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This article is mainly for young artists. I apologize if it brings back some painful memories to any older artists who may have frittered away their most productive years making stupid mistakes.

Recently, I was invited to a university art exhibit. There was to be a reception to meet the senior art students and the art would remain on exhibit for a few more days. I was invited by one of the student’s mothers. The show was to be held in less than two weeks. I checked my busy schedule and found I had the evening free, so I saved the date. I was surprised to be told that the actual invitations had not yet been designed and printed. Invitations by email could be done in an afternoon; but, the students were dragging their feet. They had not yet come up with a title for the show.  They were thinking about something vegetable related because their art has nothing to do with vegetables and “Wouldn’t that be a hoot?”. It wasn’t their fault; they were given poor advice. So, instead of giving you some good advice, I will continue with the tradition of art school and give you some bad advice. It’s up to you to do the opposite if you wish to have a successful show.

Poor Advice #1: Two weeks before the show, start thinking about a theme and a title for the show. Make sure the title is funny, funky, and frivolous; remember, it’s your friends you are trying to impress. Your parents and anyone in their age group who can afford to buy art, should not understand your art. Remember, you don’t want to sell your art anyway. (Who needs their own apartment?)

Poor Advice #2: Don’t bother designing your invitations until ten days before the show. Then, figure out how you’re going to print the invitations. Don’t include an R.S.V.P; that way it will be a nice surprise if anyone shows up. Now, decide who you are going to invite. Print the invitations and address the invitations (printed labels – not hand-written) and take them to the post office. Maybe a few of them will arrive and be opened before the show, maybe.

Poor Advice #3: Do not invite gallery directors, art dealers, captains of industry, the mayor or anyone you don’t personally know. They won’t come anyway, so don’t even put your name in front of them. Make sure that no one important ever sees a card with an image of your art and your name in big letters. God forbid they might actually like your art and come to the show. That could lead to an art sale and would be very bad for your career.

Poor Advice #4: If anyone tells you that three months before the show, you should already have a theme for the show, and a good descriptive title for the show – don’t believe them!

Poor Advice #5: If anyone tells you to design the invitations four weeks before the show, include an R.S.V.P. and your phone number, print the cards, hand-address them, and take them to the post office three weeks before the show – don’t believe them!

Poor Advice #6: Do not create an e-invitation exactly like the printed invitation. One week after mailing the printed invitation, do not email the e-invitation to all the same people. People are busy; the printed invitation may have been misplaced and you don’t want to remind them about your show. Also, receiving two invitations might make them feel too important. You really want to build a reputation as an aloof, crabby artist; like the kind you see in the movies.

Poor Advice #7: Never bother people with a friendly phone call or email one week before the show to ask them if they have received the invitation and let them know you would love to see them at the show. They might be flattered and decide to come. This could lead to a sale and you don’t want that.

Poor Advice #8: Art is all about fun and creativity. It’s all about YOU! Expressing yourself, waking up every morning knowing that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do – that’s what being an artist is all about. The selling, the marketing, the planning, the organization, the discipline – that’s for idiots who want to make a living.

james_collender
James Collender, Line Rider, watercolor, 34″ x 27″ framed

Best regards,
Gloria Gales
http://www.TheBusinessOfArt.com

We’ve all been to art festivals and seen people working in booths who look bored, sad, or even angry. Sometimes they have their nose stuck in a book. Instead, they should think of every person near their booth as an invited guest. You wouldn’t ignore a guest in your house. You wouldn’t sit at the table reading a book during a dinner party. You need to be involved and attentive. Don’t think of yourself as “watching the booth.” For those few hours that you are working in an art festival booth, stay alert and friendly. Shake hands with people, smile, and introduce yourself. Welcome them to the booth, and tell them about the art. 

Keep the talking points focused on the art in your booth. Talking about someone’s children may seem friendly, but this is not the time nor the place for that. Talking about the festival and other artists should be limited to a sentence or two. People want to keep moving. With most people you will only have five minutes or so to find out if they are interested in purchasing a piece of your art. If the topic wanders to other areas, gently bring the conversation back to the art in your booth. When you keep the talking points focused on the art in your booth, other people nearby feel welcome to listen in. 

Showing your art at an art festival can be an enjoyable and profitable experience, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet people who love art.

Best regards,
Gloria Gales
http://www.TheBusinessOfArt.com 

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Am I Still An Artist?

Dear Artist,

Many artists have taken on other jobs – jobs that have nothing to do with art unless you consider making sandwiches artistic; the tone on tone swirl of white mayonnaise on white bread – well maybe.

Don’t let the Spirit of Depression latch onto your brain and rock it senseless. Be strong!

As sad or tired as you are, as unwilling as your body may be, get up earlier and let yourself know that you are still an artist.

1) When your alarm goes off – get up, brush your teeth, get dressed and go outside immediately. It doesn’t matter if you decide to go for a short walk, a long walk, or a run – it will have a great effect on the rest of your day.

2) Lay out your art materials for later, if you have time, do some art work.

3) After your other job, go back to the place where you create art and get to work. If you must learn to work with artificial light, then it is what it is.

Build a body of work that will be ready when the time comes, the economy will not always be slow. Be picky with your work, if it isn’t your best, throw it away or paint over it. Never say, “Well, someone might like it.” Keep only your best work. Photograph it and get it online.

Yes, you are still an artist if you are not making a living selling art, but you’re not an artist if you don’t create art simply because the situation to create isn’t perfect. Keep the faith and eventually your faith will keep you.

Best regards,
Gloria Gales

www.TheBusinessOfArt.com

Christopher McVinish, Seeking Directions, Oil on Canvas, 36"x48"

Everyone Has Misery?

Dear Artist,

Recently I was helping an artist with art titles. The painting was a dramatic portrait. The sincere, slightly tragic look in eyes of a dark haired beauty got us talking and searching for words, “Bittersweet” too trite, “Tender” she’s not a piece of meat, “Angelic” oh stop!

“I want to call it Everyone Has Misery.” (I’ll withhold the artist’s name here since he didn’t give me permission to gossip about him.)

I eyed him sideways.

“No, it’s great, Everyone Has Misery, and look you can see the misery in her eyes.” He said.

“I wouldn’t call it misery.” I said quietly and wondered if he was serious or just pulling my leg.

“Yes, it’s there, you see? I want to show life, truth, misery.”

His voice was getting agitated in the same way it does when I ask him to paint in certain sizes or colors. “O.K., fine, life, truth, misery, yes it’s all there, but it’s a beautiful painting. Her eyes look serious, contemplative, and this painting could be a good seller.”

The artist makes prints of all of his work, so the image needs to speak to more than just one art collector.

“Misery.” He said again.

“Darling, if we call it misery no one will buy it.”

“Someone might buy it.”

“Not likely.”

And then we had one of our “Is this a game for you or do you want to make money?” conversations.

“Of course, I want to make money. I mean I need to make money.”

So we continued on with our quest to find the perfect title for his painting. If you’re having trouble naming your work of art, find someone to help you. An art dealer is best because they see art in relation to the sale of the art. If you haven’t developed personal relationships with art dealers, maybe you should start, we are not as difficult as has been portrayed in movies and most of us truly love artists, we just get a little cranky sometimes when an artist acts too much like an artist (Just kidding – I think)

Best regards,
Gloria Gales

http://www.TheBusinessOfArt.com

Robbie D. Sayers, The Traveling Monarch Visits The Big Island, Oil on Canvas, 20"x16"

Color + Content = Ca$h

Dear Artist,

Might I have a word with you regarding a personal matter? I’d like to talk to you about money.

Painful as it might seem, color is the number one reason why most people buy art. Plain and simple, so I’m going to tell you which colors sell and which ones will keep you company in your art studio for a long, long time.

And the winner’s go to:

1. Red: Bold or blushing, crimson or Chinese, red is best selling color in the art world.

2. White: All sorts of whites, from creamy to pearl, the color white will help sell your art.

3. Green: Deep and dark, not grassy or sappy, that deep-in-the-forest, matches-almost-anything green sells well.

4. Neutrals: Tan, taupe, and ivory, all good selling colors when used as accents, but generally not good when used as the primary color in your painting.

5. The Golds and Reds of Autumn: Warm and rich, everything from dark mustard to deep maroon, Autumn often sells.

6. Blues: Finally in the number six spot, the color blue, not robin’s egg or sky, it must be cobalt and royal.

7. Lavender and Pink: Warm or icy, these colors should have a place in a painting portfolio.

Out of the money:

1. Black: Such a masculine look in a painting, black, but it hasn’t been selling well in about twenty years. In fact paintings with a lot of black in them seem dated and are not easy to sell.

2. Yellow: Poor yellow, Van Gogh’s favorite color; personally I adore yellow, but as an art dealer, I must admit that selling a painting with a true yellow color in it is not the easiest thing in the world, it’s almost as unlikely as selling a painting with a lot of pink in it.

3. Pink: Like I said, pink is a difficult sell. If you really want to paint with pink, look around your house and see if you have a good spot for it because it might have to be hung there for a long time. Unless you want it, or you get a commission from a client who wants it, don’t fritter away your precious time – use colors that sell.

So, what will you be painting with your well thought out palette?

Landscapes are still the number one seller in the world, followed by portraits, and then still-life paintings. A good wildlife artist will always be able to make a living if he or she has an agreeable personality, or an art dealer to help make the sale. With regard to very modern or abstract art, there are those shining stars of the art world who seem to get all the breaks and all the sales while the rest of the abstract expressionists, the unknowns, languish in their lonely studios creating gem after gem and wondering where all the art collectors are hiding.

If you do paint in the abstract realm of art, at least give yourself a fighting chance, run to the art supply store right now and load up on red and white paint.

Best regards,
Gloria Gales

www.TheBusinessOfArt.com

Robbie D. Sayers, The Frog VIP Club, Ol on Canvas, 20"x16"

Dear Artists,

Greetings from The Business of Art! Today’s topic: Old V.S. New

You’ve found a gallery that seems to be a good fit for you, the director has agreed to review you work, and then it happens – you realize that it is you who are on top of your game, and the gallery director is just an old relic from the past, standing there in pretty shoes, telling you in a cold flat voice to send slides, and by the way don’t forget the self-addressed stamped envelope.

Should you pursue this exhibition space? Absolutely not. Don’t waste your time. An art gallery director who asks for slides is living in the past. If they haven’t moved on then you Dear Artist must move on.

Anyone still asking for slides is obviously not in tune with today’s world. Do they even know how to hunt for art collectors and close a sale for you? They might be able to put a show together, and of course you’ll have to pitch in with the cost of the show, and then what? Are you independently wealthy? Don’t you actually want to sell your work?

I’ve even found art advisor websites referring to slides. Slides! Then I check out the so called professional art advisor’s personal information and of course they’ve been in business for a respectable 20 or 30 years. Very nice, congratulations, I too have been in the art business for 25 years, but I’m not doing business the same way I did 25 years ago.

That Was Then, This Is Now

Art dealers worth their salt actively pursue art sales.

Then: We took photographs of art, had them developed, wrote letters, put the photograph and the letter in an envelope, put postage on it and mailed it. We called the client a few days later to ask if they got the letter and the photo. If the client said “Yes” we went further, “Do you like the piece …” and so on. We would try to get a home show or perhaps a deposit right then and there. Often the clients would say, “I don’t know if I got the letter.” Or “Just send it again.” And of course we would do the whole thing all over again.

Now: We take digital shots, we email them, we call the clients right away, “Did you get the email?” perhaps they are willing to check, and we say, “I’ll hold on, let’s look at it together.” Then we try to get a showing or a deposit. Ahh, simple and efficient.

Artists worth their salt actively pursue gallery representation.

Then: You had slides made, you labeled the slides, you put them between two pieces of cardboard, put them in an envelope, wrote a cover letter, put that in the envelope, wrote out a self-address envelope, put sufficient return postage on the return envelope, put the whole thing a bigger envelope, put postage on it, and mailed the whole package to a gallery. Several weeks later (if your lucky) you got an answer. Thank God those days are over.

Now: You call the director, you ask if you can send a few jpegs, you send low resolution images, a maximum of five for the first approach, you also attach your resume, and then you call back the next day. If the director is interested you can send a link to your website or send more jpegs. Ahh, simple and efficient. Beautiful! Welcome to the twenty-first century! Good bye slides. Good bye snail mail.

Wishing you a busy and productive art life,
Gloria Gales

www.TheBusinessOfArt.com

Amiry, Nightcap, Oilgraph on Canvas, 23"x29"

Dear Artist,

I’ve met more than a few artists who have told me, “I can paint anything!” Indeed they are right, they can paint anything, but they only paint one or two styles well, and the rest of the work is mediocre or poor.

Having a body of work that is all over the place will not develop your reputation as a fine artist. You would be better off choosing your best style and then concentrating on that.

Think about this, an art collector walks into a gallery and is so proud when they recognize your work. “Is that a John Smith?” “Yes, this is Afternoon Light, you must really know your art.” Believe me, it helps to have people recognize your art and that will never happen if you paint a traditional landscape one day and an abstract image the next.

If you’re not sure which style is your best ask an art dealer or two, most art dealers will tell you straight away; you may wish they were less direct, but you’ll seldom find an art dealer who won’t let you know the truth about your art.

Another benefit to narrowing your focus on your art is that you will push your best work forward and continue to let it grow. Every work of art is unique even if it’s within the same style, and every work of art leads to the next – it serves as a launching pad for the next piece.

So, back to that easel and best wishes for a creative and cohesive body of work!

Best regards,
Gloria Gales

www.TheBusinessOfArt.com

Jay Bigos, Dorsodoro, Mixed Media on Canvas, 18"x80"