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Ask Stape: How Worried Should I Be About Where I Hang My Paintings?

by Stapleton Kearns on 1/21/2010 12:18:49 PM

You are encouraged to submit questions on painting, methods and materials or the marketing of art by simply posting a comment with your question.

This post is by Stapleton Kearns, a professional oil painter living in New England. He is a member of the Guild of Boston Artists and a past president of the Rockport Art Association. He has been painting landscape full time for thirty five years. He has a blog at should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

Dear Stape,

Every week, I go in to get my hair dyed black (I get these dreadful blond roots) and my nails ebonized and my beautician offered to hang my oil paintings.  She just loves my clown in a cement mixer series.  What do you think of shows in restaurants and beauty parlors?

Also the owner is all worried because the chemicals they use get sprayed in the air and she doesn't want the paintings or frames to get hurt.  Do you think my paintings could get screwed up? She said that some customers need like the occasional atropine injection to get them up and out from under the dryers. I was in the other day for a perchlorobenzine rinse when she got the idea. Also, can I hang my pictures on her asbestos paneling with depleted uranium nails? My roommate says you're cute, but I think you look like you have been irradiated.  It must suck to be so old, is that you're real hair?

signed:  Charity

Dear Charity:

Hey, those clowns and mixers sound great! Oil paintings are real tough. I think if your paintings are well varnished they will be fine.  A good varnishing should protect them from almost any hazard they will likely encounter while hanging on a wall.  I think you should use moderately priced frames, such as those made by our Chinese communist friends, that have became so readily available.  I don't think you want to hang expensive 23 carat frames in that environment, just in case.

I am not sure about that perchlorobenzine rinse, but aside from that, the most toxic environment your paintings have ever been in was your studio. Your cadmiums, yellow and red, are a heavy metal and poisonous, and the cobalt blue you used to paint that clown's lips is another poisonous pigment. Even burnt umber contains manganese, another heavy metal. Your thinners are all toxic, too. That's why it is so important to wash your hands before smoking or eating.  These are all manageable hazards, but you do need to be aware of the proper way to handle your materials.

I am always a little conflicted about how to answer when people ask me about showing in beauty salons, restaurants, and Jiffy-Lubes.  Real collectors don't buy their art in restaurants, so you are not going to build a career that way.  However if you are just starting out, it is a good way to get your feet wet.  There isn't a lot of expense and you will have the fun of people seeing and appreciating your art.  If you were a piano student you would be expected to play recitals, even if they weren't at Symphony Hall.

I would, however, make it a show, with an opening, just like in a gallery, if the owner of the shop will allow it.  In fact, I would try to make the whole thing as "professional" as you can. Have a few friends in for your opening, in the evening after regular hours.  Hang the show for a set period of time, maybe a month. Then take it down.  There are few things sadder than seeing dusty paintings hanging unsold in the local subshop with little squares of paper marked with the price in an earnest ballpoint script.  Even your paintings of whirling clowns, with their pleading little eyes distorted to a blur by centrifugal force, will get a little tired after a month.  So just like a show in a gallery, I think you should take them down after that.

For that opening you need to put on a little spread with some inexpensive wine and some cheese and crackers.  You should send out invitations to your friends and the beautician's friends and customers.  Openings are fun, but YOU don't drink.  I have seen lots of artists screw up at openings because of that.  You need to be sharp.  When it is over, help clean up and take your host out to dinner.  If things sell, you need to pay the owner of the shop an agreed upon percentage, perhaps around a third.  If you don't live in New Hampshire like me, your sales will be subject to sales tax. You probably don't have a tax number, so you will need that shop owner to collect and pay those.
Good thing your mom and dad didn't name you Chastity.


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Related Posts:

Home Shows

Ask Stape: Should I Pay to Show My Art?

Hosting Your Own "One Person Show"

Be Ready for Unexpected Opportunities

Finding Your Collectors

Believing in What You Do

Nurturing Right Connections

How to Sell Art

Topics: Art Business | Ask Stape 

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Sue Martin
Stape, I love your humor and I appreciate the confirmation that showing art in "alternative venues" can be good for emerging artists. Last year I had a show in a recreation center that calls its front hallway a "gallery," and I sold two paintings to a woman who attended my opening reception. A friend just had an opening at a coffee house and he sold one of his larger, more expensive paintings to a lawyer who went in for coffee. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think a list of shows and a record of sales look good on the resume!

Great advise. Thank you.

Helen Horn Musser
Stape, Your demeaner brings such a rush; you remind me of the Marks Brothers. You gave good advice as for as I'm concerned about showing her work; the salon involved will profit, indeed, from the fine art offering during her show. Artists contribute to everyone's experience with art and they will respond.

Patsy Taylor
I had an opportunity to hang in a beauty salon in Walnut Creek, California. It was a great idea! The owner has an opening every 3 months for new artists and works. Yes, your work sits there, but so do the patrons who get to look at the work and have time to observe it. Talk about a captive audience! I did not sell a lot of work, but one piece that sold included a commission for four more pieces. As for chemicals, this hair salon is set up to sell artwork as part of their appeal. I believe they are careful and have not heard of anyone having any problems. As for the opening, they move all the stations out of the way and cover them, put out cheese and wine and create a gallery atmosphere. If nothing else, it was fun. Talk about a great way for new artists to start getting exposure and more established artists to get to know their local community better.

Maria Brophy
Stape, this is a great topic. I'm glad you pointed out possible hazards where the paintings can get damaged. This is something to be careful about.

One other suggestion, if you don't mind: Be sure to have a consignment agreement which details not only the percent to be paid to the establishment, but also that states who is responsible should the artwork become damaged and if it's covered under their insurance. It's also a good paper trail should any pieces go "missing."

Thanks for another great topic. And I don't think you look old at all. Maybe find a new hairdresser...

Tuva Stephens
Thanks for the humor, Staple. The main thing is if you don't have your work in a gallery it is great to consider other venues. While teaching art for over thirty years, my best customers were teachers. When I would paint a watercolor for a show, I would always have a showing of my work in the lobby of the school. Not only did my students enjoy seeing my work, but teachers would commission me to paint portraits or even buy what I was displaying. Show your work to anyone you come in contact is what I say.

Lori Woodward

Excellent idea about doing an opening and hanging the show for a month.

Helen Horn Musser
Tuva, Your experience brings to mind our partnering with another Alliance in our town. Terrell Education of the Arts Alliance and NorthEast Texas Fine Art Alliance got together during their performing artists shows. They had name performing artists from all over the world and we set up paintings in the foyer which was a feast for the fans attending. Had many good remarks on the exhibit. Was very rewarding to know they loved our art as well as the performers

The following may be true "you are not going to build a career that way" - but you have to start somewhere, and it's better to have them on a wall than behind the couch!

Esther J. Williams
Stape, I cracked up real good at your story. You are giving excellent advice to artists! I think people need to do an inventory sheet that is signed by the owner also before leaving their precious art there. Talk to the owner about theft and fire insurance too. I experienced grand theft before, it was not fun trying to collect from the restaurant owner.

Claudia L Brookes
A good message here--wherever you are hanging your paintings, do it professionally and maximize the event as a selling opportunity. As sensible as this approach is, I don't think I have ever read anything quite as direct on this score. The advice to 1)have an opening and 2)to leave the work up for only a specific amount of time makes great sense, even if your early opportunities to hang work are in a restaurant or beauty parlor. The mistake I see some artists making is that they spend a lot of energy on these "low pay-off" situations even after they become more established, although someone is probably going to come back and tell me how well they did in a venue of that nature--

Fay Terry
We have a weekly listing in our local paper of all the places in town that are featuring local artists. It's certainly a good way to get started and Stape's advice would have helped me when I was showing my early work at various non-gallery venues.

Charlotte Herczfeld
Dear Stape, good advice, and fun, as always. I'm chiming in with how important it is to make a self-organised show as proffessional as one can make it. It *really* helps raise one's credibility, because if you're *that* pro about the show, then of course you're just as pro about painting. Why, every great artists has shows in libraries, churches, etc. Perfectly normal, so never be shy about it.

Maria Brophy
*Claudia's comment: I agree, many times these types of venues become way more work than it's worth because you'll get little in return. We rarely do shows anymore because it's just so much physical work if it's done right! (There are easier ways to sell art once you're established).

But for a new artist, it's worth the experience in a) dealing with consignment contracts b) setting up their artwork c) dealing with people/public.

Stape is right on about keeping it up for only a month - great advice. Doesn't look good if it's hanging around unsold for too long. Also, having an opening, which helps the establishment as well as the artist. It's great for the community, too.

Tuva Stephens
I am actually having a self-organized show with one other artist in an art co-op. We will set up about 13 total works each. We get to invite whomever we would like, provide refreshments, have smaller paintings on hand, and other things like note cards with our art in which to sell at the gallery. There will press releases, etc. If anyone has some clever ideas for the show to offer, please do!

Marge Heilman
How Worried Should I be About Where I Hang My Paintings
I really appreciate the points in this topic, they are right on! Thank you for such good advice!
This is an area where entrepreneur skills shine but link tight with common sense and vigilance. I have experienced an unexpected lack of professionalism in hanging my art at an established art society in and out of my area as well as business establishments. I only consider it when I'm asked by someone I know and a place I am familiar with. I especially am careful to check on the artwork, its reception and presentation from regularly. I have found great new clients in the most unlikely atmospheres simply because they saw an artwork they really liked in a less -pressured atmosphereâ and appreciated talking to the artist about the work they chose. I have experienced my work in galleries that professed to be professional and reliable only to be told by someone that -they are going out of business, don't you have work there?â Upon checking I found it to be true and no one even contacted the artists of the impending change.
God help us and Good Luck to us all!

Tuva Stephens
Why are there symbols in the text above? It make it hard to read. I have noticed this in other posts.

Helen Horn Musser
Tonya, You are right on; get your work out there and you will be noticed; much better than hiding behind the couch. Just be sure it's safe

Stapleton Kearns
via with facebook
Thank you all for your comments. It is fun knowing you are all out there reading what I write. I like hearing your take on things too.

K. Henderson
Love your avatar. If I say the secret word will a duck come down?

Olivia Alexander
Some friends and I had an exhibiton in a Cafe to raise money for drought stricken farmers in our area. We had a great night, sold more than half the paintings on the night. But one thing that did happen that taught me a valuable lesson: It poured with rain (funny, as we were in a serious state wide drought) and water ran down the inside of the cafe walls, saturated one of my canvas from the back and left bad water stained on the stretcher and canvas. Amazingly it still sold and I did do a repair job to make sure all was ok. But I did go a bit pale when I saw water dripping off my painting in the middle of the speeches!
PS:I love Stapes Articles, always makes me chuckle.

Olivia Alexander
I forgot to add, we also had inexpensive postcards made up of our artworks by We sold them for $4 each and all proceeds went to the CWA Drought relief. We got our art 'out there' and people felt they could contribute in a small way. supporting a charity with your art is a great way to help others and also get valuable exposure: we were interviewed for TV, Radio and local and national papers.
It felt good to help others by doing something we loved.

Judy Mudd
Stape, you are right on! I'm one of those artists who have paintings in such venues. I switch them out every 3 months. I'm finding that I'm getting sales and commissions from these, actually more than I received when I had them hanging in a co-op gallery.

Elaine Locati
Hmmmm.....a great idea....intentionally "fake" our way through a piece....yuup, that is what we do anyway, right? I just never gave it a name. Cool.

Carole Rodrigue
I used to get asked repeatedly by a friend to hang my paintings in her restaurant. I refused each time. I didn't want my art hung in a greasy spoon, collecting grease, and going unnoticed by truckers. Some folks mean well, but I pass. Now on the other hand, I've just been asked by a health unit rep if they can purchase some of my art so they can promote local art. They made it seem as though by me selling them some pieces, I was doing THEM a favor!!! Now, I'll gladly sell to them and let them hang my art. And if they really think that highly of me, then I'm truly honored. Waiting sometimes is well worth it.

Gene Martin
I own a hair salon and have hung my work there for years. I do occasionally hang a show for a few friends and they have done quite well. The sprays used in a salon are all water soluble. They will not harm your work assuming they are oils or works under glass. John Q Public has little interest in walking into a gallery but will buy a piece he/she likes in a non-threatening environment. Most don't even ask the price.If you ask, most salon owners would be pleased to hold an opening for the artist. Food, of any kind, and wine will do fine.
If you are selling art I think you need to define, for yourself, what your target market is and where it is. Are you looking to make a few sales and get your name out there? Are you a hobbiest of sorts? The world is your market and you may hang anywhere within reason. Are you looking for a more upscale market? Then the gallery is probably your target market. Do you want your work in museums? Then your market is museums. Are you doing illustrative work? Are you just doing "creative things" so maybe outdoor shows. When we try to do all of these areas we confuse our buyers, collectors and ourselves. Pick one and do it well.
Beautician is a very outdated term for what is now called a cosmetologist and we quit dyeing hair years ago. We now color or highlight hair.
Terminology changes and things change as we progress.
Thanks for your column.

Stapleton Kearns
via with facebook
Forgive me, I am actually pretty clueless about the whole salon biz. My hair got sick and fell out. The question did come from a real reader but of course I have "revved" it up to be more interesting. I am assuming you still do the perchlorobenzine rinse though?

Gene Martin
I am unfamiliar with this rinse but what knowledge I have of chemistry tells me the latter part of perchlorbenzine, benzine, is not something you should probably be using on hair. I googled it but the only two places shown for it were in french.

Charlotte Herczfeld
I think that rinse is a purely "Stape product"-- tounge in cheek variety. In similar manner as the diet consisting of meter men. Anything with a C6 base is usually highly carcinogenic.

It is so fascinating to see where comments go. I love tangents of tangents.

Diane Tasselmyer
Well, they say all the world is a stage and in the art world you always want to present your work in the best way.
I like that idea of making every place you may hang your work have all the trappings of a professional show. Granted, it takes work; but if you want respect as an artist..Just do it!!

I just fixed an acrylic painting for someone who got hair color on it and it took the paint off.

I think if you just want to get your paintings out there great but if you really want to sell them keep working and get into a gallery or gift shop.

It's just to much work hanging paintings to get very little return.


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