‘What can we do?’

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Pat Weekley of Clovis, New Mexico wrote, “I’ve been a member of our art league in this conservative community for years. Our last art auction was held in a beautiful ‘arty’ situation — we had perfect weather, good local publicity and practically no attendance. We offered wine, cheese and other goodies so that all attending could be satisfied. There was a lot of interest in the wine. A group sat in the back and made frequent trips to the wine and offered us no bids. Our paintings went for rock bottom or received no bids at all. Several of my paintings went for less than the cost of framing. I’ve heard it said that if one wants ‘good’ art then it’s necessary to go to ‘real’ galleries in Santa Fe, Taos or Albuquerque. What can we do that we have not done in the past to raise the realization that there is good art available right here in Clovis?” Thanks, Pat. I often feel a touch of sadness when I see the earnestness of artists in sales venues in out-of-the-way places. Sometimes I see the work of really excellent artists and try to help them or make recommendations as best I can. I call these folks “flowers blooming in a desert.” But as you know, New Mexico is the place where you can see some of the best art in the USA. Shooting from the hip, I’d say if you want to make sales in New Mexico, you have to have really top quality art. It could be the competition. Further, I suspect that most of the locals in Clovis have other priorities than the collecting of art. You might try busing people in. You’d round them up on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. Sure, some of your local wine-drinkers and cheese-eaters (great cheese made in Clovis, by the way) will throw peanuts at you to “give you encouragement,” but if it were me I’d rather be kicked in the head by a heifer. Fact is, even if you had a flying saucer over from Roswell you’d probably get only a bunch of saucer-eyed non-art-lovers. I’m guessing, but I think the way to raise the realization that there is good art in Clovis is to make better art. Make it so damned good that collectors drive out Hi-way 60 in their Caddies and Lincolns. Let them bring their own wine and cheese. Best regards, Robert PS: “Good merchandise, even hidden, finds buyers.” (Plautus) Esoterica: I’m sure many of our readers will tell us in the clickbacks and live comments about systems that bring people into these sorts of events. Further, there are probably systems, short of forced public lobotomies, that might encourage cattlemen and ranchers to become enthusiastic art buyers. We’d sure like to hear about those, too. But it’s going to be an encounter of the fourth kind — about four percent of the population are making art, and two percent are buying it.   What excites us?
by John Crowther, Los Angeles, CA, USA  

acrylic painting
by John Crowther

Years ago there was an advertising slogan that went, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” Clearly we can’t judge work without seeing it, but there’s always a tendency to blame the buyer, not just among artists but everyone. It’s easy for relatives, friends, and colleagues to offer praise, but the marketplace is our most unerring critic. While we have to take this as a positive, there’s a caveat. It’s a mistake to do what I call “chasing the market,” trying to dope out what kinds of work sell and attempting to produce it. Rather, we have to constantly try to understand what it is in our subject matter that excites us, and ask ourselves to what extent we are communicating that excitement. As Robert Henri says in The Art Spirit, “Each man must take the material that he finds at hand, see that in it there are the big truths of life, the fundamentally big forces, and then express in his art whatever is the cause of his pleasure.”   Big fish in a small pond
by Tobe Muir, Toronto, ON, Canada  

original painting
by Tobe Muir

Living in a small area with an overabundance of aspiring artists, it’s very difficult to get involved in the local scene. People are so busy boosting one another’s egos they don’t have time to learn the tools or work on what they want to say. I don’t paint whatever comes to mind but stick to what I do best. People know what to expect and buyers come to see it. One Toronto gallery offhandedly said I was one of the best flower painters in Canada, and that was the best affirmation I’ve ever received. It’s a small niche market, but being a big fish in a small pond is better than being plankton. One must self-promote and have a coherent body of work to even start in the gallery scene. Then, have a show ready at all times. There is 1 comment for Big fish in a small pond by Tobe Muir
From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Jan 20, 2012

excellent advice Tobe “one must self-promote and have a coherent body of work to even start in the gallery scene. Then, hava show ready at all times.”

  Understanding your market
by Jack Dickerson, Brewster, MA, USA  

“Rowboat Reflections”
acrylic painting, 24 x 32 inches
by Jack Dickerson

Emphasis on excellence is right, however… 1) You must know your market. Artists are not unlike other people selling products. We need to have a good understanding of what our buyers like, want, and buy. It is a fact of life. 2) Low price never will assure you of a buyer. Be careful not to under price your works. It devalues your art in your buyer’s eyes. 3) Do some research and better understand the different venues. Clovis may very well not be the market, and auction may very well not be the venue that will work for you. 4) The word auction usually means to average people, discount. Also, other than Christies or others like them, auctions attract people who think they can get something for less. Understanding and knowing your market is the most significant element (other than quality) in the art market. There are 5 comments for Understanding your market by Jack Dickerson
From: Terry Fortkamp — Jan 19, 2012

What a wonderful painting. Can’t stop smiling!

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Jan 20, 2012

This wonderful painting upends rowboat paintings! It is a great play on an old subject!

From: Keena — Jan 20, 2012

I love this painting!

From: Carol Meis Ellington — Jan 20, 2012

I lived in Clovis many years ago and I thought I lived in the middle of nowhere (sorry if I offended anyone, my daughter was born there at Cannon AFB and we made terriffic friends there). I would suggest you find another way to draw people in and make them excited to come. Invite a big name artist from Santa Fe/Taos to judge or critique a show and have demos. Have an art fair and include music as they pair well together. It make take a few years to catch on, but it can be done. The Summer Arts Festival draws crowds in Omaha. Good Luck.

From: P. Y. Duthie — Jan 20, 2012

Jack, I discovered your website today and learned a lot about excellence in painting and in presentation. Thanks!

  Quality is everything
by Susan Lenz, Columbia, SC, USA  

“In Box”
mixed media
by Susan Lenz

About ten years ago I overheard a few artists complaining about area gallery commissions being raised from 40% to 50%. They protested, “It’s not like we’re in NYC.” Their solution was to raise their prices. My mentor, a self-supporting landscape oil painter named Stephen Chesley, was also listening and offered his advice: “If you can’t afford the commission, you need to improve the quality of your work.” The grumbling artists simply continued to bicker. They even quipped back that Stephen’s prices were so high that “of course” he could afford the higher rates. They never considered his suggestion. Ten years later, Stephen is still selling work. Some of the complainers are not even producing. Quality is everything.     There is 1 comment for Quality is everything by Susan Lenz
From: Susan Avishai — Jan 20, 2012

Your amazing piece In Box sent me in search of more of your work and I love the original way you work with textiles, the graveyard pieces, the portraits! Quality indeed.

  Maintain enthusiasm
by Lyn Asselta, St. Augustine, FL, USA  

“Red Hot River of Grass”
pastel painting, 16 x 16 inches
by Lyn Asselta

Here where I live in Florida, I have endured dozens of “Art Walks” over the years, only to find the majority of patrons to be out for a free happy hour. With wine and snacks available, I watch sadly as hoards of people wander through local galleries, rarely buying but having an enjoyable night out at the galleries’ expense. Although disheartening, it does bring home the idea that you just have to continue to make good art until it becomes excellent art… and if it becomes the goal of a community of artists to make really excellent art, the public will start to take notice. It is a long process, and the wine and cheese are part of the package. One simply has to persevere and somehow remain enthusiastic. On a smaller scale than cities like Santa Fe or Taos, other cities have managed to become notable in different regions of the country, largely through good advertising. Perhaps Clovis should invest in a highway marker that reads, “Clovis: the Best Little Art Town in NM!!” People will want to see why… but you’ll have to be sure you’ve made it worth their while to stop. There are 4 comments for Maintain enthusiasm by Lyn Asselta
From: Casey Craig — Jan 20, 2012

Beautiful pastel painting Lyn!

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Jan 20, 2012

Wow, Lyn…. beautiful painting. And, I enjoyed your comment. I think you are so right on this. Artists need to find a way to promote instead of complain. And quality will always be easier to promote. It is a slow building process.

From: Anonymous — Jan 20, 2012

Lyn, your painting takes my breath away. Beautiful!

From: Regina Sabiston — Jan 20, 2012

I agree, beautiful painting and enjoyed the comment as well!

  Relocating for success by Kim Rody, Bahamas/FL, USA  

“Black eyed riot”
acrylic painting, 24 x 48 inches
by Kim Rody

In the year 2000, I was living in Dallas, TX, painting fish. I had a gallery show, did the show circuit for two years, and hung in numerous high end restaurants who gave me beautiful receptions. I could not sell a fish to save my life. I started doing a show in January 2001 in the remote out islands of the Bahamas. That went so well that in 2002 I moved to Florida and started commuting to the Bahamas. Right now I am sitting on my sailboat in beautiful Hope Town harbour reading my morning email. In about an hour, I am going to take the dinghy down the island to my rented studio on the beach to prep for my 12th annual art show coming up (the show that got me here). My point is, I had to go where the people were who bought my art. Years ago, a metaphysical art teacher of mine went to go get her “geographical reading” done. Seems like the stars can tell us where we need to physically exist in order to be successful. I never got a reading, but I was certain Dallas was not where I needed to be. There are 3 comments for Relocating for success by Kim Rody
From: Catherine Stock — Jan 20, 2012

Good on you, Kim. Your posting, story, and life are inspirational.

From: Mary Balzac — Jan 20, 2012

Kim. For sure your beautiful fish belong in the Bahamas or in people’s homes who wish they were in the Bahamas. Your mountain paintings are pretty neat too! I did have a “reading” once that said I’m living right where I belong, so one of these days when my paintings have improved enough, they will sell too. I’m working at it.

From: Sarah — Jan 21, 2012

Love your Black eyed riot. found your comments fascinating.

  Mysteries of the art world by Andrew Judd, Toronto, ON, Canada  

“Piano player”
oil painting
by Andrew Judd

Being represented by a gallery in Santa Fe does not guarantee sales, either. I had two sell-out shows in London, England, and the same gallery in Santa Fe never sold a single painting! The gallery owner was left scratching her head. If you want to sell paintings, I would suggest you host a Charity auction. Patrons sometimes buy work to feel good about a cause. That is a wonderful way to contribute on many levels both for the artist and the purchaser. A silent auction works well, too. If someone is truly interested in your work, they will write it down on a piece of paper and make a commitment. The purchaser can come back when the crowds have gone to look at the work. Also!! Start your auction with a reserve price. Why are you giving your frames away? You either bought or made your frames, so charge for them. Alternately, offer another price unframed so you can use the frame again. Let them buy their own frames. Frames can be a deterrent if they aren’t suitable for the environment they hang in. Your reserve price should include a nominal fee that assures you aren’t out of pocket or unhappy when the work sells. I don’t agree entirely with Robert regarding quality of work. I’ve seen people pay big money for something I’d turn to face the wall. Perhaps the name sells, or it matches the couch. That is one of the great mysteries of the art world. I do agree you should make great art. That is the ultimate quest and people will find you. And as Robert says, “Let them bring their own wine and cheese.” There are 2 comments for Mysteries of the art world by Andrew Judd
From: Kris — Jan 20, 2012

“I’ve seen people pay big money for something I’d turn to face the wall. Perhaps the name sells, or it matches the couch. That is one of the great mysteries of the art world.” Yes… WHO says what is quality and what isn’t? Is it necessarily a checkbook that determines quality?

From: Karen R. Phinney — Jan 20, 2012

With respect to quality of the art: recall that in Paris in the 1800’s the Impressionists couldn’t even get into the Salon, were ridiculed and put down for their impressionist style…until the art world woke up to their value. So, it isn’t always just about “quality”. Location does make a difference as was mentioned above.

  Arts Tour makes town ‘artsy’
by Judith Bush, Deerfield, NH, USA   Here in Deerfield, NH, we have the Deerfield Arts Tour every year. We have about 20 artists, inviting those who live in Deerfield to join us. Some of our artists are nationally known and some not and the artists use a wide variety of creative talents: from unique bird houses, quilting, photography, and beading to painting and pottery and more. We have been advertising on TV statewide and put out a classy brochure with a map, which we distribute within a 50 mile radius. The Art Tour brings in folks from around the state for two days. Artists are either in their studio or grouped together in some larger sites. We serve goodies and have a raffle. Businesses in town support the effort and are mentioned in the brochure. We will be working to put together our 9th tour for October. Of course October is beautiful in New Hampshire which always helps. All participating artists come to meetings, make decisions and do the work. Major expenses are brochure and advertising. All volunteer work. I suspect that how well artists do depends on the pricing and quality of their work. But I know of many artists who sell after the show as folks can’t get something out of their mind and then go back and buy. If nothing else this tour has brought together artists in town who support each other and have created a bond. And now Deerfield is seen as an “artsy town.” We probably don’t have any more artists than another town, but the tour has brought them positive attention. You can see the brochure on my website.   Suggestions for Clovis Artists
by oliver, TX, USA  

digital photograph
by oliver

Nothing substitutes for good art and in tough economic times cash for decoration and collecting for many is scarce.

Try to improve your list of people attending. Art leagues in and of themselves are places where people may want to donate money, but make sure the buyers/donors know how the money is being used and that the buyers can get a deduction for the works bought. As I recall, the deduction is the amount paid over fair market value — so keep the fair market values down and make sure the league is a qualified entity for deduction. Find a tax accountant or lawyer to help with this — many bar and accounting associations have volunteers for artists. Here in Texas there is an association: Texas Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts. Your area may have a similar association. Get them to help you with the organization and tax stuff and to mail out notice of your fundraiser to their members and volunteers… a two fer… lawyers and accountants may have cash to buy art and they can help you with advice for the fundraiser. Business people may have cash to buy art for their homes or offices — remember, many artists aren’t really buyers of work — they often have a lot of their own and it is rare that they have lots of money to spend on others’ works. Students, similarly, may love art but do they have the cash? Probably not. Over the years I’ve seen lots of artists and non-profits cater their fundraisers to other artists, students etc. That said, if your art league also had some programs to bring art to children or elderly in the community, was helping to decorate schools, hospitals etc, then the donor/buyer may feel more inclined to donate/buy. You can even split the funds, 80% of fair market goes to the artist, 20% general purposes of the league and funds above fair market will be used to support one or more of these types of community programs. Make sure you advertise where the people who may buy art will see it. The community business journal may be much better than the university newspaper or even the general paper. The entertainment paper is probably okay, though papers of all types are in decline. Seems like this is a Facebook or Twitter type of thing but you got to get to the right people… 500 college students may give wonderful feedback, eat the snacks, drink the wine, make it a nice party, but may not buy much art… but then you can maybe raise money on the food and wine… Make sure the fundraiser is a good time and consistent with the attendees’ aesthetics. Remember, while it may be great art, not everyone is going to want to support certain themes, etc., but some may. Know your audience. New Mexico has recently had great finds in natural gas, and these may be a source of people with money to spend as well. However, they may not be inclined to support political- ecological-oriented art that paints the industry and the mineral owners as ecological villains. Not everyone appreciates a cross in a bottle of urine… etc. Know your audience and cater to them… very, very occasionally, if done right, you can tweak (not insult) them, but be careful! That said, in the right group, some of this type of work may sell and sell well. You may want to develop a following over the years, so if you are in New Mexico my guess is being known for oceanscapes and New England fishing village landscapes and occasionally other things might not be the best, but mountainscapes, etc., might work well. Conversely, if you are on the coast of New England… Get a known guest artist to donate or help. In some ways this goes back to nothing substitutes for good art. But if you have a well known piece(s) offered at a great value, you may get real buyers to attend (back to improve the type of attendees). Advertise the right lead piece, the low reserve or bidding start amount to the right people who would be interested in that piece, and make sure that much of the supporting work would appeal to the same buyers, and see what happens… Coordinate with a season or other event and make it fun! Many communities have very active times of the year for certain types of things. Make sure you are consistent with that but not in conflict with another event. Summer in Houston is not the time to do lots of things — hot, humid, and people like to travel away if they can to beat the heat! Lots of charity balls and fundraisers here are done in the fall tapering off dramatically after the first of the year. People are usually “spent out” after the holiday season and those with disposable cash are figuring out the first pass at their taxes and may need a deduction. After the first of the year it is usually too late. The weather can be really cold and wet — a time to stay inside, enjoy a fire and wait for spring to arrive. However, the inside art and craft fairs in November, I heard, did really well this year even in tough times. Many communities have coordinated gallery night, or artist open studio night, and depending on how the bidding is set up you might be able to work with one of these. This might be a place where Facebook/Twitter would work. Bidding closes at 9pm and all interested people are tweeted or messaged when a new bid arrives. A jpeg copy of the work is sent with the new bid amount and people stroll the community on the open studio night, etc. Set reasonable expectations consistent with your environment and the economics of the times. Be able to report success and report it with thanks! No one really wants to support a losing cause and everyone likes to be appreciated — but make it honest. Report to the buyers/attendees what was done with the funds raised. Some of the above may not work in a small area like Clovis — Wikipedia indicates the statistical area is 63,000 so this is where setting expectations appropriately and perhaps coordinating with some other event — the county fair, etc. — may be appropriate. Find someone who knows about fundraising to help you. Back to the lawyers and accountants above, they may know someone. There are also professional fair organizers, etc., who may be able to help for a portion of the gate or, if you are really lucky, to donate some time and their mailing list.   High quality Gala
by Jo Watts, Smithville, TX, USA  

watercolour painting
by Jo Watts

I, too, live in a small town about an hour’s drive Southeast of Austin, Texas. Each spring we have an event that has grown bigger and more successful each year. It’s a garden party held on the grounds of a “stately home” in the historic district of our town and has become “the place to see and be seen.” Everybody dresses up; the ladies and many of the men wear hats (we are in Texas, of course) with their Sunday go-to-meetin’ outfits. The gourmet food is catered and there is always something different and delicious. The food and wine, beer and soft drinks are circulated on trays carried by servers wearing black and white. The tables are covered in colorful cloths with beautiful centerpieces (which are offered for sale). It’s all very elegant. Several tents are set up with the largest one holding the live auction which takes place toward the end of the event with champagne being served. Another tent holds items for a silent auction. The art work is strictly juried and is very high quality. Only about 15 items are selected out of maybe 50 entries (yes, I have been rejected) so artists hold back their best of their best for this show. We are now planning our 6th or 7th Gala and the word is out that the work is of high quality, the food and drinks are top shelf and that they’ll have a good time or they will regret missing it. Having said all this, I think that one reason that this event is so successful is that it’s exclusive. Not strictly by invitation only, but there is an admission of $35 to $50 per person and even the exhibiting artists pay to attend. It’s become almost a status symbol to be seen there. It’s covered by the newspapers and people feel privileged to be included. By not opening it up to the general public, so to speak, we don’t attract those who are looking for free wine and snacks, but rather people who love art and love helping to promote it while having a good time. Attendees also like to be seen bidding and outbidding their friends (and sometimes, their rivals). Selling art is never a sure thing. We all know that the public tastes cannot be predicted but we keep on keeping on, don’t we?    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for ‘What can we do?’

From: Copol — Jan 16, 2012

Pat, I have participated in some of those “wine and cheese soiree’s” in more than one community. Often, they are promoted by the area merchants, as a way to bring potential customers into the shopping area for the evenings, or weekends. Usually doesn’t work. Tends to bring out the freeloaders, who are there for the wine and cheese. Not only don’t buy much art, but also don’t buy much of anything from the merchants, either. My advice, for what it’s worth ? Make art the product, and forgo the promotional gimics. I don’t participate in these types of affairs, anymore. But then, I have chosen to spend my time in creative endeavor, and don’t particularly need to sell or promote, at this time. (Just one “been there-done that” comment for you to consider…)

From: John Ferrie — Jan 16, 2012

Dear Robert, It is interesting to read this letter as no where does this “Pat” mention anything about the art they were showing. Good weather, wine and smelly cheese does not guarantee attendees, let alone buyers. It might have been more interesting to see that they had some marketing savvy. Did they send out a press release, do radio and TV interviews, making up cards and flyers and hit the pavement to make sure every single person each artist knew, had an invitation in their hand? Then the day before, did they get on the phone and make sure people were reminded about the event and that it was going to be jolly good fun? Was there going to be any discussion about the artists and art showing that might peak peoples interest? It is bothersome to read about yet another story about an artist who showed their work and did noting to promote the exhibit. And I always say “Have very low expectations and you will never be disappointed”. Maybe the art wasn’t very good, maybe there was only a few pieces. But to stand there crying sour grapes when really, this is the artist fault, is nothing short of pathetic. Artist, along with building their technique, need to hone their skills on how to market and promote their works. Even if it is just a showing in their studio, it is a lot to ask people to come and see some art. Art is a luxury item and simply put, is the LAST thing people buy. And yet, I would encourage these artist to keep painting. Paint every day, paint like you don’t need the money and paint like nobody is watching. John Ferrie

From: Daniela — Jan 16, 2012

Conservative, wine and cheese…..a threesome that is tiresome now, there is a funny climate in all communities now with financial surprises that have thrown everyone out of “the norm”. Better to be less conservative, have a great load of fun on the day, have a really interesting banner, with a tasty name of some sort that would not even bore Lady Gaga, and some really good art! Good luck! Message: You don’t have to feed anyone, your art is great!

From: Daniela — Jan 16, 2012

Having said that, make sure it is gob smackingly fantastic art.

From: PaddyMac — Jan 16, 2012

I live in New Mexico, and regularly travel to Santa Fe (esp. Canyon Road), Taos and various galleries in Abq to check out art. I would never think to go to Clovis or any of the myriad other smaller towns in NM unless I was passing through. A wise friend used to tell budding animation artists who wanted to work on major movies – “don’t live in a cave.” Most of the big movies are made in Los Angeles and other major cities around the world, not little towns in the midwest. So if that’s their dream, they need to move. Producers are not going to come looking for them in their cave… If you have good art and want to sell it for a good price, you need to sell it where the customers are looking. Few collectors are going to drive to Clovis to see art, and it sounds like the locals are not buying. So move.

From: Kay Christopher — Jan 16, 2012

Wow, is that really true? 4% making art and 2% buying art? No exaggeration? Am shocked but maybe I shouldn’t be.

From: Bob Ragland — Jan 16, 2012

Pat I know this situation. I say, maybe you have to take the art to the action,somehow. A traveling Clovis art show,may not hurt. Maybe your group could form a partnership with other leagues in Santa Fe. Or maybe a group or organization could sponsor your group.If the groups don’ feel threatened. It might work.

From: Art Marketing 101 — Jan 17, 2012

The artistic community has yet come to terms with the fact that Art is a luxury item in a Walmart economy. I have shopped in some upscale retail locations, and noticed something relevant to the arts community. (Or, should be recognized by the same.) Have you seen it ? Even in those places that carry designer label clothing at designer prices, the so-called “art prints” offered there are low value machine made, mass produced junk, selling at prices that compare to what artists offer their original products at street art fairs, gallery exhibits, internet web sites, and wherever — well, you folks now whereof I write. It’s another disposable example of “wall decor”, featured in this year’s fashion mags, to be soon discarded and replaced with next season’s, product. It’s not about what’s on the shelves and racks. It’s not about what comes into the store. It’s all about what goes out. If it sits too long, it’s marked down to “get it out of here” pricing. Each square foot must produce its share of cash flow. I live in a small community, like so many of those with Walmart outlets. I happen to know the store in this town is required to average sales of $1000 per minute, sixty-thousand dollars per hour, twenty-four, seven. If that goal is not met, the manager is replaced. Multiply that by the number of outlets that corporation has… And, you wonder why there’s no money in your neighbor’s budget for your “art” ? There’s something else you should consider about this 9000 ton gorilla of the marketplace. It dictates what goes into stores and malls all over the world, including their competitor’s products. How do they do that ? Their requirements are so large that the production end of the market chain is set to their standards and requirements. Every one else pretty much has to fall in line, accepting whatever is being produced for the monster. (This is a simplification, but relevant and accurate.) Now, consider this, fellow artists. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art recently opened in Bentonville, Arkansas. It is not without its critics, as these things never are, but it is apparent that some of Sam Walton’s descendants are interested in aesthetic and unique products. Isn’t it becoming obvious, that the ways and methods of marketing the arts are outmoded, like everything else in this world of change and changes ? Galleries are so exclusionary and no longer trend setters. If they have rent to pay, they must also play the “Move it or Remove it” game of the marketplace. Every square foot of wall and floor must pay its share of the rent. Maybe, artists ought to begin writing to Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, with this concept: “We have quality product. You have marketing skills. How can we get together, to the benefit of both of us ?” Hmmm. Just imagine… A Walm-Art Gallery at every outlet ! Supplied by regional artists. Of course, they will only accept “family friendly” art, so there go the nudes and the socio-political statements. But what’s more important to you ? Cash flow, or your “artistic integrity” ? (Hint: Save the “dangerous stuff” for yourselves…)

From: Violetta — Jan 17, 2012

I live in a provincial coastal town in Australia. I did not always, and, I meet some good artists who nevertheless, as PaddyMac says “live in a cave”. Conversely, I know of one Tasmanian gallery, small, off the beaten track (and Tasmania is already off the beaten track!), which people go back to again and again. But the ground work was done – all the slow well thought out marketing moves reaching out to people, including tourism manuals – and seriously good art work…this took a few years to happen, it does.

From: Rachel Manley — Jan 17, 2012

I agree with John Ferrie that we really can’t judge how good the art was/is or how well it is being promoted because it wasn’t presented in the story for us to see. However, my real issue with this is that we are encouraging “charity auctions” as a way to increase art awareness. I’m sorry but I just don’t think the 2 mix! I am not a fan of auctions because I find that they really only attract bargain shoppers and artists rarely get their fair share (especially in small towns). There are tons of ways to promote the art in Clovis including a traveling show (already suggested), creating a commerative book (affordable for the locals), organizing an art day maybe with the local library (with exhibits, demonstrations, activities for kids, etc.). . . However, if you are going to auction something I think you should go to the local business and get them to donate their services/products instead of auctioning art work. Another good option is to encourage someone to purchase a piece of your work or a selection of works from various Clovis artists (at full price) and then turn around and donate it to a hospital, public building, library or something. You get paid and they get the tax deduction 100%. Invite the press in but also write your own press release to send out to other regional papers (with pictures) and to share on the internet. This will be great press that both the artist and buyer will enjoy. I’ll look forward to hearing more about art in Clovis!

From: Damar Minyak — Jan 17, 2012
From: Darla — Jan 17, 2012

As an artist who lives in an area where it’s increasingly difficult to sell, I certainly sympathize. How can you appeal to local people? You might try a show which showcases paintings of local places, people, and events. You could even have modestly-priced prints for sale of these local points of interest (and publicize the sale) as a way to cultivate future buyers. If there’s not a market where you are, you have to go online, elsewhere, or build a market if you want to sell.

From: bluehorsedancer — Jan 17, 2012

Once a year, less than 35 miles from the epicenter of the power-art world (NYC) several local (m)hotel ballrooms become the annual gallery walls for thousands of garish production-line “genu-wine Sofa-size Oil Paintings made by genu-wine artists – no more than $69, yes, I said $69 dollars apiece!!!”. There is no wine and the paintings suck: the only cheese is what’s in the frames. I have heard they are a sellout. Welcome to idiocracy. (Yes, it is here and it is now.) Meantime, fellow painters, please examine your motivation for painting; make art for the joy of the process, not for the money, and you won’t be disappointed.

From: ReneW — Jan 17, 2012

Demographics can be a big problem for any artist. Like Robert mentioned, being in a community that is off the beaten trail is something that is difficult to deal with. Perhaps drawing other artists to your community with an annual comprtitionwith prize money is in order. How about an art show in conjunction with a community event? Most communities have annual events to draw people. Maybe working with the Local Chamber can help.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Jan 17, 2012

Pat Weekley laments the fact that Clovis NM isn’t as art-friendly as the more well recognized art meccas such as Santa Fe, etc. However, if the Clovis crew were to be transported to the more recognized art meccas, how would their work compare with the work on offer there? Is it as good, as well presented? And let’s face it, a goodly number of the people buying artwork in places like Taos and Santa Fe may not be buying art that resonates for them personally, they may be buying name recognition, cachet and status, which doesn’t solve the Clovis problem. There may, in fact, be advantages to being biggish fish in a small pond, with better marketing added. But I agree with some of the previous comments, that ensuring that the work on offer is high quality, professional, attractive and appealing is the most important factor in working toward making the Clovis event more successful. Perhaps a cash bar, and putting proceeds toward marketing efforts, might also be considered, if local statutes permit that. Perhaps partnering with a local hospital (a percentage of proceeds from sales benefit another charity) might attract clients who have a limited appreciation of art but are keen to support local initiatives. Reserve bids (works not receiving a minimum bid would be returned to the artist, unsold) might also be considered to preclude paintings being sold for less than framing costs. To Pat Weekley: good luck – we live in challenging times.

From: Sarah — Jan 17, 2012

Pat, this doesn’t address the problem you had with the art auction, but addresses selling art in general…sorry about the lack luster of your recent attempts, I know the frustration. I have thought about how to make art purchasing more available to everyone, and here’s what I keep thinking, and I wonder what the rest of you think of this? I believe some of the advantages that other businesses use to sell large ticket items, like boats, hot tubs and other luxury, non-necessity items, is the need to make it very clear to potential customers, that paintings (art in general) can be bought on time or on a lay away plan. I know some galleries already do this, but I haven’t seen any that promote this, or make it clear with a sign or advertising that this is an option. I don’t understand the hesitancy of galleries to do this? When galleries are open to the customer paying on time, it’s seem to be done as a last resort, behind closed doors deal. Why not let people know when they first walk in, like other businesses do? My thought on this, is that in the past it might have seemed to cheapen the art, but now that galleries are competing with the world wide internet, I say that’s an old way of thinking! Again, sorry for the recent disappointing experience with the auction. Maybe try being the gallery that offers customers a viable way to buy art (especially in these economic times).

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Jan 17, 2012

I remember a gang of creepy energetic free-loaders who would show up at every single art show in the D.C area with pockets lined with zip-lock bags. Their “leader” looked like Prof. Irwin Corey in a tux and tennis shoes. They scooped up all the food and moved on to the next show…they even showed up at a city-wide open studio event. I participated in at my house. I wanted to sweep them out with a broom! I do think it is ironic (or something) that the Walmart founders have poured their profits into a huge museum of fine art in Arkansas. I wonder how that will affect the art community there.

From: About Free Speech. — Jan 17, 2012

Sorry, if this is irrelevant to the vein of conversation, but — Check into Wikipedia’s site, sometime today. It is important.

From: adela hubers — Jan 17, 2012

Pat: You asked “What can we do that we have not done in the past to raise the realization that there is good art available right here in Clovis?” Perhaps the first step might be to revise your questions and ask yourselves: “What can we do to raise the realization that there are good working ARTISTS here in Clovis?” Answer might be another question:”How can we, as artists, serve Clovis, and thereby increase our community’s interest in supporting our art-making/us?”

From: Karen Baker Thumm — Jan 17, 2012

Robert, I’m surprised that you didn’t challenge the idea of a local group of artists having an art auction of their own work. That in itself tells the public that this is bargain basement art to be had for little or nothing. It’s no wonder that few people showed up, and the only ones to bid were the dedicated bargain hunters! Pat, I would ditch the idea of holding an auction of your work and go with any of the other fine ideas that have been presented by others. Having some kind of art event in the community in cooperation with the merchants seems like a better way to promote your art. And jury the art that’s available to be sure that only the best is presented. Leave the rest of the art for the individual artists to market on their own if that’s what they do. Also, there was no mention of whether you artists are professionals who regularly promote and sell your art or are a group of hobby artists who do it for your own pleasure. There is usually a vast difference in quality between the art in these two groups, and serious collectors know the difference.

From: Paula Christen — Jan 17, 2012

Art auctions only seem to encourage bargain hunters for your work. Even as a small town resident, I’ve quit donating originals; only giving prints, after an auction where the successful bidder told me how pleased she was to get the painting, and couldn’t wait for the next auction to get such a deal. Ouch! Try pre-event marketing with Facebook,blogs, newsletters that encourage your patrons to share with their friends. Grow your client lists with truly interested people. It takes time.

From: EVC — Jan 17, 2012

Pat, the artists associated with the Santa Fe Studio Tour have had an extremely difficult time selling work in the past few years, even though the members of that tour buy multiple large ads in area newspapers.

From: Suzette Fram — Jan 17, 2012

… about four percent of the population are making art, and two percent are buying it … Robert, you said it all right there. That is the crux of the problem. The No. 1 law of every business is the law of supply and demand. In the art world, there is far more supply than there is demand. That is the reality of the art market that we all have to learn to accept and live with. An overabundance of artists, art, shows, etc. tends to kill interest in a lot of people and to cheapen the perceived value of the work. Unless you can make it to that stratosphere of highly successful, highly priced art, this is the reality we have to live with. By all means, thinking outside the box is needed here. Who will be the one to come up with the next great idea that will fire everybody up? Wish it was me….

From: PaddyMac — Jan 17, 2012

From CityData.com: Estimated median household income in 2009: Clovis:$35,757 New Mexico: $43,028 Santa Fe: $52,045 Clovis has 32,899 residents but they don’t have a lot of discretionary income. Santa Fe only has twice that but it has a lot more tourists year round. Even if you manage to get the locals to appreciate art, there is a limit to how much anyone can afford to spend.

From: michelehausman.com — Jan 17, 2012

I live in a very rural part of Santa Cruz County in CA. Every year there is an studio art tour. Even though I am 2 miles off the beaten trail at the end of a dead end road, I always get plenty of visitors. I would avoid the art auction scene and think about having a tour where visitors enjoy the journey out to your studios, during a pleasant time of year of course, and get to see the art where it is made.

From: Carol Putman — Jan 17, 2012

In this economy, people may only be coming to get something to eat! Most of the art events I’ve been to lately have been attended by artists. It’s like Facebook. When you promote your art on Facebook, it’s like preaching to the choir.

From: Marvin Humphrey — Jan 17, 2012

I once heard a curator mention that his museum paid half a million dollars for a certain painting that he probably wouldn’t be able to sell for $100.00 on the sidewalk across town. Venue is all important.

From: anonymous — Jan 17, 2012

Here are a couple things the well-known artists in my community do to bring attention to their talents. Once or twice a year they band together and have Studio Tours across the town. All the artists have their important pieces hanging. They advertise with a few galleries in larger cities nearby. They also contact local radio, cable, in newspapers, magazines, and TV stations as well as galleries, the Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Tourist Center. They set a price for their artwork and generally don’t waiver on the price. When people visit one studio, the visitor is met by the artist, engaged in conversation, and reminded to visit the studios of other artists. Have an ATC and/or a brochure to give as a reminder of your work and location. If they didn’t buy on their first visit, they will be better prepared to buy on their next visit. Another way local artists get their works noticed is by having art shows at local banks, restaurants, and in the lobby of a local stage/theatre. This is a tourist town and local artists are learning how to appeal to the tourist community. Local gallaries are very supportive of these events and artists. If they have a client with a specific need, they will give the client the name/s of local artists who might be able to meet the needs. It’s neighbors and businesses networking. Most importantly, set a price for your and don’t question it. It should reflect your level of expertise, your time, and cost of goods to create the piece. Even auctions set a base price. If the price isn’t met, you keep your art for another sale another day. Integrity should not be compromised.

From: Kathy Kelly — Jan 17, 2012

So, I should take all the frames back to the thrift store, and just have a love fest with art. What happens later, happens. It is just that, in a materialistic culture, it seems that for something to have value, it has to have monetary value. We are used, in our culture, to needing external validation of our worth. I seems that concentrating on money and notoriety, can actually inhibit the making of good art. Kathy Kelly

From: Addendum — Jan 18, 2012
From: Kit — Jan 18, 2012

Our Art Center of local artists have shows each month juried and the Center is open 5 days a week to the public. Recently a corporate business owner came in and found ” the best keep secret in town” as he put it. Great art for less than the galleries in the 5 mile radius. He has bought over 20 paintings in 6 months so far and likes to come after the jury is over to see those that didn’t get in before they are stored and will be picked up. He has bought most for his office space. So we need to let all the commercial business owners in our area know we are there or – you market to your area by either taking postcards around to businesses or mailing them. If even a handful come in and buy, it worked !

From: Frank — Jan 18, 2012

I hate to say this, but most of the ideas given to Pat, are tired, worn out, and out of date ways to sell art. It’s a new day, with many new challenges, and a tremendous amount of competition. The old ways just aren’t going to keep up and we need to think beyond what’s been done and move on to new ideas about how to keep the visual art world alive. The two posts that I saw here that stated new and realistic ideas, where Kit’s idea of connecting with local businesses and Sarah’s way of making art affordable to a wider audience or client. In short, it’s going to take rethinking and a complete overhaul of the marketing of art to compete.

From: Hans Jessen — Jan 18, 2012

Here is an idea of what you could do to get some art related $$$ even from the lowest income community. Make it all about kids. It is the American culture of the day to sacrifice lot of money to “the childhood”. Even the poorest family will dig deep to add to their kid’s illusion of perfect life. This concept has been exploited on all aspects so it must be a fair game. How about – for every purchased painting the artist will give a free drawing lesson. For multiple purchase, the artist will come to your kid’s birthday party to draw kids portraits?

From: anonymous — Jan 18, 2012

Just because you can hold a pencil does not necessarily make your art worth bothering with. Even if you are a genius – Rembrandt went out of fashion….but calm down, there are not Rembrandts, I’ve looked at a lot of art and there are no Rembrandts. Out there there are a lot of discerning people who not only can’t afford or want to buy art but don’t think making art is real work, especially when there is massive credit card debt. Maybe it is not the time to cry over not selling art. Aesthetically pleasing = food on the table. I am an artist of many years, I have had good sales, I have done other work too. Flex up, children, touch base with reality!

From: Dorise Ford — Jan 18, 2012
From: Phil the Forecaster — Jan 18, 2012

Do terrific art and it will be discovered! That is the goal. To have it happen during your lifetime is the dream! Too often it happens after you go to meet your maker. History tells us that most artists have a tough time making a living while they are alive but do really well financially after they are dead. That’s a supply and demand thing. Supply is zero after you die so even a modest demand will send prices soaring. How do artists get recognition and a pay check while they are breathing? How do we get the 1% of the population who control 99% of the wealth to appreciate fine art? Remember that most of these successful people worship the buck and not the beauty. I recall figures stating that less than 5% of the population buy art while the rest are happy with WalMart and paintings of Elvis fighting bulls on black velvet. I keep hoping for answers to these questions –before I die of course. I realize that I have used generalizations here but generalizations are accurate most of the time.

From: Naomi McLean — Jan 18, 2012

Advertising works wonders. I would suggest saturating the place with advertising and publicity of all sorts, newspaper articles with colour photographs – everything. This is how galleries do things and Pat should do it too. Invite people by name and have the invitations illustrated with pictures of what is for sale. Have your shows where wealthy people hang out, or visit.

From: Sharon Martin — Jan 18, 2012

We have a show in Scottsdale, AZ. It’s a small, local show. After the first year, we hooked up with a local hospital who is the beneficiary of our Silent Auction. We have a regular show and sale with the SA out front under a tent. This year, we have had such wonderful help from the hospital foundation who appreciates our commitment to them that we are worried about parking. It should only be a problem! We have local business who do small amounts of sponsorships to help offset costs of the show and we serve ‘light refreshments’ such as apples and water donated by the local market and cookies and crackers and coffee, iced tea, etc. We decided against wine as we thought people would linger and not buy. Sounds like that’s what happened in Clovis. We have extremely good art! But unless you can get the people to come and view it they won’t take your word for it.

From: Patricia Vicari — Jan 18, 2012

From my observation “good” art does not necessarily sell best. People buy for many reasons and they are not all able to tell good from bad. One reason they will buy is that they have heard that so and so is a great artist. They will often believe this, though they can’t tell whether it’s true or not. So I think advertising plays a big role in selling art. Tell everyone constantly and boldly that your art is really good and spread the word ceaselessly. We live in an age of illusion and spin.

From: Ted Lederer — Jan 18, 2012

Don’t know if this will work but sometimes being counter intuitive pays the biggest dividends. 1. Try making the event by invitation only 2. Charge a nominal fee to get in 3. Charge for the wine 4. Have a draw other than the art – someone who will speak or act as the auctioneer who people would want to see 5. Place minimums on the required bid (Do Not Give Your Art Away) 6. Include at least one very well known artist who people would come to see or hear talk or better yet to purchase. 7. Have some of the work for sale and other work by auction 8. Try a silent auction – this can work Whatever you try, stay creative – even if creative means going to another community.

From: Ellen McCord — Jan 18, 2012

I’m sympathetic to Pat’s plight. I live in an “artist’s community” in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas (California). With “open studio” events, art walks, wineries, coffee houses and galleries it is still extremely difficult to sell our art locally. “Open studios” are a good way to get people in surrounding areas interested since they can pick and choose which artist’s work they want to see. It is still more expensive to prepare and frame the work than I’ve been able to generate in sales. My new strategy is to take a portfolio to wealthier areas with higher populations to arrange showings or display in upscale galleries. I’ve made one trip and gathered contacts and ideas to better market my work for my next trip and target specific venues. Here’s what I learned. Uniqueness and quality are key. If the gallery manager (I also visited wineries) pauses and considers the work, that’s a good sign. If that person provides contacts, follow up. You may have to wait until 2013 to get into a gallery or to have a show, but if it’s 2013, you have a year to produce more quality work.

From: C. Keith Jones — Jan 18, 2012

Throughout the 40 years that I’ve been painting, I’ve seen my share of what I would call good and bad art. To put it bluntly, who determines what is good and what is bad art? It seems to me to be totally up to those who promote and push your work. It can be paint dripped on, thrown on, slopped on anything from canvas to cardboard and if promoted (by the elite people of the art world) by telling the collector, this is what you have to have for your art collection because this guy or gal is really an up and comer. We make art for ourselves because we’re artist but we want to sell it to others. Now I need someone to convince you that you need the art that I just made.

From: Edward Vincent — Jan 18, 2012

Pat, you’re surprised at the failure of sales, in a community you KNOW has a history of not buying. Whilst I feel sorry for you and the unfairness of the situation, you brought it upon yourself; I hope you’ll not repeat the same thing next year. If your work is good, find a way to expose it to galleries where it will be appreciated. Leave the task of public education to those perhaps better suited.

From: Karen King — Jan 18, 2012

I live in Central California and it is a well-known fact that art sold at galleries on the coast sell for much higher prices than in our area. I agree with your comment that we need to “make better art”. However, I have heard from fellow artists that a painting they could not sell here, quickly sold when they took it to a gallery on the coast and for a higher price. I believe that some, not all, people just perceive that the art is better when found at the coast.

From: Deon Matzen — Jan 18, 2012

Here is a suggestion and one that might provide viewing opportunities for more folks. Find someone to start and maintain a GOOD website. Develop a client list (contributions to list from your participants). Post all the items on the auction block at the show as well as on the website and then mail email links to that page to absolutely everyone you know, everywhere. Allow online bidding with credit card registration. This way at least more folks will see it. Many groups do this because their members are from all over the US and it is a way for them to purchase a painting without having to travel to the show from farther away. American Women Artists, National Assoc of Women Artist’s, Greenhouse Gallery,and many online galleries, etc. use this method for garnering sales outside the local area. It’s just a thought, but at least you can reach a broader group and maybe the bidding competition will “heat up.”

From: Alan Soffer — Jan 18, 2012

I remember visiting a gallery in Truches, NM about 10 years ago. My friend told me that this place had some really fine work. I doubted it, but went along for the ride. Lo and behold, there in the middle of nowhere was some really fine art. Not only that, but people were coming there from all over the globe. It seemed to be a combination of good work and good advertising. When two collectors from Denmark walked in the door, I knew this place was really special. Making this happen with a very conservative group of local artists is not easy. You all have to challenge yourselves to the max. Good luck, may the spirit be with you.

From: Gwen Meyer Pentecost — Jan 18, 2012

I don’t know what your advertising program is, but I wouldn’t hesitate to up the ante there as well. Not just your present mailing list , but placing ads in the arty news publications in Santa Fe as well – if your art can compete with theirs. The very best art should be on the ad. Good local publicity is wonderful, and don’t hesitate to encourage it throughout the year, but you have to look at where your desired audience is, too. If it is indeed in Clovis, look at the kind of art people in Clovis will purchase. In my gallery, I had to realize that whereas ranchers and locals loved horse paintings and paintings that depicted ranch life, except for the odd iconoclast, they didn’t buy. Never did, never would, though they had a good time at the show. It takes time to build an event beyond the friends and family stage. Examine your desires, and realize that friends and family will never fulfill them if your desires are for good sales. This is not to decry your friends and family; they are wonderful support, and deserve to be honored for that. Just don’t expect them to empty their pocketbooks as well. What appeals to each customer is something they cannot change. It is as intrinsic to their nature as whether their eyes are blue or brown. Your job is to find the customers for your paintings and bring them to the work.

From: Rebecca A Bush — Jan 18, 2012

Telling artists that since their art isn’t selling to locals, they must make “better art” so that it will attract buyers from out of town seems like a nebulous “blame the victim” answer. You yourself sell in galleries not located in the place where you live. Doesn’t it make more sense to tell them to try new markets?

From: Yvonne Moyer — Jan 18, 2012

Auctions are scary unless you have the guts to face a low sale. Always make sure the bidding starts above the price of your framing, paints and canvas and throw a bit in for your time. Talent is harder to add into the factor. Then you won’t be quite so disappointed. Sometimes it takes a few years of doing an event over and over to gain a real following. Make sure you have everyone sign in with an address or e mail so you can contact them next year. Tell everyone you meet how great the event was so next year they will not want to miss it. Have each of your artists responsible for getting 20 people to show up. Involving school kids brings in all their parents. Perhaps just “honor” the student work by showing not selling it. Have each artist spend a day in a classroom creating water color paintings on postcards sized paper. Invite the students and parents to come and bid. Go to a local church senior’s dinner and tell about your art work. If each of your artists did one or two of these things you would bring in the crowds. It is called public relations. Good luck and I hope to hear about next year!

From: Melanie Desjardines — Jan 18, 2012

It saddens me also to hear about the small town auction story. I am an artist and have contributed to art auctions in the past-but only for charitable reasons. I know full well the horror of the low prices fetched. The only suggestion to prevent pieces going for less than the cost of framing is to have a minimum reserve, and request the work back if it doesn’t sell. As far as mediocre work that is also a very real possibility. I also happen to own a small art gallery in a blue-collar town. You can bet I’ve had to overcome many obstacles trying to attract that 2% of buyers. Quality is paramount. Of course I seem to have lost favor with some artist friends in the process, since I cannot carry their work in my gallery. Being tactful of these delicate situations is hard to say the least, but sticking to your guns on a standard of quality will net you respect in the end. For events at my gallery, it’s taken some time to harness the interest of the locals, but soon the growing contact list, the wine and cheese, media coverage, ‘new’ art on display and possibly a short artist talk at a featured artists event, begins drawing them in like bees to honey. It has taken about 18 months and approximately 14 ‘events’ later to actually create the hype that is likely needed for these types of events. Making sure that people have a good time at these events should be number one priority, and then you’re likely to have each of them touting afterward to everyone they know that it was the event of the season, and asking when the next one is!

From: Ortrud Tyler — Jan 18, 2012

Pat Weekly has my sympathy, I have seen this happen quite often. No matter how good the art, in small towns there are only so many people who are inclined to buy art. Wine and cheese will always find “collectors” especially when it is free. Maybe it would have been worth pooling some money and advertising – with illustrations – the art in closer, larger cities. People interested in art, read stuff and are quite willing to travel some distance to see it and probably buy it. Better luck next time.

From: Norman Ridenour — Jan 18, 2012

I am a small town boy but I fled 55 years ago. People live in small out of the way places because they want a small, out of the way life. Art, in fact culture in any form, is beyond them and often threatening, thus ignored or ridiculed. Of course the painters are trying to transcend this and good for you but being an artist is masochistic enough without taking on in grained indifference. Even if one person in the wine tipping group wanted to have a look, all of the others would have laughed at him or her. DON’T BE SISYPHUS!

From: Gay Tracy — Jan 18, 2012

Put a price don’t auction. My feeling is it is seen as an opportunity to get good art at bargain prices. Good charities ask all the time for donation. I only give if I get at least 50% of the take, which is close to what I get in a gallery. Otherwise I would rather give money than see my art bought at a basement price.

From: Jim Lorriman — Jan 18, 2012

I think that if you want to sell to by auction, studio tour or art show then you had better have some damn good work. These are the venues that attracted “boomers” for the past 3 decades. You are even possibly a boomer trying to sell to a boomer. The news is that boomers aren’t buying – their downsizing. There is a market out there and a good one. Its just that you can’t market to the kids the same way you marketed to the parents. Get on the next generation’s wave length and you will probably see a marked improvement.

From: Michael Chesley Johnson — Jan 18, 2012

Having been in many auctions myself and having seen art go for ridiculously small sums, I no longer participate unless I’m allowed to set a minimum bid for my work. Letting art go for much less than your regular prices doesn’t do anyone any favors – neither the artist nor the organization benefiting from the auction. Typically, the auction is a benefit, sometimes for a non-profit. If anything, the art should go for much higher prices!

From: Janice Smith — Jan 18, 2012

You do have to know who IS your audience, and if it is a landscape and flowers crowd, then a lot of abstracts, experimental medium, etc, just may not fly no matter how good it is. However, there are always exceptions, and I agree that you really need to up your game. Create work that creates an audience! This is all in the ‘ideal’ mode. The reality is often something else again. One idea might be this: If the artists were to join forces, create an event in a bigger venue/city, and get some exposure, then when the info goes out about an event in their area, they may start getting some new traffic. We don’t like to put it this way sometimes, but this is often a numbers game, and you need a lot of eyes on your work to sell something. I have a lot of my work in an upscale, contemporary furniture store. Work isn’t exactly flying out of there, but I sell more there than out of my dining room! The store has become a gallery of sorts, as now, they only sell original art. It gives me exposure, and a place to show my work between events or other opportunities. I am a newbie, as I have just gotten out into the marketplace about 4 years ago.

From: Catherine Frerotte — Jan 18, 2012

My experience in a small city has been that you have to send invitations to all your friends and acquaintances. They often bring other friends and they will generally take an interest in your art and often purchase a piece. I think the feeling of a personal connection is important for buyers when you are in a less sophisticated art area. Of course you can’t let this type of show limit you and I agree that constantly improving your art and being juried into larger shows will help you develop and find more buyers for your art.

From: Roslyn Levin — Jan 18, 2012

I personally have avoided most Art Auctions and Silent Art Auctions like the plague as I have found people expect a bargain at such events and bid accordingly. The exceptions are things I believe in and that I am willing to gift a painting to because that is actually what you are doing. Just be prepared to feel humiliated and have the value of your work downplayed! And in Canada they do not even give you a Charitable receipt. Instead it is a ‘Gift In Kind’ which is totally worthless as far as income taxes are concerned.

From: Skip Rohde — Jan 18, 2012

It’s been my experience that art auctions are one of the worst things an artist can do to either promote themselves or make money. Most people go to auctions looking for an evening’s entertainment and to maybe score a cheap deal. Rarely will an artwork go for anywhere near its retail value, and it often is essentially given away. The end result is that the public expects an unrealistically low price point for art. For this reason, I don’t participate in any art auctions, to include charities. Getting your price point up to a reasonable level is extremely difficult – why undercut yourself?

From: Alana Dill — Jan 18, 2012

I’m no marketing maven, but the posting makes me ask, “What’s your market?” If you’re marketing to big-city people and you’re way out in the country… that might not work – you might need to bring the salsa to New York City, so to speak. If you’re marketing to “ooh, it matches my couch!” suburbanites, that might not work either. If you’re surrounded by ranchers, what sort of art will they be likely to purchase?

From: Angela Treat Lyon — Jan 18, 2012

How can you know, without having seen it, that the quality of the art they’re making in Clovis or putting up at the yearly auction isn’t tops? A piece of art that wouldn’t sell in Clovis – because Clovis doesn’t have the cache that Canyon Road does, or possibly lacks the collectors – might do brilliantly on Canyon Road or in some swanky gallery in NYC. A fine piece of art or wonderful art auction in Clovis might not do well because the wrong people were targeted for the marketing. Or maybe there wasn’t enough or well-done marketing. A fine piece of art might not sell in Clovis because it wasn’t displayed well — here in Honolulu I have been horrified to see shows set up on one-foot-high stands — all crammed together like a five-and-ten store nick-knack display. But to say you have to have good quality art assumes that there wasn’t any at that show and I’ll bet you anything, untrue.

From: Katherine Harris — Jan 18, 2012

I think most of us paint for the joy of painting, and hope, like me, that at least some of it will sell. Clovis is pretty lively with rodeos, etc., if I remember my visit there some years ago. It should be a good place to sell art, as there are lots of tourists. But buying ART is one of Life’s “extras”,- and we have to realize that. I would say this-don’t pretend these days that you can live off sales from your paintings, but have a paying job also, to be tranquil about your life.

From: Harry Lock — Jan 18, 2012

I would like to know from Pat Weekley why her group hosted an auction and not a traditional exhibition where work is priced and displayed? Surely this is a way of getting what you think your work is worth, or not selling it at all. Putting the work on auction is very risky, and as Pat says, work sells for less than the framing costs. Perhaps it is time for her art league to ditch the auction evening – which only allows one chance for people to buy – and consider an exhibition which allows for buyers to come and go as they please over the exhibition period. The opening might still attract the wine-drinking, snack-eating crowd, but at least they won’t be able to buy work for unreasonably low prices.

From: Elizabeth Concannon — Jan 18, 2012

I was particularly struck by Pat’s comment- “Several of my paintings went for less than the cost of framing.” That is not the first time I have heard a similar remark or maybe even made one and I have seen artists set a price on a painting, then frame it for a similar cost actually and decide that they can’t afford to sell it in a gallery, because the typical split is 50/50 and that means they would only be reimbursed for the frame, not paid even a nickel for the painting. Part of the problem that covers this dilemma is the general disrespect for the value of art to human growth and expression, isn’t it? While it is true that artists, like all other humans, would like to be paid for their work, I don’t find many who start by pricing things out of sight. And viewers (possible purchasers) certainly have different tastes and positions for art in their lives (as do shoe buyers, car purchasers, clothing design choices, etc) which we cannot always address in paintings outside of specified commissions — soooo what are we to do? Our education system does not address this matter in the U.S. And even when one reads that art in general was responsible for much of the recovery from the thirties depression, no extra value ever seems to be acknowledged. No answer to all of these questions has come to me at the moment but I will paint.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt — Jan 18, 2012

I would ask the same question also. Our group did a shadow boxing auction for fund raising. We had a nice reception and people came but very few were sold. It seems family members bought their members pieces. Taking the tight economy these days people are wary about spending their hard earned money on art.

From: Terry Krysak — Jan 18, 2012

In the spring of 2002 I visited the watercolor artist Les Weisbrich at his studio/gallery in New Denver, BC. It was the day after his annual show/sale, and he claimed that he had sold $30,000.00 worth of watercolors the previous night. He said he did a postal mailout in Nelson and Salmo, and many of his clients came through word of mouth advertising. He did framing in his gallery, and served free alcohol during the evening of the show. And New Denver is a tiny village not close to anything, amazing!!! Sadly he passed away in 2005.

From: Yes, You Can ! — Jan 19, 2012

I know a sculptor, who just delivered a multi-piece grouping of life sized, realistic bronze statues to a location in the middle of Kansas ! The lesson ? Pick your audience, stick to your own plans and strengths, and just keep doing what you do best. Don’t follow the fads, and ignore the opinions of the crowd and the “prognosticators”.

From: Ted de Clercq — Jan 19, 2012

I think the letter shows a basic misunderstanding of art and its market. How many of the public in Clovis or in America in fact, would want to hang a Rembrandt or a Rubens on their walls, let alone Jackson Pollock, even at a price they could afford, yet we all know these are great painters. The bidders did not like the paintings at the auctions nor it seems the frames. Provincials, artists and buyers, rarely understand the the Art of the big city and who is to say the big city taste is correct. Taste is taste and if the artist want to SELL then he has to cater to his market or go to a different market if they will have him. If he caters to his market, the question then becomes is he an artist or merely an expensive manufacture of wallpaper. The artist does not know his market, nor it seems, art.

From: Sandra Rudy — Jan 19, 2012

I grew up in Hereford, Texas, a small town east of Clovis. I suspect you hit on the big problem: people in Clovis just aren’t interested in buying art. I now live in a small town half-way between Santa Fe and Taos, and one of the things that small communities in northern New Mexico are doing is organizing tours of artists’ studios (and sometimes several artists will show their things in cafes or shops on that weekend if their studios/homes are not easily accessible.) Perhaps if the artists in Clovis organized such a weekend and REALLY advertised it, collectors and other potential buyers would drive from Albuquerque, Amarillo, Lubbock and other cities that aren’t so far away. I’ve seen this work in Salida, CO, and lots of towns in northern NM. It may take several years to build it up, but it might be worth a try.

From: Christine — Jan 20, 2012

I learned something today about my future market and communicating that excitement. I was hanging art for other artists at a local cafe. Two fathers were chatting while their children were bouncing around looking at the art. It was as though my presence gave them permission to ask a lot of questions. A nine year old boy rushed up to tell me that “I just love that painting, I just love it he said — pointing to one of mine. It was an impressionistic waterfall with an illuminated forest. He kept looking at it for a moment and then I surprised him with the news that I was the artist. Well, it was clear from his reaction he thought he had met someone extraordinary. He ran to get his Dad to show him. Maybe it was boy’s desire to explore the forest, swim in the pool below the waterfall — I just don’t know. I told his father is was the best day for me as an artist. All the other children gathered around and for one moment I was the Pied Piper of Painting and even though it was not what I consider to be the best art in the room, it was for that little boy the only piece that said something to him. I get it Robert Henri ……….I really do!

From: Kelley MacDonald — Jan 20, 2012
From: Dan Spahn — Jan 20, 2012

I saw Mancini’s “Resting” at the Chicago Art Institute in 1967 on a Art Department field trip. It made me look for an Italian girlfriend.

From: Geraldine Raporian — Jan 20, 2012

In this day and age the population is educated and culturally cultivated beyond their means to purchase much art. Ergo, there are many, many more lookers than buyers. I fall into this category. Of course, part of my interest is generated by my making art, but much of it is because I enjoy looking at it. I just can’t afford to buy much of it. To the extent I can, I do. The rest is all appreciate “from afar.”

From: Sylvie Parsons-Pellah — Jan 20, 2012

A neighbor of mine once told me he paid $29.95 for the painting on his living room wall. It was a mass produced formula landscape. He added that he bought a new one every few years. I told him that he might want to consider going to a local gallery and buying something he’d like to look at for the rest of his life. He’d spend more, but to good effect. He said that he enjoyed the shopping. What’s missing from many shows is the shoppers. Most people attend gallery shows and openings as though going to an auction. While they might eventually make the shift to shoppers, it’s hard to forecast. What is missing is the shoppers. Identifying the likely shoppers and focusing on them, getting them out, making them comfortable and happy to be out, is important. The browsers will take care of themselves. (I’m not really certain that it’s merely a numbers game, which is the way it’s treated.)

From: Sylvie P-P — Jan 20, 2012

In the previous post I meant: …most people attent gallery shows and openings as though going to a museum. Sorry.

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Jan 20, 2012

just want to say how much I’ve really enjoyed reading this clickback … some great advice :)

From: anonymous — Jan 20, 2012

Laying away and reducing artwork. Someone came across a medium sized picture in my work room, I’m not a professional artist by the way, and fell in love with a picture I was about to take out of its frame and stash away. Now when they asked how much I wanted for it, and knowing the lady did not have much in the way of disposable cash, I sold it to her for $40. Now I reckon I got the bargain, money instead of a ‘filed’ picture, and because I told her I would reduce the price because I could see how much she liked it, she went home happy. Two weeks later she came back. She had seen another impasto abstract that I had just finished. However, I told her that was not on sale BUT, I could lay it over for her. She was over the moon. In 2 months, I had a sale and she had her new picture. I hear time and again that selling off pieces lowers the worth of your art. But I say, use your head. Sometimes you end up like the case above, you sell stuff that wasn’t selling and also more at the real price. Someone mentioned above that not only must we be artists, but also salesmen/women too. I have even offered to slightly alter a painting so it would fit their ‘decor’. Again, after selling two to the same lady this way, she came back and commissioned another. My next step is to ask this lady if she will put some of my work up in her salon, on commission of course. Luckily I don’t have to depend on my art to live, but sales help with the cost of supplies and ‘experiments’, not to mention ego. I only have one ‘must’. The artwork must be as good as I can make it. Otherwise it does not leave home.

From: Tracy Cullimore — Jan 20, 2012

With all due respect I don’t think you really helped this artist who was sincerely asking for help. We can’t control who the buyer is, or where he is, it is all timing. But this person really hoped you might give him and his group some serious advice. Telling him to make better art without suggesting that it is already as good as the competition wasn’t even fair. Perhaps you could have told the truth. There is no way to guarantee buyers.

From: Kate Beetle — Jan 20, 2012

I just sold a painting through the office of a local financial advisor who has been wonderful in letting me show my work on her walls. The venue isn’t a gallery, I wouldn’t expect to make a living, but it has been helpful and productive. Guess what kind of people walk through her doors? I can’t worry about whether low-quality art is selling, just so it isn’t MY low quality. 20/20 hindsight, many older pieces were simply not very good. I had not put the time in. I used inferior frames, or let the edges of a watercolor show around the mat, or the composition was off, and I was surprised when they failed to sell or get into shows. Naive, and a bit lazy. I’m voting with Robert (and others): avoid “quality dribble”; produce, produce, produce; get together a cohesive, consistent body of work. Avoid venues with wildly varying quality. Then go looking for some good galleries. In the heyday of Dutch art, a large merchant class kept a lot of artists busy. It wasn’t always about either catering to royalty or starving. We are losing the middle class, and that is unfortunately a political struggle. I don’t see how we can avoid participating in it. About “Crystal Bridges”: the Wal-Mart fortune has not been kept in place by paying living wages or by selling American products made by workers paid living wages. It is said that the heirs collectively hold more money and assets than the bottom 100,000,000 people in the USA. Two percent (Robert’s buyers) of 100m. is 2,000,000 people who might afford a piece of art. Chew that one over for a few minutes.

From: Sue Sehr — Jan 20, 2012

I am a fiber artist, just starting to sell my work. In the past I have lived in the Clovis/Portales area for nearly 20 years, and in NM for an additional 15 years . I now live in Tucson. The assessment you made is accurate. Here are things I observed about art in the eastern NM area. The majority of people in that area are very hard working pragmatic people. Abstract art is lost on them. A lot of art is mixed in with craft shows and so the general public learns to not know the difference, therefore to them it is all craft. So to them, the prices are not worth it. I would suggest it be advertised differently, such as an auction for a really popular local cause. I would also let people know they are helping the local economy and helping to keep jobs local. I would set reserve prices, and get some known Santa Fe and Albuquerque artists to participate. I would also get local leaders to come and bid to raise the bidding prices. Finally, it should be juried or very carefully chosen pieces and no “craft show” pieces included. There are some very talented and nationally known artists in that area. In addition there are good art departments at the community college in Clovis and the university in Portales.

From: Christine — Jan 20, 2012

When you buy art you love it is usually hanging somewhere in your home. If you see something new and want to hang it then the conflict becomes where to put it if all walls are occupied. At least that is what I am hearing in my small town with a larger than normal ageing population who have been investing heavily in art during the 1980’s to 2000. Most purchasers of that period I talk to tell me that they still love their existing choices but they their children don’t necessarily want them so they have decided to look and not buy because art isn’t the type of thing that you throw away or resell easily. Artists need to come up with a way for people to empty their walls. It is so much easier to empty your closet. I have pondered this for a long time but with no reasonable ideas. I will keep everyone posted if I come up with something. Also, I have noticed in small towns that it is mostly other artists frequenting shows just to size up their competition. It can be cruel to subject yourself to that type of scrutiny because generally other artists who know you aren’t exactly supportive. Maybe small towns should have a “nameless” or “mystery” artshow and cover the names of the artist. Then you would focus more on the work itself just like the little boy I told you about who came into the cafe.

From: Imaginary Lover — Jan 21, 2012

Imagine that ! Just a few weeks ago, many of you were attacking an artist who refused to sell her work. Mostly, using irrelevant and arrogant arguments. Now, you’re all saying how difficult it is to make a sale… I guess, it turns out, she’s doing you a favor. As are so many other “selfish” artists, who just want to keep it for themselves. What to do with the predicament Christine mentions, just above ? Start working on a museum, and plan to receive the tax deductible art donations. Who ever said “artists” can think creatively ? Maybe, they’re just extra talented technicians. Any other problems ? Any other complaints ?

From: Christine — Jan 21, 2012

I have regular sales at the cafe. I use my maiden name because I have been painting for many years under that name. It is still a mystery in the town who I am because I have only entered two artshows in my life. However, most of my work will never see the light of day and that is okay with me. I agree with tax deductions but it’s an exclusive propostion because art museums are even more political in nature and sell “brand names” or “concepts”. Not everyone wants to visit an art museum. All my paintings are where an individual chose them to be and they were discovered in less intimidating circumstances. I am not a brand I am just an artist. I love to paint but I agree that it is a challenging activity went you enter the market of selling. It is one painting, for one person, in one place at one particular time. After working in business most I my life I know that selling art is a crappy business plan.

From: Rick Rotante — Jan 21, 2012

With due respect to those in Clovis –“small fish in a small pond have little food to go around”. The main problem with a little community trying to sell art is there is no one to buy it. This is why the metropolis’s of the world have most of the galleries that are selling anything. Also, dare I say it, that is where the money is. It isn’t a big surprise there was no attendance and no sales. In good times, small communities attract little attention even if good work is made. Perception is the name of the game. Look and act successful and others think you are. In big(ger) cities, when you raise the prices, many think the work is better. Not true of course, but many believe it. The other point that is odd to me is — why an auction? Experience has taught me if I put a price on something, a potential buyer has a yardstick to judge the value of the work. No guess work. Lately, I’ve taken all pricing off my work when I display and have found it opens the door to conversation and possible bargaining with buyers. As much as I dislike selling my own work, I am the best salesman to do it and buyers want a connection to justify buying. They want to touch the artist so to speak. I can’t say sales were great for me last year, but I made most sales when talking to the buyers not through the galleries.

From: Laurey Greider — Jan 22, 2012

Here in San Rafael, Marin County, they not only have “open Studio” weekends twice a year, but they also have a lovely open air festival of art and music, with food for sale, wandering performance artists, and charge a small entry fee, with youngsters free. Charge what you would normally charge for the artwork, and be happy with the exposure. Get wineries, cheese and bread makers, and restaurants to bring their wares for sample and sale. Maybe have a farmers market. Make it fun. People buy what they like and can afford, and if they really like it they’ll find a way to afford it. It may have nothing to do with “quality”, but rather something more mysterious and personal. My own art is somewhat naive, but people tend to be surprised and delighted by it, because the style and subject matter are unique. You can make what people want, or you can make what you love and the energy of that love will be in the work for people to enjoy if it touches them.

From: Pat in New Mexico — Jan 22, 2012

Many thanks for all your advice… fact is we did have good exposure, paper feature, chamber of commerce mail list, gorgeous tickets printed and handed out liberally..no cost… and we made it clear that the purpose of the auction was to fund scholarships for art students…. and we DID put a minimum starting bid. The lady who did our auction was quite good ‘at talking it up’ being a radio talk host herself, but she wore herself out trying to get bids…. sad. I think the idea of artists having a studio show for folks to go about and see what we all do is perhaps a working plan for us. I plan to bring it up at a meeting of our art league soon. Thanks for your input folks. Pat in Clovis… not so small… 35 to 40K nowadays.

From: Elizabeth Jean Billups — Jan 24, 2012
From: David Solly Sandler — Jan 24, 2012

I’m not too sure if you are doing this already but may I suggest you show off your art on a website. I’d be very interested to see photos of up to five of what you consider is your best art works for sale ….showing the sizes of the pieces and also the price you want. Best wishes and good luck.

From: One Of A Nameless Crowd — Jan 25, 2012
From: DM — Jan 25, 2012

There are some years, when Kansas City gets more income from the arts than it does from the sports franchises. Kansas City may not yet compete with either coast, nor Chicago, but is gaining some international renown.

     Featured Workshop: Gaye Adams
012012_robert-genn Gaye Adams workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 


oil painting, 30 x 40 inches by Sandra Bos, Cookeville, TN, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Helen Opie of Bridgewater, NS, Canada, who wrote, “Trying to make people want to buy art is like teaching pigs to sing; it is a waste of time and annoys the pig. Get your work out to where those who are interested in art will find it — or make some sort of event that is geared to art-explorers and follow Robert’s advice about letting them provide their own wine.” And also Teresa Chow of Vancouver, BC, Canada, who wrote, “If the artworks are of superb quality, the venue is in the wrong location. Marketing is crucial in any business, even art.” And also Mary Spring of Rochester, NH, USA, who wrote, “We are our own worst enemies. It is crazy that we would sell a painting for the cost of framing! I would rather keep my work and enjoy it on my own walls than compromise my integrity of what my paintings are worth.”   &nsp;

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