Avoid Common Artist Mistakes
7 Tips from the Editor
Along with being a long time painter, I have also served as a nonprofit gallery director and curated exhibits at many diverse venues. I remember what it means to be an amateur artist, pursuing the ideal gallery while fumbling along the way. I also deal with artists directly in the coordination of art shows and publications, and am familiar with the frustrations that come from neglecting the details and guidelines, many issues mentioned in this article and in our interviews with other fellow gallerists. From both ends I’ve seen what a difference the small things can make in terms of developing great relationships with gallerists. May these simple tips help you do the same along your artistic pursuits.
This should go without saying –Be polite
In communicating with your gallerist, a pleasant attitude makes all the difference and may even determine whether they will want to work with you again in the future. Be both respectful and grateful for the time they are affording you amidst their busy schedule, whether you are given a show or not. Don’t ever be pushy or presumptuous. A humble attitude is more attractive than that of the diva artist- you are not the only talented artist in the room and no matter how good your art is, the gallerist would much rather continue doing business with those that are easy to work with. Wouldn’t you?
Always research a gallery thoroughly before making an inquiry
If it’s possible to see a gallery’s physical location in person that’s ideal; in either case taking the time to examine all the pages on their website is also a must. Have a browse through their past, current and future exhibitions to see if your aesthetic is a good match. Check out the “about” and “contact” pages to learn about mission statements and other relevant details, and of utmost importance - their submission policy. It may be that they are not accepting submissions and this should be respected; in other cases there are instructions on how to submit and this must be properly adhered to. Which leads me to the important tip below.
This can’t emphasized enough: Follow instructions
Whether you’re submitting, or in the process of setting up a show with a gallerist, pay attention to every detail of the instructions. Such details may include the preferred word count of an artist statement, the resolution of an image file, hanging specifications, or how files or physical artworks should be sent. Read guidelines and emails two or three times over if you have to. There is a reason behind every request, following these makes the gallerist’s job a lot less difficult. They are often simultaneously dealing with numerous correspondences and keeping up with the business end, therefore having to go back and reiterate their needs to an artist can be frustrating.
If you are submitting to a gallery but have disregarded certain submission guidelines, chances are they will go ahead and disregard your submission, too, without a second glance.
Name your image and word files in an easily identifiable way
For example, rather than sending an image that is named “P1030458.jpg” by default, rename it with a title that includes the name of your image plus your last name; for example: “Artwork_Yourname.jpg”. This will make it easier for your gallerist to locate your file if they happen to have downloaded it into their sea of hundreds of other artist files. Sometimes you may find that the gallerist already has specific instructions on how they want submitted images to be named -a detail worth looking out for in submission policies- if not the above format serves as a good rule of thumb.
Make sure the photographs of the work you submit are of high quality
This means photos that have accurate lighting, are in focus and not blurry, not tilted at an angle and are cropped without extra wall space or views of your studio showing in the background. In this day and age you no longer need a fancy camera to capture and edit photos that are acceptable for submission purposes. In most cases you will want the image saved at a resolution of 300dpi (the standard), but check the submission policy in case other requirements are expressed.
Help with show promotion as much as you can
It is also important that you help promote your upcoming gallery show, rather than leaving it all up to the gallery. Share the show flyer online anywhere appropriate, post sneak peeks of the exhibit, even WIP photos of you in the studio to help spark enthusiasm. It may be that your audience reach is much smaller than that of the gallery, but doing your part still makes a difference and shows them that you take the show seriously and are willing to put an effort into drumming up art sales (which the gallery relies on to keep its doors open).
Choose the right time and place to self-promote
There are many contexts in which it’s just not a good idea to try and plug yourself, here’s a few of them:
-At art receptions: during these events the gallerist is mainly focused on speaking with potential buyers or the exhibiting artists about the current show.
-When a gallerist posts online about an artist they are showing: it’s pretty tacky to reply to the post with a link to your page, website or anything of that kind. The gallerist is only interested in feedback about the show and/or artist they are trying to promote.
-On their website feed: again, commenting on their blog with a link to your website is ineffective. Sometimes there are submission forms directly on the gallery website you can use for this purpose.
These points may seem obvious, but are often overlooked even by seasoned artists. Maintain a professional standard for both your art and communications and I’m sure that, with some patience, you will get to where you want to be as an artist.