New to the art world? Here’s what you need to know.
Surviving in the art world is challenging but not impossible. When you spend a significant amount of time kicking around the art world, you learn a few things…
A few (only a few) common art world misconceptions:
False: I have a ton of work and need to sell what I have before I create new works.
Reality: Granted, it’s important to have a body of work; it’s also important to have a diverse selection of different subject matter and sizes. Moreover, art is not like riding a bicycle. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it talent. Breaks in creativity will make you rusty. You should continue to hone your skills to constantly develop and evolve your style to attract new buyers and hold the attention of previous buyers. Lastly, making new art is for you too. You love it, so do it.
False: My art is unique and will sell itself.
Reality: Speaking as an artist who is certainly unique, you’ll be hard pressed to find subject matter that hasn’t been approached before. Your unique approach is ultimately what sets you apart from other artists and that’s a strong selling point. But the fact is, no art sells itself. Even in situations where art sells quickly and with little effort, there’s still some selling point. Perhaps the subject was important to the viewer. Maybe the color was perfect for a particular room the buyer considered. Most artists who show frequently will make one off sales from time-to-time – some artists are fortunate to make quick sales often. The reality is that consistent, long-term sales take perseverance and solid art marketing. If the goal is to create for a living, the starting point is to build collectors who will buy repeatedly. One-off sales are inconsistent at best.
False: All I have to do is show my work in as many places as possible.
Reality: Exposure is your lifeblood- that’s true. You need plenty of exposure, but it’s about quality and not quantity. To start, there are many exhibition opportunities, but be selective if you think sleep is important also. Does your art compliment the other works in the space? Is your work a good fit? Does the venue further your artistic goals? I’m sure you can see the exposure opportunity of showing in a coffee shop that’s generally crowded. Would you receive the same quality exposure opportunities showing your work in a Jiffy Lube? However, if that’s your target market…maybe you would. You have to decide if an exhibition opportunity is right for you. There’s no need to accept every opportunity.
False: If I get into a good gallery they will handle marketing and I can spend all my time in the studio.
Reality: If representation from one gallery were enough, many of us would be financially independent. Although, representation is helpful, it’s unlikely it will earn you a livable income. Galleries will help with marketing your art as marketing the works and artists they represent serve their needs also. But they, likely, have a roster of other artists to tend to as well. Ultimately, your career is in YOUR hands. Be proactive about your art marketing.
False: My work is comparable to (insert any famous artist) so I can price my work as they do.
Reality: Unless your David Hockney and can charge $10,000 for a digital print… I’ve created works that are comparable to Salvador Dali, but that doesn’t make my work priceless. And I certainly don’t have a team of art restorers working ’round the clock to ensure my works don’t degrade. (maybe someday) You get the idea. Many factors go into pricing your work: experience; size; medium; time involved; recognition. Much like marketing, how you price your work is about you and your work. Get advice. You can use other models as a framework, but adapt pricing models to you. This will require some testing but with practice you’ll find the model that suits you. If you have gallery representation or a trusted mentor, they can offer valuable suggestions. On the same note, be open to making adjustments if the advice comes from a trusted source.
False: If my work is priced too low, I won’t make money.
Reality: Not true. I’ve known a few artists who built a sold career on $250 paintings. In any case, it’s smart to have works in various price ranges; from paintings priced at several hundred to a few thousand to smaller prints for $50 to greeting cards for $10. Price variation is key to making your work available to a broader market.
False: All I have to do is start making phone calls to sell art.
Reality: Once more, art marketing is long-term. Cold sales is hard in any industry. Your marketing efforts are better served by building relationships. Art is as much an emotional investment as a financial one. Get them to like you now so they’ll learn to love you later. Art sales WILL follow.
This is just a start…but…
In any case:
Trial and error is a factor as there is no tried and true method. There are many techniques you can apply that work but art marketing is still very personal. Advice from those before you is helpful but only a start. At the end of the day: Each artist has to find his own niche, develop their own processes, and create their own opportunities.
Your take away: Art marketing and art sales: is about consistency; requires as much time and thought as making art; is as personal and tailored to each artist as the works you create.
This is a topic we will explore further in the near future.