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Introducing New People to Your Art?


Q: My art is best experienced in person. Images on the Internet don't do it justice. It's unique and I've spent years perfecting it. When I meet, speak with or contact gallery owners, artist representatives, art consultants, collectors or anyone else who shows interest in my work, I always invite them to my studio because the only way for them to truly understand my work is for me to explain it in person. Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time getting anybody to take me up on my offer. Can you help?
A: Yes. The answer is simple-- immediately stop insisting that people come to your studio, especially those who know little or nothing about you or your art, and slow yourself down. Requiring people to see your art entirely on your terms and in a rather intimate setting won't get you anywhere fast. Think about it. You are asking people-- complete strangers, in many cases-- to go somewhere they've never been before, listen to you talk about your art, and basically submit to your agenda for as long as you deem necessary. That's an awful lot to ask. Would you be inclined to say yes to someone you don't even know or who you've only just met who wants to meet with you, and then dictate the location and schedule for the meeting-- all this without you having any say in the matter? I doubt it.
Believing that the only way people can adequately understand your art is for you to explain it to them in person in your studio is presumptuous at best, and at worst, outright insulting. Let people get familiar with your art on their own terms and see it wherever they feel the most comfortable seeing it-- online, in shows, in galleries or other art venues, or at whatever other locations they prefer. And don't insist on having to explain it; if people have questions, they'll ask. Nobody wants to be lectured or talked down to. Nobody wants to be told that they're incapable of understanding something without having it explained to them. So think seriously about striking these requirements from your agenda, letting people decide on their own if or when the time is right for them to visit your studio and how active they want you to be in terms of getting better informed about your art.
Now let's look at the rest of your question. Regarding your art being unique and your having taken years to perfect it, that's true for practically all art and all artists. So forget that line of reasoning. To think that your art is more special than all the other art out there and that it deserves extra and undivided attention just because you say so is a sure way to turn people off-- particularly people like the ones you've been trying to get to come to your studio. They don't need you to tell them what's unique or special or to instruct them in how to experience your art; many of them have already spent years figuring these things out. They know how to look at art; they know what they're looking at; they know what they're looking for. In fact, most of them think only one thing when an artist comes at them with a "My art is unique" presentation: "How fast I can end this conversation?" Believe it. If it's any consolation, you're not alone on this-- plenty of artists think and say the exact same things about the uniqueness of their art that you're saying, and very few of them ever get anywhere doing it.
As for images on the Internet not doing your art justice, that's basically true for all other art as well. So there's another talking point you might as well eliminate from your repertoire. We all know that art is best experienced in person, and we all also know that that seeing art in person is not always possible. The Internet is here to stay; it's how humans communicate these days. In other words, you better figure out how to use it to your advantage or else you'll have serious difficulty spreading the word about your art. In the old days, artists used to haul their portfolios from gallery to gallery in attempts to get shows. Now your website, blog or photo page is your portfolio. That's how today's artists make and maintain contact with collectors, galleries and related arts professionals in terms of introducing themselves and hopefully getting opportunities to show or sell their art. The more compelling your online (and overall) presentation, the greater the chances that people will at some point want to see your art in person.
Best procedure is to develop a step-by-step approach to introducing yourself and your art to whomever you think might be interested rather than shoot for studio visits right from the start. Go easy at first and make initial contact by email, phone, in person or by way of your online presence. Explain why you are making the contact (as opposed to making contacts at random), state up front why you think this person or venue might possibly be interested in your art, and then assuming all goes well, gradually get to know each other. This process might take a few days or last many months, and may involve an extended email correspondence, periodic phone conversations, sending occasional updates to links or images of your art, visiting people at their galleries, homes or offices, and so on.
The studio visit is normally well down the agenda for anyone thinking seriously about showing an artist, representing their art or adding that artist's work to their collections-- not the first. They have to feel comfortable communicating with you along every step of the way before wanting to seriously look at your art in person. However long these trial periods may take, be patient, always be sensitive and flexible about other people's needs, requests or requirements, keep an upbeat attitude and hope for the best. Like any other business relationship, you have to start slowly, gradually get to know each other, make sure you get along, and assuming all goes well, sooner or later advance to a mutually beneficial outcome.

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