I subscribe to newsletter written by the Canadian artist Robert Genn, called The Painter’s Keys. He talks about topics ranging from technique to inspiration, and the nature of making and selling art. Though I am not a painter, I find many of the topics…well, topical.
Today’s topic was called Art in Bad Times. He talks about how art sells or doesn’t sell when the economy is bad.
One addendum really stuck out for me:
Artists can become stuck in depressed areas and
develop bleak attitudes. Artists need to look beyond the local
scene. As art need not be regional, much of it can be offered
worldwide. Make an effort to introduce work elsewhere. The idea
is to outgrow the stigma of being simply a local artist.
Artists who have the chops need to think “Dubai,” not “Duluth.”
Giving a progressive dealer free reign in a distant location
can give an artist the idea there’s no depression going on at
all. Create well, distribute well, live well.
I’m one of those artists that can’t be described as your “typical” New Hampshire artist. Nor even as a typical New England artist. Heck, I have a hard time marketing on the entire East Coast!
I have one huge advantage–I actually knew that from the very beginning.
Oh, I have an audience here, and they are an enthusiastic and devoted bunch. They’ve saved my life!
My heart thrills when a customer walks into my booth at the League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Fair and exclaims, “Here you are, I’ve been looking all over for you!” I love it when someone calls and says, “I’m a huge fan of your work and I’ve decided this is the year I buy a piece!” I’m so pleased when a guy calls and says, “My wife saw your jewelry at a show last week and says it’s all she wants for Christmas. Can I come over and get something??”
But my work, with its prehistoric artifacts, strong colors and layers of distressed, frayed fabrics, is still a hard sell in an area where the main decorating style is Early American and the main craft style is either Traditional or Contemporary.
I started looking for ways to get my work “outta New Hampshah” right from the get-go.
Even so, most of my venues tended to specialize in either traditional or contemporary craft. They attracted galleries and buyers that specialize in those styles.
I did reasonably well, well enough to get my business off the ground. But not enough to continue its growth.
I know it’s time to take the next step. Time to work even smarter.
It’s time to find galleries with strong western, southwestern, northwestern, tribal and world art themes.
I need collectors for whom, as a friend once said, “southwestern” is not a decorating style, but a lifestyle.
What can you learn from this?
Maybe it’s time for you to to get outta town, too.
If your work is as wonderful as you can make it, and it’s good, solid work–but still not selling locally… If it’s too different than what’s around you–if it’s “too strong” or “it doesn’t fit in”….
Then take Robert Genn’s advice. Start looking to grow your markets elsewhere.
How do you go about this without actually moving to another part of the country? (Unless that’s an option…)
ASK people who travel where they’ve seen work like yours, especially other artists and craftspeople. Ask for gallery names and shows. (Be sure to actually visit a show if at all possible, though–your travel costs are going to increase, you have to make sure it is indeed a good show for you!)
SURF the internet looking for galleries that sell compatible work.
LOOK AT home and lifestyle magazines, especially ones that cover different regional styles, to find ones that feature artwork similar to yours. (This can be a good place to look for stores and galleries, too.)
KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN to different opportunities. I look for calls-for-entries for exhibitions with jurors pulled from art galleries in my target regions. (After all, gallery owners often volunteer to jury shows so that they can see the new work that’s out there.) I’m compiling a list of potential galleries and museum stores. I’m collecting titles of regional home and lifestyle magazines that are compatible with my work. (Last year I got off a plan in Utah for a brief layover and found not one, not two, but six western-style home magazines!)
LET PEOPLE KNOW you’re looking. Let them know what you’re looking for. Spread the word. You never know where a good lead will come from.
It’s a big world out there. In fact, one of my long-term goal is international.
I mean, it’s a really big world out there. It’s big enough for your work, your unique style, your personal vision.
Somewhere out there are people who will love, love love your work. It may not be easy to find them.
But you can do it.