Monday, August 31, 2020

Anatomy of an art commission

It all started at the 2016 SOFA Art fair in Chicago, where my work was being shown by the hard-working Audrey Wilson, when (after the fair ended) a well-known Chicago area art consultant emailed me:

I am an Art Consultant from the Chicago area. Saw your work at SOFA and would be interested in talking about a possible commission piece, for a client
What would be the best way to reach you?
I respond to her that I am very interested and that I am forwarding her email to the gallery which was showing me there, which is the right thing to do, so that the gallery can coordinate the possible commission.
Lesson One to artists: Do not screw your art dealer, who put up the sheckels to show your work at a fair, or a gallery show, and thus deserve a commission for the possible… ahhh… commission.

How much commission does the gallery take for a private commission of an art piece? This should be clearly stated in your contract between the artist and the gallery.

Lesson One point one: Make sure that you have a written contract with your gallery.
Emails later, I am dealing directly with the art consultant. She emails me an image of a drawing that she saw in SOFA and is looking to see if I’m interested in doing two very large versions of the drawing which are to be mirror images of each other.
Like a good art consultant, she then reminds me:
Please keep in mind when considering pricing that I do need to get a percentage of the sale  I will charge my client retail value but just like a gallery I take a percentage and that is negotiated with artist per piece. Just wanted to bring that to your attention.
Lesson two to artists: The industry standard in these cases is about a 20% commission to the consultant.
I then prepare a commission proposal for her:
Description: Two 36x66 inches original charcoal and conte drawings on pH-balanced, acid free paper, medium weight paper. The drawings will be mirror images of each other and as close as possible to the image depicted below. They will be shipped, unframed and rolled in a large tube. Work includes a Certificate of Authenticity and Provenance signed by the artist. Artist will also deliver all preparatory sketches. All artwork will be signed and dated in pencil recto on front and verso.  
Total artwork cost: $ USD 
Shipping (via FedEx): $75 
* Gallery: 25% 
* Consultant: 25% 
* F. Lennox Campello: 50%
Approval: Work will commence once approval to proceed is given via email. Approval to proceed is understood to mean that both have parties agreed on size, composition, substrate, cost, and commissions. 
Payment: Artist is acting on good faith and requires no advance deposit. Full payment is due upon completion of the work (estimate is no later than December 25, 2016 provided that approval to proceed is given by December 5, 2016). Payment via check is preferred in order to save bank charges. Artwork will be shipped immediately after receipt of payment and clearance of payment by bank.
The proposal is briefed to her clients and accepted. I then send her a sketch of the commission as I understand it, but I have the orientation of the works wrong and it needs correction – at the end she sends me a rough sketch:

It matches my last proposal drawing, so we are set to go.
I get started on the first drawing, and as soon as it is done, I take a photo of it and email it to her so that she can see it immediately.
Lesson Three to artists: Keep communicating at all times so that there are no surprises.
I finish the second drawing, which is a friggin’ bear, since it has to be a mirror match for the first one, and because of the huge size of the paper, not easy to deal with… but then it is finished.
I send her an image of the second one, and all is good.
Then I ask for more data, and send her a note:
Question: I always sign the work both on the back and the front.... some people (as long as it is signed somewhere) prefer not to have a signature on the front of these minimalist pieces.... I'm OK with either... you may want to ask your clients if they want the front all clear (no siggie) or if it's OK if it is signed and dated on the front as well.
She asks, and they’re good with both signatures. Do you see the importance of good communications?
I am now ready to ship, but being the good Virgo that I am, I worry about her framer, so I take the time to draft and email her this:
I'm sure that you use a great framer who knows all of this ahead of time... but I'm sending this from the bottom of my heart and speaking from experience:
1. The drawings are on pH-balanced, acid free, cotton paper - please only use conservation materials in framing.
2. Drawings are signed both on front and back - if any trimming is needed, please be aware of signatures - space has been left to accommodate the desired final size. The paper needs to be trimmed for the correct width - trim from the edge opposite the leaping figure and from bottom as needed. The drawings have also been fingerprint-signed on the verso.
3. Because of the size of the paper, it needs to be relaxed before framing - this is done by unrolling paper from shipping box and laying on top of a table long enough to accommodate the length of the paper. Warning: If the paper rolls on too-short a table when opened, it can be damaged if it "bends" over the edge of the table - this may cause crescents on the paper - if this happens, they can be removed by dampening the back of the area where the crescent occurred and laying to dry on a table long enough to accommodate the paper. It is very important that the framer knows ahead of time that artwork should only be unrolled on a long table that can accommodate the length!
4. If clients require "float framing", recommend 1/4 white conservation spacers, but of course, whatever size they end up framing to, the drawing must not be allowed to touch the glass... use either spacers of 8-ply museum mat board.
Payment is ready to be processed, but speaking from experience, I advise her to call her credit card company and warn it that an online charge for the agreed amount is about to take place from the gallery. This saves time, as if a significant amount(as this is) shows up from a DMV source for a Chicago credit card, chances are that it won’t happen.
I then pack the work myself, ensuring than nothing short of a small nuke can damage the work. As soon as it is shipped, I email the tracking number to the consultant.

Next: What happens next!
It arrives - it gets installed All done! And here's what it looks like all installed...

First the original space:

And now with my two pieces added in - each is a mirror image of each other and flanking the windows:

Sunday, August 30, 2020

More Bad Things Galleries do to Artists

This has happened to artists several times in my memories, both in the US and in Europe:

Artist and gallery owner agree to do a show of the artist's work. The gallery, like many all over the world, also has a side business as a framing shop, and tells the artist that they will take care of the framing.

The artist agrees on a handshake, and never asks for a contract, or costs, assuming that the gallerist knows what he is doing.

On opening night the artist shows up and is not too keen about the framing, but it's too late for any real discussions, as people are beginning to show up. Several pieces are sold, and the artist is very happy with the opening.

At the end of the show, the artist gets a letter in the mail from the gallery. Excited to see the payment for the sold work, the artist opens the envelope and finds a framing bill.

The bill details the cost of the framing, substracts from that amount the artist's commission from the sold work, and bills the artist for the remaining amount, as framing is very expensive.

Anger follows...

More bad things that (a) galleries do to artists or (b) artists do to galleries or (c) galleries do to collectors 
here, and here and here.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

A bad thing that unethical galleries do to artists

The vast majority of independently owned, commercial fine arts galleries are ethical, hard-working labors of love, the second most-likely business to fail (in the US), and often run on a tight budget.

This is an example.

There are also unethical galleries gallerists who will take in a piece of artwork by an artist, and when the price is discussed, the gallerist asks: “What’s the price?” and the artist says: “$1000″ 

The gallerist nods OK and the artist leaves, knowing that if sold, he’ll get $500 (most galleries in the US charge 50% commission — in NYC some are as high as 70%).

The gallery then sells the piece, but for $2,000, sends the artist a check for $500 and pockets the extra $1,000. 

That is why artists should insist on having a contract with a gallery, and the contract must specifically address that the artist will get 50% of the actual sale price.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Bad things galleries do to art collectors...

Our area, like most major metropolitan areas, is peppered with stores that have the word "gallery" in their business name, but are very much far removed from what one would consider a true art gallery. 

You will always find them in high traffic areas; main thoroughfare streets where "real" galleries could never afford the rent. 

You also often find them in malls. I am speaking of the places that sell mass produced decorative works, either by Kinkade wannabes, Spanish-surnamed painters and worse still, the following scam: 

Some of Picasso's children inherited many of the plates used by Picasso to create his etchings. Since them, some of those plates have been printed ad nauseam by the current owners and are sold around the world as Picasso prints. 

And then, to make matters worse, some of the plates are signed "Picasso" by his offspring owner, who is (of course) technically also surnamed Picasso. 

The sales pitch, which is not technically illegal, but certainly unethical, goes something like this:"This is a real Picasso etching, printed from the original plate and it is signed." 

Note that they never state who signed the print. 

Hapless buyer purchases the print for a pretty good chunk of change, takes it home and brags to his friends about his signed Picasso. 

This will be a hell of a mess for the Antiques Road Show experts to detangle in a couple of hundred years.

 And don't even get me started on the great Dali art fraud.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Hatuey Webinar is on now!

 OK my art peeps! Need all my peeps to support Ric Garcia

Join me in an Artist Conversation with Ric Garcia


In concert with the show "Hatuey: Rebel Chief" in the Maryland Milestones Heritage Center, artist Ric Garcia will discuss his process and the inspiration behind the show in conversation with The Lenster!

Click the link to register!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

My Dad in the 1940s


My father, Florencio Campello Alonso, somewhere in Guantanamo in the 1940s? 

Enjoying either a glass of wine or maybe a coffee... Check out those elegant shoes..... 

His nickname was "Ciclon."

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

More Bad Things Artists do to Galleries

This actually happened to a gallery in Georgetown, in Washington, DC in the 1990s:

Back when there were eight galleries in Canal Square, one of the galleries had given a show to a local -- at the time "hot" artist -- who was a painter (I say "was" because I haven't heard of the dude in years).

The artist was supposed to deliver and help hang all the paintings on a Wednesday, in order to be ready for the Georgetown third Friday openings. He did show up on Wednesday with about 50% of the work, and brought some more (freshly finished) on Thursday and to the gallerist's horror, even brought some more on Friday, and even as the show was opening at 6PM, was adding the last painting touches to several of the works.

Needless to say, several of the oils were actually wet when people starting showing up. On opening night, it was crowded, and someone apparently rubbed against one of the paintings and smeared some of the oil paint.

Now the gallerist was faced with a very irate person, demanding that his suit be cleaned (it eventually had to be replaced) and with a furious artist, demanding that the gallery pay him in full for the damaged painting.

If I am to believe the gallerist, the case actually went to court, where the judge threw it out.

Monday, August 24, 2020

A bad thing some artists to do galleries

A good reputable gallery is a work of love, with gallerists usually running the business by the skin of their teeth. 

And when a gallery gives an artist a show, they go through all the various multiple expenses associated with doing so (rent, electricity, staff salaries, publicity, ads, post cards, opening reception catering, etc.) - usually before a single work of art is sold. 

So far the gallery has put forth a considerable investment in presenting the artist’s works - all because the gallerist believes in the artist’s work. 

An interested novice collector meets the artist at the opening and expresses interest (to the artist) in buying some of his artwork. The artist, wishing to stiff the gallery for their commission says: “See me after the show and I’ll sell it to you directly and save myself the gallery commission.”

This is not only unethical, but it’s also guaranteed to ruin the artist’s reputation in the city, as these things always come out in the wash, and soon no gallery will exhibit any work by this artist. 

Remember, when a gallery gives an artist a show, and nothing sells, the artist still walks away with all his/her work, and maybe even a review, plus the art has been exposed to collectors and the public. 

The gallery gets to pay all the bills, even though no sales were made.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Gateway Open Studios

Gateway Open Studios is back, only this year their Open Studios is all virtual thanks to the Covidian Age,

Saturday August 22 between 11-am 5 pm, you can access the Virtual Open Studio Tour at

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Copyright for Artists in the time of COVID-19


Envision: Copyright for Artists in the time of COVID-19
Wednesday, August 26, 2-3PM

During this time, many creatives have had to shift their practices, especially from in-person to online formats. These format changes have implications related to copyright law that are worth exploring to better protect your work or protect yourself from infringing on someone else's work. This workshop will go over copyright basics but touch on specific COVID copyright issues including protecting online courses, recordings, and streaming.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Scam websites

Even the best of us get scammed! 

These are all scam websites - they all look legit, and even have Paypal payment options, run on secure servers, etc. They have dozens of mirror websites essentially selling the same things. Beware of them - I have reported them to the FTC, to their host servers, and plan to report them to the MD Attorney General. - which says it is located at 1303 Lighthouse Pl Spc 1303, Michigan City, IN 46360 - check out what's really there on Google Maps! According to WHOIS, the site has been active since March - probably cashing in like crazy! They have dozens of mirror sites with different URLs! Some of the mirror fake sites are, and many others. The Paypal email associated with these in Paypal is

Same for - They are scams! Email associated with that one is 

Also beware of this art scammer:
Subject: Mail order From: "Mary Boom" -- 
Hello Sir/ma Am Mary boom i will like to place an order from your store, and be making payment with credit card details. can i go ahead and send you the List of items Interested in Ordering . Thanks Mary Boom 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Developing Your Elevator Speech

 WSG PROGRAM: Developing Your Elevator Speech

Talking about art is important. Talking effectively within a socially accepted time frame is even more important. Very few us will be presented with unlimited attention that will allow us to frame what we do. Most say more than 30 seconds to place your work into context is about all you are ever going to get in most situations. Let’s face it, if you cannot distill your practice down to a couple of sentences, your work may have very little chance of resonating. No one can tell you what your work means, but, but without putting it into short statement, designed to entice further exploration, we take a real chance of not making the connections or building the audience that our work might deserve. This workshop will enable participants to hone their message into digestible descriptions that are versatile enough to adapt to different contexts, while focusing attention on artists’ practices in ways that respect the patience of listeners. 
Register to Participate; meeting link provided upon registration.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Art Scam Alert!

 Beware of this mutant attempting to rip off artists:

Solomon woodson (

Greetings... I am Solomon from Gadsden Alabama. I have been on the lookout for some artworks lately in regards to I and my wife's anniversary which is just around the corner. I stormed on to some of your works which I found quite impressive and intriguing. I must admit you're doing quite an impressive job. You are undoubtedly good at what you do.

With that being said, I would like to purchase some of your works as a surprise gift to my wife in honor of our upcoming wedding anniversary. It would be of help if you could send some pictures of your piece of works, with their respective prices and sizes, which are ready for immediate (or close to immediate) sales. My budget for this is within the price range of $1000 to $3500.

I look forward to reading from you in a view to knowing more about your pieces of inventory. As a matter of importance, I would also like to know if you accept a check as a means of payment.

Friday, August 07, 2020

2020 Trawick Prize Finalists announced and Baltimore dominates!

Seven Baltimore artists and one DC artist have been selected as finalists for The Trawick Prize: Bethesda Contemporary Art Awards, a juried competition and exhibition produced by the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District. More than 300 artists from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. submitted work to the 18th annual competition.

2020 Trawick Prize Finalists

Erick Antonio Benitez, Baltimore, MD

Cindy Cheng, Baltimore, MD

Elliot Doughtie, Baltimore, MD

Danni O’Brien, Baltimore, MD

Nara Park, Washington, D.C.

Ginevra Shay, Baltimore, MD

Bria Sterling-Wilson, Baltimore, MD

Daniel Wickerham & Malcolm Lomax, Baltimore, MD

The award winners will be announced on September 2, 2020. The Best in Show, first place winner will be awarded $10,000; second place will be honored with $2,000; third place will be awarded $1,000 and a Young Artist, a finalist who is younger than 30, could win $1,000.

The exhibit will be on display Sept. 4 – 26, 2020 at Gallery B, located at 7700 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite E. Gallery hours for the duration of the exhibit will be Friday-Saturday, 12 – 4pm. During operational hours, social distancing will be enforced and face masks must be worn by all visitors.

The 2020 Trawick Prize jurors are:

Larry Cook, 2017 Trawick Prize Winner; Assistant Professor of Photography, Howard University

Carrie Fucile, Professor of Digital Art & Design, Towson University

Noah Simblist, Associate Professor of Art and Chair of Painting & Printmaking; Virginia Commonwealth University.

Founded by the amazing Carol Trawick in 2003, the regional competition is one of the largest prizes to annually honor visual artists. Ms. Trawick, a longtime community activist in downtown Bethesda, also established the Bethesda Painting Awards in 2005. She has served as the Chair of the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District, Bethesda Urban Partnership, Strathmore and the Maryland State Arts Council. She founded the Jim and Carol Trawick Foundation in 2007 to assist health and human services and arts non-profits in Montgomery County. The Foundation has awarded grants to more than 90 nonprofits in Montgomery County and funds the annual Trawick Prize and the Bethesda Painting Awards.

To date, The Trawick Prize has awarded more than $220,000 in prize monies and has exhibited the work of more than 135 regional artists. 

Previous Best in Show recipients include Richard Clever, 2003; David Page, 2004; Jiha Moon, 2005; James Rieck, 2006; Jo Smail, 2007; Maggie Michael, 2008; Rene Trevino, 2009; Sara Pomerance, 2010; Mia Feuer, 2011; Lillian Bayley Hoover, 2012; Gary Kachadourian, 2013; Neil Feather, 2014; Jonathan Monaghan, 2015; Lauren Adams, 2016; Larry Cook, 2017; Caroline Hatfield, 2018 and Oletha DeVane, 2019.

For more information, please visit or call 301-215-6660.