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If you want to make a living as an artist, there are many avenues that you can pursue to get your art in the hands of collectors.
The traditional approach, before the prevalence of the Internet, was for budding artists to send slides to galleries. After sending out dozens of slide sheets to various galleries, artists had to wait weeks, and often months, for a gallery to respond – if they even responded at all.
Artists these days can save themselves time and money by utilizing the power of the Internet. Even if your goal is to secure a relationship with a brick and mortar gallery, you can still do most, if not all, of the “grunt work” online. Here’s how:
1. Start local. For an emerging artist, it usually makes sense to search for galleries in your local area. This allows you to develop a personal relationship with the gallery owner and staff. Visiting the gallery allows you to get a firsthand feel for the gallery owner, as well as the gallery itself, before signing any contracts. Another benefit of working with a local gallery is that it will save you the time and money that it would take you to either travel to and from the gallery, or to safely pack and ship your artwork.
2. Do your research. Before you contact a gallery, you can determine whether or not your art is the right fit for their needs by conducting a thorough examination of their website. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What type of art do they show?
- What is the prevalent size, style, and subject matter of the artwork they sell?
- What is the price range of the works they offer for sale?
- Do they represent emerging artists, or only established artists?
When you ask yourself these questions, you can further narrow down the pool of potential galleries. For instance, if you are an abstract painter and a gallery’s website displays only realistic still lifes, then chances are they won’t be interested in your work. You can scratch them off the list, saving yourself the effort of contacting them.
3. Submit your art. When you do find a gallery that seems a good match for your art, check their website for a submissions policy. Many galleries will have a page dedicated to “artist submissions”. On that page they will explain whether or not they are accepting new submissions. If they are, they will outline how they want you to contact them. Some will simply ask you to send them a link to your website, while others will prefer a traditional packet in the mail with your slides, resume, bio and press clippings. Always follow the procedure outlined on the website.
If you have a limited budget, then submit your art to the galleries that only require a link to your website. You can bookmark the galleries that require slides and when you have the funds, you can contact them later.
4. Keep painting! Don’t sit around and wait idly for the gallery to contact you. Many of them are inundated with artist submissions, so it may take them awhile to get in touch with you if they like your work. Keep painting, and in the meantime consider exploring other options for taking your art career into your own hands, which we’ll cover in future blog posts.