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My thoughts for artists

Maybe I am biased, but I think that being an artist is one of the most demanding professions one can choose.

To be successful, artists must pour their heart and their soul into their work. They need to strip themselves bare and reveal themselves in their art.

The most successful art is that which reveals the most truth and the most integrity. To accomplish this artists must allow themselves to be vulnerable and to share that vulnerabilty with an unknown audience. A difficult task.

As you can tell from the Klein Art Works' page, we are interested in contemporary abstraction. Regardless of the aesthetic we prefer, I want to be able to get a sense of the artist in the work I am looking at. If the art is any good, I learn a lot about the person that made it; their issues, concerns, and what makes them tick. And in the process I learn about myself.

Very often when I review slides submitted by artists, I feel like they are hedging, holding back, and are reluctant to put themselves in their art. I think this is a big mistake. If you are going to make art - do it. Aspire to greatness - then pursue it.

Art needs content. If there are no issues, if there is no content, it is not art - it is decoration.


1. You do not need to be successful overnight, and it is probably a mistake to want to be. Overnight success is scary. It is too easy to be a one-trick pony. What are you going to do for an encore? It is not sufficient to do the same thing over again.

In my opinion it frequently takes two years from the time an artist gets out of school before they find the issues that they are concerned with as opposed to having issues assigned by someone else.

To make good art you need to be able to extrapolate from your experiences. Very few young artists have enough experiences and enough talent to be able to sustain solid creativity. Therefore it is better to realize that it takes time.

If you want to be an artist, by all means do it. It is an exciting and fulfilling existence. It is honest and satisfying. And it is difficult.

My advice to young artists is to have a "straight" job and make as much art as you can the rest of the time. And when you are not making art, look at art, breathe art, look at art with other artists, read, expand your horizons, gather information.

Two things, tactically, enable an artist to be successful. One is talent. The other is connections. Develop both.

2. You are not your artwork. If someone doesn't like your artwork, it does not necessarily mean they do not like you.

You are not your artwork. When thinking about pricing your art, do not think about what you deserve for it. Think about what IT deserves. Get objective. More than anything else the value of a work of art is determined by the resume of the person who made it. Get objective. Envision your art as if it were made by someone else who has a comparable resume. Odds are that is far less than the value you would assign it if you had to stick a meager per hour price on it for how long it took you to make it. Hopefully, by the time 10 years are up the equation will be totally flipped and you will be getting far more than $100 per hour for your efforts.

In the beginning it is far more important to get work out than to get big money for it.

In the beginning it is far more important to make art than to be concerned with selling it.

3. Two of the basic prerequisites to being a good artist are having talent and having something to say.

Talent is probably easier to accomplish than vision. Talent you can learn in school. Talent you can learn from other artists. Talent comes from knowing one's media. It is very important to be fluent in one's media. Know everything you can about the process you are using. Explore its nuances. Learn everything you can about what you are doing.

Having something to say comes from living life and having the guts to express yourself. And part of the problem here is that the art world wants what you have to say to be unique, fresh and new. It is not enough to be able to paint an Impressionist painting. It has already been done. Don't do what has already been done. Remember that as a human being, you are unique, somehow different than anyone else on the planet. Strive always to be who you are, look for yourself in your artwork, become one with your art, find yourself in your art. Be you. Express yourself.

4. To a large extent the art world is about relationships. Develop them. Know other artists. Know dealers. Know museum people. You will have the opportunity to help one another. Relationships will open doors for you. We do not exist in a vacuum. We are influenced by people we like. There are many instances where I have become interested in an artist's work because I liked them before I even knew what their work was like. Liking them got me into a frame of mind where I was receptive to their vision. And there have been many instances were I have liked an artist and not responded to their artwork, but remained a friend and supporter even though I have no desire to exhibit their artwork.

There are many artists for whom a relationship with a gallery is not appropriate or wanted. But as a dealer and a gallery I am not going to address that now. I am going to assume that you want to get your work into a gallery.

I think that the relationship between a gallery and an artist is ultimately a team effort where both cooperate and have a shared purpose. But how to get there? For me, I think it is analogous to dating. You just don't walk into a gallery and say "here are my slides. Do something." Thomas Wolfe talked about the "Boho Dance." There is a courtship. First go to the gallery or galleries you think you might be interested in. Look around. Leave. Go back again. Say something sincere. Leave. Go back to see a third exhibit. Now, if you think this place is appropriate for you - start slow and say something that indicates you like them - give them the opportunity to feel warm and try to find a way to let them ask you about you.

If you get the opportunity to show them your work (slides), do so. But know this: good dealers do not pass judgment on the quality of your work - even though they may act like it - they are trying to determine if it fits their vision. It is about agreement - if they identify with what you are doing a relationship is possible. If they don't, it isn't. Think about the analogy to dating. Not everything or everyone is for everybody. If it doesn't work, it does not mean you are not worthy, nor does it mean they don't like you. It simply means your work is not for them at this moment. Get over the fear of showing your work. Go through the steps. If they make you feel rejected I would conclude that they are jerks. It is not hard to find someone's work inappropriate for a given gallery without making the person feel rejected. It is not unusual that you will show your work to galleries for years before someone has the right response. Think again about the dating analogy. Time.

What if you are not local and can't make all those visits? A recommendation helps. Write a letter that says something like "I have heard/seen a lot about your gallery that I really like, and (if possible) my friend (who is known to the gallery) says you might be interested in my art."

What to include? One page of slides is more than enough. Only show recent work - last 6 months - maybe 12. Think about the dating analogy - don't reveal your life history - show a little bit that you are proud of - allow them to ask for more instead of showing too much and letting them lose interest. Include a resume - even if it doesn't say much and always, always, always include a self-addressed, stamped envelope so the gallery does not feel imposed upon in returning your slides.

5. You are an artist. Be creative. Apply your artistic creativity to other facets of your life and particularly your career. Use what you've got and use it well.


KLEIN ART WORKS    400 North Morgan Chicago, IL 60622    (312) 243-0400