Sunday, March 02, 2008

Answers to Marketing Questions & Next Week's Plan of Action

Okay. Start of a new week. Last week was productive (finished my rough draft of current novel) and eventful (watched my three year old accidentally grab a guy's crotch in the middle of church as she lost her balance)(at least he doesn't have to worry about having the same humiliating experience happen with his kids, as those parts of his body no longer function after Victoria's fall-and-grab).

And next week should be good too. My editor gets back into the office after being out with baby-having last week, so hopefully I get more news on LAMENT's cover (which should be appearing soon, sometime this month I think) and I get to go see Lunasa (world's best Irish band, people!) in concert. Nice!

This week on the blog I'm going to be doing a three-parter on commissioned portraits, from both client and artist perspective. So if you have any questions on that, stick 'em here in the comments.

Oh -- and before I answer the questions from the marketing posts, I want to say hello to the visitors from Ann Kullberg's colored pencil mag FMP, where she nicely named this blog her website of the month (very flattering. My husband had to push me through the living room door today as my head was too swelled to fit comfortably). Anyway, hi, Ann's people!

Okay. Onto the questions from the comments -- pinch me if I missed one. These are edited for typos and insane numbers of punctuation marks.

I am curious, you say that you won't sell in local shows (I only looked at them for exposure anyway) but I was wondering why don't you sell there? Is it the target audience just isn't a "buyer" as such?

This is a good question. In my original post, I said something along the lines of "enter local shows but don't expect to see any money from them." This has definitely been true -- in my experience. One has to keep in mind the location of the shows when analyzing this statement, both the city and the hosting establishment. A "local" show in an artsy town might net you sales. But usually, I find that free local exhibitions gather a lot of lookers but not a lot of buyers. I think I can remember two pieces I've sold from local exhibitions, and both were after the fact, after the buyers had had time to mull it over.

This is why I think that more pieces don't sell in exhibitions in coffee shops and libraries, etc. Imagine yourself as the buyer (this is a great exercise anyway). You're not actually a buyer, by the way. You're a coffee-thirsty patron. You walk into the coffee shop. "Whoo! Cool art by an obviously awesome girl named Maggie Stiefvater!" You love the style. You love the colors. It's inspired. But when it comes down to it, none of them grab you by the throat. You think you'd probably buy one if it was the right image -- but it's not there. These are all tea cups and you want a streetscape. Or vice versa. But you take the card that clever Maggie Stiefvater has made available, and then you pass that info on by word of mouth or file this information away for later use when you are buying Christmas presents.

Not an immediate sale! You have to woo people, and that means you have to give them time. But don't expect your exhibition to pay you anything -- unless you're doing an opening. (I really recommend the book TAKING THE LEAP -- it's over in the sidebar of this blog -- for a lot of basics on openings, etc.).

Say you are starting work on a new series and you only have one or two finished pieces. What is your take on entering one of the pieces in a juried exhibition - you know, one of the ones where you only get to have one entry? Would you wait until you had other pieces from the series showing different places (your rule of three)or would you enter this new, kick-butt piece into the show?

Hmm. I had to scratch my head and think on this one because I've never had quite this situation. I'd be tempted to go ahead and enter that kick-butt piece into the show, because jurying is generally a long process. By the time they decide your piece is, indeed, kick-butt, you can have the rule of three satisfied and even if it doesn't get in, you have your series well under way.

A question for you, how do you feel about joining art clubs? Would you get involved in any and all?

Ohhhhh. This is something that I don't normally talk about online on permanent record because (ssshhhhhh) I don't do clubs very well. I've never been a meetings sort of person. I don't do orderly and tidy and rules very well (I know, you guys could never guess this, right!?) . Anyway, needless to say, I don't belong to any clubs. But that's not to say I haven't thought about it, enough to have firm opinions on if I were going to join clubs, which ones I would.

Would: national clubs having to do with my medium. For me, that's the Colored Pencil Society of America, a large, active organization well worth looking into if you're a cp'er.
Would: Active local clubs with professional artists swelling their ranks. Active means not only actively meeting but actively scheduling group exhibitions.
Wouldn't: Pay excessive amounts for local clubs to pay for wall space.
Wouldn't: Join local club mostly populated by amateurs. Remember, people rise to the level of the people around them -- and if you're surrounded by equals, you'll stay where you're at.
Wouldn't: Join a local art co-op that required that I sat in the gallery for x amount of hours a month. I have better things to be doing with my time! That sounds snotty -- but it's true.

But I would say that the most important rule is you want to be in a club that you feel proud of all the members. You're associating yourself with them -- make sure that they, like a new pair of jeans, don't make your butt look big.

Have you had to deal with art theft yet? As in people stealing the work off your site ect, and if not, how would you deal with it?

I haven't had to deal with physical theft yet. I know most good galleries are insured against these things but a lot of artists have insurance themselves -- some art shows require it. I can't speak knowledgeably about this side of it.

However, I have had someone steal teaching threads off WetCanvas before (WetCanvas, if you're not familiar, is a wonderful, huge community of artists and definitely a club you should join) and publish them in Russian on another site. Another artist found them and alerted me. It wasn't just my work, it was a bunch of folks' threads all lifted wholesale and reproduced in a Russian-language art forum. Some of the artists e-mailed the website and demanded they be removed. I decided that I had put the threads up in public for teaching and I was still fine with them being up, as long as I got credit, and I e-mailed him saying so. I got a link back to my site and I still get traffic from there. Moral of the story, I guess, is be empathetic. Sometimes thieves are just thieves and you should blast them. Other times, they're ignorant and you can twist the situation around for good. Be sensitive in all things.

Do you have a cure for Studio Avoidance? I have a severe case of it and can't seem to get over it. I spend about 95/5% on marketing and am down to those four paintings, so I'm getting pretty desperate.

I saved this one for last, because it ties in with my rough sketch I posted tonight. Studio Avoidance . . . Artist's Block . . . I got this last year after doing a painting every single day for months. I was chasing eBay's art selling trends to pay the bills and frankly, I was burnt out. I gave myself permission to create pieces for me, and suddenly I was off and running again.

Likewise, I was sluggish in the studio for the last few weeks. Creatively drained from writing my novel and doing portraits. I'd had an idea for a series for a long time but it was very different and I didn't think I could pull it off in my style and . . . well, I just had all these reasons and doubts. But today, I gave myself permission to start that series. I don't usually do "meaningful" art, but this whole series is very much about something I believe strongly about: taking a chance, taking a leap, doing the impossible. And suddenly I'm excited and desperate to be in my studio again.

So that's my advice . . . give yourself permission to do something you've been putting off. Or sit down with a sketchbook and plan the exhibition you'd be proud for your friends to see. Imagine what it would look like if you took your personality and put it on the walls. We let self-doubt keep us from the studio and we shouldn't.


Rita said...

Really enjoyed this post Maggie, especially the last portion of it which couldn't have come at a better time.

Looking forward to you sharing your experiences on the "commission experience"! :D

Quilt Knit said...

Great post Maggie! Looking forward to your series.

Madelaine said...

Thanks for the post Maggie... a well timed read for me.

Dee said...

My art is literally just a hobby for me, and I've no plans to change that in the future: that said, I love reading this sort of stuff you're writing at the moment. It's giving an excellent insight into the art world and I'm fascinated. Thank you for taking the time to do so.