This Post is by Lori Woodward Simons, Regular contributing writer for
FineArtViews. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Let's suppose for a minute that one afternoon your phone rings, and you see "Legacy Gallery" on the caller ID. Just in case you're not familiar with Legacy, that gallery is a brick and mortar type with locations in Scottsdale, Arizona and Jackson, Wyoming. For representational artists, that gallery is a big deal!
The scenario above actually happened to a artist colleague of mine, and while getting a call from a major gallery is a wonderful thing, not having a body of work ready to meet the needs of an additional gallery on the spot can feel like a nightmare.
Once an artist reaches the level where he or she is working with one or two galleries successfully and has received some recognition via national competitions, articles in magazines or other promotional venues, that artist should prepare for unexpected opportunities.
Invest In Yourself
When I taught art marketing workshops during the 1990's and early 2000's, I recommended that artists hang onto their best works until these works were no longer their best. Every once in a while, and for no known reason, we artists produce a masterpiece. We never know when that masterpiece will "happen".. it just seems to come out of nowhere. The thing to remember is that these pinnacle pieces don't come along every day, and if we use these for entering national competitions, or else keep them in our studio for that day when Legacy Gallery calls, we will do ourselves a favor.
I realize how difficult it is to keep from taking your best work right up to your local gallery - because you know it is likely to sell immediately. But sometimes, it pays to embrace delayed gratification by saving this piece for an opportunity that might catapult your career to the top. After all, if it does win an award, you may be able to get more money for it later than you could right away. I know of one artist who entered her best work in several major competitions. Steve Doherty, editor-in-chief of American Artist magazine called this painting a "career defining painting" when it appeared on the cover of Watercolor Magazine. That artist is Beth Patterson, and the painting was a closeup of the flesh of a watermelon.
I'm further reminded of when I attended a painting demo, many years ago, at the New Mexico Watercolor Society where Stephen Quiller was the demonstrator. He had a number of unframed paintings propped up against the wall. When a few of the attendees asked what the prices of those paintings were, he said, "They're not for sale." He then went on to explain that if he invested in his career by saving them for when he was better known, they would bring in higher prices. It turns out, Stephen was correct because just after that time, he had two instructional books published.
Build and Maintain A Body of Work
If you want to be absolutely ready for unexpected opportunities, you'll need to have a "savings account" of extra works ready to go. This means you'll need to have a body of work ready at all times. Artists who've been working with galleries know what I'm talking about, but if you're just getting started as a career artist, perhaps the term "body of work" is new.
In my next Fine Art Views blog, I'll address the topic of how to build a cohesive, outstanding, body of work, and if you expect to attract the eyes of collectors - either through a gallery or on your own, this body of work will be your best investment.