I honestly still feel pretty new to the art world. After I graduated with my BFA in my early twenties I did not practise painting for a long period of time. I would dabble in projects here and there for myself and family, experimenting with various techniques. It's only recently that I have developed a consistent style that I am really happy with.
That being said, I certainly don't feel like I am ready to go conquer the art world. My confidence is building up and my personality has always been outgoing...I'm far from shy. Sometimes I think I need to know more about my local gallery scene.
This post idea came to me a few weeks ago as I received an email from a Gallery in Chelsea, New York. They asked if I would be interested in more information about representation from them. After I read the documents I told my husband I would need to win the lotto to afford this. They require a substantial amount of money upfront which seemed a little unsettling. I will also add that they took only 30% of sales which is not what I thought was the "norm". I sent this email to a friend of mine who has representation in London & the US, she verified that this sounded strange. "Thank goodness, I thought to myself!"
I've asked a few friends I've met online to share a bit about their experiences with the galleries that represent them. They are all very talented women that can paint anything; people, animals, abstracts, you name it! I hope other creatives will find this as useful as I have. First up is Elaine Burge an artist residing in Riddleville, Georgia. You can see more of her work on her website.
"I have always loved to create. For as long as I can remember, the urge to make things has been a leading factor in my life. I assisted a muralist in high school and then painted scenery behind miniature train layouts while in college studying Graphic Design at The University of Georgia. I worked as a web designer in Atlanta for a couple of years but that lack of the tangible final product was leaving me unfulfilled. I needed to throw paint at a canvas. I met my husband and he told me that he thought I could pursue art full time, so I did. One $100 portrait at a time... I finally gained enough courage to start painting wildlife and abstracts (spontaneous creations, if you will) and somehow came across Gregg Irby Gallery in the process. I believe my friend Whitney Durham, who is an interior designer in Atlanta told me about the gallery. I was delivering a painting in Atlanta one day and decided to stop in. I immediately knew that these paintings had to be friends with mine. They would be best friends!"
"So I sent in an artist submission on the site and it took months to hear back. Gregg was interested in a couple of pieces and asked if I had more to show. Because I was working mostly on commissions, I had little to show. I sent what I had and then the next time I was in Atlanta, which happened to be for a live event painting, I stopped in and shook Gregg's hand with high hopes and low expectations. By the end of the conversation, she asked me how long it would take to get 20 paintings to the gallery... I was beside myself and will never forget it. I went back to my little 15'x15' studio and began the next phase of my creative life. Gregg had me sign a contract that allows 50% commission on all pieces sold. She charges extra for shipping and the contract is 18 months. I am not allowed to make prints of pieces sold through the gallery and if a client finds me through the gallery and wants to do a commission, she gets 50% of the profit. I would reach out to galleries that you feel you fit in well with!"
Andreina Bates is an artist residing in Jupiter Florida. You can see more of her work on her website. I asked her to share a bit about herself and this is what she had to say.
"I am originally from Venezuela but haven been in the US since I was 17 (a long time ago, don’t do the math ;)). I have twin boys that are 7 and keep me busy…and a job, not art related. I have always been curious and creative and typically jump from hobby to hobby. I’ve been into digital illustration (even had a little etsy shop that was successful!), photography, writing, sewing and then, one day, I found painting. Actually, a good friend of mine gave me a watercolor painting of my house a couple of years ago and I was amazed that 1) she could paint and I had no idea and that 2) adults with jobs were allowed to paint ;)) So I got curious and got a watercolor set and that was it….haven’t stopped since!"
"I am actually an Industrial Engineer and growing up always considered being “analytical” to be my biggest strength. I was able to break down complicated problems and find the solution, so engineering seemed like the right path for me. It is funny how the two “sides of me” often merge because I feel like the analytical/engineer part of me often influences my paintings too. I didn’t take my first art class until a year ago, when I took a watercolor class at my local art center. I really enjoyed the class and loved meeting the people that were there too (mostly older/retired people, but with a big love for just painting for the sake of creating)."
"So as I mentioned, I have a job…which means I don’t paint full time. This is why I chose galleries as my path to sell my work. I know many artists are very successful selling their own work, but I found it to be easier to let someone else take care of that part for me. I approached most of the people I'm working with. I don't think that's a bad thing...they wouldn't have known I existed otherwise. I am very lucky to be working with some really amazing galleries and have learned a lot in the process." Andreina is represented by Stellers Gallery, Kristen Coates, Well & Wonder, Destination Haus and House Of Arts.
"They all take a commission and in their contract will specify how sales would run (if they do any). Most of them take 50% commission and like to have an end date to try things out. Most of the them also ask you to pay to ship works to them. I don’t wait for opportunity to come knocking at my door, usually I’m knocking. I think that would be my biggest piece of advice, go for your dream, knock on some doors. Chances are most doors will ignore or say no thanks, but the ones that do are the ones that matter. I also think it’s important to visualize the kind of artist you want to be….then decide if your actions are taking you closer or further from that image."
Laura Browning is an artist residing in The Bay area. You can see more of her work on her website. If you want to learn more about Laura please read this inspiring essay she wrote for COTFA. "My experience with galleries has been very positive and has brought a great amount of exposure to my work. A few years ago, I participated in some group shows here in San Francisco. Those shows typically exposed me to local collectors, many who found my work on the gallery website after the show was over, and contacted me looking to purchase. It’s only recently and after an extended break from painting that I can say I am represented by a gallery."
"Currently I am represented by Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento & Destination Haus in the Hamptons. I am in the very early stages of being represented by two other galleries - meaning I’m creating a body of work to send to them soon. I’m also showing at Legion here in San Francisco - “showing” being a bit different in that my work is being hung for a period of time, but the gallery does represent artists long term. Although the relationships have all been a bit different - every gallery I have worked with has been the same in terms of $$. They take a 50% commission - and we split the difference if the piece is sold at a discount (and that discount is usually up to 10% and specified in the contract). Shipping and or delivery to the gallery is typically to be paid for by the artist."
"How I connected with these galleries is a bit varied. The group shows- I submitted my work for consideration and they expressed interest. They planned a specified time period to hang my work when there was a show with a theme that my work fit with. Then they included a handful (4-6 pieces) in that show. With Elliott Fouts Gallery, I sent them some images of my work last Fall, when they were looking for new small pieces for a group show. They loved my work and chose to hang 6 small pieces. Although it wasn’t spoken, I knew it was a bit of a test to see the response to my work. Even though they loved the work, they likely needed to gauge the response from their clients. The response has been good, so now we’ve moved on to larger pieces. Legion, the gallery here in SF found my work through EF Gallery and contacted me."
"What I know, and have learned from talking to these gallery owners: They get TONS of submissions. Tons. They KNOW their clientele, and can pretty quickly predict if their clients are going to respond to the work that is being submitted. In order to take on a new artist, they will typically have to take wall space away from another artist, and that is a gamble on their end so that makes them even more picky particularly if the artists they represent currently are selling. Knowing this makes it my goal to be the artist that they don’t lose the gamble on. I start my outreach by looking for galleries that have art I truly believe is a fit with my art. Both in terms of style and size and price. Some galleries tend to only show very large works, and others small, higher/lower price point … you get the picture."
"Online galleries are an alternative worth considering. I am on Zatista, Saatchi and Artfinder. I’ve been with Zatista for 6 or 7 years and they have consistently sold my work. They all do a lot of work to promote the artists - and over the years my paintings have been placed in temporary collections on One Kings Lane, Design Public, etc. They take a smaller percentage (between 30-40%) because obviously they don’t have the overhead that a gallery has. There are no fees to list your work with these online galleries."
No matter where you are in your creative journey remember that if you show up, work hard , and set realistic goals for yourself anything is possible. I read lots of inspirational quotes on Pinterest trying to find the "perfect one" to share. Reality is, lots of the artists I've met through social media are working long hours with early mornings, kids, hustlin' to get everything they want to achieve done in a single day. Things aren't picture perfect, and lots of us have big dreams. You can and should pursue your goals, knock on some doors and introduce yourself!