This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She is a Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews and her freelance writing appears in regional newspapers, online magazines, and her humor blog, Middle-Aged Plague.
Long before there were Wal-Marts and Cost-Cos, the low-priced leaders of the day were warehouse grocers: dreary, drab cement-floored buildings with cardboard boxes of packaged food stacked in the aisles.
The secret to the low prices, we were told, involved shoppers grabbing a black grease pen and writing the price (the right price, it was fervently hoped) on the item. The checker hit buttons, then hurled our wares down the counter, where we dodged her aim and bagged our own.
“Save MONEY!” one store in our town at the time shouted. “We have the LOWEST prices in town!”
This always confused me, because another shop in the area blared, “No prices LOWER than ours!”
Even more confusing was that, if we went to the local Safeway or Albertsons, where we didn’t have to use the grease pens and the checkers didn’t throw things at us, we paid a penny or two, maybe a nickel more, but sometimes less.
How could all four grocery stores in this town have the lowest prices?
Okay, so maybe this sounds like the naïve question of a 20-something-year-old college student, but it always bothered me that each store was so adamant that it was the Leader in Low.
I’m not a college student anymore, and the stores with the grease pencils are just a memory in the mind of someone who hasn’t been 20-something for two decades, but I still stop short and analyze claims that don’t make sense:
“This artist is selling Selling SELLING!”
“My blog hits are down – I’m averaging just under a thousand a day.”
“Don’t you have 2,000 people on your e-mail newsletter list? I didn’t find it that hard.”
“The first 500 follows on your Facebook page may take a few months or so, but after that you’ll find yourself at 50,000 in no time.”
When I’m in the mood, I pursue some of these statements and find out that things are not always as they seem – the artist who is selling out his inventory is doing so at cut-rate prices not paying for his time or supplies; the blogger has a major monthly budget for advertising; the newsletter writer is spamming; FB-BS, I haven’t figured this one out yet, but then, I also can’t understand how people get 200,000 followers on their Twitter account, given what they tweet about.
These are tough times for artists. As the Recession drags and lingers on, people who are told daily in the news that the Recession is dragging and lingering on are limiting what they buy. They’re not not
buying, mind you – we Americans are not the type to go on an indefinitely austere diet – but they’re also not sashaying through the galleries and scooping up a still life for the kitchen and a figurative for the bathroom.
The Norwegian Artist and I, having entered the fine art fray at the beginning of the Recession, never knew these halcyon days of energized impulse buyers – we spoke with one gallery owner who recalled people walking in, eating lunch at the onsite restaurant, and picking up a painting on the way out.
“Not anymore,” she said sadly. “Now they come in three, four times, and they still don’t buy.”
Not all artists are struggling; there are those, indeed, whose sales are decent, even quite good, but I’ll lay a bet that even these artists are seeing less activity than they did in 2006. For all of us, this difficult time is an opportunity to question how we’ve always done things, whether there’s a new way of doing things, and what we could try that’s outlandishly beyond anything we ever accepted thinking about before.
We will all get through this, because we have to.
It’s highly likely that your sales are down, but rather than consider yourself some sort of failure because other people are selling, and selling well, because they tell you so, just remember your local grocery stores – all eight of them – each of which has THE lowest prices in town.