This blog focuses on the joys, challenges and lessons of living the creative life—and make a living doing it!
Author Gayle Mahoney is an arts marketing consultant and has shown and sold her own artwork for over 25 years.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Marketing from the Inside Out

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.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Curiosities: Creative Inspiration for the First Monday of the Year

Last summer, Penelope Green of The New York Times wrote "The New Antiquarians," an article about young artists and designers who reject modern influences of art, design and fashion and in their place unearth the relics of the Victorian Age to find inspiration.
Here is the link to the article:
(Make sure you click through the slide show)

A quote from Green's article:
"It’s way more than anti-modernism, this sort of deep spelunking into the past," [Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology] said. "It’s not aspirational and it’s not nostalgic. It’s a fantasy world that is almost entirely a visual collage. It’s a stitched-together, bricolage world, an alternative world."

Several blogs have surfaced in the last few years penned by self-described "neo-antiquarians" or "neo-traditionalists." These movements refer more to aesthetics in fashion and design than to politics (as Green also noted in her article), and have some of the same cultural underpinnings of the post-punk "goth" movement of the 1980s and the Anne Rice vampire-inspired "Victorian goth" subculture of the early 1990s.

One aspect of Victoriana that is embraced by the "neo-antiquarians" is the collection of specimens of art, physical and natural sciences and their presentation in cabinets, or as the Victorians called them, "curiosity cabinets." Historically, these collections had educational as well as social value. A broad and varied collection reflected one's wealth and status, but also provided a physical representation of new learning and optimism that paralleled the expansion of science and the expansion of Europeans into the New World. On a larger scale, this trend was reflected in the founding of museums of natural history that attempted to create comprehensive encyclopedias of knowledge by presenting samples of the physical, biological and anthropological sciences all under one roof. This desire to compile a collection of new learning led to the popularity of world expositions that brought everything that could be found in the world into a few acres of parkland.

The Victorians expanded their collections of artifacts and scientific specimens out of optimism about the expanding world, but today we are desperate to preserve the environment we see disappearing all around us. Maybe this is part of why the "neo-antiquarians" are drawn to this aspect of Victorian culture: feeling a connection to an era where people were more optimistic about human possibilities, and desiring to record or collect whatever we can before it disappears.

From a creative perspective, how do these ideas influence our work as artists? How do relics of the past, such as an arrowhead, shard of pottery, piece of beach glass, a rock or a feather influence the creation of your art? We all have bizarre collections of objects around our studios. How do your little collections inspire you? Discuss! Or more importantly: CREATE!

Here are a couple links for further reference:

A related blog—seems inactive right now but there are some interesting archived articles:

A gallery neo-antiquarians would love: