The Laws of Nature

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Beating "The Law of Averages"

Boyle's Law
watercolor on paper
Katharine A. Cartwright, NWS
The Law of Averages really isn’t a “law” but a belief that balance will eventually occur. As one definition states: “ the law of averages is a lay term used to express a belief that outcomes of a random event will even out within a small sample.”  This is not scientific thinking but is wishful thinking.

How does this “law” apply to being a professional artist?

We purchase art supplies, invest in some lessons, occasionally buy advertising, and consume many of our waking hours making and promoting our art with the belief that we’ll recoup that expense and, if we’re lucky, make a profit. Some artists are more successful at this than others and the balanced scales tip in their favor. They beat The Law of Averages.”

How can we do the same?

Word on the street is that typical brick and mortar galleries are struggling and closing in droves. Not all of them, of course, but nearly a third in this country last year alone. Many co-op galleries have emerged and also vanity galleries that charge the artist for space, advertising, and openings. So, we can’t look to the traditional route for marketing our art and hope to beat the odds.

The contemporary gallery exists in cyberspace: websites, blogs, Etsy et al., and Facebook just to name a few. We reach more people more often. But, who and what are they buying and at what price?

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with these cyber venues to see what will happen. Yes, I’m still represented by brick and mortar galleries (three of them) but I’d like greater exposure. So far, not much has happened.

The problem is, cyberspace has transformed the number of “galleries” from thousands (brick & mortar) to tens of millions (websites). There’s a lot more competition and it’s harder to reach patrons. Sometimes competition is healthy, and sometimes it’s just plain confusing to the consumer. In this case, competition has led to price wars and the devaluation of art in many instances.

So, how do we beat The Law of Averages?


Casey Klahn said...

Good point @ the devaluation of art, and I would say in many ways. Don't get me wrong - there is a sacred place for intuitive expression, and yet a wise artist once said, "in art, the best is good enough."

I'd say the reach of internet "gallery spaces" is broad but shallow, except where the artist makes a personal connection with the patron. Now you have a relationship, and art can be viewed. A few patrons will want the real object.

John Salmon said...

I agree with +Casey Klahn here. Is this a new painting Katharine? I know it's watercolour but it looks like it should be digital. You must have the patience of a saint.

Unknown said...

Good point, Casey! I've always found that meeting the patron and standing with my art in their physical presence is the most effective way to connect and make a sale.

Hi John, This painting was completed over the past year. I love painting this way and find that it fits my natural tendency to pay attention to details. Been this way all my life!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, how to beat the law of averages. It sounds like you're doing the right thing, combining traditional gallery representation with the internet. While I have heard of people purchasing expensive artwork over the internet, I still think the majority of work is sold with some kind of personal connection...just my impression.

I have been reading your posts, especially your previous one about time. Interesting and thoughtful. And the paintings are just wonderful!

Unknown said...

Hi Peggy, - Great to hear from you! I hope you're still experimenting every day. I always loved following your posts.

Robin said...

Hi Katharine, I just re-found your blog and am glad you are back. I will need some time to catch up on your previous posts.

I have actually created a new body of smaller work geared specifically for Etsy (and facebook) where I feature lower priced original art. I have had success there but the price points that work best for me are under $100.

The brick and mortar galleries you refer to are essential for the more serious buyer and bigger work but I believe smaller items are the way to go online.

Celeste Bergin said...

I love the painting!
I can't offer any ideas about beating the law of averages...I just don't have the vision for what to do. I try to show my work "in-person" mostly.