Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Break in the Sky, 2006, Oil on Panel, 24x24

Ok, putting together info about me and my work.

Luckily when I went to do this, I had some idea of what to do. I had worked in a small company for a few years after college and we always had to put together mailings and catalogs that showcased the company and its products. Then, for awhile I had my own little company and I needed to have presentable, yet inexpensive, information to hand out to buyers at trade shows. To round out this knowledge, my years at the arts organization came in handy again. I often had to go through the information sent to us by artists who wanted to show in the gallery and it was pretty easy to see what works and what doesn't.

So I settled in to create the following: slides and/or a disk with digital files, a resume, a bio and an artist's statement.

Slides: Nowadays, it's so much easier to get slides made! To take the pictures, I have an easel and tripod set-up in a room that gets a lot of natural light. After taking a shot of the painting with our digital camera, I load the images onto my computer, crop them and lighten them a bit in photoshop and then email the jpegs to the company who will make them and send them back. I usually include 12-15 slides, unless the gallery specified differently, in a (clean) slide envelope. On each slide I write my name, phone number, title, year and size of the piece. At first I did not include a disc, but after a few months I added it to the package. I printed a CD label with my "logo" and contact information and applied that to the disc. I also include an image list that lists each painting, the date, medium, size and price.

Exhibition Resume: This was comical. After being a stay at home mom for quite a few years and having little, if any, recall of the few shows that I was involved in after college, I had just a few bits of information to include. Luckily I had three exhibitions in Utah that I could use, so between those, my education info, a list of upcoming shows and the ever useful double spacing trick, I had a sparse but acceptable resume. I have since been able to switch to single spacing but I still include upcoming shows. And by the way, the resume I have linked to is not updated. It's a long story and involves having a friend do a website as a favor....

Biography: After doing the resume which had big gaps, I felt it was necessary to write up a bio to describe those gaps. I am not sure if it was important really, or if it helped or hurt in some cases, to include personal information, but I like to know something about an artist when I am looking at their work, so I include it in my presentation.

Artist's Statement: This was hard and I worked on these few paragraphs for quite awhile. I tried to keep it simple and short. I didn't feel that any metaphors and flowery, in-depth descriptions were really necessary for my pretty straightforward paintings. I have heard that the artist statement should change as your work changes over the years, but every time that I sit down to alter the statement, it just still seems to be appropriate. This doesn't really relate to the info package but most of the galleries that I have worked with have used my statement on their websites or have used portions of it in their publicity, so I probably should put together some other writings about my work at some point soon.

Letter of Intent: I always include a letter addressed to the gallery director, personally, whenever possible. I usually include comments about how I am impressed with the quality of the art that they represent and that I am interested in exhibition opportunities. I don't mention representation at this point, because I think that is probably way too forward, at least more than I am comfortable with, and I also because I am not looking for that at the point of sending them info. As much as a gallery may want to try out an artist before committing to a longer agreement, I am also trying them out. If I get the chance to participate in a group show or some other event, I can get a good idea about how they are to work with, if they pay on time, if they do the proper amount of publicity, how effective their sales staff is, etc. I also offer to bring in my work into the gallery to show in person.

It should go without saying that all of this printed material is typewritten, with no errors. This seems obvious, but at the arts organization, we used to get so many handwritten letters and resumes, many that were illegible and it really just comes across as that the artist doesn't take themselves, their work, or the gallery very seriously. I also include my letterhead, which includes my "logo" and contact information, on everything that is in this package. Again, computers have made all of this so much easier. No more trips to the printers, which isn't so good for them, I guess.

I also include a high quality image of one of my pieces, printed full page, with the letterhead at the top, on a piece of glossy white photographic paper. I sometimes, in my more paranoid moments, wonder if anyone even looks at the slides or discs, and by including a full color image, I know that they have at least seen one image that I have painted and I can respect a negative decision in that case.

All of this is assembled like this in a two pocket folder. I like to use kraft brown folders, with the recycled look, but I have also used a dark blue linen folder as well. I found a nice pea green paper at Office Max for the printed materials, I think a little color is nice, but I have also used cream or taupe colored papers also. The slides/disc go on the left side with the color print on top, so it's immediately visible. The papers go on the right, letter on top, then resume, artist statement and bio. I also include a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return of the package.

So this is what I sent out to introduce myself and my work to galleries. Most of my attempts were unsuccessful, but I don't really attribute that to the presentation. We all know that there are so many reasons why a gallery isn't interested in new works or artists, from annoyance to getting unsolicited info, to dislike of the art, to disinterest in new artists. But the galleries who have contacted me based on this package have commented on how much they appreciated the professional and clean quality of my presentation. Of the nine galleries who represent my work, five of them became aware of me based on my mailing them this info.

There are probably a hundred other things I could have done along with mailing this info, such as making follow up calls and mailing them show notices and images of new work. I often think that I should be sending out press kits as well. However, I do very little of this. It's not that I think it doesn't work, or that artists shouldn't do any of those things, it's just not what I feel comfortable doing. When I feel that I am at the point where I feel that I really need to be showing in NYC or in another large city, or if I think I need some press, I will push a bit harder at promoting myself.

So let's hear what kind of promotion you all do, to galleries or otherwise.

PS. The company I use for slides is They are inexpensive, have a quick turn around time and accept digital files by email. For just the extra shipping charge I can get my slides in 3 days, if necessary. I love them.


Tracy Helgeson said...

Hi Shan, Glad that you found this really long post to be interesting! I know what you mean though. It's hard to find out how to do this stuff, exactly, and talking about how I have handled these things and was one of the things I wanted to do with this blog.

The company that I have used for slides, and who do a really good job, is They are in CA and are worth the extra shipping involved for us. Which wouldn't be so bad if I didn't always wait until the last minute:-) We have tried a number of places in NYC but had endless problems with each of them.

Thanks for the mention, in advance.

Ed Maskevich said...

Yeah, I would like the name of the slide company also. But I just want to add, your presentation is drop dead gorgeous.

I have a digital camera and love it. No more needed 2 different cameras and keeping slide film in one. Plus having to use the color corrected lights. Your right, it is so easy to correct the image (I use PhotoShop).

Have you ever thought of offering a workshop on this? I'm sure many people would pay for this.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Hi Ed, I added the slide link ( to the post.

Thanks for the compliment about my presentation. Alas, my skills don't extend to teaching, or any kind of public speaking, so no, I don't think I would attempt a workshop. I am sure there are plenty of others who would do a better job. However, I do talk about this stuff to a smaller extent with artist friends. And now it's all on my blog for everyone to see! hah.

Lisa Hunter said...

I'm always amazed by how much written information an artist has to provide. I'd freak out if, as a writer, I had to provide illustrations to explain who I am and what I do.

Thanks for sharing.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Thanks, Lisa, I have secretly nursed a dream of writing a book since I was a kid, but the pull to paint was a bit stronger. So doing a blog is perfect, even if it is a studio time sucker. Thanks for the comment, I have really been enjoying your blog.

william wray said...

Tracy you have inspired me to upgrade my presentation. In the sprit of overkill, I'm going to put together a little booklet like an Art show catalogue to send out to galleries.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Glad to inspire, Bill, and overkill can be good! A whole catalog would be very nice. How would you print it?