Comment on or Share this Article >>
Just returned from a great one day group show, exhausted but pleased. We had a great turnout, more than any event in the past. I had strong sales, and several commissions from clients who saw what they liked, but wanted it in a different size, or loved the subject matter, but wanted more of a sky blue or a more vivid green. Some artists aren't interested in doing that type of commission work, but for me, it is an opportunity to explore familiar subject matter and throw in a curve by meeting the client's needs. A pleased commission client is often someone who continues to buy my work.
What I enjoyed the most were returning clients who were adding to their collections. As I painted outside the gallery, demonstrating my skills, one after another collector emerged from the gallery to show me their prize selections. They were proud to be the one that "got" that special piece, the one that they saw before the latecomers. Many enjoyed just watching me work, knowing that I gave their artwork the same loving attention. Since I was working in acrylic, the art was dry almost as soon as I brushed the paint on the support. A coat of acrylic gloss, and the piece was finished, the gallery staff were at hand to frame the piece immediately -- and off it went to an appreciating home. The atmosphere was casual, the refreshments were delicious, and art sold!
I love what I do -- I paint. I'm fortunate to be working hand in hand with a supportive gallery. But I love seeing the art I create make collectors happy. We all win. Now, off to the studio to get going on those commission pieces!
Comment on or Share this Article >>
Why should an artist be concerned with "branding"? I'm not talking about going out West and taking up cow herding. How do you make your work stand out amid the onslaught of artists who are just as intent as you to have their work seen and recognized? Maybe you should think about how you "brand" your work.
I recently advised a crafts person who creates special occasion trees (think Christmas trees for any occasion). The trees are quite striking and unique gift items, custom tailored to meet the needs of the buyer. She had been pretty successful in selling by word of mouth, but wanted to take her business to the next level. We worked on a plan to streamline her production, and created brochures and fliers to distribute at her shows. Setting prices and managing costs were also part of the discussions – we looked at making what she enjoyed creating have the greatest return on her investment of time and materials. One of the things we discussed was what to “name” her collective creations – how to “brand” her work.
How important is the issue of “branding” when presenting products to the public? It could be products they hold in their hands, hang on their walls, or stash in their refrigerators. Maybe it is an event, or an experience that is unique and special. Branding comes into play when you want the “thing” to be recognized above the rest, for it to connect in the public view instantly. It is something jealously guarded, and the source of untold lawsuits. Millions of dollars are spent on focus groups and market research to evaluate its effectiveness. That’s because it is important.
Think of the major sports teams, their logos and titles and how they are presented. You instantly recognize them and they bring to mind the team, the ballpark, the city, the experience. No matter what you feel about the late Thomas Kinkade, he wasn’t known as “the painter of light” accidentally. It was consciously promoted and emphasized in all his advertising. I think that Jack White’s wife Mikki Senkarik has the process well in hand. In Jack’s book “The Mystery of Making It”, he details how they went about making her artwork brand, Senkarik, have a life of its own. (If you haven’t already read Jack’s book, I highly recommend it. )
The good news is this: You don’t have to be a soft drink giant or a major league sports team to brand your work. When you create your printed materials, or create your website, or send out an invitation to your clients for an upcoming show, are you using a consistent, recognizable name or image? As example, for a number of years, I did an annual show with two other artists. We took a lot of time choosing the right name for the show, and when we publicized the show in print or online, we used a pink flamingo as a logo. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? When we put out street signs to the show, we used the flamingo, when we printed invites, we used the flamingo, and over time, when our collectors saw the flamingo, they knew it was time for that particular show. Maybe you wouldn’t be overjoyed to have a pink flamingo associated with your work, but it brought the people in. (Hopefully the artwork was the true draw!)
Some artists use their signature as their “brand”. They use the image on their brochures, on their websites, and of course, on their work. It shouts out who they are. Potential clients see the image and connect it to the type of work the artist does.
Do you have a yearly show you promote from your studio or gallery? Have you thought of branding it as “My Show 1”, or “My Show 2” or “My Show 3” and beyond? When you do, it conveys to the public you have been around a while and know a thing or two! Haven’t we all seen events that tout their longevity? Everyone likes a winner – a survivor. If you have experience, capitalize on it. Have a large body of work? Use your brand name/image to shine a light on it.
I'm not suggesting that you start providing scoreboards to the little league with your images on them, (though that's an idea!) but consider how branding can fit into your success. Look at how companies and groups use the idea of branding and adapt their techniques to serve your own purposes. Become your own "ad man". Create your own brand and see where it takes you.
Comment on or Share this Article >>
How often we, as fine artists, fail to take into consideration the importance of not only creating the art, but the fine points of marketing it. Choosing the dual artist/businessperson role is often a challenge that intimidates even the most strong-hearted creators. You would not try to create a work of art without your tools and materials; why would you embark on creating a public persona without the necessary tools to do the job?
For this discussion, I would like to focus on printed matter, in particular, brochures. We invest in the finest materials to create our art and yet attention can be lacking when it comes to designing an effective brochure. Printed material that can be put in the hands of your potential client is a communicator, even after an event is over and the client is miles away. It continues to remind them that your work is available. It reminds them of the beautiful piece they walked away from, and it reminds them again and again that you, and only you, has what they want.
When I create or update a brochure, I print it in my studio before sending it to be printed in volume. I critique it from the perspective of the casual observer who has never purchased my art, but sees something they like.
1. Does it feature my name prominently?
2. Is the brochure attractive to look at and it showcase my strongest work?
3. Is it easy to see how to get in touch with me or the galleries that represent me? A website? (You’d be surprised how many artists forget this vital bit of information!)
4. Does it tell my story without bogging down in too many details?
In the past, one had to work directly with printers for layout, materials and professional results. These days, you can certainly do that, but you can also do your own work and reproduce them as you need to re-supply. I print my promotional material in volume simply because the cost of the materials and the time to produce them outweighs the cost of paying a professional with a commercial press and folder to do them for me. My time is more valuable when I spend it at the easel creating artwork. I enjoy the creative process, and I would rather paint artwork that pays for the printing instead of actually doing the printing. (Doing my bit to help the economy in the meantime!) Printing in volume works for me, but you may want more flexibility in printing for yourself and in more limited quantities. Quality papers are easily available for home printers that put control in your hands.
First impressions are sometimes all it takes to make or break a sale, or get your foot in the door. Take the time to pull together a brochure that showcases your art. What is it that “works” and what does not? Look at it from a potential customer’s view. The old adage “how to succeed in business without trying” could not be farther from the truth. It takes focus and effort, but the rewards… ahh, the rewards!
Comment on or Share this Article >>
An often overlooked option that many artists miss is the easy availability of custom photo books. In these days of user friendly technology, there are a number of sources who offer custom printing from uploaded photos. The use of these digital archives can be a powerful source in validating an artist's “track record”.
Over the years, as each new artwork has been created and prepared for galleries and shows, I have taken the time to photograph each piece before they left the studio. As that archive grew, it occurred to me that some of the same tools I use to collect and share pictures of the grandchildren are the same tools that could be used to professionally present artwork.
Several internet providers come to mind – Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Winkflash – there are many others. All provide templates for anyone who isn’t gifted creatively to arrange and display the images for print. Most cater to showcasing the user’s vacation photos or members of family, but why not use them to create your own art record?
I show artwork in a gallery that has consistently referred customers to me for commission work. The number one sales tool has been access to past works in a photo book. The books are printed and bound by one of the online sources, and presented as a professional collection of images. Clients can review the pieces they are drawn to, and even specify the aspects of several pieces that they like…the color of the sky in this one, the marsh grass treatment in that one, and so on. When creating the commission, I can see what they have selected, and cater the piece to fit their needs. It is an effective tool to help clients visualize the paintings they want, and a less frustrating task for me to create their vision. We both win.
Additionally, visitors to the gallery often flip through the books that are readily close at hand, and ask “do you have more of this artist’s work?”… of course, they do! I also use some of these same online sources to print smaller, pocket sized booklets of work (you could do these yourself). They are easy to carry and ready at hand to give to a potential gallery rep, decorator, or client. Like carrying a business card, I never leave home without them.
There is something wired in the public to see printed matter as validating reality. Collected images of works convey that the artist has a track record - that they create consistently. It is also a durable way to share with the public, in addition to web based technology. For a minimum of expense, you can publish your work in a professional way, and make an impact on potential clients. It works.
So much about selling art is based on opportunity. Using this simple tool is a cost effective way to showcase your art in a polished way, and convey that you are serious about what you put so much effort into.
Comment on or Share this Article >>
The relationship between artist and client is sometimes described as a mystical one…shrouded in strange attractions and internalized storytelling. When reading a recent national publication describing an art show, it seemed more a sales pitch than an honest description of the artwork. What was the artist offering their public: a quality piece of artwork, or an idea? Or maybe none of them…maybe it was an artistic story of the Emperor’s new clothes? Could it be that we have moved beyond the visual expression of specific ideas into the arena of hocus pocus?
I recently caught the movie, “Pollack” with Ed Harris portraying the artist Jackson Pollock. It’s a movie I have seen a number of times, and I was again struck by the way that Mr. Pollack’s wife, Lee Krasner, fiercely intervened with critics to “explain” his art whenever they would begin to question his methods and meaning. His response to her was “Lee, it’s just paint.” In order for the art to make “sense”, Lee had to present an explanation of influences and direction that were unintended by the artist. Was the artwork influenced by other artists in the past? Maybe, probably, likely. As the story progressed, Pollack broke through the established genres of the day to popularize his famous drip paintings. Did he have something to “say” or was it simply capturing the moment, the movement, of paint pouring onto canvas? Recent study has suggested Pollack intuitively created fractal imagery that now is integral to illustrating modern chaos theory. Or was he only dancing around with a dripping paint brush?
Are you, as an artist bound by explanations and categorization? Is it important to you or more important to the collector? Are you the ancient potion master, creating visions magically, out of thin air? What is it about your art that makes it connect with your collectors? Does it fall into established genres of art, or are you out there doing art on the fringe of popular acceptance? What influences past and present cast their pall over your work? Does introspection matter when creating art?
It is sometimes wise to ponder why we do what we do. In many ways, it defines what we have made of ourselves and what we truly have to say. Or is it as “just paint”?
Comment on or Share this Article >>
Ever get the feeling that life is just putting one foot in front of the other?
We all do, I suppose. There seem to be times that come when everything "clicks" and all the good things you dreamed of seem to just be pouring into your lap. Recognitions come for your work, and opportunities present themselves. Sometimes it lasts for a long time - sometimes for a day or so. But all of us come to stretches in our life path when it becomes putting one foot in front of the other. Perhaps you’ve reached a crossroad in your artistic life and don’t know which way to go. Maybe you have an illness that seems to control you more than you control it. Maybe your 9-5 job becomes so tedious, it numbs your mind and the creative flow won’t come. Maybe someone you love is slipping away and there doesn't seem to be anything you can do about it. In these times of economic challenge, maybe the wealth you worked so hard to accumulate is devalued, deflated, and downright hard to hold onto. These are the times that try men's souls -- isn't that what the sage said?
Everyone comes to these days in their walk through life. We become bowed down more and more with the cares of the day, and the little beauties and graces are few and far between. Prayers, even the desperate ones, seem to be overwhelmed by God's attention to other, greater matters. You feel guilty when you feel bad about your situation, because you know in your heart there is a world full of folks who are in real life and death struggles to survive.
What do artists, in general, have that the rest of society does not? Artists seem to be blessed with an abundance of the ability to visualize. It is said that visualization is critically important to achieving. See it, believe it, and achieve it. These are times when it is good to be an artist who can create their own world. A beautiful landscape by a serene marsh, clouds in the distance, tidal creek filling with water as the tide surges inland. A great blue heron down by the water, head cocked to the side as it looks at the water, fishing for its breakfast. Even as I type the words, my breath comes deeper and more peacefully, my tight muscles in the neck and shoulders begin to relax, my heart begins to fill with a sense of wonder and delight. Thinking on the beauty of the mind's eye, I become eager to put brush to canvas, and bring the scene to life. A private vacation, where I am where I paint.
One of my favorite places is Rockport, Massachusetts. A beautiful little town on Cape Ann, about an hour from the city of Boston. The rugged natural scenic beauty is well-known, and it has served as the inspiration for many an artist over the years. When I am there, it truly feeds my weary soul. When I am tired or depressed, or at my wit's end, I have only to close my eyes, and I can be walking down Beach Street, into town, glancing at the galleries with their vibrant paintings, past the candy store where they make the best vanilla fudge. I stroll down toward the Neck, and its touristy shops and souvenir shirts. I can see the lobstermen unloading their catches, and catch a glimpse of the fishing shack, Motif 1, out on the wharf. When I tire of the commerciality of the scene, I turn back out of town, past Victorian and colonial homes with tiny front yards, spilling over with lush flowers in pinks and purples. I cut through the colonial cemetery where the long dead sleep soundly, and over Millpond Meadow bridge. Walking up toward the inn on the corner, my heaven away from home, I can sleep under soft blankets and wake to see the sun rising over the ocean. This is what I carry in my mind, this vision of a beautiful, beloved place. It is there anytime I need it – for peace of mind, for inspiration, or for respite in the midst of difficulty. I take it out, like one brings out a photograph of a beloved, to go over its features, remember the happiness, feel the longing to return, the rush of inspiration.
The world can be a hard, dangerous place. It can be full of discouragement, sadness, despair of spirit, injustice and hate. We can meet people who despise us for no reason, other than the prompting of their own unhappy souls. But they cannot take away that quiet place on the tidal creek, that flows in my mind and heart. They cannot take from me those crisp autumn mornings by the northern sea. When paint and canvas meet through at the end of my brush, these places come to life, even if I am far away in body -- I am there in spirit. They are deep in my mind and spirit, there for the seeing and the enjoying.
Now, if I can only look up from putting one step in front of the other….