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? 
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 
, 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. 
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.
 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.
 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.
 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.