Leslie Cottle, Fine Artist, Glouchester, England
What were your challenges as an artist?
– Definitely, finding a focus. I didn’t feel very focused. I guess I just didn’t know how to sell art.
What did not being “focused” look like?
I guess I just wasn’t sure what I was doing. I just wanted to paint pictures but I wasn’t really sure. I did have some kind of subject matters I was pursuing but I just really wasn’t sure about why I was doing that or what I was doing it for. I just wanted to paint. I could get sidetracked into different kinds of painting or thinking what would suit certain kind of exhibition or what might help me to get noticed. So it was kind of like that kind of thinking which is all over the place.
– Is this the Royal Academy of Art in London?
– Yeah, so it’s just really dismaying. Art museums are using their brand, their reputation and they’re leveraging that to manipulate artists and it really pisses me off. And it’s my mission to make artists aware of this. Now look, if your art is just your hobby, go right ahead enter these contests if that’s what you wanna do but if you actually wanna sell your art, this is really the wrong way to go about it. You’re wasting a ton of money and some of my students have over the years spent upwards of over $25,000 not only on our contest fees but the shipping, the art supplies, the photography, the storage, the overhead and they’ve got nothing to show for it.
– And I even heard from a veteran, a disabled veteran who is living off a fixed income here in the United States and he’s desperate to make some money through his art so he thought that by entering contests, and through prestigious institutions like the Royal Academy of Art and also paying to have his art featured in art magazines that only artists read, that that would somehow do it for him and he maxed out his credit cards, he’s on disability and he’s living with his mother. He’s not a stupid man. He was just taken by some very sophisticated manipulation and he wasn’t aware that there actually is a way to sell your art. That’s why I’m so freaking strident about this.
What was your plan to sell your art?
– My thinking at this time last year was I should start thinking about entering the local version of the Royal Academy here which is the Royal West of England Academy. Thought maybe that was the route I should take to submit work to an establishment like that that’s got some prestige and then maybe my work would be noticed.
– Maybe. Hope marketing, I call that hope marketing.
– Where else to go? That just seemed to be the only place but that created a whole lot of conflict in me because I actually don’t think my work is probably suitable for that kind of venue. I knew that possibly it was gonna be rejected and then there’s that whole thing about rejection when you’re just starting out.
Should you just suffer constant rejection?
– The other hazard of entering these art contests is more than likely you’re gonna face rejection. Somebody’s gotta win because they have to keep the game going but most of you are gonna lose. What you have to understand about these art contests is they’re accountable to no one. No one’s regulating this at all so they’re making a ton of money off of the hopes and dreams of artists who don’t have another way to go about selling their art. And it’s really, really predatory. And the fact that institutions like this that are in on the game … Let me just do a little math for you. Do you happen to know how often this contest with the Royal Academy of Art is run?
– Oh, it’s an annual. It’s every year.
– So let’s just do the math. I think you suggested that there were 12,000 entries. Is that about right?
– Comments underneath it suggested that there was around 12,000 submissions every year.
– 12,000. Alright so, let’s not even calculate in the cost of making art, the art supplies, framing, photography. It’s $35 to submit, and notice the word submit, you’re submitting–
– Yeah, that’s a bit off line.
– Right, to submit to this art establishment, $35. So every year, if there’s 12,000 entries, that means that they’re making $420,000 for one damn art contest.
– Yeah, quite a lot.
– So who’s really winning? It’s the art contest organizers.
– Yeah, it’s a big fundraiser really for their establishment and the things they wanna do. But yeah if you wanna submit more than one piece, you’re looking at 70. Then it’s like, yeah …
– Yeah, and so … I don’t begrudge them the need to raise money or generating a profit but I did take issue with using manipulation and false hope with artists and I think they need to be called out on it. So London Academy of Art, if you’re listening, I’d love to hear your damn excuse for this bullshit predatory practice.
How did you learn of the Royal Academy of Art’s contest?
What popped up on her timeline in Facebook was this contest from the Royal Academy of Art and she said, what interested me were the comments below the call for entry, mostly negative about the cost of submitting but also a slim chance of getting selected. Of 12,000 entries, usually around 4,000 for the first selection and less than that for the actual show. And what is the first selection even damn well mean? Usually, nothing. I’m so glad that this pathway is of little interest to me thanks to this course, I don’t have any inclinations for these relevant … Previously, I may have been tempted to “tailor” my work to fit the art exhibition’s view of art, which is absurd because the only thing you need to be concerned with is your four part code and your target market.
– And creating the art that you love and that you feel proud of and that you wanna make because if you don’t wanna make the art, it’s not sustainable.
What did other artists have to say about the Royal Academy of Art’s contest?
– I mean, obviously, there’s quite a few artists there that were struggling, that didn’t have much money so for them, it’s the cost of submitting and then the cost of actually having to take work to London if they did get selected and then get rejected on that round which often happens. So it’s huge expense.
– That’s another cost that’s not disclosed. So even if you make this first cut, you’ve got to travel often to these destination and pay for the travel, pay for the shipping, pay for the packing and then you’re probably gonna lose anyway.
– Yeah, and then you gotta go and pick it up again when it’s not selected, so yeah. Yeah, so there was a lot about that and a lot about the fact that it was very unlikely that new artists, unheard of artists would get selected, only a very small number. Somebody mentioned 150. I don’t know if these statistics are accurate …
– What does selected mean? I mean, so what, you get a blue ribbon?
– I think you get a hanging space for a week in the exhibition so you’re on a wall which is really absolutely jam-packed solid with art from top to bottom.
– Yeah and so what, is it sold? If it’s sold, do you get all the proceeds?
– It’s just they have judges that judge it. I don’t know but it’s–
– Okay, so let’s just talk about the judges. I don’t give a damn what a judge says. You shouldn’t give a damn what a judge says if you’re an artist. You should only care about what your target market says. If the judge is not buying your work, it doesn’t freaking matter.
– No, no, no.
– And who is this self-appointed judge which makes them a judge? It’s a complete farce. Art is in the eye of the beholder. So what is art to one judge is crap to another judge. So why even go through this silly exercise?
If you win an art contest won’t it look good on your resume?
– I guess the point is that people hope that if they get in, it’s something to put on your resume that you’ve actually been selected to be part of this prestigious art–
– So let’s talk about resumes. I’ve never had a collector that asked to see my resume. So I don’t have a resume on my website. I never will. I haven’t had a resume in over 15 years. You don’t need a resume to sell your art.
– Yeah, I know. I know but some artists do like to have certainly a list of where they’ve exhibited and all of that on their …
– So what. They can exhibit. Do you wanna exhibit or do you want to sell it?
– Exactly, yeah.
– And what’s your objective? Is your objective to show your art or is your objective to sell your art? If you wanna show your art, you can do that all day long and you can make a nice list but my students wanna sell their art and so you don’t need to bother with that. If you walked into a store, let’s say you walked into a beautiful fashion boutique, maybe one somewhere in London and you saw this gorgeous dress and you thought, oh, I love that, and you try it on and you think, oh, I really love this, it fits me, it’s flattering. I think I’m gonna get it. Oh, hold on a second, I need to ask to see the proprietress’ resume before I buy this dress.
What have you gained from this program?
– Well, the most valuable thing is I actually have found that focus. I’ve found that clarity around my mission, what I’m making art for and I’m beginning to understand who I’m making it for. So it’s like a whole different world to that Royal Academy stuff and all that. It’s just so different. It’s empowering. I feel like I’ve got control of what I’m doing. I can make the art that I want like you said.
I can be as frivolous and frilly as I want with my art and not worry because I know there are people out there that will like that kind of art. They may not go to art galleries but it’s just a whole different world. I feel like I’ve got a business model rather than a kind of a hopes and dreams about the art world and the arts and establishment. So that’s all become quite irrelevant, really.
I just feel really sad that there were so many people on that post that were so miserable and felt that they couldn’t afford this and that they were shut out from this art market which I think your course is showing that there is a way into the art market. We can do it differently.
– And what galleries don’t want you to know is that art collectors would much prefer to buy directly from the artist, have a relationship with an interaction with the artist. And with that comes referrals which constitute anywhere from 55 to 85% of new sales which you’re not gonna get if you work with a gallery.
– Right, no.
– Plus, they’re gonna take half or more than half of everything you ever make so they’re irrelevant. The middleman is increasingly irrelevant.
What else have you gained from this program?
– I feel more confident in my work. I just feel really confident about what I’m doing. I feel that this is absolutely right for me. I can’t compare it to where I was this time last year. To hell with anyone who doesn’t like it because I just feel like this is me and this is what I’m doing.
– That’s right.
– And I know that some people do like it because I’ve been out there and had good responses and sold some. Yeah, that confidence is just worth it’s weight in gold, really.
What advice do you have for other artists?
Well, I’d say do this course. It’s unraveled so much for me and I’ve done years of personal therapy and stuff but this course really took me straight to a place that I hadn’t really unraveled before and it made a huge difference. I would say really getting to understand yourself and what your mission is and what your work is really about is so important because without it, you’re not making real art, are you? It’s finding that authentic place.
What other advice do you have for other artists?
Just forget all these art establishment roots, really, and just do the work that you wanna do. It’s like stop trying to please other people or imagine that you’re pleasing.