Thursday, February 26, 2009

five surefire ways to annoy a gallery

I subscribe to an email newsletter by Sylvia White, Contemporary Art Services, and this one is so true - see below.  There is hardly a day goes by I don't receive requests from artists for representation, and it is simply not prudent to drop everything to respond - sales suffer!  And that is the ultimate, mutual goal we have!  Both galleries I direct, the Lynden Gallery and the Arts Hotel Gallery, have submission guidelines posted on the websites.  When those guidelines are followed, it's much easier to get noticed.  My preference is digital files emailed to me, while other galleries have preferences of their own - take the time to find out what they want.

I don't always have time to look at requests as they come in, but I file them in one place on my computer, and when it's time to schedule the next year, or I'm looking for something special, I pull the files and go thru them.  This happens about once a year, and on no definitive schedule.  I look for a week I can hole up with my laptop, schedule no outside appointments, and I work on a year's worth of scheduling at a time, sometimes even into the following year.   If the files have been received to the specifications requested, you atleast made the first cut!  Everything else?  All the snail mail packages and "please return" CD's?  They are back on my shelf in the office, and rarely get a second glance.  The "please look at my website" emails?  I don't look.

To many artists, being an artist isn't "real" unless you have a gallery to exhibit your work. Although there are several other options available to artists in terms of showing and selling their work, it seems, for some, there is just no substitute for getting gallery representation. To this end, many artists are willing to bend over backwards, do insane things, make ridiculous claims, and, in short, embarrass themselves. The truth of matter is, not all artists are ready for galleries, nor are galleries, necessarily, the best choice for many artists. Especially in these hard economic times, the last thing on most gallerists minds, is acquiring new artists. Much of my time is spent helping artists develop a realistic set a goals, and then a game plan to achieve those goals. Nevertheless, there is always that rogue artist, wanting to strike out on their own, thinking this time it will be different. They muster up the courage to start approaching galleries before they are ready, and without regard to common sense gallery protocol. If you recognize yourself as that rogue, or you know another artist that is, please forward this article to them.

  1. Being confident about the quality of your work is a good thing. It identifies the fact that you have reached a certain stylistic maturity and understand the complexity of where your work fits into the contemporary art world. However, telling the gallery director (or anyone for that matter) how great your work is, is not a good thing. Confidence is something that grows with experience and doesn't need the constant reassurances from the outside world. Quality is not something that is "told" but rather discovered, and changes with each individual and their primary experience with the work. Let your viewers have their own experience with your work. Be confident enough about the quality of your work to allow people NOT to like it. And, never, never, never dictate what that response should be. There is no "right" way to look at or interpret art.
  3. Don't show the gallery director every piece of art you've made since your high school graduation. Galleries are most interested in looking at your most current body of work and seeing if it holds together as a series. Showing fewer pieces that represent a cohesive body of recent work, is much better than showing a ton of older work. If a gallery ASKS to see the development of your work, or is interested specifically in older work, you can have that available on your website. (Yes, you must have a website!) Remember, most people can only absorb so much visual information at a time without getting hydroscopic (can't absorb anymore). You need to be sensitive to the fact that you look at your work every day, and although it might not be tiring or stressful for you to look at 40 pieces of art, a normal person can't absorb that much visual information. Limit presentations of your work, either by snail mail, email or in person, to 10 pieces at the most.

  4. Learn the most efficient way to send your materials. If you are mailing, don't send it insured or registered mail, this requires a signature and/or a trip to the post office. Don't send a ton of materials, or exhibition announcements in which you are one of many artists, reviews with your name mentioned once (and probably underlined in red), or miscellaneous stuff that you think is impressive. It's not, less is more. Don't expect your materials will be returned, unless you include a stamped, self addressed envelope (and, maybe, not even then...) Never, never, never, send originals or nag the gallery for the return of your materials. Remember, it's actually a GOOD thing if they want to keep you on file. If you are emailing, write a coherent cover note and send a link to your website. If you must send images attached be sure that they are appropriately sized digital files. Keep in mind that many email addresses do not accept more than 5MB of attachments to an email and that many people do not feel comfortable opening attachments to an email.
  6. Respect the gallery director's time. Galleries are in business to sell artwork. Do not try to show them your work when they are at an art fair that has cost thousands of dollars to attend. Do not try to show them your work at the opening reception of another artist. Do not come into the gallery without an appointment, carrying your portfolio, and expect the gallery director to look at it. Do not pretend to be interested in another one of the gallery artists (or in buying something), then ask them to look at your work. Do not be insulted, if during your meeting, the gallery director leaves to greet a visitor in the gallery, or take an important phone call.
  8. Fixate on your goal, not your fantasy. If you are lucky enough to get "face" time with a gallery, focus on what it is you can realistically accomplish. Most artists go into these meetings thinking they will come out with the offer of an exhibition, or a gallery that loves their work and wants to represent them, or maybe even a sale. False on all counts. I'm not saying it never happens, I'm just saying your odds are better if you buy a Lotto ticket. In reality, you have a two prong goal when showing your work to a gallery. One scenario could be, you could get them to recommend other galleries that may like your work and/or be more appropriate for you, than they are. Alternatively, and the most preferable outcome, would be the gallery would agree to take a few pieces on consignment, on trial. Keeping your eye on the ball is the only chance you have at hitting your target.

Just keeping these things in mind, remembering to be polite, respectful and professional, will get you closer to your goals. Good luck!  

For more of Sylvia's practical advice, go to her website 
For submission of work guidelines for Lynden Gallery 
For submission of work guidelines for the Arts Hotel Gallery 

Monday, February 23, 2009

sourdough experiment, number one

Years ago I served tables at an uncommon restaurant, The Country Chef in Mount Joy.  Ever since I've been stymied with the challenge of creating that wonderful bread of his.  "Him", being Ed Hitz, veterinarian turned French chef - his studio an old barn outside of Elizabethtown with a big kitchen and lots of nooks and crannies with tables for parties of 2, 4 or up to 12, as I recall.  

Reservations would be made from a selection of dates and 7 course menus.   Guests for the evening would arrive, entering the bottom floor of the old bank barn from the abandoned cow pasture, and gather for wine and hor' d oeuvres.  Chef Hitz would greet his guests before instructing them to proceed up the stairs for dinner.  The meal began with one of his amazing soups - subject for another story - followed by a simple salad, "this bread", the main course, and some delectable, sweet creation for dessert, typically with hand-whipped cream.  The evening would end with a nightcap of sherry back downstairs.

Over the years, I'd come across Doc Hitz and his bread, at Lancaster Town Fair, or family gatherings at his house.  That chewy center and crackly crust was something in all my bread baking years, I hadn't been able to accomplish.  When I asked his secret, he told me that he baked the bread on a tray of stones in water, and would spritz it with water during the baking.   So I decided to try it, reading up on sourdough starters, trying all sorts of steamy tricks, but mine never tasted like that.  This was back in my days at the little bungalow on Orange Street, with Jenna and Joe as toddlers, and my passionate desire to grow, cook, can and bake all things from scratch.  (I could actually clean that small house, wash windows, do laundry and bake bread all in one day - life was much less complicated back then.)

Well, I gave up the sourdough experiment when it seemed I just couldn't accomplish the wanted results - and I did after all, make pretty amazing oatmeal, raisin and french breads.  But two weeks ago, I found myself killing time in Borders Bookstore with my step-daughter Lorelei, and determined to find a cookbook that would somehow provide the extra little tidbit of information I'd been missing in my decades long quest.  Bernard Clayton's, "New Complete Book of Breads," seemed pretty exhaustive, so I jotted down the starter recipe on the back of my latte' receipt in the coffee shop, carefully put it in my wallet, and headed home with visions of crusty, sour smelling loaves emerging from my oven in a few days.

There are all sorts of sourdough starter recipes, but I decided on the simplest one - 

Honey Starter
Combine in a one quart jar with tight fitting lid - I have an old turquoise glass canning jar with a tin screw on lid that I prefer.  Set the jar in a warm, dark place and sour for a week or more, stirring the mixture once a day or so.  Make sure the lid is tight, or you'll have starter all over the cupboard!
1 tbs. yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 tbs. honey
2 1/2 cups occident flour

My story continues with yesterday's maiden loaf baking.  Two days prior to baking, I began with the following in my large bread baking crock, and stowed it in my oven covered with cotton towels:
1 cup starter
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/2 cups occident flour
2 tsp. sugar

As I was going through this process, my son Lynden passes thru the kitchen, reads a bit of the recipe and says "are you really doing this?  It's going to take a week before you have any bread!"  Proudly, I smiled, and explained the virtues of this long process, teaching a much needed lesson in delayed gratification.  Yesterday, I stirred down the starter with great anticipation (a day early in my eagerness), and mixed in the following:
1 tbs. dry yeast
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3-4 cups occident flour

I proceeded with kneading and wacking the dough against my granite countertop, feeling the satisfaction of it's elastic properties and smooth, sour smelling dough.  Lynden passed thru at some point, seemingly impressed when he noted the cookbook called for 10 minutes of kneading.  "Your going to do it that long?"  Well, I'm kneading away, and my wrists and fingers start to remind me why I splurged on a Kitchenaid mixer with a bread hook when I was 30, but I know better than anyone, the importance of loving that dough and giving it plenty of attention.  

I followed Bernard's advice of breaking "the rhythmic pattern frequently by lifting the ball of dough above the counter and bringing it crashing down against the work surface - wham!"  As I slam it down for the umpteenth time, giddy with a certain optimism, I have a knock at the door, and Lisa Madenspacher arrives.  I think she thought I was a bit nuts too, but lucky for her it was time to let the dough "rest" for 10 minutes.  I made coffee and we sat and chatted in the kitchen.  David passed thru, and we ended up moving to the front room, discussing art, history, and religion for several hours.  I kept excusing myself to check the dough, and move things along on this project.  

After forming the dough into loaves - frustrated that I didn't have proper baguette baking pans, I scored them with a knife and let them rise for an hour and a half.  When they had about doubled in size, I brushed the tops with eggwhite and water, and put them in a preheated oven at 400 degrees.  I prepared the oven according to Bernard's advise, a pan with 1/2 inch of boiling water in the bottom, 5 minutes before putting the loaves in.  Recommended baking time was 45 minutes, for a glossy brown finish to the crust, and he advised moving the loaves around the oven a bit for more even baking.  I took them out a bit early, as I think maybe my oven was a bit hotter.  

The verdict?  Texture and crust were closer than I've ever been able to manage before, but still not as good as Doc Hitz's, and flavor was lacking.  It felt like an accomplishment anyway, and we enjoyed the bread with fresh hummus and olive jelly last evening.  This morning, I pulled my starter from the cupboard to try again.  This time, I'm trying Bernard's "Sourdough Oatmeal Bread" recipe, and I'll make sure the sponge sits for a full 2 days, rather than rushing it at one day like last time.  

I'll let you know how it goes... and hopefully, when we continue our discussion with Lisa, there will be fresh bread, and sweet success, to share with her.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

hungry for chocolate, quick, easy brownies

This recipe comes from my favorite chocolate cookbook, "Hershey's Chocolate Treasury", which was given to me years ago for Christmas.  It's stained, with spattered chocolate, has post-it notes marking the "Cocoa Bundt Cake", "Chocolate Satin Glaze", "Peanut Butter Paisley Brownies", and a pink plastic paperclip on the corner of the "Best Brownies" page.  I've tried to make it healthy, less fat and sugar, but lets face it - those aren't real brownies.  So here is the unadulterated, perfect, original version I return to again and again - especially when I just have to have chocolate now - which is often, when the M&M Mars factory 3 blocks away has the whole town smelling of fresh chocolate!  

Beat together by hand in a medium sized bowl:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

Add and beat by hand until dry ingredients are all wet:
1/2 cup white flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Pour into a greased 8 x 8" baking pan, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Ooey and gooey when they first come out, they firm up as they cool.  Some people like to add nuts, but no one around here likes their brownies crunchy, so I never do.

Speaking of chocolate, Frank Mars himself was in the gallery today with his wife, making a quick trip thru the gallery looking for just the right, local, landscape painting.  He likes the detail of some, but they tend to have too much snow and "feel lonely."  "When will he do spring and flowers?" he asked me today.  I wouldn't hold my breath on that one, but I enjoy his visits!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

workshops at lynden gallery

Eva Bender, watercolor
March 7, June 20 and November 7, 10:00 to 4:00, includes lunch 
Participants will explore moving from realistic rendering to abstraction, mysterious images in watercolor, incorporating
drawing and painting, being open to "happy accidents" and "surprises" in the resulting work. Lunch of tea sandwiches 
and desserts will be served by Gina Feeser.
Registration required - call 717.367.9236 or register online - fee $95 each class

Mitch Lyons, clay monoprints
Saturday, April 18 and October 17, 10:00 to 4:00, includes lunch 
Beginner and advanced level students will learn to make monoprints using a wet slab of stoneware clay as the matrix. After rolling out a slab of clay, students will apply colored clay slips to the "leather hard" surface. Wet canvas/paper is placed over the slab,pressure is applied with a rolling pin to remove (print) a thin layer of the colored clay. This class is designed for painters, potters, printmakers and anyone else who wants to work "outside the box".
Registration required - call 717.367.9236 or register online at - fee $100 each class

Ned Wert, painting
Three days - Saturday thru Monday, May 16 thru 18, 10:00 to 4:00 each day, includes lunch
Open to anyone who has worked in a waterbase media before, with emphasis on developing fresh imagery ideas, personal approaches, and finding new directions to follow after the class. No copying of any published material or other art is permitted. Part of each day will be dedicated to informal group critiques.  Individual criticism will be offered to each participant throughout the day, as you work at your own pace, not on a "class assignment."
Registration required - call 717.367.9236 or register online at - fee $200 for a three day class

Janet Hammond, drawing and pastels
Two days - Saturday and Sunday, September 26 and 27, 10:00 to 4:00 both days, includes lunch
Open to anyone interested in expanding and developing their drawing skills, particularly in pastel. Easel drawing will allos the individual to step back and really see and understand the gesture in their drawing, and provides for less mess in your lap when working with pastels.
Registration required - call 717.367.9236 or register online at fee $150 for a two day class

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

guests at the opening... thanks Scott!

Thanks to Scott Campbell for the photos below of the opening!  Scott is a journalist for the Harrisburg Magazine, and gave the show a wonderful write up in December - see

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Susan Darling!

the opening

Last evening we had a full house - and a great mix of old and new faces.  The Gadjo Playboys, as always, didn't disappoint - the music was fabulous!  We sold Ned Wert's "Lessons for the Soothsayer", 60" x 48" acrylic on canvas.  It only arrived home this past fall after gracing the Embassy in Macedonia for two years.   The Ambassador found the piece on our website after it's debut in a solo show of Ned's work in 2005, and personally requested it for the collection.  I found the Arts in the Embassy program to be thoroughly professional, well organized and the work was picked up, packaged and shipped on both ends of it's journey with meticulous care.   The purchasers of the work have several of Ned's pieces, but this one will certainly be the prize in their collection!  I'm thrilled for them, as I know how I've delighted in living beside the work myself.  The energy in that painting - and the color - so bold and delicious!
I was thrilled to cross paths with Gary Butson Thursday, and find him ready to dig out his studio and get back to painting after a three year hiatus.  At my urging, he agreed to bring in his palette and some unfinished work, along with a few small pieces so I could include him in the exhibition.  Truth be told, his palette was the one that started me thinking about putting together this whole event.  It's tiers of oil color, like stalagmites rising from the floor of a cave were several inches high, with a cleared pool of glass shimmering beside them for mixing.  It was art in itself!  He said someone offered him $500 for it, but he wouldn't part with it.  It's on exhibit, sans cobwebs, a red dot on his painting, "Grapes".  Jackson, Gary's three-year old son, loved the whole scene, and we were successful in selling another piece or two.

After the musicians packed up to leave, the crowd began to thin.  Several of us walked down the street to the Wachhaus residence at the invitation of Eve and Aaron.   Eve, true to form, had prepared a delicious repast of fresh tomato soup, quinoa salad, and baked potato fingers, with artichokes, olives, cheeses, dried cranberries and hearty bread on the side.  I realized when I sat down we had been so busy I hadn't had a bite or nibble the whole opening.  On arriving, Roger started telling me a story about the old Victorian house as we came up on the porch.  Inside, they greeted each other like old friends, and I found to my surprise the Wachhaus family had purchased their circa 1900 Victorian sofa from Roger!  Stories ensued, Roger sharing images of his kids sitting on that sofa 20 years ago on Christmas Eve, and Eve spoke of a painting she had done of her children on the sofa more recently.   

I sat in their parlor surrounded by old friends and new acquaintances talking art, dogs, and a myriad of other light-hearted subjects, laughing and relishing the success of the evening.  All the talk of the down economy of late had been waring on me, and I had declared to myself it simply meant I had to work harder and smarter - I will have none of such pessimism.  The evening ended with a pleasant walk back down Market Street with Roger, Andy, Tom and Don.  As we approached the corner to cross the street, we heard a man yelling at the passing cars.  Up ahead, half a block or so, he staggered down the street, so inebriated he couldn't even stay on the sidewalk.  As I called 911, fearing the poor soul would stumble into the street and get hit by a car, I watched him go down hard on the sidewalk.  I ran ahead to find him out cold, just as the police pulled up, his whiskey bottle sticking out of his back pocket and his glasses tumbled from his nose.  The cops seemed to know him. 

There are more such people downtown than I could have ever imagined, having grown up just around the corner, in the safety of my childhood home on College Avenue.  I never thought I'd stay in Elizabethtown all my life, let alone, live downtown in the old Fire Hall!  I woke this morning in the front room - the room where the firemen slept - ever more aware of my blessings.  And more certain than ever, of my desire to give back to this community in whatever way I can.

Friday, February 13, 2009

ned's stuffed mushrooms

Ned brought along is famous stuffed mushrooms to the opening, which were gone before I got any.  I hear they are delicious!  He suggests "portions may be varied for preference."

Snap stems from mushroom caps and set aside.  Chop the stems finely.

In a skillet, saute' chopped stems and some green onions in olive oil.  Add seasoned pre-cooked loose sausage and cook completely.  Allow the mixture to cool a bit.

Add seasoned bread crumbs and one beaten egg - salt and pepper to taste.  Add olive oil to attain moistness that can be pinched, shaped and stuffed into the caps.  Fill caps abundantly.

Arrange on an oiled cookie sheet and broil until heated.  Watch carefully - do not over broil!

Serve warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

palette/palate study

This has been one of my favorite exhibitions to date - and one I've been thinking of for a long time.  It's been my practice to visit artists in their studios before I show their work - it affords me an opportunity to see them in their surroundings, understand how they work, and get inside their heads a bit - all of which gives me more material when it comes time to write PR. 

I found studios and palettes as individual as the artist and their work - each uniquely different.  Some palettes are sloppy and thick with old paint, while others are incredibly meticulous about clearing and cleaning their palettes after every sitting.  One was 5 inches thick on the one corner of it's 8 x 10" base, and like a volcano, poured in streams of color to the opposite corner where the artist still mixed his colors for his detailed still life paintings in oil.

I also found only a few were willing to give up their palette for installation in the exhibition, and even fewer simply throw them out and start with a new one each time.  One artist, a retired teacher, uses old cafeteria trays as palettes for his large, colorful, gestural paintings.  Spoons end up alongside the brushes for mixing the acrylic color and the whole thing gets tossed at the end.  Others simply use scraps of glass.

As the artists delivered work for the exhibit, I discovered the need to approach this exhibition differently, and really allow it time to evolve on the wall, so we pushed the date back and let ourselves sleep on it a bit.  Meanwhile, we were photographing all the work, including sketches, process paintings, journal entries, and palettes, and taking photographs of the studios and portraits of the artists for a catalogue.  

The reception will feature not only works by 14 artists, but a selection of their favorite foods, ie. the play on words.   Featuring the Gadjo Playboys, gypsy jazz string band, the evening will certainly be one to remember.  I can't wait!

For more on this exhibition, see the gallery website

Peanut Butter Cookies

I found this recipe in my tattered "More With Less" cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre years ago and it's a family favorite.  It's one of the few recipes I haven't tinkered with or changed.  It's perfect as is - yummy and healthy!

Cream together:
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar

Add to creamed mixture and beat well:
1 egg
2 tbs. vanilla
6 tbs. water

1 cup toasted wheat germ
1 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda

Roll into pingpong sized balls and place on greased cookie sheet.  Flatten with a fork and bake 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees.  Take them out before they are completely done for a chewey cookie.

Approximately 97 calories, 6 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrate and 3 grams protein. 

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chicken Ceasar Salad

This is one of my favorite comfort foods, and can be made rather quickly.  The little bit of preparation is a welcome task after a long day.  I find myself to be more grounded when I take time in the kitchen - the mindless multi-tasking with David or the kids nearby, washing dishes as I go (yes, I'm a neat freak in the kitchen) - music of my own choosing (I live with teenagers, so this is rarely the case) and a glass of chardonnay put life into perspective.  

Bake two boneless chicken breasts in a bit of olive oil, white wine and garlic - about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size at 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, prepare the salad in a large wooden bowl, starting with a fresh clove of garlic cut in half and rubbed into the bowl.  Mince what is left of the garlic and 1/3 cup olive oil into a 2-cup glass mixing cup - set aside.

Break 1-2 stalks of romaine lettuce into bite sized pieces - enough for two large servings - and about 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesian cheese and 1/2 cup croutons.

Add to the oil and garlic just before servning:
2 tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 fresh egg

Whip with a fork or egg whip until frothy.  Pour over the lettuce and cheese and toss until distributed throughout the bowl.  Serve in large pasta bowls with chicken breast slices and capers.

The earlier french bread recipe is delicious alongside this salad.