From little sketches to gallery walls… and dreaming big!
Ten years ago my art was just little sketches on restaurant napkins and pieces of scrap paper. What does it take to transform ideas into a big dream?
First I had to think to myself that it could be possible. I meet many talented artists that show me their sketch book, and I often tell them ‘see this one if you made it in big on a canvas it would look amazing’. That’s basically what my husband told me when he first saw my drawings.
I didn’t go straight to the large canvas but in 2004, I chose 10 sketches that I liked and made them bigger (on watercolour paper and gouache). Since I was starting out, some of them I had to give a few tries so that the result looks professional. Once matted and framed, the paintings were already looking closer to a serious artist’s work and it wasn’t such a huge effort after all.
In 2006 I printed cards, packed them in plastic sleeves with an envelope and a little story about myself and the artwork. I printed little stickers with the titles (titles are so important for selling art) and off I went to Toronto to a few stores and bookshops that I thought might be interested by my themes. Four stores gave me my first orders! Next because it specifically works well with my images, I created a line of jewelry. I have 3 kids (now 16 and 17) and we’ve done 4 one-month-long road trips across the USA and Canada. Each time I paid for all our holiday expenses by selling my cards and jewelry along the way to stores. What I love about selling small items with my art on it is that it is also a way to share my work to many people. I like to call my greeting cards ‘flyers that people buy’. Every time someone buys a $4 card, they also send it to a friend, so that is two people that get to know my work. I sold original paintings, did commission work and had many other opportunities through the indirect sale of my little cards.
Most important through this I learned a lot of skills: First it built up my confidence as I realised I had a clientele for my images. I also learned to do cold phone calls, present myself in a short inviting way to book appointments with store owners. Sometimes I just walked into a boutique I had not contacted before and I had to know what to say and what to do. No need to read marketing and sales techniques books, all I had to do is be myself, be natural and comfortable, practicing it by doing it a lot is what did the trick! Needless to say at first I was terrified; my words would get caught in my throat, my face would turn red, my heart was pumping loud, I was dropping stuff and bumping into displays, many times I just said the wrong thing and got rejected or simply unconsciously impeded the sale… little by little I became natural at it. When they said they didn’t want to see me or buy anything, I was not hurt; I realized that my presentation was at its best and they were simply truthfully not interested or that they didn’t need extra inventory in their store at this time.
Doing this prospecting with my little cards is not much different than approaching galleries.
Once I had a good, coherent portfolio with enough paintings to do a solo show I simply applied what I had learned and found a beautiful gallery right by the Museum of Contemporary Art (Centre George Pompidou) downtown Paris where I just had my first international solo show.
I will write soon about the steps I took to make this happen. In the mean time, I write this blog to encourage anyone to turn their small ideas (artistic or not) into big dreams!
For more information on my artwork go to www.artbygaia.com, and to see the cards, prints and jewelry: www.artbygaia.com/catalog