Getting your artwork on display to the public for the first time can seem very daunting, and the thought of wandering into a art gallery carrying some of your prized paintings, only to have the proprietor give them a cursory glance and turn you down, can be very demoralising.
Fortunately, with a bit of forward planning, there are some things you can do that will greatly help your chances of success. So let’s get into it:
1) Try not to walk into the gallery looking like you’ve just been dragged through a hedge backwards.
This one is particularly difficult for me, because it’s my usual look ( that’s actually my passport photo above ).
As artists we’re pretty good at rocking the ‘distressed’ look, necessity dictates that when you’re throwing paint around all day you don’t want to be wearing your finest paisley trousers and sporting your ‘going out’ cravat, right. However, when you’re trying to be taken seriously by a business, it will help your chances no end if you look relatively tidy and professional when you approach them.
2) Do a bit of reconnaissance ( disguise optional ).
Before you approach a gallery to ask if they will display your art, wander in and have a look around to see if they show work similar to your own. There may not be much point in approaching a gallery that only shows humongous abstract paintings, if you paint miniature wildlife paintings. Having said that, an art gallery is a business, and if they think they can sell your work they may still take you on, so it’s always worth asking.
3) Contact the gallery and make an appointment first.
Never just drop in on the off chance hoping/assuming that the gallery proprietor has the time to stand and look at your work right there and then, get in touch and make an appointment first. Not only will this allow the owner to make some time to look at your work, but it makes you look more professional.
An added bonus of making an appointment first, is that you will have already made that daunting initial first contact before you turn up with your work, which more often than not reassures you that the gallery proprietor isn’t quite as scary as you thought, and in fact, is really very nice.
4) Only take properly framed paintings which will show off your work to its best.
If you walk in to the gallery carrying floppy pieces of watercolour paper with dirty finger marks all over them, or poorly framed paintings with wonky corners and that have a piece of your Dad’s fishing line on the back to hang them up, it won’t help your cause. If the gallery does decide to display your work, then you’re more than likely going to have to get your paintings framed, so get some/all of the paintings you plan on taking in professionally framed beforehand.
5) If the gallery you’re approaching offers a framing service, ask them to frame your paintings.
This is of course a great way to subtly make contact with the gallery, and start building a working relationship, without having to start from scratch. You never know, they may like your work so much when they frame it, that THEY ask YOU if you would like to display some of your art in their gallery.
6) Decide on an approximate price for your paintings.
Of course, this needs to be flexible, and when you get chatting to the proprietor they will be able to advise you if your figure is way out. Do a little research beforehand, look at other paintings/artists similar to you as a gauge. Ideally, you want to be able to say a figure when the gallery asks you where you would like to price your paintings. What you DON’T want to say, is that you have no idea.
7) Have your contact details written down and ready to hand over.
Preferably have a pamphlet or business card to hand over with your phone number on. If you can’t afford to have this done professionally, and you have access to a home printer, you can make your own pamphlets in most word processor programs these days cheaply and fairly easily. A lot of programs have a few pamphlet templates you can choose from, and all you have to do is add images and text.
8 ) If you have your own website then put the address down with your contact details.
Do not think having a website is a substitute for taking your paintings into the gallery for them to see in the flesh. Most galleries won’t accept artwork on the basis of what they see on a website. Besides, your art will always look better in real life than on a monitor.
9) Try not to be intimidated.
I think artists in general are quite shy people, and walking into a gallery with lots of wonderful expensive looking paintings on the walls can make you feel quite inferior. If you’re not fortunate enough to have a large purpose built studio at home that you create your art in, this doesn’t mean that your work isn’t as good as other artists. Remember that most paintings in most galleries were created in cramped makeshift conditions in a house full of dogs, cats and children.
10) Lastly, after all your efforts, if the gallery do turn you down don’t forget to ask politely the reasons why.
If it’s the quality of your work that they don’t think is quite up to scratch, then don’t be too disappointed. This just means you must go away and continue to paint like crazy, until your level of skill has improved and you can approach them again. It may be that your subject matter has let you down, and although loving your miniature paintings of flowers, the gallery would rather display enormous landscape paintings. If this happens, then you must either try a different gallery, or consider changing your subject matter – whatever the reasons are, it’s in your interests to know, so that you can go away and take action.
Good luck ( not that you need it ) and happy painting.
I look forward to some great comments below, and if you enjoyed this post and found it useful, please share it, thanks.by