Art into Commerce

How Art Turns Into Commerce



Marin Independent Journal, San Rafael CA, July 9, 1989
by John F Ince, of the Independent Journal


Portal Publications of Corte Madera creates more than 680 images a year for publication on posters, calendars and greeting cards. Converting a design or photograph to a poster on a bedroom or dormitory wall is curious and quirky.

Carol Hoffnagle, a Ross painter and printmaker, is one local artist who was “discovered” by Portal. According to Hoffnagle, “Andre Sala (Portal’s vice-president of art and design) happened to be in New Mexico at the time of a display of my works in a gallery there. He spotted a small black-and-white ad for my show in a Taos magazine, and gave me a call. Since they were on deadline,I just sent them samples of my work, and they immediately sent me contracts. One of my prints sold over 60,000 copies, and now I receive fan mail from people all over the country who have my work on their living room wall.”

Although the prospect of having your work displayed for a wide audience is, of course, attractive to most artists, it is sometimes a mixed blessing. Says Hoffnagle, “Most artists hope one day to be in one of the big New York galleries. But you very quickly learn that, at most, one percent of us will ever be able to make a living through our art.”

While being published by Portal is nice in a financial sense, the true artist sometimes has misgivings about the mass marketing of their work. “The first time you see a poster of your work, you nearly have a heart attack. We spend a lot of time getting our work just right. When one does posters, with cropping and coloration, it’s hard to keep it the same. It’s an entirely different process. Nevertheless, as much as an artist loves the work, we’re also in it for the money. And working with Portal is very good in that sense,” Hoffnagle said.