I was returning to Brum from London and was regularly confronted with advertising for the new Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Of course I am eager to see it (after all it is Tarantino)and put the reason for being behind the times down to jetlag and the troubling readjustment after leaving Oregon. So after safely returning back up the M1 I got online and started to organise tickets for a convenient viewing time. After crawling to the end of a trying day attempting to explaining to an artist resistant to online exposure, how engaging with the world of social media could only bring him advantage…. it struck me!!!!
I was going to pay for tickets to see this film up front.
I had not previously seen the film. Yet I was going to commit my money.
And then I realised…I do the same with books. I had not read The Overstory by Richard Powers before forking out 9 quid ( I have read it now and would absolutely suggest you read it, too). Nor had I heard the new live Iron and Wine album before buying it (also joyous).
What’s my point?
Well… we do not do expect customers to do this with paintings. Our own work. The creations that we pour our heart and soul into. The work that we pull from nothing, crafted via inspiration and faith, a negotiation of thoughts and time, the consequence of endless decision making and service to technique.
What we do, when finished… is this:
- Take a photo of the finished piece
- Send it to the Gallery (if we are lucky enough to have one)
- Upload it to our websites and slap a price on it
- Post it on social media platforms with the same price on it
And then we wait …. wait …. wait for someone to buy it. Or show interest. Or comment. Or even just a ‘like’ on Instagram.
And then we deal with the disappointment and mild depression that follows
Seems like the wrong end of good deal to me.
So why does this happen?
Well after thinking about it for some time, I have come to the conclusion that it is entirely our own fault. Institutional curating of art has meant that work is to be treasured and viewed with hushed reverence.
Even the high-end commercial galleries present a don’t touch or ask aura of respectful worship.
In fact right down to mixed group shows we still aspire to that which we think is the best example of exhibiting our work.
Here is the work, here is the title, here is the price …. want to know more? … err fill in the visitors book and i’ll try to remember to respond
Is that not rather arrogant of us?
Do you actually expect someone to see a piece of your work and just hand over cash for it without any engagement?
Like a new film or book, wouldn’t you rather have them pay up front for your latest work? How can you make that a possibility? Why does it work for Tarantino?
When you think about it the principals are common throughout most of the modern art forms; film, music, theatre, literature – we pay up front before experiencing the final article.
So what makes them different to your painting?
The answer is actually really simple – marketing before final release.
Of course when the new Tarantino film was announced we wanted to know who was in it. Did it have named stars? Was it based on a book? and when was it likely to be released?
There were interviews and carefully spread rumours, outtakes and then the trailer. Articles in magazines and newspapers entertained the mystery of what it might be finally like. Was it good or bad? Better or worse than his previous films? The trailer itself was put under intense media scrutiny and reviewed as if it was the final film itself.
Our appetites were well and truly whetted
You see … drip feeding information, it really works.
How can you do that whilst you are painting?
I am afraid it is no longer true that in order to be a painter you must solely concentrate on painting. There are fewer galleries representing a growing number of artists. The field is incredibly competitive and unlikely to get any easier. The old days are gone.
With galleries having to foot the bills for ever increasing business rates, rent and services, it can be no surprise that they are more than willing to try to negotiate the sales of higher priced items.
The internet has allowed people to shop from the palm of their hands. There is no longer the need to visit Cork Street to see saleable art. It is ALL available and convenient to browse from a myriad of Art sales websites.
BUT there is so much of it and in order to stand out you MUST put in the work.
The truth is that every single one of us now, if we wish to achieve some success, have to think of ourselves as our own media company.
Talk to yourself
So my simple advice is to believe that every mark you make, every conversation you have with yourself, every colour chosen is worth noting and recording.
Imagine … you post your intentions to start a new work. You post your inspirations and talk about why they are important. They can be photos or collections of things; concerned with composition or colour or texture or an emotion or political situation that you are experiencing.
You follow that up with sketches, prep work, notebook samples and maybe the 1st steps of the finished work.
Perhaps you might let people know of the the book you are reading, thoughts that occur to you whilst the painting is in progress. Upload your Spotify playlist if it illuminates your process of creativity.
You must invite people to share the journey that you take while you create your new work.
You are doing the work anyway … all you have to do is consider the whole process as a biography of sorts and take notes. It IS a STORY. The most important story you are currently telling. So learn how to tell it and not keep it to yourself.
Turn the notation of your process into a habit. Engage with it and see what arrives … you may even surprise yourself.
And what then?
For the few that followed your regular social media posts they will not scroll past your final piece when you finally announce it because they have become familiar with its creative process. They may take time to look deeper.
The people that then ‘like’ the work or have ‘liked’ any part of the process, you offer them something in exchange for their email address; An ebook compilation of all the things you recorded, a set of postcards, or a promise of more revealing insight in to the next work. You could even offer something like free postage if they wished to buy the final piece.
The long game is not to sell this first piece (a bonus if you do) but to create an audience that have offered their permission to speak to them about your work… Get their email addresses – THEY ARE INTERESTED
So the second piece of work you repeat the whole process, but this time include emails as part of the process. You should send your email subscribers something of more value too.. maybe some video footage of you at work or a piece of dialogue where you are internally discussing thoughts on what you are doing. Consider it a mini documentary.
Why should I do that for email subscribers?
Because… before you finish the work and offer it for general release, you might email your ‘preferred audience’ and thank them for their interest and genuine support and maybe offer the painting to them first.
I firmly believe in Pareto’s 80/20 principle. If you have 200 email subscribers, 80% of them are not going to be interested, leaving 20% who express some interest. Of that 20%, well 80% will eventually decline, leaving the final 20% … this equates to 4% of your total list. If you have 200 subscribers that means that 8 people are likely to make you an offer… if you ask.
8 people are likely to offer to buy your work before it is even exhibited.
Doesn’t that sound great?
Certainly better than putting it on a white wall and waiting.
So consider your work as marketable as Tarantino
Become your own media company and drip feed the story of every work’s creation.
Take joy in the role of being an artist. Share that joy and watch how it spreads.
Frankly, this deprived world could do with more of it.