A few years ago I determined that I should support my local art community by joining the local art gallery. I would volunteer to staff the gallery for several days a month, and in exchange I would be allowed to exhibit several pieces of wall art.
It was never completely clear the volume of work allowed, nor was there a critique of my work. Once I was allowed into the gallery stable, it was assumed that my work had sufficient merit to be hung properly. There were some artists that had a different standard for a gallery wall, then that of a home wall. In the home, each piece of wall art had a “zone” around the work that allowed for a visual rest before seeing the next piece. In the gallery setting the artist crammed every square inch from floor to nearly the ceiling.
This was interesting because historically some of the best salons in Paris had the habit of hanging artwork above the doors and even angled on the ceiling to wall joint. Since everything was hung that way, it didn’t seem too unusual. In this small community gallery there were a lot of tongue clicking if the allocated space looked too jammed up. For some artists that worked in large media, it meant only showing two or three pieces. Subsequently., the monthly sales were impacted, although you could fill the empty space, should a piece be sold.
It was always good to be on duty when a piece was sold, even better when the piece happened o be yours.
I never expected to sell many of my own pieces. The point was not to supplement my earnings, the point was to be engaged in the process and to give back to the community. I gave back quite a lot, in the seven years of gallery membership I think I averaged selling one piece of art per year. That worked out to one framed piece per 300 hours of gallery sitting. Of course, that was just my ratio, other members were much worse. Some never sold one piece.
It’s a funny thing, when a couple makes a decision to buy art, they don’t generally travel to the suburban community art gallery to shop. Yet, work was sold, and some artists sold fairly regularly. And the prices were fair, generally ranging from $100 to $500 depending upon the framing. In many cases the framing cost more than the artwork.
Most of my work was printed on canvas by a digital printer. Very high quality, but it was still a print, and not even a numbered print. If a piece became popular I could always print another. In the art world this was not popular. Every copy sold, devalued the previous copy. What was I thinking? How could I ever become “collectible”. It was a good question, but in my case it wasn’t a necessary question. The question that I most often had to answer was, “do you have anything that had more purple in it?”
“Lady, it is digital. I have PhotoShop. I can print it with any shade of purple that you want!” Ha! This was not a selling point.
A number of artists had begun to make digital prints of their oil paintings. Again, this was sometimes explained to the customer, that it wasn’t the actual painting. I’m not sure that it was always understood.
My work was always digital from the beginning. It was a digital photograph, or it was a digital creation based upon a photograph, or it was pure digital open palette from a computer screen.
I once had a traditional oil painter “sniff” at my “computer generated” artwork, which allowed me to comment on his “brush generated” painting. What is true is that artwork is only as good as the skill of the artist. And artwork that is sold, is not necessarily skillful. It’s another one of life’s mysteries.
I have sold ten times the number of my gallery sales at the local coffee shop. Apparently people buying coffee are driven to buy art. I sold dozens more at weekend fairs. Go buy some local honey, and several prints.
While I did manage to sell a lot of my available collection, there were several prints, several favorite prints of mine, that never sold anywhere.
I also developed a dozen or so prints that had multiple sales. I call one print my $600 goose because I made that much in sales, and I never gave the goose a cut. He was at the local farm display, and I didn’t even give him some stale bread. Some people collect artwork with geese as the theme.
Now, I have sold most of the prints stored in my collection. I haven’t printed more. I quit the gallery, and I’ve stopped selling at Starbucks. It was a good time and well worth the experience. Periodically, I run into an old gallery member who asks if I’ve sold anything lately. I generally respond, “I could… what color do you need?”
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