Building Connections

So many ways of building connections:

As an artist you most probably enjoy `doing your thing’. That is, taking time out to paint as often as you can, forever exploring new concepts and perfecting your style and talent. You enjoy painting so much you can’t help yourself, it’s `in your blood’, so naturally you think and breathe it all the time. Each painting you paint is `your baby’, something you’ve been passionately working on.


But will you ever get around to selling it? What do you think your art is worth? It’s fantastic, dynamic, remarkable, the best!?

Inspired by a South Aftrican scene.

The bottom line is your art isn’t worth anything unless it is sold!

  • No one knows what your talent is like, unless they see it. Seeing is believing! Ultimately people don’t support or back you unless they feel passionately about your art, see that you have unique talent and how committed you are.
  • Also it’s who you know! Network and build connections. Socializing is like `throwing a stone in water and watching the ripples spread and expand’.
  • Oh and capital: Money begets money! You won’t go very far without substantial finances. Framing, wall space in galleries and advertising costs money.
  • Personality counts! Do you have charisma? How do you come across in social events, perhaps on TV shows, etc? Are you an interesting fascinating person? Do you know what you are talking about? 5)  Appearance does count! It’s strange but people also tend to judge an artist’s talent by the artists appearance! What you wear and your body language.
  • Fame means taking up challenges, doing research, being extra observant, creating extraordinary unique work.
  • Folks want to know if you are still painting. I get asked this often. They are so busy coping with their families and careers, that they forget to keep in touch. Keeping people in touch means keep `throwing in more stones in the pond. Making not only ripples but waves in the sea’.
  • Once you are famous people expect you to keep up production. Like writing a best seller, once people love the quality and style of your work, they want more and more, quicker and quicker.

Building connections the right way:

Status connections:

Building connections isn’t easy. If you are starting out selling your art, a lot of galleries won’t accept you unless you belong to an art group. They are influenced by the status of the society you associate with, prominent club, school or college you attended. If you need to join an art group or society:

  • Belong to one which has intellectual stimulus and prominent artists demonstrate on a regular basis.
  • Or build a friendly like-minded community group where artists can discuss their latest findings and encourage each other.

Art societies:

Don’t join an art club or art group until you have fully investigated it. In the interest of being choosy of which club to join, be aware of undercurrent, in-house politics and protocol. Such as presidential clicks safe guarding their status:

  • On the surface they are friendly but talent is discredited if they feel threatened by new talent.
  • At exhibits you could possibly find your painting dumped on the floor and someone else’s painting is on your personal easel. Or your painting lands up in a dark corner.
  • Or strangely your newsletter doesn’t arrive or exhibit form gets `lost in the post’.

Other considerations:

  • How often are privileged friends of the committee selected to do demos when a renowned guest artist couldn’t be found?
  • Annual fees may look low at first glance, but consider additional costs that may occur. Such as your turn to provide eats, lending of art books, exhibit fees, etc that you didn’t anticipate.

If you can’t find or join an art society, make it happen!

Build your own art group:

Build a network of unbiased artists who take their work seriously. Get-to-gathers somewhat like the Impressionists did, when they gathered at Café Guerbois in Paris.

Where possible include gallery owners, fiscal business men who have an interest in art and also visual media connections into your network. If your group has lots of media coverage and receive favourable criting, your group could possibly become prominent and have some influence on the national market. And possibly, eventually on the international network if it has enough prestige backing.

Open air club:

Organize country trips for the artists of your group to do location fieldwork. The type of setup will depend on the personalities, abilities and finances of the group.

At-home socials:

Less serious arts prefer social gatherings where getting together for a chat is a priority. In this case art is part of the entertainment. Invite people to your home where they can watch demos and where advice is given if called upon. Suggest a theme for each event so they know what to expect and bring for the next meeting, eg:

  • Provide `gallery parties’ that include other artists’ work as well.
  • Provide a happy atmosphere and fun-filled events.
  • Leave catalogue and pamphlets of your meetings at the local library.

Networking with local business owners:

Host a monthly group get together of business men, for light snacks or breakfast, either at your place or at a local restaurant for a pleasant enjoyable meeting.

The objective is for everyone to express what is happening in their business, the latest trends, results of projects they initiated, any funny things that occurred in their business, etc. The point is, it’s a support structure and everyone benefits from `keeping their finger on the pulse’ of what’s happening locally and in the business world.

And how would you benefit as an artist from this business group? Art is also a business. Paintings are sold through the right connections. Example: Professional artwork looks good displayed in reception entrances, illustrates the prestige status of the business. Doctors like paintings hanging in their consulting rooms, seminar venues and lodges like art décor, and décor firms need a supply of good art, etc. Paintings can be sold out right or exchange on a monthly contract.

We all have different lifestyles and needs:

Whatever your setup you decide on, consider your spouse and circumstances. How would it fit into your way of living? Are you a loner, do you need more time to produce the work you do? What goals do you have?

How as an artist did you build your own connections?

For more advice on how to get your art sold, check the Art & Fame page and category.

Using Artistic Talent Agencies

Promoting your artistic talent through talent agencies:

To get your artistic talent recognized, you need to get your work into galleries that have in-house agents who know how to promote your art in the media and attach the right investors. Or you could employ an agent that specializes in promoting artists and their work.

Sunset over marsh.

Elite galleries:

To get accepted into elite galleries you may even have to stand before a board of directors before your work is accepted. The directors often consist of major investors or a selective group of artists.

Their commission is about 40-70 percent, depending on how much and what type of promoting they do, their status and milieu district.

If your art is unknown to art dealers ten-to-one your paintings won’t be hung, but left in the gallery’s back room until they have done some cautious research on you and your marketability. On the other hand it may be reserved in the back room for particular clients’ perusal.

It is up to you to find out what is happening with your art in galleries, if it’s been viewed or promoted in any way. Some gallery don’t know how to or not interested in promoting artists in the media. If your paintings aren’t selling in a gallery remove it straight away and find a more suitable venue. If your art is really good, you want a gallery owner that is really impressed and believes in your talent. Lukewarm attitude never sells a painting!

Private talent agencies:

These guys are generally home based and travel around the country selling to investors and getting consignments into galleries. Their commission depends on assignment contracts, their travelling and accommodation costs.

Your frames can possibly be damaged in transit. The damage rate is higher than shop based galleries. Some agents are not trustworthy. A genuine agent will have insurance and protection coverage and he will keep you informed about peoples’ responses, commissions and sales.

Investment art dealers have strict elite establishments. I smile when I think of one opulent bachelor agent who not only had a secretary but even a snooty butler to fend off lesser artists and clientele!

First off they’ll judge your work against contemporary standards. Secondly your work must have distinct unique style. Why, because people will pay more for your exclusive style. It is your hallmark. If your technique is easily recognizable, people tend to say, “That’s a — (the name of the artist) painting!”

Talent scouts:

In some countries galleries think it worthwhile sending out talent scouts to look for new exciting fresh talent. They know both the gallery and the artist benefit from the use of talent scouts.

Talent scouts attend exhibits, seminars and travel rummaging and ferreting out information about artists. Some even look out for talent at root level to grow future talent. They encourage schools to exhibit, give guidance and advice to possible up and coming generations of artists.

The scouts then report back at least once a week to the gallery. This way the gallery owner gets to know what potential is out there. To keep the business running they must `have their finger on the pulse’ in all areas if they want to be first on new trends, instead of `riding on other people’s second-hand wagons’.


Some artists think their work is sent to the grave when it lands up in a museum, but they forget a greater number of people are likely to see your work there. Children are taken there as part of their education, tourists go there and people like to use it as a meeting place or idle away the hours there.

It’s an endorsement of the value of your work. Also in symbolic terms a narrative and cultural contribution to society. In the long-term, ie the time it hangs there, means your talent will be revered many centuries.

And artists go to museums to learn technique from the masters. That’s what I did as a youngster. Every time I was in town and had spare time before catching the train home, I would wonder around from room to room, relishing in each painting. And then stand or sit down in front of a chosen painting for that particular day and scrutinize each and every brushstroke, how they composed the composition, what colour scheme they used, etc. I learnt such a lot from those great masters. At one time (while still at school) one of my paintings hung in that Durban central museum due to a competition held by the educational department. It was very inspiring. My love of art grew from those experiences.

Club venues:

If artists want to start an art club they need to club together, pool resources and share exhibits to reduce overhead costs.

There are different types of art clubs:

1)  Exclusive gallery: This is where 6-16 professional artists get together and set up a gallery in a prestigious position in an affluent district. Prospective artists are interviewed and their work assessed by the initial board members to see if they fit in with the existing members.

2)  Watercolourists Societies: Each month members attend demonstrations done by other artists. As to exhibits, your work is judged before each exhibit and a selection is picked from entries. Traditionally no opaque pigments are allowed. Commission fees on exhibit sales are dependent on the overheads of the venue.

3)  Art class exhibits are an incentive for member students to attend regularly. The teacher asks for an additional fee towards renting exhibit venues. A good time for exhibits is during a cultural festival or librarian cultural week in the local civic centre.

4)  Open-market studios: Artists get together and rent a hall or empty factory space, on a regular basis. At the race track or a public through-fare, where the general public can view them at work. Each artist has his or her own stall where they can display their work framed or unframed. The venue should have good natural lighting and good parking facilities.

5)  Community meander: A group of artists living within a certain area get together and provide a communal map pamphlet and submit it to the regional tourist board. The artists must make their homes and studios interesting and fascinating, to make it a worthwhile visit by tourists.

6)  Exotic venue: You can integrate the above to suit your milieu and environmental conditions. This market complex venue has more than one avenue of art promotion and types of trading facilities. Where a group or community of artists provide different experiences where the public can easily meander from shop to shop. For example: possible tourist trading during the day, refreshment centre and club for artists, seminars and night art classes, and even close by accommodation for country location fieldwork.


  • Do you have talent scouts in your country? What do you think could be done more to find unknown artists with exceptional talent?
  • How young artists are taught art and inspired in your country? Do local artists go to schools and demonstrate their personal techniques?
  • What has been your personal experience as a young artist? What inspired you?
  • How do artists get together in your community? What is so special or effective in your `market place’

Hope you find my art blogs informative and interesting. For more advice on getting your art sold, check out the Art & Fame page.