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More Observations about Defining Success in Art: What kind of art collector do you want to attract?

by Brian Sherwin on 5/15/2012 12:59:58 AM

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, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY, artnet and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 19,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.


I've offered a few articles on FineArtViews that focus on re-defining what it means to be successful within the art world. It is an important topic to address. These articles have spurred lengthy debate about the topic. The varied comments prove that artists (seeking art marketing suggestions) visit the FineArtViews blog for different reasons -- and each artist clearly has individual desires regarding art marketing in general. With this in mind, it is important for you (the artist) to know what you want from the world of art. Part of that means knowing what kind of art collector you want to attract.

 

There is one fact that we must all acknowledge: That being -- we can't 'lump' all art collectors together any more than we can 'lump' all artists together. Point-blank, I don't care what some $19.95 art marketing book at Barnes & Noble says... there is NO magic art marketing solution for attracting every art collector throughout the world. I'm being realistic -- your art, no matter how great it is, WILL NOT please every art collector. Anyone who suggests otherwise is pitching fairy tales.

 

With the above in mind, your artwork may be the 'best of the best' within the context of the artistic direction you've embraced (and if you don't know where you 'fit'... you had best find out. 'Listen' to your art -- it chooses you) -- BUT if an art collector does not like that direction... he or she will likely not care to purchase your artwork. That is NOT your loss -- nor is it the loss of the art collector who feels nothing when viewing your art... that is a reality.

 

You will attract art buyers -- but you will never 'win over' every art buyer within the market today. It is simply not possible... and I'm starting to wonder if many artists burden themselves -- and their careers -- by 'casting a wide net' (when thinking of art collectors) rather than having a more controlled focus. In other words, it may pay off to narrow your scope -- and focus upon it.

 

It is important to decide, for yourself, the type of art collector you want to focus on... AND to know how that focus 'fits' your art marketing efforts. Adapt your art marketing efforts if needed. You need to think about your artwork in terms of your preferred audience -- and make determined choices from there. If your artwork has a clear direction... you want to focus on collectors who embrace that direction -- cater to your audience instead of trying to 'catch' the attention of everyone else.

 

For example, if you embrace the aesthetics of Pop Surrealism you should probably focus your art marketing efforts in that direction... find a way to 'tap' into that scene. In this scenario you would want to seek out art blogs and other forms of press (for example, the online edition of Juxtapoz magazine) that focus on that direction of art -- gain their attention. Go where your audience is -- because that is where you will find art collectors who appreciate your work.

 

The goal is to target a specific audience -- and attract specific art collectors. That kind of focus will serve you better than taking a wild approach when seeking exposure. In a sense, you want to facilitate controlled exposure that is strategic for the direction of your artwork. (Note: If you gain exposure outside of your direction in art -- fine. I'm not downplaying that achievement. Just remember to seek out controlled/focused opportunities that 'mesh' with your direction in art).

 

In closing, you can't 'reach' every art collector with your artwork -- but you CAN (and should) 'reach out' to art collectors who are just as passionate about your direction in art as you are. In other words, find where you 'fit' and work within those circles -- take part in the 'conversation'. If you can't define your direction -- work on that. With a little focus you will be one step closer toward knowing what kind of art collector you want to attract... and two steps closer toward knowing how to define success for yourself as an artist.

 

Take care, Stay true,

 

Brian Sherwin



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Topics: advice for artists | Art Business | art collectors | art marketing | Brian Sherwin | exposure tips | FineArtViews 

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 28 Comments

Betty Pieper
via faso.com
Brian,
I think this is one of your best articles. It is where a lot of people get stuck. One of the first questions asked at marketing/selling workshops is "Who is your target audience or who is your target collector?" You gave an example of surrealism, but many of us don't know what 'style' of art we do or how to separate out what collectors would be most interested....thus as you say for many the shotgun approach.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Betty -- Thank you. Finesse is key... use a pistol instead of a shotgun. ;p

Linda Rosso
via faso.com
Brian, you NAILED it. Targeting (or micro-targeting) your audience is the holy grail for marketers. For artists, it includes tapping into the emotional need of a collector, as well as considering stated interests and traditional demographics. In Marin County, California, where I live and paint - landscape painters have tapped into the community's love for the terrain, the open space and supporting land trusts and environmental projects. Some of the best art shows (and sales) are centered around projects that benefit the local landscape. (It also helps that this is a generally wealthy community.)

Jackie
via faso.com
Brian, can I ask you a question? I think we started the other way. In other words, we started by going after a very specialized market.

Do you think this might cause stereotyping?

Of course, we welcome sales from any source whatsoever but as regards targeting, how many targets are feasible? By going after more than one, does this dilute our efforts too much? Or should we spread our wings a little?

jo allebach
via faso.com
Brian,
This was a fantastic article. Explains the biggest questions in a simple way. When I read that your collectors should be "just as passionate about your direction in art as you are." I thought YES! Exactly. Thanks for making it so clear.

William Rogers
via faso.com
I liked the article, Brian, and agree with everything you say. My problem as an artist is that I've always liked different directions- figures, plein air, horse themes(part of my background). Perhaps the only consistent theme has been my approach to painting and even that is always open to revision. My main focus has been to create good work on themes that I'm interested in at the moment. Perhaps not a great marketing ploy. My question is how do you think I can be more effective at marketing. Should I be genre/theme specific, medium specific, etc? Any thoughts?

Kathy Chin
via faso.com
Great article Brian and it came at a very good time. I like what you said about going where your audience is...duh, I've heard it before, but it didn't stick as much as it does now.

Thanks!!!

jack white
via faso.com
Brian,

Well said.

The President of the United States is happy with 51 percent of the people voting for him.

In our house we find a lot of people love Mikki's work and not mine. Those who love my work doesn't care much for hers.

It's important when you are seeking gallery representation that you pick those that carry art like you make. If you do Pop then it's doubtful you will do good in a Hudson River School gallery.

Water seeks it's own level and so should art.

Jack

jack white
via faso.com
William,
Not answering for Brian but from our experience.
Find a voice your client base likes best. Mikki was painting some wonderful equine work, but her current voice started out selling the horses 10 to 1. We put the horses to pasture.

Jack

Susan Holland
via faso.com
Brian, you say: "'Listen' to your art -- it chooses you. "

What a wonderful statement!

Hobnobbing with others who also can "hear" your art will be symbiotic and nourishing to your whole art experience, it seems to me. Good article! Thanks.

William Rogers
via faso.com
Thanks Jack. That's the type of input I was looking for. My dilemma has been that I have won more awards for my figures and horses than I have for landscapes but the landscapes have been the best sellers. This may be due to the tourist patrons that dominate the market where I live. Maybe I need a bigger urban gallery for my other genres.

jack white
via faso.com
William,
Send me your email address. I'll send you my first art marketing book Mystery of Making IT. The book deals with voice.
jack@jackwhiteartist.com

Jack

William Rogers
via faso.com
Thanks Jack! I just sent you an email. Cheers,
Bill

Jackie
via faso.com
Can I ask everyone a question? Andy today attended a four part seminar on 'The Artist as an Entrepreneur'. This was against my advice (but never mind) because I'd rather receive advice from people who have actually been there, like Jack.

Evidently one of the speakers spoke at great length about how the artist should have a business plan in order to get a bank loan!

If I'd been there I would have been up on my feet straight away asking why on earth an artist should saddle themselves with a loan in this economic climate.

We're proud to be debt-free (apart from the usual domestic bills) and have worked hard to be so.

What do you think about artists being encouraged to get bank loans?


Marian Fortunati
via faso.com
Brian, Although it is probably and constantly changing "target", I imagine that the process of defining what it is that makes us "successful" is an important one. Defining ourselves to ourselves WILL help us in identifying the "group" of collectors we hope to attract.
Thanks for helping us think more about that!!



Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
William -- business-wise I'd suggest focusing on a specific direction as much as possible.

If your landscapes have been the bread and butter of the business-side of your art (and I assume you still enjoy creating them)... you may want to focus on that direction when it comes to selling art. That is the context in which you want to brand yourself because you clearly have a market to work with.

Don't stop with the figure work though -- win those awards. BUT give your buyers what they want. Based on what you've said... it appears they want landscapes. Again, I'm assuming that you still have passion for creating landscapes. If not... keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with working toward establishing a collector base for the direction you prefer.




Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
William -- Which direction... on a personal level... calls to you more? The figure work or the landscapes?

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Jackie -- Wow. Was the seminar connected to a bank? Sponsored by a bank? Ha.

Did the guy offer this regarding a specific scenario? I can see why you might want to have access to obtaining a bank loan if, for example, you are planning to open a store that involves merchandise with your images upon them. (which is still 'iffy' in my opinion unless you already have a huge fan base of people who love your images enough to wear them... and there are ways to test that BEFORE going the load route). Aside from that... I'm scratching my head.

Debt-free is the way to be. I'd suggest that goes 10 fold if you happen to be an artist. Think of the number of art school grads who are $100,000 or more in debt -- then think of the fact that many of them will stop creating art within five years of graduation. Big debt like that can drain the life out of you...


William Rogers
via faso.com
Thanks Brian for your input, I think you see my dilemma. I have been quietly/(small scale) been promoting my figures and portraits. My Horse subjects combine figures, horses and landscapes and they do sell- although not as briskly as the landscapes. I've been painting/drawing the figure from life for years, partly as training my eye hand coordination- then saw the potential for competitions with them and then this success led to a passion for them. I've also won awards for plein air landscape and am very driven to do them.
So I seem to be passionate about whatever genre i'm painting in at the time. This may be crazy so I guess that's why I'm posing these questions, maybe I'm the equivalent of a 'painter bipolar artist' :)
Thanks,
Bill

Susan Holland
via faso.com
The lure of special offers and deals that are supposed to earn artists a windfall is an old trick. Just today I got an email saying that my photo (submitted to a contest just because I thought it was worthy..I am not usually a photography buff) would be printed in their wonderful book of Best Photos, or whatever, which I could then purchase a copy of for $49. AND, the people purchasing these books (probably hundreds or more) would be entered into a grand prize competition to win a lot of money.

Do I fall for this? No. I have several books of "poetry" that a friend sent me because her stuff got into it, and she bought it. This is not "being published", whether it's poetry or publicity. It's exploitation of ego. Just saying...

Brian your scenario re: bank come-ons spawned this bit.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
William -- It is just the delicate balance between creating for the love of creating and creating with business in mind (while still loving what you do). I suppose my point is that you don't have to include price tags with everything you create. You don't have to market everything you create.

You case shows how success in art can hit all angles. One could say that you are successful due to the landscapes you've sold -- at the same time you are successful due to the response you've received for your figurative work. On top of that.... you are successful because in both directions you take pride in what you do.


Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Susan -- I've seen some of those pay-to-play poetry books... as you know, the skill/talent level from one page to the next varies greatly. I've also observed pay-to-play art books -- same situation. Some people get so excited when they are 'selected'... they become blind to the details.

Jackie
via faso.com
Thank you Brian. And no, it wasn't sponsored by a bank :) It seemed crazy to me too. What it's done is lowered my estimation of this course that Andy's doing. I don't see how any of it can be taken seriously after that - it has tarnished the whole course.

Thanks for the heads-up about the photography scam, Susan.

jack white
via faso.com
Jackie,

These seminars like your husband attended is set up to earn money for the people putting it on. Most have no art experience. Like telling your husband how to borrow money. That's the last thing an artist needs is to get deeper in dept. I wish you would have asked me before you wasted the money.

When you get ready to publish your dad's book, contact me. I give you directions.

Jack

Sharon Weaver
via faso.com
Staying focused is one of the most important points in marketing and recently my online efforts have been paying off. I have had several opportunities which are the result of my FASO website, sold a painting and was asked to do a demo at a local club because of this newsletter. A friend is now selling her paintings on Ebay after followed Jack White's formula and is doing well with that advise. Thanks.

Sharon Weaver
via faso.com
PS. The painting I sold was large, 36x18 and to a couple who bought another painting last year and live all the way across the country. Never would have seen my work without you guys.

Jackie
via faso.com
Jack, you're right. Seminars and similar set ups are there to make money, not to help people. I realize that now. I was unaware that Andy had signed up for this course. The only thing I hope is that he might meet some useful people and network

My dad's book is very near to publication, Thank you so much for you offer of help. I need it!










 

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