One of the biggest challenges artists face when marketing their art is building an audience. If you’re struggling with this, you’re certainly not alone!
Recently I led a private workshop with a group of artists. During this workshop I spoke about how to sell your art online by building an audience of people who truly appreciate your work.
If you’d prefer to watch the class, feel free to scroll down and watch the Youtube video. Otherwise, grab a pen and some paper and let’s get to work to figure out how you can best market your art online effectively.
Who are your people?
The first step to building a following of raving fans is identifying who your people are, your ideal audience.
If you say to me, “But Crista, everyone is my people!” I’d respectfully reply back to you, “wrong.” Your art isn’t for everyone. Nor should everyone appreciate your art.
In the simplest of terms, in order to be an artist with a big following you must identify who digs your work and find more of them.
So let’s start to work out who your people are. Grab a pen because this is important to explore.
Who has supported your art in the past?
Think about the people who have bought your work in the past, or even the people who compliment it.
- How did they discover your work?
- What was it about the art or you or your story that captured them?
I’ll give you an example of a talented artist whom I worked with recently. This artist was in a catastophic motorcycle accident that had put him out of action for a long time. Just as he was recovering and ready to get out and sell his art again, the COVID-19 pandemic started. Suddenly, he was forced back inside. He was terrified of losing time by not being able to network to sell art.
When I questioned him, I discovered that the people who most often bought his stuff were the people whom he met in person. On top of that, his work was nuanced and appreciated more fully in person too. Ok great, but that didn’t solve the problem of COVID.
So we brainstormed ways that he could bring more of himself and his process into his online presence. He started to share more about his unique techniques, the ideas and influences behind the work.
He began to attract an appreciative audience of people who were interested in who he is as an artist. This gave him the opportunity to sell his art online until he could get back to selling his art in person again. But I imagine that now, he will always do both.
Who are you making your art for?
Again, your answer shouldn’t be ‘everybody’. Your art isn’t for everybody. Nor is it for ‘rich people’ (I hear that one a lot too).
For years I worked with a super talented artist named Enrique. He created fabulous works of art that contained highly political imagery. Do you think I approached interior designers to sell his art? Of course not. Interior designers aren’t looking for political artwork.
But you know who does appreciate political art? Museums. People who support museums. People on the board of museums. This was the ideal audience for Enrique’s political art.
We also approached hispanic collectors too because they also typically enjoy political work. He found great success by only approaching smaller niche audiences. We didn’t try to market his art to everyone.
When people “get” your artwork? What exactly are they “getting”?
It’s no use simply giving a polite “thank you” when someone compliments your work. Instead, use it as an opportunity to find out more about your ideal audience. What exactly do they like about your work?
Is it your technique? The color? The subject matter? Or do they just love the medium you work in? What is it specifically they like about your art?
Don’t be afraid to ask! Then ask your admirer more about themselves. What else are they into? This will give you valuable clues about who your ideal audience is. And hey – you’ll likely develop a friendly relationship to boot. Who knows where it might lead? Take every opportunity to connect with people who connect with your art.
Which leads me to my next point…
The secret to finding art world success? Relationships.
Here’s the thing – you can’t just let your art “speak for itself”, you have to do some of the talking too.
It doesn’t do you any good to be the strong silent type when someone shows interest in your artwork. It’s also not helpful to go the other way either and constantly talk about yourself without showing interest in other people.
If you’re constantly trying to sell, sell, sell on social media or wherever you’re marketing your art it’s going to become a bore for your audience.
Instead you want to share, share, share with the occasional sales pitch thrown in. Instead of turning people off, you’ll attract more who are interested in what you’re sharing.
Find your “golden thread”
Lastly, in order to grow your audience you need to know what your “golden thread” is. What’s the one thing that ties your work together?
I’ll give you an example. I once worked with a digital artist who created beautiful landscapes, seascapes and film stills. He was doing the same thing as every other artist on social media, marketing his art online just like everyone else. It wasn’t working.
Initially, he figured he would try marketing to people who liked landscapes, seascapes and film stills. Makes sense right? Weren’t those people his audience? Well I don’t know about you but marketing art to 3 different audiences sounded pretty exhausting to me.
Instead, we figured out that his golden thread was actually the fact that he created digital art over traditional art. Aha! Now instead of trying to market his art to three different audiences, he simply focused on people who like digital art.
Within a month of changing up his art marketing strategy, he was invited to show his work in an international digital art exhibition and speak with a museum curator.
So what’s your golden thread?
Your golden thread should be obvious everywhere you market your art online; your website, social media, press kit, Artist CV, even down to what you name your pieces.
Your golden thread is everything. It will help you identify your audience, build your audience, gain their trust and ultimately show and sell your art.
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