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.


d. moll, l.ac. said...

I figure anything is fair game.....do keep me informed on how it works, and good luck too!

Katka said...

Sounds like a pretty excellent way to go about things...I really admire the spirit you approach your work (and the marketing of it) with.

Elisabeth Omdahl said...

I think you are on the right track,Annie.
As far as I know, in my country at least, mailing-lists are used mostly by the gallery itself, not the artist.But if you can expand their list in any way, that is a good thing.
Good luck with your exhibition, and have a great time in NY.

Celia Hart said...

Looks like your doing a fine job - in fact I think that being an established illustrator and used to marketing yourself and working to deadlines are a great help in the fine art world. Last week a gallery where I'm going to exhibit asked me to send a short biography/artists statement and a few images of my work - I had some on file and with a little tweak to the wording I emailed them straight away - they were totally shocked but delighted by the speedy reply!

I also think that you have to grab and run with any tiny break through you get - it seems to be all about connections and once you get a toe in the door you never know what may happen - when it does it'll come out of the blue!

Sending you lots of positive vibes for your time in NY.


andrea said...

As someone who has to force herself to do any kind of marketing, this sounds like a good approach: logical and systematic. I'll be interested to see if it bears fruit for you.

Anonymous said...

If you're not already aware of this, Joanne Mattera has an excellent section on her blog called Marketing Mondays.
Her art is pretty amazing as well.
Good luck.

Annie B said...

Thanks for the comments and good wishes. Celia, I agree that the skills we've developed (and that we take for granted) as illustrators translate really well in the fine art world and aren't necessarily traits that fine artists have developed as fully. Anonymous, thanks for the reminder about Joanne Mattera's Marketing Mondays -- an excellent resource.

Anonymous said...

fabulous marketing sensibilites! I work at a gallery and Elisabeth's comments is spot on, its usually the gallery and not the artists marketing themselves. But in this new digital age, self promotion is the way ahead.