In the first part to this series I talked about examining your vision and values. The second article in this series explores how to package the information you previously explored. I’ll talk about the art of developing your mission and goals.
This past weekend I had a fantastic time at Granville Island, a public market in Vancouver, BC. Granville Island can be described as a beautiful oasis of art studios, restaurants, green spaces, art centres, fresh food vendors and performers; it presents a wonderful sensory feast.
As I walked through the artisan and artist shops, I was inspired by all the original handmade creations and thought about how unique each studio shop was. How the artist/business owners really owned their brand. I saw a triad of elements at work. The artists knew how to present their work in a way that touched the imagination of pleasure seekers that flocked to their shops. The artists had a distinct style unique to them, which had roots from years of exploration. And, the artists understood the needs of their target market.
It’s inspiring to see how the shops of artisans and artists selling directly to the public can do so well. It’s clear that presenting art work to galleries is not the only option. The choice artists have to sell their work are abundant and depend on individual motives.
Your creative pursuits will include building an art practice and business. Whether you exhibit your work in public or commercial gallery, commission your work, or sell directly to the public, you will be presenting your work to people.
This means building trust with your supporters, customers, and collectors. Key elements to building trust are:
- Be genuine
- Be reliable
Do the folks you interact with trust you?
Do you own your decisions and take action for what you believe in?
San Francisco-based illustrator and fine artist Lisa Congdon started her artistic career at 33. After several years of exhibiting and showing her work in art shops, art galleries, blogging about her work and teaching, she can now take comfort in knowing that she makes a decent living from her work. Over the years she has worked progressively at developing her artistic style, connecting with people in mutually beneficial exchanges, made sound business decisions and as a result developed a loyal following.
If you want customers to become collectors, some thought has to go into the details of how you organize and present your work, your ideas and your vision.
Are you targeting the market that’s right for you?
I’m guessing that whether you’re a writer, a dancer, a musician or a visual artist, the person that you prefer to do business with also has needs. Therefore, the success of your interactions depends on whether you can help each other in your respective needs.
Here’s an example of meeting needs that I am familiar with. While I worked in a non-profit art gallery, artists would often ask about exhibiting in the gallery. It wasn’t very often I had artists ask me questions about the gallery program or mandate. They just assumed that I would hang anything on the walls.
Every business, non-profit and profit develops goals to survive. For non-profit galleries their survival depends on public-funds and public-funds come with strings attached. I had a contract with the district that was shaped to address the cultural needs of our community. About 1/3rd of our gallery exhibits highlighted the work of community art groups and public school art programs. The remaining exhibits were developed to highlight the different types of art styles and subjects addressed by professional artists.
I can’t speak a great deal about commercial gallery operations (for profit businesses), but what I do know is that they rely on their revenue from art sales and receive no public funding from the government. All operations, such as marketing, overhead operations, staffing, advertising and promotions must be paid through the sale of art work.
Another important detail to know is that galleries (profit and non-profit) specialize and have a niche, like any business would.
This information is important to know because it can help you develop a treasure chest of information that will help you make decisions. Go out into your community and go online to investigate spaces to exhibit or sell your work. Visit your local art shops, art organizations, commercial and non-profit galleries to decide how their operations fit with your needs. If you find yourself out of sync with the opportunities presented through these traditional means, consider less traditional avenues and cut the middle man. Go the direct route and sell directly to the public.
Whichever route you take, whatever style you develop, think of it as an extension and reflection of your values.
If you’re edgy, brilliant, funny or inquisitive, that will come through in your work. The core of what defines you defines your practice. So learn to identify your core and use it to your advantage.
Anything else can be learned, or developed through experience.
- Your outlook may change
- Your skill level will improve
- Your organizational skills can improve
- Your dedication will flourish
- Your discipline may increase
- Your sales skills can improve
And so on.
Written communication may also be a big part of your art business package. Over the life time of your career, you may communicate in written form with galleries, gallery shops, customers, collectors, supporters, art organizations and granting bodies.
If you’re interested in becoming a better writer, whether it’s to develop relevant content for your website, your blog or to gain some insight into writing an impressive biography or, artist’s statement, read blogs written by copywriters. They know the art of persuasion. Another type of blog I would recommend reading and studying is that of a journalist. Again, they know how to lead a reader through an article and keep them interested until the end.
The Power of Expectation briefly identifies a couple of resources I benefitted from in the blog sphere. It also outlines some useful tips for tackling a writing project.
Knowing how to tackle a blank page, develop important business habits, meaningful connections, and choosing a road to travel are important steps, but they mean nothing without conviction. Belief in yourself and your abilities is very important to your success and the most important of all to develop. It will help you take on challenges and continue on your path of discovery. Belief is a companion you want by your side.
What Challenges do you face in packaging your practice?