Does Selling Prints Diminish Your Credibility?

Marketing art has changed quite a bit in the past few years and I thought it would be worth revisiting some of the points raised in this article that I wrote and posted a year or so ago….the points are still valid today..
If you’re really interested in selling your work and not just posting it in an online gallery hoping someone will find you, continue reading below

Some time ago during a lengthy session at the hairdresser, we got to talking about art….
I have been with the same hairstylist since my twenties but we rarely chat because I view it as a time to be quiet and introspective….to my surprise in the middle of a silence broken only by the snipping of scissors, he said “You paint right?” when I replied in the affirmative, he said that an artist friend is really struggling because of the current economy and was considering selling her paintings online

I perked up at this and we went on to chat about the pros and cons of selling via a website or art listing site, and the merits or otherwise of selling reproductions, as opposed to sticking with a gallery or selling from ones private studio….

Enthusiastically I went on to explain about Redbubble and how it works, the fact that I had the best of all worlds in that I could sell originals from my studio as well as reproductions on line , when he asked an earth shattering question, “but doesn’t selling prints diminish your credibility as an artist?”….
After a shocked silence, I emphatically stated “no it doesn’t”, and went on to emphasize my point by quoting artists who throughout the ages have sold work in all forms and fashions, giving examples like painters Dali and Warhol…. but he didn’t look convinced

To prove his point he explained that he had bought a painting for $10,000.00 from a local artist and was dismayed later on to see a giclee print of the same painting for $1000.00…he had been under the impression that his painting was the only one….he also said that a friend of his had intended to buy a $40,000.00 painting from the same artist and when he discovered that there were prints of the work, refused to go through with the purchase….
Smiling at his apparent naivete about the art world, I explained that art is a business like everything else and unless he had commissioned the work and the artist agreed to paint no others like it, he would probably come across many reproductions of his painting

Later that day mulling over our conversation, I decided to find out how curators feel about artists who sell outside of the classic gallery setting…
I often talk to gallery owners and curators so it was easy to get the information I needed and I also did a bit of research online…
“The truth is that only a very small percentage of working artists will ever acquire gallery representation. A much smaller percentage will acquire adequate gallery representation

One statement that was repeated often in large letters..Galleries delete unsolicited submissions..the exception is the vanity gallery who charge for wall space or the artist run gallery, but that’s a whole other article..

Before you even think of approaching any gallery you must build your art career and that means selling your work…in other words you must sell to be able to sell
Most artists are stunned to discover that you have to sell art in order to attract gallery attention. Once you learn to make sales—once you’ve learned to persuade others that your art has merit— you’ll be ready for representation…..
Art galleries sell art for a living. They carefully evaluate every artist who presents them with art and decide to work only with those who can demonstrate that their art is not only saleable, but that it will sell…..selling your work requires various techniques, so you must create a strategy

1.“You need a community of other artists in your life. You need a network. Because making art is such an isolating business, you have to make sure you are not all alone in it. We need inspiration from others. We need to see what is going on in our field, and build relationships. The world works this way. All business works this way. Artists need to learn to work this way too. Networking and researching should be what guides your career from the business side. You job is to build a bridge between your creative mind and your business mind…joining online networks like Facebook is a must…someone somewhere is talking about you”…
Join the conversation

2. “Get your work online and in artist registries

3.Research your market…select your potential market and stretch the limit of that market..

4.“Established galleries that work only with proven sellers in mid-career will not be a good fit for emerging artists. Some galleries define an emerging artist as anyone who has not had three Museum monograph shows! Know exactly where your work falls within the art world of prospects you are cultivating”.

5.“Artists need to approach creating their art career (which might include getting a gallery) with the same strategies they would use for looking for a “straight” job. Self-assessment, targeted research, planning a visibility campaign, direct contact based on research, networking their way in, working with curators/reps/agents and answering ads/ calls for shows, etc… A mix of tactics produces the best results".

6.“Do you have a blog? this might be something worth considering…
In addition by being a part of a social network, you can join the conversation on the internet, comment on others blogs, attend openings and professional lectures…if you don’t want to start a personal blog consider joining Facebook if you have not already done so

7. “It is never about you, it is always about THEM. That is the key to making the sale, the introduction, maintaining the relationship. They don’t care about you yet, so don’t expect them to.

8.“Get out of your studio and into the world
Organize an exhibition at your library, write reviews for a blog, intern for an art handler in a gallery, work for a museum in any department, work for a gallery and serve wine at the openings, teach an after-school class in art, join an artist support or crit group, start an artist crit or support group, go to artist salons, go to lectures, go to openings…. Meet people, and see what is going on in the “scene” you want to be a part of

So you must have a pretty established art career before you even approach any gallery assuming that’s the way you want to go, and that means you must show that you are selling your work…that you have an established client base

All that said you can be an incredibly successful artist without any gallery representation… "You can be reviewed in magazines and newspapers, be featured in online Webzines, and create and contribute to blogs. You can have a core of dedicated collectors, and find new buyers, be collected by public curators for permanent collections and make a living with your work…you can be a self produced artist"

Yes… the self produced artist…not all of us want gallery representation

Finding a gallery who will work with you in the first place can be a dispiriting adventure, ego deflating and down right frustrating and demoralizing
Once you get a dealers attention, it can take years before your first show
Making enough money to split with the dealer
Not being allowed to take creative risks in your work
Not being able to deviate from a style that is selling well
Being locked into a relationship and a showing cycle that is unfulfilling

The advantages of being a self-produced artist can include:
Control over your exhibitions and what work you show and where
Tailoring your market message for your style and changes in style
Ongoing dialog that can support your work with alternative or fringe folk
Not sharing the proceeds of sales and choosing your price point
Deciding how often you want to show
Not being locked into one space or one city or one style
Independence in creative direction and installation freedom
Being your own boss and an entrepreneur

So set your goals….
Think about what your career goals are as an artist. What is your potential market? Where do you think your artwork belongs in the art market? These are very important questions, so take your time coming up with the answers. No one knows but you

I’ve taken a long time to get back to my main point but here it is….“Selling art as prints does not diminish your credibility as an artist, it actually enhances it
There are as many different ways to sell art and become successful as an artist as there are artists, and each and every one of those ways is perfectly acceptable.
The key to success is identifying those methods you can comfortably apply to your own work”….that means selling it in what ever way works best for you and your goals, whether it be gallery representation, or self production…prints, cards posters, originals, all will get your work noticed…
If you’re going to make a living as an artist you have to be able to sell your art at least as well as you’re able to create it

In the past couple of years I added a new component to my career as a self produced artist…
I have entered the shark infested waters of licensing and licensed some of my images to be reproduced as prints and cards and lately sold some of them to be produced as books, neither of which affects my credibility in any way see HERE and HERE
…Janis Z…as always, let me know your thoughts…

Sources…Gallery Representation…Trend Search

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