Friday, January 27, 2012

What are the priorities for an aspiring artist?

California Sunset by Albert Bierstadt
- a model for all aspiring painters of Californian landscapes?


What do you think are the priorities for an aspiring artist?

I received an email the other day which struck me as being from a "Mr Everyman".  That's because what he was saying is probably representative of a number of artists who have moved beyond being a beginner.

"Mr Everyman" has been painting landscapes in California for about three years.  He's sold art and would like to sell more but is in a quandary as to where to display that art online to get the best results.

I took a look at his website - with difficulty as it doesn't work properly.  I'd characterise his art as being not unlike a lot of other artists who are serious leisure painters who are both trying to improve and also aspire to being full time painters one day.  Also, as yet, there is nothing particularly distinctive about his art in terms of style or use of media.  Just like me, he's no Bierstadt as yet!  (Isn't that Bierstadt painting of a Californian Landscape at the top of the post a wonderful example of Luminism?)

Do have a read of the email from the artist - and then I've got some questions for you.
My name is *****, and I’m an artist living in California. I paint landscapes, and am wanting to find an online gallery to sell my ORIGINAL pieces of work. I basically will be selling my older gouache/oil landscapes, and gouache abstract/collage pieces. I’m an amateur, and my work does have issues with composition and design, and color harmony (things I’m getting much better at now!). However, I have sold some prints of my work and a few originals at coffee shops and other similar places, so I know my work is sellable.

That being said, I read your blog on online selling, and unfortunately maybe my mind has become poisoned because after reading numerous wetcanvas posts from various people, I’ve become very confused as where to sell. Etsy seems great, although many artists seem to think it’s not good for fine art and instead better for ‘crafts.’ Fine Art America seems good, although it appears as though that art is much higher quality than mine….so maybe Yessy, although I’ve read where their traffic is dwindling. UGH! This has lead me to become paralyzed in deciding where to sell.

If you were me, what would make the most sense? And to add to this, it would be great to list on ebay, and use one of these other sites to market my art but make the final purchase via ebay. Maybe that’s getting too complicated, lol!

Anyway – please help! I value your advice over anyone else because you seem more informed, and hence I’m leaning toward Etsy but wanted your viewpoint!
Now I'm a great believer in the wisdom of crowds so, having given him some advice, I asked whether it would be OK to post his letter online because of its generic questions - and he's fine about that.

What would YOU advise this artist to do and why?

For example: 
  • Should his focus be on developing his artistic skills or developing his marketing and sales - or both?
  • Is developing a good looking fully functioning website a priority for an artist wanting to sell art online?
  • Should an artist wanting to sell art online develop a blog?
  • Which, in your opinion, is the best online gallery for those wanting to sell original art - and why?
  • Are there some online sites which are better for original paintings while others do better if you're trying to sell giclee prints?

Note: I'm not linking to the artist or showing any of his work as my experience suggests this can create a distraction and/or people feel they can't comment.  Think of him as "Mr Everyman" - you will have seen a lot of artists like this gentleman on your travels around the internet.

9 comments:

Jessica Rosemary Shepherd said...

Should his focus be on developing his artistic skills or developing his marketing and sales - or both?

I think both (roughly a third selling/promoting and two thirds of time improving). Sometimes you need to sell art to make you feel good about your work, and that in turn, for me, gives me the desire to paint more and therefore improve. However, I think it is very important that the selling thing doesn't take over. Art shouldn't be about the ego. Sometimes people just want to make a name for themselves. I think it is important to question motives. If the selling is to keep a roof over your head and supply you with money for food and brushes, then in my mind that's okay.

Is developing a good looking fully functioning website a priority for an artist wanting to sell art online? YES! Something like this website is suitable: http://www.piersottey.co.uk/index.php

Should an artist wanting to sell art online develop a blog?
I think this can be good for promoting your online presence, but it depends on how someone works. I know a lot of successful artists who sell their work online and don't blog or tweet. The quality of the work always speaks for itself. Sometimes I think it is better to get on with the work rather than spend your whole time talking about it...

Which, in your opinion, is the best online gallery for those wanting to sell original art - and why? I love the Mall Gallery's site, www.originalartonline.com and www.zerooneart.co.uk. I personally like work that is for sale on the artists own site and you can pay through paypal. I like www.isendyouthis.com, a site very good at promoting an online presence.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Great start Jessica!

For info - I'll be allowing links to websites where I know the individual who is posting the comment - otherwise I need to check them out so your comment might take a while to appear. Spam per se if of course not posted!

Also I'm out sketching London and seeing an exhibition today so your comment might not get moderated for a few hours.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Jessica - I don't think Original art Online is anything to do with the Mall Gallery. How did you pick up that connection?

In fact one of the things I always look for in an online gallery website are details of:
* who runs it?
* where are the contact details?
* which country is it based in?

Then I check the traffic - given that there are online galleries out there which get less traffic each month than this blog gets!

See http://www.squidoo.com/online-gallery for more details of the online art gallery websites that I've checked out for traffic.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

The equivalent for sites which sell prints - and which I have also been checked out for traffic is Print Art on Demand - Resources for Artists http://www.squidoo.com/Art-pod

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Any more recommendations as to priorities for aspiring artists?

Marsha Hamby Savage said...

To focus on doing the work and always learning should be the top priority for any aspiring artist!

"Should his focus be on developing his artistic skills or developing his marketing and sales - or both?" -- Just from reading the comments the artist made, I feel the focus should be on improving more than on the marketing and sales. Say... 80% developing and 20% marketing and sales. I know we need some sales usually just to keep on painting!

"Is developing a good looking fully functioning website a priority for an artist wanting to sell art online?" -- Definitely! This should be a first priority for marketing.

"Should an artist wanting to sell art online develop a blog?" -- After developing a web site, the blog should be next. It does not have to be every day, but a few times a month to a couple of times a week seems good to me.

"Which, in your opinion, is the best online gallery for those wanting to sell original art - and why? Are there some online sites which are better for original paintings while others do better if you're trying to sell giclee prints?" -- I don't have great experience of selling from online galleries but I did sell with eBay many years ago and it was a good experience. I think some of the others such as Etsy and such are more geared to the lower price point items... maybe a little to the craft side ... and probably better for prints than originals. I do have work on FineArtAmerica and enjoy their site for some marketing such as the ability to send newsletters, advertise events, etc. And, they do have the print on demand options.

I am a firm believer in using as many outlets as possible ... but be real about the time it takes to keep them all updated. Don't waste time or become addicted to the computer part to the detriment of spending the "miles" of practice and doing the work needed to advance your level of expertise.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

You give very sound advice as always Marsha - thanks

adebanji said...

If it is possible, the quickest route I know of is to get to learn with a Master you love, a Master that will be at your back and give you all the tips to get through- that would help develop the skills necessary, which is a good focus

David J Teter said...

This is one of those wide open topics difficult to cover concisely (in comments).
My brief thoughts are this...
Nothing, it seems, will yield immediate results, not even the internet. Patience is required. It will take a while for you to 'be discovered'.

Focus on marketing or artistic skills?
Both if goal is to sell work now.

It is probably easy(ier) to get lost among the thousands of others on large sites like ebay. I may be wrong and if someone knows otherwise, speak up.

A blog is free.
Starting your own website costs money.
If you are not currently selling your art, or enough of it to offset costs that's a decision you must consider.
It would be a bad idea to start website only to lose it because you can't afford it.

Both still require being 'discovered' (search engines picking it up) and that takes time. It's not automatic.

Selling art via online too has its costs...
Once someone buys you better be able to ship it in a reasonable amount of time, so having a system in place first is recommended (supplies etc.) and that costs time and money.
It takes years to build a reputation seconds to destroy it if you can't follow through.

Everything you do requires time and money, or another adage, " It takes money (and time) to make money. "

My suggestion, start small and build from there.

1. Blog - because it is free.
2. Online gallery - pick ONE that seems the best fit for you artistically and financially. Don't commit to too much too quick.

In the meantime, work on both marketing skills (research) and your art.
If your art does not improve over time neither will your sales.



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