Archive for the “business” Category

I’m headed off to summer workshop in a couple days, but before I go: here’s a topic inspired by an email from a fellow artist who had been contacted by Art-Exchange – they were offering to ‘jury’ her website and then list her work, market it to hunting lodges, etc. Since I made the mistake of falling for their spiel many years ago – and paying them a fee at the time – a couple of my prints are listed on their site (for astronomically high prices…I’m pretty sure I didn’t set those prices, but I frankly can’t remember). My cynical side suspects that this outfit is making most of its money from artist fees, not from actually marketing and selling work. They have gazillions of artists listed.

If an art-selling outfit (whether gallery or website) is going to make money, it ought to be from commissions – this gives them incentive to market the work.

Has anyone had any GOOD experiences with art-selling websites? For instance, I’m hearing from crafters that Etsy is starting to work well for them. There must be a fine-art site somewhere that juries for quality art and then actually works to market and sell it…


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…so: how many of you receive inquiries from other artists asking to exchange website links? how do you respond?

I get these fairly regularly, and I dutifully go check out the requestor’s site. Mostly, the requestor’s artwork is unimpressive or worse (in fact, I’m pretty sure I could qualify this as “always”, not “mostly”). While incoming links help a site rank higher in Google’s search algorithm, I’m reluctant to give an imprimatur of approval by trading links with artists whose work I don’t care for.

Or am I just old-fashioned? You know – grab marketing wherever you can, regardless of the source…?

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Someone recently emailed to suggest that we start a discussion regarding studio lighting. Since I LOVE getting suggestions for the blog, I’m on it! First, a photo of my own setup – it’s a second-floor room with the pitched eaves from being up under the roof. I have a pair of windows at either end (here, looking east), a bank of 6 fluorescents (the other 2 are directly overhead of me in this photo), and 2 of those “solartube” thingies that are like little round skylights (again, the other is directly overhead and out of sight in the photo). This gives me a fabulous mix of natural and artificial light that is bright and also fairly shadowless.

This room was a remodel, so I was able to specify this mix; having lived and worked in this room for 6+ years now, the only things I would change would be to add another bank of fluorescents on the west side, and build in task lighting low on the eaves (it’s dark towards the side walls). And I need some shades on the windows: at certain times of the year the sun comes directly in and onto my easel/display setup.


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Last week an artist emailed to ask about insuring work while in the studio, in galleries, in transit, at shows, and so on. I figured this would make a worthwhile blog post, so I’ll share what I know and do and ask everyone else to chime in.

In the studio: our home insurance is with Allstate, and I had talked specifically with them about insurance for paintings in our house. That conversation is lost in the dim mists of time, and I should probably revisit it, but I think we decided that no special rider was needed at that point, and that the general house coverage would do it. I’m not sure now that this is the right/best answer; however, I don’t generally have a lot of work here at any one time.

In transit: I used to use UPS for all my shipping needs, because it’s easy to pay extra for coverage of up to $5000 on a box (and I pack very carefully). However, I had some frustrating experiences with UPS in the last year – damage to frames on 3 different shipments within 3 months – and they gave me such a huge hassle and runaround on the frame replacement that I switched to FedEx. At least one of my galleries told me they’ve done the same thing for the same reasons. However, FedEx won’t insure past $500, so I have generally used them only for shipping smaller pieces.

I’ve recently needed to send several commissions to a collector in Canada, and used UPS for that because I felt it imperative to insure the pieces fully. Just ask me how fun it is to fill out paperwork for this (commercial invoice, NAFTA free trade forms, declarations of value, assignment of customs fees … all in triplicate). It took 45 minutes on the phone with UPS the first time to do it all correctly.

At galleries: any reputable gallery should have wall-to-wall fine art coverage. Be sure your gallery contract states this.

At shows: every exhibition with which I’ve dealt has insurance for the work while it’s there. The “Birds in Art” show even goes so far as to pay all shipping and insurance fees for the art as well; you just pack it up and put on the FedEx label they give you. Since I don’t do booth shows, though, I can’t speak to insurance at those types of events.

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Those scammers never stop. Here’s the latest to land in my email (on April Fool’s Day, no less) from a “”:

I am so excited that I came across of your work on internet search,I am interested in purchasing some creative artwork from you.I will purchase the following(Lynx Study 8 x 6-$750,Companions #1 6 x 8-$750).

let me know their various prices and how much discounts you are willing to give?
I will be happy to have these selected artworks hanged in our new home in London.As well,I want you to exclude the shipping cost.I will arrange for the shipment.We are travelling from our Dallas home to our new apartment as soon as possible.

On Paying for the artworks,I will be glad to pay you with a certified cashiers check or a personal check which can be easliy cashed in your local banks around you,please let me know on how to procced for the payment of the creative artworks.
Have a wonderful day.


As always, there are a number of warning signs:

  • Rife with poor grammar and misspellings
  • Errors of logic – like listing the prices with the pieces and then asking what the prices were (this has happened in every scam email I’ve received)
  • Asking to exclude shipping cost
  • Paying with a cashiers check or personal check (both of which can take a long time to clear for certain).

Don’t bother replying to these sorts of scam emails. Post them here so we can all learn from them.

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Folks – here’s the latest on this. I emailed Mr. Gervais (he’d sent me an email thanking me for my original blog post) with:

Dear Christopher,
You might want to check on the responses to my blog entry about your magazine – there are some people who do not feel they have been dealt with fairly.

Since I’m a businessperson myself, I always like to make sure that I know how my clients and colleagues feel – and I like to do everything in my power to make things right, if there’s an issue.

Best regards,
Julie T. Chapman

This was his response:

Dear Julie:

I have not spoken to any of these people that have written on your blog. So the fact is not one has called and engaged in a conversation to me or my “Interns” since I have no intern. No such person called on Monday by the name of Lori Lemanski.

I will remind that you are legally responsible for any information that is posted on your website (as you are the owner) that is false. I have enough attorneys to consult on this matter. I will not permit false and misleading information to be spread about the magazine.

If your groupies want to be critical, do so to the former Wildlife Art that took everyone money when the ceased operations.

Western & Wildlife Art Magazine
The International Journal of Western, Wildlife Art & Conservation
Christopher J. Gervais, Editor & Publisher

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So am I the last person on the planet to know that there’s now an online wildlife art magazine? I was surprised to receive an email from the editor/publisher about a week ago:

Dear Artists & Collectors:

The March/April Issue of Western & Wildlife Art Magazine is now available. Please note our new website address:

As in the past this leading publication of the wildlife art industry is available to you at no cost.


Western & Wildlife Art Magazine
The International Journal of Western, Wildlife Art & Conservation
Christopher J. Gervais, Editor & Publisher
P.O. Box 347
Ardmore, PA 19003

If you didn’t already know about it, then heck, I’ve done my good deed for the day.

A short post this time – off to the famous Freezeout Lake, on the Rocky Mountain Front, for the snow goose migration. I’ll report next week.

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It’s a different world this year (in oh so many ways), and our current economy can present challenges for artists. Art is, after all, a discretionary purchase; my dealers have told me that people will come in, admire a painting, then say “oh, but think of our investment account”… and leave.

So what’s an artist to do?? When the going gets tough, the tough get creative! It’s time to share stories here about ideas we have, what we’ve tried, what works – and help us all stay afloat to rise with the tide when the economy recovers!

Herewith, let me throw some things out to get the conversation going:

  • Studio sales: In December, I held a “Studio Archives” sale; I’ve done this about every 5 years or so – invite a lot of people, have a party, have small/old/experimental things available at very low pricepoints. This was the first time in Montana. It’s great fun, too (though prep can be exhausting!)
  • Local publications: …can offer possibilities for placing your images. There’s a small newspaper called “Rocky Mountain Rider” that is printed monthly and shows up in tack shops and feed stores around here. A while ago I contacted them about using my art; they did so happily, one of my rodeo pieces was on the Nov 08 cover, and a woman called me about a commission as a result.
  • eBay: Susan Fox (as mentioned in a prior comment) has tried selling some small originals on eBay. She has positioned these as ‘studies’, to differentiate them from finished gallery pieces.
  • Social networking: Susan and others have also mentioned online social networking as a means of creating awareness of your work.
  • PoD: I’ve tried the PoD (print on demand) route with RedBubble, and am frankly underwhelmed with that; it’s a cheap and poorly compensated form of self-licensing. However, I’m not putting the time into the social networking that RB encourages, either.
  • Go where the money is: economies in other countries are slumping, but not all, and not all as much as the U.S. I’m working on creating a presence in Canada (lots of oil money there). One of my galleries just made a multi-piece sale (including one of mine) to collectors in Indonesia.

OK, this should get us started – let’s hear the ideas! Roll ‘em!

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Just a warning – another art scammer on the loose. This email showed up in my Inbox today:

“Good day to you out there.

I am so excited that I came across of your work on internet search,I am interested in purchasing these creative artworks from you…………………

Larger Than Life
Fox Focus
red fox
Let me know their various prices.and how much discounts are you going to give?I will be happy to have these selected artworks hanged in our new home in South Africa. As well, I want you to take out the shipping cost.I have been in touch with a shipping firm that will be shipping other house decoratives.
We are traveling from our Dallas home to our new apartment as soon as possible.On Paying for the artworks,I will be glad to pay you with a Money Order or Cashier`s check in US funds that can be easily cashed at your local bank,please let me know on how to proceed for the payment of the creative artworks.
I will await your advise on how to proceed.Have a wonderful day.

Take care,
Frannie Brandsons”

… which also led me to discover a site called Artscam, with some examples of art scam emails.

In general, pretty much anytime I get an email with such incredibly bad grammar and language use I am immediately suspicious. Plus, these emails always ask me for the prices of these paintings – yet my prices are right on my website with the images, so this is another red flag.

Stay safe, everyone!

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Well, I’m home and starting to catch up on sleep from Fall Arts Festival in Jackson Hole. This is my mega-networking-socializing blowout each year – boozing, schmoozing, and precious little sleep.

The economic downturn does seem to be affecting gallery sales a bit, but it’s uneven. The crowd, and bidding, at the Quickdraw were large and enthusiastic, and many things went for above retail (including mine, whew). The JH Art Auction, which took place on Saturday afternoon and included a lot of deceased art, did fairly well (from the one update I heard mid-afternoon), with the biggies going for big prices (eg, Howard Terpning’s piece selling for $750K). However, the Western Visions show at the museum didn’t sell as many pieces as usual (again, hearsay).

Fall Arts is an invaluable opportunity to yak with other artists about business – I encourage anyone who is working in western/wildlife representational, and serious about her career, to come to JH at this time of year to hang out with the many well-known artists and ask questions.

OK, enough about “I brushed my teeth last week” and on to the Big Commission (B.C.).

Last winter, an oil exec saw my work in Legacy Gallery (thank you, Legacy!) and contacted me about a commission of his barrel-racing daughters. I followed up, didn’t hear from him, forgot about it. He called me again in June to ask about dates when I could come visit, I followed up, didn’t hear from him, forgot about it. (There’s a lesson I could stand to learn here about being persistent in my follow-up…a true salesperson would probably cringe at my lack of follow-through!).

He called again in late August and wanted me to come visit within a week due to the departure of one of the daughters for college; fortunately, my calendar could be cleared, so after he sent an airline ticket I headed off to his beautiful ranch in the northern Rockies (useful tip: always have a valid passport on hand!). Movies have been filmed at his ranch, and in fact a movie crew was setting up while I was there. I spent several days photographing the daughters on their horses, both at the spectacular ranch and at a high-school rodeo, and came home with 800 or so photos to work from. The daughters were all slender and gorgeous and looked great on their horses.

While at his ranch, I had the entire top floor of a breathtakingly remodeled barn to myself – bar, kitchen with acres of granite, sauna, hot tub, etc. And a limo driver who chauffeured me to and from the ranch/airport (60 miles each way). Sometimes, you gotta suffer for your art.

Bar N.jpg

Next installment: negotiating the deal and first sketches.


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