12: From Art-Maker to Art Seller with Jose Gomez

12: From Art-Maker to Art Seller with Jose Gomez

Posted by Nicholas Ribera on

Jose Gomez is a font of knowledge ranging from online artist calls, selling art in a professional and fine art setting, and building a loyal army of followers by giving them a place to call home at the House of Shadows.


You can listen to the episode here (or wherever you listen to podcasts) or read the transcript below:

 

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A Conversation with Jose Gomez

Chain Assembly: Today I have the pleasure to speak with Jose Gomez, photographer, site designer, gallerist, lots of different things that Jose does. And specifically, if you are in the Tampa Bay area, you're familiar definitely with things that Jose has organized, sold, put together. He's kind of a stalwart of the Tampa alternative art scene. And Jose has done a lot for the community. So I'm very lucky to have him on and talk about what he's been working on and what he's learned as far as finding the little bits of profit in his art business. So Jose, thank you for taking time to talk to me. 

Jose Gomez: Thanks for having me here, Nick. 

CA: So let's I know your main focus has been photography. So we could figure we'll spend some time talking about how that's worked for you, like both the I guess. professional models, more traditional models, as well as the more artistic models of photography that you've done. But then I also want to go into your online sales venture. So can you start talking a bit about how you, I guess, became a gallery owner and what part photography played in that process? 

JG: Yeah, so yeah, there are a lot of things that I do and have done as you mentioned, but photography has been my main art form. um as of late you know in the last decade I'd say um I come from doing fashion for many years and uh moving into art was um was a combination of things that happened in my life uh I was growing an agency at the same time a marketing agency a digital agency and that was growing by leaps and bounds and I had a photography commercial photography business that was doing that was also growing and I had to kind of make a choice between the two and one was growing much faster than the other. So I made that choice and I put down the camera for a few years. But when I came back, I didn't want to do what I did before, which was to take the photography that I love to do and make it a deadline thing anymore. That's kind of the rest of my life is deadlines. So this was the thing that, you know, it had kind of squeezed the passion out of photography for me for a while. And I... I picked my camera back up because somebody asked me to shoot him and they gave me the opportunity to just kind of take my time with stuff, no pressure, give me pictures whenever. And I decided to do something more creative with it. And I really fell in love with that process. So I spent the next few years creating a creative process, exploring what it is that I wanted to do for the first time I was creating pictures I wanted to create, not pictures clients wanted me to create. And I took that plunge and it's been no looking back ever since. 

 

CA: It's good to see that journey. And I've seen that happen with a lot of people I've spoken to so far, where they start in the professional world and transition into more of an artistic world. Once they get, I don't know if burnt out is the right word, but they discover that maybe it's not exactly the goal that they're really looking for, but then it's also fun to see people who transition the other way, they start with just kind of noodling and then go more into that professional. corporate world. So can you tell me kind of more or less what the timelines was of that transition for you? 

JG: Yeah, so timeline was, you know, I started life early. I originally was going to be a musician. That's what I was going to do. Music was my life for the first part of my life. And, you know, I was going to take my guitar, put it on my back and go to LA. That was a plan after high school. And... You know, things change. Things go a different way, and you have kids real early. You get married too early, and you go on that whole adventure. So I spent 20 years raising my kids, growing my businesses, and in between there doing art. And those businesses did very well, and it allowed me to pursue things that I wouldn't normally be able to pursue. as freely and as expensively as I wanted to. And that gave me a lot of freedom. The better I did financially and business-wise, the more resources I had to explore art and my free time. And so we're talking, anyway, beginnings of 2001, I'm starting a business out of the back of my house. And by 2004, I've got a business sold, a business funded and a business growing. And then, By 2008, we're doing a few million a year, and I'm opening up a recording studio and a big photo studio in on Lineball Avenue in Tampa. And you fast forward all that stuff and all that growth to 2014 when I really kind of made the jump into art. And it was nice because I didn't have to make money from my art. So I got to just play. I joke around that what I realized I hated about photography was clients, not photography. So when you go into doing art, you don't have clients for a while. And it was just nice creating for myself. So I can't imagine having done it the other way. I see guys that do it. They start off just trying to live off their art. And it's tough. It's a tough gig. There's a lot of artists in the world. You got to find not just your niche and not just, you know, your technique and the thing that makes you special and your art special. You've got to build a brand and you've got to figure out all the normal things. Like how do you sell it? You know, how do you market your work? How do you distribute? How do you find representation? You have to learn the art world, but you have to learn the art business world too. So I can't imagine having gone that direction. It's such a, it's a, that's a tough gig. 

CA: So I really applaud those that do. So. How long would you say, or how many years did it take, if it even did get there, to replace the corporate income with art-specific or more fine art photography income? 

JG: Well, I think for me, because I do a lot of different things, I silo things. I don't really look at it as like a replacement. I have things that I, my income comes a lot from. residual things and one of my art forms is software and I make most of my money from software services. So you know, I think that what I what I look at it is, you know, where they're different buckets, right and how significant is each of those buckets? So I have buckets that aren't really significant. They could go away tomorrow and they're just they're playthings. Then there's buckets that kind of build and I'd say that, you know, For the first, I'd say in the first few years, I was able to make a lot of progress as an artist selling my work. And as the years went by and life kind of changed, I kind of shifted a little bit of focus away from selling my art and more into a few other ventures that I had. We started the Tampa Bay Society of Photographic Artists and that was a focus. and then moving into the gallery, the opening of a gallery. And so my art kind of took a little bit of a backseat, but then all the efforts went to those other places. The blood rushed to those areas and those areas buckets started filling up. So for me, it's never really been an issue of replacement, but where am I putting my focus? Where I put my focus is where there's gonna be revenue, there's gonna be growth. And when I moved into the gallery arena, that takes a lot of focus. You know, you do have to kind of put down your artist hat for a little while as the gallery builds. And, but you know, we made money, you know, we were able to, you know, pay for ourselves and make some money. So yeah, it's just, it's figuring the businesses out, figuring out what you've got to do, but also applying best practices from the experiences that you have. I'm a natural salesperson, so you throw me in a gallery, I'm going to sell art. If you throw me, if you put me with my work, I'm going to sell my work. If you put me doing something else, I'm going to do something else, and I'll do it and produce something out of it in varying degrees. 

CA: So when it comes to your specific pieces as a fine art photographer, what percentage of your income would you say is worth it? is related to selling prints versus what percentage is doing custom photo shoots? 

JG: You know, I'd say that about 80% of it is from selling my work. About 20% is from just private commissions. And, you know, that I use those percentages, but the total number has dropped as my focus has shifted, you know, shifted to the gallery for a while. And Now I'm starting to kind of find a way to shift it back to my own art since we've taken a pause on the gallery side. But yeah, that was about my percentage, but it's not the preference. I think I could have done much more with the private commission side if I really had to had pursued that. 

CA: And what about other photography related income sources like do you do stock photos or? 

JG: Yeah, so I don't I used to so I used to do I used to do about a hundred to a hundred and twenty thousand a year just in commercial work That come that was a combination of fashion work It was a combination of commercial shoots headshots commercial shots all of those things and that was about those in about 2008 Once I put that down I sold that business off to will Lugo who still runs Tampa headshots. That was the company you know, then obviously things went away. When I became an artist, you know, building the income was a challenge. You know, it's a different it's a different game. So, you know, I started with 10 and 20 and 30, 40,000 that I would the dollars I would build. And, and then, you know, I kind of took a little bit of a break, could I have build it up more, I could have absolutely just other projects kind of got in the way of that. But I will say this, you know, one You know, if I work my art, I'll sell my art. If I'm showcasing, if I'm exhibiting, if I'm going to trade shows, if I'm doing events, I'm gonna sell my art. If I don't do it, I don't sell. Online, things are a little bit of a challenge and you know that. So, you know, you're trying to sell products, you're trying to really sell prints more than anything in products, and then hopefully attract an audience and build an audience to sell your originals later on. to that audience. So it really depends on the game. And I think for most artists, I think we'd like to see most of our originals and most of our private commissions be most of our income. But I think that it's safe to say that merchandise and prints always be that majority. 

CA: It's interesting that you bring that up because one thing that I have been saying to myself from my experience at in-person markets versus online sales. And this is just based on my very like myopic view of the industry is for my illustrations, a digital print will sell pretty well at an in-person market. Someone sees it, they walk up to it, they hold it. If I have that same print available on my website, nobody will buy it. I think that's maybe because it's not a photograph. It's a photograph you picture as a physical object. while an illustration is really kind of, it's always a digital item until it gets printed. While a photograph is a physical location or physical model until it gets captured. I don't know if there's any logic to what I'm saying, but mentally that's kind of how I'm interpreting my inability to sell my prints on my website.

JG:  Well, I think that the mindset of the buyer is different. So, In-person art sales, unless somebody comes in, they're going to a place specifically to buy art. So if I'm going to, let's say, a big art festival, I'm probably going and in my mind saying, I'm going to buy some art. And I probably have some number in my head of how much I'm going to buy. But most art sales that are in person are usually impulse buys. Now this is for general consumers. If you're a high-end art buyer, that's never the case. But for most consumers, you're buying art at a time when you didn't really expect to. But what got you was a few things. I've learned that really there's four main pieces to this. There's, I've connected to the art, right? There's some sort of reference that I have that makes me like that art and triggers that in my mind. Number two, I have to have the money to buy it now, right at that moment. Number three, I have to be the person who makes the art buying decisions for whatever space I'm buying it for. And then four, it has to be the moment at that time where I have a place available or I have somewhere I can put it that's gonna be safe. So if those four things all come together at once, you have a high probability of a sale with somebody either. having the piece of art in their hand or they're looking right at it, it's a physical thing, and there's other people around that could potentially buy it before them. That's one type of sale. Online, none of that exists. And so online, you're faced with really only two types of buyers. You have the buyer who says, I'm looking for art, and they trip over your stuff, right? Or two, there's somebody who... who sits inside of an audience you've created and you've cultivated over time. And so they're not buying that piece, they're buying Nick, they're buying a piece of you. And it's because you were talking about it on your podcast or you sent out an email and there's a picture of you standing next to it and you're telling the story about it, and they're buying a piece of you. And so they're going to the website to buy a piece of you. I recently bought a bunch of Cure Tour trading cards because I... went to the concert, I was buying a piece of Robert, I'm not buying trading cards. I'm buying them as a consequence of them being part of him and the rest of the cure. So I think that that's a really important difference, a really important distinction. 

CA: And that kind of does tie back to having that print at a market, the person's going to hold it. And as they're holding it, they're visualizing how it looks in their space. And I You can't really do that when it's an image of something on a computer because you don't have a sense of the size of it, even though maybe available in different sizes, you're not really going to take the time to look at a blank space on your wall and try to imagine that there.

JG: Right. 

CA: And that's just the general struggle of online sales when it comes to art. 

JG: Well, unless there's unless there's a reference, right? So this is why pictures of you next to your work is so important. It not only identifies the work as yours and not only identifies and puts them together, especially if they're connected to you, to who you are and makes it a piece of you, but it also creates scale. If you're standing next to your art in a picture of that art, they now have an idea about how big it is and they can visualize, oh, okay, so it's about half of him, so it would fit in this part of the house. This is why a lot of online sales tactics that involve putting the art on a wall or in a living room, in a fake living room setting, or you can take a picture of your room and somehow it measures the room and puts the art on your wall. Those are pretty powerful tools. Although I'm kind of skeptical how much they're used, but it is what it is. 

CA: Well, with that in mind, let's transition a bit into Cloud Folio, a piece of software you designed that really helps a lot of local places operate call to arts and helps people sell their art. So kind of tell me about the process of developing that and how that's been going for you. 

JG: Yeah, Cloudfolios is actually a fun business. It was a business that I started as a consequence of me having to track my own work. You know, I didn't want to write it in a notebook. I said, I'm a tech guy. I should be able to have a database, right? And so I started to build this software that allowed me to track my work, track the titles and pricing and additions and all of those things, where I showed the work. And right away I knew other people could use this. So I built it multi-tenant and then I put a face and a name to it. And then since then, I think right now we're running about 5,000 artists that are using the software. and different, to different levels, different capacities. And we have, we built in a side of it for exhibition organizations like galleries and festivals to do their own calls to art through it. And so that's by consequence brought Artisan as well. And then it's created a way for everybody to really exchange. There's a lot of plans in process right now and ways we're gonna enhance that, which are gonna dovetail into helping people to sell their art. and use some best practices, especially recently. There's been some amazing models that have come out for online sales of art. And then we'll be enhancing some of those tools for galleries and museums to use for their calls and for their art management. 

CA: I can say from my usage of it, it definitely differs from things such as like deviant creations where it is more focused on the showing of art and it lets you. more easily track physical pieces you've made. Doesn't have to just be digital illustrations. It's sculptures, photography, video, anything like that. And I've also really appreciated that most of the events that are there, the call for artists are all local. So was that an intention to make it local? Or is that just generally how it's been utilized so far? 

JG: Well, I think what you're seeing is a few things. Number one, the local focus has been only because that's kind of our... That's kind of our little, our pilot area, our pilot group was our local area. If you can't win where you live, you're not going to win anywhere else. The goal was to kind of really get people in, get people using it, find a few galleries that would start using it, get feedback. We've gotten tons of that. So next generation of it is going to be the really ready, set, go version of it. But the second thing you're seeing too is that, from the beginning, one of the things I didn't wanna do, so many of these platforms and services that are online, they promise to sell your art. And the reality is, you know, you and me both know, most artists don't sell. Most artists don't sell most of their stuff, even if they sell some of their stuff. There are a few artists that sell a lot. And those artists, regardless of platform that they go to, are gonna sell a lot. Everyone else will pay fees and never sell one piece. What I wanted to do was to create something that wasn't about selling. It was about cataloging. It was about archiving. It was about preserving the legacy of the artist. And then by consequence, have other things that can help you because, well, your art's there now, so yeah, there should be other things you could do with it. But really, the focus has been building an amazing archive of independent art and doing that without a focus on profit. So... Cloud Folio is free for artists to use. You don't have to pay. There's some levels there that give you some extra perks if you want to pay for it, but by and large, the service is free. And you can go in, you can archive your work. We do it by folios, and every folio represents either a collection or a series. You can create a folio for your one-offs if you want, but the idea is collect your work, be intentional about how you organize it, because later, Let's say in 50 years, when I'm gone, I want people to be able to make sense of my work. You know, what does this all mean? How did it all relate? And we found this idea of folios being a really great way to do that. In the next iteration, we'll have some new things as well, some new ways to kind of cross categorize and view the work in different ways, experience it in different ways. For me, that's really important because again, this is a business that sure, it could be huge and there's some great plans to move it forward. But as the artist part of me, I'm interested in the legacy of it. I'm interested in how it tells my story. That's what I've come to expect from the software. And I think that as I look at other people's profiles in the newer versions as we come. come close to them, they'll do better jobs at doing that as well. 

CA: What type of lessons would you say you learned from developing Cloudfolios that you brought into the creation of House of Shadows, the gallery that you owned? 

JG: Yeah, that's a great question. You know, I think that Cloudfolios, what it did was it gave us the experience of working with artists from all over the place. without, yes, as a gallery, you're focused on trying to sell the art, but we're looking at what artists are actually needing other than the sales. What do we want? Why are we doing this? Especially if our art doesn't sell. And there's some great art out there that doesn't sell for a lot of different reasons. Try running ads for nude art on Facebook. It's not going to work. You're not going to do it. You have to go to some alternative way to do it. And so, you know, what are the other needs? And what we found in that and in also talking with artists through House of Shadows, you know, artists, you know, they need that validation. They need their peer review. They need to tell their story. They need to feel like they're not just one artist out of billions. They need to just get the feedback from the public. they need to be able to show their work and tell their stories. They need practice telling their story, by the way. So many artists are terrible at telling their story. And I think what we found is that, there's a really human element to art. You know, it's not a big mystery, that's not, you know, some big revelation, but experiencing the humanity of art, of the artists behind the art, has been a really big eye-opener for me. And then seeing the pitfalls as well, seeing artists being everything from irresponsible to being short-sighted, to just being rude. And a lot of it having to do with not just the persona of the artist, but where artists are in their life. If you're an artist who makes a great living at something else, you're doing this for fun and you're putting it in a gallery, you're probably gonna come in smile on your face, give me your work. It's gonna be well done. You probably took your time to do it. But if you're an artist who's really struggling financially, you know, you're barely getting the art there. You had to scrape some money to frame it and you're probably gonna get to my gallery in a bad mood and we're probably, the arts might have a lot to be desired in terms of presentation. People are in different places. And every once in a while, you know, you'll find a moron in there. But most people, they don't mean to be negative, they're just going through the humanity of being an artist and their work and the quality of the work many times reflects that. 

CA: Have there been instances in which you've accepted a piece to be in a show and then when the artist comes to drop it off you just get horrible vibes and no longer invite them to be a member of the show? 

JG: Yeah, absolutely. I've had artists who the work was fantastic presented online and when they brought it in, it was either terrible presentation or the work was just terrible in person. We've also had amazing artists who just had a bad attitude. I remember there was one artist from New York, somebody walked in as I'm f-bombing like a New Yorker on the phone with this artist. It was just such a rude conversation. The artist was just terrible to deal with and yeah, never invited him back. I don't think he wanted You know, you get some of those times in there. Honestly though, most artists are just somewhere in the middle. You know, they're good on their good days, they're bad on their bad days, and you know, we try to catch them somewhere in between. 

CA: Has there been any difficult hurdles when it comes to choosing and selecting pieces through an online portal to decide to put in a physical location?

JG: Yeah, that's a great question. 

CA: I'm sure that was a badly worded question. 

JG: No, no, I get it, I get it. Yeah, no, honestly, it's been an improved process. In the past, when I put on shows, and I've put on a lot of shows, we would look at the physical pieces. And there's just logistically, that's a nightmare. I don't understand any gallery or organizer of exhibitions that's still doing that, because it's a terrible way to do it. Also, you know, making the shift to digital was tough too, because in the beginning, when you don't really know what's out there or there isn't anything out there, you know, you're having people do things like email you the images and then, you know, you're looking at the images, but now you need the titles and you need the write-ups and people aren't giving you what you need in time or emails are bouncing because the pictures are too big and the file size is too large. there's a lot of mess there. And that's where kind of Cloud Folio's kind of came in on the exhibition side was we were running exhibitions and we're like, how do we make this easier? So we can collect everything upfront. And when we approve it, we've got 90% of what we need. All we need is the piece, you know? So I've found that the process is a lot easier. And then, you know, through our, we have a very different type of curation process which allows the curators to curate at different times on their own. And then, CloudFolios does all the math behind the scenes and says, OK, based on all the feedback from the curators, here's what's in the show. And then you have your main curator can override and fill in or remove if there's too many pieces that are selected. So it's a really efficient process. 

CA: So from the curation side, how does so I've never seen CloudFolios from the curation side. How does the dimension of the piece get translated into you deciding what goes in the show? 

JG: Yeah, so I think, you know, depending on the venue where the art is going to be, you have a good idea of what probably the biggest thing you want to take is, and then you probably have a good idea of what small things are going to look like. And so dimension does play a part as you're going through the curation process. of the piece. It shows you the dimensions that the artist claims that it is. And I say claims that it is because many times we've seen that that's different. And then you get the title. Cloudfolios implements blind curation, so we don't know who the artist is unless we do kind of a few extra steps to see that. So going through the process, typically our process at House of Shadows was straightforward. We did first, we did an exclusion round. So everything that's the hell no, right? And then whatever's left is what's going to the second round. Then in the second round, we pull all the absolutes. These have to be in the show. There's no choice. They're the best or they're the closest to the theme or they start building the story. And then the third round is for the stuff that's in between. Based on what was the absolutely yes. what completes that story. And that's where it becomes really hard to, it becomes very esoteric here, because we're trying to tell a story that's emerged. We didn't know what the story was when we did the call, but now the art's here. We knew the stuff that couldn't go in, but the stuff that has to go in has begun to create sentences to the story. And now the rest of the stuff is the things in between. It's the words and the punctuation to that story. It's the asides. It's the things that are unexpected. twists, you know, and that's how you end up curating this exhibition. So for us, it was that kind of three round process, regardless of how many curators there were in the process. And with CloudFolio, it was really super simple because you just kind of do the accept, declined, declined thing, and then the other scores that are assigned and it does, like I said, does all the math for you. But that's kind of that's the challenge of it is really finding the story. So dimension is important because we do have a physical space we have to fill, right? So we may not be able to take a six by six foot piece, but maybe we might be able to take a four by three. And so we're looking, we're on the lookout for things that are exclusionary and things that might be that punctuation. There was an exhibition we did where we accepted these two really big pieces. And it was because they just so well told the story of what we were trying to accomplish with this that we almost fit the rest of the exhibition around them. because they were just that close to what we wanted to accomplish with the exhibition. 

CA: So when Cloud Folders is presenting the submissions, does it scale the art based on the dimensions when you're looking at it, like on your computer, or if you project it on a wall? Or you just have to look at the number and try to imagine it? You got to look at the number and you got to imagine it. 

JG: So yeah, you're looking at the picture of it and you'll look at it and it'll say, it's 48 by 36. You just got to know 48 by 36. And I think for curators who are doing repeated exhibitions, you get to kind of understand what, you get a sense of what that is. For me, I never had an issue, in the beginning I did, in the beginning I was like, what is that? What is 24 by, but as you do more of these things and you're the ones hanging the art, you get a sense of what these sizes really feel like. 

CA: That's a good point, I didn't even consider that, that you kind of become an expert in it over time when that becomes your job. 

JG: Yeah, you do. Yeah, you look at a piece, you look at a wall and you say, I can fit this here because you now understand what these sizes feel like, you know? And I think that's probably the better way to say it is it's not that you know what the sizes look like or how they fit, but you start to kind of feel the sizes like a 24 by 36 or 20 by 26 or 12 by 12. There's a feeling that it has and you're able to kind of feel your way through your exhibition and kind of understand where these fit. 

CA: Right. I mean, with those ratios, it's also the same kind of feeling you'd get from like a, say, an old Western that shot like 16 by 9 versus a movie like American Honey that shot 4 by 3. You know, it's all different type of emotion associated with that ratio. So, yeah, I totally get that. One one small issue I've had with Cloud Folios, which is probably more of a me problem, is a piece will get submitted and then I have to drop it off in a week. Sometimes I'm submitting pieces that I don't have a physical print of yet. So then I have to order the print and wait for it to arrive. But now I've got a printer, so it's not a problem anymore. But and thanks to your suggestion, I do have the Canon Image Pro 1000. I think. 

JG: Oh, great printer. Great printer. How do you like it? 

CA: She she's a delight.

JG: She's a yes. Absolutely.

CA:  I mean, I just had to buy my first round of new ink for it, which was about seven hundred and fifty dollars. 

JG: Yeah. But. It'll last you for six months. It'll last you forever.

CA:  It tells me it's low on ink, but I've still made, like, another 40 prints since it said it was low on ink. So. 

JG: Yep. It'll do that. It'll last a very long time. I don't know how they make the ink last so long, but it just does. And that does lead us to something. When we're running an exhibition, so it's hard to keep exhibition schedules. And a lot of times it has to do with the promotion, the putting together of the exhibition materials. You end up getting a little bit behind. So you end up doing the call behind, which means that you end up announcing the call in a very short notice to the artists. What I found the optimal time for anybody that runs exhibitions, the optimal time for everything is to run your call for 30 days. So 60 days prior to the exhibition and then announce your results. 30 days prior to the exhibition. So the artists have four weeks to get everything together. And that's more than adequate for artists to get it together and for us to promote the show and get people there. 

CA: So when you're hosting shows at House of Shadows, what percentage of the pieces you've accepted have to get shipped in from out of state or out of the area?

JG: I think we were running about anywhere between 30% to 40% were from outside of the area. And then all the rest of them were dropped off.

CA: And because you're accepting these blindly, it's really, you know, if something gets accepted because it's out of state, it's the artist's fault for applying. 

JG:Exactly. 

CA: OK. 

JG: Yeah, it's their fault for being

CA: So. So talking about the opening of the show, what percentage of a show's sales would you say happened on that first night? 

JG: First night is going to be your biggest sale night for an independent show. It's a little different when you're talking about artists that are well known. that cycle's a little bit different. But when we're talking about independent artists, your opening night is gonna be the biggest deal, right? Unless you have other events going on throughout the month, your opening night is gonna be the most people there at one time, the most excited as they can, and hopefully the most drunk as they can be, spying art, because that's how you sell art. You get them excited, and then when they get home and they go to sleep, they wake up in the morning and you say, what did I just buy? What is this that Nick created? So yeah, that's gonna be your big sale. So I'd say that anywhere between half to as high as 75% of the exhibition sales will be from opening night. 

CA: So how long do your exhibitions usually last? 

JG: So House of Shadows exhibitions were one month, open five days a week during the day. Now, one of the things that we knew going in was that having day hours was not to our benefit, but we didn't want to work at night, except for our openings. So we just let it be. Had we opened at night and evenings, we probably would have had more people coming in to buy during the month, or at least look at the art during the month. But yeah, we would run for 30 days, or the equivalent of one month. 

CA: And I imagine you do want to... constantly have those new shows, the new turnarounds so that you can once again experience those opening night excitement. 

JG: Yeah, we were pretty, we were pretty rare. I mean House of Shadows, and I say were only because we're temporarily closed until we reopen, but the, we were rare in that we were actually doing monthly exhibitions and we were the only people in all of Tampa doing monthly exhibitions. In St. Pete, you've got a little bit of a different story. You have a few that are doing it, but even in St. Pete, it's rare. It's rare in a city to see somebody doing monthly exhibitions because they're usually so much work. And for us, we just had a rhythm. We had a system. We had portfolios that would do a lot of that administrative stuff for us. So we were able to do the monthly exhibitions. You know, the hardest work was really the two days prior to the exhibition opening. You know, it was hanging the work, receiving the work from the artists. you know, calling people who are late, you know, having to replace a frame for somebody, you know, that was the hardest work. And then, you know, spending six hours hanging the show, you know?

CA: I always like to use any opportunity I can to call out a local gallery in St. Pete that had a show of AI and digital art together. And yeah, not a fan of that. Not a fan of getting people confused with the difference of those two. But there's also like a lot of more traditional galleries that It's like, how are you staying in business? Because they're going to be advertising in the local paper. You know, it's like. 

JG: But see, that's part of what something you alluded to in the beginning was about income streams, about how you make money with all this stuff. Right. And I'm going to say this. The money that you make is almost never in what people think the main thing is. So, for example, exhibition money. is not where most galleries are going to make their money. Most galleries are making their money from their buyer lists, from their collector lists, from representation. They're not making it from putting on a show. That's just really the community thing that they're doing. And that's what they're doing to continue to build their list and continue to kind of court the buyers. They're trying to get people to their show. It's the show and tell. But it's also the, give me your business card, give me your information, we're gonna bug you about artists, we're gonna find out what kind of art you like, and we're gonna try to find that art for you. The money that a gallery makes is very rarely just from exhibitions. Same thing for an artist. The money you make is very rarely just from like, you know, putting up your booth somewhere. For some artists, it's the only money they make is that's all that they do. But there's a lot of ways to slice this. And when you start slicing it, you start realizing that there's a lot of ways to make money with your art. And I think that's, that's what an art, that's what artists, you know, don't always, you know, either don't understand or appreciate, or they just don't want to get into, like I said, I just want to make my art. I just want to sell it. Well, they're selling and there's licensing and there's products and there's prints and there's originals and there's exhibition and there's trade shows and fairs and there's contests and there's, there's all kinds of ways you can get your work out there. There's building your list, which is the most critical thing. Building your brand, which is the big thing. Because at the end of the day, real art doesn't sell because of the art it sells because of the artist. 

CA: That's a really good point. One thing I'm always telling people, if they're curious about running Kickstarter, is the most valuable aspect of it is that you're getting a list of people who like your work enough to give you money. 

JG: Yeah. 

CA: So. It builds your brand so quickly. It builds your email list so quickly. And having that list of emails is the most valuable thing. And I'm sure you've been able to use it to translate from your corporate photography to your art photography to Cloud Folios to House of Shadows. And that list is always going to go with you. And so with that in mind, how did you translate House of Shadows, the physical location, to the online location you're building at?

JG: Yeah, so we're still going to be building a physical location at some point. Right now, it's more of just kind of a rest and recuperate, re-envision, take the lessons learned from two years on Kennedy. And we did well on Kennedy, but we have things we want to do that are a little bit different. So for those that don't know, we closed down our gallery not because it wasn't working. We actually closed it at a height. It was because the building was sold and we had to go. We lost our space. But in our next iteration, things are gonna get a little darker, a little sexier. We're gonna focus in on the things that people came to House of Shadows for. You'll see less all purpose shows. We won't have an abstract show. That was literally the worst show. Beautiful, like strap work, nobody cared. We did a medium based show, a drawing. People love the drawings that did come, but people didn't come. Now, we did Nightmare on Kennedy, our big Halloween show, and you couldn't fit into place. You know, we did our, we did explicit, our erotic art. We couldn't fit in the space, you know. There are certain things that people come to House of Shadows for, and so we will specialize our gallery in the dark and erotic art. So that'll be the next iteration. So we're looking for the right space to build the temple for that. I think it's gonna be really exciting when we do it. But right now, what we've done is kinda moved into a little bit of a silent mode. There were some plans we had to do some things online, but we've kind of put that on pause a little bit because we want to really regroup and we don't want to put effort before we're really ready to do that. 

CA: So when you picture the ultimate final form of House of Shadows, is it an online storefront or is it a physical location?

JG: It's definitely a physical location, absolutely. But I think that as a business, I think one of the things that we really want to to create is a little bit more than just being a local gallery. I love the fact that the gallery was so much fun. I miss going to the gallery. I miss having our big openings. And it's a great part of doing it because you get to mix and you get to mingle and you get to meet people and have some really beautiful experiences. But that's really what the gallery is going to give you. It's going to give you some sales, but it's going to give you mostly the community involvement and experience of being a part of the art scene. But as a business, we want to extend beyond that. So probably the closest thing that I have as an example of what we'd love to be in the art world is what Blackcraft is to the clothing world, to the clothing and apparel and merchandise world. We want to be a place where, yeah, you can come to see us. I can go to Blackcraft and Salem, come to House of Shadows to come and see our environment, experience what we've got. But we've got brand beyond that. We've got merchandise and products beyond that and services way beyond that.

CA: I'm glad you brought that up because the question that I've been asking a lot of my guests recently is who not necessarily modeling yourself after but who inspires you as a business owner. And aside from Blackcraft are there any other names out there that you find inspirational on the business side. Maybe not their art style but the way that they operate themselves. 

JG: You know these days there isn't a shortage of businesses to really admire. But I think that you know when I look at. what we do, who we want to be, and what we want to emulate ourselves after. I think that there aren't too many out there. People have their own things going. They have their own models going. They're all trying things. And these days, there's a little bit of illusion going on. There's people who you think are doing really, really great. There really aren't at all. And so we really just, we found something like for example, Blackcraft, I mentioned them because they really are, they kind of represent the type of feel that House of Shadows wants to have, but for art. And I think that there are a few artists who are starting to touch on that. There's a few models out there that I'm watching really closely.

CA:  So talking about House of Shadows as a brand that you've been building up, do you plan on creating... products under that brand name or will it always exist as an avenue to sell art for other artists and yourself? 

JG: Yeah, yeah, that's actually very much in line what we're gonna be doing. I think that this is where now the struggle this is why you don't see us doing anything online right now because What we're trying to do is really Give ourselves time to kind of simmer on that thought of like if this is if we're creating House of Shadows as an art brand, what does that really mean? What are the possibilities? What do we leave out? What do we say no to, which is really important? But what do we say yes to? And I think that where you'll see is merchandise. You'll see additional services that are even beyond representation of artists or trying to sell someone else's art, but trying to contribute to the overall culture that House of Shadows tends to be a part of. So what I could say is here in Tampa, in Ybor City, you've got the castle and you've got the spook easy and you've got dysfunctional grace and they kind of create that little Trinity there of darkness and Ybor. So we're part of that. We're part of that. We were just all the way on Kennedy, but we're part of that. Wanna move kind of closer to that community, create a brand that House of Shadows represents. A house of shadows represent for us safety, comfort. Some people don't like the darkness. They don't like, they feel intimidated by that stuff. For us, you know, I was a teenager, I'd turn off the lights and put, you know, heavy metal music just to go to sleep. You know, for me, there's comfort and peace in the shadows and that's specifically for people who identify with that feeling, who identify with that culture of shadows. We want to be a part of that. And so there's a lot of fun going on right now of us just talking about that. How do we do that? How do we connect and do it from the art world perspective? 

CA: So I want to dive more into the word representation used earlier. Generally, a lot of traditional galleries might have exclusivity contracts with artists. Is that something that you are curious about maybe growing with House of Shadows? 

JG: No, actually, we never want to get into exclusive representation, however, of the artist. But we are very interested in the future of exclusive representation of specific pieces. So I think that that's where we and now when you think about merchandise, you start realizing why we want to do that. You know, let's say, Nick, you know, you have a piece and we look and we say, well, this is this is a great piece to license or to get exclusive representation rights for a combination of both. Now we enter into this partnership of merchandising and promotion of just this one image. And I think that the possibilities there are very powerful. We've seen a lot of that going on in the world. We've seen images and memes and specific things that later you find out who the artist is, you know, that just go crazy. We're very interested in figuring that out. And so I think that's where our energies are going is in saying, how do we figure that out? How do we pull together the components without doing something we really don't believe in, which is exclusive representation? We don't believe that benefits the artist. 

CA: Well, that is the concept you're bringing up of the art licensing. That seems like a really great way to benefit both parties. If you say, for example, had a monthly shirt or something. that the art piece was licensed and also matched in with the theme of whatever that month's show is, it could be sales that happen at the opening of the event in addition to all the art sales, and that'll give the artist more of a reason to promote pieces that they have at that show. It'll get more artists interested in being involved with the entity because they know that there could be that licensing on top of them showing pieces and vice versa. So it seems like that's really a good route as far as getting both places to work mutually together. 

JG: Well, and it gets the artists to be interested in promotion of the work as well now, because now there's this partnership and there's this synchronicity. You know, right now we're going through this whole thing with the writer's strike in Hollywood and everything, and this dovetails into, you know, things that for years have been talked about, which is artist rights and how much people who are promoting art are making versus the artists themselves. And the agreements. behind that and the arrangements and the business model behind that is terrible. If we look back at some go back hundreds of years at the way artists were represented, gallerists or dealers, I'll just say dealers more than gallerists, dealer art dealers would go to an artist that they truly believed in. They would buy a bunch of their work at a basement price. Then they go back to wherever they were from. Talk about this guy that they met in Paris or this guy they met in India and his work is amazing and they'd mark the work up by multiples of what they bought it for. So they might've got the piece of work, let's say for the equivalent of 50 bucks and they sell it for 5,000. And they can do that because it's their work now. They bought it from the artist for 50 bucks. And a lot of times people don't realize that's actually where art dealing came from. A person, somebody with money would identify somebody with promise, they'd buy all their work. and then they go and resell it and give the artist nothing. That's how artists became to be known, but still were broke at the end of their life because the people who made the money were the people who bought their stuff when it was cheap. This whole model doesn't exist, for example, in the music world. The moment that I publish music, somebody's giving me a royalty. That stuff plays on Spotify. I might only get pennies, but I'm gonna get pennies. That doesn't exist in the visual art world. doesn't exist in the world of sculpture, in the world of painting, in the world of photography. So creating these licensing agreements, I think really benefits everybody. As an artist, again, exclusive representation for me doesn't make sense for an artist unless you've got somebody who's just got big bucks and they're gonna give you a great deal and you're gonna get rich off of that one source. But if you're not, it's a bad idea. It's also a bad idea for a gallery or an art dealer if they don't have the guns to deliver on what they're promising. If I have exclusive rights over Nick and your work, I better have enough firepower to leverage that. Otherwise I'm making you promises and I'm spinning my wheels in ways that doesn't make any sense.

CA: It's interesting you bring up, you know, the way that the writer strikes going on in Hollywood. Like I know that there's been this more recent trend with the larger streaming services just buying exclusive rights to showrunners for a few years. It's like, for example, I think it was Netflix gave Sean DeRine's like, was a hundred million dollars or something, just so she can develop a few shows for them. And I think the only thing that came out of that was Bridgerton and the Bridgerton spinoff. And I know that's one of the first things that are being totally taken off the table now as a result of the writer strike is it makes no sense to pay a creative just for the promise that they'll get the first rights on anything that they make over the next few years. There's no guarantee that those things will actually be made, that they'll come up with anything. I remember, I think Warner Brothers paid a crazy amount for J.J. Abrams to develop things, and he developed nothing during that time. So anyways, just similar to the storylines you're bringing up too, where you're paying for limited exclusivity doesn't necessarily guarantee success on either person's side. 

JG: It doesn't. And the deals have got to be structured right. A lot of the problems with the arrangement that the writers have in Hollywood have to do with the deals and the way that the money is made on the front and the back end. And when streaming came in, it kind of circumvented pieces here. So now all of a sudden, money they were making before was completely off the table because there was a loophole. It was a loophole. But the guys at the top are still making the money because the other one's making the deals. So with art, it's the same thing. I think the artists can, you know, I've heard the argument in a lot of different ways. You know, when I hear artists say, oh, I'd never give you 50% to sell my work, I think that's short-sighted. I think, honestly, it's stupid. If I sell your work, I should make as much money as you because I'm the one who sold your work, right? Especially if I'm paying for expenses that you're not paying for. If I say, I want 70% to sell your work that's in your closet. It's been there for five years. I think I deserve the 70% if I sell your work. It all goes down to the deal. It's up to the artist now to push back and say, no, I will only pay you 40%, but here's why. I'll only pay you 25%, but here's why. You've really got to come up with a great argument to make the best deal for yourself. Everybody needs to fight for their deal. And at some point, you've got to be able to walk away from deals that don't work. So if I had an artist that told me that pay me 25% to sell their work, I'd walk away. There's no way I'd do it. We all got to figure out what our prices, what our capabilities are, what can we deliver, and what makes sense. 

CA: So looking at you specifically, when it comes to all of the income you're developing from the art you've made and the tangential art-related businesses you've created, What percentage of it would you say is traditional sales of your fine art photography prints? 

JG: Well, today it's something I'm ramping back up. So I have a very small percentage. It's my actual fine art work. I've not been really promoting it too much. We've spent a lot of time on the gallery. Here towards the end of the year, there's some new things that I'll be doing. I'm gonna actually be segmenting my work into storylines and promoting the different storylines. individually. So I'll give you an example. I did a series of nudes behind whiskey glasses back a few years ago. And I'll be developing that idea out, creating new pieces, but selling an entire line of work that's just whiskey nudes. And they're just nudes against the whiskey culture, finding things within that culture, the experience of whiskey, the experience of whiskey rooms and all in the backdrop of these nudes, an eroticism and just focusing on promoting that one thing to a very specific audience. That's where I'm taking my work. I'm taking all the past work, grouping it together and saying, how do I create these categories that I can market individually? What I'll be doing is a lot of modern tactics are, which is, doing things like giving away free prints, and doing things like creating an experience around the art and building a list around it. And then doing a lot of the modern things, like building sales funnels and storylines and pushing out to my list pictures of me next to my art, all that kind of stuff, pulling all the stops. That will happen here towards the end of this year. 

CA: Okay, so your goal in the next year is to ramp up your traditional art photography sales. 

JG: Yeah, yeah. You know, I've got a lot of product. I've got a little over a thousand pieces. So, you know, a lot of artists just want to keep creating. I'd love to keep creating because I love doing it. But man, I've got a lot of stuff I can sell. 

CA: So I really liked hearing you say that you're continuing on a series that you started a few years ago, because I find myself doing the same. I'll do four or five pieces, six, 10 pieces all related to one topic. fall off of it and then a few years later be like, you know, I'm going to try doing some of that a bit more and see with more of a developed eye. Now that I've learned different techniques and things, I want to kind of revisit that. So it's like, you know, growing up in art school, you hear about like, you know, this artist had this period, then they went on to this period, then this period. It's, I find it's never that clear cut. You're never completely giving up on one thing and moving on to something else. It's, it's a lot of back and forth, fading into each other and re-emerging old styles. So. I'm glad to see that's the same with you.

JG: It depends on the type of art you do. So my art is a little bit difficult. I do expressive nudes. That's my category. And expressive nude work in general is hard to sell. It's not the top selling work. I'm not doing pictures of dogs. And we're not doing landscapes. And we're not doing vegetables. We're doing naked people in situations that are. either a little dark or a little... So I'm in a category, I'm in a very small niche. Finding the story that opens me up to a larger group is going to be a very important strategy moving forward. Especially since my type of work, it's very hard to... I can't do social media advertising and stuff. So I've got to build it a different way. I'm going to tell the story in a way that compels and brings people to me and then I can tell them the rest of the story once they're my friends. 

CA: So as we're kind of wrapping this down, winding this conversation down, I want to shout out the first event I ever met you at. 

JG: Oh, was it Project Dark Arts? 

CA: Yes, Project Dark Arts. 

JG: Project Dark Arts, it was Rogue's show, yeah, yeah. 

CA: Yeah, okay. That was an amazing show. I think you were one of the judges of that one. 

I was the curator for that one, yeah. 

CA: Okay, the curator, yeah. Yeah, that was an amazing show. That was really fun. And I really loved how the space felt like a, I'm forgetting the word. 

JG: Like a little, like a speakeasy, like a saloon. 

CA: I loved how like you had multiple stacks of art really high up in the tall ceilings and then smaller pieces above them. I really loved that sense where it's like, you can walk in here and find a gem hidden among the walls. It felt way less traditional in that each piece wasn't given its own, like, tons of space around it, presented as like, this is an important piece you need to sit and stare at. It felt more like an antique shop and that was just a really fun theme to it. I love that. 

JG: He covered the walls with that art. Yeah, it was phenomenal. Absolutely. And the performances and the environment, yeah, it was wonderful. I know he'll be getting back into some shows here soon, so hopefully we'll bring back dark art. 

CA: Yeah. All right, well, in that regard, I want to send some of our listeners over to cloudfolios.com. If you're an artist, definitely sign up. Take a look at the local events that you have searching for art. There's both in-person call for artists as well as virtual call for artists available through there. It's also a great place, as Jose said, just to catalog and keep track of all the pieces you've created. You can see Jose's art at jgomezfineart.com. and you can follow the gallery at houseofshadowstampa.com. Anything I missed Jose? 

GJ: Thanks a lot. No, that's everything. 

CA: All right, well, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate talking with you. I feel like I learned a lot. I always learn a lot talking with you. And also thanks for organizing the Tampa Society of Photographic Arts. I feel like it's really helped me learn what is a good photo and what is a photo that's actually worth printing. 

JG: Oh yeah, we've seen some great development in that group. You're among some real stars there. 

CA: I don't know about that. I feel like I can take a good photo, but it's thanks to those meetings I've learned the difference between a good photo and a great photo, which is one that has a story and a reason to be taken. 

JG: Absolutely.

CA: Yeah. All right. Well, thank you very much. You got to take care. 

Outro

Chain Assembly: Art for profit sake is recorded through Riverside FM, distributed through Spotify for podcasters, and edited on Adobe Audition. The music is provided by Old Romans. If you learned anything useful or found this podcast helpful, please rate and review us five stars. If you want to learn more about me or my art, head over to ChainAssembly.com.

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