Sunday, February 01, 2009

How Not To Sell Your Soul

Actually I have one secret. It's a very easy secret. You get up early in the morning and you work all day. That's the only secret. Is there another one?
Philip Glass
As more and more artists increase their online presence in order to be independent of commercial galleries, there's an exponential increase in long-winded articles, both online and off, giving artists marketing advice.
Mostly, they're written by people who have conflicting interests – they're either gallerists or they own art networking or sales sites. The latter urge artists to join their online communities as well as establish their own sites and blogs. They talk at length about techniques to drive and sustain traffic to theses online presences. Some of their advice is even quite good.
The trouble is, they don't talk about content.
They talk about how to sell a product that you've made. For them, the business of art is really no different from any other online business.
And yet it is, both online and in the real world, and those offering advice miss – don't even understand – the subtle emotional, aesthetic and other less easily mapped fields that exist between the collector and the individual artist and their work. In this context, most advice on selling is unrefined and next to useless: it's one thing to advise responding promptly to enquiries from potential buyers but it's another to find the right balance of information and integrity in that response, while at the same time laying the foundation for an ongoing relationship, even if the enquiry doesn't result in an immediate sale.
And let's not forget, the artist should also use an online presence for much more than mere marketing. They should be be part of – and, even better, provoke – public dialogues on art, ideas and socio-political issues too (and not be afraid of the occasional fall-out).
In the end, though, it comes down to this: To be a successful artist, in any environment, you have to make a considerable amount of art.
And while you are making it, you have to show it to people, both in the 'real world' and online. You have to help people to appreciate its history – in other words, the
context of how and why the art came to be made – as well as its ongoing intellectual and technical evolution. And you have to connect all this to yourself personally as the artist.
It's not exactly quantum physics but it is demanding. Along with the art itself, you have to think about it – and, if you have a blog, write about some aspect of it – nearly every day.
Some things can be learned by observing the actions of artists who are doing what you would like to do. Those artists' actions will reveal a much more compelling and meaningful motivation for making art than just the desire to to sell it.
If your only motivation for making art is to sell it and your main intellectual preoocupation is not the work itself but how to productise it, then you're not an artist. You're just a self-stocking shop.


Marco Crupi said...

Hello I really like your blog, I would like a link exchange with you, I insert your blog to my favorite blogs ;)

the address of my blog is:

My blog deal of the art of photography.
( photo technique, post production, photo retouching, Reportage, how-to and articles )

Anonymous said...

Thanks Hazel, that was great advice :)

Anonymous said...

I thought you just painted pretty pictures, like.

Rachmeal said...

I hope you know how much some of us value your words and take them to heart!

Fitzroyalty said...

I take it you watched the recent film about Philip Glass at the cinema or on the ABC? Watching him make pizza and chatting was wonderful. I saw him play in Melbourne late last year with Patti Smith and it was uplifting!

etelka kovacs-koller said...

hi hazel - i like your work & your words! you´r right, using the opportunities of the www for an artist can be very inspiring, but also confusing. i love the possibility to share my "secrets" on the web (right now only in german) because i mean it is very important to show the audience that
a painter ist not an alien. shure i am thinking and talking about the background of my paintings. but at least i am just one of 7 milliards human beeings, searching the truth behind the curtain. kind regards from germany, etelka kovacs-koller,

andrew garton said...

I saw the P. Glass doco recently and noted down that same quote! What I've enjoyed about this recent foray back online (I took time out for while... I've been online, using email and building community based computer networks since 1989) is discovering people with the same drive and commitment to their work who are unafraid to speak their mind and fearless in their only inner and creative quests.

That said, the only advice I would offer regarding the net and art is to be cautious of the time technologies can consume. If we can learn, support and inspire each other through these means, sure... go for it!

Brent said...

Excellent blog post! Thoroughly agreed, and there's much to be said for just sitting down and doing it.

One difficulty lies in the diversity of social media. Does it make sense to Twitter about the book I'm writing? Or is it more suited to a blog? How much should I post about it? Should I reveal plot points?

There are no universal answers, of course, but it can certainly be daunting.

Little Lulu said...

Hello! I very much enjoyed reading this post and hope you dont mind that i added a link to your article on my blog
have a good day!