Many of us artists are considering how we'll grow our art business and sales in 2013. In fact, I've been considering big changes since last summer, and I'll share them with you here. My main idea for 2013 is to simplify and focus on a fewer online activities so that I have more time to enjoy creating, life, friendships, and my home.
View of The Sound: 6x8 Oil on canvas panel.
Have you ever noticed how life and work tends to change every decade? Since the introduction of social media and Internet, my life has morphed into a daily routine that I never anticipated when I began my art business in the mid-1990's.
Over the past year, I've ordered several online educational modules that have taught me quickly to use Pinterest, Youtube, Facebook, and Google Plus to help my career as an artist and art teacher. Each of these courses is excellent, but alas - I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities and overloaded with information. My poor, aging brain just doesn't want to take it all in, and furthermore, trying to keep up with everything new is making me feel mildly depressed. I'm sure many of you have experienced similar emotions while perusing Facebook or Twitter... where the input, images, and links never end. You start out thinking you'll only spend a few minutes "catching up", and then 2 hours later, you realize that your precious work time has passed you by, never to be regained!
Know what? I started thinking about how social media affects me, and I realize that I have a lot of false assumptions about it. Let me talk about Facebook first. It's addictive, But Why?? Because it makes me feel like I belong. Heck, I can comment to Paul McCartney! In reality, I know that he never reads what I write - just like he never reads the hundreds of other comments, but it feels good to "talk to him" just the same.
When I was in high school, being part of the "popular" crowd never appealed to me. I had several close friends and a best friend, and that was all I needed. I did have a lot of other acquaintances, but they were friendships of convenience... people who were in my class and had something in common for a time. These friends signed my year book, but after I graduated, they faded away. The few who were friends I saw outside of the classroom have remained my friends to this very day. Facebook is a bit like high school, only the difference is that I was required to go to high school. I'm not required to spend time on social media. (but I do spend too much time there)
Choosing A Quiet World
From time to time, we lose power at our house, or else I am out of range of Wifi, and know what? I'm a lot happier and I get a lot more done, Living in Real Time. Over the past several months, I've been spending less time on line and more time moving about in my home, studio and enjoying the outdoors. For the past several years, I had convinced myself that I could spend time "playing" online - like it was a hobby... but really, how much quality of life, real productivity and real relationships has playing online cultivated? I admit that most of the relationships I have online rarely turn into real life ones. A few do - but like high school, in the end, many of us go our separate ways.
I long to return to The Good Ol Days - BI "before Internet", and I have been making strides to do so, but it's been far more difficult than I expected. First, I had to let go of the notion that I was working and doing things to broaden my career, (online) when actually I was doing nothing of the sort. I pretended that spending hours of valuable time online, clicking on unending links and looking at websites was part of my work. Recently, I've taken time to look at the reality of my situation. Your reality may be different, but if I don't return to a healthy dose of living and working in real time and real places, I might actually go crazy.
You might be thinking... crazy is a strong word. However, when I spend too much time online, I get stupid - I can't remember diddly; I've been forgetful and have missed deadlines. (I never used to miss deadlines)! My brain can only take in so much stimuli before it starts shutting down. I get zoned in on my computer or Ipad screen and my life and responsibilities begin to slide by, while I live in a dream world by viewing what everyone else is doing. In the end, I've got to stop looking at what y'all are doing all day so I can return to my life. We artists can be sucked into feeling like we're not so much alone because we generally work in seclusion - it's downright lonely for some.
Social Media and Self-Promotion
Yes, I'm a bit of a hypocrite because I do plan on employing social media to promote my business and paintings. Most of you reading this use it too, and I think that the Internet has opened doors for many more artists to sell their work and promote their business in huge ways with very little cost. We have a lot of ways to reach new audiences for our work. I'm just saying here that I have to limit my time online so I can make more artwork, get better at it, and live a quiet life in my off hours... not connected to "the world". There is a real fear/sense that plagues many of us. It's called FOMO (fear of missing out) and unless you're one of those artists who gets several hundred likes when you post a new painting or say what you had for breakfast, you probably know what I'm talking about.
I sometimes feel that I am not measuring up to what I see online, or am missing out on the art "high life" while viewing pictures of famous artists hanging out with each other. Sometimes, I hang out with really famous artists, and I do have some wonderful friendships, but it always looks more exciting online than it is in real life. Sometimes in real life, I feel downright insecure and left out even when I'm with famous artists. When it comes down to what really matters, it's spending time with people I care about and who care about me - even though they know me and all my faults.
Summing it Up
Because I do need social media for biz purposes, how do I promote my business efforts but not turn into an addict? The Answer: Have a strategy/plan and stick to it. Check out what my friends are doing ONLY at the end of my workday... and keep it under an hour. The strategy is to post only what it important, helpful to others and interesting. I'm not famous enough for anyone to care what I had for lunch. If I have a painting for sale, or a workshop, I can post about it with a link. If I have a free art tutorial or You Tube tutorial, (future) I will post a link. But for the most part, I have to let the world of images, tweets and posts pass me by.
How does social media affect your psyche for the positive or negative? Are you good at controlling how much time you spend on it? Would love to hear your solutions for managing it in a useful way. I do think it is a positive for art marketing and connecting with other artists, so don't get me wrong. I'm interested in hearing how you manage to keep it from being too consuming of time.
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A while back, probably a month or so ago, I wrote a post on the state of the art market in 2012. I haven't written any updates until now because I had temporarily lost faith in the ability of artists to make a living from sales of their art, but now I realize that my emotions were based on only one segment of the overall market - those whose sales were continue to diminish.
I'm writing again because very recently, I spoke to two established artist friends who have had their best year ever for sales - and they sell through galleries and invitational shows at prices I know I can't afford... higher end around $10,000 to $15,000. Know what else they said? Their larger, more expensive works are selling very well.
I happily write this post, knowing that art collecting seems alive and well - at least for some. Neither of these artists knows why their work is suddenly selling so well this year, but they do know where it's selling from. It seems that a couple of their gallery owners are going beyond the call of duty and taking their work to collectors, rather than using the "venus fly trap" formula of waiting for folks to visit the gallery or attend openings. Yes, collectors do attend openings, but less often than they did years ago - because the Internet allows them to buy works without having to travel.
You might be thinking... well, doesn't a collector need to see work in real life before making a purchase? I would think that is true, but I'd be wrong. Today, more and more collectors are buying by phone after seeing works online, in magazines and articles. When they know the quality of the artist's work, and have worked with a gallery in the past, collectors seem confident having the artwork shipped - never having seen in real life. While this is the trend right now, it could change in the future. Who knows if collectors will decide they want to attend art openings - people get bored spending all their time at home online. At this point, it's becoming difficult to predict the future of art sales.
While these artists are experiencing great sales, other artists in similar career paths, with similar recognition are experiencing little if any sales. Why the difference? I'm not sure, but I'd be willing to guess the improved sales through galleries are happening because the gallerists are taking an experimental approach, working hard to contact and maintain relationships with past buyers and truly "going to bat" for these artists.
Moral of the story: If your sales were doing well before 2008 but are now slow, it might be that your gallerist is not open to change. Find out if your galleries are selling well for any of their artists. If the answer is no, there are some things you can do.
1. Use your website, email newsletter and blog to direct attention to your page on your gallery's website.
2. Ask your gallery for a show and split the cost of the advertising. If you do this, it's more likely that you can get an article in the magazine where you advertise. Make sure the ad looks like it's coming from the gallery and not the artist. Sure, I know they are supposed to do all this for you, but some galleries are still on the verge of closing. If you want to maintain your relationship with your galleries, it's probably worth teaming up with them. Ask for a larger check (less commission paid) in return for the advertising costs.
3. Make sure you set up an email newsletter on your website so that your subscribers know about new works and where they can see and/or buy them. Put links in your email newsletter to the exact work on the gallery's website - or even to the painting on their website. It doesn't do you much good to link to the gallery's main page where collectors get distracted by the work of other artists.
4. Post your work on your Facebook page or profile with links to the gallery or your website where collectors can buy the work.
5. Pinterest is a new social media option which is working for many artists. You can post a link to your website and/or gallery right on your painting's image. You can also post prices right on the image as well. I'm not sure why Pinterest works, but it does.
6. Stay in touch with your gallerist on a regular basis. Don't let weeks pass without a phone call. Discuss how you and they can help increase the sale of your work. If they are "unavailable" to talk most of the time, find another gallery. In my experience, that behavior has been a danger signal for me.
7. Don't send them too many works. Remember, the Supply and Demand principle still applies to art sales. Jack Whitehas recommend between 5 and 9 artworks hung on the gallery wall at any one time. You want to give your admirers and collectors the idea that your work is "hot" and not sitting around, unsold - or the gallery's closet.
If your sales don't pick up at the gallery, you can sell smaller works from your website unframed to get you through the tough times. The key here is that they generally need to be priced under $500 for them to move. If your small works have been selling for over $1000, this might not be a viable option for you. It's up to you to figure out what will work for you.
Stay vigilant! Try to find out why other artists (in your price range and style) are selling well. Learn what they are doing or what their gallerists are doing to sell their work. I'm seeing pockets of success in sales today! Don't be fooled by thinking that artists who are getting awards and visibility are selling well... in some cases they aren't. In other cases, they are. I do think it comes down to savvy marketing on the artists' and gallerists' parts. More than ever, artists and sales people need to know how to get attention from collectors and close the sale.
Please feel free to add your recent success stories here so others may benefit from your experiences.
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I spoke at the annual Oil Painters of America show and conference in June '12. I began the talk by asking how many listeners had applied the law of supply and demand to their art marketing plans. Only 3 people raised their hands, and know what? All three were magazine sales and ad directors.
The Law of Supply and Demand is a time-tested precept for marketing and sales for just about everything that consumers buy and acquire, and yet, this "law" is ignored by the majority of artists and galleries. I believe that it's an important concept to apply to your art sales and marketing efforts, whether you sell someone else's artwork or your own.
Before I get started with further explanation, I'd like to say to those who sell by painting small unframed paintings on a daily or weekly basis - it's OK to do this. The very fact that your supply is ample - for the most part means you will sell for lower prices. One of the precepts of the law of S&D is that the higher the supply, the lower the price. If you're a prolific painter, and you have dozens of pieces for sale at one time, it's difficult to get really big bucks for those artworks. Why? Because there is not incentive to pay a lot when there are many ways and places to get those works.
In the next post (probably next week), I'll discuss ways to keep your supply low and increase demand while continuing to paint as much as you like. Hint: this means taking care to introduce your work a couple at a time and then work at selling those. When they sell, introduce more of your work. I don't advise putting all of your available work on your website. Yeah, I know... you're thinking that you might find a buyer if you post them all - and you might, but serious collectors are going to think that you offer nothing special or unique.
How Does the Law of Supply and Demand work for artists?
Last week, I bought a small watercolor, done by a deceased artist, William Paskell (1866-1951). Framed, it was only $165.00. He is highly collected, but even though he's been dead for quite awhile, his work remains "easy to acquire" because he was such a prolific painter. He had a large family and even painted under a few other names so that he could produce and sell more work. His bio states that having so much work on the market all the time kept his prices low for the remainder of his life. He was a great artist! His contemporary artist friends were less prolific and painted large pieces for annual salons - while selling their smaller studies to the industrialists and wealthy clients who bought the large paintings.
Again, I'm not saying that painting and selling a plethora of works is a bad thing. What I am suggesting is that top collectors will not take interest in your work (no matter how good it is) if there is too much available "all the time".
For the point of this post, I'm going to assume that your work is truly amazing and professional. Having said that, let's say you've developed an individual style that collectors can recognize from across the room. You've got a body of work to begin to sell in the current year... ready to go! Let's say you've got about 20 works, various sizes and you've got your pricing worked out (usually by the size of the painting).
If you've got 50 unsold paintings, I'd avoid putting them all on your website at one time. Post only your best, since viewers will judge the entire body of your work by your least successful piece. Try not to feel desperate by posting everything while thinking... but someone might love and buy it. Stop gambling, know which of your works are truly remarkable, and put those out there first. Even the most famous and highly collected artists don't show everything they do. Some burn their less than favorable works so no one buys them for big bucks after they die.
The artists whom I've interviewed who are doing very well in a good and bad economy have two lines of work: They have high-end, larger paintings that are their best - to sell to the serious/wealthy collector, and they also have a second "line" of works that are quicker to paint, easy to sell and lower priced. While these artists do sell their larger works, they are more likely to make a living with their smaller works during hard times.
So you're wondering... doesn't this fact dilute your whole point Lori? Yeah, kinda - but let me reiterate that having many many paintings available for sale at once drives price down. That's not necessarily a bad thing because you can make a decent living by the sale of inexpensive artwork.
But what if you are a slower painter, and there's no way you can do the "daily painting" route? Then in a way, you're still in good shape because you are not going to saturate your market - your larger paintings can command a higher price, because the supply is low and they are not easy to get. If you're a slow, meticulous painter, your second line is most likely going to sell in the form of reproductions. I'm aware of painters who do sell their (10 or so) large works for $25,000 to $30,000 and they offer a series of limited edition prints (usually giclees) for $250-$500 unframed. Yeah, the prints are still expensive, but many more folks who love that artist's work can acquire the image of it.
The key to controlling supply and raising demand is to give people an incentive to buy soon... not wait... ! When art collectors think they have plenty of time and places to buy your work, they will not take action. That's why putting your work out, little by little, with an incentive to act soon is key to building a following for your work.
People are not inclined to take action unless they are convinced that they might lose out. So to raise demand of your work, you'll need to think of ways to create some aspect of urgency. There are many levels in which to do this, and many ways to create incentive. Artists who are utilizing the law of supply and demand are reaping income rewards. In a future post, I'll delve into ways artists at various price levels can raise the demand for their works... if I'm a good girl, that'll be next week!
Take care to make your work special. While you're increasing your expertise as an artist, work at increasing the demand - especially with a more affluent group of collectors. This will take time - getting rich quick doesn't work in art careers, but it can happen over time with knowledge and strategy.
Loriwords (AKA Lori Woodard)
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It's been awhile since I've updated my blog. While writing for Fine Art Views (for 3 years) once a week, it was easy to keep blog ideas fresh in my mind. Lately, I've been spending more time painting and instructing... which are tasks I adore.
Otter Cove Study, Acrylic on Canvas panel 8x10
I'm in Maine on a painting trip... I do some walking, but it's been raining for the most part. So, I've taken time to paint indoors. I'm trying something new - working only with acrylic while here. I have to share with you that I've always felt some sort of guilt while painting with acrylics or watercolor, because the "in crowd" of the art world often conveys to me that they are inferior to oil. Does that make me an inferior artist? Nope!
Don't we have the right to use whatever materials we choose to write our visual story with? I've often said, in an art crowd or to a gallery owner, "I am mostly known for watercolor... but I paint in oil too". Why do I have to feel so sheepish when I admit that I prefer watermedia? Sometimes it feels like I'm a second class citizen like Clarance, the angel in It's a Wonderful Life - who had not yet earned his wings. Even though he could do everything a wing-toting angel could.
Last year, I put on my "rebel" cap... which I wear a lot these days... at Putney Painter sessions, and Iemphatically stated that I was going to bring my watercolors with me and not oils. No one challenged me, and Richard even said, "Have I ever said you can't paint in watercolor?"Well... no ... BUT I do feel left out in some way. Oil is just part of the current culture of artists that I happen to hang around with.
Last year, when I attended Eric Rhoads' Adirondack Invitational, I was one of 4 watercolorists who painted plein air out of 80 artists who attended. I received many compliments, and came home after the week feeling totally validated as an artist. It was great that there were no gatekeepers to tell me that I am less than a top artist because I choose to work in water-media. Because I worked in my niche, my work at least stood out from the crowd. I talked my friend, Charlie Hunter into going. His work is outstanding, but not typical of any painting school or movement. He has a unique approach to painting with oil - water soluble oils in a drippy, tonal fashion. He was practically a celebrity that week - and he sold most of his paintings there to the other artists... even though it wasn't a selling venue. He too said he felt validated as an artist.
Since I've been writing for Watercolor Magazine since 1996 and American Artist has "repurposed" several of my step by step watercolor/watermedia articles for recent ebooks and special issues, I feel validated as a REAL artist. Over the years, I've noticed that many watercolorists and acrylic artists stay with their medium. I usually email them and ask them if they feel it has hurt their sales - even at galleries, and they say no. Then, lo can behold, I see them start to paint in oil. Where they pressured into changing by their gallery dealers, collectors, or did they choose to paint in oil for their own reasons. I wish I knew, but I'm afraid to ask.
Otter Point, Acadia: 7.5x15 Acrylic on paper
One of my galleries, years ago now, sold an acrylic painting of mine as an oil (mistakenly). I must admit that one could not tell this acrylic on canvas from an oil painting - because I glaze, to desaturate the intensity of color. Since that time, I began painting in oil for galleries, and continued with watercolor for my articles and my patrons. It's interesting to note that many of my collectors prefer my watercolors, but the "gatekeepers" want Oils Only. Less sophisticated collectors (my collectors) don't care about medium, they only care about whether they like the painting and can afford it. I enjoy their trust that even though I paint in watermedia, I'm still a serious artist.
Then there are those artists who flip-flop. They make their name with watercolor. Then when they start working with galleries, they start painting in oil (but the oils never have the same charm as their watercolors), and eventually, after a number of years, they move back to watermedia. I think that these artists ultimately decide that they will follow their passion and not the requests of those who think they can sell oils more easily. Recently, I emailed Mary Whyte to say how much I have enjoyed her books, as well as, her tenacity to stick with the medium that she loves and has mastered. She gets good money for her paintings, and her workshops at Scottsdale Artist School fill quickly. She has no need to work outside of her chosen medium.
Tree study, Acadia NP: Acrylic on canvas panel. 9x12
Now.. I'm not against oil, I love the look of it, but I don't particularly enjoy the process of painting with it. I can handle it technically; however, I rather like fast drying media. I can make changes every half hour and glaze at a whim. I've worked out my unique approach, and don't need to think very hard anymore while painting with watercolor or acrylic.
Last year, Windsor Newton introduced a new line of acrylics that don't darken when dry. They are: Artists Acrylics, and just recently, they developed a line of clear mediums that don't darken. What's really interesting is that these paints seem more transparent, resulting in a look that's closer to oil than any I've used in the past. Yes, I've experimented with new versions of acrylic that dry more slowly - but as I said earlier, I prefer fast drying.
When I work en plein air, I take my transparent watercolors - I don't need an easel... just a board, a lap, and a rock to sit on. Everything fits in my backpack. Sometimes I take a tiny stool, and my paintings dry immediately, and are light. I work on 300lb paper which does not wrinkle or warp. I'll admit that I'm not inclined to finish paintings in the field, but watercolor is perfect for my color studies. I often do larger paintings in the studio from these studies anyway.
On top of all this, I hear from gallerists that collectors don't want works under glass because of reflections. Personally, I think watercolor lost its popularity when giclee prints came on the scene. The reproductions look so much like an original watercolor, that it's difficult to tell the difference. I've resolved this 'so called' issue by fixing and varnishing my watercolors and framing them just like an oil. Paintings I did more than a decade ago have not faded, and they can even be cleaned with a damp cloth. There is no reflection, and many times, viewers mistake my varnished watercolors for oils. Interesting that they recognize watermedia by how it's framed. The last thing I want for my original watercolors is to frame them with a mat. A mat makes it look just like a print, and in my estimation, lowers the perceived value.
Rainy Day, Bass Harbor Marsh: Watercolor with acrylic on paper, 8x10
What about competitions that require matting and glazing for framing? I don't enter those. I varnish my paintings, no matter what the medium, and if I don't qualify for a show because of framing restrictions, so be it. I do enter online shows and shows that are not media specific - they just want to see great artwork.
Whether you're an oil painter or a watermedia painter, I do have to say that traveling with watercolor paints is an option that causes very little trouble - especially on flights. I pack my supplies, labeling it was watercolor paint, the paper lies flat in the bottom of my suitcase, and since I rinse my brushes out in water, I only need one or two. They're short-handled too - easy to pack.
If you've always wanted to paint outdoors (or indoors) with watercolor, by all means, do it. Don't be swayed by some who will say it's not a real artist's medium. It's not more difficult than oil either - just more akin to drawing. Color mixing is easier, and control is easy when you glaze color over color, going from light to dark. If the weather is too dry, just add more water and do multiple glazes. However, if it's raining, that is a problem... I'll admit to that.
I'll be teaching three watercolor workshops next year... one at Scottsdale Artist School for newbies to watercolor - another at Tucson's Desert museum (intermediate), but anyone with ample drawing skills will do well, and a third for the Monadnock Artists Society - again for those who are newbies. If you want more info, please contact me through this website. I'll be happy to get back to you.
Remind me to write a post soon on how I varnish my watercolors - that's something I've probably typed up 100 times in various forums. It would be convenient if I were to write a blog post that I could just link to.
It's time that we honor our chosen medium - even if it's not the one that sells the most. As artists, all we really need is a small crowd of collectors, and I've managed to do just that with watercolor and acrylic. For you who paint in oil and love it - stay with it. Paint with whatever medium you love most - after all, we're artists, not a factory.Comment on or Share this Article →
Today, I am beginning a new blog series - so that I can follow up to my recent post about The State of The Art Market. Here are a few of the topics I plan to elaborate on:
Recent Interviews with artists who are making a living by their art - how they're doing that. The interesting thing is... they're not all doing exactly the same things, but they all have one thing in common: They are running their art business like a business - not depending on galleries alone to generate income. Some do not sell through galleries, but others sell larger paintings at galleries and smaller works directly from their website.
Multiple Streams of Income: Yes, many artists have traditionally supplemented their art sales with income through teaching classes and workshops, but I'm talking about creating more passive streams of income that pay you while you sleep. As artists progress in their careers, I believe they can leverage their income by creating art and materials that are affordable to a large number of collectors and those who love art. Creating books, ebooks, and self-published materials is easy and so... doable.
The Buddy System: Since there are no longer gatekeepers, the world is wide-open for us artists to curate our own small shows... online and in real space. We no longer need to depend on outsiders to sell our work. It's important to remember that your work cannot be easily found or marketed along with thousands of images. Small, well-defined groups who can "buddy up" and sell each others work to their collecting audiences increase the number of eyes viewing the show.
The Art of Self-Promotion: It's not an option any longer... artists cannot expect someone else or even their galleries to promote their work adequately. No one has the time, money, or desire to promote your work better than you do. Well... maybe you don't have the money right now, but I'll discuss how to use your resources and effort to promote your work to a collecting audience. Later, when you fully understand how to do this (and I have to say it's changing all the time), you can hire someone who is efficient and organized to handle these things for you. Please do not hire an artist as your personal assistant! For one, it creates a system that has a conflict of interest built-in, and second, artists are not always left-brained enough to run the business end of things. I believe we'll see a new occupation grow out of the new ways that art is sold. Individuals and small groups of artists will hire a curator/marketer for their work. These new experts will not take on dozens of artists - they will be hired by us to do a set of tasks so we can spend more time in the studio.
The Changing Role of The Gallery: Those galleries who are experimenting with new ways of attracting collectors and working with artists.. as partners.. are the ones who will transition into the new paradigm for art sales. I'll highlight how some galleries are moving toward an online sales set-up, the artists ship directly from their studios. It's a growing trend that is gaining popularity with collectors. It saves lots of overhead for the gallery, allows the artist to ship only once - to the collector, and the art remains in the artist's possession until it is sold. These online galleries curate juried shows for a limited time and offer buying incentives.
Usually, with this setup, the gallery does the promotion for the show and takes a 20% commission on sales.
You might say, well... don't people need to see works in real life? Ten years, I would have responded with an absolute YES, but it seems that there are many, many collectors who are buying online, from magazine ads and articles and from websites. It doesn't make sense to me, but it is happening - and often. Hey, it makes everything easier for us as artists. I personally don't like shipping my work to the gallery... then the gallery often ships it to the buyer, or ships it back to me if it doesn't sell (and getting unsold works shipped back from the gallery is a pain because the gallery usually pays for return shipping and drags their feet).
Invitational Shows and Plein Air Events: These shows are going great. Of course, the museum invitational shows do well because artists save their best works for these prestigious events. Plein Air shows are fun for both the artists and collectors. These "wet paint" sales seem to do well when the economy is slow.
Outdoor and Studio/Home Shows: I'm hearing from artists who are doing very well at outdoor show circuits - especially if their prices are reasonable (under $500) for most of their works. The same goes for studio shows and group studio shows. I'm not sure exactly why these venues are growing with attracting collectors, but they are. It seems that collectors are enjoying personally getting to meet and know their favorite artists.
There are other ways artists are making income... remember it all comes down to supply and demand (always has). Right now, there is a plethora of great artwork out there and fewer collectors for it. Many collectors are downsizing their homes and collections. When supply goes up, demand drops. Lower prices increase demand... so many artists have two sets of artwork. One body of large, expensive works for exclusive shows and galleries, and a set of smaller, unframed works which they sell from their websites. Like this idea or not, it's working for many artists. The lower priced works allow for a wider audience while the masterpiece works are held back for the shows that attract the high-end collectors.
Reproductions: Finally, I'll talk about reproductions. Many artists who have painted originals and sold to individuals through galleries at high prices (over $20,000) would do well to consider having reproductions made. There are paintings I would love to own, but I can't even afford the insurance it would cost me to cover them, but I can afford a reproduction. Sure, it's a lot of work to have giclee prints made, sold and shipped. But all of that can be hired out. In fact, I've been talking to a friend of mine - who is super organized about her paying to have my prints made, marketing them and shipping them to buyers. Then she pays me a percentage of the sale (20%) as a royalty. I set up the licensing contract... she does all the work, and I get money each time she sells a print of mine.
Advertising campaigns: This option takes considerable investment over a long time, but some artists have used advertising to their advantage. I know several artists personally who made an impact on a national scale with collectors by investing in ad campaigns. Interestingly, some artists who advertise in non-art magazines are experiencing sales from their ads (although these magazines are related, subject wise, to the artwork).
In followup posts I'll go into more detail, but I just want to get some of these ideas and facts out on the table. Don't hesitate to comment if you're doing something "out of the box" to sell your work. We can all benefit!
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All images are copyright the artist and are used here by permission of those artists
Have you ever learned a new vocabulary word - at first thinking you've never heard that word before - and then after learning its meaning, you hear it all the time? I studied art for decades before I realized that some advanced artists did not paint gray areas... gray.
That's the way it has been with me and subtle color temperature changes. I never noticed these tiny sparks of color in paintings until I learned the term, "confluent color" from artist/teacher Jack Beal. Yes, I previously understood that good color harmony means that colors are repeated throughout the composition, but now I have a higher understanding of how bits of color are repeated in all areas of the painting, but in the correct values.
Above: Details of two paintings by Daniel Keys - both these paintings use Confluent Color... where the white areas contain variety of color from pink to yellow to green to blue, but all with the correct value so that they still read as "white". I'll discuss color temperature and how the color of your light source creates harmony in a future blog post.
For those who are newbies to art... value is another word for the amount of lightness or darkness you see on an object. It's easier to see correct values when you squint at your subject, but values gets more complicated when taking them into consideration at the same time ascolor because there are many variables involved. For example, the tube color, cadmium red has a darker value than the color cadmium yellow because red is naturally a darker color than yellow. Likewise, ultramarine blue has a darker value than either red or yellow.
To make this concept even more complicated, where light hits an object, it changes the value and color of that object. A red apple looks much lighter where the light source hits the surface. The shadow under the apple is going to have a darker value than the lighted side of the apple. So even within one red object, we can have several values. Each of those values on that same apple will also have color temperature variations. But as I said earlier, I'll get into that at a later date.
Got that so far? This is getting pretty boring right? I know as an artist that descriptions without pictures don't communicate to me very well. I must see examples of what the writer is saying. So here we go.
Above is a painting and detail of that painting done by Kyle Stuckey when he was 17 years old (2004). At the time, I was his instructor, so while critiquing this painting, I advised him to make his lights and shadows using "identifiable" colors instead of just shades of gray (for his next painting). Shown Below is a painting he completed a few months later. Notice how each value has an identifiable color - not just white, gray or black.
Below are recent paintings of Stuckey's. Even though clothing may actually be white, an artist can enhance the painting by pushing the color he or she sees to a higher saturation point... meaning more colorful. It's OK if hair contains subtle greens and purples. In fact, as long as the value is correct, artists can get away with exaggerating most any color they like.
Color is a complicated subject... one that has taken me years to understand and implement. Below are a couple of watercolor paintings where I used confluent color. Notice how the lighter/whiter areas contain a variety of exaggerated color. Furthermore, each object of the painting contains colors from other objects in the painting - but using the correct value (lightness or darkness) so I can get away with exaggerating them.
Please don't hesitate to ask me questions. I, by no means, am saying this is the only way to paint. There are many valid approaches to art - some artists are tonalists, others are colorists; some are realists, and others are impressionists or abstract artists, and that's perfectly OK. I am here to present ideas to you - which you may take or leave as you like.
--Lori---Comment on or Share this Article →
Why Selling Art May Never Be The Same
The Gatekeeper System was the only way an artist could get their work in front of the best collectors in past decades, but just as the recording and publishing industries have seen wild changes in the way consumers buy their goods, galleries and artists are experiencing vast changes in how they get their work seen and sold. The ease of downloading and buying on the internet, has not only made it easier for recording artists and self-publishers to make a living on their own, visual artists are increasingly able to promote and sell directly to their “peeps”. Collectors are contacting artists directly to see what's brand new off the easel – before it gets into the gallery.
Are There Fewer Collectors Buying?
Absolutely yes.... in some venues. I'll explain why in a few minutes. These are not just my opinions - what I'm about to say is based on research with gallery owners, collectors and artists. The good news is that the number of collectors for lower priced work (under $1000 is growing fast). This is the middle class who is discovering the joys of art collecting. They are "beginners" and even if they do have the means to buy more expensive work from galleries, they are not willing to pay over a certain amount of money. Most buy works unframed for under $500. These folks love to support local or regional artists while they build a collection.
They buy at art fairs, local framing galleries, shows and events near their home, and from artists' studio sales. Outgoing artists are painting at farmers' markets, outdoors in nearby resort communities and any place where they can meet people and develop a relationship with them. This grassroots art movement is increasing the number of collectors - people who have the means to buy art, but have never been to galleries. I've done portrait commissions for multi-millionaires that had photos of their family and framed posters on their walls. While their furniture was top of the line, they knew nothing about collecting original works of art. They were shocked by the prices of original work. If they were willing, I gently educated them about artists in the area that they might check out and often sold them some of my landscapes or still lifes.
I used to advise artists to go for the national market, because then you get the local market automatically, but that was many years ago, and everything about the way art is marketed and sold has changed. Right now, in this economy, if you're just starting out selling your work, you'll do better if you promote your art locally and regionally. The nationally acclaimed galleries who advertise in magazines only want artists who are a sure sell... which means they want artists who are already selling very well to a national market. It's a catch 22. Those who win national awards on a consistent basis and have reasonable prices stand the best chance of getting into one of these well-known galleries.
What About Galleries?
My latest research shows: There are, of course exceptions, but primarily... Artists who sell exclusively through high-end commercial galleries are hurting for sales while those who are selling on their own, or combining gallery sales for their larger works and self-sales for small unframed studies are able to continue to earn a living. Even the artists who are doing so, report a 50% drop in their income from before 2008.
Galleries may no longer be the best answer. Why is that? Because they are not attracting collectors as well as they did in the past, and what I'm about to say is huge.... collectors do not feel any incentive to buy unless the artist's work is in such high demand that they might miss out on it, unless the work is sold by draw, or is an annual event where the artists save their best works for the opening.... stuff that is new, spectacular and is probably going to be snatched up on opening night.
Supply And Demand:
Works that hangs in the gallery or shows on the gallery website... month after month, year after year, loses its appeal... why is that? Because there is ample supply - all the time, which downgrades the demand for that work. The law of supply and demand still holds true for selling goods at all levels. Art might sell differently than groceries do, but some of the same principles apply.
If you've ever read any of Seth Godin's books, he frequently talks about how Scarcity Creates Value. We artists would do ourselves a favor if we take that concept to heart. While producing artwork as though you're a painting factory worked during the economic boom, may have worked, prolific artists can put themselves in danger of saturating their markets, and this is the important part... especially if these prolific artists' prices quadrupled in a matter of a few years. There is no long term growth and scarcity to substantiate the higher prices.
I can't mention names, but there are more than a couple of prolific well-known artists whose income was 10 to 20% in 2010 of what it was before 2008. Fortunately, for them - sales are picking up in recent months. HOWEVER, I believe that no artist should assume that things will return to what they considered "normal" during the bubble. From now on, it is wise to prepare for downturns, create multiple streams of income, and not get too dependent on galleries to do all the promotion and sales.
In later blogs, I'll go into more detail about how artists can arm themselves with plans for when the going gets tough, and I don't think the tough times are over. Most artists who've worked with galleries exclusively are seeing them close, and those that remain open are often not producing enough sales to pay the artist's bills.
So Why Are Galleries Suffering?
Basically because they have lost a great deal of their collector base. Many folks who were avid collectors in the last decade are no longer buying artwork. For one, some have dozens, if not hundreds of works in their collections. When the housing market took a nose-dive, these same collectors sometime ended up with the mortgage on their second homes "underwater". Some decided to "cash in" on their art investment and put their recently acquired works back on the market. So what happened?
Just as the print market got saturated in the 1990s, when collectors bought up limited edition lithographs thinking they'd be worth a lot on the secondary market, they unfortunately later found out that their prints were not worth anything on the secondary market. Original works do hold more value than prints ever will, but right now, there is a plethora of living artists' works on the primary, as well as, secondary market, and if those artists have not had years of slow growth of prices that substantiate the worth of their works, the paintings are slow to sell - especially in a weak economy.
This phenomenon not only hurts their sales - because it causes artists to compete for sales with their past works, but it hurts sales for other artists who sell in the same price range. Collectors are being very careful. Yes, I know that they are supposed to buy art for the love of it, but gallery dealers are saying that most buyers are deeply concerned about their "investment" value. This worry is leading buyers to ask for 10 to 15% discounts in order to secure their investment. Essentially, they are treating artwork purchases like stocks.
While this trend may sicken many artists, it's what's happening. I hope things change soon. Art sales are improving, but mostly at museum shows, auctions and annual events. The most serious collectors seem to prefer to buy at these one-time shows for which the artists reserve their best works. They also buy from seeing works in magazine ads or online... especially if the work of a certain artist tends to get snatched up right away. So essentially.. sales beget sales. It all boils down to finding ways to increase the demand for your work. There are dozens, if not hundreds of ways to go about this - and savvy artists will take their individual marketing and painting personalities into consideration when making business plans for the coming year.
OK, I realize that I have not offered a lot of solutions here, but I promise that I'll pursue a series of blogs that address solutions, and will note what artists are actually doing to find buyers for their work.
Stay tuned....!!! and expect things to change.... Change is Here to Stay. The Smart and Hard workers will Do Well.Comment on or Share this Article →
As many of you are aware, I have been doing ongoing research by interviewing gallery owners, collectors and artists about how they're dealing with the poor economy and trying new stuff in order to keep sales going. Some of the answers I'm getting are quite surprising.
Perhaps one of the most surprising is that collectors are telling me that they think it's perfectly fine for artists to lower their prices by 10% to 20% during an economic downturn. I asked these collectors if that made them angry because they paid more for the art in the past, and know what? I got an overwhelming response of " NO, I buy art because I love it, not as an investment, and if the price is lower for a time, it means that I can buy more of it." In fact, some went on to explain that their art budget is restricted right now, and that lower prices gives them incentive to buy before prices go back up again.
Well, what do ya know? I've heard for years that artists can't lower their prices, but now we have it from the horse's mouths. Collectors are looking for a deal. It's a FACT, that almost everyone who buys at galleries right now asks for a discount on the stated price. Gallerists are giving discounts in order to make the sale, and they split the discount with the artist, so both the gallery and artist take a hit.
Sales are beginning to pick up, but they probably won't reach the hot rate they were before 2008. Many collectors who have 2nd homes in resort areas are "underwater" on their mortgages, and they are not buying as much art as they were before the housing bubble burst. In fact, there was an art buying bubble along with the other "bubbles". They all burst, and collectors are still buying but they're very careful and picky. For the most part, they've given up on buying for investment purposes (except for those artists at the very top whose work is increasing in value right now)... we're talking over $100,000 per painting with years of value behind those prices.
So, what's an artist to do? Well, if you lower your prices by 10% during a severe downturn, don't feel ashamed. Even if that lowers your price by a few hundred dollars, it does seem to be an incentive for buying right now. Sure, those collectors are able to pay full price, but in this economy, they don't want to, and they've learned that they don't have to!
I've got examples of artists who have lowered their prices and sales began to pick up. It's far better to make a little less than to just have your work sit there. Another trend I see -- collectors are comparing quality for price. If they find a newbie artist who paints beautifully at half the price of another artist's work, guess who gets the sale?
Nothing in art sales are like they were pre-2009, the bubble for art buying actually burst in the summer of 2010. Many artists are getting second jobs at box stores; some are going back to school for a non-art degree. The fact remains that there are not enough folks collecting original art right now to sustain the number of professional artists. What this means is that artists who want to make a living will need to try new measures to get sales going again. They may need to participate in multiple streams of income, they may need to lower prices, or better yet, create a series of lower priced unframed works that they sell directly from their website.
Some will offer reproductions - especially those who cannot offer low priced originals. There does seem to be a viable market for unframed works under $500. If you're a prolific painter, you can make some decent income using this method, but still remember, if everyone starts doing this, you're still competing with a huge crowd.
Many artists will decide to give up on full time art and go back to illustration or other jobs. What that means for those who do hang in there - a larger collector to artist ratio. Those artists who have sold in galleries for years are having the most difficult times with sales. I've seen some at outdoor shows having their best year ever, but galleries are closing monthly - and those that are open are worried and trying their best to gain the attention of collectors.
The Internet has changed the way everything is bought and sold, and we're in the middle of a revolution. No one really knows how it will all turn out, but we artists who are adventure prone and not adverse to risk will pull through. Even some galleries that are trying some new ideas out are the ones who are selling. I've interviewed a couple of gallery owners who are outselling those who are just waiting for the tide to turn.
This year, I have a few speaking engagements where I'll share the results of my research. First is a seminar at Scottsdale Artist School: January 19 and 20th. Second is the SmARTist telesummit, where I will speak along with many other art marketing professionals, and third, I will speak at the OPA national Show in Evergreen Colorado - June 22nd. In the meantime, I'll share what trends I see that are working through this blog. So stay tuned!
Please feel free to comment and ask questions on this blog. I'll answer when I get time!
LoriComment on or Share this Article →
View from Village Arts barn where the Putney Painters meet
While preparing for Putney Week in Scottdale at Legacy Gallery and Scottsdale Artist School, I am sharing a few photos of our sessions.
Richard and Nancy do not teach us... we all just get together to paint and on "still life" days, we each bring our own setup. Dennis Sheehan, and/or Dick MacNeil usually bring those dreaded donuts.
Typical scene on still life painting day in Putney VT.
Many of us will cut a small piece of a donut instead of taking the whole thing... then we sneak back and get the other piece of the same donut later.
Nancy Guzik and Daniel Keys are setting up an evening where the public can watch us paint at Scottsdale Artist School - probably Weds, January 18th. This won't be a demo, per se, we'll just set up to paint like we do when we get together. Richard will not be attending, but Nancy will... and about 10 other Putney Painters.
After hours at the pub.
I'm int he pink.. with a visor on my head. Some of us have visors on to cut out the glare of the overhead lighting.
Everyone is working in oil except me. I'm the rogue watercolorist of Putney. ;-)
Watch for details and major articles in art magazines (December and January issues) The gallery opening reception is on Thursday evening, January 19th.
contact Scottsdale artist school for more info: http://scottsdaleartschool.orgComment on or Share this Article →
Five years ago, I taught a weekend workshop in Putney VT on how to write articles for artist magazines. I had been writing for American Artist publications since '96, but didn't have time to write articles for my artist friends. So... I decided to teach them to fish rather than fish for them by sharing my experience so they could then write their own articles. It was well attended, and I was especially flattered that an art writer attended and said it was worth every penny. That was the icing on the cake for me, but the real joy came in that I made a difference in the lives of those who attended.
Writing Is About The Reader, Not The Author
The main precept that I learned early on with writing -- It's Not About Me. Good authors write with their listeners in mind, and while the process of writing always includes some of the author's experience, what emerges is a dance between the reader and writer. When the readers receive the text in such a way as to strike a cord, improve their lives, light up their brains, or call them to an action that will make a positive difference, that's when the true work has been done.
No more "living reactively"
In 2007, Clint Watson asked me if I could contribute regularly to his Fine Art Views' daily Newsletter. He spotted my blog and liked what I had to say. Since, several other authors have joined the cause, as well as, dozens of guest authors. I've written hundreds of blogs for FAVS, so many that I can't remember what I wrote 3 weeks ago, and in a couple of cases, I rewrote almost the idential content 2 or 3 weeks in what I thought was a new blog... it gets to the point where I don't know if I'm coming or going.
So, instead of feeling like I'm slowly going insane or senile, I've decided to slow my pace and remove some of the tasks on my over-loaded "plate". In fact, I've so many plates spinning that some have fallen off their poles and crashed. It's good that a couple of them fell off and I left them behind, but while I was running back and forth spinning ones "reactively" that should have been ignored, I let the important stuff - things that are important to me and ultimately will improve my "peeps" lives fall by the wayside.
Christine Kane calls this style of daily living... "living reactive", which means that instead of living our daily lives doing what matters most in a planned way, we spend our time answering everyone on the spot, running from task to task without working on life-changing work and ultimately accomplishing very little. The worst part is that we feel like we've put in a full day of work and accomplished none of our goals.
During the last few months, I've been working on changing the content of my workday in a big way. Last month, I decided to order Christine Kane's DVD and workbook kit (which is a recording of her seminar in 2010) in order to get myself on a viable track. You know.. there's something about spending a good chunk of money that makes one cut out the fat and get down to the meat of her daily schedule.
Investing in myself has made a huge and important difference in the way I go about my tasks every day, and it will eventually help me make a living at what I do - by focusing my more important tasks and stop putting out fires that aren't mine to begin with.
What's In It For You?
This will mean big changes for how and when I respond to you online. For the most part, I won't be available. In fact, I don't think any professional artist should be available for "whatever". It spells disaster for creating a body of work and making a living. Some of you may have noticed that I removed "contact the artist" from my websites menu. I hope you have not been offended because this step is preserving my sanity and will ultimately allow me to get out of the reactive mode and into the focused mode of working offline to develop high quality instructional materials and free tutorials for my email newsletter. In fact, I've been wanting to contribute to my email newsletter weekly for many months. I'm almost at 1000 subscribers - yet because writing instructional posts takes considerable time and research, I haven't written one since last spring.
If I get offline and work on projects that will make a quantitative difference for you in your art career and level of art education, a lot more people will be happier and better off than if I answer individual requests. My free information will be available on my blogs and email newsletter, but I can no longer coach for free... which leads me to my next point.
What's In It For Me?
By focusing on my big projects, my paintings, and my ebooks, I can make a living. I have to be honest here... I spent so much time online this year and giving away everything to everyone that asked that I barely made back my expenses. While it's nice to be popular, I intend to make a decent income in 2012. My ultimate goal is to support my husband, a software engineer, so he can retire early and become my business and operations manager. He's got enough of a left brain to handle the admin stuff while I deeply delve into what I do best - teach academic art concepts and paint a few masterpieces myself. I so look forward to this lifestyle, and it will never happen if I don't get off my butt and get some serious work done.
Quality All the Way:
My motto for the coming year is "Quality, not Quantity". As I approach my daily tasks, I intend to re-organize the way my brain evaluates my work. The housework will have to fall by the wayside (it does anyway), but instead of spending too much time on social media while not getting to the housework, I'll be spending time in my studio and on my non-internet connected PC writing up awesome art lessons, ebooks and step by step demonstrations. I've spent more than 20 years learning from the best artists/mentors in the world, and it's time that I compile and use that knowledge for myself and to communicate what I've learned to others.
I won't be writing blogs every day, and perhaps not even every week. I'm getting off the social media treadmill. I'm sure I'll hear it calling to me like ice-cream in the freezer, but I will have to ignore these things so that I can get my important lifework done and out there. Recently, I posted an image of one of my paintings on Facebook, and I got wonderful responses and feedback. That's not to say that I want you to be watching for my posts on Facebook. That would certainly be hypocritical of me, but what this did -- it helped me to make a solid decision to spend more time painting (which I've had very little time to do). And although I will probably never be a full time painter because I am also a writer, I will photograph each painting step by step and record my process in order to repurpose it for educational material.
Please Learn From My Mistakes:
I'm sharing this with you so that if you experience some of the same things I do that you can learn from my mistakes. Please don't waste your days away online. Make your time online count! Select a few of your favorite bloggers and arrange to get their blog in your email inbox so you can read it at the end of the day when your important work is done. It'll be waiting for you, I promise. You don't have to act like a watch-dog for 5 hours to catch the best that bloggers have to offer. That's the problem with social media streaming. It compels us to watch, and watch, and listen, and watch... until we feel like we're losing our minds. Worse yet, at least with me, I can't remember diddly of what I did read or watched by the end of day because I tried to take too much in.
I will follow 5 people online, their blogs and information. If I try to do more than that, I'll go crazy, and you will lose out on my best work. These five people are those I actually work with - they give me the type of life-changing content that makes a difference for me in the way I approach my tasks, artwork, and life in general. I can't be everybody's fan or friend. I must select who communicates best for my life and work. It sounds a bit selfish, but don't we all know that in the end, quality trumps quantity in practically every facet of our lives?
So now you're saying... what if I decide that you, @Loriwords, are not my ideal person to follow? That's perfectly fine with me. Please don't follow me out of guilt, or even empty loyalty. Follow me because you get something valuable from me. If the number of my followers drops - even drastically, but is made up of artists who absorb and use the content I put out there, than that's all I could ever ask for. My future is not about quantity but quality.
Thanks for your time. If you got to the end of this and got something from it to apply to your life, then I've done my job.
PS I didn't spend a great deal of time proof-reading this - it's better to get it out there and get on with my day then spend the next hour making sure there are no typos. Please forgive me for that.Comment on or Share this Article →