How To…….Get Your Art Into The Public Eye

In the first article in the ‘How To….’ series, we’ll be exploring the difficult (and often daunting) task of getting your artwork into galleries  – or if that’s not your bag, how to get it into the public arena and start raising your profile as an artist.  This step, whether you’re taking it for the first time or if it’s your twentieth gallery you’re approaching, has certain precautions you can take which will help you achieve success (and which will help you feel less nervous about it!).  In this article, two of our most experienced and successful artists, Anne Magill and Cecil Rice, have kindly shared their advice, experiences and tips first-hand to help those starting out on this path.

ANNE MAGILL

Born in County Down, Northern Ireland, Anne Magill started her career as an illustrator, working in advertising and was also a courtroom illustrator!  Her many awards are testimony to the standard and depth of her work.  Mysterious, atmospheric and evoking emotions surrounding each picture, her art draws the viewer in, making them feel familiar with the subjects although the subjects remain shrouded in mystery and ambiguity.  Anne’s work has been and is displayed in galleries  in the UK and world-wide.   A link to her site follows this article.

CECIL RICE

Born in 1961, Cecil Rice has lived in Brighton since 1974.  Cecil is well known for his evocative paintings of shoreline subjects and architecture. He has a passion for Italy, especially Venice, and travel has been an important inspiration behind much of his painting to date. Recent painting trips have taken him to Granada, Marrakesh and India.
Limited edition screen prints of his work can be found in London and New York galleries. His work is exhibited regularly in galleries in the UK and abroad.  A link to his site can be found at the end of this article.

GETTING INTO THE PUBLIC EYE – WHERE DOES AN ARTIST START?

With such a lot of galleries now exhibiting all genres of work, how easy is it to research and select the right galleries for your art?  Where should you start?  Will they want cd’s of your artwork or will they be prepared to look through your website?  Anne and Cecil have  learned from their experiences of this stage of the process – and one key point seems to stand out with both of them:

DO YOUR GALLERY HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE!
Cecil Rice:- “To some extent researching galleries is spade-work.  I don’t see that you’ll find the best galleries for your work unless you make these efforts.  The Internet appears to give more choice and speed of research but quite a lot of those leads are illusory or simply a waste of time.  I don’t mean to sound cynical but watch out for dishonest dealers.  There are some of these and galleries sometimes do close suddenly, the owner becoming untraceable.  Try to ensure that whoever you are dealing with has a reputation for paying up reasonably promptly.  I definitely rate phone calls over e-mails and don’t be afraid to try walking into a gallery with some work. If you find someone busy, ill-tempered or tired it’ll just be bad luck. Sometimes you’ll get a good response.  I tend to try to set up an appointment first by telephone, especially if I’m going to have to travel”.

Anne Magill:-
“Google the genre of work that you feel your art fits into and the country or city that you wish to exhibit in.  Look at the websites or CV’s our peers or artists whose work you admire – see where they started out showing and check out those galleries.  It’s very important to get your website sorted so you don’t have to send discs of your work or printed examples; galleries can’t be bothered trawling through all this stuff sometimes.  Prepare a brief email making contact with the gallery including your website address and contact details so they can browse through your work at leisure”.

APPROACHING THE GALLERIES WITH YOUR WORK (AND YOUR CONFIDENCE!

Anne Magill: - “Artists should only consider approaching galleries when they feel that they have found their style; that is to say a way of working that is comfortable and identifiable to themselves.  I’d go for quality rather than quantity; a group of works which are consistent in standard (about 10-15 for a gallery, about half that amount for a solo show).  A good gallery will be able to tell if there’s something there; some want instantly sell-able work and other galleries want to nurture and help artists to develop in the long-term”.

Cecil Rice: – “It took me quite a time to work up the self-confidence. The gallery will soon dismiss you if your work is very weak or not appropriate to their tastes. But many galleries will at least give you some kind of feedback.  They may well reject you to begin with but you also stand to learn a lot about what they like and don’t like about your work. One or two galleries spent hours talking to me about what they felt they could sell and what they couldn’t.  I was turned away initially but went off, did some slightly different paintings and the gallery took my work two weeks later.  Those paintings sold almost immediately and the gallery staff became excited.  They wanted as much work as I could give them.  I think that it pays to listen to what they say and to try hard not to take offence at ‘advice’, much of which does relate to their actual market.  Being genial seems to go down well.  But don’t fall into the trap of working away year after year and letting shyness make you think that you just need to do a few more good paintings… it’s remarkable how quickly you’ll see any actual problems with your artwork (vis-a-vis selling it through a particular gallery) and how you might just develop it a little bit in order to make it acceptable, if only you’ll summon up the courage to walk in there and talk to them!”

TO CALL OR NOT TO CALL? INTRODUCTION ETIQUETTE!

Anne Magill:- “I’d strongly recommend that you telephone the gallery beforehand and ask who to send your email to. You could also send them an invite to your next art show!  It’s quite rare to get an appointment to meet with a gallery owner; sometimes a recommendation can help.  You must remember that galleries are really busy so they usually in the first instance prefer to look at websites and then they call you in.  As far as cold-calling is concerned, friends that I know who run busy galleries really don’t want to be cold-called; if it sin’t a busy time you could ask for an appointment.  But 9 times out of 10 they’ll probably prefer to see work first”.

Cecil Rice:- “|I’ve cold-called!  I definitely rate personal phone calls over e-mails but don’t be afraid to try walking into a gallery with some work. If you get someone busy, ill-tempered or tired it’ll just be bad luck. Sometimes you’ll get a good response.  However, I tend to try to set up an appointment first by telephone, especially if I’m going to have to travel to see that gallery”.

GETTING THE ‘FEEL’ FOR GALLERIES – IT’S LIKE BUYING A HOUSE!
Anne Magill:- “Yes, that ‘feel’ for a gallery that you get when you find ‘that’ house is important; it’s such an important decision.  They represent you – don’t touch a gallery unless you are at least 90% sure you want to be with them.  Trust your gut instincts, look at how they represent themselves; is their website up-to-date?  Do they print good catalogues? And is the gallery clean?! With buyers it is all about first impressions.  If there is a vase of dead flowers on their desk and dust everywhere they are hardly likely to want to hang around to browse or buy”.

Cecil Rice:- “Can you get a ‘feel’ for galleries? Absolutely.  You can.  It’s very clear.  And if you are not quite sure of the ambiance you will be once you’ve had a little chat with the staff.  I approached two galleries a while ago, within the same thirty-mile area. One had colourful contemporary artwork, some of it quite pleasing and the pricing was right.  The other was rather an old-fashioned gallery, but on closer inspection the artwork on sale there was really excellent and the prices were also about right.  What clinched it for me was that the more contemporary gallery had quite a number of really gaudy and sentimental art pieces that let any of the good work down badly”.

We’d like to extend our very sincere thanks to Cecil Rice and Anne Magill for their invaluable advice and time given to support other artists facing these sometimes challenging situations.  Check their website links (below) to see their outstanding and inspirational art.

Next week, the next step; negotiations, questions & rejections!  Also the alternative route if you decide that galleries may not be for you.

http://www.cecilrice.com/

http://www.annemagill.com/


9 comments for “How To…….Get Your Art Into The Public Eye

  1. August 1, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Thank you both for taking the time to share your experiences with us.
    Confidence in yourself and your work seems to be a vital ingreidient when approaching galleries.
    I am always picking up tips from others which I have found useful,I suppose this is what it’s all about.
    Wendy Puerto

  2. August 3, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Hi there,
    I’m going to show my husband all this info, it was great to read, take care Joanne

  3. August 8, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Promoting yourself through galleries these days is just one of the ways of promoting yourself as an artist. With retail business in a sorry state at the moment I find that lot of galleries are affected as people tend to shop more on line. Also it is important to bear in mind that a lot of galleries take a huge percentage which may stop people from buying.
    I have been around few galleries recently in the north of UK and have not found one that is doing well at the moment. I sell more on line than through galleries.

  4. August 11, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks for your comments Leyla. The next installment of this series (up tomorrow) actually focuses on what you mentioned; negotiating with galleries and alternative options if you don’t want to go down the gallery route! We are aware that not all artists are happy doing the gallery thing or are concerned given the current financial climate. Hope you find the next article to be of interest!

  5. August 14, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Hi there, its great to hear your views, we have also approached a couple of galleries in the North East and much of the art is supplied via art publishers. The local galleries that take local artists work have recently closed down, or are struggling and don’t want to take on more artists at this time. I agree with you Leyla there is more sucess on the internet at the moment.

  6. August 19, 2009 at 7:03 am

    I agree with Leyla too. This year, for the first time, more enquiries and commissions are coming through my website. Two of the galleries I sell through take a massive commission. I still feel galleries are important show cases but perhaps they could be more flexible about commission charges. Great article. Thank you.

  7. September 26, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Like Leyla and Helen I receive most of my commissions, enquiries and sales online through my own website, but do think it’s a good idea to use some galleries to promote your work. I often get people email me (especially local one’s) asking to come and see the paintings, so it’s a good place to send people to view your work ‘in the flesh’ if you don’t want them visiting your private studio.
    The main problem with galleries are the huge commission charges and often inflated prices they try and persuade you to sell the paintings for, usually to benefit from maximum profit. Obviously galleries are there to make money but I do dislike the greed and ‘snob’ value associated with some of them
    Thank you both for this very informative and helpful article

  8. December 16, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Really informative so far I havent found galleries that helpful, but have only tried a few local ones. All my painting have sold through the Art Society of Inverness, friends, and friends of friends.

  9. May 16, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Hello,
    Nice to find this site! Im a tile-painter, maybe you know like delfts-blue but than in my own style. I have the old recepies how they made glazure in the 16e century and there are just a few who knows that. Also the cobalt blue collor is not for sale anymore and made it also by myself. I have a atelier(?) where i paint and show my work. A sort of gallery. Most of the time i paint in order but sometimes i make my own design. That means that all the orders are sold and not in my gallery. I decided when i have time to make two of the orders so people can choose witch one they like and i have one for in my gallery.
    I live in a very old area, my house is a jugendstil house, next to me there is a big church from 14e C ( or a bit younger…) I live on a square with all type of houses and it is a touristique place. There are many concerts, and another things to do so once in a while the square is full of people who can see my work threw the window or comming in and asking a lot of questions.
    The media had bin here several times and I was so lucky to show my work in some great magazines.
    Also getting people to your art, is internet. I had a professional site but I couldnt put my pictures on it. Now i have a less professional site but i can change what i want.
    I try to make so much as i can blogs on different url’s, that helps you to go up in google. With the right tags, like ‘old fashion tiles’ or in dutch, oude tegels en tableau’s’ you find me very quick.

    I made also paintings but i learned how to make my paintings on tiles and there are always people who buys a house and want a new kitchen, bathroom, toilet, hall etc.

    Nice to read this article. Thnx

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