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THE NAKED BRUSH
ORIGINALLY A THRILLING RIDE IN WHICH THE ARTIST, TERRE RYBOVICH, GAMBLED HER OWN TIME, MONEY AND GOOD NAME TO VISIT DOZENS OF GALLERIES IN NORTH AMERICA WITH THE AIM OF EXHIBITING AND SELLING HER LARGE CHARCOAL DRAWINGS. NOW THE RIDE TAKES US EVEN DEEPER, INTO THE HEART OF THE ARTIST'S CREATIVE PROCESS, INCLUDING ART-MAKING, WINE AND MUSIC.

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November 2008 Naked Brush Blog Posts

Sat, Nov 1st, 2008
TERRE AS ENTREPRENEUR: A HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

Montreal, Portland, Seattle, Denver. See a pattern emerging? Think marketing research. It sounds cold, I know. I wanted to leave the room the first time it came up.

This was in the Artist as Entrepreneur Institute I mentioned at the start. It’s a course organized by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture in Cleveland, Ohio. Earlier this year it was presented by the Broward County Cultural Division in Fort Lauderdale. Deeply skeptical at the start, wondering what in the world I was doing there, I converted in spite of myself. Marketing? It means “fearlessly educating people about the value of my art,” according to the very dynamic instructor, Nerissa Street. Of course I want to do that.

Marketing research? That’s determining who is my customer and who isn’t. Plus, where I can find this customer. Which brings us to Montreal, Portland, Seattle and Denver. My customer is interested in the esoteric, possibly even the spiritual. Open-minded, guided by his or her own tastes. How do I know? I asked buyers and potential buyers. Then I determined where I am likeliest to find such a customer. My experience of various cities was augmented by research via the internet, art fairs and Art in America’s Annual Guide—as well as asking art dealers who know my work. Then I selected these particular cities for the first round of The Naked Brush Tour. Marketing research.

In the Artist as Entrepreneur Institute I first conceived of the tour. Once we had covered all aspects of artist-as-small-business, we drafted a business plan. First step: define your goal. Another scary moment. At least until it became obvious that my goal was to get my work into galleries beyond South Florida. Then I started to research cities.

Obstacles loomed in the path to my goal. For one, digital images don’t do justice to my large yet finely detailed drawings. I had had little luck in getting works into juried competitions. I imagined a judge looking at one of my 4 x 6 foot drawings on the same scale as someone else’s 11 x 17 inch work. Would the big drawing be anything more than a gray rectangle? And yet in critiques with curators of global renown, my drawings had been very enthusiastically received. How could I interest galleries in my digital images if I couldn’t get them into juried competitions?

Another obstacle: I continue to be reminded that visiting a gallery’s website is not to be compared with visiting a gallery. Sometimes the surprise is pleasant, very pleasant. Sometimes it isn’t. Either way, nothing compares with walking into a gallery, looking around and then shaking hands with a dealer. Nothing.

I guess I’m fortunate that my love of travel overrules my fear of growing credit card debt. I’m also fortunate to have the courage to embark on this wild ride—especially in this economy (although only one dealer has mentioned it). And to have friends who give excellent advice. Given all that, The Naked Brush Tour soon emerged as my path.

Wed, Nov 12th, 2008
THE NAKED BRUSH TOUR SAVORS AUTUMN IN THE ROCKIES

It's good sometimes to stop talking about drawing and actually make drawings. That's what I've been doing. Not enough that I'm leaving Thursday for the next leg of The Naked Brush Tour—I'm also preparing for the "Native Offerings" show, curated by Talya Lerman, that opens November 21. It thrills me that I'll be showing all new drawings.

I still haven't mentioned the one step in the protocol that gives meaning to the whole process: the submission of the portfolio. I've traveled to Montreal, Portland, Seattle and Denver where I visited nearly 30 galleries altogether. After each trip I've followed up with at least half of the galleries I visited. That means I've got portfolios submitted to 16 galleries at least. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Certain good news will come.

Let me just state up front that Denver was the best trip so far. Funny, I felt unsettled when I headed out; something didn't feel right. Sure, there's always a bit of nervousness when I approach a new gallery. There's always a voice inside wondering if they'll hate me. But on top of that, Denver felt like a challenge.

There was one day to visit all the galleries in Denver, since the next day I was headed to Vail to see galleries. My trips are all two-day weekend trips, except for the Seattle/Portland leg.

I started the Denver day at a gallery that's in a gallery district all its own, out in the suburbs. The owner welcomed me warmly. When I described my tour, he was delighted. It turns out that he visits galleries around the world on behalf of artists. He said I was the first one he'd met who was out there doing it for myself. And then he saw my little drawings I carry with me and became even more enthusiastic. I retrieved my tube from the car right outside and unrolled the two large prints.

"I'll give you a show—I love your work," he exclaimed. He also draws in charcoal; it was his kind of work. "But," he continued, "I first want you to go see the three top selling galleries in Denver. Let's see what they think of your work." He reviewed my list of galleries, crossing out some and adding others.

Generous with his advice and his time, he and I talked for an hour or so. We compared notes on our tours and filled in the blanks where we could. It felt like I'd found an old friend.

As I headed back downtown the thought occurred to me that I could skip all the other gallery visits and spend the day taking in autumn in the Rockies. Hadn't I accomplished my objective? Right. But how often do I get to Denver? And wasn't I even more curious now to visit the other galleries?

Fri, Nov 28th, 2008
CASTING A WIDE NET IN THE SEARCH FOR LOVE

Today I start preparing for leg 5 of The Naked Brush Tour, which is smart since I leave in less than two weeks.

With each leg I start a new file, an actual paper file that’s either bright green or yellow. To begin I go back to the original Naked Brush Tour folder with all my initial research. As I explained at the beginning, there’s the list of potential galleries for each of my target cities from Art in America’s 2008 Guide. Also a summary of material I picked up on about 500 galleries in the satellite fairs at last year’s Art Basel Miami. Everything related to my upcoming trip goes into the new folder, including plane ticket and car reservation. The excitement starts to build.

Research takes over. I’ve got my list of potential galleries, then I check out the website for this city’s art dealers association, always a useful indicator of who the pros might be. Then, one by one, I study the galleries’ own websites. What am I looking for? At least six galleries that look like plausible prospects for representing my large charcoal drawings.

Again, these are galleries already representing at least a few artists whose work seems similar to mine in some way. It could be narrative, figurative, highly detailed, slightly surreal—I cast a wide net.

They are also galleries that represent artists who are emerging, like me, and are not limited to that geographical region. So I study the artists’ CV’s as well as their work. When the website doesn’t provide CV’s I deduce that at least some of the artists are not yet established.

Last and possibly most important, the gallery has to be taking on new artists. Although…sometimes a gallery website announces they aren’t open to receiving submissions, yet when I visited (at the recommendation of another gallery) and they saw my work, they were receptive.

It’s funny how the key components of this endeavor seem analogous to dating. Either the dealer responds to the work or she/he doesn’t. Maybe not love at first sight, but at least a phone call returned. There’s some degree of emotional connection. And, of course, the dealer is thinking of how the collector might respond. Will he call me back? Is it love?

Or is buying art simply a financial transaction? I’d say we’re in trouble if it is. (And we may be in trouble if it isn’t.) Again like dating, the marketing of an artist’s work is generally not free of financial considerations.

Back to work. I need to find my six galleries for my next trip. Then I’ll email them later today, to say I’m coming for a visit. Not for a portfolio review, but simply to see the space and hopefully meet the dealer. Then at least one of them will reply, saying they don’t do walk-in portfolio reviews. And I’ll reply to them, “Sorry I didn’t make myself clear enough. I just want to see the space and hopefully meet you…” That way we start to get to know each other.

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An Archive

September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
March 2009
June 2009
April 2010
January 2011
February 2011
February 2012


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