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".
Berry & Brushes
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