Friday, October 15, 2010

Above is a new 9 by 12 painting that I am putting into the wet-paint show at the Addison Gallery in Orleans, Massachusetts. It opens tomorrow at 5:30 if you want to come. There will be work by many of the guys on this trip in the show.

I read this great blog post by my friend Lori Woodward and tonight I am going to post that. This is something I have thought about a lot and been reluctant to say as boldly.

Magnificent Artwork is easy to market

I just read a post by an art marketing coach. She mentions all the right things that an artist needs to know and do to effectively market their art. I have just one problem with this approach.

The best artists - and I am friends with some of the very best living ones - don't need bother with 75% of the things on the list. Why not? Because their work is so amazingly good that as soon as a gallerist sets eyes on it, he or she wants to call that artist and get them first into their gallery.

If your work looks amateur, all the self-marketing, coaching, and portfolio submissions will result in wasted time and effort on your part. First, make incredible art that people know is going to sell without a doubt, and then market it. If you are doing all the right things in your art marketing efforts, but have no sales, compare the quality of your work to the work that is selling. Be honest - is your work as good as theirs? Where does it stand on the professional scale of 1-10 - meaning that 10 puts you into the living master range.

I see some artists struggling to sell their work and spending a great deal of money, time and frustration on coaching and marketing - when it's clear to me and everyone else that their work isn't going to sell no matter what they do because it's not good enough to sell. The sad part is that no one is willing to say to those artists that their work is not selling because it's highly amateur. Collectors know great art when they see it. It's our responsibility as artists to know what makes art great, and to get ours to that level.

Artists need to first make art because it is a passion - one where you intend to stand out in the crowd. More and more people are joining the art collecting craze, and so more artists are able to sell their art than ever before, but at the same time, the competition for sales has become intense. There's a lot of good work out there to choose from. One doesn't have to be a master artist to make a living at work, but still - you gotta make something that people fall in love with... and that usually means stunning, exceptional, in some way.

Making your art cheaper will not necessarily make more sales, but neither will raising prices when the artist's reputation or quality of work is weak. Collectors are well educated, you can't trick them into buying your work by putting a high price on it.

It might amaze you to know that even though I have worked with galleries for the last 20 years, it's become much harder for me to get into shows and galleries than ever before. Even though I am personal friends with many gallery owners, they're not asking me to join the gallery... and my work has been featured in magazines many times. One of the reasons why galleries are not taking on new artists is because they've had trouble marketing the artists they already have. In order for them to take on my work, they have to be absolutely sure they can sell it.

So, I'm taking an alternate route - selling from my website for very reasonable prices, entering competitions and seeking invitations to major art events and shows. I'm getting really good feedback about my work, but at the same time, I am bent on raising the level of the quality of my work as much as I can over the next couple of years... because I know that if it is spectacular, I won't have to do much marketing at all.

Remember, the number one way to get into a gallery is when the gallery's artists or a collector recommends you. The truth is that gallerists rarely have time to look at portfolios and many of them never do.


judith said...

Thanks for posting this !

JonInFrance said...

We see thousands of images.
Even for an artist we like (and could instantly identify if we saw a picture by them), we have favourite images. And from the artists view point - even the greats have moments of grace - special works.
We can appraise an image pretty quickly - it's all there in front of us, the eye is fast.

But when I ask myself, "How many paintings by artist x (hey, let's say Soralla) can I bring up in my mind?", it can be surprising how few (if any!)

A great image (on a personal level) is, I feel, one that stays forever in your mind.

Anonymous said...

excellent post, thanks for this and i agree that when my art work is ready, i will get sales... meanwhile i use a tentative for sale and even that i often forget;) said...

When I go into my studios my new mantra( a la stapleton kearn's) is : "What do I want to paint? A great painting !". So I paint it to the best of my abilities and I don't settle for the deadly "good enough".

I had a very good September and that raises the bar. Now Lori raises the bar yet again, because I will now have to paint magnificent paintings, not just great ones.

I spent the summer trying to get a handle on a new subject matter. Those paintings may never see the light of day. They are OK but not what I saw in my mind's eye. Not magnificent, yet.

Jo-Ann Sanborn said...

My friend calls it the "so what" factor. Simply put, if someone could look at your painting and say "so what," then keep working. Nice painting, Stape and thanks for sharing this hard-hitting post.

Lucy said...

To take this idea one step further, if an artist is lucky enough to be represented and sell with one or more dealers, (or on their own), that artist MUST be able to edit and identify what should and should not be shown to anyone. It is difficult to hit the jackpot every time. If something makes you feel uneasy, hide it when collectors or dealers come to the studio!

by the way, the 9 x 12 is a winner

billspaintingmn said...

This is a tuff one Stape!
I have family & friends that encourage me to sell my paintings.
Yet I do not feel worthy, or good enough to do so.
I have sold "stuff", however most gets culled, and will never be seen.
I enjoy seeing art from artists like yourself, those that post on blogs.
I know that I'm seeing what the artist themselves are posting. It feels personal to me, and I can leave a comment if I choose.
But as in the SNL skit," I'm not worthy" comes to mind.
That's where Stapleton Kerns enters
the scene.
You give great advice, to help artist make a better painting. And you do!
I'd have to be a giraffe to wear
all the neck tatoos I try to live by..
You seem to always be current and a hub of the art scene. You're conected to the art world like a pierced golden bit of jewelry. So "we" trust you and your advice.
I would like to be more involved with the art world, but when I see how the "civil art war is" I rather be out painting for my own enjoyment.
Besides, My ego is my enemy,(sort of.)

CANDY said...

Great piece of writing from Lori! Love her blog. I paint (and paint and paint...) for my own pleasure mostly (I most appreciatively have that luxury as I don't have to sell my paintings for a living). I am no where near the "spectacular" or "amazingly good" level. Yet and still, it's what I am striving for.
I really REALLY want to keep learning and making progress in my painting. Maybe someday, I will do an amazing painting like,when I'm 75 or something...:)

billspaintingmn said...

Stape! Your posted painting has a freshness of the morning. I can sense the crisp air, and a hint of my breath as I enjoy the view.
The water laps the beach as things seem put away for the season.
This piece reads well at a glance, or as a whole, and I'm called into it further by the color temps. and brush strokes. It tells me a story. I love stories, especially when they are painted stories.
I love art that stires the imaginaton, I become a kid again.
Reading your posts this past year, I've learned. You've brought my awareness to things needed to make a better painting. Thank You again.

Stapleton Kearns said...

A thank you to Lori for allowing me to reprint it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I can bring a lot of pictures to mind, thousands I would guess, at least 20 Sorollas.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The bar has ,evidently, been raised again.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I like that, the so-what factor.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks. I think it is best to keep dealers out of my studio.

Stapleton Kearns said...

bill: Gee thanks. I am going to get too full of myself.

Stapleton Kearns said...

She not only writes well but she knows the terrain and says the hard stuff rather than just blabbing platitudes.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thank you. I was happy with how that one came out.

Woodward Simons said...

Thanks for all your comments.

Just want to clarify a few things:
Lucy, you had a very good point that we artists need to learn to evaluate our work. Each of us needs to get an understanding on where our work stands on the professional scale.

On the other hand, one does not need to be painting at the master level in order to make a good living at art. Many of us will never reach that level - but just the same, if our work resonates with collectors, it will sell.

Pay close attention to what you do sell and try to determine what qualities it had. Perhaps subject matter, color, composition etc.

Bill.... If I let myself, I can get too critical of my work and never get it out there to sell. Take your emotions out of your evaluation and self-critique based on composition, color harmony, drawing, value, edges, etc.

I wrote this post because some think that the key to selling artwork is clever manipulation and professional portfolios. Clint Watson (who owned a gallery) said that if the artwork was consistently good, he could care less about the presentation of a portfolio.

Know the difference between amateur and professional work - and make your work professional. That is the real key to success.

Kyle V Thomas said...

Well said! This echoes what you e-mailed me the other week. I couldn't agree more. I'd be curious to know if there are any "master" artists that have chosen to sell directly to the collector and not show in galleries?

Woodward Simons said...

Yes Kyle, Clyde Aspevig now sells directly. You're probably not aware but when Richard Schmid got tired of having galleries tell him how and what to paint, he hired Kristen Theis as his only dealer. He pays her 33.3% commission. She pays for all the ads and set up shows with her own money.

Pi Casso said...

Wow! Wow! And Wow! It’s truly an honor. Thank you so much! I’m new to this and working hard to get out there. The Artist's Son Pierrot With