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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 http://stapletonkearns.blogspot.com/ . You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
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?
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.