Monday, March 31, 2008

It's the Journey that Defines You! (part 4)

"You've begun your journey, you have your map, and you know your destination. Myself, I'm destined for the "long road". Like many artists, I began my career later in life. I have no "Fine Arts Degree" and to top it off, I live in a small Midwestern town...right in the middle of corn country. Yet against all odds I've managed a satisfying degree of success."

On a personal note: I've been touched by everyone who sent emails and posted comments...the response to this series has been overwhelming. I believe as we share our own experiences we encourage others. Thank You

Developing Real World Marketing Strategies:
As an artist, it's my creativity and my passion for the "vision" that inspires and moves me forward. The process involved in the development of a new piece gives renewed energy and purpose. Where as the idea of "hitting the streets" with portfolio in hand to garner gallery representation can put me in a fetal position in the corner of my studio! Well...sort of.

The internet is a great marketing tool for today's artist, but it's not the only answer. If you read the blogs or websites of professional artists you will notice they are also mentioning other venues... private shows, juried exhibits, teaching, and galleries.

The truth of the mater is this...unless you get out there and promote your work you're going to end up with a huge private collection...your own "private collection" to pass on to your children. I would much rather be in my studio working, but it didn't take long to realize that I needed to get out there and personally market my art.

First things First...promotional and presentation materials:
  • Business Cards and Brochures...I designed and printed my own for my first few exhibits, keeping them simple and professional. My first brochure was a half page...It had a photo of my art on the front, with a short bio. and artist statement on the back.
  • Presentation of your art...all original art should be properly matted and framed, unless using deep edged canvas. Prints need to be either in mats or mounted, and packaged in clear bags for protection.
  • This is your introduction to your public...present yourself and your art as professionally as your budget will allow.
Exhibiting at Juried Art Fairs:
1. A good starting point...join a local art club. My first exhibits were group exhibits held by the art club I belonged to. Exhibiting with others was a secure feeling. I could test the waters without a huge investment and get feedback from the public. I made connections with other artists that proved helpful when I began doing my own shows.

2. Preparing for my first "solo" art fair...Where better to find out the truth about the art fair circuit than from an art fair exhibitor. I spent the summer before my first show going to juried art fairs close to home. I was not there to see the art but there to see how the art was displayed.

I "tent shopped", checked out displays, packaging of prints, framing, quality of art being shown, and in general how the artists set up their area for traffic flow. I asked questions, made notes, getting names of suppliers for display materials I thought I might want to use the following season, and a list of other recommended art fairs.
  • Local Art Fair Listings: Every state has a registry for arts and craft fairs. You can usually contact them for a free catalog or view a list on line...a good place to start.
  • Fair Source Book...Art Fair Calendar are national registries for juried and non juried fine art and fine craft venues.
Juried Art Fairs have proven to be both an excellent source of income and exposure. I was careful of my set up costs and able to pay it off with my first summers income. Hundreds, of people pass through my both each weekend. They look at, touch, and talk about my art. They're able to make a deeper connection with my drawings as I answer their question and explain the process and inspiration for my work. It's a personal connection.

Sales for the most part have been good. I read somewhere that 80% of your sales will come from 10% of your shows...and this has proven to be true. I book most of my portrait commissions during the summer months as a direct result of my art fairs. I build my mailing list and get names of those interested in classes. For me it's been a win win experience.

Creative Marketing:
1. Specialty Shows...I once raised and showed Standard Schnauzers...there's usually a vender's area at these shows, selling breed specific items, and there was always at least one person offering commissioned portraits and selling prints.

If you specialize in a subject such as dogs, cats, horses...this could be a good venue to try. Thinking "out of the box". How about wedding shows, home shows, or antique car shows?

2. Talk to business owners about hanging your work in their establishments. Good venues for this would be car dealerships, libraries, furniture stores, interior decorators, frame shops, banks, hair salons, and restaurants. With some thought, I'm sure you could come up with even more.
  • Have a portfolio and a plan for each call you make.
  • Be ready to explain how your exhibit will benefit them.
  • For some you could just do a "hanging"...bringing in new pieces every few months.
  • For others you could present the idea of doing an "opening night" to meet the artist...with invitations and refreshments.
3. Plan a "Private Showing". Consider doing a private show from your could be just the excuse needed to get it de-cluttered! Your patrons enjoy seeing your work space. You could even leave out a partially finished piece. It's spring...plan a garden party. One of my artist friends had a very successful one man show at a "collectors" home.

Bonnie Luria of St. Croix-nicity converted her breezeway into a beautiful gallery setting for a one evening show.
Be creative in your thinking. A large invitation list is wonderful, but not a necessity. JUST GET YOUR ART OUT THERE TO BE your reputation grows so will your sales.

4. Email and "Snail Mail" Marketing...I know this sounds like "Internet Marketing" but I would rather refer to it as "Personal Marketing".
I purchased a piece of jewelry from an artist two years ago. I receive a note from her twice a year...around the Christmas Holidays and again in the spring to let me know her show schedule. She is a wonderful artist and I've worn the earrings often, yet I would have forgotten about her had she not done this one thing.

Court your regularly communicating with those who have shown an interest in your art or have made a purchase. In order to do this you need to have an organized mailing list.

Clint Watson of Fine Art Views has some of the best information I've seen on the subject of email marketing...and you can learn how I conquered my mailing list challenge here.

In closing I would say this...Marketing is not my favorite thing to do. Like you, I'm an artist first...I'd rather be in the studio making art. As for the marketing end of things, it was the learning curve that got me...I simply had to figure out how to make it palatable.

Is it easier today than six months ago? Yes. Has it been worth the time it took away from creating my art? Absolutely Yes!

"It's The Journey That Defines You." Internet marketing alone will not get you there, but combined with a good real world marketing plan and done consistently your journey will become much easier.

Success is no accident...Success is hard work...Success is sweet!

This article continues here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Marsha Robinett Fine
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1 comment:

Stacy said...

Marsha, thank you for writing this series of posts on the artistic journey. I was lucky enough to find your blog just as the series was starting and I have really enjoyed it.

Also, your drawings are beautiful! There is no question why you have found success with your art. The different tones that you achieve with different pencils give your work a punch that graphite alone drawings don't have.

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