You now you have a better idea of how to find the right gallery. So, I thought you might be interesting in my personal ‘gallery shopping’ story.
But first, a few relevant thoughts:
Whether you want to admit it or not, being an artist is kind of like being in show business. We are in fact – entertainers or even celebrities of sorts. You will find this to be true anytime you put yourself out there in the public eye: i.e. gallery exhibitions, museum exhibitions, lectures, publications, etc.
Do you ever watch American Idol? On that popular television show, thousands of talented and not-so-talented young people put themselves through public scrutiny and humiliation while trying to reach for fame and fortune. It is very entertaining to watch the good-the bad-and-the ugly perform and then judged. Just in case you are not familiar with American Idol…a panel of 4 judges comment after each singing performance. Their personalities range from “Simon,” with his harsh realistic opinions that slash to the core, to flowery “Paula,” (now sense retired) who tends to ‘sugar-coat’ her comments with positive reinforcement.
Not to discourage you but, this is an analogy for what the gallery world can feel like. That is why I made the many suggestions in the article, The Right Gallery – How to Find One. Gallery directors and owners come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. I am trying to help you minimize the discomfort and artistic temperament that most artists feel in case you come upon a “Simon” while gallery shopping…
Back to my story:
I won’t bore you with my whole life story, but in short – I was born with a pencil in my hand and for as long as I can remember, I have always drawn. However, I didn’t start painting until the late 1980’s when my kids were babies. In between loads of laundry and nap-time I would paint. To motivate myself, I took painting workshops and illustrated (often for free) for the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, and the Wolf Education Research Center. I also entered many art competitions including duck and trout stamps. This kept me painting, creating, and improving my craft.
Things started to happen:
- My drawings & paintings were being published and my local newspaper and Sun Valley Magazine did articles about my art.
- This got the attention of the art community.
- From there, I had an introduction to Zantman Gallery in Carmel, California.
- A mutual friend introduced my work to the director and the gallery started to represent me.
- Also at that time, Kneeland Gallery offered to show my work too.
- Before I knew it, I was in two galleries (each with 2 locations).
- Great – right? Wrong. The problem was this…I WAS NOT READY FOR A GALLERY!
- Why? I was such a busy full time mom; I could not physically produce enough fresh work to keep the galleries happy.
- So, I pulled my work out of the gallery world for another 12 years. Even though my artwork was technically good enough to be in a gallery – I was not ready.
But, during that 12 year gallery break, I continued to work on developing my skill and own personal style. The quality of my paintings grew a lot as I studied with many world renowned artists, read great art books and watched inspiring videos.
Fast forward 12 years….here’s what happened!
- After I read Kevin McPherson’s instructional book, “Fill Your Painting with Light & Color,” I was inspired to paint one small field painting every day.
- As an exercise I did this, and by the end of summer I had close to 100 ‘little gem’ paintings!
- Soon after, a girlfriend offered to show these little works in her interior decorating store –it was in a perfect location down ‘gallery row’.
- I had a sellout show!
- This caught the attention of two nationally recognized galleries in my hometown, Kneeland Gallery and Gail Severn Gallery.
- Both galleries offered to represent me.
- I chose Kneeland because I felt my work was more compatible with their current theme.
- Before I knew it, I was having successful shows and advertising in major magazines.
- An ad in Southwest Art Magazine caught the attention of Gardner Colby Gallery in Naples, Florida and soon I was represented on the east coast too!
Now I felt ready to branch out a little further…a fellow artist referred me to a gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming – they took a chance on me and presto, another gallery! Then came Scottsdale and New York….but, my overachieving caught up with me and I had to drop them and went back to the basics.
I have learned a lot along the way and hope my story can help you. Most importantly, any successful relationship takes work and nurturing. I have great rapport with all my galleries and communicate with them frequently. I let them know I appreciate all they are doing for me.
A few personal tips:
- I SELL MYSELF FIRST! I smile, I am friendly, and show my personality.
- I am prepared and informed
- I am professional
- I look my best (but not overdone!)
- I dress according to the demographics – if the gallery is in the city, I dress up a bit (basic black is always safe). In Jackson or Sun Valley I wear a nice pair of jeans and a blouse or sweater.
- MAKE SURE YOU ARE READY FOR A GALLERY. (This means you have the time to devote to your art – learn from my mistake.)
- REALIZE THAT GOOD GALLERIES NEED GOOD ARTISTS
- Interview the gallery
- Maybe you’d rather work with a Paula instead of a Simon
- If you’re not ready but want to get your feet wet, you can set up occasional shows by approaching a restaurant, interior design firm, real estate office, bank or coffee house. Treat them as though you would a gallery.
- Believe in yourself and remember it’s your choice.
- And lastly…In the wise words of the strange but talented pop star, Lady Gaga (she was a struggling artist for years) – “Do what you love and the Universe will support you!”