Calling all AZ artists! We are currently accepting solo and group exhibition proposals for Fall and Winter. Take a look at the details and send us some great work to review!
As we discussed previously, an artist’s website is their number one marketing tool. What else is there that can potentially reach the entire world? That being said the website needs to be simple, comprehensive, and updated to reflect what is happening every day.
Content marketing is all the rage these days and artists have a great opportunity to provide consistent content to their followers. The website blog is where it should all start and posts should be made weekly to reflect any news, events, works in progress, thoughts, or ideas that will influence how people see you as a professional artist. The types of posts are endless and can really get people to follow you because you can let them see inside your daily life as you think and create.
You can connect your web blog to all social media outlets you use as well (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) so that the content spreads through your network. Research shows these platforms are good for up to 6 posts per day before followers start to ignore the content. The posts should also be shared in as many groups as possible (where appropriate) to increase the footprint and visibility of each post in a feed. Encouraging your followers to share also increases the visibility so make the content valuable!
Many businesses have gone away from email marketing but it is still a proven marketing tool, with research showing that people who are engaged with a business prefer weekly or bi-weekly email marketing over daily or monthly. Make sure to capture email addresses for anyone interested in your art and have a working email list. Services such as Mailchimp allow you to upload an entire list, put sign up forms on your website and social media, maintain subscriptions, and connect to social media for sharing purposes.
Direct mail marketing has also seemed to go the way of the buffalo, but is still very effective if used correctly. Keep an address list of loyal clients and send out postcards for special events or extraordinary exhibitions on your schedule. A minimum of 2-3 mailings a year will give your clients a tangible reminder of you.
Online event pages/sites are all over the internet, from the local news station website to Craigslist, there are a plethora of places to post your events. We suggest finding as many as possible to post events, exhibition openings—this gets the word out to a broader base and also helps in search (SEO) if you post a link to your website.
Press releases can yield some free advertising. A local reporter stated that the reason he doesn’t write about a lot of the galleries is because he doesn’t get any pitches from them. Now PR is a very different monster than simply emailing your media contact list, it takes some media savvy… Press releases should be written clearly and include the “When, What, Where, Why” along with something unique that catches attention. We do not recommend building a list of reporters from every media outlet and mass emailing them press releases, there may be some initial interest but it will fade due to repetition. Search for local reporters who write about the arts, culture, nightlife, events, things-to-do, and business. Create individual lists for each and start by emailing or calling them directly to introduce yourself and ask if they would like to receive press releases from you.
When you write a press release send it individually to a few reporters as a pitch, ask them if they would like to interview you for a story about the event or news, then allow time for follow up. If a day or so goes by try the next group. Make sure the releases are about things that each group specializes in, don’t send a release about an exhibition to a business writer. A major factor in getting coverage is finding out a timeline on when reporters need the information—magazine writers usually have longer publication times so need information a lot sooner than newspaper or TV, which focus on short term news.
The most critical part of marketing is your strategy, know what you want to do ahead of time and plan ahead. Creating a monthly and yearly marketing plan is the key to effectiveness. The most effective strategy is to have a weekly marketing schedule that you do one outreach task each day or so, then it becomes consistent!
Since my last blog about artist websites I have had a lot of requests for examples. Since the artist website is THE most important marketing tool I have done some research about some more points and some sites that really do well.
Scottsdale artist Cyndy Carstens website is beautifully designed with big, bold images, simple navigation, prominent contact information, a blog, and prices on every image! Check it out HERE
I worked with Lisa O’Riley last year on revamping the language and simplicity of her website and she did a great job. Check it out HERE
I also found a couple of artists that are extremely successful with sales from their respective websites. They use full portfolios, it is very clear what they do, and they make it super easy to purchase the work right from the site. Check out Ann Rea and Matt LeBlanc (not Joey from FRIENDS).
- Justin Germain
Simply put, an artist’s website is their most important marketing tool. It is where your entire portfolio resides on the internet–where anyone globally can access and learn about your work. Therefore, it should be simple, professional, and comprehensive.
I have seen many artist websites, some are absolute nightmares, some incomplete, some neglected, some only have a facebook page (and sometimes only personal ones at that) and some are pretty damn good. There are crucial elements that every artist needs on their website:
– A custom URL – Use a variation of your name or studio name. This will make it easier for people who are looking for you to find the site.
– “HOME” – The landing page is the introduction to your site so make it powerful and concise. Welcome visitors to your page with a short introductory paragraph and some images. Make sure to have a sentence that states your location and that you are a contemporary artist, painter, sculptor, etc. (This is for search purposes, which I will discuss a bit below). You can also include links to all of your social media on the home page. Hopefully your site will allow your contact information to display on every page, but at the least put it on the homepage, and possibly create a separate page for all your contact methods.
– “ABOUT” – Here you can create one page that includes your focused artist statement, bio, and CV or you can create “child” pages for each element. This depends on the length of your materials, so use your best judgment. Images of you, your studio, and exhibitions are good on these pages.
– The artwork pages or galleries – Of course this is where you want your visitors to land. I do not suggest having images of every work you have ever created on your website, especially if you have been making for a long time. Break your work up into time periods, separate themes (bodies), or even media. Some artists only show their newest work on their website. This is a judgment call too but make sure your categories are clearly defined. The newest work should be at the top of your page or list of pages. Make sure to list the title, date, media, size, and PRICE of each work on your website. If you want people to inquire or purchase from you, tell them how much and if you will do a payment plan. Very few people will contact you if they do not know how much they might be spending, the social semantics of “if we have to ask we cannot afford it” still holds true to many people.
–BLOG – Yes, it is a must. Use your blog to post news about your art including new works, works in progress, exhibitions, ideas, shows or artists that inspire you–anything that keeps fresh content on your site. Dedicate a few hours a week to posting updates that automatically go on to your social media as well so you extend your reach.
– CONTACT – If you choose to have a completely separate contact page make sure to include your email address, phone number (if you want calls), and links to all your social media.
These “rules” are meant for artists that are directly marketing themselves, if an artist is represented by a gallery there may need to be some changes based on the contract. It is essential you honor your contract and use your website to promote your work in your gallery’s inventory.
A little about search… Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a term used a lot in marketing and pushed by all sorts of sales people that want you to pay them to make your site #1. This is not important for a solo artist. Yes, you want people to find you but if they don’t know your name already, you could spend thousands of dollars on SEO, keywords, tags, and link building and still not be found in searches. So, here are a few important things that help with search and boost the importance of the information on your website.
– Use a platform already built for SEO such as wordpress, squarespace, weebly, or wix.
– Use text on as many pages as possible, search engines cannot find images. Some keywords are great. The first sentence on your homepage stating your name, location, and that you are a contemporary artist is great for search.
– Share links to your pages on social media and encourage others to share them as well. The more links to your website the easier search engines have to work to find it.
– Regularly post new content on your blog, search engines like new content.
If you have no idea how to build a website or want to make sure it is simple and easy to navigate let us know. We cost a lot less than a web designer and can consult with you on building a simple, effective site!
I have talked a lot about creating a professional portfolio, website, and having your own noticeable brand. These are all essential for applying to exhibitions and galleries, even they don’t require all of the materials, they will see the effort you put into your online presence and portfolio. That professionalism makes people take notice!
Once you are accepted into a show or gallery, then they have to market your work too, it takes a lot of work and time so if you provide them the materials that make it easier for them, you will be a rockstar in their minds.
Provide your written artist statement/bio/CV in a format they can easily add their branding. Make sure you’ve had them edited and looked over so there are not any typos and grammar issues. Also, have images of all of your artwork inventory ready for them, not only that they can use for web, print, and marketing but they may have clients who would like to see more of your work, so have it readily available to them.
My last post was about images but here are a few quick pointers:
Have digital files of high res (8 inches at 300 dpi), medium res (6 inches at 200 dpi), and low res (6 inches at 120 dpi) saved. The high and medium res can be saved as TIFF files, and I recommend using PNG files for the lower res, they don’t degrade over time like JPGs.
If the gallery has these written and visual materials available on demand they provide them to media and clients easily, either via email or print. A practice I encourage galleries to do is to provide a comprehensive curatorial packet including all the written materials and a high quality image with artwork specs to every client with their purchase. This is great for insurance purposes as well as provenance records. The gallery brand should be on all materials since there is no telling where they might end up and who might see them.
Like I said, if you make it easier for them to compile the info and brand it, they will love you for it. As always if you need any assistance with developing your portfolio, website, or documenting your artwork please don not hesitate to contact me.
- Justin Germain
Written materials are key to helping you attract people to your work and connect with it, hopefully leading to more sales. But having high quality images of your work for your potential clients is of course of the utmost importance. They have to see the image to consider purchasing it, let alone falling in love with it. It is imperative that you have high quality images of your work for your website, marketing materials, and to send clients and exhibition organizers.
I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to digital artwork images. Blurry images are the worst since they disregard all of the detail. Miscolored images show that the artist did not take the time to quality check the images, and they deceive the viewer because it is not truthful in appearance. The same goes for badly cropped, or uncropped images. Pixelated images on a website are not going to make a potential client purchase the work… So here are a few pointers to ensure you have what you need to make great images of your work.
- Use a digital camera with at least 10 megapixels to photograph your work, this will provide more clarity and detail.
- If you do not have a lighting system that evenly distributes illumination on the work, take your photographs in natural light – in the shade on a bright day or when it is overcast is perfect.
- Use a tripod to ensure no camera shake that causes blur.
- Crop your images to the edges of the work for square 2 dimensional pieces; if the work is not square crop a square around it with equal gaps around the edges closest to the frame of the image.
- 3 dimensional pieces can be photographed on a plain stand with a neutral color, white, or black background. Use a color that the work will stand out against.
- Color correct and level correct with a post production program! Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. will make a big difference.
- Quality check each image to ensure clarity and no blur.
- If it is not right retake it!
- Most cameras capture images at high dimensions, resize you images to 8 inches at the longest side and 300 dpi – this size is good for print materials
- Resize and save a copy at 72 dpi – useful for sending in emails to press, galleries, and clients.
- Resize and save a copy at 6 inches and 120 dpi – this should be your web size for posting on your website. Still decent clarity but not great for printing. This keeps anyone from stealing the image for any useful purposes. You may even want to add a watermark or copyright to the photo.
- Create folders for each size and title the images with your last name, title, and dpi for greater organization.
If you are not comfortable with your photography skills or do not have the tools needed, camera, lighting, photoshop, etc. it is in your best interest to hire a professional. In the long run the cost will far outweigh the loss of sales due to bad images. I offer full service image capture and post production for $65 per hour, including post-production.
There are a myriad of opportunities for artists to show and sell their work. The main thing to keep in mind is that they rarely come and find you. An artist must be diligent and professional about finding as many ways possible to get eyes on their work, which will hopefully lead to sales!
Of course with technology today, the best way an artist can promote to an international market is with a comprehensive website and social media. This is the best way to be “found” or possibly “discovered.” Check out some of our previous artist tips about the essential materials and information to have on your website. In summary, make sure you have outstanding images of your artwork and plenty of written information about you and your work.
There are many outlets for artists to display and sell their work online, we have a list of some of the best HERE.
In today’s world, especially the art world, using social media to market yourself and your work is absolutely necessary. I recommend all artists take an active role in networking and posting often about their work. At least, artists should be active on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Now, definitely don’t over do it, but research shows each of these platforms are good for up to 6 posts per day before the audience starts to ignore them. A key point is to continue to grow your network by engaging with other artists and people who show interest in what you do. Word of mouth goes a long way in the art industry.
For early career artists, especially those just getting started, it is important to look into alternative venues other than art galleries to show your work. Search your vicinity for restaurants, coffee shops, salons, libraries, any business that might be a good opportunity for you to hang your work and where people will see it. Another great idea I have seen catch on lately is for groups of young artists to join together and find exhibition spaces to show all of their work. There are many artist run organizations that you can join to get in on potential exhibition opportunities that they set up for the group as well, so it’s a good idea to search those out.
Often I see artists focusing way too much on just their local area. A great way to get more views on your work and build your resume is to submit to national and online calls for exhibitions and competitions. I offer a curated list of open calls HERE but a simple google search for “calls for art” or “call to artists” could yield some great opportunities. Remember to always follow the submission guidelines, an easy way to not get selected is send the wrong materials. If you need help with writing, editing, or creating a portfolio or application, definitely give me a call.
If an artist is ready to plunge into the gallery world, then there is one piece of advice I hope you pay attention to: DO YOUR RESEARCH! First, look for group shows you can submit to. The best way to find them is to get to join the gallery mailing list and join local artist groups in social media like Facebook. There are so many types and specializations in the local gallery scene so here are some steps to find the best fit:
- Get to know which galleries would most likely be interested in your work
- Do they show early-career, mid-career, or established artists?
- Find out what style of work they usually show—what is their brand?
- Learn about the price range they show and sell—do you have work that fits their sales model?
- Find out how they prefer to receive submissions and what materials they require—hopefully they have this information on their website, if not make a phone call to inquire.
- If you apply and are not selected, continue to visit the galleries you are interested in. Introduce yourself to the curators and other artists they show. After a while, name recognition could go a long way.
These pointers could get your work noticed by galleries and maybe even represented. But, remember to really focus on the gallery requests. Here is an inside tip from a former gallerist, we only really review and keep the submissions that have everything we request, and whose work fits our aesthetic. If an artist ever just sent an email with a website link, I rarely even looked at the website, the email went right to the trash box.
Lastly, I want to touch on the idea of doing things for people, groups, organizations, etc for “exposure.” For example many nonprofits ask artists to donate their work for events, auctions, and such with the claim that they will get a lot of “exposure” and many people with money will see it. Be very skeptical, do research on the organization and their donors and see if it is beneficial. Do they actually have any real interest in art? What do the proceeds go towards? Do they give the artist any part of the money raised by their work? Donating artwork and the tax implications are tricky, they are changing for the better too, but I cannot stand when artists who are well known enough are doing things for “exposure.” In any business there are internships for those needing to learn and get some experience. Is this you? If so it could be beneficial as a resume builder. But, for professional artists, I promote not doing anything for free, your work is your livelihood. Give if you feel there is a cause you want to support but never let the promise of “exposure” dictate your involvement.
- Justin Germain
Many artists are trying to find spaces to show, and hopefully sell, their artwork. There are all types of spaces that will show artwork and allow artists to sell it, some are not art galleries and might not even take a commission, coffee shops, restaurants, hair salons, office buildings, the list could go on… The first step is figuring out what your goal is for showing–do you just want people to see your work or do you have sales goals in mind? Is there people who will be marketing your work in that space or will you be left to do that yourself. What kind of fees or commission is there? All great questions to think about when considering your options.
Most spaces are looking for work that fits an idea, aesthetically or culturally, of whatever goes on in the space. Even art galleries have specific tastes and types of work that they show, and that they feel they can sell. They have a brand and a market so find out as much as possible about these factors before contacting the decision makers for the space.
Some other factors to consider when selecting a show space are:
- Do they have submission standards and a long term exhibition plan?
Pay attention to dates and the exact materials they request. Sometimes spaces are booked out for up to a year or more so having the materials prepared and sending them in quickly when you find an opportunity is critical. Take time to look online for as many opportunities as you can, calls for art are listed by many galleries and other places that show artwork. You can find a curated list on this website too under “Artist Opportunities.”
- Do they have a history of sales?
It is ok to ask if a space, especially a gallery, has been selling work and even ask to see some numbers over the last year or so. You should know the facts about what you can expect from a show.
- Is the contract artist focused and beneficial for both parties?
First off, make sure you have a written agreement about what you are lending, how it will be taken care of, how long it will be shown, the prices for sales, and the commission for the space. The commission should reflect the amount of work and marketing the space will do to sell the work.
Many spaces still have a standard commission rate of 50%, but are they deserving of that? If the amount of marketing time and open hours is less than 40 per week then the rate should be less than half. Some of the most successful, and artist focused, gallerists retain a 30% commission—and they work very hard for it by establishing a loyal clientele and marketing heavily.
Representation contracts – Contracts should be clear in the term of representation. If the show is on the gallery walls for one month how long will the gallery keep the work in inventory and continue to market it? I suggest a minimum of three months, which allows for three cycles of marketing to build interest. For exclusive representation I recommend a minimum contract of at least three months, and for artists showing with a space for the first time no longer than one year. Also, pay attention to wording about exclusivity, do not allow any space access to rights over any work that you do not consign into the space, at least until you are with one gallery that consistently sells all of your work.
I know, I know, the work should sell itself right? Not realistic… unfortunately. It is imperative now more than ever that an artist have clear, concise written materials that explain and engage the viewer. With the massive amount of art on the market you have to convince a potential buyer that your work is important and they need it, this means they have to have an emotional connection to it. Therefore, the more they can learn about the work, and you, the better your sales will be.
Artist Statement/ Biography/ CV
These are the three staples that I believe every artist must have—and they are not one document they are all completely separate and very different.
Your artist statement is your explanation of your oeuvre, a body of work, or an individual piece. Some artists will have one umbrella statement, while others have many crafted for specific uses. I recommend having one explaining your work as a whole, one for each body of work or series you create, maybe one for each piece you make. The more you have prepared the better off you will be.
You may have multiple versions of each too, directed to specific groups, but the most important is the one directed at potential clients so there are some keys to remember:
- Use the first person, this is your statement so do not speak about yourself in the third person. It is impersonal and honestly kind of annoying.
- Keep it short, at the most 2-3 paragraphs totaling a maximum of 250-300 words. Your statements do not need to explain everything, they must engage and start a conversation.
- Keep it simple—do not use artspeak that only museum curators understand. It needs to be clear to everyone who comes across it, if they don’t understand the words you use they will not buy it, and if they do buy it they will want to be able to explain it to others.
- Have multiple versions—be flexible with it so you can adapt it to exhibition needs.
- Discuss what the work is, how you make it, and why.
- Use your artist statement to develop your “elevator statement,” a pointed explanation of your work in 2 or 3 sentences that you commit to memory used when you are asked, “Oh you are an artist, what do you make?”
- If you are not comfortable with your writing or want it to be better, work with a professional, the cost will be much more affordable than missing out on sales.
Your biography is where you get to write about yourself and give the reader some insight into who you are and how that is reflected in your art. This can be written from the outside perspective so I definitely recommend working with a professional art writer to craft your bio and tell your story. Most importantly, remember this is about you, not necessarily your art, but you can discuss your background with the arts, it’s kind of like a narrative of your resume with more detail about your life. I once heard a great comment about this, “people buy from people” so let them know who you are.
Your C.V. (Curriculum Vitae) is your art resume, and should look similar to your professional resume. It should include:
- Your elevator statement
- Contact information
- Exhibition History (solo and group shows can be separate)
- Gallery Representation
These are the basic written materials that will make up your portfolio and your website. If you have all of these materials prepared you will easily be able to build your marketing materials. Better so, you will be able to engage people with your work and hopefully turn them into clients.
Remember, I have many years of experience writing for artists and since I have offered this service my clients have been very satisfied, but more importantly they are more confident and using the materials more often. Contact me if you can use some help crafting your written materials.
Developing a unique, recognizable brand is one of the most important factors to running a successful business. One of the first things I tell artists who desire to make it their sole profession is to think of it as a business, so branding is of utmost importance! Branding will make your art, and you, stand out from the rest and help you develop a consistent, loyal clientele.
The first rule of branding is consistency. Your name, logo, colors, font, etc. must be consistent across all of your digital and physical marketing materials. It is how people will identify that what they see comes from you.
The story behind the artwork is a major part of your brand. If you can describe the important influences, inspirations, and reasons why you create, along with a little bit about yourself in an engaging way that your customers can understand and relate to, they will remember you, and visit regularly. A good point that I heard recently is, people buy from people, so let those potential clients in; let them get to know you and your work!
In any business the product is of primary concern, it is what you sell to make income, so it is how your client can come to own the brand themselves. Your artwork defines your brand. In turn, your clients who purchase from you define their taste in line with that brand.
I encourage you to put some real time and thought into this. Brainstorm the definition of what you create, whether it be a certain style, medium, theme, or concept. What other services or products do you offer? How do these varying things fit together, or do they at all? Narrow down the aesthetic of what you present to your clients and define it. Make this part of your story.
One reason I feel this is an important first tip is this… The artwork each gallery or dealer exclusively sells is a huge part of its brand. If your work fits into that brand you will be more successful trying to get an exhibition or representation. This may be your goal, to have an arts business represent you and sell for you, but that does not happen overnight. Build your brand now and make it successful so you can choose what path your business takes in the future.