Welcome to the PleinAir Podcast with Eric Rhoads – rated the #1 painting podcast in Feedspot’s 2021 list. In this episode Eric interviews Mark Sublette, the owner of the Medicine Man Gallery, an expert on Maynard Dixon, and the host of the Art Dealer Diaries podcast.
Bonus! In this week’s Art Marketing Minute, Eric Rhoads, author of Make More Money Selling Your Art, answers the questions: “If you’re working with several art galleries, how do you decide which gallery gets which paintings?” and “Are there businesses that hire freelance plein air painters?”
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FULL TRANSCRIPT of this PleinAir Podcast
DISCLAIMER: The following is the output of a transcription from an audio recording of the PleinAir Podcast. Although the transcription is mostly correct, in some cases it is slightly inaccurate due to the recording and/or software transcription.
This is the Plein Air Podcast with Eric Rhoads, publisher and founder of Plein Air Magazine. In the Plein Air Podcast we cover the world of outdoor painting called plein air. The French coined the term which means open air or outdoors. The French pronounce it plenn air. Others say plein air. No matter how you say it. There is a huge movement of artists around the world who are going outdoors to paint and this show is about that movement. Now, here’s your host, author, publisher and painter, Eric Rhoads.
Eric Rhoads 0:55
Thank you Jim Kipping and welcome to episode number 214 featuring Mark Sublette, the owner of the Medicine Man Gallery and an expert on Maynard Dixon, also, the host of the Art Dealer Diaries podcast, we’re going to get some perspective on an art dealer but also talk about the plein air movement. I want to say that we are honored that the plein air podcast has been rated number one in feed spots 2021 Top 15 painting podcast list. Thank you making that happen. We always love it when you guys leave comments. We always have some exciting things happening at our online conferences. And the next one is called pastel live, which is going to be our first ever event that’s dedicated to painting and drawing with pastels and even if you don’t consider yourself a pastel artist, I hope you’ll check this out because you’ll still learn a lot I know. I’m very excited. Even though I’m an oil painter. I’m excited about learning pastel, we have a beginner’s day on the 18th. So you can come in and learn the basics. And then you can also sign up for the three days or just sign up for the beginner’s day. That’s pastellive.com check it out. You can also come and paint with me at my next in person event, which is a trip to Russia this coming September will it happen? Well, fingers are crossed, but we think it will, and we think it’ll be safe. And if it’s not, we won’t go Of course this is a rare opportunity to paint and study painting. It’s an experience of a lifetime we’re going to have some great Russian masters with us we’re gonna paint the the villages and the cities of Russia and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. The next plein air salon is going to close later this month on August 31. If you’ve never entered, you should really consider it. I know it can be intimidating to enter an art competition but really, it’s a good way to boost your confidence advance your career. prizes include cash up to $15,000 for the grand prize winner and I think about total of 30 33,000 in total. So enter at pleinairsalon.com we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of plein air magazine. Now that’s a little tricky because it’s the 10th anniversary continuous. But we ran two or three years and then it stopped for a little while and then came back so it’s probably really the 13th anniversary plein air magazine in the August September issue. We are featuring Daniel grants article on the important topic of art show and fair etiquette. Hmm. Okay, there’s lots to learn about that you don’t want to miss. Also make sure that you check out our weekly free newsletter plein air today, it’s a great way to stay connected with planar groups all across the country and the world just sign up at outdoorpainter.com. now coming up after the interview. I’m going to be answering art marketing questions in the marketing minute. Maybe I’ll even get Mark to help. But first, I think we should go right to our interview with Mark Sublette. Mark, welcome to the plein air podcast.
Mark Sublette 3:38
Thanks for having me, Eric. Nice to be on the other side of the camera.
Eric Rhoads 3:46
Well, this this is the first now when I was on your podcast you recorded in video and my podcast has always been an audio only. But you insisted that you have video so you can play it back. So we’re actually we’re gonna do it both. We’re gonna play it on audio and video for this time around.
Mark Sublette 4:03
Yeah, well, event and video they can look into your eyes. And they know if you’re really telling the truth or not. So it’s, it takes it all away. It’s a new world there.
Eric Rhoads 4:14
Sure is. Mark. I was trying to remember when you and I first met, it had to have been at the very early stages of plein air magazine probably 13 or 15 years ago. Do you remember that?
Mark Sublette 4:25
Yeah, for sure. It was because I remember I advertised. I think I was probably in your initial advertising for that magazine. Yeah, it was kind of airy actually that you were doing it at that time. And it seemed it seemed like a niche that needed to be filled. And clearly it was because here you are anywhere between 13 and two and 10 years later and you’re still going strong. So congratulations.
Eric Rhoads 4:48
Well thank you very much. It’s it’s been pretty interesting, you know to do what what I never expected is that plein air would become the number one selling art magazine in America at Barnes and Noble and I don’t know why I Have no idea because and I think the reason is, I have a theory. I think the reason is we don’t put any type on the images, we just put a big picture on the front. And I and, you know, I want to respect the artists and not put type on on top of their pictures. And I think that’s probably why it sells so well.
Mark Sublette 5:18
Yeah, I mean, that makes sense. I also think possibly just because everyone who has ever wanted to be an artist can go, Wow, that would be something I would like to do. And they can’t they want to put the effort.
Eric Rhoads 5:29
Yeah. Well, let’s, before we get into this, because I’d like to get your thoughts and feelings about the whole plein air movement. What What’s happening? Why don’t you give everybody a brief background? How did you used to be a physician, if I remember correctly?
Mark Sublette 5:43
Yeah, I still am, in the sense that you don’t ever lose it. I retired a few years back as far as my license. But yeah, no, I was. I was a physician. And I, you know, I knew I was in trouble. When I was the side of my bed was all the catalogs that I used to read were like New England Journal of Medicine, I had all these medical journals that were all piled up, and that pile just slowly went away. And the other pile was now art magazines, Native American weddings, all the books related to the arts. And that was a hint that I was like, okay, maybe my brain is somewhere else than where I thought it was. I love medicine. But you know, it’s not the same as the art world. I always say that medicine was like a girlfriend, but the art world is my wife.
Eric Rhoads 6:31
So were you had you been become a collector when you? And that’s how it all began?
Mark Sublette 6:38
Yeah, I was, you know, I grew up my having Native American art around me in New Mexico. And I was a collector, literally a collector and I just found that what I started doing was buying and selling things to increase my collection. And it turned out I was good at that. I was like, Oh, I’m actually pretty good at this, I can increase my collection. And I still call myself a collector, I still feel like I’m a collector. As much as anything I you know, I continue to buy things for my own collection on a it seems like a weekly basis. It’s really, really extreme, but I can’t help myself.
Eric Rhoads 7:14
And that was gonna be my next question. What is your, your, your personal collection like?
Mark Sublette 7:20
Well, my personal collection is literally like my gallery. You know, if you walked into my gallery, and looked on the walls, you would see it, it’s you know, it’s a combination of Native American art. It’s a combination of Western paintings, Native American paintings, I also have contemporary art to collect abstract art. So I have to see. So I have living pretty much all the gallery, artists that I have, I have in my collection as well, I’ve always felt it’s important. If you’re going to sell art to the public, you damn well should be wanting to put it in your own collection and should be move you enough that you want to put it in your own collections. So the artists that I have in my home are, you know, people that I collect and sell. And so and it’s not just, you know, the artists that I collect, by the way, or sell in my gallery, I have lots that I buy from other places that I just like the art.
Eric Rhoads 8:18
So what’s the one that you would grab? If there was a fire? If you could only grab one?
Mark Sublette 8:24
And grab my kids paintings? I would be number one.
Eric Rhoads 8:29
Yeah, that’s really an interesting. That’s that’s probably right. I hadn’t thought about that. But that probably is more meaningful than anything because of the memories of family.
Mark Sublette 8:37
Yeah, absolutely. So but there’s, you know, as far as which one, I would actually go as a thing. It’s, it’s impossible to know, I don’t think I would think in those terms. Honestly, I would be thinking, you know, survival and you know, the things that have more deeper meaning in the sense of family and that kind of stuff. But yeah, I mean, I have, you know, hundreds of paintings in my house. So that’d be a tough choice.
Eric Rhoads 9:03
Do you want to give us your your address right now? So everybody knows exactly
Mark Sublette 9:07
yeah, I’d be happy to the gallery’s address is 6872 East sunrise drive Tucson, Arizona.
Eric Rhoads 9:17
So, this this is kind of a sidetrack but I think I’ll ask it anyway. Because, you know, I get questions about insurance. You you, I how do you insure a collection? Do you have to have constant updates on appraisals on every piece of it’s in a collection? How do you do that?
Mark Sublette 9:34
So you know, a personal collection versus a gallery are two different things and a personal collection. Often you have to itemize each piece and you have to have it listed. But for a gallery, you don’t have to do that it’s $1 amount. So you have X amount of dollars, and you know that we’ll cover that amount. So the two different things.
Eric Rhoads 9:54
So you became a collector, when did you first open your guy
Mark Sublette 9:59
so I At my gallery in 1992. So whatever that is going on 28 years, 29 years, yeah, 29 years. And I have I but I was I was buying and selling before I opened the gallery actually, for three or four years before that I had a license and I was buying and selling, but the actual gallery was like 1992.
Eric Rhoads 10:19
Did you quit your your physician work in the beginning? Or did you do both?
Mark Sublette 10:24
I quit pretty quickly. Yeah, right after? Yeah, right after I opened it, it was, you know, it was I think maybe I continued for six months more as far as actually going to the office as I needed to. But I had to be in the gallery to try to make a go of it. Right. So I had no idea what a gallerist made, never looked. You know, first of all, there was no internet, right? So there’s no, I didn’t have a way to research other than maybe going to a library, which I didn’t do. I just figured if I could, you know, make 30,000 a year or so I’d be happy. And I’d want to do it. And my goal was to give it three years if I could make it in three years. And I felt like I could make a go of it. And so the first year I lost money second year, I broke even the third year, I made a little so
Eric Rhoads 11:06
spectacular, actually, there’s a high failure rate among galleries. Why is that?
Mark Sublette 11:12
I think there’s a high rate of failure among businesses, right? 50% of all businesses fail. So Gallup no different than any other business in the sense that you have to have good business skills. One, you have to have location, location, location, all these components. And most people don’t think those things out. It’s good if you have some capital, so you have some longevity, a lot of people don’t have enough longevity, they say I’ll open it, I’ll do fine. And you know, you need a runway, you got to have I say a five year runway minimum. And really, for most galleries and me included, it takes 10 years before you are really considered to be trustworthy, to some extent, because there is this trust factor that goes on what between artists, art dealers, and collectors collectors want to make sure you’re going to be in the game, still, they don’t want you to sell them something that are gone. I remember Howard post, who is one of my first artists to come on board. You know, I remember him asking me, are you going to be in business in two years? You know, that’s a legitimate question to ask, especially from a guy like that, because he was a high powered artist, even in those days, and he’s taking a risk as well. Coming to show with a gallery who may or may not do well, you know, I might have talked to a good storm and said, I’m going to do great, and I’m really into it. But you know, his concern is okay, is this guy just gonna go back to practicing medicine and I’ve just wasted time energy, and didn’t put my effort into a gallery that really is going to promote my work and take me to the next level. So I think it’s a legitimate question for artists to ask, you know, how long have you been in business? And you know, what are your you know, what are your aspirations? As a dealer enter the gallery? Well, how are you going to promote me and those kind of things a lot, a lot of times they don’t, they’re just happy they got in. But it should be more than that.
Eric Rhoads 13:01
That reminds me, you know, when I was first, launching the magazine, I went out and I met with Iris Bannerman in New York, famous gallerist at the time, and he was kind of a old crotchety guy. And he, he said, He’s, I sat there, and I gave him my pitch. And he said, Come back, if you’ve been in business in 10 years, you get to sit in this chair and pitch me.
Mark Sublette 13:25
Well, I won’t see there’s the deal. It’s the 10 year thing, you know, even me, and that’s true, too. I mean, other galleries don’t really want to work with you, or do things as much because they’re afraid you’re going to be gone too. Or, you know, they give you something to sell, and you’re gone the next week and next year, and they don’t get paid. And, you know, so it’s unfortunately there is this longevity component. I think with galleries that does exist, doesn’t mean it has to be everyone there’s no I there’s galleries that can come on strong and do well and you know, are probably have a good business sense to start with. But, you know, if you’re going to be dealing with artists, especially living artists, you know, you’ve got to get them to come on board, why should they come on board with you and not someone else? There’s got to, especially if they’re good and well recognized, why do they want to go to to you. So that’s the longevity part. Now, it’s easy to go ahead and say now, it’s easy to get artists, to some extent. In fact, it’s a problem because, you know, so many artists need galleries. You know, I get somebody contacting me almost every day that needs, you know, needs representation. And it’s an I take somebody maybe every two years.
Eric Rhoads 14:33
Yeah, so let’s talk about that. Because I think that’s an important thing for artists to understand is that you have, you know, that 10 year idea also applies to artists to some extent, there’s this essence of when is an artist ready? When is their brand ready? You know, when are they developed enough and now there’s different levels of galleries. There’s high level galleries like yours and there’s mid level and lower level and so on and so certain ones will take people earlier. But what what should an artist be doing to develop themselves grow their brand and make sure that they are credible, so that you’re willing to take them on? is it all about painting? Is it only about painting?
Mark Sublette 15:14
I wish it was honestly. I think that would be, I really do. I wish it was all about painting in the sense that, you know, that’s the first thing I look at, I try not to get sucked into all this, look, what I’ve done, look who I am kind of stuff, I really do like to look at the artwork, because sometimes it just you go, I don’t know who this individual is, but they’re fantastic. And that’s where I think a true gallerist really shows their merit, if they can, you know, you should be like the voice, right? You shouldn’t look at anything but the artwork. And if you can do that, as a gallery owner, and really use that as your primary focus, you’re going to have a wonderful stable of artists. Now, having said that, most of them don’t do that. Okay? Because it is a business. And unfortunately, some of them look at it as product. I try never to do that, but some do. And so they’re looking for other things. So if I was a artist, the things that you know, every artist has its components, if it’s a beginning, middle, high end, they all have, you know, different routes, but if I was beginning artists, what if I were them, the first thing I would do is I promote myself tremendously, I would do things like plein air magazine, run ads, and your magazine i think is important. Get your brand out there, start your brand new Instagram to Facebook do Tick Tock started Youtube Video Channel, get on podcasts, and of course paint or sculpt and work on your craft as well. network with other artists, most artists, I think a lot of galleries take artists from recommendations from other artists that they have. So Francis Livingston, you know, recommended Dennis Umansky Dennis Kaminski, it also advertised in southwest start, I was already record already recognized Dennis’s work from what he had done on his own. And then Francis says, Yeah, he’s really great. I’m going to take that into consideration, you know, so talk to your, if you’re an artist, and you’re, you know, one of your friends is in a good gallery, and they feel like you have the ability to be in that same gallery, you know, ask them if they’ll recommend the gallerist. Because that’s, that’s a very good way and get a website to please.
Eric Rhoads 17:23
Because one of the things that that spook you what are the things that drive you away? If you’re looking at an artist, I would assume one of them would be consistency of work. You know, you’ve seen you see one great painting, and you go, aha, this is a great painter, and then you look at the website, and you see that 80% of the things up, there are not all that good, what what else spooks
Mark Sublette 17:41
you? Well, just back to the Dennis Kaminsky, you know, analog that we’re discussing when he came in to show me his work. You know, I saw what he had shown it was really a great painting. And I said, Bring everything. Because I want to see what everything is. I don’t want to see one any, anybody can get one good painting off, you know, but it’s the body of work. So he brought them all in probably 25 paintings, laid them all on my gallery. And they were all fantastic. And I said, that’s great. I want the work. And he goes, Well, which ones I go, I want the work. I want it all. Right. So you know, you’re right. It’s very, it’s very important to be consistent. As far as what turns me off. I really this is it’s my own thing. But when an artist approaches me and tells me how much they sell, and how good their sales are, and how much they’re making, that that doesn’t, that’s not you know, not for me, that doesn’t make me go Oh, great. You know, I’d rather know, you know, what excites you?
Eric Rhoads 18:50
Well, I guess, you know, if you use that argument, you could say that Thomas kincade sold a lot of art. And exactly, not not to be disparaging about that. But in terms of the style, or the quality of art, there are a lot of artists who sell art who would not necessarily be of, of the quality that you would put in your gallery.
Mark Sublette 19:09
Exactly. And I’ve turned some of those down. But their leading line is is how much I’m selling. And that’s you know, and that needs to go to somebody who is really more interested in just selling and making money on a product. I’m more interested in relationships, and what I can do in the long term for artists, and seeing them grow as a artist and seeing their work getting appreciated. I’ve been doing it long enough to really be able to do that now and getting artists and museum so I have a different mindset. I don’t know if I’m I think I’m probably unusual in that aspect. So but that’s for me personally, yeah. When when I hear that I’m like,
Eric Rhoads 19:51
great. Go Can you identify? Is there a way to articulate what quality is when you when you see the kind of quality that you’re Looking for? Or is it just I know what when I see it?
Mark Sublette 20:04
Well, I think it is it is I know it when I see it. It really is. I mean, it’s like why are you attracted to a spouse or a mate or whatever? What is that? You know, it may be completely different from what someone else thinks is beauty. Right? And for you, it hits on all, you know, all components for me, it’s composition, unique voice color. It’s and the most important for me is unique voice, I see something different, that I could recognize that artists work anywhere. And I think all my artists have the ability that if I look at them a block away, I can see that Okay, I know who that is, you know, you’re not going to not recognize a Howard post painting. I mean, no one paints like Howard, he has a very unique sense of color. And his compositions are unique. And you know, and that would stay true for all the artists that I represent. I think and the same with plein air. Let me say two because they have their own sensibilities. I mean, a Matt Smith and Matt Smith, right. I mean, you can see it a mile away. You know. And same with the Josh Elliott or a john Moyers. They have their own sense of style, Jill Carver, I mean, her unique ephemera, that kind of sensibilities that she has with her paintings, you know, so, you know, I’m looking for that unique voice that they’ve gone through the process. They’ve edited themselves, they figured out who they are as a person, and now are very confident in their skin. And that takes a while often not always, Glen Dean was, you know, doing it right off the bat. But now,
Eric Rhoads 21:38
what do you mean, they’ve edited themselves?
Mark Sublette 21:46
Yeah, they’ve edited themselves. In other words, they found who they are, they’ve gone through the process of trying different styles, they’ve tried different things that they think might sell, and then they all ultimately come to the conclusion. This is who I am, this is what I paint, and I’m okay with that. And that’s where I’m going. That’s the road, I’m going down. And once you get to that point, then all of us, you know, if you’re, if you’re trying to be Matt Smith, or Ray Roberts, you know, you’re not being you, you know, because they already are who they are. And they’re great teachers, and you can learn a lot but and they’ll tell you, I’m sure themselves, you’ve got to find your own voice of how you see the world that means your own. You know, what, how much in your palette Are you going to use? How many colors are you going to use? How fast are you going to make it quick and fast? Like a john Moore’s Are you loose? Are you much more tighter, like his wife, Terry. I mean, it’s, you know, and you can see it just like Dixon, you could see it even Maynard Dixon’s work, I mean, his earlier stuff, you know, you can see where he’s trying to figure out who he is, and what he is. And then pretty quickly, he finds itself and then, and even he, you know, changed his colors over a period of time. And, you know, in the early teens, he was much more brighter. And then he went to a little more flat and less colors. And at the end, he was using less colors and was much more flat. So,
Eric Rhoads 23:08
you know, let that raises a question. So you’re talking about and you’re probably the foremost expert on Dixon. So if an artist goes through that through their career, and they start out in one direction, they end up in another direction that that direction is what has made them famous. What is the value of those earlier paintings equivalent just because of the name and and you’re showing their progress through through their life their different phases? Or is it the the Maynard Dixon that Maynard became that everybody wants?
Mark Sublette 23:42
Yeah, so it’s a tricky question, because every artist is different, right? So some artists are hitting it right on the money early like Ed, Mel Ed, Mel’s early work is worth just as much as it as his later work and, and it’s and it’s much more simplistic is really early work. Dixon, he’s unusual that his work is really pretty much consistently valued from early work to the end, though there are periods of time that he was really hitting on all cylinders, 1923 1927 1931, those were all 1935. All those were timeframes that it was really doing well. Often, what you’ll see is that, at least this is anecdotally I think, is that you’ll see, artists between 40 and 70 will really kind of be that’s their prime time. Often when they get into the older timeframe in their 80s or 90s. They may have lost color sense or composition or just can’t do the big ones though. You have somebody like Wayne Tebow and Gregory condos who both painted and you know, Wayne Tebow still paintings 100 Gregory just passed and he was still painting in his 90s and doing beautiful stuff. So there are generally for deceased artists. Over time. There will be Recognize a certain periods in that artists that are maybe more desirable, more collectible, they may not be better paintings, but more desirable or collectible. And you can have somebody like a Howard terpening, who brings a million dollars. But his early work of illustrations one just sold for like $7,000, because it’s really not what he’s known for. So often, you know, the painting of an of a type is more valuable, you know, for certain artists, and, you know, that can change and wane and or john john and Terry Moyers, paint these wonderful Hawaiian scenes, which are not known for but you know, I could easily see them being the premier Hawaiian painters in the world if they wanted to be. So that’s, that’s what I have to say. You’re muted right at this moment. So I can’t I can’t hear you error. If I don’t know if you can still hear me. This is where I get sorry. That’s
Eric Rhoads 26:05
my microphone because of some noise in the outside. I won’t have a gallery owner come to me and say I was telling me about a young artist that he got, he said, The best part about this artist is that I can make money on him for for the next 50 years. Yeah, different different mindset.
Mark Sublette 26:22
Yeah, different mindset. Well, I do like, I mean, it is fun. Having a younger artist, that’s really as some who’s good, because you can help guide them, you know, and you can help them with things that they might not know, like, get good frame, start a good frame, make it your frame, you know, even things like signature, how are you signing, and these are some things that maybe you want to work on, you know, and here’s a pathway that I see, you know, that you can do and those kind of things. So there are some real fun things when you get a younger artists that, you know, will listen and all the ones I have really pretty much fall into that. And let’s probe that one.
Eric Rhoads 27:00
Let’s probe the signature thing, because that should be easy. What is it? What kind of advice do you give a young artist about their signature.
Mark Sublette 27:07
So I’ll go back to Maynard Dixon. Right? When he’s starting to do his thing early on, he’s struggling and doesn’t know how to do it. He starts with lmd. This kind of, you know, letters and are locking then he goes to L. Maynard Dixon. Then he goes to Maynard Dixon, then he goes as a Thunderbird. And, you know, he’s still he takes it took him a while to figure it out. One of the things I would say, again, it may just be me, but I don’t think it is. When they start doing their their signature one, it would be nice if you make it recognizable. In other words, you can actually read it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. You know, you can be so iconic, like an ad Mel, you know what that scribble looks like. But and it’ll always be known but others, I get people contacting me all the time sending me a picture of a really good painting. And I have no idea who that artist is because I can’t read their signature.
Eric Rhoads 28:01
This is a pet peeve of mine. This is a real problem. You know, you have people who who scribble and you know that 100 years from now or 50 years from now somebody’s looking at it, they don’t know who it is, at least put your name on the back of the painting. Yes.
Mark Sublette 28:16
name and title and inventory. Keep a list of all your paintings artists, because I think it’s really important for the long run on many levels. And at some point in time, you’re going to want to put these into blockchain, which is another podcast, but you know, you’re going to want to have everything in a blockchain. So you’ll have all your provenance, all the history and there’ll be documented. The other thing,
Eric Rhoads 28:38
are you doing anything with NF T’s right now?
Unknown Speaker 28:42
I am working with things on NF T’s right now. I actually am working with a blockchain company. And we’re working on developing something for artists and NF T’s. There’s things out there already clearly, like wearable and open sea and things like that. But it is going to be a real thing. Don’t don’t think it isn’t? It isn’t? No, no, I
Eric Rhoads 29:01
don’t think it is, is a passing fad. And I think it’s going to have a huge impact on the the best impact I think of this is that right now we have a situation where legally speaking, I believe you can correct me on this I’m wrong is that an artist technically is supposed to get some form of commission, even if their painting is sold again and again. In an NFT environment, they’ll always make money out of their heirs will always make money on it, no matter who it passes on to.
Mark Sublette 29:33
Well, they have theirs with an NF t which is a blockchain there is you can make a smart contract. And so a smart contract is what you’re describing. So it doesn’t have to be set up that way. An artist doesn’t have
Eric Rhoads 29:47
10% for forever, you’ll get it.
Mark Sublette 29:51
Yeah, you can set up a smart contract where that is the rules and the thing and that will be set in the blockchain. Absolutely. And which of course all artists are like yeah, this is fun. Fantastic. So, you know, those are some of the components that are going to be important with, you know, the future, which is the futures here, by the way, I mean the futures now, but I, if I was a young artist right now, I’d want to find out about blockchain and want to start thinking about enough to use for my paintings, I want to start thinking about documenting all the provenance and history and knowing where things go and that kind of stuff, which can be sometimes hard if you’re selling through a gallerist, because they’re not going to, they may or may not give you the information, but as where it goes and that kind of stuff, but the least you can the lease, document your paintings and have a record of them as far as signatures were discussing, I think big, huge signatures that, or monograms that overtake the painting and take your eye away from the imagery are not good. I think they should be blended in and smaller. Josh Elliott does a beautiful, you know, example of how he does his. And I just had this discussion with an artist the other day and recommended and quit doing what he’s doing because my eye keeps going to that place, you know, and he’s younger and he needs is going to work on doing that or sign it on the back. Jeff ayling signs all those paintings on the back. He works on Masonite, you know the title and things are there he and he does that because he doesn’t want to take away from them. And just like Georgia, O’Keeffe didn’t want to take away from the image. A lot of artists, especially contemporary modern artists, don’t want their signature being over to have anything to do with their their painting, they think they feel like it takes away. So today,
Eric Rhoads 31:36
how do you feel about that?
Mark Sublette 31:38
Yeah, that’s a tough one. It’s a tough one.
Eric Rhoads 31:41
All of a sudden, it’s an old painting.
Mark Sublette 31:43
Exactly. You know, and I think it’s important to date them for you. In your log, I’m not sure it’s a from a sales point, it may not be the best thing, because you do have to explain why is this 2016 and you’re selling it now, when we a lot of reasons. One, it just was set in the artists studio because they loved it. Maybe it didn’t sell, you know, there’s all sorts of reasons. So you know, I leave that up to the artist, personally, from just pure sales, I think it’s easier not to have a date, because there it does open those as long as you’re documenting some kind of inventory number where you know, these are dated, because in the future, it may be very important, Dixon was very good about dating, and it made it a lot easier. And he kept a lot from 1915 to 1946.
Eric Rhoads 32:31
in my art marketing classes at the plein air convention, I oftentimes tell people to tell their story. On the back of the painting, you know, if I’m painting, I was out the summer painting was CW Mundy, and some other friends. And we all painted in the same area. So I wrote on the back of the painting, you know, here’s where I was that, you know, was painting next to CW Mundy, and Rick Wilson, and John McDonald and so on. Because I thought, if nobody’s gonna care about my paintings historically, but if, you know, if they found all of those paintings, and they realize they’re all painted side by side, it could have some meaning. How do you how do you feel about telling those stories?
Mark Sublette 33:11
Yeah, I think it’s fantastic. Yeah, I mean, I’ve had to do the research on when working with Dixon on some of the people that he painted with, it’s clearly the same image, same timeframe, same date, but there’s no record of it. I’m, you know, next with Dixon, other than the imagery, so yeah, that’s those are, are wonderful things to do. And people might find them interesting. I think another thing you have to be careful with is titles, that some titles can help a painting to sell and some can actually hurt it. So an example. So, you know, a great title would be like cloud world, right? For Maynard Dixon. shapes of fear, they describe what it is, though, you know, the big tuba player might not be such a good title, or, you know, Dante is hell or something that is so has has such a negative connotation. That I mean, you could do it, but it may hurt the painting, or if it’s so descriptive, that it in the sense that people go, I thought it was this and now I see it is that and I’m not interested, I think sometimes a little more floral title. And not so can, you know, a very specific place, you know, Utah 1943, you know, double window, you know, versus, you know, Canyon lands. You know,
Eric Rhoads 34:44
those are I have a I have a painting that hangs in my sister in law’s house. And everybody who walks in says I know exactly where it is, but none of them are correct, but that, you know, they’re going back to their memory bank and it’s an emotional connection. How important is that? Am I connection in the purchase of art,
Mark Sublette 35:03
I think is very important. I mean, it’s even important to me, right? I, I buy things that were a moment in time, you know, and I think that for whatever reason it connected, it could be the moment as much as the painting. So those things have definitely have meaning. And, you know, I bought a wonderful painting that was a Hawaiian person not too long ago. And, you know, reminds me of a why and it’s early, and, you know, it’s a mad tenant, and she was doing this great stuff in the 40s. And, you know, but when I see it, I see a why I see. I smell the ocean. I see the light. I know where she was, I feel the people. Yeah, I think I think an emotional connection is, is critical. In fact, I don’t think I could buy a piece that didn’t have that, honestly.
Eric Rhoads 35:53
Yeah, I think that’s probably right. So talk to me about the plein air movement. What are the pros and cons we have more people painting outdoors together and we’re or in general, than we probably ever have in history, and we have more events than ever existed. You know, when when I first met you, when I first started plein air magazine, there probably were five or six events, maybe not even that many. Now there are 300 400 you’ve got lots of artists who are on the circuit. You got a lot of people who want to be what are the pros and cons and what what advice would you give people about participation?
Mark Sublette 36:30
Well, I think I would approach it when you say pros and cons as an art dealer. Okay, so let me just talk as an art dealer, versus a collector of myself. Because, you know, what are the things that I see are good or bad? Well, first of all, you better have a unique style. In other words, you better have your own vision. You better be a Ray Roberts a masseuse Smith, Josh Elliott, a john Moyers, a Tara Kelly, you know, you better have something that is recognizable as you and not working in a style that I can’t tell who you are, you know, or you know. So those are important, I think. And if you can do that, then you’ve you found something right. And a lot of times the plein air paintings are smaller. Not always Gregor Hall works very large. Louisa McElwain was a plein air painter, really. And you know, they can work large, some people can work large, but from a sales point of view, if your all your paintings are 10 by 14, and your big ones 16 by 20, that’s a harder, that’s harder for sales. For one, they get lost, people have need bigger things, not everybody can look at a small painting and go, Oh, this is something that will fill my space, or this is something I like it, but it’s not big enough. So I think you do need to have to be able to paint large, or least take those images that you have. And if you translate them in the studio, like again, like Glenn Dean does, or or Josh Elliott or Logan hedges, you know, those individuals are taking their small paintings and turning plein air paintings and turning them into large paintings…I like big paintings. And I like them. Because I know an artists can only do so many large works in their lifetime. And I feel privileged to be able to have one of those paintings that took them maybe months to have so for me, there is no limit size, but from, you know, a standpoint of where does it become more difficult to sell? I think probably over, you know, maybe five by six is probably kind of the limit to where it starts. But I’ve sold, you know, David Nichols, we sold like a four by 10 foot painting, you know, and I just said do the biggest you cannot sell it. I did I mean, who wouldn’t want it?
Eric Rhoads 39:01
well, I was at an auction, I ended up buying a very big painting from a very famous artist. And nobody bid on it. Because it was so big, you know, because I’m sure they’re thinking now this was not a Sunday. So this was a more of a private auction thing. But it was I think there’s like where am I possibly going to hang this thing? You know, you got to have a big space for them.
Mark Sublette 39:23
So that’s why as an artist, I mean we did a show with Stephen dads a couple years ago and we only had like eight paintings and they were all very large. And you know, it’s very scary for the artists to because I just said let’s do big work on the zoo, you know, and they all sold but it is scary for the artists to put them out there all that time and energy and then maybe they don’t sell but for me, I mean anything 3040 you know 4050 or below those are fantastic. I’d rather have 140 50 than a 2016 by 20s. I just because I know how much effort went into it and how much time and how hard that is. And, you know, the plein air studies can also be a nice way to show especially if you do a video or if you put it in the in the show show. You know, this is where it came from. There was work that had to go into making this painting. I didn’t just go Okay, oh, here’s a nice idea. I took a photo. And that’s it. No, I went out at sunset when it was freezing, and captured this moment in time. And you can see that I was able to translate that onto a big painting. And that that takes skill set. I love to see that actually, I’ve
Eric Rhoads 40:37
noticed some regional trends. You know, I’m recording this now in the Adirondacks and up in the Vermont area, north northeast corner of America. I see a lot of painters out there with 30 by 40, you know, big canvases doing them while on location. Yeah, times coming back two or three times, you know, to do them. And that you know, so it I think it depends on the region. You know, I’m not seeing a lot of people painting really large outdoors, so I’d like to see more of it.
Mark Sublette 41:07
Yeah, Louisa McElwain did all her paintings that way. They were all on Gregory Hall, I think does to great extent. Maynard Dixon did one No, no, he normally never did that. But he did do having out. And it’s a 40 by 50. And he he did a study, he did a plein air study. And he also did the painting out there in the field. So I’m not sure why, what he did.
Eric Rhoads 41:29
Well, I could tell you exactly why I’m working on a 40 by 50 right now. And I’ve got a photo reference and a plein air study. And I’m struggling, you know, and I want to take that painting back to the location. And you know, and it’s a big painting, it’s not exactly easy to carry up the top of a mountain. But I want to take it up there because I want to make sure that I’m capturing the sense of air and light, because I can’t always get that from a phone.
Mark Sublette 41:54
Yeah, and the plein air painting he did doesn’t capture the essence, I don’t think and that may be exactly correct. And that painting ended up winning a major award and during his time in 1930. So clearly it worked for him. So yeah, I mean, I would like to see more work done like that. That is larger. And I think it’s in there. I think it’s an artists advantage to do that. Because one, they’ll make more money, because it’s by size, generally, paintings are sold by size, almost always. And I think there’s more demand for that. So I would say that would be one of the limiting things that I can see. if you just do small work, that, you know, you’re going to limit yourself, you’re going to need to more than likely you’re going to limit your so again, you have somebody like Matt Smith, I mean, who doesn’t want a small Matt Smith. There’s so they’re so amazing.
Eric Rhoads 42:43
They’re so amazing. So how do you how do you feel as a gallery owner about all these hundreds of plein air events that are out there where people are selling art? Do you think that’s is that? Is that hurt your business in any way? Is it good for you? It doesn’t matter?
Mark Sublette 42:59
I think it probably hurts some businesses for sure. For me, it doesn’t matter. I mean, there, I mean, we’re competing all the time with lots of things, right? I mean, with an artists website, or Instagram account, all the museums that have shows. So I mean, we’re competing with lots of things all the time. You know, a plein air show like that. No, in fact, it might even help me in the sense that an artist is found at one of these, I’m not doing all the work and heavy lifting, they find the person, they get to meet the person, which is really critically important if they you know, so they make a connection. So now all of a sudden, they are a fan of this artist, and they and if the artist is knows what they’re doing, they’ll say, Yeah, my gallery is x, you know, and you can see more of my work there. That’s a win win for the artists, the collector and the gallerist. Because the gallery is now getting a referral from a client they didn’t have to do the artists sold something. And it’s working in partnership, which is what they should gallery in of, and an artist should have a partnership. It should be like a marriage, it should be really in those terms, in my opinion.
Eric Rhoads 44:15
So I’ve heard a lot of pretty disgusting stories lately about artists who have violated that gallery relationship who have who have gone around the gallery ever have that happen. And what’s your best advice to artists?
Mark Sublette 44:31
Well, I think that if you want to have a long term, serious relationship with the gallery, then you don’t want to do that because most galleries will probably just say I’m done. Right? They’ll just say you know, you can’t do that and they’ll just cut them off. Sometimes they don’t know sometimes artists really don’t understand the ethics. But then others are like Greg Newbold had somebody that one of my clients, connect call him and wanted some of us immediately calls me And says, Here’s, you know, your, we want to make sure we go through you. So I’m on all my artists I think are good about that. It’s, it’s important, I haven’t ever let an artist go because of that. Occasionally it does happen, but innocently or they didn’t know or, you know, or sometimes, you know, it’s just a situation where they need money, they needed money or whatever. But generally, all the artists that I represent, realize that I’m spending lots of money, energy, effort, rent, you know, website, all that stuff, to help promote them. And if they, you know, are always going through them their own website or their own Instagram, especially if they’re already my clients, that’s the big one, then then that that’s a problem. And so I think smart artists will recognize this as if they want to work in the gallery, now you don’t have to work with a gallery. You know, there are, the world is changing, and has changed and will continue to change. There are ways, I think, today, you could be a very good gallery, a very good artist and have no gallery just doing it yourself. But, but it’s going to take time away from what you really were meant to do, which is paint, and create. And you’re going to have to have that skill set to be able to do well. And for general, in general, I would say it’s not, I would not recommend it. But it can easily be done and done. Well. Mark maggiore doesn’t probably need a gallery. Ad Mel probably doesn’t need a gallery. But they still have galleries, though, again, the way things are changing, you know, you may not have to, and it’ll be interesting.
Eric Rhoads 46:46
But a gallery has so much that people don’t really stop to think about you have relationships, sometimes in your case, 2030 year relationships with collectors, you can help someone, you can launch a career and help them become collected. This is much more difficult to do on your own, you know, we do have a world where, because of social media, we can sell direct, we can do a lot of things. And I think it’s a beautiful thing, but it’s not going to be for everybody, I think that the curator is really a critical piece that still remains because it’s it’s about trust, you know, there’s so many I still hear horror stories about people buying paintings online that were that were fakes. I came very close to it myself one time. And so I think that you know, it’s it’s a blend, you got to you got to figure out what’s right for you. But I think if you can get a good gallerist working for you. What’s nice about that is they’re they’re working for you, when you’re sleeping, you know, or when you’re painting, you’re somebody else is out there selling your work for you. And you’re not having to do that I I teach artists how to sell paintings and how to work with galleries and how not to work with galleries. But ultimately, anybody who can either have an agent doing that for them or have a gallery doing it for him, they’re going to be able to get more painting done and not not have to stress out about doing all of it themselves.
Mark Sublette 48:12
Yeah, and if it’s a good gallery, so getting them in museum collections, I just placed a nice painting in a museum list last week, I mean, you know, they’re working with the museums are trying to help build your career, not just sell a piece of art. The other guy would say, if I were an artist looking at a gallery, the first thing I would look at is what the gallery social media is, how good is that? How is their website? Is it good? Is it current? are they putting out good information? Do they have other platforms? I think that is as much as has as much importance in today’s world as it does do you have a big space and you know, Santa Fe or Tucson or wherever. I mean, those are important. But if you haven’t invested the time, energy or money into your website, I mean, you’re only buying part of the gallery, because that is a critical component.
Eric Rhoads 49:02
We went to we went to the website of somebody we were considering doing one of our videos with and the website, you know, it had a button that said enter here. Remember that from early stages a website’s 99. And that, you know, it hadn’t been updated in in five years. And and you know, our first reaction is if they don’t care enough about you know, updating their website, are they going to be somebody good to work with, you have to really think twice about that, especially in this world. Well, Mark, this has been a delight. We’ll have to do this again some time. I’m gonna do a marketing minute. Do you want to join me on this and help me answer some questions?
Mark Sublette 49:39
Eric Rhoads 49:41
All right, well, let’s get your intro here.
This is the Marketing Minute with Eric Rhoads, author of the number one Amazon bestseller “Make More Money Selling Your Art: Proven Techniques to Turn Your Passion Into Profit.”
Eric Rhoads 49:53
All right, well, we have a special guest with us today on the marketing minute Mark sublette, who’s a gallery owner in Tucson, Arizona. is going to be on with us. For those of you listening on the marketing minute podcast, here’s a question from Ashton B. in Baton Rouge, Louisiana who asks, If you’re working with several Whoa, this is time good timing. If you’re working with several art galleries, how do you decide which gallery gets which paintings? Mark, you want to address that one? Yeah, yeah. Well curse the committee, right?
Mark Sublette 50:22
Yeah, no, not necessarily. If they let for instance, let’s say they’re working with me and somebody that’s in let’s say, Jackson Hole, they’d be smarter to get the material that is related to the Jackson Hole area, ie the Tetons versus sending them Searles, right, send me soils, now they should have a working relationship with a gallerist. And they should be able to say, Oh, I do well, with this, I don’t do well with that. And then the other thing is that, you know, if let’s say they’re, you paint the same kind of subject matter, and it’s the, the galleries are not, you know, really different in the locations, who’s doing the better job for you, right? I mean, reward the, the galleries that are making the sales and promoting you, whoever that is, if, if you have one gallery that’s doing really well, for you, they should get more I mean, until the other gallery steps up, and does well or comes to you and says, Hey, I’m going to do this, I’d like to get more paintings, you know, and here’s my plan. If they’re not doing that, if they’re just saying, Give me stuff, then you know, go with the person who’s doing a better job,
Eric Rhoads 51:29
or you ever get a painting, you know, somebody sends you a painting and you’re like, cringe when you see it, and you wish that you didn’t even have to worry about selling it or do you, you know, did not hang it? Or how do you deal with a situation like that?
Mark Sublette 51:44
Unfortunately, most my artists are so good that you know that even a painting that I might not particularly care for. Usually sells, but you know, I had one that was I got that was a subject matter. It just seemed like there would be no way I could sell it. But somebody found it. Perfect for them. Because that’s what the subject they liked it. Yeah. And so you just don’t know Don’t you know, realize that just because your taste as a gallerist might be x, some subject matter may be quite desirable that you just don’t recognize. So I let every No, I don’t ever really tried to push my artists to do extra this. I just say give me your best work. I’m happy.
Eric Rhoads 52:26
Yeah, yeah, I would say, you know, what I do is I send pictures first. I’ll say I’ll pick somebody that I think it’s a fit for, and I’ll send it to them. And I’ll say, is this something you want? And sometimes they’ll say no, sometimes they say yes. And so I think that right off the bat kind of solves that problem. And, and then you know, and I think the regional thing is huge. Right? You know, Adirondack paintings don’t do well in the desert.
Mark Sublette 52:50
Nope. Not send those to you.
Eric Rhoads 52:55
Yeah, that’s right. All right. So the next question comes from Joe eisenhart. in Cheyenne, Wyoming, speaking to the west Joe says, Are there businesses that hire freelance plein air painters? I’ve never heard of that. Well, I have heard of that. Actually. I’ll try to address that first. There’s a big thing right now. plein air weddings. This is I’m seeing hearing from and seeing a lot of people doing this where they’re hiring a plein air painter to come in and paint at a wedding or at a reception. It’s kind of a kind of a thing right now and artists are getting paid. And one one artist told me they got flown to France. This is pre COVID they got flown to France, and they got they were paid some ridiculous amount of money because weddings, you know, people like to spend money. And they did a painting of the wedding while it was taking place. And you know, usually what they do is they go in there and they kind of paint in all the background and everything first and then you know, they paint their figures in last when the weddings going on. I’ve never heard of businesses hiring freelance plein air painters, what about you, Mark?
Mark Sublette 54:00
Never heard about it ever. But I think that’s a great idea for the for the weddings. I think you could make a complete career doing that, if you like those kind of things. I mean, it would be I could see it, I can definitely go see it. But no, I’ve never heard of it.
Eric Rhoads 54:14
No, I never have either. But I think there’s you know, there’s something interesting in that there is somebody who pointed out to me that they put themselves out there in their in a convention city like San Diego or something and they they do these plein air retreats, you know, if somebody is coming in for a convention and they want to company bonding meeting, you know, they’ll set them up with 40 or 50 easels, they’ll give them a lesson and, and they you know, they make good money from that. But that’s that’s an interesting question. It raises some, some good ideas. So anyway, that’s the marketing minute.
This has been the marketing minute with Eric Rhoads. You can learn more at artmarketing.com
Eric Rhoads 54:51
All right, we’re gonna say goodbye to Mark Sublette right now. Thank you, Mark for being on today. And we’re gonna finish up the podcast here. Thanks for participating in the game. It was terrific. Now I just want to say as a reminder a couple of things don’t forget to enter your best work in the next round of the plein air salon which is monthly by August 31. That’s at pleinairsalon.com if you want to go with me to Russia, you’ve got to get your visa so get it done pretty quickly. We’re going mid September, and we may or may not go there is always that risk but we would have 100% refund if we don’t of course, and so go to paintRussia.com, it’s going to be an incredible trip. Check out pastel live world’s best pastel artists over three days from your home that’s at pastellive.com. And if you’ve not seen my blog where I talk about life and art and other things, it’s called Sunday coffee. You can find it at coffeewithEric.com and then you can subscribe. I’m Eric Rhoades, publisher and founder of plein air magazine. You can find us online at outdoorpainter.com and you can get plein air magazine at pleinairmagazine.com. Remember, it’s a big world out there. Go paint it.
This has been the plein air podcast with Plein Air Magazine’s Eric Rhoads. You can help spread the word about plein air painting by sharing this podcast with your friends. And you can leave a review or subscribe on iTunes. So it comes to you every week. And you can even reach Eric by email [email protected] Be sure to pick up our free ebook 240 plein air painting tips by some of America’s top painters. It’s free at pleinairtips.com. Tune in next week for more great interviews. Thanks for listening.