Making Meaning Podcast Episode 26 with Gillian Lee Smith

In this final conversation of the series, I am talking to Gillian Lee Smith, a Scottish painter based in Northumberland. Gillian and I first met as members of a designer-makers group in the English midlands but we reconnected over Zoom during the pandemic and have had some wonderful conversations about our practices, our mentoring work and our creative ideas. In this conversation we focus on mentoring and talk about how both supporting others and being supported ourselves helps our practice. We talk about the zigzag journey of creative practice and how reflection and talking things through with others really helps to clarify things, to open new doors and to inspire. 


Gillian Lee Smith is a painter living in Northumberland. Her ongoing work is inspired by maritime history – fishing communities, the stories of the ocean and the man made structures of harbours that mark the boundary and often create sheltering spaces from the storms.

Gillian is embarking on a new body of work called The Lost and The Left Behind which will explore themes of the ongoing resonance of history, loss and memory. The process of painting (creating, burying and excavating) allows an image to reveal itself over time and can connect to a particular story, memory or experience in surprising ways. Gillian is exploring ways of taking this approach into other media such as printmaking and mixed media for her new work. 

A practicing artist for over 15 years, Gillian teaches in person workshops and creates online courses such as her signature programme Building a Body of Work as well as working closely with other artists through mentoring. Exhibiting locally and nationally, Gillian recently won a highly commended award with her portrait Through dust and darkness (The Miner) at Woodhorn Mining Museum. 

Play here


Other links

Solo exhibition November 2022 to February 2023 at Newbiggin Maritime Museum


Artist Mentoring

If you are feeling a bit at sea with your creative practice, I’m here to help. I’ve created my mentoring programmes after years of working with and supporting artists and really understanding the challenges of creative life. I’m on your side to help you figure out the meanings and the reasons behind your creative practice and how to move forwards. Find out more here.


Maker Membership

My Maker Membership is now open for all makers wanting to explore their motivations and to build meaning and research into their practice and be part of a supportive creative community. We meet once a month and I share resources, tips and research to help you develop your own work. Find out more here.

Selling craft in the fine art market

I recently attended “Making it in the fine art market” a Cockpit Arts Making It seminar and made the following notes.

Event chaired by Susan Mumford Be Smart About Art, with panel including  and Sarah Myerscough.

Katharine Morling

Katharine Morling

Breaking into the fine art market
Clear, consistent body of work, suitable for the market. Pricing should reflect fine art market not craft market (considerably higher)
Work on a strategy and research your potential gallery market. Where do you want to sell? Which galleries suit your work best? What about outside of London, where can work for you?

Create a broader strategy / plan of where you want your work to be, what museum collections do you want to be in, what countries might you do well in.
Before considering overseas markets, establish yourself in your own and your gallery might well introduce you to overseas galleries.
Collect is a key event for selling in the fine art market, therefore getting into a gallery which show at Collect would be a key target in strategy.

No problem to approach galleries direct but be very targeted and only approach ones that really show your type of work. Ask for feedback if rejected and keep in touch with them. Things change and they might find your new work suitable for them.

Getting your work seen is vital. Top tip is to apply for all sorts of opportunities (that are relevant) where your images will be seen by a selection panel. Even if not selected for the opportunity, your work is seen by influential people who will remember it next time.

Market
New and established collectors are happily spending thousands of pounds buying art online (degreeart.com). More traditional galleries prefer to market to bring people into the gallery and buy in person. Two distinct markets. The art-buying market are particularly interested in small editions (around 10) and exclusive works. (not applicable to objects which are one-off anyway).

Amelia May's Quilt

Amelia May’s Quilt, Ruth Singer 2012.

Being represented by a gallery
Usually an artist is represented by just one gallery in a city or area, particularly only one in London
Gallery will take work for specific exhibitions and art fairs, potentially internationally
Commission is usually 50% of retail price. Give galleries retail price and negotiate commission. Ensure consistent market price wherever you are selling. You must not undercut gallery price.
Out-of-gallery sales. If someone buys direct from you after seeing you at a gallery, the gallery has the right to demand commission. Openness and communication with your gallery are essential to create a supportive relationship. Important to find out where your buyers have found you.Nowadays many artists have an exclusive body of work represented by each gallery rather than an exclusive relationship with just one gallery.
Artist needs to work as a team with gallery to avoid mixed messages and confusing buyers
Role of galleries: to put work in context, give credibility, to expose your work to the right buyers. Your commission helps them do more marketing.
Keep your gallery informed of everything you are doing, even with other galleries. This helps with their marketing of your work and helps build a productive relationship.