You’ve peered closely, stood back and snuck around the corner to view your new painting with fresh eyes and finally put the last dab on the canvas. Shew, what a nice feeling. Time to kick up your feet with your favorite beverage? Hardly. Working artists know that finishing a painting triggers a series of additional steps that must be completed before another painting may be contemplated.
First of all, is the painting really finished? Have you signed it? Have the sides of the canvas been painted? Even though I usually use oil paints these days, I use acrylic to paint the sides since it drys quickly and thus makes it easier to move pieces around. You may think that the sides are going to be covered by a frame anyway so why bother, but I believe in maintaining a high level of professionalism for the entire piece. Also, have you written/painted the details on the back? It is recommended that you put the name of the artwork, your name, the medium, your location and the inventory number on the back of the canvas. This will ensure that no matter how far your painting travels or how many frames are changed, it will be clear from whence it came. Adding the date on the work is becoming frowned upon since it hinders older work from being sold in galleries.
Now to get organized. I mentioned the inventory number above. Professional artists are encouraged to produce as many works as possible in order to have a chance at making a living. It becomes a numbers game of having enough work in enough galleries. This also means it can be an organizational headache. As a painter, if you are producing the ideal of two pieces a week and have work in say 10 galleries in different states as well as work in shows, you need a system of keeping up with everything. I have used a spreadsheet, which lists the pertinent information for each painting including date completed, how many hours it took me, price, exhibitions, varnish status, frame cost, gallery and buyer, among other things. The inventory number on this sheet becomes the crutial link to this information for years later, when you have painted a dozen tulips but you need to figure out which one was sold to whom. There are also software programs like Xanadu gallery’s ArtTracker.
Next we move on to Marketing. Most artists just want to stay in their studios and forget about organization and marketing but without these steps, how will anyone know about your art? Photography gets the ball rolling. I have a decent point and shoot camera, which I have used to take pictures for my Web site for years. Until recently, I have taken my paintings five at a time to a professional photographer as well(Joel Conison in Atlanta). Fortunately, my husband now has a super camera which allows me to take 300dpi resolution pictures on my own. Some competitions require 300dpi and one should always keep a high resolution image of your work in case it needs to be replicated down the road.
Manipulating photographs requires proficiency in Photoshop or similar software. I do some brightness/contrast and color adjustments first. Then I save the original size and make standard large, small and extra small versions for my Web site, eNewsletter and printed portfolio pages. The Web site requires that I create a new page for the painting and another for the enlarged version. Having all of the painting data on your spreadsheet can facilitate this process. I happen to know html but there are many sites out there now for maintaining an online portfolio including WordPress.
With the new pages presented on your Web site, now you need to get the word out. I use Constant Contact as my email program. I don’t like to overwhelm my fans with email so I choose to send out new painting announcements every couple of months and show the latest in bulk. I have a template of information that must be updated each time and it often spurs me to update other things on my Web site as well. For example, I wouldn’t want someone clicking on my Events link on the eNewsletter only to find that it is out of date. So, I spend some time adding upcoming show information before sending it out. As a matter of fact, my last email roused me to produce this blog post. Not all of my friends and family members are on my email list, so I also like to post new painting announcements on FaceBook, both on my personal page and Bayberry Fine Art page.
Now that your Web site is in stellar shape and your close fans are sending you accolades regarding your latest work, you need to cast the net wider. There are so many online marketing tools out there now, that it can be daunting but you should make an effort to have a presence on at least some of them. Many email programs help out by automatically posting to Twitter. Additional tools that can earn you more subscribers are sites like Glossom and Pinterest. Glossom lets you make visual collages of your work. I made a collage of all of my greenish paintings, for example. On Pinterest, I made a board for flower paintings and included links to my own work as well as other artists I admire.
So can we get back to painting now??? Well, you might want to make high quality printouts for your portfolio at Kinkos, update your Mobile Marketing site and iPad portfolio and make a run to the framers…or set that all aside for another day so you can get back to the joy of putting paint on canvas. There is always more that can be done but when it comes down to it, you must continue to keep painting as the priority. All the marketing in the world won’t help your business if you don’t have enough to sell.
I hope this was helpful. Please feel free to ask me any questions or post other useful information.