The Laws of Nature

Monday, November 1, 2010

From Monet to Money, Part 2

The View from the Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way in an Uncertain World
By Ted Orland (2006)

Chapter 7: From Monet to Money, Part 2 - my viewpoint

Yesterday, I promised to share with you how I market my art. I don’t have any secrets to disclose and there’s no magic wand. It’s all about hard work and placing value on what I make. I can honestly say that almost every single day I paint (or work out a technical problem in my head) AND engage in at least one activity to promote my work. I’ve rarely missed a day.

So far, in 2010, I’ve sold 57 paintings. These painting are based upon concepts that interest me without regard to what is popular or more attractive to consumers – so, my work is authentic and aesthetically pleasing to me. Because I can't create 57 paintings in one year, most of these sales were paintings completed over the past five years. Twenty-one paintings sold at two solo shows in galleries last summer and the rest sold either at juried exhibitions, from my home, or from my website.

How did this happen? Hard work over a long period of time while exploring every reasonable and legitimate avenue I could think of, such as:

Websites: When I first posted my website through Artspan, I naively thought there’d be an immediate reaction to my work. Nope – nada - zilch. So, I printed business cards and brochures and distributed them with the hope that people would begin to visit my website. They did, but still no sales. It wasn’t until Artspan improved its ranking on search engines that buyers found me. Even so, I’ve made fewer than a dozen sales directly from my website since I began it and only one this year.

Galleries: I’ve never been interested in an exclusive relationship with a gallery and haven’t sought it. However, I do contract for short-term (1-2 month) solo shows in galleries with great results. I highly recommend this approach, and recommend that any agreement with a gallery should be in written contract form (check the fine print!).

Outdoor Shows: Every couple of years I participate in our local annual outdoor art show. This allows me to interact with members of my own community and I always make lots of sales. In fact, many of the folks who regularly collect my work live in my community. Repeat customers are very important! Although I didn’t participate last summer, I did make a couple of sales to folks who sought me from previous years. This means that handing out attractive business cards and brochures that people will hang onto is important.

Juried Exhibitions: Every year I sell paintings that are part of a juried exhibition somewhere in this country. I never get to meet the patrons, but it’s good to know that they connect with my work.

Corporations: Many corporations have art collections and frequently add to them. Sometimes a corporation will approach me about a purchase and other times I’ll make the first move.

To put this in perspective: my first concern is in producing authentic work that satisfies me. My second concern is marketing. As I mentioned earlier, I do something every day to promote my work but it doesn’t usually consume more than an hour or two unless I’m writing an exhibition proposal or framing work for a show.

Frankly, I’m not a marketing genius. Mostly, I’m concerned with the quality of my life. So, I paint because it makes me happy and engages me intellectually and I have fun with marketing because I can’t live in a house that’s stacked to the rafters with paintings. Also, it’s a great feeling to know that other people “get it” and connect with my work enough to want it for their own home/office/corporation.

But, one thing is certain: the more I paint and work at marketing , the more paintings I sell; and the more paintings I sell the more I establish relationships with collectors; and more collectors equals more sales. But, it’s not just about the money – it’s about connecting with other people, communities, and society through my art.

The best advice I can give is to believe in your artistry and "reach for the stars!"

What’s your approach?


Robin said...

Isn't the bottom line for all of us visual artists that your artwork has to be seen in order to be enjoyed/sold/discussed? I do the same things you do on a smaller level and have found myself most recently more focused on learning a new medium with slightly less focus on continuing to build my art "business". Finding a good match for a venue that clicks with your work is a challenge, but in the meantime it helps to build an art resume with show acceptances and awards... don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy, I like your approach of a little done on a routine basis. And, thinking through what's practical and do-able. I like how you put the quality of your art first. The last couple of years I've focused most on the art. My favorite line of yours is to believe. That's what I tell myself: work hard, be authentic and my time will come! Thanks!

hw (hallie) farber said...

Very interesting; especially sales at juried shows. During my years of sculpting I never sold a piece at a juried show--only at galleries. Maybe paintings are a different story.

-Don said...

Great post, Kathy. Thank you for sharing your approach. It's sounds like this is the year that all your hard work and groundwork are starting to pay major dividends. I take much encouragement from this as I continue to lay the groundwork for my own run at success.

I'm still wading through while learning the gallery game. Like I've mentioned before, Las Vegas is not very supportive of the arts, and as such only has a few small galleries trying to make a go of it. This makes it a challenge getting ones work hanging on any of the walls around here - especially when there are several talented and established artists already 'dug in'. We'll get there...

The only sale I've ever had in a juried show is a purchase award MANY years ago in my college days. Maybe I'm asking too much... Maybe people like my work, but can't picture it on their walls... Or, (gasp!) maybe they don't like my work... Oh well, I didn't paint it for them anyway.

The Year of the Don is entering it's eleventh month. I've just finished my 71st painting for the year. I've sold two of those. The inventory continues to build. There will be either an explosion of sales in the near future, or there will be an explosion of the walls of my studio.

Now it's time to go add to the inventory...


Unknown said...

Hi Robin - yes. I agree that building a strong resume' is very important and have paid attention to that aspect of my business. Juried exhibitions, grants, solo exhibitions, books, etc are all important to a professional profile.

Hi Peggy - indeed, believing in our ability and voice is critical to authenticity.

Hi Hallie - I have three friends who are professional sculptors and have found that they have a tougher time selling than 2-D artists. I don't know if that's representative of sculptors in general, but I suspect it is.

Hi Don - I have no doubt that your work is very collectable and serious patrons of the arts will soon fine you. Stick with it!