The Artist's Life

Their Jaws Dropped When I Told Them I Was Invited To Show My Work In An Important Art Gallery

How it happened to me and how it can happen to you.

If you're like me and you have lots of artist friends, you know that every one of them secretly wants to be in a major gallery, and they all want to be in a museum. Who wouldn't? Being in a top-tier gallery can be your ticket to success. It can increase your collector base and can bring your prices up -- which drives your income up -- and it might get you noticed by a museum. So you should have seen the faces of my friends when I told them I'd gotten a call from a major gallery that wanted to feature my artwork. Their jaws were hanging down and they were speechless. Though everyone was very happy for me, I could tell they were a little envious.

"How did that happen?" they asked. I told them what I'm about to tell you.

Here's my story.

The Struggle

When I started painting, I thought it would be easy, but nothing could be further from the truth. The more I painted, the harder it got, as I realized how much I was missing in my work. How did they do that, with the light, the color harmony, the edges, the composition, the brush strokes? I painted like a madman to try to master my craft. My dream was to get good enough to sell my work so I could quit my job and be a full-time artist.

And my dream came true!

My Insecurity

Though I received compliments from friends and family, I thought, "What do they know about art? The only way I'll really know if my work is good is if people buy it, I get believable complements from other artists I respect, or if I win awards." But, frankly, the best validation I could receive was to be invited into an art gallery that I know sells quality artwork. To start out, I did some art shows. The first show, I put up the tent, painted a huge body of work, and sold my first painting! I was on top of the world. I'll never forget that moment. But then my insecurity kicked in ... maybe they had no taste. So I did another show and sold six more. What a boost to my ego. "I'm ready," I thought. But finding a gallery wouldn't be easy.

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

When I started the search for a gallery, I looked online for galleries that sold paintings and where my work would fit. I sent e-mails off to several and never heard from any of them. So I put together some nice portfolios with pictures of my work and sent them out. Again, no response.

I spent hours chasing galleries on my own and got nowhere. Finally, I started calling around, and, frankly, it was a little embarrassing. "Send us something and if we're interested we'll get back to you," said one fellow. "We're not looking for any artists at the moment," said another.

It seemed like doors shut every time I turned around. It got very discouraging.

How I Was Discovered

They say you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. I think it's the same with galleries. Not only do they have to be looking for an artist at the time you reach them, you have to fit their style and what they're looking for. The odds of finding the right fit are pretty slim unless you contact a lot of galleries a lot of times. I learned that the problem is that galleries receive so many unsolicited presentations, e-mails, and photos from artists that they don't even look at most of it.

I had to find a way to get them to look. And I had to find a way to get my work in front of hundreds of galleries. That's when I discovered Artist Advocate.

The Perfect Partnership For An Artist

I learned that this magazine, Artist Advocate, is sent to 6,500 art galleries around the U.S. and some other countries. The entire magazine is designed to showcase the work of artists who are looking for a gallery (either a first gallery or an additional gallery). Because the art galleries can easily look at a lot of artists in one place, it makes their job easier. And because they look at every issue, I can keep my name and artwork in front of them frequently. I want to be there when they are in the market for a new artist. So I bought a listing in Artist Advocate and put images of a couple of my best paintings in the ad. Signing up was easy (I did it online with a single click), and all I had to do was e-mail them the images and the information about me. Because I could put it on my credit card, I didn't have to come up with all the cash at once. And they did all the artwork for the ad.

The Unexpected Happened To Me

No matter how much self-promotion I did, I never could have reached this gallery. "Hello, we're opening a new gallery in Chicago," said the lady on the phone. "We saw your work in Artist Advocate, went to your website and looked at more of your work, and we like it. We're interested in carrying your artwork." Just like that. There is no way I could have known of a new gallery opening up, but it was the former director of a gallery that had received the magazine. The chances of my stumbling into this were next to nonexistent, no matter how many e-mails and portfolios I'd sent.

So Why Not Just Do It Yourself?

Sure, you can do what I did and do your own promotional e-mail and mailings. If I bought a mailing list, I might end up with a bunch of frame shops that call themselves galleries. And my mail or e-mail might end up in a pile to be viewed someday, if it doesn't go to the trash or the spam filter first. Plus, the cost of a list, the mailings, and the time would far exceed the cost of a listing ad in Artist Advocate. These people at Artist Advocate have a great list of galleries that sell original artworks, and, because Artist Advocate shows a lot of artists in one place, it makes the selection process for galleries easier. There is a better chance they will read it and see my work than if I become one of the hundreds who are soliciting the galleries every year. Plus, I'll be one of a few artists highlighted in this magazine, which means I'll stand out. And the galleries will probably keep it, so they can refer back to it when they're in the mood to find new artists. Artist Advocate solves the galleries' problem AND it solves mine.

The Beauty Of My Freedom

The best part about finding this gallery is that now I don't have to set up tents and sit in the rain and hope someone buys a painting. I was able to quit my job and now my gallery sells my artwork for me -- and they put it in front of people who buy art, not people looking to fill time on their weekend. They are getting higher prices for my work than I could on my own, and they promote me so I don't have to promote myself. Best of all, I can paint again, and let others focus on marketing my work.

What About You?

Are you looking for another gallery or a first gallery?

Do you want to focus more on painting?

Are you uncomfortable calling galleries and asking them to look at your work?

Can you easily reach 6,500 galleries on your own?

Sign up for the next issue of Artist Advocate.

Full-page listing ad ($999)

Half-page listing ad, vertical or horizontal ($599)

View a video about Artist Advocate at

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