Commissions for artists are limited only by one’s imagination: people, house, and pet portraits, funerary urns, custom jewelry, garden sculpture, and more.
Regardless of the commissions you might be offered, use these pointers to make sure you pull off your project with flying colors and enjoy the process.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Create a special section on your website for commission information. Include steps for commissioning a piece and testimonials from happy patrons alongside images of the finished work.
I snapped this photo in the garage of the Milwaukee Art Museum and I’m happy to say that, according to her site, Susan Weres is still doing her thing. And she’s probably surprised to see this photo. I wonder how many commissions this tire cover has landed her.
See that your marketing materials have both an email address and
Confidence is one of the most collector-attractive qualities an artist can possess.
You are more likely to get the commission, sell the work, fill your classes, and have your proposal accepted if we believe in you. And we are more likely to believe in you if you believe in yourself and your art.
Confidence comes with experience.
Exhibiting your art in public and having conversations with art visitors contribute to growing your confidence. Yet there are times when even the most experienced artist lacks in confidence. This comes with the territory.
The thing I enjoyed most about meeting Anne Shutan is that she was as excited about her work as I was. When I complimented something, she said, “I know! Isn’t that cool?!” I love that kind of enthusiasm. Here she is with the front door she carved.
I’ve been reading Delivering Happiness by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh. I highly recommend it as an inspirational story about sacrifice, drive, perseverance, and personal mission.
One of the things Hsieh stresses repeatedly is how much more interested he is in experiences than in acquiring things. It’s no wonder that Zappos has become known for its superior customer service.
This got me to thinking about how artists and arts organizations treat their guests at openings. Here’s what I came up with.
Artist Karen McLain addresses a standing-room only and overflow crowd at the fundraiser for The Cloud Foundation, which she worked on for over a year.
When you host an opening and invite people, you are the host.
The people who attend, whether they pay or not, are your guests. They have gone out of their way to show up
There are all kinds of opportunities for artists to show and to sell their work.
Your inbox probably has an email from a rich oil sheik in Qatar who wants to buy your art right now.
What do you do? How can you tell the good opportunities from those you should avoid?
My advice is always to trust first and to be cautious second and most importantly.
Janice McDonald, Helen Hiebert, and Alyson. Helen had a fantastic working experience with a Denver-area library that purchased her piece (above) titled The Wish.
As with everything in your art business, the onus is on you to verify all of the facts. Here’s how you do that.
Visit When You Can
Peruse online gallery sites for signs of business legitimacy and also to see the range of art they’re showing.
When you ask to show your art at a venue, you need to be very clear about what you are offering. People don’t often say Yes to vague offers.
Think about what ties the work together. This is your curatorial thesis – your big idea. Writing it out, as you’ll see below, helps you find the clarity you need.
Before sitting down to write your exhibition proposal, ask the venue if they have a particular exhibition proposal format they prefer. If they do, follow their instructions. If they don’t have specific guidelines, you’ll have to compile an exhibition proposal for yourself.
The details of your proposal will vary depending on whether you’re proposing a show at a coffee shop, a pop-up space, or a nonprofit gallery. You will have to judge what is appropriate for your situation.
One of the biggest excuses artists give for not being in more frequent contact with their lists is that they don’t want to bother people. You know what it’s like to receive tons of email and don’t want to contribute to the overwhelm.
I understand. Even though everyone on your list has opted in to hear from you, it still doesn’t feel right to email so many people if you haven’t established a marketing groove.
There’s a solution: Send emails only to people for whom they are appropriate. In other words, target your messages rather than sending every email to every person on your list.
All of the attendees at my Nashville workshop are grouped together on my list. Photo courtesy of Mary Claire Crow
Email marketing platforms like Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Emma have the capability to segment
You know I love email, right?
I don’t necessarily love all of the spam that hits my inbox or the countless hours I spend reading and replying to email, but I can’t imagine running my business without it.
How would I ever be able to help as many people as I do for such a bargain rate?
And as much as I love email, I love real mail even more.
The supplies arrive.
Why You Should Rave About Real Mail, Too
Here are three reasons why I’m raving about real mail to my students, members, and private clients, and why you should, too.
1. Real mail is tactile.
Envelopes and postcards are things you can touch. You can cut, tear, and unpack a package (sometimes you can even smell it).
Add a handwritten note and voilà! You’ve enhanced your
A strong artist statement is essential to the effective marketing of your art.
There’s no skating by on this one. You need at least one artist statement for each body of work you create.
Writing your statement is a process. Like any other type of writing or artmaking, you can’t expect to nail it in a single sitting. And, like all good things that take time, it will be time well spent. The process helps you gain clarity about your art.
©Terri Schmitt, Lemons and Ball Jar. 16 x 20 inches.
If you can’t define your art in a statement, you will likely face difficulty marketing your work. Where else will you get language for wall labels, brochure and website text, informal presentations, and conversations?
Answering these three questions will help you write a better artist statement.
There are all kinds of places where you could show your work.
Coffee shops would love to have your art! Salons would fawn over it! Professional offices would think they’d died and gone to heaven!
This is great news for you, especially when you are just starting out. It’s a stamp of approval when public spaces want to show your work.
©2014 Ginny Herzog, Relic 12-514. Oil, cold wax, and collage, 30 by 40 inches. Used with permission.
Almost every artist does the “free” circuit. It’s where you get your toes wet.
These seemingly low-risk venues offer a place for you to learn how to install your art correctly, while introducing your art to new people.
You’ll test your conversational skills, your pricing, and your negotiating skills.
Because these non-art venues are considered “less serious” than galleries, many artists