"The expression, "head in the clouds" might be true for many in the art field... but the reality is that to make a living in this day and age an artist has to wear many hats- not just a beret and needs to have their feet firmly planted in both the clouds and on the ground!
Just loving what you do is not going to get your paintings into galleries or into collector's homes.
If an artist is serious you have to make a business plan, just like any self employed business person would have to do to be successful. Part of any good business plan involves marketing. Selling your art and creating a demand for it is by name recognition and name branding.
Whether it is through advertising in art magazines, or by getting your name in the local paper (not the police blotter section) for your art, for exhibitions and/or awards won or prestigious juried competitions...name recognition is truly the name of the game.
An artist has to be their own worst critic and their own best fan, which can be difficult for a reclusive artist type to face...but it has to be done. We have to be willing to meet "our public" and give a piece of ourselves to them and shamelessly hand out cards and literature to promote ourselves, as any good salesperson would. But the hard part is ,it is our souls in our art that we are promoting, and a thick skin has to be developed as one person's trash is another's treasure and the average person doesn't hesitate to tell you what they think.
With name recognition comes better sales and the opportunity to have your art increase in value, which in turn hopefully gives you more time to create instead of spending days on end, on the computer, taking care of the business end of art. In other words... paying bills, ordering supplies, entering competitions, writing press releases, contacting galleries and being involved in social media, can take up endless hours on the computer. Most of us don't have a secretary or doting unemployed family member to do all of this for us.. it is the life of the self employed artist, mine anyway!
Facebook, blogging, twitter, instagram and online galleries have also changed the face of how an artist does business and all of these things help bring about name recognition...and it works! A year ago I needed to raise some capital and I literally had the answer come to me in a dream, (which brings us back to the saying "head in the clouds"). It was called "The Little Gems Project" 100 oil paintings in 100 consecutive days for $100 each.
I created a blog page where everyday I would post the painting I had just painted, and it would go up for "adoption" along with a story that I had written to tell about the inspiration of that days "Little Gem". I also created a fan page on Facebook. My blog would simultaneously post to my Facebook page which linked to the blog! WOW! The first person to request adoption rights "won" the "Little Gem".
I had over three hundred people a day checking my blog, some being adopted within 20 seconds and ALL of them were adopted by the end of the 100 days! It was a miracle...it worked!
From this Little Gems project sales of my larger paintings started happening and I also started to get more request for commissions of all types, from painting someones home to capturing their children and families in portraits.
I also was picked up by a another gallery in Denver, Framed Image, and it even helped sales of my art in the Ducktrap Trading Company Wildlife Gallery in Camden Maine, that has been selling my original artwork and African photography for 10 years now!
Name recognition...has now brought me to you, this afternoon, and what a treat to get to chat with all of you. I'm honored to be the first artist to get to exhibit in this beautifully refurbished gallery space in our County Commons Building. Thank you to the Summit County Arts Exhibits Committee for making this happen!
Sooo...what is Outdoor All Weather Canvas Art and how is it made? I'm going to take you on a journey. The process from creating the original art to licensing the art to how the prints are made.
My business plan that I started years ago, was to eventually be making enough through licensing and royalties to have time to create only what I want to paint...not what I have to paint to make a living.
The beginning of my licensing relationship with West Of The Wind started at a wholesale trade show I did in Atlanta in 2007. I had invested $6,000 in a booth at the show and was hoping to find markets for prints of my paintings and African photography. Marketing 101...called taking a chance!!! It was a bust. The economy crashed. All the orders I had written at the show were cancelled later.
I met the owner of a company called ARTFX at the show. His business was manufacturing and marketing interior wall art internationally and he was interested in licensing my African photographs.
I worked with him for several months hoping to recoup some of my loss, but it ended up falling through. Another bust! I had had to spend more money purchasing a photoshop program and a new printer for testing prints etc. Farther into the rabbit hole!
Life takes a new and improved direction and success with my business plan was beginning to look more hopeful. A woman that worked with me at the Atlanta show was so impressed with ARTFX that she had started negotiations with the owner to become partners. She wanted to make outdoor canvas art. He thought she was nuts but they became partners. She started her own division called West Of The Wind which only manufactured and marketed Outdoor All Weather Canvas Art. The images being reproduced at that time were 100% photography based and she wanted to start reproducing fine art images also in the line. Her partner didn't want to add painting based images so she split from ARTFX and became her own entity.
Now I come into the picture. She asked me to do a series of 6 Italian paintings for her company and in 2010 the first ones were brought out at a show in Chicago on Navy Pier. Six out of almost 600 photographic images, but it was a start...I had my foot in the door!
Not long after the owner called me and said to do the "happy dance"! A catalog company called "Grandin Road", the parent company to "Frongate" had picked up my painting of "The Red Curtain" for their catalog. They have now sold over 2,000 of my outdoor art painting to their customers...and are still reordering!
So how does this work? I have a licensing contract with West Of The Wind where I get a royalty for every image that they manufacture. It's not much...but it's something for doing nothing. They manufacture, market, bag, tag and ship everything. I do nothing. It's refered to in the industry as passive income.
Being the first fine artist she had licensed I negotiated a separate contract allowing me to buy my own art back from the company at wholesale as if I had a retail store and then sell it myself. I now have access to all 44 of the paintings that they have licensed from me.
About 18 months ago West Of The Wind started making high end, (they retail for $700-$1000 each) outdoor umbrellas. She is the first person to ever put fine art images onto umbrellas and she chose several of my paintings to be featured. I had to learn how to digitally paint to make the images fit onto the umbrella sections...my photoshop program really started to pay off finally! These are also a licensed product. More passive income.
My association with West Of The Wind also brought me to Jake Jabs and American Furniture Warehouse. They have what they call their "Artists of the West" interior art line. AFW has now licensed 11 of my paintings. More passive income.
I'm not done with my business plan...things have to be reevaluated yearly, but I'm on track with my dream. My name recognition is growing with every print these companies sell as each one has my signature on it!
Now, on to the creative process. If you would like to know the rest of the story click on the photo...it will take you to my Outdoor All Weather Canvas Art webpage."
Hope you enjoyed the beach hut painting...I needed to go to a warmer place today!