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Clintavo's Position on Marketing Art via Facebook and Twitter

by Clint Watson on 9/16/2011 10:04:44 AM

This article is by Clint Watson,  former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here.


I stirred up a bit of a minor Twitter firestorm with my post "Don't Show Your Work Out of Context."


Interestingly and surprisingly, from the tone of the discussions, it appears to me that only a very small part of the post was the focus of people's disagreement with me.  I hope I'm correct in assuming this or I may have another post to write in my future :-).  One sentence in particular seems to have struck a chord:  I wrote, "The wrong context explains why marketing art on Facebook doesn't work well."  - which I think in people's minds turned into something akin to "Clint says don't use Twitter and Facebook."  Which, of course, I actually didn't say at all.


Perhaps that idea caught fire because I have become known for "bashing" SEO, and for "bashing" Facebook and Twitter, while so many others seem to champion SEO and social media for art marketing.


So, I thought it would be good to have a post that I can point to and link to that explains and clarifies my current thoughts on those two services, Facebook and Twitter, as they relate to art marketing.  This is that post.  A warning now:  this is a long post.  I'll probably cover sections of this article in future, shorter, blog posts.



Creativity Dangers of Facebook and Twitter


I am a member of both services and I use them both almost every day.  I prefer Twitter, but I use them both.  So I'd like to dispel any notions that I hate the idea of social media - I don't.   


However, I've also discussed in the past how distracting Facebook and Twitter can be and how I've struggled to limit my time on them.  They can be an addictive time sink.  There is no denying that.  


But even worse, for some artists, Facebook and Twitter can become a creative sink, sucking the creativity out of you and your art.


Recently, musician John Mayer led a clinic at Berklee and said the following:


The tweets are getting shorter, but the songs are still 4 minutes long. You’re coming up with 140-character zingers, and the song is still 4 minutes long…I realized about a year ago that I couldn’t have a complete thought anymore. And I was a tweetaholic. I had four million twitter followers, and I was always writing on it. And I stopped using twitter as an outlet and I started using twitter as the instrument to riff on, and it started to make my mind smaller and smaller and smaller. And I couldn’t write a song. - John Mayer [source](emphasis mine)


Facebook and Twitter are like gambling - maybe not everyone will become addicted - but it's enough of a danger that caution is warranted.  In fact, my favorite blogger, Kathy Sierra, warned us that Twitter posed this danger back in 2007.  I suspect this is a major reason why Seth Godin doesn't use Twitter (He just has his blog automatically post to his Twitter stream).


So I've come to realize that my position on Facebook and Twitter for business use for creatives is kind of like the old FDA food pyramid's recommendation for fats, oils and sweets:   USE SPARINGLY.


[A quick aside:  If your idea of downtime is to shoot the breeze with people on Twitter, then please don't think I'm trying to tell you not to do that.  Go right ahead.  If you have a day job and have a Twitter window open while you work, particularly if that's a time you can't create art or do other art marketing - no problem.  Go right ahead. (although your employer will likely have something to say about it).]


When I say "use sparingly",  I mean use sparingly for business use and art marketing, particularly if you suspect you're starting to experience the same procrastination and distracting, creativity drain that John Mayer did, and many others do.  UPDATE: Artist Lori Simons addressed this issue on her blog as well.


I agree with Mayer and would suggest you try to pour your creativity into your art, not into your tweets.  It will do more for your art career in the long run.


Just for the record, however, I want to point out and say very clearly that "Use Sparingly" does not equal "don't ever use."  




Marketing Challenges with Facebook and Twitter Streams


The Ephemeral Stream Issue

Facebook and Twitter present a list of content as a "stream."  Once a post scrolls off the front page of your stream, it's pretty much gone forever.  This has implications for any marketing use of such streams:  If you announce a new artwork and I don't see it before my screen fills up with tweets (a few minutes later) - I'll never see it.    On the other hand, if you email me, I'll see it.  I might delete it, but I'll see it.


The Non-Ubiquitous Reach

When you use Facebook and Twitter, it seems like the whole world must be there.  They're not.  Many people have never set up accounts and there are millions of abandoned accounts.  There are loads of people who don't use social media.  I recently looked for my past best art buyers on Facebook.  Out of the 17 people I looked for, I found exactly one.  Think about this:  not everyone is on Facebook or Twitter - almost everyone does have an email address.  Don't ignore the non-Facebookers.


The Content Issue

On Facebook and Twitter your content is, essentially, owned by another company.  Have you ever tried to find an old tweet?  If you don't have the link saved somewhere, unlike a blog, they're pretty much gone.  What if Facebook decided you were a spammer?  How do you reach your followers?  Who do you call at Facebook?  If you have your followers' email addresses, it's not nearly as big an fact, hardly an issue at all.


The "Feels Like Work" Syndrome

I think this is my biggest concern with marketing on social media.  I've spent hours on Facebook and Twitter talking with business contacts and, at the time, it sure "feels like work" - they're business contacts after all, right?  However, on days when I keep Facebook and Twitter closed and write code, think about our business plans, talk directly with customers, or write marketing material/blog posts,  I get so much more important work done. "Important work" being defined as the things that push this company forward by leaps and bounds.  While I have made some great contacts on Twitter, time spent on social media has only very, very rarely led to anything that truly pushes me/us to the proverbial "next level" - in either financial or creative terms.  On the other hand, the activities I previously mentioned - writing, thinking, talking, etc - almost ALWAYS push us toward that next level.


The Signal to Noise Ratio

This relates back to my "context" post.  I'm harsh on social media cause it has a terrible signal to noise ratio.  Yes, your marketing message can cut through that noise, but there are so many conversations going on, games being played, photos being shared.  It's also extremely easy for the conversation to get off track and take way too much time.  Again, that's OK in your down time.  But if that distraction cost the world one of your masterpieces, then the price is way, way too high.




Scenario 1:  The Social Media Marketing Method I Rant Against


Let's imagine you've busted your hump to create a great body of work.  You posted them on your Facebook profile.  You tweeted them a few times.  You set up a fan page.  Maybe you set up a website.  Maybe you posted them on an online gallery.  Maybe you paid an SEO consultant.  THAT SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF WORK.  




There's too much noise in the signal.   It's "spray and pray" marketing.   And there are a whole lot more effective things you can do to market your art.


When I rant against social media, I'm ranting against the idea of using it to the exclusion of other, often more effective marketing methods.  And I'm particularly harsh on it because I know all too well that people can easily spend a whole lot of time "marketing" on social media when they could have done things more effectively in the same amount of time.




Scenario 2:  A Marketing Method I Can Get Behind that Can Include Social Media


How about this instead?  [This is just one example, I'm not suggesting this is the only formula that includes personal, timely and relevant marketing.]


Again, let's imagine that you've busted your hump to create a great body of work.  Next, you send a hand-written note to your 20 very best customers and let them know, as a thank you, before the works go on sale to the public, you are going to have a special viewing just for them.  


You follow up with each and every customer personally by phone.  Since you know what each one of them generally likes from past conversations, you can make some recommendations as to which pieces they might love.  Offer to email images directly, for them to see ahead of time.  You can set up a special page or site for them to preview the works - or just email images.  


OK, so you have this special private event.  You've created an amazing context.  Trust me, 20 people is enough to sell a lot of art if they're the right 20 people.  After the event, you next send an email to the rest of your past buyers announcing that the works are going on your website on such and such day in the near future but that they may purchase them now since they have supported you in the past.  Perhaps offer something special.  Perhaps free shipping.  Of course, this assumes you've built an email newsletter list.  OK so you probably sell a few more.  Now you post them to your website.  Go ahead and post some of the sold ones as "social proof" so people know your work does sell.  Next, post the strongest remaining work to your blog.  Include a short paragraph about what inspired you to paint that particular one - people love that, they really do.  Send that blog post to your email list.  You might be surprised, people are in a buying mood right after they just bought, plus there are others on your list who maybe didn't see your first email.  


NOW we are actually ready to use social media effectively - post a link to your blog post on Twitter and Facebook.  Perhaps repeat the post 3-4 times over two days to get around the "scrolls off the screen" problem.  Bonus points if you just do it automatically like Seth Godin.  If you get direct inquiries on Facebook and Twitter, please respond - that's a fantastic use of Social Media.  Ask anybody who responds via social media, if they would like to receive your email newsletter so that they are in the early email group next time around.  Let them know that your email list gets first choice.  And, if they become one of your best customers, make sure to include them in that first group in the future.  In other words, you move your priority of social media further down, past your more qualified buyers and more effective marketing methods and then you use it as a "net" to catch other interested people with the goal of moving them further up in your marketing plan.


That's a whole lot more work.  It's also is a whole lot more effective.




What I'm Really Bashing


When I "bash" social media, what I'm really bashing is the idea of skipping all those intermediate steps which are so incredibly effective.  And I know a lot of artists do skip those steps because I sign up for a lot of artist email newsletters and hardly ever receive one.  I've bought quite a few artists' works - artists who never let me know when they have new work.  That completely blows my mind. (Actually, one artist whose work I own does now email me, but only because the artist read a previous blog post I wrote where I made the same complaint.)  So these artists rarely actually communicate with me, an interested party and, in several cases, a past collector.  And yet I know many of these artists, instead of communicating directly with me, are posting their art to Facebook.  Are they hoping we'll see it?  I sometimes (rarely) manage to catch a glimpse of their art before my stream scrolls the image off the page.  I also sometimes manage to catch a glimpse of artist's status updates wishing the economy was better so sales would pick up.  They likely would pick up under Scenario 2.   In short, I'm bashing "Scenario 1" as outlined above.




How I Recommend Using Facebook and Twitter for Art Marketing


Having pointed out several problems, there is an opportunity with social media.  I want to make that clear - I see potential.  It gives you yet another way to reach people.  And that can be a good thing.  I'm suggesting you think of social media streams not as your primary marketing channel but as tributaries - streams that lead INTO your primary channel, your river:  your contact list, email list, and mailing list.  It's OK to play in the stream every now and then, but spend the bulk of your time navigating in the river.


I think there are valid uses of social media, you just have to work around the challenges.  So here's what I suggest:  


1.  By all means, announce new works and blog posts on Twitter and Facebook, but don't make it a time consuming thing.  Just announce them and link to your website/blog.  You can perhaps announce them several times over the course of a couple of days to help somewhat mitigate the "scroll off the screen" issue, but put your creative time into the artwork and the blog post itself.  That's your content, on your online home, in the right context.    And announce your works on social media after you've already contacted your best customers as I outlined above or, at least, in tandem.  Perhaps any that missed your earlier announcements will be reminded when you post to social media.


2.  For bonus points, tie your blog to Facebook so the announcements are automatic, keeping you away from the distraction/temptation even  more.   Again, this is what Seth Godin does.


3.  Use Facebook and Twitter to directly engage with specific people who are interested in your work.    People often bring up this use of social media as a major "pro" when I "bash" social media.  And, I agree, that this can be an awesome thing about social media.  I would also point out that directly messaging some through social media really isn't anything new....IT'S GLORIFIED EMAIL.  Facebook Messages:  Powerful?  Yes.  Pretty much just like Email?  Yes.  Social Media does sometimes make it easier to find these people, especially when you don't know their email address in which case, I would suggest that you direct message them and get their email address.


*4.  You can sometimes use social media to "prospect" for customers, BUT BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL.  This can easily lead to time and creativity wasted.  On Twitter, I have joined conversations with people I know and ended up meeting people who I didn't previously know.  Some of those contacts have been valuable from a pure "business" standpoint.  I think it's possible that you might be able to meet friends of people who love and/or have purchased your art.  THIS MUST BE NATURAL AND GENUINE.  And that's what makes it difficult.  * I've added the asterisk on this one because I wouldn't suggest doing this unless you're already doing the things I outlined in scenario 2 AND are able to be very disciplined about not letting social media eat up your creativity and time.   I would also put this activity very, very low on your marketing totem pole.


5.  Limit Your Use to Guard Against Diminishing Returns.  A quick "rule of thumb" - If you're using social media for more than 20 minutes a day for art marketing, then I suspect you're getting distracted and using it too much, in which case I recommend you consciously limit your Facebook and Twitter time.  You should be able to announce new art and respond to inquiries in 20 minutes or less.


6.  Be Focused.  Get in, do what you need to do and get out.  Don't get distracted.  Don't play Farmville.  Don't look at family photos.  Get back in your studio.  If you need to do that stuff, do it in your downtime.



Other Uses of Facebook and Twitter


For FUN.  Nearly, everything I've written has been from a pure marketing viewpoint.  If you LIKE social media and feel you have the time, especially if it's what you like to do during non-creative time - then fine.  I'm certainly not here to tell you how to spend your recreational time.  My recreational time is spent playing guitar or enjoying wine - and those activities certainly don't further my business and marketing goals.  We're human after all.  I've also played on Facebook/Twitter on a Friday night when I'm bored and too tired to be creative.  THAT'S OK.  But BE HONEST with yourself.  It is easy to turn FB/T into a procrastination/distraction technique.  And when you start to suspect that is happening - force yourself to try to be creative, or to do some "real" marketing - sometimes it's difficult to start but the brush will start flowing if you just force it to start.



Use it Wisely


In the end, social media is not magic.  It's just another communication medium.  


I know tons of artists who are extremely successful and who don't even have Facebook and Twitter accounts.  They're too busy painting.  But I also know artists who use them every day who are also successful.  Just like with paint and clay, it's not the medium that's magic, it's what you do with it.


While social media, in my opinion, is not the best communication medium for marketing art, it is a medium nonetheless and one that can be used if you can avoid the pitfalls.  And one more than we had a few years ago.


The existence of pitfalls in a medium doesn't mean you shouldn't ever use it.  It just means you should be smart and disciplined in your approach.  "Smart and disciplined" may mean not changing your behavior at all.  It may mean limiting your Facebook time.  Or it may mean not using it at all.  It depends upon you.


But please remember, if the world loses a single work of art you could have produced because you got sucked into playing Farmville, well, that would be, quite frankly, tragic.


So this long-winded post is all to tell you that, when it comes to social media, use it wisely.  The missive above attempts to define what I think "wisely" means.  Good Luck.


Sharing Art Enriches Life. 




Clint Watson

FASO Founder, Software Craftsman, Art Fanatic

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Related Posts:

The Right Way to Publish Your Blog to Facebook

The Lesson for Artists in the Killing of Facebook Deals

Please, Don't Forget All the Non-Facebookers

Don't Show Your Art Out of Context

Thoughts on Selling Art Online: Find the time to promote your art online-- clock yourself and be creative!

Artists Rights Online: Should Artists be Wary of a Social Networking Websites Terms of Service (TOS) Agreement? Part 3

Clicks Are Dangerous

Topics: art appreciation | art collectors | art marketing | art websites | Clint Watson | creativity | exposure tips | Facebook | FineArtViews | sell art | selling art online | selling fine art online | social networking | Twitter 

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Nadine M Robbins
Thanks you for putting into words what I have experienced. It most certainly is a creative drain.

Charles Kaufman
As a side note....
In the past I used to go to a couple of art trade fairs each year - aimed at galleries and other people/companies in the art business (not open to the public).
I stopped the art trade fair circuit several years ago because we were satisfied with the connections we had made and,
I thought that social media, website(s), etc, etc would become more of a way to make contacts and bring in more business. Things have been okay, but I have been itching to go back to the trade fairs again - nothing beats that seeing art in person approach.
So about six months ago I signed up for the next fair that was of interest (it starts in October). A trade art magazine (sent out to galleries) is covering the art fair and the latest issue came out this week and I am included in an article about exhibitors.
Since the magazine came out...just a couple of days ago, I have already had more inquiries from galleries about my art than in several years of Twittering and Facebooking...(and the art fair starts in 3 weeks! Interested to see what the booth at the art fair brings...even if the economy is kind of negative )

Other than getting more hits on my website when I post a link (from who know who), I can't say that either Twitter or Facebook have impacted my art business at all. They are fun to play around with and I can see the need for PR, but....

Brian Sherwin
Clint -- Facebook can be a problem as well because of the setting switch -- many people don't realize that their settings were automatically changed by Facebook a few months ago... and are likely only 'seeing' Wall posts in the 'stream' from 'friends' they have messaged recently.

You also have no clue if the people you want to reach have their settings set to only view what specific people are posting -- so you may never catch their eye because they are not seeing what you post. Social media can be powerful -- but I think artists need to realize that there are some trip lines along the way.

The Content Issue section of this article hit home with me. I've actually had my account locked 3 times over the years because I was mistaken for being a spammer. If it were not for the fact that I know a few people who work at Facebook I have no clue how long it would have taken to have my account opened again.

The problem is that while Facebook is a place to share links -- to share content -- the site also has hard-line security features that interpret links spread across several group as spam. It does not matter if the content shared is related to the focus of the group or not... it can be picked up as spam.

Another problem with Facebook is that it was technically designed for having a few dozen friends -- and the company still views it as that for the most part. My guess is that they don't really want everyone to have thousands of 'friends' unless those 'friends' are real friends.

Even with that there is a problem. For example, I've made hundreds of contacts over the years -- they may not be friend-friends... but they are business associates who know me and have worked with me in one way or the other. They are professional friends. However, if I try to invite all those friends at once I will likely get locked again.

In fact, I've read that if you invite more than 20 or so people a day you run the risk of having your account punished with a lock. The same goes if you invite people through Facebook by email. In that sense, it is kind of hard to social network when the social networking site views actions like this as questionable behavior at every turn.

You mentioned 'FUN'. That is another thing that artists need to realize about art collectors who happen to be on Facebook. Most -- at least the ones that I've known -- are not using their Facebook account strictly for discovering artists. They are there like most of the Facebook population -- for entertainment purposes and keeping up with close friends and family. Point blank -- they don't want to be hounded with hundreds of 'view my art please' messages a day just because they happen to collect art.

That said, I know artists who have established rapport with art collectors on Facebook -- but those relationships were never formed by 'View my art please' type messages. They got to know the collector before sharing their work directly.

I see the same problem with art writers on Facebook... artists will barrage writers with the same kind of requests and 9 times out of 10 the writer will simply delete the artists post on their Wall. Look at Jerry Saltz... he ends up deleting dozens of posts like that at a time. However, he also makes requests for images ever so often-- that is the time, in my opinion, to introduce work to Jerry if you are going to do it.

Charles Kaufman
Brian - Regarding some of your comments about Facebook. The situation(s) you describe are most likely if one only has a "Friends"-type page. (I note that your link here is to a "Friends"-type Facebook page.)
I have a "Friends" Facebook page for only my friends
a separate "Like" Facebook page for my art and anyone can join (like) it - they do not have to be a "friend".
See my art-related Facebook "Like" page here:

One does not have the Friends-type problems when they have a Like Facebook page.

Brian Sherwin
Charles -- I know about fan pages and groups... and agree that is probably the best route for artists to take unless they want every aspect of their Facebook presence to be about marketing art.

I made the mistake of doing everything from my 'friends' type Facebook page years ago. LOL It is ok -- but yeah, I get flooded with content so it can be hard to keep track of what people close to me are doing at times.

Both fan pages and groups are nice because they don't have the 5,000 cap. That said, I don't like how FB removed the option to message all members of a group. I know it was being abused by people... but for those of us using it correctly it was a powerful tool. As for 'chat with group'... I've not really used that.

Also, when it comes to inviting friends to a page... you can get 'hit' with FB warnings as well if you are sending out hundreds of invites at a time. As for groups, I don't like how you can add someone without them really knowing that you did... I'll have to do some reading though -- perhaps FB changed that?

Lori Woodward

I so agree with you... I've gotten to the point where social media is addicting (and I'm not normally an addictive type), but for weeks at a time, I have had no one to talk face to face with except my husband, and he likes to read and watch movies in the evenings to chill out from work.

I've been using social media to fill a human need to connect, feel good about the work I do, get feedback, stay in touch with relatives, and see what others are saying. There's nothing wrong with that, but because both FB and TW are streams of info, I end up feeling like I might miss something important if I'm off line for too long.

On the other hand, social media has been an excellent way to make links to my blogs and show new work, but while I get a lot of compliments - it doesn't result in sales.

Getting out there and showing your work in real life is what still works best. I have interested folks sign up for my email newsletter. I have made sales from there, and so far, I've only sold online to people I've met in real life.

As a writer, social media works well. I suspect it also works well for artists who give workshops.

I wrote a similar post to yours a few weeks ago because Facebook has just worn me out - I can't keep track of all the info I take in, and I thought I was getting senile. My attention span is shorter than it's ever been, and that's getting on my nerves and productivity. If I don't curb my usage, I will not give others my best.

Social media also creates a form of unrealistic competition. Our minds get dulled to what's really important and what's not - and we end up spending way too much time looking at the stuff that can wait until all our other important work is done.

Well said Clint! Your post will help me get on with my life and work in a more productive way. So what if I'm not "connected" for a few days.

Brian Sherwin
Also... I think Facebook wants to try and limit group membership numbers. From what I understand they took the 'international' option away for groups... in addition to that, they are currently in the process of archiving groups. It is clear they are trying to cut back on groups in general.

As for archiving --- if not much is going on with the group it will eventually be archived if it is not switched to the new format -- and if there is not enough 'action' the option to do that will not be present. I've seen groups that have daily posts and the option to switch-- or inform an admin to switch-- is still not offered.

Oddly enough, there are groups of 50,000 or more that will likely end up archived. Even ones that appear to be very active in my opinion. Once archived the group membership number is reduced to 0. Thus, all the work that admins put into those groups will be lost. The group will basically become a shell.

Don't get me wrong... I LOVE social networking and the east of spreading content. That said, all of this goes to show how the 'game' can be changed when the site owners decide to change policy OR if the site is hampered by poor management choices. Look at Myspace... I once had a large group for art on that site -- today it is useless because the overall 'game' of social networking changed directions.

Charles Kaufman
The Facebook "Like" page (formerly known as the "Fan" page) is the way to go to promote one's business, organization or whatever.
The "Friends" page is too complicated ("Will you be my friend? I will be your friend.") And has lots of complicating problems and restrictions with it.
The Facebook "Like" page is more like a blog that people subscribe to.
But if one puts too much "blah-blah-blah" info up, people can easily "unlike" the page.

Groups- I am in a couple.
But not really convinced why a person or business would want to set one up - the "Like" page is fine for that.
You are correct about the limits on groups. Facebook wants groups to be small - made up of friends or those that know or have known each other personally - like a high school reunion group.

The Like page seems to be the replacement idea for the past idea of Groups.

(And now Facebook is starting a new feature called "Subscribe" which complicates things even more...)

Messaging to lots of people on Facebook is a no-no. I tried it once and got warned about mass messaging. (They turned off my messaging for a few hours...)

I use Facebook, but am not at all convinced in the slightest way that it is worth the time and effort. For me it is done more out of curiosity of how social media works, trying different tests and ideas and then dumping it if it does not work - etsy, ebay, et al bye-bye...

The best thing on the internet that has worked for me is my own website.
The best thing that sells my art is showing my work in any "brick and mortar" type venue.

Many artists seem to think there is this world wide market for their art that can be tapped via the internet and social media....maybe for some. But for the vast majority of artists that are not famous, the mantra should be "Think local, Not global". (So if an artist lives in "Way-Away-From-Everybody" Town then it is time to move to New York City, London or Paris or other big population area.)

Terry Krysak
Great article, I agree with you very much.

I don't use Twitter anymore (reading tweets) and don't have many followers, but it would take hours every day to read all the tweets I get.

All I need to do is post on my blog, and my twitter account sends out a tweet, and the blog post is automatically added to my Facebook page.

Much less time consuming

Brian Sherwin
Charles -- you nailed it with "think local". Regional opportunities can be a great way to make your mark. It never hurts to establish yourself within your surrounding 'physical' community.

Kelly Fitzgerald
Great article! I agree!

Joanne Benson
Good article Clint! Appreciate all who have shared their experiences and information about FB et al.

Casey Craig
Charles, I laughed when I read your comment "go local not global." I attended an art business workshop several years ago where the speaker said the exact opposite..."go global then local." Her argument was that you never want to be known as a local artist. She argued that once you achieve a certain amount of global acclaim then you can go local and it is more successful.

I can see both sides. People don't seem to be as impressed with local artists until they start getting recognition on a national or global level, but realistically you have to start somewhere.

Clint, I understood your point in the first post, and in fact at the time you inspired me to get off the computer and go paint...Thanks!

Esther J. Williams
Clint, okay, okay, I get it. Thank-you for hammering this into my brain. I have a question, what do you think about offering a sale to this group, for instance a 50 percent 25 percent or 15 percent off on selected works? Is that shooting ourselves in the foot when many of these customers paid full gallery price before? If a work of art is two years old, is a sale warranted? I had a newsletter sale back in February and sold five older works that way at 50 percent off. I do not want to make it a habit. Is a sale every six months to the subscriber list a good thing? Is 50 percent too much? I am thinking it is now, I was desperate before, but I didn`t let anyone know that. We have to not appear desperate, ever. If I sell works at a cut rate, it is setting up an expectation from people to wait until she has a sale again, right?

Charles Kaufman
Casey -
Once an artist is well known "globally" they may not even want to show local...i.e. they priced themselves out of the local market.

Lori Woodward
Casey, I've been teaching art marketing workshops for more than a decade, and I used to say, Globally then you automatically get the local audience, but things have changed in the last few years.

The competition to for going nationally or globally is fierce, and many galleries who sell globally are closing, and some artists who've made good incomes for over 20 years through galleries are barely making a living now. If you haven't already gone global (and have high prices) "local" has more opportunities to those who are just entering the marketplace.

Ester, some major galleries are giving discounts like crazy right now. Collectors are expecting to pay less for works (and get a bargain) in this economy because they know everyone is desperate for sales. There was indeed an art selling bubble, just like the housing bubble, and it has burst.

Many of the avid collectors I know are not buying new work, and in fact, they are putting some of their collection on the market as resale. In some cases, they are not getting the price they had hoped for, and in many cases, they are not able to sell the secondary work for anywhere near the original price they paid. Unless that artist is so famous or dead that their work has retained or grown in value.

The price of most artwork is falling. Artists who are selling well (from what I have been able to hear from artists I've interviewed) is that they are selling because they didn't raise their prices (or let their galleries raise their prices) to an astronomical level. Artists who work with galleries are not raising their prices at all.

All the art selling rules have changed since 2008. Essentially, everything we knew and taught before then doesn't really count now. My collectors aren't getting angry that I'm offering selling incentives (lower prices) - they're happy to get some new work for a lower price and expect values to increase at some point in the future.

Lori Woodward
While I'm thinking of it... here's an interesting tid-bit. Kyle Stuckey shows both nationally and locally. When he's part of a show on a national level, he's competing with a large number of artists in that show, and usually does not sell much. If he's in a gallery with over 100 other artists, his chances of selling there go way down.

It's interesting to note that his local gallery (who has had 2 solo shows for him and is planning another shortly), has sold more work for him than any other venue. His prices locally are the same as in the nationally known galleries, so it's not a price issue.

I'm thinking that locally, he's a big fish in a smaller pond (New England), and there are enough collectors here to sell to. Since he's won national awards, these "local" folks seem excited to be able to meet with their artist on their own turf and collect someone who is from their locality.

Buying local is a huge movement right now - especially as many would rather pay more for items made in by artisans in their back-yard than overseas. It helps their local economy sustain itself. I've been painting at farmer's markets, and these folks are already paying more for locally grown goods - they are interested in my work. When they find out that my work is known on a national level, their eyes light up, and they get interested in collecting.

What's working for me is building a national reputation, but selling locally on my own (I have credentials, but far less competition on a local level). I'm also hearing of other artists who are selling so well selling small unframed works online that they are quitting their day jobs. One is a physicist. He is a great painter - nationally known, but is able to sell small works for $300/$500 respectively online and sells 100 percent of these small works.

This is where the income is for him. While we may choose to go with galleries, we no longer need to. Gatekeepers are losing their power.

Lori Woodward
Ok so I realize I got off subject a bit... it's early here.

I only use Facebook and Twitter to get people to come to my site, but very few of them are non-artist collectors.

Casey Craig
I totally agree. The go global then local advice I heard was quite a few years ago, but I still understand the premise. Kyle may not have the following locally without the national acclaim. Now he can take advantage of the "our local boy made it big" situation which is great.
We all have to find out what works best for us in this economy.

Charles Kaufman
While I made the comment above to "Think local, Not global" ...keep in mind it is all a bit relative.
To the artist living in New York City they are more "global" working their "local" market than the artist living in WhoKnowsWhere, western Kansas.
And the artist living in a small town that is a long ways from any large cities has a tough time doing either the local and global thing.

There is no right, best way to sell art. Everyone has different art and a different living and financial situation.
But for the "newish" artist to think that they can slap up a website, get 5,000 followers on Twitter, plus lots of friends and "Likes" on Facebook, etc, etc, etc on the social networking scene AND think they can sell enough art to make a living from selling art around the world via their social networking...well, good luck with that thinking.
My tip to any artist - move to an area with areas of large population relatively nearby.

(One of the big problems hampering the "global" thinking is shipping costs. Shipping/transportation costs has skyrocketed in the last couple of years. Shipping costs are hurting everybody. I read a story the other day about a bread maker in Australia saying it costs more to ship a loaf of bread to the store than to make the loaf of bread.)

Brian Sherwin
A local focus is always a good thing in my opinion. If anything, it gives you something to fall back on if the 'global' effort does not pay off. Regional success in the form of local exhibits and involvement with local art organizations -- and so on... can be good for the esteem as well.

Most artists want some form of recognition -- and it can be a powerful experience when someone recognizes you from the regional art community.

Regional efforts are important for artists who dream of landing a museum exhibit. The doors of smaller museums are easier to break down, if you will, compared to the BIG museums in the US. Once you have a few of those small museums under your belt the BIGGER museums may take notice... you never know.

Brian Sherwin
Obviously it depends on where you live though... For example, an artist in rural Illinois has a better chance of exhibiting at on of the museums in Springfield compared to an artist in NYC exhibiting at one of the museums there. In some ways artists from smaller communities have advantages over artists from larger communities -- the large communities are normally set in their ways... that already have their picks. With smaller communities you have room to move... room to connect -- and it is a lot easier to build rapport with curators from smaller institutions.

Lori Woodward
Wow, I'm really liking what everyone is contributing here. All good stuff to ponder since everything is changing for selling art right now.

I'm getting ready to go watch a movie with hubby, but another thought came to mind after reading incoming comments - about selling regionally.

I live in a "townish" area in New Hampshire, but New England is small enough to build a following in several states - which are all within a day's driving distance....

I have a friend who has made well over 100K every year for over a decade working with galleries in New England. At one point, she started working with galleries out west, but did not like having to ship works, and also was not able to check up on how they were displaying her work or if they were being honest with sales.

Long story short, she continued to enter national shows, got signature membership in OPA, but now she says none of those things really improved her sales... she says people buy her work when they see it and fall in love with it. They did so before she had credentials too. Monique Sakellarios sells at outdoors shows, as well as galleries, and has since opened her own small gallery in Nashua New Hampshire.

Her prices have always been reasonable too.

I think selling at galleries within a day's drive of the artist's home is a great way to go. Most of the artists who are "making it" right now are working through galleries, online, museum and other shows. I don't know anyone who's doing very well relying completely on commercial galleries without any other efforts (except maybe Jeremy Lipking and Richard Schmid).

Charles Kaufman
I think the only people that were pushing the idea that artists should "go global" were art coaches, website builders, vanity art web sites, art selling sites (such as etsy or print selling sites), author's and others trying to sell their web-related products and services to artists. All were trying to convince artists that they needed to buy or sign up for all these web-related products, online art store,services, social networking so the articst could get rich and famous in the global internet art market.
There never was a "global" internet art market for the local, unknown artist to make a living was a "pie-in-the-sky" idea that was marketed, promoted, packaged and sold to artists by those wanting to sell their products and services and reinforced with social networking sites like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, et al.

Patricia Pilipuf
I heartily agree with your stance on Social Media. Having once been addicted to it, I've wasted time and did not produce my art as I once did. When I saw the light and realized that I was wasting my creative time, I became more productive and started to use my time to insure that my website was always up to date. Thank you for expressing my thoughts. Regards, Pat

Moshe Mikanovsky
Excellent post Clint,

I also stopped twitting and FBing as a "task in the day" and rather just add links to my blog posts when I can. I use it also in "dead-times" on my iPhone - waiting in line somewhere, times like that. (Well, I do admit I use it for the fun thing to get updates on my family and friends in Israel and vice versa, but that is not for art marketing).

The one feeling I always had is that "if you are not there you don't exist" and I think many people feel like that. But, its quite bogus.
I look at it as networking. The same way that I network with people in order to find new job opportunities, and I know that most of them will not get me anywhere, but the seeds are there and who knows, someone will eventually lead me to a new opportunity, the same way in FB and Twitter - you network with people and it might, or might not, work.

BTW - didn't see a mentioned of Google ... any thoughts of that? To tell you frankly, when I first saw it, I didn't understand what the big deal.. but that was true also for Twitter and FB. I can't see myself wasting more time on yet another social media just because it has the name Google behind it. But I have heard from other artists that they have made good use of it for networking.


Brian Sherwin
Charles -- I think part of it had to do with the mainstream art world as well. We always hear/read about the "global art market" or the "international art market" -- and articles that make it to Yahoo news or Google news about selling art in general tends to be about international art fairs... so it conditions people to think big. The problem is that you can think big all you want... that does not mean 'big' things will happen.

Brian Sherwin
Moshe -- Google does have some nice features for networking... but I strongly suspect that once it is more open they will restrict just how it can be used to reach others. I could easily become spam city if they don't have some restrictions. It will be interesting to see what Google does with it.

Brian Sherwin
I still say that you really have to think about how you use your time in the first place. If you spend 4 hours per night watching TV it is clear -- at least to me -- that you could be using that time for more productive things. I'd rather see someone spend 4 hours posting links and networking online than 4 hours watching Jersey Shore. Knowing what Snooki (I think that is her name) is doing won't help you to push work out of the studio.

Monica Jones
My focus for facebook is to form more meaningful and authentic relationships, as I would rather stay in my studio and paint, than spend a lot of time out of my studio in meetings, although I do recognise I need to do more face to face work.

So far many of my buyers are actually people that I know. So I use facebook to remind them of my presence, and to keep the relationship going, to support them, and to receive support from them.

I send personalised birthday messages to my collectors (not wall posts) who are on facebook, particularly as I have not yet built a database of their snail mail addresses. I do the same thing with other friends.

I send personal messages to them for other special occasions - births, deaths, marriages etc.

I use facebook to reconnect with people who I had lost touch with, and they are beginning to start attending my Open Houses, and have individual tours of my studio/home gallery.

I ask some facebook friends, who I know well, if they would like to sign up for my newsletter.

I do not post on my wall a lot, as I think that can become annoying. I try to post only when I think I have something significant and of interest to post. I do post my newsletters to personal facebook account and my facebook page.

I have sold some paintings via facebook, but I see it primarily as a way to maintain and sustain relationships.

Charles Kaufman
Regarding the use of Facebook, Twitter etc in promoting one's art....

Lots of different people create lots of different art. Art for many reasons - for fun, for relaxation, just to be creative, a hobby, make money, and other reasons.
I am assuming that any discussions here relating to creating and selling art are with the goal of being able to make a living solely on selling one's art.
Is that correct?

Because if one is living solely off the art they create and sell (no second, retirement or spousal income), then the decision making process and pressures/stress is a bit different in maintaining a profitably business rather than with a part-time activity or hobby.

For the artist living off their art sales in the back of their mind is always "sell, sell, sell".
One perhaps has a different view or use of Facebook, Twitter, other social media and blogs depending on how important a role selling one's art is in their life and lifestyle.

Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors
Interesting, the link comes here, to an old post. I wanted to say, this is a nice little guide to marketing. It makes sense, your steps "not to skip" definitely sound like they could be more fruitful than tweeting or posting on facebook!

Nancy Riedell

I very much support your remarks in this article. I've had up to HERE with FB but for personal reasons. I actually don't put too much info on FB about my art. And I NEVER upload my art directly to their site (I don't trust them when they say that they'll never use your photos for their marketing purposes). What I do is brag about my latest piece and include a link to my website. So it serves several purposes: FB can't have my photo, it draws more people to my website, no one can download willy-nilly off of FB and do god-knows-what with my art, and I reserve my copyright to it.

And Twitter, no thanks.

I believe in personal contacts. It's working for me. That's how I got into a gallery in Davenport recently. You can have this flag-waving BS on FB.

Thanks for sticking your neck out there and telling the truth!


An artist colleague is encouraging me to get on Facebook, in spite of my lack of motivation. I haven't really spent any time on it, and know little about it, but my gut instinct was that on Facebook, an artist really is marketing in a situation that could be described as these very long, unpredictable chains of association between people, which I found to be a problem if you are trying to specifically target certain audiences or arts professionals who may actually be much fewer in numbers but more meaningful.

Carol Schmauder
Thanks for the article, Clint. I use both FB and Twitter occasionally and I also use StumbleUpon once in awhile but haven't found them to bring much traffic to my web site.

I certainly agree that e-mail and personal contact is the best way to go in promoting art. Most of the art I have sold is via contact with people in a "real" setting.

Bonnie Samuel
Bravo! Well said, great reflection and advice and I really don't think you bashed SEO and social media at all. In fact, the whole SEO and many other "get to the top first strategies" are dubious at the very best.

I've found Twitter to be better than FB for directs to my website as well, but really, developing my own base works best.

This article is a keeper for my file of "sound advice-read again."

Marian Fortunati
Sadly.. true... it is addictive...
Useful at times.. a nice way to see what people we know are doing and to "meet" new ones... but not our best use of time.

Nancy, that's the thing that makes me wary of Facebook. I just think you can lose a lot of control in a variety of ways. Some of it you may be aware of, but some of you may never know about. My artist friend that is encouraging me to get on Facebook tells me that artists in my area, especially the university art students, are using Facebook to announce and spread the word about exhibits and other art events, not even bothering with any kind of print cards or invites. That kind of created a little anxiety in me that I was a dinosaur that was getting left out of the loop here, but I can't deny that I'm still kind of old school about a lot of art things.

Carol McIntyre
Lori, Charles, Brian,, this idea may be too simple, but another reason people are supporting local or regional artists may have to do with shipping and travel costs. Too simple of an idea?

For what it is work, I am switching over and learning LinkedIn, which I believe has more buying potential and connection opportunities than FB. As in all of these "opportunities" or social networks, one has to learn how to navigate the system. BTW, LI does not change its system like FB, but they do add features.

Donald Fox
I imagine a sociologist would have a field day with this string of comments. My guess is that those who really use FB, etc., are like my students - they have crooked fingers and flattened thumbs from constant tapping on i-phones, i-pads - i.e., they are very young or they are retired. The art students Kim mentions fit that demographic. The real question is how many art buyers and collectors use these media? Email, yes, but social media is, well, social. As many have said, they use it to stay in touch with friends and acquaintances.

Barb Stachow
this is a great writeup thanks so much, love to hear all the pros and cons.

floyd smith
"Hurt feelings - to bad."
Article by Clint Watson on 9/16/11 is what I call, right on. On this website I see to many artist spending so much of their time, no lets put it this way - wasted time on social media outlets, thinking that this is the only path to greatness. An addictive nature that comes close to lets say, drinking and driving or texting and driving. Two things that some would not admit too, even if you boiled them in oil. Mr. clint may even know this - with all this media-junk in our heads, where do we ever find the time to work with our hands making art. But what got me worked up more than anything else. Was, why was it so hard for the many out there to not even be able to know the difference between, "use sparingly" and "don't ever use." The latter I'm sure, he was not even thinking about. Many of us in the art world are very well educated, we're not dummy's. So what gives? From all this, what was it called? "A firestorm." All I see this did was to have Mr. clint take time off from his art to hold certain hands, explain ever word and meaning, as if we were a bunch of fifth-graders. Maybe thats his job, but I'm sure he's got better things to do. I for one think there is one way to get our art career going. Shut-down that thing that holds our mind hostage - the computer, for at least a day or two. Put the phone in silence mode. "Make some art."

Charles Kaufman
@Carol McIntyre- Regarding your comment: "...but another reason people are supporting local or regional artists may have to do with shipping and travel costs. Too simple of an idea?"

Up above in this thread I made the comment along those lines: "One of the big problems hampering the "global" thinking is shipping costs. Shipping/transportation costs has skyrocketed in the last couple of years. Shipping costs are hurting everybody."

Intercontinental shipping and travel costs have gone up quite a bit in the last 5 years.

Regarding Linkedin....that was the first social networking media thing I dropped out of. (I am not a premium member, just the free member thing.) The art-type groups at Linkedin are just made up of other artists blah-blah-blahing about the same old topics over and over again.
Sorry, not interested.

I am only interested in using the social media to increase sales and expand my art business. So far it is a near bust for all the time invested. Met lots of nice people...but they are usually just other artists or people that would like to be artists.
My own website under my own name ( ) is a success and brings in most all my contacts, PR and any internet business.

Side note: This past summer I spent time in the US (west coast) and Europe visiting galleries. Not as the artist looking for a place to exhibit my art, but rather as wanting to buy art. (Which I did - a nice bronze chipmunk and a couple of original paintings.) In my discussions with the art gallery owners I asked how they came into connection with the artists they were showing. For the most part every gallery owner "discovered" the artist while visiting some other art gallery or art event usually while visiting a different state or country.
Not one, repeat, not one, said they found the artist while surfing the web, being on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or where ever.

The big problem with all these type social media websites is that one does not have contact with galleries or buyers of art, but rather other artists interested in pushing their own art. Every artist on Twitter is screaming "Look at my art! Look at my Art!" and no one is really looking...

Clint Watson
Thanks Floyd for understanding, I too was surprised how people look at things so completely black and white. That's why I wrote this post, so I can point to it in the future when people react that way.

Firestorms easily happen when you "bad mouth" something in the venue you are talking about. In this case I "bad mouthed" social media and then promptly announced it on social media.

Perhaps I shouldn't have, but the delicious irony of using social media to announce that one should be careful with social media was just too good to resist.

But really, isn't that the best place to warn people? After all, the people NOT on social media don't NEED the warning.......they're too busy making fantastic art...

Clint Watson
Thanks Floyd for understanding, I too was surprised how people look at things so completely black and white. That's why I wrote this post, so I can point to it in the future when people react that way.

Firestorms easily happen when you "bad mouth" something in the venue you are talking about. In this case I "bad mouthed" social media and then promptly announced it on social media.

Perhaps I shouldn't have, but the delicious irony of using social media to announce that one should be careful with social media was just too good to resist.

But really, isn't that the best place to warn people? After all, the people NOT on social media don't NEED the warning.......they're too busy making fantastic art...

Bonnie Samuel
Clint, your comment on people viewing mostly in black and white is sadly true these days and in many, many facets of life and work.

I wanted to comment on the "local" emphasis idea talked about here . I made a marketing decision over a year ago to promote more locally, find opportunities, build networks, become more visible. Part because I do believe in support local for all things environmental, but also supporting working people who own businesses. It has paid off very well for me with sales and orders too. Beyond the sales, are the growing associations that will lead to more opportunities. FB really didn't factor into this campaign of mine, except perhaps to place could go to learn more about me--watching my stats and hits as I do, there was minimal hits because of my intro visit to a gallery or a shop or a show.

Carol McIntyre
@Charles -- sorry I missed you mentioning the shipping problem and costs.

LinkenIn is a collection of professionals and so I am going to explore the possibilities. I have just recently started.

I believe we artists have to start defining the "groups" or audiences we want to connect with on social media sites, for example: 1) colleagues - fellow artists, 2) directors, administrators, curators, gallery owners, etc. within the art industry; 3) potential buyers outside of the art industry; 4) social connections, etc.

It might be interesting if we stepped back and looked at our various 'friends' or connections and categorized them to determine if they are the people we want to establish relationships with to help in meeting our business and artistic goals.

Charles Kaufman
Clint: RE: "After all, the people NOT on social media don't NEED the warning.......they're too busy making fantastic art..."

Got a list of who those artists are?
(You imply that those using social media are not making "fantastic art".)

And I would gather to say that those artists who have not dabbled in the social media on the internet are:
a) too old and don't use a computer,
b) are thinking about doing it.

Clint Watson
Charles - please see, "I too was surprised how people look at things so completely black and white."

I'm not implying anything. I'm flat out saying that, FOR SOME PEOPLE, social media presents a danger that can be a time-sink that can interfere with the making of fantastic art. Of course that wouldn't apply to all artists using social media, otherwise we're back to the "black and white" argument again.

I thought this entire post made clear my position on artists and social media.

So to clarify my position further:

1. Not all artists using social media are letting it interfere with their art production

2. Not all artists NOT using social media are dinosaurs who are ineffective at marketing

To your second statement I would add option c:

c) are savvy and have tried it and found it ineffective or too much of a time sink and giving it up or seriously curtailed their use of it

Pat Kelly
When someone purchases art, they are buying an object but also the cachet that goes along with it, ie they now are connected to the artist
that created it. Conversely the artist is now connected to the collector. This is why a hand written invitation to view the art is so effective. It's a relationship.Its personal. When you take the time to do this it increases the relationship with your collectors. And you are right on, Clint 20 notes will do it.

Charles Kaufman
Clint - Okay.
I am one of those that has been curtailing use of social media to promote my art.
I experimented and tested it quite extensively and have satisfied myself that it does not really work to promote and sell one's art.
Maybe something new will come along - and, yes, I will probably try it.
And I am of the opinion that a person only has so much "creative power" in a day and if that reserve of creativity is spent doing a different creative endeavor; such as writing (Tweets, on blogs, a book, whatever), playing a musical instrument or being creative in something else, then there is less "creative power" available that day to spend painting and creating art.
So writing in this blog today cost me 1/4 of a painting.

Donna Robillard
Thank you. Interesting and educational.

Joanne Benson
Thanks Clint, Wish I had time to read all the comments but trying not to get "sucked in" LOL


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