It's summertime, and art is selling. I'm hearing from galleries around the country that are having a great summer. If you're an artist they're representing, that's great news. But what happens when summer is over? Can you survive on a few paintings sold over the summer? Or would you like to have consistent business all year? I'd like to share a strategy that can keep the cash coming in every month of the year.
What I failed to mention is that the places selling a lot of art this summer are vacation spots. Anyone who runs a retail location knows that people are a little looser with their pocketbooks when they are on vacation, in a non-stress, non-work environment. Those vacationing in expensive resort areas are likely to be able to afford a nice memory of their trip to hang on their wall, whether it's a painting of the local area they're visiting, or just something they love that will help them remember where it was purchased.
I have a house filled with memories purchased when we were in "vacation mode." We're out to dinner having a great time, maybe we've had a couple glasses of wine, and we wander into a gallery, and WHAM! We fall in love with a painting. Since we want our vacation time to last forever, this is a great way to remember it. We're fond of paintings of the places we visit.
But life goes on, and vacation does not last forever. So if you're in a summer-season gallery and are not selling paintings at other times of the year, why not consider a seasonal strategy? Why not target galleries in vacation spots that are visited at different times of the year? Remember, not everyone has to vacation on a school-year schedule. The people who travel most are upper-income and retired or semi-retired, or business owners who have more control of their time. Think about these seasons and where these people vacation.
Snow is a great trigger for winter travelers. The first snow drives "snowbirds" from the North to the South. People from Canada and the northern U.S. start heading to winter homes in places like Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Arizona, Southern California, Mexico, etc. Snow also triggers ski vacations in Colorado, Utah, Upstate New York, Vermont, etc. Of course, Christmas is a major part of those escape trips, and people are looking for ideas. These resort communities are loaded with galleries — and resorts have lots of people looking for things to do, so art shows typically happen in winter months in the warm climates.
Families travel for one or two weeks at spring break, which fills ski resorts, beaches in warmer climates, and historic locations like Washington, DC. It's also a time when people want to get away as long winters hang on. People with spring fever want to get out and enjoy the outdoors, and they find themselves traveling to vacation spots.
Summer resort and vacation areas are to be found all over the U.S. Though the city of New York often goes on cruise control in July and August, it's crowded in the Hamptons, the Catskills, and the Poconos. People in the East will vacation in the Cape, Maine, or the seashore. People in the West will head to Santa Fe, the San Juan Islands, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Heat is also a trigger for people who want to escape to lakes, beaches, and cooler mountain resort areas like the Adirondacks, Jackson Hole, the mountains of New Mexico, etc. Summer resort areas are filled with galleries.
Watch travel magazines for tips on communities where there are popular "leaf drives." Lots of tourism is built around the color change of leaves in places all around the country, whether Vermont, Northern California and Nevada, Upper Michigan, Indiana's Brown County, and hundreds of other locations. (Might be a good time to put some of those cadmium colors in your leaves.)
How To Make a Plan
Start by asking yourself when and where your art is selling, and see where you may already be getting seasonal business. Then simply make a list of every month, and areas you think will be hot tourism locations in each one. You don't want to be in 12 galleries, so try to find locations with overlap across several months. A great example, for instance, would be areas like Lake Placid or Aspen, which have strong summer seasons, strong ski seasons, and strong leaf seasons. Once you've picked a few seasonal locations, the hard work begins.
Getting a gallery is easier said than done. (My new Art Marketing Boot Camp™ II video discusses how to get into galleries). But start by finding your target area. Find out what galleries are there, but also understand that a gallery may not be your only option. Shops, restaurants, arts centers, and retail locations can be good options for exposure and selling work. Then start your outreach program. Study the galleries and reach out to those you think would be the best fit for your work.
Great galleries know what sells, and I'm sure your paintings of the New York City skyline will sell anywhere. But will a fall Vermont painting sell better in Vermont during leaf season? Certainly many are seeking a memory of their trip. The most important thing to a gallery is whether your work will sell. So you may need to build a body of work that "fits" the region before you start reaching out.
Of course, it never hurts to ask what sells. Some artists are willing to consciously paint what sells, while others resist doing so. That's your call. Do your homework, because the area you select has to be successful to become part of your regional strategy. Go online and study as if you are a tourist about to visit; a Google Images search will help you understand the area. (I don't recommend painting the images you find on Google or those belonging to others; that's a copyright violation.) Your best bet is to visit, and paint the area so you can represent the true feel of the place that you can't get from a photograph. And you may want to do multiple visits so you have the snow, the leaves, the summer lakes, etc. I typically don't buy local winter paintings when I'm visiting in summer, though some do.
Every artist needs a marketing plan, even if it's simple. This is a great exercise because you need to determine how many paintings you need to sell in a year to meet your goals, and you'll be breaking things out month by month anyway. A seasonal strategy will help you focus on this process.
Following a seasonal plan will increase your success in every month of the year if you do it right. It won't happen overnight. You need to plant seeds, do your proper marketing, and work each market. Things don't just happen, you have to make them happen. But if you follow this plan, you'll eventually have income every month you need it. Happy painting!