In the world of selling and marketing your art, there are obvious tactics and subtle tactics. Obvious are things like marketing plans, and all the tricks and techniques I talk about in my Art Marketing Boot Camp series. But there are also many subtle things that we rarely think of as important in selling art. One such subtlety is the impact a frame has on the sale.
Years ago my wife asked a couple to spend a holiday weekend with us at the lake. When the power went down on Friday afternoon and we realized we’d blown out the breaker box, the husband, an electrician by trade, generously offered to fix it. So we went to the local hardware store to buy the parts.
Pricing is the least understood facet of any business, but it’s one that can easily be fixed — without a negative impact. Most of the artists I know are underselling their art, struggling, having to paint too many paintings to keep their heads above water. They are on an exhausting treadmill because their prices are too low.
Recently a well-meaning artist posted this statement on Facebook: “The standard gallery practice since I started selling in galleries has been a 50/50 split of the retail price sale with the artists. However, in the last 7-8 years it seems like galleries are doing much less for artists but still demanding the same split. So many shows now require that artists pay for shipping both ways. So many shows feature artists the gallery does not represent. If you are not representing me and trying to build my career, if you are not trying to get magazine articles for me, if you aren't really presenting my work to collectors, then you are no longer earning 50% of the sales. Is anyone else standing up to galleries? Are we so afraid of missing out on being part of shows that we all just do whatever galleries ask of us? Why are we, as artists, giving so much power to people who are offering us little other than wall space?” The artist isn’t necessarily wrong, but he isn’t necessarily right. Here’s why: Complaint: “In the last 7-8 years it seems like galleries are doing much less for artists but still demanding the same split.” Maybe instead of the question being “Why aren’t you doing more for me?” the question should be, “Are you selling my paintings?” From my perspective, though it [...]
Last week an artist told me he was suffering. His sales were way off, and the steady income he had become used to had suddenly come to a stop. He also told me his galleries were not selling much of his work anymore. I asked him what he thought the problem was, and he told me he is doing everything he can to generate income … more workshops, working on a book, working on a video, getting into more plein air events, doing an online mentoring program and an online school, and trying to schedule some gallery shows. As I probed this with him, I asked which came first … all the activities or the slump in sales? His answer was no surprise. “I was doing really well and hardly had to do anything to sell paintings, but I wanted to make more money, so I started working on these other projects.” When I asked him if he was painting as much and sending as much to the galleries, he said, “Well, no. I don’t have as much time.” This is going to sound absolutely counterintuitive, but less is more. The disease many of us have is thinking we have reached a peak with our income and that therefore we need to start doing new things to bring in more money. An example is my buddy Jim. Jim [...]