Friday, September 29, 2006

What is an emerging artist?

In response to my comment on Tracy’s blog, Karen wondered about the term "emerging artist."

It’s an ambiguous term that generally means an artist who’s just beginning his or her career.

When I see descriptions of galleries, they usually indicate the types of artists they represent (landscape, abstract, Russian, African-American, etc.) and also what career stage (emerging, mid-career, or established). At this point, I would never submit my work to a gallery that only represented mid-career and/or established artists.

So here’s what “emerging artist” means to me:
No longer a student.
Had a few solo shows and/or asked to be in some invitational shows.
Serious about his or her art - may not be a full-time artist but considers him or herself an artist and actively creates and markets the work.
Hasn’t had a museum show.
Isn’t necessarily in a lot of public or private collections.

But I have no idea how long you have to work as an “emerging artist” in order to go on to the next stage. Maybe after you’ve been working for 20 years you can consider yourself mid-career? Or after you have your first museum show? Or when Art Forum writes an article about you?

Do you consider yourself “emerging?” Why? If not, why not?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Self Doubt

I'm always worried when I send my paintings out into the world. I'm afraid that when someone sees them in person, they'll be disappointed. Perhaps a gallery owner will like the images on my website but when they see the actual paintings, they'll say, "Ick. What was I thinking?"

But that's what it's all about, really. You do your best to create your work and then when it's out of your hands it has a life of its own. There's always that risk that you'll get negative feedback or criticism. I suppose if you weren't willing to risk it, you'd just hide your paintings in a closet.

I sent some paintings off to a gallery earlier this week and have been having those secret worries and fears. The gallery owner sent me an email that said, "I received your paintings this morning and I'm thrilled. They are everything I hoped they would be."

How cool is that?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Art Biz Blog

Thanks to Alyson Stanfield at the Art Biz Blog for mentioning this blog!

I just recently discovered her blog - tons of great information there. For some reason I've been on an "inspiration" kick lately - looking for information on how to stay inspired. Alyson has a bunch of great posts on inspiration. Be sure to check it out!

Friday, September 22, 2006

More Resources

I think I forgot to mention a really useful book - The Practical Handbook for the Emerging Artist by Margaret R. Lazzari. It was a required book for the professional practices class that I took in grad school.

You'll find lots of information on getting your work out, making contacts, finding alternative exhibition spaces, documenting your work, researching galleries, and curating shows. There are even several interviews with artists. A great resource.

Alyson B. Stanfield at the Art Biz Blog posts lots of great information for emerging artists. Great stuff about pricing, getting into galleries, marketing, etc.

I just happened upon this website for the University of Texas at Austin's Fine Art Career Services. It's primarily for students and recent graduates of UT, but anyone can access the information. There's information on finding a job or internship, writing a CV, and there's even a Career Guide for Studio Art Majors (pdf file).

If you're a crafter or are thinking about starting a craft business, Make It is a great blog. Find information on where to sell your craft items, get organized, find inspiration, etc.

Please post any other resources that I might not have mentioned!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Progress Report

I've been OCD lately and I've compiled a list of the galleries that I've sent my brochure to. These were mostly galleries that I researched from the Art in America Gallery Guide. I've been wondering how many I mailed out and how many responded...

Starting in April of 2005, I sent my brochure and cover letter to 168 galleries from Arizona to Wisconsin.

As of September, 2006, I've received 39 rejection letters (some form letters, some hand-written notes, and a few with valuable feedback).

I've received interest from 5 galleries for possible group shows in the future.

A gallery invited me to participate in a group show.

I received gallery representation and that gallery recently sold two of my paintings. That paid for my brochure printing and postage right there...

Three months ago, I sent my brochure, cover letter, and CD to 15 consultants (also from the Art in America Gallery Guide). I've only received one letter - a rejection... It's still fairly soon, though.

It was interesting to look back through the rejection letters. I so appreciate the people who took the time to write a note or give specific feedback, although after a while, I was happy to even get a form rejection letter. Well, not happy, but you know what I mean...

Next steps
I still have a list of galleries that had specific submission guidelines. I'm going to double check their websites one more time (to make sure they're still accepting submissions) and send them packets. I was specifically looking for galleries that would accept CDs. I haven't taken slides in a while - I document my work digitally now. Anyway, slides are just too dang expensive to send out to just sit on somebody's desk for six months.

I'm going to add all of the galleries that sent me rejection letters to my mailing list. Many of them specifically said, "Keep us on your mailing list," or "We'd like to see your work in the future." So who knows? Maybe someone who rejected me last year will like my work next year...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Types of Galleries

When I decided that I was ready to let my work loose on the world, I looked around for advice in books, from teachers, and from other artists. I heard:

“Get your work out there.”
“Show wherever you can.”
“Get shows on your resume.”
“New York! It’s so important to get a show in New York!”

So I read Art Deadlines List, Art Calendar, and surfed all the art opps boards I could find. I entered a ton of juried shows, especially the ones in New York and the ones with big-time New York critics and curators as jurors.

That particular year, I think I got into a couple of shows - none of the New York ones, though. But I did receive an interesting letter from one of the galleries there that had sponsored one of the shows I entered. It said something like, “The juror rejected your work, but we really like it. We would like to invite you to join our gallery.” It proceeded to recommend the gallery and the advantages of being able to show in New York, etc. There were different levels at which I could “join,” and which would allow me different amounts of wall space in upcoming group shows. They said that they advertised in prominent art publications, promote their artists, yadda yadda yadda. It all sounded really nice until I saw the price list of the membership levels. I think the cheapest one was still over $2000. That’s a lot to pay for a line on your resume.

Vanity Galleries
One of my professors looked over the letter and told me that the gallery was what is known as a “vanity gallery.” She explained to me that the problem with vanity galleries is that most of them have a reputation as just that - a gallery in which someone has paid to show their work just to get New York on his or her resume. For the most part, vanity galleries don’t promote and develop relationships with artists like reputable commercial galleries do. And it won’t necessarily impress a gallery director if he or she sees it on your resume.

Rental Galleries
Rental galleries are a little different. Although they might not have the same prestige that a commercial gallery or an alternative space might have, they are definitely a viable place to show your work, especially if you’re just starting out and need experience showing.

Most rental galleries charge a flat rate for a specific period of time, say $200 for 3 weeks. It will most likely be a “do it yourself” type of operation. You hang the artwork, design the invitations, do the PR, schedule and host the reception, and sometimes you might even have to staff the gallery.

This is great experience for someone starting out or for a group of artists who want to show together but might not have another venue available.

Obviously you’ll want to find a gallery near your home, especially if gallery-sitting is involved.

Co-op Galleries
Co-op galleries are different still. A co-op gallery usually involves a group of artists who work together to show their work, promote the gallery, and sometimes offer community art classes or workshops. Some co-op galleries will even have studio space available for their members to create artwork on site.

The co-op gallery will require a membership fee, which will go towards gallery maintenance, rent, promotion, etc. You may have to pay a commission to the gallery as well, upon the sale of your artwork.

The main difference between a vanity gallery and a co-op gallery is that the artists in the co-op are invested in the running of the gallery. This can also be a great way to get experience with shows, to meet other artists, critics, curators, etc.

You’ll most likely want to be as involved as you can, so being physically close to the gallery will be important.

I have had good experiences with rental and co-op galleries, but I’m trying to stay away from the vanity galleries...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Interview: Michelle Caplan

work by Michelle Caplan

I thought it would be interesting to hear from some artists who are already established - to find out how they got their start, how they stay inspired, and ask them to share some advice to help us along.

I contacted Michelle Caplan, an artist with a background in graphic design, who creates beautiful work from found photographs and other ephemera. She was kind enough to answer a few questions via email:

How did you get your start in art?

I have been doing some kind of art ever since I can remember. I was very fortunate to have many creative people around me growing up and they definitely made an impression. I would draw, paint t-shirts, bedazzle, collage, write, make jewelry, and on and on. I always gravitated toward anything creative.

When did you decide that you were ready to put your work out to the world?

I was freelancing from home, doing Graphic Design, and started doing the art as a side thing. I never thought I could be a full time artist. I was getting more and more commission inquiries, and slowly but surely I started exploring ways to sell my work online. I tried ebay for a while and was selling pretty well. Then I discovered blogging and Etsy, and my participation in sharing my work has just grown from there. I never made a conscious decision that I would reveal myself to the world. I have just gradually become more and more involved.

What was your first step in marketing your artwork?

Clear photography!!! The biggest mistake I see artists and crafters make is that they put lo-resolution images on the web. I am always astounded when people do this. We are all very visual and if your images aren't clear and crisp, no one is going to invest any time in delving deeper. You have to put your best foot forward online because losing a potential clients attention is always a click away!

What has been the most successful (in terms of marketing)?

My blogs, by far, have been my best tool. I get to express myself, and share my inspirations.

What hasn’t worked so well (in terms of marketing)?

I have to say that so far nothing has been a dismal failure.

How do you price your work?

Before I started working with galleries, I priced my work based on a few things. I used to sell my work on ebay, and that was a great gauge but I also look at how are other artists pricing their work, and how established they were. Now I have to be more aware of pricing because of gallery representation. My prices have to be uniform across the board so that is a bit harder. As artists we know what we would be happy selling a piece for. I try to make sure that I am supporting myself while still remaining affordable.

Do you create art full time?

Yes. All day, everyday. And twice on Sundays.

What are your current art goals?

To keep pushing forward the best way I know how. Keep my head up and get into a few more galleries. I am also doing a bunch of fairs in the Fall. I need more face to face time with people. Because my work is a bit different, it takes people seeing it in person for the first time a minute or two, to get it. I love the look in their eyes when it clicks, and then the questions that follow are always insightful and great.

What is your advice to emerging artists?

We all encounter rejection along the way. You have to never give up. Never stop pushing forward and never stop believing.


Check out Michelle’s beautiful work here: