ART BIZ COACH
Fun & Profit
Long It Took
- Pratfall Avoidance
PRATFALLS AND THE AVOIDANCE THEREOF
by Elizabeth Berrien, Ac.Z
pratfall, n. [slang], a fall on the buttocks.
to Come to Grips with Reality:
Spoken in icy tones usually reserved for "I Vant to Be Alone", the
best-known Pratfall Mantra is: "I Refuse to Taint Myself with
Business!" This Implied Spiritual Purity is tarnished when the
self-same person chronically complains: "My work is pure genius, so
naturally I'm starving! How come I gotta die first before this stuff
gets appreciated? Why don't the museums and foundations come looking
for me NOW?"
Release yourself from Old Moldy Stereotypes, which would have you
believe that If Thou Art an Artist of Worthy Output, the World Will
Seek Thee Out and Make Much of You. Sorry, but waiting for the
Enlightened Tycoon to stumble in by accident is worse odds than Monkeys
& Typewriters. Only by learning enough Business Basics to
approach galleries in a frictionless, businesslike manner can you
consistently place your works where the right people can find them.
Give as much dedication to getting your work out in the world as you do
to creating it. After all your hard work, doesn't it deserve to be
Up Without an Appointment:
This is the simplest and most effective way to let the person you are
interrupting know that you think your time and priorities are
infinitely more important than theirs. Persons Being Interrupted,
having discerned your basic ignorance of the custom of Calling Ahead
for an Appointment, may recognize the extent of your inexperience, and
either a) decide they can't work with you because you'll probably need
babysitting, or b) decide they WILL work with you, because you're
acting Ignorant Enough to Exploit.
Cut down a tad on your natural Artistic Spontaneity; instead of
marching straight for the counter when you come across a store you're
excited about scout it quietly, depart, and call from somewhere else to
ask for an appointment. It creates a very professional first impression.
Almost as good. There are zillions of variations on Unprepared; once
you've made an appointment to meet with your gallery or client, you
still have ample room to forget anything from your business cards to
your entire portfolio! Nothing quite like getting someone to set aside
a special chunk of time just for you and then disappointing them by not
bringing everything you need to get your business done... you can
puncture your aura of smooth professionalism easily by borrowing a
pencil, asking the time, waving your arms wildly to describe the "Just
Fantastic" work you forgot to bring a picture of, or being unable to
provide a ball park estimate of the project a client would like to
commission. Every craft fair has at least one frantic person running
around looking to bum a staple gun; make sure it ain't you!
The night before a meeting, prepare everything you can imagine needing
for your event, from your outfit to your neatly arranged artwork to
your Minimalist Portable Office (pen, Day Book, Tot Stapler, business
letterhead). If you're going to help hang a show, bring a comprehensive
toolkit with hammer, nails, picture wire, etc; saving the Exhibit Crew
a last-minute trip to the hardware store gives a quietly competent
Up Improperly Dressed:
Not Dressed Up Enough for a business meeting, or Too Dressed Up to Be
Useful at exhibit hanging time. Or Too Casual in city stores, Too
Formal in the boonies, too Artsy Fartsy around conservative clientele.
Research ahead of time where you're going to be, whom you'll be dealing
with, what you'll be doing, and how other artists in similar
circumstances tend to dress.
Along the Kids:
Just about as good for your professional image as taking the family
dog: storekeepers must anticipate the possibility of your offspring
Lifting a Metaphorical Leg, and can't give you (or anyone) their full
Leave the kids at home, in school or at day care unless they're old
enough to be a valid part of your business AND well-mannered enough to
favorably impress the storekeeper.
Along a Bored or Cranky Partner:
Same as above, only more so.
Knowing When it's Time to Leave:
So you've opened your jewelry sample case, and the Gallery Guy is going
"Ooh and Ahh", so you take it all out and spread it over every
available surface, lovingly reciting the story behind each creation,
and it oozes up slowly on you that he's sneaking peeks at his watch and
wondering if you'll maybe wind up before Closing Time... at the
Corporate Presentation, the Stuffed Suits that welcomed you so warmly
and thanked you for your presentation are now twitching little hand
signals at each other...
Pride yourself on developing a compact Basic Presentation of 15 minutes
or less, expanding it ONLY if the client expresses genuine interest in
your doing so. Instead of forcing your clients to indicate the end of a
session, wind it up early yourself. Better to leave them slightly
hungry than excessively glutted...
Directly With Your Home Gallery:
When you decide to make a quick killing by getting a street fair booth
in front of the gallery that carries your work, and proceed to price
your works at half what the gallery is charging, you've gained a few
short-term sales and lost forever the sympathy and support of that
gallery. Likewise, when you pepper several stores and galleries in one
neighborhood with your works, you've diminished the motivation for any
one store to give you special consideration.
If you've got too much art stock for one store to handle, lucky you!
Instead of inundating your local scene with works in so many places it
becomes commonplace, narrow your field down to one location per region,
and let that outlet know you are granting it Territorial Exclusive!
Your Home Gallery will appreciate this greatly, and by expanding to
out-of-town galleries and/or fairs, you'll take on that lovely Patina
Valuable Creativity on Bogus Excuses:
So you bit off more than you could chew, or partied too hearty the
night before your deadline, and now you ain't gonna show up on time
with the goods! Instead, you call in with a phony sore throat and a
case of Estonian Mumps, or give a big long spiel about how YOU shipped
it on time, but the Post Awful ate it, or you would've been on time but
your car broke down. Strangely enough, the more lovingly complex and
exquisitely crafted your Repeating Loop Tales of Tragedy, the more
convinced your no-show victims will become that you are either a) a
chronic liar, or b) a helpless, hapless and hopeless human being...
I cut down on Circumstance Beyond Control excuses after the Karma
Angels decided to gift me with REAL cases of what I'd originally
conjured up as pure fantasy... sitting in my stalled car by the freeway
in the pelting rain, ruefully connecting the dots with the Dead Battery
Excuse I'd pulled the day before, I decided to bite the bullet and
start saying, "I really blew it. But doing business with you is
important, so I'm going to make sure this doesn't happen again."
to Build Yourself Up by Pulling Others Down:
A most deplorable habit. If you ever catch yourself saying something
like "Well yes, I suppose Zelda's fantods have a certain naive charm,
but if you're SERIOUS art collectors, I think I have a responsibility
to show you how much more intensely involved my little blivets over
here are..." swat yourself on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.
You're coming across much more blatantly than you think, sabotaging
yourself & Zelda both by slamming her work out of Professional
You're better off converting jealousy to Good-Natured Envy, which you
can at least tastefully admit to out loud. If someone's work is getting
more attention than yours, resist the temptation to judge whether it
deserves it; the most important person to compete against is YOU.
Continue to upgrade the caliber of your work, and you'll get your own
Moment of Glory in due time.
I'm meeting soon with people in a position to give me a Big
Breakthrough Commission. The deadline schedule is brutal and I suspect
there's not much money in it, but like they keep telling me, the
exposure I'll be getting is fantastic and guaranteed to lead to jobs
that pay real money! Any advice on the way in?
Within the world of Art, the person who proclaims "Just think of all
the exposure we can give you" should be viewed in the same light as
those who say "Trust Me." One-shot exposure rarely if ever leads to
success or even a directly related gig within the same year; if you
examine the resumes of most established artist you will find their
success is founded on a steady, progressive curve of increasingly
visible gigs rather than any one breakthrough. Weigh this project
WITHOUT the distraction of Hypothetical Fame and Glory, and set limits
for yourself on how much bad pay and inconvenience you can tolerate
while making your "benefactors" look great. Stick within those limits
and avoid the pratfall, "Not Knowing When It's Time to Let Go".
was first published in the news letter of the Ink People Center for the
Arts in the 1990's.
Class Wire Sculpture · Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931
· email email@example.com
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