This article is by Brian Sherwin, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I realize that some individuals feel that reputation does not matter within the world of art. Often it seems that morals have went out the window-- though one could suggest that of society in general. However, when it comes to business-- including the concept of marketing and selling art on the Internet-- I feel that an artist will better serve himself or herself by at least considering the consequences of online behavior and choices. To put it bluntly, an artist should strive to have a good reputation online as far as professionalism is concerned.
In today's world, it can be difficult to define what exactly a 'good' or 'bad' reputation is-- given that the two are often blurred depending on the situation. After all, we live in an age of extremes-- and the likely result of stating your personal thoughts on specific issues is that some people will embrace your every word while others will vilify you for going against the grain of their opinions on the same issues. Some golden rules of reputation still apply-- and can serve a business savvy artist well.
By now you might be asking yourself, "What are these golden rules of reputation building and how do they apply to artists?"-- it is rather simple if you think about it. We all know the golden rules of reputation-- they are conditioned into us by societal decree. They are fostered during early childhood-- and continue throughout the early years of education. They focus on the idea of being honest, hard-working, and planning for what is to come-- traits that are normally cultivated within an early school setting. We know them-- that said, we may not realize that we are aware of them by means of social conditioning. Furthermore, the hardships of life-- the reality of life upon reaching adulthood, if you will-- can pull these rules out from under us if we are not careful.
Allow me to list some of these golden rules of reputation building as I remember them-- and the association they have with the business of art online:
Rule #1 -- Tell the Truth -- This first and most basic of rules is rather forthright as far as expectations are concerned. People generally prefer others to be honest in their dealings-- and in how they present themselves. I don't think anyone wakes up saying, "I can't wait to be lied to today!". Even little white lies can stack against your reputation as time progresses. Thus, it is better to be honest-- even if the truth is not exactly glorifying-- than to expand on what you have to say with false or clearly deceptive information.
If you are an artist who focuses on selling fine art online your best-friend is honesty. After all, if you lie to art buyers-- your customers-- about your achievements, it is likely that they will catch on at some point. Once deception has been discovered it is doubtful that the 'duped' customer will purchase art from you again. Word-of-mouth from one art collector to another can spread rapidly-- especially online. In other words, it won't take long for your poor choices to be called out online by an angry collector-- thus hampering your online marketing efforts from that point on.
An arguably worse choice is to lie to an art writer. An artist is setting himself or herself up for failure if he or she lies to an art writer during an interview or during questions prior to an exhibit review. An art writer who cares about his or her own reputation will find a way to verify the claims that you make. Thus, if you are exaggerating your accomplishments there is always the chance that the art writer will call you out on it. It may be true that any press is good press-- BUT negative press about your lack of honesty will not go far when it comes to impressing potential buyers, curators, or others who would have otherwise had interest in your art.
Rule #2 -- Work hard, be productive AND selective -- The fruits of your labor are something to focus on if you desire to have a good reputation in general. People today may not view the pride of hard work in the same way as people in the past-- but hard work is still appreciated just under the surface. Being someone who works hard, can be depended on, and can deliver results are traits that cultivate respect and admiration-- especially within the context of a society that is often faced with 'fast and easy' pitches at every angle.
A hard working artist-- within the context of selling art online-- is an artist who can display the fruit of that labor by being selective of the images he or she chooses to represent his or her art online. The goal is not to list every work of art that you create for sell-- the goal, at least in my opinion, is to be selective... to show the best. You want to focus on high-quality results in order to propel your reputation as being an artist who can deliver, if you will. You want individuals who buy and admire your art to depend on your selectiveness-- to offer them the best of the best. In other words, you don't have to 'show' everything. In fact, showing everything can hamper your art marketing efforts.
Posting images of every work of art you create may show that you are a prolific artist. However, being prolific does not mean that every piece is on the same level, so to speak. My 4 year old is very prolific with finger paints-- but does that mean she is creating 'great' works of art? No (even if a proud father would like to think that she is). Don't be like the child rushing to place another work of art on the refrigerator for all to see-- be selective. You are an adult and a professional-- no matter how much you want to deny it. The selection you choose to display on your artist website, or elsewhere online, will be the sum of your presentation to others-- how people view you as an artist overall. Show them your best-- and they will see you at your best.
Rule #3 -- Plan ahead with the choices you make today -- The choices we make today come together to define who we are tomorrow. It is an on-going cycle that runs the length of our lives up until the day we die-- and from their the legacy of our choices continues with those who still draw breath. We impact ourselves-- and others-- with our choices. Thus, those who want a 'good' reputation strive to make 'good' choices that are beneficial to oneself as well as to others.
An artist who plans ahead in this sense is an artist who is mindful of the materials that he or she utilizes for the creation of art. He or she knows the limitations of the medium-- the specific materials used. He or she does not make poor choices in how those materials are used. In other words, the artist thinks about how the choices used in a work of art today will come together tomorrow. The artist knows that how materials are used-- and treated-- can impact his or her standing with art collectors who purchase art online.
Experimentation with materials aside-- reckless choices with materials used can lower an artists reputation with art buyers in general. That said, selling art on the Internet brings with it even more responsibility in the sense that the artist is likely to be the one shipping the artwork to the buyer. Shipping oil paintings that have yet to reasonably dry during the hottest months of the year is probably not the best idea to follow-through on. In fact, the artist will likely receive troubled emails from the buyers instead of messages of praise. I'll put it this way -- oil paint that has yet to dry, summer heat, and common shipping materials don't always bond that well.
All kidding aside-- I know artists who have made that mistake-- and their choice severed the relationships they had with the buyers involved. They thought the paintings were ready for shipping-- they were wrong. It was very devastating for one of the artists because the buyer happened to know others who had bought work from the artist in the past. Word spread-- suddenly the artist was known for shoddy shipping practices on top of being known for ignorance of the materials he used. The lesson-- know your materials and plan ahead.
Rule #4 -- Be respectful if you want to be respected -- It is true that respect is earned. That said, respect is often earned by being respectful of others. If an individual lashes out at others with a barrage of profanity, the response he or she receives will likely be the same-- or communication will simply stop. Most people will chose to ignore verbal hostility rather than fuel it. Furthermore, if you want to be heard you must be able to listen.
As great as the Internet has been for communication in general, it is also a cesspool of poor behavior and choices in regards to the exchanges that people have online. It is easier for a volatile exchange to occur online compared to face-to-face encounters. This is not exactly an issue of cowardice as you might assume-- it is more of an issue of knowing that though one is communicating harshly there is also a disconnection, if you will, due to the very nature of the Internet. The barriers of etiquette that exist in our daily lives are not exactly solid within our digital lives. Thus, people often hold themselves differently online than they would in the 'real world', if you will.
Artists-- especially those who place a lot of focus on marketing themselves online-- really need to be careful about how they react online. For example, if an art critic publishes a tough review of an art exhibit the artist should probably avoid releasing a tirade of responses against the critic on his or her blog, Facebook wall, on Twitter-- and so on. Showing disrespect to the critic won't magically make the critic write a better review of your art exhibit. In fact, the critic will most likely not write about you again. After all, why should he or she do so knowing that you will most likely lash out in a defense mechanism fueled rage? Think about that-- then think before you type.
If you have concerns-- by all means express them. However, express them in a way that is open to debate and outright consideration. Hard-line hostility leaves little room for discussion. If you open the conversation by addressing the critic-- or anyone else for that matter-- as an "idiot" the conversation is likely to stop before it has a chance to start. Be respectful of people online and people will be more apt to show you the same in return by having a real conversation rather than an all-out flame war. Realize that what you say will be read by others-- and that they will form their own opinions. People generally side with the individual who does not have to resort to petty personal attacks to make a point.
In closing, I can think of other golden rules of reputation building and how they can be applied to artists-- but I think I've made my point. A damaged reputation can 'kill' your art marketing efforts-- especially if those efforts have an online focus. Your average art buyer expects honesty when reading about your accomplishments online. Your average art buyer is apt to be more impressed if you are selective about artwork displayed online-- uploading images of mediocre works of art take away from images that have real impact. Your average art buyer expects you-- the artist-- to think ahead concerning how you use materials and to know the limitations of those materials in specific situations. It never hurts to hold to the golden rules of reputation building-- and to common sense for that matter.
Take care, stay true,