Artists of all levels have similar questions. These are answers I wrote for an interview in author Barney Davey’s Blog.
How is it different for artists these days from a decade ago?
The quantum change has been the impact of technology. It’s a double-edged sword. On the plus side, you can reach more people without leaving your studio. On the other hand, there is more competition and more complexity. Artists need to be able to navigate cyberspace as easily as the bricks and mortar world.
Technology has changed the way people find art. Now there are thousands of web sites to browse and comparison-shop without leaving home.
Technology has changed the way artists, art professionals and galleries promote. A web presence and involvement in social media are no longer optional.
Technology has changed the way artists offer art. It’s now easy to create digital versions of originals on various substrates, in various sizes, on demand without resorting to upfront expense for production or dealing with storage.
Technology has changed the way we communicate. We live in a nano second world where speed can supplant quality.
I remind artists that technology is a tool to spread the word, not a replacement for communication person-to-person.
What things have not changed, i.e., need for an artist’s statement, a résumé, and so forth?
The more things change, the more they remain the same. The human element is still the core of making, appreciating and marketing fine art. Even art mediated by technology starts with an idea in the artist’s mind.
Artists still need a solid body of signature work as the core of their business. They are still in charge of their brand and the audience is still in charge of sales. Exposure is still fundamental to success so the work is seen by the right audience. Consistent marketing is still the key to a sustainable art business. Relationships and trust are still the bedrock of sales.
Are artists having success using social media?
First, you have to define success. If you measure success by numbers, connect with anyone and everyone. The great promise of social media is relationship building. If you want to build relationships, you have to be more selective. Decide what you have to offer and what you want to know. Limit yourself to people who want the same things. It’s Pareto’s Law: 80% of the possibilities come from direct contact with about 20% of the people. Success for me and artists I work with has come from actually having extended conversations with people online and talking by telephone or meeting them in person. I know – it’s shocking.
How can artists maintain balance between creative, business and personal activities?
There are three categories here. Artists often think only about two at a time, which turns life into a teeter-totter. I define balance as a dynamic equilibrium of all the things that matter in your life. It’s dynamic because life is always in flux. There is no such thing as finding the perfect still point if you want to fully live your life. You know things are in balance when your stress level goes down and you get the results you want, most of the time, in all areas that are important to you.
There are no hard and fast guidelines for creating this delicate balance. Like balancing a mobile sculpture, it is a matter of experimenting with different configurations until you find the one that works. Many of the artists I work with have health issues, are caregivers for elders or children or have jobs other than making art.
For some artists, it works better to have certain days for production that are “sacred” – no matter what. If this fits with the rest of your life, that’s great! But not every life is so orderly – and on principle, many artists resist a schedule that is too rigid. In the end, it doesn’t matter what method you use to get it all done. Just make sure that balancing is one of your goals.
Has the internet forever changed the artist-gallery dynamic?
Galleries were never the whole art market but artists can now easily represent themselves if they are willing to do all the work. Online galleries come in various flavors and artists need to do their due diligence to make sure that they know who they are dealing with. There are many reputable galleries with an online presence, but there are always a few that artists need to look out for. My money is still on the gallerists who limit the number of artists they show and have direct contact with each artist.
What is the future for visual artists? Will the digital age overtake traditional forms of marketing art? Have new marketing paradigms changed how artists get their work to market?
Art has survived since the cave days and I don’t think demand for it will disappear in my lifetime. Creativity is hardwired into all of us. We live in a visual and graphic world, so there is always a future for image-makers.
- The drive to create is timeless.
- The need to see and interact is human nature.
- There are more ways than ever to create and communicate.
The challenge remains making the best work and the best choices of marketing. New channels and speed have changed how artists market and how fast we need to respond, but the buying process is still in the same.
What is the most common misperception artists have about a formal mentoring or coaching program, and how do you overcome them?
The most common misperception is that there is a quick fix for every art business. Books, programs and recordings are a great source of information – but you have to apply them for things to change. It takes personal reflection and/or discussion to turn that information into knowledge. Knowledge without application goes nowhere. You have to apply knowledge to see what works for you and what doesn’t. That experience – along with successes and failures becomes wisdom you can take to the bank.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” Winston Churchill.
Find the spark that makes you and your work something only you can do. Make lots and lots of art. Make lots of connections. Build a handful of great relationships and nurture them. Art marketing is not as mysterious as it seems – it is simply a series of conversations designed to build abridge between you, your art, and your audience.