Tag Archives: “art business”

Signing the Dotted Line

A recent online discussion regarding gallery contracts reminded me that this is something I should have posted awhile back.  There are surprisingly a lot of artists that avoid showing with galleries for fear of the contract.  In actuality, the contract is what keeps you protected and prevents anyone from running off with your money.  In fact, if there is a gallery you are interested in working with that does not “do contracts,” you should either make your own for them to sign or else leave.  It’s wise for both parties to have a legally binding document that ensures that everyone involved is covered.  Art is money, so when you’re handing over your work to a gallery, you’re essentially handing them hundreds to thousands of dollars and hoping they’ll take care of it for you.  With that said, here is a list of most (I may be forgetting some things…) of the issues that should be covered in your contract.  Most of these pertain to a gallery that is representing you, but much of this applies to short-term gallery exhibitions as well.

Commission: The standard here is 50/50, but can vary depending on your location.  This absolutely must be covered in any contract with any gallery, no matter if they represent you or not since this is what determines exactly how much you receive from the sale of your work.  And on a side note, it is perfectly fair for a gallery to get half of the sale since they are the ones that have to pay for your exhibition, advertising, rent and utilities for the building, catering, etc.  If a gallery isn’t doing this for you, then they are not earning their share, which in that case, I would recommend going elsewhere.

Payment: Another must.  When will payment be made?  Some galleries may wait until the end of an exhibit to send you your check, while others may pay you immediately.  Sometimes this is determined by how the customer paid, especially if they are on an installment plan.  Usually to cover all bases, contracts will state that payment is made within 30 days from the end of an exhibition.  Just so long as it clearly states that you are going to get paid within a reasonable period of time, then it should be fine.

Insurance: This is another must in my book, however, I have seen some great spaces not offer insurance, so I can’t say that I haven’t taken a risk at times myself.  However, you should be seeking out galleries that provide insurance while your work is on their premises, especially if they are representing you.  If your work is there long-term, odds are greater that something may happen- fire, theft, etc.  You can look into getting your own insurance coverage, but it won’t be cheap, so you may be better off leaving it up to the gallery.

Framing: Frames are not generally required for all artwork, but this should be laid out in the contract.  If frames are required, it needs to be clearly stated who covers this cost and what type of work- drawings, paintings, printmaking, etc. or just certain types of work?

Discounts: It is not uncommon for a gallery to offer discounts to their regulars or for a purchase of multiples.  This practice is normally only done in representing galleries as they are the ones with a particular roster of artists that they deal with on a regular basis.  Discounts can range from 10 to 20%.  The contract should clearly cover what the discount is or what the range may be and how it is divided- evenly between the gallery and artist or does the gallery take that out of their cut entirely?

Shipping: For those that are out of the area or state, shipping costs need to be covered as this can be very costly.  Shipping policies vary among galleries, so I can’t say that there really is a standard here other than that if it is a short-term exhibition in a non-representing gallery, typically the artist pays for shipping their work to and from the gallery.  For a representing gallery, the artist may be responsible for to and from shipping, or only shipping the work to the gallery, or the gallery may cover all shipping costs.  As far as shipping the work to a client, the gallery will either pay or the client will, not the artist.

Outside Sales: This could be a post in and of itself given the discussions with other artists.  The gallery that you work with may allow you to sell work on your own through festivals, studio, etc. and I have yet to see a gallery that doesn’t.  First, be sure that your work is priced consistently with that of the gallery.  Typically if a sale is made to a client from the gallery, then the gallery will get a commission, usually their standard rate.  However, if the client is someone not affiliated with the gallery and did not see your work via the gallery, then the gallery may only require 20 or 30% or often times, there is no commission.  Point being, if you had to do all the leg-work to get that client, then you would get the entire amount of the sale, but again, that would apply to people unaware of the gallery.  This should be covered in your contract, including the commission rate, if any.

Exclusivity: Typically galleries only require exclusivity to the city they are in.  However, some require exclusivity to the region, state, and even the entire nation (though these are generally “blue-chip” galleries dealing with work that goes for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars).  Again, this is another issue that should be clearly spelled out in your contract.

Loaning Work: This is usually only an issue for those represented by more than one gallery or those that enter work to juried shows in which the same work is already in a gallery.  If work needs to go from one show to another, the gallery that currently represents that work may require a commission if that work sells in another gallery.  Both galleries would get a commission, for example, each gallery may get 30% while the artist gets 40%.  This rate varies among galleries, though, and should be clearly stated.

Length of Contract: Most contracts remain active so long as the artist is with the gallery.  Generally there is an “out” for each party with a 30-days prior notice, again, this may vary, but 30 days is usually all that is required.  In the event that the relationship is not working, either party has the option to end it.

Exhibitions: This only pertains to representing galleries in which your work is there long-term.  What type of exhibitions will the gallery guarantee and how often?  Will you have the opportunity to have a solo exhibition and will you also be given group exhibition opportunities?  Where will your work be when it’s not being exhibited- typically galleries have a salon in which a mix of works by the gallery’s artists are featured in the back room or even in their project space.

Most importantly, take your time and look over your contract before signing.  There’s nothing wrong with asking to have a day or two to look it over.  You could even run it by someone you trust just to make sure there’s nothing you’re missing.  As I said, if a gallery doesn’t have a contract, tell them you would like to make your own and be sure to cover all of these aspects mentioned.  If you’re uncomfortable telling a gallery you want to make a contract, just put it in benign terms such as that it’s how you keep track of things, or that you might forget (not that you want to appear stupid to these people but put it off on yourself if you need a cover).  If you feel any amendments need to be made, write it up and send a proposal to the gallery.  More than likely they will oblige and add it to your contract.  Above all else, if you are not comfortable with the arrangements, do not sign and look somewhere else.  There are plenty of other fish in the sea.



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Exposure- Need it, Want it, Grow it

Lately I’ve noticed a surge in questions by artists regarding internet exposure.  I think everyone can use more exposure, even if they’ve been at their careers for awhile.  You have to “feed the machine” as I always say and continually add to your internet exposure.  If you don’t consistently provide the public with new information, they will soon forget you unless you happen to be Damien Hirst, for example.  Given the short shelf-life of posts to Facebook, Twitter, etc., it’s especially important to keep the news coming.  So here is a list of my favorite and most useful recommendations:

Website– This seems to be the most obvious but there are many artists out there that don’t have one.  This should be your #1 priority over all other ideas listed here.  Cost can be a big factor, so if you can’t afford to hire a designer, talk to talented students or freelancers that do this as a side career.  You can probably get a better deal– just be sure to look at their portfolio beforehand.  If this is not an option, you can also use WordPress to create a site in which you feature galleries of pictures.

Blog– Again, you can use WordPress for this, but there are many other options out there.  Blogging is important to help build your name, increase your SEO ranking, and gives you an opportunity to connect with fans.

Facebook– I see many artists using Facebook, which is great, but far less have an actual Fan Page.  First, Facebook expects that you will promote your business and conduct sales through your Fan Page, not your personal profile.  Sure, Fan Page posts tend to get filtered out of the news feed, but in all fairness, Facebook is not taking a cut from your sales made via your Fan Page.  Drive traffic to your Fan Page via your website, blog, etc. and include links to your Fan Page on other websites.

Twitter– Personally, I find Twitter to be overwhelming, but no matter your social media preference, it is important to be present on any and all.  I have found that fans/collectors/potential collectors all have their own personal preference for following you, therefore you need to reach them through all of these sites.

Google+ – Some people still don’t know what Google+ is.  To me it is just another version of Facebook, except without all the “flash.”  No ads, no news feeds, no news feeds in your news feeds (haha), and it makes it much easier from the get-go to control your privacy settings and even per post.  As far as I know, you still have to be “invited” to join so if you haven’t already, ask a friend to send you an invitation.

Blogrolls– Besides your own blog, increase your exposure by getting your site included in the blogrolls of blogs that you like.  These are lists of sites that are recommended and tend to share similar interests with the blog listing them.  Ask to trade links with your artist friends- their link listed on your blog and yours on theirs.  You can also approach bloggers that you like to trade links.

Comment– One of the best ways to get noticed is to leave a comment.  So many sites feature like buttons or share buttons, which are great, but don’t forget to leave a comment.  If you have something valuable to add, do so!  You don’t have to agree with the writer, either, just be civil.  When posting, depending on the site, you may have the option of adding a photo of yourself- a Gravatar– or if you can sign in via Facebook or Twitter, use one as long as there is a photo.  People are visual creatures.  You’ll also have the option of including your website or social media link, too.

These are my best recommendations, but there are new sites being created all the time.  If you have any ideas you’d like to recommend, please add them to the comments section!



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Marketing vs. Studio Time

Since we are in the midst of the holiday season and there never seems to be enough time in the day, I was inspired to write about a popular question… How much of your time should you spend in the studio and how much should you spend marketing?  I’ve heard everything from spend most of your time creating to spend 80% of your time marketing.  I can’t say that any one answer is the correct one, however I personally lean towards the marketing end these days.  Unless you are a true beginner with a handful of work to your name, you should be marketing your work.  Sure, if you don’t have work to show, you can’t have an exhibit.  However, you won’t get any exhibits if you’re not marketing your work.  And it’s not just shows you will earn, but publicity on the internet, magazines, tv, radio, etc.  So back to the big question- just how much and how do you balance it all?

-It’s best to do a little each day (as far as marketing goes) but if you are the type that won’t be consistent, it would be better to do your marketing all in one day (or 2…) than not at all.

Gauge your deadlines.  If you have a show scheduled, clearly you will need to devote a lot of studio time.  Figure out roughly how long it will take you to do the desired amount of work and plan your schedule accordingly.  Any remaining time should be spent marketing, especially when you have a show to promote to collectors, the media, etc.

Set limits.  It’s easy to lose track of time if you’re buried in paperwork, doing research, or networking via social media.  Set a reasonable time limit for each task and stick to it.

-Prioritize your marketing goals.  There are a ton of things you can be doing to promote your work, so much so it’s overwhelming.  But you won’t be doing all of these things everyday, nor do you really need to.  Decide what is most important and allot a day or days to accomplish those goals.  For instance, how many times a week do you want to post on your blog?  Pick the days of the week you wish to do so and keep the remaining time free for other marketing efforts throughout the week.

-Marketing is especially important when you have something to crow about.  If you go pretty light on marketing, then you should at least devote more time to it when you have a big announcement.  If you have a show coming up, won an award or grant, did a big interview, were on tv, spent time in Paris painting for the summer, etc., etc. then you need to up your marketing efforts to announce these accomplishments to your local media as well as your mailing list, email list, etc.  These are the things that people want to read about.

-It takes a village (well, sort of…).  We rely on galleries, collectors, reporters, etc. to talk about us and get our work “out there.”  It’s great having this team of supporters, however, some artists think that this is all they need to market their work.  Not so.  You have to be a team player.  Your mailing list is different from everyone else’s on your team, not to mention, you frequent different places- stores, doctors, salons, gyms, etc.  And even if someone is already familiar with your work, reminding them that you’re out there only helps to reinforce your brand.

Write it down.  This is actually the most important tip I can give so I don’t know why I didn’t think of it first.  As mentioned before, it can be overwhelming trying to accomplish everything.  Make a list of all your goals- sketching, painting, blogging, gallery proposals, etc., etc., etc.  Break it down into a smaller list so that you know what you need to do from week to week, or day to day even, depending on your list.  Then just cross them off as you get them done.  Personally I like to do all the little things first just because it makes me less stressed when my list is suddenly a lot shorter.

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Narrowing Your Focus

A little while back, I wrote about goals and formulating your strategy to meet them (which you can read here).  I had also mentioned that part of that process involves revisiting your goals and reworking them.  So as I am revisiting my own, I thought it would be helpful to go through some steps and specific examples.

No matter where you are at in relation to your goals, let’s stop for a minute and revisit them.  This is something you should do every few months, but even if it’s been years, now is the time to go over your list.  What is it that you set out to accomplish?  There should be a list of several things that will lead to this accomplishment.  Whether you have completed a task or not, here are a few things to consider:

Out of the tasks that you’ve completed, what were the results? Positive?  Did they help you get any closer to your goal or not really?  If it’s the latter, you may want to alter it or even consider removing it from next year’s goals.  Example: You get your work featured on a website you’ve been submitting to and it doesn’t lead to any website hits.  Maybe the website is not worth your marketing efforts so you might not want to submit in the future.  Maybe reconsider the types of websites you are submitting your work to.

Of the completed tasks with positive results, what worked the best? What resulted in the most contact/sales/exhibits, etc.?  When you are making your new goal list for the following year, be sure to include those tasks again and add similar goals to increase those results.  Example: If a certain exhibit yielded many sales, what contributed to this and how can you do it again?  Show at the same venue next year, do the same type of promotions and broaden the range, or maybe the exhibit was during the holidays.

What can be improved upon? Maybe some tasks are not quite what you expected but still have some benefit.  Is there anything you can do to improve this or is it time to cut bait?  You want to spend your time on the things that are improving your career and get rid of the time-wasting tasks that are of little or no benefit.

What is missing from the list? Before completely writing off one of your goal tasks, is there anything you may not be doing to help bring that goal to fruition?  Example: If an exhibit didn’t go as well as expected, was there anything on your end that should have been done to make it a success?  Did you attend the opening?  Did you promote the exhibit?  Did you send out press releases?

Focus on your “best bets.” Maybe you are hoping to get an exhibit or find gallery representation.  While this is a great goal, you should focus your efforts on the venues that will be the best fit.  Example: If you are an abstract painter, you should focus on galleries that predominantly show abstract work.  What sells well for the gallery?  Where are they located?  What direction are they going in?  Just because it is a well-known space, doesn’t mean it’s a good fit unless it meets these criteria.  Focus on the ones that do.

Is there anything you can delegate to someone else? Some tasks are necessary, but may rob you of the time you need to complete your high-priority goals.  Do you have an assistant that can take care of such tasks?  Or can you afford to hire one?  Do you have a business partner that can handle certain tasks better than you can?

Once you evaluate what tasks are best suited to your career goals, it will become easier to work on future goals.  You will eventually streamline your goals and learn what to focus on and get the best use of your time.

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Promotional Materials

With the popularity of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, I’ve found that many artists rely upon these as tools to promote their art.  While this is great, there are also many other ways to get the word out.  In addition, many are tangible items that are especially valued given today’s internet-crazed society.  Turns out, if it’s a card or a handwritten note, people tend to pay more attention as opposed to something that can go away with the push of a delete button.  So here is a list of materials that I rely upon as well as others:

Business cards: These are the tried-and-true promotional tool for artists.  You can get cards printed up quickly and rather cheaply thanks to the multitude of online printing companies.  I feature my logo in addition to my contact information, including my website.  You may also want to include social media links where people can find your work.

Brochures: Great concise way to present a sample of your portfolio as well as your biography or even parts of your resume.  According to some surveys, galleries and collectors respond well to these due to the quick introduction to you and your work.

Postcards: Basically a combination of the business card and brochure in that you can put an image or images or one side and your information on the other.  Or even put images on both sides, depending on how much you would like to spend.  There are many options for these.  I like to send one out every quarter to announce new work or an upcoming exhibit.  Added benefit: they can be handed out without the worry of being lost in one’s wallet or purse as would a business card.

Websites: Many artists still don’t have a website and some even feel that they don’t need one since they are on Facebook, etc.  Not true.  While social media sites do help, you want your website to rank high on the web, not Facebook.  When your name stands out, it will direct traffic to your site, your available works, your shopping cart, etc.  Still not convinced?  According to The Internet & Marketing Report, your Facebook Fan Page is not enough because of EdgeRank, Facebook’s algorithm for determining which updates show up in a user’s news feed.  It filters out about 99% of content from friends/businesses. Yikes.

Portfolios: Just the word portfolio makes me think of the days when I was in school, lugging around one of those giant black portfolios full of my work.  However, there are some better options.  For a digital version, you can put all of your images on CD.  This is great to hand out to anyone and everyone.  Be sure to get the printable kind so that you can put your info on the front just as you would on your business card.  Don’t use the sticker labels.

For a more traditional approach, you can make high-quality printouts of your work on photo paper and include them in a nice presentation book with clear sleeves for inserting photos.  Also include your resume in the front as well as your contact information.  I recommend featuring 8-12 of your best images.  You can get a standard 8″ x 11″ book or even make a small postcard sized book to carry with you at all times.

Note Cards: Whether it’s a thank you card or a handwritten message, cards are a great way to stay in touch with those that buy your work or put on an exhibit for you.  The ultimate purpose of these is to show gratitude, but having your work or name on the front is a nice reminder.

Everyday items: Some artists put their work on useful items which they sell for some additional income.  Although, there would be nothing wrong with giving these items away as well in order to promote one’s work.  You could create an item with one or several images of your work, as well as including your name and website.  Examples include stickers, bumper stickers, magnets, pens, mugs, calendars, t-shirts, hats, and bookmarks.

No one idea is better than the other, so I would not say that you should rely upon some promotional tools more so than others.  Each serves a purpose and reach people in different ways, which is exactly what you need to broaden your audience.  Therefore, I strongly advise anyone to adopt all of these strategies mentioned.  That can be tough if you are on a limited budget, but as mentioned earlier, there are many competitive printing companies online that can help for very little cost.  Also look into graphic designers (or recent design grads) in your area that can work out a fair deal.  Even trading art may be an option to fund your business.  Just be sure to check out their portfolio to see if they are a good fit for your needs.


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