Being a great realist painter in the studio isn't enough. It doesn't matter how well you can paint or sculpt or draw, if you're focusing 100% of your time to your craft and nothing to marketing you are destined to have a studio filled with great work that no one will see until you die.
An effective strategy to implement for any art career is 50% studio work / 50% marketing your work. I know that really doesn't make many people happy but it's true. In fact, there are many times marketing is even more important than art-making. I've had many interns working with me that ask, "what should first after college." My response is, "why the hell are you waiting until AFTER college?" I went to college in the early 90s. I was already trying to get my work into exhibitions while I was still enrolled in college. The internet wasn't an option for my generation, but had it been, I would've set up a website and a social media presence before I did anything. It is an absolute necessity that you start marketing yourself from the very beginning of your career. Marketing isn't something where your efforts are reaped by the end of a work day. There are things that I've done over ten years ago that I am seeing the benefits of today. If you're an artist you need to get your presence out front and start building an audience. Marketing is a LONG game. It isn't something you can cheer over when your painting gets 10 likes or a nice comment. It is about years of posting, meeting new people, sharing, helping, contributing and most of all, networking.
Now if you're like me you probably have a little bit of a perfectionist problem and you want to wait until you have something that is "good enough" to market. I get it. You want to wait. I did too. I found myself in a dead zone after college. I made some great progress early on in school but I let some of the negative comments I got from professors and my peers in my senior year to affect my work. For years I started to doubt myself and my desire to become an accomplished realist painter. I was afraid to put anything out there because I was worried about ridicule, and that maybe I wasn't good enough. What changed between then and today - nothing. Nothing changed at all. The same people that didn't like my work and subject matter then, do not like me today for what I paint. What changed is I no longer care.
I've talked a lot about believing in yourself on this blog. When you believe in yourself and what you create you have the essential ingredients for an effective marketing plan - I cannot stress this enough. Be bold. Declare who you are and why you do what you do. Start brainstorming on a paper. Write words that describe you and your work. Narrow it down to five words about what your artwork is. What is your "elevator pitch" for your artwork? If you had the chance to sell one of your paintings in a closed space and you had only a short amount of time how would you describe it and convince someone to buy a piece of you?
Some quick tips:
- Get a website - www.yourname.com. You can't do business without it. Don't listen to anyone that says social media is all you need. You need a storefront and nothing is better or easier than saying to a potential client, "it's my name dot com."
- Start social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+ They all have different audiences but need to be promoted for at least 5 minutes a day. Build up your friends, post in groups and share the work of others on your profile. The more people people you engage the better your results and opportunities will be. I'll do a post about the benefits of each from my experience at another date.
- Send out press releases for any shows, awards or community events you do to local papers and national magazines. Don't hesitate to contact local and regional news sources even if they aren't very close to your studio. Many times they are looking for content for Sunday editions. Sell them on your hometown connections, what inspires you about where you live to create. You'll get their attention.
You have to start now. You may have years or even decades to develop into what you want to be. That's OK. What cannot wait is your marketing plan - keep pushing what you do out to the world. You will grow and people will be happy to see your development into a serious and successful artist. I may not be the only realist painter in the world but I want the world to remember me for being the best at what I do. The only way to get that across is a successful marketing plan.