Blog / 2020 / Why Artists Are So Bad at Marketing Their Art

October 26, 2020

Artists are known for being impractical. But while it’s certainly true that some of us are either too head-in-the-clouds or too comfortable financially to care about selling our art, most of us know that we need to get better at promoting our work. The reason we turn away from marketing has less to do with being scared of money and more to do with all bad advice we get.

Case in point: last week, I got website review from a branding professional who works with creatives. The first thing this person said to me was:

“I land on the home page, and I can’t tell what you’re selling.”

They meant this to be a critique, but it only made me smile.

I view my site as an always-on version of me. You can visit any time to check out my art and get a feel for who I am, and, as with in-person studio visits, I don’t want my site to feel like a hard sell. Imagine arriving at an artist’s studio and, before you can even say hello, they’re telling you what’s for sale. Not exactly Emily Post, is it?

In the nav, there’s a link called “shop,” and I’m confident that my visitors will know to click there when they want to start supporting my art with their money. Hitting them over the head with salesy rhetoric feels counterproductive and more than a little gross. It’s what all the marketing gurus insist on, but it’s never going to happen, because the art business isn’t like any other business.

There are no set-in-stone rules for artists. We don’t have to dress a certain way or act like anyone else. We are blessed with an infinite variety of behaviors that are perfectly okay in the context of our industry. How we choose to be in the world will impact who will buy our art and maybe even how many will, but not using the so-called “right” verbiage on the home page of our site can’t get us fired.

studio visit with my Papa, photo by my brother
in my studio with my dad in 2002, photo by Nick

This is me in my college studio. My Papa was visiting with my brother, and I got them to take a few photos with me, making this the only documentation of a studio visit I have.

But even though I don’t have the pics to prove it, I’ve invited hundreds of people to see where I work over the years, because these intimate conversations aren’t just good for your artistic confidence. They are the best kind of marketing.

Of course, with COVID, no one’s been sharing ginger tea and art talk with me in person, but I have been making sure to keep my always-on version of me as welcoming as possible. If you’re looking for help with your site, and you want to avoid cookie-cutter guru-speak, you can hire me as your art guide.

painted portrait of photographer Andrea Wallace
Gwenn Seemel
Andrea Wallace
2003
acrylic on canvas
48 x 34 inches

And if you want a virtual studio tour, this video shows all the spaces I’ve worked in over the years and explains what each one taught me about myself!


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