Allow me to rant a little tonight. I have a feeling I am going to upset you tonight. But I think this is important. There is a delicate balance to keep between your art and commerce. I don't mean that you should be starving in a garret, or that making money from your art is ignoble. I make my living painting. What I mean to say is that the product has to come before the profit.
I bring this up because I think I am seeing a trend now of putting marketing into too exalted a position. The web crawls with books on how to market your art and advice columns and how-to seminars on marketing your art. And yes, I market my art. I also think you should show and sell your art if you can. But it is really about the art and it's quality, more than it is about sales!
There is so much dreck out there being sold and hustled and so many auctions and schemes for selling weak paintings that things have somehow become out of balance. Do you know what kind of paintings sell best? GOOD PAINTINGS. When I look around me at the painters who are successful financially, virtually without exception they are skilled painters and it is easy to see why their art sells. They have reputation too, not reputation for selling, reputation for the quality of their work.
I am deluged with ads for shows full of work that is amateurish, I get e-mails from artists promoting paintings that are of student quality. I think some of these folks should lay back and work at improving their art more than selling it. You would fault a merchant who sells shoddy goods, yet advertises them everywhere. Most of these artists probably could survive without the meager income they derive from their sales and let their work rise in the market on it's own quality. I do believe it can be done.
Art has no reason to exist other than that it be excellent. If you are imitating another artists style, get your own! I open the art magazines and see page after page of amateur rip-offs of Scott Christensen and Richard Schmid. That's not good enough, everyone who sees those ads knows they are seeing a Richard Schmid ripoff. People are not easily fooled.
Make your own art, make it good and then market it. If you are an amateur, show and sell when you can, but don't get the marketing out ahead of your abilities, try to move the two along at something like the same pace. Try to OWN your own little area first before trying to go national. If you aren't making a lot of money on your art, I will bet you the problem is your quality more than your marketing, it almost always is.
Don't buy magazine ads that cost more than you are ROUTINELY paid for a painting! They will only show the world what you have left unlearned. Don't compare yourself to Sargent or claim to have invented a new school of painting. It is tiring, and the pro's will tell snide jokes at your expense. You need the respect of your peers, this will lose it for you. Nothing has a bigger effect on your career than having other artists speaking well of your art. Work towards that.
Again I am not saying that you shouldn't show and you shouldn't do some marketing, I think you should, but try to keep your marketing efforts commensurate with the quality of your art. If you work hard and develop your skills you will benefit by a hearty marketing campaign.
I guess I will have to post some baby animals tomorrow after that. Class dismissed!