Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Business of Art? Not So Scary After All!

by Stephanie Allison
18 x 24 Oil
I've been spending a LOT of time lately on the Internet, reading all sorts of material on the art of marketing.  Some of it I sort of knew, but chose to ignore because it meant stepping out of my comfort zone and actually communicating with people! Not that I haven't talked to people about my art, I have...but I'm not good at it. At all.  My sales pitch most often goes something like: "Would you be interested in buying one of my paintings?  No?  Okay, thank you for your time." And then I would slink away feeling miserable. Or when someone asked "what do you do?" I would hesitate before saying "I'm an artist," as if I were ashamed.


Some of the changes I'm making are out of necessity (my recent retirement) and some are because I started thinking about the fact that I've been painting for years, selling more often than I realized, and, most importantly, I love it!  So why not focus on doing something I love and maybe actually make money at it? Like so many other artists, I thought art was something to do in my spare time; the real money came from having a real job. And maybe I can do this now because I am an empty nester (although my dogs and cats and husband might have a different opinion on that)--but one thing I'm learning is that you really can make a living from your art if you know how to do it--and you don't have to be famous! The key is finding out what you love to do, do it, and, most importantly, share it with others!


The Internet has made it so easy to connect with people and get your art out there.  It seemed scary, at first, and  overwhelming.  But I found a wonderful site, The Abundant Artist, that has been instrumental in helping me become more business savvy in terms of my art.  What did I learn? It's not that difficult!  Social media seems to be the key:  a website, a blog, and as many other social spots you can find: Facebook, Etsy, Pinterest.  So I've been ramping up my presence on those sites, and surprise! it's working.  No sales yet that I can link directly to my new efforts, but something even better:  I'm finding so many other artists out there who share my interests and some whose work is completely different, but fascinating to look at!  And by connecting with them, my own work is being seen more and I'm making like-minded friends.  That alone is worth the effort!

I'm still wading through a ton of information on art marketing, and I'll be glad to share in future posts.  Meanwhile, I'd love to know what the rest of you are doing to promote your art and whether or not it's working.  Feel free to comment  below!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Successful? Depends on Your Definition

2 x 3 in. watercolor
Stephanie Allison
When I "retired" a month ago (has it really been that long?), the plan was to devote myself to developing and promoting my art business, because yes, art is my business.  For a long time I waffled between treating art as a hobby, along with gardening, writing, reading--well, you get the drift, and making a real go at it. That means marketing, promoting, developing contacts--as well as painting. When I talked with other artists, and read articles on the subject of running an art business, I scoffed at the idea that I would be spending at least 50% of my time on the marketing aspect of art. IF I want to succeed.

So that got me wondering what my definition of success as an artist really is.  Do I want to be famous?  Have my art hanging in high end museums, like MOMA and the Smithsonian?  Or will I be content to get a commission here and there and sell a few paintings now and then?  Well...I've been giving it a LOT of thought, and, for me, success is creating beautiful portraits that make people happy.  And sometimes their happiness means I make them cry.

I learned that over the holidays.  I had several portrait commissions--some portraying people, most depicting beloved pets.  And although the money was nice, what really mattered to me was capturing not just a likeness on the canvas, but getting the spirit and personality right, too.  So when I handed those commissions over to the clients, I gauged my success by their reaction. A big smile, a hug--and frequently tears.  Not that I wanted them to cry--but the fact that my work evoked such emotion validated what I'd hoped to accomplish.  Translation:  success.

Having said all that, don't get me wrong: I like making money too.  Which is why I've spent the last several days, make that weeks, scouring the Internet, checking out other artists' websites, Facebook pages, and blogs to see what they're doing to promote themselves. And it's a LOT of work.  So many tiny details to think of:  linking to your other pages, linking to other artists' pages, getting your blogs and sites noticed by all the big search engines.  My eyes blur and my head aches.  But I'm slogging through it.  So over the next couple of weeks, if anyone is actually reading this and visiting my Facebook page, you might see some changes.  And I'll probably screw things up too, since I'm not the most tech savvy person when it comes to all this. But it's worth a shot, and if it helps me get more clients, that's great, because it means I'll also get to know you and your loved ones--two and four-legged, and that's what really matters.

Meanwhile, if you're interested in learning more about promoting yourself as an artist, or want to learn more about the various things you can do with Facebook, here are a couple of links I found helpful:

ArtBizCoach: Lots of helpful information on running a successful art business from Alyson B.Stanfield.  I visit this site quite often.

Pagemodo. This site will help you create a new cover photo for your Facebook fan page.  It has a "free" option, which was sufficient for me, but if you want to go crazy, you can sign up for a paid account.  You can also create new tabs, but I had trouble with that--I may have to go back and take another look at that option.

So here's to success--however you define it!


Saturday, February 2, 2013

This Ain't No Hobby!!!

"Bad Hair Day"
8 x 10 Oil on canvas
Whew! Being a full time artist is a LOT of work.  I have spent HOURS this past week tending to the business side of art--namely updating my website and, most recently, this blog.  I suppose if I were a computer geek it wouldn't have taken as long as it did, and I wouldn't be suffering with a headache, neckache and blurry eyes. Even with the use of templates, I found that I had to do a lot of searching online for "how to's" on adding things like my own banner, and getting it to look the way I want it to.  And I'm still not satisfied, but my eyes are about to bug out of my head, so this is it for now.

I have to wonder just how successful all this internet/social networking stuff is in terms of promoting art.  I'm sure there are plenty of artists out there who don't even have a website, and manage just fine. The weird thing is, despite the fact that it takes me forever to manage my website, blog, and Facebook page, I still enjoy it.  Just the little successes are satisfying:  like creating the banner you see at the top of this page.  Might seem pretty simple to some of you, but for the barely computer literate like me, it was a major feat.  Almost as satisfying as finishing a painting!

Here's a link to one site that offers some good advice on art marketing: Fine Art Tips with Lori McNee.

And speaking of marketing, there's a great animal support group called Labrador Life Line, and they are holding an online auction to raise funds. There are a lot of wonderful items available, not just for dogs, but humans as well--including a gift certificate for a pet portrait from yours truly. You can see the auction here: Labrador Life Line's Annual Heart Dog Auction.

So.... I don't have any new paintings to post--but let's consider the revamped blog and my new banner as the project-of-the-day. And the painting above, titled "Bad Hair Day" pretty much sums it up, only right now, my hair is in even worse shape!