ART: A Guide To Going Public
ART: A Guide To Going Public With Your Art
When an artist decides to take the next step and share their work with the world, how do they begin? Today artists have more options than ever before. Let us take a look at several of these options. Before we discuss the various means available to artists who are ready to venture into the public eye, let us talk about some basic fundamentals.
First and foremost, you must have an accurate and professional portfolio of your work. Most artists I know have photographs made of their works – these photographs should have excellent lighting (to portray your work's true colors) and a nice, clean composition. If you do not have your own camera, or a good scanner for that matter – borrow one from a friend. The photo should show your work and nothing else – no distractions. If you have a sculpture, take photographs from various angles to show the details of your piece. Once you have made a photographic documentation of your works, save them in a folder on your computer, or store them on a thumb drive. Now you have a portfolio you can, and will, use repeatedly. Remember, before you sell that art, document it! So many artists regret not having documented their works with a quick and simple photograph.
Now that you have a digital portfolio of your works, decide which direction you wish to take your talents. We will start with galleries. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making an appointment to show your work to a gallery. If your works are too large to carry from one place to the next, use your jump drive and show gallery owners your photographic portfolio. Gallery owners love to see new work, and they usually ask questions about who you are and the origins of your inspirations. I have been known to take my photography – matted and ready to frame – in the trunk of my car and visit galleries. Gallery owners earn their living promoting and selling art, so talk to them and find out what they are wanting and what is popular with clients. If you need the profit, perhaps you can tailor your works towards a current trend. Just remember that galleries have different approaches when it comes to the financial aspect of their exhibits. Ask if they work on commissions, are fee based, rent wall space or one of many other ways galleries work. I like galleries who ask for your prices and then negotiate a percentage. This allows you, the artist, to stay in control of your business.
Another great resource for artists is one which can be easily overlooked. Visit libraries, coffee houses, restaurants, cafes, doctor’s offices, boutiques and salons where you live. Talk with the owners about the prospect of show casing local artists in their business and many times you will get a positive reaction. It is a win/win situation for both sides. The business has the privilege of showing your work and thus that business has an extra draw for customers. You have a public venue. To be fair, you could even suggest that the business house a different local artist each month. I did this with a local coffee house and it was a huge success. The owner loved seeing local art grace the walls of his business, and the artists adored the sales and interest generated by the public. Art collectors look for art everywhere, not just in a gallery. Start locally and branch out to other towns or cities. By doing this, you are creating new galleries where there were none before.
Does your city hold fairs, festivals or special events? Ask about booth rental. Most events will rent a space or “booth” to artists for $25-$65. You are typically responsible for your own setup, including chairs, tables and a tent or canopy with display panels. Almost every large public event has a section dedicated to the arts. It is a good idea to attend these events as a patron and educate yourself about how it is run and where the artists are located. If interacting with the public is not your strength, ask a friend or family member if they would kindly baby-sit your booth for you. Festivals and fairs are fun and a great place to sell your work.
Another idea when it comes to going public with your work is to go to a local park and set up your easel, your camera, or your sketch pad. People LOVE to watch an artist at work! Go to New York and walk the streets of Manhattan. Artists are set up everywhere, doing everything from caricatures to watercolor landscapes. They are always surrounded by a crowd of people watching with fascination as the artist creates. By working in public you are exercising your talents while introducing yourself. This creates a good opportunity for you to catch the public's attention.
Once you have established yourself as an artist with the public as your audience, be prepared to have a business conversation concerning your work. Have an answer ready for the question most asked, which is whether or not you take commissions. Price your works ahead of time so you won’t be caught off guard. Print a short biography, to let patrons learn more about you and your work. Talk to people and listen to their stories about art. While some aspects of this can be tedious, it has provided many artists with the confidence and preparation they needed to move forward with their works.
Digital art galleries are an excellent alternative for artists. Whenever I meet an artist, I ask them if they have an online gallery. Many artists do not know about online galleries. Most of these galleries are free to join. Some artists sell their works on eBay or other auction-based websites. I use Etsy, a website designated for the artisans of the world. I pay very little in fees and have made money from my Etsy “shop”. If you have never used Etsy, or other arts and crafts sites, visit them as a potential buyer and get a feel for how things work. With a computer and some photos, you can have your own shop in 15 minutes! Artists are also using FaceBook to show their art. This is where it is crucial to have that quality digital portfolio. I have used several of the free galleries, but I do have my favorites. I love DeviantArt, which is a website that allows me to control my gallery, sell my works, and contribute articles, forums and journal entries. Each website has a different flavor and feel, so explore these sites and find one that fits you best. Some are more sophisticated, some are more current with the latest cultural trends, and some are advanced. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
With imagination and a dash of confidence, the artist can discover new ways to share their works with the public. If you have an online gallery, use a link to that gallery on other websites you utilize. Tell people to visit your online gallery and they usually will. Cyber galleries are easily accessed and fun to use. Whatever your starting point, remember that any exposure is good exposure in the art world. Have fun and be creative. Good luck!