An Art Marketing Message from Eric Rhoads


Recently and artist friend proudly told me “I don’t do any marketing, and I’m proud of it.” She then suggested that she felt marketing was manipulative and that as an artist she did not want to be manipulating people to buy.

I fully respect her opinion and the choices she is making.

Much later in the conversation she asked these questions:

  • I need to add another gallery or two, do you know anyone I can get into? I’d appreciate an introduction.

  • Do you have any ideas on how I can sell a few more paintings every year?

  • “How can I make painters more aware of me?”

  • “How can I get more people to my workshops?”

I respectfully did not point out that marketing could solve all those problems.

Somewhere along the line some of us have picked up the idea that marketing is manipulative and that branding isn’t necessary. Many artists feel the same about the concept of selling.

Recently a gutter guy came out to our house to sell us gutters. I did not want or need gutters, yet he demonstrated to me why they would be valuable, how they prevent the boards from rotting, how it reduces wear from water dripping on my decks, etc. Suddenly I was eager to buy, and did buy. Now that I have gutters I’m thankful he showed up at my door to sell me on gutters. Does that make him manipulative?

Sitting around one night I was reading a local magazine when I saw an ad for a water filtration system. Something that’s been on my mind for months now, but I did not have a clue where to look. The ad was convincing, was just what I wanted, and I even folded the page until I decided to call. I never did. That is, until I saw the magazine a month or two later, saw the ad again, which was my reminder to call. I have not called yet, but I fully intend to when I find the time. I guarantee I’ll be looking for that ad and that magazine when I find the time. Is that manipulative?

The important point is that marketing or selling is a service to help others discover what you have to offer. Sometimes people need to be nudged, and often people like me appreciate seeing something that nudges me and peaks my interest.

The best definition I’ve heard is this:
Marketing is sharing something you believe in with people who need it.

Some of us have bad impressions because of bad marketing that is manipulative.

That is no reason to think that all marketing is manipulative.

Is writing a thank you card to a buyer manipulative? Of course not, yet its part of marketing.

Is telling the story of your painting manipulative when dealing with a prospective buyer? Not at all.

Marketing is nothing more than helping people find what you have to offer. Many times they won’t find it on their own, yet if you help them discover it, their life will change. I’m a living example. The first painting I bought was not something I would have done on my own, yet once the sales lady at the gallery helped me get past my anxiety of spending money, it changed my life. I stared at that painting over the fireplace every day of my life for a couple years, till I decided I needed more paintings. Then, I decided I needed to learn how to do it. Today, of course I’m publishing art magazines, art conferences, and my work is in three different galleries.

All that because someone helped me find what I needed.

If you look at your marketing as nothing more, suddenly it changes the framing in your mind and helps you realize that if you don’t market your artwork, people who should discover you will never know your name and never see your painting on their wall. Yet if they do find you that painting will bring them great enjoyment.

See how it changes things?

Marketing can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be, but it needs to start out with good intentions. There may be people who do manipulate, but if you follow your heart and your personal style, marketing won’t be manipulative, but you will benefit greatly and your career will soar.