This last week I received an email from a visitor at Beautiful Artist Websites. We get many emails asking questions about marketing and selling art online and offline, but this particular message got my attention. Let me quote:
Hello. I am from a little town in Wyoming and I am wanting to ask a pretty simple question, Well my wife is a painter/sculptor. She is the best I have seen in my eyes but not only mine, my family, her family all our friends – and she has won art shows throughout Wyoming. She moved to California and tried the art program there but she had no luck. I am contacting all art areas to ask how I can get her work out there to be seen/ sold/ and admired by a massive verity. I know she has a chance at success but she has not taken the steps. If there is a chance you can e-mail me back to let me know I would be so thankful.
A couple of things struck me about this message. Firstly the love that this man has for his wife and her talent – this kind of moral support from friends and family is just priceless as one navigates the often challenging path to commercial success as a professional artist. In most cases it is a marathon run and your warm circle of friends cheer-leading you on may be the one thing that pushes you over the finish line.
The second thing that got my attention was how well this email describes the real challenges of how to get started. There is SO much advice around in many great books, blogs, forums, etc, but if you’re really starting out with art marketing what do you do first?
When I answered this email I pointed the gentleman to a number of articles on our site, in particular a collection of our best art marketing articles from 2009 which covers some important bases. But several days later his email was really bothering me because I didn’t feel I had addressed the core question.
Here’s what I honestly think – there is enough information online today for anyone to research any art marketing question that they could possibly think of between now and the year 5,000. A lack of information isn’t the challenge. What is typically lacking is an understanding of the overall process or a system to implement it. But there is something way more fundamental that this:
To sell art you need a market to sell to. To some extent there is an existing art market that can be tapped by emerging artists – but probably the bigger piece is the art market that you create yourself. And how do you do that?
A few years back while driving from New York to Los Angeles I listened to a truly fabulous audio book called “The Ultimate Anti Career Guide” by Rick Jarow. I won’t digress into its message here except to say that this book is a great inspiration with some very practical tools to help you find your life’s work. The reason I bring it up is because Rick mentioned something very powerful which hit me like a bolt of lightning. Here is what he said:
Another name for a Community is a Market
Sounds simple right? But think about the power of this statement. What Rick was referring to was that when you build a community around being yourself and doing the work that inspires you, that community can become the market that finances and fuels your ongoing career growth – a true symbiotic relationship in its most positive sense.
So, in practical sense what does this mean for you, the artist seeking artistic and commercial success? It means to take the regular steps to nurture and build a community around the art that you create. One way I really encourage artists to get started with this is to have monthly open studios. One of my favorite articles on this subject is a 3-part series that I wrote myself called “How to Stage A Successful Artist Open Studio“. Encourage friends to come along – even if they’re not excited about art. Ask them to bring friends and send out postcards and written invitations regularly to galleries and other arts professionals.
What you’re doing is watering the little plant which is your art community and f you do this consistently every month it will grow into a big tree and eventually it may become a mighty oak. This is your art community AND your art market. When you have this foundation in place, all the other marketing steps and tools, and systems fall into place because you’re applying them to your known and trusted market.
I’m big on building strong foundations for success because to reach your objective may take every ounce of inspiration and energy you can muster for a long time. If you build those foundations strongly you’ll make life much easier for yourself in the future – and have a more meaningful and fun time of it. Your art community is a BIG foundation!