Open Call: I Appreciate Your Dishonesty

PS.mariasketch.square-150x150Welcome to the 14th edition of Open Call. Today we’re talking about maintaining your bottom line, the value of your work, and the endless benefits of always wanting to improve.

Email us at opencall@beautifulbizarre.net with any questions you have, concerns, success stories, challenges, or any other topic you’d like to discuss with a Gallery Director. Every other Monday we’ll publish a few of our favorites along with my replies. If you don’t see your email published, it does not necessarily mean it won’t be saved for a future installment. There have already been way too many good questions to make it into just one edition.

Visit my online author profile and stay updated on past editions. **Some emails have been edited for length.


Hey Patrick! I think what you do is great. My name is Harumi and I’m a japanese/peruvian painter and illustrator, living in São Paulo. So, my problem is that I live in a city where printing and shipping services are way too expensive, and I feel like I cannot compete with other artists’ prices. Especially with the well-known ones. Everyday I get asked by my followers if I sell my work and how they can purchase it, and I’m afraid that an honest response will make them uninterested. Thank you for your time.


Hi Harumi,

Call me an idealist but as a rule, you should avoid deception, and try to shoot people straight, always, but especially when you are representing yourself and your work. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the hesitation. We all have stories where something that we wanted or stood to benefit from big or small didn’t work out and we were left feeling like maybe we did something wrong, even if we have no idea what exactly that may have been.

But even if you were to do everything correctly all the time, and most people don’t, you aren’t going to make every sale. Sometimes you won’t know why. Sometimes it’ll be you who makes the call to walk away. Not every transaction is worth it, and it’s important that you set a comfort zone for costs and discounts and not let someone else negotiate your bottom line. When you have that feeling, be confident and own it. Not everyone will like it, but people will respect you more for it. Something that I see sometimes that bums me out, and I see it more with emerging artists, is sort of a buying-into the dumb idea that as an artist, or as a creative, your work and time somehow doesn’t automatically carry value. You see this all the time, even in videos on Facebook where people ask accountants and bankers to work for ‘exposure’, and that’s funny (and sometimes funny/sad) because we all know that happens. We’re just talking about shipping costs here, but I think this is important, every artist has at least one person who comes across like the artist should be grateful they’re even considering purchasing a piece and expects you to jump through hoops and tap-dance for them to show your appreciation, but good deals benefit both parties proportionally. If you want to subsidize my existence for the next decade maybe I’ll buy some dancing shoes but if you want me, or an artist to lose money on a piece or do volunteer work for the honor of you putting it in your house, fuck off. These are not the people that will help elevate you, and that’s important to keep in mind. It’s very important that you make art because you are creative and you’re an artist. However, for things beyond that, you need to treat that like a real business and find partners who can help you maintain and grow those standards, because it is a real business. Being professional and protecting your work, business, reputation, and the value of that work and time is not a magic trick that will get you ideal results 100% of the time. But trust me it’ll work a lot better for you than being wishy-washy or being so thirsty for a sale that you’re willing to make infinite compromises to what you need every time someone comes around.

Back to shipping! Some good news in this scenario is that it’s standard practice for the client to pay shipping costs. This is our policy and the policy of many, many other galleries and artists.

For shipping, keep shopping around and if upfront costs are an issue for you, perhaps look for companies who may do exclusive deals and subsidize or upfront the cost of shipping in exchange for a percentage of sales. Deals like that aren’t for everyone but if you are at a place, where you want to keep your overhead costs low it may be worth looking into. Like with anything though, do your research and try to find other artists who have had positive experiences before signing stuff like that over.


Good luck!



Hi Patrick,

I’ve noticed a few of these open call posts on instagram decided to ask a question. I have recently been submitting to various galleries in hopes of showing work outside of (the city where I live). For the most part I am repeatedly rejected. I am no longer a young artist now 43 and understand this is all part of the process and my work is not for everyone. I am torn because I believe my work may just not be up to caliber it needs to be to show in many galleries? 


Hi Dave,

I appreciate that you’re still working on it and haven’t allowed yourself to be discouraged or feel like as you get older your ability to achieve your goals as an artist. As we’ve talked about a couple times on Open Call, and as I discussed in a special edition with Craww during the last installment, success isn’t something that has to happen by a certain age. Unless you want to be Doogie Houser MD, like I did briefly when I was a little kid. Because after a certain age wanting to be a child prodigy would be weird. However, in most all other cases having to succeed by the time you are ___ years old is a myth.

It seem to me like you already know that your work may have a better chance to succeed in galleries if you pushed yourself and continued to improve your work. In my opinion, that’s what matters most, and you should commit to yourself to doing just that. You shouldn’t need to hold out for validation for a thing you already know to be true. And that’s not to say that your work is bad. This happens sometimes. Some people associate the idea that there’s room for improvement for poor quality, and that’s just not true. We can all get better. All the time. In my opinion improvement, whether that be our skills or our selves, should have a permanent slot on our list of goals. It should always be there. For me personally, I find a lot of my own drive from accepting that I can be, should be, and need to always be learning and getting better. There’s no “I suck” to this idea. You should take it as something that is exciting. The possibility that you can be better is exciting, and we do ourselves a disservice when we trick ourselves into seeing it as a sign of failure.

Almost every artist I know has had breakthrough moments with his or her work. We were just talking the other day in the office about a couple specific artists who posted those “my work today, my work 3 years ago” diptychs on FB or IG. Some of those are WILD. Keep pushing yourself, keep a constructive outlook, be confident in your ability to get there and I hope your breakthrough will come too.




How do you get into a museum?



I’ve tried a few different things but usually I just pay the suggested donation, although I hear right now the MET is free.



Patrick Shillenn is the co-founder and director of Arch Enemy Arts in Philadelphia. He doesn’t think he has all the answers. He just wants to have the conversation.
Follow him on IG @pshillenn & Twitter @mathclub


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