Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What should artists do about marketing their art in a recession?

Waterlily - notan in colour
coloured pencil on Arches HP, 5" x 5"

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Since my own close call with Northern Rock and the sub-prime crisis, I've been reading the financial pages on a regular basis and then saying to anybody who'll listen that the financial and property markets and money matters generally were going to get a lot worse by the end of 2007 and that there might be the equivalent of a financial blood bath come the end of year results in January. Well, on Monday, it arrived and Wall Street approached meltdown.

What I've also been reading is what seems like an increased number of blogs posts about marketing art in the first three weeks of January. While some of the these have been due to the fact it's the beginning of the year, it seems to me that the rest have been associated with or have also been anticipating
  • a significant downwards shift in 2007 (and 2008?) of gallery sales and attendance at the trade fairs associated with selling decorative art in both the USA and UK
  • the unfolding of the impact of the credit crunch on the property market (falling values everywhere) and everybody from the clearing and merchant banks, through mortgage and credit companies on downwards to the individual. (which led to the 'Monday Massacre' - where there was a major financial panic)
  • what the BBC referred to as Carnage on Wall Street as loans go bad before yesterday's somersault.
This is emphatically not a blip in the market. If we all stop still and look for long enough, we are all staring at a recession in the making. Confidence in the marketplace is plummeting - on a global basis and many traders are biting their nails.

[Update 24.01.08. It's now clear to me that this post would have benefited from a preamble which indicated that one's perspective on the current situation is likely to vary depending on where you live and the extent to which your local economy will feel the impact of events in the USA - see the comments for more about this aspect.]
The United States has now effectively entered into a serious and painful recession. The debate is not anymore on whether the economy will experience a soft landing or a hard landing; it is rather on how hard the hard landing recession will be. The factors that make the recession inevitable include the nation's worst-ever housing recession, which is still getting worse; a severe liquidity and credit crunch in financial markets that is getting worse than when it started last summer; high oil and gasoline prices; falling capital spending by the corporate sector; a slackening labor market where few jobs are being created and the unemployment rate is sharply up; and shopped-out, savings-less and debt-burdened American consumers who — thanks to falling home prices — can no longer use their homes as ATM machines to allow them to spend more than their income. Indeed holiday sales in the US were much lower in real terms than in 2006. As private consumption in the US is over 70% of GDP the US consumer now retrenching and cutting spending ensures that a recession is now underway.
Nouriel Roubini's Global Economic Monitor -
Europe Will Be Hard Hit by the Recessionary Storm Now Sweeping the U.S.
The scope for defaults on loans of every sort from money market bonds to credit card bills is truly frightening. Yesterday the talk was all about the ripple effect around the world - or what happens when the US economy catches a cold. You can find more analysis of this on the BBC website's analysis of the Global Credit Crunch and yesterday's Financial Times article The worst market crisis in 60 years.

How does this all affect art?

Well anything which impacts on homes and stimuli for changes in decoration (like house buying and selling) and the amount of 'free' money which is around to spend on and invest in art is likely to have a very major impact on sales of artwork in 2008.

Plus, let's face it, at the end of the day unless you're involved in high end investment art, most of the art which is bought is actually purchased to decorate a home whether or not the artists who produce it would like it be called "decorative art". Which means both galleries and sales can be very vulnerable to economic shifts. It's just not the sort of thing which people buy when their financial status is uncomfortable or possibly under threat.

What are the possible strategies for artists in a recession?

I'm not active in 'pushing' my art within the art market - however I am very interested in the conundrum of what this all means at the moment and I have lived and managed through a recession before.

So what are the alternative options for artists? "Fight or Flight" is a dilemma for both investors and those marketing art at the moment.

Here's a few options for you to ponder on
  • move upmarket: One option which a number of artists are thinking about is moving upmarket - towards the people who still have money and won't feel the pinch quite so badly.
  • move out of galleries: Any gallery owner who says his sales won't be affected by what's happening should be avoided in my opinion. No matter how charming and nice they may be, naievete is not an asset in the current situation. Galleries will almost certainly become major casualties in a recession. You want to be doing business with those who are market savvy. Those who have experienced and ridden out previous recessions and know how bad it can get probably have 'war stories' which are worth listening to. Artists in galleries definitely need to make sure that they have reviewed how much of their business is vulnerable to the well being of their galleries, how much stock they have in each gallery (I've heard about and read a few stories about how getting stock back when a gallery goes bust can be really time-consuming) and they also need to know or find out which ones are doing well - and which ones aren't. An alternative to getting out of galleries is working with gallery owners to reposition supply and marketing in the current context.
  • get into direct selling: artists can maintain similar income levels on lower turnover if they're able to market and sell their work effectively and on a direct basis at gallery prices. It's time to think about what might be the most cost-effective opportunities in terms of direct selling from art fairs, studio, online galleries/sales sites (etsy/e-bay etc) or direct selling by an artist online (through website and/or blog). The key here is probably to work out how to differentiate 'product lines' - the type and size of of work and how well received it is. You don't need to sell all your work direct - but you might well find it cost-effective to sell a part of it direct.
  • create opportunities for the risk averse to feel good: This is important - we all need to feel good when life starts to feel a bit riskier. Think about those people who are risk averse. One of the things that can happen if a recession does bite or people feel nervous is that they won't risk the expense of moving. However they might well decide to freshen up their home as the next best thing. The 'DIY' craze took off during the last recession precisely because people knew they couldn't afford to switch away from 'secure' jobs or move homes.
  • invest in effective marketing - Marketing is about analysis as well as advertising. Know your markets and understand how they are changing. Then work out how you can raise your profile without blowing your budget. Remember that people who have bought from you in the past and 'word of mouth' is the cheapest and most effective way of your art coming to the attention of new customers.
  • manage your debt - and that's your own personal debt (avoid headaches - they dent creativity) and any debts owed to you. While I know it's not possible for everybody, my own personal preference is to live a life style which is far from 'flash' but which means I am and can remain debt free. However I had a father who often used to say 'Never a borrower, nor a lender be'......
What do other people think about marketing art?

Here are some posts from various blogs about marketing that I've been reading
  • Alan Bamberger ( writing last November was very clear that The Art Party is Over and - more worryingly - was predicting that past investors will shortly be flooding the market with art as they sell up.
Art is generally the last item added to someone's list of discretionary expenditures when times are good, and the first to be lopped when times turn tart and those discretionary dollars commence to curtail.
Alan Bamberger - The Art Party is Over
SELLOUT is a dialogue about every practical aspect of being a visual artist--from saving money to resizing jpegs, and everything in between. It is more than a professional advice aggregator and hot-tip provider. We want any information we provide to be fleshed out as anecdote or called out as bullshit.
About Sellout
Now over to you. What do YOU think about the current situation and what sort of response are you planning?

Note on the Waterlily Notan:
I'm enjoying experimenting with both composition and levels of abstraction using photographs I took of flowers last summer (I rushed out on days when it wasn't raining!). Digital manipulation can really assist with working through compositional issues. I'm doing a series of small single flowers using the cut out function and I'm rather liking the way the simplification makes for an image which is a little bit more abstract. If you'd like a post about how I do this let me know in the usual way.


  1. Glad you posted this! I think that whether an artist agrees or disagrees we all need to be aware of possibilities. A few artist friends of mine are doing well and don't seem to be affected by this 'blip'- blip that has steadily been growing for about 2 years now, I'd add; that's not just my impression but that of other artists and gallery owners I know who are describing exactly what you say about art fairs, price ranges of work bought and numbers of visitors to galleries and fairs. (wow, that's a great run-on sentence!) I'll just start off by saying when I start theorising about things all I can use is evidence from my own business and things other people actually tell me about theirs. So a lot of anecdotal ramble follows.

    Everyone has a different approach they're going to try. Mine is to do pretty much a combination of almost all the things you mention. I started as a self-representing artist (I started out on eBay in the late 90s, when it was only a US site, so I had a different ID then) and grew into gallery representation. But lately that has been changing. The galleries themselves are changing - asking for different work, sales down (overall with their artists, although my work in particular has never had very "popular" appeal anyway), closing their bricks and mortar shops and focusing on art fairs only, or closing altogether. While my galleries aren't "dumping" me, my work is being edged out by chance (closing galleries) or choice (customers opting for easy, affordable, decorative work). Some of the options you listed, which we discussed the other day, are becoming necessities for many artists rather than choices.

    I hope I can move forward with some of these ideas gracefully, in a way that means I can still nurture my relationships with galleries and yet stay in the black at the same time. I don't want to self-represent again, it feels like a step backwards in my personal aims (some artists only self represent and happily so), but I see it as a temporary measure.

    Even in this blip if we continue our practices by adapting our work will develop and evolve. Generally speaking people who run their own businesses are high risk-takers anyway, and admittedly I always have been. My attitude is to stick with it, take the risk, and I will still be visible and productive when the blip is over.

    One in particular that I've felt is important is aiming at the higher-end buyer. Because of the nature of my work (primarily 3 sizes at 3 price points) I have witnessed the middle-range buyers simply disappear. Low-end items (under £100) suddenly became popular a couple years ago but that has dwindled significantly. There still *is* a market for them, but I'm seeing them bought in multiples. It seems to be where the middle range buyers are now - buying more at a lower price range rather than one of the middle range. The number of buyers of my largest work haven't changed at all over the years - which is why I firmly believe that people who appreciate the art for art (and aren't *only* looking for something to hang over their sofa; while it may go over the sofa they are being more discriminating) who still have reasonable budgets are still buying. I think these people might be more stable in their home-ownership (possibly bought before the boom, or just are not mortgaged to their eyeballs and thus trapped by the rising interest rates, possibly have cash investments as well as stock-linked, and who will benefit from rising savings interest rates).

    Just my thoughts. I'm not economist though. ;) And I have to repeat - we all have different work, different customer bases, different goals for our business. Some painters are doing well regardless. Artists making reproduction prints have an additional market to consider. There are even some brave souls attempting to start their business right now.

    One other thing - this is a US election year. It's worth noting that there is almost always a 'blip' in a US election year, and it will simply be stronger this year considering the current US economy as everyone waits to see what happens in November.

  2. Wow - thanks Tina!!

    (Readers need to know that Tina and I talked quite a bit about this on Monday night when I told her I'd got this post part-drafted - little realising at the time that we were talking on "Massacre Monday"! I said I'd let her know when it was posted...)

    Tina - You've also reminded me of one of the other things we talked about. This was the notion of making sure that a website was effective at showing people how small works (which are part of a series) could work together when hung on a wall (3x3; a vertical line, a horizontal line etc). I saw a medium sized work at the London Art Fair on Sunday which was actually 10 x 10 tiny works - it was very effective. It could also have been bigger OR smaller.

  3. Interesting topic! My first thought is that by 1. specializing on a certain kind of art (or a few), and 2. a certain market segment (who are your customers), 3. coupled with marketing internationally (such as online), one would attract a segment of people globally that are all interested in what you have to offer. All added up, this narrow segment may turn out to be quite large -and- since they live all over the world, they would be less sensitive to local economic conditions. 4. Read business news pertaining to other small businesses than art - there is much good advice out there!

  4. Thanks for a great post Katherine. Can we please get that post about your digital manipulation? Today's image is lovely - lots to think about as you look at it.

  5. Katherine -- thanks for this great post.

    Part of the key in all this is to try and translate "hours of work" in terms of what you get paid for it. So I don't think Julian's Postcard from Provence is going to suffer horribly: these are small, inexpensive paintings that have found a core public. I'm not sure how long he takes per painting but it does seem to be working for him!

    One thing you didn't mention is the possibility of teaching: during a recession, like the DIY craze you discuss, people want to learn how to do things themselves. I wonder whether that includes different media, different subjects, etc.?

  6. Good point Pica - having a portfolio of interests which includes more than producing art can be a god-send when times get risky and/or bad.

    Obvious things people can do as well are:
    - commercial illustration - but probably only if trained and you have contacts
    - website design and/or build
    - teach workshops or classes
    - insert any idea of an activity which pays money and which you don't mind doing

    I always forget that current readers have not been with the blog from the beginning. I had a post which now must be nearly two years old which focused on what artists actually "DO". It's called 'Making their Mark - an audit of visual artists' after the report funded by the Scottish Arts Council.

    I hughlighted the conclusions and these were that earnings other than that derived from their artwork come from a variety of sources:

    1. 66% derive income from other arts related practice (teaching art 37% and arts related occupations 27%)
    2. 24% earn income outside art
    3. 25% derive income from benefits and other financial support (while 53% receive no form of state support)

    Note how high the proportion is of artists deriving income from other sources.

  7. Katherine and Tina,
    I believe that artists should stop giving too much importance to what is broadcasted in the media about the stocks and bad news and the immediate panic that is often artificially created. Most people do not understand that this all is a matter of emotions in order to manipulate people into a certain direction.
    Unfortunately this has increased since 09/11 and I wished people would use more their common sense in this regard. Broadcasting bad news is what media are living from - this is what anyone should be aware of. If people would start to ignore news about recession which is a natural thing of shifting and renewal only we would not fall into the trap of seeing everything black.
    There will always be an art market for real, demanding art and customers who buy.
    There is lots of money out there and always will be. In order to stay true to yourself the task is on us (the artists) to find that customer for what you have to offer not the other way round.
    And this is only possible with belief in yourself and a good portion of optimism and perseverance.

  8. Petra - well that's an interesting perspective. I'd normally agree that the media are perfectly capable of 'creating' bad news. It's also by no means clear that everybody is in agreement about what is happening, how bad it might get or how long it might last. However I've not yet come across anybody else of the view that ignoring what the media is saying will make the 'slowdown'/recession (optimist/pessimist words) go away.

    I really don't think the Federal Reserve is much influenced by the pundits - I think they tend to look at the numbers. I also don't think the rate cut they've just implemented with a view to avoiding a depression was because the media made them feel negative about the current state of affairs.

    Rather I think they've been taking a look at the way people are responding to the FACT that leading banks are reporting billions of dollars of losses due to what would appear to be poor judgement on their part. Too much uncertainty has been created about where it's safe to put money.

    Believing in your work, being positive and optimistic will always stand any artist in good stead - in good times and bad.

    In addition, in my view, artists are also most likely to avoid problems and/or achieve success if they are well-informed about the market they are operating in. Recognising problems that you might be facing is the first step to dealing with them.

  9. As to judgement of the situtation I agree 100% with Petra Voegtle.

    Marketing in a recession is not different from marketing in other times. However there is no recession, there is a bank crisis. No one can really evaluate whether or not this will have a serious impact on the art market in general(except Mr. Bamberger of course).

    The "Bambergers and Davyies" are in the business with starving, disoriented artists and bad news for the art market reads like jolly good news to them.

    A general economic recession in Europe is not in sight at all and the importance of U.S. economy for Europe is much lower than it used to be.. so it´s by far too early for Kassandra to show up.

    The art/image market is booming and there is no sign for a recession in that sector at all.

  10. The CEO of e-bay is warning of an unexpected severe slowdown in its core e-commerce business (e-bay) and has outlined what they intend to do about it.

    This report from the UK's lead financial newspaper, The Financial Times, indicates that:
    - the growth e-bay is predicting for 2008 is 12.5 per cent - compared to the 18 per cent predicted by analysts and the 28.5 per cent actual growth of 2007.
    - e-bay says growth would have been 16 per cent if the effects of the falling dollar and acquisitions were excluded
    - e-bay is planning a new fee structure to make its on-line marketplace more attractive to sellers
    - it's likely that the upfront fees for listing will be reduced and the final fee on settlement will be increased

    This report back in December indicates that:
    - in the past three years, fixed-price sales have risen from 28 to 41 per cent of the total e-bay business
    - the planned change in the fees is to reflect this structural change
    - the search system is likely to be changed to only allow buyers to find items from the most reliable sellers

  11. Yes, please, Katherine. I'd love to see how you do your digital cut out as a basis for Notan.

    This waterlily is a beautiful start to what I imagine is going to be a terrific series.

    The link you posted a couple of days ago to the pdf copy of COMPOSITION by Arthur Wesley Dow is a wonderful gift. Thank you. I'm now considering working my way through all the exercises.

  12. Martin/Petra - I think I've confused things partly by forgetting that readers live in so many different parts of the world.

    Perspective on this one varies on where you live.

    You both live in Germany - where less than 1% of my readers live. However, over 50% of my readers live in North America where the situation is very different at the moment. Consequently I try to remember that there are a very large contingent of readers from the USA every time I post.

    The current crisis extends beyound the banks and the credit crunch - and it also extends beyond the USA - although it certainly isn't everywhere. For example, it looks like the housing bubble has popped in the UK due to the fall-out from the sub-prime crisis. Property prices in the UK have dropped three months running - and are predicted to continue down. This is all related to the drying up of easy credit. Retailers in the high street also had a poor time at Christmas in the UK - although online business was good. Leisure goods suppliers are also reporting a slowdown. The Sotheby's share price (often used as a proxy for the state of the art market) is also down significantly. And last time I looked the UK was in Europe!

    However, I don't think I said there was a recession. I suggested this is not a 'blip' and that we are currently looking at the makings of one. The intent of the post was to prompt some thoughts about 'what to do' in the event of a recession.

    This morning George Soros ("Cassandra" in a 'bear's clothing?) is being reported as warning that a recession could move from the USA to the UK. The Governor of the Bank of England is saying that here in the UK we are facing the worst prospects for 10 years. My view is that it pays to listen to the bears as well as bulls.

    What we're seeing in the marketplace at the moment (and over the last few months) are responses by various parties to the level of current uncertainty - and also the uncertainty about whether the measures being taken by governments and central banks to contain the crisis are adequate.

    Some pundits are saying that the measures taken are a panic response (when they mean the Fed could have waited until next week to do the same thing!), while others are saying it's too little, too late. Who knows? We'll find out was right in due course. For my part, I'm very much of the opinion that this is more than just a short-lived market correction and that we are moving into a bear market (ie pessimism prevails). Whether we see a full-on recession is still debateable.

    Now - by way of contrast - I agree that th influence of the USA on global economic markets is less than it was. If you look towards Russia, China and Asia prospects look good for their economic growth and the flow of money in the East looks like it will continue to be very robust whatever happens in the west.

    I'm not an expert in these matters but I do sincerely believe that one needs to look at what is happening around us. Obviously that will vary depending on where we live - and consequently our perspective on future prospects will also vary too. It's obvious that the two of you looking at this from the perspective of Germany are not feeling the ripple effect from the USA. Here in the UK we are - and I think that's essentially what accounts for our different perspective on this.

    I'd certainly agree that the blog post would have benefited from a clearer preamble to the effect that it might only be relevant to some people.

    As to the other people I referred to in the blog post, the reality is that their business involves advising and responding to the situations both artists and investors find themselves in - whatever that might be. Each presents diffferent challenges and opportunities. I really don't think it's a question of bad news for artists is good news for them.

  13. I've now updated the post to include a note that indicates that where you live will affect your perspective on the current situation in the financial markets and national economies.

  14. There are interesting reports on London as a global art trade center in the Financial times as well.

    I have downloaded the U.S.statistics for customs tariff 970110 paintings and similar artwork,a comparison between 2006 and 2007. You may have a look at the excel file here In total U.S. imports have increased by 36% up to a recoord level of 5,4 Bill USD ! Imports from the U.K. increased by 34 % contributing 20% of the volume after France with twice the volume and an increase by 50%.

    I think these figures are real and speak for themselves.

  15. Martin - they certainly do in terms of saying there's a lot of art crossing the Atlantic.

    A recession is when the Gross Domestic Product declines. (GDP = the total market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time - usually a calendar year)

    Some construe it alternatively as being when the rate of growth starts to decline in a significant way.

    So in relation to art, that would be when the value of the sales of artwork produced within a country declines.

    Imports are part of the equation of GDP. That is GDP = consumption (consumer spending) + investment + (government spending) + (exports − imports)

    Increased imports (from other countries) therefore reduce GDP and might contribute towards the creation of a recession.

    Did the stats you accessed say whether or not exports of art from the USA exceeded imports to the USA?

    If the big growth is coming from France, then I think we're probably safe in saying that is in all probability Old Masters investment art going for auction in New York and selling for millions. The increase from the Netherlands will in all probability be Dutch Still Life and Van Goghs. However, I read yesterday that the Van Gogh up for sale just before Christmas in New York failed to reach its reserve....

    I think the general consensus has been that the very high level (super expensive) investment type art market has been hyperactive - some would say rather like a "bubble" (like the housing property bubble and the dotcom bubble).

    Could it be that those who knew (or suspected) what the banks' exposure to risky loans was and what the balance sheets were going to look like in terms of billions of declared losses at year end - and therefore needed to get out of banking stock - and bought into highly valued art instead? Just a thought.....

    However that's not the art market that most of the readers of this blog are in....

  16. The US trade balance is negative with 0,7 Bill USD, twice as much in 2007 as in 2006 mainly due to changing UK balance.

    These figures tell me that the market is in full action and that there is enough potential to place my production somewhere in or out of recession.

    The artwork ahead of your post is already one of the answers to your questions:"quality". I can imagine easily a dozend uses of this image and work out target markets from there.

  17. A link to Bloomberg and an article about Christie's results for 2007

    Massive growth in 2007 for the sort of art bought by Russian billionaires!

    ...but does this cascade down? All I've been hearing for the last year is about gallery sales being down in general and e-bay being awful relative to previous performance levels.

    Martin - I think you and I have aired quite a lot of additional (and useful) info - let's agree we sit in different places with different perspectives.

    ...and let's see what others have to say.

  18. Effects of recession or recession talk tend to (according to press) reflect discretionary buying by the public, which includes art.

    I believe there will always be high end investors who are rarely adversely affected to any real degree by fluctuations in the money markets. However, how much money changes hands in the day to day 'ordinary' artists and the public?

    I know that where I live plays a large role in what the public is willing to pay for original art and reproductions and prints are often the bread and butter of many artists. Diversification is key in most business endeavours, no matter what the end product and art is no exception.

    If you want to make money you need to diversify your talents and your product. Unless you have a concrete market of higher end buyers, lean times could be ahead.

    Teaching, prints, cards, shrewd marketing both physical and electronic are some of the ways to survive.

  19. Just wanted to post a quick reply to Petra - I don't watch the news about the markets and such in particular. So my statements aren't just a reaction to rumour.

    All of my observations are from what I am actually seeing with my business and sales and hearing from people I know (artists, galleries, agents) over the last couple years in the business. This is in the UK. I'm only acting on real concrete changes in the marketplace. Admittedly, they may not be affecting everyone of course. But there certainly seems to be an undeniable trend over the last 18-24 months here at least.

    I don't necessarily think this is negative! Discussing business, finance and marketing is frowned upon in the artworld - it's not in any other business. It makes sense to look at forecasts, see how the local and world economies are doing (if beyond local is relevent to your customer base, which it generally will be with higher-end art collectors). This allows us to adapt and adjust (positive action) to changes, forecast them (positive action), and come up with new ideas and strategies (positive action).

    All of these means we're keeping on top of things so we can keep working in the studio! :) (and I do agree with others here, there's no shame in also have side work too - whatever keeps you solvent)

  20. Something that should probably be mentioned - this isn't just about the economy either. Over the past few years the number of suppliers, artists, has increased dramatically. So that's something else we have to deal with. And the number of outlets (galleries, art fairs, etc) hasn't increased proportionally to the number of artists. In fact, it may in some ways be decreasing (many small galleries are struggling and closing - 2 of mine closed in 2006).

    So there are other non-monetary factors to consider too.

  21. Hi Katherine,
    just to make it clear: I never said that people should not inform themselves about what's going on out there in the "business" world. On the contrary. But what people often forget is that the CEO of Ebay or any other CEO and especially not the former chairman of the Fed Greenspan never were or are the "superbrains" of the world economy. These people are highly overrated and if you follow closely their forecasts or those of any other highly paid top managers you will see that their so-called predictions are not worth the dime you throw into the hat of a homeless. I really don't want to get into detail - this is for others to analyse and has absolutely no significance for an ordinary hard working woman or man.
    But the stupidities and badly researched "information" that is thrown on the market by so-called media experts is dangerous, simply for their opinion forming and biased content. No-one and I repeat it no-one today seems to take the time to look for proofs and the truth behind it. No-one seems to ask the question any more "qui bono"? This is the real problem of today.
    And talking about recession in the US - this is simply a consequence of a certain lifestyle where many people live beyond their income, additionally supported of course by the banks. This simply cannot work by all means - this is only the perfect recipe for disaster.

  22. Hello Katherine. Very interesting post and comments. I do think its important to remember as Petra and others point out, that opinions differ dramatically about what certain economic data might mean. We are also in an election year here and the economy is a political issue and many of the statements regarding it in the media are agenda driven. Fundamental economic indicators in the US are strong- we still have low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates, high productivity. The sub prime mortgage" crisis" effects less than 6% of mortgages- and while it will certainly have an effect on the real estate market-that effect will be primarily on those who could not afford to take out those mortgages in the first place. The plunge is real estate markets is primarily a problem in California and Florida and a few other over priced markets- in fact, some aspects of the real estate business are hot- refinancing mortgages at new lower rates, purchases of well priced properties in solid markets, etc. The media would have you believe we will all be on the curb in another month or so over here! While I am no economic expert, I did practice real estate law for over 20 years before becoming a full time artist- so I have seen swings in the market that make this look pretty benign.
    As far as art sales are concerned, personally I ended last year with my strongest sales ever and the new year has started well. Selling is always a challenge and I agree with a previous poster that economic downturns require some adjustment in strategy and favor those with a quality product to sell.

    Finally, I have really been enjoying your posts on composition! Two other books you might mention are Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting (called the bible of landscape painting by plein air painters here) and Edgar Payne's Composition of Outdoor Painting.

  23. It's all so interesting. :)

    You know, something I myself actually overlooked is the fact that the majority of my online customers have always been in the US. They've dropped off a lot, which I'm only just realising doing my current accounts. Just one of those 'obvious' things I should have looked at and hadn't.

    And Edition Handdruck was spot on about marketing. Advice I was given years ago from an experienced artist was when business gets harder you must spend more money on marketing. So true.

  24. Katherine,
    Thanks for such an informative post. I've enjoyed not only your post but all the wonderful responses. As with most things we must gather information, filtering out that which pertains to us personally and then figuring out how to apply it.

    I'm from central Illinois USA, a small town in the middle of farm country, and things here are getting pretty tight...for all businesses. I ventured into my art career late in life with the idea of supplementing my meager retirement, and I still work a full time job.

    This will be my 4th year showing my work at art sales have changed considerably in a very short time. My sales of originals has dropped each year while my sales of prints, both LE and OE, has increased considerably.

    Seeing these sales trends develop and hearing the economical forecast I decided to make some marketing changes after my 2006 show season.
    1. I started offering more middle and low end items...increasing the number of LE prints offered and introducing some OE prints and note cards.
    2. I cut expenses by booking shows close to home or close to relatives where I could spend the night.
    3.I've increased my mailing list and send a monthly Email Newsletter.
    4. I court those who purchase by sending them a thank you note and touching base with them again a few months later before my next show season.
    5. This year, just since December 07, I've increased my internet presence by more effectively using the blog that's integrated into my web site...Started a new stand alone blog on google/blogspot...and created a Squidoo lens. This added presence has already paid off in less than a month.

    I believe the present economic issues are real and I want to still be out there when it passes.

    Hopefully I've made the necessary changes to come out on top. I'll let you know.

    Another great article Katherine.

  25. Those all sound very sensible moves Marsha -I think we maybe need to have a recap every quarter to see how everybody is doing.

    What's come through clearly to me is that, as one might expect, the situation for every person is different and where you live is very relevant to the current economic climate.

    Also, we may not all read the same papers and/or trust journalists or politicians (although I think we all make our own choices as to which we trust or mistrust). There may be scaremongering going on - but when it comes to money I think I'd always prefer to know that there MAY be something going on rather than conduct business in blissful ignorance.

    For those who wonder why I no longer place blind faith in the banking system and am more than a bit concerned by its impact on the economy generally I suggest you click the first link in this post and read about my experience back in September. The Parliamentary Enquiry set up as a result has now blamed the regulators (FSA) for a systematic failure of duty for what happened at Northern Rock. So who exactly, I ask myself, are we supposed to trust?

    I think I'll stay optimistic about my art and very wary of the "good news boys"


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