This blog is a response to the following threads - very much worth reading:
•The Myth of Print Advertising: What Works? by Jack White http://ht.ly/5fG6y ~ great comments & dialog @Fasobuzz •Hey - Was That A Door You Just Slammed in My Face? http://ht.ly/5fGef ~ lively reply to Jack White on print advertising http://ht.ly/5fG6y
Hello Jack, Barney Davey, et all,
Friend Barney Davey, whom I consider a premiere art blogger with insights, advice and information every artist must have, pointed me to this interesting thread.
After spending a couple of years teaching art in public schools, I spent the next 20 years in advertising, eventually owning an ad agency. We were area representatives for most major Hollywood movie studios and did print ads every day, but also represented other ad and PR clients, including Playboy Magazine. We found we could sell most anything with “sex”, including luxury condominiums and motorcycles.
Circumstances led me to become an independent rep selling my own art, limited edition prints for major print publishers and for individual artists. This calling provided a comfortable living for my family for the next twenty plus years. You can listen to my podcasts – no charge – at: www.salestipsforartists.com and see many examples of the wide variety of art I sold, mainly to Interior Designers, Architects and to some galleries on: www.bestartofall.com.
MANY ARTISTS HAVE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS about reps, galleries and advertising. “If I just had a good art rep.” Or “If I just had a good gallery.” Or “If I just had the money to advertise,” the dollars would begin to roll in.
Here’s the sort of conversation I had dozens of times with artists showing samples of their art asking me to rep their work:.
ME: “Your paintings are lovely and I think they are salable.”
Artist: “I love to paint. If only I could just spend my time painting, I’d be in heaven.”
ME: “If someone paid you $1,000 a week just to paint, would that seem fair?
Artist: “I’d be thrilled beyond words! I’d paint even if I wasn’t paid – it’s something I have to do.”
ME: “It certainly shows. I especially like this tropical acrylic. How long did it take you to paint it?”
Artist: “About three hours – it was such fun!”
ME: “If I found a buyer for it, what do you think would be a fair price?”
Artist: “My gallery sold one similar to it for $900 but I got just $450. I’d like more, but $450 would be OK. It’s one of my best!”
ME: “How many of your paintings have they sold for about that price?”
Artist (hesitating): “Well, just the one.”
ME: “How many of your paintings has your gallery sold this year?”
Artist (hesitating): “Well, just that one.”
ME: “If you painted full time for $1,000 a week, that would equal $25 an hour for forty hours. If you spent three hours painting the acrylic, that adds up to $75. Would you still be thrilled if you got $75 and not the $450 you said would be fair?”
I met many artists and very few could claim earning $1,000 a week from their art. Some years I sold $25 - $30,000 worth of my own art, but if the art by another artist I repped was better for my client’s project, that was the art I really pushed. If you aren’t willing to put your client first don’t become an art rep.
PROBLEM? Most artists have no idea how the art business really works – who gets what and how much? They like to paint but don’t realize what the value of their talent is in the marketplace where money actually changes hands. They’ve seen stories about artists who sell everything they paint for thousands of dollars and say to themselves, often rightly, “My work is as good as theirs!” Just look around and see how many people are gifted with some degree of art ability. There are many mathematicians in the world, but only a handful of Einsteins. God gives art talent generously to many. But, only a few have established a reputation through years of hard work and tremendous personal involvement. I sold the work of many artists - many pieces a year for a few, but just a couple for most.
MY ADVICE AS AN ART REP: You are your own best salesman. Until you realize that and are willing to spend the time and effort to learn, practice and spend hours and dollars using as many of the multiple ways to promote your work as you can, whether personally, through print, galleries, reps, technology and social media, please continue to paint or draw and be thankful for your God given gift. Work hard, learn about your market, don’t get a “big head” and, perhaps, your time as a lion of the art world will come!
MY #1 PIECE OF ADVICE IS: YOU CAN’T SELL IT IF YOU DON’T SHOW IT. As an art rep I sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of quality “decorative” art each year to the most active of all art buyers, a group many artists overlook, by driving throughout the state of Florida to potential clients with portfolios of actual art. I knew what my “market” was and was in contact constantly.
NOTHING BEATS PUTTING THE REAL THING INTO THE HANDS OF A POTENTIAL BUYER to touch, examine closely and fall in love with. Used properly, all of the other ways to show art have a place, assuming you learn from experts (especially Barney) how to use them. My art career included years the Internet was just beginning to be considered a viable medium, but many of my clients weren’t yet familiar with it. I did use the “technology” of that time – broadcast fax - to reach almost 1,000 clients to let them know when I’d be in town and to ask if they were working on a project that needed art.
PERSONAL PERMISSION AND FACE-TO-FACE INTERACTION MAKES A DIFFERENCE! Every one of them I’d ask for permission before sending faxes and to get their fax numbers. Despite my ad background, I didn’t spend a dime on print ads, not because they weren’t attractive, but because I just didn’t have enough dollars to do it properly after paying all my rep travel expenses, insurance, phone, accounting etc. etc. from commissions I earned on actual art sales.
IIF YOU WANT TO USE AN ART REP BE WILLING TO PAY HIM for his time, professional contacts and experience, just as you would any other art professional such as a gallery owner or magazine publisher.
THE MORE ARROWS IN YOUR QUIVER, THE MORE LIKELY YOU’LL MAKE A SALE. . Incidentally, if there’s a hardworking artist out there who’d like to do what I did - sell his own art and from my remaining inventory on www.bestartofall.com to earn a generous commission on anything he or she sells, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.. That’s another truth, straight from the “horse’s mouth” – one that’s been around the track more than a few times. How’s that for a couple of useful clichés in a row?