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Advice to new Artists

Hello and welcome to my website.

I am often asked how a new artist should start selling their work, and any advice I could give them in starting up. I wrote this page to give some advice on both selling artwork and getting exhibited in art galleries. This information is based on the assumption that your work is of sufficient quality to sell. It is not intended to be an art tutorial.

What you will need prior to a gallery appointment

A body of work to submit consisting of 5 to 10 pieces, galleries need to know that you can produce work in the quantities they will need.

A portfolio including high quality digital images of your work.

An artist statement/ biography, check gallery websites to see what the gallery has for their other artists to give you an idea of what that gallery is looking for. Louise Brooks Art - Biography will give you an idea of the type of content in most artist statements/ biographies.

As with a job interview be prepared, know your unique selling points and why you believe the gallery should exhibit your work, after all if you are not confident in your art how can you expect them to be?

Selecting a Gallery

The first thing you need to do to get your work exhibited is to locate galleries that would be suitable for you to submit to. Look for galleries that exhibit your type of work (Original painting on canvas, digital artwork, sculpture, framed, mixed media, oil etc.) with a good footfall and who also attend exhibitions that you wish to be showcased at.

Having found a gallery that exhibits your type of work, ideally the gallery will not have existing artists producing work too similar to yours. Galleries will normally be reluctant trying an artist that looks very similar to one of their existing artists, as wall space is at a premium for galleries. The only exception to this is usually if the gallery is having a problem with an artist and may want a replacement.

Once you have selected the galleries you wish to submit to, phone them to find the process that new artists should follow, phone on a quiet week day not busy weekends. I usually find Tuesday or Wednesday are the optimum contact days. The process varies between galleries, some want submissions in writing others via email, and a few now have online submission, email is by far the most common. Do not forget to ask them who to submit too and if they are taking on new artists.

Never cold call galleries in person, they often have 100s of artists wanting to exhibit, and most gallery owners think unsolicited approaches are rude.

If the gallery is interested in seeing your work, prepare your submission; know your unique selling points. But always be prepared for rejection and do not take it personally. Listen to the reasons why your work does not fit if you do get rejected and learn from it, most of all remember art is subjective and different people have different tastes. Art is a very competitive career to become involved in.

There are very few avenues outside of college for new artists. But competitions and Open Houses can be worth trying. It is also worth looking for cheap shared exhibition spaces if they have them in your area, often the artist will need to be there in person for one or two days a week.

Unfortunately, unlike many careers, art is usually something created by one person not a team. An artist usually spends years crafting their individual style and few successful artists are going to give these hard learned secrets away. It is very rare for opportunities working with established artists such as apprenticeships. I have found personally that there is only so much that you can learn from classes once you leave college.

Artists will have their work promoted if they can get exhibited in galleries but for a proactive artist there is the opportunity of using the web. This gives artists the ability to sell and self promote but this is not an easy method to generate sales, if possible an artist should not only sell from the web.

The most important thing I could stress to up and coming artists is to learn there is no criticism, only feedback. For new artists this is such a hard lesson to learn and criticism can deflate them and make them want to give up. To be a successful commercial artist you need to be able take criticism from galleries who show interest in your work and adapt your style accordingly. I would ensure that you have another job to be able to finance the start up of your art career. Starting out as an artist is a hard career path and it can take a considerable time before you are successful. Artists who do not have a means to finance themselves often become disheartened and give up before they achieve any commercial success.

Tips for the Web

The first thing I would advise up and coming artists to do is to put their art for sale on the web. There are many online gallery sites offering to sell your work and they vary in cost from free to charging 50% of any sale. These sites are easy to set up and do not require any technical expertise, but there are a few points to consider.

Do not pay to have a site set up. Sites financed by charging the artists are not incentivised to promote artists work. Their financial incentive is to get more artists to sign up, you are better with sites that charge commission, as it is in their interest to promote and sell your work.

Be careful of online fraud, as with all areas of the internet there are many scams. Do an internet search for the latest art scams and be aware of the latest frauds. But do not outlay any money to people who may contact you offering anything that seems to good to be true.

Set up your own personal website, again there are many sites offering this to artists for free. Look to purchase your own domain though so that you can use this on advertising. Domains can be purchased from about 1.99 a year for .co.uk and 6.99 for .com.

In short set up a web presence including Twitter and Facebook etc. leverage any social media connections you should have as well.

Once an artist has a web presence they will need a body of work, this should consist of 5 to 10 pieces that they are happy with and that best shows their style.