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Old 11-05-2019, 09:04 PM
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Oil Can Boyd Oil Can Boyd is offline
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Need Advice

This is going to be a post like (probably) many you've seen in the past. Posing some age old questions and seeking guidance of the most basic - but essential - nature... I feel that I've reached a bit of an existential crisis with it all though, and hope that maybe I can get some helpful advice here.

I've been an artist for my entire life, really. For the overwhelming majority of my adulthood I was a professional musician and songwriter. I enjoyed some success with that and still do, but a few years ago - in my mid 40's (I'm 48 now), I decided it was time for a change. I decided to focus on my oil painting, which is something I have done for a long time, but always as a hobby/pastime. But when I dive into something - especially something art-related - I do it all the way. So I've got a little studio set up in one corner of our living room and I've been painting a LOT over the past two years. And I love it. My techniques are improving, my colors and composition are vivid and compelling and the things at which I'm weakest (drawing the human figure, mostly) are getting better.

I've had 5 or 6 paintings displayed in a few NYC galleries. These were exhibitions organized by a local artist who likes my work. They weren't hugely successful or anything but they were a starting point. But since the last of those (which ended back in July), I've sort of stagnated with the business end of things. I'm still painting every day, being productive, but I don't know what to do next in terms of showing and selling my art, gaining recognition and making money. If I were 25 years younger I think I might have a different approach than now, at 48. By no means am I decrepit and feeble(!) and I have plenty of life experience, and I think I'm good at what I do.

I've considered looking into getting an agent or some sort of representative to handle the business end of things, but I've read that most reputable agents won't even talk to an artist who hasn't already achieved some success oh his/her own. I have plenty of music business experience, but that counts for bupkis here. What should I do? Most of the accessible galleries here in New York City are "pay to display" and I don't feel good about that. All other galleries are basically unapproachable. And I've never been particularly good at the schmoozing thing. It's much the same in the music business and that was the part I struggled with there too. Though I had the benefit of starting that career when I was 21 years old. I know there's no fast track but what are some things I could do to sort of get me to the next level? I already know that I should be going to galleries and talking to people and giving out my card. I would love to get some tips on things that I wouldn't have already thought of or tried. And this seems like a great place to do that. Anyone care to help an old guy out?

And just so you can get an idea of what I do, here is my website:

https://www.kpdevlin.com

I have about half a dozen new paintings that will be going up in a few months when I have my next session with the photographer who shoots my work.
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Old 11-06-2019, 10:12 AM
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Re: Need Advice

Possibly join an art organization. An organization for which ever style of painting you do. Make sure they have member showings. NYC ought to have a few, or at least be where the headquarters is. A yearly membership fee is all you need. Meet fellow artists at meetings. It is not about "shmoozing" as much as being honest, curious, and friendly (with some ambition thrown in). Start collecting artists (the actual people, as friends, I mean), you will find that soon, some bigger names will start to appear. The 7 stages to Keven Bacon-type thing. Someone knows someone. Show your work at your place. Start a monthly dinner gathering or something. Invite your new friends to meet other artists. Become the center of a crowd. That is-- honestly-- how this stuff happens. One day a gallery owner will show up at your party. Not kidding. Or a curator from a museum. Etc. The last time I got into a gallery with painting (I am not a painter, really, but I paint for fun). It was because I knew the owner of the gallery. She confided that she had some wall space because of some reason (I forget) and she needed to fill it. I said, Oh I have a few pieces. She said, bring them over and I will pick a few. She picked out a few paintings, and they sold at the show. So--- that's how it works.

And don't be pushy. In the meantime also join local groups, volunteer, get the word out that you have your "shingle out" and are ready for business. No one knows unless you tell people.
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Old 11-06-2019, 01:03 PM
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Oil Can Boyd Oil Can Boyd is offline
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Re: Need Advice

Thank you, Katy! That is all great info that I can use. I have already signed up for membership with one organization that looks like it will be helpful and I'm filling in an application for their next member exhibition right now. If anyone else has suggestions or ideas, I would only be too happy and grateful to read them.
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Old 11-07-2019, 01:12 PM
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RobinZ RobinZ is offline
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Re: Need Advice

My advice would be to decide if galleries are the direction you want to go. As noted by Katy, it's hard to crack into, a lot of work that may or may not be your cup of tea. Be sure to work in their commission and your costs, including framing. It's not the only way to sell, and all methods have their pros and cons.

Every artist in the world who wants to be in a gallery wants a NYC one. My last visit, though, I noticed some galleries had consolidated or weren't there anymore, so the competition is fierce.

Other ways: Galleries elsewhere, competitions, art festivals everywhere, online, other retail, from their own gallery/studio, direct to buyers, to decorators, among others. I know artists who successfully sell all of these ways.

Again, each has its unique requirements, its upside and its downside, and a lot of artists use more than one method, and one method can support the sales of another method.

For instance, I know an artist who specializes in colonial American style paintings who sells both online to those interested in that niche, and very well in brick and mortars who cater to them. Her picture frames are very much part of the look, she makes them herself. Her collectors often start from a brick and mortar and await her new paintings. It's lucrative for her, but also a labor of love, it's what she did as a hobbyist before someone convinced her other people would love and buy her work.

Painting what you like is very important. I have no imagination and can't even grasp how you think of the concept for your lovely paintings. So for me to try and do that just because I thought it might make me a few bucks, would not work either in the product or my happy frame of mind while painting, you know what I mean?

Good luck!
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Old 11-07-2019, 04:17 PM
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Re: Need Advice

Thanks, Robin. I do indeed know what you mean. I'm still painting the same things that I was drawing and painting as a kid. I mean, not exactly, but in essence they are the same places, the same characters... So yes, I love what I paint...

That's an interesting idea about targeting galleries in other towns. I guess that would be a good thing for me to start investigating. Maybe focus on the Northeast. How's the gallery scene in Philadelphia? Then I guess I'd look at smaller towns like Providence, maybe? Some of the towns in the Hudson Valley here might be good as well I suppose - Beacon, Saugerties, Woodstock, Rhinebeck... Hmmmm...
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Old 11-08-2019, 11:07 AM
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RobinZ RobinZ is offline
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Re: Need Advice

I don't know a thing about Philadelphia galleries except that the ones I am familiar with find their artists themselves.

Here's an interesting opinion piece about galleries, in general. Take note that the author makes money off of advising artists, so grain of salt.

https://www.artbusiness.com/do-artis...galleries.html

There's lots of articles about the pros and cons of galleries in the internet age. Not long ago, the opinion was that if someone was selling their stuff on the internet, they were pretty illegitimate and galleries wouldn't touch them, being tainted.

IMO, it's helpful to know that there are all kinds of markets for art. If you decide galleries are not your thing, there's lots of other avenues to make money, and live a nice artists' life.

To me, the flexibility of being anywhere and having my own schedule and interacting with my customers a lot is very important.

I'm never going to be famous or fabulously wealthy, but that's okay, that was never my goal, and honestly, I don't think it happens to people my age anyway.
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Old 11-08-2019, 11:37 AM
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Re: Need Advice

Thanks for that article. Gives me plenty to think about. Of course, coming from the music business, I recall that it's much the same story there. So I know that the internet CAN be an extraordinarily valuable tool for promotion, etc., but actually getting that stuff to work for you is far from easy. I might even drop the guy who wrote that article a line. I would definitely need some assistance in making my "online profile" all that in can be. Of course, being in a position where you need help means you are in a perfect position to be conned/duped/bamboozled... Or perhaps, in this case, bambergered. :-p
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Old 11-08-2019, 11:40 AM
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Re: Need Advice

IMO, your successful musical career can be a big boost! Good luck to you!
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Old 11-08-2019, 11:45 AM
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Re: Need Advice

You'd think it would count for something! Not sure how to leverage it though. I've even been told by one or two established artists (ok, one) that I should distance myself from the music stuff because it shows a lack of focus and commitment! So I'm just not sure what to think.
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Old 11-08-2019, 12:16 PM
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Re: Need Advice

I have had all kinds of advice from established artists that didn't work for me.

MY gut is that since you want to go the gallery route, that is a lot more impressive and salable than the average bear. Do you think it would hurt your musical career?

A lot of talented musicians are also visually art talented. Think David Byrne.
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Old 11-08-2019, 12:27 PM
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Re: Need Advice

Well, David Byrne might have had a bit more of a successful music career than I did. If I had credentials like his, it might be a little easier. As an aside, I love David Byrne.

I'm not 100% sold on the gallery route. I am open to exploring other avenues, and if I could eventually sell enough stuff online to make a living, that would make me very happy.
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Old 11-14-2019, 09:47 AM
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Re: Need Advice

I'm a bit late to the party, but wanted to say:

Try further out at first. Go to galleries that are in smaller towns in the east, away from NYC. Also, (even though they are frowned on by many) a co-op gallery is a good way to get your work shown and seen. Yes, they cost a monthly fee and you may have to work some days, but it can be a way to get a foot in the door of "Gallery World". IMO, your work borders on "outsider art" with a surreal flavor. I will be honest with you: Your work is not going to be many art buyer's cup of tea, you have chosen a very narrow niche of work to try and sell, so you will have a hard time reaching a broad audience. This is compared to lower-level artists works which sell easily: Still life & landscapes.

You have to understand the market you are trying to reach, the $300 to $600 market (since you are starting out). What are they going to want hanging in their home? Very few would want your work due to the subject matter and the genre that you are pursuing. While you love it and love creating it, you are up against what the outside world loves and wants to see. Yes, there will be some who love your work, but art marketing looks at market segments and those who would love your work is going to be a small segment. This is the reality of the art world, like it or not.

Two years of experience is very low and IMO not a good time to try and get any gallery representation unless you were doing something spectacular. Think of it in terms of music: Would you want a lead guitarist in your band that only has played for two years or someone who has been doing gigs for 15? Personally, I think you need to paint for a few more years and see if you are still interested in getting into galleries. This is not a "just jump in" type of profession.
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Old 11-14-2019, 11:06 AM
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Re: Need Advice

Thanks for your input, Keith - I appreciate it. Outsider Art with a Surreal Flavor... I think I can spin that into something positive and cool, actually!

I'm not looking to become the most famous artist in the world. And not looking to make millions of dollars. I'd just like to be able to sell some paintings, expose them to more of the world and continue pursuing the art and the music that I love to create. If you look at the stuff on the walls of most galleries in NYC, you'll see stuff that I feel safe saying is not most people's cup of tea either.

I think if ones stuff is good enough, then regardless of the market it appeals to, the artist can be successful. It's just a question of pushing in the right direction and finding the right people to help you push. So that's what I'm trying to do here. Perhaps shooting for the galleries in small towns like Saugerties, Peekskill, Beacon, etc., should be my first stop, gallery-wise. If anyone has any suggestions for particular galleries, I'm certainly open. And again, I'm not married to the idea of showing in galleries. I'm becoming more aware that there are other routes that can be taken, and I'm all in for hearing anything and everything about that subject.
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Old 11-14-2019, 09:47 PM
Harold Roth Harold Roth is offline
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Re: Need Advice

If you are going to look up in the Hudson River Valley, just watch out for some of the galleries there. For instance, Slow Art has a jillion competitions but it is actually a teensy gallery with almost no traffic in a small town. Apparently the owner, also an artist, makes money from competition fees. And in general, in my experience, galleries that run competitions with an entry fee are not a good bet. a lot of them do this. Personally, I gave up even on competitions run by bona fide organizations--for now. I don't feel like I have found a group I fit with yet.

OTOH, I've sold in various venues online and in local organizations and a collaborative gallery and have not found any of them to be the magic bullet. I have sold the most through my Facebook followers that I have built up over the years (1600 friends and counting). I post there regularly about my art and have links to my art site. Most of the paintings I have sold have been through that. I'm working on trying to build up my Instagram following, but it's tough.

I like the idea of Outsider Art for your stuff. A lot of the stuff out there is not really outsider art but just crap, but yours is real. People aren't going to choose it because it matches their sofa, but that's just fine. There are a lot of audiences out there.

You mentioned Providence as a possible place to contact galleries. Remember that RISD is here and there is a huge focus on art in the city and in the state as a whole (for instance, artists don't have to pay state income tax or collect sales tax on art sold in RI). So a lot of competition.
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Old 11-15-2019, 11:38 AM
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Oil Can Boyd Oil Can Boyd is offline
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Re: Need Advice

Hi Harold - thank you. I will start investigating the small galleries soon, and will watch out for Slow Art. We were just in Providence last month (great little town!) and yes, it seems to be all about the art scene, which is awesome to see. In light of the heavy competition, I'll save it for later on down the line. Right now I'll look into galleries in towns easily accessible by Metro North.

Thanks also for the nice comment on my stuff. "Real" is absolutely key!
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