If you are starting out as an aspiring artist, or are a close and supportive partner to one, and are wondering “Hey, how do I become a good sales representative with no experience?” Making sales is not about making someone want something they don’t want, or about pressure, or even entertainment, a good salesperson should be someone who makes an honest connection. So, I have made a few guidelines about sales when I sell for Might Fly:
My First Day Selling Art!
1. A customer knows what they want and whether they will buy a piece within seconds of seeing it. This is why any booth or vendor space needs to have good display pieces so that the customer can imagine how this piece fits into their décor, tells their narrative, or starts their conversations. Your job after they select the piece they want is to show them the sizes and prices available.
First Day Set-up Vs. Our Set-up Now
2. Always tell the truth. This isn’t just about having good morals, but about recognizing that establishing trust and reliability as a salesperson is the key to good word-of-mouth, repeat business, and loyal customers. Always remember your goal is to build your business, not make every sale that seems within your reach. If someone seems hesitant about buying a print I always let them know that they do not need to choose right now and can always contact me later or buy it later. This not only builds up Facebook likes, but it ensures that collectors feel happy with their purchases and don’t end up feeling regret, which is bad for repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations!
3. Trust and respect your customers! I hear many vendors or disgruntled artists complain that the unwashed masses just want junk and cannot appreciate quality or detail. This just isn’t true and it’s important to remember that art is a shared experience between people. Whether Carrie’s art sells depends on how the customer understands this piece: Does it speak to who they are and where they are in their lives? Does it help them make their home or office more beautiful? Does it make them happy? Respect that they may think and value their time and aesthetics differently from you!
Baby Theodore got the 100th print of Be Careful What You Fish For!
1. Customers buy the artist, not perfection. While there is no substitute for developing strong techniques and working to apply what you know, the customer buys your art in part to encourage you on in your journey and development, not because you are already perfect! Your customers care about your journey to make your work and to hone your craft and will never begrudge having an earlier work that you noticed was not quite right (but everyone else around you seems not to.)
2. Profit and mark-ups reflect your time! When you set your prices for your prints and originals, you are not just paying the cost of the materials to reproduce the piece, you are also including the time you spent making that original, the time you spent on the pieces you didn’t (or can’t) sell, the time you spent learning how to create your art, and an investment in you continuing to refine your craft! This is why many people will buy a quality reproduction of a piece that took only minutes to print and package for $10-15, they are saying “I am benefitting from your time and want you to keep working!”
3. It is not “selling out” to paint things that other people want! The idea that the only true and authentic art is the kind that no one wants is at the heart of why so many artists struggle when they are faced with going out and selling their work. “I don’t want to sell-out or stop being me!” Art is a connection that can be made between people, and many times not even between the artist and her viewers, but between friend and family! If you feel that doing something for others and that others want (and will trade you their time for) is against who you are as a person, well, maybe you should pursue painting and drawing as a hobby, because a career as a successful artist is about listening to others want and finding common ground to create connection and shared experience.
Selling art is about making lasting relationships with your supporters and your community over the course of your lifetime, so keep this in mind always in how you sell your work. Otherwise, you may make some great sales, but never make a rewarding and lifetime career doing what you love!
In between posts about practical tips and pointers on art techniques and establishing ways to work as an artist, I wanted to share some discussions that Carrie and I have had over the course of our relationship (Me with my humanities background and her with a strong basis in art techniques). Our earliest discussion was during a trip to the Denver Museum of Art where Carrie talked about her love for Japanese Silk Paintings and how they influenced her style and thinking.
My class in culture and art had spent an entire session discussing the use of perspective in Japanese silk painting. The author we had studied in class had made the claim that the use of perspective in Japanese art revealed that they saw the world differently from a western perspective as in the example below from the 15th century.
Carrie found this conversation amusing and noted that the entire debate revolved around the idea that the use of perspective to show harmony, transcendence, and importance had been a part of western art for years, it was only recently that the importance of the subject's perspective and the ideals of representation was incorporated strongly into Europe. To illustrate this, she noted that medieval paintings of scenes and figures used the same aesthetics as Japan had and that there was a far more universal belief that art should be transcendent, harmonious, and aspire to beauty. Just compare the medieval painting below.
Do you have a reclusive artist who shies away from people and hides behind a canvas or a pad of paper in your home? Do they insist that everything they do isn’t good, good enough, or just stupid? You may have an artist in your home who could spread joy, happiness, and beauty to the world and the only thing they need is a small kick in the ass. Be that ass-kicking that they need and push your reclusive artist out of the nest and into the world. You’ll be happier, their customers will be happier, and though they may complain about it sometimes, they’ll be happier.
In 2008, I was a student at the University of Colorado graduating with a degree in humanities with a focus on late-modernity when I met Carrie. She liked how I played piano and I liked how she could draw pictures, but she could do more than draw. Carrie had the ability to draw and paint better than the artists I was studying in college and, when my mother saw how she could draw, she knew that Carrie’s art needed to get out there. After we moved to Oregon in 2012, I pushed her to sell art at the Salem Saturday Market and Might Fly began. This section of the blog "Drawing on Experience" is here to talk about art, ideas, and DIY topics to help you or that artist who should be out there!
First-things-first, the flaws your artist sees in their work (but you don’t notice until they do or pretend you notice to placate them) are not deal-breakers for being a successful artist. While artists may be able to get together and pick apart their piece for how they apply their brush-strokes, your customers are looking to make their home or office beautiful, to support someone who expresses ideas and values they care about, to have something that brings them pleasure or fun and exciting conversation. Carrie had such a fear that everyone would see every mistake or flaw in her art and I sat next to her while she prepared to jury for the market and remember she was convinced she was going to be rejected. I did what any supportive husband would do and reminded her of this scene from family guy:
Be supportive of their art, confront their strange phobias, and help them accept that they can grow with their fans and collectors. If you show your confidence in their ability and take steps to help them get out there to their collectors, you will find it a rewarding experience and the opportunity to do something wonderful for your partner, for your community, and for yourself.
What is Might Fly all about? And what kind of silly name is that? Who are you and why are you so cranky? How come we only see your husband at shows?
I’m just trying to live the dream of being a not-so-starving artist. I'm an absolute and total curmudgeon.
The name is a contraction of the phrase “pigs might fly” since I thought it was a rule of nature that there was no way to make a living as an artist without plummeting into the depressing world of nihilistic self-absorbed visual diatribes that attract the attention of the kind of people that give out public grant money. I felt isolated and alone- art wasn’t what it was centuries, even decades ago- and I gave up painting and drawing. I stuck to doodling to pass the time. What was the point of honing my talent to draw from life if the penultimate in realism was simply to deftly copy a photograph?
Every art class I stepped into was a time-wasting exploration into ‘feelings’, ridiculous assignments with no possible objective outcome, and the ubiquitous copying of photographs. In general, there was a belittling of the idea that, while in reality I may never be as good as Rembrandt at his worst, and that was okay. I should still strive undaunted to be better than Rembrandt at his best. Now if you have seen my work (and chances are that you have if you're reading this) you may be scratching your head at my mention of Rembrandt. You’re no art historian but you’re sure that adorable fuzzy things in whimsical situations are nowhere to be found in any of Rembrandt's paintings.
This is true: my illustrative work is an expression of my imagination- it’s my heart and soul, my “artistic voice”. It is highly influenced by my deep love of classical and modern Japanese art (I include the very best of anime here), the fantastic art of the neo-classical era, and everything from pin-up girls to art nouveau. These are the things that I poured over as a child and awakened my imagination. I tried for hours a day to turn the bland looking characters in my coloring books into beautiful Mucha’s with a finely sharpened black crayon clutched in my chubby fist. So it is those things that I look back to when I am creating something to share with others. When I am learning, though, I learn for myself and myself alone. It is for my own personal satisfaction that I’ll paint a bowl of lemons or the cacophony of angles that comes from a haphazard stack of books. The lessons I learn in life drawing give my illustrations that much more depth.
Behind every great artist is a sane person. I am that person.
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