22 October 2009
Fine Art Is Not Illustration
I've been an illustrator for a long time and even though the industry has changed tremendously since I first started, I still know basically how it works. To market yourself as an illustrator, you first need a web site. Then you might add samples of your work to one or two portfolio portal sites such as theispot.com or folioplanet. You should also make and maintain mailing lists of old clients plus prospects you'd like to work for and send out postcard mailings to them at least a couple of times a year. There are lists you can buy, such as Adbase, that allow you to compile targeted lists for your mailings which, although pricey, are up to date and invaluable for finding new contacts.
But I'm finding that fine art is a whole 'nother animal. Fine art connections can definitely be made online, and having a web site seems important for a fine artist. But is there an equivalent to "portfolio portal sites" for fine artists? There's Saatchi Online which has so many thousand artists on it that I can't imagine many of them get seen in a meaningful way. Are there mailing lists? Probably. A quick Google search listed a few. But what good would it do to simply have (buy) a list of all the galleries in a certain city? Only a fraction of them would be interested in your particular kind of art.
I faced these issues this week as I wrestled with the question of how to best take advantage of the fact that one of my prints will be in New York City for the next month. I decided to act like an illustrator and have a postcard made, and I've been collecting a short list of people in the NY metro area to send cards to. First: friends and family. Next: all my NY-based illustration clients. And then I looked for galleries to alert. The IFPDA Print Fair will be happening while my print is hanging, so I looked at the list of exhibitors and added a few who deal in contemporary prints to my list. Then I got a copy of the August issue of Art In America and went through the NY gallery listings. About 800 of them. I was able to eliminate quite a few of them just from the descriptions, but I looked at the web sites of maybe 1/2 of them. I found about 40 that deal with work something like my work and are open to emerging artists and added them to my mailing list. All of this took about 3 days. I have a list now of about 100 people to send cards to announcing the IPCNY show.
Is this how fine artists do marketing? I have no idea. But this is how illustrators do it, so it's all I know how to do. I'll let you know if anything comes of it.