Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fine Art as a Small Business

We fine artists are walking a fine line.  (So fine!)  A line between being taken seriously by the art community and making money from the general public.  It's so tricky and here's why: Artists make art because it's our passion.  We create what we were meant to create to add to the thought process and conversation of our public.  It is our job to comment and reflect the society we live in; not to pander or grovel or change based on criticism.  We are who we are and we need not apologize.  The more authentic we are the more respect we generate.

Respect is all we can hope for in the art community.  It's the highest honor.  Respect.  It's simple and beautiful like great art.

The key is you have to be out in the public.  Visible.  Coffee shops, then art shows, then local galleries, then represented by galleries, then national shows.  If that's your path.  If that's your passion.  If you're serious and real.  Right?  This is my gut feeling.

Crafters, and I mean ABSOLUTELY no disrespect, have a job to generate business, traffic, and money.  They sell the products that you find in the big box stores with the added benefit of buying it from the person who makes it.  They are my number one favorite category of business.  I LOVE to buy from the person who made the goods.  And I love to buy from artists.  But while almost every person has very limited wall space, one can buy unlimited amounts of clothing, jewelry, knitted wears, kids toys, and such.  In fact some of these items wear out and you HAVE to buy more.  Guess what happens if art wears out - TROUBLE.  It really, really shouldn't wear out.

As a small business I'm failing.  I make a small profit every year but I'm hardly supporting my family.  I'd like to create what the crafters have - steady, reliable income in quantities that make a difference in my monthly budget.  But how?  HOW?  I want to reach people via social media but I don't want to give away my work.  I feel it devalues it.  How much are "likes" worth anyway?  While at the same time I can only create and store so much product.  Over the past 5 years I've learned a lot.  The larger the painting the slower it sells to the point that I can't paint large scale.  And yet, the galleries need large scale.  The money is in the large scale work.  But the sales are in the small scale.  What to do?

It's a trap.  I'm in my head too much.  I create art because I'm drawn to make my thoughts visible.  There's no other way for me.  This is it.  I must be authentically me and make the art only I can make.
My path is this:
1. Studio
2. Create babies and create art around their lives:
     a. sell at craft shows and art crawls and local boutiques
     b. occasional gallery shows
     c. sell online through etsy, society6, and eventually my personal website.
     d. build my brand slowly through social media using my art, process, and personality.  Not gimmicks.
3. Back to Studio
4. Major Gallery Shows after babies are not babies and are in school

If you have any not-gimmicky ways to generate income from the art you already make I'd love to hear them.  I know artists who are killing it on commissions each month.  They do well because they stick to what they do best and people are drawn to their authenticity.  My love to you.  Please share your secrets.  We are all in this together.

Lastly, I can't help but speak my truth that in then end, as it was in the beginning, it is not my job to make money but rather to create a social commentary.  I make the world a little better one tiny, happy painting at a time.  Really that's not so bad.  It just doesn't buy groceries.

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