Artists are becoming marketers

Nov 4th, 2012

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Category: marketing

Artists are becoming marketers

Everywhere you look these days it seems that artists have become marketers – or has it always been like this?

I’ve been working as an artist since I graduated from art school in 1994 (and to some extent I was an artist many years before that). When I started out, artists typically did a lot of – well – art. As painters, we spent most of our time in the studio painting, or drawing, sketching, etc… a lot of effort also went into creating stretchers, photographing for inspiration, working in notebooks on ideas and drafts and philosophies about art in general and our current work in particular. Another big chunk of time was dedicated to exhibitions, starting with getting a slide-portfolio together, sending it to galleries for review, studio visits, arranging for a show date, delivering work, hanging work and appearing at the opening. Not all of these steps were necessary every time or for every artist. But you get the idea.

Nowadays, most of my artists friends spend just a little bit of time in the studio painting or working on their art, but a lot of time promoting it. Many devise incredible schemes to sell prints of their work, or some other cheap variation of their ‘real work’. Going through website after website where you can upload your images, to sell on mugs, as calendars, posters, giclees, etc… There are also an incredible amount of online galleries supposedly dedicated to selling your work, and boasting success stories.

Since the mid nineties I too have used the internet. My path was perhaps a tad different in that the internet provided me with a side job, that would pay my bills, rather than using it to endlessly and tirelessly work on promoting myself.

However, I find it utterly sickening, that artists have had to become marketers in order to survive. And let’s face it, none of us stand really even a tiny chance of surviving on selling our actual work! But this is a real tragedy, because we are NOT marketers, nor should we become one. Our gift is to create ART not to sell it or convince others of it’s value. It’s societies big mistake to take art for granted and to want it CHEAP! If an artist spends a month on a painting, just by sheer time and materials the work is worth at least $4000 – not to mention artistic value! Our studio rents are often like second mortgages, oil paints are ridiculously expensive, and stretches may be cheap at crappy art chain stores, but the quality stuff is more expensive than ever.

When we are forced to work as marketers and sales folks, society looses out big time! And I for one won’t stand for it any more. I will NOT market myself anymore to the ever cheaper audiences, who seek but a quick fix to show off to their friends or an investment opportunity or something ‘pretty’ for above the sofa. I’m lucky to be able to say No to all of that because I have a skill that pays my rent. But that skill also means that I have to invest valuable time at a ‘day job’ that I ought to spend painting.

We do live in a time that is going to go down in history as the most soul-less and culture-less in 2 millennia, perhaps longer. And in the USA the art landscape is but a graveyard of wanna-be glories. Here there is not only zero support from the government, but there is also next to zero true interest in the real advancement and participation of culture. This, the land of the free, is poverty stricken and un-free. This is far from the ‘Greatest Nation on Earth’.

Stand with me for True Art and Culture! And stop giving your work away for cheap. Stop letting others walk all over you. Stop looking at what art sells and copying that! Say no to online galleries. Stop selling your art on mugs and postcards. Cancel your Art Magazine subscriptions. Stop donating your work for auctions to benefit OTHER causes. Ours is the cause we should support! Start by getting into your studios and paint, print, sculpt, draw, sketch, photograph, brainstorm, think, imagine, live, dream….

Anne Stahl,
California Nov 2012

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