The Art of You


The Art of You

the art of, art marketing, making more sales, art marketing, beechhouse media,
The Art of You


Each week I write a brand new article for members of our three wonderful art groups on Facebook, The artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, and The Artist Hangout. Last week we took a deep dive into creating video to raise awareness of your art, the week before we looked at some other reasons why your art might not be getting onto the walls of buyers and this week we look at a few more reasons why that might be the case. It seems that one of the reasons might be just a little bit closer to home!  

Busy, busy, busy…

If you made a start on creating video after last week’s article you might not have had much time to create new artworks. Don’t worry, this sales season still has plenty of life in it, but speaking with many of my friends in the same business, sales haven’t been at their best for the past few months for many working artists when compared to this time last year. In short, in some areas of the art market, sales seem to have taken a let’s hope only, temporary dip.

That’s not so much the case in the gallery and auction market, the auction rooms are still managing to pull in eye watering prices for artwork costing tens of thousands of dollars, but for most of us working in spaces like print on demand even these recent sales dips can be brutal.

So all the more reason to start getting the eyes back on our art and with the Easter break coming up, lots of people will be spending the time giving their homes a makeover. This is the time of year that you should be doing much more in the way of marketing because the old adage of build it and they will come just doesn’t apply online and I’m sure it always applies to art. Paint it, they still don’t come.

A few weeks ago we took a look at ensuring that your older works don’t get forgotten and whenever you are busy doing the business of art. Your older work can become the fall back so that you always have something to market when you are tied up with preparing for the new sales season ahead or whenever times are slower. This isn’t some complex magical formula for business success, this is business 101 under the chapter entitled riding out the storm. It’s a reason in itself to make sure you have a big portfolio, but also the reason why you should never abandon marketing for the older works either.

Pick any one or a combination of the following scenarios and it’s probably fair to say that if you aren’t selling art right now, at least one or maybe even a few of them will sound familiar.

  •           The sudden sales landscape is glum and no one is buying
  •          You put hours and hours into posting art on social media and rarely if ever see a return
  •          You put hours into creating a piece of art but hardly anyone is interested
  •          Everyone else seems to be making sales therefore I am missing out
  •          You work really hard and never see the reward that you want

And maybe there is a chance that you have stopped believing in your ability, your art, or even in yourself. That can happen whenever there is a dry spell in the market and sometimes even when there isn’t.

The problem of “you…”

Let’s take that last point first because that’s the easiest one to deal with. If you have stopped believing in yourself then no one else is going to buy into you or your work either. You have to move past this one and start to believe in both you and your ability. As for not believing in your art, you obviously believed in it when you started out so something has changed. Sounds easy to say move on, but we all know that moving on can be really hard.

You see, the biggest problem that most artists have, even those who have gone on to be represented by the very best galleries, is often themselves. You believe that everything about you and your work is wrong but that’s not the case at all. Self-belief is really powerful and unless you start to believe in yourself and your art again, then it is going to be a struggle. How do I know this? Well, not from reading any books but from actually being in that exact place more times than I care to remember.

You stop yourself doing things that instinctively and deep down you know that you need to be doing. I should be sending every article I write to the New York Times but I don’t because I don’t have the time. That’s the excuse I always give myself but if I step back for a moment and critically look a little deeper into that response, the reality is that I probably don’t feel like I am ready for what might happen if I did and the New York Times published it, or I am fearful of the rejection if they didn’t.

I am not ready to move to a level of greatness that every writer who gets an article published seems to have foisted upon them, not that, that would likely ever be the case here but that’s the belief because that’s what I have managed to convince myself is the case. I know I hold “me” back when it comes to writing, because I once did the exact same thing with my art before I even contemplated writing a weekly blog.

We stop ourselves from doing great things. Sometimes because we are comfortable with where we are, other times because we really don’t know if we could pull something off. As humans we don’t like to be disappointed and we often have this crippling fear of rejection. We don’t like to step out of our comfort zone, but equally we become frustrated when we can’t quite get to where we need to be. It’s a self-perpetuating spiral that takes a downward momentum.

So that’s the, “you” out of the way but it is going to need some self-focus and objectivity to deal with. Now we can move on and tackle the other stuff and that’s where things get slightly harder.

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I am not a mess...

Recognise change…

  •          The sudden sales landscape is glum and no one is buying

What you might really mean by this is that no one is buying your work right now and that’s the exact same thought I have had many times before too. I know that many artist friends are finding that sales are slower right now. It is definitely much more difficult to find buyers in the market that most working independent artist’s work at the moment.

It is the time of year when historically sales are often a little slower but even during these times, people do still buy. It is just that there might be fewer people in a buying mood which could be for a million reasons other than you or your art. People’s inaction's should be telling you the story of why they are not buying just as much as their actions tell you why and what they are buying.

In the past month I have sold more work than I have done in the past three to four months, even taking Christmas into account. But this has been a struggle that has taken me out of my comfort zone and has meant that I have had to change the plan and I have had to change it many times.

I made some changes that included simple things that I had been putting off because I hadn’t got the time like updating my print on demand stores so I started to make a real effort to focus some more attention on my other sales channels away from print on demand.
On print on demand, changing the meta data tags on older artwork to something more relevant and up to date than the relevant tags I gave my artwork back in 2014 has helped people to find what they are looking for once again. Changing the layout on print on demand so that newer art is displayed first and updating the store category cover images has given my Zazzle store a new lease of life. Fine Art America introduced new website templates on the Pixels stores, but you do need to spend a little time configuring them.

But so has working out that not everyone is in a higher price buying mood right now. The economy isn’t that great and people especially over here in the UK are holding back because of that Brexit thing. I know this because some of my regular buyers have told me that’s their reason for not buying all sorts of things.

I often speak about finding your people whenever I write an article like this but we often fail to realise either who our people are, or that sometimes our people might even change. They might change their taste in art, their economic situation might have changed, or it might be that the people who were once your people have just moved on to something different.

Realising that your people can and do change is an art in itself, realising that markets are transient is also an art. Let’s as an example say that my people who purchased my art six years ago were mostly female, aged between 34-40 years, those people will have long moved into another age demographic and maybe one that I haven’t tried to reach. The way they purchase art might have changed too, maybe they even gave up on Facebook. Chances are that those people are still there, it’s just that they are not where you are and certainly not where you are targeting your marketing.

So you have to make sure that in any plan you create that you are still reaching your people whenever they transit into new demographic groups. But there are other reasons that will prevent those people from buying your art too and some of those reasons are squarely out of your control. The good news is that some of the reasons are more salvageable than others!

People’s financial circumstances can change just as much as the people do. Sometimes people downsize their homes and have no space for large works, other times they move somewhere bigger and need bigger artworks which usually isn’t a major headache with print on demand but if you only produce 8 x 8s and don’t do prints it becomes more of a problem.

Sometimes people simply find themselves in the position where they can’t afford your work because of financial reasons. Here’s where you need to start having a plan or making some difficult choices. Do you start offering smaller works that are more affordable, do you start creating larger works which might price others out of your market, or do you simply let those clients go? That last question is the most difficult one to answer but sometimes you have to let go so that you can move on.

If you already have a range of price points then you could continue to make sales, if you don’t have multiple entry points then it becomes a choice as to whether you make your work available as smaller works on cheaper materials, or make it available on more affordable products which is relatively easy to do on print on demand, or you need to go smaller. You have to find the compromise.

Will it cheapen your image/brand if you suddenly make your work available on a fridge magnet or will the benefits make up the short fall if you can sell in volume? The issue here is that many artists think that offering alternative products is detrimental to their existing body of work or their image or their brand and that is sometimes true.

But it really depends on what you are selling and who your people are in the first place. If you sell via a gallery then they might not be too impressed with your latest range of bumper stickers, but if you sell in the markets where most working artists sell, it is less of an issue and easier to separate out different strands of your work when you work online.

It also depends on how you sell the idea of something more affordable, you don’t have to skimp on things like presentation and customer service and let’s not forget that today’s bumper sticker buyers might turn out to be tomorrows collectors. You could offer open editions or smaller signed editions at a lower cost point too. This really will be the question that your own market needs to answer, is this what the majority of your current buyers want? You really do have to think about where your people are and you have to listen out for what it is they are asking for.

Now the “you” and the “finding your people” elements in all of this are clearer we can turn to that second problem.

The social media paradox…

·         You put hours and hours into posting art on social media and rarely if ever see a return
The answer to this one rests completely in going where your people are. If they’re not on social media then you could be flogging a dead horse quite literally. Having said that, social media is a big place and more than 2-billion people have accounts on Facebook so there is every chance that you are just not hitting the right places on social media or you really aren’t putting the effort into what you are posting so that people find you and connect.

We have looked at building up trust many times so today I won’t labour that point any more, except to say that people rarely hand over cash to strangers and feel comfortable in doing it. You have to make sure that building up trust in you and your brand is a key factor of any social media strategy. The issue is that as humans we tend to be impatient because we have become desensitised online and now we expect immediacy from everything. Art isn’t a quick game, there are no instant results and whenever there appear to be, those results were never instant, they took some work that you didn’t see.

Online, offline, the building of trust and relationships need arguably more effort to be put in when online. Just turning up out of the blue without any introduction would be frowned upon if you were to gate-crash a party in the offline world, yet so many do this online. I say the same thing week after week, engagement really is the only metric that matters in social media but if you take a step back, engagement underpins so much else we do in life too.

Having set up three large Facebook groups and continuing to run them with a team of admins over the past few years, a lot can be learned. As an admin we get to see every post, we know exactly who blocks the admins so that they don’t receive any noise from us, (and we do reserve the right to remove anyone from the groups who does this), but we also get to see the interactions between people, or in some cases the lack of interactions.

A new member joins another group along with the previous thousand groups that they have joined, and then proceeds to spray and pray social posts in the hope that someone will buy their work. As admins we want people to be engaged in the community because we know that when people join in with the community their engagement levels increase, trust and rapport is built, and artwork then gets sold. One of the things I am considering for all three groups is to review those new requests from members who have joined thousands of groups previously because there is no way that anyone who is a member of that many groups can engage or participate even just a little bit and it makes the rest of the group and the committed members of those groups less and less relevant.

It is also about making sure that people are joining the right groups. Eight thousand artists in the same group will probably not be your core buying people. Many of them will be there expecting sales too, and we know from our experience of running these groups that there are relatively few non-artists who buy work regularly within the membership. Artists of course do buy the work of other artists, I have walls filled with the work of independent artists, but they’re probably never going to be the primary market unless you have something to offer that every artist wants.

So think about the “who” your people really are and then take a look around and figure out where they might hang out. Some of my clients for some of my retro 8-bit artwork don’t hang out in artist groups and communities, they hang out in retro video game groups. When you find them, take the time to build relationships. No one ever said selling art was easy, and no one ever said that building relationships was easy either. Both take time, but that time will pay dividends in the longer term if you put the effort in.

A question of time…

Now we can move onto the next issue. You put hours into creating a piece of art but hardly anyone is interested.

Here’s a crazy thought but one that has been scampering around in my head like a mouse in workman’s boots. The art I sell more of is generally the art that takes me the least amount of time to create. I know, that is completely crazy but the sales figures tell me exactly what people are buying and I know that my best selling work ever took me a total of about twenty-minutes to create.

Now I’m not suggesting that you should all only give yourself twenty-minutes to work on a piece of art. I still sell work that has taken between two and three hundred hours, but there could be another reason why the work I create more quickly produces more sales. It could be, and this is only a theory, that when I create lots of work in a short space of time and make it available it gives buyers more choice and makes my art pages and stores more relevant and active.

Now that’s not to say that I can always create a work in such a short space of time, most of my work that takes minutes rather than hours I wouldn’t give away let alone sell, but if you can expand your portfolio and keep artwork flowing into your online stores, there will always be something that is new for the viewer to consider.

I also know that spending two or three hundred hours on a piece is really only a labour of love. In comparison to the number of hours I put in, the outcomes in sales volumes don’t financially justify the investment I made in time. I could charge more for those works than I do, but quantifying an hourly rate when creating art is very difficult.

Some artists are quicker than others, some works can take up months if not years, but whatever you charge you need to be able to justify the cost to your buyers and you need to be careful that you neither price yourself out of the market, or undersell the final work.
It’s important to remember too that smaller pieces don’t always equate to quicker production times. When I paint on canvas I can work much more quickly on larger canvases because small ones need to tell the story in a smaller area. That could mean that more intricate details are needed in smaller works, but when I work on digital works the opposite might be the case.

It really is about finding a balance then making the pricing consistent so it doesn’t confuse the buyer, and some of it is about trying to do things quicker without compromising the quality. That’s a learned skill, but ultimately some works will always take much longer than others and ultimately the buyer still might not get it.

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Learn from past mistakes and move on...

Thinking about everyone else…

  • Everyone else seems to be making sales therefore I am missing out
The question here is are they really? The art market that most working artist’s work within is filled with peaks and troughs so it might be that they have finally found their peaks and you might not hear of any more sales for weeks or months or sometimes even years.

Not every artist will publicise every sale they make, it’s a personal decision but depending on your market, buyers can be swayed positively if they know that others have bought into the idea of buying your art too, and it can sway galleries to take a keener interest in you and your work.

I have peaks and troughs too, my longest trough was almost three-years long so I know how they can demoralise an artist. But equally that trough on reflection was down to me doing the opposite of everything I’m talking about today. I didn’t have a presence, and I put effort into everything other than trying to market and sell the work. I was finding excuses where the only excuse was that I was holding myself back and I hadn’t been doing anything that led me anywhere close to finding my people.

The moral of this is that other artists were doing everything that I wasn’t doing. They were finding their people and not holding themselves back. They were making the effort and I wasn’t, it really was as simple as that.

Many artists run a marketing campaign, see too few or even no results and then they give up or carry on doing everything they did before in exactly the same way but with added vigour meaning that they fail harder and faster each time. Having been there it’s not the best place to be in. You continuously have to find your people and marketing is something that you have to sustain, forever.

It might be that other artists have been doing it longer, have managed to find their people earlier, perhaps their skill set is better or perhaps it is worse. Comparing any artist over another and especially constantly comparing yourself to other artists is just another trap. 

Every person is unique, every artist should strive to be even more unique. If you can compare your work and yourself directly with another artist, you might be doing the art thing wrong, which brings us to the final point.

All work, no plan…

  •          You work really hard and never see the reward that you want

In a regular day job that can be a major issue. People get rejected for a promotion no matter how hard they work, it happens all the time in all walks of life. But as an independent artist you are a master of your own destiny but hard work still doesn’t always bring in the rewards you hope to see.

If you are serious about selling art then you do have to look at your practice as running a business. That may seem obvious but many of the skills needed to run a business are skills that either have to be learned or they come from experience. The experience route always comes with having to make plenty of mistakes along the way too, in fact those mistakes are probably the most vital of all of the business lessons we need to study more carefully.

But maybe you are just trying too hard. I have a list of fifty-seven things I need to do over the next month. Some are essential, some are nice to do, others I might not get around to doing at all. There was a time though that all of the 57-tasks would have been completed but none of them would have been completed in the way that I really wanted. It is all about prioritising what you do and when. Again, this sounds obvious but it comes back to that very first point I raised, it is because of you.

What needs to be done should be done and often we have no choice. But there are usually things that can be put to one side and left for another time, and the only reason you don’t already do that is because you pile on your own pressure. While I’m writing that it kind of sounds really obvious, even brutal.

We know we put ourselves under too much pressure for the wrong things at times, but we fail to recognise it as an issue and we fail to understand that it is only us that can do anything about it. I was like that too until colleagues kept pointing it out as they watched as I became quite poorly. It seemed like everyone else had noticed and I had been completely blind and oblivious to it.

So you have to have a plan, and I don’t think it needs to be a great plan either so long as you have one. Something that prioritises one thing over another, sets a direction, gives you something to work towards. Another one from the business 101 book, and possibly the reason why so many just give up at the first hurdle, they didn’t have any plan, good, bad, or indifferent.

The basics…

What we have covered today is really just the most obvious things that have happened to me or to too many of my artist friends. They’re by no means the only things that will stop you selling your art, the markets can be unpredictable, your next body of work might be weaker than your last, but one of the biggest lessons I have learned in all my years hawking my work is that people change, circumstances change, and you just have to think about what you can place where and when.

Not every artist is an entrepreneur, we don’t all have amazing ideas, but collectively we probably do. Shared experiences and knowledge can propel you by giving you another missing piece of the jig saw.

We tend to work in silos yet so many artists are willing to help, guide and support other artists. Some aren’t of course, but if no one ever asks for help and support they run the risk of continuing to struggle. I am a big believer in community and coming together, and whilst collaboration on projects is sometimes a good idea, it is the community element of the arts that always tends to bear the most fruit in my own experience.

Last year I made a commitment to set up another brand new group that looked at the business and education of art for working artists who wanted to collectively go to the next level when it comes to running the business of their art. That group is still very much on the list of things that will be happening, but if there is enough interest I might try to bring a smaller group of artists together to have their own private space within Facebook. A space where artists will be able to just openly chat through things related to art and their practice and of course the practice of doing business.

Sharing ideas, even venting, there’s just nowhere online that artists can currently go without being bombarded with calls for submissions, or pressured to IM for details of a 24 x 30, oil.
So if this is something that you think would be of benefit, I am planning to do something about creating that group over the Easter break. Membership will be restricted to the few and not the many to start with, but anyone who does share an interest is welcome to let me know by leaving a comment either here or on my Facebook page under the post referring to this article.

Hopefully the previous three articles will have given you an idea about why your art might not be doing as well as it could do and what you can do about it. If you missed the first article “Not selling enough art” you can read it right here,  and my article on producing video to use in your art marketing can be found right here

With that said, take a step back and start believing in you again. You can, but you have to give yourself permission first. Ask for help, ask for that sale, but never let you hold you back. You got this.

About Mark…
I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com  
Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contributes towards to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website. You can also view my portfolio website at https://beechhousemedia.com

You can also follow me on Facebook at: https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia where you will also find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest here

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so right here

Comments

  1. Great, informative blog.Thanks Mark! I am definitely interested in your new group! There is another artists who started a group similar to yours.I really love how people support each other and share info.Everyday I learn something new. Here is a link :https://www.facebook.com/groups/WorkingArtistsConnection/. I am one of those beating a dead horse but only for my business page.The other day I posted a video and after a few days not one person commented. I finally deleted it. FB wants me to pay for an ad but why should I when the post is not even getting any traction? I don't take it personal because there are so mnay variables involved. Yet when I post on my personal page the outcome is very different. Love IG.I hardly have to do anything ( I did initially put in the work) yet still get great interaction.Thanks for all you do,Mark!

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  2. Many thanks Sylvia, deeply appreciated!

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