Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Are You Engaged in Mobile Marketing? You Should Be!

by Charlie Bogusz

The next wave for reaching your customers and building your brand is happening now through mobile marketing. Consumers are rapidly embracing smart phones with over 49.1 million smart phones in use today in the US alone. At least 50% of US homes own one or more smart phone and are using this technology to browse, shop and gather information. The sale of touch screen smart phones continue grow exponentially, opening up new marketing opportunities. Savvy marketers are finding ways to leverage these consumer devices to create brand building activities that increase customer loyalty and convert more consumers to buyers.

Here is how it works.
You place a specially created 2D barcode on anything in print. With over two billion tags already in existence, millions of people have already downloaded the free Microsoft Tag reader and are using it. Consumers are realizing that when they hold their smart phone over the tag, the digital information or video content appears in the smart phone window. No typing a URL or texting, waiting for a response – in an instant your message appears – driving it deeper into the hands of your potential buyer at the moment it makes the most sense.

Mobile is important for a number of reasons:

It has an immediacy that consumers expect.
It provides a portal from the real world to digital content.

To be successful the mobile activity has to follow some best practices:

The activity must be engaging.
The content must be relevant.
There must be a call to action.

Is mobile marketing a trend or just “fly by trendy”?
From my research, I think that this is the next “thing”. Think back to when the internet was introduced and you may have wondered “do I really need to have a website? Does a digital footprint even matter?” We all know how important that move was to business. Now you have an opportunity to engage your digital presence with your print materials. This is still new enough to garner word of mouth excitement yet it is also established enough for anyone to piggyback off of the successful adoption of the technology. Over 100 million magazines since August 2010 carry Tags in their advertisements and editorial.

Watch for upcoming posts on how this technology can be used in the arts community.

Re-printed with permission. Charlie Bogusz offers customized business solutions and coaching services to artists, galleries and cultural event planners. She has over 20 years experience in advertising, public relations and event management. She is passionate about the arts!  Her company is Primary Colors Consulting.  Click here to follow her blog.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Selling Out" by guest blogger, Cedar Lee

This post is for my fellow painters and other studio artists, especially those just starting out.

Can you make money doing what you love?

I’ve found there’s sometimes a stigma attached to artists who make a lot of money (or sometimes, any money!) selling their art, and an assumption that they must have compromised their personal vision to such an extent that that what they’re doing is akin to prostitution, and no longer real or true. I’ve also found there is a lot of pain and bitterness amongst people who wanted at one time to be professional artists but failed.

Here’s what I think: it’s easier to blame the outside world for a failure than to take responsibility for it and begin again more intelligently. If you can dismiss the few artists who succeed financially as flukes, or if just being financially successful means they’re not true and soulful artists anymore, then you never have to even admit you’ve failed! It’s so convenient to just say that our society doesn’t value “real art;” it is impossible to make a living doing it; case closed.

One of my close friends recently posted this article on her Facebook. It’s about a studio artist struggling to make ends meet financially. A lively debate followed in the comments of the Facebook post. One person, at first glance, seemed to have palpable hostility for visual artists, saying that they are deluded and unrealistic—that they usually make mediocre things there is no demand for, over-price them, then whine and complain when they don’t sell anything—as if the world owes them a good living for doing nothing special.

Then a few people pointed out that our culture has virtually no such thing as art appreciation, and how messed up that is—as one person said, “it’s a shame when we live in a world that values ring tones and fantasy football more than the talents of our community.” (And I get that! Brings to mind this video I just saw.)

A few other people said that the harsh reality, unfair as it may be, is that it’s simply not possible to make a living as an artist, and that artists need to get over themselves and stop thinking of themselves as professionals, since in reality almost all artists are just hobbyists pretending to be professionals—in short, wannabes. The general consensus seemed to be that the outlook for artists was bleak indeed.

I sympathized with the artist in question, and this whole conversation struck a chord with me. I very strongly disagree that it’s “impossible” to make money as an artist! At the same time, it is absolutely imperative to have a business strategy, even a vague one, before attempting to sell art professionally. Even then, you may at first crash and burn, like the “whining” artist in the article. But I would argue that she should not just give up—there is still plenty of hope for her and for anyone struggling in her position.

If you want to make money with your art, here’s what you have to do.

1. Get Good
I will admit that I do get tired of seeing so many people producing work that isn’t up to snuff and then wondering why nobody will pay them for it. I’m not claiming to be anywhere near my potential skill level, but I am proficient enough to make some work that speaks to people.

Visual artists (I’m speaking mostly of painters, but all studio arts apply) need to take their work seriously and commit to a studio practice so they develop their skills. You need to constantly, enthusiastically, practice your craft so that you get better! You can’t expect a demand for work that isn’t technically proficient, interesting, and inspired. I’m not saying you have to feel like a master before trying to sell your work—(in my experience, no matter how good you get this feeling never comes—and if it does it’s probably a sign that you’ve stopped searching, which is bad for you and your art!) Just wait till you have some degree of confidence that you are offering something likely to have value to someone else.

2. Target Your Audience
In order to sell your art, you have to have a plan for who’s going to buy it. Even if you don’t have a clue, you can start with a guess, put feelers out, and make an attempt before moving on. You can’t just hang your work in a coffee shop and hope an art collector walks in and happens to discover you. You can’t just select a gallery at random out of a phone book and ask them to sell your abstract paintings for you, without ever considering that they only sell traditional landscapes. Spend some time thinking about it. You need to be very purposeful about targeting your audience directly. Figure out whether a niche exists for what you do, and get your work in front of people who want to see it!

3. Always Consider Demand
If you find yourself putting out work that is pretty good and reasonably priced, but nobody’s buying it, that’s a sign that it’s time to re-evaluate. Your work may be under-developed technically (Does it look unfinished? Are you using poor quality materials?) it may be over-priced (see my recent video on how to price your work) or it you may just not be putting it in front of the right people’s eyes.

If none of these are the case, and your work is still not selling, change your artistic direction and see what happens. Even a slight change may fix the problem—use a different medium or color scheme. Keep the medium and the colors but paint a different subject. As long as your wheels keep turning and you feel excited about working, you can and should change your direction if your art is not selling. I know this is not what you want to hear if you have your heart set on doing a very specific thing, but I strongly believe it’s possible to find what sells without giving up on your personal inner vision for your work. You just need to be willing to try different things, have fun doing it, and go with the flow.

When I first set out to sell my artwork, the most difficult thing was finding my style and creating a consistent body of work. For me, finding what sold, was a natural, if purposeful, consequence of searching for what I should paint in the first place. I forced myself to begin working in series. I found something I enjoyed painting (trees, at first) and made myself paint them past the point where I didn’t want to anymore. I took a break to move on from that to something else (skies) for a while, then found myself able to go back to the trees with fresh eyes and fresh purpose. A few things I tried didn’t pan out in a long-term way (portraits, cats, etc.) and that’s okay. Someday I may go back to those things. To this day I constantly flip-flop back and forth between a few different themes. This keeps me consistent without getting burned out, bored, or too formulaic.

Here’s how I decided which paintings to focus on: I painted whatever I wanted, but made sure I was painting a few different things at once. I tried to sell what I painted by putting it in front of people whom I presumed might like it. The things that sold easily and quickly, I kept painting. The things that didn’t, I abandoned (at least for the moment.) I then repeated this process, and plan to do so infinitely. Voila—I get to paint what I want, but I also sell my paintings. If you want to be a painter, you have to 1) love what you’re doing BUT ALSO 2) paint things that other people want to buy. Finding the balance between those things can be frustrating, but if you stick with it, it works. Which leads me to:

4. Never Give Up
This one’s so important. You definitely won’t sell any art if you give up the first (or the hundredth) time you fail at it. If it’s not working, try again but better. Repeat. Trial and error works, but it is not for quitters. Stick-to-itiveness is vital.

This blog first appeared at www.artbycedar.com/blog and is reprinted here with permission of the author.

Cedar Lee lives, paints and sells her work in Baltimore, MD. Visit her website at www.artbycedar.com.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Weigh In on Donations

I read the email and rolled my eyes. And sighed. Yet another request from yet another worthy cause asking for a donation of art. (Why everyone thinks that artists can afford to donate their work is a topic for another blog.)

I almost hit the delete button. After all, I have donated paintings to six organizations already this year. I have already committed to two more. But then I thought, wait a minute… I have dozens of old prints stacked in my studio… I could donate them. And what about all those older paintings and studies lining the walls of my studio… couldn’t I donate them as well?

But then, as often happens with us Libra-types, I started thinking. If one of the reasons to donate my work to non-profits is exposure, shouldn’t I only donate my best work? Some of my older work is, well, okay – but not at the level of the work I’m producing now. So it is kind of embarrassing for me to present it. I have this weird desire to write a disclaimer, “This was my best work in 2003. Check my website for new works.” Or something like that. Which is great for the person who gets the painting or print. But what about the other people who walk by, see the work, think, OK, but a little amateurish. Then they associate my name with work that is not my best now, in 2010.

Am I crazy? That’s a hypothetical question, no need to answer! But you see the dilemma. Where do you weigh in on donations? Do you donate work at all? If so, do you always donate your best work or donate older works, or donate prints or a combination of all three? Or do you have another idea?

Weigh in with your thoughts! I'd love to hear from you!

by Kate Dardine

Celebrate Nature - And The Winner Is...

The results are in! Fine Print Imaging is pleased to announce the winners of the "Celebrate Nature" photo contest. But first we want to thank everyone who entered as well as all of you who took the time to vote and to share your comments with the photographers. The response was strong and the images represented a broad range of subject matter, geographic location and skill levels – just what we were hoping for!

People's Choice - Rei Bennett "Wabi-Sabi"

Wabi Sabi - Rei BennettArtist Statement:
On 4th December 2007 I was diagnosed with stage 1b1 cervical cancer. My cervix along with my pelvic lymph nodes were then removed to prevent the disease from spreading. In the weeks following my recovery from surgery I discovered the social taboo of discussing one's health, and in particular, the ugliness with which cancer is perceived because of the drastic effect its treatment can have on the appearance of the individual undergoing it. Because my cancer was caught before chemotherapy was necessary, my small, seemingly insignificant scars were all I had to remind myself of my experience. I took photographs of these scars, and teamed them with images of nature's scars as nature doesn't hide them. This particular image is of a dying tulip losing and curling its petals. I would hope to show those who see this image that death, disease and decay is all a part of life and is just as beautiful as nature in its prime. Beauty can only be found in the irregular. Perfection is dull. “Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional.” Leonard Koren (1994)

Juror's Choice - Paul Marcellini "Holy Sunstar!"

Artist Statement:

A beautiful morning on the Hillsborough River in Central Florida. It is one of the few rivers in Florida with rapids.

Juror's Comments:
  • Gorgeous light
  • Fantastic Composition
  • Simply Stunning
Grand Prize - Ray Rafiti "Brown Eyed Girl"


Artists Statement:

Female sub-adult grizzly from the Khutzeymateen in northern British Columbia. Captured on June 2, 2010.

Juror's Comments:
  • Fantastic Shot
  • Beautiful composition - everything in the frame belongs there.
  • Right place - right time - beautifully executed. Great job!
The community of people who savor nature through the lenses of their cameras is a special one and we are proud to be part of that community! Keep doing what you do. Keep sharing what you do.

Watch for more contests! We’ve only just begun!

View all the contest entries on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fineprintimaging

Friday, June 11, 2010

Women Artists Unite!

by Kate Dardine

Last fall I successfully juried into a 40 year old artist’s organization called Women Artist’s of the West. And then this spring I was juried into the WAOW all-member show with my painting, “Vision Quest.” These two accomplishments have done a lot to “prove” to myself that I have finally reached a point in my artistic journey where my work is considered to be on a par with artists I have admired for many years. It’s been a long time coming…

Although I graduated from college with a degree in Illustration (many years ago!), life – and the choices I made – have kept me from pursuing art full-time. The path I chose took me on a meandering course, and I already was married with two children before I decided to finish college and get my degree. So although art was my passion, I had to fit it in around the needs of my family. When we left Connecticut 22 years ago for the plains of Colorado, I had to find a part time job to help make ends meet. Luckily, I found a job which utilized my art skills as a “spotter” at Fine Print Imaging. Twenty-one years later, I am still at Fine Print – although now I am in the Marketing Department and working 32 hours a week.

What does it mean to juggle a full-time job, family responsibilities AND try to build an art career? Well, for one thing, it means that your time-line for “success” is probably going to be a bit longer than someone who is able to devote a full day’s work to art. I have often felt alone in my journey – most artists I know, both men and women, are “full-time.” And of those who have a day job, most don’t have children or family to take care of. Without resorting to reverse-sexism, I have to say that nearly all the men I know who are successfully building their art career are not working at a day job AND taking care of a family. On the flip side, MOST women artists I know are either working at a day job or taking care of a family (read: cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, schlepping kids to and from activities and/or taking care of aging parents, bill-paying, vacation-planning, etc.).

However, this is not a complaint. It is just a realization that women artists by and large face different challenges than our male counterparts. And THAT is why belonging to an organization whose sole purpose is to promote and support women artists is such an important part of my art career.

Last week the Women Artists of the West converged on El Cajon, California. About 30 of the members were able to take the trip to San Diego, and we were able to meet and converse the night before the show opened at the Olaf Wieghorst Museum. Most of us had never met before, so there was a lot of “where are you from” going on. And many conversations mentioned husbands left at home with long lists on how to take care of the horses, dogs, cats, children, garden, etc.…as well as talk about sales, galleries, painting styles and workshops. It struck me that most male artists don’t have to make long lists before leaving for a few days to attend an art show.

But let me dispel the idea that these women artists were unhappy about their lives. No – it was just a part of the experience of being a woman artist. Oh sure, there were jokes about us all needing “wives” to take care of things for us! But for most of us, “it is what it is.”

At the opening reception, the show judge, Peggi Kroll-Roberts, gave a talk and slide presentation of her work and her life as a successful woman artist juggling family and career. She talked of painting small so she could finish a painting in 20 minutes, of bribing her children and their friends with $1 bills to pose for minute sketches (“just count to 60!”), how she brought her sketch book along to soccer and baseball practices and games, days at the beach or in her backyard – “draw, draw, draw” she encouraged us.

Looking at slides of her paintings, sketches, contour drawings and children while listening to Peggi explain how she became successful because she never gave up, painted when she could – even if only for 15 minutes between loads of laundry – filled me with respect for this woman whose motto is “no excuses.” And made me realize that the path to success is different for everyone. Instead of bemoaning the lack of time, lack of money, lack of anything…just get out there and paint. Little steps get you to your goal as well as large steps, it just takes a little longer. But think of all the beauty you will see on your slow journey that those moving forward on the fast track will miss.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is Your Studio Green?

By Kate Dardine

I’m not talking about color here, I’m talking about eco – and health – friendly. Most of us paint away without considering the ramifications to our own health and the health of the planet.

My intention for today’s Earth Day blog was to write about all the ways that you can “green” your studio. The reason was two-fold: to learn ways that I can, as an oil painter, lessen my environmental impact, and to share that info with you. I naively thought that after typing in a few keywords into Google that I’d come up with enough info to write a book. Hardly. There is very little information out there, and what is available can be ambiguous, contradictory and in many cases, impossible to interpret. But I was determined…

Since I am an oil painter, I decided to start there. I use mostly Gamblin paints. Gamblin has a long history of environmental conscientiousness. Their website contains a lot of great information about studio safety. Their odorless mineral spirits (Gamsol) can be used as both a painting medium and a brush cleaner. Unlike regular turpentine, dirty Gamsol can be recycled with paints at the local recycling center. Of course, it is still made from a petroleum base, which by its very nature has an environmental impact. Dick Blick sells a turpentine substitute made by Eco-House called Orange Turpene which is made from “food-quality ingredients” and no petroleum. However, it still is classified as a hazardous material. I use Gamsol and have never had any problems with it – haven’t yet tried the various orange-based solvents made by Eco-House.

I was interested to learn that the cadmium pigments used to make paint are not considered harmful to humans during normal use. Gamblin does not make their Flake White with lead as other paint manufacturers do. However, they, as do all paint manufacturers, highly recommend that you wash your hands thoroughly after painting, or wear protective gloves.

One product that is icky is one that most oil and acrylic painters use – varnish. The best products I could find are still hazardous, and extreme caution should be used - proper ventilation, clothing, gloves and a respirator are all advised, particularly when using spray. Of course there is no law that says you HAVE to use varnish, but most of us like the extra layer of protection and the way it evens out surface reflection and deepens the colors.

And how about the support you paint on? Take canvas – seems environmentally friendly enough. But was the cotton grown using pesticides? Was the wood harvested using sustainable methods? Where was the canvas manufactured? I found some canvas made from organically grown hemp – but it comes from China. The amount of fuel used in transportation may offset the good of organic and sustainable hemp. You’d think someone in the States would figure that one out. I didn’t find any artist canvas made from organic cotton grown and manufactured in the USA. Maybe as artists we need to start demanding it? I know I am going to mention it to the company I buy most of my canvas from: Signature Canvas in Kansas. They use high quality materials all grown and manufactured in the USA, which is a big plus in my book.

How about wood support? According to the manufacturer, “Ampersand panels are made from FSC certified sustainable US Forest products. We use completely green manufacturing processes that protect the natural environment. No harmful chemicals used, no dangerous emissions for artists.” Ampersand panels come in a variety of surfaces for all types of painting processes, from watercolor and pastel to oil and acrylic, scratchboard and encaustic. They are available at a variety of art supply stores, including Jerry’s Artarama. Worth checking out – I know I’m going to try them!

A quick word on cleaning up after painting. Wipe as much excess paint off your brushes onto paper towel (recycled!) or painting cloths as possible. Swirl your brushes in odorless mineral spirits, wipe off on paper towel or painting cloth. Then use an environmentally friendly soap, such as Murphy’s Oil Soap or one of the brands made specifically for brush washing. (If you paint with hog bristle brushes, don’t use soap and water, as water will cause the bristles to get mis-shapen. Use lanolin lotion instead. Dispose of the painting cloths or paper towels into a metal trash bin with a lid.

You can recycle your solvents like this: Get two glass jars with tight fitting lids. Dirty solvent is put into one of the jars and left to stand overnight. By the following day, the pigment in the solvent will have settled to the bottom of the jar. Pour the recycled solvent into the second jar for reusing. The pigment sludge at the bottom of the jar can then be poured into a separate container and disposed of at any paint recycling center.

Make sure your studio is well ventilated – if possible, cross ventilate with a box fan in one window blowing air out of the studio and a second window open to let in fresh air. Researchers have identified several varieties of houseplants that excel in removing chemical pollutants from the air. Some common ones are philodendron, spider plant, and golden pothos, gerbera daisy and chrysanthemum (mum).

Obviously, there are many more ways to green up your studio and your art work. I’d love to hear from you on what you do to protect yourself and the environment while creating your art! Please leave your tips in the Comments section – thanks!

Here are some links you might find helpful:


If you have other resources you’d like to share, please do so in the Comments section. Thank you! And Happy Earth Day!

Kate Dardine is a professional artist and the Marketing Director for Fine Print Imaging.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Practicing for Spontaneity

by Kate Dardine

Normally I write about marketing your art in this space - but today I thought I'd share an adventure I had in my "other" life as a professional artist.

I recently was invited to participate in the Quick Draw at the 2010 Western Spirit Art Show in Cheyenne, Wyoming. And while by accepting, I knew I was throwing myself into uncharted waters, I felt I was up for the challenge. And I was. Until the week before the event. Then suddenly the doubts, the what-ifs, the pit-in-the-stomach “now what have I done” reality of what I’d agreed to hit me like a 747 during take off. Not only did I have to paint in front of an audience – and really, that part was ok – but then my piece, along with pieces from five other artists, would be auctioned off. Right after they were “finished.” A live auction I might add. Oh, and did I mention I had only 45 minutes, start to finish, to create this “masterpiece”?

So as I lay in bed at 3 am a week before I was surely going to be discovered as a fraud, I had an “ah-ha” moment. I could actually practice what I would paint. I checked the rules, and sure enough, there was no hidden clause that prevented me from practicing. I called up my gallery and asked if I might set up my easel in the gallery and practice the painting – I figured a little brush up in the fine art of answering questions while painting “under the gun” was in order. Luckily, the gallery manager enthusiastically agreed.

I decided to try to finish two paintings in two hours, 45 minutes each. The first painting – a new (and somewhat complicated) 12x12" composition, was in the ugly stage when my time keeper gleefully (a little too gleefully, I might add) signaled that my time was up. Hmmm. I figured I’d better try a different tack. Painting #2 was a simple composition I’d done before. That was the ticket! I was pretty much done before the “two minute warning.”

The night before the event, I painted that same painting one more time, in my studio, with my cell phone as my timer. No warning there – just paint fast and stop when the alarm goes off. Again, I found that I was finished before my time was up. Plus, having painted the same thing three times, I felt relaxed and confident that I’d be okay under pressure.

The night of the opening reception arrived, and I was still feeling oddly calm. I couldn’t tell if it was my hours of preparing or something akin to the calm people get when they know they are going to die.

A couple of hours before the event opened, the Quick Draw artists were ushered into the museum to set up easels. We were each assigned a wonderful volunteer whose only job was to be at our beck and call during the Quick Draw. Soon the museum filled with show staff, museum members, artists, patrons and guests.

A few minutes before the 7:00 “start”, we Quick Draw artists stood in front of our easels and empty canvasses, palettes ready, brushes in hand…and then, with a shout and an incredible adrenaline rush, we were off, the sound of thundering hooves pounding in my ears. Oh, maybe that was my heart beating! I painted in my key elements quickly, loosely, with the freedom of brushstroke that comes from familiarity. I could almost feel the breath of the other “horses” on the back of my neck…oh no, that was just the curious onlookers watching as I painted. At some point – maybe five or ten minutes into painting, time stood still, and my movements and brushstrokes slowed way down. I felt like I was in a dream…aware of people around me, hearing snippets of conversations, even answering questions, and my brush just kept moving over the canvas. I almost felt like a spectator myself – the decisions being made – lighter, darker, more intense, less intense, hard edge, soft edge – all came from a part of my brain that was just doing it – without the intrusion of my sometimes noisy analytical side.

By the time I heard the “ten more minutes” announcement I was nearly done. A few minor adjustments here and there, sign my name and step away from the easel. No time to pick things apart, find fault – nope, times up. Brushes down. Race is over.

As luck would have it, my piece was the first to be auctioned. Before I had time to get panicked over “will anyone bid?” people WERE bidding! And then it was sold, and the auctioneer was off to the next painting. At the end, my piece ended up being the highest bid piece that night - and for a while I was walking on that “they really like me” cloud that we artists walk on when we make a sale, get into a show, win an award. We have to enjoy that cloud while we can – soon enough it vaporizes in the reality of this emotional roller coaster we ride.

Could I have done the painting successfully without practicing? Maybe. But it would not have had the loose, expressive, spontaneous feel that this painting had. An important lesson was learned here: to be spontaneous takes a lot of study and practice!

Kate Dardine is the marketing director for Fine Print Imaging and a professional artist. You can see more of her work at www.katedardine.com

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yes You Can!

by Kate Dardine

Can you really sell art on the internet?
The answer is yes…IF.

One of the biggest misconceptions artists (for the sake of this article, photographers and other 2-D artists will be lumped together under the umbrella term “artist.”) have is that by having a website, or joining an “online gallery” such as Art for Conservation or other online galleries, that sales will just “happen.” There seems to be a thought process that goes something like, “I put my images ‘out there’ – now all I have to do is sit back and wait for the buyers to buy!” You could be waiting a long time. With all the images “out there” on the internet, what is going to make a potential purchaser find YOUR art?

For those of you who have read my posts before, you know my mantra. The internet is not a magic bullet. Tried and true marketing techniques still come into play. And as much as all of us would like to be able to just create and let “someone else” handle the marketing aspect, the truth is that it is up to you, the artist, to create the buzz about your work that will lead to sales.

So how do you create a buzz? The easiest way is to use social networking sites such as Facebook. I recommend having a “personal” profile for posting events about your life that are NOT necessarily related to art and a professional fan page where you can promote your art. One of the biggest benefits of posting your images on Facebook is the immediate feedback you get from comments and “likes” – you know pretty quickly which images resonate with your fan base and which don’t. In my earlier post, Marketing Your Art With Social Networking, I cover this subject in detail.

The second part of creating a buzz is to get your fans involved. Have a “name this image” contest or post a “daily painting.” Two artists I know have had great success with their daily painting series – check out Kimberly Kelly Santini’s “Painting A Dog A Day” blog and Deborah Flood’s “Painting A Child A Day” blog. Both these artists have done a great job creating buzz and getting fans and friends involved by asking for photo references to paint from. In addition, Kimberly goes one step further by aligning herself with animal welfare organizations and donating proceeds from the sales of her Dog A Day paintings.

Partnering with established non-profits is one of the best ways to get your work in front of buying eyes. For instance, the Art for Conservation online gallery requires all artists to donate a percentage of proceeds from sales of prints to a conservation or social justice organization.
Those who are having the most success on the site donate a substantial amount and make sure the organization who is benefiting is aware of what the artist is doing. They ask the organization to link to their work on the site, and to promote the fact that buying art benefits the organization.

For example, a few years ago, artist John Fawcett created two stunning paintings of the racehorse Barbaro. All proceeds from the sale of prints went to the Thoroughbred Charities of America. Did TCA promote John’s work? You bet they did!

Selling prints of your art through an online gallery site is perhaps one of the safest ways to promote and sell your work on the Internet. Most require purchasers to pay with credit cards, and most, like AFC, will do the printing without charging the artist upfront – their fees, commission and material costs are taken out of the sale price of the print.

Selling original art or photography from your own website can be a little trickier. First, you don’t have the luxury of lots and lots of people finding – or stumbling upon – your work (at least not at first). Second, there is the risk associated with payment. I have a paypal shopping cart attached to my website, and handle most payment that way. Sometimes buyers would rather send a check – and I let them. However, I don’t send out the painting until the check arrives and clears.

My first sale from my website (which I have through Fine Art Studio Online) came about three months after I first put my site up. The funny thing is, I didn’t even know I’d made a sale. I saw the sold button had popped up on a painting, but didn’t have my paypal account set up to send me notification when someone purchased from me. I thought something was wrong with my site! The poor guy waited 3 months before writing me an email inquiring when, if ever, I was going to send his painting. Of course I did right away! Strangely, that is the only sale of an original that I have made from my website that I can’t trace to my own marketing efforts. He truly did just stumble upon my website when he was trawling the artist websites on the FASO website.

So the bottom line is this - whether you are selling your art through your own website or through an online gallery site, the same principals of marketing apply. You must use all your marketing tools to drive potential buyers to your work. When adding new work to my website, I make sure to add in relevant keywords and phrases that someone might use in a search. I use Facebook, my blog, a weekly e-letter, Twitter and occasionally "snail mail" to keep my name and images in front of potential buyers. I also promote my work on two "daily painters" blogs. In addition, I regularly donate reproductions to non-profit organizations.

During the month of January, I turned what is normally a pretty slow sales month for me into one of my best sales months ever - by promoting my studio sale of older works, studies, and slightly damaged paintings. I am also promoting my Painting A Day project - 52 small (up to 6x8") studies in roughly 52 days. Since I know a good portion of my fan base is struggling in this economy, I am keeping the price of these paintings under $60. My fans are happy - they can get an original piece of art, and I am happy having a cash and energy flow!

Lest you think that all I do all day is paint and promote my work, think again - I do all of this AND work 32 hours a week at Fine Print Imaging. If I can do it...so can you.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Conversations Equal Sales

by Kate Dardine

My last post was all about getting people to come to your site, wander around and look at all the beautiful images. Now, how do you turn lookers into buyers?

According to Clint Watson, creator of the Fine Art Studio Online websites, the only way you sell art is through “connecting with real people and having conversations with them.” (Clint worked in a high-end gallery for many years before starting his own company – so he knows a bit about selling art.) “Well,” you may wonder, “how am I going to have conversations with people when I can’t see them – and am not even sure they are out there?”

You know the old saying – when there is a will, there is a way? Assuming you have the will, here are a few ways to engage in “conversation” with the viewers on your website.

Tell stories about your work.
I know, some of you are saying, “my art speaks for itself.” Trust me. It doesn’t. Now before you think I’m dissing your artwork (heck, I haven’t even SEEN it!) let me explain. Yes, the image has to speak for itself to attract the viewer. It’s color, composition, values, style have got to first grab the viewer and drag him or her in. But on a website, unlike a gallery, there is no gallerist to walk over and start a conversation with the viewer. You’ll have to do that with your written word. You don’t have to write a dissertation – in fact, you’ll want to keep it short. But you’ll want the words to tell a story that leaves the reader wanting to know more.

For example, I have a painting called “Healing Path.” I used Native American symbols in the painting. In my description of the work I wrote, “Many symbols, some personal, some Native American, were used in the creation of this painting. Titled "The Healing Path," it was painted at a time when my horse was sick and traditional western medicines weren't helping. If you'd like a detailed description of the symbolism used, please contact me and I'll send you info.” I can’t tell you how many contacts I received from people wanting to know the meaning of the symbols, wanting to know how my horse was, wanting to tell me their stories about using alternative healing methods. And guess what? I answered each of those contacts and...each one joined my mailing list…and three bought paintings...which leads me to:

Send out an email newsletter to your list on a regular basis.
I generally send mine out once a week. I keep the letter short, but provide insights into my creative life. I include a photo of the latest painting I’ve completed, and usually try to tie my “story” in to the painting I am showing. For instance, I recently completed a painting of a dead starling. The “story” part of my newsletter talked about my reticence to paint something dead, and how that was a metaphor for the very human fear of death and change and the unknown. I also wrote about how facing that fear was both freeing and empowering.

I usually mention a couple of other paintings, providing links to the images on my website. I also put “newsy” items in the newsletter – paintings that have sold, shows I’ve been juried in to, awards I’ve won, etc. And every once in a while I offer a special discount to my newsletter readers – and let them know they are the only ones getting the discount. I also, with the client’s permission, put in testimonials from people who have purchased a painting. I might give a short review of a book I’ve read or a movie I’ve seen. And I provide a short intro and link to my latest blog…

Start a blog!
My website through FASO has one built in, but there are plenty of free blog hosting sites out there. This blog is hosted by Blogger. There are a number of good sites out there that can help you get started writing a blog, and so I won’t go into detail here. Here's two to get you started. "How to Write Killer Blog Posts" and "How to Write Great Blog Content". Essentially, you want to think of your blog as another touch point, another place to start a conversation. Of course all the writing in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t have any readers – which is why I use social networking to drive readers to my blog.

In my next blog, I will share some of my experiences selling art through the internet – the good, the bad and the ugly!

Don't miss my next post - subscribe to this feed! And feel free to share!