Thursday, March 1, 2007

The good, the bad, and the ugly...?

I went to a wonderful wine tasting "Thank you" reception at Principle Gallery in Old town Alexandria last night. Professionally produced, it was a wonderful way to mingle with the well-to-do's and the want-to-be's, try some new vintage wines I'd never heard of before, and talk with the wonderful gallery personnel.
From my first visit to this gallery I have felt drawn to it. It is light, open, airy, and the art-work is well displayed and lit for maximum impact. Being a professional artist who is always looking for the kind of gallery that is right for my own paintings I appreciate a lot of the work these people do. Several of the gallery personnel ( Kinsey and Michelle in particular) are so out going and friendly. They always remember me by name, they ask about my professional progress, they are willing to talk and offer advice and to make suggestions and to introduce me to other artists and collectors. They always put introverted and shy me at ease. I am a firm believer that a personal relationship with the galleries you want to do business with is the way to learn and grow in the business both as an entrepreneur and a gallery represented artist.
Perhaps one of the hardest things I've had to work on in entering the full time art market has been the confidence to talk to others about my work. I am a GOOD painter. I am more than competent. I use color and form well. I have a gift for distilling the essence of the landscapes I paint to their basic components and capturing not just a reproductive quality but a spiritual essence. I move people with my paintings. This is fact. So why do I immediately get embarrassed and tongue tied in the presence of a gallery director? I am learning that I have only to communicate WHO I am and WHY I do WHAT I do to carry on a easy relaxed and confident conversation.
One very strong element I have realized is that Gallery owners, (and collectors and other buyers) want to recognize us as "ARTIST" - meaning "other than they." At the same time, people with money are more inclined to buy from you if you are perceived as one of "us" and not one of "them". Someone once commented on the fact that I am always dressed to the nine's at any art opening. I suppose I was raised in the belief that an opening is a special occasion and one should respect it as such. I am always surprised at the "edgy artists" I meet who go to an opening in their paint covered jeans and a t-shirt. Hardware in your lips, nose eyebrows and ears and face do not make you an artist. People seem more inclined to pay expensive fees for your art work if you LOOK successful than if they think you will vanish and your arts value with you a year. It's easy to be the flavor of the month if you are perceived as a rebel, or a trend, yet many collectors of art buy not just because they love your work, but because they believe it is a long term profitable financial investment.
It seems to me as an artist that more people are willing to pay for well executed and beautiful work than for edgy in your face and ugly. A painting may make a statement and challenge someone to think and contemplate as it hangs in the gallery, but few people want to be surrounded by ugly and challenging art at home or at work day in and day out. I have seen works that I could admire the technique of the artist, but the work itself made me emotionally and violently ill. I am sure there is a reason and a place for that. Personally I find there is already enough ugly and dangerous and threatening in human nature and the world around us. I don't need to recreate that in my art work. While I don't claim to be the litmus test for the nations' art collectors, I do think I represent a large percentage of the upper and middle class population who buy art to support artists and at the same time to be surrounded by beautiful works they can not create themselves.. .
'til next time
Create beauty and fill the world with love.