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Slow to Pay

by Lori Woodward on 10/6/2010 9:17:31 AM

Today's Post  is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She is also a contributing editor for American Artist's Watercolor and Workshop magazines and she writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik.  Find out how you can be a guest author. 

More and more, artists are not dependent on "Gate Keepers" or middle-men to sell their art. With the Internet and websites, many artists have opted to sell directly to their fans. However, galleries are still an important asset to many artists - especially those who wish to sell their work at higher prices to experienced collectors who have the means to pay those prices.

I believe that the way galleries sell work is changing, too. Collectors seem less inclined to visit galleries unless there is an event or important show that captures their attention. If any of you has ever attended the Settler's West Miniature Show (February, Tucson) - you know what I'm talking about. Many who buy at this type of show, fly in for the event, buy up and then return home. It's amazing to me that many of these collectors know each other and some seem to compete for certain works. I've actually been asked to put my name in a box for a particular painting, so that if my name is called, the collector who asked me to do so will buy it. For some paintings at this show, the box is too small to contain all the names - they end up in a salad bowl. When the name is picked from the salad bowl - a squeal of delight bursts from the collector who gets to buy the painting, while agonizing groans emit from those whose names were not called.

I love the way these shows work for the artists who are involved. The paintings are not hung at the gallery indefinitely and payment is sent out to the artists after the event ends. There's no room for "slow pay" or "no pay" when sales occur. The artists are often present the night of the auction and they know if their paintings sold and who bought them. Everything's out in the open.

This leads me to the topic at hand. Why do artists put up with "slow to pay? There are many, many professional galleries out there who do a great job at selling, but they do not send the artist a check in a timely fashion - what I mean by that - is more than 30 days after the sale. There is no excuse for this. I'm not putting galleries in general down here - there are also galleries who pay on time, every time. For myself, once a gallery defaults on sending me a check more than once, I pull out. The sales are not worth the frustration of a strained business relationship.

When a gallery hangs on to our money, we are really extending them a loan. Legally, we own the artwork we've created until someone buys it. We, as artists retain the copyright unless we choose to sell that... but that's another story. Anyway, the gallery never owns the work unless they buy it from the artist outright.  We pay them a commission when they sell our work. We don't actually work for them any more than they work for us. It is a business partnership. Artists are not the gallery's employees. If truth be known, working with galleries - we are actually employing them to sell our work to their "stable" of collectors. Nope, collectors are not often put in the category of "stable" - artists, let's work at erasing this term for a gallery's artists. It's a derogatory term. What artist enjoys being equated with a heard of stock animals? [1]

Many seasoned collectors don't buy directly from artists, but that seems to be changing too. I believe that someday, soon... galleries will court the best artists - even though those artists will have direct access to collectors. In return for a good working relationship, the gallery is likely to ask that the artist provide them with their very best works. What that means is that while the artist may sell studies and some smaller works from their studios, they will save their masterful, finished pieces for the gallery who does the best job of selling their paintings to top collectors. The day is coming soon where the best artists will write their agreement and the gallery who wants to sell their work will work equitably with that artist.

When there are no rules or boundaries in the way art can be sold, both gallerists and artists will form totally honest and mutually beneficial business relationships. There will be no room for "slow to pay", dishonesty on either side [2], losing paintings, charging higher prices than the artist stated... etc. I'm not saying that all galleries participate in these illegal business practices, but some do - and when artists have more power to sell on their own, the dealers who've been dishonest will lose artists, and fast. [3]

The dealers who are upright, appreciate and respect artists, and are in it for more than just the money will flourish. And that's the way it should be. Artists will no longer feel obligated to protect their deadbeat gallery dealers.

My advice to artists is to NEVER ACT IN DESPERATION. Gallery representation is no longer the magic answer to success. It certainly can be... but can also be a headache. Besides, getting representation with the best galleries is darned hard these days. It's wise to begin selling on your own in the meantime, and when you're work is at the masterful point, you can choose to go with galleries, or not. Just because you can't find representation at a major gallery - doesn't mean you can't make a living selling your work. There are plenty of artists out there who do support themselves with self sales regionally, and online.

If you are approached by a gallery, remember that their agreement is negotiable. You don't have to agree to all their wishes, and if you are uncomfortable with the rights they ask you to give up (like working exclusively with them), rewrite the contract. If the gallery is not open to the changes, then you must decide to give up  those rights, or not work with that gallery. I can't make that call for you - just make sure your choices come from confidence and not out of desperation.

[1] I'm sure the term, "stable" originally meant stable as in enduring, always present.. but now it brings to mind  horses, cows or sheep. It implies ownership of artists. Artists are free-agents, and can work with whomever they choose. The word stable no longer applies in either sense of the word.

[2] Since artists are able to sell work now, a gallery will need to secure artists' best works. This will eliminate the problem of artists selling behind the gallerist's back. Soon, artists will be in control of their own sales, but some will opt for events through galleries and museums because their work will gain greater recognition through those shows.

[3] I have worked with several galleries who are completely honest, pay within 2 weeks of a sale and treat artists with respect. The only reason why I don't share this list is because I don't want the owners to get swamped with portfolios. Most galleries take only one or two new artists a year - even if they received hundreds, sometimes thousands of submissions. Successful gallery dealers rarely  have time to look at submissions.


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Helen Horn Musser
Lori, this is eye opening to say the least. How great that would be if galleries courted the artists! Thank you for a news packed post. Will save this one.

How timely, since I'm now waiting for the check in the mail from the sale of 2 of my paintings sold through a gallery. How long to wait before I start getting a nervous and have to make some phone calls?

Tom Weinkle
Great advice Lori. I agree that mutual respect is important in the gallery artist relationship. If a gallery pays you promptly, I think it is a sign of respect and appreciation. And the artist should do what they can to help the gallery succeed. It is not a right to be shown or collected, it is a privilege that is earned through hard work and respect on both sides. I think the relationship needs to be ying-yang to be most effective.

There's no reason for an artist to kowtow to a gallery that treats them poorly. And my guess is that these galleries are less successful in the long run.


Jean Skipper
As a gallery owner and a working artist, I understand this issue from both sides. I treat the artists whose work I represent with dignity, respect, and honest business practices. The galleries who represent my work treat me in the same manner, and the artists whose work I represent do the same. At times there may be exceptions to this; but I'd prefer to deal with those rare instances on an individual basis as they occur.

Generally my professional relationships with galleries and artists are positive and mutually beneficial. Open communication and respect are critical to this, and I would suggest that we all approach each other with a positive attitude and expectations.

If an artist doesn't want to seek gallery representation, it's their choice not to do so. If an artist chooses to seek gallery representation, hopefully they'll do so with expectations of a positive experience for everyone involved.

Lori Woodward

Some galleries send out artists' checks the month's previous sales on regular schedule - either on the 15th or on the 1st. The galleries that have a regular setup for this do best.

The industry standard is for checks to get sent within 30 days of the sale. If it's been 2 months, I'd definitely start making calls. If you feel in any way that you are being ignored, it means that the gallery is either bad at administrative work and they need to hire a bookkeeper, or else they are behind on their payments for rent, utilities, etc.

I've had situations where every time I sold a painting through a certain gallery, the owner said the buyer either brought it back, or wanted to do lay-a-way, or hadn't sent them a check. After this happened more than twice, I figured out that getting paid in a timely manner was not going to happen.

Many of my professional friends have said over the years... well.. that gallery sells very well for me, but they are "slow to pay".. sometimes the checks take months to come in after the sale. The artists put up with it because they felt dependent on the gallery. It's not as serious, but it reminds me of the wife who refuses to leave an abusive husband because she's financially dependent on him.

I'm not angry, just saying that we artists need to have standards of our own that we expect our business partners to adhere to. It's too stressful to wait endlessly for checks and have to send registered mail etc.

I'm on both ends of the spectrum - an artist who runs her own gallery. I've recently purchased artwork by another artist at another gallery, and the gallery after a month / half of stories has yet to send me the artwork. This after a conversation of interest with the gallery owner about my own work. I nurtured the purchase b/c I wanted to gain an opportunity and now I'm feeling swindled. My interest in the gallery has waned as an opportunity and I've yet to receive the art I purchased. I try as a gallery owner to represent my artists well, pay them promptly, and have been successful at selling my own work through my own gallery. It's a tough life, lots of hard work, but very rewarding.

This post has opened up a lot of great food for thought and is much appreciated being on both sides.

Kyle V Thomas

Another great post. Let's hope your skills as an oracle are correct. This would also mean that I need to keep getting better to compete for a spot with the best galleries.


Interesting thoughts.
The one causing me to comment is "and when artists have more power to sell on their own, the dealers who have been dishonest will lose artists, and fast"
The art fair artist is one who a lot of people assume has the power to sell on their own. The artist looks over the available venues and selects. So why in this age of "internet enlightenment" are the crappy art fairs (poor management, no publicity, no traffic, etc) still getting artists to jury and vie for exhibit space?
I am afraid every artist has a different set of rules regarding what they will put up with, whether it be from an art show director or a gallery, and those of us who hope the weak venues will be weeded out by their unscrupulous activities, had best not hold our breath waiting for it to happen. Keeping our own standards high AND not resorting to desperation, as you suggested, are for sure our best safeguards. I think both of those actions indicate we need to be patient people!


Lori Woodward
Jean, thanks for your comment. I agree with you wholeheartedly. We should regard our relationships with galleries in a positive way.

I have worked with several galleries who've been stellar - and they are as good as gold. I have recommended many artists to great gallery dealers over the years, and those dealers have appreciated it.

A number of gallery dealers have become friends of mine over the years, and I so appreciate all that they do for artists. They often have hefty rents, electric bills, pay for ads and openings, etc. The good ones have contributed immensely to their artists' careers.

We artists need to be as innocent as doves and as savvy as snakes. Don't assume that because a gallery has a big name or excellent location that they treat artists equitably. Get references.

Carol Schmauder
Thank for this very informative article Lori. I, like Kim, am waiting for a check. I already spoke to them once and am going to speak to them again.

Lori Woodward
Cooper, yep - I hear ya! Many artists continue to put up with poor business practices from show organizers and other venues. I think the artists are hopeful that "this year will be different".

There will always be artists who will put up with bad business practices. Many artists depend on others for marketing, and this is a mistake. In my experience, all artists must take the helm and responsibility for the quality of their work and their sales whether they hire a gallery or sell on their own.

Like Kyle mentioned earlier - if he wants to get into top galleries his work needs to get to the point where it can compete with the work that's already at those galleries.

Gosh, I have had my work published in magazines plenty of times and yet, I don't think I can get into top galleries. I just don't have the "knock socks off" body of work that is required. However, I'm working towards that end and when my work is getting noticed in major art competitions, I'll be ready. (another subject for discussion)

Still that doesn't mean I can't make a living at selling my artwork as it is... it's not bad... it's just not to the masterful level.. yet!

Lori Woodward
Carol, how long has it been since the work sold?

I have a friend who has worked with galleries successfully for many years. She's an itty bitty person, but has a powerful business attitude. She'd call the gallery and ask if they needed any new work. When they'd say "sure", she'd say, send me what you owe me and I'll get you more work.

Do not send a gallery more work unless you have received your commission check (what's left over after you've paid their commission). In some states, when a gallery doesn't pay the artist, it's considered theft because the money belongs to the artist.

However, I would be kind and not call the police ;-). Whenever I work with a gallery, I construct my own agreement and have the gallery owner sign it. When I deliver paintings, I have two sheets with every painting listed and a thumbnail photo. We sign both copies. I keep the inventory, and have dates of when the painting sells and when I receive my check. Keeping good records can help - especially if the gallery knows you're keeping them.

Sometimes they appreciate my record keeping. Makes their job easier.

It's great being able to have this conversation, but I need to sign off for a while and go paint.
Still open to questions tho... but later...

Katarzyna Lappin
Hi Lori.
this is so great that you always hit the right topics and your blogs truly represent artists interest.
It seems there are three worlds. Artists, Galleries and Collectors. They all need each other. None of the galleries would survive without the artists.
A gallery representation is a very prestigious thing and it means that the artist is recognized so most of the artists try to get to the gallery. Some of the galleries are great, others might be not so great as far a relationship issue is concerned.
I believe that the right galleries are the ones where the artist is highly respected and treated as a partner. Slow payment is not a sign of respect. It's like everybody gets their piece of cake and the artists is at the end of the line. Not nice.
Just because there are many artists and a tremendous competition on the market doesn't create an excuse to treat the artists in a disrespectful way. They deserve to be paid without delays.

Tuva Stephens
It is just too bad there aren't more co-op galleries. You can be sure payment is on time because it is artists working together! I am so fortunate to be a part of 35 artist co-op in Tennessee that is doing well. Recently a representative to a well-known southern actor, said he wanted to purchase all my pieces being shown in our gallery. Needless to say we are still waiting for his return. It might happen and it might not. I am not holding my breath but it is exciting to consider.

Since I live in a rural area, I don't worry about trying to get into a huge gallery. I am selling well at competitions. I can also offer by work at a lower price. It burns me to think that a gallery would get 50 percent so you have to up your price to get a decent amount. Maybe that is why so many galleries are going bust. Collectors are going to have to get wise and seek out the artist and buy directly!

John Smith
Hi Lori, This is such an important topic and you have covered it really well.
This comes up every time artists meet. The consignment method of dealing in art arrived in the mid 80's with the interior decorators. Prior to that the galleries would contact you and make arrangements to view paintings, or one would go to them. They would then select the works they liked and paid you for them on the spot. It so worked out that one was limited to how much you could paint and supply. This led to one supplying a fixed number of galleries and the term 'stable' was used by both artist's and galleries. One would say for instance that you were a member of such and such a gallery's stable. It wax never considered offensive.
The consignment method of dealing almost immediately meant that standards were lowered (Decorators were not so much interested in individual artists or what they had to say but were more concerned about the work matching the decor) and so the galleries took in far more artists than previously to offer the decorators more variety and range and so cutting sales of many experienced painters. This and consignment in turn led to artists having to take on more galleries to try and earn the same income. The result of that meant that galleries did not feel obligated to artists any longer and so stopped promoting and advertising them to any extent. Previously a good artist was seen as an 'investment' and the more they could 'grow' the investment the better for them and the more they stood to gain. After the eighties that all changed and we now have this very unhappy situation(for the artists that is).
We have tried to rally artists so that the situations can be renegotiated, but many artists are too afraid that if they make a stand the Galleries won't take their work any longer.
Perhaps you are correct that once artists are familiar with Social Networking and all it offers, the pressure will fall on the galleries to reach out to the artists once more and a more equatable deal can be formulated? I hope so and if it is to our mutual advantage I would not be too upset if I was considered a member of a galleries stable.

I guess the Visual Arts Industry is like a triangle. Originally the artist was the tip of the triangle and the other two points the support. After the 80's this became confused, with the galleries seeing themselves as the pinnacle and the artists merely as suppliers. They are so misled because without the artists there would be no arts industry, and as you indicate Lori via the internet this may soon be brought home to them.
They, rather than the artists need to revisit the situation ....and soon!

Lori Woodward
Oh, one more thing...

If you keep a good inventory, you can arrange to exchange out paintings that have not sold with new ones. When I've done this, often, the gallery will say," Oh that one... we just sold it this week".

Having your galleries within 2 hour's drive of your home helps them keep honest because they never know when you'll pop in. If they have a problem with your "popping in" that's a red flag.

Good galleries are always happy to have the artist on site, planned or not. It helps sell their work.They should have nothing to hide.

Lori Woodward
John, all great points about the art industry's recent history.

I've worked with one gallery that I pulled out of when I realized that they "represented" 140 artists, but in a tiny space. Most of their consigned works were in storage (the basement).

When I asked for my paintings back, they pulled them from the basement, and the person said, "I love this one, can we hold on to it?" NOPE!

You're right John, consignment leads to problems that were not seen when art galleries bought work outright at a discount. When they have actually purchased the work, they are more concerned with getting it sold.

Before the economic downturn, dealers were buying Dennis Sheehan's work outright. The gallerists traveled to his studio, picked out the paintings they liked (sometimes unframed) - Dennis gave them a 50-60 percent discount depending on whether they were framed or not, and the deal was done. Dennis didn't even have to ship. It was so wonderful.

About 10 years ago, I told my galleries that I'd offer them my work outright at a 50 percent discount, and they looked at me like I was crazy.

One reason why many galleries in arts districts cannot afford to take any less than a 50 percent commission is because the whole commission way of doing things has allowed their rents to become astronomical. Some pay in excess of $50,000/month! With that kind of rent, they must show the best artists and higher priced ones. They can't afford to fill their walls with work the "might" sell.

Rent and utilities for galleries is a huge part of the problem. They need to be in high foot traffic areas with other galleries, and they pay premium rent in order to keep their doors open. If they have a few months of poor sales, their doors close. I've seen this happen with galleries that had nationally famous artists. They got "slow to pay" because they were paying their utility bills first.

Art galleries statistically go out of business more often than restaurants. When rents and the high costs of advertising comes down, there will be room to lower commission rates too.

Don't know what the answer is here, but having lower overhead is the key to being able to sell more reasonably priced work.

Hey, where's my studio? Forget the studio.. it's time for lunch!

Fred Bell
Thanks for your article. I have never been in a situation with a slow paying gallery. Most of my galleries are in my town and are easy to check up on. My present gallery has done a lot for me. I've been in several museum shows and have some press. Now that I am becoming a big fish in a small pond I think about expanding beyond my region. It is scary to trust someone far a way.

Stede Barber
Hi Lori,
What a great topic...I appreciate the clarity of your presentation, and the reminders of bringing my best to the table regardless of where I am showing.

Talking with other artists, in forums like this, helps me to know what venues are worth pursuing, and what galleries are not only a good visual fit for my work, but also a fit in work ethic and business practice.

Your ecouragement to remember the value of what I, as the artist, bring to the table is wonderful. Finding my way to my collectors is an adventure. I love hearing success stories.


Tuva Stephens
Thanks for explaining the reason why galleries have to charge such high percentages.

Lori Woodward
Tuva, thanks for responding.

Well known galleries with long histories of great sales and nationally known artists were worried about closing during this last recession.

They could not even consider looking at new artists.

That left the door wide open for artists to begin selling on their own - even some who had previously worked with galleries that had gone out of business. In many cases, the galleries got the raw end of the deal. Collectors were not buying as they were in the past. It affected everyone. The artists that got hit the worst were in the middle ranges - $20,000-$50,000.

New artists came on the scene who were highly talented and had more reasonable prices, and collectors saw "bargains" and purchased these new works knowing their investments would rise over time. They knew they would be paying top dollar for more established artists.

To make things worse for those mid career artists, many collectors put their works for sale on the secondary market - at bargain prices. Since artists are told that they cannot discount their artwork ever - they found that their past works were competing for sales with the current works. What happened is that they stopped making any money while the galleries made "some" with the resale of works.

Sometimes we artists who sell to middle class collectors don't realize how hard it can get for those who've made tons of money over the years. I know a handful of artists whose sales went from great to 0 for nearly a year. I'm not talking about Richard here - those who sell in the highest ranges, their collectors still bought. But there are few artists who sell in that range.

Looking on the brighter side now... sometimes the greatest positive changes come about when the current system fails. That's why I think we artists - who do not have top billing - have a bright future ahead of us, and I don't think we necessarily need to depend on galleries.

There are new ways for us to market our work and make new collectors. In some ways, we are better off than some of our more successful colleagues. For the first time in history, artists can sell their art directly - and that will only get easier and better. There will always be competition, so pursue your work and strive to master your particular style and statement.

My stomach is definitely growling now. Just wanted to share a few more stories.

Tuva Stephens
Very interesting...I had 2 men looking at my work from Phoenix at my first and last outdoor show in Tennessee. I had invited them to come to the event when they visited our co-op gallery. They took a quick look at my work and picked out 3 abstracts. They asked if I would ship the work if they paid for the shipping. We exchanged information. I figured they either owned a gallery or were avid collectors. You never know. Any advice?

Casey Craig

Really great information here - always happy to read posts that empower artists.

I totally agree about negotiations especially with contracts. When I was offered a publishing deal with a major fine art publisher, I couldn't sign their contract. It had too many clauses that were woven throughout the document that I couldn't agree to. I couldn't even scratch them out, because they'd be referred to repeatedly on other pages. My solution was to send my own contract that was mutually beneficial to both of us and they were fine with that.

Also posting your prices on your website is a great way to keep your galleries honest.

Thanks again Lori

Esther J. Williams
Lori, I think this has turned out to be one of your best articles! I read every word and all the comments. It is definitely food for thought! One of your statements, "I have recommended many artists to great gallery dealers over the years, and those dealers have appreciated it." That was also made by Eric Rhoads who talked in length about landing a gallery. He says the upper crust galleries just do not have time to read or look at the portfolios. One of the guys just throws those portfolios into a box, the box gets full, he gets another box, fills that and they all go into storage. Never to be looked at. I think they are a waste of time and money also. I made a few, they have gathered dust because I opted for the co-op galleries. I get paid within the 30 day mark, but sometimes have to make a call. I love the instant pay of either PayPal or a check/money order sent in the mail from a direct sale.
Speaking of food and painting in the studio, off I go!

Esther J. Williams
Lori, I thought some more on the portfolio idea, it may not be a good idea to send them out, but it is a good idea to keep making up to date ones if you have an appointment to see a gallery owner. I also think they are a good idea to display at art fairs or just carry around with you when on a painting trip. Maybe a small portfolio to show an interested passerby who takes an interest in your art. I was on a hiking trail last weekend and handed one of my 4X6 postcards showing my art to horseback riders who were interested. You never know when you meet a prospective art collector!

Lori Woodward
Esther, totally agree with you on the portfolio stuff. Gallerists just never get time. They see artists who win competitions and are recommended to them by other artists.

I used to carry around a little photo album that I could put in my purse. Now I have a PDA or carry my netbook with me which shows pictures on the screen. While hiking, a real photo book would be better - just in case one was to fall on the rocks ;-)

Thanks for your input.

George De Chiara
Great article Lori and thanks for sharing so much with your responses. It's all very interesting. I really liked your friends approach about asking if the gallery needed more paintings and then asking for payment from the previous paintings.

Tom Weinkle

I agree with you. I do the same thing with a print catalog, and it helps. We will get asked, and having it in print is easier than showing people on a website. If you take time to get good reproductions, the print version can show details that a laptop or medium sized monitor simply cannot with an added tactile experience.

Thanks, Lori! I just checked the calendar and it's probably much too soon then to be concerned. I guess I'm just anxious to get paid! Off topic, but today is one of those days where I'm not accomplishing much in the way of artwork--we're putting a new metal roof on the porch and...I had to give more poor, handicapped kitty with the lower spinal cord injury an ENEMA! I've done a lot of things in my life, but this is indeed a first! Maybe I'll be able to do some painting this evening....

Crystal Rassi
Hi Lori,

This is a very intriguing article. I'd like to see a lot more advice about dealing with galleries. As much as I don't want the hassle of dealing with galleries, I also feel they play a very necessary role for the artist for a few reasons mentioned in my blog article called "Don't Forget the Galleries" at I truly don't want to sell my own art because I want more time in the studio so reading advice like this about galleries keeps me informed.

Thanks again.

Stede Barber
Hi Kim...the things we do for our critters! Shots, pills, hoisting our 3-leggers around in a sling while they get their muscles up and your off-topic sharing! Your kitty is lucky to have you as a Mom.
Warmly, Stede

Stede Barber
Love your postcard idea Esther. An idea I'm looking into is printing small books of my art on Picaboo or a site like that...not cheap, but actually a well-priced way to give a memorable presentation to galleries.

Plus, more and more I am asked simply for my website address based on a business card!


Stede Barber
Hi Casey,
Thanks for sharing about how you handle contracts. How did you create yours? A form from one of the several books out for artists? Do you work with a lawyer?

Plus another good reason to post prices on site...


Stede Barber
Hi all,
I am preparing for the Abiquiu Studio Tour this weekend...pricing is always such a challenge! Would love your thoughts, as well as how much you discount (if you do) at events such as this.

I just finished a 2-month solo show in Santa Fe Aug/Sept, but am not currently in a gallery.


Nancy Pingree Hoover
Great article Lori, as always!

I have had a time with my gallery paying in a timely fashion. To be honest, I see no reason why they should hold onto our money any longer than 14 days. That gives them plenty of time to process whatever kind of payment it was and clear it. Once they ave cleared the payment, it's money in their account, yet they still make us wait another two weeks. My problem with waiting 30 days is that most of us artists don't exactly have big savings accounts and rely on that payment when we sell a painting. You are correct that keeping our money that long is equivalent to a "loan" and it is amazing how some galleries do not want to give us our money! I have had my gallery "forget" to pay me on more than one occasion, and I always feel like I'm begging for money when I have to trudge in there are ask for my payment. I have an exhibition set for December at that gallery, then I plan on pulling out (again - but this time for good!).

Keep these great articles coming Lori!!

Casey Craig
Hi Stede,

I didn't use a lawyer. I started with a sample licensing agreement contract for artists from Tad Crawford's book "Business and Legal Forms for Fine Artists" (it even has a CD so you don't have to retype everything) and then I added some of the items from the publisher's contract that I didn't have a problem with. I also used and highly recommend "Art Licensing 101" by Michael Woodward for any artist interested in licensing their work for reproduction.

My experience with gallery contracts has been good, most are pretty short and upfront about commissions, pricing, exclusivity, who pays for shipping, etc. If a gallery contract doesn't cover something you are concerned about talk to the director about adding it in. Contracts are supposed to protect both parties. And if the terms just aren't agreeable, don't be afraid to walk away.

Hope this helps,

Esther J. Williams
Lori, seeing that the title of this article is slow to pay, how about we negotiate with our new gallery owner to pay in 14 days then? I think that is fair, but if they have an accountant it might not be fitting into their scheduled payroll. There are two things that bother me the most about a gallery, it is the 50 percent commission and the 30 day payment.
If I was in several galleries and my art was priced a lot higher, I guess I would not mind. There would be a steady stream of checks. That is IF they were selling steadily. Seems my online sales are more of the steady income makers.
I am still not nixing the gallery opportunities, for any of you gallery owners. Hint, hint!

Lori Woodward
Crystal, yes galleries provide a much needed service for artists - especially those who are busy (like you are).

I looked at your site and ADORE your recent work. It's amazing! I'm a representational painter who has very little imagination, and I admire artists who can pull off abstracted but representational work the way you do. Bravo! Your work should be in a gallery.

Just show the gallery one style of your work though. They want to be able to define what it is you do. All your work should have a thread of similarity... which most of yours does with the exception of your portrait commissions.

My gut says that your abstract works - like the recent one of that building is your greatest asset because it's so unique but well executed at the same time.


Lori Woodward
Kim, yeah we all have days when life gets in the way. It's your overall working pattern that matters.
Hope things return to "normal" soon!

Lori Woodward
I personally don't know anyone who work with a gallery that sells a steady stream of work within a month's time. Artists typically have more than one gallery for that reason.

Many galleries (some really well known ones) send out checks twice a month, but they have a staff. Smaller galleries do their bookkeeping once a month. Some are really bad at keeping track, and once the money is in their account, they pay their bills with it. Smart gallerists have two accounts - one that holds their own profits that they pay their bills from and a separate account that holds money owed to artists.

It seems to me that we as business partners should ask when the gallery sends checks, and whether they are currently paying their bills on time. Banks don't make loans to me if they don't check out my financial situation first. OK... I'm getting edgy now.

I LOVE galleries. I just don't want to always feel like I need to bow down, tread carefully, or worry about offending them. They are equal partners. When they treat me like one, I love working with them.

Jean Skipper
I own a small gallery, and I put a lot of time and effort into sales efforts on behalf of the artists who work with me.

I pay each of my artists regularly on a monthly basis. These checks are sent on the 15th of each month for the prior month's sales. This business practice is in no way intended to secure "a loan" from my artists. The payment process is timely, and once a month is what I'm able to manage efficiently while still maintaining my sanity. (Ok, I admit that this is sometimes debatable. :-) )

My best advice to artists and gallery owners is to treat each other with respect, keep the lines of commmunication open, and follow the golden rule.

stede barber
Thank you Casey...very helpful!

Lori Woodward
Jean, thanks for taking the time to let us know how you handle sending checks. Sounds like you're pretty good with bookkeeping. Hope you keep your sanity, the world needs more gallerists like you ;-)

stede barber
Hi Jean,
Bless you for being an artists' advocate as well as an artist yourself!


Donna Robillard
There is a lot of food for thought here. Thanks for sharing from your own knowledge and experience.

Michael Cardosa
Hi Lori,

Another good posting. My sense is that while it might be exceptionally exciting to be approached or accepted by a gallery you should always stop and take a breath before going forward. Just like any business partnership it's always good to do a little due diligence about the gallery and know what you are getting into working with them. If they slow pay it will come out somewhere with artist's who do or have worked with them. If their scrupulously honest that will come out too.

thanks again,


Thanks, Stede! And good luck with the Abiquiu Studio Tour--if things settle down perhaps my husband and I will take drive up your way and do the tour.

Stede Barber
Kim, Would love to meet you. I will be at stop #16, behind the Abiquiu Inn on Highway can download a map at


John Smith
Me again - I have worked with at least two galleries that were slow payers. I subsequently learned that in both cases they had accountants who had advised them to hang on to artist's money until they really squealed. I feel this is a case where galleries and especially accountants do not have an understanding of what transpires in the world of the artist, and that we in fact constantly communicate personally with each other, and also via networks such as this one. In the cases I'm referring to the artists did squeal and then stopped supplying those galleries. Today one of the galleries has gone belly-up and the other is finding it really difficult to attract big name or even named artists. The word went out to the artists very quickly, and now no-one other than new artists who are happy to be in any gallery will supply them.

I find it difficult to know why galleries feel it necessary to be in expensive malls. Some of the best I know are far from such shopping areas. Generally people looking for art (not wall furniture) will seek out and visit galleries that carry what they are looking for and consider things like accessibility and parking rather than high profile. For a gallery to be near a supermarket is suicide because the last thing on the mind of a person with a trolley load of groceries is shopping for paintings. My experience is that buying a painting is seldom an impulse thing. People generally look for a painting for a specific place in their homes ans so will go to places most likely to have such work. That does not have to be in an expensive mall. It does mean that the gallery has to let people know where they are though and what work and who the artists are they represent.
Finding the right location for a gallery is really difficult and so I guess a mall is the easiest but not necessarily the best. One can easily determine the cost of what it costs the gallery to hang your panting. If you work out the wall area and rent paid for the shop and divide by paintings. You may find that each square yard/meter comes to a thousand dollars or more. If a painting then hangs for two months that goes up proportionally. After a few months there is no longer any profit for the gallery. Gallerists do however often hang onto a a painting by a well-known artist as a sweetener. We as artists need to consider those costs when criticizing galleries and a large commission by the gallery is often necessary, especially if they are in a very expensive building. It also explains why galleries are so picky about what work they select and why they are so reluctant to buy outright. Many Gallerists have had no any art training and often go into the art business because it is a relatively cheap business to start in that they do not have to pay for their stock. The result of no training is they do not have the knowledge of paintings and art to allow them to back themselves, and so find it safer to have work that (besides perhaps the frame) does not cost them if it doesn't sell. It does in fact cost them the wall space/portion of the rent cost, but less than if they owned the painting.

I said in an earlier response that the nature of many galleries changed with the coming of the Interior Decorator in the 80's and Artists are often now seen as no more than suppliers, and the respect that galleries once had for creative people is now all but gone. Artists need to consider if they are not largely responsible for this? How can it be put right?
The secret I guess is for Gallerists to have 'more and better training' so that they can back themselves when buying art for their galleries.
There would be mutual understanding and respect on both sides and we'd all win then.:)

Lori Woodward
Hi John, I have a suggestion for you - please don't take offence. I, like you... tend to have long comments and what you're adding is valuable.

It would be helpful for me while reading your comments if you either broke them up into shorter posts or divide the text into a lot of paragraphs. I have a small screen, and when when the text has no physical breaks, I lose my place and then begin to scan saying I'll go back and read the rest later.

John Smith
No offence taken :)

Jean Skipper
Aren't you sweet, Lori. :-)

Thankfully most gallerist who represent my work, and those who I know in the community, are like me. Sadly, as with any group of people, a few bad apples can tarnish the reputation of those of us who love this business and our artists.

For those who have had a bad experience with a gallerist, hang in there! The search for a gallery owner who will treat you with respect will pay off in the long run.

stede barber
Hi John,
I have often wondered what the effect will be on artists and the art world that several generations of people who grew up with no art in school.

Fortunately, that does seem to be changing...and I am noticing wonderful programs in art curating that exist now that weren't readily available when I was in school.

So it seems that, yes, it's a business that anyone can enter with no degree or training...and yet, more and more people who love art are entering the art world with a background in curating and business. I so welcome this!

Am I imagining this, or does it seem that people are asking for a better experience with art in many collectors, as artists making their work available, as gallerists being a valuable part of all this?

I believe it's a good thing for all...

John Smith
Hi Stede, I live and work in South Africa but when I read your blogs in the USA there is little or no difference to our art community/industry. Your problems and experiences seem identical to ours here.

Things were not ideal when I was at school, and creativity was considered day-dreaming and frowned on.
Later things improved and eventually became really good. When I went into art as a career in 1972 artists were highly regarded and respected. However since the late eighties and the advent of the consignment method of trading, things have been losing ground.

My wife teaches art at a high-school and found that really stimulating and exciting, and even organised side by side exhibitions with local adult art clubs. That went really well until the subject of art was changed to something called 'Popular Culture' Since then it has once again started deteriorating. Kids taking this subject are unlikely to identify with fine art as a potential career option. This means that in time unless we do something radical we will only have amateur or hobby artists. The pools of skills and knowledge we have gained over a long period of time will slowly dwindle.
Even now there is scant respect for our living icons.

It is imperative that art starts at school and is treated as a superior subject not one that is considered inferior.
It really is the glue that binds societies into a cohesive whole.

All the elements that go into being a good citizen are required to be an artist. Organizer, problem solver, decision-maker, creator, observer, thinker, be disciplined, honesty, handy, sensitive and all the rest.

If kids could have all those qualities when they left school we would have a far better world.

Why people cannot see this is beyond me.

I'm delighted to hear things are improving over there. I hope they soon will here.

***My apologies for using your article Lori.
I hope you find this one easier to read :}

Lori Woodward
Yes John, much easier to read ;)

Perfectly fine with me if people communicate with each other here. I actually enjoy it when my blog can turn into a forum of sorts. The discussions are useful to others who peek in.

Wow, I'm feeling really dizzy right now (no blonde jokes please)... I'm taking an anti vertigo pill and going to sleep. I did happily paint for a few hours today using my water soluble oils. Didn't want to risk using solvents after a concussion.

AGain, no problem with conversations here.

stede barber
Hi John,
What a terrific read! I started as a High School Art teacher and Dept Head (of just myself, haha, but planning the entire curriculum, ordering supplies, arranging field trips, etc...loved it!).

At the time, I taught at a regional High School. When I left to move to the West, my job was given to the Middle School Art sad! He was a good teacher, but could he possibly continue the inernship experiences (learning to design and print High School show posters and invitations, for example), the art shows, and the field trips to Boston's great museums with that type of work load?!The beginning of the era I mentioned where art was minimized as an unimportant extra, and then eliminated from many schools.

I believe that now, despite tight budgets, more people are realizing the importance, as you outlined so beautifully, of art. I've read of studies showing that children who study a subject like math or science, then either go out and play (move physically) or make art retain far more than students who move directly on to another subject to study.

I live in Northern New Mexico, a land of great beauty, wealth, and poverty intermixed. Santa Fe has consistently been making choices other than eliminating art programs to trim the budget. I hear of this elsewhere as well.

So, here's to all of us--artists, teachers, gallerists, collectors, all who love art and comprehend the deep and high value of doing it and having it in our lives--holding the torch and sharing our passion with others.

stede barber
Thanks, Lori, I find these conversations invaluable.

Take good care of yourself...

John Smith
Ill drink a toast to that Stede. good time for it too. It's 9pm here. Cheers!

Crystal Rassi
Thanks Lori for your fine compliments. I agree with showing only the one style and am working on developing that more. That is why I only have that style on my website and have archived the rest.

As for the "abstract building" - I think you might be referring to the bowl-shaped building - it's actually a real existing building in Brasilia, Brasil. It is their legislative building. Although you could be referring to the balloon-like building (it is a fictional building but based on pneumatics - an architectural building type).

I went to your blog and saw more posts on dealing with galleries and have found your blog to be well organized and totally informational - thank you!

Lori Woodward
Crystal, I did mean the balloon shaped building - I can't remember, it had a name like, Wide is the new tall. Sorry if I got that wrong, but I liked the title too!

Helen Horn Musser
cheers Stede, love new mexico; great place for artists and happy place to visit and live

Helen Horn Musser
Hi Stede and John, a funny thing happened to us (NorthEast Texas Fine Art Alliance)at a High School in our town. We were asked to be there as artists to represent the visual artistic world. We were overwhelmed with young adults who came to our booth to talk about a career as an artist. as the morning progressed we got feedback from those in charge that being an artist was not exactly going to be a worth while venture. Well, this was needless to say a disppointing view from educaters in our town but, we will continue to encourage our young people to take a step toward art and I did see many talented young people in our town. The school system of our country is not encouraging the arts as a career and I think that is a shame

stede barber
Hi Helen,
And yet...there are far more business-of-art courses/programs/degrees, books, and ways to be in touch with other helpful artists than there were when I was a younger sprout...

and the young talent is awesome (as always...truly is part of human nature)...

so here's to the Arts! And to educators/administrators who need some help in this area...

and while we're at it, to funding for the arts in all its aspects, including us artists!

Joanne Benson
Thanks Lori and everyone for all your interesting comments and insights! This was a long read but worth it! I especially enjoyed the history of galleries from John. Good luck to all with current shows and venues, etc.

I am currently in a coop gallery and do a few shows a year with other arts organizations or charities. I find this arrangement works for me. I appreciate all the discussion on contracts and expectations and have learned quite a bit from this post.

I just sold 3 paintings at a show that I almost didn't participate in! It is a show I have done every year but was soooo busy this year that I was going to skip it. Fortunately for me a friend was also doing it and offered to take my work as well! What a pleasant surprise when I went to pick up my work!

John Smith
Thanks Joanne, Many artists ignore the history of art in all it's many manifestations, but it is really interesting, and one can learn so much by understanding what went before.

How can one plot ahead if you do not know where you come from?

Amazing how good things happen when you least expect them to, such as your three paintings selling. I guess bad things happen like that too but let's focus on the good things :)

Helen Horn Musser
Stede, Agree with all your points; have seen the same happening in my lifetime. I do think our town is beginning to appreciate the visual arts more in the last five years than have ever seen. There are other things we can do to share our passion for art such as exhibitions and teaching for those who want to learn. Just found it a little odd that we were asked to participate in career day if we weren't seen as an authentic career.

Tuva Stephens
Congrats on selling 3 pieces! That always gives an artist a boost in so many ways. I have considered not entering a show and receive top prizes and sold 2 works but 3!!!! Awesome!

John Smith
It does seem strange Helen, that you were invited to talk about being a career artist while they felt that it was not a career prospect at all. My Dad and my aunt were both really competent artists. My aunt studied at the Royal College of Art in London but she could never really crack it as a freelance professional.
The result was that when I decided that I wanted to make painting my career they were all horrified. If Aunt Trudy couldn't make it then no-one could make it.

That was nearly 40 years ago and I have earned my living as an artist for all that time.
The truth is that people make observations and statements without any real knowledge or experience.
I wonder how many kids that could have been great masters were put off by some misguided or ignorant parent, teacher or relation?
Art is tough. At this time it is particularly tough, but nowhere near as tough as for the great masters or even the Impressionists. Yet they made it. If you really want it and are prepared to put in those 10,000 hours there is nothing that can stop you, whatever outsiders believe.

Helen Horn Musser
Thank you John for those comments; it was a puzzle to me as well. God is in control and if He wills the artist will be able to paint his thoughts and passions. Hopefully those who love the arts and have the heart to express through visual arts will be led in the direction and their lives and art will be led by God

Helen Horn Musser
Good for you John and God blessed too

Joanne Benson
Thanks Tuva, I was so surprised when I went to pick up my work and couldn't find 3 of the 4 paintings I put in the show! I thought one of my other friends might have picked them up. What a thrill when I learned that they all sold!

Tuva Stephens

It is always hard for me to walk out of a show without my work. My husband took a photo of one of my pieces in which I sold at a show last week. He said I looked sad but we have to share our passion.

Tuva Stephens
Your last comment is so true and meaningful to me.
"God is in control and if He wills the artist will be able to paint his thoughts and passions. Hopefully those who love the arts and have the heart to express through visual arts will be led in the direction and their lives and art will be led by God." It is as though you copied my artist's statement. No doubt many artists feel empowered and blessed to show what others look past.

Helen Horn Musser
Tuva, promise I did not copy ; just came to me. Happy to have same thoughts as you. I do believe as artists we are all being led by our Lord.

George De Chiara
I'm am very concerned about how much we hear in the news about schools cutting more and more of the arts from the curriculum. I would have gone crazy in school without these programs. I guess it's just one more thing we need to teach our kids that they aren't learning in school. But, boy is it weird to invite you to the school and then discourage the arts as a career.

Helen Horn Musser
Yes, George, was weird and made me feel like we were commpletely out of place. I can only think they were overwhelmed with the number of students at our table. Couldn't count them all. Maybe the ones at the table took something with them as they left.

Casey Craig
George you are so right.

I am doing an art project for my son's 4th grade class this month and last week I was the guest speaker for my oldest son's high school art class plus 3 additional classes. As artists we sometimes have to fill the void where budget cuts have left art out of the schools.

While the high school offers art, the elementary school doesn't. There is a great after school art program for these kids, but I'm hoping teachers can find opportunities to work a little art into their curriculum.

I do admit that when I'm talking to older students, I don't discourage them from art as a career, but I don't sugar coat the difficulties either.

Great insights in this post Lori, sorry to get so off topic.

Helen Horn Musser
Casy, good for you taking your expertise to school. The elementary in our town does teach art and we have a great art progam here. Another reason it was strange they resented us advising students to go for an art career. A young person can find work in many different ways in art; illustration has been a mainstay of many an artist as they pursue painting and selling work. Also, visual arts are taught in Schools and Universities all over America. This is another way to earn money while building a career in painting, sculpture, ect.

Nancy Pingree Hoover
Helen, strange indeed how that event turned out. Don't get discouraged by it though.

Lots of terrific info and great conversation here! Love the contributions!

God Bless!

Helen Horn Musser
Thanks for the encouragement, Nancy, you are right we just need to keep trying to steer them in that direction if it is in their soul to be artists. I have been serving as juror for the exhibition they display at the end of the year. Have really enjoyed that.

Tuva Stephens
In art education one has to constantly do PR about the benefits of art to students. You literally have to keep the "buzz" about the art program. I went to a new school in which there was no art program in any of the schools. (HS,MS,ES) The administrators saw the importance of including art in both the elementary and middle school. I was so proud when I retired to see the system had fulfilled my challenge and goal.

Tuva Stephens
By promoting the love and appreciation of art, many students found their way into graphic design,education, architecture and other fields.

My goal was to promote the importance of art in their lives and to be creative problem solvers no matter what career they chose.

I even have a few struggling artists out there who have connected to tell their story.

stede barber
Just catching my breath after a 3-day Abiquiu Studio and appreciate all the comments. Art as a career does seem to frighten so many who haven't seen or known successful artists.

Bless all who are offering a peek into this opportunity!

Keith B McCulloch
I have a question about galleries. Is it fair to ask for the name and address of collectors who have purchased my work.

One gallery that sold about 15 of my works never disclosed who they were. Furthermore she always ripped off the back of the paintings my business card so the collectors could not reach me. Unfortuneately, the gallery is closed now and the owner is deceased and I have no way to communicate with the collectors.

John Smith
This question is discussed all the time Keith, and it seems reasonable that if you nominate a gallery to represent you and your work then it is a little unfair for you to encourage buyers to approach you directly.
It would be nice to be given the names of people who have acquired your work, but it seems it is something that is seldom done anywhere in the world.
The galleries almost always remove ones contact details from the back of the painting and I can't really blame them. There would be little point in them hanging your work at great expense only for the collector to buy it directly from you, as often happens.
It does seem a little futile trying to hide your details though, because as Clint pointed out in an earlier post, it is the easiest thing in the world to trace any artist with the scantiest of track-records by means of the internet.

Lori Woodward

After reading books by Jack White, whose galleries did give him and his wife Mikki Senkarik the names of their collectors, I decided to ask my gallerists for names too.

One of the galleries I worked with did give me the names, and it made sense because I met these folks at openings anyway. When I met them, I let them know that if they purchased from me, the retail price would be exactly the same as in the gallery because I would be sending the gallery their commission.

My gallery owners trust me to do the right thing, so they don't mind giving me the names. With the Internet, most of my collectors contact me anyway, and the gallerists who try to hang on to info are fooling themselves. We're going to see a lot of things change into an equitable situation.

I was talking with my mentor the other day. He was saying that with the Internet, everything's in the open and that we'll see the "gatekeepers" work with us instead of against us... otherwise, they will not survive.

Crystal Rassi
I'm not experienced with galleries BUT, in contracts I've dealt with when selling my work directly to collectors, it stipulates that if the artwork were to be given as a gift or resold, the artist is entiled to not only royalties, but also the names of the people who now have the item. Those people are then to sign the same contract. This is to keep a historical record of your work. In case you ever want to have a show of past work or some famous museum wants to purchase the work or show your work, then you/they have the means to do that.

As for galleries, Lori is right. ALWAYS sell for the same retail price as the gallery. If a collector wants to buy the piece that's hanging in the gallery, then the collector should buy from the gallery. If there's a piece not showing in the gallery that the collector wants to buy, then you have the right to sell it personally. I believe that galleries should not hide your information from the collector. The collector will want to know and remember the artist of each piece they buy.

I also think that exposing the collector's information should be in the contract between you and the gallery. But we have to remember that there is a third party here. The collector. What if the collector doesn't want their information given out? This also needs to be established between the gallery and the buyer. For historical purposes, I'd like the collector's name but, no one who buys a fancy dress lets the designer know they bought it.....
contracts, contracts - please establish contracts.

Helen Horn Musser
Crystal, Your comments are very interesting. I have often wondered about the what ifs that come with selling a piece. Your obervations about showing in an exhibition after the painting sells is a good example and entering competitions that require you to put the work in an exhibition if there is any award given. The piece can sell between the time you enter and the results of competition; ties up a lot of work when you enter and don't know who the buyer is or if they would give permission for the show.

Crystal Rassi
Hi Helen,

Actually that has happened to me. I won the chance to enter into a 2 year tour through an adjudication I entered. After that exhibition was over, I showed one of the works in an art fair and it sold. I had the buyer sign a contract stipulating that every 5 years, I had the right to exhibit the piece for no more than 60 days. The buyer signed the contract but that also means I cannot exhibit that piece in the two year tour.

Buyers don't have to agree to sign the contract and the buyer has the right to change the contract to suit themselves as well, just as much as we have the right to sign, not to sign, or to change contracts with galleries to suit our needs.

Helen Horn Musser
Crystal, Can you give us an idea about the conversation in the contract and did you do it yourself or have a lawyer draw it up? Thank you so much for your input

Crystal Rassi
Hi Helen,

I actually got the contract from CARFAC (It's a Canadian artists association), which I am a member of. They have a variety of contracts posted on their website for artists to use. You can tweek it if necessary but review the stipulations before using their documents.

Here's the link to my province's representation:

And the National link:

I'd suggest finding an organization like this near you. They've been proven to be helpful for me.

Helen Horn Musser
You bring good news for artists; this can be very helpful in compiling a contract for artwork.Thank you Crystal for all your help.


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