Just Grab Those Chances…

I once had a conversation with a printmaker, some years older than me, whilst we were both invigilating a group show in a gallery somewhere. We were chatting away, as one does, when she made a remark that has stuck with me. She said she wished she’d done more to promote her work and taken advantage of more opportunities. “Too late now” she said. And to be honest I guess it was a bit – she was probably in her late seventies at that time.

Anyway, I’ve always remembered that wistfulness in her voice and it’s become one of the things I say to myself, when I need a bit of a kick up the proverbial.

Mostly, life as an artist is pretty mundane, routine-driven. You get up, drive to the studio, make some work, send out an order or two, have several cups of tea, chat a lot.
Then suddenly a new gallery rings up offering a show, or you’re asked to submit a proposal for a new  commission, beyond your current experience.

A big opportunity like this can freak you out a little and it might be difficult to manage. Like a small business suddenly getting a big order, there are the logistics of it to consider – producing the work, pricing it suitably, delivering it and invoicing for it.

No wonder your brain gets a bit fried and your capacity to cope has a wobble. But seriously, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard fellow artists say they can’t do something. Their default position is to dither and prevaricate – they haven’t enough time or experience, it’s too difficult, they’re going on holiday at the end of the month (seriously).

It’s easy to feel that a new opportunity might be beyond your capabilities as an artist, to feel overwhelmed. And obviously you don’t want to set yourself up to fail – you have to be realistic as to what you can manage but seriously, what’s the worst that could happen?

So you don’t quite get it right and the gallery gets eight new pieces instead of the ten they asked for? Well, doesn’t that just show your work is in demand? And that proposal you’ve sweated over is rejected – it just means it wasn’t right for the client – so what?

You just need to be ready to manage those extra sales, the new gallery or even that elusive lucky break. So how much energy do you have? How much stress can you handle? How can you tell, until you’ve tested yourself? And each time you take on a challenge, you learn how to set boundaries, to learn how much you can feasibly take on before meltdown occurs. (In any case, once it’s over you forget how stressful it was, until the next time..)
The point is that if you don’t go for it – if you put up too many obstacles and make too many excuses – you may not get the chance again and you’ll never know if you were able to rise to the challenge or not.

The times I’ve got through some new venture by the skin of my teeth but with the customer/client none the wiser, well it’s exhilarating. It can be a bit of a white knuckle ride sometimes but it’s a great feeling if you pull it off. And of course, other regular commitments might have suffered a bit but you can always catch up later…

So the trick is to try not to panic (this is possibly a bit rich coming from the Queen of Panic here). Just don’t be tempted to retreat back into the safety of the studio carefully avoiding getting involved with that sort of pressure again. That window of opportunity just passes you by – again and again until there are no more opportunities….

So just grab those chances and work out how to do it afterwards. Don’t be one of those artists that we’re all familiar with, the ones who say wistfully ‘I could have been a contender’.

The Rectory Gallery in Spitalfields

Half Moon Studio is having an exhibition in a rather special setting – at the Rectory Gallery in Spitalfields. This is the result of a collaboration between Andy Rider, Rector of the historic Hawksmoor Christ Church and Jill Hutchings of the Curwen Gallery in Fitzrovia, to show contemporary art within a period setting. The exhibitions are organised by the Curwen and are aimed at supporting interesting and fresh art projects.
The Rectory (at 2, Fournier St, London E1 6QE) is a largely original 1720″s Hawksmoor building and the gallery is in the panelled Georgian reception rooms on the ground floor. Through an impressive doorway, is a grand hallway with a magnificent staircase, leading upwards to a private living area, and downwards to the church office. On the left are two sitting rooms, now transformed into one long open gallery space, yet retaining their Georgian splendour and atmospheric traces of a domestic space.
As this is the Rector’s private home, it is only open by appointment, outside of the PV’s and First Thursdays.
First Thursdays is a route through the East End of art events and gallery tours on the first Thursday of every month and as our exhibition is on for two months, we have two, on 6th June and 4th July 1-9pm).

If you can’t do any of these dates and would still be interested in coming along for a viewing, please make an appointment with the Curwen Gallery, by phoning 020 7323 4700 or by emailing [email protected].

In any case, I will be there for the Private View this Sunday afternoon (19th May 2-4pm). Please come along and say hello! 

old rectory spitalfields

Private Views – the low-down

I have three Private Views coming up in the week ahead and the first is on tonight. The Royal Society of Painter Printmakers is holding their Annual Exhibition at Bankside Gallery. If you fancy looking at interesting prints with a glass of wine, then why not come along? It’s on from 6-8 tonight, right next to Tate Modern.
The other two are for a Half Moon Studio group show at the Rectory Gallery in Spitalfields – the first is on next Wednesday – but more on that later.
In the meantime, here is an earlier post of mine about PV’s:

private views

Alas, I have a couple of Private Views to go to in the next couple of weeks, one of mine, and one I’ve been invited to. I always feel I have to go, although I’m not in my element.
For a start, asking people to your PV is a minefield. You don’t want them to feel any obligation to buy anything – they probably wouldn’t come if they thought they’d be subjected to a hard sell. But if they don’t buy, then really what’s the point? Just a bit of moral support, I suppose, and a knees-up for one and all at your expense….
Even if it’s not your own exhibition, Private Views can still be a bit of a nightmare. If they’re busy, then the artist friend or gallery owner who’s invited you only has time to wave at you before going off to schmooze the next (proper) customer.
Then you’re left there looking at the work (which takes 15 mins max) and nursing a warm glass of something which should be cold, all the while trying to look interested and full of admiration.
But believe me, it’s a thousand times worse if no-one turns up…..
Come to think of it, this is quite a nifty idea, re-hashing old blog posts. I can see some Flashback Fridays coming on…