Saturday, 17 September 2011


Artists are as shy as woodland creatures. They hide, and only emerge at twilight when tempted by a trail of warm white wine in paper cups. After establishing trust by telling them you love their work they might even drink out of your hand.

I am not like that. I don’t believe there is some kind of fairy art-mother who will correct my use of colour, improve my brush strokes, and announce: “You shall be selected for the next Saatchi New Sensations show!” before my slot on The Culture Show (but then I screw up by leaving after midnight and all my work turns into Vettriano looky-likeys, and I am forced to paint a portrait of the queen, or am I alone in waking up screaming after that particular nightmare?)

But I don’t have an agent, a gallery, or any representation at all. My exhibitions so far were down to my own efforts, or a gallerist coincidentally stumbling upon my work online.

And so I am being pushy.

I want a show and to sell some work, but I have no idea how to go about this. So I updated my artist CV, polished the bollocks-speak in my artist statement, and emailed galleries, asking simply if they have space or time to show my work. Aw bless my naïve little soul.

And of course, I’m still waiting. Even the gallery that asked to show my work was incommunicado, and was amazed when I tracked her down via the clever people at BT and was crafty enough to phone. She seemed confused, but I twisted her arm, and she has agreed to show work...eventually. (I know: a gallery owner being flaky and disorganised. Astonishing.)

And there are so many galleries in every city. There are public galleries, boutique private galleries which choose work on the whim of the owner, strange galleries where they sell only chocolate-box landscapes and cat portraits. I am grateful that this campaign is possible using email, as postage would bankrupt me. I am also certain that those emails are instantly deleted.

Perhaps I should use the old-fashioned postal system, and send carefully printed examples of work, my cleverly designed business card enlcosed, but there is something contrived about that.

When an emerging artist is adopted by a name gallery, you wonder how this came to be. Perhaps it’s word of mouth, or who they know, or maybe those artists are pushier than I am. Possibly, there’s a knack, a trick to sending emails or invites. Is it the timing, or the title. Is it down to the image and personality of the artist: must they be authentically wizened and crazy, child-like, amazed and trendy, or stoically professional and business-like?

I know I am unlikely to be selected for a retrospective at The Tate, but a well-chosen piece exhibited in a regional gallery: is that too much to ask?

I need advice. Seriously – is anyone out there? How do I this, because being innocent isn’t going to help with this part of my project.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Not sure why you removed that! No - I'm not at a loose end: I have a reason for 'pushing' this!
    Thanks for reading though.

  3. Hi Penny,

    I couldnt agree more with your very well written blog. I think the whole thing about it is to be pushy and create a hype about yourself and your work as an artist.

    There are a great many artists out there who are unable to promote themselves for whatever reason. However good they are it makes no difference if they are unable to get themselves out there and make galleries etc aware of thier work. Its a solo pursuit painting and promotion is no different. Sometimes I think that the (reasonably) easy bit is creating a painting and covincing others is to take you on and liking your art is the tricky bit.

    I am not quite there yet but my perseverance has so far got me into some galleries and an agent. Its early days for me as a painter but one step at a time and wearing people down to submission (figratively speaking) is working well for me so far.

    All the very best to you.

    Jody Kelly

  4. Thanks Jody. I am writing about this for a newspaper article, and so any stories, or tips are gratefully received. And good luck to you as well!


Life drawing again.

Life drawing again.

Life Drawing

Life Drawing
Almost human