Being Artly – A guide to become the Artist you want

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan from Free Digital Images

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan from Free Digital Images

You want to study art, you like the concept, the creativeness, the idea of exploring with others, the notion of taking a journey through your mind and creating anew… you know your parents and some friends may be against it preferring you take a more common path, but nay, you are beckoned by the romance of paint, the structure of materials, the bohemian lifestyle etc and nothing will stop you.

In your pursuit of becoming “Artly’ or the artist you want to be, perhaps you want to make sure that what and who you are is loaded with integrity, humility, ability and energy, not just “passion” and an interest in being part of the art scene, thinking that the parties and “cavorting” with like minded people will somehow make you some fabulous artist, or the Muse of some fabulous Artist.

I can’t prove to you that doing any of these things will ensure you become a successful Artist, an A grade student or any other measure or Artistic success, but years of observing Exhibitions, Art Students, chatting to Gallery Directors and interviewing Artists in has given me some insights.

Take a look online and do your own research and find articles on Artists talking about what it takes to be a success and you will find a mixed bag of incredible advice and ideas on striding forward. Not all of the information and advice will you be able act on but learn well the ways of success to ensure you give yourself the best chance of moving towards your goal.

Let’s get started with a list of pointers.

Get busy – It’s one thing to have a creative idea, and another thing entirely to bring it to life, think then make, build your skills and abilities by doing things and making mistakes, learn how to handle the materials you want to work with, eventually the mistakes will become less, your ability to create things should improve.

Explore creativity – My experience has been that not a lot of Art teachers teach how to be creative, it can however be learnt. Make it a thing worth your learning so you don’t have to put up with creative blocks and can keep producing and exploring with little fuss.

Likers and haters – Social media will have probably taught you there are both, the same with art, some viewers will be haters due to jealousy, some will be lovers because they believe it is the thing to do, “Oh I love your work” is an ego boosting validation of what you do but that can be fairly hollow, friends and family who cannot articulate the details of why they love your work may have good intentions but may lack a deeper ability to tell you why, explore the ‘why’ question often.

Beware of the stereotype – At art school one of the Lecturers referred to Van Gough as the Artists Artist, selling little, seemingly driven by his art, lived a passionate life etc. take a look at the art people you come across is it really  necessary to have purple hair, radical makeup, wild ideas and party like a demon to make you an artist? of course not… nor do you need to struggle and give up on living normally (making money etc) to find the roots to your creative endeavours. I figure there is a time for being eccentric and a time for not being eccentric (which may or may not include purple hair…)

Keep going – People can give up when things get tough, people lose sight of their goals, people do all manner of things when the ‘chips are down’. Persistence helps, goal setting may help, working through rather than giving up may lead to fresh insights and may lead to more positive productive outcomes. One of my Art Teachers used to say “It’s the plodders that get by” so plod, and put one foot in front of the other.

Try stuff – Just because you choose to paint does not mean you can’t make sculptures or any other form of art. the same with styles, give things a go, I figure it’s all about exploring, reinventing, testing and pushing boundaries. Try new things, if you are a realist, try abstract, try collage, try drawing, who says we have to have a ‘body of work’ that is consistent and shows progression. This may again be part of the stereotype that could be holding a lot of people back.

Ask – There are heaps of people who are more than willing to assist you, ask for information. Artists, Gallery Directors, other Students, Teachers, Art Store staff, Framing businesses, and the list goes on. I have had people contact Artists I have interviewed on this site directly and have a chat about details of their work and I don’t know of any of the artists who have knocked back the chance to have a chat. You can learn a lot from engaging with all these people and more. The amount of brilliant knowledge out there is immense, the more you ask the more you can learn. Keep asking, keep searching. Finding out what will make you the sort of Artist you want to be comes from exploring and chatting to learn more, do more and be more.

Become an overnight sensation – If you know anyone who has become an ‘overnight sensation’, look hard,  you will soon find they were probably a hard worker, chugging away in the background for many years before they were discovered or made a breakthrough that put them on the world’s stage as an overnight sensation. If they look sensational and young they probably started out earlier than you.

There is crap you have to deal with – Creating Artist statements that people may not read, rejection from Galleries, rejection from grant applications, rejection from those who may love you dearly, things you try that don’t work, sitting in a gallery and watching how many people don’t turn up. This list could get endless, but know that crap happens and you have to deal with it. Breathe in breathe out and repeat, get tough and move on, if the crap starts to define you it may lead to difficulties later on.

That’s my list, like it… let me know by adding a comment, don’t like it… do the same! 🙂

Regards, Steve Gray

Don’t Get Caught the Scams and Tricks to be Aware of

Visual Arts can be a tricky road to traverse and as if the twists and turns are not enough to deal with you find there are potholes as well! Here is a starting point to finding out about just some of the many scams trying to catch the naieve Visual Artist out.

You will soon learn that having an online presence will attract all manner of scammers and proposers to lurk in your email  system. You will get congratulations, you have been chosen… or here’s your chance to make it big… and any number of weird and wonderful ‘opportunities’ you may find tempting but can lead you down a slippery slope of “Oh no that cost me $$ I don’t have and I saw nothing for it”.

I hope you are able to keep the scammers at bay and realise fast that ‘if an opportunity sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.’

Regards  Steve Gray

Successful Artists…

A recent survey of practicing Visual Artists gave some interesting results, the sort of information you need to know to be ahead of the game in Art

The question was posed as “What are the top things you need to succeed in Art?”  Some of you would probably think of a top level Education from the right institution, nope that didn’t rate, how about the ability to sell? Nope not that one either, how about a big stash of cash… nope. business skills nah not that either. Here’s the list.

Further down the list came these.

A great list of things to know. So how will you go about building your skills in each of these areas to ensure you are doing all you can to be a successful Visual Artist?

Dear Artist learn your lessons well.

I love hearing great examples of things I have discussed in my art ramblings on this site, one in particular happened recently in a chat to a good friend. He probably did not realise what he had said that made me go ‘oh yeah, there it is’ but it did.

The ‘thing’ that stood out to me, is to do with what you sell you work for, how you sell it and how people try to buy. Simply put a lot of people fall into a ‘selling mode’ more akin with everyday objects and not with high end, specialty products. Let’s get this straight before I tell you more of his story, Art works are a high end item, they have been hand crafted, (generally one off’s). This fact alone makes them special, those who know your artistic style will also know what makes your Artwork special.

If I go to buy any other one off specialty item, I immediately know there will be, no returns, I will pay the price set for it and there will be NO discounting (or even asking for a discount). Even if it’s a product I order in at a shop, which is not normally in their stock lines the same (almost unwritten) rules apply.

The above illustrates the ‘guidelines’ people use to buy speciality items, there are rules…

My friend went on to say “I’m tired of tire kickers the ones that say, yeah I really like your work, when my tax return comes in I’lll get that… yeah… I will, Hey call me after the show and I will buy direct and save yeah… oh and how about a discount? But it’s a while off yet before I get my tax back…” Needless to say they don’t buy.

My Arty buddy has heard this type of excuse and many more like it too many times that he becomes frustrated and may not sell as much as he wants to. The funny thing is he doesn’t need to be in this position, his role is as an Artist, he should therefore be utilising his Agent or the Gallery to do any sales and chit chat about the buyers ‘situation’. His role is to create the works and talk to people about the art in terms relating to the works.

The problem is people view their world through various filters (created by values, beliefs and experiences), these can either limit what they see or expand what they see, This then impacts how they perceive and what they think about their circumstances and situations they find themselves in. My arty buddy has had enough experiences of ‘tire kickers’ he sees more of them than he should! Therefore people ask for discounts, ask to buy outside of the gallery situation (in the hope of getting it at ‘wholesale rates’ his frustration builds and the cycle continues. His challenge becomes how to break the cycle created by his ‘filters’ and move to the next level.

What can we learn from this.

My Arty Buddy will read this and say “Oh…” followed by “Yeah but…” and my response… “Take it or leave it, my years of sales training, business and life experience, making artworks, watching people in Galleries, chatting to Gallery Directors etc is of value to me and hopefully it can be of value to you too.”

Your Guide to Understanding and Working in Visual Arts

Here have a fabulous resource in Kindle format book, download it to your computer and read it on your favourite Kindle reading device. All yours for Just $4.95!

Your Guide to Understanding and Working in Visual Arts

If you get some value from it, drop me a line in the comments section.

Note this is Version two of the book after exhaustive work by a number of Students at RMIT in Melbourne, Peter Biram their Teacher and yours truly, taking on board their comments and thoughts. Many thanks guys.


If you enjoy reading some of the artilcies in my blog on professional practice then this succinct guide will allow you to discover more ways to make your Art work for you. When  you want to develop and or discover art career strategies and more, here is a great place to start.

Art… Fair?

Whilst wandering around the Art Melbourne ‘Art Fair’ I was taken with the quality of works on display this year, and in the individual Artist section, one thing stood out to me from a marketing perspective. What were they aiming to do?

Some will say ‘all of the above’ while that’s a nice idea, I wonder how many did all of these… oh sure the last one is a no brainer, they all get to add the event to their bio… But about the other points how do you think they would have gone?

Every gallery I know is turning away Artists, even very good ones. Did any of the Artists invite gallery directors to come and view what they had on offer and chat about what they had, or did they just hope to be the next big undiscovered Artist the gallery would find and ‘take under their wing.’

Selling is almost the natural enemy of the Visual Artist (that’s why they want a gallery to represent them) Some did, and that’s great but was it because they ‘sold’ the work or people just liked it and bought it. (Ooh those colours will go nicely in our living room…)

No idea  how many ‘Investors’ were there… Art Lovers yep.

So for the investment of time and effort, was there any value? For those who travelled from interstate, it takes a lot of organising, transport costs, air fares and the like to get there and be there for the whole time, 3 or so days standing, waiting, chatting, shuffling, keeping amused in the quiet times, knowing what to say in the busy times.

I guess it’s one of those things of ‘damned if you do and or damned if you don’t’ so it’s a try and see type thing. Will the Artists come back next time and do the same? Did they do enough this time to stand out from the crowd and get noticed for ‘all the right reasons?’ Or was it a sore feet exercise that drained their bank accounts, energy and spirits enough to say ‘Never AGAIN!’

So Dear readers I leave you with some marketing questions, did any of the Artists involved, know specifically why they wanted to be there? Did any of them achieve this? Did any of them do research to find out from previous Artists what they thought…

Do I have answers for any of the queries I have raised? probably a few notions and concepts but in the end it’s more about what the Artist wants and then figuring out how to get there. Go ahead and post some comments on this article and see if any of the issues raised spur me on to writing about options and possibilities.

Why Do You Do It? (Make Art That Is)

Why do you do it (make art that is)

There are many reasons for making art, so what one or two fit for you?

Whatever your reason/s do  you do it for the right reasons or other?

Dear Art Student

You are probably about to start your studies for this year and are wondering what will be in store for you.

Perhaps you are just starting out in secondary school at maybe Yr11, your folks said yes to you doing Visual Art because you have taken on a bunch of highly academic subjects and this will be a welcome break from all that.

Perhaps you have done Yr 11 and you liked Visual Art for some reason and want to do more, something seems to be compelling you to carry on. Your folks are still happy(ish) for  you to have this as a break from other studies… Your Father wants you to go into accounting or some such, your Mother just wants you to be happy no matter what (sweet aren’t they).

The Art Teacher says at the parent teacher interview you should do Art because you are good at it… maybe it’s the first time you have heard that and it feels nice.

Perhaps you have completed Yr 12 and are looking at what courses to do. Your Mum’s words of ‘being happy’ seems to suit you more than some career choice your Father has in mind. Besides, the Art Teacher said you were good at it and the word career seems so, well, final, and long term.

“I want to do art Mum” (words which will may haunt you forever) – Your mum goes into bat for you, your Father tells you he loves you and with gritted teeth he says “whatever makes you happy” followed with “I just hope it’s the right decision” (the guilt starts early but now you start to notice it’s cruel bite).

Now with excitement and a dose of trepidation you stumble forward, the course is signed up, you spend the summer break telling your friends, you get a little arty in the way you dress and wear you hair, it’s all part of it right? Mind you any thought of drawing, taking photos or any visit to an Art Gallery seems like some form of imposition.

Then things get underway, you don’t realise it yet but the teachers talking at you may have had exhibitions (possibly quite a number of them), they have probably struggled to make any decent cash from the sale of their work, and they may suggest that “It’s art for art sake” and their argument then seems to get clouded in various forms of justification for the arts some of which may proclaim it as a lifestyle.

It’s all heroic, you, them, their stance on Art, learning about cultural things your circle of family and friends may never seem to grasp (philistines!)

Paint on canvas, clay in kilns, metal beaten into submission, computer graphics that defy logic and a bunch of theory work you just want to sleep through (the arty parties can do that to you)

Before you know it the study is finished, the folio is bulging (or not) and there you are standing all alone, as if on the edge of a massive cliff. The wind howling about you ready to push you off at the slightest misstep. Then words from the seemingly not too distant past echo in your mind ‘I just hope it’s the right decision’ and ‘Just be happy’.

There you stand pondering what next. Will I make it as an Artist, will I get that magical ‘creative position’, or will I be resigned to a life of working in an Arty Shop, or some other form of job you so willingly describe as slavery, which you could have done all those years before with or without a ‘qualification’.

Life unfolds before you, time fleetingly drags you into the unknown with a clear disdain for any dream you may have. In a stupor of positive energy you grab a list of Galleries to go visit. You tuck your wares under your arm and fall headlong into the misery of trying to get galleries to take you on board.

It’s then that you realise you know so much, yet so little about the whole “Visual Art thing” and that your qualification only stands as a reminder of a small part of your ongoing education and connectedness to art. It’s then you realise the hard bitter battle you have started and may not win (ever). It’s then that you realise your heart is an object to be trampled on and kicked aside by others who take a deep breath and say “Oh, here we go again, another ex art student… sigh.”

You also realise this journey is more than a qualification, more than a piece of paper with your name and a stamp of approval. No, you are just beginning to realise the world owes you no favours but gives you endless opportunities to explore, make statements, hold a flame of truth aloft and forge forward with hope and a rickety confidence stemming from who knows where.

Your journey has begun, travel well young person. Learn much and learn often, give everything your best and hold your head high. This thing we call Art is a beast to be reckoned with, which can test every fibre of your being and in exchange it MAY give you great gifts, but don’t hold your breath, if fact you might do well to give up now, walk away from the alluring beast, stand aside and let it pass by. Pay it no disrespect as it does pass, and you will live a life less tortured free from the shackles of it’s malevolence.

However if you do let it pass by will you ever know the ecstasy which can come from the angst ridden beast? Will  you ever know if you are the next Picasso or Rembrandt? Will you ever know if this thing which started out with your Art Teacher telling your parents ‘you are good at Art’ can give you an enhanced spirit, a sense of belonging, an edge in making sense of this crazy crazy world.

Go forth in this bizarre world and make your mark, but do so guided by more than just a throw away subjective line about your skills, or your retaliation against your Fathers advice and guilt throwing. Go forth in the world with wonderment and joy, explore deeply and rigorously and let all that it presents fill you with ecstasy. Then and only then, will you be able to hold true to your ideals of Visual Art, creative life and all it has to offer.

The Bountiful Harvest of Art

The long winding and very steep driveway meant the two hour journey in hot summer sun was over, the home at the top of the hill was framed by an oasis garden. It was the home of family friends at Metung in Gippsland Victoria.

Our family had a deep connection there, these warm and welcoming friends took us fishing and swimming and always managed to fit us in (all six of us at our peak!)

The home was an old miners cottage with a front veranda with a balustrade and a view across the small valley out front.

The gardens held a range of fruit trees and vegetables. At the height of summer the nets kept many birds out of the fruit trees but gave the birds a reason to be raucous pests upsetting the tranquility of this warm oasis.


Once ripe, the bountiful fruit would be harvested and eaten, bottled and transformed in to all manner of delights providing delicious reminders  until the next season, often with plenty left over to share with family and friends.

My Dad had met “Uncle Alan” during the 2nd World War and had been mates ever since. Dad spoke of visiting Alan and Edna after the war and how Alan had built on a room out the back if ever he wanted to stay a while, which he did. Dad spoke of the home-cooking, eating ripe fruit off the trees and enjoying being out on the lakes fishing in Al’s boats. Fortunately for us as kids we got to do the same and it often gave our long summer school break a special highlight.

Although all this was a great way to spend short summer stays and grow up exploring beaches, bays, fishing and walks coupled with great country hospitality I still remember it was not always a bed of roses, there would be great times and lean ones as well, sometimes we would take food and bring most home, and other times the opposite would be true.

I recall saying to Dad, “Why did we leave all the food this time?” his reply was simple “Sometimes other people have greater need than us Son.” I remember watching closely for signs of ‘lean times’ after that but rarely knew when things were lean or not.

As time went on they prospered and made it through challenging times, as if they knew the lean times would pass.

I guess it meant they appreciated the prosperous times more as if being taught by the fruit trees that abundance comes and goes, it’s how you deal with the harvest to make the abundance last until next season.

We all need a way to handle the harvest and make it last until the next abundant season. In our situation this can be a metaphor for the Visual Art and the buyers thereof who want what we have, but sometimes not as often as we might like.

At first they might see the ‘fruit’ forming on the trees, then see the harvest ripen and then taste the sweetness first hand and enjoy that blissful moment of fresh juice running down their faces!

Now a delightful memory is formed and they want to soak up more, but unless there is a way for the fruit to be preserved until next time, then the sweet memory might fade soon.

The challenge is Galleries and Artists often hope more buyers will drop in and eat the ‘fresh fruit’ rather than building on keeping in contact and feeding the buyers with sweet offerings from that previous bountiful harvest.

Here are a few ways to keep building on the initial harvest to build a stronger base of delighted customers.

  1. Get their details – Build a database now and keep in contact, if you want sales you are in business and you need to market to them now and for a long while to come, use the list to send them info on what you are up to.
  2. Develop a plan – Contact details are one thing, using them is another… A plan, perhaps start with a calendar and mark out when you want to contact them. Before an exhibition, after an exhibition, all up find about 11 ways to keep in contact during the year.
  3. Get Blogging – You want to let new and old know about what you do or are doing, new work being developed etc… this can be apart from your 11 contact points.
  4. Use easy software – There are many Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software options out there, use one and put the details in there and milk it for all it’s worth. (remember you are in business!)

While the first contact point with you might have been nice, your efforts to remind them and build on the sweet offerings you have will often be the saving grace when things are lean.

Keep your fruit trees nourished and well watered, for the winter of no fruit can be followed by the summer of bountiful harvest, how you manage that is up to you.

© 2011 Steve Gray

Talking about art Part 4.

Straight talk.

The Artist in talking about their work may have the opportunity to tell a larger group at an opening about the works being presented, or on a one to one basis as people ask questions. In this article I wanted to follow on from the previous article in Part 3, which, was more sales focussed. lets talk turkey as they say and give the audience what they want, the real you.


For many people talking about something as personal as their Art works can be daunting, intimidating and generally stressful, while for others it’s as easy as falling off a log.

Those who find it easy, may well have a different degree of confidence about the way they present information, perhaps they have been experienced in public speaking, or theatre work, being on stage in a band or some such. Whatever the experience is they seem to be able to get on with it with ease.

One approach to the situation is looking at the works and saying to your self.

There are a lot more options than this of course but hopefully you get the idea. The real power in creating a series of responses to these and other questions is getting and building your confidence to handle all comers. If you don’t do this you may find the following questions and or statements might stray into your thoughts…

Note how all of these are thoughts which will probably not serve the Artist well, in fact they can lead to a downward spiral and negative thought processes which can be harmful. It may take practice to pursue the positive questions and statements but it’s a stronger stance to work from.

Many Artists have said “Having an exhibition is like nailing  your heart to the wall”, so be prepared to handle the emotional roller coaster which presents itself, or you might find you are the one whose heart bleeds from a nail hole!

Talking about Art Part 3.

Leading on from Part 2 in this series. If you are an artist and are being quizzed about your work there is possibly an ulterior motive hidden behind the request from a viewer for more information. It may be they want to buy a piece (nice thought!) or want to follow your career to see if you will still have the strength of “Artistic conviction” you may have now, in a few years time.


Or they might simply be an art lover who may not want to buy, but admire your work for its real intrinsic value.

If you are out to sell your work, you need to be careful not to “Talk past the sale” and watch out for tricks they may want to use like “If I buy it after the show, can I get it cheaper and not have to pay the gallery’s commission?” Hmm nice try buddy! Forget it, althoughh it may sound like a win-win the gallery misses out. Let the gallery represent you, that’s what they do, or if you have hired the space and this seems like a good idea to save you paying out more money, think again. You might put  yourself into a poor bargaining position later on with no other prospects about to make an offer.

If you are more interested in discussing the value of the work from a story, metaphoric or visual language perspective, then the the discussion can be quite different. It’s a chance to “bare your soul” and let the world catch a glimpse of the “inner you”, what caused you to make the work/s, why you explored the subject the way  you did, or perhaps what you were aiming to communicate to the viewer.

Treat the exercise like it’s a chance to vent and be at ease with what you have produced and you will probably have a great time doing so.

Here’s the link to the next article in this series…

Talking about Art Part 2.

Following on from Part 1 in this short series of Talking about Art. Lets tackle the topic of an Artist talking about their own work, and not from a sales perspective at this stage.


Let’s paint a picture of a person asking the artist about their work.

Does the Artist become coy and reserved saying little other than “Oh I don’t know I think the work speaks for itself really…” Or do they do their best to “wax lyrical” about the work and perhaps give an brief insight, or perhaps go too far and risk boring the viewer with too much information.

I would hope the middle ground could prevail, so the viewer who has asked the question can say “I got enough information to satisfy my interest” and then be able to walk away content with the knowledge they received.

Getting the balance right comes down to being able to “read” the viewer and figure out what sort of information they really want, and you can do this by asking a few questions. “Tell me about your work…” Might seem like a great starting point, but for the Artist it should not be the only cue to jump in and tell all. It should only be the start to “What would you like to know specifically?”

From here the viewer might say “I want to know about the inspiration for the work.” (it could be an easy smoke screen question to get you talking on a deeper level too). So you might ask, “My inspiration for the series or this piece in particular?” This way you will be able to provide an answer which best fits to their needs.

Perhaps an Artist might do well to practice a few scenarios so they can provide information which can fit to a range of starting points. Consider a bunch of questions you might be asked and then figure out how to respond to those.

There. that’s a bunch of starting points, how you deal with each is up to you, however the major factor is presenting confidently so the person you are speaking too can feel you are not wishy washy or unable to talk in terms they want to hear.

There are lots of resources on reading personality types, talking other peoples language (so to speak) and ways to engage them. The important thing about all that is finding ways to make them see your point of view by talking their language in a way which appeals to them.

Have a think about how you might respond to these questions and bring together your language skills in a way which, you can feel confident with the results.

Here’s the link to the next article in this series…

Talking about Art Part 1.

I’m sure there are many Lecturers and Art Teachers who find it quite a challenge to get their students to talk about art. Mostly I guess students might think Art is a “visual” medium and trying to put things into an auditory or written language may well seem foreign to them. This article can be of value to students and artists alike wanting to get a stronger grip on the task of talking about art, especially for students in VCE Studio Arts.

talk art

Artists on the other hand can either find themselves buried in a swathe of “pontificating” about their work, or lost in thought, unable to articulate the visual medium. So what to do?

For the Artists, some are the type who can seemingly sell ice to Eskimos, so they can handle themselves verbally and build a solid persuasive story around their works. Others prefer to let the work speak for itself or to let a Gallerist chat to prospects and collectors about the Art.

What do you say about your works? Maybe it’s a loaded question, as I guess it depends on what you want to communicate. If it’s a regular collector of  your works that’s one thing, but a new person unaware of who you are, or your style of work etc then that’s another. Then take into account a student trying to make sense of evaluating an artwork of any kind.

There are frameworks for exploring the analysis of works, and ways of researching the Artist and their possible intent. It comes down to “What’s it all about…”

I can see it will be a big topic to handle so let’s leave this starting point as is, a point to ponder from… and break down the issue into a  smaller bunch of articles.

Heres the link to the next one…

The Great Artist-Gallery Debate

An Art Marketing Message from B. Eric Rhoads

“The Internet has eliminated the need for art galleries,” said a very famous artist to the crowd at the American Artist Weekend With the Masters event. “Why pay the commission when you can sell direct online?”

That comment sparked a great debate in the halls of the hotel in Dana Point, so I wanted to address it in my art marketing sessions.

Can You Live Without A Gallery?
So what about you? What should you do as an artist? Can you live without an art gallery selling your work? Can you sell direct online and eliminate the need for a gallery? Let’s explore this now.

Clearly, the Internet has changed everything. It’s true that an artist can abandon the gallery system and sell direct online to eliminate paying a gallery commission. For some, especially those who are well-known and well-established in their careers, it might make sense. But you have to ask yourself: Who established the careers of those artists who no longer need galleries?

Building Reputations
If I were to ask those artists, they would tell me that it was their reputation that established them, and the quality of their work. No doubt. But there are countless very talented artists who remain undiscovered. Chances are some art gallery professional helped establish the careers of most prominent artists. Chances are those artists built their reputations through exposure to gallery customers, advertising, and a sales effort. Furthermore, galleries were probably responsible for gradually driving the artists’ prices up over the years.

Why the Phone Isn’t Ringing
It’s easy to say an artist can do without a gallery, and maybe you can. But most artists I know with websites aren’t selling enough art online to make it on their own. Why? Being on the Web and expecting business to come through the door is like being in the phone book and expecting the phone to ring. It’s simply not enough. If you want to sell online, you need to drive traffic to your website, and you need to do it constantly. That requires promotion.

That famous artist is right: You can live without a gallery. I can think of several high-end artists who are doing without a gallery. But they also have full-time people focusing on their careers, working on promoting their careers, and driving traffic to their websites. Unless you can take the time and spend the money to build your reputation online, ratchet up your prices, and spend money on advertising and search engines to get people to come to your website, you may find that a gallery is a good partner to have after all.

Selling Music Is Like Selling Art
In the recording industry, an artist can gain exposure and sell music online without a record company. But those who succeed at it are promotional superstars who know what it takes to get noticed. Meanwhile, others rely on the record labels, which are really great at marketing.

It’s no different with selling art. You can do it on your own, if you can be a promotional superstar. But without that, a gallery might be worth its weight in gold, commission and all, IF they are selling art, building your reputation, and driving your prices up.

Don’t Discount The Gallery Effort
Last week a gallery owner called me and listed all the things he does to help sell artwork, including paying high rent to capture walk-in traffic, advertising, mailers, e-mailers, shows, calling collectors every day, and more. A successful gallery is a great partner because it can be your promotional superstar. Do you have someone to do this for you? Can you devote eight or 10 hours a day to selling and marketing? If not, suddenly that gallery commission looks pretty attractive.

Never Have A Single Point Of Failure
In my seminar, I talked about never having a single point of failure in anything you do. For instance, if all your income comes from one gallery and that one gallery goes bankrupt, you’re out of luck. Or if you’re doing your own marketing and it’s ineffective, that single point of failure will hurt your personal sales. It’s why I think having enough galleries to sell what you need sold is a good idea.

Why Charles Is Having His Best Year Ever
My friend Charles told me last week that he has five new galleries because I told him to keep adding galleries until he was making the money he needed. He told me this has been his BEST sales year in the last five because of it. He found all five galleries through my magazine Artist Advocate. Rather than being hung up on not having a lot of galleries, he is focused on having more than he needs, and it’s made his income soar.

Selling online is a great opportunity if you can pull it off. If not, the art gallery is still a very viable option and the perfect partnership.

Eric Rhoads

Art Sales, is it you or?

The Lady Who Moved Away From Her Art Sales
An Art Marketing Message from B. Eric Rhoads

“My business is dismal, Eric. I haven’t sold a painting in two years. What am I doing wrong?” said this distressed artist who wanted to blame all her problems on the economy.

I have a series of questions I usually ask to help friends solve problems. The conversation went like this:

Eric: What changed? Why do you think you’re selling less?
Lady: I dunno. It must be the economy. Nothing is selling.
Eric: When did your work stop selling?
Lady: About two years ago.
Eric: Why do you think it stopped?
Lady: I really don’t know, but it’s just when the economy got bad.
Eric: What else could it be?
Lady: I dunno. I guess the people in this community simply don’t appreciate art as much as the town we were living in before.
Eric: Huh? You moved? When did you move?
Lady: Yes, we moved about two years ago to a different state.

The light went on. The root of the problem had been discovered.

This artist can blame the economy for her lack of sales, and that is a reality. But in this case there was another main factor: She moved away from her reputation. Not only did she move, she is no longer represented by a gallery in the community where she built that reputation. She would have been smart to keep taking advantage of her reputation there, but instead she’s expecting the same level of sales in her new community, where she hasn’t invested eight years in building her brand as an artist.

Organic Brand Building
For most artists, brand building occurs organically, not by design. They get out in their community, they are seen year after year in art shows and local galleries, they get some publicity, and eventually that visibility works in their favor and their prominence as an artist grows. Believe it or not, your reputation (your brand) has an impact on your sales.

In the community where I grew up, there was a local artist who I thought was famous nationally because everywhere I went, I saw his artwork, over the course of 15 years. I later learned he was a local star, but no one outside of town had ever heard about him. If he’d ever moved away, he’d have lost the cumulative effect of all his decades of visibility.

Will paintings sell without a brand? Of course. But brands create demand, a following, and higher prices.

This woman had failed to create a brand. Her incorrect assumption was that her work was selling in Town A, therefore it would sell equally well in Town B. But it was her reputation (her brand) that was making her work sell so well.

Are You Branded Where You Want To Sell?
It is critical to think of yourself as a brand and create a reputation where you want your work to sell and with whom you want to buy, and then to reinforce that brand with frequent visibility.
What — and where — is your reputation and brand?

If you want to be known in your town, your town needs to know you.
If you want to be known nationally, the nation needs to know you.
If you want to be known among museums, you need visibility among museum professionals.
If you want to be known by galleries, you need visibility among galleries.

Visibility is the key, but it is of little value unless you make it an ongoing effort to create frequent impressions. One-time visibility is of little value anywhere. Brands are built on the accumulation of impressions.

Don’t Take Your Brand For Granted
The woman I spoke with told me, “The people in my town are just not going to buy my work, so I’m going to move elsewhere.” I told her that she is likely to have the same problem unless she moves back to where her brand is already known — and even then she’s been invisible for the last two years and would need to rebuild, though it would be easier than starting from scratch. We often take our brands for granted and don’t understand the value of what we’ve built. Don’t take the importance of your brand for granted. And if you don’t have a brand, start building it now.


Eric Rhoads

Sign up to receive my art marketing blog at or my gallery marketing blog at Follow me on Facebookand Twitter.

Getting a gallery.

The Frustrating Experience Of Getting A Gallery
The Truth About How To Land A Gallery
By Art Publisher B. Eric Rhoads

The first gallery that invited me in as a painter was on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, the big gallery row there. Because it was my first, I wanted to be there to deliver the paintings in person, and I can remember feeling really insecure. I told the gallery owner, “This is so unusual. I’m confident in everything I do. I’ve met CEOs of big companies, celebrities, and world leaders, and I wasn’t nervous then. But today I feel totally exposed and insecure.” Frankly, it was very unlike me, which made me even more uncomfortable.

My mind was playing tricks on me:

Why would they want my work?

Maybe they don’t know what they’re doing by putting me in their lineup?

Maybe they’re just sucking up because I own an art magazine?

Maybe they’re taking pity on me and will hang my stuff, knowing it won’t sell?

“Hello, Um, That’s Me. I’m The Artist!”

The gallery put my work up right away, and I decided to hang around for a while. Moments later, a couple came in, walked around the gallery, and landed on a waterfall painting I had done. They lingered, talking about how much they loved it and what it reminded them of. Though I was tempted to wave my hands and jump up and down and say, “I did it! Me, yeah, me, I’m the artist, wanna own it?” I stayed quietly out of the way until the gallery owner engaged the couple about the painting, then said, “The artist just happens to be here today.”

I got my strokes, the couple left saying they wanted to buy it but were not sure if they wanted to spend that much money on it, and said they would probably return, but they never did.

I wasn’t devastated that they didn’t buy. I had passed the test. Someone walked in and liked my painting. That was all I needed to increase my confidence. I felt like Sally Field when she received her Oscar: “They like me. They really, really like me.”

Sage Advice From An Artist

Since then I’ve sold many paintings, and the insecurity has pretty much disappeared, thanks in part to artist Michael Ringer. Michael visited our lake place in the Adirondacks one summer, and after I showed him my work, he said, “Eric, as a friend, let me tell you that you are your own worst enemy. All you did the whole time I looked at your paintings was apologize for them. You need to understand that they are good, but more importantly, you need to know that your attitude is impacting your performance. Stop apologizing. Every one of us went through the stages you’re going through. It’s part of developing as a painter. Quit apologizing and start believing in yourself.”

I took his advice.

The Reality You Don’t Want To Hear

If you’re not in a gallery, I know the dream you live, and I know how frustrating it is to be rejected. At the Oil Painters of America conference last weekend, a panel of three very well meaning gallery owners told the crowd respectfully that the odds of getting in their galleries was slim. One owner said he receives 250 submissions every single month. After the session, one of the artists in the room approached me and said, “What a downer. I guess I won’t be getting into a gallery anytime soon.”

Studying The Gallery Acquisition Process

For two years I’ve been studying the process of how to get into a gallery. It started because every artist I talked to was asking me if I could help them get into galleries, and because gallery owners were complaining about all the submissions they were getting that they ended up discarding because they didn’t have time to look at them.

Though you’d think galleries would want to see what is out there — and they do want to — the task is simply overwhelming. They have to be prudent, or all their time would be spent looking at artists instead of chasing down buyers.

The Danger Of Being Too Aggressive

Ever hear the expression “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”?  It’s true, but you not only have to be squeaky, you have to do it without being annoying, and without damaging your reputation by being overly aggressive.

The principles I laid out in a recent marketing letter about the importance of continual visibility also apply to gallery owners. If they keep seeing your work, keep hearing your name, and see buzz about you, it could elevate their interest in your artwork. But sending them multiple e-mails, making multiple calls, and sending multiple portfolios is annoying and could get you blacklisted in their minds. The trick is achieving visibility without being targeting galleries individually.

“It Sounds Impossible, Eric!”

So if this is the case, what can you do as an artist to build your brand in the eyes of art dealers? There is no easy answer, honestly, because there are many levels of dealers, many different kinds of art represented, seasonal businesses, and different times when different galleries may be looking for artists. Even if your strategy was to barrage every gallery in America with your portfolio, one time or multiple times, it would be cost-prohibitive, and in most cases your portfolio probably wouldn’t be opened or kept.

Therefore the solution is a strategy of continual visibility. Keep your name in front of art dealers by advertising in the places they’re advertising (though you could be perceived as a competitor), keep your name in the press constantly by winning competitions, and find ways to brand yourself continuously.

What If The Odds Are Against You?

Yes, you might get lucky and get discovered. But getting into a gallery is somewhat like landing a part in a major motion picture. There are a few thousand galleries (and fewer in your style, your quality, your subject matter) and tens of thousands of artists. (There are over 40,000 reading this e-mail as we speak.) The odds are against you.

The only way to beat the odds is to get lucky, be introduced by a friend, or stay visible continuously so when a dealer is in the market for someone new, they don’t say, “Who was that artist I saw?” but, “Let’s call YOUR NAME.” You need to brand yourself just like a product is branded, with continual repetition. And the benefit is not only gallery visibility, but visibility with collectors, which will increase demand.

Achieving The Impossible

When someone tells me something cannot be done, I’ll work hard to prove them wrong. I love a challenge. Though the challenge of landing a gallery is daunting, you can do it if you stay visible constantly. Make it your mantra. Frequent exposure sells products, and it can do the same for you.

Winston Churchill said it best:

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.


Eric Rhoads
Read my Art Marketing Blog

Grow Your Art Career

Who Needs Food Anyway?
The Basic Needs To Grow Your Art Career, And The Power Of Visibility
A message from art publisher B. Eric Rhoads

One of my friends is the well known CEO of a giant multinational corporation. I read recently that he has a net worth of over $400 million. We’ve known one another since we were both teenagers and he wasn’t yet famous. You would know his name, but he wouldn’t want me putting this story out for the press to pick up, so I can’t share it. Let’s call him Fred.

Very early in Fred’s career, he said this to me: “Eric, for most people the basic needs are food, water, and paying the rent. For me, if I want my career to soar, the basic need is advertising and public relations. I pay for it before I pay my rent because I know it will result in the best jobs and best opportunities.”

It worked. Fred is famous. He’s one of the super-rich, he has his own helicopter and his own jet. He has a giant apartment in New York, another in the country outside New York City and another in a billionaires’ ski resort town, and probably others he hasn’t told me about.

A Lifetime Commitment
Fred is one of the smartest men I know, and as I watched his career, he always made sure that his most basic need, advertising and PR, was his highest priority. In fact, at an early age he met a young PR person and cut a “lifetime deal” with her. When he couldn’t afford her services, he said, “If you help me now, when I get rich I’ll stick with you and be able to pay you lots of money.” He stuck to his promise, and they have been side-by-side business associates for decades.

He gets it. What about you?

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
Most of the people who are rich and famous understand that the most important thing in boosting their career and staying on top is PR and advertising. Hollywood celebrities thrive on tabloid rumors because they know that if people are talking about them (good or bad), it’s good for their careers. In Hollywood, the kiss of death is no press.

How visible are you?

No one ever gave me this advice, and I wish they had drummed it into my head at a young age. It took me decades to really understand it. The law of visibility is a reality for anyone who wants to be considered a celebrity in their area of expertise. Stay visible frequently.

How Crass, Eric
In your world as an artist, you may be saying, “I don’t want to be famous, I don’t want to be a celebrity.” That’s fine, but you and your art are a product. And products that succeed follow that mantra: “Stay visible frequently.” (Please, no e-mails about my crass reference to art as a product. Like it or not, if you’re selling something, it’s a product. You are a product. You are a brand.)

12 Steps To ‘Stay Visible Frequently’

1. Make it your mantra.
Everything you do should relate to staying as visible as possible. Make it your goal to make a giant PR effort at least weekly.

2. Don’t be timid.
Chances are you can’t be exposed enough to be overexposed. Look for an excuse every day, every week, to get your name in front of potential customers.

3. Concentrate your efforts.
Ten impressions to 10 different audiences are not 10 impressions. That’s one impression to each of 10 audiences. Wherever you’re focusing your attention, dominate that medium with continual visibility. Most people can’t afford to dominate more than one or two things. It’s incorrect to think you will achieve better response if you buy five ads one time in five different magazines. NONE of them will work for you effectively. Yet the same money spent on five ads in five issues in a row of one magazine will bring you tremendous results. If you have a limited budget, dominate something with that budget.

4. Never ever stop.
This has to become your lifestyle. Like the film stars say, “If they’re not writing about me, I’m out of business.” If you want to be a giant success, you work your advertising/PR strategy every day and every week for the rest of your career. Out of sight, out of mind. Out of mind, out of business. Advertising and PR builds upon itself. Think of it as a house that is never finished. You start with the foundation, keep building until the house looks finished, and then you keep adding on.

5. Starting and stopping is like starting from scratch.
I know people who advertise for a couple of issues of one of my magazines. They will buy a couple of ads, lay low for a few months, then buy some more, then lay low. Each time you lay low, you lose share of mind because you’re not reinforcing your brand. Apple never stops. Ford and GM never stop. You can never stop if you want wild success.

6. Leverage your visibility strategy.
Seek ways to get others promoting you while you sleep. Get others acting on your behalf. The best tool ever invented for an artist is an art gallery. If you have five or six galleries in different regions of the country, you are being promoted every day to the customers in those galleries. They are professional sales agents. One — or six — more galleries showing your work can do more for you than you can do on your own.

7. Participate in co-advertising
The best deal going is when you can buy ads for your work at half the price. Many art galleries will run ads exclusively promoting your work if you’re willing to pay half the cost of the ad. It’s a great deal for both of you, drives customers to their gallery, and it builds your brand, which increases sales, buyer desire, and, ultimately, demand, resulting in higher prices.

8. Become a press release maven.
News outlets locally, local art pubs, even national art publications are always on the hunt for a story. If your release appears on their desk on the day they need to fill a page, you might get lucky. Frequency builds your brand with editors, so any chance you have to issue a press release (on something legitimate, like an award or a new painting), send a release to everyone who reaches the audiences you want to reach. Get to know the editors, ask about upcoming stories, and make suggestions as to how you might fit. If you ever wonder why some people seem to get all the press, that’s why. And if you can find someone to do press for you, especially a pro, they can pitch stories on your behalf.

9. Facebook and Twitter matter.
Brands are built by frequent posts with smart information, great photos, and interesting links. Build a giant friend list and post frequently, with relevant and interesting things (we don’t care about your cat’s hairball or your political opinions).

10. Bigger is better.
The psychology of advertising says that if you run bigger ads, or more ads in an issue, you are more important. That is how top blue chip art galleries built their reputations and how they keep them alive. You must be successful if you’re running that much advertising. Fake it till you make it. Run ads as big as possible and as frequently as possible.

But frequency is still more important than size. If you can afford only one full-page ad, I’d advise you that four quarter-page ads in four consecutive issues is better than one full-page ad in only one issue. Dominate with frequency, and then, as soon as you can, increase the ad size to grab more notice and stature in the eyes of buyers.

11. Advertising is perceived as editorial content.
Research indicates that consumers prefer newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV stations that have ads to those that do not. Ads tell about things people may want or need. In art magazines like Fine Art Connoisseur, which I own, our readers love paintings, and they look at the paintings in ads as much as the pictures in the stories. Readers love seeing those pictures, and may well not remember you as an advertiser, but as an artist they now know. One of my advertisers told me she became perceived as famous because she is in every issue of the magazine, without skipping, ever. Of course, it helps her business because she never stops and her image is always being reinforced.

12. Volume overcomes time.
A new art gallery once asked me if there was a way they could become as well known as a gallery that had been in business for a hundred years. Though time + consistent visibility is the strongest marketing tool, you can get very close to an equal position in the minds of audiences with a high volume of advertising, with a high volume of frequency, over a shorter period of time. I told this gallery owner that within three to five years, his gallery could be perceived as one of the biggest and most important galleries in America if he ran four to six pages in every issue for three years. Is it expensive? Yes. Is it realistic? Not for many. But this is one way to overcome the advantage of time.

But Eric, How Can I Afford It?
My friend Fred, whom I mentioned earlier, told me he invested in PR and advertising before he paid his rent. He knew that the investment would lead to success, and therefore he made huge sacrifices. He drove an old beat-up car, he lived in a crummy apartment and didn’t go out to dinner much. He put the good things in life on hold so he could buy the visibility that would eventually result in success. Did I mention that his net worth is over $400 million?

The Law Of Conflicting Values
One of the great laws of the universe is that two good things may be in conflict. Truth and justice are both good things, but one may have to be chosen over the other. In art, your conflicting values may be financial success versus the respect of other artists. For instance, we all know of a famous artist who is extremely wealthy but whom most artists do not respect. He chose wealth over the respect of other artists.

To accomplish frequent visibility, you may have to choose visibility over certain basic needs to roll the dice on building your career longer-term. Most successful people I know had to make those tough choices. You can always find a way if you’re passionate enough to make something happen.

The Agent In Me
Artists keep asking me to be their agent, but I simply don’t have the time or the desire. Yet I believe that anyone with some marketing skills like those I’ve acquired could make an unknown artist one of the most famous and financially successful in America within three years if they had enough financial resources and drive. I do this for businesses on a regular basis with my consulting practice in marketing, but those clients typically have the resources to pay my fees and spend the money on big campaigns for long periods of time.

For you, without a lot of resources, it will simply take more time. A steady drumbeat of visibility over time will eventually get you where you want to be.

Do Something Daily
I guarantee I will get 50 e-mails about how “my circumstances are different” and how someone doesn’t  have the money to advertise. I don’t doubt that. Yet you can still carve out one hour daily to create visibility without spending a dime. Some who see a clear vision will find the money from friends, family, and personal sacrifices. You just have to want success badly enough. Following this program is not for wimps. It’s for people committed to becoming a major household name among collectors.

Nothing good is ever accomplished without risk. Your success is 100 percent determination to succeed at chasing your dreams.

Go knock ’em dead. You can make great things happen.

Eric Rhoads
Read my Art Marketing Blog

Steve Biller – Artists Representative

Steven Biller is a Southern California-based Visual Arts Consultant. I recently chatted to him to find out more about what he does and how he does it. Enjoy!


I imagine you might get a lot of artists wanting to be represented by you, or am I guessing wrongly here?
Not many. I don’t advertise. I look for artists I know I can place in strong gallery programs. I’m more of a scout, for artists and gallerists.

What sorts of artists do you focus on?

I focus on outstanding emerging artists and artists who have appreciable exhibition experience but need a new dealer. I like artists who confront the issues of the day — and not necessarily in representative fashion.

Why are they your focus and not, say university graduates?

I do look at university graduates. MFA thesis shows reveal tons of great talent. The best part of the 2009 Los Angeles Art Show was the student show at the back of the convention center. I was disappointed that the students received only a sliver of space at the 2010 fair.

What sorts of services do you provide?

I review portfolios, select artists who warrant a studio visit, evaluate their work in person, and give an honest assessment of why I will or will not represent or market the artist. Then we work together to identify appropriate gallery programs. After that, it’s about building trust and relationships.

When you go to an artist’s studio, what sorts of things do you look for?
I’m interested in artists with a clear vision, thoughtful execution, evenness in quality, and commitment to an aesthetic. Quality is not as subjective as you might think.

You work with galleries also, in what way?

I curate shows from time to time, but I mostly help them refine their rosters to sharpen their programs. And, having worked in publishing for more than 20 years, I offer full-service custom publishing (write, design, and produce exhibition catalogs and artist monographs), as well as PR and marketing services.

What sorts of things do artists do to “shoot themselves in the foot” so to speak that causes a gallery or agents to not take them on?

Artists too frequently neglect to learn about a gallery’s program before going in with their portfolios insisting their work will fit in and sell well in this space. Don’t be so presumptuous. Art is tough in the studio, and even tougher in the gallery. Dealers know what their clients want; if they say “it’s not for us,” accept that without taking it as a blow to your work. You might be a phenomenal landscape painter in the Midwest. A dealer of early California Impressionism will not give you the time of day.

I guess like many galleries you get plenty of requests to look at artists websites. What are some of the things that cause you to cringe or become elated, when you do take a look?
I generally read artists sites for biographical and exhibition information, and reserve judgment on the art until I see it in person. I’ll dismiss most derivative work and art that falls outside of my interest or aesthetic before ever considering a time-consuming studio visit.

How did you get started in business, and was it easy to get “accepted” by galleries?

I fell into this. I study art every day, keep up with what’s happening here and abroad, and try to see as much art as possible. Who knows if any galleries “accept” me, whatever that means, but I’m sure they appreciate the experiences I bring to our meetings.

Let’s imagine you find a great emerging artist but you find they have used a vanity gallery a few times to try and be noticed, would that put you off?
Yes, it would put me off. That’s not how to get noticed. Good dealers never look at those sites. Good artists who cannot find good dealers should seek out people like myself. We can assess the work and point artists in a direction that will not compromise the integrity of the work.

On the PR side of things do you advertise your services to galleries, collectors and investors or who if any and how…

I don’t advertise at all. I put myself in the right places to meet the right people. That takes years to develop. It really is who you know — and who they know.

How do you go abut telling artists who are not contemporary (but think they are) their style is not what they think it is…

I’m honest. The worst thing you can do to an artist is give false hope. If it’s decorator art, so be it. Make yourself known to interior designers who’ll buy your canvases in bulk. It’s an honest living. There’s no shame in being a commercial or production artist if you enjoy the work and earn a living from it.

When you get an artist represented does your connection with them continue from there?

Yes! In fact, I work harder for those artists — and for the galleries that represent them. If they succeed, so do I.

Are there a few key points artists should do to make themselves more marketable?

Be ruthless when editing your work. Only allow the best pieces out of your studio. Not everything is a masterpiece. Let go of the ego and rework those mediocre and bad pieces. You know which ones I mean …

Artists websites, there are those for them and others against them, how about you?

They’re great for artists to present their work chronology, their bios, their exhibition histories. But avoid selling from the site. If you sell from your site, don’t expect galleries to work with you. You’ll be competing with them. Direct inquiries to your dealers. They’ll respect your professionalism and pay you a set share. If a client want to buy from your inventory, discuss it with your dealer before sealing the deal. Relationships are everything in this business.

Is it hard to categorize art so you make sure artists understand the type of work you want and how do you go about it?
It’s immensely difficult. I don’t want to define my preferences too narrowly. I work with artists who make work that I would never hang in my own collection. If it’s good, it’s good. I’m working with a glass sculptor after promising myself I would never touch glass. But this guy stands out because of his process and the narrative of the work. He’s not a glass blower who makes pretty vessels. He’s a sculptor who uses glass. I also try to avoid digital photography, but found myself organizing a show with an important photographer who switched away from film. Never say never …

Is there a “one size fits all” solution you use for all artists or is each given a highly tailored solution?
Each artist is different. My objectives might be the same for many artists, but the road we take will always look different for each of them.

Want to see more Art info the day It’s posted? Subscribe and we automatically send you the latest post via email, it’s easy click here to subscribe.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

Follow me on twitter!

Check out our other Art Site

Handling rejection…

This is a great article all Artists should read and understand, often if you are rejected from an award, an exhibition, any application for funding etc it can seem devestating,  however a quick read of this article and you can set yourself at ease (at least a little!)

Starting out….


I wish I was starting out, back in Yr 11… no wait I’m wrong I would hate it, all the drawing, the homework, the learning new things, getting my tongue around works like juxtaposition.. yeah I’m better off here, not there.

So if you are a newbie to the Visual Arts welcome to a life of adventure (and quite possibly torment at some stage or other), but fear not young learners (and more mature ones too…) this site (and others like it) are here to assist your journey and hopefully ease some pain.

If you are in Yr 11 at secondary school and wanting to get the jump on the the rest of the class, pull up a chair and have a good look through whats in here… Techniques, creativity boosting strategies, links to some interviews with Artists, how investors look at Art and so much more. Then take notes and GET STARTED!

Draw like your life depended on it, take photo’s like there is no tomorrow (one day you will be right…) write out idea,s carve thing up, break things down, explore techniques and materials then explore Contemporary Artist interviews with vigour and interest, it will all be worthwhile in the end. Oh and take a look at any lists, which tell  you the benefits of being involved in the arts and nail it up in a few great places, you won’t go wrong!

I wish you well in your Art Journey, Steve Gray. Jan 2010

How much is the art in the window?

The Pricing Game
Pricing Secrets Artists Need To Embrace

A message from art publisher Eric Rhoads

Let’s play a couple of games….

Imagine for a moment that you’re fairly wealthy. Not billionaire wealthy, but wealthy enough that you don’t need to think twice about going out and paying cash for a new $80,000 Lexus.

Most artists price themselves too low because they can’t relate to wealth, so it’s important to imagine yourself with wealth for this exercise. Are you there yet?

Now imagine that you go to the flea market on a Saturday. There is a guy at the flea market selling what he claims is a brand-new Mercedes for $13,000. Would you consider it, even for a moment?

No? Why not?

Because something smells rotten. First, we all know you can’t buy a new Mercedes for $13,000. Second, would you buy a new Mercedes at the flea market from someone you don’t know? Even at a full Mercedes price? Probably not. Your brain won’t let you buy when a sale doesn’t pass the smell test.

Next game.

You’re still wealthy. Now imagine that you walk into a very stylish blue chip art gallery in Manhattan. You see two paintings you love equally. One painting is $65,000 and the other one is $2,500. You can only buy one. You can afford either. Which will you buy?

Why did you pick the $65,000 painting? There must be a reason.

The reason is that your smell test tells you there must be something wrong with the $2,500 painting. If I like them both equally, why aren’t they both expensive? Your brain tells you it must be better because it’s more expensive, since it’s from a quality source.

Our last game.

You’re still wealthy, and you see a screaming commercial on television for an art sale at the Holiday Inn. Though you know it’s going to be schlock art, you go for amusement, and maybe to pick up something cheap to hang in the basement. Most of the paintings are $125 framed. One painting is $50,000. Would you buy the $50,000 painting?

Why not? The price doesn’t match the environment. You’re probably thinking it’s a fraud from a company that will be on the road with your money by midnight. It doesn’t pass the smell test.

The Psychology of Price and Environment
In game one, your brain told you the price for a new Mercedes was too low. It also told you that it’s probably stolen, because lots of things at a flea market might be stolen. Any time your brain faces something that doesn’t equate, it rejects it to protect you. If you had seen a new $13,000 Mercedes at a credible dealer, you still would have asked yourself, “What’s wrong with it?” But you would probably trust the dealer and their reasoning a little more, because of the trusted environment.

More artworks don’t sell because they are priced too low, and are not priced for environment.

Wait, Eric. How can this be true? People always want a bargain. So a lower price is always better than a higher price, right?


Case in point? I’m more likely to pay $80,000 for a new Lexus than the same model at $40,000. The discount is too deep, so something must be wrong. It must have been wrecked. Yet a price of, say, $68,000 seems like a legitimate discount. My “BS Meter” tells me something is wrong when the discount is too deep.

A Famous Painter’s Story
I swore I wouldn’t use this man’s name, but he is a household name among living painters today. One day at lunch I asked, “How did you get your prices so high?”

“Eric, in the 1950s I had a painting sit in a gallery for two years unsold. It was a great little painting. I was young, but my work was already very strong. I wasn’t very confident, so it had a $1,000 price on it. So after two years I pulled it out and put it in another gallery. I figured what the heck, and I put a price of $3,000 on it. It sat for a year unsold so I moved it to another gallery and put a price of $6,000 on it. A year later it still hadn’t sold. Out of frustration, I sent it to another gallery, put an $18,000 price on it, and it sold within three weeks.”

True story.

When you pick up this painter’s Rembrandt-like works, they look like they should sell for a lot of money. If you’re a person with taste and money, there must be something wrong with a painting that’s too cheap. A price of a painting must feel right. If it’s too cheap or too expensive, it won’t sell. Which is why my artist friend’s painting didn’t sell at the first two prices.

Environment Impacts Price
Why can a 5th Avenue boutique with a name brand get $10,000 for an item you can buy in the garment district for $500? It’s all about the strength of the environment (which equates to a strong brand to trust). It’s a combination of neighborhood, quality decor, and reputation (which is brand and trust).

It’s not unusual to see someone walk into a beautifully decorated gallery and drop $200,000. That same person may walk down the street and feel reluctant to spend $5,000 in a shabby gallery. That’s why Lexus dealers and blue chip New York art galleries spend a fortune decorating their showrooms. Environment commands higher prices.

I know a New York dealer in an elegant setting, with French marble stairways and beautiful fabric walls. They can command a considerably higher price for a painting because of their reputation, which has been built on environment and brand trust. Even telling a knowing friend you bought a painting from that gallery sends a signal that you must have spent a fortune. That’s important in some circles.

Frames Are Like Environment
One dealer friend told me he had a $14,000 painting that sat unsold for a year. Before sending it back to the artist, he put the painting in a $5,000 frame and put a $40,000 price on it. It sold within a week. He increased his profit with the quality of the frame.

Quality art buyers often judge an artwork by its frame. If it’s in a low-quality frame, how good can the painting really be? High-quality frames make a huge difference in perception and the ability to get a high price. It’s why there are frame dealers who create million-dollar custom frames and can’t keep them in stock.

What does this mean to you, the artist?

1. It’s a lot easier to make a living on high prices. You don’t have to produce as much work.

2. Most prices set by artists are rooted in their own insecurity.

3. Your gallery partner has to have their mind wrapped around your pricing. If they don’t believe they can sell it, they won’t. Make sure you have a gallery willing to ask high prices.

4. Some galleries won’t even consider representing you if your prices are too low. Why bother? It’s too hard to make money on inexpensive paintings.

5. Yes, price matters in a bad economy more than it normally would. BUT in a bad economy there are more wealthy buyers than lower-end buyers. Wealthy people usually want quality, and, to them, price equates with quality.

6. Your prices cannot be inconsistent. You cannot have low prices in one gallery and high in another or online. Be consistent.

7. Pricing takes guts and the right environment.

Should You Raise Your Prices?
I cannot tell you to raise your prices. Most (not all) the artists I know could be getting 100%-500% higher prices without much resistance. Yes, your work has to be quality, but most of the artists I know are underselling themselves because they fear what will happen if they increase their prices. Are you worth it? It’s worth strong consideration.

Eric Rhoads


Some benefits of studying art


If you are heading into the study of Visual Art, at secondary school, TAFE, University or some other course of learning then you may find the following list of value. For secondary students if your folks are giving  you grief about taking on an art subject or course, print the list and nail it to their foreheads with a nail gun, if they don’t get why you want to do Visual Art by then, move house! (okay that’s a joke but think about it as an image, neat huh…)

Teachers feel free to use this list anytime someone in “authority” decides to cut your budget, give you grief about art being non essential etc… or use it to show parents the value of art and why their child should make it a subject worthy of their learning and not throw clay etc…

“Studying Visual Art, can…”

  • Be a creative outlet from more academic subjects you may choose.
  • Build further knowledge of Visual Art and Art techniques.
  • Allow you to express yourself creatively.
  • Put emphasis on the value of content, which helps students understand “quality” as a key value.
  • Build problem-solving skills.
  • Make us think and see in a way that everyday reality cannot.
  • Put you in touch with your soul.
  • Put us in touch with other customs, heritage, society and civilisations.
  • Be therapeutic.
  • Convey knowledge, meaning, and skills not learned through the study of other subjects
  • Boost your confidence and self esteem.
  • Boost literacy skills.
  • Help you to describe things in detail and explore the use of words to better describe things.
  • Flex your “brain muscle!”
  • Give you a sense of accomplishment.
  • Give you, Critical thinking; Problem solving; Teamwork; Informed perception; Tolerating ambiguity; and Appreciating different cultures.
  • Develop fine motor skills.
  • Cultivate the whole person.
  • Add to your emotional intelligence.
  • Help you to make sense of the world.
  • Give you higher level thinking skills.
  • Prepare us to handle a challenging world.
  • Develop collaborative and teamwork skills, technological competencies, flexible thinking, and an appreciation for diversity.
  • Enhance self discipline.
  • Develop intuition, reasoning, imagination, and dexterity into unique forms of expression and communication.
  • Develop a sensitive, and intelligent participation in society.
  • Build thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and critical judgment.
  • Nourish creativity.
  • Assist us to appreciate and understand ourselves better.
  • Be a significant catalyst for community development support for cultural institutions, and economic health.
  • Add to our aesthetic literacy.
  • Give us access to greater understanding of a universal language.
  • Encourage high achievement.
  • Encourage a suppleness of mind, toleration for ambiguity, a taste for nuance, and the ability to make trade-offs among alternative courses of action.
  • Assist us to be more comfortable using many different symbol systems (verbal, mathematical, visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
  • Assist us to understand and appreciate others.
  • Teach us about materials and processes.
  • Assist us to integrate knowledge and “think outside the square.”
  • Lead to a range of creative career options.
  • Engage and develop human intellectual ability…
  • Assist us to explore challenges and test out ideas.
  • Add to our cultural depth.

Art education is vital for today’s world including the ability to allocate resources; to work successfully with others; to find, analyze, and communicate information; to operate increasingly complex systems of seemingly unrelated parts; and, finally, to use technology.

Learning is an action process, and the arts allow students to take action, to do things, to make mistakes, to explore and search for answers. No other educational medium offers the same kind of opportunity.

Art can provide an unparalleled opportunity to teach higher-level basics, which are increasingly critical, not only for today’s work force, but also tomorrow’s…

The quality of civilization can be measured by the breadth of symbols used. We need words, music, dance and the visual arts to give expression to the profound urgings of the human spirit.

Now more than ever, all people need to see clearly, hear acutely and feel sensitively through the arts. These languages are no longer simply desirable but are essential if we are to convey adequately our deepest feelings, and survive with civility and joy.

Ernest L. Boyer,

Thats the list and a few notions to explore… I hope that helps!

Leading professor and Chair of the Faculty at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, James Catterall has an insightful book “Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art: A 12-Year Longitudinal Study of Arts Education—Effects on the Achievements and Values of Young Adults (2009).”

Catterall’s study, addresses the questions “Do the arts matter?” “Just how?” and “For whom?” Focusing on more than 12,000 students from diverse backgrounds, the study’s findings demonstrate, intensive involvement in the arts by students during middle and high school is positively associated with higher levels of achievement in school and college attainment.

But if you still get grief for exploring Visual Art then hand the harasser this career option list… and remind them that studying subjects like psychology, sport, high level maths, physics and the like does not mean a job in those areas, but they are also part of building a range of life skills of value in a range of jobs and career options.


Some possible career options…

  • Graphic designer.
  • Multi media designer.
  • Photographer.
  • Artist.
  • Craftsperson.
  • Furniture designer.
  • Gallery Director.
  • Gallery Assistant.
  • Illustrator.
  • Interior Designer.
  • Printer.
  • Screen Printer.
  • Architect.
  • Art Therapist.
  • Cartoonist.
  • Animator.
  • Museum Technician.
  • Hairdresser.
  • Set and props designer/constructor
    for theatre, films or TV.
  • Sign Writer.
  • Web page Designer.
  • Costume Designer.
  • Art Teacher.
  • Industrial Designer.
  • Fashion Designer.

P.S. it didn’t take too long to do an internet search on the benefits of studying art to build my lists from… think of them as starting points to do some of our own research and see what else you can find.

10 secrets to selling art – Eric Rhoads

10 Secrets To Sell Art In A Down Economy
By art publisher and marketing expert B. Eric Rhoads

If you’re an artist blessed with a marketing gene, you may already know these secrets. Yet as I communicate with over 40,000 artists in my art marketing blog, I find that most have never heard them.

I hear from artists every day. Most tell me they are not selling as much artwork as last year. Some tell me they are prospering. The difference is that those who are successful understand these 10 basic secrets:

1. Attitude Determines Your Success:
I’m not talking about positive-thinking hocus-pocus. But when I interview successful people, they all have one thing in common: “I made up my mind that I’m not going to let this recession impact me.” This is a CRITICAL step. Most of us give ourselves an out by telling ourselves that it’s OK to fail because everyone else is. To succeed, you cannot think like everyone else. I have a giant sign in my office that reads: “2010 Is Our Best Year Yet.” Note the use of the word IS — not will be. It’s important to train your subconscious mind to believe that it is. I have to look at it daily and not let myself off the hook.

2. Develop and Follow a Strategy:
You wouldn’t take a road trip without a map, yet most artists don’t have a road map for their art business. Most don’t like to look at themselves as businesses, but as artists. But if you rely on income from your art sales, you are in business.

A critical element is to create a business plan. Put it in writing and mark the milestones on a calendar. Hold yourself accountable and look ahead. If you’re about to miss a milestone, don’t let yourself off the hook.

Your plan needs to include:
• Your financial goal (after taxes)
• Exactly how many pieces you must sell to hit that goal, and at what price point
• In what ways you will sell your art

Develop a list of tactics and build them into your plan.

3. Make Money While You Sleep:
How can you make money while you sleep? The key is to find ways your art can sell without your having to manage the process. You’re just one person. How can you get several people viewing it and selling your art? The more sales agents selling your work, the better. Galleries, for example, are sales agents.

4. Stand in a River of Flowing Money:
Where is money already flowing? Go there! If one city is selling a lot of art and another is not, target a gallery or a means of selling in the city where sales are taking place. A big New York City gallery opened a location in Beijing during the Olympics because of the influx of money there, and because so many Chinese were buying art. Art is selling well in some places. Find out where, and find a way to get your art there.

5. Price to the Market Without Dropping Your Value:
I never recommend lowering prices because it’s hard to raise them again. But many artists know that when money is tight, it’s easier to sell a less expensive painting. Many artists are creating smaller works. One artist I know is creating one small painting a day and selling the paintings on eBay (under an assumed name) for $100 each. He sells almost every one, and is generating an extra $2,000 a month. He is also painting fewer large works, but his galleries are moving the small ones.

6. Increase Visibility:
Seek every opportunity to increase your visibility as an artist. It increases the odds of getting noticed. Bottom line: More bait in the water equals more fish on the hook. Work hard to generate publicity from local, regional, and national publications and websites. Take an active role on Facebook andTwitter. Post new works that have not been seen before. Send e-mails and new-painting notifications to collectors, and expand your build. Place ads in publications. You need to be seen MORE when times are worse because you need to reach more potential buyers.

7. Repetition Works. I Repeat. Repetition Works:
I’ve been a marketing guy for many years, and the most critical marketing lesson is that ONE impression does not sell. People may see your ad or story, but they won’t remember it. They may intend to respond, but they forget. That’s why you see the same ads over and over on television. Repetition works. Single impressions do not. Repeat your message over and over.

8. Expand Your Market:
Do you consider yourself local, national, or international? If you only sell in your town or region, you’re limiting yourself to local cycles. If you can get into more cities and art centers nationwide and worldwide, the increased exposure will lead to more sales.

9. Get Creative:
Get some friends together and brainstorm. Make a list of 100 ways you can sell paintings. You say there aren’t 100 ways, but there are. Force yourself not to stop until you get to 100. Don’t judge anything. Write every idea down, then start trying some you’ve never done. Creative approaches will make you stand out.

10. Build Your Brand:
Every product is a brand. You, the artist, need to be a brand. When people know brands and know what that brand stands for, over time they develop trust. Trust often equals a purchase. You trust McDonald’s for consistent food anywhere in the world. Though this goes along with visibility, find ways to reinforce the things you think people need to know or remember about your artwork. “Jill’s paintings are….” or “Bob’s photographs are….” Advertising and publicity can build your brand, but it’s best if you control the way the brand is perceived.

You can also do branding with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. Be careful to build the brand in a positive way. For instance, if every Facebook entry shows you with a bottle of absinthe in your hand, it may send the wrong signal (or the right one, if you feel the bad-boy, Van Gogh approach is your image). Start with what you want your image to be, and find ways to reinforce that focus.

The Harsh Reality of Recession
It’s true. Fewer artworks are selling. Yet every day I hear reports of artwork sold at all price levels. Guess who is selling the artwork that is being purchased? The artists who are working to remain visible. Most artists shrink back during tough times, when they should be working harder to be seen.

Yes, it takes guts. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, there is risk. But consider the alternatives. The rewards are worth it.

Make up your mind to make a plan, stick with it, and be accountable to it.

Eric Rhoads

Sell that art!

You may have a studio full of Art works to sell, or maybe it didn’t sell… hmm what to do? well here’s an approach that worked to sell CD’s what if it could be adapted to Visual Artworks?

Go ahead, jot down your thoughts in the comments section about how you think it could be adapted…


Tax ruling could benefit artists

Check the article, great for Australian Artists…

Marketing for artists 101

Marketing can build relationships with your target audience, remind people, push their “buttons”, intrigue them, tease them, inform them, educate them… So with these points in mind the aim in marketing a show is to get the right people there to see what you have. Selling, well that’s another matter…

If the show is…

Some key areas to consider…

Clearly if you want people to know your exhibition is worthy of note, they need to sort yours from the rest and have a reason to go there. I believe we can not complain the audience was not big enough or there are not enough art collectors etc in the market place if we don’t do all we can to get them to our exhibition. How can they know something is on if no one tells them?

If you are holding a group show and want others to put in some effort to the marketing, make sure you are clear about what you want them to do and how they need to do it. Set the guidelines early so they know what to do and when to doit to what sort of standard…

That’s it, some pointers on how to market your artwork.

Written by Steve Gray Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+

6 steps to an awesome exhibition

By Sayraphim Lothian

This stems from his interview with the community radio station 3CR.

It’s how to curate and organise a well thought out group exhibition, using the internet at almost every stage to facilitate it.

Step one: The idea and the research behind it

Every group exhibition needs a theme, some kind of idea that ties it all together. It’s not enough that the artists went to school together, or that they’re all the same age. There needs to be something that thematically ties all the work together. Usually that’s a subject or topic the artists have all been given to respond to, or to re-show work that has already been created but fits in with the theme. I don’t mean to say that you can’t make exhibitions with school mates, but just that you shouldn’t make that the only thing that ties the work together.

Once you have what you consider a killer idea (after having discarded a bunch of not-so killer ideas) you need to research it (this is where the net comes in!) Research will help solidify it in your mind as well as making you aware of what other work is out there. It’d be a shame to come up with an awesome idea and put in all the work only for someone to tell you on opening night that the exact same idea was done 6 months ago in a gallery down the road. You might also want to research how other people have worked with your idea. For instance, when I was still formulating Totem: Dolls with Souls, which was an exhibition of internal self portrait dolls I curated in 2008, I did months of research on self portraits, dolls and craft in general so I would know what I was talking about when asked questions by artists. It also allowed me to understand the huge range of craft and dolls out there, which enabled me to broaden my understanding of the term ‘doll’ and thus of the kinds of work the artists submitted.

It also helps to talk to other artists you know about your idea and gather their feedback. Again, I use the web and networking sites (my blog and LJ) to ask people questions. Basically you’re doing market research on your idea. If you think you have the idea to end all ideas, the olympic gold of exhibition ideas and everyone you ask looks at you weirdly or politely excuses themselves from the conversation you need to have another think about your idea. However just because someone you ask thinks it’s not a winner doesn’t mean it’s not. Weigh carefully the advice you’re given and keep seeking opinions until you feel you have enough.

You’ll also need a killer title. Something clever, memorable and again, fits into your topic. Google it as well, to ensure that it hasn’t been used recently for the same thing in your state. No point having the perfect title if everyone acquaints it with a theatre show that was performed 3 months ago across town.

Step Two: The Venue and the Artist Callout
Once you have the perfect idea and the perfect title, you need to start approaching galleries. Artist run galleries are easy to find, do a google search for ones in your town. Pick one that suits your exhibition and budget and apply. Getting a gallery isn’t thatscary, most have their own websites and a form to fill in to apply. Some will ask for bios and photos of work of artists participating in the show, so this step needs to be done incoordination with the Artist Callout.

You should start an artist callout slowly until you have the gallery. Talk to your artist friends, and gather interest. For Totem, I emailed a number of artist friends and had them on board (with their bios and photos of their work) which I could then take to the venue.

However it doesn’t have to be a gallery. It can be a pub, cafe, empty building, anything you can find. Found spaces can make incredibly interesting venues, and can often turn out cheaper.

Once you have the venue, start putting the callout everywhere.

There’s a number of theories on how far away from the show itself you should talk to artists. If you talk to them 12 months out, they’ll have forgotten they said yes when it comes time to the exhibition. If you ask them 2 weeks out, they’re not going to have time to create anything for you.

I usually start about 4 months out, and try to have my quota of artists half or mostly filled by 3 months out.

The quota of artists is a really important number. Stand in your gallery space and decide how many works you can put in it. This will depend on what sort of work you’re seeking. If you want huge photos or paintings you’re obviously going to be able to fit less work in the gallery than if you were asking for tiny works. Then decide how many artists that means (if you are asking for only one work by each artist or 2 or 3, etc.) For Totem, I decided that I needed 100 dolls to fill the space, so I needed around 100 artists. But if this is your first exhibition, go with a MUCH smaller quota. 100 artists almost killed me, and I’ve done this before 🙂 My first exhibition was 8 artists, my second was 3. These are good amounts to start with.

Now write your Callout. Explain in detail what you’re doing, where it will be and what you’re looking for. You can add a little about yourself if you like, to let people know who you are. Add an email address as a contact detail, but I wouldn’t advise you to put a mobile number or any other form of contact details on it. Remember that this, like anything you put on the net, could end up anywhere and with anyone. At the bottom of an artist callout I always write “Feel free to forward this onto anyone you think might be interested.” That way if it captures people’s attention, they’ll start doing your work for you. Also write a closing date for submissions to ensure that people won’t be contacting you three years down the track asking to participate.

Finding artists isn’t as hard as you might think. Start with people you know. Then look online. Seek local artists on etsy (craft), deviant art (art and photography), redbubble (photography), blogs and the like. Blogs are really useful, often you’ll find that onsomeone’s blog will be a list of other blogs, and usually a number of these will be in the same town. Remember to stick to your artist quota, so if you only need 10 artists, you’ll only need to approach maybe 40 people.

If you already have all your artists, then obviously you don’t need this part. For artists you don’t know, expect a drop out rate of about 1 in 5, IE for every 5 artists who originally say yes to being a part of your exhibition, 1 will drop out or you’ll never hear from again.

A good tip for working with artists you don’t know is once they’ve said yes, get them to fill in a form. This might sound a little silly, but make up a form with their nameaddress,mobile and email, artwork title, price, media and dimensions. You can’t rely on the fact that the name on someone’s email account is their real or preferred name. I had an artist who’s email name was something like Andrea Harold and her email address was andreaharold@…, so I assumed her name was Andrea Harold. At the opening of the show she came over to me and quietly told me that her name was Andrea and her husband’s name was Harold, and she told me her surname, which I’d never seen before. She and her friends thought it was hilarious (which I was eternally grateful for) but it does serve to illustrate my point. Had I got everyone to fill out a form, then it wouldn’t have happened and it would have been a little less embarrassing for me 🙂

Step Three: Timeline and keeping in touch with your artists
Ensure you have written a timeline, and then stick to it. A time line could look like this:
Four months out: Start Callout
Three months out: fulfill most of the artist quota
Two months out: have fliers and posters printed and ready
One month out: Submissions closed. Send out Press release.
Two weeks out: organise opening night
Three days out: Installation
Show Duration: Four weeks
Four weeks and one day: Bump Out of work

The timeline is really important. You can find a great one here at Craft Victoria. You also need to keep in touch with your artists. I send out an email to all the artists at least once a month. This does two things. One, it’s valuable to be able to let them know about updates and news, what’s going on with the show, how it’s all progressing, media interest you might have received, that sort of thing. I find that updates are particularlyimportant for interstate or overseas artists who will not know the local goings on of the art world. The other, and some might say more valuable thing, is that it keeps them feeling remembered and loved and IT REMINDS THEM THEY’RE IN AN EXHIBITION! You’d be amazed how many artists will say Yes to a show and then totally forget about it. Imagine if you have lined up 10 artists for a show, put in all the hard work with publicity and then on Installation day not one of them turns up. So an email a month reminds everyone they’re still in the game.

Something awesome that happened during the run up to Totem was that the participating artists photographed their finished dolls and posted them on their blogs andflickr sites. Google has an Alert function ( where you cantype in a phrase and it will email you every time it finds it. So I created a “Dolls with Souls” alert and an “Omnific Assembly” alert (the name I curate exhibitions under). Every couple of days it found another Totem doll on a website, blog or flickr and would let me know about it. It was like finding little gifts all over the website. It was also useful to find where people were talking about the exhibition and what they were saying!

Also make sure you know what kind of art they’re going to submit. A framed piece that will hang on the wall is easy to install. A sculptural 3d piece will need some kind ofplinth/table/stack of boxes/ something to hold it off the floor, unless it’s supposed to be on the floor! Make sure you talk to your artists and find out how they envision their art in the venue. Sometimes you might need to negotiate if what they want isn’t doable, but remember to try to be as flexible as possible, after all this is a collaboration between you and them, not a dictatorship!

If you do need plinths, make sure you talk to the gallery. Most galleries don’t have many (or any) plinths, so you might find you need to supply your own. Don’t fret though, they don’t have to be the traditional wooden box painted white. For an exhibition about a carnival, we had sculptural pieces sitting on piles of suitcases, to tie in with the theme. Think laterally, you can probably come up wit something you can use.

Also check with the venue what they provide for installation. Will they give you screws/nails/picture hooks/ wire/ tools or do you have to provide your own? This is important to know before the installation day.

Step Four: Publicity, Media Releases and Fliers
I’ve already covered Publicity in another post (How to Publicise Your Event or Exhibition) but I’ll recover it quickly here. You’ll need a press release for the show, and a couple of good publicity shots. Sometimes your gallery will do this, but you might want to do one of your own, or ask for a copy and send it out to all your contacts too. You should send this out a month before the show opens to as many email addresses as you can find. Gather your local papers, community papers, street press, art mags etc and get the contact details from them. You’ll have the start of a good media list. Add in as many radio andTV station producers as you can find on the net and you’re well on your way. You’ll also need fliers to hand and email people. Find someone with a bit of graphic design experience and get them to build you one. You need on the flier:
Title of show
Opening times
Opening night (if there is one)
What sort of show (if it isn’t easily apparent)
and entry fee if there is one.

The really important thing is to give people enough information so that they can find your exhibition. No point holding a party if no one shows up. I can’t emphasis that enough. Make is as EASY as possible for people who want to turn up to be able to. Otherwise only the really dedicated ones will turn up.

Email copies to all the artists with a little blurb about the show and ask them to forward it on. Send it to all your contacts with the same request. Post it on your blog, website,facebook, everywhere you can find.

Take the hard copies and distribute them in cafes around the venue and then places like Brunswick St, Sydney Rd, all the funky places people who might want to come to your show frequent. Always ask the staff’s permission to put them down, and only put down around 5-10. Otherwise it’s just a waste of paper.

Step five: Installation
The installation process is really important. It’s not a matter of slapping the art up on the walls as they come in and going home for dinner. Depending on how much time you have to install the show (some galleries will give you a weekend, some might give you a day) try to ensure that either you have all the art delivered to you in the week leading up to the show, or if you don’t have room to store it or there’s too much (or too big) try to ensure that everyone turns up in the morning and deliver their work. It’s good if you have some idea what you’re getting before the installation day, some artists are happy to email you photos of the work once it’s done or at least give you a rough idea of the dimensions and how it’ll look. That way you can start planning where all the work will go before the day. Installation day is going to be long and stressful, have no doubt. So the easier you can make it the less grey hair you’ll have by the time you go home that night.

Once you have all or at least most of the work, start placing it vaguely where you think it’s going to go. Lean the framed stuff against the wall where you want it. Place any sculptural items on the floor where you think it might go. Remember to leave spaces for the art that inevitably hasn’t turned up yet. Grab a scrap of paper and write the artist’s name and/or art title and put it where you envision the work might go.

Once you’ve laid it all out, take a walk around the space. If you think about each piece as a fragment of the whole and each curated exhibition as an artwork in itself, that’ll help with the layout. For example if you have two tiny pieces on one wall and two huge ones on the opposite wall, it’s going to look unbalanced. Try to space them all out logically with reference to size, subject and even colour and texture. Something else to think about is what can be seen from the street. Try to pick some of the most visually engaging or bigger work to go where people on the street can see it, that’ll help entice people into the gallery. It doesn’t mean that small work is less important to the show, but remember the layout isn’t a popularity contest, it’s about trying to envision the show as a whole and do what’s best for the exhibition.

If you are showing at a gallery, the gallery owner or staff might be there to help install, but it’s always good to have someone of yours there to help you. Ask a reliable friend or artist to help. Sometimes artists will volunteer, which is great but ensure they understand that the final decision where work goes rests with you. Some artists won’t agree with the curatorial choices you have made as to where to place each work. Listen, but be firm. If you feel what they suggest is better than your idea, then change stuff around. But if you think you have made the correct decision, stand firm. Sometimes artists arn’t seeing the bigger picture when they suggest that their work should be in the front window rather than someone else’s.

You’ll also need to organise a catoloug of artists, titles and prices and number all the work. Sometimes there’s space for an artistic statement on that too.

Step six: The opening night
Opening nights are important. They’re like a welcoming party for the show, and the celebration allows the exhibition to feel officially started. If you’re holding the show in a gallery, they might supply food and or drink. This is going to assume you’re doing it all yourself. If you’re holding your exhibition in a cafe, you’ll have to talk to the owners and see what they are interested in you doing.

I usually do drinks but not food – it’s too much for one person to organise. If you’re serving drinks, it’s good to have a accredited bar tender doing that. It’s not as hard as it sounds, ask around your friends. I’ve got a number of friends who work in bars or licensed cafes who have done the Responsible Serving of Alcohol certificate. You can give the drinks away for free (to over 18s) but it becomes more of a grey area when you’re selling it. I’ve never sold drinks at an opening, so I’d advise looking into it. The venue should also have a alcohol serving license if you’re going to do alcohol. Remember to have non-alcoholic drinks on hand too, for people who don’t drink, and for under 18s.

It’s good to have someone to officially open the show. It can be another artist who can speak on the media or subject matter, it could be your local politician, it could be an old teacher/lecturer or even a performer. I’ve had a science comedian open an exhibitionabout monsters with a short lecture on cryptozoology (the study of monsters), I’ve had burlesque performers at the opening of a burlesque exhibition and I’ve had a poet, singer and comedy lecture at the opening of an exhibition, which included a zine and CD.

Try to think laterally about what you could have at the opening. It’s going to be when the most people come and see your work, and you want to make it fun and interesting for them. Exhibition openings are about inviting everyone you can to come and see the awesome art you guys have made. It’d be great to get a couple of sales too, but really, at this stage of your artistic career, it’s mainly about introducing yourself and your art to the public. So an opening is actually a really important part of the show.

People won’t really come for the guest talking, they’ll come for the art and whatever else you can offer them. For the aforementioned carnival exhibition we organised a ice creamand fairy floss van to be outside, so people could have ice creamsfairy flosshot dogsand the like, which just added to the carnival atmosphere of the show. I can’t take credit for that, it was one of the other artists ideas, and it was an awesome one! Make sure whatever interesting thing you’re doing for the opening is on the press release and even on the flier, to ensure people will know it’s going on!

On opening night, you might want to say something too, about the ideas behind the show (although hopefully that’s apparent to everyone who comes!) or the show itself or the artists, often people want to hear from the curator, and the gallery owner might want to speak as well. Make sure you ask them and find out if they want to!

Once the speeches are done, have a drink and congratulate yourself on curating an exhibition. It’s a big job, but there’s nothing better than the feeling you’ll get on opening night.

Step six and a half: The duration of the show and closing
During the show drop in occasionally to check on how the exhibition is going. There might be works sold that you need to deal with. This will depend on what the venue is. You might have also had to organise a rotating roster of artists to mind the show, so you’ll need to keep an eye on that, ensuring the artists turn up and do their shifts.

On closing the show, you’ll need to ensure all the art is back out of the venue. You might also need to ensure all the walls are back to the original condition – nails/screws out, holes puttied over and repainted. Again, this will depend on the agreement you have with the venue.

You can try to organise the artists to turn up and take the unsold work home, but I’ve found it’s hard to get more than about 4 people to turn up at one time. Usually there’ll be timetable clashes and most people wont be able to make it. So be prepared to end up taking some of the work home. If you decide you’ll only hold onto works for a specific amount of time (a week, a month) ensure ALL the artists know this WELL IN ADVANCE. Put it on the form they filled in at the start of the process and get them to sign it. Otherwise if you toss out someone’s beloved artwork without any warning you could be up for anything from angry artists to lawsuits. Try to ensure you give them every oppitunity to get their work back, even if it means emailing and calling them every day until they do. However, a friend of mine worked for a woman who has organised year 12 art shows for years, she still has uncollected work from over 10 years ago she’s holding onto in case the artists want them back. He warned me I should draw the line somewhere. I thought that good advice!

After it’s all done and over, find somewhere to sit down. Have a nice cup of tea and maybe a slice of cake. It’s a big job, but it’s really rewarding and you’ll have contrubuted a valuable event to the artistic community.

Art Investors and Collectors, what do they want?

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

Scott Adams

I did some thinking about this topic today, and then followed it with some research via the web and coupled this with my own experience as well as what I was “taught” at Art School.

I think we should take this type of material into account when we decide, the “business of Visual Art” is important to us and we wish to encourage Investors and Collectors to purchase our works. These two groups would have to be the main target markets Artists would aim for.

Investors and Collectors of Contemporary Visual Art, look to the following pointers to assist them in the purchase of art works which will appreciate in value. By looking at what’s out in the marketplace a new comer to the idea of investing in Visual Art might soon become confused by the quantity of artists, the diversity of styles and media, not to mention decorative works, leisure art and reproductions. My hope is the list below will provide a basis to start from.

Basic Points

Deeper Points

To add to this the collector may have in mind the level of work they want.

There are no absolute guidelines as to which points are better or stronger which a collector or investor might use but these are points for discussion or contemplation at least. Perhaps the big thing about all this is how the Artist communicates all this to the prospective buyer.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+ If you want to see more articles like this as they are published subscribe!

17. The wrap

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

17. The wrap up.


All of the things discussed will be of value to you in starting your quest to be an active Visual Artist and over time you will develop a great deal of experience. I hope the aim of assisting to find useful starting points has been useful.

In the “Art world” there are commercial opportunities, and “pure Art” opportunities where the business of Art is probably not considered. All in all it’s up to you which path you want to take, but art as a career where you can earn a living is feasible, although mostly it’s highly competitive.

To stand out from a crowded market place you need to be different, to innovate, to be noticed but you would do well to look carefully at the tried and true basics of business and marketing to be able to find your niche.

Take into account all the aspects laid out in the 16 other points and explore the ways you can be all you can be in the arts and give it your best shot.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+ If you want to see more articles like this as they are published subscribe!

16. Your first solo show

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

16. Your first solo show.


At last you are having your first solo show, you are excited, the work is great but what’s going to happen? What can you control and what do you need to know.

Well firstly if you are represented by a gallery they will tell you what to do and when, if they don’t chat to them about what they want you to do and make a list for yourself and follow it.

If however you are having a solo show where you hire the space, there is a lot to consider and you should develop a solid plan of action to make sure you do enough of the right things to make the occasion a success.

  1. Create a calendar then create a plan – You may have a few months to the exhibition, so gab a calendar and check out how far away it is, then jot down as many things you can think of you might need to do. From here make a plan of action seeing what needs to be done first.
  2. Do research – A quick search on the computer will give you access to a range of information and articles on planing and exhibition, try an Art Forum, membership is often free and you can ask experts who have been there and done that what they did, do and the pitfalls to watch out for.
  3. Create a budget – Yes MONEY is involved costs for invites catering and adverts to name a few, so create a budget and stick to it.
  4. Market it well – Let the world know, but in a way that suits your budget, identify carefully who you want to target and how you will get them to notice your exhibition, art magazine adverts can soon add up, so can other costs for marketing.
  5. Invite the right people – Make a great list of people you want to share your first show with, often the first show is rarely a selling show but more to the point your entrée to the art world, a “look out world here I come” statement. Therefore it’s okay to invite friends and family and treat it as a celebration, if however you are confident the works will sell, figure out who you can invite who might be in a position to purchase works.
  6. Make sure the gallery is sorted – The deposit is paid, the transport of your work is organised, the hanging and placement of the works is sorted out in advance where possible, the hardware and tools you need or organised and assistants are there if you need them to hang work etc. If you are organising some catering, make sure it is planned well, if you need permits to serve alcohol then get it well in advance.
  7. Keep yourself “Nice” – At the event opening you want to make sure you “behave yourself” the temptation to perhaps have a few drinks before the event to build some courage, or to have a few too many at the opening. You may think you are ok but it’s not good to upset people or put them off your work due to how you act, so keep yourself nice… (Trust me on this one it will get you in the end…)
  8. Be organised with the sales – Who handles the sales? The gallery? You? a friend? Make sure this is settled early and well organised so there are as few hiccups as possible.
  9. Be there – During the show you should consider making yourself available so you can chat to viewers if they have any questions about the works. If this happens on the weekend so be it. If you are showing in a well known space ask them about how many people go through a show and pick the busiest days to be there.

It’s your first show so enjoy the process as much as you can, you have done the work, built the confidence so you deserve to make it work for you as best possible.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+ If you want to see more articles like this as they are published subscribe!

15. Being great to get along with

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

15. Being great to get along with.

If you have ever come across an obnoxious person you will know it’s often MUCH easier to steer clear of them, as they can drag a group down, are often negative, destroy friendships fast, and generally cause all sorts of drama. A person who is opposite to this is easy to get along with, a great contributor to a team, generally positive and builds friendships fast.

So which would you rather be?

BUT here’s our challenge, many Artists work in isolation, build up their own ways of working, their own habits, own desires and interests and are focussed on them, not others (okay big generalisation, but you get the point.)

Therefore for Art Galleries to work with them, and other Artists in group exhibitions and the like the whole team spirit and sense of cooperation is vital to things going well. So how do we make sure we are great to get along with so things can go smoothly?

  1. Take the time to build rapport – That is, make the effort to get along with people by being a bit like them, by using their language exploring their view of things to minimise the difference between you and them.
  2. Ask about your style – What’s my style like when dealing with other people? Ask your friends and adjust so you can “take the edge off” any parts of the way you do things, which may cause a drama or challenge of some kind.
  3. Be an individual BUT – Yes you are an Artist, an individual, after all, however if there are aspects of that which causes people to be repelled then that’s often NOT useful in getting along with others.
  4. Keep in contact – In a group planning for an exhibition, or with a gallery the main people involved want to know what’s happening, so drop them a line via email if you don’t talk much, if you do find phoning essential make sure you figure out what you need to ask, say etc and jot it down so you can remember it easily and not get flustered. A great way to catch up when you can’t or don’t want to is with a group sharing system like google groups, a bit like email but with the ability to share files.
  5. Be knowledgeable but not a know it all – You are the best at what you do, but don’t shout it at people. Let them figure out your worth without you having to be the bragger, boastful, boisterous, blah blah blah! In fact if they ask you questions that’s fine, but consider how much information they should be given and if you might go over the top with a response.
  6. Ask about them – Working with others gives you a great chance to indulge them, ask how they are, what they want, how they want it and when, I fact get great at asking questions about them and you will become a person people will want to get a long with.
  7. Learn to handle tough calls… – Yes, rejection it happens, people may reject you not because of you, but perhaps your scale of work is not what they are after, or the style is not handled by the gallery (e.g. abstract V’s realistic) or any one of a million possibilities, it may not be you or  your personality but it might feel that way. Rejection is tough it can hurt, but know it may not be because of you. So don’t throw a tantrum just because someone said no to your proposal, style of work etc.

All of these points (and others) are all aimed at assisting you to be more influential, leaving a positive impression and a better communicator, so practice them and be the person people want to get along with and not the drama queen known for being the easiest person to get along with!

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray, Australian Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009

14. Chatting to people about your work

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

14. Chatting to people about your work

Some Artists are shy, some want to tell everyone about their work and many of us are somewhere in between. Chatting about our work can be a challenge so I want to address that in this article.

Let’s imagine you create wonderful objects, your art buddies say great things but you just want to make the things and get on with making more… not to be hassled by having to chat about the works with others.

After a while you can end up having to talk about your work and finding useful ways to do it, so you can connect with gallery operators, enthuse a prospective purchaser, or keep an Art Lecturer from failing you!

Communicating about your work probably falls into a small bunch of categories.

• What it’s about (basic to complex).

• How much it’s worth.

Then couple this with small talk to fill in the gaps and you may find yourself in an awkward position if you are more used to being buried in your studio in a deep personal trance working away on your Art.

The important thing is to know you are not the only person to find chatting about your work challenging, art can be so personal and introspective it can hurt greatly to “spill the beans” on your personal symbolism and stories. To overcome some of this try a few of these ideas as possible starting points.

There are a whole range of reasons people may not be as at ease chatting about their work, from personal confidence issues to an uneasy understanding or appreciation of the language used by artists. Whatever the reasons you can overcome them, it may take practice, it may take courage, it may take some soul searching but it can happen, it’s up to you to figure out if you want to do something about it and then taking action to implement a plan of action.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray, Australian Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+

13. Tracking your work

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

13. Tracking your work

If you are in a position to have a number of galleries represent you and show your work, it can be easy to lose track of where things are or where they are meant to be. Then ad to this art competitions, awards and the like then it starts to get complex, THEN if you rent some work out it gets really crazy!

The answer a system, a simple system, in fact the simpler it is the more likely it is you will use it. Therefore you need to come up with a way track what’s happening, even if you only have a few works out of your reach for a while it can still be a handy habit to get into.

Perhaps the easiest way is to create a table with columns on a sheet of paper. The first column lists the work, then, where it’s at, date delivered, the expected date of return, then a tick box for when it is returned.

Over time you can develop it further but the basics are there, some people do it on computer so they can wipe out the returned ones, I guess a whiteboard can do the same also.

So find the way that works, use the system and never lose sight of your works again.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray, Australian Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+

12. Websites and blogs

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

12. Websites and blogs

Technology means we are able to communicate fast to a whole range of people and the internet has certainly given us great scope to do just that.

These days updating your website can be (must be…) an easy process so you can ensure the contents, words and text along with any links can be altered to suit.

Using the web as a marketing and promotion tool is generally seen as a normal part of today’s art marketing strategies, (esp in the USA) however many Artists are content to see their representing gallery do the online representation for them. My thought is, have them do it AND do it yourself, the more avenues for promotion the better!

Blogs have become a popular way to keep in touch with those who want to know about what’s happening in your art world and it certainly offers great scope, coupled with your social media contact lists an active presence can be highly effective. A few issues arise, the information you write can work against you (especially if you have opinions others disagree with!) and if left idle for too long people forget about your blog.

In the process of building an online presence you need to make sure you are doing things for an active audience, there is no use in having a web page or blog if no one is actively looking at them. This can be overcome by utilising Google Analytics a piece of very useful software which tracks the amount of visitors to your site, long with a lot of other information you need to know, like where are the people who are looking? How did they find my site/s an so on… Analytic programs offer so much information it can be daunting. Especially if you find no one has been to your site for weeks!

This raises the issue of how people find out about you and your sites, Business cards and fliers which list your web address are useful (as long as they are handed out!) and your social media contacts and teasers keep people coming back to look. Couple this with links to your site from relevant sites and or online goggle ads you then up your chance of guiding people to look at what you have to offer.

Your site should be a great place to visit, and viewers should want to hang around long enough to read and or look at what you have, what you do etc. If you can add images of yourself at work, videos via You Tube of you working etc, then you stand a chance of being noticed in a good way.

Being active online is vital to your web success, commenting on art blogs, forums and the like can also provide people with a way to get in contact with your site.

There is lots of material about online marketing strategies you may like to check out, from using PR to drive people to your site to publicity “stunts” which cause people to have a look. Whatever way you do it, your aim should be the same, accessing a specific target market and influencing them to take a solid interest in what you do as an Artist. In the end the result should be higher recognition of you and your work with a greater likelihood of sales. 

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray, Australian Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+

11. Invites and teasers

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

11. Invites and teasers

You are having an exhibition and the gallery will probably organise the invites to the opening, however if you have to do it for yourself for whatever reason, then here are a few guiding points to consider, and how to make use of “teasers” to enhance the results of your marketing efforts.

Invites, the aim is to entice people to be at your opening, a loose guide to their success is in the amount of people who come to the opening.

The invite should clearly tell people who, when, what, where, and give them some sort of indication as to the type of work on offer. It should be in printed and email form, so the design should take into account both processes and it’s ability to be effective in each situation.

The next consideration is the quality of the printing used, Although I get a lot of invites to exhibitions via email I still like to get hard copy ones, I tend to consider those with more interest for some reason and the coated (gloss or soft buttery finishes), bigger ones the better, multi-fold, multi image ones are simply great, but that’s me..

Lastly how long before you send them out? If it’s too long before the opening they might forget about it, if it’s too soon, other things may end up on their calendar…. The general guide seems to be from 2 – 4 weeks out from the opening.

Now to teasers. If you have a great contact list of interested people on your email list then chat to them in the lead up to the show with a teaser or three. Of course you want to avoid being a spammer, so make sure you provide some way of the person opting out of being a contact.

Teasers have the aim of intriguing a person to want to know more, in this case to look at the galleries website or your website about the upcoming show, if you have a site dedicated to a group show with info on it, then the teaser should have that web address on it. If you are using Facebook, twitter and similar social media contact devices make sure your teasers cause people to check out what you have online also. It is probably not useful to merely say a show is coming up and the invite will follow soon, is a waste of time, you need to engage them in a meaningful way.

Teasers can be a simple letter, a DL sized flier or card, an email image and text or a combination of the lot. Your aim being to have heaps of suitable people interested in your exhibition and your work.

Consider using a range of short sharp headlines to grab attention, so the reader feels compelling to want to know more. 

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray, Australian Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+

Next Page →