ARTrepreneur: Best Practices
Selling art is a lot like dating. There’s a person out there for every piece, but bringing the two together can be tricky. Assuming your work has merit and appeal, it’s a matter of getting the right piece in front of the right set of eyes. And exhibiting locally does little good if your art mate is across the country or oversees.
Once you get over the hump of taking yourself seriously and decide you deserve to make a living doing what you love, how do you get your work seen without inundating people with marketing? We all know that “artrepreneur” who doesn’t know when to stop, tweeting incessantly and solely about their own work desperate for a reaction and addicted to the affirmation of the sale. You’d unfollow them if you thought you could slip away unnoticed.
It’s easy to point out what people are doing wrong. What’s harder, is finding a good example of someone who’s doing it right.
A decade has passed since we’ve interviewed Leigh Pawling but the Luzerne County-based artist has never slipped entirely from our radar. She most recently exhibited a number of pieces as part of Marywood University’s nature SEEN exhibit in November. She’s also been working on a series of murals and taking commissions. Private students meet with her at her new home studio in Dallas. Formerly, Pawling painted in a reconverted factory in Kingston for 15 years. Several prints are available for sale directly at leighpawling.com. The “Top-of-Mind” marketing campaign is more than a way to connect with potential buyers.
We were so charmed by her email art blast that arrived in the inbox Monday, we realized a follow-up was in order. It was shortly after the New Year we started seeing a new campaign from Pawling that echoed consistently across Twitter, Facebook, email blasts and in turn matched her new website. The example, we thought, is one from which other artists can learn.
Pawling referred us to Jon O’Connell at Resource Media (http://resourcemedia.net), an old school mate who has helped her tremendously in creating the branding materials, while she in turn has served as a guinea pig of sorts. Old-school physical postcards of the pieces are forthcoming, the artist told us. The image-heavy campaign has worked for her, she told ec & dc, as she’s a visual person rather than a writer, and like many of us, finds herself quickly overcome by all the words out there demanding our attention. The fact that we were inclined to contact her, she said, is evidence that the hard work has been worth it.
“It makes you realize the internet is a wonderful way to get your work out there,” she said. “The way Jon explains its, it’s just like a phone. Everybody has one… it’s about how you use it.”
O’Connell works with clients like Pawling to help them find a balance between sharing fresh content that will be well received while not being an intrusion.
“Being an artist the technology side is hard for me. Sometimes I can’t even believe I have a computer,” Pawling said. “I feel so excited that I’m on the wave of the future.”
Building Your Arts Business
If you’ve got Internet access and an hour for lunch, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts has some business advice you can use. The PCA launched a four-part lunch time webinar series for artists on Feb. 13 that will be offered the second Wednesday of each month through May 8.
Designed to teach artists how to open and manage their art business, Building Your Arts Business continues March 13 with “Making Sense of Your Dollars and Cents.” Additional programs include “Social Media, the Internet and Your Art Business” on April 10, and Success Stories on May 8.
Deputy director of Arts and Culture for Lackawanna County Maureen McGuigan developed the program with The University of Scranton’s Small Business Development Center two years ago. Held first in February 2010 and then again in April 2012 the four part series was then offered on consecutive Tuesdays. Each session ran about three hours long with a dinner break. Space was limited to 15 participants and each of the free programs filled quickly. McGuigan observed both experienced and emerging artists working in the performing and visual arts benefit from the program and is glad to see the PCA opening the opportunity to more artists even as some of the material has had to be trimmed in order to accommodate the hour lunch timeframe. You do not have to attend all four sessions of the webinar and can pick which ones will benefit you most and there is no limit of the number of artists who can participate.
Call (717) 525-5542 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit www.pacouncilonthearts.org.