Wed, Sep 10th, 2008
WELCOME TO THE NAKED BRUSH TOUR
As I was thinking about how to introduce The Naked Brush Tour, I saw Guy Trebay’s New York Times column, “Wanted: Genius Designer” in which he muses about Fashion Week on its opening day. “Who will be the Next Big Thing?” he begins. But then he proceeds to bury the whole notion of style stardom with a down-to-earth look at the surplus of money at stake, as well as an overall do-it-yourself trend that has spawned its own surplus of online fashion experts aged 12 and up. Trebay seems to hope that in the age of instant celebrity, the Next Big Thing won’t be a single designer but a “yeastier and more broadly based network of shared information and connections.”
I’m all for that. Welcome to The Naked Brush Tour, in which an artist gambles her own time, money and good name to visit dozens of galleries in North America with the aim of (1) exhibiting and selling her large charcoal drawings in the right galleries and (2) sharing her experience with both artists and art dealers, in the hope of generating constructive dialog. Yes, yeasty is the word.
Like Trebay, I’m looking at something that has yet to unfold. Maybe unlike Trebay, my investment in that unfolding is considerable.
Let’s survey the landscape. Have there ever been more visual artists hoping to become the Next Big Thing? Have there ever been more galleries also hoping to make it big? I look at the Gallery Guide map of Chelsea and wonder when in human history has there ever been a greater concentration of the visual arts in one location. And, if the trend continues, how will they make room for all those galleries on one tiny, two-dimensional map?
My challenge is more multi-dimensional, I think. How to get a dealer to consider work that may not readily be characterized as contemporary? In other words, work that is instead not short on sustenance, sincerity and unabashed beauty. Or how to convey its conceptual underpinnings—that I start each drawing by lying down naked on a charcoal surface and then let that imprint direct the final outcome—without evoking kitsch or just plain silliness? (Figurative. Think figurative.) And how to effectively represent, in digital form, drawings that measure six by four feet yet feature highly detailed surfaces?
Plus how can I overlook one of the big lessons gleaned from decades of experience: that meeting people face to face is the best way to begin to know them? Dealers tell me that people want to meet the artist. I’m on my way.
Finally, why call it The Naked Brush Tour? When I described my plan to make a series of trips to cities around North America, my friend Tim said, “Hey, you should get tee shirts printed, like rock bands do.” Not a bad idea. Then in June the Palm Beach Post published a profile of me as artist. On the first page of the “Accent” or features section a tiny photo of me hovered in the upper right-hand corner. Beneath the photo a caption read, “This artist uses her naked body as a paintbrush. See why…” Yikes. But then another friend, Victor, said, “You’ve got to call this The Naked Brush Tour!” And so it is.
Stay tuned for The Naked Brush Tour: The Tee Shirt.
Sat, Sep 13th, 2008
THE PROTOCOL AND THE TRIP TO MONTREAL
In six days I’m leaving for the second leg of the Naked Brush Tour. The prep work has become my art form for the moment.
This being the Naked Brush Tour, a protocol is required. With my own finite resources on the line, focus is imperative.
Here’s what has happened so far. In late June I embarked on the Naked Brush Tour with a trip to Montreal.
Why Montreal? When I was a member of the CUE Art Foundation in New York a few years ago, one of the many, many opportunities was having a curator review my portfolio with an eye toward seeking gallery representation. My drawings had already been accepted into the Drawing Center’s Viewing Program—a great honor that would end once I gained representation with a New York gallery—so the emphasis in the CUE meeting was on galleries located everywhere else. Struck by the “esoteric” nature of my work, the curator suggested Montreal as a receptive place to start.
That kind of calculated decision is what’s known as marketing research. Stay with me now. Marketing research is an off-putting business concept that can help artists tremendously, if they let it. I’ll tell you more about my reluctant entrée into marketing via the valuable Artist as Entrepreneur Institute, but first there’s Montreal.
Montreal was a painless choice for my first stop. It’s the kind of city I would move to in a flash. Cosmopolitan yet human scale. Beautiful and still blessed with the funk of pre-gentrified neighborhoods. Abundant opportunities to practice my French.
But I was going to Montreal for only a day or two. And I was on a mission: to locate the right gallery to represent my work. The protocol led the way. Having selected my market/city, I scoured the web to identify at least half a dozen galleries that seemed like plausible prospects for representing my drawings.
Define plausible. It means, first, that a gallery exhibits work that seems stylistically akin to mine. I’ve already mentioned that my work is earnest and at ease with the concept of beauty. And yet it can also be challenging. “It makes people think,” a dealer once warned me. So I find galleries that could be open to that.
The second criterion for a plausible prospect is that the artists a gallery represents should include those who, like me, are considered “emerging” as opposed to “established” or “household names.” And while many galleries nobly focus on the artists in their region, since I’m going outside my region for most of the Naked Brush Tour that focus could exclude me.
And, of course, the gallery has to be open to taking on new artists.
I took my time researching Montreal’s galleries online. Thankfully there is the Association des Galeries d’Art Contemporain. I studied each of the galleries’ sites, keeping to my protocol. Who are the artists represented? What kind of work do they do? Who does work that relates to mine somehow? And what do their CV/Bios tell me? Are the artists all established or are some still at the front end, like me? The research takes time. But if I were a dealer, I’d want to know that an artist had done her homework before contacting me. And I don’t want to waste my time or anyone else’s while on tour.
Speaking of which, this is more than enough for now.
Tue, Sep 16th, 2008
ALMOST READY FOR LEG 2 OF THE NAKED BRUSH TOUR
Three days before I leave on Leg 2 of The Naked Brush Tour. Eager to spend some time in a temperate climate, assuming no hurricanes visit while I’m away. I’m even more eager to see how The Naked Brush Tour unfolds the second time out.
Following protocol, I found eight galleries in the first city I’ll be visiting this time, and six galleries in the second. Then each of the galleries received an email, the same basic email I sent to galleries in Montreal. Here I’m following the advice of my friend Clare, a former gallery owner. She suggested balancing confidence in my drawings with thoughtfulness for the gallery staff. “The worst thing for a dealer is to have the artist walk in unannounced, portfolio in hand, and expect a meeting on the spot,” Clare emphasized. Dealers say as much on their websites. They have their protocols too.
So my email says (1) that I’m coming to visit in two weeks or so, and hope to meet them. (2) It describes what drew me to their gallery, i.e. a general comment on the kind of artwork they choose to exhibit. And (3) I mention two or three artists they represent whose work relates to mine in some way.
My email doesn’t say that I want the dealer to look at my work, or even meet with me in an extensive way. So literally I’m paying them a visit. Looking forward to meeting them face to face—and checking out the gallery.
And yes, I do bring samples of my work. But in Montreal I actually left them in the car (at Clare’s suggestion) and waited until the dealers asked to see them. Most of them did. But now where will I leave them when I’m riding public transportation?
Before I sent that initial email I finally added a signature to my emails, to include my website address. Some of the Montreal gallery folks looked at my work when I first emailed them, and commented on it in their replies to me. Now I’m starting to get replies to the latest round of emails and again some commented on my work.
Often a gallery’s reply simply restates their policy of not accepting walk-in submissions or requests for a portfolio review. For me that’s an opportunity to reply and rephrase my request to visit the gallery and meet them.
True, there have been a couple replies from galleries whose focus is more limited than what I gathered from their websites—too limited to include me. But only a couple. My first reply from Montreal was one of a kind (I hope): “Not interested. Not at all,” it announced. Yes, it gave me pause. Until my sister Cindy reminded me that I was going to Montreal to check out galleries—plain and simple—and I would accomplish that in any event.
We haven’t gotten to any of the visits yet. But I’m willing to say this subdued, thoughtful approach appeals to me enormously. Maybe it’s that I’m bucking the tide of what dealers have come to expect from artists. Of course I would like that. But even more, it has created enough curiosity for some to want to see my work. And that’s what I’m looking for.
Sun, Sep 21st, 2008
THE NAKED BRUSH GETS A VACATION
The anticipating is over. Now I get to live Leg 2 of The Naked Brush Tour.
I forgot to mention that this leg would have a bit of vacation built into it. So it will be a few days before I visit galleries. And yet we need a few days to get caught up. Time off is also needed. Trust me.
In fact, I think I’m going sightseeing right this minute. I’ll come back soon!
Mon, Sep 22nd, 2008
ON VISITING GALLERIES IN MONTREAL
Back to Montreal.
The plan was to bring a few drawings in a tube—just in case a dealer expressed interest—and to check it as luggage, as I’ve done in the past.
“You can’t trust the airlines with original artwork!” my wise, world-traveling friend Beate insisted. She’s right, it’s the dawn of a new era in air travel. So I had digital prints made of the drawings, printed on matte vinyl to be extra seaworthy. These I entrusted to the airline. Nothing takes the place of looking at the original drawings, but these are reasonable facsimiles. And that matte vinyl has real possibilities.
The trip to Montreal was made easy by my friends, Lincoln and Savitri, who live in northern Vermont. Not only were they caring hosts and enthusiastic cheerleaders (“Can you believe she’s just taking the initiative and going directly to the galleries?!” Lincoln said, more than once), they also lent me a car for the two-hour drive to Montreal. Really good friends.
There were six galleries to visit in less than two days. Imminently do-able, I thought. I walked into the first one and introduced myself. The gallery owner looked stunned. “I thought from your email that you were a man,” she said with a heavy accent. What do you say to that? We walked through a fine exhibition of works on paper. She showed me her flat files and more works on paper, and mentioned her collectors’ interest in them. All excellent news for this draw-er.
I asked about exhibiting work by non-Canadian artists, since her focus clearly was on Canadians. My concern was that dealers there might resist showing work by Americans who seem to have so many opportunities to exhibit. “I show Canadian artists because it is Canadians who are submitting work,” she explained. That surprised me. We had a look at my website, her second time there. And she described her submission process, which incorporates the input of expert friends. She invited me to submit images. She couldn’t have been more gracious. I couldn’t have been more gratified. It took about half an hour.
Next was a series of galleries all in the same building. It felt a lot like Chelsea, except that this was the only such building. I walked into the second gallery on my list and introduced myself. The warm, friendly man looked surprised. “I was sure you were a man,” he confessed, “just guessing from the tone of your email. Sorry.” Yes, it was puzzling.
In his email reply to me he had wondered why someone would recommend Montreal as a place to show esoteric art. Now he was eager to have some fun with that idea, which clearly missed the mark in his opinion. I was a bit embarrassed, maybe. I focused on the fine paintings in front of me, small works that evoked mid-century California yet were done with such detail, almost like Persian miniatures. It was still a fun, free-wheeling conversation, until we were interrupted by two journalists. I knew to bow out. “Come back after you’ve seen the other galleries,” he called out.
Tue, Sep 23rd, 2008
DOING THE BELGO IN MONTREAL
On to gallery #3, also located in the Belgo Building, Montreal’s Chelsea. And guess what? The owner was expecting me to be a man.
By now you’re thinking, okay what’s the trick. Exactly what I was thinking. Another artist would have come right out and asked a dealer why he or she was expecting a man. Not this one. I mean, it just seemed ungracious somehow. Here I am in a French-speaking city, with a name that’s a feminine noun in French, and still we have this confusion. So the best I can give you is my interpretation.
Given that all they had to go on was my email (and my website, which should suggest I’m female), I think they thought as follows: An artist who takes the initiative to identify a far-away gallery and initiate contact and propose a face-to-face meeting is probably a man. If you have another interpretation, I’m all ears. What mattered to me was that I had managed to distinguish myself further without even trying.
The conversation in the third gallery was brisk and business-like. The owner rejected the notion that Montreal was a place for esoteric art. More than that, she let me know that most residents of her/our generation are still pretty angry with the Catholic Church. I didn’t press for details. Again I felt a little foolish. Thankful to be in Montreal, but probably not because it welcomes esoteric art.
Ultimately the owner wanted to see my work, make a decision and get on with her afternoon. I ran down to the car and retrieved the tube. She studied the drawings spread out on the floor in her cramped office. But they weren’t for her.
“Have you visited any of the other galleries?” she asked, then recommended one a few doors down.
Now I found myself in a situation I had intended to avoid: walking into a gallery with no previous contact, carrying my tube of drawings, expecting them to look at my work. And yet I did have the recommendation of gallery #3’s owner. Would that make me more welcome?
The recommended gallery was a busy place. I took my time going through an exhibition of works by “young artists,” most of them small works on paper taped to the wall in a cluster. Does my work fit here, I wondered, knowing I had seen their website earlier and decided it was not me.
The gallery assistant approached me, a warm woman in her twenties. I relayed the recommendation from the previous gallery. She said the owner was busy with a collector, but the assistant was happy to see my drawings. I quickly spread them out. She was interested and asked a lot of questions. When I told her how my drawings, based on chance images, had resulted in narrative works about my life, she became much more interested. And when I described the memoir I was writing based on the drawings, and the reading-performances I had done in Florida with the musicians Bill and John Storch at Red Dot Contemporary and Klein Dance, she was especially keen. Suddenly my work became the kind of work they show.
For nearly an hour we talked. She told me how inundated the galleries are with “dossiers” from artists. And how undeveloped the gallery industry is in Montreal. Even though the city is enjoying its own dot-com boom, the galleries are having to teach boomers the plusses of buying an original work as opposed to a poster. Not a print. A poster. In a joint effort among galleries, a series of seminars was underway to create a new generation of collectors. I was impressed by their initiative to create new markets.
In the end she encouraged me to submit my dossier. The chance meeting had been a pleasure for both of us.
Tue, Sep 23rd, 2008
Not many replies to my emails this trip. Two galleries let me know they focus on regional artists, maybe more exclusively than what I surmised from their websites. I still intend to visit and introduce myself if I have time. What constitutes the minimum payoff for my efforts, I think, is to meet a dealer face to face. And still be mindful of their time, but also mine.
Then there was this:
“I think your work is quite interesting, and would like to see it in person.”
A most welcome reply. I wrote back as soon as I saw it yesterday, said I would call her today and gave her my number. Now I’ll just wait. And smile. And continue with the Montreal story.
But first some coffee.
Fri, Sep 26th, 2008
THE NAKED BRUSH BRANCHES OUT FROM THE BELGO
We need to wrap up Montreal so I can move on to the cities I'm visiting now. This tour is a whirlwind.
I went back to gallery #2 in the Belgo Building, now carrying a conspicuous four foot tube of drawings. "Okay, okay, so let me see what you've got," the dealer said a bit reluctantly. He studied them carefully and found the two "Istanbul" drawings interesting but concluded that my work was too conventional for a contemporary gallery. He recommended I visit several "more commercial" galleries in town.
Maybe I should’ve been offended but I was thankful for his frankness. It helped me clarify how my work differed from a lot of the art I had seen that afternoon.
It was the end of the day. We talked for another hour, mostly about the role of artists in envisioning a new kind of future for the world. I showed him my small "Icon" drawings, which I made to trigger a more transcendent line of thinking in the viewer. He enjoyed them most of all.
I headed out in search of one last gallery for the day, driving to the north end of Montreal before giving up the search. In one of the guidebooks I found a restaurant serving Quebecois food in a punk atmosphere, which sounded perfect. I veered off in that direction. When I found that it no longer existed, I thought maybe I should spring for the 2008 edition of the guidebook instead of getting the '07 edition from the library. Anyway I had a simple French supper—duck confit and red wine—in a restaurant filled with working families celebrating the weekend. The waiter's parents, by the way, live in Hollywood, Florida.
On Saturday I made the drive back north to visit a farmer’s market. It was a terrific place to have coffee and imagine a life in Montreal. Afterward a quick visit to the gallery that had eluded me the night before. Commercial in a sense that I was not comfortable with. It reminded me that the character of a gallery's website doesn't always reflect the character of the gallery itself. And sometimes when you can't find something, you maybe should just leave it alone.
I stopped in at a gallery nearby that had been recommended by several dealers the day before. It's a large and lovely space that was at that time devoted to a retrospective of a beloved Quebecois artist. All in all it felt a bit intimidating. And yet the young woman I spoke with was very welcoming in describing their submission process.
Nearly every dealer I spoke with seemed honored that I had traveled from South Florida to visit them. Beforehand I was worried that Montreal galleries might shun artists from the U.S. But these folks were openly gracious and appreciative of my attention. It was the perfect place to kick off The Naked Brush Tour.
My intention was to visit two "more commercial" galleries recommended by the dealer the day before. But I was spent. I rushed back to Vermont to share the good news with my good friends.
Thu, Oct 2nd, 2008
PORTLAND, OREGON ON THE NAKED BRUSH TOUR
Here I am. Back from a terrific, and terrifically tiring, trip to Seattle and Portland.
At the moment I'm wrapping up the Seattle/Portland leg (really two legs in one, but that's not a pretty metaphor), at the same time that I'm preparing for Leg 3. And Leg 3 happens in only two weeks, which means the first email to galleries should go out now. What was I thinking when I planned a leg a month? No, it was two legs last month.
First, Portland. Since the 7 a.m. Amtrack train had sold out weeks earlier, I rented a car in Seattle and made the three-hour drive to Portland. Most of the galleries I was visiting are in Portland's Pearl District, which has that familiar mix of sophisticated culture and light industry that is magically fertile while it lasts. My itinerary was walkable so I parked the car and left the tube of drawings there.
First I needed a moment to collect myself. I walked into what appeared to be a straightforward espresso place but was actually a nice Italian restaurant, Caffe Allora. I ordered an espresso and it was heavenly. Then I headed to the restroom and tried the door. The fellow inside, a construction worker in a hard hat, opened the door and invited me to enter while he finished washing his hands. I demurred. Truly the Northwest is different from the Southeast. Magically fertile, indeed.
The first gallery had not replied to my emails, so I didn't know what kind of reception to expect. One of the owners greeted me warmly and recognized me as the emailing artist visiting from Florida. She described their submission policy, delegating the decision-making to her partner, but also stressed that a lack of storage limited the number of artists they represent. She didn't ask to see my work. But she did take the time to get me a map of the neighborhood, which she marked to show galleries not already listed. It was a nice welcome to the task at hand.
I went in search of a gallery not on the map, yet recommended. No one on the street or in the new age healing center could help me find it. Back to my itinerary, to my second stop: a gallery that primarily shows photographs, yet the exceptions on the website were so interesting that I had to make contact. I entered, I introduced myself, and I barely had an impact. The owner got up from his lunch, cordially handed me the price list for the exhibition and invited me to look around. That was a first. The exhibition was wonderful, and it was of the South, but Naked Brush was on a mission. I tried again, I explained my intention, I handed him my card. He said he would look at my website and contact me if he was interested. I shouldn't have interrupted his lunch.
Somewhere I read that blog entries should be 300 words long. I can't remember if that's a minimum or a maximum, but I usually end up with about 500 words.
Sat, Oct 11th, 2008
CITY OF ROSES WELCOMES THE NAKED BRUSH
What have I been doing? Researching galleries for Leg 3 of the Naked Brush Tour. Following my protocol, I identified galleries in my target city that are looking for artists similar to me in aesthetic and experience. Then I sent those galleries emails about my visit next weekend. Afterward I scoured the internet to find a hotel room downtown, convenient to those galleries since I have no time (or money) to waste.
I’ve also thanked all the galleries I visited in Seattle and Portland, and submitted my portfolio to galleries in both towns.
This leg will be more like Montreal than the Seattle-Portland trip when I visited two cities’ galleries in three days. The Naked Brush is systematic, that’s the key. Plus she’s travel agent, market scout, researcher of galleries, weather/wardrobe consultant, etc. The Naked Brush wears a lot of hats.
Still waiting to hear about my submissions to Montreal galleries. Meanwhile, other news:
My small drawings were juried into The Edge exhibition at the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach—by juror Bonnie Clearwater, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami. That’s an honor. But I’ll miss the opening on account of Leg 3.
And Mary Woerner, who represents my work in this area, has graciously offered me an exhibition along with Mary Segal in February.
In between, my big drawings are in a show in November with four other artists’ work, curated by local pioneer Talya Lerman at a brand new 3-story gallery at the Pine Jog Environmental Education Center.
Back to Portland which seems, in my snap judgment, like a no-nonsense art-selling town. Most galleries had a distinct personality and someone on hand cordially channeling your interest toward a purchase. I didn’t hear talk of developing an art market, like in Montreal. And in the midst of economic calamity, only one dealer voiced concern.
In the third gallery I got a reception like the one in gallery #2: no recollection of me as the visiting, emailing artist from Florida. On to #4, where the staffperson was eager to track down the director so I could meet him. Twenty minutes and several cell phone calls later I met the director who immediately wanted to see my work.
My work. The tube was in the car some blocks away—too far at that point. That was the protocol, to avoid walking into a gallery looking like I expected an impromptu critique. Now I was face to face with an interested dealer and all I had was a small box with 8 x 10 inch drawings and prints of several 6 x 4 foot drawings. He was interested in the large works. But he stressed that he had just taken on several new artists and, with the current economy, would be focused on giving them their due. It meant he couldn’t consider me at this point. Yet it also told me I was talking to the kind of dealer I’d like to work with.
The last gallery I visited that afternoon was inviting. The owner was eager to show me the works on display, and some that weren’t. He spoke with parent’s pride of the artists he represents. He didn’t ask to see my work, but was clearly interested in my visit and initiative. He encouraged me to submit images.
I drove the three hours to Seattle, accompanied by Mounts Hood, Saint Helens and Rainier. In their lofty company I had to admit my protocol needed revision. The face-to-face meetings felt important, more than I had expected. But given the choice between walking into galleries with a tube under my arm and not having my large works seen, I wanted new choices.
Fri, Oct 17th, 2008
AT LAST: SEATTLE
Leg 3 underway. Eight galleries to meet in two days. I received replies from four of them, two to say they don't do impromptu portfolio reviews. For me that's another opportunity to engage with them, to underscore that my intent is to visit the gallery, meet the personnel and gauge whether a future submission would make sense. The protocol calls the shots. That's the Naked Brush way.
One exchange was much warmer. In researching the location of the gallery I came across a number of ads (thank you, Google) that left me with the impression that the gallery only exhibited the work of gay artists. That's great news for some, but it would exclude me. And I was particularly interested in this gallery from its website--which didn't mention the gay emphasis--because it melded the visual arts with the literary and other art forms, and involved social issues.
I emailed the gallery and asked "straight out" if it only worked with gay artists. The owner replied, assuring me that artists "of all walks of life" are included. I even got a smiley face.
Yeah, yeah, but what about Seattle.
I had four galleries to visit the first day, my sixth day in Seattle. The first gallery I had had an email exchange with, I knew the owner was focused on artists in the Northwest. Still I wanted to follow up with a meeting. You never know. But my timing was off, she was preparing for a private event. So we met, I had a quick look at a striking exhibition of abstract work, and she welcomed me back the next day. Sounds good.
Nearby I found the second gallery. This one had felt like a stretch from the start: some of the artists were very highly accomplished. And yet I didn't see anything that disqualified me, other artists were not so accomplished. So, how to explain? I walked in, tube in hand, and received what felt like a chilly welcome. The exhibition was first rate, but this was not the first time I visited a gallery whose exhibition intimidated me a little. Humility is a good thing, especially for artists. Still, I faced a barrier that could have been entirely in my head. In any event I didn't summon the courage to overcome it, I'm embarrassed to say. I mean, I left without introducing myself.
Quick, get to gallery #3. There I found a man and a woman struggling to set up a slide show for a presentation that evening. The man would be presenting his paintings, which were representational and abstract at the same time, and reminded me of what I'm doing. (Except he defines his work with a very distinctive palette of colors.) The woman was the owner of the gallery. She was embarrassed that her staff had not passed on my emails. Too busy to talk much, she commended me for wanting to see galleries and meet dealers before submitting work for consideration. I thanked her for a singular exhibition and promised to be in touch. Ordinarily I would have loved to attend the presentation, but stamina was a limited resource.
Or was it just time for coffee? I stopped in at Bauhaus, a quintessential Capitol Hill café with terrific espresso. Always thankful to be among my fellow bohemians.
Gallery #4 was another one focused on regional artists. But the owner had responded warmly to my emails and now she was happy to talk and to recommend four galleries to visit. I had visited this gallery in the past and always found landscapes there that enthralled me. The Northwest is exquisitely beautiful, it's no surprise that landscape paintings are so beloved there.
And now I had four more galleries to visit. But not today.
Sat, Oct 25th, 2008
PROTOCOL PONDERED IN SEATTLE
Before I can tell you about last weekend's trip to Denver I need to finish Seattle. The aim is to catch up. Now with three weeks before Leg 4, I stand a chance.
The Naked Brush started her last day in Seattle breaking a cardinal rule of the protocol. My tube of drawings was under my arm, since I would be relying on the city’s bus system. If I needed confirmation that the protocol worked, this day provided it. I felt the impact of the tube in nearly every gallery I entered. It might have been subtler if I’d worn a tee shirt that said, “Artist seeks impromptu portfolio review. Right now.” The point of my protocol is precisely to get around an art dealer’s distaste (disgust?) at an artist’s expectation that the dealer will stop what he or she is doing to review the artist’s work.
As we saw in Portland, the protocol is not flawless. Even when I had a car to stow the tube in, it was out of reach when I needed it. Yet my work is both large-scale and finely detailed; photos don’t show that.
In Seattle, the dealer I met the day before, who suggested I come back today, wasn’t there on my first try. On my second she was meeting with someone and seemed slightly annoyed to see me. I took off.
Gallery #5 was a priority since it specializes in works on paper. The dealer greeted me warmly, recalling our email exchange. Seeing the tube she said the obvious, "Okay, let's have a look at your work." I pulled the prints out of the tube and discovered that in the humidity the vinyl "paper" now refused to lie flat. After a low-key, Twister-like effort to hold down several corners with hands and foot, all I could do was apologize and try to entice her verbally. Thankfully the gallery won't be accepting submissions until the spring. Time heals all wounds.
A quick stop at Zeitgeist café, sister of Bauhaus where I was the day before. I studied the walls of this gorgeous high-ceilinged room; they were hung with photos whose warped foam core backing detracted from their quality. It hadn’t occurred to me to research specific climates in my tour plans. Now I pondered hanging my work in this café filled with dealers. And how best to frame it in that climate.
My next stop, #6, was the gallery whose owner had emailed me expressing interest in my work. It was closed.
On to the galleries recommended to me the day before. Unannounced, I was greeted as any artist appearing with a tube in hand can expect to be greeted. In one gallery, however, the owner was already meeting with an artist, and looking at his drawings. I walked through the gallery slowly, enjoying an exhibition of work that didn't hide its politics. But she was giving this artist his due, and I had to move on. She would be a priority to follow up with. And some of the other galleries were worthy of submissions too, now that I had seen the spaces—if not met the dealers.
Back to gallery #6: still closed. On to #7, a much "edgier" venue than its website suggested. I didn't introduce myself. A gallery along the way caught my eye though. Again those glowing landscapes they do so well in the Northwest. I'll write to them, I decided. Hopefully in the absence of a visit preceded by multiple emails, The Naked Brush could impress them with tales of her travels and determination.
Sat, Nov 1st, 2008
TERRE AS ENTREPRENEUR: A HALLOWEEN SPECIAL
Montreal, Portland, Seattle, Denver. See a pattern emerging? Think marketing research. It sounds cold, I know. I wanted to leave the room the first time it came up.
This was in the Artist as Entrepreneur Institute I mentioned at the start. It’s a course organized by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture in Cleveland, Ohio. Earlier this year it was presented by the Broward County Cultural Division in Fort Lauderdale. Deeply skeptical at the start, wondering what in the world I was doing there, I converted in spite of myself. Marketing? It means “fearlessly educating people about the value of my art,” according to the very dynamic instructor, Nerissa Street. Of course I want to do that.
Marketing research? That’s determining who is my customer and who isn’t. Plus, where I can find this customer. Which brings us to Montreal, Portland, Seattle and Denver. My customer is interested in the esoteric, possibly even the spiritual. Open-minded, guided by his or her own tastes. How do I know? I asked buyers and potential buyers. Then I determined where I am likeliest to find such a customer. My experience of various cities was augmented by research via the internet, art fairs and Art in America’s Annual Guide—as well as asking art dealers who know my work. Then I selected these particular cities for the first round of The Naked Brush Tour. Marketing research.
In the Artist as Entrepreneur Institute I first conceived of the tour. Once we had covered all aspects of artist-as-small-business, we drafted a business plan. First step: define your goal. Another scary moment. At least until it became obvious that my goal was to get my work into galleries beyond South Florida. Then I started to research cities.
Obstacles loomed in the path to my goal. For one, digital images don’t do justice to my large yet finely detailed drawings. I had had little luck in getting works into juried competitions. I imagined a judge looking at one of my 4 x 6 foot drawings on the same scale as someone else’s 11 x 17 inch work. Would the big drawing be anything more than a gray rectangle? And yet in critiques with curators of global renown, my drawings had been very enthusiastically received. How could I interest galleries in my digital images if I couldn’t get them into juried competitions?
Another obstacle: I continue to be reminded that visiting a gallery’s website is not to be compared with visiting a gallery. Sometimes the surprise is pleasant, very pleasant. Sometimes it isn’t. Either way, nothing compares with walking into a gallery, looking around and then shaking hands with a dealer. Nothing.
I guess I’m fortunate that my love of travel overrules my fear of growing credit card debt. I’m also fortunate to have the courage to embark on this wild ride—especially in this economy (although only one dealer has mentioned it). And to have friends who give excellent advice. Given all that, The Naked Brush Tour soon emerged as my path.
Wed, Nov 12th, 2008
THE NAKED BRUSH TOUR SAVORS AUTUMN IN THE ROCKIES
It's good sometimes to stop talking about drawing and actually make drawings. That's what I've been doing. Not enough that I'm leaving Thursday for the next leg of The Naked Brush Tour—I'm also preparing for the "Native Offerings" show, curated by Talya Lerman, that opens November 21. It thrills me that I'll be showing all new drawings.
I still haven't mentioned the one step in the protocol that gives meaning to the whole process: the submission of the portfolio. I've traveled to Montreal, Portland, Seattle and Denver where I visited nearly 30 galleries altogether. After each trip I've followed up with at least half of the galleries I visited. That means I've got portfolios submitted to 16 galleries at least. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Certain good news will come.
Let me just state up front that Denver was the best trip so far. Funny, I felt unsettled when I headed out; something didn't feel right. Sure, there's always a bit of nervousness when I approach a new gallery. There's always a voice inside wondering if they'll hate me. But on top of that, Denver felt like a challenge.
There was one day to visit all the galleries in Denver, since the next day I was headed to Vail to see galleries. My trips are all two-day weekend trips, except for the Seattle/Portland leg.
I started the Denver day at a gallery that's in a gallery district all its own, out in the suburbs. The owner welcomed me warmly. When I described my tour, he was delighted. It turns out that he visits galleries around the world on behalf of artists. He said I was the first one he'd met who was out there doing it for myself. And then he saw my little drawings I carry with me and became even more enthusiastic. I retrieved my tube from the car right outside and unrolled the two large prints.
"I'll give you a show—I love your work," he exclaimed. He also draws in charcoal; it was his kind of work. "But," he continued, "I first want you to go see the three top selling galleries in Denver. Let's see what they think of your work." He reviewed my list of galleries, crossing out some and adding others.
Generous with his advice and his time, he and I talked for an hour or so. We compared notes on our tours and filled in the blanks where we could. It felt like I'd found an old friend.
As I headed back downtown the thought occurred to me that I could skip all the other gallery visits and spend the day taking in autumn in the Rockies. Hadn't I accomplished my objective? Right. But how often do I get to Denver? And wasn't I even more curious now to visit the other galleries?
Fri, Nov 28th, 2008
CASTING A WIDE NET IN THE SEARCH FOR LOVE
Today I start preparing for leg 5 of The Naked Brush Tour, which is smart since I leave in less than two weeks.
With each leg I start a new file, an actual paper file that’s either bright green or yellow. To begin I go back to the original Naked Brush Tour folder with all my initial research. As I explained at the beginning, there’s the list of potential galleries for each of my target cities from Art in America’s 2008 Guide. Also a summary of material I picked up on about 500 galleries in the satellite fairs at last year’s Art Basel Miami. Everything related to my upcoming trip goes into the new folder, including plane ticket and car reservation. The excitement starts to build.
Research takes over. I’ve got my list of potential galleries, then I check out the website for this city’s art dealers association, always a useful indicator of who the pros might be. Then, one by one, I study the galleries’ own websites. What am I looking for? At least six galleries that look like plausible prospects for representing my large charcoal drawings.
Again, these are galleries already representing at least a few artists whose work seems similar to mine in some way. It could be narrative, figurative, highly detailed, slightly surreal—I cast a wide net.
They are also galleries that represent artists who are emerging, like me, and are not limited to that geographical region. So I study the artists’ CV’s as well as their work. When the website doesn’t provide CV’s I deduce that at least some of the artists are not yet established.
Last and possibly most important, the gallery has to be taking on new artists. Although…sometimes a gallery website announces they aren’t open to receiving submissions, yet when I visited (at the recommendation of another gallery) and they saw my work, they were receptive.
It’s funny how the key components of this endeavor seem analogous to dating. Either the dealer responds to the work or she/he doesn’t. Maybe not love at first sight, but at least a phone call returned. There’s some degree of emotional connection. And, of course, the dealer is thinking of how the collector might respond. Will he call me back? Is it love?
Or is buying art simply a financial transaction? I’d say we’re in trouble if it is. (And we may be in trouble if it isn’t.) Again like dating, the marketing of an artist’s work is generally not free of financial considerations.
Back to work. I need to find my six galleries for my next trip. Then I’ll email them later today, to say I’m coming for a visit. Not for a portfolio review, but simply to see the space and hopefully meet the dealer. Then at least one of them will reply, saying they don’t do walk-in portfolio reviews. And I’ll reply to them, “Sorry I didn’t make myself clear enough. I just want to see the space and hopefully meet you…” That way we start to get to know each other.
Mon, Dec 8th, 2008
ART BASEL AND THE AUDACITY OF HOPE
On Thursday I'm leaving for leg 5 of The Naked Brush Tour. Meanwhile I spent last weekend in Miami at the world's largest art fair. Smaller than last year but (I guess) still the largest, the constellation of fairs loosely referred to as Art Basel was a study in contrasts with its 2007 appearance.
For starters, the number of satellite fairs was down from about 30 to about 20. My focus is on the satellites—NADA, Aqua, Red Dot, Pulse, Scope, among others. My reason to attend is to discover galleries that look like plausible prospects for showing my drawings. Where else can I scope 400 to 500 galleries in a single weekend?
In 2007 giddiness reigned. Crowds were thick and dealers were very particular about who they chatted with. Collectors were all around, looking and buying. 2008 was a very different party, distinguished by a sense of commonality, a wry recognition that this monumental effort was no match for our new recession. Camaraderie rooted in not knowing what comes next.
Perhaps I could have chosen a more auspicious moment to embark on my world tour. I tell my friends I must look like either an idiot or a genius traveling to meet with galleries at a time like this. But the fact is my plane tickets were all purchased last summer, when fuel prices were the concern.
And yet when I visit galleries the economy is rarely mentioned. They know and I know that if they were to show my work it wouldn't be in the near future. At that distance a whiff of hope becomes possible, or at least an unwillingness to maintain the current dismay. Again the not knowing what comes next.
I considered renaming The Naked Brush Tour, calling it The Audacity of Hope Tour instead. The grain of truth in that joke is that I am still driven by the thought of what's possible. People won't stop buying art. They'll just go about it more slowly.
And again I get to use my dating analogy. This time I'm relaying what I learned from Rafael Cruz, a key instructor in the Artist as Entrepreneur Institute (who has a keen sense of why artists make art and why others buy it). Yes, some purchases are for investment purposes only. Others are because someone falls in love with a work of art (or thinks they fell in love with the artist) and possessing that work becomes imperative. The impulse is driven by emotion at least as much as economics.
It's been weeks since I promised to finish my report on the Denver trip. We're almost there.
Tue, Dec 9th, 2008
MY NEW DRESS
I've been meaning to share this with you. It's a drawing I just finished for Talya Lerman's "Native Offerings" show that opened a couple weeks ago.
"Variation II on Untitled 11" is the latest of my large (75 x 48") charcoal drawings. It is the third in a series of dresses I'm working on. Dresses, loosely defined.
As always I'm taking my lead from the bodyprints in charcoal that begin the drawing. Imposing an outcome on that process can produce curious results. Still I see a dress there. A striped dress.
Wed, Jan 7th, 2009
NAKED BRUSH PONDERS 2009
How we love to think we can plan our lives! Chances are we can't even map the next five minutes (and as I write this the phone rings and my day is changed). Yet we persist in thinking our plan rules the day.
As soon as I bought the plane tickets for Phase 1 of The Naked Brush Tour last summer, my mom's health declined. Late Christmas Eve she died. It was, as they say, a blessing. Still it hurts like hell.
It has been months since I reported on my visits to select galleries in search of representation for my large charcoal drawings. I have successfully concluded Phase 1, traveling to Montreal, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Scottsdale and Atlanta. In every city I met with dealers who seem interested in both my drawings and my tour. It seems premature to start to generalize—I need to finish reporting on the last three visits first. But clearly the amount of work entailed by my protocol was more than I anticipated.
The good news is we still have lots of ground to cover, reporting on trips made and hypothesizing about trips to come. Without a doubt the economy casts a lackluster light when it casts any at all.
But art is long; we know that.
Holland Cotter's look back at the art world in 2008 for the New York Times is entitled "Out With the Fat, In With the Hungry" (Dec. 21, 2008). Typically insightful and original, he says, "In the past eight years American art and American politics had a lot in common. Both favored big money, insularity and retrograde conservatism. Now some changes."
"…Important to remember: The last crash opened the art world's tightly guarded gates to a wave of upstart talent and radical new ways of thinking. That was great. It could happen again."
We live in hope.
And we work to make it real.
Tue, Mar 17th, 2009
LATEST WORKS ON VIEW NOW AT MARY WOERNER FINE ART
On February 28 a show of my four "Istanbul" bodyprint drawings opened at Mary Woerner Fine Art in West Palm Beach, alongside the paintings of Mary Segal. Seeing these four drawings together fills me with pride. And with ambition for the work to come. The show has been extended through the first week of April.
Tue, Mar 17th, 2009
NBT ARISES FOR THE VERNAL EQUINOX
A recap, now long overdue.
The Naked Brush Tour completed Phase 1 with aplomb, panache and grit, stopping just short of conclusive success. In six months I visited six cities—Montreal, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Scottsdale and Atlanta. The objective in each city: to go to at least six galleries whose work bears some affinity to my large charcoal drawings. The goal: to identify galleries that want to show and sell my work.
Six months, six cities, six galleries—pure happenstance.
I chose the cities in Phase 1 for two reasons, both subjective. First, to avoid the major, major gallery towns like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, until my work was in at least one gallery outside Palm Beach County (where I live). Second, to target cities that include a community of open-minded or esoteric folks who could appreciate the melding of the sensual and spiritual I strive for in my work.
The concept of a tour with a name reflected my determination to achieve recognition for the endeavor regardless of its outcome. The name The Naked Brush Tour was suggested after a local art critic bungled my description of my drawing method. Tour tee shirts are envisioned yet remain on the drawing board.
Selected galleries received two emails alerting them to my visit. Not seeking a portfolio review, I assured them, I simply wanted to see the galley, meet with the person on hand, and afterward decide whether to submit images for their consideration. Much forethought went into the protocol, informed by friends in the business. The protocol was the constant. The rest was flux.
Galleries often recommended others. I hesitated to walk into these galleries unannounced, to break the protocol and dispense with the shred of influence it granted. Yet some of the spontaneous visits proved warmly receptive.
Nearly everyone was impressed that I took the time and resources to travel to see them. Many thought I was doing exactly what artists should: to research galleries online and visit the likeliest prospects before submitting images. All of them could gesture to a leaning stack of portfolios at least 18 inches high, sent in by artists whose work did not belong in that gallery.
In every city, three or four galleries invited me to submit images. (I had traveled with prints of two large drawings, showing them only when asked.) Once home I emailed all the galleries a thank you. And to the receptive ones I submitted images, following each gallery’s criteria.
Aplomb, panache and grit—but not a practical or adult sense of timing. Six cities in six months. Or, more accurately, one initial foray followed by five cities in four months. Each visit preceded by hours of online research (essentially considering every established gallery in town). Plus all those emails.
And then there was the blog. A discipline if ever there was one. I still haven’t shared the details of my visits to Denver, Scottsdale and Atlanta. That’s next. Then there's Phase 2 of The Naked Brush Tour...
I’ve heard back from only a handful of the roughly fifty galleries I visited in Phase 1. Still anticipating the welcoming response that would make it all worthwhile. Will this economy grant me that?
Sat, Mar 21st, 2009
"DON'T MISS WORKS BY RYBOVICH"
From yesterday's Palm Beach Post: "Don't miss works by Rybovich."
Then Larry Aydlette goes on to say, "Now Showing at Mary Woerner Fine Arts: Four works by Palm Beach County artist Terre Rybovich are up through March 28. Rybovich uses impressions of her body and charcoal on paper to create gray, moody and mysterious pieces that have a floating quality, with hints of hieroglyphics and a strong sense of the ethereal. She's an artist whose work always intrigues and puzzles--in a good way. Mary Woerner Fine Arts, 6107 S. Dixie Highway No. 6, West Palm Beach. Information: (561) 493-4160 or www.marywoernerfinearts.com.
Sat, Mar 21st, 2009
WE RETURN TO THE NAKED BRUSH TOUR
Enough recapping, I’ve been told. Get on with the details of The Naked Brush Tour, Phase 1.
So it’s the middle of October and I’m in Denver. Past autumn’s peak but that’s okay: I’m headed to Vail tomorrow. So why is the temperature in the 70s? All I packed was microfleece.
Up to now my gallery visits have clustered at the cordial end of the spectrum. Only a few approached curt. Then there’s the first-ever response I got to my initial email: “Not interested. Not at all.” It made me question the whole tour. Until my sister said, “Terre, you’re going to Montreal to see these galleries first-hand. That’s the objective, isn’t it? You don’t need a warm welcome from anybody to accomplish that.” Indeed. I prefer cordial, but I don’t need it.
My first visit in Denver was more than cordial. I’ll even go so far as to identify the gallery—something I’ve refrained from doing because, first, I believe artists have to find their own likeliest prospects and, second, I didn’t tell galleries I was blogging about them. It was Jimmy Sellars at Sellars Project Space who not only loved my charcoal drawings but loved The Naked Brush Tour as well. We became friends that day. (And, as an agent to other artists, he’s now my fellow pioneer in navigating the new world of galleries in a time of global recession. Why focus all your creativity on art-making? New worlds await.)
After an hour or so of comparing notes on galleries in North America, Jimmy recommended I have lunch at a Mexican restaurant on Santa Fe Drive, the gallery hub that was my next stop. But I found a humbler green chili place nearby, took a seat at the counter and soon had my ankles embraced by an adoring toddler girl. The chili was equally good.
There were two galleries I planned to see on Santa Fe, and Jimmy had just crossed one off my list. “You need to focus on the three top selling galleries in Denver,” he urged me. So I continued on to one he suggested. A beautiful space though I wasn’t convinced about the art on the walls—exuberant in every sense. I wandered, waiting discretely for the staff person to finish chatting with a friend. They were comparing body workouts. When we finally spoke face-to-face we recognized each other from 13 years earlier, when he lived in South Florida. A mutual admiration rekindled.
He remembered me as the fabricator of steel sculpture I was thirteen years ago. When I shared images of my new drawings, he was enthusiastic. But the decision of which artists to exhibit was not his to make alone. He encouraged me to submit images, and to seek him out at the Art Basel satellite fairs in December. Warm encounter #2.
I walked past gallery #4 nearby and was reminded how misleading websites can be. Much “edgier” than its website, the gallery was clearly not my style. Protocol says to keep walking when a gallery looks questionable from the outside. And so I did. Straight to the espresso bar my old friend recommended. It was first-rate: a barista actually pulling shots. He and everyone else in the tiny café were amazed when I explained my mission. I think I like it in Denver.
Wed, Jun 17th, 2009
There are no mistakes. That’s the lesson I’m learning as I make charcoal drawings based on my bodyprints. It helps me stay open as I draw. Even when I do something I wish I hadn’t—like rubbing out a subtle, multi-layered expanse or darkening a line that was already dominant—I know now to see it not as a mistake but as a door opening. A departure leading to something better than what I had in mind.
This knowledge didn’t come without considerable skepticism and struggle on my part. Willfulness is one of my main ingredients. But when the results went beyond anything I had envisioned, not once but time after time, I would’ve been a fool not to get the point.
It occurs to me that the same realization could apply to The Naked Brush Tour and the grand vision it represents: there are no mistakes. I confess I’ve given in to moments of dismay when I ponder the thinking behind my recent tour of North American galleries in search of representation. Timid I am not, but obviously no Dale Chihuly either. Courage was mustered in the belief that if I took the bold step it would please the muses. And that, once pleased, they would bestow their blessing. Then my drawings would be in at least one gallery outside South Florida.
And if the muses failed me I would have sheer numbers on my side. What are the chances that I could approach at least 60 galleries (with work that all of them considered serious, and many found outstanding) and not find one to welcome me?
The whole plan would unfold swiftly and smoothly. Even a global economic crisis wouldn’t justify departing from my schedule, I believed, once I took the bold step. Did I mention my willfulness?
I did take the bold step. I traveled to six cities, met with dozens of galleries. Afterward I submitted my work to the receptive ones, scrupulously following their guidelines. Six months later, most have not yet responded; those that did said no.
There are no mistakes. My plan, my timeline count for only so much. Especially during a global economic crisis. When the Venice Biennial is affected, how can The Naked Brush Tour emerge unscathed?
“I know now to see it not as a mistake but as a door opening.” At this point those words give me hope. Soon they may even describe how I feel about The Naked Brush Tour.
I should start blogging again.
Tue, Apr 27th, 2010
NAKED BRUSH II?
An affirming yet anonymous comment on "Second Thoughts" spurs me to share my latest thought: What if The Naked Brush Tour was merely interrupted by the economic splat? Would it be possible to pick up where I left off?
Honestly it stings to have thrown myself into a an endeavor so visibly, only to have it upended by something way beyond my control. Now that we see signs of a possible spring thaw in the US economy, even in the art market, I'm feeling an urge to begin again. To revisit the sites of greatest potential in my tour of North American galleries.
Still doing the research. Still consulting with the experts. But I haven't encountered any dead ends yet.
I'll keep you posted.
Thu, Jan 13th, 2011
NAKED BRUSH LIVES!
It feels like New Year’s arrived last night. It was the opening of an exhibition (details below) for several artists, including me, who took the Artist as Entrepreneur course in Ft. Lauderdale. That’s the course that sparked my 2008 Naked Brush Tour to find galleries in North America that want to show my drawings. The tour that I completed just as the economy hit bottom.
Last night was a buoyant evening, all of us artists were bubbly. And for me, reconnecting with the source of my inspiration was the nudge I needed. Finding my way back into Naked Brush is overdue. And, partly because I willed it to be so, the evening and the exhibition opened a door.
Then, toward the end of the opening, I was chatting with a couple I know from Palm Beach County, about our efforts to sell our artwork in South Florida and beyond. When I described The Naked Brush Tour and its stops in Montreal, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Scottsdale and Atlanta, they perked up at the mention of Atlanta. “We know galleries in Atlanta—we used to live there!” And they offered to help me find the right galleries for my work.
It’s a good start. It’s a very good start. And it dovetails divinely with the roadmap for the new year that I made last week, which I’ll share shortly.
But today I wanted to focus on the exhibition…and how it brought me back here.
The Third Annual Doing Business As… Artist Entrepreneurs exhibition features Timothy Leistner, Bonnie Orbach, Lori Pratico, Elizabeth Reed, Terre Rybovich, Jennyfer Toplak, and the curators Liora Davis and Georgeta Fondos. The show can be seen at Gallery 6, Broward County Main Library in Fort Lauderdale. Visit the site
There will be a closing forum on February 23, from 5:00 to 7:30 pm, where we artists will speak on our experiences as artist-entrepreneurs.
I’m looking forward to that.
Sat, Jan 15th, 2011
NAKED BRUSH PLANS!
To begin...again...I made myself a roadmap.
Being a visual artist, I commit to things I've written down. Early one morning last week, I took a large sheet of brown paper that had been wrapped around a framed drawing and methodically traced out a roadmap. In this case, I made what looks like an all-roads-lead-to-Rome kind of roadmap. At the center is my goal: to be fulfilled and satisfied by creating my art. To share my art with the public and to be supported in exchange.
Radiating out from that lovely goal are six waypoints. These are the steps I imagine will take me to my goal. The first tells me to follow through on the promise of The Naked Brush Tour. That is, to find galleries that will show and sell my charcoal drawings. According to Mary Woerner, the gallery owner who represents me locally, artists need at least 10 galleries representing them before their art can support them. So--thank you, Mary--that's my first stop.
Altogether there are six waypoints radiating out from my goal. This is the journey I’ve mapped for myself, and I look forward to sharing it.
Tue, Jan 25th, 2011
MORE THAN I IMAGINED
Traveling with my roadmap these days. The brown paper original hangs in my home. A virtual copy is out there in the ether, always available. Six “waypoints” or objectives get me to my goal—to share my art with the public and to be supported in exchange. I can point to concrete progress on at least three and a half.
I mentioned the first waypoint, to follow through on the promise of The Naked Brush Tour and find galleries that will show and sell my charcoal drawings. Originally I meant to begin again in 2010. Then, unexpectedly, there were new opportunities to exhibit my work. And of the five opportunities, three were outside of the Palm Beaches, in communities where I’d never exhibited. The whole point of The Naked Brush Tour is to get my work out into new territory. 2010 was a good year.
2011 looks good so far. I had been reluctant to go back over my email exchanges with the dozens of galleries I visited in 2008. In the end it had seemed like a lot of effort for little result. And yet, when I reread the emails I made an interesting discovery. Focusing on the 3 or 4 galleries in each city that I had followed up with (submitting images of my drawings after my visit), I found that only a couple of the 20 or so had turned me down outright. The rest said they weren't taking new artists at that moment. Sure, it could be just a nicer way to say no thanks, but it makes it easier to draft an email to them now.
Not only that—I found several galleries who had invited me to submit work at a later date. And I never did!
Granted, my focus shifted in late 2008. Not only was the economy careening downward, but my mom died and I was devastated. The point is that possibilities exist, even more than I imagined. Even more than I remembered.
2011 looks good.
This charcoal drawing looks pretty good too. Like the two drawings I included in the January 13 post, it's in the show in Ft. Lauderdale, the one for artists who took the Artist as Entrepreneur course.
Thu, Jan 27th, 2011
SPECIAL MENTION IN NEW TIMES
New Times critic Michael Mills wrote a brief and thoughtful piece on our show in Ft. Lauderdale.
And I'm one of three artists he thinks, "stand out from the pack." Timothy Leistner and Georgeta Fondos join me in that honor.
Thank you, Michael!
Wed, Feb 2nd, 2011
RACING TO HOLLYWOOD
I’m reminded that having a roadmap doesn’t guarantee you won’t get lost.
In fact, on Monday I was racing to the Art & Culture Center in Hollywood to drop off my last-minute submission for their All-Media Juried Biennial. Pretty sure I knew my way there, I nevertheless had my “smart” phone pointing the way—and still I arrived by a very indirect route. The point is I arrived, right? And was met by a very gracious staff person who wished me well in the competition and genuinely seemed to mean it.
Meandering routes can be pure pleasure. My dad used to say, “We’re not lost—we’re sightseeing!” Although it didn’t sound fun when he said it. But I’m dealing with something more basic right now: how to get started.
The roadmap gives me my to-do list. It tells me who I need to contact. And then there’s this yawning gap between the to-do and the doing—and the done.
As I write this I promise myself I’ll designate time, uninterrupted time, to reestablish contact with galleries I visited in 2008 in The Naked Brush Tour. I’ll even go so far as to say that tomorrow and Friday I’ll finish going through my notes from each gallery visit. Then Saturday I’ll write and send out emails to the most promising of those galleries.
I made it home safe from Hollywood. Done sightseeing, it's time to follow the roadmap.
Tue, Feb 7th, 2012
It’s a different sort of tour these days. Touring the borders of my capabilities and comfort zones—expanding my charcoal drawings to include color—instead of touring North American cities.
My determination to find additional gallery representation for my drawings endures. And yet this economy makes it tough. Of the nearly one hundred galleries I visited in seven cities, I found about 25 that were interested in considering my work. Soon after my visits I submitted images to each of them. A couple wrote back to decline. Most didn’t respond. Ultimately half of them closed their doors. And the other half are slow getting back to me.
My sister Cindy is quick to remind me that it’s too soon to draw conclusions about my 2008 tour. Ars longa vita brevis? I guess we’ll see.
Back to the drawing board, where color is the big challenge. Here are two very different results.
Color Grid 1 (left), from last year, is my first attempt with color and my first acceptance into the Boca Raton Museum’s All Florida show. It’s powdered charcoal and pigment on paper.
Formative (right) is months in the making and very recently completed. It’s charcoal and pastel on paper.