Today's Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She also writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Find out how you can be a guest author.
The ways in which art is marketed are rapidly changing. Ten years ago, I wrote a chapter on artist websites for Calvin Goodman, author of The Art Marketing Handbook for the 21st Century. Calvin has been a consultant to galleries and artists for over 40 years, but he didn't have the desire or knowledge to get involved in counseling artists about web design, so he asked me to author that chapter for his book. Ironically, I interviewed a guy who was co-owner of a gallery and had just created some websites for artists.
That guy was Clint Watson. I think the year was 2000, maybe '01...
A lot has changed since that time. Successful artists were primarily selling from galleries and relatively few were selling anything from their websites. Many of us spent thousands of dollars on ads in art collecting magazines, hoping to get noticed by gallerists in important arts districts.
I get a fair number of emails from artists asking me how they can get their work into galleries, and they don't mean just any gallery, they mean the ones who advertise in art collector magazines. The sad news is that unless your work is as good as the artists they already have, or better - unless your work has won national awards or is already selling at another gallery, etc., you have little chance of even getting them to look at your portfolio. In fact, I think spending a lot of time on portfolios/photos, CD's and cover letters is a waste of time. It's a waste of time because galleries are not in a financial position to take on new artists. They don't have the time or money to promote those artists who are "unproven".
OK, so now that I've got you all down in the pit of despair, here's the good news! We don't need commercial galleries to make a decent living with art sales. In fact, on recent travels - I've met artists who are making plenty of money selling on their own. In many cases, they're doing better than many of the artists who have been working in galleries.
I'm wondering why that is? My guess is that the middle class is more interested in collecting artwork than ever before. There are different levels of collectors. It's unlikely that my work will ever be included in the realm of "professional collectors", but that doesn't mean my work doesn't get collected. It's in the middle/low price range: Starts at about $900 and goes up to $2500 for my oils. There are plenty of collectors out there who can afford my art.
Last week, I wrote about Richard Schmid. Starting prices for his originals are around $20,000. Large paintings have recently sold for $250,000. But here's the thing... Richard says to us (Putney Painters) that there are only a handful of collectors out there who can afford his work, but we have access to hundreds (maybe even thousands) of collectors who can afford our work.
I once read that someone who has bought your work in the past is 6 times more likely to buy again then someone who has never purchased your work. So guess what that means? We should spend a lot of time connecting with those who have collected our work in the past. And it's true, an email newsletter is one of the keys to staying in touch with those who are interested in seeing your new work and hearing about accomplishments.
Whether you choose to sell through agents or on your own, it doesn't hurt to build a resume. Enter competitions, both national and regional, participate in fundraisers as long as you can get a normal price for your work and at least 60% of the proceeds from your sale. Always request that the organization give you the names and contact information of your buyers.
Some artists are selling on Ebay and Etsy. Others are selling very well at at outdoor shows. Daily Painters' artists seem to have an edge on direct sales. An exciting new venue: artists open studio days and small group shows, when 5 to 8 artists band together annually to put on their own show in a rented space. One such group is the Left Bank Artists in Peterborough NH. They hold a show in early December and I'm sure their shared collector list is quite long. Peterborough is a nice community - lots of retirees. It's the town that Thorton Wilder used as his setting for the play "Our Town" and it is quaint!
If you're selling without agents or galleries, I'd love for you to share what you're doing here. By sharing ideas and what's actually working, we can all benefit.