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Keep on Keeping On

by Lori Woodward Simons on 5/14/2009 10:59:34 AM

This Post is by Lori Woodward Simons, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  Find out how you can be a guest author.

I've noticed a disturbing trend among some of my artist friends recently. When their gallery sales seem sluggish for a month, some lose interest in painting, and find excuses to avoid the studio. However, when their gallery calls and announces a sale, suddenly these same artists get excited about painting again. Their energy and productivity rises and dips with their sales reports.

It's Dangerous To Lose Heart

I can fully understand how it feels when you don't see any sales on the horizon. However, the reality is that opportunity can strike at any time, and we artists need to be fully prepared for it. It's dangerous to let growing sales or lack of them dictate how we feel about pursuing our craft. Why should I allow my productivity level go up and down with my income?

Pursuing excellence is something that I need to do when the sun shines and when it rains - every day, moving forward... because there are yet many folks continuing to buy art right now, and the artists who have no new work to woo them, lose.

The Economy Is Not Our Supervisor

My point: Don't let the economy dictate how you feel about making your artwork. Keep on Keeping On. Your studio and supplies are waiting for you, and when you get in there and start a project that you're excited about, worries about the economy will melt away. Besides, none of us really knows whether the recession will ultimately affect our ability to make a living with art.

I was talking to several artists at a group paintout yesterday, and the majority of them have seen no dip in their sales. Some of these artists do the outdoor show circuit -- and they are planning to offer incentives to their loyal collectors. In the meantime, they're ready for whatever comes their way because they've been painting as though the economy were hot.

Instead of Dropping Prices, Offer More

The artist who gives into doubt and worry - the one who stops producing will definitely not make sales - because they won't have anything to offer. I was reading Seth Godin's newsletter this week -- he made a statement that made a lot of sense to me, "Instead of lowering your prices, offer more value." Wow! What a great concept. What Seth's words mean to me - is that I don't have to necessarily lower my prices, but I can offer larger or better paintings for the same price. That way, my collectors get a bit more for investing in my career.

Sure, I know how great it feels to make continuous sales - it sparks my interest and I begin to think of new ideas for my work and can't wait to get to my easel. But, when weeks slide by and nothing has happened, I begin to wonder why I even bother. However, when I look around and see that my colleagues are continuing to do well, and take note that I've actually sold very well this year, I realize that my worries are not based on facts, but fear. Truth is.. I need to paint no matter what the outside circumstances appear to be... so that I'm ready for any and every opportunity.

I See No Evidence That Sales Are Slipping

Here's the good news: I can think of at least 10 artist friends whose sales have actually increased this year. Kathy Anderson recently had a solo show at the National Arts Club in New York City. Folks from all over the northeast came to buy - she even sold her first $10,000 painting. Another friend, Rosemary Ladd is continuing to sell very well at her galleries in New England. Steve Previte, who has made his living doing outdoor art shows for all of his adult life, has seen his sales hold steady. He's doing a bit more legwork by contacting past collectors and making sure they see his new work. Kyle Stuckey, who had his first solo show at Monadnock Fine Art gallery, sold many works on opening night - even though his prices for larger works doubled.

So Keep On Keeping On

Yes, it's true that collectors are getting a bit pickier, so with that fact in mind, we can meet that demand by producing higher quality work but offering it at last year's prices.


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An Upstream Journey

Life and Art, Recursively

Topics: Art Commentary | Best | Inspiration | Productivity | Sales 

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Oscar Ortiz
via web
Very uplifting. Great article.

Karen Winters
via web
This is very good advice. I haven't seen a drop in sales, either. In fact, I've seen an increase since last year and the preparation for a handful of upcoming shows spurs me to paint every day. I had lunch with two artist friends yesterday, both of whom are selling steadily. They are both positive, optimistic people. I think that makes a difference, it really does.

Kimberly Kelly Santini
via web
My sales of existing work are strong and I'm continuing to book new projects, with a long wait list for daily commissions/paintings. Meanwhile I'm letting my customers know that things are bustling in the studio, regardless of what's happening to the economy. They believe in me enough to share my work with their friends, and that will carry me through pretty much anything.

Right now direct sales have outweighed gallery ones for at least 18 months. Perhaps the model (of gallery representation) isn't the right one for my market (avg price $250-500) or genre (pet portraiture and animal art). Regardless I am analyzing what works for me as far as reaching new customers and focusing on producing quality and consistency.

No one is to blame for my successes or failures other than myself.

Kate Dardine
via web
Great post! And it is true for me as well that sales this year have increased over the same time period last year - despite the closing of one of my galleries. And I've had the same experience as Kimberly - my direct sales, through my e-newsletter, have out-performed my gallery sales. True, they are less expensive paintings, but sales are sales and they add up!. I also sold at a national show that I was juried in to - my most expensive painting to date. So, good advice, Lori - to keep on keeping on!

Lori Woodward Simons
via web
Wow, this is great news! thanks everyone for the good report. It's so encouraging to hear that artists are using their email newsletters and other means to sell their work.

I'm pretty much having the same experience.

Esther J. Williams
via web
First of all Lori, thank-you for the encouragement you brought to artists with this blog. Any little uplift or cheer can go a long way to this sensitive group of humans. Secondly, I believe in myself and do not let the negative news on television get to me and make me want to drop my brushes. In fact, I made a larger work of art that I poured more sweat and smarts into. I sell my works mostly online, one tip offer is to post your works in many different art sites. I get sales from so many sources this way. You never know when the next email come in requesting a piece of art that you thought no one would want and you stored it away. It happened to me today. I placed a nice work in my husband's office, it was an earlier piece, I got an email today from a woman who fell in love with it. She was proposed to in front of the boat I painted so she wanted to purchase it for her husband who is in Iraq as a surprise when he comes home. You never know as they say! I had the image on several free art websites and it proves that an artist has to spread themselves out among many avenues. Now if I can just get my own website finished.

Sue Andrus
via web
I am so glad I stumbled upon this! I have spent a long time in a creative slump, and it probably has a lot to do with not selling like I had in the past. My reason for less sales is not economy related so much as not being able to do the number of shows I used to do. Due to medical issues, I am no longer able to do all the set-up and lugging involved in doing the art shows, which was my main way of selling. I used to have the deadlines of the shows to give me a reason to get in the studio even if I felt rotten, but without the shows those "deadlines" are not there any more.

I am working to increase my web presence, but having low sales seems to put that little subconscious voice in the back of my brain that stifles the creativity. I do find I am like those you are writing about, in that when I do sell something, I feel like getting into the studio again. Now to figure out how to quiet that little voice and just create again whether I think anything will sell right away or not. I really need the therapy of the process.... It is good to know that am not the only one out there in need of an attitude change of sorts.

Barb Hartsook
via web
Offer more value instead of giving in to the mantra of the day -- slow economy. I like that.

Of course the economy is slowing down -- the government keeps taking more of our earnings. But I don't see that changing. And I also don't believe in giving up.

So I list my gratitudes and keep on going. We have what we have -- but it is ours to decide what we become. In spite of circumstances.

And I like coming here -- I've been reading for quite a while -- because I like the attitudes.

via web
I love (and agree) with your boldprint line "I see no evidence that sales are slipping". And doesn't that make you just wonder how much of the nation's problem is self inflicted? If our beloved newsmedia suddenly started broadcasting that the economy is completely revived and well, would that be all the incentive necessary? Ha---maybe the only nine people in the country that have sold a painting lately are the ones who commented here today :) But I doubt it!

Later, Cooper

mary luz robinson
via web
Love your honesty, inspiration and determination. I am new in the selling field and any info. helps me! Right now I just wnat to keep on painting and get better and better!!
Regards, Mary Luz Robinson

Diann Haist
via web
I love what Cooper said, and totally agree - ".. doesn't that make you just wonder how much of the nation's problem is self inflicted?"

My collectors are still collecting, even though two of my galleries closed, one two years ago & the other this year. I just wish the wonderful gallery people would take to heart how well the artists are promoting themselves & follow suit - they might stay in business longer.

In a nutshell, as Lori infers, the wrong thing to do is stop creating.

Nancy Pingree Hoover
I do believe that collector's are being more selective, but still buying. My gallery recently had a show by a Colorado artist, who also held a three-day workshop the same month at the gallery. While sales at the gallery had been slow up to that point this year, his show sold over half of his work (I counted almost $4000 of paintings sold in a two week period!!!). Plus, his workshop, which was quite expensive, had 12 slots filled, only three from being completely filled.
This told me that people in my area are buying, but they are being picky about what they purchase, and I can't say that I blame them.

Question is, how can I create the kind of work they will buy? Or a better question: Will the kind of painting that excites me to paint be the type people in my area will purchase? My disadvantage is that I don't paint landscapes, and living near the Outer Banks, landscapes are very big!!

I will still paint what excites me and someone somewhere will also be excited enough by it to purchase it I'm sure!



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