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Marketing Art: The 2 Most Common Myths

Updated on November 27, 2014

The Two Most Common Art Myths Are . . .

As artists we all are desperate to sell our work or have it validated in some way. This allows us to fall prey to certain myths that draw us in and in the end may only leave us feeling frustrated and insecure.

I think often those in the art business use these two myths to get what they want from artists. And like all good myths they have their basis in fact, which is why they remain.

The two most common art myths are:

The Exposure Myth

The Build It and They Will Come Myth.

As always my goal is here is not to tell you what you should or shouldn't do, but simply to offer information so you can make an informed decision.

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All copyrights are retained by the artist, Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery.

The artwork or content in this lens may not be used or reproduced, either in part or in whole, without the express written consent from the artist.

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Artist Myth #1

Exposing my work to as many people as possible will help me to "make it" Myth.

I can hear some of you already "How can exposure be a myth? I can't sell my work unless it gets seen."

Yes, artwork must be seen by someone to be sold. But what you need to think about is who are you exposing your work to. I think of this as Qualifying. A subway station (airport, bus station, etc,) may get thousands of people through in a day, but are they going to buy artwork? Probably not. Most are in a hurry to get where their going on time. You are getting your work exposed, but not to the right crowd.

I would think that you will need to find out what works best for you through trial and error. Some non-traditional venues are great and some art shows are . . . not so much. Personally what has worked best for me, is to place my art where people are going to "buy" art. Art fairs (for me in my area) are where that happens as well as to a lesser degree, galleries.

I've done all sorts of non-traditional venues, like trendy cafes, Barnes & Noble bookstore, horse expos & zoo conferences, libraries, and specialty shops that sell things that seem like a good fit for my work like horse supply shops. Most of them were beneficial in one way or the other, but not always financially. And not nearly as well as art fairs or galleries.

How To "Qualify" If A Venue Is Right For You

If you have limited time and resources and want to get a monetary return for time and effort invested, you need to qualify whatever event you are thinking about. Here's a few thing to think about:

* Are the people in this location going to be interested in what you do? For instance, are you trying to sell beach scenes at a ski resort.

* Is it a financially upscale area, where people have disposable income?

* Does the event (store, organization etc.) have a vested interest in your success?

* Are they promoting the event or your artwork, or are sales dependent on passive selling. Where someone just happens to see it and want it, though they are there for unrelated reasons.

* What are the risks? Do they have insurance against damage or theft? If your outdoors, will weather be a factor?

* Exactly how many people are we talking about? If the event is promising exposure find out how many. I've been approached by events that think 2,500 is a great number. In general I rarely consider anything less than 30,000 people (for a weekend) and that's at an event where they are coming to "buy" art. That being said, I am at a place where my time is at a premium and I do so many events, that unless there is an almost guaranteed payoff, I'll pass.

In general if some events, cafes, bookstores (insert your non-traditional venue here) use exposure as the major reason why you should participate in their gig, you should perhaps give it more thought. It doesn't mean it isn't worth doing. But you should be clear in your expectations for it and have a firm grasp on what you want to achieve by participating.

One Last Thought On Exposure

Donating Your Art

As an artist and a business person I am asked often (sometimes more than once a week) to donate my art (or gift certificate) to this or that charity or function. For those requesting something from me, exposure is always the big selling point.

Have I donated tens of thousands of dollars over the years?

Yes

Have I received new business from this?

Yes

Has that new business exceeded or even equaled the amount donated?

No

This doesn't mean I won't continue to donate. I will and do. But I don't do it expecting any real (and by "real" I mean monetary) return on investment. Well other than that warm fuzzy feeling like I'm doing something good. That being said, I also have to be aware that I also got stay in business and it's really easy to "give away the store."

So what I'm saying strike a balance, create realistic expectations and make your decisions for the "right" reasons.

Artist Myth #2

The Build It And They Will Come Myth

In my gallery, I am often dealing with young (as in new to the art world, age here has no relevance.) aspiring artists who cling to the fantasy that once they have their first print made, get into their first gallery or get their website created, they will get discovered or their path to success will be secure. I am sorry to say this is probably not going to be the reality.

All of these things (getting into the print market, galleries and getting online) are really good steps in the right direction. They have the potential to make you successful. But you must still do the work. They must be marketed as vigorously as if you were marketing the actual artwork. Planning is critical to making your new endeavor meet your expectations.

Here's a few things to think about:

* What markets are you trying to reach?

* How much are you wanting to sell your work for?

* How much money do you want to earn? (gross/net)

* What is the time frame to reach your goals?

* Does this sound like fun?

Something To Try

If you are planning on launching a new website, try Googling a description that you think someone might use as a search term for finding you. So for instance, I would try horse art, equine art, wildlife art, oil pastel artist or any combination there of. The search results for Horse Art is 4,840,000. Wow. The search results for Draft Horse Art has 255,000. At one time my website was 3rd down on that list. Yup, Wild Faces Gallery was listed 3 of 255,000. This took a great deal of work to get that kind of ranking and unless we continued to work it like a part-time job, (which we didn't) it was lost. I have no idea where we are at now, but it is nowhere near the first 3 pages which is the golden spot for Google searches. Most people won't look past 3 pages for anything.

My point here is not to make you feel hopeless. My point (as always) is to make you think about what you expect to achieve, plan how to make it happen. And to give you the right amount of nudging and confidence, so you take the first step.

Unless you know what your up against, you are more likely to be disappointed with your results which may leave you feeling disappointed in your work. Success in most areas of the art business have very little to do with the quality of your work. Quality is up to you, business is business, whether it be selling cars or selling paintings. In order for you to achieve any measure of success you need to set yourself up to win it.

I don't know if there is any one magic bullet. If the possibility of being "discovered" without marketing yourself is even possible. Most (if not all) of the big dog artists had to pay their dues. (Bev Doolittle for instance, worked in graphic design and sold small watercolors in Yellowstone for $10-15 before she was "discovered.") That being said, you may not necessarily have to work like a dog every moment of every day (it is just how I do it.)

The path to "making it" begins by starting with easily attainable goals, (baby steps) then continue to set yourself up to for bigger and bigger challenges that allow you to feel successful, as well as build your confidence. There is no "one" answer or way to success. Try several different things. Experiment, don't take failure personally and most importantly have fun!

About The Author Of Art Marketing Myths

Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery

My name is Mona Majorowicz I am a professional artist who has been making my living selling my work for some time now. I am an animal artist, (meaning I paint critters) who works primarily in Oil Pastel or Water Soluble Pencil.

I own and operate Wild Faces Gallery with my husband Mike in a small rural town in Iowa. There we sell my original artwork and prints, as well as do quality custom framing and offer Giclee printing for other artists as well as for ourselves. I have over 20 years in ate art and framing industry both as a business owner and as a working artist.

I maintain a blog called Fur In The Paint, as well as write a regular column for Apples 'N Oats (an equestrian magazine) about painting horses.

Animals are my passion and art is how I chose to express it.

I would love to hear from you

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have no problem selling my art on the sidewalks of NYC. I even wear T-shirts and carry bags with my art work into department stores. If I don't market it, no one else will. Cheers!

    • smithlights profile image

      smithlights 5 years ago

      Great lens. Thanks for the tips!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 6 years ago from UK

      What you say here rings very true. My art group often has convulsions when we are deciding wether to support a local event but often It is not attracting people who want to buy art. It just fills space for the organisers. And when we do exhibit advertising is always a problem. Targeted advertising is always so expensive and requires long lead times.

      Useful lens, thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is something that I should think about more. I tend to make one of a kind items, like you; and that is not all that easy to market.

    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 6 years ago

      I actually know how to market the type of art that I produce. However, I learn so much from hearing where others market their style of art. Once again this is another great lens. See you around the galaxy...

    • WildFacesGallery profile image
      Author

      Mona 6 years ago from Iowa

      @jodijoyous: I hadn't heard of the Canvoo blog but will check it out today. Thanks for mentioning it. :)

    • jodijoyous profile image

      jodijoyous 6 years ago from New York

      Excellent advice, for any business - relying on "build it and they will come" just doesn't work. They have to know you exist.

      By the way, have you heard of (or read) the Canvoo blog? The guy who runs it is also a Seth Godin fan. Lots of great info on being remarkable, how to sell, etc. (I have no connection with him, I just find the blog interesting).

    • Louis Wery profile image

      Louis Wery 6 years ago from Sarasota, Florida USA

      I needed to read this len to help me with my expectations for my photography hobby. Thank you for telling ti like it is!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Such great advice for people even for me. I don't paint, but I do create in other ways, and have tried to make money with those endeavors. As of yet, the income is inconsistent, which can be a drag on keeping my passion for it. Hmm, but now I feel encouraged, so I thank you for that!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @WildFacesGallery: 10 - 20% creative! THAT IS SHOCKING. I live to create and to loose 80%-90% of my time seems unacceptable. I think i will stay poor :(

      Great lens :)

    • WildFacesGallery profile image
      Author

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      @editionh: Not too curious at all. I would gauge my time spent on business affairs is about 80% -90% compared to 10 - 20% creative time like painting and writing. (in the winter I have more creative time in the summer less) Scary huh? :) But then I run a brick and mortar business so my art business needs to cover it's own expenses as well as keep us fed and the lights on.

      As for my online marketing I don't do much. I keep a blog and of course website. I did google ads for quite awhile which increased traffic but not so sure if they increased sales. Currently I'm #4 on google for draft horse art again though haven't really worked it.

      My primary way to make a living as an artist is to increase my collector base primarily through art shows. People like to feel like they know the artist and often once they do the become collectors. ALl in all everything I did was one long slow road. (that I'm still on)

    • profile image

      editionh 7 years ago

      Hi Mona, thank you for sharing these ideas and experiences. How much time do you spend with marketing of your art compared with the time you spend with creating. Is it 50%/50% and how important is your online marketing compared to offline ? I hope I am not too curious.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image

      Sharon Weaver 7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      You make some great points that few artists understand when they are starting out. I haven't done many art shows because it is so much darn work and usually on weekends. Glad you have had some success.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image
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      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      Thanks so much Linda. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Your advice is always full of common sense, and balances encouragement with level headedness very well. Thank you Mona!

    • WildFacesGallery profile image
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      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      @Hairdresser007: Hmm. Big question . . . As I'm self taught the short answer is just get in there and do it. The only way to get good at something is to do it again and again.

      The long answer . . . Try looking for a good tutorial book. Really drawing basics is just to look at an object and "see it." Stop thinking of a vase as a vase and see it as it's silhouette shape. Quite a few beginning drawing courses try to get you to see the geometric shapes withing an object and then fill in the rest. This never worked for me I tend to draw like a coloring book. Just the outline shape.

      So got hit a Barnes & Noble (or whatever) and browse the art section and find a book that speaks to you. And then begin. That's by far the hardest part. Just begin.

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 7 years ago from Burbank, CA

      I want to learn how to draw/paint. I would like to be able to do still life. My favorite are pictures of food on tables. Bowls of fruit and fowl etc. What would be my first step? I took a class at one of these art shops in the mall but they wanted over $300 a month!

    • WildFacesGallery profile image
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      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      @wilddove6: Thanks so much. I enjoyed your lenses quite a bit. It's been awhile since we had birds and seeing all the fun pics makes me want to have a feathered addition to the family again.

    • wilddove6 profile image

      wilddove6 7 years ago

      Very informative lens!

      I wish I had this kind of information when we were selling my husband's bird related artwork.

      You are bang on with your advice!