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How to Tell a Gallery Owner You're Behind

How to Tell a Gallery Owner You're Behind

Eric Maisel

What should you do instead?

1. Get to work!

Not only will you make progress on your paintings and honor your commitment by getting right to work; you’ll also put yourself in an entirely different frame of my mind for the meeting and factually change what you can legitimately report. Not only will you feel better, you will be able to say with a straight face, “Boy did I work well this week! It’s been a joy getting to the studio!” If you hadn’t started painting again, this would amount to a bold-faced lie. As you did start painting, it is the absolute truth.

2. Plan for the meeting.

Decide what outcomes you want. Do you need some clarification or some help from the gallery owner in order to help you get on with your work? This might sound like, “I think we never quite got clear what the size of these paintings should be and I think that’s been a bit of a stumbling block for me. Can we go over that?” Do you want to carefully test the waters to see if turning in fewer paintings might fly? This might sound like, “My crystal ball tells me that I’m going to have four excellent paintings ready by July 1st and I can’t quite tell about the others yet. How should we play that?” Prepare your agenda.

3. Calculate how you want to present your current situation.

Think through the precise language you want to use—your talking points. Have a response prepared for each of the questions you predict you might be asked. For instance, to the predictable “How’s it going?”, you might prepare the reply, “Well, it’s been quite a process! I’ve had my ups and downs but this has been a good week.” To the predictable, “This is going to be some strong work, right? I’m looking for your best stuff!” you might prepare the reply, “If this birthing process is any indication, these should be first rate!” Think about what you might be asked and prepare your answers.

4. Show up as an equal, not a supplicant.

In as cheerful and enthusiastic a mood as you can muster, with the intention to serve your interests, comport yourself professionally, and conduct a little business. If you’re lucky, you’ll have to negotiate scores of meetings of this sort over the course of your art career. Even if you’ve fallen behind and even if you’re struggling to deal with your anxiety, try to put your best foot forward and make the most of these important interactions.

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