Monday, October 26, 2009

Art as Business: Selling Your Art III

So there you are: full of determination and set on getting to sell your art - on your own. Screw that gallery that sold so little at your latest exhibition – you don’t need any gallery! You list all the ways to sell your art, and get going.


What you very often forget to do is to think before acting. What effort will it take and what will you really get out of it? And what is your target group?

Consider this: you’re a predator and you’re judging if that prey is worth hunting after. Cheetahs are among the smaller big cats but are very successful hunters of big preys - 50% of the time they get a kill (compared to the tiger who only succeed in 10 % of the hunting attempts). The Cheetah is very fast and put a lot of energy into the hunt (running) - and therefore just chase an animal they think they'll have the chance to catch. If it is not worth it - they save the energy for another time. In other words: Cheetahs evaluate the effort needed and the chances to succeed before giving it a try.

Let's be cheetahs: Animals hunted by everyone will be more nervous and aware of the predators. You’ll have a hard time even getting close to them (you have to be sneaky and patient). But there is a reason why everyone hunts them (a lot of meat). As always: personal connection will get you closer - you will just have to stretch out a bit to make the kill. Sometimes you’ll just bump into a prey by chance and should react fast and instinctively: get it! Then there are those preys that not all predators are aware of as being eatable. But if you are hungry you are hungry.

A very popular prey. I don't know how (if) it works in other countries (yes, please: tell me!) but this is how it works in Sweden: Art clubs at workplaces are encouraged for social reasons. Members pay a fee, art is bought and the members have the chance to win in annual lotteries. Before the companies always put some money as well (often the same amount as the members) to encourage the art clubs, but it is not like that everywhere anymore. The art is then bought through galleries, directly from artists in their studio, through art dealers coming to the workplaces etc. Sometimes - with more ambitious Art Clubs - they arrange workplace exhibitions and visit artist studios for technique demonstrations or artist talks.
  • put a little effort but still have the chance to get results. Get in contact through personal connections. This can not happen that often, but you should be aware of possible opportunities. Ask around. You need to make the effort of inviting them to your studio, be plesant and serve them something as well (preferably wine so they lose their judgement and buy a lot!).
  • more effort to get more results. Going after them - sneak up on them, be persistent. Call the switchboard at bigger companies and ask for the responsible for the art club. I’ve done this for the organisation and gallery Grafik i Väst when updating the contact list. And this takes time and patience. Besides they might get really pissed off getting disturbed at work (and even worse if you try contacting them at home…) Together with other artists in my former studio we invited art clubs to our studio. But we just managed to get the art clubs where we had personal connections to come (we tried others as well). I think that if we had offered to come to them it might have worked out better (but then you need a car). I know an artist who has made this a good business for herself. She mostly comes to the Art Clubs and brings art works in the right price class.

a tasty prey but more rare. You have to ask around to find out about these. Other artists do not share this information with everyone. Workplace exhibitions are arranged by either art clubs or other constellation having this as their business. If you already have a lot of material it won't demand much extra effort. When an Art club is behind it you can normally get a subsidy and they normally promise to buy something. If it is another arranger there should be a similair agreement. This way you reach people who would normally not go to galleries. The first case has worked ok for me and the other one really well - this way I reached individuals interested in my art...

a prey that is hard to track down. You have to react immediately when you get the chance. You might reach them through the two above, but sometimes just by being easy to find. I’ve been contacted several times by women finding me through my website via artist organizations mostly. They’ve been like angels send from above! (tastes like chicken). When I get this opportunity I invite them to my studio and offer them something more. Maybe a technique demonstration + food and wine. They could bring their friends along and I arrange it as an after work...

a prey that you hunt in the dark without night vision - maybe it is there maybe it is not. Many people sell things on internet nowadays. Things to consider: if you have possible clients already, if you’re art is easy to ship and if you have the right price. Cheaper art (often just printouts) or printed materials (postcards, calendars) are more easily sold than fine art. Selling my art this way hasn’t worked at all for me and I’m thinking maybe I should just let it be. But I’ve talked this matter over with friends who have a totally different story to tell. But they do have a lot more visitors to their blogs than me!
not only are they fast and efficient - they are skinny too

You’ve defined your possible preys. You can not go after all of them and should therefore hunt the ones you have bigger chances of catching. Now let’s turn it around – after you’ve made contact it is all about if THEY like what you have to offer. . You can not make them buy your art by pure willpower … Some people like dogs, some like cats - and that is how it is. If you have been selling your art for some time you might know who your art appeal to – or not. If you haven’t you will find out by trying. (good to keep track of who the buyers are, if possible).

I know for example that besides family, friends and acquaintances, my main buyers are art consultants (that is: my peers) for regions/municipals. Then there are occasional individuals (women under 40) that come across my art by chance and love it. When it comes to art clubs I mainly seem to appeal to architects and people in advertising, but art clubs in general doesn't seem to buy my art.

My decision has therefore been to just go for Art Clubs when the opportunity presents itself. I'm always willing to exhibit at workplaces (should ask around more), and I do try to reach individuals (yes, please - spread the word). I might try selling some screenprints on internet again if I get some extra time (?) to fiddle with it at night.

But as you might know by now getting more commissions is my main strategy to make money. Next week: Progress Report II (commissions continuing + galleries).


nathalie et cetera said...

what a great read! funny, witty and very interesting again. i like your analogy to the cheetah. i must say, the blog visitors you don't have don't know what they are missing!

I don't think we have art clubs here. way too sophisticated for our culture i guess. but some big companies have art collections. it's a good way to spend their money and it encourages local artists.

looking forward for next week post.

Daniel Milton said...

Lysande text! Fina illustrationer. Det där med konstföreningar kanske är större i Gbg? Eller så har jag bara missat hela grejen.

Marchi Wierson said...

so good! I love the cheetah imagery in the writing and drawing too. You really are a good writer. Thanks as always alexandra.

●• Thereza said...

that cheetah sketch is a beauty!

Kitty Kilian said...

Interesting how you try to find out who your customers are. Have you ever thought of doing a small survey? Like with people passing by in the street?

taueret said...

I love the idea of art clubs, but I wonder what kinds of art my colleagues would choose to purchase if we had one! Love the cheetah sketches.

Alexandra Hedberg said...

Taueret, You are right. many art clubs will buy flower paintings, sunsets and such from amateurs exhibiting in Cafés... Kitsch reign in many art clubs. But others will be more aware. It is actually a question of education many times (and in what field) and awareness of what is art. (I did write that artists and art directors like MY art!!!)

But I don't want to judge the art clubs - no matter what they buy they are at least giving their members something. And I think trying to appreciate art (and getting it a bit wrong) is so much better than not even thinking of it!