Art Tips for Emerging Artist

Tip# 16 for emerging artists… Sometimes you have to go broad to get more.

Many galleries in NYC and some of the larger galleries around the world are not taking on new artists, or even having major shows anymore. It is most of the same artists being shown over and over again. Don’t get me wrong there are a few galleries out there that are looking for that next great work, but most of the larger well known galleries are supplying art to fit their clients and not looking for something fresh. So you would wonder what does it take to get into the galleries of your dreams.

There is no secret method. As I stated in an earlier post, what fits one gallery does not fit another. I talked about going to other artists shows, and getting to know gallery people. But there are other things you can do as well to work your way into larger galleries.

  1. Smaller art fares are sometimes a way get noticed. While there are not a lot of larger galleries that go to these but they do from time to time looking for trends, and these are also places to meet local as well as growing galleries.
  2. Again art leagues and local art competitions as well as national competitions are a good way to get noticed, especially if the jurist are from well known museums or galleries.
  3. Working with non-for-profit groups on public projects. Sometimes those that work for non-for-profit art groups also work with bigger galleries or museums. This is a great chance to get to know them. Sometimes these groups also do programs with larger places, which can open doors.
  4. Don’t stay local. I know that it is hard when you don’t have a lot of money, but you don’t have to go far at first. Being part of shows in the next state or even on the other side of the state you are in. I will often travel to upstate, and am currently looking at exhibits in Jersey as a way to get my work more out there.
  5. Instead of trying to send your work to a gallery, try proposing a project, or event you would like to curate at a gallery. This takes a lot of research and it could be some time before you hear back from them, but if you get it done you can get a chance to get to know the people at the gallery and other artists, as well as get a chance to talk about what kind of work you do.

Again none of this is a promise to get an exhibit. In the end no matter how many shows you try to join, and no matter how much effort you put into it, it all comes down to the quality of your work.

Tip# 15 for Emerging Artist… One Size does not fit all.

One of the hardest things for emerging artists to understand is that artists statements and bios may need several versions. While we would have a general artist statement and bio for our web site and artist book, depending on who it is for or the requirements of the gallery or space we are dealing with you may need to have shorter versions of these for them. While I talked about the artist statement in an earlier post, I would like to take this time to talk about the artist bio.

Artist Bios should not be longer than a page in general, but often much shorter than that for most galleries needs. It has some of the same aspects of the artist statement in that it talks about what aspects of your life and the people that influence the art you are creating.

Most galleries will ask you to provide a 1-2 paragraph bio in which they can use to create a press release from. While we will give them the information that we want them to use, you will find more often than not that unless you are curating your own show, galleries tend to change the information some to fit their idea of the show and their gallery. It can be easy to get upset about this, but you will find over time that it is part of the art world that will not change. While you want to protect your idea of your work galleries want to protect themselves.

In general while we are talking about ourselves, artist bios are usually written in the third person. Focus for them should not be on your feelings and dreams, but a more historical aspect of where your art comes from, and what makes you tick.

While you can not always be prepared for everything it is best to have a short, medium and long version of the bio. The short version should highlight those aspects in your personal experience that really talks about the influence on your art.

When I wrote my own artist bio, I reflected on my time in the military, my service at the World Trade Center and my time living in Asia. All of these events in my life has the largest influence on my art.

Tip# 14 for Emerging Artist.. There is more to art than making art.

In a lot of my posts I talk about doing your research. As hard as it might be for people to believe, art is more than simply being able to create art. There is a lot more involved in it.

Most of the time I am talking about doing research to find galleries and know your audience, but there is another side to it the creation side of art. There is a process in making art, that process is not something that we just know, it is something that comes through learning our craft. But what makes our art great is the conceptual aspect. A beautiful painting is just that, but a beautiful painting that has meaning is more than words can express.

From the beginning of the Renaissance movement artists learned many areas about life, science, nature, and the universe before applying all their time to studying art. Even than most of the highest regarded artists continued to explore different aspects of life. Leonardo was more than a painter; he was also an inventor and did studies of life through scientific approaches.

He was not the only one, like himself the artists of that time, wanted to bring art to the next level, beyond what it was considered at the early periods as just a craft or skilled labor. They succeeded, not only in bringing art to the next level, but also establishing what would become the standard for art for some time.

During the enlightenment, we saw another great shift in art. Where the artists were able to not only create art, but were able to seek their own markets for their works. This came about with the introduction of the art market, but also with the academies of art in Europe, which were some of the first universities in the world.

Again in the 1800’s art took another turn with the introduction of the industrial arts. Once again artists would challenge what we know about art and how we view it.

The one thing that all the great artists from that early time to the late 1900’s great artists all had one thing in common. They were more than mere makers of the craft; they were scholars to a level. They wrote, taught, studied, examined, and conversed in the language of art, and life. Without such determination we would not have such movements as Expressionism, Cubism, Dadaism, Impressionism.

It is important that artists not only have the skill sets of creating art, but also have the ability to understand what they are making, how to write and discuss their ideas to the world. As time goes on the world is moving and growing, it is that growth that also moves art. The introduction of new materials gives artists new ideas and methods to explore, the ever-changing history of our world gives artists questions to pose.

But how can we pose those questions or explore new materials without understanding what it is we are trying to say? There are those that will not agree with what I am saying, they will say that art need not be so complicated, but greatness is not achieved in a bottle, it is through exploration. As a race, humans have constantly shown our need to feed that desire to look beyond the world in front of us and reach to the stars. Great art is made by those willing to not only explore the world, but also question it.

Tip# 13 for emerging artist.. So you sold a piece of work

While this is not a goal of every artist it is something that many of us look forward too. But is it simply enough to just sell a piece?

One thing I have heard from a couple of artists is that if they sell their work they feel it is gone.. but that is far from the truth.

One of the ways to keep track of and retain the right to show the work in future exhibits is to have a agreement of ownership with the work that you sell. The agreement does more than protect your work, copyright and ability to borrow the piece for future shows, it also tells galleries and organizations that you are serious artist and well organized.

True collectors or art lovers will enjoy this as well as the value of the work will increase more by being shown in more exhibits than it will just sitting in someone’s house.

Here is a sample of an agreement that I place with my works…
Sales Contract: Agreement of Original Transfer of Work of Art

Agreement made as of the _____ day of _______, 20____, between __________________ (herein after referred to as “the Artist”), located at ____________________________________ and _______________________ (herein after referred to as “the Collector”), located at ____________________________________, with respect to the sale of an artwork (herein after referred to as “the Work”).

WHEREAS, the Artist has created the Work and has full rights, title, and interest therein; and
WHEREAS, the Artist wishes to sell the Work; and
WHEREAS, the Collector has viewed the Work and wishes to purchase it;
NOW THEREFORE, in condition of the foregoing premises and the mutual obligations, covenants, and conditions hereinafter set forth, and other valuable considerations, the parties hereto agree as follows:

1. Description of the Work. The Artist describes the Work as follows:

Title: ___________________________________ Medium: ____________ Size: ___________
Year Created: _______ Framing or mounting: _________ Signed by artist: Yes No

2. Sale. The Artist hereby agrees to sell the Work to the Collector. Title shall pass to the Collector at such time as full payment is received by the Artist pursuant to Paragraph 4 hereof.

3. Price. The Collector agrees to purchase the Work for the agreed upon price of $___________, and shall also pay any applicable sales or transfer taxes.

4. Payment. Payment shall be made in full upon the signing of the Agreement.

5. Retransfer. If the Collector in any way whatsoever sells, gives, or trades the Work, if it is inherited from the Collector, or if a third party pays compensation for its destruction, the Collector (or the representative of his estate) must notify the artist within thirty (30) days.

6. Transferees Bound. If anyone becomes the new owner of the Work, with notice of this contract, that person shall be bound to all its terms.

7. Copyright and Reproduction. The Artist reserves all reproduction rights, including the right to claim statutory copyright, in the Work. The Work may not be reproduced in any manner without the express, written consent of the Artist.

8. Exhibitions: The artist reserves the right to have access to the work of art for the purpose of exhibitions. The owner must inform the artist of any exhibits in which the work is exhibited in by the owner within 30 days prior to exhibition.

9. Miscellany. This Agreement constitutes the entire understanding between the parties. Its terms can be modified only by an instrument in writing signed by both parties. A waiver of any breach of any of the provisions of the Agreement shall not be construed as a continuing waiver of other breaches of the same or other provisions hereof. This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the State of ____________.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto have signed this Agreement as of the date set forth above.
COLLECTOR’S SIGNATURE _________________________________ DATE: ______________

ARTIST’S SIGNATURE _________________________________ DATE: ______________

Tip# 12 for emerging artists Keep it Fresh

One of the hardest things to do as an artist is keeping the work fresh. For many artists we will spend years sometimes even the majority of our early carrier as an artist trying to find our voice in art, but once we find that voice in art, that is not the end.

In this day of ever changing mass media, fast food, mass production and POP culture we are always looking for the bigger better thing. While that might be easy for a company that makes DVD players, it is a lot more challenging for an artist. While our work might be popular now, does not mean that people will enjoy it later endless what adapt it to the time, a current situation, or a new fresh idea.

This dose not mean to completely change what you are doing, there is no reason to go that drastic, but to merely look for new ways to express those ideas. As an example we can look at the works of Cindy Sherman. She started doing stills from movies taking the role of the person in the shot; she later did series of clowns, than different classes of people and explored various cultures. All the time becoming the subject in her work. In the last couple of years she started playing with the backgrounds in the photos to make them look like paintings. It is her ability to keep the appearance of the work and its stories fresh, which has continued to keep her work desired by collectors and museums all over.

This change is not always easy for artists. In today’s day and age it is smart for artists to have more than one form of art that they do, yet keeping within the same basic ideas or structure. This is what I was talking about earlier when I was referring to consistency in the work. One of the things I like to hear is someone say, I was at an opening and I knew it was your work. This concept of consistency in the work goes back to the early part of the Renaissance with artists like Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael.  It has continued through time with artists like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Warhol and other master artists through history. Whether it is the stork of the brush, the style in which they paint or the stories in what they tell, it is the ability for us to readily recognize their works by these consistencies that distinguish their works from others of their period of time.

So you might ask how do you keep it fresh without loosing your audience?  There are a couple of ways you can try and do this. As you find your voice in art, you will hear lots of comments from friends, other artists, gallery owners, art critics, some will enjoy what you are doing, others will want you to change things, it is important that you understand that you cant please everyone, and that you know who your audience is. If you try to please everyone you will just end up producing work for everyone but yourself.

You can try to play with the idea of different materials, various subjects and even a different form of art all together, but in the end the process is all the same for finding if it fits your audience, you have to put it out there for others to view. Over time you will get better at knowing if the work that you are doing will be well received, but in the end it is all a gamble. There is no absolute when it comes to art. What people like today they might not enjoy tomorrow.

Tip# 11 for Emerging Artist, What is success for an artist?

I hear this question a lot from artists, art lovers, and collectors. The truth is that there is no clear answer. Each artist has their own idea of what success is.

For some it is making lots of money off of their art. Others will say simply being able to make their art and have exhibits. More will say being able to live off what they make on their art, and yet others will say simply working on their art, while for even others it is about having museum shows, their works in collections and doing public works for the world to see.

Some artists ideas of success will also change over time. In the beginning of their carrier artists who are still trying to find themselves might just want to be able to do their art.

By the time you enter the emerging stage artists might simply want to make their work and have exhibits. As you continue to emerge as an artist you may hope to sell enough work to live off of, while some look forward to the day that they can sell their work for lots and lots of money.

The truth is that only about 1% of 1% of artists make enough money to live off of, and only 1% of that make enough money to be comfortable, and still only 1% of that make a lot of money.

These days most artists have a second jobs, not because they are not sure in the work that they are doing, or not because they are not creating great art, but for reasons like they need to pay rent, insurance and eat, and for a small number of them it is the fear of failure. Those that live off their work will tell you that it is a risk. You are putting everything you have into your art, with the hope of not only making your money back but also making enough to pay rent, eat, insurance and transportation.

When I talk to people about how I got into art I tell the story of how when I was younger and talked about being an artist, my family told me that I could end up like the artist on the street who spend their days drawing people for $5 a session. While to many that would seem like bad thing to me it sounded exciting. When I retired from the military and put my life into doing my art, I thought about would I be that kind of artist or would I really be able to live off the work that I loved doing. I leaped, taking the risk, and while it has not always been smooth, I have been able to live modestly off of my work.

The hardest part is to stick with it. If you start to doubt yourself or fear being able to make it, it will only get harder. I have seen many artists walk away because they have not reached the level of success they wanted in a certain amount of time. But this is not something that you can put a time line on. Part of the key to all this is keeping your work fresh (something I will go into in my next tip).

Tip# 10 for Emerging Artists, Approaching galleries

There is no magic formulae for approaching a gallery. But here are a few things to consider and look at when getting ready to submit your work to a gallery.

One of the biggest mistakes you can do as an artist is to pick the wrong kind of gallery to approach. No matter how good your work is, if you do painting and submit to a photography based gallery you are just wasting your time. While you are not always able to do so, if you can, don’t just look up the gallery on the internet, but also make a couple of visits to the gallery to see what kind of work they show. Just because a gallery shows paintings and you paint does not mean that the work fits either. If you are a classical painter and the gallery is contemporary you are also wasting your time. It takes a while, but you have to do your research, and see all the angles.

Now that you have found gallery that you think would be a fit for your work, the next step is the approach.

Again this is where you have to do your research. Check the galleries website and see if they are requirements for submitting works. Some will use a up-loading program, others will only take emails, and still others will only accepts cd’s or slides. Just submitting works is not enough, galleries put these guidelines for a reason. They want to be sure that you are seriously paying attention to their requirements and not just blindly submitting to galleries. That does not mean that all galleries have a preferred method of submitting work, some either are not interested in submissions while others will take cd’s or email submissions. Again this is where all that research comes in.

When submitting photos of your work, be sure that you submit high quality photos. (I will get into that later). also be sure that you submit your artists statement and bio. (I already covered those)

After you have met the requirements for submission, it is a waiting game. Don’t be shocked if you don’t hear back from the gallery. Many galleries (especially those in high gallery areas) usually get hundreds of submissions a week from artists who think that they deserve a spot in their gallery, they can’t respond to them all, they would never have time to run their business. But from time to time you will hear back. Definitely if they like your work, but sometimes if they think that your work is good but need some growth, and other times if they feel your work is not ready for their level.

Truthfully it is rare that you will get a response from a gallery from cold calling them. Myself I tend to stay away from this form of approaching galleries. As I have stated before it is best to be introduced to a space through other artists who have connections with a gallery or at art events. Most approaches I have made to galleries is through meeting gallery owners and getting to know them by talking about other artists works in their space or if we are at an exhibit or fair talking about the work there. One thing that will draw some attention to you as an artist is your ability to intellectually talk about art, not just agree with what they are saying about the art.

Here are some things to avoid when approaching a gallery.

1. Don’t try to introduce your art during another artist opening. That is disrespectful to the artist having the exhibit, and tells the gallery that you have no respect for their time. They put a lot into putting an exhibit together and the last thing they want to do is spend the night hearing about what you have to offer them.

2. When you don’t hear back from a gallery, don’t send them a letter or call them asking why you have not heard back. The sad truth is that most galleries don’t have a lot of consideration for artists time. They feel without them the artists would not have a place to show their work, and that it is all about them, while many wrists feel the opposite. Reminding them that they have not responded to your work will more than likely make them care less about your time, and you risk burning that possible connection. Best bet is to wait about a year and submit again with new work.

3. Don’t submit work more than two years old. Galleries want to see current work, not stuff that is sitting around your studio collecting dust. If you don’t have work within the last two years to show it says that you are a part time artist. Also don’t submit the same work the next time, if they didn’t respond the first time, it is unlikely they will respond to it a second time.

4. In this age of internet and mass media, don’t bad mouth a gallery or space on your Facebook, twitter or other media page. Also be respectful as you don’t know who might be reading what you are writing, the same goes for when you are out in the art world, you never know who you will be taking to, or who will be listening. Don’t burn bridges before you have them.

5. Never claim to be able to produce better work than what is currently being shown in a gallery. They put a lot of time and effort into a show and the last thing they want to hear is how what they are showing is bad art.

Always remember that art is subjective and that just because a gallery did not choose you this time does not mean that your art is not good, it just means that they don’t feel your work is a right fit for them. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told by one gallery that my work does not meet the standards, while others have chased me to have a show of the same work.

Tip# 8

Todays tip for emerging artists:

Getting the word out for your solo exhibits:

The reason I am focusing on solo exhibits, is because most group shows are covered by a gallery or organization, but the rules hold the same.

A good showing at an exhibit is very important for an artist, it tells the gallery that you are worth investing in, but it also lets you the artist know that your work is worth something to people.

Believe it or not the biggest mistake people make when putting together a solo show is the name of the exhibit. This can make or break your exhibit. While it may seem easy the name of the exhibit should not only talk about the work you are doing and the theme, but should make a statement of its own. Take my last show “Deconstructing POP” the title not only talks about the kind of work I am doing, but the statement I want to make with my work. It is strong and makes people think about what the work can be.

After a strong name, the image or images you are going to use for the exhibit. It is important to pick one or two pieces of work to show people a sample of the work in the show. It does not have to be a photo of a whole piece it can be a section, but it should speak to the work in the exhibit.

The next part is the press release, some galleries will offer to do it, others will insist, but you should have a good understanding of how they work. The press release should be short, about 1-2 paragraphs the most. It should include what kind of work will be in the exhibit, what inspired the artist to do the work, and a little background of the work you do. It should also include the gallery or spaces information, date and time of the opening, how long the show is running for, location, and contact information for the gallery.

Now that you have all this it is time to start spreading the word. While many artists today are heavy into internet for spreading the word, exhibit cards say a lot about the artist. A good card can catch someones eye and make them think about attending the show more than an email. While I have an email list, I also have a mailing list, and am sure to send out invites to important friends, artists and collectors of my works, as well as galleries I am interested in getting to show my work in. Some places that I am involved in will also let me leave exhibit cards for visitors to check out.

It is also good to build a good internet following. a good Facebook, twitter, linkedin and wordpress page can allow people to follow your work and make it easier to spread the word of your exhibits. It also allows people to see what is going on with your work. It is also useful for spreading the word by inviting them to events on these sites, allowing you to save some money on printing invites (but it is not a replacement for paper invites to those strong supporters of your work).

So the next part is how to get your info to media outlets. This part is a little more difficult. While most media outlets will let you post events on the on-line media for their publications, the printed media is a little harder to get into. It has more to do with the interest in your work, but also your strong press release. When you send your information to the media outlets make sure you submit it the proper way. If you try to email it to them and the site says to submit online they may not put the word out because you did not follow the process. If there is a space for it attach your photo and be sure to thank them for their time if there is a space for remarks. Like I said this is were a strong press release comes in. If you have an interesting story behind your work, and a good title it will have a better chance of drawing their attention to your show. You can also invite them out to the exhibit, but don’t be upset if they don’t show. They get hundreds of request for covering exhibits week, and can’t make them all. Don’t just stick to paper media, it is also good to send out to tv and radio. The more coverage for a exhibit the better. Also the more you send out the better chance to get at least 4-5 media groups to cover your exhibit.

If media outlets do come to your event it is important to send them a thank you note, to let them know you appreciate their support.

So now you will be asking okay how do I build a good mailing list and get a good showing at my exhibits. As it goes without saying you hope that family and friends will come out, but it will take more than your uncle Bob showing up to make your exhibit a success.

Here are some ways to build the kind of support you need..

1. Go to other artists shows, and show your support to them. While they may not always come out to your show and you can’t always go to theirs, it is important for artists to support each other. The more artists you support the more likely some of them will come to your exhibits. They will also introduce you to other artists and their friends who may also come out to your exhibits.

2. Build an email/mailing list. When you have an exhibit put out a sign-in book, let people have a place to be put on a mailing or emailing list to be informed of up-coming exhibits. If they like what they see at your exhibit they will likely sign up to hear about more, and come to future exhibits of yours.

3. Build a good on-line following. It is important to keep your on-line pages professional and about your work. One way to get your page out there is to be active on it. The more you post the more likely others will see your page. Leave your professional page open to all to see, and let others have the ability to post comments. Another way to build a list is to make small advertisements from time to time. About every 2 months I advertise my Facebook page, focusing on areas I would like to draw interest.

4. Being involved in the local community, and local art associations also helps build a stronger turn out. Many local art groups will post info about your exhibits on their pages, and around their locations. Also being active in local events helps you meet more people.

5. Have business cards on hand, and carry your samples of your work, either on a smart phone, iPad or other media device so that when you meet people and they ask you about your work you can show them samples, and give them your contact info. It shows people that you are a serious artist, well organized and gives them a chance to see what you do.

The hardest thing for an artist to do is to do is introduce themselves without sounding like they are boasting, and be able to talk well describe their work while be humble. It is important to believe in your work, and love what you do, always look people in the eye and be prepared to answer questions. First impressions are very important in the art world. If people think you are a snob, full of yourself and only looking to make a buck it will turn them off.

Tip# 7

As an artist we hear many of the same questions over and over again. Why do you create the art that you do? Have you ever thought of doing a different kind of art? Do you make your art for sale? What keeps you motivated?

What people who are not artists don’t understand is that for artists it is not something that we can simply answer. Art is not something that is planned, at least not in the sen

se of the kind of art that we do. For a true artist finds the art inside them, they are inspired by the world around them, and can no more pick the kind of art that drives them than anyone else can choose the color of their skin.

I am always looking to try new ideas, and explore new art, but the kind of art that I do has nothing to do with trying new things but with do I like those new things. Do I feel that they fit into my art, and what I am doing.

As for making my art for sale, I don’t know many artists who don’t want to sell their work, but if we make work for sale and not for the love of it than we are not making art, we are making items to sell.

As for what keeps me motivated, just making art makes me motivated, there is nothing better than spending the day in my studio creating art. Just like a writer must write and a lawyer loves practicing the law, I must do my art.

Tip# 6

One of the greatest ways for emerging artists to get their work out there is to support other artists.. when a friend is having a show go.. when a gallery you know is having an opening show up.. recommend other artists to galleries and dealers you know will fit their space.. recommend artists to news outlets you are connected with.. The ability to make recommendations that fit a gallery or space shows your ability to recognize good art.. that goes a long way.. but also sharing will sometimes get you a show as well. It does not always work, but when it does you know who respects you, your ideas, and your work, those are the people that will support you in return..