Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hostage To My Independence

If there's one drawback to handling my own sales and marketing, it's the hours each week I have to put aside to promote and sell my own work.
I blog and tweet with a regularity that puts some professionals to shame. I ensure that my web site, which is intended to be more an exhaustive reference resource about my work and career rather than a sales tool, is kept updated. There is a monthly e-newsletter – Studio Notes – to write and email to over 7,000 subscribers each month, as well as a monthly media release to another two or three hundred individuals.
But the core of my non-art activities are dozens of phone calls, emails and meetings with existing and potential collectors.
I don't often welcome visitors to my studios – these are reserved for my most ardent collectors, for whom I host occasional lunches in my cliff-top garden, a couple of hundred feet above a Pacific Ocean the color of lapis lazuli.
I prefer email and the phone to personal contact. Nevertheless, I ensure not only that I'm always accessible to collectors and fans but also enthusiastically communicative about new series that are available for commission, works in progress, and works that are for sale directly from other collectors. I also have a small network of non-gallery art dealers, corporate curators and recently auction houses (acting as brokers) through which I channel a small volume of selected works.
Incidentally, if you are one of those who believe that big-money collectors need to see a work in real life before spending five or six figures on it, think again. Major auction houses routinely receive bids for works priced upwards of a million dollars from buyers who have never set foot in their show rooms. My own experience is that if an artist's brand is well regarded, a buyer won't hesitate to spend tens of thousands of dollars without having seen anything but a digital image of the work.
Apart from sales, there are self-produced shows as well as those produced in partnership with smart gallery owners who don't insist on the conventional terms of trade with an artist. I have, so far, six of these planned in the next eighteen months and apart from actually producing the work, I'll have to spend days dealing with the logistics of framing, packing and shipping work, travel bookings, collating and distributing press materials, and supervising the design of posters, postcard, t-shirts, magazine advertising and invitations. I have a very clear vision of my image and message for every show and I am loathe to leave to anyone else to ensure its communicated properly.
Last but not least, like any business, I have accounts to balance, staff to take care of and taxes to pay. I do as much of the paperwork as I can before handing it off to a very smart accountant (and collector) to assemble into statements or returns. When I first hired her, my income was less than $A300 a week after tax: now I spend that on coffee and snacks for my crew.
As I keep saying, independence has its price. Or, rather, its ransom.


karen Martin Sampson said...

Dear Hazel, Wow. I am an "older" female artist living on north Vancouver Island in a semi remote area. When young I lived in LA, Cleveland, Toronto, and other large cities. I had no concept how to be financially successful in my work...just kept plugging away. I had some early success but fled in fear:-) It is wonderful to see a young person like you doing so well and taking full responsibility for it all. So much work and effort...please, just be careful of your health (can you tell I'm also a mother?)

Susan Buret said...

I hope you are not wanting us to feel sorry for you. You are intelligent, articulate, talented and got to where you are as the result of informed choice.

Tai said...

I read your reply on Clint's site and curiousity brought me to your "cliff-top garden, a couple of hundred feet above a Pacific Ocean the color of lapis lazuli."

Stunning and ....I had to smile as I have done exactly that in Queenstown, NZ where I overlook the beautiful 'French Ultramarine reflections' in Queenstown Bay, off-set by the snow-capped blue/purple shadows of the 'Remarkables' mountains, 10 miles away! see webcams

I have to agree with the hours each week we put aside to promote and sell our art works, the self-produced shows and exhibitions whereby you may even have to become a 'living artist' painting before curious onlookers.

But, it's all part of the ongoing enthusiastic passions we provide to ensure our continuation in our chosen career. Computer skills of Photoshop, social media and Skype now all play their necessary role and I'm sure if some of the old masters were informed of some of the skills now required; they would take it in their stride and, just do it!

Yes, independence does have its price and ransom or not, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Pssst. Unfortunatley, I don't have time at the moment to peruse your web site and blog, (painting prep for am Auckland show), but I will do so as I like where you're at with it all, plus some - well done! And, I'll subscribe to 'pop in' sometimes too.

Anonymous said...

The use of auction houses of digital reproductions to sell work and garner high prices is of a totally different category than artists selling work on their own blog or website. The general use of the internet for artists will still have its limitations. I applaud you for your independance and use of online marketing skills, but artists need to consider all possibilities to sell their work, and that includes the traditional gallery system. As you say, you pay a price for promoting and marketing yourself.