Online Marketing and Artists Learning Business Skills

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Art Festival Observations

I got back late lastnight from the San Diego Artwalk. The California sunshine and festival atmosphere in Little Italy brought all the beautiful people out, with all of their pretty dogs.

Sometimes, deliberately or not, people choose dogs that look just like them. A long legged, tanned redhead walked by with her vizsla. A short, round man smoking a pipe stopped by to look at my work with his adorable french bulldog.

In between visitors in my booth, the people and dog watching at the San Diego Artwalk is a treat like no other art event I’ve attended. It’s one of my favorite art festivals.

My heart swells for greyhounds, since we loved three different retired racers in our family over a period of 14 years.
The full length of the watercolor – Waiting to Retrieve

Artist to Artist Conversations

The San Diego Artwalk draws anywhere from 40-60,000 attendees. On a sunny day, the crowds fill the streets shoulder to shoulder. It can be overwhelming – to everyone.

But it’s also festive and fun and colorful, and attendees there get to talk to artists about art All Day Long. Many people that visited my booth were artists, and the common themes were 1) how to make more time for creativity in a busy life and 2) how to market art online.

I had some surprisingly deep conversations about those two themes repeatedly over the two day event.

a printmaker's framed prints arranged in a booth at an art fstival
One of my booth walls with printmaking displayed; collagraphs, monotypes and a drypoint.

Questions at Art Festivals

A couple that visited on both days of Artwalk marveled at the amount of work they saw – at the festival overall – and inside each artist’s booth.

They asked how long I’ve been working as an artist, and how much time does it take to finish a watercolor, and what sort of hours does a full time artist put into the art-creation part of the job, in comparison to the marketing, framing and assorted tasks related to being self employed.

The husband told me an artist one street over had a double booth (10′ x 20′) filled edge-to-edge with giant art, and he suspended a sign that read “We make all this art while you watch TV and surf the net.” ?

I asked my visitor if he was insulted, and he said he thought it was both true and funny. What do you think?

San Diego Artwalk, looking towards the Pacific Ocean on Beech Street near the end of the day
Painting transparent washes on Arches watercolor paper

Online Marketing DIY

There’s a ton of free online marketing information available via books, blogs, and websites.

If you have a smartphone, everything you need to ramp up an online marketing strategy is in your hand. The challenge is scheduling time to harvest current trends, and then sifting through recommendations to filter the ones that fit.

Then you’ll need to create a task list, and find the instructions to each task, in the right order, so you can accurately configure your new online presence and various creative income streams.

And then you have to get to work and build it.

I enjoy researching how online marketing works, but the free stuff is maddening in its contradictions, and some of the so called best practices are very career-specific, and not applicable to artists.

Before I invested in my first marketing course, I researched all sorts of strategies as soon as I launched into art full time. I started blogging in 2005, joined online groups where I could share art, sold work on Ebay, Etsy, Art Festivals and via paypal directly from my blog.

Later, creative friends asked for marketing tips, so I emailed links to resources for affiliate marketing, passive income podcasts, and email list management tutorials, all to no avail.

A brand new web presence or online marketing strategy never rolled out with all those freely available goodies, because everyone who asked for links was/is already busy, the How-To was still overwhelming, and the resources were/are free.
Waiting to Retrieve 11 x 4 watercolor (cropped) [Sold]

Skin in the Game

I think we are more likely to succeed when we purchase expert advice.

Paying a seasoned professional who’s ‘done this before’ saves time and frustration. Hiring a specialist who can expedite knowledge of process while avoiding potholes is a wise investment.

Access to structured, deep knowledge shortens our path to Finished.

We live in a time where so much advice is free: Youtube, Blogs, Google search, etc. Studies show we have more incentive with projects when we have financial skin in the game.

If knowledge of all the free art-marketing tips floating on the internet inspires mutterings of – ‘yeah, I should get to that one day’, maybe it’s time to consider a pivot to paid-for expertise.

It’s still a lot of work, but a legitimate course is shored up with instruction manuals, video demos, worksheets, a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, real life examples of hows and whats and whys, etc. Read the reviews, and choose one.

an artists paintings and hand pulled prints, framed na on display in a booth at an art festival
Art on display at the San Diego Artwalk

Invest in Yourself

I paid for the course I took a few years ago, and it required dedicated time to complete. I’m still pulling new things from the curriculum – several years later – as they update details based on current trends and statistics.

I wouldn’t have collected and followed through with all of the moving parts harvested in this course on my own. So, if you’re thinking about bringing your art to the next level, and making it into a business, please don’t fly by the seat of your pants.

My heart aches when I talk to artists who are so frustrated, disheartened and stuck, but unwilling to make a move to change their path.

Art is hard enough as it is. Hire an expert, and follow a tested path to getting all your ducks in a row. It’s absolutely worth it.

The view above my booth at the San Diego Artwalk

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. I come from a long line of worriers. If you, or someone you love seems to need something to worry about, this article is worth a quick read.

P.P.S. Another topic that came up at the San Diego Artwalk was printmaking. This article published by Christie’s has a nice round up or different prints and how they’re made.

Click the kitty to take a free mini course

Art Quote

In the geography of a creative life, there will be a time when you don’t get paid for your art. Use this time. Build a body of work. Give people a reason to find you interesting. Treat this time as an opportunity to learn. 

Srini Rao

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7 thoughts on “Online Marketing and Artists Learning Business Skills”

  1. I totally agree with the statement about making art while others watch TV and surf the net, people seem to think that ‘real artists’ don’t have to work at it, whereas the opposite is true. BTW I looked up the catalogue of the Tate in London, they have lots of Paul Bonnard sketches and preliminary drawings and I was surprised to see how many he had made for a single painting, trying different arrangements of the elements.

    1. Hi Jan, I agree with the surprise on Bonnard’s multiple preparatory sketches. I don’t think I realized till this Spring that he never painted from photographs, or life, and only used his loose pencil sketches. It makes more sense that he would be diligent in capturing segments of each scene with linework and details. His sketches appear to be his shorthand notes for the larger paintings, only there are no reminder texts about colors. He was surely something else at remembering color notes!

  2. A most enjoyable and uplifting overview of this type of art event! You do this so well, and it’s great to see the pics of the surroundings and of your own display – Wish I lived closer!! I tend to think of these art fairs as being just a lot of work probably because of the head space I’m in right now (still burned out from years of making art “under duress”) but thanks for restoring my hope and giving me a vision that there can be “fun” associated with painting too, and not just hard work! Most of my art stuff is packed away except for a small stash of sketching equipment, but one never knows when the door of possibility will crack open again! Your blogs certainly keep me interested!

    1. Hi Gayle, It is indeed a lot of work, and I hear artists at shows moaning about that often. But I also think physical work is good for us, since most of the art-making is a standing or sitting still, quiet, mental activity. I’m sore all over today, but it’s all good. And I collected valuable feedback from the buying public – directly, and overheard. ? Thanks for your encouragement on these missives. I’m glad they make you think of your stored art supplies as in hibernation, rather than tombed.

  3. Angela Finney

    Lovely piece and so much well thought out and written question answering with links yet — big thanks!

  4. Studio at the Farm

    She is beautifully done, and you have her in such a different format. It is most striking!
    I wish all of you the best.

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