My friend Sam emailed some work from her latest series. Before I knew it, I was writing back, “You need a show.” “I was going to contact you about that,” she replied. “Maybe you can help me a little bit with the foreign language of portfolios and galleries and what to do.” No problem, Sam. Here are a couple of time-tested ideas:
Make a list of suitable dream galleries in your area and get to know how each does business before asking to submit.
Commit to a regular online search for local, national and international competitions. Be selective and choose what you can put your heart into and where you can get your work in front of a qualified crowd. My New York dealer bought a small watercolour I’d donated to a fundraiser in support of the oldest artist-run space in New York. I was new in town and hustling for a wall. She lived with the painting for a year before writing and introducing herself — by then I had a studio full of big stuff to show her.
But these tips come from a time known as “Before Instagram.” Thirty-eight-year-old Louise de Weger was a struggling single mom in Brisbane, Australia when her mother enrolled her in a visual arts course at the local technical institute. Even after winning some prestigious awards, Louise took her instructor’s advice and went back to work in hospitality. Soon, though, she re-thought her path. After stumbling across Instagram — the image-sharing app — Louise started posting small paintings and found she could sell a few per week, for a couple of hundred dollars.
These days, with almost 14,000 followers and a steady stream of commissions, Louise paints in a converted shipping container in her parents’ backyard while her mom does the books and her dad prepares custom Tasmanian Oak frames. With an exclusively online collector base, she’s showing all over the world.
PS: “I slowly learnt how to use it, for example, posting on Sunday is better than Friday, no more than two posts a day. I’d really encourage people to persevere.” (Louise de Weger)
Esoterica: Instagram attracts art-lovers hungry for the new and with an eye for quality. Museums, designers, galleries, fashionistas, collectors and aspirers mingle with artists who are building personal online portfolios in real time. Images of installations, process, studio dogs and finished work are made accessible to millions, scrolling on a feed that refreshes by the second. Consistency, colour, engagement and authenticity seem to be the boosters for savvy artists now enjoying dream-like levels of popularity. “Usually people take years and years to get to this point. I feel guilty sometimes, and I feel very privileged because not many people get to do what they love.” (Louise de Weger)
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“Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon.” (Elizabeth Gilbert)