There seems to be a lot of artists out there not making enough to live on, let alone a good living. Most artists will either have another job, or will work for a funding or educational institution. Of course there are a few very well paid artists, I was reading recently (I lost the link) that a study had shown that most of the money in the high end art market was being earned by a tiny minority of about 100 artists. Artist's Network (a-n) commissioned a study and initiated the "Paying Artists" campaign, which has made welcome and significant inroads into the bad practice of using artists for free and "great exposure". Fee structures and guidelines on pricing art has also been useful. I now always use their calculators for pricing my time and justification for the fees quoted.
Without getting into the political problems too much, it seems there is a negative reflexive process going on within the education of artists. Conceptual art, for all that it had offered to the Artworld, is notoriously difficult to sell at anything but the higher end of the market. Therefore, those that have not been particularly successful must find a living elsewhere or go into education. In education these same artist will tend to educate and reproduce other artists of the same ilk. During the process of the MA we students are clearly dissuaded from any sort of commercially oriented work. Although it is good to explore and free the creative mind from the distractions of the marketplace, I'm not sure it has been beneficial to rule it out or ignore it. I'm not sure that there is any other area of academia that is so divorced from the financial practicalities of their subject.
As I've gone around visiting artists studios, I have noticed that the British studios are pokey, low-ceiling ill-lit and cold. They could not be better designed to prevent the artist from producing good work.
In the US and in Southern Europe I have seen large, well designed facilities. All of these were run by representational artists who are selling work on a consistent basis to ordinary people. Who do I mean when I say "ordinary" people? I mean those who are not buying art as a hedge fund would, as an investment. They are not being led by critics and salesmen. They are buying for their own pleasure.
Obviously I am only sharing my personal experience, I'm quite sure there are many exceptions to what I have observed.
It was clear to me that a study of the business side of art needed my attention if I was to become successful. I need to make money in sufficient quantities to enable making more art. Otherwise I am going to have to use my precious time doing something else to make money, and squeezing art into hobby time. It's simple economics.
In becoming commercial of course there is a great danger, see this blurb from the rapidly expanding Whitewall Galleries. It sells art produced in a production-like manner, by accomplished craft painters, which is, in my opinion, absolutely dire. It mimics the terminology and rationales of the high end marketplace, but in a dumbed down, cheaper version for the socially anxious upper middle class pay-packet. I suppose this is probably my target market, except that I can sell them real art, and create an authentic art practice that I can then build towards the higher end.
As part of membership of "Start East" I have been learning how to put together better business cases and how to structure projects, cash flows and funding. This is no different from what I need to do in my visual arts practice.
I started reading business guides, and looking at my practice from a financial point of view.
A Dutch landscape painter, Roos Shuring, was making 100,000 euro per annum selling to "ordinary people" and she has produced a course on how it can be achieved and the strategies she used to do so. I followed the course and my notes are in a notebook "Art Business Success" Much of my design and decision making process have resulted in this website, which is still being refined as I understand my market better. One thing is clear, for any type of art, you need to get seen to sell. Getting seen, by the right people, is the first priority.
To this end I have booked a fairly large set of panels for Art Fair East in November 2017. I am now making decsions about the best type of work to show at this event.
Below is a copy of work in progress on the my website presence, things outstanding to do include creating a more critically engaged tone, without alienating the "ordinary" buyer. I think I will drop the postcard section for something easier, or leave it as an occasional, non promised "gift" rather than tie myself into a commitment. The other to do is to really get to work on the "Better Painting Practice Blog".
Website Plan Worksheet for: JenniferSendall.com
Prepared by: Jennifer Sendall
Last updated: 2nd Feb 2017
About the Business
Business Overview / Elevator Pitch
Jennifer is an internationally recognised Contemporary Realist oil painter working in Suffolk, England. She specialises depicting the life and landscapes of East Anglia, and is gaining increasing respect for her painting “en plein air” landscapes, particularly her small “postcard” paintings. She sells her smaller works directly from her website.
As a traditionally-trained painter she has a deep technical knowledge of the application of the historical craft of painting, and runs workshops and webinars, and shares her knowledge through her website and newsletters “The Artists Cheat Sheet”
Slogan (a.k.a. tagline or strapline)
A Leading Painter of East Anglian Life
Original and Aspirational Art, Luxury yet affordable. Charming. Unusual Expertise, Keeper of secrets.
About the Audience
Customers / Target Audience
Art Buyers: Aspirational,over 40, Country-lifers, East Anglians interested in the environs, international buyers looking for tradition and nostalgia. Interior decorators looking for original artworks. Weekenders to East Anglia, well off retirees.
Artists: Artists looking to improve their techniques and understanding. Beginners through to Professionals. Aspirations to realism. Disappointed by non-trad training. Looking for trade “secrets” recipes old master tricks. Web-savvy researchers. Looking to improve and develop their business models, desiring to make more profitable relationships with buying public, web and social techniques.
Customer’s Primary Purpose on the Site
- Collectors: To be entertained. Enjoy viewing a blog/portfolio of my work, getting postcards, sending postcards.
- Fellow Artists: To be entertained and intrigued.View blog/portfolio, hints and tips and sign up to Hints and Tips email
- Collectors: Browse and buy artwork or sundries
- Artists: Browse or buy how to material: workshops, webinars, books and videos.
About the Website
Example: Generate leads email and position my business at a high end upmarket position.
Create trust and professionalism
- Email sign up, for both Collectors and Artists
- Multiple galleries to showcase different styles of work
- As I Paint Blog with lots of images in each post
- Educational blog (historical and contemp. techniques, works by old masters, contemporary realists. Business skills)
- Pinterest button to make it easy for customers to pin images of our work
- Calendar showing workshops/classes
- Contact form
- 7 static content pages: Home, About (drop down Bio, Testimonials, Press, Residencies) Contact, Commissioning- updatable
- Postcard Blog
- Techniques and Reflection blog, links to Ed Products
- 6 galleries to showcase and sell Postcards, Plein Air, Studio, Portrait and Figure, Still Life. (?? images max per gallery.)
- Workshop and educational with link to ed products
- Educational Products Sales page
- Homepage will need to have a stunning image that links to each of the 6 galleries (maybe…)
- Testimonials will have a variety of text quotes.
- Use scans/PDFs of articles for the Press page.
- Ident photo for the About page?
Example: Link to Facebook & Twitter, for pushing blog posts. Twitter feed would be nice to include. Pinterest: Pin It button and link to our profile. MailChimp newsletter.
All posting must be calendarised. Twice weekly blog post. Rotation of subjects. Monthly postcard and text. Extra posts for events and news. Cycle multi media content, video, podcast. Involve guest artists. Material pushed to social media, Facebook Twitter Pinterest and Instagram. RSS feed and email every two weeks?
Launch by30th October (in time for ArtFairEast )
Example: £ (includes approx 30% contingency just in case)