Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The art business waltz, lesson 7

I actually painted this one a year or so ago, but I retrieved it from one gallery today and I am moving it to another. It was painted on Vinalhaven.That's an island in the Penobscot bay about 45 minutes off of Rockland, Maine. The painting is 24 x 30, I paint a lot of those.

Lets see now, I believe we have done the preparation and it is time to actually hunt the galleries.
You are hoping of course to get one of the galleries you have scouted to hang your work. Now I am not talking about art associations, restaurants etc. I mean a commercial gallery. There are, thankfully, lots of them these days.

You don't want to go into this with the idea that you are going to get this GALLERY and then your art career is launched. Showing in galleries is a process. Plan on being in a bunch of them. Hopefully, in escalating quality. The first one is a big deal and you will be nervous and fumble.
I think I will compare it to meeting girls when I was young. ( girls LOVED me when I was young, they imagined I was sensitive) That was before my hair got sick.

There is no set "line" that you can just trot out in every situation. Some galleries want nothing to do with new artists at all. Others ( like some of those girls I remember ) would say thay are'nt looking at any new artists, but just might, you know. It is chaotic. You can't be real invested in the first gallery you approach. This is your first experience with this and it is going to be a little clumsy. After you have had a gallery accept your work it will change your whole attitude. So start locally and low on the ladder of prestige. Go for a small gallery that isn't full of professionals with regional and national reputations.

If you have a friend showing in the gallery, walk in with them if you can, and get an introduction. If you can't do that, go in to the gallery at a time when they are empty, do not distract them from dealing with a customer. You always come second to their customers, even when you are established in the gallery. Nothing in the whole world angers a dealer more than some artist who wants to be in their gallery interfering with them when they are talking to a likely prospect for a sale. Walk around and look at the art,that's important. If you aren't interested in their art, how can you expect them to be interested in yours?

They will almost always greet you and you can say," I'm not a collector, I'm a PAINTER" don't say artist, let them be the judge of that. Besides calling yourself a painter is cooler. Never ever tell anybody you are an artist. If they ask,"are you an artist?" answer."Boy, I sure hope so!" Often they will ask about your art or a conversation will ensue. Find out if you are talking to the owner, "Is this your gallery" If they say yes, say something like "I am looking for a gallery to show my art, is there a good time where I can show it to you?"

If they say "we aren't looking at any new artists", thank them, give them a card and ask them to look at your web site. They might, then don't just turn on your heel and walk out the door, that's rude, spend a little more time looking at the art in the gallery and then leave, thanking them politely. Don't burn em down, you may well deal with them in the future. besides the art world is a small place and you never know who is connected to who. DO NOT REACT IN ANGER IF THEY DON'T WANT TO SEE YOUR ART. many galleries won't look at an artist without an introduction. Remember they get asked to see artists work all the time and they have probably had to deal with a few wackos.

If they say OK, ask "have you got a computer? I can show you my web site. That can be a bit brash, but I have certainly done that. I do it routinely in fact, but I am an established artist and I don't really have much on the line, galleries call me. That's is incidentally how my world works. I seldom call on a gallery and try to get them to show my paintings. Because I have advertised and am known in the New England area, I get calls from galleries, and I generally can't take on another anyway, as there are already dealers yelling at me for art.

The other thing I have done many times is walk into galleries with my book, that is a fine leather three ring binder of pictures of my art ( this is kind of old technology ) and see if they ask to see it, as I am obviously an artist. I am hoping a conversation will begin and I can connect with the dealer.There are dealers who I can relate to, and those who are just too different from me and we have no rapport. So they see the book and ask if I am an artist and I show them the book, if they like what they see, I say " I am looking for a gallery in this area, I've got some paintings in my car, would you like to see them? If they liked what was in the book and you have a good rapport they may. Then you bring in the paintings and set them against the floor on one side of their gallery.

If they like them you you say " why don't you choose the ones you like best? If they do, you go over the details of what their commission percentage is, whether they have any weird contract stipulations that are unacceptable, and you then get a consignment sheet spelling out what you have left with them, what the price of each of those painting is, and what percentage they take.Then you give them the short form and the long form bio. Assuming you are not too far from home, you say " I have a better three page bio I will bring in for you in a couple of days. OK? Now they are forewarned you are coming back soon. That will encourage them to get the art hung up and when you return you can answer any questions about the art that will have occurred to them since you were there last.

There are a lot of different ways all of this can go and every time will be different. The first few times it will be nerve racking, but that passes, as I said. I have no problem asking anyone to look at my art.There is never going to be one line or one approach that will always be right. It is a sales job and you need to listen to them and figure out what the cues are that you should act on. But always be behind them, don't push, always ask if you can go on to the next stage, if you don't feel like you are connecting or they are becoming unwilling to look at your art, don't try to talk them into it, or defend what you do. Get a yes or a no from them. If the answer is no, find that out and move on. There are lots of galleries, this might not be the one, so try another.

I will continue with this tomorrow.


Jonathan Aller said...

Great post Stap! I love these posts you have been putting up on the business aspect of painting and galleries. So much information!!!! Thanks again!

JAMES A. COOK said...


You talk about that there are many galleries out there. How to I find a list of them all . I would like to check out there website before I go and introduce myself.


willek said...

again, Stape, your mindset and attitude toward this subject are most helpful. These are all very helpful postings. I had another business where I sold my carvings direct mail and also wholesale to shops and stores all over New England and the Eastern Seaboard. That was easy. You just drove into town with a wagon full of product, scoped out the best three or four places, made your stops, made your sales and got out. This is a lot different. All the galleries I have approached so far have declined my stuff. So, perhaps, as you have said, I have to seek some lesser galleries. I like the idea of not having to do slides. They were so time consuming and expensive. But for now, I am at the local show and art association level and am enjoying some success at that.

Frank P. Ordaz said...


Just checking in...I've been on the go the past 2 weeks. I plan to stay in bed late saturday morning with my laptop and read some S. Kearns and get up to speed. I gotta read your framing post...always in need of some good frame deals.

I like the painting...the aerial prspective is very effective.

Jesse said...

James, I know my names not Stape, but let me share a little trick.

Go to maps.google.com
Type in something like
"art galleries: salem, ma"
Click on all the dots and balloons that on the map. It will have info, and a lot will have a handy website URL you can click on.

JAMES A. COOK said...

JESSE, Great tip. I tried it out and all the galleries were there, just type in the city or town and up they pop. Stape, this is what I have been looking for, a place to find were all the galleries are.
Fantastic JESSE, Thank you very much.


Jesse said...

No problem. I came up with that a few months ago, and have been building a folder of bookmarked galleries to approach. I'm pretty nervous about actually going in to talk to them, but with Stapes great advice, I think it could go ok.

Deb Pero Daily Paintings said...

That's a fabulous painting, Mr. Kearns. It would look really good in my living room. Maybe I can take out a home equity loan and buy it one of these days.
When I grow up, I want to be a painter too.
These posts are really great - I look forward to them every day. Oh, and yippee! Edgar Payne's book came in the post today - I can't wait to dig in. The only thing I've been painting lately is walls and fences and ceilings and I'm getting itchy to get back in the studio.

Deb Pero Daily Paintings said...

Oh, and I know what I wanted to ask. There is a gallery that seemed interested in seeing some of my paintings after seeing my website. But what I hear from other artists showing there is that they have so many artists,and so much "stock", that many times your work sits in back, not rotated out immediately. Now, certainly, if they love your work and it sells, its going to be out there. But what is a good response if I DONT see it hanging?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, more tonight and then I think that's it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Talk to jesse.

Stapleton Kearns said...

How about checking out some outdoor shows are there any in your area. They can be a lot of fun.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I think that images is a little blurrier than its supposed to be. Thanks though. Do they still have Saturday morning cartoons?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks for the info. I didn't know about that.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. I was painting today in Kennebunkport . Very pretty there lots of fancy houses.
Good ocean views. I have been photographing the painting in each stage and if it works put I will do a stepo by step tutorial of it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Do you have closets at home?