RSS Feed
Oct 28

A Working Artists’ Life

Posted on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 in Animal Art

The Eyes of the Tiger

The Eyes of the Tiger

I have earned my living as a  wildlife artist for more than 30 years now.It is a  great profession and a wonderful way to make money… Working every day and completing paintings for art galleries is a terrific business. However, it has come to my attention that art sells better when the stock market goes up. Duh! What a surprise!

Art is always going to be a part of most people’s lives in one form or another, either fine art, films, music, theater or literature. Even when art is enjoyed by the public at large, though, it is still difficult to support ones lifestyle through the sale of art.

Creating fine art paintings is actually more complex than one would expect. The idea for the painting starts the process, then the reference material needs to be obtained and copyrights duly noted. Following that the artist needs to prepare the canvas or paper for the painting.

If it is canvas, then it must be stretched, braced, then sized and gessoed. Then, the image for the painting must be transferred to the canvas. Then the drawing should be sealed. After that, painting can proceed. First the values must be established, that is, the dark and light areas, and then the values shown cool or warm tones showing the light source. The details of the images can then be painted using the reference material for accuracy.

This whole process can take up to six months for one painting. If the painting is a commission, the artist gets paid when the painting is completed. If the artist is painting to establish an inventory for the gallery showing the work, then the artist does not get paid until the painting is sold. Most galleries require at least 15 original paintings per artist represented.

Once the fine art painting is sold, then the art gallery gives the artist 50% of the sale price of the painting. A fifty percent commission is standard for the industry although some galleries in smaller metro areas may charge the artist less than fifty percent to sell their art. The artist must wait for two weeks or more for the payment to be received.

For the working artist, this creates a dilemma. Does the working artist place all of their work in art galleries waiting patiently for the art to sell and then waiting patiently for the gallery to send the payment? Or does the working artist go to art fairs where they have control of the hoped for sale and instant payment? Some artists decide to do both, especially if art galleries are not selling or are closing their doors.

The business of art is reluctantly embraced by most artists. It is not the fun side of creating art. It is a necessary part of any successful artist’s career however and cannot be ignored if an artist wants to continue working at this great career.

Oct 7

Artists and Gallery Owners

Posted on Wednesday, October 7, 2009 in Animal Art

The Eyes of the Tiger

The Eyes of the Tiger

Artists and art gallery owners have historically had a love-hate relationship.  Artists who market their artwork through art galleries need to maintain a cordial relationship with the gallery owner.  This is important for the artist to continue to make a living through sales of their artwork.  Sometimes though, this cordial relationship can be strained, as I will explain.


I have shown my art work in art galleries for over 35 years.  I have exhibited my paintings in more than thirty art galleries over the span of my art career.  I have had long and short gallery relationships.  I currently show my art in four galleries in the US and Japan.  I am very happy with these galleries.


In order for an artist and a gallery to have good communication, the artist needs to document all artwork in the gallery.  Also, the artist and the gallery need to have very clear understandings for all aspects of showing and selling the artwork.


I had a very extreme example of this lack of a clear understanding with a gallery in San Francisco that I had a very short relationship with.  I was asked by the gallery owner to exhibit my artwork at this gallery and prepare for a one woman show of my work soon after my work had been in the gallery.  The gallery owner published an exhibit poster for the show which I signed for the show attendants.  Ahead of the show, I informed the gallery owner that I had a fundraiser art show I would be attending two days following the show.  I would be removing my artworks, all of which I had framed for the show.  I would be gone for one week and then be returning the art to the gallery.  The gallery owner verbally agreed to my terms. 


I failed to have the owner sign the agreement stating that I would be removing my artwork temporarily two days following the show.  I mailed the information to her but she did not sign it.  I did not think that it was that important to get her signature on my agreement that I was picking up the art on a given date.  After all, I had notified her in advance of the show.


Unfortunately, the gallery owner saw things differently.  When I arrived at the gallery, two days following the show, with my assistant to pick up the artwork, I was met at the door of the gallery by the owner.  Even though, I thought I had a cordial relationship with this gallery owner, I found out this was not the case.  She acted very surprised that I was there. I told her that I was picking up my paintings as I had told her I would do for my fundraiser.  I repeated that I would bring the artwork back in one week.  This did not satisfy her at all.  She refused to allow me to remove my art, even briefly.  She would not even let me take one painting off the wall.  I attempted to reason with her.  She would not hear any explanation.

 She said that she had pending sales that would be lost if I removed the paintings.  I asked which paintings might have pending sales.  She could only mention one painting, a large oil of a Bengal tiger which she was certain she could sell.  I said I would be returning the paintings in one week.  This went back and forth for about five minutes.  Then, suddenly, she snapped. 

 She yelled for her assistant to lock the door.  I told my assistant to run for the police.  She escaped out the door before it was locked.  The gallery owner then grabbed me by the arms and we wrestled for the tiger painting.  As the gallery owner weighed over 300 lbs, and I weighed 110 lbs, she won, wrenching my right wrist in the process.

  Meanwhile, my assistant arrived back with the police.  They banged on the door and soon the owner unlocked the door.  My assistant and I explained the situation.  The owner soon backed down and we removed all the artwork, except for the tiger painting which she kept.  The tiger painting was priced at $6000 so I was pretty upset that I would not be able to get the painting back. 

 I later filed a lawsuit against the owner for wrongful imprisonment and injury to my right wrist.  I won the claim and received $25,000 from the gallery owner.  Needless to say, this gallery owner and I parted company. 


This experience highlights how important it is for the artist to get everything in writing and to have a very clear understanding with the gallery owner before the artist places their art in the gallery.