Sunday, September 26, 2010

Every Town is an Art Town

"This is not an art town".  

If you told me Houston Texas wasn't a snow skiing town, I'd have no  problem believing it.  Or if you declared that Denver was not a scuba diving town I would probably understand.  The average daily temperature in Houston is not conducive to making piles of snow useful for sliding down, and as far as I know Denver is not near either coast.  Defining a community as an art town however, makes me wonder,  does no one in that town own art?  Are pictures not allowed to be hung?  Are all paints confiscated at the border?
@ 2010 P Scarborough "Holding September", 12x9" Oil on canvas
This painting has nothing to do with this article, except that I just painted it yesterday and wanted to share it with you.

When I heard "X is not an art town" used again recently, rather than let it roll off into the pile of whines that seem to develop around certain artists, I asked the question,"What, exactly, does that mean?" 

It meant that nobody, not one person in City X, purchased artwork from the artist, thereby revealing themselves to be ignorant philistines.

Rather than an entire community falling under suspicion of an artistic vacuum, could there be something else going on? Is there some other reason, besides something in the water, that would lead an entire community to keep their cash in their wallets?

Could it have something to do, dear artist, with you?

Could it be that your prices are high, your work poorly done, your attitude unpleasant?  Does your sales pitch sound like something from a late-night TV commercial? Do you even have a sales pitch? 
Do you make it easy to purchase your work, or do you accept only cash in well-ironed 100-dollar bills?
If your work is displayed in a gallery, do you change it out often, or does the gallery staff have to dust off cobwebs?

Now that I've nailed you down, let me help you out a bit. 

Okay, so you aren't exactly burning up the cash registers.  First bit of advice: don't blame your customers.


@2010 P Scarborough Mill Road 14x10 pastel
Likewise with this one.

Second bit of advice: find out why you're not selling.  Ask your gallery owner, or a trusted friend for a meeting.  In her excellent book, "I'd Rather Be In The Studio", Alyson Stanfield calls it the "Conversations Exercise". It's a way of finding out what others think of your subject matter, framing, statement, etc.  Be prepared to hear an honest appraisal, or there's no reason to bother. Remember, you're doing this to learn.
Speaking of Stanfield's "IRBITS", get  yourself educated.  Read a book or two, and a few blogs as well.  There are several excellent marketing and creativity blogs written for folks just like you.  Find out what else is going on in the art world, who's doing it and how.

It might help if you saw yourself as an educator, rather than a salesman.  I'm not saying treat your customers like they're stoopid, but gosh, maybe they've never seen artwork like yours. It could be they've never considered purchasing original art before, and don't know why they should when Walmart's got such purty things for cheaper.  Let them educate you, too. A ceramicist I know keeps tabs on each art fair she attends.  City A loves plates, City B is into mugs.  She packs accordingly.

The most important advice I can share with you is this:  Treat people as if you want them as friends, not just customers.  You may not sell them any art, but you'll leave as pals, and there's nothing wrong with that.


Gwenn said...

Love it! Brilliant!

Reminds me of a conversation going on over at the blog of an art writer in my town right now. Must be something in the air!

Karine said...

So true!