As an artist, we have all hopefully received compliments from time to time from friends and those who have purchased our work or perhaps have just seen it.  When they do we need to ask if they would be willing to put it in writing for us.  Those comments are invaluable to read when we may be having a low day, but most importantly, they are especially important for our portfolio!  One gallery owner has stated that they are worth their weight in Gold!

     I know I keep saying that, but it IS really important IF you want to get representation through a gallery.  If you don't, then it is still nice to have them for yourself. Just make a memory book or scrapbook to keep for the future!

     You will find as I have, that most people are flattered when you ask for their testimonial.  It makes them feel that their opinion matters to you and others so they are usually very generous in their comments, and that never hurts!  That may not be true of everyone, but by and large people are happy to give you one.  It may surprise you when you read their comments.  They can be a real eye-opener to you and reveal aspects of your work you have never thought about, such as technique, colors, etc. that others notice and you just automatically seem to do without thinking.  I mean that in a good way too.  For example,  I had one of my mentors point that out to me when I asked for a critique of one of my paintings...she pointed to a spot in my painting that had more color than another, noting that the fact that the one spot had more color was a very advanced technique.  Hmm, I hadn't thought about doing that, I had just done it automatically! But, I didn't tell her that!  I just said "Thanks!"  The point is,  it made me feel really good and boosted my confidence considerably!

     Galleries like to see sales, testimonials, and photos of your art in the collectors home. If you can take the photo it's preferred since you know what it should look like, but if not, ask the collector to send you one explaining just what you want.  Galleries also like to see that you teach in some way.  It doesn't have to be a formal school, just teaching one person by helping them work on their art ability still qualifies as teaching and allows you to say you teach.  Of course, now and again you may get the gallery owner that pushes and wants details.  That can be tough, so do more if you can. Teach one-on-one, small groups, through community education, through your art association, or if you have a large enough space, in your home.  All can work and you might be surprised how popular your classes become!  I have an artist friend who has what she calls "Art Parties" in which she charges a reasonable fee for each person and provides all the materials.  The host provides the food and music.  Everyone completes a simple painting and has fun in the process.  Her "Art Parties" are quite popular! She averages 10 people or so per party. It works well and she makes money in the process.

     So, start getting testimonials and references from friends and collectors and remember, don't be shy about asking!  You are flattering them just by asking for their opinion and if it turns out not to be helpful, you don't need to tell them, just don't add it to your portfolio.

     One other thing galleries like to see is donations of both paintings and effort.  I donate when I can.  Charities, schools, art associations are all possibilities.  It makes you look good and in reality doesn't cost you a lot but is worth quite a bit to them.  For instance,  when we lived in Portland, Texas years ago, I offered to paint a large mural on the wall of the school my children attended. They had a multi-purpose room like most schools nowadays with no windows or pictures of any kind. I drew up a sketch and presented it to the principal who loved the idea. Interestingly, he said he had actually asked the high school art students to do one and they weren't interested.  All I asked was they pay $20 for the materials needed.  In return, they asked me to paint during lunchtime so the students could watch me work. The mural was a great success, everyone loved it and the students were very enthusiastic.  Based on the theme of careers the students could pursue, I painted books in the middle and had 12 characters stepping out of them in both directions each in the uniform of a selected career.  Across the top I painted the words "You Can Make Your Dreams Come True" and the books represented the education necessary to achieve those goals.  As a result, the local newspaper wrote an article about the mural with photos of me painting it.  I still have that article in my portfolio.

     Our small Art Association on the beach needs a new sign so, knowing it is expensive, I volunteered to paint it for them if they provide the board.  Your being alert to doing a kindness for others can go a long way toward getting privileges you may seek.  So look for things you can do to help out where there is a need.  It doesn't have to be a large 30ft mural or a large sign,  just a small painting donated to a good cause may be all that is needed.  Ask those in charge and keep your eyes open for an opportunity, you may be surprised by the results!

     Below is the photo of the mural and the article written about it in the newspaper. The mural was 30' wide so it took several photos to get it all in.  Not perfect, sad to say.  If I ever go back and it is still there,  (it was painted in 1987)  I"ll get better photos for sure!

4FT X 30FT
Acrylic enamel
W. C. Andrews Elementary School, Portland, Texas


You can see how large this mural really was by this photo.  The character on the left is actually the school principal in caricature.  I also did the science teacher (in the white lab coat, holding frog) and the school nurse the same way.  There were all popular with the students which made it even more fun.  I had an astronaut, farmer (this was a large agricultural area), secretary, doctor, police officer, ballerina, the science teacher, fireman, the nurse and principal, Houston Astros baseball player, and the most talked about, a FEMALE construction worker!  She almost started fights among the kids over whether girls could have that kind of job.  Remember, this was the 1980's when women were just getting starting to do "men's work"

30 X 40
Acrylic - Gallery wrap canvas

This is an example of just how you want your photo of the artwork in the collectors home to look.  A photo  of the painting  even further back is also good.  In this particular case though,  I found this shot to be the best advantage.


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