This month we take a look at a subject that many artists find the most difficult: Marketing Yourself. What we’re talking about here is not selling your work; it’s learning to sell yourself. As an artist you are not an anonymous manufacturer; you have put a little of yourself into everything you produce, and it is this that people buy.
Why should you market yourself?
For the most part artists do not have agents unless they are highly successful or they work mostly on commission, so promotion is down to you. But don’t worry about compromising your integrity; marketing yourself is not about tricks and stunts, it is about defining yourself and forming a brand that people can latch onto. It is choosing to label yourself, rather than letting others choose their own less desirable labels. The first and most important task in this process is creating an artistic statement.
The artistic statement
If you still believe that all art should speak for itself then you are probably not doing too well as a professional artist. A terse statement about yourself and your art is an essential marketing tool. It is a slogan for your product. It will be the first thing people read about you on your website or portfolio. It will roll off your tongue when asked about your art and it will be regurgitated in newspaper articles and the mouths of those discussing you.
It should be evident then just how important it is that you get it right. To start with, you should spend time thinking over and writing as much as possible about the following questions: What it is that you do? Why do you do it? What unifies your work? What are you trying to convey? Where do you fit in the art world? What are your core beliefs about art in general?
Write as much as you like, but try to keep it written in plain English. Imagine explaining your art to someone you respect, but who knows nothing about art. Once you have all your thoughts written out, you must then distil them down to a few short sentences. Do not merely cut things out, but think of what principles underlie all the different facets. You should aim for a short, memorable and profound statement that will explain the essence of what you do. If you need inspiration, look at the artist profiles on the ArteXposed website for good examples.
Putting it into action
So, you’ve written your artistic statement and come up with a great individual brand. How do you put it into action? What are the secret marketing tricks to spread your reputation? Sorry, but there are none. Self-promotion gimmicks are tawdry and counterproductive. You shouldn’t be waving banners and blowing trumpets to announce yourself to the world. We will be discussing how to get interest in your art later on, but in terms of promoting your name there are only three things to rely on: word of mouth, the newspapers and time.
Word of mouth
We will be discussing networking in depth next month, but for now you should know that it is through simple conversation that most opportunities will arise. Being able to talk about your art with confidence, fluidity, passion and sincerity to anyone who takes an interest is essential. All the work you put into writing your artistic statement will help you to verbalize your ideas. As for confidence, you must practice talking about yourself without either shame or arrogance.
A photo of you and your art in a newspaper is an excellent promotional tool, so always keep an eye out for opportunities. Think of what might interest the general public about your work. Perhaps you have created something with a local interest, or maybe your work involves novel techniques to create it. If you are holding an exhibition, submit details and a brief profile of yourself to local newspapers. The templates in the Art eXposed PR toolkit enable you do this in the correct form that journalists expect.
Give it time
Your reputation will spread if you put the work in, but it will take time. Understand that gaining notoriety locally must be done before you try to spread yourself further. Be patient, but always be on the lookout for new opportunities to spread your name.