How to Market Art: 7 Artists Weigh in on What’s Worked for Them

How to Market Art - Mumora

When it comes to marketing art there are a lot of things you could do. But you want to be spending as much time as possible creating your art. And only really want to focus on the 1-2 top things to see results.

So what I did this past week was reach out to a few dozen artists and ask them what the one marketing tactic they’ve used that has led to best results. Of the responses I’ve got back, seven of them sang particularly true.

You may ask: What was the common thread?

  • Embracing how the internet opens up new avenues for how to market art and get you exposure.
  • Finding the right audience for your work is key. (I’ll be writing an article on how to do this in the next few weeks, so be sure to check back.)

So, let’s get to it. What are some of the top things artists do to market their art?

7 artists’ take on what’s worked best for them

1. Spreading the word using postcards and building credibility through writing.

One important hurdle to jump early on is establishing yourself as an authentic, credible artist.

[#1 for me has been] giving away postcards with my art printed on them. Also my book ‘A Strategic Painter: Mastermind Your Craft’ helped a lot as far as credibility. -Roopa Dudley, www.roopadudleypaintingsblog.blogspot.com

One way you do this is getting really good at telling your story. Another is getting your work out there in person and online. Blogging is another good way (remember we’re always looking for new submissions to be published on Mumora, so submit an article!)

In 2014, books have become a sort of business card. It’s easier than ever to self publish, and having published work in your area of expertise can really help establish you as an expert in your craft. As always, the more specific your niche the better.

2. Taking advantage of social media that fits your medium — specifically, Pinterest or Instagram.

Most of the traffic to my site comes from my efforts on Pinterest. [I post] visuals that are engaging and encouraging a “click through to learn more” back to blog and PicMonkey and Canva to make my pins. I’d say the best results come from giving solid information that addresses common human concerns or curiosities. -Mary Reilly Mathews, Author of The Creativity & Camaraderie Club Handbook, www.danupress.com/

Long story short: Use social media that has a visual focus. And don’t forget to link back to your blog, website, or somewhere else you have done something online for people that want more.

After all, you have their attention! Don’t lose it.

3. Discovering your true audience. They might not be who you first think they are. Pay attention to who is interested in your work and adapt your strategy accordingly.

I installed a mini version of this piece at our holiday sale, and on the first night a handful of Artist for Humanity kids (that building is just down the street) stopped in and showed a lot of interest in the piece. The adults who had come in previously didn’t seem to be as interested in the subject matter. The kids asked all sorts of interesting and appropriate questions and were very excited about where the piece could go…

Remember that finding your ideal market is also a creative journey on which it’s really important to listen to those who are interested in your art. It’s your job as the artist to find ways to show your art in the appropriate situation and light to those who express interest in it.

…After some thought about this interaction in the following weeks, I decided that this was a great audience for this piece and that I should start talking to the public schools about possibly installing the piece and to see what other collaborations they thought could come of it…

…A few weeks ago I met with the principal of the Timilty School in Roxbury and we agreed that this would be an exiting and great creative project to possibly combine with some of the kids other creative outlets (dance, music) for a presentation night when the kids and the parents might be in attendance. -Alys Myers, www.alysmyers.com

4. Leveraging your local (art) community.

My #1 recommendation is to be a force in your local art community both virtually and physically. Attend other artists openings. Make your presence known (briefly) at other folk’s openings, both to the artist and to the gallerist. Promote others by sharing and positively commenting on their work and posts on social media. Comment on blogs. Get out there and support others! This will rebound to your benefit for people love to help folks who have helped them. -Patricia Finley, www.patriciajfinley.com

People love to support things that are being done locally, and often times it’s easier (and more effective) for you to try to catch some traction in local media before branching out. Also keep in mind that sometimes the best way to showcase your art is to display it alongside unlike items.

As opposed to trying to sell only in galleries (where your art is exclusively displayed alongside many other types of art), try to show it at a store where non-art items are the primary thing being sold. This way your work catches the eye of potential buyers easier.

5. Sending a consistent, focused message to buyers.

Have only 1 or 2 [specific] bodies of work. If you are creating via various media and/or various styles then you are NOT ready to market. Marketing and selling is about trust. You must be consistent in your marketing. -Carol McIntyre, www.carolamcintyre.com

This is something I discussed in detail with Romeo Shagba during our interview. Find a specific style and sticking to it is the key to making yourself memorable. No one remembers the generalists.

6. Get featured in as many places as possible online so you start showing up in Google search results.

[Have an online presence.] It gives you credibility, helps build a community, and starting selling paintings directly from a website. One collector Googled “chen artist”, found my site and bought a painting last month. -Lucy Chen, www.lucychenfineart.com

What do you do when you’re trying to find out more about something (anything)? That’s right.. you Google it. It can’t be understated how important it is to get results for you showing up when potential buyers search for things like “[your name] artist” or “buy [your name] art”. Try searching for common terms like this and see what comes up. If nothing does, you have some work to do! Start by submitting your work to blogs.

The simple way you do this is by getting featured in as places as possible online. Start writing or blogging or submitting your art to online galleries.

7. Focusing first on being as helpful as possible potential buyers (and only second on selling).

Approaching your marketing from a service not a sales standpoint will break down one’s own resistance to feel like a used car salesman, gives the artists more confidence that they have something of value to offer the public and will be received much more favorably than just another attempt to sell something.

Daggi hits on the same point Gary Vaynerchuk does in one of my favorite business books, The Thank You Economy. Provide value first, giving people what they’re interested in for free, and gain people’s trust. You don’t get people attention by hard selling them.

So, for instance in your newsletters add some tidbits of info that has nothing to do with selling your work but would be of interest and value to the reader. Same goes for social media. Don’t just post about your own work and accomplishments but share your personal self as well as post things you come across that others may enjoy or learn from.

It’s all about engagement and interaction. People like buying from artists they know and like personally.
This also works when approaching galleries: how does representing your work benefit them? Think about this beforehand and you will be ready with the answer. -Daggi Wallace, www.daggistudio.com

8. Make it personal — face-to-face contact is priceless

Okay, I said there would only be 7. But there’s an eighth!

Go “old school” by sending out a printed paper, hand addressed invitations to your events. You will stand out, because who does that anymore?

Then Paula shares an example of exactly how she did it:

This past February I invited a women’s Nordic skiing group, who were staying in our town to an open studio. It was very successful and I attribute that to the printed invitations that were included in each skiers welcome package. My sales were great for just a few hours of work and I was able to make that face to face connection with those visitors I might not have gotten the opportunity to meet otherwise. (And now, they are on my email list!) -Paula Christen, www.paulachristen.com

Other advice

“There is no silver bullet of marketing that is going to give magical results, but the #1 thing that will lead you to success is consistently being open and genuinely helpful in all your communication with people.” -Lidija Nagulov

Be true to your work. Don’t try to sell art. Art is not cars or clothes,etc. People want the Truth. Truth alleviates anxiety. People will give anything to get away from anxiety. My work is about many things but it is always a truth even in my imagination. You can’t fake art. People know it when it is real. -Charlie Spear

“Work with people you like. Get to know people and make sure you like working with them, and figure out who you do and don’t like working with and why. I think this applies to just about any line of creative work.” -Brad Blackman

“The best thing I have ever done is submit work to an online collection. Since, my work has been included in a major exhibition at the Grassie Museum in Germany. Recently I was contacted my a New York fashion magazine for an interview and upcoming feature. Also as a result of the Virtual Shoe Museum.” -Kim Bruce

(Remember to read Mumora’s mission and consider submitting your artwork. We launch 1 artist per month and are always looking to work with like minds.)

Kim also blogged about it here, which you should read for more of the nitty gritty.

Learning how to approach galleries, they must see you as a viable business option.” -Catherine Ingleby​

Get a website up that shows great images of your artwork and an easy way to purchase it. There are SO many other ways to market your artwork but, whichever ones you decide to use, they should all lead back to your website.

I’ve almost never been approached by anyone, including galleries, that didn’t check out [my work online] first. It’s the easiest way to show your work, and if you’re trying to sell it, you have to make the process as easy as possible!” -Julie Berthelot

“Know the WHY of your artwork. Why and what are you trying to visually communicate. This will evolve throughout your career. Keep a separate journal and write about your WHY. Also keep written examples of other artists.” -Carol McIntyre

“Time is your most precious resource. Establish boundaries around your time, and enforce them.” -Sarah Atlee

 

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