Make or Market?

“At first I was just looking for a place to show my work—mostly at the insistence of friends. Now it seems that there is a show every other weekend, and I don’t have time to make my art.” This was a complaint that I overheard recently at the Houston ArtCrawl.  And it’s true. If you live in Houston, there is an art show at least every other weekend— if you know where to look. I suspect it is the same for other metropolitan areas as well.

If you are an artist in the Houston area, you not only can find places to show your work, you can find an overabundance of places—so many, in fact, that if you take advantage of all of them, you may find it difficult to find time to actually make your work.  Over the ArtCrawl weekend, I heard this complaint from more than a few artists. Admittedly, a number of these people are students, or have day jobs, but still, the artist with limited time—and who doesn’t have limited time?—is faced with a choice: make or market. Although some claim otherwise, these are two very different activities, both requiring large commitments of time and energy. The artist must make the choice. Some choose to be in shows, but not be present. That’s fine, if there is someone present who can manage your sales for you. But often such remote sales are costly in terms of percentages, sales lost due to the inability of the surrogate to answer questions about the work, or inattention to the sales process.

If you are like most artists I know, you cannot outsource the making of your work. You can certainly get prints made or have others frame your work (I was asked three times during ArtCrawl if I framed my own work.), but you cannot outsource the creative part. You do, in fact, have to make your art. And that takes time, and if you’re making you can’t be showing or selling—at least directly.

This leads artists to often seek gallery representation, which many will tell you is a less than desirable situation in that you have no control over the sales and you will give up a significant percentage of the revenue (often 50%). For some this seems to work well. Others, such as Hazel Dooney and Marie Kazalia, counsel artists to take their sales into their own hands and to move them out of the galleries and onto the internet or utilize some other form of direct selling that cuts out the middle man, and allows the artist to keep all proceeds.

How to make the arts marketing choices that are best for you can be a daunting task. It’s easy to pick one or perhaps two because they are easy and comfortable, but each method has its weaknesses as well as its upside. There are a number of factors that go into making such decisions: what level of success do you want to achieve? How do you want your work represented? Do you want to keep your work within a certain price range? What percentage of the sales price are you comfortable turning over to an agent or gallery? How much time do you want to spend on marketing and sales? How involved do you want to be in dealing with your collectors? How is your work best shown to potential collectors?

These are factors that require thought, and perhaps a bit of experience. The trick is to find the technique or combination of techniques that will maximize you sales effort. But whatever methods you choose, be sure that your decision also maximizes your time for creating your art. If you don’t make it, you can’t market it.

Date: Sunday, 25. November 2012 23:42
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