Thursday, April 06, 2006

marketing and other methods of torture

I've been ruminating for the past few days. Up 'til now I've had various exhibitions, projects, commissions, etc. to keep me occupied this year, but have finally caught up on everything and now I need to make some decisions. Marketing decisions. Administrative decisions. I'd rather stick needles in my eye ... or discuss politics with George W.

To prove how unsavvy I am in these matters, just yesterday I finally set up a PayPal account for both selling and buying. I've never even bought anything on eBay! I set up my website primarily as an online portfolio to supplement bricks-and-mortar galleries and as a record of my work, not as a selling tool -- and it's obvious as I don't provide sales information up-front (though I occasionally have inquiries and kiss the feet of the blogfriends who've purchased work from me). But while I have had some success in the bricks-and-mortar world I'm beginning to realise that I need to make more of an effort on my own behalf if I'm going to do better than break even. I need another higher-profile Vancouver gallery now that I've parted company with the one I used to work with, but I haven't got a new series/body of work available for submission and must spend the next few months painting up a storm. But during this time I'm thinking that I also need to try and break out of the traditional mold and start selling on-line. I've been keeping tabs on Julian Merrow-Smith over the past year and his postcard-sized (approximately 4" x 6") oil landscapes and still lifes on card are selling like Jake Gyllenhaal's used boxers. They now go practically before he gets them up on his site. He charges $100USD for them and is making a tidy little living from it. He has the whole "living in Provence and painting like an Impressionist" thing going for him, too, unlike the rest of us sorry losers. How much of a factor is that, I wonder? There are a couple of other artists out there doing the same thing and doing well at it, so maybe it doesn't matter at all, and I'm wondering if I should try a modified version myself. What if I were to paint 8" x 8" x 1.5" (20 cm x 20 cm x 4 cm) panels, like the one above, and charge a similar price? Any suggestions?

Meanwhile, my exposure is gradually increasing. This mixed media piece is to be used in a print ad for the FCA gallery, and Art for All Of Us is trying the Squidoo lens idea on for size. They've started putting up a lens for me, too. Please go and rate each lens to help increase traffic. Apparently setting yourself up at Squidoo can increase blog traffic, too, so you might want to stay longer. (If you're reading this, powers-that-be at Squidoo, I'm open to kickbacks.)

I knew this day of reckoning had to come, but there were so many shiny objects distracting me up until now that I was able to kid myself that it might happen all by itself, without me ever having to contribute anything to it. If only.

NOTE: For more on this topic, read the comments. They are excellent.


Blogger Jaimie said...

Andrea, I think 100$ for an original 8x8 painting by you is very reasonable. I'd probably buy one!
I'm going to check out the links you included now.

6/4/06 3:23 p.m.  
Blogger Toni said...

You know I am redesigning my web site and was thinking how I could start selling more online myself.
My other problem is time! argh i took on the gallery job to make sure I had money for my boys weddings coming up. I thought I could be supper woman and do it all. I want to paint, do illo friday, get around to all the blogs and complete all my commissions. So if you come up with some good answers let me know. I have a feeling you are going to do quite well.

6/4/06 8:06 p.m.  
Blogger Laini Taylor said...

Andrea, best wishes with your marketing. I too would just as soon stick a needle in my eye as think of such things. Actually, I'd rather stick a needle in George W's eye, but that would hardly be torture for me. I tried selling prints on ebay for a while but it wasn't for me. So so so many people on there, how does anyone find you? Then again, that was before I started blogging. Oh, and the book list meme below is very cool - I'd try it but I don't know how to ital or underline or anything in my blog; I think I'd have to use html for all of it... Anyway, I HIGHLY recomment His Dark Materials series. Some of my VERY favorites!

6/4/06 10:22 p.m.  
Blogger kyknoord said...

I met a marketing guy once who was fond of repeating, "As long as you make it easy to buy, people will buy it". I don't know if that's true, but I suppose it can't hurt (too much) to give it a go.

6/4/06 10:37 p.m.  
Blogger ChittyChittyBangBang! said...

He has the whole "living in Provence and painting like an Impressionist" thing going for him, as you put it.
What you need to do is establish what your "thing" is, so to speak, and market and sell you work on that basis. A good concept, or brand idenity is what sells and appeals to ppl. Once you have them hooked on that, your work should sell.
I come from a consumer marketing background and in my industry it is identity, creative concepts, unique selling points and differentiation of one's product that get people interested. Most products use what is called a tag line to make the hook. I am not sure it will in the art world, but give it some thought.
KN also right, accessibilty and visibilty are key to getting ppl interested, so use whatever means you can have to get yourself out there. Be creative. Exposure is good, but you have to make it stick!
I like the idea of the smaller prints as it will allow you to gain entry into a more commercial market.
Anyway, I am rambling on, but I thought I will give a very brief perspective of where I come from.

7/4/06 12:35 a.m.  
Blogger justin said...

I think high quality paintings such as your's, Andrea, will sell very well.
There is a link on Julian's site to one of another artist - duanekeiser dot blogspot dot com. He has a painting of a lovely vase of flowers on eBay - the current bid is $350 for it - I think your paintings could sell for that, if not more.

7/4/06 2:10 a.m.  
Anonymous Detlef said...

Andrea, I'd be really interested to see how you go with this. I don't need to sell my art to survive (and indeed haven't sold one), my other job gets me by...but have thought about one day selling some as a sideline. Hope you find a profitable outlet for your prolofoc talent.

7/4/06 2:20 a.m.  
Blogger carla said...

Andrea, I think selling online is an excellent idea, and will porbably prove to be very successful because you also sell through the more "traditional" venues, and you have a following. Once you get going, the word of mouth factor will bring more traffic to your site, and I think you'll find business at that level will do well. I think 100. is lowballing your work, though, even for smaller pieces. I have some other thoughts, but I'm rushing to get ready for work...I'll email you. This painting is a gem!

7/4/06 2:43 a.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

I love this painting Andrea!

Like Carla I think $100US is low... but maybe starting low is a good idea, just not too low....

Ebay is an odd world you may find it useful in tandem with your blog... but the part I don't like is posting stuff... in the last year or so I sent quite a few things by post and only one got lost... but one did get lost...

Good luck!

7/4/06 3:22 a.m.  
Blogger justin said...

How about a painting size that will fit in a standard photo frame?

7/4/06 4:09 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh the top painting is so yummy! I love the tangerine color you have flashing across it. Congrats to you, on all that you are accomplishing!!!

7/4/06 8:03 a.m.  
Blogger Joyce said...

I barely got past the word "ruminating"- its my new favourite!
love the pic

7/4/06 8:07 a.m.  
Blogger camera shy said...

wow yeah
makes me growl

without exposure . . .

love the work
hope you dont mind if i link you

7/4/06 11:12 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Jaimie: Thanks for the feedback. The wheels are a-turning...

Toni: I discovered that you can only do two full-time jobs properly. Three is one too many...

Laini: You seem to have mastered the marketing thing. Any tips appreciated!

Kyknoord: Yes. So simple but I think you're right. The idea is to corner the impulse purchase market!

Chitty: You sound like you've had your fair share of experience in this. My Thing/identity is something I've struggled with for years, but I think I've finally nailed it down -- one aspect of it anyway. I know my landscapes will sell, but I want to do something more distinctive and that's what I've been working on. Whether or not they will sell is the trick, but if I want to be unique I need to take that risk, right? The hook is as alive and well in the art world as anywhere else. Now I need to produce more and increase my visibility. These suggestions are so great! I wondered whether I should write this post or not and I can see now that it was well worth it.

Justin: Julian Merrow-Smith originally got the idea from Duane Keiser. Keiser's visibility is huge now and he's making a killing. Maybe it's a chain reaction! As for standard size, I have also thought about doing flat 5x7s on canvas board: easy as anything to frame using a standard frame.

Detlef: I love the idea of having 'prolofic' talent! :) Stay tuned. If there's a market, you'll do well.

Carla: The biggest bug in the works when you do a two-pronged attack is getting in your own way. I don't want to compete with my own galleries and that can be tricky because I can so easily undersell them as I don't take a commission from myself! :) And in a perfect world, I would leave all the marketing to them. But it's a far from perfect world, especially for an artist, so I have to be careful. As for the price, you may be right. I notived that J M-S has just raised his prices.

Caroline: Tricky this pricing business. I'm sitting on the fence about it right now. If I start low I can always increase, but being forced to decrease prices is a very bad move. Thanks.

Joyce: It is a good word, isn't it? If I start chewing my cud, though, kick me under the table.

Camera Shy: What's the point of integrity if you end up starving, right?

7/4/06 1:48 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Andrea: Oops. I meant to thank you, too, Mrs Edwards. I think you should seriously consider selling your work.

7/4/06 1:53 p.m.  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

I think starting a small painting at 100.00 is good because it is a happy medium. It is a jumping off point and it can only go up! On ebay the listing fees keep going up so starting at a lower price helps you because it it doesn't sell your fees are not so bad and of course they probably will but this way you are starting at a reasonable price. I believe Duane K. starts his paintings at 100.00 for postcard size. He calls it a painting a day. Obviously if you can make a painting or two a day that is good for you and is profitable!!!

7/4/06 2:25 p.m.  
Blogger Jaimie said...

I checked out the painting a day Provence guy and frankly I'm not impressed with his work. Andrea, yours is about 10 bazillion times better. He must have a cult following or something.
The kaiser guy, I check out his ebay auctions and he is making a ton of money, still with a tiny painting. I think his are much better than the Merrow-Smith fellow but still no where near as captivating as yours are. right now his postcard size tulip painting is up to $350!
I think you will do really well with the right exposure.

7/4/06 3:21 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea, Love the new piece you have displayed at the top and the commission piece as well, both awesome ! You have something different with your work and that is what attracts peoples attention.When I first started out painting, it was realism style and I became bored quick, ended up experimenting and using my imagination a lot more than I had been, I then sold a pile of works.So basically it's not your work that is the lies more so with the exposure.Get your work out there as much as you possibly can.I think as well, offering works in many price ranges including $60-$100 is a very good idea because not everyone on this plantet is made of money but, most people like art and if they can get something, even a postcard size piece, your pleasing the masses instead of just one following.Thanks, best wishes !

7/4/06 3:44 p.m.  
Blogger The Tart said...

So much to read here. Will come back for this later!

Meantime... love your artwork, natch! The top piece is great.

The Tart

7/4/06 8:55 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Val: Even smaller paintings like this take several hours so I can't imagine producing a painting a day, working on larger work and also doing everything else I need to do. Maybe I should quit sleeping :). I may need to figure out how to streamline the process to make it work for me.

Jaimie: Thanks for your kind words. I believe it started fairly slowly (but still steadily) for J M-S but has picked up speed with exposure. Same with Duane Keiser. Maybe I should carefully scrutinise their methods and try and copy them...

Sheri: I find the experimental work so much more fun/challenging than the landscapes I also do, and I think that shows in the work. You look like you have fun with your work, too, and I believe that's half the battle, don't you?

Jocelyn: Thanks -- and get reading! :)

8/4/06 8:05 a.m.  
Anonymous Brian Slater said...

Ahh... Mahket-yng the evil alter-ego of any financially successful living artist... oft counter to our free-roaming inspirational selves and yet strangly creative in it's own perplexing way.

what kyknoord said in commenting on this topic starts to reveal one of the marketers tools with a simple truth....
(Kyknoord) "I met a marketing guy once who was fond of repeating, "As long as you make it easy to buy, people will buy it". I don't know if that's true, but I suppose it can't hurt (too much) to give it a go."

This is SO TRUE!!! just think of the "Pet Rock" - all that took to become successful was simply to make it easy to buy. and they did

You have, in fact started down the right road with Pay Pall - make it as easy as possible for people to give you value for your work. Money, gold, jewels, chickens... whatever they have that you may want - make it as easy as breathing for them to give to you their doh
When you go to marketing school (yeahh U know I did) they barrage you with all sorts of theory (AKKK) one of which kyknoord's marketing friend was referencing, that being Market Segmentation. In marketing guy lingo that means, in part, creating a RANGE of PRICES for your customers to choose from. Now, you are indeed doing this as you explore the idea of producing more, smaller, less expensive works. A great way to "..make it easy to buy...". So how about stealing some marketing strategy from the realm of Digital Artists - these folks have no original physical work to sell (and be parted from for all time), rather they sell high quality, archival digital prints.

As a physical vs digital artist perhaps you can reap the benefits of BOTH marketing strategies, and make your works available as digital prints as well as 'real' paintings and drawings. Segment the market by MEDIA as well as PRICE and offer that 8 x 8 in oil at $100 - OR an on-demand print of it for...say $55..???

....... You can sell larger works at smaller sizes, smaller originals as bigger....prints on T-shirts, coffee mugs..... well you get the idea.

You can only sell one of the oils... you can sell 'infinity and beyond' copies of the print.

go here - and see how it works!

I bet you could sell a TON there!

have fun

8/4/06 11:54 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Hey-ho Slateroid. Being surprised to see your comment (and thanks for the ideas!) I had to see what your name was linked to. Great start with the musical instructamishin biz!

8/4/06 1:25 p.m.  
Blogger susan said...

hello andrea,
way behind in blogging this week and wow this was great to read!
i agree with jaime and the provence guy. your work is more compelling and i have found that his work is ordinary albeit accessible. i think you would do really well with the small format selling. if you end up with a few extras and would like to try them with us, please do not hesitate to send me some shots. i think sticking to originals is the way to go personally too.. at the gallery it has helped people understand that they can really afford to buy an original and don't have to settle for a mall print, framed out into a $250 expense worth nothing but the decor of it all....
rambling here, but in short, small works create collectors. prints satisfy a small niche and do not develop collectors.
oooh, i am so behind, that now i see that you have another small art spot! great! i think that it will be wonderful. i set one up last month at typepad for our artists and it has already been active. we are doing the same at our main site too after the show next weekend.
best of luck andrea!

9/4/06 4:37 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Susan: I never did understand the mall print market but some people actually think it's art I guess! I think you're right about collectors, too. I recently learned that an ex-colleague of my husband's has become a fanatical art collector and she started with one small original. The best thing about small art, too, is that it's *so* much easier to ship. That's got to count for something when I'm doing the shipping!

9/4/06 8:07 a.m.  
Blogger Twisselman said...

Yowzah! You're right; the comments here offer a wealth of information. This is what community in blogging is all about. Really like your piece above, and that Flash life drawing animation is amazing. Great Sunday morning treat dropping by your site.

9/4/06 8:50 a.m.  
Blogger LDahl said...

We should form an IF/ebay group, no pressure, just start it for fun and get some experiences. Learn the ropes with support and feedback from the "gang". I've been thinking about ebaying for a long time and have the account set up and everything...the toe is just really scared of the water:)))

10/4/06 10:14 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Not a bad idea!

11/4/06 6:30 a.m.  
Blogger LDahl said...

I wonder who else is thinking about it. We need a forum, maybe we could use the IF one? I would really like to do this...I'm so happy you liked my idea. The impressionist did it, why can't we? Nothing like strength in numbers:)))
If we were all IF artists, that would give us half a brand right there.

11/4/06 8:31 a.m.  
Anonymous the painted pear said...

This is enlightening! to say the least. I have 3 kids home (all week due to vacation) so it may take me awhile to get through some of your posts. But, I do think you have something here.

I too have never purchased anything off ebay, and even buying things on line has been infrequent. I have a few things at Etsy, but haven't sold anything. I don't think there is a good market there for fine art, and ordinary tote bags, like mine, just aren't interesting to people.

Selling art over the internet I think is a little tricky, due to the pure fact that you can't really get a sense of size, and true color. But, by keeping the prices small($100 or under) and still making money, is going to be a safe bet! I do wish you luck, in every sense. Your art is admirable, and you do have a following to prove that!

17/4/06 9:47 a.m.  

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