naïve do-gooder kid that I was, I didn't use his name and I got nowhere fast. In hindsight I probably should have copied that letter and included it with every packet that I sent. Why not, I worked hard and deserved it. Another method that I tried was in the days of sending slide sheets. Instead of sending slide sheets, I sent a slide sheet folder filled with miniature hand painted versions of twenty of my paintings which I had encased in a slide negative cardboard holder so that at first glance it looked like a sheet of slides. The gallery owner wrote me back a very encouraging letter, I could tell he was impressed, but he didn't commit. Always a brides maid never a bride. I supposed if I didn't have a life that I could have nurtured that relationship like one of those potato plants in middle school science, hoping that it would one day turn into a beautiful flower. Instead, I moved on, and didn't quit. You have to be in this for the long game, and you have to have a thick skin! I have enough rejection letters to insulate my house. I'm a bit like that psychotic rabbit boiler played by Glenn Close " I will not be ignored".
Most of these so called experts also recommend that you have a signature style or theme. Yes, there are artists who paint variations on the same idea over and over again, and do very well for themselves. That could possibly work, but it just sounds so boring!! I had one gallery that was interested in my work tell me that they really loved my painting of a jawbone placed on a book, and could I possibly paint twenty more just like it. Yeah, maybe if I was suicidal and wanted to spend the next year or so contemplating the folly of human existence. Here's the bottom line; do your thing, whatever that is, don't try to figure out what the "next big thing" is. There's an audience and a market out there for good, honest work, finding them is the hard part, but it's also part of the game. Whenever I run a marathon or long race people always ask me "How was it?". I always shrug my shoulders and say "eh", because to me the training leading up to it was the best part, the race itself was kind of anti-climactic. So stop kvetching, get your work out there and enjoy the "hunt".
Friday, December 23, 2016
Thursday, December 8, 2016
"How to Get Into A Gallery Without Any Connections Whatsoever!"
I have this feeling that many artists are out there waiting to be discovered. Like Marilyn Monroe sipping a coke in a drugstore, they are waiting for someone to swoop in and give them the artist's life that they have always dreamed of. Galleries and the people connected with them seem out of reach. Everything they read about the do's and don'ts of getting a gallery make it seem impossible without having some kind of inside track. Well I'm hear to tell you, brother's and sister's, it just ain't so. Sure having someone to recommend you would be nice, but what do you do if you're making great work out somewhere in the hinterlands where nobody knows the difference between you and a cold sweat?
I currently have work for sale in four galleries. Some of them I have a consignment deal with, and some of them have added me to their roster. In terms of sales one way doesn't necessarily work better than the other. The bottom line is you want your stuff to sell before your painting in a tiny little corner of your studio with all of your paintings lumbering over you like the ghost of Christmas past. So how did I get these galleries to show my work, without anyone, and I mean no one, not even a sixth degree of Kevin Bacon recommending me? I use the skeet shooting method. Sure it looks real impressive when you see these guys aiming for these clay pigeons and hitting them mid air, until you realize that they are shooting buckshot (scattered pellets) and not hitting them with a single shot. All of the books that I've read say you should choose just a couple of galleries that your interested in and find out everything that you can about them. Go to the gallery, talk with the owners, go to openings, throw dinner parties etc; PLEASE, is that the way AMAZON works? Not according to the barrage of emails I get every day.
I got into my first real gallery about ten years ago. My approach was so low-tech that it amazes me to think about it, even still. At this time artists were still using slides (remember that unholy nightmare), and I found this place that was reasonably priced for getting your work photographed, and the slides were good quality. I then had the slides printed as 5 by 7's and scanned them into my computer. I used the Windows photo printing program, no Photoshop for this buckaroo, and printed a sheet with six of my paintings equally spaced. This is all true I swear! I next printed out labels and a heading for the sheet of paintings and re-scanned the image. I took it to Kinkos (now FedEx) and had a hundred copies made on glossy card stock. I then went through every art magazine I could find (most of them piled up in the bathroom for fine reading) and put together a list of a hundred galleries that I thought I might have the slimmest possible chance of connecting with. I mailed out a packet with my homemade giant postcard, printed resume, and cover letter. I sent them out hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. Like that old commercial used to say "Set it and forget it!". I didn't do any of the things that the "art advisors" recommend. I didn't wait a week and place a follow up call, I didn't email that the packet was sent. I really didn't do anything but wait. Eventually I started to get responses. I heard from six galleries that were somewhat interested. That may not sound like a lot, but remember I was only really looking for one. What happened next? Be sure to learn more in How To Get A Gallery, Part Two. If you like this blog, please follow me and share with your friends. Thanks for reading!