17. The wrap

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

17. The wrap up.


All of the things discussed will be of value to you in starting your quest to be an active Visual Artist and over time you will develop a great deal of experience. I hope the aim of assisting to find useful starting points has been useful.

In the “Art world” there are commercial opportunities, and “pure Art” opportunities where the business of Art is probably not considered. All in all it’s up to you which path you want to take, but art as a career where you can earn a living is feasible, although mostly it’s highly competitive.

To stand out from a crowded market place you need to be different, to innovate, to be noticed but you would do well to look carefully at the tried and true basics of business and marketing to be able to find your niche.

Take into account all the aspects laid out in the 16 other points and explore the ways you can be all you can be in the arts and give it your best shot.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+ If you want to see more articles like this as they are published subscribe!

16. Your first solo show

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

16. Your first solo show.


At last you are having your first solo show, you are excited, the work is great but what’s going to happen? What can you control and what do you need to know.

Well firstly if you are represented by a gallery they will tell you what to do and when, if they don’t chat to them about what they want you to do and make a list for yourself and follow it.

If however you are having a solo show where you hire the space, there is a lot to consider and you should develop a solid plan of action to make sure you do enough of the right things to make the occasion a success.

  1. Create a calendar then create a plan – You may have a few months to the exhibition, so gab a calendar and check out how far away it is, then jot down as many things you can think of you might need to do. From here make a plan of action seeing what needs to be done first.
  2. Do research – A quick search on the computer will give you access to a range of information and articles on planing and exhibition, try an Art Forum, membership is often free and you can ask experts who have been there and done that what they did, do and the pitfalls to watch out for.
  3. Create a budget – Yes MONEY is involved costs for invites catering and adverts to name a few, so create a budget and stick to it.
  4. Market it well – Let the world know, but in a way that suits your budget, identify carefully who you want to target and how you will get them to notice your exhibition, art magazine adverts can soon add up, so can other costs for marketing.
  5. Invite the right people – Make a great list of people you want to share your first show with, often the first show is rarely a selling show but more to the point your entrée to the art world, a “look out world here I come” statement. Therefore it’s okay to invite friends and family and treat it as a celebration, if however you are confident the works will sell, figure out who you can invite who might be in a position to purchase works.
  6. Make sure the gallery is sorted – The deposit is paid, the transport of your work is organised, the hanging and placement of the works is sorted out in advance where possible, the hardware and tools you need or organised and assistants are there if you need them to hang work etc. If you are organising some catering, make sure it is planned well, if you need permits to serve alcohol then get it well in advance.
  7. Keep yourself “Nice” – At the event opening you want to make sure you “behave yourself” the temptation to perhaps have a few drinks before the event to build some courage, or to have a few too many at the opening. You may think you are ok but it’s not good to upset people or put them off your work due to how you act, so keep yourself nice… (Trust me on this one it will get you in the end…)
  8. Be organised with the sales – Who handles the sales? The gallery? You? a friend? Make sure this is settled early and well organised so there are as few hiccups as possible.
  9. Be there – During the show you should consider making yourself available so you can chat to viewers if they have any questions about the works. If this happens on the weekend so be it. If you are showing in a well known space ask them about how many people go through a show and pick the busiest days to be there.

It’s your first show so enjoy the process as much as you can, you have done the work, built the confidence so you deserve to make it work for you as best possible.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+ If you want to see more articles like this as they are published subscribe!

15. Being great to get along with

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

15. Being great to get along with.

If you have ever come across an obnoxious person you will know it’s often MUCH easier to steer clear of them, as they can drag a group down, are often negative, destroy friendships fast, and generally cause all sorts of drama. A person who is opposite to this is easy to get along with, a great contributor to a team, generally positive and builds friendships fast.

So which would you rather be?

BUT here’s our challenge, many Artists work in isolation, build up their own ways of working, their own habits, own desires and interests and are focussed on them, not others (okay big generalisation, but you get the point.)

Therefore for Art Galleries to work with them, and other Artists in group exhibitions and the like the whole team spirit and sense of cooperation is vital to things going well. So how do we make sure we are great to get along with so things can go smoothly?

  1. Take the time to build rapport – That is, make the effort to get along with people by being a bit like them, by using their language exploring their view of things to minimise the difference between you and them.
  2. Ask about your style – What’s my style like when dealing with other people? Ask your friends and adjust so you can “take the edge off” any parts of the way you do things, which may cause a drama or challenge of some kind.
  3. Be an individual BUT – Yes you are an Artist, an individual, after all, however if there are aspects of that which causes people to be repelled then that’s often NOT useful in getting along with others.
  4. Keep in contact – In a group planning for an exhibition, or with a gallery the main people involved want to know what’s happening, so drop them a line via email if you don’t talk much, if you do find phoning essential make sure you figure out what you need to ask, say etc and jot it down so you can remember it easily and not get flustered. A great way to catch up when you can’t or don’t want to is with a group sharing system like google groups, a bit like email but with the ability to share files.
  5. Be knowledgeable but not a know it all – You are the best at what you do, but don’t shout it at people. Let them figure out your worth without you having to be the bragger, boastful, boisterous, blah blah blah! In fact if they ask you questions that’s fine, but consider how much information they should be given and if you might go over the top with a response.
  6. Ask about them – Working with others gives you a great chance to indulge them, ask how they are, what they want, how they want it and when, I fact get great at asking questions about them and you will become a person people will want to get a long with.
  7. Learn to handle tough calls… – Yes, rejection it happens, people may reject you not because of you, but perhaps your scale of work is not what they are after, or the style is not handled by the gallery (e.g. abstract V’s realistic) or any one of a million possibilities, it may not be you or  your personality but it might feel that way. Rejection is tough it can hurt, but know it may not be because of you. So don’t throw a tantrum just because someone said no to your proposal, style of work etc.

All of these points (and others) are all aimed at assisting you to be more influential, leaving a positive impression and a better communicator, so practice them and be the person people want to get along with and not the drama queen known for being the easiest person to get along with!

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray, Australian Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009

14. Chatting to people about your work

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

14. Chatting to people about your work

Some Artists are shy, some want to tell everyone about their work and many of us are somewhere in between. Chatting about our work can be a challenge so I want to address that in this article.

Let’s imagine you create wonderful objects, your art buddies say great things but you just want to make the things and get on with making more… not to be hassled by having to chat about the works with others.

After a while you can end up having to talk about your work and finding useful ways to do it, so you can connect with gallery operators, enthuse a prospective purchaser, or keep an Art Lecturer from failing you!

Communicating about your work probably falls into a small bunch of categories.

• What it’s about (basic to complex).

• How much it’s worth.

Then couple this with small talk to fill in the gaps and you may find yourself in an awkward position if you are more used to being buried in your studio in a deep personal trance working away on your Art.

The important thing is to know you are not the only person to find chatting about your work challenging, art can be so personal and introspective it can hurt greatly to “spill the beans” on your personal symbolism and stories. To overcome some of this try a few of these ideas as possible starting points.

There are a whole range of reasons people may not be as at ease chatting about their work, from personal confidence issues to an uneasy understanding or appreciation of the language used by artists. Whatever the reasons you can overcome them, it may take practice, it may take courage, it may take some soul searching but it can happen, it’s up to you to figure out if you want to do something about it and then taking action to implement a plan of action.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray, Australian Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+

13. Tracking your work

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

13. Tracking your work

If you are in a position to have a number of galleries represent you and show your work, it can be easy to lose track of where things are or where they are meant to be. Then ad to this art competitions, awards and the like then it starts to get complex, THEN if you rent some work out it gets really crazy!

The answer a system, a simple system, in fact the simpler it is the more likely it is you will use it. Therefore you need to come up with a way track what’s happening, even if you only have a few works out of your reach for a while it can still be a handy habit to get into.

Perhaps the easiest way is to create a table with columns on a sheet of paper. The first column lists the work, then, where it’s at, date delivered, the expected date of return, then a tick box for when it is returned.

Over time you can develop it further but the basics are there, some people do it on computer so they can wipe out the returned ones, I guess a whiteboard can do the same also.

So find the way that works, use the system and never lose sight of your works again.

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray, Australian Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+

12. Websites and blogs

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

12. Websites and blogs

Technology means we are able to communicate fast to a whole range of people and the internet has certainly given us great scope to do just that.

These days updating your website can be (must be…) an easy process so you can ensure the contents, words and text along with any links can be altered to suit.

Using the web as a marketing and promotion tool is generally seen as a normal part of today’s art marketing strategies, (esp in the USA) however many Artists are content to see their representing gallery do the online representation for them. My thought is, have them do it AND do it yourself, the more avenues for promotion the better!

Blogs have become a popular way to keep in touch with those who want to know about what’s happening in your art world and it certainly offers great scope, coupled with your social media contact lists an active presence can be highly effective. A few issues arise, the information you write can work against you (especially if you have opinions others disagree with!) and if left idle for too long people forget about your blog.

In the process of building an online presence you need to make sure you are doing things for an active audience, there is no use in having a web page or blog if no one is actively looking at them. This can be overcome by utilising Google Analytics a piece of very useful software which tracks the amount of visitors to your site, long with a lot of other information you need to know, like where are the people who are looking? How did they find my site/s an so on… Analytic programs offer so much information it can be daunting. Especially if you find no one has been to your site for weeks!

This raises the issue of how people find out about you and your sites, Business cards and fliers which list your web address are useful (as long as they are handed out!) and your social media contacts and teasers keep people coming back to look. Couple this with links to your site from relevant sites and or online goggle ads you then up your chance of guiding people to look at what you have to offer.

Your site should be a great place to visit, and viewers should want to hang around long enough to read and or look at what you have, what you do etc. If you can add images of yourself at work, videos via You Tube of you working etc, then you stand a chance of being noticed in a good way.

Being active online is vital to your web success, commenting on art blogs, forums and the like can also provide people with a way to get in contact with your site.

There is lots of material about online marketing strategies you may like to check out, from using PR to drive people to your site to publicity “stunts” which cause people to have a look. Whatever way you do it, your aim should be the same, accessing a specific target market and influencing them to take a solid interest in what you do as an Artist. In the end the result should be higher recognition of you and your work with a greater likelihood of sales. 

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray, Australian Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+

11. Invites and teasers

Sell! Or sell out… an Artists guide to promotion.

11. Invites and teasers

You are having an exhibition and the gallery will probably organise the invites to the opening, however if you have to do it for yourself for whatever reason, then here are a few guiding points to consider, and how to make use of “teasers” to enhance the results of your marketing efforts.

Invites, the aim is to entice people to be at your opening, a loose guide to their success is in the amount of people who come to the opening.

The invite should clearly tell people who, when, what, where, and give them some sort of indication as to the type of work on offer. It should be in printed and email form, so the design should take into account both processes and it’s ability to be effective in each situation.

The next consideration is the quality of the printing used, Although I get a lot of invites to exhibitions via email I still like to get hard copy ones, I tend to consider those with more interest for some reason and the coated (gloss or soft buttery finishes), bigger ones the better, multi-fold, multi image ones are simply great, but that’s me..

Lastly how long before you send them out? If it’s too long before the opening they might forget about it, if it’s too soon, other things may end up on their calendar…. The general guide seems to be from 2 – 4 weeks out from the opening.

Now to teasers. If you have a great contact list of interested people on your email list then chat to them in the lead up to the show with a teaser or three. Of course you want to avoid being a spammer, so make sure you provide some way of the person opting out of being a contact.

Teasers have the aim of intriguing a person to want to know more, in this case to look at the galleries website or your website about the upcoming show, if you have a site dedicated to a group show with info on it, then the teaser should have that web address on it. If you are using Facebook, twitter and similar social media contact devices make sure your teasers cause people to check out what you have online also. It is probably not useful to merely say a show is coming up and the invite will follow soon, is a waste of time, you need to engage them in a meaningful way.

Teasers can be a simple letter, a DL sized flier or card, an email image and text or a combination of the lot. Your aim being to have heaps of suitable people interested in your exhibition and your work.

Consider using a range of short sharp headlines to grab attention, so the reader feels compelling to want to know more. 

Compiled and edited by Steve Gray, Australian Contemporary Visual Artist © 2009+