When I started this business two months ago, I bought the book How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist – Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul. I noticed very quickly that it was not exactly aimed at me. Most of her examples involved artists selling their large-scale works at galleries for many thousands of dollars. That isn’t the market I’m going for.
But I liked how she helped me think through what my market is. After reading her book, I knew I really wasn’t interested in dealing with dealers, but I also didn’t want to go for what she calls the consumer-oriented market and I’d call the discount art market, which you find on sites like etsy.com. I looked at how other artists were marketing and pricing their work there, and it was very discouraging. Some artists were selling beautiful commissioned watercolors for a third of the average rate – considering overhead and time spent on business matters, they can’t have even been making minimum wage. Don’t they believe in their art? The whole etsy experience seems to cheapen art.
I decided I wanted something in the middle. I fully support consumer friendliness; I want my art to be approachable, and the purchasing to be unintimidating. So I’ve avoided the printed mugs and shopping-cart sites while making purchasing more personal and easy to understand. I plan to promote my art by word of mouth and other inventive marketing instead of praying for search engine hits. I’ve avoided selling my art at starvation prices, choosing instead a fair rate in line with most competition and based on the amount of time it takes me to paint. Larger works take longer, but it also takes longer for certain subjects. I have no interest in selling my work for outrageous prices – I would rather see my art on the walls of average people. Art is for everybody!
I also liked how the author refuted the idea that artists need to be in cutthroat competition with each other. That sounded great because that’s not the kind of person I am. I’m not sure she really spelled out why artists will do better in cooperation than in competition, but it seems to me that there is not really a saturation of good art in people’s homes. I have room on my walls for art that means something to me. Artists can work together to promote art appreciation among the general public, and the rising water raises all the boats in the harbor, so to speak. An example of this would be an exposition where we genuinely promote each others’ work. I’ve reached out to artists in my personal sphere with offers to collaborate, and welcome other artists to contact me for sharing ideas.
As I read the book last month, I dog-eared pages with ideas I think will help me move forward gradually with my business. There were about 30 tab-downs, and when I revisited the book this morning, I was pleased to see I could check off the first four: a web gallery, a blog (voila), social networking (this blog automatically reposts to its Facebook page), and a discount policy (I give discounts on subsequent purchases).
From there I decided today’s art work was to go through my paintings and decide which I could sell. Some I can’t because they are based on someone else’s photos and I haven’t been able to obtain permission, and some I just can’t bear to let go – people will have to settle for prints. Six months ago I wouldn’t have parted with any originals, but I’ve decided they’re doing no one any good entombed in my portfolio. Someone may as well put them up.