It’s the newly emergent artist conundrum: to get into shows, you need a resume; to have a resume, you need to be in shows. I started my career as an artist in Los Angeles, thousands of miles from where I attended art school. I had no connections in town. Less than a decade later, my work has appeared in print, it has been shown nationally, and is even a part of a prestigious art collection. Here is how I started.
Don’t knock the internet.
When I first came to town, all I really had was Craigslist. The first shows I participated in were through calls for art on the forum. I hung larger than life nudes at a comedy show. I met an energetic young woman who put on shows at bars and clubs and house parties. There’s nothing wrong with an art filled house party. I made my first sale, 7 paintings, in a Venice home. My advice is to avoid any “opportunities” that require you to pay to show.
Follow the spaces you want to show in and keep and eye out for ways in.
As I became more familiar with the Los Angeles art scene, I stopped relying on Craigslist for opportunities. I joined mailing lists for all kinds of spaces around me; high end galleries, libraries, coffee shops, and retail shops that also display art. This approached added several lines to my resume.
Galleries often host events for charities, and these charities seek art donations for supporters to bid on. Catching these events and donating art for a good cause added 2 high end galleries to my resume. I recommend supporting operations who give the option of taking only a 50% commission, and who return unsold work. We have to be careful not to devalue our work along the way.
Start an artists group.
I really wanted to be a part of a show at a beautiful local library, but my work never fit their calls for art. One day, the city hosted an art fair, and artists who were a part of the fair were invited to hang one work in the library. I submitted my artist group to host a booth at the fair, and we all got a nice new line on our resume.
Having an artist group makes you more likely to get the entry level opportunities you apply for. Unconventional spaces seeking art don’t want to coordinate with multiple artists because it’s time consuming. So they’ll opt for the artist group. My art group was able to secure a regular space in a business along an walk and once, we were able to quickly fill a last minute vacancy in a gallery because we had the work to fill the space. As a group we quickly handled everything for the spaces we showed in and we even spackled when we were done. We were called Circa Artists. Having a cool name helps, too.
Put on your own show
I’ve hung more group shows than I can count, in spaces like hair salons, real estate offices, warehouses, and recording studios. Fellow artists who are just starting out are glad to have an opportunity to show, and are usually happy to help hang and bring a bottle of wine for the reception. While living in Atwater Village, I put a show together for artists I met in my neighborhood called “Atwater Village Artists”. It hung for a month at the local wine bar, and Will Sasso even showed up at the reception.
Visit the places you want to show.
You’ve heard this one. But here’s the difference. Don’t just attend openings. Look out for events and find ways to support the space. Attend a portfolio review. Purchase gifts from their shops. Retweet them. Attend figure drawing session. Bring your friends along.
Things you can put on your resume that you may not have considered.
If you went to art school, did your class hang work in a campus gallery? This show can go on your resume. Did you put paintings up in your aunt’s office? I once hung a painting at my dentist’s office. The line on your resume might not get you into the Gagosian, but a record of relationships and evidence of shows shows gumption, and that’s not a bad thing. It will get you into the next show. With each new show you can retire an old line from the resume.
Teaching an art related class is another great way to beef up the resume. It may not be an art show (though it could always lead to one), but it establishes you as an art professional. You can teach online through venues like Skillshare, or, through a barter system like Tradeschool LA. I’ve added things like judging an art walk and speaking about creativity in business to a business 101 class to my resume
Don’t assume you can’t get into something.
Looking back, I can see where my assumption that a gallery owner or a curator wouldn’t consider me early on in my career prevented me from showing in higher end spaces sooner. While you shouldn’t expect something from or annoy an art world professional you look up to, don’t let your own assumptions keep you down.
My unconventional art exhibition journey enabled me to get to know the city in a way I never would have otherwise, which informs my art making today. It also introduced me to so many of LA’s underground visual artists and alternative exhibition spaces, which informs my art consulting practice. It’s particularly rewarding to sell artwork by emerging artists because I know how hard it is to create and sustain an art career by one’s own bootstraps . Fortunately, the people you meet along the way become your contemporaries and over time you rise together.
Diana Kohne is a visual artist and artpreneur. As an art consultant, she helps people who aren’t rich collect great art. She is also the creator of the Pocket Press, a handheld printmaking press. Dianakohne.com, artcricketLA.com, and printmakingpress.com, respectively.
Considering that art comes in every shape and form, deciding what kind of art you should buy for your space can be daunting. Here we’ll address choosing the right style of art for your specific room style, whether you should buy original art or reproductions, and whether to go big or create a gallery wall.
What kinds of art do you like and what interior design style will your room have?
In our online art consulting practice, we use a visual quiz to pinpoint the style of art a client likes. Here is a short list of artistic styles to consider when establishing your taste: painterly, street art, abstract, minimalist, landscape, portraiture. Interior design styles have some overlap with artistic styles, but the rules for matching styles vary wildly, and, as is always the case with anything related to art and design- there are always exceptions. A minimalist artwork works well in a minimalist room, however, a large painterly work has a perfect stage in a sleek minimalist or even industrial room. Traditional, French country or Coastal interiors crave art with movement and body, muted and pastel colors, and delicate linework. Bohemian atmospheres are well suited to abstract work, while a weaving will feel more at home in a rustic room.
Original or reproduction?
While we almost always recommend purchasing original art, there are a few exceptions. Print reproductions tend to be a better option in a bathroom or a child’s room, in a busy entry way and any location near the stove. Sometimes prints are a solution when the artist you love is outside of your budget. Artists offer signed limited reproductions which are signed by the artist, and have the potential to increase in value, as well. The best investment, of course, is original art. So for every other room in your home, get the real thing.
One large artwork or a gallery wall?
Consider your interior design style, your art collector style, and your personality. One large artwork is a better fit in a minimalist space that has a high number furniture and accents, while an organized configuration of smaller work in matching frames can as personality to an otherwise minimalist room that needs a little oomph. Conversely, a shabby chic interior is better suited to an eclectic grouping of art hung so that it meanders and climbs. This is also where personality comes in to play. If you enjoy adding to your art collection frequently, then a gallery wall is the way to go. When your art and your decor fit your personality, everything goes.
Which comes first, the design or the art?
We recommend starting with the art you love and building your room around it. It’s easier and more rewarding to start with the art and discover a couch that works well and to add accents inspired by texture and color in your art, than the other way around. Looking for art to match the couch is an unpopular approach that is also not as fun. Any way you go about it, we are here to help. When you register for our Online Art Consultation we’re here to guide you when in selecting the best art for your space. When it comes to selecting the best furniture for your art, our designer is also available online or in person.
As an art consultant specializing in undiscovered local artists, I click on a lot of websites. Good artist websites create sales for artists just by existing in cyberspace. Here’s how.
They provide a sampling of the artist’s most recent work.
It’s important to list information like title, size and material, for each piece, but also availability. Artists who update whether their images are ‘sold’ or ‘available’ prevent what I call “art abandonment.” A client will want to purchase a work of art, but they get cold feet when we have to wait until the artist gets back to me to let me know that the painting is still available.
The photos display the artwork as an an art object.
When a potential collector looks at an artwork image they want to know what surface it is on and how it will hang. It doesn’t matter how much they like the imagery if the surface it is on is unknown. Buyers need to be able to visualize the art on their wall.
They require minimal clicks.
A great artists and web designer once told me that with every click, you lose 90% of your visitors. This is why I don’t even recommend a splash page. Why show one image when you can show all of your best work?
The only writing is about their art.
The only text that should appear alongside art images should be the title, size, material and availability. Website with advertisements or that require instructions for use all distract from the quality of your work. Statements and Bios and Contact information should appear on their own page, navigable by your top menu and clearly named.
Their name is prominently displayed and so is their contact information.
Artists who use a street name are the rare exception. Contact forms are great, but it’s important to include another means of contact in case the plugin for the form doesn’t update correctly and fails to work. Instagram links are fine as a backup, just make sure the account reflects your art practice in some way.
As an artist and a consultant, I designed a simple, straightforward website template that functions as the web equivalent of a white walled solo show. Art Cricket is able to host a few artist websites, and we have availability right now. We handle the tech and you provide the art and information. See our For Artists section for more details.