Art Biz

Freedom Plan is Working!

The grand plan — to build up an inventory of finished crows/ravens to free up an hour or two of studio time each day to make whatever I want to make — is working! Crow orders help provide a good ba$e, allowing me freedom to experiment with mixed media sculpture.

Recent “Grand Slam” order on Etsy, for one of every crow/raven design I make! Nice order!



See seeds of ideas for this sculpture a couple posts back. Hand hammered aluminum, one of a kind, available on Etsy (click on image)




No, it’s not a mask, just goofing around…
Nearly completed hand hammered metal sculpture to hang on wall…faux taxidermy style
New goat sculpture in process, I try to add one or two new parts each day. Note handmade copper rivets above nostrils; I can only use them where I have good hammer access to both sides, otherwise I use aluminum blind rivets.
Beginnings of new goat sculpture, three or four times as large as previous goat sculpture

It continues to amaze me just how difficult it is to carve out time to sculpt! So many competing demands…each day is like out-of-control whack-a-mole! (But at least I have lots of hammers now  😉 )

On the positive side, it’s *so* encouraging to have my reward (free sculpting time) only hours away (“if I finish these six crows/ravens, and these five errands/tasks, then I can sculpt!”) instead of months (building up inventory of around 150 finished crows/ravens) or years (whole house remodel spanning 2014/15/16). This may be about as good as it’s gonna get…we’ll see…I’ll continue to stave off outside obligations, and continue to find efficiencies in daily tasks, to scavenge as many extra minutes as I can for free sculpture time each day!

Longstanding goal reached…


This entry likely won’t mean much to anyone but me…but part of the purpose of this blog is for me to be able to look back at where I’ve been…so I want to document/celebrate this major accomplishment: Today I caught up on crows/ravens! It’s a goal I’ve fantasized about for years: to get ahead of the game by filling all my 11 inventory boxes (one for each design) with nicely burnished, ready-to-ship sculptures. Today I finished! I now have a “cushion” of around 130 finished pieces to shield me from the tyranny of the urgent.


Why is this a big deal, you may ask? Well, previously when a large crow/raven order came in, I’d have to stop whatever I was working on and spend the next several days or weeks on non-stop casting, burnishing, shipping. Often the gallery who placed the order had waited until they were completely out of one or more designs, so there would be urgency to get the order out. And whatever self-expressive project I might have been working on before the order came in was all but forgotten…momentum/energy dissipated. But NOW, I’ll be able to ship right away; and to replenish my inventory I won’t have to suspend my self-expressive work but rather can spend two or three unharried hours a day on crows/ravens, with the remainder of each day FREE to work on fresh, experimental artwork… Guilt Free!

This new system also gives me an easily definable stopping point: full boxes. Once they’re full, I can make whatever I want — all day, every day! (and did I mention, Guilt Free?)

Let’s see…this will be the free-est I’ve been since…well, for many many years…decades?!?…or maybe ever. It’s been a long struggle toward freedom, and I’ve aged (considerably) in the meantime, but I’m really looking forward to getting back a sense of play, exploration and experimentation in my work!


Nice Turnout for my Portrait Presentation to OSA

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Whew! Everything went swimmingly for my presentation yesterday. I appreciated the overflow crowd in OSA’s main hall. I gave a whirlwind overview of how to develop your inner artist, develop artistic skill, market your work, sell your work, and use positive energy generated from that cycle to spin the next cycle…circling back with renewed confidence and enthusiasm to further developing artistic skills. I did a demo (under the slant mirror on the stage so people could see) of laying out a limited palette of colors, mixing flesh tones, & mixing “black.” Then I did a quick painting demo of roughing-in, from photo reference I took a few months ago. I enjoyed the process more than I thought I might, and look forward to similar opportunities that might come along in the future.

Show went very well!

All the hard work preparing for the show was worth it! I had a great time painting for five days in a row, it was like a painting retreat. I received lots of positive comments, and many people said they would contact me for future commissions. I’m in communication with two prospects from the show who I think will follow through with commissions. I also got invited back by the show manager to be a demo artist at the Fall Home & Garden Show, Oct. 4-7, 2012 at the Expo Center. I’d like to be positioned with the Oregon Society of Artists again.

My booth (above) at the Spring Home & Garden Show about a week ago. As a designated “demo artist” I painted much of the time between 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. except for breaks.

I finished up a painting of one of my grandsons while at the show:

…thanks to Joel Bock Photography for permission to use one of his photos as reference. It was fun to work on Espen’s characteristic crooked little half grin.

I’m mostly recovered / caught up / unpacked from the show…and MORE than ready to dive back into painting.

RiverSea Preview Opening

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RiverSea Gallery “Obsession” show on Preview night, November 6, 2010.

This coming Saturday, November 13 from 5 to 8 Jackie and I (and Shannon) will be there again for the “regular” opening when locals converge on downtown Astroria for Second Saturday walkabout.

The trend toward having two openings — a “preview” night for art lovers and a second one for the masses — is ironically the result of the success of “gallery walks” nationwide. We’ve seen it happen in Portland; First Thursdays have become a party night where everyone parades themselves around downtown. Gallery hopping fills up some galleries with wine-sipping hipsters to the extent that it’s hard to see the art or get a word in edgewise with a gallerist. Hence the trend toward preview events for art lovers.

The preview at RiverSea went well, with each of us — Jackie, Shannon and myself — giving a brief “artist’s talk” to genuinely interested patrons. Everyone was quiet and attentive. Good questions were asked. Appreciation was expressed. Red dots were placed. This “art first” atmosphere would be less likely on “citywide party night.”

Fast Lane

I haven’t updated because I haven’t had any spare moments! I don’t now either, stealing sleep time for a quick update:

–Art in the Pearl was not as good a selling show as the Bellevue Arts Museum show was for me, but I had a great time seeing lots of friends and relatives since it was a hometown show. I made triple my expenses, which beats going in the hole! The AIP crowd seemed to be interested in coming for art’s sake. LOTS of encouraging comments about my work, which go a long way toward energizing me to keep on sculpting. Thanks to all of you who took the time to visit my booth and share your thoughts.

— Two weeks or so before Art in the Pearl we started moving our studios to a commercial space 10 miles away. It’s a monumental undertaking, largely dependent on me to do wiring, plumbing, carpentry, ventilation, and general logistics, so I’m in the fast lane from waking to falling into bed, seven days a week.

— Got an e-mail today from a regional community college asking for my work in an invitational sculpture show in Feb/Mar 2011. An honor to be asked, to be noticed. Said they’d attempt to get television and magazine coverage. I don’t think it would be a selling show, but I certainly have motivations other than $$ for sculpting…or else I wouldn’t be doing it! It might end up costing quite a bit for delivery expenses…I’d have to rent a truck. Too busy in my brain to figure out all the pros and cons at the moment…but as I said it’s nice to be noticed!

66,000 Generations of Reason | Step by Step

Attic Gallery says a collector is interested in my “66,000 Generations of Reason” and he’s curious how I made it. So I sent the above screen capture (from my Mac finder) to the proprietor today. It’s pretty low res, but gives a general idea of the steps involved. The gallery said they printed out some copies to have on hand for anyone else interested in my work.

The prospective buyer wasn’t sure how/where to display this large a piece … it would need about a 4′ x 4′ pedestal, admittedly quite a commitment of space. It would be easier if my sketchbook would give me wall pieces to make instead! But mine is not to question why …

RACC Panel: Professional Presentation for Artists

Best Ways for Professional Artists to Approach Galleries & Museums


Notes from an RACC panel discussion I attended Feb. 6, 2010



– curator of a university gallery

– two curators/retail gallery managers of art/craft institutions

– three downtown Portland fine art gallery owners


Two of the six panelists prefer CD’s

 – photo label on CD helps

– have ALL your info on the CD, including resume, contact info, statements etc

– an accompanying printout (thumbnails of what is on CD) is helpful

Scope out the gallery before sending anything to see if it’s a fit with your work

Dropping off a packet in person is OK as long as you do NOT interrupt their day, especially if they are with a customer. Do not bring actual artwork with you on a first contact.

All panelists kept coming back to: IT’S THE WORK! The rest is relatively unimportant compared to the work itself, and GOOD PHOTOS of it. Art education/degree not all that important compared to the work. One panelist said they’ve seen promising artists derailed by going to art school. Even “pipe fitters” who decide to become professional artists have as good a chance as someone with an MFA if their work is compelling, and in fact their journey may add more interest.

How do gallerists find artists? 

– actively go out and look for them

– or, artists come to them

– BMAC (Buyers Market of American Craft)

– magazines

– art blogs

– showcards / postcards

– existing gallery artists telling them about artist friends they think would be a good fit

– online networking leading to studio visits

– looking in windows of artists’ studios

– art festivals/fairs/shows, anyplace art is on display—so seek to show your artwork wherever/whenever possible, you never know who might see it

Don’t go to a lot of expense producing a fat packet to send out to galleries, because either:

– they will know from a quick glance at three to five photos that they love your work and will follow up by looking at your website (there are so few openings that they must “love” your work to even consider you)


– they’ll know from a quick glance at your photos that they don’t want your work so all the extra fluff will just be a waste of paper, time, postage and money (and will make the gallerist feel guilty). If the photos don’t move them, no amount of other information will make any difference.

Artist statement is very important, but keep it short. Same for bio/resume/CV—don’t “pad” your resume.

FaceBook, LinkedIn etc OK for show announcements and other news tidbits, but not as a substitute for a website.

Website is almost a requirement—well designed, simple, presents your work well, no bells & whistles, easy to navigate.

Do not sell via your website in a way that competes with your galleries. Prices should be at least as much (retail) as your galleries.

Panelists were split on the question of whether you should have pricing info on website. Said it’s OK to have some “sold” items if they are representative of current work.

They want to see a “body of work” as opposed to a few in this style, a few in that style … they assume the artist hasn’t “found his voice” if the work isn’t cohesive.

Think of your approach to a gallery from the gallery’s perspective. Put in writing why / how you think your work would fit in with what they’re trying to do.

OK to ask names/contact info for major collectors, in fact, it’s Oregon law that galleries give artists contact info for major purchases (although customers are not required to give contact info to gallery).

Don’t give art to a gallery that’s similar to work you’ve been selling out of your studio for less. Several such issues came up: basically just deal fairly, transparently, and with common sense. There needs to be trust both ways.

Studio visits:

– have a treat for the visitor so their blood sugar isn’t sagging (one panelist closed her eyes and mmmm’ed imagining blackberry cobbler, another EMPHATICALLY emphasized how important it is to have a treat for him…lol’s from audience)

– have more than three or four works for them to look at to make it worth their trip

– they use what they learn about your process and about you as an artist to help sell your work

– figure on about an hour to hour and a half, be prepared with specific things to talk about and show them

– all panelists seemed to really like doing studio visits

Having galleries in other parts of the country is a PLUS in many cases (as in ‘oh, yes, her work is also at so and so gallery in Chicago and New York’).

Be prepared for a LOT of rejections; MOSTLY rejections. It’s just math—hundreds of artists apply for every one accepted. There are MANY reasons for work not being accepted that don’t necessarily reflect poorly on your art (full stable of artists, not a fit with the gallery, too expensive, not expensive enough, looks too much like an existing artist’s work, too big, too small, etc etc). But do keep applying and applying and applying. Persistence pays, but badgering is counterproductive. All panel members felt “guilty” about not having time to get back to every artist, rejecting artists, perhaps discarding their materials (if no SASE) and so on. They don’t like “shotgun” marketing from artists because of this guilt syndrome and because it just takes up time they could give to considering more serious / targeted artists’ packets. Look on gallery’s website for exactly how they prefer to be approached. One panelist said his gallery has recently switched to an ALL electronic application process, to save expense for artists, to save paper, and to make it a bit less painful to deliver the 99.9% “no thank you”s. 

If you do get an appointment, be on time. One panelist wants your shirt to be pressed and don’t come with b.o. (he says, “I’ve had to step back from some folks.” ha)

Gallerists/curators are inundated with artists, and can’t respond to each and every one…often don’t have time to chat about your work or tell you why they don’t want it in the gallery. If they love the work, they will get back to you…although it may take a year, or even two or three. Some said they will sometimes offer suggestions of other galleries they think might be a fit for artists they reject. Their first priority is to market work of existing artists already represented by their gallery; to make a profit for the benefit of all concerned.

One panelist said flat out, if you want to make money from your art, get outside of Portland. Portland is really quite a small town. From Portland downtown galleries to Mother Goose Gallery to White Bird Gallery on the coast—80% of repeat buyers are the *same people* he claims. Said his retail store volume is down about 10% due to recession, majority of sales volume is from “under $50” items.

One of the non-profit curators said that due to return shipping costs, they are more likely to feature local/regional artists (in this down economy).

Bottom line: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE WORK!!!

© Steve Eichenberger, all rights reserved

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