Part Two: How do Artists Make Money?

Hello, Friends, last week I posed the question, “Can artists make money from their artwork”? It’s a question I’m sure other artists have asked themselves in the past and certainly one that I have been asking myself lately, and more specifically, “What can I do to make that money”? In last week’s post, I discussed two specific traditional methods, listed on the Art Bistro.com article, How do Artists Make Money? by Valerie Atkisson. Some of the methods listed in this article are: 1.) exhibiting artwork at art galleries and museums, and 2.) Exhibiting artwork at not for profit art galleries. Both methods have pluses and minuses. With the former, the artist may have to submit their work to juried shows, where the competition can be tough, and the entry fees can add up, the more shows that artists apply to. Also, many for-profit galleries take a commission for artworks that are sold, which can be up to 60%, so artists need to price their work accordingly so that they can be sure to make a profit. Source: How do Artists Make Money? by Valerie Akisson, http://artbistro.monster.com/careers/articles/5848-how-do-artists-make-money?page=2.

In a Business of Art Class, I took this January with teacher and Photographer, Rebecca La Chance, at The Artist Angle Gallery, in Frederick, MD; I learned that there are some ways of coping with the competition for art show entries. For example, a guest artist, Bill Watson, taught a class on Artist Branding. One of his points was that before you choose an art gallery to submit artwork too, be sure that your artwork is a good fit for the style of artwork that is exhibited there. For instance, you can visit the art gallery website to review the types of artists and artwork that has already been exhibited, and you can take the time to visit the gallery and get to know the staff there before you decide if you would like to work with them. I think this strategy can help artists to find their target audience of people who are likely to like their artwork and sell it, rather than simply submitting art portfolios to every art gallery in the area without a specific goal. That would be kind of like throwing darts at a dartboard with your eyes closed, not a very effective strategy. It’s kind of like when you are job hunting and you tailor your resume to fit the job description advertisement of jobs you wish to apply for. This can save you a lot of time and headaches to have a targeted plan, and hopefully this method gives you time to create a fantastic portfolio, which I am learning is the foundation I need to build onto first, before getting caught up in the newest craze of how I should be marketing my artwork, etc.  Moreover, your chances of success in this venture should surely increase if you are giving galleries the type of work they already love.

But to return to the topic of,” How do Artists Make Money?” I will reference a few more methods that the Art Bistro.com article mentioned. Another method that artists can utilize to sell their work is to host an open studio event where they can sell their artwork from their studio and invite friends, family, collectors, etc.  (Akisson).Using these method artists can retain 100% of the sales, provided they don’t have a contract with an art gallery limiting how they sell their artwork. (Akisson).  However,  artists  also need to be 100% responsible for marketing their open studio and collecting RSVP, getting refreshments, as well as setting up the show, collecting cash, updating their inventory, deciding on what  payment methods to use, such as cash, check, or credit card payments using Square or a commerce site, such as Etsy or Shopify,  and posting online marketing to advertise their show using Mail Chimp, Facebook, Instagram, or other social media channels to let people, specifically collectors know about an artist’s art show.

I have tried this method of hosting an Open Studio with mixed results. The first show I hosted, I had a great turn out and a lot of art sales from friends and family who attended. I used Facebook’s event page tool and I printed fliers I had made in Photoshop to advertise the art sale which was last July. However, the second Open Studio sale I hosted this past February was very disappointing. Many people did not respond to my invitations even though I made a Facebook page and texted their cell phones, or people said they were coming and didn’t, etc. Only a few people came to the art show and I felt like it was a wasted day with very few sales for so much effort, setting up the art show, making labels for art, marketing the artwork for sale, creating an inventory list, etc. It was a frustrating experience and I don’t think I will be trying this method again, but maybe I will try some other new things instead.

And finally, here is the last method I will discuss today from the Art Bistro article, and that is, selling artwork online. Source: (Akisson, 2014). This particular method seems to get a lot of positive press, especially on websites that talk about how great it is to sell your artwork online, how easy, etc.  To use this method, artists can create online commerce sites with their artwork on websites such as Etsy.com, Art Fire.com, Fine Art America.com, Red Bubble.com, Shopify.com, etc. I am sure there are many more sites, but these are the first examples that come to mind. One thing I learned a few years into setting up my own Etsy site is that I need to take into account the commission taken by Etsy and price my artwork accordingly, so I make a profit from it. However, an advantage of building my own commerce site and selling my artwork directly to others is that there are no gatekeepers who can reject my artwork, although there is usually a subscription fee or other fees associated with membership on the website.  Another thing is that it is not enough for artists to build the Etsy shop and just wait for customers to buy their artwork. In fact, many of the people who buy my artwork are friends and family who have seen my artwork on Facebook or have commissioned artwork from me, not strangers who have visited my website or Etsy store.

Because there are many, many artist commerce shops out there, artists need to advertise their artwork on Facebook, Instagram etc. and make sure that collectors and friends know about their shop so there will be a greater share of online sales. Furthermore, artist commerce sites need to be updated frequently with a variety of artwork, but not so much that buyers don’t recognize your personal art style.

One more thing, I highly recommend is that artists host art shows in person as much as they can, and not just relying on their art website or commerce store to sell their work. It seems to me, base don my own experiences that people want to meet the artist in person and sell the physical artwork before they will buy it. It is also a chance for the artist to build a personal connection with collectors and to find out why they like the artist’s artwork. Sometimes even the best photography will not show details such as texture, etc. of specific mediums like an oil painting or acrylic. However,  it is important to take the best possible photos of your artwork that you can before posting these on your commerce site or artist website. If you aren’t good with photography, take a photography class, or hire a professional photographer so you can present your artwork

photo collage, pregnancy, desert, eye, dress forms, seeds, woman, process, artist's block.
Here is a photo collage I made in Adobe Photoshop which I made by combining various photographs in the Photoshop program. I wanted to illustrate the feeling of artists’ block, which can feel like a time of dormancy. I plan to translate this collage into a watercolor painting soon.

in the best possible light. It is your visual resume and your most effective selling tool to show the world who you are as an artist. Best of luck!

 

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