Friday, December 22, 2006

On being in a co-op

Well, I'm completing my first full year as a member of The Artists' Gallery, an artists' cooperative in Lambertville, NJ. As an emerging artist, this has been a tremendously valuable experience for me. I'll use this post to reflect back on that experience, in case it helps any other artists out there.

A year ago, when I joined the co-op, I knew how to paint but I knew nothing about how run a gallery or how to market myself. At opening receptions, I'd keep a low profile and hope that no one spoke to me. Now just a year later, I have other people asking me for advice, and I feel confident in answering their questions. At opening receptions, I actually enjoy talking to our guests, and don't cringe away from that like I used to. By far, one of the best things about being in this co-op is the chance to work closely with the other artist members. Unlike some co-ops, this one has no individual owner - it's run entirely by the artists, and we all have an equal say in all matters. We do all of the work and make all of the decisions. Our degree of success is entirely in our own hands. And fortunately, this is a really great group of people who get along well and support each other.

Some of the best things I've gotten out of this:
  1. the camaraderie of running a gallery with other artists
  2. learning what it takes to run an art gallery
  3. many opportunities to talk with gallery visitors, and to meet some of the people who have purchased my work. There was a time when this would have intimidated me, but now I'm comfortable with it, and I find it a very rewarding thing to do. Even the occasional bad comment is good to hear, when sometimes customers don't realize it's your work they're commenting on.
  4. the opportunity to take part in a 2-man show
  5. making contacts which led to my first solo show
  6. learning now do press releases: how to write them and who to send them to
  7. the confidence in knowing that I can do this now
In various art forums, I often see artists asking for opinions on joining an artists cooperative. In my case, it's been great, but every gallery is different so I'll offer these points to consider:
  • Does the gallery have a track record of being in existence for at least a few years, or is it brand new? It's relatively easy for a co-op to get started, but few can keep going after the initial enthusiasm wears off. Don't rule out a gallery just because it's new, but this might affect your level of confidence in the gallery. On one hand, it could be very exciting to join a gallery that's just starting up. On the other hand, if you're looking to learn from others, you'll be better with an established gallery.
  • Is the gallery in a good location? (An important question for any type of gallery!)
  • How much wall space will you get and how often will you get to show your work. You may not have the chance to show your work all of the time.
  • Does the gallery put on solo shows or 2-person shows to feature the artists, and does everyone get a fair shot at this? How often?
  • Commercial galleries usually take a 40 to 50 percent commission on work sold, but it doesn't cost the artist anything to belong to the gallery. Belonging to a co-op typically means paying a monthly membership fee but a lower commission is taken, or maybe no commission at all. Whether this arrangement is good for you depends on how much you sell.
  • How much work is expected from you?
    • You may need to attend regular gallery meetings - how often?
    • You will probably have to gallery sit regularly - how often? This means you open up in the morning, turn on the lights, greet gallery visitors, handle the sales, turn out the lights and lock up at the end of the day. You'll have to be comfortable running the gallery all by yourself. (It's not that hard.)
    • Are you expected to help with other things like cleaning up, painting the walls, and fixing anything that needs fixing?
  • What other costs will you be responsible for?
    • Who pays for publicity such as the printing and mailing of postcards?
    • Who pays for the food and wine at opening receptions?
    • Most co-ops have a 1-time sign up fee when you first join the gallery. Sometimes this is refundable when you leave, sometimes not.
  • Once you join, is there any obligation to remain a member for some period of time, or can you leave whenever you want to?
  • Try to meet some of the members and ask as many questions as you can. The co-op that I'm in is a great bunch of people - we're like a family. I've heard of others where things are not so pleasant - clashing personalities, big egos, etc. The mix of personalities could make or break the experience for you, so do some research first. Since co-ops are typically run by the artist members, it's easy for you to meet them by just visiting the gallery.
If anyone out there is thinking of joining my gallery, you can read our co-op membership rules online for more details. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone. If you're thinking or applying to a co-op somewhere else, I hope that my advice has been helpful. Feel free to ask me any questions via the comments link below. Or better yet, go visit a co-op in your area and talk to whoever is sitting behind the desk that day!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rockafellow Mills Road

I love to get outside and paint on location, en plein air, when the weather is nice. But now that it's cold, and the days are so short, I rarely can get outdoors with my paintbox. (I don't know how Redfield did it.) So, I paint a lot from photographs when it's too cold, or too dark. I do a lot of bicycling in the summer and usually take a camera with me so I have a good library of reference material to work from.

Here's my latest painting, along a road that I cycle quite often. It's named Rockafellows Mill Road, or Rockafellow Mills Road, depending which map you look at. Either way, it's a nice country road between Three Bridges and Flemington, NJ:
Rockafellows Mill Road
"Rockafellows Mill Road"
8x10 oil on board

This one continues my fascination with tree shadows across the roadway, something that I paint quite often.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

New York Times

Last night was opening reception for the annual holiday show at the Artists' Gallery: Small Works / Stocking Stuffers. The show features smaller works from all of the gallery members. Much to my surprise, the New York Times printed an image of one of my paintings in their gallery listings:And here's a better image of that painting - it's a scene on the road that I live on:
Longhill, looking North
"Longhill, Looking North"
8x10 oil on board

The holiday show runs through January 7 - I hope you can stop by.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Working in a Series

I'm not sure if 2 paintings counts as a series, but I've done a few 2-painting series recently. I've often heard the advice of working in a series in order to hone your ideas, techniques, or whatever it is that you're currently exploring as an artist.

Here's one series: it's 2 paintings of the same house on the same day. I almost always paint on a toned panel - a light wash of yellow ocher or red oxide. With these two paintings, I took that a little further and did a fairly detailed under painting in a rose red. When that was dry, I completed the over painting. I like the end result, but I'm not sure if the rose red underpainting had much advantage over starting with a toned panel. But doing these 2 in series was a good way of exploring a new technique. I might continue this series with a few more paintings of this house as it's a pretty interesting place. It's called "The 1860 House" and is the Montgomery Center for the Arts in Skillman, NJ:

Summer Porch
Summer Porch

Montgomery Windows

And another, which I did from a photograph - I found these 2 paintings in the same photo:
Woolverton Lawn Chairs
Woolverton Lawn Chairs

Adirondack Chairs
Adirondack Chairs

Even though these were very short series, I can see advantages of working this way. If done consecutively, you can develop a rhythm of work which allows you to concentrate more on the creative elements, finding variations in the repetitive. After working out the color scheme in "Summer Porch", it was easier to paint "Montgomery Windows, even though it's a larger more complicated painting. In "Adirondack Chairs", the chairs were painted nearly the same way as in the first painting, but I had a lot of fun with textures and brushwork in the background - in the grass and shrubs. Another advantage, of course, is ending up with a nice group of paintings.

I guess the next step would be for me to work on a larger series. And even though a series doesn't have to be of the same location, I like the idea of doing it that way. I know enough interesting places around here where this would work out well...

The Artists' Gallery

I started a blog for The Artists Gallery, the co-op gallery that I belong to. Check it out. And if you're in the area of Lambertville, NJ, please stop by for the opening reception of our December show - more details are on that blog.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

About me

Well, 9 months and I haven't had much to say. I guess that writing is not one of the arts that I'm good at. How about a little more about myself:

I've always had an artistic side, and have done work with ceramics, woodworking, photography, and recently I've been focusing on painting. I paint landscapes in oil, or sometimes acrylic. I love to paint outdoors on location, but time doesn't always permit, or weather doesn't always cooperate, so I also paint indoors in my studio.

I regularly exhibit at these art galleries:Here is one of my more recent paintings - a bit moody compared to what I usually do, but it was a rather gray November afternoon, pretty late in the day:

"Towards Stockton"
11x14 oil on board