Episode 163 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Emergency Funds

Emergency Funds

Another way to use this same technique for emergency funding is as follows. Let’s say you have a flood in your studio and work got destroyed or damaged, or maybe some other emergency happened, a health crisis, or perhaps your landlord raised the rent and you have to move your studio.

You can write a similar letter to the one I described above and explain your situation. Be clear and honest and you won’t have to dramatize anything. Just state the facts of your situation. Then tell them that what you need is help until you get your studio back or your health back, whatever it is. Explain what you would like from them. I would suggest asking for a certain amount, say $500, and tell them that if they give you money now to help you through this crisis, then they can pick out a work from your studio at double the price. So if they give you $500, then they can come to your studio in a month and they will have a credit of $1,000 toward any painting. And if they give you $1,000 now, they will have a credit of $2,000 toward any painting in your studio. This is a very good way to make a bridge for yourself in difficult times. It will allow you to not only move forward but also will begin to create and deepen the relationship you have with your collectors and even family members. Once they give you the money, then you can write to them and tell them how it has helped, what you are doing, and other updates. It may seem like a strange statement, but it is really a gift to be able to have the opportunity to help someone financially. It is rare that someone asks in a polite and professional way for help. For the person who is being asked, if you know them, it is a chance for them to comfort you, to assist in your creative process, and that in itself is a gift to them. I often give small amounts of money to different projects, and I am always thrilled by it. Giving money to others who need it has its own special reward for the donor, which is hard to appreciate unless you try it.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


Episode 162 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Offering Donors Something Special

Offering Donors Something Special

One of the first ways I decided to get sponsors for my work shortly after I graduated college was not by the example above but by asking them to pay for artwork in advance. This is something you could do right now, and it is one of the easiest ways to get funds fast. Write a letter that begins with “Dear Collector,” and send it out to everyone that has ever bought any art from you. Send it out to family members or even friends who you have given your art to, because they are all “collectors” of your art whether they realize it or not. If you can only come up with five or ten people, including family, that’s OK; send it to them. When I wrote my letter, I sent it to a few people that had bought my work as well as my girlfriend’s father at the time. I was making abstract mono prints then, about thirty by forty-five inches, on paper. All the prints were in fact originals, much like selling paintings on paper. In the letter, I began as I mentioned above and then quickly explained that I was working on making a series of prints. I also said that I was writing to them so that I could make a large edition of work and that I had an opportunity and an offer I wanted to make. I explained that normally my prints sell for about $1,000. Then I said that I wanted to make them a deal if they bought work in advance. If one print is $1,000, then five prints would be $5,000, and I would also include a handmade box that they would all go into. The total cost for them was only $2,000! I put all the numbers together very much like that. I said that if they supported this now for $2,000, that I would send them $5,000 worth of artwork and a handmade box worth $200 dollars. I knew where I could get the portfolio boxes custom-made for me, at about that cost. I sent the letter out to fifteen people, and five of them sent me checks—that was a fast $10,000!

I was offering them a financial deal that seemed to be a very good investment. The actual numbers I put at the end of the letter again so the deal was clear to them, that is, for $2,000 now, you get over $5,000 in art and a custom box shipped to you. I was thrilled when I got the $10,000. This was the first time I had ever asked for money, and it worked. With that money, it was easy to make the custom boxes, which cost me $1,000, and then I had another $9,000 to make art. That made a lot of art indeed and also paid bills, took me on a short vacation, and more.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


Episode 161 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Keeping in Touch

Keeping in Touch

One of the most important things is to keep in touch. If for some reason you have not heard from the person you sent a letter to, then call them up! It is polite and professional to make a call and ask an assistant if they have received your letter. You just need a yes or no. If they have received your letter, then continue to wait for a response. If after two weeks you do not get a response, call again, and if they already told you they received your letter, ask if they know the status on your letter and if it will be reviewed. That is polite, and you will get an answer. After you do get an answer, hopefully with a check inside, be sure to send a beautiful thank-you note back right away. The note can be brief, but make it very sincere. If you cried when you got it, out of joy, tell them. If you began screaming and saying, “Yes, yes, yes!” then tell them. It is OK to be excited; in fact, it is what they want to hear. Just put yourself in their position for a moment. When you give someone a present, what do you want in return? How do you feel when they say, “Thanks, you shouldn’t have,” as opposed to “Oh my god, I can’t believe it! Thank you so much! I love you for this!” Wouldn’t you rather have someone gush, even if it is over the top? I know I would, and generally the people you are writing to feel the same way. They want to feel happy, and they want to feel that through you. Once when a donor sent a letter to me with a check in it, I quickly sent a text to her personal phone that said, “Wow, thank you! Your help has put a tremendous breeze under our wings, and we are soaring because of you!” I also sent her a letter, but since I had her cell phone, I sent a text as well. She wrote back right away and said, “I love hearing that, it sounds beautiful.”


That is what I do, and it is quite simple and very human. We all want to feel that people appreciate us, and the more we hear it, the better. Can you tell someone too much? I don’t think so. If you sent someone a letter every week saying how much you appreciate them in different ways, do you think they would find that annoying? I know I wouldn’t. The more we hear that someone appreciates us, the more we want to help that person to keep the gratitude coming. Just like giving presents. When someone has a wonderful reaction to a present we give them, we want to give them more. It is a natural reaction. We all want to be happier and more grateful even if we don’t acknowledge it. We want to be more alive and share in the enthusiasm of others; that is why being enthusiastic and grateful to those who support you will take you very, very far.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


Episode 114 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / The Master of the Ceremony

For a party this size, you prepare in much the same way as for a large party in terms of the sophistication of your design. The guests that you are going to invite are people you have met once or twice for coffee or at an opening and you have exchanged several emails with. They are collectors, curators, or perhaps friends of the family that have an interest in art.

This party is a reach for you. It is not about a cozy scene you can settle into; it is a party where the guests learn about you and your studio. The guests talk to each other a lot, but you are the master of ceremony. Of course that means that you have designed the event. When does it start, stop, and what happens in between. It is important to have something to eat. You can go with the traditional wine and cheese, but if you pay more attention to the food, you will present a more attractive setting. I recently went to an opening in a gallery in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The gallery could not have been more than three hundred square feet, it was tiny! If twenty people were in there, you wouldn’t be able to move. There was a group show of drawings, and instead of wine, there was a small table with eggnog and homemade Swiss cookies. The eggnog came with a dash of whisky in it, and the cookies were delicious! It may seem like a trifle, a detail that doesn’t really matter, but I think it does. I am not advocating alcohol in any way, but it can be one of many elements. That was a good opening in terms of the art, but the hosts were even more memorable. They were two people who seemed to put some care into what they served their guests, and that is the most memorable thing at a party!

In the case of the gallery I just mentioned, that I went to for the first time, I felt compelled to write them a thank-you note for the opening. The note was in my interest, of course, but it was also just being polite and knowing that everyone likes it when someone notices what they have done. This is what I wrote to the gallery, which is one way to begin a relationship:

Dear Eva and Hp,

I very much enjoyed your opening last night and had to write you to tell you why. First, you have selected a wonderful and fresh group of artists, but also because you were such good hosts.

The delicious eggnog was a very elegant touch as was the warmth of the homemade cookies you served.

I simply want to say thank you for making such an aesthetically pleasing space, you are adding much to this world!

Best wishes,

And this was the reply of the gallery director:

Thank you so much Brainard, this means a lot! Hope to see you at our next opening!

All best,

And that is all, but it is good because it is the beginning of a professional relationship. At the next opening, I will introduce myself to the director, and they will be happy to see me and will wonder what I do. At that point, when they ask me what I do, I can decide what I want to tell them. In my case, I can say, “Oh, I am writing book about making it in the art world,” or I could say, “I am an artist.” Before I get to that point, I will make a deci- sion with myself about what that I want to talk with the director about. But now I have a personal connection, and this is a way to meet more people and invite them to the party we are planning here!

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


Episode 112 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Take Notes with a Pad and Pen

Take Notes with a Pad and Pen

The reason you are holding the meeting is to get to know them, feel comfortable, and tell them what you are doing and how they might be able to help. There are many ways to solicit funds from people, but I like to use the approach of asking them indirectly, at this stage, if they know where or whom you could ask for support. Again, this tactic prevents you backing them into a corner. It gives them an easy way to get out. What you will probably hear from them are other places you can go to ask for funding or even individuals. Then you have a reference, and that is important. When they tell you about such and such an organization, ask them if they have a contact person there; try to be as specific as possible. Take notes on a small pad. I think that is the least offensive, the small pad and pen. You can tap notes into a phone, but it is awkward, and a laptop is too big. I like small leather-bound pads that look nice as well as convenient. Just use a pen and a small pad to take notes about who they are mentioning, get names of individuals, and take note of any relationship that is being mentioned.

After the first meeting, it is required that you send a thank-you for meeting them and always act as polite as possible. In an email thanking them again, make a summary of what happened and tell them what actions you are taking and that you will report back to them on what happened.

Attitude makes a big difference

Thank-You Notes

Those simple actions, sending polite thank-you notes after meeting someone and following up, are a professional practice that will get you everywhere. The next step is to build your relationship with this person on a deeper level by attending events that they are involved with, even offering them help or a donation of your art. Board members of museums and others on that level are often looking for help in different ways. They often have a foundation of their own that they are raising money for, and if not, they are usually helping other organizations, and if you take an interest in those organizations, you will be even more in the favor of the collector/patron you are talking to.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.