Watercolor – and Artist Marketing

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The Mystery of  Art Marketing

I read your email questions asking about my enthusiasm for the upcoming course launch of Marketing Impact Academy, and why I feel the need for a business plan when I could just paint, and let the chips fall where they may.

Three reasons:

1) I want to make a good living with my art. It takes more than just painting to make art into a livelihood, and I know other artists want this too.

2) I’m still using the configurations and strategies I learned in this course – almost four years ago – successfully. I believe in it, and it’s familiar to me, so I can speak about the course and its effects from first hand knowledge. And

3) (this one might be a little selfish) It would be nice to have community. I looked for other artists at MIA’s live events – three years in a row.

Meeting creatives would provide opportunities to brainstorm.

We could compare notes and discuss the principles taught in the course as they pertain to the artworld.

If some of you – my art friends – take the course, then I/we have instant community on this Art-Business-Train, and that sounds both fun, and beneficial. Does that make sense?

Framed and ready for a wall – in my Etsy Shop

Art Detour Ahead

With some of the questions you sent in mind, this post is about online marketing, and making a living with your art.

So, you might want to skip this if you’re not interested in wrapping your creativity inside the structure of a business. I totally understand that some folks want to just make things, and that’s wonderful, and worthy, and full of magic all by itself.

I’ll be back with more art studio musings in later posts. Pinky promise.

Frames, Art, Postcards, Stamps, Matboard and a kitchen counter to work on.

Making a Living with Art

I’m at the Sierra Madre Art Fair this weekend. Artists at shows inevitably discuss whether art festivals have a return on investment for all the time, labor and costs, and what avenues there are to supplement with art sales online.

I was almost late getting my booth set up because several of us were having a little marketing round table at the coffee pot in the main building. Art marketing is akin to voodoo in the ever changing directives of what works well on the internet. 

You can choose from a global map of artist coaches who teach and write about making your art work. 

There are books, workshops and online courses – and they become outdated in six months.

It’s overwhelming to DIY the building of websites, best blogging practices, passive income, and online course creation on your own.

The transition from art as a hobby to art as a livelihood isn’t an overnight set up.

When I first dreamed of making art full time fifteen years ago, the list of ToDo’s I gathered in books and magazines even back then looked like a tangle of unmarked trails up a steep mountain.

And now, I think that trail is also a shape-shifter with ever-changing search engine optimization quirks, and sketchy social media algorithms.

Navigating all of this solo doesn’t make sense to me any more. It’s just too hard.

Dora, Waiting by the Hedges 5 x 4.5 watercolor on paper (in my Etsy Shop)

Focus on your Strengths

Artists have a reputation for thin business skills. We often have trouble with focus and follow through. (Hand up.)

Organization – practically and intellectually – can be a challenge. 

Some of us are loners, and we wouldn’t consider people skills or marketing our strong suits; we’re only interesting in making the art. 

I know artists who are brilliantly skillful, but no one knows about them.

I also know artists whose work is not-yet matured, but they sell enough to quit their paycheck-jobs.

The difference between the two is simply the absence or presence of tested marketing strategies.

Tender Garden – 5.5 x 6.25 Watercolor on paper

Diversified Approach to Art Sales

Among the current day artists I follow that everyone considers “successful”, every one of them has diversified their business approach to include:

  • gallery and direct-to-collector sales
  • authoring books (paper and ebooks)
  • teaching workshops
  • building online courses
  • competing for cash prizes in national shows, etc.
Pulling a dark field monotype called Backyard Vacation

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

The online marketplace changes constantly. Learning how to navigate through the latest iterations of social media, video trends, and opportunities for exposure requires time and attention. Sometimes all that art advise points to conflicting strategies. 

I’m willing to pay to have access to experts doing all that research. I keep up with trends by accessing a single source that harvests and tests all the emerging trends as they relate to online business in social media and marketing.

Their knowledge has been worth every penny – provided I follow the program and do the work.

Backyard Vacation monotype with colored pencil – ready for a frame

Best Use of Time

You could search online for free videos, blog posts and courses for everything you’d need to know about artist marketing, because it is all out there.

Then you’d confirm that the material is up-to-date and in the right sequence, and compile your task list in the right order, and get to work. 

Or, you could shorten the trail and buy a course that takes you through each step, in the right order, with a workbook, videos, accountability partners, the latest statistics on the most successful places to invest your marketing time and energies.

Smart partnership for the business-building process makes the unfamiliar stuff so much more manageable.

Beachy, shabby chic frame on a petite monotype – in my Etsy Shop

Get What You Pay For

The course I took was a big investment in time and dollars, but it turned my business around four years ago.

The course segments were loaded with relevant worksheets and exercises – and some of them made me groan for the workload they detailed – but the results dispelled myths I mistakenly used as a marketing compass for years.

With my newly tooled approach to art marketing online, I reduced the amount of art festivals I attended by two thirds, created passive income streams to supplement the gaps in between art sales, and revamped my  approach to search engine optimization so that almost 70% of my traffic comes from new folks looking for art or courses, or resources on google.

Framing day – preparing for an art festival

Selling without being Sleazy

The most compelling change after taking this course was my mindset about selling. The approach I used previously came from dated sales methods, akin to selling curtains or lawnmowers. I hated the notion of a sales spiel to push art that is so personal to me. How could I talk about my work like it’s machine-washable throw rugs?

Art is different, right? We birth it from our memories, our dreams and life experiences, our wishes and beliefs. How does one promote that sort of creation without feeling like a carnival souvenir salesman?

The Marketing Impact Academy course worksheets, and the live events were so full of Ah-Hah moments that I’m totally clear about how I present my work, and everything else I want to share that might be of benefit to others.

What used to feel uncomfortable is now sure-footed and authentically real. The tone and meter of this blog changed from those courses too. It’s a relief to feel so clear on my brand, and my message.

Visiting the LA Art Show a few years back with two of my artist friends – Nancy Eckels and Laura Wambsgans. Community in your field is so important. Gather your tribe.

Marketing Fan Girl

I’m happy to share the details of the course I took, if you’re interested. I’ve attended their live event three years in a row, and re-taken segments several times when new information was updated (alumni enjoy lifetime access to the course updates and events).

Enrollment for this year’s course opens Monday, and it comes with a free Instagram stats, trends and tips report. (EX: six in ten online adults now have an instagram account!)

Feel free to send me an email if you’d like to know more.

Thanks for letting me fawn about this program – it’s been awesome, and I’m very interested in building a community of like-minded graduates. I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. If you’d like to get each post via email, you can sign up for a free subscription here.

P.P.S. I’ll be back at the Sierra Madre Art Fair again tomorrow till 5pm. Stop by and say hello if you’re in Los Angeles.

Click the kitty to visit this free online mini course – Six Tips to Paint More

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8 thoughts on “Watercolor – and Artist Marketing”

  1. Sharon Estes

    I would love to take a course like this. However, I live on a very fixed income. Any suggestions for us paupers? 🙂

    1. Hi Sharon, You have the option of breaking the tuition down into smaller payments over time (that’s what I did), or saving to take the class a year from now, etc. Did you download the instagram stats report and watch Chalene’s video about monetizing your instagram account? And do you already follow podcasts related to building an online business?

  2. Sue Roberson

    I love business & have owned 2 stores. I have made money at selling art but I want to sell it online. And I am going to do it. I would rather sell a piece of art that win a ribbon! Odd, but I like it! So, I want to learn more & seeing what you have learned….

    1. Hi Sue, Since you’ve had two businesses, you’re already way ahead of where I was when I started this endeavor. I suspect some of the concepts in an online marketing course will click into place for you faster. Laying a map for the online version of business management will just be an alternate route – albeit new to you – than the one you’ve already traveled.

  3. I am going to tuck this idea away; I find I need to let things “percolate” before taking a big step like marketing/selling. You always give me things to think about–and I love that about your blogs! Keep them coming!

    1. Hi Judy, I’m the same way – tucking things into spaces so I can marinate for awhile. I think it’s good to ponder ideas from many angles. It makes any first steps towards a new thing more strident. Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad these missives resonate with you. ???

    1. Hi Joey,
      Encouraged might be a more accurate phrase. The program changed everything about my business and my “head space” about making a living with art. It’s only delivered to you if you’re looking for such a change. If you’re okay with how everything in your painting and selling approach is going – you can skip the encouragement – and come around to more art-making enthusiasm in upcoming posts. ?

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