I have a new show of my paintings in oil up at the Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara. It’s shocking to realize that I’ve been in their care for over twenty years, and this is my tenth major show with them.
Every time a show is coming up for me, I set out a considerable display of new paintings in my back yard for the gallery representative to come out and select the pieces.
I hope for about a third of what I present to be chosen to show in the gallery, but sometimes it’s less. I’m always nervous about this, because I have my favorites, and the way I work, with several distinct styles and different palettes, means that selecting paintings that will hang well together, and not claw each other off the walls, is a challenge.
My personal desire is to have a range of sizes, approaches, and palettes represented, and I favor keeping prices down. There are curious prejudices though, where some buyers will look at a lower-priced work and decide the price is its real value. Not so. Paintings in a show like this are always underpriced. Each one is far more than the hours of work and research it took to paint. Each one represents the artist’s life to that moment, and is made by the tides of all the past. Because of this, any hand-made piece of excellence should rise over time in value. And as for me, I’d prefer my small paintings to be a gateway ‘drug’, reasonably affordable, so that my paintings will go out into the world and be enjoyed by all kinds of people.
Fifty percent of each sale goes to the gallery, which may seem high to you, but you must remember that the gallery has a range of upkeep costs– advertising, staffing and security among them. It’s a complicated business, and requires expertise and judgment. Galleries come and go at the drop of a hat. The staff need to have a good sense of people, and when a strong match might be made between a particular work and a particular customer. I’ve tried selling my work, but I am untalented at this matchmaking. Looking at what the gallery people do, I can only feel intense gratitude that I’m represented by them.
When you think about it, a painting should keep its person company for a lifetime.