Whether you are the type of person who likes to make New Year’s resolutions or not, one can hardly resist thinking about what the upcoming year might bring in the way of personal success. Before I rattle off a "to do" list of goals for artists, I’d like to encourage those who are reading this to concentrate on developing a personal definition of Success.
For the artist who is also a business person, there are numerous ways to realize a good income from creative output. There is no "one plan fits all" because we each have a personal idea of what success means. Some professional artists are happy with a specific monetary number for income, while others want to gain access to a high visibility gallery (you know the ones that advertise in major collectors’ magazines). Then there is recognition via national competitions; at the other end of the spectrum is selling prints to frame shops and painting local scenes for local galleries. The outdoor show circuit can provide ample income and direct communication with collectors. There is no shame in any sales venue for the aspiring artist who’d like to make an income with his or her creative abilities.
However, it is sometimes a valuable exercise to ponder ideas concerning a specific and desirable path to YOUR goals. At the beginning of each year, I re-evaluate my feelings about what success means to me personally. This year (and it changes from year to year for me)... success means becoming an excellent painter of representational art. Incidently, I paint with Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. I’ve watched Jeremy Lipking, Casey Baugh and Albert Handell demonstrate... and so my idea of what excellence is – keeps rising to what seems like a nearly impossible level for me to attain. But I have made good money over the past 2 decades selling art that is "pretty good", long before I knew Richard. One does not need to be the best artist in the world to make a living selling their work.
I don’t need to pay the bills with my artwork at this point, but would like to in the future so that my husband may retire a bit earlier. If I were currently in a scary financial situation, I would not have the luxury of spending time further developing my skill set this year. I’d probably be taking on portrait commissions. (And there is nothing wrong with that either). It sure beats working for someone else.
I’m writing this particular blog to encourage you to consider pursuing the goals that will make you happy in the long run. There’s no sense in pursuing goals which do not fit in with your personality or lifestyle. Realistically consider the amount of time you can allocate to reaching your goals as well as your monetary needs.. Although this is not generally a windfall, get rich quick type of business, making a living at it is certainly do-able - especially if your work is desired by folks who buy art. At this very moment, there are artists who are realizing ample income from the outdoor show circuit, selling on Ebay, or selling in the gallery setting.
There are many paths to success; however, one person cannot pursue many of them effectively. So know who you are, what you’re capable of, and what you really want - then write it down and chart your own course to artistic contentment.Comment on or Share this Article →
by Lori Woodward Simons
A handful of my artist friends get nervous and feel panicked about the prospect of conversing with would-be collectors at an outdoor show or gallery opening. At outdoor shows, artists sometimes resort to reading books - therefore avoiding eye contact with those who venture into their booths, and these same artists will avoid "talking to strangers" at openings by engaging in a deep conversation with folks they already know.
As a follow up to Clint Watson’s recent commentary on why artists should hard sell, I recognized the seized the opportunity to write about a topic that’s been in the queue for a while... "how to talk to folks who obviously love your artwork".
Now, I believe it will be helpful to those who have fear of speaking to strangers about their work to realize that when folks show up at an art show, hardly any of them were dragged to it kicking and screaming. Attendees are there for a handful of reasons, but one of them is that they love and sometimes buy art. A number of times, my husband and I have arrived at an opening, saying... "we’re not buying anything tonight". Well, guess what we did before leaving? We love artwork, and it doesn’t take much for us to fall in love at first sight with a painting. We’re not super wealthy and buy only one painting or so a year, so when we stand - staring in front of a painting for more than a minute discussing it quietly between us, we’ve gotten to the point of being quite serious about buying it.
Another encouraging note: collectors remember the event of buying a painting as a special experience... often they can tell you every detail of the day and event. We artists can feel confident that when we are selling our work that the buyers are having the times of their lives.
I did a lot of outdoor art shows in New England before moving my work into the gallery setting. It was in this venue that I learned to "sell" my work. Clint is absolutely right, someone’s often got to ask for the sale. All the art marketing gurus’ books agree: art must be sold. It will not simply fly off the walls if no one is there to actively sell it. The good part is that folks want to be asked for the sale - when they’ve come to the point of wanting to own it. So what does an artist say or not say to prospective collectors?
Smile:offer a smile to everyone who passes by your booth or looks like they want to talk to you at an opening. Be interested in their favorite subject – "THEM". Be like a golden retriever... it doesn’t hurt if they like the artist as much as the work. If I see someone contemplating one of my artworks, that’s my signal to engage that person or couple in conversation. I avoid using words that have a negative connotation by leaving out phrases such as, "I tried, attempted, goofed, worked, struggled".. Well, you get the idea. You won’t want to give any indication that you think your work is inferior in any way. After all, they’re probably staring at it in amazement, and the last thing you want to do is insult their taste by implying that you think it’s substandard. If you must, pretend that the painting was done by an artist whom you truly admire.
Clint suggests asking the question: "What do you like about the painting?" And I agree with him that the artist should not go down a rabbit hole - going on and on about the process. You don’t want to bore your would-be collectors. Find out how the painting relates to their experience.
I don’t have room in this blog to get into the fine details about what to ask, but before you go to your next opening or show, write down some non-offensive things to say about your work.
Think of open ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no) that you can ask those who seem interested in your work.
Then finally, when the collector stands, and looks and gets a bit silent, they are often expecting you to ask for the sale at that point. They want to be sold... so offer them the chance to buy:
Would you like to add this piece to your collection?
I take Mastercard and Visa, you can take it home with you today.
I can see that you love this painting - is there any way that I can make it easy to get it into your home today?
(If you’re at a gallery opening, take the person over to the a member of the staff to complete the transaction, and then be sure to chat with them briefly after they buy).
You can think of your own closing statements. A friend of mine often removed the painting from the wall or display and then let the interested folks view it away from the other works. If. after all this talk (and the prospect has not looked like they were trying to escape) - and they say well... no, ask them what is keeping them from owning the artwork and if you can be of any help. If they still say no... and don’t offer me a reason, I let them go at that point. But before they leave, I ask them to sign my guest book with contact info and ask permission to send them my email newsletter. Most of the time, you’ll hear - not sure because.... then you have an opportunity to help them solve that problem.
OK... very long blog today. Do whatever you can do to speak confidently about your work, and remember... if they stand and stare, they are probably in love with it.
Lori Woodward SimonsComment on or Share this Article →