Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Marketing and selling art

We have made it to Pirlangimpi on Melville Island and are settling into work. Its monsoon season still so we are spending each afternoon inside doing the paperwork. It rains here. Real hard, real heavy.

In chatting thru how we might manage the 'art' sides of our lives during these trips away, we reflected how focused on production our blogs had been as we prepared for the exhibition; and figured that the next little while they may end up being a bit more observatory in nature; a bit more reflective - not all about doing.

So having gone thru the exhibition process I wanted to stop and think about, and ask questions about, how do we sell our art? How do we market ourselves and our art?

We try to be thoughtful in our approach to why we have or do things:

  • Our websites are showcases of our work; a place where people can stop by and see a full range of what we do and get a sense of our style;
  • Our blogs are for sharing information, processes, progress and for connecting with others and having conversations about arty things that matter.
We think we might try an online selling presence for certain types of work - but haven't yet had a spare moment to really engage with the research or the conversations with others who do.  Why do people choose to sell on line? What do they choose to sell online and thru which forum?  We need to nut out what we hope to achieve by doing it and hopefully find the approach that suits us best. Will be back at some point with questions and ideas!

For the exhibition we shared costs with the gallery for a half-page advertisement in a glossy kind of magazine that circulates across the Sunshine Coast - the catchment area for the gallery.  This is always hard because you never know where you'll end up - and we had a lifestyle image on the opposite page which was quite OK and a sand and gravel business above us!

We also felt there might be benefit from an advertorial in a local monthly newspaper - it was out for a month and a number of people who didn't know we were artists commented on seeing it. I don't know if this translated into visits or sales tho.

The gallery also sent out an e-invitation to their mailing list which we forwarded to a couple more mailing lists we are members of. We tried to keep the imagery similar or the same for a sense of continuity or recognition if people came across them all in the different places.

We also decided to do a Mail Chimp newsletter advice from our selves - they look professional and once you set up the mailing list it's not too tricky (but I bet I forget how to do it by next time!).

What I realised right at the end was that we didn't have any hard-copy things to leave with folk or in shops or to handover when we ran into people in different settings and I think for me, this was something that we missed, and also that the Gallery didn't supply.

We developed a catalogue (A4 pages with names, prices, thumbnail, dimensions, materials) in case people wanted to take it home and measure up a space; we put all the exhibition pieces on our websites with similar info and a link to the Gallery; and linked between our blogs and websites and the Gallery as best we could.

Sometimes doing the art is only the beginning...

Do people have other thoughts about how to promote their work or exhibitions?  Or what we could think about for next time?  I'm weary just writing about it!


  1. My thoughts at the moment--- painting sales are non existent, so I'm asking myself 'why am I creating stuff?' and the deep down answer is 'because I like doing it'. Sales, recognition, promotion etc is a bit of a corporate con and a validation of the roles of 'beauracratic creative planners' - as per our recent conversation. What a shame our culture equates success with money xoxoxo

  2. Fiona, it sounds as if you did it all, except for the hard copy angle! It may just be my love of and loyalty to the tangible object to convey information in this high tech age, but I do believe people are more likely to remember you and the event or work you're promoting if they have a physical brochure or card to take home, post on their bulletin board, use as a bookmark, whatever. Emails and magazines tend to be read and then forgotten, out of sight, out of mind. I'm on the fence about online sales - they seem to work for some folks, and others just get lost in the crowd. Will people really buy art from an image on the screen or must they see it in person? Or can the online shop just be a supplementary tool, a specific place to direct interested buyers who are already familiar with your work? Good luck nutting this all out! All the best to you.

  3. I have read this post with great interest. I am right smack in the middle of exploring how to promote my work! I have a lot of questions...not many answers...but lots of pondering!! It is definitely more work than just creating the art...although that is what I love most and wish I could just do that. Promoting...sharing....I love when people view my work...and some wonderful feeling gets evoked in them. That is truly the "pay off" for me!

  4. I'm with you Noela. The joy is in the 'doing'... sales are a bonus if, and when, they occur. It is unfortunate that most people want to put a monetary value on something so esoteric. Admittedly, if you exhibit, you want to attract as many viewers as possible, so marketing is necessary.

  5. ahhhh the eternal question..... I'm in a very different place with my arts practice right now.... but have moved through a few of the things you bring up (I've owned a big studio/gallery in the past... had a few group and solo exhibitions etc etc.... I don't have anything set up to sell online - I'm not all that familiar with online selling.... and I'm even less confident that my work is a candidate...)

    one thing I will add however regarding my recent solo exhibition - I didn't pay for any advertising anywhere - I did however write a press release and hand-delivered this to the local papers and radio - and was very well supported by both (with no money changing hands.... bonus)

  6. Thanks all for the thoughts...it's a tricky thing!

    N - Yes I create because I want to; but the validation is also nice! I'm glad we have a day job as it would be so hard for this to be the income earner.

    G/TT - I agree and can't really believe we left it out! Probably says a lot about the mushy state my mind was in. I would really really want to do one next time. I'll have to leave the online thing for another time me thinks!

    Gail - thanks for commenting; its an ongoing discussion for me this one. I agree its just wonderful when people respond - I love that. But you still have to get them there don't you and that's where I'm pondering a bit now.

    Jo - I think there's an ongoing tension between creating and selling that I never fully get to grips with...and the marketing part is very much about getting people there and enjoying it.

    Thanks Ronnie - I also think this issue waxes and wanes at different points in our lives/careers. Its essential for those trying to make a living and far less important for those with other income. Finding your own way, at whatever point you are at, is probably the answer.

  7. Yes, marketing is part of the process-- too bad because I know most of us would rather stay in the studio creating away- but we have to figure out the other half too-- what to do with it all!


I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.