Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Tentative Step Forward

For those of you that have already exhibited in a gallery, ANY kind of gallery, you have probably experienced the angst this causes and may each time you exhibit your art out for the public to see and comment upon. Is it like appearing on a public stage?  Will the audience like me or not?

Santa Fe Adobe
I have been on a quest to branch out for awhile now. Sales have been slow for me on Etsy and I've been encouraged by friends to find a venue to display my work so they can be see it in person.  I have talked to owners of boutique gift stores and been brushed off because they only buy from distributors not local artists. Really you ask? That's what they told me. In fact, noting the prices I said, "Do you really think your customers don't want to buy something unique, one-of-a-kind over items made by the thousands if not millions?" They shrug and talk about profit margins.

Bid of Paradise - acrylic
Talking to artists during the Los Angeles County Fair painting in the Millard Sheets Fine Art Building I happened to meet the President of the Pomona Valley Art Association. We chatted a bit and I took the information she gave me. I could tell she was skeptical but after showing her a few things I'd done on my phone she encouraged me to consider showing.
Cave Lake Nevada

Flowering Cactus - acrylic
Last week coming from my art class I made a point of stopping to see the gallery they sponsor. It's in the basement of an old building in the heart of Pomona's art district.  I'd been there years before when a friend had managed this same gallery. I never dreamed then I would attempt to show my art in the future. The art walk nights are fun and truly packed. Being the first and only visitor that day, not a good sign, I had a chance to see what other artists were doing. I realized I had nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, several pieces for sale were taught by my teacher in a kids class. No attribution either. If they could show ....

I got the phone number of the person who manages the gallery and we agreed on a day and time to bring my art to be juried and hopefully hung for sale. The rate is dirt cheap, requires 5 hours of my time to watch over the gallery a month and I get to keep whatever price it sells for. Considering galleries take over 50% of sales, this was a deal and, for me, a step forward into the public.

However, now comes the angst part I was talking about. What DO you show? Of all the pieces that I have done over the past few years which ones do I want to display. There is no question I want to sell them, but how to make a good impression to the jury panel and ultimately to the public?

Lining them up I realized that while there were some themes, notably the cactus series of four, others were florals but not similar at all. My landscapes were varied and styles of painting had changed over the past two years. Paintings that I really liked just didn't fit well together and so compromises (something Washington could learn) were made to make it all fit together.

Another factor, and one that I am learning is more and more important, is the art of framing. Does a frame show off the painting to its best advantage? In fact, several paintings were rejected for this reason alone. I had thought one painting in particular was rather washed out but when I added red fabric around the painting, the colors popped out and the depth that I had painted returned. Just imagine, something as simple as the "color" of a frame.

Crazy Quilt Tray
Because I needed to show 5 to 6 pieces, I asked if I could also show some of my crafts. I saw a few sprinkled around the gallery and they said sure. So, I had to decide what to bring. Again, the process of weeding out and seeing what went well with the paintings. Since I am known for color, I decided to show a "Crazy Quilt" tray, a garden type birdhouse and a Santa Birdhouse that is anything but a birdhouse. I felt that these compliment the paintings and show the full range of what I create.

The irony for me has been as I have shifted more and more to acrylics for my fine art painting, many of the techniques I have learned or use, have come from my craft painting. One does not exclude the other.
Summer Garden Birdhouse

Summer Garden Birdhouse was an exercise in combining Pennsylvania Dutch design to a garden scene. It has been viewed frequently and one of the three has sold. The colors and style seems to fit in well and for me, color is the key.
Christmas Santa Birdhouse 

Because we are rapidly approaching the season, I also decided to see if the Christmas Santa Birdhouse would make the cut. It is unusual as I have added three legs to the standard Michael's birdhouse and used a three dimensional tree for one of the legs as well. With the addition of a few more added pieces, I felt that I transformed this very humble birdhouse into a collectible, hand painted treasure. We will see if this is right mix or not. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

For emails I have received from customers on Etsy and comments from friends and relatives, I know that once in hand they are usually admired. It may not be their thing but they do appreciate the amount of work that goes into each piece. The only way I will really know then, is to get it into the hands of potential customers.

So, as I write this I am on pins and needles. I will keep you informed. It is a new adventure that I am willing to take for my art!

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