Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ask Stape, about internet marketing

I am receiving lots of questions to use writing Ask Stape posts. I thought that I might write about one that I received here tonight. Below is the obligatory Ask Stape picture, which I have learned to make even smaller.

Dear Stape,

More and more artists are using the social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc)
to network and also market their art. Several artists have recently sent me invites to a Twitter live
"art reception" for an online exhibit. Are galleries going to become a thing of the past? I just sold a painting on e-bay for nine dollars and I am planning on quitting my job as a lecturer on hedgehog dentition. I understand that thousands of Americans are now making a living online with the painting a day phenomenon. What do you think of this trend?

signed Twitter-pated


I am glad you have provided me with the opportunity to upset a few hundred more artists before bedtime. Here's what I think.

I don't believe that the gallery trade is going away any time soon. Things are changing in the art world, and art sales online are growing. I think Internet marketing is a good thing to add to your efforts to sell art. It may some day be enough, but I don't think it is yet. The Internet participates in many of my sales because buyers can research me before deciding to invest in my art. But most people still want to stand before a dealer and see the painting in the "flesh", they also still want the expertise of a dealer helping them select their art.

Imagine if you and I were having coffee one morning, the phone rang, and it was the local nuclear power plant asking "Say, as long as you're up, do you wanna grab a couple of those cobalt rods for us? So you and I run into Reactors Are Us, and we are leaning over the freezer case and scratching our heads, should we get the ten footers? or the twelves with the cesium filters?

That's what its like buying a painting for most people. They need a dealer to help them. The price of art is too high for people to guess. Just like you would buy a two dollar watch on the street, but not a two thousand dollar watch, when the numbers get high people want to buy from a vendor they perceive as expert and reliable.

There's the problem with buying art on the Internet. Up to a couple of hundred dollars people will buy art online, above that it gets scary. Some still will, but generally they are buying from a well established artist whose work they know, and they feel reassured that if they don't like it they can return it or resell it, because of its proven value. That is particularly true when the artist is dead and has a auction record that reflects consistent prices higher than that asked online.

In order to make a living as an artist you will need to sell art that costs more than a couple of hundred dollars here is a post I wrote about that. It assumes a dealer in the sale but the basic idea remains the same. you may sell some low priced paintings online, but I think that selling enough to make a living is a long shot. There are a few people doing it, but very few. The problem with playing at the bottom of the market is that some one is always racing you to sell even more cheaply. They can always underprice you and as the prices circle ever lower, it gets to be all about the price rather than the quality. There are people who are so delighted to sell a painting that they will sell their art at a price that barely returns them the cost of their materials, much less pays for their time. How do you make a living competing with that? If you want to put a little work into your art for qualities sake, you get underpriced . I don't mean to say you need to be fabulously expensive, but the bottom of the market is not a very nice place to play. It is cutthroat, Darwinian and vicious, and the last thing to bring there is carefully crafted art of quality. You will always be dealing with people who constantly demand lower and still lower prices, and then treat you with the contempt deserved by the creators and purveyors of shoddy goods everywhere.

I have some more ground to cover so I will return to this tomorrow night, as the lemurs are cooing softly for their suppers.


Gregory Becker said...

Sounds like we have but one choice and that is to be great.

Philip Koch said...

Stape- excellent post!

Now go feed those pesky lemurs.

Unknown said...

Whew! Glad I am not obligated to rush to the painting a day thing.
Another question along these lines is: should you put prices on your website? The FASO folks say,"yes", but somehow, it seems tacky to me.

Great post. Let the hate mail begin.....

Lemurs.. did you know there are 50 varieties of them? Random trivia.

billspaintingmn said...

Stape, When I post a painting, it's
not because I'm looking to sell it.
I'm hoping for a comment, good or
bad, someones opinion.
My true intent is to paint a better peice of art. Hone in on my
As Gregory put it,"to be great!"
So finding you is has been a blessing, a piece of the puzzle I
can fit to make the bigger picture.

Stapleton Kearns said...


If I might suggest a phrase "personal best"

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will address that tonight I guess.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks, I hope I have a piece of the puzzle you can use.

Deborah Paris said...

Another excellent post! I think the Painting a day thing peaked about a year ago. There are a few who have made some money at it, but I think in many cases at the expense of a career with more longevity. Selling direct, via the internet or however, works best on the very low end or the very high end (for established artists with solid collector base). But for the rest of us, making a living, means going where the collectors are- which means (at least for me) galleries, museum shows and other invitational events. Unfortunately artists are all too happy to believe galleries are going the way of the dinosaur. They spend hours and hours trying to find the magic bullet through social media. But, without galleries and other specialized venues, we are unlikely to find collectors who can afford and appreciate our work. And you can't making a living selling paintings for a few hundred dollars.

Sandra Galda said...

I understand the PAD projects to be only a small part of studio work---they are those images that are done as a warm up to larger works of more formal nature. I do not see them as an end in themselves. Since the small practice paintings often turn out quite good once you get rolling, it makes sense to see if the market will bear selling them in a fun casual method such as on a blog. I certainly agree with your attitudes about them in many levels. I have found the daily exercise to be benificial to my development as an ol painter. I often give them to a patron when I deliver their larger commission as a "thank-you card." said...

My late two cents:
This is all a little bit the blind men describing the elephant. There is not one analysis of the art market that sums it all up.The art market looks different from where you are geographically located, where you are in your career, what you are painting and where you want to go with your art.

From my stand point,Boston, galleries are really struggling and I hear more about gallery closing/retirings than I do of any new gallery opening. Galleries still have a cache of giving an artist art creds but they are not supporting artists. Established, collected, and museum represented artists are also struggling. The figure I hear for 2009 is "down by two thirds". Many of the artists above are now all competing for art school positions. My experience has also been that gallery owners do NOT support their own gallery on just sales of represented artists. Ask your gallery what percentage of the gallery INCOME is from sales of represented artists.This will tell you everything you need to know about the gallery and whether they will do well by you,given you are a good fit.

The more galleries carry and hold on to established artists only,(to guarantee sales) the more collectors will hunt down their own emerging artists through art schools and open studios. \

Also, I think Stapleton is also right again here; PAD customers when they are looking for the painting of a whatever, more times than not they will buy the least expensive.If they miss out on that one painting, no big deal there is another batch coming along the next day from many other artists doing the same thing.

Painting A Day, from my perspective, was bad for art in that art became a commodity to many young art buyers who might have been cultivated as future art collectors Yes it's a valuable learning exercise and discipline but selling it en-mass? What's so special about a painting anyway? (Rhetorical question here).

What I have decided for myself: I would rather have as a goal, selling ten paintings at $3500 that will be appreciated and considered art rather than paint 365 $100 paintings which may or may not ever see it to a wall or be given away. I know where my energies are better exerted. I rather have a BIG failure than a little success. But that's just me.

Love2paint said...

The previous comment is right on, I have done eBay for 7 years and it has not made me an affluent artist. I have done many small paintings, tried PAD, tired of that quickly. I kept returning to a small format once in awhile, but my hands want to go large, so I began to paint on larger canvases. Then a museum director told me to keep at it, that's when I felt I was onto something. Hey, the large paintings still haven't flown out the studio and a gallery hasn't come knocking on my door, but I feel I am being myself when I follow my intuitions, not follow the latest FAD, (PAD), get it, heh-heh. eBay is good for me to make small change, take-out money once a week and maybe leads to my website where larger paintings are. So far, it helped me to sell several bigger pieces. This year has been a struggle for everyone, so I sell collectibles on eBay other than my art. Every little thing helps. Speaking of eBay, I need to go now so I can list a mid-size seascape. last year I sold 3 right before Xmas, i better knock on wood and cross my fingers for this year.