Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Decisions and Research

Orange Barn on Purple Land, 2006, Oil on Panel, 9x12

After discussing framing and finishing issues last week, I thought I'd keep going and talk a bit about marketing, of which I am in no way an expert, just so you know.

When I decided to go back to painting, I felt I had to make a decision about the direction I was going to take in order to try to exhibit and sell my work. One option was to try and get gallery representation and get into various group shows with the galleries and in other arts organizations, and in that case I would basically be paying someone else to sell my work, which I was fine with. The other option was to sell directly to buyers, by showing at art fairs, selling on ebay or in other internet venues, opening my studio to the public, and cultivating a list of clients with direct marketing. After looking into each option and dabbling a bit with both, I decided to go the gallery route. I didn't feel that I had enough time to handle my own sales, not to mention the advertising, the paperwork and the negotiations that making sales involves. I couldn't leave town to do art fairs because of my husband's business and his traveling schedule and I still really needed to spend most of my time actually painting and developing my work. So in order to streamline my efforts, direct marketing (and making my own frames and panels) had to go, and I decided to pursue gallery representation.

I had done some research about how to go about that by reading a few books and I also came across helpful bits of information in magazines and on the internet. So with complete and total blind optimism and confidence, I just jumped in. I started to research galleries to find the ones that I thought would be a good place for my work. If I saw an artist's whose work seemed similar to mine, I looked at their resumes to see where they had exhibited and I tracked down their galleries. I checked websites, artist websites, show listings, looking for venues that seemed suitable. I would have liked to visit many more galleries in person to develop a relationship first (the way everyone says you should), but logistically, that was really difficult for me. With four kids and a husband who is often out of town, it was and still is difficult for me to get away very often. So I did what I could on the internet (did I say that I love the internet?!), I took a few day trips to visit some regional galleries and Doug scoped out some places in person for me too, when he could. I did establish a relationship with a local, but seasonal gallery, and an arts organization, where I had a solo show last year and they often show my work in their juried shows and in their member events. However, certainly I needed more than that, if I wanted to move forward. I put together a list of galleries in NYC, Boston and Philadelphia (did I mention the blind optimism thing?) and then a list of galleries in smaller areas such as Hudson and Saratoga Springs, NY. I decided that I had to start sending out my info. Um, which meant that I would have to put together my info.

Since that's a long story (what a surprise!), I will save the discussion of my fascinating attempts to put together sparse information about myself and my work for tomorrow.


Ed Maskevich said...

Trying to get into galleries can be so frustrating, at least is has for me. I also don't have a problem with the money split. Although, one of the galleries I deal with has gone from a 50/50 split to a 60/40, in their favor. Such is the cost of doing business.

I tried the eBay approach by setting up a store. Had lots of lookers just no buyers. Once we relocate I may try again.

I think what I am looking for is a mixture of art fairs and gallery representation. Finding the art fairs that have good crowds and results is another daunting task but they are out there. I have talked with artists at the Ann Arbor (MI) Street Fair that have done $15,000- 20,000 in sales at the fair.

Now that the kids are moving out and my wife and I are retired the fairs are a good reason to travel and write it off as a business expense. If I don't have a reason to go out I cloister myself away.

martha said...

I'm so impressed by your confident attitude and can do approach. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to hunt down galleries like that, but then again, I don't know what I'm doing, and my production of stand alone paintings is so sparse! One of these days, maybe I'll be able to shift my focus a little. It sounds as though you are very well represented now. How does that affect your ability to experiment with your style?

Tracy Helgeson said...

Hi Martha, Not so sure if it's confidence or arrogance, but thanks. I think in your case, since you are already working with the murals, creating gallery work will take some time for you, which is good too I think. For me, I may have had more success, at least in the bigger cities, if my work had been more developed, like yours is.

I will talk a bit about trying out new work in galleries in a future post. It's been a topic I've thought about discussing for awhile.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Hi Ed, Left a response earlier but looks like blogger ignored me.

I think I made the point that if an artist sells in a gallery or on their own, it's important to keep the prices the same. I found all kinds of difficulties with this, mostly because most people who attend art fairs don't want to pay gallery prices and when people buy directly from the artist they usually expect a big discount. Galleries don't like this and understandably so, as it undermines their sales efforts. My head was exploding trying to keep everything straight-who pays what, where, Ugh. Not for me.

The key to refusing not accepting a 60/40 split is to have enough clout to make it in the artists favor. That's my plan, anyway!

Jeffrey Hayes said...

Hi Tracey,

Great post. I'm grappling with some of the same issues you seem to have faced early on, though not necessarily approaching it from an either/or perspective. Having sold on my own from my studio and online for the last 2 years, I'm now branching out and establishing contacts with galleries. Fortunately, there are literally hundreds of galleries within a 2 hour drive of me (Boston area), dozens of which are potential fits for me. I do have the sense that in the end, the real success is most likely through gallery representation, but in the meantime, I feel it's important to keep all my revenue streams open... A sale is a sale is a sale.

william wray said...

Really like this one the grey background helps settle the warm colors.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Thanks for commenting, Jeff. I am glad that you are working on combining both options. As I said in my response to Ed, the trickiest part about that is keeping your pricing structure consistent in each venue. If you can do that, it's great to be able to have so many options to make a sale. I admire artists who do sales themselves. It's a lot of work and I sure wasn't able to handle it.

Hi Ed, Thanks for the compliment. I have been using "dreary" colors along with the brighter colors a bit more lately and this was one turned out nicely, I think.

Kris Shanks said...

Thanks for writing about this. I'm also trying to figure out whether to pursue selling directly or working with galleries. I've been working more on online and art fair sales recently, and I was wondering if it was really possible to follow both avenues. It was interesting to hear you weigh in on the benefits/drawbacks of each.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Hi Kris, thanks for the comment. Luckily, these days, artists have so many more options as far as selling our work. It doesn't have to be either/or, it just was for me. I checked out your blog, by the way, and your work looks great, and thanks for mentioning me. LOVE the frames you bought.