The 6 Most Common Mistakes Artists Make When Approaching Galleries

(And How to Avoid Them)


On an average week, I may be approached by as many as 20-35 artists looking for gallery representation. Most of these artists are ineffective in their approach. Are you making the same mistakes?


Before I explain, let me introduce myself. My name is Jason Horejs. I opened Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2001. I'm fortunate to work with some very talented artists and great collectors.


As a gallery owner, I frequently interact with artists trying to find gallery representation for their art. Several months ago, I launched a free, online e-course that will help artists like you approach galleries in an organized, systematic, and professional manner.


In the e-course, I will give you step by step instructions on how to prepare yourself and your work to approach galleries, and I will help you avoid making common mistakes, like the ones listed below.


Mistake #1: Presenting an inconsistent body of work.

Artists generally love their freedom. They want to experiment. They love a challenge. They crave variety. All good things, except when you are presenting your work to a gallery.


The work you present to a gallery needs to be unified. It doesn’t need to be repetitive or formulaic, but it must present you as a consistent artist with a clear vision.


Often I feel I am looking at the work of multiple artists as I review a single portfolio. To avoid this problem you need to find focus in your work.


If you work in several media and a variety of styles, focus on just one for the next 6-12 months. Create a body of work that feels like a “series”. Once you have 20-25 gallery-ready pieces in this series, you will be ready to approach a gallery.


You can further create consistency by presenting the work in a cohesive way. Use similar frames for all of your paintings or photographs, similar bases for your sculptures, or similar settings for your artistic jewelry. Make it very clear all of the work is by the same artist.


If you simply can’t rein your style in, consider creating multiple portfolios, one for each style.


Don’t confuse the galleries you approach with multiple styles in your portfolio.



Mistake #2: Producing insufficient work to sustain gallery sales.

Many artists create marketable work, but in quantities too low to make a gallery relationship viable. Successful artists are consistently in the studio creating artwork. You may be surprised to learn the results of a recent survey I conducted.


I asked artists how many new works they created in the last twelve months. Painters responded that on average they were creating 53 pieces every twelve months; sculptors 31; glass artists 500!


Gallery owners need to feel confident you will replace sold art quickly and maintain high quality. They want to know that if you are successful you can replenish their inventory.


Don’t despair if you are far from reaching this goal. Rather, look at your creative production for the last year and set a goal to increase the production by 25% in the next 12 months.


Several suggestions to increase your productivity:


  1. Dedicate time daily to your art. Maybe your schedule will only allow for two hours daily, but you will produce more by working for those two hours every day than you will by waiting for big blocks of time. Treat your studio time as sacred. Train your family and friends to respect that time. You don’t interrupt them when they are at work; ask them the same courtesy when you are in the studio.
  2. Set a production goal. If I could tell you the secret to producing 50, or 100 pieces per year, would you listen? Here it is: create 1 or 2 pieces per week. I know it seems overly simple, yet few artists work in a concerted, disciplined way to achieve this goal. (A common objection I hear to this suggestion is that quality will suffer if an artist works this quickly. In my experience, the opposite is true. A certain level of quality may only be obtained by putting miles on the paintbrush, spending hours in the darkroom, moving tons of clay or stone.)
  3. Remove distractions from the studio. Move your computer to another room. Unplug the telephone. Nothing kills an artist’s focus faster than the constant interruption of technology. Your inbox and voicemail will keep your messages safe while you work.


Mistake #3: Delivering a portfolio in a format inconvenient for gallery review.

Often your portfolio is your only chance to show your work to a gallery owner. Poorly formatted portfolios are rarely viewed. Your portfolio should be concise, simple, informative and accessible.


25 years ago, formatting a portfolio was simple. A portfolio was either a literal portfolio with sheet protectors and photos, or a slide sheet.


The choices have since multiplied. CD? Digital hardbound photo-book? .Pdf file? Email? Which format is the most effective? None of these, actually. Each has drawbacks limiting effectiveness. They are either too much work for the gallery owner to access, too easy to delete, or too hard for you to maintain.


During the free e-course, I will show an example of a perfect portfolio. Easy to maintain, easy to share. Successful.


A couple of things to keep in mind with your portfolio:


  1. Your portfolio should contain no more than 20-25 of your most recent works. You should not create an all-inclusive portfolio. A gallery owner does not want to see your life’s work. They want to see your best, most current, most relevant work.
  2. On each page you should include pertinent, relevant information about the art. Include the title, the medium, the size, and the price. Don’t include the date of artwork creation.
  3. Place your bio, artist’s statement, and resume at the back of the portfolio, not the beginning. Your artwork is the most important feature of the portfolio, don’t bury it behind your info. Limit press clippings, and magazine articles to 2-3 pages.
  4. Include 2-3 images of sold artwork. You should try to include at least one photo of your artwork installed. These images will establish your credibility more rapidly than any resume ever could.


In the "Starving" to Successful E-course, I will teach you how to create a powerful portfolio. Your new portfolio will end up in gallery owner’s hands, rather than in the garbage can.


(Free Registration)


Mistake #4: Lacking confidence and consistency in pricing.

One of the greatest challenges facing you as an artist is knowing how to correctly value your work. Many artists price their work emotionally, and inconsistently. Galleries can’t sell wrongly priced art.


Worse, nothing will betray an unprepared artist like not knowing how to price his/her work.


Many artists mistakenly under-price their work. They do this because they feel they are not established. They do it because their local art market won’t sustain higher prices. They do it because they lack confidence in their work.


In the e-course I will help you come up with a consistent, systematic formula for pricing your art.


Is your work priced correctly?

(Free Registration)


Mistake #5: Approaching the wrong galleries.

My gallery is located in an art market dominated by Southwest and Western subject matter. My gallery stands apart from most of the galleries in Arizona because I have chosen art outside the norms. Yet I am constantly contacted by Western and Southwestern artists. They seem surprised and hurt when I turn them away. They could have saved us both some discomfort by researching my gallery before approaching.


Which markets should you approach first? How should you research the galleries? Is it safe to work with galleries in out-of-state markets?


The "Starving" to Successful E-course will teach you how to create a list of qualified, appropriate galleries to contact (I will also teach you how to approach them).

(Free Registration)


Mistake #6: Submitting art through the wrong channels.

Conventional wisdom, and even some highly respected art marketing books will advise you to send your portfolio with a cover letter to the gallery. You may also hear it's best to call a gallery and try to make an appointment to meet the owner. You might visit a gallery's website to learn of their submission guidelines.


In my experience, these methods all guarantee failure. I will share with you a more direct, simpler approach; this approach will tremendously improve your chances of success. The approach is no secret, and yet most artists don’t employ it.


Find the solutions to avoiding all these mistakes in the "Starving" to Successful E-course.


In addition to learning how to avoid the mistakes listed above, in the "Starving" Artist to Successful E-course, you will also see clearly how to effectively organize your work, build your brand as an artist, communicate effectively with your galleries, and much more.


I will give you concrete steps you can take to systematically prepare for gallery relationships.


(Free Registration)



I invite you to read below to learn more about the E-Course, and then register today.







J. Jason Horejs


Owner | Xanadu Gallery


Scottsdale, AZ




The E-Course is Free

We've created the course to provide a simple, structured way for artists to learn how to get into galleries and sell more art. We are pleased to offer this course as a free resource to the artist community.




The E-Course is currently in Beta version. What does this mean? As a new program, we are still polishing up the course and doing some testing to make it as effective as possible. Early registrants to the course may see a few rough edges as we work to finalize the program.





How Will the E-Course Work?

After signing up for the E-Course, you will receive a welcome email with instructions for participation. Over the course of the next several months, We will send you follow-up emails, each with a lesson and many with brief assignments, and requests for input. We understand how busy your schedule is, so we have developed the courses in a way that will make your involvement simple. No lesson should take more than 10-15 minutes, and because they are coming via email, you can do the lessons at your own pace. We encourage you to commit to respond to the emails within 3-4 days so that you keep on track with the course. If there are times that your schedule prevents you from doing so, you can always catch up at your convenience.




Lessons will consist of a brief reading or video presentation, followed by a brief assignment where you will email me a response or send me images of your work. To take the course, you don't need to have any technical ability beyond the ability to reply to an email.



Sign up Now! (Free!)

Registration is simple and there is no charge. Complete the form below and follow the instructions you receive via email. We look forward to having you in this new e-course!



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