And it got me thinking.
Thinking about my blog. About social media. About art as a business.
I don't have any sort of background in business. I've been trying to read articles and books to make up for that. I've watched e-courses (CreativeLive is great -- they broadcast their classes for free and sell access to those that have already broadcast). About marketing. Content marketing (and using your blog to generate income). Building a brand. Along the way I've found some great blogs that help creative business owners with their businesses (a few of my favorites: Aeolidia, Elle & Co., and Tara Gentile). I've come across some very good advice, some advice that doesn't really apply to me and some advice that makes me uncomfortable.
It's a complicated issue. Art making. Art selling. Competing in a marketplace where handcrafted isn't always valued as much as price.
Everywhere we go, both in person and online, we're barraged with demands to buy. We get used to tuning them out. Or at least I do. Unsubscribing from newsletters where I'm constantly being marketed to. Staying away from websites where I'm slapped in the face by ads. Clicking "skip ad" if I'm watching a video online. Sickened by how Christmas, the biggest sales season of the year, now begins in stores in the summer.
It often makes me think that I don't fit in this commercial society.
And that, my personality, my point of view, is what makes all of this selling difficult for me. I'm not saying that it's difficult to sell my art. Books and articles and e-courses admonish artists who think that adding $ into the art equation somehow sullies the art. No, I am glad to sell my art. I'm happy to share it with you. What I'm uncomfortable doing is saying, "Hey, buy my art!"
It doesn't mean that I don't sometimes say it, but I've noticed something that happens when I do. Those posts on my blog, Instagram, FB or the like? They get fewer "likes", comments, etc. than other posts, even if those posts are announcing a sale, a free gift or a special offer.
With that in mind I did a quick, unscientific experiment. I looked at the feeds of some of my favorite artists on Instagram and checked the numbers of hearts on the posts where they specifically mention their shops or art for sale and compared them to the numbers of hearts on other posts.
Curious about what I found?
Generally those more overtly "salesy" posts got fewer hearts.
I know it wasn't a thorough study and I didn't use anything close to a representative sampling, but even so isn't that fascinating?
In order to make a living, artists need to market their art. And yet... people don't like being marketed to.
Do I write this blog just for marketing? Of course not. My blog is a form of self-expression. A place to document my creative journey. A way to connect with people. With other artists, with other creative people and with people who don't think they're creative at all. With people who love flowers and nature and handmade, thoughtful living. I hope to inspire you. I hope to make you think. I am overjoyed by how interesting our world is. I'm ecstatic about all of the beauty and creativity and magic that surround us every day and I want you to be, too. I break a lot of the "rules" for using a blog as a business tool. And I'm ok with that. I like my little space on the web and I hope it brings you a bit of joy and inspiration.
Do I also hope to generate interest in my art? Of course!
Thinking about things these past few days I've come to realize something. It's ok that I don't fit in that loud commercial marketplace. In fact, it's good. My art doesn't fit there, either. My art is an antidote to that loudness, to fast-paced, throwaway consumerism. My blog, my social media presence, my brand is all about slowing down, about savoring, about paying attention to everyday magic. It's important that I stay true to that.
But I'm also selling art. And it seems that sometimes I need to be a little less subtle about it. (Thanks for the nudge).
So where does that leave me? Where does it leave us?
Good questions. And I don't entirely know the answers.
I'll leave you with this:
First, THANK YOU! Thank you to my newsletter subscribers. To my blog readers. To my customers. To YOU.
Your encouragement. Your support. Your friendship. It means a lot to me. Some of you have been here from the beginning, reading my thoughts, watching my art and my vision develop. Each of you are a joy and I am grateful for you.
Second, I want to know what you think. Do you have an opinion on marketing, on artists selling their art, on artist blogs and websites or even on blogs and websites in general? What bothers you? What don't you mind? What do you like (and even love)?
Let's start a conversation here in the comments. I really want to know what you think!
And if you're an artist yourself, please chime in. What's your take on this? What have you experienced in your own business?
Interested in diving in deeper on the topics of marketing and promoting? Here's a bit of further reading:
- Katie Daisy talks about her art, the negative reaction in some of her fans to her commercial success and her feelings on being a brand with a soul in this blog post.
- This article on Elle & Co. discusses the pitfalls of getting caught up in social media as a means to market your business and how using your blog is a much better option. It also discusses the difference between the number of followers (not so important) and number of customers (very important).
- Are women worse at self-promotion than men? Cory Huff and Tara Gentile discuss that question in this podcast on The Abundant Artist website.
- Why have a website or a blog if you have a creative business and what should that website be like? Arianne Foulks of Aeolidia and Jess Van Den of Create and Thrive answer those questions and more in this podcast.
Third, do you have thoughts or feedback on my blog, website, newsletter or social media? What works? What doesn't? What do you want to see more of (less of?)? Again, I really want to know what you think. (If you're not comfortable leaving a comment about that on this post, use the Contact link in the navigation above or email me at anne (at) mygiantstrawberry (dot) com).
And last, in answer to the question about whether my paintings are for sale (for the subscriber who asked and for all the others of you who might have been wondering, too). Yes! I am selling some of my September paintings and the recent work mentioned in the newsletter.
I am proud to be an artist. I am proud of my art. I put a lot of love into it. It represents many hours of work. It's an expression of joy. I use my art to capture the magic that is all around us. It's a reminder to pay attention and to notice beauty, joy and everyday magic. And I want to share it with you!
Black and Blue Salvia -- original painting available here
Female Ruby Throated Hummingbird -- sold
Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird -- original painting available here
Nasturtium Bouquet -- original painting available here, archival prints available here
Two Asian Eggplants -- original painting available here
Green and Red Ripening Tomato -- original painting available here
Green Tomato -- original painting available here
Wondering about all those little nasturtium paintings I did in September? Well, I haven't added those to my shop (there are some other small nasturtium paintings and prints in my Etsy shop), but I'm working on a fabric design based on those paintings:
As always, if you have a question about my art or a specific request, please let me know! Use the contact link in the navigation above or just email me anne (at) mygiantstrawberry (dot) com. I'm always happy to chat, to work on a custom piece or to create a special print (I created my peony print because I had a customer request for it!).
So, again, thank you. Thank you for being here reading these words. Thank you for letting me open up discussions on difficult topics. Thank you for telling me that I've been far too subtle with my marketing attempts. Thank you to those of you who have bought my art. Thank you to those of you who will buy my art. And to those of you who can't afford to right now, (I understand) thank you for encouraging and supporting me in other ways!
Enjoy your weekend and always, always remember to take the time to look for joy.