Nothing quite like seeing your work hanging in the front window of an amazing gallery.

Noth­ing quite like see­ing your work hang­ing in the front win­dow of an amaz­ing gallery.

Through­out time, artists have been chal­lenged, not only with cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful works, but plac­ing them into the world. When I get together with artists, musi­cians and cre­atives, there is always a dis­cus­sion about rec­on­cil­ing the need to cre­ate and the need to pay the bills. Most artists, includ­ing myself, are hap­pi­est when we are work­ing on our craft and not spend­ing time on marketing/accounting, grant and pro­posal writ­ing etc. Recently, I was dis­cussing with sev­eral artists, the mer­its of gallery rep­re­sen­ta­tion vs. going it solo. Here’s some of what I thought about.

I love to paint and cre­ate works because it allows me to express myself and because I believe I have some­thing impor­tant to say. The fact that I can start to sup­port myself and my fam­ily through the sales of that work, is a bonus. My bot­tom line is that I would cre­ate whether I got paid for it or not.  That became painfully appar­ent to me in the past year as I strug­gled through can­cer, and was unable to paint. I felt my soul had been sucked out and I was never going to be able to com­mu­ni­cate from my soul again. The sweet spot is to find the beau­ti­ful bal­ance of pay­ing the bills and cre­at­ing thought­ful, deep works that may not be com­mer­cially ‘en vogue.’

Some artists paint/create purely to earn income. When that hap­pens, you’re then faced with defin­ing your mar­kets and find­ing the best agent, gallery or self-representation plat­form avail­able. You have to think like a busi­ness person.

I’ve been mak­ing art (as an adult) since 1989. I have changed, and so has my work. Over the years, I’ve seen sev­eral mar­ket trends cycle through — enough to know that if times are bad….keep mak­ing art, and it will all come around. The inter­net has made huge changes in the art mar­ket on every level — local, regional and inter­na­tional sell­ing agents and artists have all ben­e­fit­ted greatly from an open global mar­ket and the abun­dant research that accom­pa­nies it. Not to men­tion the col­lec­tors, who can now eas­ily access infor­ma­tion about artists and their works from any place on the globe.

I would encour­age every­one to find out what works best for them — some artists like work­ing with phys­i­cal gal­leries, who then use the inter­net them­selves for mar­ket­ing and sell­ing pur­poses.  Some artists like tak­ing con­trol of their own mar­ket­ing. I’ve done both and at this point in my life, I really appre­ci­ate a good rela­tion­ship with a phys­i­cal gallery vs. sell­ing online and going it alone. I also appre­ci­ate the acces­si­bil­ity of the web and love writ­ing this blog. I main­tain a web­site that directs clients to the gal­leries that rep­re­sent me.

"The Portal - Detail" ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on canvas. 72" x 96"

The Por­tal — Detail” ©2012 Jan­ice Tan­ton. Oil on can­vas. 72″ x 96″

There are no end to blogs and infor­ma­tion, opin­ion and crit­i­cal dis­course on the mer­its of artists and their work and there are a num­ber of very rep­utable online plat­forms for artists to go it on their own. Many artists are sell­ing their fine art paint­ings on Saatchi. With a good inter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion based on a bricks and mor­tar model, Saatchi’s aggres­sive search engine place­ment pro­gram is burn­ing up the online art sales. Their brand name instills con­fi­dence in col­lec­tors across the globe. Other artists go to ‘print on demand’ ser­vices online such as Fine Art Amer­ica, a com­pany with a longer his­tory that makes it eco­nom­i­cal for the start­ing artist to sell their orig­i­nal work and print on demand to clients who are not yet ready for the orig­i­nal art market.

What about the audi­ence? The col­lec­tor? The buyer?

“Since sites sell­ing art online are unen­cum­bered by the phys­i­cal infra­struc­ture of the tra­di­tional gallery or auc­tion house, they can also make their com­mis­sions lower and the whole busi­ness of buy­ing art much cheaper and more acces­si­ble.  Buy­ers can dis­cover new art and poten­tially build a whole col­lec­tion from the com­fort of their own homes, not the occa­sion­ally intim­i­dat­ing set­ting of a gallery.  In the highly frag­mented art mar­ket, bring­ing art and art buy­ers together wher­ever they are in the world is no bad thing either.” — Forbes Mag­a­zine

For me per­son­ally, I enjoy the face to face inter­ac­tion with rep­utable gal­leries who have their own inter­net mar­ket­ing strate­gies. In my opin­ion this is the best of both worlds. There is a dis­tinct rela­tion­ship between the artist and the dealer, and then the dealer and the gallery. The gal­leries that I work with all have dif­fer­ent approaches, streamed towards their clien­tele — from local,  to cor­po­rate, to regional and inter­na­tional. They all have web­sites and good social media cam­paigns that keep the work fore­most in the collector’s minds. I cur­rently work with four gal­leries for my work, and they all have beau­ti­ful, well-presented work in their street addresses as well as good web­sites, eas­ily nav­i­gated and finely fea­tur­ing the work. Please visit the gal­leries that rep­re­sent my work to see those exam­ples; Blue­rock Gallery, Black Dia­mond, AB; Canada House Gallery, Banff, AB; Effu­sion Art Gallery, Inver­mere, BC; and Gib­son Fine Art, Cal­gary, AB.

In the end, make choices which allow you to be the best artist that you can. What­ever plat­form you may choose to have your art­work seen, remem­ber that cre­at­ing it and being com­fort­able and safe in that envi­ron­ment is how you can best con­tribute to the beauty of the world.

Addi­tional Arti­cles and Resources:

Online Art Sales — How Gal­leries Sell Art Online
Sell­ing Solo Vs. Work­ing With A Gallery
15 Places To Sell Art Online
235 Places To Sell Your Art Online
Should Artists Show their Art in “Van­ity” Galleries?

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  • mjule

    Jan­ice, your arti­cle hit me at the right time. Thank you. Here I go now, one step at a time :)

    • Jan­ice Tanton

      I’m very glad to hear that. It is often a per­ti­nent topic of dis­cus­sion between artists, and every­one must make their own choices and dis­cover what fits best for them. Above all…just keep on mak­ing art!