Alternative Fair

It has been a while since I’ve done anything art-related, but I offered some prints for sale to benefit Animal Rights Rochester at the Alternative Fair yesterday.  Here are some of the framed prints I had out.  I sold Lupito.

Social Media 101: Lessons from Lady Gaga

I attended a seminar this morning at the Rochester Arts and Cultural Council called Social Media 101: Lessons from Lady Gaga by Deborah Mourey.  She offered Lady Gaga’s web site as a good model, with clear menus representing not what Gaga wanted to show off but what she thought her fans wanted to see. For instance, Lyrics are probably on the main menu because people were always calling about them, and having them on the site brings traffic to her instead of having people find lyrics at a third-party site.  Ms. Mourey said that marketing used to be “See how great I am!” and now needs to be “Here’s what you need.”

I thought the seminar was very well done, and I walked away with many items for my to-do list.

I think overall my web site is good, though I’ve tweaked it a bit now, such as making it easier to find my “Email Updates” button.  Also I notice that people who have visited my site often ask about my prices and policies, so they must not be obvious enough.  I’ll have to think about how to make those pages more prominent without appearing pushy.

She convinced me that Twitter, which I had thought was pretty stupid, was a very important facet of social marketing.  So I have signed up.

Other items were to set up a LinkedIn Company page, even for a one-person business (however, I can’t do that without a dedicated company email address) and to consider video, which is well-selected by search engines and most popular with viewers, who will watch what they might not bother to read.

She said Facebook was basically evil and had gotten even worse since the IPO.  It wasn’t made for business, didn’t handle it well (as I have found), and she barely bothered with it.  She suggested not wasting your time creating content on Facebook as it does not get picked up by search engines.  I feel vindicated in not using Facebook much, thought it was due to laziness.

Towards the end she and some audience members began hurrying and tossing around buzzwords: Instagram! SproutSocial! GoogleAlert! HootSuite!  I’ll sort it out eventually.

Brighton Arts Festival 2012

I entered three paintings in this year’s art show.

Cow 1

I’ve been asked by ARAUNY, a local animal rights organization, if I’d like to sell my animal artwork at Greentopia, a big environmental fair downtown in September.  The idea of sitting at a craft fair table for an entire weekend makes me want to crawl out of my skin, but I think this would be a good match for me since animal rights motivates so much of my art and I had been trying to think of a promotional outlet for it.  I don’t expect a large number of sales, but am hoping I can make some connections and get some exposure and creative ideas.

We haven’t ironed out the details, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to get a start on some more works of the subjects  I want to highlight at this venue: farm animals.  You can see more of them at the “Barnyard” link above.

This young cow was rescued and lives at Farm Sanctuary near Watkins Glen.

Pet Portrait Posters

I have mostly relied on word of mouth for my business, but decided to start advertising.  When I mentioned my vet’s office idea to my art friend, she suggested making a poster, and then I had the idea of using some blank 6 x 5 cards I have printed on before.  They are very inexpensive at Michael’s.

They open up to 6 x 10.  I printed them up on my Canon Pixma 9000 as shown, with the fold just above the bottom cat.  Then I made it into a business card holder by cutting about 1/2″ off one business card and taping it words down with clear packing tape to the blank side of the card behind the upper cat’s head.  It is taped on just the upper and lower sides so that about eight of my business cards can slide into it and just peek out to the right of the upper cat.  I wrote “Take One” there.  Even with only one card in it it seems to hold well.

Then I folded up the card, inserted a cover letter, and put it in the envelope.  When you open it, it looks like a cat card, but it’s a business-card-holding poster that can be hung up either as shown or if space is a problem, folded under with just the top half showing.

My original idea had been to use the inside of the card as the request-to-post, so no separate cover letter.  To do that I’d need to put the business cards behind the big cat instead, which would mean no fold-up option.

For the closer vets, I included in the cover letter an offer to bring by some framed prints as display samples for their walls.  My friend suggested offering those removable 3M Command hooks.

I’m feeling pretty clever!  Now all it has to do is work.

Prints for Sale

I finally got my act together and posted prints for sale.

I decided to go with a pretty low price point for the smaller prints, so that my art is affordable for everyone.  These prints are beautiful copies, and I’ve offered a real bargain.  They’ll look like original art on the wall.

I verified with Hahnemuhle that Canon Fine Art Museum Etching paper is vegan and went through my WordPress photo files and figured out which paintings I can sell prints from.

Unfortunately, some of my favorites are from photos I don’t own, particularly my early paintings of the animals from Farm Sanctuary.  I am still hoping to be able to work out something with the photographers, in the way of donating profits to Farm Sanctuary.

Selling My Originals

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.