Marketing Mondays: Empowerment!

Welcome to 2011. What better way to start off a new year of Marketing Mondays--the third year of this series--than to talk about the ways we as artists take control of our careers? No less an authority than Chicago's eminence gris, Paul Klein, writes this is a recent art newsletter:

"I want to see artists empowered. I want to see artists take responsibility for their careers, to not have to rely on the existing paradigm . . . Galleries are fabulous, but they’re not the only option. There are many artworlds and many ways to navigate them. Small apartment galleries, invariably operated by young folks, so enthusiastic they open their homes and their hearts to art-loving strangers, could only exist because the internet enables inexpensive and direct communication."

So this post is for anyone who is not gallery represented. How are you taking matters into your own hands to show and sell your work?  I'm thinking apartment shows, home salons, other kinds of DIY exhibitions, E-bay, blogs, open studios (feel free to include URLs to your projects).

More than just where you show, what advice would you'd give to others who are thinking of working similarly?  And if you're juggling representation or gallery affiliation with your own independent program, tell us how you're faring.

Related post from 2.8.10: Do You Really Need a Gallery?

Over to you.

This just in: Thanks to Katherine Tyrrell, author of the blog Making a Mark, for awarding me her Make Me Think Gong, an acknowledgment of the value of Marketing Mondays to artists and the art community.
"Joanne tackles the really routine issues relating to doing business and marketing your art which affect most artists.  Plus she also covers some aspects which are less routine but useful to know about. I find that she almost always manages to bring a fresh perspective on what might be thought of as the "same old topics"and she often manages to add some small nugget of information which I've not heard before.  She certainly makes me think."  Thanks, Katherine


annell4 said...

Congratulations! You are doing a great job!

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to hear the comments from my fellow artists on this topic. Personally I have done what I think I should have done to get visibility (or at least some), as in creating my own web page, show in public places and also open studios. I have even promoted exhibitions together with other artists friends.
However, what I have felt is that there is a profund "art aphaty" in the general population that I find hard to beat and at the same time depressing. Often what we see in the exhibitions is the same people or friends/family of the artists shown and very few people (maybe none) that might fit in the category of purchasers.

Melinda said...

Just discovered your blog and find it to be one of the best online!

Timely post, too.

Having a website, blogging regularly (making it as interesting as possible), participating in open studio tours, and being as professional as possible, has brought me patrons and thousands of views in the past year.

This could not have happened if I'd been locked away in a boutique gallery.

There is something else that really can mean a lot to an artist. Submit work to legitimate calls to artists--not to vanity galleries or to galleries that are merely trolling for application fees to supplement their need for income. Careful research will reveal the good ones from the bad ones. Along with serious, dedicated education, this can be an important adjunct to a resume.

P. S. Bought your encaustic book, Joanne, and have read it from cover to cover! Love it.

Barbara J Carter said...

I am not currently gallery represented, though I have been before. I've had a website since I started in '94. But an online presence doesn't sell art by itself. It's too passive.

My strategy is constantly evolving as my work improves and my marketing reaches more of the right audience.

To start, I showed my work at several juried arts and crafts festivals each year. This exposed my work to large numbers of people, allowing me to sell a few pieces and develop my mailing list.

Over the last few years I've reduced the number of these shows I do (they're very hard work, and sales during the recession were scant). Now I just do a couple higher-end festivals per year, where the better quality art brings in a more sophisticated and receptive audience.

I also hold open studios, which are fun and SO much less work than the festivals! Group open studios are the best.

The key is the mailing list. I send out a monthly email newsletter, one or two postcard mailings per year to my entire list, and this year I sent a special holiday card just to my former collectors. People asked to be on my mailing list presumably because they like my art. It's up to me to keep in touch with them to remind them that I'm still here and my work is still available.

The whole process is extremely slow, but it does bear fruit. It takes years. Someone who grabs a business card or buys a painting one year might not come back right away, but they're more likely to come back if you keep in touch with them. It was several years before I started seeing repeat customers, but now it's happening to me. You have to keep at it.

There are lots of things I've tried that didn't bear any fruit. These include group exhibits by local art associations, showing my work in a tourist-oriented gallery, and exhibiting in coffee shops. But this stuff does work for some people. You gotta try.

Alexander Farrell said...

A friend of mine is producing a 24hour play which is kind of improvised theater; written, rehearsed and performed all in a 24 hour span. I don't have any acting skills to contribute but my work will be displayed at the venue and perhaps some art will make it onstage and become part of the performance.

Advice: broaden your creative community to include those outside of your medium and if you're creating an alternative space, never underestimate the power of wine and cheese.

24 Hour play January 8, 8pm
Boston Playwrights Theater
949 Commonwealth Ave

Susan Schwalb said...

I have been in both places, early in my career I had no full gallery representation, I showed in coops, university galleries and in groups shows in museums and commercial galleries. But until I began to work closely with a commercial dealer I did not make any significant sales. These days I still have gallery representation but dealers don't do everything for you unless you are with a gallery like Pace etc. I have made most of the contacts to museums by myself and I am in some very serious collections. I don't think one can have a career without some agents, the more the merrier (unless you find the "dream" dealer). But I agree with Joanne there are many different "art worlds" and ways of having a career. These days it is really hard to get new representation. But making good work is the most important thing and being true to yourself and your work.

Gabriel Boray said...

Great blog here, glad to have found it. I'll have to work my way through these posts. I have been focusing more online for the past few years and think that no matter what artists are doing they should also be using social media.

I connect with artists and collectors on Twitter and through my website
and blog:


Stephanie Sachs said...

I am fortunate enough to sell most every painting I create and in a timely manner. Although, I have recently been in excellent shows at great Chelsea galleries the bulk of my sales are through the Artist's Showcase at the Four Seasons Resort in Wailea.

Everything has to be done yourself, sales, shipping, promotion, display etc. It requires you to be able to meet directly with potential buyers and speak passionately about your work. I bring a cart and set up a display once a week with a select group of artists.

Once a year I create a catalogue that is endless hours of work and send it to all my past collectors. This is exhausting but continues to pay off through the entire year.

I know my situation is unique and I am extremely grateful for the allignment of unusual characteristics that allow me to see new potential collectors every week along with long time collectors interested in my progression. It is not for the weak at heart. I have spent many days coming home with no money but overall it has paid my bills and allowed me to create the work I want for over 10 years.

Hotel lobby display can sound less presitigious than a high end gallery but it is a business model that works. Are there artist's out there reading this that can think of a high end hotel in their area to display in? Offer the resort a small percentage. You are an activity for their guests as well as a link to the community.

Good luck to everyone in the NYear.
thanks Joanne for all your work loved the trip to Miami without flying or ruinning my feet!

Anonymous said...

I'm all about the DIY thing, but can anyone who sells their work on e-bay really be taken seriously?
There's actually an interesting artist (Osnat) on e-bay right now who creates and sells a fairly diverse line of work, but I'm not sure if the work has any value aside from its decorative quality. It seems like if a gallery or a big time collector is interested in involving themsleves with an artist it has to be someone respectable. I don't know if I respect an artist that sells on e-bay, it seems inferior or less significant just through its association. Even if I don't like art in a gallery, it will always feel more significant than art on a gimmicky auction site like E-bay/Etsy. I'm probably pissing some people off by saying this, but I think anyone who has big aspirations for their art should stay away from E-bay at all costs. If there really is a future outside of teh gallery sytem, I think it may be artist run project spaces such as this


Jeremy said...

I do not have gallery representation and have only been painting for a few years. I learned very quickly that galleries were not willing to look at my work until I had a resume (kind of a catch 22 for the young artist). My solution was to find respectable places to hang my art that had low barriers to entry.

I first found a nice looking public gallery that was willing to give me a solo show. Although the traffic was slow and hours were sparse, it was a great opportunity to get my feet wet. Currently I have my work in a winery in northern michigan that built a modern tasting room overlooking the bay. I have sold lots of work and have found that settings like this, with visitors staying for extended periods (and drinking wine) can be a great way to sell art. Also, the winery and I appreciate each other, as having my art hang there is good for both of us.

I still believe that it is very hard for people to separate themselves from their surroundings. Where the art is hung/shown (gallery, restaurant, online etc.) can say a lot about your art. If you don't have gallery representation, look for places that enhance your work, are willing to partner with you and have low barriers to entry.

Joanne Mattera said...

Postcards, theater, winery, social media, museums, high-end hotel lobbies. You are full of great comments on this post. Thanks! You've inspired me to do a two-parter in the coming couple of weeks.

Oriane Stender said...

"Make Me Think Gong" sounds great, but I don't think anything can top "Angry Hillbilly of the Week."

Joanne Mattera said...

Nothing can ever top the Angry Hillbilly of the week.

For those of you who are curious at the pot Oriane is stirring, copy and past this link into your browser:

Anonymous said...

Wineries, open studio tours and high end hotel lobbies. Thanks for the ideas.

Lisa said...

Love your blog, Joanne. Thank you for all you do here!
I have also had a good experience with a local art/yoga space. They have a gallery lobby area, and the artists do everything, of course- cards, promotion, hanging, gallery sitting. Art buyers tend to be educated, and have money, so thinking of spaces that tend to have that kind of customer works well- high end hotel lobbies, wineries, yoga or pilates studios, spas, etc. The downside is that the art is incidental for most of your viewers- they are there for another purpose. It really helps if the space has the feeling of a small gallery, apart from eating or shopping areas. Otherwise, I'll only show in a legitimate gallery space.

Agata said...

Dear Joanne,
Thank you so much for demystifying the art world out there for me. Your blog is incredibly informative, and I really appreciate that you chose to share your knowledge with fellow artists. I'd like to ask about your opinion on self-taught artists, I mean those people that do not have degrees in visual arts, but have been doing art for many years. I am one of these artists, and have been concerned about how to approach galleries. Will the words 'self-taught' cause an immediate rejection, or are galleries pretty open to considering self-taught artists? I have degrees in international development, and have been working on an empowerment through art community project with indigenous people in Panama. I also spend a lot of time producing my own art, but I wonder if galleries would consider this being a part time artist and therefore "not serious" and unfit for collaboration. Also, any words of wisdom about how to improve my art blog would also be greatly appreciated: Thank you very much for all the work you put in to your amazing articles!
All the best,
Agata Surma

Anonymous said...

This empowerment quote is strong. We should not allow people to say what they what to say about our art, we need to take a stand and speak our mind telling people yes we do this for a living. We should not have to only have our painting in galleries we have other places in the world like schools, work places, apartments. people will open there homes to show the piece of art they have been working hard on.
Ever since the internet we tend to just post them but what is the value in that if we cant see it in person its not the same. we can just brush it off as another painting but seeing it in person you can see more details and see how hard the artist worked.