Guest Post: Linda Esterley on Submitting Artwork

I loved Linda’s post about the generosity of artists, and I love her thorough explanation of what you need to do if you want to submit your work to a show or a gallery. This is one of those where you might want to take some notes–or at least bookmark it for future reference. There’s advice here that I hadn’t ever even considered: smart, savvy tips that will keep you from making some of the novice’s mistakes when you begin submitting artwork.

Here’s Linda:

Having been on both sides of the canvas now, I can tell you that there are definite do’s and don’t’s to getting your work seen and then becoming a gallery favorite.


First, investigate a gallery  – is the artwork they represent similar to yours?  Do they represent only artists local to their area?  In other words, if the gallery only shows works in red glass made by artists on their street, and is called Red Glass on Our Street Gallery, don’t even think about sending your blue ceramic piece.  Make sure your work seems like a good fit for their “specialty.”  Also look for details about how to apply for selection, or if they do not want inquiries at all.  Some galleries prefer to find their own artists however they choose.  Some galleries exist just to show their own art or a group of friends’ art – a co-op type of situation.


The next step is to inquire if they are accepting images for consideration for inclusion in the gallery.  If so, how would they prefer those images be sent?  Be sure you are addressing the email, letter, etc., to a specific person, if you are able to.  You usually are able to, with a small bit of effort investigating.


Most galleries or shows have a specific way that they want to receive images of your work.  For the most part, gone are the days of wrapping your piece to within an inch of its life and mailing it to the jury for (hopeful) selection.  Most jurors or curators prefer good quality, representative jpgs in a particular size.  It is important to provide your images exactly as they ask for them, labeled exactly as they request or your work may be rejected before it even makes it past a screener.  If you don’t have a good camera or are not able to capture a perfect shot of your work, hire a professional photographer who specializes in product shots or artwork shots.  This is well-spent money – much like buying a new suit to apply for a job, this is your artwork’s “interview” that you’ll be sending it to!


It’s important to note that most galleries do not accept randomly sent images and will not respond to the email, or return slides, prints, etc.  They are hugely busy with the artists and shows they are currently juggling and will often get annoyed to the point of never looking at your work.  I know, but move on.


A well written, spell checked, brief letter of inquiry with no attached images will usually get answered – if the gallery accepts inquiries.


Once you’ve politely inquired, one of two things will happen.  Well, three, actually.  Either long, cold months will pass with no reply; you will receive a “thanks but no thanks” reply; or sweet ecstasy – they love you, they really love you and want your work!


The first order of business is to write a heartfelt thank you for taking time to consider your submission, whether they rejected you or accepted you.  (In the long, cold months scenario, just walk away).  Gallery owners are busier than the mother of flu-stricken triplets, and for someone to have carved out time to look at your work and decide to make space for it in their gallery is worthy of a prompt “thank you.”  Space = money in a gallery.


That’s Part I; come back Friday for Part II~~

Until then, check out Linda’s website and blog. Or for more advice and insights from other artists, check out Seth Apter’s book The Pulse of Mixed Media: Secrets and Passions of 100 Artists Revealed.

Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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