Is Artmarketing an Oxymoron?

I´d say no, but well, I can only speak about my story here, maybe about applied and commissioned arts but not about the beast that is called the "art-market" on which I don´t really waste a thought at the moment.

Art should have a value and a message, but it should still be affordable and tangible, empiric perceptible at its best.

Let´s face the reality; most people not familiar with an artists-life,  do associate "artists" with dead painters whose works are sold for millions of Dollars between Museum´s, Galleries and Millionaire collection. Everyone who doesn´t fit in there is a starving artist, who´d be better making something else for an income.
Most people, even some artists, don´t even know the today´s options of making a living from their art.

In the 20 month of working fulltime as illustrator and artist, reading and contemplating about the meaning of marketing was good, but it was even better to apply what I have learned directly!

I see marketing as a part of my job and this essentially pays off!
As artist I tend to act and behave like a company, while being 5 professionals in one person (salesman, marketing expert, artist, designer, clerk, etc) ain´t always easy.

It´s crucial as an artist to recognize how important this commercial aspect of your career actually is. It helped me to get more joy out of marketing, which used to be merely a ball and chain back in the days when I had a day job. Its crazy how much perception can change if you understand how things work. Observing the art-business from the view of a company helps.

Luckily we live in times where everything can be learned via YouTube, blogs, tutorials, tele-summits and symposiums or even through newsletters that allow everyone who wants to achieve a goal find the perfect method of learning their desired stuff. As nice as painting and learning new techniques might be, be sure that marketing is on your to-do-list to study everyday!

What ultimately helped me better my marketing skills, and find out deficits, was to make a list:
  • What can I do ?
  • What can I do but need to get better at?
  • Where do I have deficits ?
  • Where do I need to ask or hire a professional ?
Its important to find out what I can do and where the limit are, for example: I´m better at writing (Email communication), online promotion, updating portfolios, blogs, website, design, but I´m not strong with phone calls especially first time calls, speaking in front of an audience is also something I tend to ask a professional for (if possible).

The next step is to define the target market through observation and statistics, finding a niche and a way to penetrate that market; for example: locally and regionally the demand for original art is low and more often than not, the territory of established artists. So I followed the path which Gottfried Helnwein took, going international, with licensing art and illustrations for covers on mainstream media and doing the fine arts to provoke with bold messages besides, is something suitable to my time management and possibilities as well.
Also I focused more on digital creations; since for publishing and promoting online, it not only saves time, its easier for revisions and sharing files with agencies, authors and publishers = more time for family and personal art projects.

Currently my time-management-schedule looks like this:
  • 40% Commercial commissions (licensing, book covers, etc.)
  • 25% Private art commissions (characters, portraiture)
  • 20% Promotion (blogs, community, portfolio updates, social networking)
  • 15% Personal art projects and sales (and physical exhibition of these)
Sure, if in 5 years exhibition possibilities expand and the demand for my personal art increases around 10-20%, I wouldn´t bother, but change the focus, so far I embrace the mix of challenges and projects, it´s what satisfies me the most.
Essentially what helped me (and still does) to get better at online-marketing are these guys from my twitter marketing list, which I highly recommend to read through! Feel free to suggest some in the comments that I might have forgotten or simply didn´t know yet!

Additionally there are some nice posts on ArtOrder about marketing ideas for artists and illustrators, Freelanceswitch and Artmarketingsecrets have some interesting stuff about that matter too.

Being good at painting, sculpting and being full time -creative is one thing, but putting the name out there, so that interested and searching parties get a hold of you is the crucial part. Getting to know your clients and the market is the key that decides if you have success in your niche or if you are forced to resign or change the path.

Time management helps you to reach these goals and define the importance of things, I also highly recommend the 70-minutes lecture about time-management by Randy Pausch here.
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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


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