Today begins a series on marketing for artists. While I’ll be using personal examples and will be focusing on colored pencil and oil painting, the series is appropriate to all types of art. I’m not sure where the series will end up or how long it will take to get there because both of those answers depend on you. I’ll begin with a few basics in this post and the next few, but I welcome reader questions, as well. So if there’s something you’re struggling with or something you’d like to know, leave your question in the comment box at the end of this post.

Let’s begin with a few simple facts about marketing.

  1. Marketing is necessary
  2. Anyone can be a marketer

Let’s take a look at each of those statements.

1. Marketing Is Necessary

There is no way around the plain truth of this statement. Sales are vital to creating income (if you’re not interested in earning income from your art, stop reading now). Marketing is absolutely vital to making sales.

If you doubt it, ask yourself the following questions. When was the last time you sold anything to someone who didn’t know you existed? When was the last time you sold a painting or drawing to someone who knew you, but didn’t know you were an artist?

I’m guessing the answer to both questions is never.

People who become buyers of your artwork have heard about you and about your work somewhere. Marketing in some form was responsible for that, whether it was casual marketing by word-of-mouth or intentional marketing via an advertisement in an art magazine, a press release in a newspaper, or a website.

2. Anyone Can Be A Marketer

I can hear the protests already!

“I don’t like to market.”

“I’d rather stay in the studio and let someone else do the marketing.”

“I’m not a people person.”

“I hate sales.”

Believe me, I’ve heard almost everything there is to hear about artists and marketing. Nearly five years as gallery director exposes a person a lot of artist philosophy on this topic.

But remember I didn’t say “marketing will be easy for everyone”. I said “anyone can be a marketer.”

The first is patently untrue. The second is true.

And believe it or not, every artist will market their work, sooner or later, in one form or another, and most likely on multiple levels.

Part of The Problem

Part of the problem artists have with marketing is a false perception of what marketing really is. When most people—artists and non-artists alike—hear the word “marketing,” a specific image leaps to mind. Usually, it’s the used car salesman in the loud suit pushing the latest “deals on wheels.” Sometimes it’s a huckster or an infomercial or some similar caricature.

Erase that image. Paint it over. Dump it into the nearest trash can. That is not what marketing really is and it’s most definitely not what I’m talking about.

Levels of Marketing

We all market every day whether we realize it or not. How?

  • When you talk about your latest painting with a friend, you’re marketing
  • When you talk about your work with a stranger, you’re marketing
  • When you update your website, post new pictures on social media, or join a conversation, you’re marketing

Those are what I refer to as passive marketing. The everyday stuff that happens spontaneously.

Then there’s intentional marketing. Buying advertisements, writing press releases, attending an art show or trade show, participating in an exhibit, or any of a number of other ways of promoting your work are all intentional marketing. You go into the activity with the goal of making a sale.

And that’s something all artists aspire toward if they want to make a living with their artwork.

In Conclusion

The focus of this series will be intentional marketing, but I’m also happy to talk about passive marketing because both types of marketing are necessary. So if you have a question, please ask it in the comment box below. Let’s talk about this thing called marketing.

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