I’m just as overwhelmed and excited as the next guy about the flood of great images. In order for me to stay relevant and vital, I think of my career more like an entrepreneur than a visual artist. The good news is success in both have many similarities.
Selling art is a result of a long relationship with my audience. It is a fool who thinks people make impulse decisions with their money. Even (especially) the gum you buy in the grocery store is the result of years of recognition and relationship. So, why should collecting art be different? I have to cultivate my audience the same way a big business does. That means having flexible goals and doing a lot of different things with right sized expectations while doing them.
Here are the practices I have learned and want to pass on.
- I teach about what I do. My teaching happens mainly at the New England School Of Photography in Boston, MA. I teach alternative processes both as a workshop and in the full-time program. This year, I’ll also be teaching at the Peters Valley School of Craft in August. So, “Building” an audience really means “Educating” an audience. The best part is I usually teach exactly what I need to learn.
- I’m a cheerleader for other artists. I wish I could claim the title of “Best Artist Of All Time” but I wouldn’t know where to put it (my friends would have a few convenient suggestions). Most of my inspiration comes from experiencing other artist’s work. Jesseca Furgeson, Beth Dow, Stephen Sheffield, Mark Osterman and his wife France Scully Osterman, Jill Enfield, Keith Carter, S. Gayle Stevens, and Isa Leshko are just a few people who fire my imagination and raise the bar for my own work. It makes me a better artist when I make time to be an audience for them. You should be too. Go ahead, look at their work, I’ll wait.
- I have a commercial photography business which is nothing like my fine art work. I’m commissioned to make family portraits and commercial advertising and editorial work.
- I also make platinum prints for private clients. Offering the process I love to other artists, photographers, and fans of alt process just makes sense. What makes platinum printing so special? Find out now by clicking this link
- I make new art but also promote work I’ve already done. This is a challenge. I always mistakenly thought if I wasn’t making new art, I wasn’t an artist. The truth is it takes time to introduce yourself to the world. Never mind that everyone seems to have the same great idea. When tending a garden, I don’t just take care of the things I planted that year; the whole garden needs support and care. Keeping my projects right sized so everything gets the proper attention is the key to any success.
- I charge a fair price for the artwork I make. Some of my portfolios (Leaving Babylon, Oceanhead Meditation, Inventory) are the result of a lot of time, thought, effort, and money. These images are formally represented by galleries like Alibi Fine Art and Photoeye . The open edition prints I sell through the online gallery Bert And None Studio are priced for easier collection. It is important to have work available for every level of collector without compromising on quality or materials.
- I make it as easy for people to have a relationship with me as I can. I don’t shop at stores (online or otherwise) with poor service, low inventory and confusing product placement? My website and portfolio should be no different from my favorite market, gallery, or boutique. This requires humility because there still is a brooding artist inside of me that doesn’t want to be “understood”.
I don’t do any of these things perfectly. Art has never been about perfection but more about being flexible, cooperative and versatile. I hope this has been helpful.