Call it cutting out the middleman. Call it direct-to-consumer selling, or real-world crowdsourcing. Whatever you call it, about 20 years ago, artist Paul Folwell made a decision on how he would go about selling his art. Bypassing the galleries, he would tap his wife Cheryl’s marketing prowess and sell directly to buyers, often out of his Hermosa studio.
Whatever the method, it has worked for the venerable Folwell, who has become one of the area’s most visible and widely-collected painters over the last two decades, known for his Western landscapes and impressionistic skiers, dancers and musicians.
The Folwells will open their annual studio show in Hermosa with a reception from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday. The studio will also be open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The show, normally by invitation only, is open it to anyone this year.
Now in its 22nd year, the show, which will feature landscapes from a trip the Folwells took to New Zealand late last year, is a testament to Folwell’s loyal local following and longevity in the area and to his self-sufficiency as a working artist.
“You used to take your hat in hand and go around to the galleries,” Folwell said. Although he has nothing against galleries (“They have to work their butts off to make a go of it,” he said), Folwell found early on that gallery owners liked some of his work but not all of it, and some would balk at shifting styles or subject matter.
Folwell attributes his success as a professional artist to Cheryl quitting her job and giving up a regular paycheck to become the marketing and publicity force behind the operation. He recalled a time when, in the 1990s, a gallery in Taos, New Mexico, was slow to pay for work that had sold, and Cheryl was enlisted to “hound them” until they relented. “I get to be bad cop,” Cheryl said.
For the most part since then, Paul has been out of the gallery game, especially in the Durango area where he has lived since 1965, designing and constructing trails at Purgatory for 17 years before turning to painting full time in the early ’90s. Instead, he and Cheryl use the power of networking, hosting dinners and cocktail parties that spotlight Paul’s paintings. Friends have become patrons; patrons have become friends. In a word, the Folwells learned to hustle. It didn’t happen overnight, Paul said, but took years of persistence.
“At my age, it works because I’ve been here since the cliff dwellers,” he said with a laugh.
Another reason to bypass galleries, which typically take a 50 percent cut of sales, is to keep prices low, the Folwells said. Private shows here and in Texas and California, combined with direct and word-of-mouth marketing, became the answer for them and their supporters.
“People just like coming into the artist’s studio. Like, ‘Oh boy, this is where he paints,’” Cheryl said. “It’s the ambiance. It’s the garden. It’s everything.”
After more than two decades as a full-time painter, Folwell continues to evolve as an artist, branching into digital art in the last few years. Working on a Wacom tablet untethers him from his studio, allowing him to sketch and take color notes in the field or work while watching sports on TV.
Folwell certainly is not running out of energy or inspiration.
“You’re always learning. You never master any of the arts,” he said. “A trip to New Zealand will inspire you. Going on a hike, you’ll see something that will inspire you. As long as you’re changing and moving ahead, it’s there.”
email@example.com. David Holub is the Arts & Entertainment editor for The Durango Herald.