“Most artists do not have the luxury of an agent, spouse, or
You may have heard marketing experts tout the importance of self-promotion in an artist’s career. The common thinking is that there’s nothing wrong with tooting your own horn because, after all, if you don’t get your name and artwork out there, how are you going to sell paintings? Most artists do not have the luxury of an agent, spouse, or supporter to raise their value in the art world, so they are left to their own devices to create a marketing plan that best positions them in the highly competitive world of fine-art sales.
I think a certain amount of self-promotion of one’s paintings, accomplishments, and working methods is necessary for artists to retain a viable place in today’s market. But a problem arises when artists spend more time marketing or promoting themselves than they do studying, painting, or participating in enriching experiences that inform their work. What eventually starts to happen is they become more focused on recognition and commercial success than they are on the craft of painting and growing beyond their current level.
I was recently talking with a gallery owner and art-club director, and we were discussing the downside of artists who are over-promoting themselves-they are essentially becoming overexposed. These artists seem too accessible, available, and mainstream, and therefore they start to loose some of the exclusiveness that makes their work stand out. On the flip side of this are the painters who retreat so far from the public eye that they run the risk of becoming an artistic recluse, more or less only painting for themselves because they are too far off the radar for anyone to notice.
I could argue this topic from both sides, but personally, I always find it refreshing to discover a relatively unknown gem of an artist hidden away somewhere painting for the pure love of it, with no other motives in mind. Such a stance can actually work in an artist’s favor. The artists who are standing at their easels day and night are the ones who tend to win the respect of fellow painters. Those painters, in turn, make sure that gallery directors, dealers, collectors, and critics know who these artists are, and this word of mouth can bring about a tipping point for the artist’s reputation.
Although this kind of attitude toward art making may be the antithesis of Marketing 101 and likely won’t help pay the bills, there is something about this stance that I respect. These types of painters are devoted wholeheartedly to their art, and they let the resulting work speak for itself. If the art world listens, so be it. If not, so what? They are accomplishing their personal goals for themselves as painters and people and basing their worth not on volume of art sales or fame but by the artistic standards and values that matter most to them.
I know the ideas of self-promotion, marketing, public relations and, all the other business-related responsibilities that goes into an art career is a sensitive subject for painters, and it is one that they grapple with daily. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and I encourage you to leave a comment.
Allison Malafronte is the senior editor of American Artist.