As my artist's statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance. -- Calvin and Hobbes

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Go commercial or keep it to yourself?

At some point in an artist's life, she has to decide if she is creating for her own private collection, or if she actually wants to earn a living at it. It is at this point where you have to make up your mind whether or not you will alter your own creative urges in order to satisfy a larger demographic.

I'm not saying you should sell out or abandon what it is that you do best (in your own opinion, anyway), I'm merely suggesting that with a little research, you may find unobjectionable alterations which will allow you to thrive as a quasi-ubiquitous artist. Then, with a little luck, perhaps that will finance your underground operations!

The other night, at a meeting at the Atlanta Artist's Center, Elsie, a 44-year veteran member discussed the arduous process of getting a book published. It was fascinating to see her driven spirit at 82! She told stories about pieces that didn't make it into the book and provided insight on how she chose what was relevant to the subject matter, even though it meant eliminating some of her favorites!

One of these was a beautiful landscape, set at water's edge in a wooded area of North Georgia. She encountered a future patron who said this was the exact place that her late husband used to hunt, and it carried sentimental value for her. She said she would purchase the painting when it was done if only there were a dog in the composition. Elsie painted a dog and sold the painting! Smart lady.

I'm not saying..., I'm just saying...!

By all means, do what you do best, but it's not 'selling out' to be willing to modify on occasion to suit your target audience.

Perhaps you may find a little niche that is not well represented and make something unforgettable that will fill a current demand trend (to finance your other work, naturally). Make a point to frequent home decor boutiques, design and furniture stores, restaurants and bars, even, to perform your research. You never know, this new observational practice could become the very process by which you find your greatest inspirations!

Marketing is important, and many of us fall short in this area. We know how to create, but we aren't always sure how to go about selling our work. If you're interested in learning about how to hone in on the right target audience and market your work, I recommend a couple of approaches.

First, get your name out there by networking on the web. A quick and easy way to get started is to create a blog and post your portfolio there, until you get your own site. Next, join online artist communities. It's a great way to showcase your work and be seen by others. This serves to familiarize yourself with what's going on in the art world, and it's a great networking tool for meeting other artists and getting critiqued. Finally, use your social networking sites, like Facebook, MySpace, etc, to your benefit. Find art galleries on one of these sites, for example, and add them to your friends list. Look at their friends, too. When they become your friend, they are more likely to see your work and want to show it! You'll be invited to their openings, too, so go and meet them in person!! Plus, others viewing their profiles may in turn see yours. You can post your latest show, or simply your latest painting on a bulletin board and begin the succession of followers.

Some helpful reading/workbook material may include the 2008 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market, by Erica O'Connell. It's a great resource for the entree into the art world. It highlights successful practices from actual working artists, and it teaches you what magazines, galleries, ad agencies, etc are looking for and how to approach them. In addition, this book lists thousands of contacts nationwide for submitting your work! Also important is finding a way to stand out among many very fine candidates, and there are many ideas that you will employ to find favor in your prospective audience.

Now, more than ever, learning to disseminate information is key. The greater your audience, the more likely you will be to find success in selling your work!

Good luck in your pursuits this fall! Let's check in again, soon.



  1. I'm of the school of blackmale - offer to sent a qute little puppy to the woodchippier if you don't get an offer on your latest piece.

    It has not actually worked out as planed - but on the pulse side there is some quite time to paint here in the cell

  2. Oops, did I call you Theresa before? Delete that and this sentence if so!

    BTW, your post is very relative to what I have been posting about (resulting in my putting mustaches on several artists in particular.) I like the way you put things. It makes me want to apply your principles and laugh all the way to the bank!



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