The Laws of Nature

Monday, November 1, 2010

From Monet to Money

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

I’m back from “The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” in Washington D.C. where I was surrounded by 250,000 polite and sane people for the day. We managed to stand close enough to the stage to see the performers, and it was an amazing experience. Woodstock, move over!

Now, back to “normal.” Orland’s seventh chapter is about how to support ourselves as artists. He begins by advising us to be single-minded and pursue no other goal than making art. Of course, this means that there will be times of feast and famine, so it’s not for the tentative or uncommitted. He does acknowledge that most of us will need a steady source of income while we’re making art, and suggests two avenues: either find an uninteresting job that won’t distract us from our art but may, potentially, dull our minds OR find an interesting job in commercial art that stimulates us to be more creative in our fine art. These days, finding ANY job at all is a challenge!
The real problem for us artists is finding reputable venues and patrons for our art. Gallery directors have a difficult job these days since so many of us display and sell our work on the world-wide web. I read somewhere that two-thirds of all galleries that open will close their doors within three years. So, which galleries succeed and why? I don’t know, but Orland offers this perspective:

The director of one well-established West Coast gallery confided to me that fully three-quarters of her gallery’s sales were accounted for by exactly two categories of art: 1)Masterworks by famous –well, OK, “dead” - artists; and 2) one particular artist’s limited edition color lithograph of really cute little white boats. So there you have it, a ready-made recipe for success. Be dead, or paint little white boats.

If we’re really serious about our art (and I am!) then we don’t want to compromise the content of our work by painting for tourists. So, we paint for ourselves - but, how do we sell it?? Orland has a formula for this scenario as well: if the only goal were to attain quick visibility in the art world, the formula is absurdly simple: devote ten percent of your effort to artmaking, and ninety percent to marketing and self-promotion. And, if you stop for even a moment you’ll “drop into oblivion.”

Personally, I’m not interested in joining that type of rat-race. So, tomorrow I’ll share with you my approach and hope that you’ll share yours as well!


Meera Rao said...

I was there too --and it was fun and awesome! To top it off it was one gorgeous day :)

Look forward to reading your approach -

and to sanity (in art marketing) :)

Anonymous said...

Glad you had a good time! I look forward to reading the comments.

Casey Klahn said...

My one current gallery owner is so down in the mouth. Could be several reasons, but she is very down on the market, even though she just finished a show of a master, and it was great. In the add-on space, I did finally sell one piece, and will "open" again Friday night for the second month.

I can't pin her down on when my opening will be in the main gallery in 2011. So the vibes are bad. I just did a good review of prices, and am a little less-expensive than the average for artists in pastel in my field, so I feel confident about prices.

So much to think about! One way to look at it is that when you're in "the groove" at a venue, the sales fall into place. Then, to put that groove in a bottle and keep it ready (I made that part up).

Linda Roth said...

Thus far, my very few sales have been personal--me and someone who was interested in stopping by. I've turned down commissions--animal portraits, portraits--too risky--too client in charge. I have thought though that periodic postcard/brochure mailings to a compiled mailing list of past design/build clients, friends, relatives, etc. could stir up some sales? Also studio open houses. I'm reluctant to sell on line. From what I've noticed everything is small--very tiny. Inexpensive to package and ship. Free Paypal does not service the merchant and money collection could be a problem? I'm very interested in what you have to say. From the way you said you have something to say, you must have devised a method that doesn't require painting little boats or whatever else the public is buying these days.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy and All,

I like Casey's "Groove in a Bottle"; the image makes me smile!

I haven't cracked the marketing nut yet. I keep working on learning how to market with the vague idea that it will make me attractive to gallery owners.

In my case, I had a career first and now have a modest income. There are trade offs with this approach. As I start my art career, I see my contemporaries have 20 and 30 years experience. In this business, experience counts! But, I do have the luxury of drawing and painting the way I want and need to. Thanks!

hw (hallie) farber said...

I read a very small book about Rembrandt this morning--few words and about 15 illustrations. I tend to forget that he lost favor, was bankrupt, yet continued to paint in his particular style. What a loss it would have been had he known about little white boats.

Robin said...

I am looking forward to reading about how you approach showing and selling your art. I enjoy hearing (reading) with your insights.

M said...

I would find it all too boring over time to just make art and not do other things. My friend talks about looking at her work sideways. By that she means that the gaps in time, other activities, discussions etc. all eventually feed the piece she is working on. I fully believe this.

As for finding a venue for art sales... all I have is one gallery. I produce enough work to keep this venue supplied. I often feel I should be looking for new venues outside Newfoundland but I never do anything about it. I also think I should be doing something online but I haven't done that either. I look forward to your next post Katherine. Maybe I'll get some ideas to extend my range.

Dan Kent said...

Sounds like you came back from that rally sane and unafraid. Meanwhile I should be discouraged hearing about the experiences of artists already in the marketplace. But I am not. That makes me insane and unafraid. It seems every artist has to be. Look forward to hearing your take.

Unknown said...

Hi Meera - It WAS awesome! Thanks for commenting.

Hi Pam - Thank you!

Hi Casey - ah, the "groove!" It helps to have a gallery director that really knows how to promote your work to known collectors. I hope your solo show is scheduled and that it's a success!

Hi L.W. - looks like you have a lot of good marketing ideas. When I make sales I take cash or check since I don't want to deal with Paypal or credit cards. I've never had a problem with that approach. If the sale is from my website, I don't ship the work until the check has cleared the bank. So far, so good!

Hi Peggy - I've seen your work and think it would easily attract buyers. Go for it!

Hi Hallie - how true!! And this applies to other "greats" as well.

Hi Robin - thank you! I look forward to your commets.

Hi Margaret - although I dedicate most of my time to my art, I agree with you that it's important to do other things as well. All the "sidelines" inform our work and help us to better connect with the world. Good point!

Hi Dan - you make me laugh! I can't say for certain that I'm "sane" but I do agree that all artists should be, to some degree, INsane! Thanks for the chuckle.