Archival Arts has installed has printed and installed many large stretched canvas prints at Baltimore Washington Financial Advisors over the past few . It was a pleasure helping the owner fill their new offices with beautiful contemporary photographs that make the space very appealing.
I thought long and hard about the 3rd important factor for selling your art. You could argue that subject is important, or price which can also make or break a sale but I had to settle on finding the right market. You can negotiate price, and some artists can make just about anything look good but if you pick the wrong market to sell your art, you can lose a lot of money.
Now that you have clean, professional looking art and all of your pieces contain your personal theme, you now need to find a market that connects you with buyers who can’t live without your art.
Whether you decide to sell online, or through galleries or at art shows, you must first find out who your buyers will be. What type of person or business will want to hang your art? Will they be beach goers, horse riders, animal lovers or traditionalists? Where do they live? Where do they shop, eat and play? Where do they work? Answering questions about who your customers are will help you find creative ways to reach that market. In many cases, your buyers will be people who are like you.
If you are just starting to sell your art, usually the first market you will find is family and friends.
This market won’t make you famous but family can start you off to find larger markets and gain valuable information about selling your art. Family will usually not put bad reviews about you on the internet! If your family is supportive of your art, don’t be afraid to ask them questions you would not ask a stranger. Keep in mind family will also be biased, so take enthusiastic compliments with a grain of salt until you begin to actually sell your art to strangers.
I am going to take a pause here to advise against partnering with a friend, family member or “financier” to help you sell your art. Although I do see exceptions to the rule, the great majority of partnerships I have seen between friends and family have caused long lasting negative consequences. The worst partnerships I have seen are when someone offers money and marketing support. Usually what they are buying is control of you. There are many people who see dollar signs when they see an artist with talent. They innocently want to be a part of that talent and help with the artists’ success. Unfortunately, if that person does not understand marketing in the art world, the artist will most likely regret the decision to partner. If you do decide to partner with someone, do yourselves a favor and write down all the details of how the partnership will work. Set goals for the partnership and agree to terminate the partnership if either party becomes unhappy or goals are not being met. This advice comes both as a business person and a friend who has seen partnerships cause a great deal of problems. Do your homework, gain knowledge and advice from experts and don’t let anyone control what you create! I’ll step down from the soap box now…
Once you find your target market, don’t beat them over the head with your art! In this digital age, it is very easy to start online marketing for very little money. It is also very easy to harass people so much that they grow tired of your constant email marketing. As a general rule, I don’t like to advertise to my email list more than a couple times a month. Anything more seems desperate.
I would like to encourage anyone to add your 2 cents on this 3 part blog. If you think I missed something, please feel free to add your advice and help the other artist reading this blog. It would be very helpful if anyone has a unique marketing idea they would like to share. In the next year, I hope to offer more opportunities for our artists to network and share ideas.
Thanks for reading!
Factor 2: Branding
Any marketing expert will tell you that branding is very important when selling a product.
Some people think that branding is only for large companies to brainwash people into buying their product. But what exactly is branding?
“The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other product” (http://www.entrepreneur.com)
Your brand as an artist is what you want people to “feel or perceive” when they encounter your art. This feeling will drive all the decisions you make when creating marketing materials and this feeling comes directly from your art. You can also use your brand as inspiration to create new art.
Let’s say for example you are a book illustrator and your style is colorful and whimsical. Those two adjectives should describe everything potential clients see from you. Your font should be whimsical, your layouts for postcards and brochures should be colorful and whimsical, your business card should be whimsical. Even your signature should be whimsical. In short, if I encounter you at a book authors convention, the first thing that people should think when they look at your booth is “This artist is very whimsical!”.
So the first step in branding yourself is to find that word or phrase that describes you and your art.
If you are a still life painter, you may be “sophisticated”. If you are a plein air artist you may be “earthy”. Maybe you love architecture and your art is very “technical”. Some artists take many years to find what their brand is. When you find someone who knows their brand, it is unmistakable and memorable. Lets think of some artists that make you recall their style and feel – just from hearing their name…. Jackson Pollock “Splatters!” Mondrian “Red yellow blue and black squares and rectangles” Heck, Picasso and others had their own word! Cubism. Whether you like their art or not, you cannot deny that their brands will forever live in your memory.
The next step in creating your brand is to begin collecting images, colors, patterns fonts and designs that define your art. All of the elements you use for your brand will be used for a long time so choose carefully and make sure once they all come together, they define you and your art as a whole. This is probably easier for some than others but it is all about finding the unique quality that separates you from other artists. Use these elements to design your marketing materials and communicate with the world.
Once you define your brand, you will have a much better understanding of who you are and where you are going. I am no expert on this but if you find yourself wanting to change your brand, you probably haven’t found your brand yet, (or you may not like who you are?). Some will never find their brand and will probably not be successful at selling their art for a living. Others may find their brand only to realize the hard truth; the market for their brand is too small to make a living. Selling art is not for all artists just like our personalities are not compatible with everyone. Personality, as I have seen many times, can help an artists brand – or hurt it. An artists brand, in some cases, is a very personal thing. It’s like wearing your heart on your sleeve, only your sleeve is your canvas.
In the case of many famous artists, their brand is not only defined by their design, but by how they lived their life. Since these factors usually only surface far after the artist has died, I can’t give much advice on that!
So the first two important factors in selling your art deal with visual aspects. The last is something that has nothing to do with looks!
For over 15 years, I have been studying both the local and national art markets to find out what drives art sales. These two markets are very different in many ways but I have found 3 factors that play a big role in selling art in any market. This will be a 3 part blog.
Factor 1: Craftsmanship is one of the most obvious factors that separate artists who struggle with sales and those who sell volume. There are many words you can use to describe craftsmanship: clean, skilled, polished, professional and quality are just a few. Craftsmanship is a planned process that eliminates mistakes and distracting, sale killing, defects.
The idea starts with using materials that will stand the test of time. This can mean using marine grade panels instead of cardboard canvas panels. Or maybe using hardwood stretchers instead of pine. Using quality materials tells your buyers you are serious about your craft and greatly reduces the chances your art will crack, warp or discolor in the future.
In my opinion, the biggest factor that hurts sales is defects. Everyone makes mistakes but badly warped stretcher frames, super bumpy watercolors, ill located signatures and poorly stretched canvases can be avoided or fixed. Have you ever finished a piece and then put it in a frame only to find your signature is covered or didn’t paint far enough to the edge on one side? We have all done it but I can tell you the best craftsmen have these things planned before they start a piece.
Be careful when creating your art. If a hair comes off your brush, carefully remove it. When varnishing, pay close attention to how light is going to effect the look of the painting. Messy varnish can be a deal breaker for a buyer. (tip: don’t overwork varnish, if it starts to dry and you brush over it too many times, it can get cloudy) Regardless of your medium, do some homework on the materials you are using. If you are an oil painter, find out how long your paint needs to dry before varnishing. If you are selling a painting, your reputation is on the line if you varnish too early and the painting cracks in the future.
If you plan to sell reproductions, seriously consider painting on a smooth surface, especially with oil paints. Bumpy texture can effect the quality of your prints. Archival Arts has some tricks to reduce glare but the combination of textured canvas and highly reflective varnish usually creates problems. Textured canvas can also create moire pattern issues when printing at some sizes smaller than the original. These show as wavy dark lines. The only way to eliminate moire patterns is to blur the image or change the size of the print.
Think about your methods when creating your art. How can you make your final product more polished and professional looking? If you do your own gesso, think about how the texture of the gesso will effect the paint coming off your brush. How can you prevent your watercolor paper from rippling? What is the best way to adhere collage to your surface to avoid wrinkling? Don’t be afraid to get on the internet and type questions into a search engine. I can tell you I ask questions on Google on a daily basis. The more you search for information, the better you will get at finding the best answers.
Many factors contribute to the final look of your art and tell buyers how much you care about your craft. Researching the processes of seasoned artists can greatly improve your craftsmanship and give you an advantage in the very competitive art world.
Factor 2 will be coming soon!