What to do when . . .

In today’s Art Marketing Action newsletter, I discuss the ways in which some people approach (or don’t approach, fear, are perplexed by) art. I’d like to offer some ideas for what to do after you’ve armed yourself with this knowledge.

  • First, put people at ease with you. Open up, be approachable. Listen to them and where they are coming from. Leave your agenda at home and learn to understand what other people are seeing in your work and how it relates to their lives. Having a genuine interest in people will trump any “sales speak” you can learn.
  • If you are an artist whose work is primarily abstract, make sure you are using easy-to-understand language. Don’t ever say “my work speaks for itself.” That’s a cop out and just plain lazy. The most famous names in abstract art of the mid-twentieth century had dissertations to speak and write about their art.
  • Know your craft, its tradition, and your materials. Figure out a way to explain it in the simplest, yet most colorful, language. Understand how your work is different from other artists. What, exactly, sets you apart?
  • Learn to be proud of your artistic career and, especially, learn to share that pride with others. If you constantly apologize for poor marketing materials, an outdated website, or bad framing, you have set your audience up to respond unfavorably. (My husband recently told me I do this with my cooking by apologizing for its imperfections before anyone has tasted it. Doctor, heal thyself!)

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5 comments to What to do when . . .

  • I really like that you have brought up the fact that abstract artists can’t just say “my art speaks for itself”. That’s one of the reasons I put short demos about my work on my website a long time ago. And now I’m sporadically adding blogging to my site. I think it helps the people who come to view my work know what goes into doing abstract work…..or my kind of abstact work anyway. Sometimes wish I had one of those classy types of websites that could be compared to the “white box galleries”. That is just too aloof and impersonal and just not me, so I just tell people what I do or don’t in the studio and hope they get an insight into how my work develops. It helps that I set up my own website.

  • Hello – thanks again for another motivational and informative article. The one thing I wanted to share was to also be prepared to explain your work to gallery owners as well. It has been my experience that not every gallery or shop owner is knowledgable about all different types of artwork. This is especially true if you are doing something unique and original with your medium. I do it this way – treat everyone like sophisticated bumpkins. Sophisticated because you don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence, yet bumpkin because you gotta spell it all out for them. Maybe it’s just a midwest thing, but I have a feeling it could relate to other areas of the country. OOO The comment before mine gave me the idea of devoting a page on my site to “how it’s made”. If you have developed a technique that is all your own, you have to fight the urge to keep quiet about its process in fear that someone else will copy it. It happens, but once you can begin to let go of some of those notions of control, things open up for you. The opposite of war is not peace but creation! So let’s make lots of cool stuff.

  • Every word of today’s article is just so true. And with my open studio approaching this weekend it’s a good reminder. While my work gets mixed reactions I find that everyone of every age is quite interested in my abstract paintings (interest is different from liking it of course). Since my work is based on actual places (I cycle the English coast to create my latest works) if they ask I can explain how I work and show them how I ‘see’ the landscape and sea. If people want to chat I always first ask them which paintings they like and why, and what they see or feel from it. What I enjoy is how people make my images their own. It’s amazing how so many people say they are reminded of a place even before they realise my paintings are actually places. Discussing the ideas behind the work with ‘older’ visitors is always enjoyable, and I even do workshops about abstract work with art societies made up primarily of this group. No one goes away unhappy and if people don’t like the work, which they don’t usually hestitate to say if the artist’s studio is a friendly place, my reply is “that’s fine, art is so varied that there’s something for everyone!” They can leave with a bit more insight and I can point them to other artists whose work they might like. And talking about my work to less-understanding or even resistant people helps me learn about myself as an artist as I verbalise visual ideas and even justify my approach. Everyone wins as far as I see it.

  • Hi Alyson, I read your newsletter today that went into more detail about this -how many people are afraid of art. This doesn’t surprise, but what I found interesting was that you said most people like to know how something is made, especially males. I getting ready for my first solo show in December, and when I was talking to the faculty at the university where the show will be exhibited, one of the teachers said I should put some work-in-progress into the show to give students an idea how I work. I thought this was a excellent idea, so I have been collecting ideas of things to exhibit — drawings, fabric samples, stitching samples, inspiration sources, etc. I’m excited by this idea, but also nervous because if showing your art is “exposing your soul” then showing work-in-progress is even more so. I’ve been studying artists who do this in an artistic way (Christo is the best example that I’ve been able to come up), but was wondering if you can point to any other examples or if you’ve covered this topic in past issues of your blog. This might be an idea exploring in more detail, because if what you’re saying about art audiences in general, putting together such a component for artists’ shows may be another selling point for future shows. Thanks, Pam

  • I like this idea doing, planning, and challenging yourself to be and do uncomfortable things. After a couple of very successful little outdoor market shows where I got not only a commission for a large representational piece but I got a commission for an abstract piece…yes abstract…I gave the buyer a sample of the colors to be used and a few samples of other work to share. It was a success and buyer was pleased. So I’m really getting uncomfortable, I’m having a 3 day show in my office with 20 pieces of my best. I’m posting in the free announcements to the public, a friend is doing a news piece and I’m inviting friends, buyers, and artists. I like being uncomfortable because I’ve made sales and generated new work while being quite un at ease.