Elizabeth Berrien · World Class Wire Sculpture and Illustration · (707)445-4931 · ART MARKETING 101
elizabeth berrien's bbc cables wire sculpture illustration wins the BIG WON award for #1 Innovative and Alternative 2008.
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MARKETING is the process of defining, locating and refining the very best marketplace for your individual art. No matter how comprehensive your training in the arts, if you don't learn to market your works, you can get crowded out of your home by a daunting accumulation of unsold works. To develop the knack for marketing, start thinking in terms of a) What You're Making and b) Where It's Going to Sell.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT: When galleries ask, "Are you a PRODUCING artist?", it means they want to know if you made your half-a-dozen paintings in six days, six weeks, or six years. In the happy event that they're able to sell your initial works, they need to know you can replace them PRONTO. If you're thinking of marketing a closet full of your college projects, or the two paintings you did last summer, it's time to do some serious studio time and build up a pace before you bug the galleries. In the meantime, enter your works in group shows and art fairs (see "THE FAIRS: Market Research for Fun and Profit).

VISIT GALLERIES - observe they present the art they've already got. Study the most attractive displays of individual artists' works, and note that intangible "finished" look. You may also start to recognize "Not Quite Finished" works. Assess your own body of work, and make it progressively more finished looking. If you're in a difficult medium, continue your training; if you work with a difficult subject, continue the Process of Observation. Even if your day job insists upon monopolizing your time, MAKE TIME TO MAKE ART. As with polishing a stone, the longer you spend with it, the more it will glow.

GALLERIES like to clump related works together in similar style, theme and medium. Even if an artist's studio is bristling with, say, a watercolor seascape, gouache rendering of Washington Skinny-Dipping in the Delaware, acrylic Mud-Wrestling Aardvarks, and a Play-Doh bust of Plato, some weeding and pruning must be conducted to tie together a cohesive exhibit. (In the above hypothetical collection, I'd save Seascape for a group show). So work toward a continuity of theme and style.

CONTINUITY of your frames and/or bases is also vital to a professional presentation. When an artist who's also a professional framer got the chance to exhibit with a museum, she was so eager to show off her framing skills that she used a different style of frame on every single painting. The museum curator, surveying an eclectic array of gleaming chrome, antiqued oak, and red velvet insets, decided the overall effect was chaotic. There wasn't time to change to more uniform frames, so the show was relegated to a "Dark Hole of Calcutta" corner.

PRICE BREAKS: Galleries and craft shops will be happy to tell you which price ranges sell the fastest for them. They'd love it if you could develop some good bread-and-butters in that range. By all means, accommodate them! Think of it as a challenging exercise: Can you develop a collection of smaller, simpler versions of your Epic Masterworks without repeating yourself to the point of boredom? Some artists enjoy starting the day with warm-up sketches or small-scale paintings til the coffee hits home and the Creative Muse shows up for work.

Not only are these works immensely marketable (Nickel-Bag Theory: impoverished students who take home a small work because it's all they can afford will look at it with great love and longing as they fantasize about the major work to be commissioned after the professional degree's been earned), but also instrumental in exploration and growth of your serious work.

PRICING YOUR WORK: There are loads of formulae for calculating your prices by totting up your overhead expenses (rent, materials, etc), the time it takes you to make a standard item, and what you think an honest wage for that time should be. Put it all in the Waring Blender, and Presto! Pancake batter all over the ceiling...

Forget the formulae. Get out in the field and research the price range for works in your medium and at your level of competency. If you're just starting out, don't price your work at the lofty level your gut-level says; you're too close to be objective yet. Flex, Flex, Flex!!! Place it at the very lowest price you can stand; it takes time to build up prices along with production. This is your "personal apprenticeship" phase. Hit the fair circuit to get invaluable feedback on ways to improve the presentation of your work, and float your prices on the market. The final word on pricing is the Mercenary Artist's Mantra: "The Value of an Object is the Price that it Will Bring."

TARGETING YOUR MARKET: If 99% of a gallery's art collection is paintings, take your 3D somewhere else. If they're representational and you're abstract, keep looking. Even if you can persuade the gallery to try you out, their clientele will be pretty locked into what they've got. So instead of wasting vital energy trying to force a fit, use your resources to find the right environment for your works. If you're still wrestling to master your medium, don't be shy: there's plenty of room for growth at the fairs, and most towns of any size have "entry level" stores and galleries that show emerging artists.

If you've been at it long enough to have a reasonable opinion of your work, even if it's not as "perfect" as you expect it to be in a few years, it's time to head out fishing. Start local and decide which of your town galleries seems the best fit for your work. Work with that gallery to develop art that sells; this will be your home gallery.

If you're flexible, non-temperamental, non-time-consuming and quick on the uptake, you'll gain incomparable experience for working up to out-of-town galleries. Mind you, I'm not claiming your home gallery will be kindly, virtuous, humanitarian, or even necessarily good-smelling. I'm claiming that if you can learn to work with them diplomatically in a way that benefits you both, one side-effect is that you can trade up from your day job delivering pizzas to maybe assistant managing a store. Diplomacy can take you anywhere. Without it, you're quite literally your own worst enemy.

If you can get your home gallery to take a few things on consignment, for heaven's sakes, don't wait til they sell your Nude Descending an Escalator to start work on your next wonder. You should ALWAYS be in some stage of production; if you're chained to a desk at your day job, take a sketchbook outdoors on your lunch hour. If you're walking the floor at 3AM with a teething baby, daydream the soothing colors you'll experiment with in your next spell of respite. But the idea is to invest in your future by banking up more works. Your home gallery will be delighted to have you freshen your display by rotating in new works; customers may wake up and buy some if they notice the disappearance of others.

Whenever you have a surplus of art, you have marketing options: head for a fair, or think seriously about trying an out-of-town gallery. Fish around for something within a half-day's drive; once established there, cast further afield. Due to the perversity of human nature, the further from home you can ship your work, the more exotic it will seem when it arrives there. Take advantage of this fluke!

At the library, look for art magazines in general and specialty magazines for your medium. You'll find advertisements and listings for galleries your work might do well in. Most will take time to get into; they may jury slides only two or three times a year, and the competition will be fierce. One of my favorite methods of broadening my horizon is to ask friends and family who travel fetch business cards from galleries THEY think my stuff would fit in.

RESUME PACKING: Many galleries consider what they describe as "The Length and Breadth of the Artist" to be of equal importance with what the artist has produced. If you don't have a resume because you're SURE you don't have enough worthwhile stuff to put on it, don't sell yourself short! Get a clipboard and write out every single dog-and-pony show you remember doing. Give yourself at least a few weeks, and dredge through old papers to jog your memory. Try to minimize Excessive Regional Buildup. So Beastly Aunt Bertha skipped across country while in possession of your blown-glass Wassoon she pocketed in a fit of kleptomania? Congratulations! You now have Collectors on Both Coasts! You got Best of Show at the Dogtown Valley Art Club, membership 27? Add to list!

As with job-hunting or any other form of marketing, you must maximize yourself to the point of attracting serious consideration by your target, yet remain within the bounds of credibility in case you actually GET the job and have to live up to the credentials you've assembled. Think of it as conceptual art. The ground rules are that you can capitalize on ANY background experience that has a reasonable grain of reality, so long as you can back it up under close scrutiny. And of course, you want to keep on showing in interesting places to the point where Dogtown Valley falls off to make room for the Tupperware Gallery Invitational.

ASK AUNTIE SOCIAL

Dear Auntie Social: I've been trying to get Monolith Museum to give me a show, but they keep saying they're looking for artists with a longer resume that lists shows with other museum shows. Vicious Circle!
Que Pasa?

My Child: As long as you think the museum owes you a show because you deserve it, you're expecting THEM to fill YOUR needs. Do things the other way around! Look in your Yellow Pages and count the museums in your own back yard; you'll be surprised. Now call and ask what exhibit themes they're working on in the year to come. Jot down any that remotely relate to themes you can work with.

Ask if the museum has special needs for that exhibit, and offer to create something special to meet that need. Museum budgets being as stripped as they are, they can use all the help they can get. If you do well, they may invite you to show with them later on, or even refer you to other museums! Add to resume...

Back to the Art Biz Coach

World Class Wire Sculpture · Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931 · email wireladye@yahoo.com

Content and images © 1968-2009 Elizabeth Berrien. All rights reserved. · Updated Jun 12, 2009 · this page valid HTML 4.01

elizabeth berrien's bbc wire sculpture illustration wins the Clio award 2008.
CLIO 2008
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins two coveted cannes gold lions in 2008.
Cannes Festival
Double Gold
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins two coveted ADC gold cubes in 2008
ADC
Double Gold
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins the coveted Obie Best of Show award 2008.
OBIE
Best of Show
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins two coveted Andy gold awards 2008.
Andy Double Gold
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins one show gold pencil awards 2008.
One Show Gold Pencil
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins double grand awards at London International Awards2008.
London International
Double Grand