Selling paintings

What’s the next social media marketing trend?

Main Street, Owls Head, available.

Last month I spent a few hours with Kicki Storm, who excitedly told me about the potential she saw in Instagram reels. I was buried in bubble-wrap at the time and more focused on getting a mountain of paintings into a U-Haul trailer. My pal Bobbi Heath, who carefully follows social media marketing, has talked to me about lookalike audiences for Facebook paid ads. I’ve tried them, but not to great success.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with saying, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” I doubt that was true in the late 19thcentury and it’s certainly not true today. The successful artist has always had one eye focused on self-promotion.

Apple Tree with Swing, available.

Like you, I’m overcommitted, overstressed, and overwhelmed. There are lots of people out there interested in taking my advertising dollars, and I don’t have the market savvy to measure their claims. How do I negotiate this constantly-shifting landscape and still have time to paint?

The people who work in the field recommend that small businesses spend anywhere from 7-8% of their gross revenue on marketing. In actual fact, small businesses tend to spend more like 3-5% of gross revenues on advertising. That includes everything to put out their message, such as website hosting, Mailchimp, and other recurring costs. But it also inevitably means paid ads.

Spending that kind of money when you’re starting out can seem overwhelming, and it’s tempting to fall back on organic social-media marketing, which—by the way—is invaluable. But it’s an inevitable part of growth that you’ll need to learn about paid advertising somewhere along the way. The trouble is, there’s no easily-digested textbook.

Owls Head Fishing Shacks, available.

I’m seeing a shift in my advertising results this year, a decline in response. This may be an economic problem, as there are worrisome issues that might give people pause about big-ticket purchases. But it’s enough of a shift that I’m looking at different ad platforms, including print media.

Ten years ago, I thought print advertising was moribund, but I’ve noticed that I see consistent results from the Maine Gallery Guide. That’s emboldened me to dip my toe back into other print advertising.

At the same time, the cost-per-click on Facebook continues to rise. According to Wordstream , the average cost-per-click is now $1.72. That may not be a big barrier to LL Bean, but it is to an artist.

What Facebook used to be able to do superlatively was target customers. However, a global shift toward consumer privacy has made Facebook targeting more difficult.

Belfast Harbor, available.

As Facebook has grown into the juggernaut it is today, fine artists are now too small a market-niche for targeting. There aren’t even categories of ‘landscape workshops’ or ‘plein air painting’ in their current interest groups. When we tell it to match for people who are ‘interested in art,’ that’s too broad a brush.

Where does this leave us? Looking elsewhere. And that includes niche publications directed at artists.

Years ago, Bobbi Heath told me to never neglect my own lists. This shift in marketing is a strong reminder to build up your own lists so you can market directly from them. And I’m the pot-calling-the-kettle-black on this, because I haven’t had a sign-up box on this blog since the start of the year. I’ll get to it, I swear.

What’s the matter with this picture?

If young women—who should be the most interested in changing this—cling to outmoded and incorrect ideas about the value of women’s art, is there any hope?

Pull up your big girl panties, at Rye Arts Center this month.

I am not going to have the time to write a proper blog. Portland Jetport has been like a morgue for the last few years, but today it’s packed (and therefore slower to clear TSA than normal). America is on the move, and that’s a good thing.

But I’d like to point out a repeated conversation I’ve had this week. It’s been with people of both genders and all ages, but the worrisome part to me is how many young women have told me that it’s not true that you can’t tell men’s and women’s paintings apart. That’s something I mentioned in my talk in Rye, here (scroll down), and in my blog post, here. That was, in some cases, even after they ‘failed’ the test below. They made excuses.

Michelle reading, at Rye Arts Center this month.

There have been many studies worldwide that document this phenomenon. The most exhaustive was done in 2017. It analyzed 1.5 million auction transactions in 45 countries, and found a 47.6% gender discount in prices. The discount was worst (unsurprisingly) in countries with greater overall gender disparity.

My painting pal Chrissy Pahucki questioned whether it was different for plein air painters, so she ran a test among her middle school students. I shared the test with my adult students, and, last I heard, the guesses were in the same range as random chance—around 51.95% correct guesses.

Saran Wrap Cynic, at Rye Arts Center this month.

I can’t take it because I can identify too much of the work, but perhaps you can. Try to avoid looking at the signatures if you can see them.

Here’s the link. I’m curious if a bigger sample will show a different result, but I doubt it.

As for what I can do to change attitudes about the gender pay disparity in painting, I’m at a loss. If young women—who should be the most interested in changing this—cling to outmoded and incorrect ideas about the value of women’s art, is there any hope?

I’m off to teach my workshop in Sedona and boarding in just a few minutes. I’ll revisit this soon, I promise.

The glamorous life of an artist

It’s easy to forget I’m a painter when I’m up to my elbows in minutiae, but it has to be done. Still, so does painting or I’ve lost my raison d’etre.

Clary Hill Blueberry Barrens, Carol L. Douglas. This is one of the pieces I’ve decided (provisionally) should go to New York. Until I change my mind again, that is.

I’ve taken to carrying my to-do list around on my phone. This is probably good organizationally, but it burns a hole in my pocket. As is the way with to-do lists, it never gets any shorter. The advantage of lists on paper is that they’re easier to lose.

I had a visitor in my studio at the first of the year. “I’m drowning in admin,” I told her, as an explanation for the disorder. She’s a successful businesswoman and was, frankly, incredulous. “Admin what?” she asked. After all, I’m an artist. Everyone knows art isn’t about business.

At least they’re neat. That’s not always true.

In fact, it’s totally about business. That’s something you need to know if you’re contemplating crossing from amateur and professional status. It’s about taxes and inventory and planning shows a year or more in advance. It’s very easy to fall into a trap where your painting occupies less and less of your time, while you become more of an entrepreneur. If you want to make a living as an artist, the business of art has to be front-and-center in your consciousness.

I talked to Ken DeWaardon Wednesday. He was booting around Port Clyde looking at stuff (an important part of the plein air painter’s job, and best done with a cup of gas-station coffee in hand). I was torn. It was heavily overcast and pissing snow. On the other hand, talking to him was the closest I’d gotten to a brush all week.

There’s a queen-sized bed under all that stuff. By the time I was done, I had paintings stacked in all three bedrooms and the bathroom.

I was pulling every single painting out of my storage closets, choosing inventory for an upcoming show at the Rye Art Center in New York. It doesn’t open until March, but a good solo or duo show requires a lot of advance preparation. The paintings—which are huge—have come down to my studio, where their frames will get a beady-eyed examination before they’re wrapped for shipping.

Tom and Peggy Root have a show at Ringling College, called Parallel Visions: The Paintings of Tom + Peggy Root. “I told the art handlers that if somewhere in Georgia they are overtaken by a car with flashing lights, it just means I’ve changed my mind again about another painting,” said Tom. That indecision is a powerful impulse.

Once art gets to a certain point, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘brilliant’ is irrelevant. The real question is whether they support the narrative. Then there is the question of how the work will hang together. Paintings have to get along with their neighbors.

Meanwhile, the fiscal year has ended. People ask me why I do my own taxes. I counter that the tax preparation is the easy part (and I have Laura Turner to answer all my esoteric questions). It’s the record keeping that kills me. Today my 2019 records go up in the attic, to be replaced by pristine 2022 folders. It’s easy, but it takes time.

Sometimes all you have time for is a quick watercolor doodle, but that’s better than nothing.

It’s easy to forget I’m a painter when I’m up to my elbows in minutiae, but it has to be done. Still, so does painting or I’ve lost my raison d’etre.

After I talked to Ken, I gave myself a good shake and went into my studio, where I spent 15 minutes with my watercolors, doing a quick-and dirty-sketch for 45 Day Triple Watercolor Challenge. That’s a Facebook group my students started last year to get us out of the doldrums. If I don’t need it right now, who does?

Confidence is key for women artists

Do you allow yourself to believe you’re good at what you do? If not, why not?

Campbell’s Field, by Carol L. Douglas. At the time I painted this, I thought I was a pretty poor painter. 

I rudely eavesdropped on a conversation about negotiating salary. The speaker, thirty-something, was describing input from friends and family. “Dad said, ‘ask for the highest figure in their range,’ and Steve said, ‘ask for $5000 more.’” The negotiator—a woman—asked for $1500 more. She low-balled herself. At her age, I would have done worse. I’d have meekly accepted whatever was put on the table.

The gender pay gap is more complicated than simple sexism. It starts with college graduates’ first jobs. Part of this is based on the college tracks women prefer (non-STEM) but part of it is simple confidence. The responsibility for that rests with us, as women. No manager has ever insisted that a candidate take more than what was first offered.

Bridle path, by Carol L. Douglas. Same vintage.

The confidence gap is even more of a challenge in the art world, where success is based on selling oneself. Frankly, women are lousy at it. I’ve written hereherehereherehere, and hereabout gender disparity in the art world, and it hasn’t gotten any better. The gap between men’s and women’s pay in the arts is worse than it is in the economy as a whole. That’s a clue that the gender gap is about far more than just majoring in STEM subjects.

My daughter and her husband have turned job stereotypes on their head. She’s a computer programmer; he’s a social worker. “When she knows she’s excellent at something, she’s very confident about it,” he says. That is new. As a recent college graduate, she was unsure. She allowed herself to be hired at the bottom of the pay range. She’s wised up and is working to narrow that.

Upper and Middle Falls, Letchworth, by Carol L. Douglas.

I often tell people I only know how to do two things well, and one of them is not cooking. I can paint, and I can write and teach about painting. In those narrow tracks, I’m competent. More importantly, I know it.

But I wasn’t always that way. Paintings I did twenty years ago are no less accomplished than my paintings today (albeit in a different style). Why did I feel then that I was a poseur and today I feel capable? What has changed?

In part, I was influenced by what others said about me. There are supportive communities and others that subtly undercut our self-esteem. Think back through recent interactions with your peers. Did they encourage you to take risks, or float good ideas for improvements? Or do they subtly discourage you? If the latter, perhaps you need new friends. (Family is not so easy to change, unfortunately.)

Lower Falls, Letchworth, by Carol L. Douglas

Sometimes the person who smack-talks you is not your so-called friend, it’s you, yourself. Your inner monologue has a critical impact on your confidence. Try to listen to your own commentary and analyze it dispassionately. If you find yourself constantly running yourself down, stop and redirect those thoughts.

Start by intentionally choosing a posture of thankfulness. I know of no more powerful tool to reframe our attitudes. In giving thanks, we focus on what’s right and good, rather than on what’s broken.

Women, in particular, are trained to be modest about their achievements. But there’s a fine line between humility and self-effacing meekness. Confident people take credit for their own achievements—to themselves as well as to others. As a teacher, I’ve noticed that people who were successful and confident in their careers bring that expectation of success into painting.

If you don’t have that, don’t despair. Instead, challenge yourself in some area that’s far outside your experience. Doing something risky and difficult is a great way to start to understand your own strength. The time I’ve spent alone in the wilderness has been a powerful spur to my own self-confidence. We send boys to camp to get filthy and learn to start fires without matches; we don’t send our daughters. We should.

Women are trained to be helpers and—as I mentioned before—that can be a trap. But it’s also a strength we can build on. I have found mentoring to be a great spur to my self-confidence, if for no other reason than that the people I’ve mentored admire me.

But there’s something to be said for plain old age. I think in some ways I’ve simply outlasted my insecurities. They’re exhausting, and at this age I have better things to do with my time.

Be careful what you wish for

One in five houses in Maine is someone’s vacation home. The potential implications of COVID-19 are terrible.

Four Ducks, Cape Elizabeth Paint for Preservation, by Carol L. Douglas

One thing I’ve dreaded doing was striking out upcoming events on my website. As I’ve written before, I think the plein air festival has lost its punch. Because of this, I deleted all but a few key events in 2020. The ones I kept had strong revenues or provided unusual opportunities for painting. Then cancellations started flooding in from organizers rightly worried about promoting events they can’t deliver. Now I’m left with what I’d thought I wanted: a summer where I can concentrate on painting here at home, and where I can run my studio-gallery without interruption.

Of course, I don’t know whether anyone will be able to come. Like everyone else, I have no idea what shape the summer will take. The state of Maine is on lockdown. That’s not irrational: one in five houses in this state is someone’s vacation home, the highest percentage in the nation. That makes us very vulnerable to visiting pathogens.
Ottawa House, Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival, by Carol L. Douglas
But tourism is one of our top economic drivers. In 2018, over 37 million people visited Maine, spending $6.2 billion and supporting 110,000 jobs. The cost of this lockdown, if it continues through the summer months, is incalculable. The cultural costs are being felt already. Our bicentennial was March 15, but the state had to postpone a host of celebrations that have been years in the making.
In the near future, I’ll be teaching painting via Zoom. Teaching via the internet is going to be radically different from teaching in person. I need to figure out new ways to prepare, since we won’t all be looking at the same scene, carefully curated to address a specific issue in painting. The issue isn’t technology; it’s creating projects that are doable in students’ homes.
Ocean Park Beach, Art in the Park, by Carol L. Douglas
I’m kicking myself for not paying more attention to Katie Dobson Cundiff while we were in Argentina. She teaches at Ringling College of Art and Design. Her students were all sent home while they were on spring break. While the rest of us were larking around the glaciers, she was creating a template for remote teaching.
The only analogy in my lifetime was the economic collapse of 2008. My income fell by 2/3 in one horrible year. Both painting sales and classes were way down. My strategy was to stop showing and selling until the market had time to recover. Even my teaching practice was reduced. Instead, I used that time to focus on my own development.
I don’t think the current crisis will have the same shape as the 2008 crash, but I’ll probably do something similar. I’m retracting, watching, and trying to be nimble. And I’m really curious about your ideas.

But first I have to feel better. I’m entering week four of being ill. This morning, I’m breaking my quarantine to drive to my PCP’s office for further testing. If I get arrested, you can send me a file in a cake.

Is the plein air festival losing its punch?

To be a successful artist, you have to catch the currents, not be driven by them.
Downdraft snow in the Pecos, by Carol L. Douglas
I still plan to travel, but the guts of my summer work moving forward will not be plein air events. Rather, I’m going to capitalize on my location and run a gallery from my studio. It’s a great location. If you’re in the art mecca of Rockland, ME and you want to head up the coast to Camden, you travel right past me.
Bobbi Heath taught me that it’s wise to know where my revenue comes from—paintings vs. teaching, for example. That helps the small businesswoman make smarter decisions about where to put her effort. Of course, there are limits to how you should deploy this information. It’s easier to grow a teaching practice than to sell more paintings, but that doesn’t mean the painter should stop painting. We’re self-employed so we have the freedom to be self-directed. That means catching currents, not being driven by them.
Parrsboro dawn, by Carol L. Douglas
It didn’t take an analyst to see what’s been staring me in the face for the past several seasons, a reality I didn’t want to face. My revenues from overall painting sales are up. At the same time, my revenues from plein air events are down.
I like doing these events, and I have great loyalty to the communities and organizers, but it no longer pays to constantly hare off over the horizon. To understand what had changed, I asked myself if I was doing something wrong, or had the market itself changed?
The answer is yes to both. My price point has risen over the years (a good thing). At the same time, these events have been flooded with new artists (good for the art world as a whole). I’m finding myself in the position of an established brand being undercut by start-ups. I can respond by cutting prices or by defending my brand. I’d rather do the latter.
Beach erosion, by Carol L. Douglas
To check my own experiences against those of my peers, I collected anecdotal information from fellow painters all summer. (You should see my bar tab.) Many, although not all, have experienced the same thing. The air seems to be out of many of the events that have long been the staple of our summer income.
Nobody collects hard data about plein air festivals. But anecdotal information is famously unreliable. If you’ve done a lot of festival events, you know that while five artists are sitting on their hands, the sixth is selling out. And artists don’t like talking about sales. It’s impossible to get a big picture of what’s happening.
Tricky Mary in a Pea-Soup Fog, by Carol L. Douglas
Last week, I corresponded with the founder of an event I’ve done since its inception. “One third of our artists sold no art this year,” he wrote. “That’s unacceptable.” They’re suspending their program for 2020 and reconsidering it for the future.
Then there was a public announcement that the Bucks County Plein Air Festival is being discontinued. Two data points do not a trend line make, but in the face of my own personal experience, it looks ominous.
“Hey, life ebbs and flows,” Bruce McMillan commented. The plein air movement has been an astonishing force over the past thirty years. I’m fortunate to have played in it for twenty. And none of this means I will stop painting outside, or even totally stop doing plein airevents; it is just a sign that it’s time to widen my net. What does it mean for you?

Monday Morning Art School: Should I apply to that show?

Entering shows willy-nilly can be expensive and unproductive. How can you tell what will pay off?
Midnight sail from Camden Harbor, 24X30, oil on canvas; see Hidden Holiday Sale for price.

“When should I enter calls-for-entry?” a reader asks. “There is a plethora suddenly in Colorado. I have pieces headed to a library for their show this winter (no entry fee, but I have to mail or deliver the paintings 200 miles away). Others are going to a museum ($35 entry fee; they keep 25% commission) and possibly a gallery ($35 for three paintings, $50 for 6; they keep 50% commission).

“When is it worth it for the exposure, and some lines on my resume? How can one tell whether artwork actually sells at these shows? When do you stop entering them? Is it all just a vanity thing for amateurs? If one is, like me, wildly experimenting in all directions, does one pick a particular ‘body of work’ to enter, or send a smattering of everything?”
This is a different business model from the one where gallerists assumed all the risk in exchange for 50% of the sales. The art market is changing rapidly, and I no longer think all pay-to-play galleries are inherently bad; in fact, I’m gingerly putting a foot forward in one for next summer.
Farm song, 14X18, oil on linen; see Hidden Holiday Sale for price.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the models you describe, although I do think 50% on top of $50 is a bit steep. They’re not necessarily just for amateurs, although some are banking on people desperate to get their foot in the door. Many reputable shows charge an entry fee. 
As an artist, you must figure out what return you’ll get for your investment. That’s easiest with local opportunities—just go and investigate the gallery space on your own. Is it a good-looking storefront in a good area, staffed by knowledgeable, competent gallerists?
Not all of us live near a thriving art market. Farther away, the research gets more difficult. If you have a buddy in that area, ask him or her for an opinion. Read the organization’s website carefully, and check the show terms with an eagle eye. If you can’t get there in person, use Google Maps to inspect the street where the gallery’s located. Is it a place you’d go to buy art?
Early spring at North End Shipyard, 14X18, oil on archival cotton panel; see Hidden Holiday Sale for price.
Many of these shows are offered under the imprimatur of established organizations. How long have they been doing the event? Do they have a proven track-record of shows? Google the show itself, something along the lines of “Charming Gallery Annual Landscape Show Artists” and see if you know anyone who’s participated. Contact them and ask about results.
However, you can stand this whole process on its head. This is how I did it: I looked at the resumes of artists I admired and had work sympathetic to mine. (It’s easier today, since everyone has websites.) I noted what shows they’d done and who represented them. Then I researched those shows and galleries.
Early spring run-off, 8X10, oil on archival cotton panel; see Hidden Holiday Sale for price.
That didn’t mean that I expected to get into their current galleries. I’d scroll to the bottom and see where they entered the art market. This required a lot of research across many artists, because galleries and shows come and go. But it taught me a lot.
As for what to send if you’re still ‘wildly experimenting,’ just send in the work you like the best. Acceptance and rejection is in itself feedback.
My Hidden Holiday Sale for readers of this blog is on its fourth day—check here to see all the additions over the weekend! On Friday, the sale goes public with advertising, so your chance for first dibs is limited.

How to sell your artwork

Think the world is going to beat a path to your door just because you’re brilliant? Think again.
Blueberry barrens on Clary Hill, by Carol L. Douglas. Every residency and event is a bullet point for your resume, but more importantly, a chance to be noticed.

“I read your recent post on business realism,” a reader wrote me. “I think I paint well, but I can’t seem to get any traction in the current marketplace. I’ve lost two galleries this year, and that really hurt. What am I doing wrong?”

The art market is morphing, and this reader was right when he added, “there’s no clear path forward.” His loss of gallery representation may have nothing to do with him, but with rapid change in the marketplace.

I know this painter’s work. It’s as fine as anyone’s out there, including many painters making a very juicy income. Why are their paintings selling and his not?
The bottom line is, he’s not nearly as well-known as he ought to be. While he’s painted with some of the big names in the plein air business, that hasn’t given him a particular leg up. Networking is important, but it only takes you so far.
Athabasca Glacier, by Carol L. Douglas. Want people to be interested in you? Do interesting things, preferably without killing yourself.
Do you want it enough to go for it? That makes marketing your primary job. Some people are offended by that, but unless you were born into the upper crust like Édouard Manet, you’re going to have to work to make connections. A better model is Frederic Edwin Church, who embraced, rather than rejected, his father’s bourgeois business model. Nobody can say that Church sacrificed his artistic goals.
You don’t necessarily have to be a starving artist to want to market yourself. I have a friend who’s fascinated by the uncharted machinations of a career in art. After a career in business, she wants to ‘crack the nut’ and figure out how it’s really done.
Spruces and pines on the Barnum Brook Trail, by Carol L. Douglas. This was painted at ADK Plein Air. To have a following, you must be seen.
It’s not about whether you can paint or not. The late, unlamented Thomas Kinkade is just one of a long line of incompetent painters who parlayed an artistic vision into money. I’m not encouraging you to paint terribly, but I am telling you to stop beating yourself up because you’re “not good enough.”
It helps to be young and beautiful. If you’re no longer either of those things, you need to be witty and fascinating instead. A hippie friend once watched me doing my self-care routine. “Why do you do those things to yourself?” she asked in amazement. I can’t be young anymore, but I can be attractive.
You have to be willing to exploit social media. I know you don’t see the point of Instagram and Facebook, but it’s critical to a profile in the modern world. If you don’t have a clue how to do this, find a book or a webinar and learn. Your website is still important, but it’s the catchment basin for all those other things.
Teaching is a great way to get your name out there, but for heaven’s sake, don’t do it unless you can actually teach. The world doesn’t need any more incompetent teachers.
You need a real-world presence somewhere. You’re going to have to do plein air events, tent shows, be in a cooperative gallery, or have gallery representation. You’re going to have to pull up your big-boy paints and go to openings. (This is the hardest thing for me—not because I don’t like people, but because my bedtime is 7:30 PM.) One real-world contact is worth a thousand internet hits.
You need to plug away, a little every day. Running a $1500 ad in a collector magazine is not going to net you anything if you haven’t done incremental publicizing in advance. Press releases, openings, studio parties, blogs, and emails to your collectors are the heart of modern publicity.

The nuts and bolts of social media: getting readers

You’ve written an amazing post with catchy copy and valuable tips. Now, how do you get discovered?

Best Buds, by Carol L. Douglas

Before you start blogging, make sure you have a Facebook business page, separate from your personal page. There are many differences, but the most important is that your business page is always public. It is meant to be a web listing. Spend a little time making sure it’s complete.

This should remain business-like. Keep your political opinions and agit-prop off your business page, unless your art or posts are overtly political. Invite your FB friends to ‘like’ this page; they’re the core of your following.
Also, make sure your email list is up-to-date.

Cut and paste this to each repost site.

Once your blog post is published, you’ll want to fashion a new ‘hook’, different from the tagline below the headline. You’ll use this and the link every time you repost, as in the illustration above.
Reading, by Carol L. Douglas, private collection.

I repost in this order:

  1. Share photos to Pinterest. This has the longest half-life of any social media site, it’s extremely easy to post to, and it has high viewership.
  2. Google+. Why add a social media platform that nobody reads? Because what you post on Google+ is indexed on Google.
  3. Twitter. Remember to manually add a photo to your text and link here.
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Facebook business page. From there, share back to your own personal page, as well as to any user groups in which you’re a member and who might be interested.

There are three other marketing channels for related, but not duplicate, material:
  1. Google My Business, if you have a brick-and-mortar location.
  2. Newsletter—I use it only to announce upcoming workshops, 2-6 times a year, but you should definitely use it to introduce your blog to your fans. Ask them to subscribe.
  3. Instagram—related content, 1-2 times daily.
Tom Sawyer’s Fence, by Carol L. Douglas
Why hashtags? Those words are indexed by the social network and are searchable by other readers. If you click on a hashtag, you’ll be brought to a page that aggregates all posts with that tag.
All blog platforms have stats built into them. These tell you how many people are looking at your posts, which posts are the most popular, where your readers come from, and how they’re looking at your blog. Make a habit of looking at it regularly.
Regular readers of this blog know it ran under a newspaper’s aegis for about 18 months. My readership dropped during that time, so I consulted Bob Bahrof Outdoor Painter. He told me that, everything else being equal, it’s always better to work under your own brand rather than someone else’s. My own experience showed that to be true.
This is the last of a three-part series on art blogging. Part one is here, and part two is here.

UPDATE: On October 8, Google announced it is discontinuing Google+ because of a massive data breach.

The nuts and bolts of social media: what platform is best for you?

The internet is a powerful tool for artists, offering free or inexpensive direct and indirect marketing. Learn to use it.
Ocean Park Beach, by Carol L. Douglas, available through Ocean Park Association. Put your strongest visual image first.
I’m no marketing guru; I just developed this blog by the seat of my pants. I learned along the way, and you can, too.
Indirect marketinggrows awareness of you as an artist. It comes in the form of news stories, the paintings you donate to non-profit auctions, word of mouth, referrals, reviews and First Friday walkabouts.
Direct marketing is when you ask clients to buy a painting from you directly. That can take the form of an online store, a booth at an art fair, newsletters showing off your paintings, or paid advertisements.
Brand awareness is how much your name and work are recognized by potential collectors. The whole goal of indirect marketing is to increase brand awareness. The better-known you are, the more paintings you’ll sell.
 

Sunrise, by Carol L. Douglas, available through the Kelpie Gallery. Use your blog to steer your readers toward your galleries or stores.

All artists need both indirect and direct marketing channels, and it helps to be clear about what yours are. For example, my direct marketing happens through plein air painting events, my targeted mailing list, and the Plein Air Store. My indirect marketing is through this blog, public appearances, and Instagram.
Rocks, by Carol L. Douglas. Available through Camden Falls Gallery. Using your own artwork also avoids copyright issues.
Developing brand awareness is most important when you first enter the marketplace. Of course, that’s when you can least afford it. Luckily, at this juncture, there are powerful online tools you can use for free. Here are the ones 2D artists use most:
  • Blog: best for indirect marketing.
  • Instagram: for indirect and direct marketing.
  • Targeted mailing list: useful for direct marketing.
  • Facebook business page: good for indirect marketing to an older audience.
  • Google business posting: useful if you have a physical studio or gallery you want to direct traffic to.
  • Website: can be commerce enabled (direct marketing), but, as Alex Serra remarked at MICA, websites are fast becoming the online equivalent of business cards.
  • Other free listings. Maine State Tourism offers studio and gallery listings, for example; your arts council or state tourism board may as well.

What direct and indirect marketing channels are you using now? What other ones would you like to explore?

Above is an image of my blog. It is very simple in design, and hasn’t been changed since I moved it back to Blogger in 2016. To me, the art, not the design, is the most important thing. Here are the important features:

  • There is a text ad for my workshops directly below the masthead. This runs 365 days a year and links to my website.
  • Below the headline is a tag line, which is simple search engine optimization (SEO). I just treat the first 25 words as if they were an ad for the whole post. I’m not into mindless click bait, but I do try to ensure that words my readers care about are there.
  • My most compelling picture goes first. Reposters like Facebook automatically run that photo.
  • There’s almost always a link to another of my blog posts in the copy. This increases readership and is important for SEO.
  • There’s an ad at the right and at the bottom. This is the only revenue-generation I do on my blog. I do not sell endorsements or links.
  • Five days a week, I write 400-600 words of fresh copy.

Several people at Maine International Conference on the Arts (MICA) asked me for more detailed information on marketing on social media. That’s my subject for the next few days. 

Part three: Getting readers

Feel free to comment or ask me questions, below.


And, for those who wonder, my medical tests yesterday went great. I’m cancer-free for another year.