Right now I am busy in the studio finishing pieces for an upcoming solo sculpture show at the Ocean County Artists Guild in Island Heights, NJ. As I do the final touches, I am excited about the work and the show, but I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish in the area of "marketing" in regards to the show.
The word "marketing" may evoke a number of negative feelings in the creative soul. It touches several nerves that remind us of our struggles as an artist; how the artist must wear many hats on both the business and creative side, and how guilty we might feel about not doing enough to sell when we would rather just stay in the studio and work.
I used to see myself in two very divergent roles; the creative artist who is free to make works of art unfettered; and the business "boss" who kicks the creative artist's butt to write that press release! We all know artists whose abilities lean in one direction or another—someone who is a brilliant artist who has never had a show— or someone who has little talent but is so good at marketing that they end up with a "gallery" of their own work in every shopping mall. It seems that few of us have found a happy balance between the two.
Several years ago I asked myself why I enjoyed marketing other people's products so much, but marketing my own work felt like such a chore. After some musing on the topic I realized that the reason I make art – to connect and have an exchange of ideas with people – is the central element in marketing for an artist. So I decided to "fire" the business boss within me and started looking for ways the creative part of myself could move outside of the studio to find new connections and build relationships around my art.
In practical terms what this means is that I try to extend the creative process I love outside the studio and into situations and events where I can engage through my art. This is why I think about marketing while I am actually working on the pieces I will eventually show had hopefully sell, it becomes a natural extension of my creative process instead of a heartless task.
My upcoming show is in a region where my work has not been shown before, so as I work I think about what will make the best impression on a new audience. A few ideas came to mind: adding a photograph of me working in the studio to my artist's bio for the show; instead of just having business cards out at the opening I am going to make a stack of ATCs (artist trading cards) that reflect the new work to give to people who are particularly interested in my art. By giving something that people will want to keep, you are making a lasting impression. Every time I have done this at a show or other event, at least one person has approached me down the road about a sale, a commissioned piece or show at another venue.
The bad news is that I still need to send out press releases, manage email lists, etc. but when I think about it as building relationships, I have more enthusiasm about it and it seems almost effortless.
In the next few weeks I will be sharing specific steps you can take to find uniquely creative ways you can market your work and build your relationships with your fans. Please feel free to share any thoughts or questions you have about creative ways to market your artwork.