I love being an artist. I’ve always considered it a privilege. In recent years, however, it has also become a luxury. In fact it has become a vanity. It used to be that vanity galleries, founded by the super rich as tax shelters, were all the rage. Now, the gatekeepers are making money off the artists, rather than the buyers.
The more gatekeepers the more money it takes to be seen. More and more, to be visible and relevant an artist needs to invest lots of money. There are countless businesses that have sprung up to take money from artist wannabes. Some of these are legit, but most are promising to do what most new artists can’t be bothered to do: find buyers.
The work of an artist is not limited to making art. It never has been. Very few artists can work exclusively as an artist. Most artists fall into one of three categories: 1) they work long hours at a day job to support their art habit, 2) they are starving in an alley with the rest of the artists waiting to be discovered and refusing to work, or 3) They are independently wealthy (vanity artists).
Unfortunately, in my experience, the vanity artists enjoy a distinct advantage in today’s art world. Artists really have to have a lot of money to waste, looking for what works for them.
Today you need a Gallery, ads, competitions, a PR agent, an SEO expert, a good email service and a state of the art website. Another alternative is to pay to be part of more than a dozen sites like Amazon, Etsy, Vango, DeviantArt, 500px, Zazzle, Artcloud, FineARTAmerica and a guzzilion other websites promising to put your art directly in front of all the right prospects. I have heard great things from artists who know how to work these websites; some do very well. But I’m pretty sure for most people, these are just another money pit. I have written extensively about the democratization of art.
I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into my own website and email to communicate with potential buyers. My socials prowess is getting better, but I have a long way to go before I can give advice about today’s evolving market. I hear many people sell directly from their Instagram account.
Art is the reason we bother to decorate. Interior design without real art is like a garden without flowers.
For years I’ve pretended to operate as a mass marketer, always feeling a step behind the latest technology. But what I really am is a personal service expert. I can’t market my work like a typical small business person; I must involve people in my mission. I can’t sell art like a product from Walmart; I must engage people in my vision. By people I mean anyone, potential buyers, agents and galleries. I have to be willing to reach these people in person and develop a rapport, a trusting relationship. Ultimately, I can throw all the money in the world at the problem of selling art, but nothing will ever replace the human connection.