Sunday, October 14, 2007
The search for galleries
I took Matthias to the airport this morning (at 5:40 am!). He is on his way to Louisville, to begin his training with UPS. It is exciting! Waking up so early has thrown off my usual patterns, and consequently, I haven't gotten much done today. I will feel good about posting in my blog.
I have been meaning to get into the studio all day, and still haven't done it. It is the coldest room in the house, it seems. It is pretty warm outside, and in the rest of the house, but when I walk into the studio, I can feel a definite drop in temperature. I have a severe aversion to cold, and I know this is a problem I need to solve very soon. I know it will be much warmer here in Joshua Tree this winter than in Salida, where we came from, but I did not move here to be cold! So I will have to find a way to warm up my studio for the winter, so that I won't have another excuse to not be in the studio.
You would think, as a full time artist, that I would paint all the time. It is amazing how difficult it can actually be, to paint all the time. I know I will never be one of those "painting a day" painters. I don't find it interesting, nor do I think it is good for my creative self. I need a lot less structure in my life, in order to tap into the creative strengths within. I do hope to develop a better routine for more consistent painting. I am not too worried about it right now. Everything in our lives has just gone through radical change, and I have moved enough times to know that it takes a while to settle in. I am going to give myself a couple more weeks, but then I plan on developing a consistent schedule for painting.
One thing I have noticed is that it is easier for me to paint when Matthias is out of town. When he is home, he completely disrupts my patterns. He doesn't intentionally do it, but it happens every time he comes home. I do think that if I set a schedule for myself even when he is home, I will be able to stay within my schedule, and still give him the time and attention he deserves. So this is something I am going to work on.
Part of not painting much lately is also due to the fact that I have been spending a lot more time on the business end of being an artist. Art does NOT sell itself, I don't care what anyone says. You have to spend time to get it out there, where it can be seen. You have to learn to talk about it. I am hoping to make the transition from gallery owner/artist to just artist, and so I have been putting together materials to take to galleries, so they can see what I do. I have been visiting nearby galleries, to find one where I think my art would fit. I am also meeting people in galleries, in order to discover gallery owners I can talk to.
I have learned that it is good, as an artist, to be picky about which gallery to put my art in. You want to find a gallery where you can talk to the gallery owner or manager. If you don't have a certain rapport with the people at the gallery, how can you work with them? It is important to establish a certain amount of trust. After all, most galleries don't buy the work outright from the artist. It is almost always consignment these days. So that means, as an artist, I am leaving my artwork with them. I have to feel good about this gallery, this person, in order to do that. Sure, you do sign a contract with a gallery, and have them sign a consignment agreement, but a piece of paper will only do so much for you. I have to trust that they like my work enough to be able to sell it. It doesn't do me any good to have my art in a gallery if it isn't selling. I have to also know that they are going to put the work OUT - preferably ON THE WALL - where it can be seen. You might think these things are all a given, when you enter into an agreement with a gallery, but I have learned not to assume anything. It is better to talk it all out, find out what to expect from the gallery, and what they expect of you, as an artist. A good friend of mine in Hawaii who is an established artist told me once that the artist/gallery relationship is very similar to a marriage. I now believe that is absolutely true. You must communicate! It should be a win-win situation. If they are excited about your work, they will be able to sell it, and then everyone wins. You must be pretty picky, too. After all, this is your work, that you have put your heart and soul into. Why would you leave it with just anyone?
I recently met a gallery owner/artist who was looking for other artists to show in her gallery. She wanted the artist to pay a certain amount of money every month, for a certain amount of wall space. She would also take a commission on any art that sold. These kinds of galleries are becoming more and more popular. I was considering it, until I handed her a photo of one of my paintings and she said, "it doesn't matter what your work is like." When she said that, I knew that I was not going to show with her. If she doesn't care what my work is like, how will she be able to sell it? How will she talk about it, if someone is interested? It felt to me like the only thing that she was interested in was the rent money I was going to be paying her to display my art. She would have more to gain out of this kind of relationship than I would. I would have no guarantee that she would be motivated to sell anything for me. After all, she would be getting a check from me every month, regardless. Plus, her gallery was not close to where we live, so if I would have wanted to go in there and sell and promote my art myself, it would involve a long drive. It was the right decision, not to be in there. I think if I were living in the same city as a gallery like that, I might consider it.
I think oftentimes, because there are so many people creating art, artists feel privileged or flattered if ANYONE will take their art. The competition for wall space is pretty stiff. I have fallen into this trap myself, but I have learned that if you respect your own work, and the time and money it took you to create it, you should demand the same respect from someone who agrees to show it for you.
There is much more to being a successful artist than just being able to paint, but certainly, being able to paint, and creating the time to do it is the biggest part. I hope to have more new paintings to post for you by the end of the week!