Business Practices For Artists To Emulate From the Life of Georgia O’Keeffe

The gavel smacked down sharply to close lot 11 at Sotheby’s last November, when Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Jimson Weed (White Flower No. 1) sold at auction for $44.4 million dollars. The amount paid shattered (tripled actually), all previous records for a woman’s work of art. Why this price now?

“The real question to ask is, why hasn’t it happened before now?” said Roxana Robinson (, author of Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life. Aside from being one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century, O’Keeffe is one of the five most important women in American history, according to women polled in the U.S.”

Why has Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) been so admired by women? Because women were, and still are, inspired by O’Keeffe’s art and equally inspired by her daring, lifelong devotion to the adventurous journey of her own mind. This very same presence of mind that her audience admired, also happened to help her in business.

 “I decided to accept as true my own thinking.”–Georgia O’Keeffe

O’Keeffe had stellar art dealers throughout much of life. But she was also a quick study when it came to business. O’Keeffe eventually succeeded in navigating the chaotic waters of the art world on her own in later life, because what propelled her forward was not a desire to please, nor a desire for fortune. O’Keeffe’s north star was her unwavering dedication to her own artistic vision and her physical connection to, and belief in—her own work.

O’Keefe’s integrity and respect for her own art, organically led to what we see today, as intelligent business decisions. “She [O’Keeffe] supported her own work by buying it back when it came up for sale. O’Keeffe wasn’t doing that as a marketing scheme to keep the prices up for certain clients, as some dealers in the secondary market do today,” said Robinson (who used to work in the American Painting division of Sotheby’s). “It was more like: ‘these pictures are part of me, and I want them back. Her self possession was part of her art.”

After her husband and long time art dealer, Alfred Stieglitz died, O’Keeffe made sure the most significant paintings of hers that he owned went to five respected museums. That’s one reason the availability of her paintings is limited now. O’Keeffe, continued to control her work, through her next agent, the erudite Doris Bry (who she partnered with for 30 years). They only sold to museums or established collectors who genuinely appreciated the work and would not flip it for profit. This further fortified her prices. “She also held back some of her best paintings in order to donate them to museums after her death, to further establish her legacy,” said Hunter Drohojowska-Philp ( author of Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O’Keefee.

Many artists may not yet be in the enviable position of pondering how much of their own art to buy back at auction. So what other actions did O’Keeffe take that professional artists at all levels can learn from today? The following six tips look at how a high regard for your art, may help your art business.

  1. Believe More in Your Own Work

“If I had advice for artists based on O’Keeffe’s life it’s this: Increase your awareness of the value of your own work. Stay connected to the ideas that are most valuable to you,” Robinson said.

Blue and Green Music by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1921.

Artist coach, Dr. Mary Edwards ( said:“O’Keeffe was such a role model in showing us that believing in yourself is the most important thing for artist. And she also showed us that it’s not a simple task; it’s a constant challenge. O’Keeffe worked through fear, illness, doubt, and a problematic marriage. If you are an artist, today, especially if you’re an emerging artist, it’s essential to find your singular voice, and to give yourself the time to do that. O’Keeffe showed us that you find your voice through the work. You will always have doubts and fears and challenges but keep doing the work and eventually you will take yourself and your art seriously.”

  1. Market Selectively

Market your art where it will be celebrated, not tolerated. Research a gallery thoroughly to see if they are a good fit for you. If you look at what is exhibited in a gallery and feel energized, press send.

“If you are going to be focusing on marketing and throwing your ideas out to everyone in the world, it is going to fall on a lot of stony soil,” Robinson said. “But if you stay focused on the work that you think is most important for you and you stay connected to people who are in that same part of the artistic world—that is going to be your strongest means of connecting. Bring your work to the places that you yourself, feel a deep connection to, and where you think it will be the most valued.

“O’Keeffe’s focus was on staying connected to her mission. And she connected with somebody who was interested in that same mission, that same field of work and ideas,” said Robinson.

  1. Protect Your Sensitive Side

Alfred Stieglitz’s photo of Georgia O’Keeffe, platinum print, 1920

O’Keeffe developed the skill of relying on her own judgment to assess her art’s quality and efficacy. To do this she needed to concentrate on hearing herself, so she wisely decided to make people’s praise or condemnation of her work into background noise. As she put it: “I have already settled it for myself, so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.” This was an amazing feat considering the sexist and personal nature of the criticism launched at her over the years.

Edwards believes that any good artist is good because they are sensitive to the world. You can’t grow as an artist without feedback, but protect yourself from people who don’t have any rights to criticize, let alone, attack your work. There are artists for whom Internet feedback is not a good idea period. If you fall into this category, consider closing the open comment sections on your blog or website.

4. Get Into Your Dream Gallery The Old School Way: Build Community

O’Keeffe benefited from being part of an artistic community of painters and photographers who inspired and helped one another personally and professionally. Gallery owners are now often flooded with ill-fitting inquiries sent to them via email and social media. This old school practice can help artist now more than ever.

“Having a community is far and away the best way to succeed now in the art world,” said art dealer and former gallerist, Martha Otero ( “The relationships between artists are important. I have often exhibited artists at my gallery that were referred to me by artists I already had relationships with. Blind solicitation doesn’t work well now. I often see smart artists, who are generous, actually support each other and help each other get into different small galleries and end up being put into group shows, together.”

To form sincere community, cultivate genuine friendships with artists you admire, attend the openings of artists who inspire you, send laudatory emails to artists whose work you appreciate, send snail mail thank you notes (achingly old school, but it pleasantly shocks the heck out of people and they will remember you), take people you could learn from to lunch, or make them lunch, and lastly, give and follow up on gallery introductions.

“ Recently I notice fine artists are getting into good galleries for the following two reasons. The first is the artists were visible online but secondly and more interestingly to me: generous artists that were already in galleries gave the up and coming artist, an introduction,” Edwards said. “It would serve you to talk with artists further down the line than you, who inspire you and are generous types (not jealous or competitive), and ask them, kindly, to actually sit down with you and give you advice. Those are the types of artists who will often introduce you to their gallery some day in the future, and you’ll get in that way.”

  1. Be Cruel To Be Kind

It’s not that O’Keeffe never made any so-so art. She did. But you won’t see any of it —because she threw it out. “O’Keeffe was quite strict with herself about what artwork of hers was acceptable, and what was not,” Robinson said. There were pieces she threw out or even had the audacity to take back from others and dispose of. As the story goes, a long time resident of Abiqui (where O’Keeffe lived) once found an O’Keeffe painting atop a big pile at the local dump. He happily tucked it under his arm and went home.

“Most artists could do with a lot more editing,” Otero said. “When an artist keeps sub-par work around it can affect how they are perceived and what they can be paid for their work. When I go to an artist’s studio who I am doing a show with, I usually see a body of mostly strong, consistent pieces. But I find, especially with younger artists, there are usually a few works in there that they would just be better off, not showing.

Sometimes even great artists, like great writers need a good editor. Try not to be offended if not everything of yours belongs in a show.” If it feels too daunting or wrong, to destroy sub-par work, edit your website instead.

O’Keeffe didn’t stop at regularly culling her art; she regularly culled people as well.

  1. Don’t Suffer Fools Lightly

O’Keeffe was not as much of a recluse as people think; she just chose her friends carefully and declined interviews and social engagements with people she did not know, did not respect or whom she suspected of being invasive or snarky. When you have a blistering work ethic like O’Keeffe did, time away from the studio (or desert in her case), was precious and not to be squandered.

“Successful artists spend time only with people who are 100% supportive of their art career,” Lori McNee, owner of said. “They limit their time and emotional involvement with people who are negative especially about art as a career choice. […] Successful artists do not allow unsupportive people to be an obstacle to their plans for success.” (

O’Keeffe’s success was further supported by her Wisconsin cowgirl brand of grit.


  1. Got Grit?

Time Magazine recently reported that “grit” (also known as perseverance marked by occasional outbursts of sass), is one of the world’s best predictors of a person’s success (

O’Keeffe had miles of grit. One spring day in 1961 O’Keeffe delivered a painting to Edith Halpert’s Downtown Gallery in NYC where she was going to have a show: “Upon seeing what O’Keeffe had brought, Halpert sighed, ‘Oh Georgia, is that another flower?’ The artist snapped, ‘No, it’s my ass!’ (Full Bloom, 480).”

Grit is a factor in resilience. Resilience allows for faster recovery time from the blows artists encounter. Getting grittier will help you get back to center faster so you find your unique vision again.

Taking that unique vision seriously, is not only good for your art, it may offer the unintended but lovely boon, of benefiting your art business. If increasing your own regard for your art, improves your art, but notyour art business–you still deserve a laurel wreath. Because as O’Keeffe said:

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing– Making your unknown known is the important thing […].”


Maine’s mystical ships by Ramona du Houx – May 2016 exhibit



“Our bodies consist of the same proportion of water as the earth. We are creatures of the sea. The draw of the ocean has been written about time and again. There is something more vast and more mysterious about the sea than anything else on earth. It’s something similar to the vastness and mystery of the universe itself. Our planet is just one in our solar system which is connected by the vastness of space. Is the relationship we have with the ocean a microscopic reflection of the relationship our Earth has to space?” said Ramona du Houx.

“How people interact with the ocean, from feeling at one under sail with the winds at the back to simply watching waves lap the shores, transmits a calmness, a wholeness. That peace is something I wish to convey in my work.”

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My day with a Blue Heron


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Herons are symbols of good luck and patience in many Native American tribes.

When the Sacred Waterbird, Blue Heron, comes to you in the Native American Totem tradition it gives you a lesson of self-reflection.

Heron “medicine” teaches us about the power of knowing ourselves so that we can discover our gifts and face our challenges.  We learn to accept all of our feelings and opinions and not to deny the emotions and thoughts that go with them.

The Blue Heron encourages us to follow our intuition and to take the empowering journey into self-realization. Continue reading

Parade of Sail in Maine by Ramona du Houx

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 12.39.57 PM“The ships take us away into another land, another place- somewhere we dream. With my “lightgraph” photographic art technique, started in 1979, I try to bring the beauty, magic and mystery of nature to viewers by amplifying nature’s essence. Sometimes that is expressed by how we interact with nature, like catching the perfect wind and sailing away,” stated Ramona.

Her Windjammer’s are also for sale at her new shop on Etsy called TradewindsAvetar . 

All images on Etsy are:

  • signed by the artist, Ramona du Houx.
  • Limited Editions
  • with free shipping inside USA.



Ramona du Houx is artist of the month at SugarWood Gallery

FARMINGTON — SugarWood Gallery Artist of the Month Ramona du Houx of Solon will be feted at an open house reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 1, during First Friday Art Walk.

The public is invited. Refreshments will be served.

Du Houx creates fine art photography that looks like watercolor paintings. Many have said the images have a healing nature.

She is currently represented by Gallery Storks of Tokyo, Japan, and is a member of the Maine Artist Collaborative and the Harlow Gallery. Gallery Storks has produced an art book of her art called “Transformations — Revealing Nature’s Complex Balance.” Many of the photos on display are in the book.

Du Houx’s love for photography continues to be a lifetime affair. At age 12, she couldn’t be seen without a camera. By 18, she was teaching photography and industrial design at Colegio San Antonio Abad in Puerto Rico.

During college she worked with three New York City photographers. In 1979 she landed jobs to take political photographs of Sen. Ted Kennedy and President Jimmy Carter. The same year she discovered her “lightgraph” technique and held her first exhibit in Huntington, N.Y. She then took her lightgraph images to the Museum of Modern Art, where they were put on file.

The Zen nature of her work became obvious to her so she continued her studies in art and philosophy in Kyoto, Japan, while teaching. Her travels in the East led to numerous exhibits in Japan and a lifelong connection with the area.

Supermoon Dream

In England and Ireland, she explored the mythology of the region, while raising three children, ghost writing a novel, and forever taking photographs. After returning stateside to Maine, she started a publishing company with her husband and was hired as a consultant by a local artist. During this time she also explored more about the mysteries of motion in her lightgraph technique and wrote for newspapers. By 1998 she was given access to a color darkroom at the Lewiston Creative Photographic Art Center to print a backlog of work in exchange for advising the Center’s photography students.

In 2005 Ramona started a news magazine, “Maine Insights,” which continues to this day. By 2012 she decided to show more of her fine art and has exhibited around the world.

SugarWood Gallery is located at 248 Broadway. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Ramona du Houx’s new exhibit includes mystical images of Maine’s Windjammer fleet

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Article in Maine Insights

For the month of July the SugarWood Gallery, at 248 Broadway in Farmington, will feature the fine art photography of Ramona du Houx. The open house will be held on July 1st from 5pm-8pm, during Farmington’s First Friday Art Walk.

Ramona du Houx creates fine art photography that looks like watercolor paintings evoking mystery and a sense of wonder. Some find them nostalgic and some mystical. Many have said the images have a healing nature.

“I try to bring the beauty, magic and mystery of nature to viewers by amplifying nature’s essence,” said Ramona, a Solon resident.

New work on display will include images of Maine’s Windjammer fleet under full sail.

Ramona is currently represented by Gallery Storks of Tokyo, Japan and is also a member of the Maine Artist Collaborative and the Harlow Gallery. Gallery Storks has produced an art book of Ramona’s art called: Transformations— Revealing nature’s complex balance. Some of the photos on display are featured in the book.

“Scientists, innovators, and inventors throughout history took the time to observe nature and her connective rhythms. But now society plugs us into the Internet, and while that can open doors, sometimes too much of being Internet-connected disconnects us from the mysteries of the natural world that are transformational. I want to help show how nature’s interconnectedness can lead us to discoveries about our world and ourselves,” said Ramona.

Ramona uses the camera with a painter’s eye. The technique she discovered back in 1979, in New York, uses movement to create a sense of wonder through colors, textures, memories, and the seasons. Everything within the viewfinder becomes visibly interconnected when objects merge with the motion of the camera as the image, the “lightgraph,” is taken.

The photographic watercolor technique is always a challenge. “I never know exactly what the results will be, that’s the exciting part of the creation,” said Ramona.


Boat legends come to life in Maine

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Our bodies consist of the same proportion of water as the earth. We are creatures of the sea. The draw of the ocean has been written about time and again. There is something more vast and more mysterious about the sea than anything else on earth. It’s something similar to the vastness and mystery of the universe itself. Our planet is just one in our solar system which is connected by the vastness of space. Is the relationship we have with the ocean a microscopic reflection of the relationship our Earth has to space?

How people interact with the ocean, from feeling at one under sail with the winds at the back to simply watching waves lap the shores, transmits a calmness, a wholeness. That peace is something I wish to convey in my work.

Maine’s Portland art museum exhibits photographs of American Indians

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 10.58.51 AM“Selections from the North American Indian” by Edward Curtis will be exhibited at the Portland Museum of Art from February 26th through May 29. It includes 25 photos of Indians that Curtis shot between 1907 and 1930.

The faces of the portraits say so much.

The images were first included in a book project by Curtis, “The North American Indian.” Curtis documented Indians and native culture, primarily across the American West and the Pacific Northwest. He made more than 2,000 photogravures, and his research represented the most comprehensive effort at the time to document Indian culture. He visited more than 80 tribes.

Curtis was sometimes criticized for romanticizing Indians, often asking them to wear ceremonial dress and adornments that were accurate but presented out of context. On the other hand, his work was valuable for its scope and completeness, and Curtis earned high marks for his photographic artistry.

The Portland Museum has commentary by contemporary Maine Indian artists Brenda Moore-Mitchell, George Neptune and David Moses Bridges to accompany the photographs on display. Visitors can access their remarks through audio recordings in the gallery.

Science and art at Colby College

A novel art, science, and educational collaboration is underway between Colby College and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Six different professors in disciplines ranging from biology to the art and humanities have integrated a photographic exhibit of marine microbes, created by Bigelow Laboratory, into their curriculum this fall.

The exhibit is on display at Colby College through December 11, and culminates in a presentation of student-inspired work that evening at 5 pm in the Wormser Room at the college.
Among the offerings, the event is scheduled to feature a microbe-inspired dance, microbial marble sculptures, scientific discussion about the relevance of marine microbes to planetary balance, and instant DNA technology.