We know that we cannot be all things to all people. It’s logical then that cannot paint everything in any style everyone might want. We could, but we would not be doing our best work. To become a professional painter means we have chosen to create our best work.
When it comes to marketing, being a professional is critical for long term financial stability. The difference between an amateur and a professional is that an amateur looks for “exposure” that typically doesn’t cost them much. While a professional is looking for “compensation”.
Having become aware that exposure in all the wrong places rarely becomes a sale and never produces a continued revenue stream, the professional seeks out opportunities to be compensated for their talents. Their marketing efforts become more focused and targeted. These painters may also stumble across the reason why I say you should become a specialist. (We’ll need another article for that)
I like to use the word “market” rather than “selling” for several reasons. First, selling is not a comfortable word for an artist. Selling is for salesmen, and we would rather leave that up to someone else. (One reason we prefer a gallery – we think they are going to sell our paintings for us. Again, we need another article for that too)
Just like you can’t please everyone all the time. You can’t market everything to everyone. Instead, we focus on our abilities, what we like to paint most, what we can be the most professional at producing, or what I like to call “Your Bread & Butter”.
Your bread and butter is that thing you create that will put food on your table and pay your rent. The thing you focus your marketing on, the thing that you love doing, the thing that generates a reoccurring revenue stream for you.
Here are three things you can do to help you discover what you should focus your attention on when it comes to marketing yourself and your work.
#1 Choose a medium to work in.
I know how fun it can be to try new things and indulge in new ways of expressing yourself. It is impossible to market yourself well when you are trying to do it all or please as many people as you can. I know, I’ve been there and done that.
I have created some amazing painted glass pieces, polymer clay fairies, pastel paintings, fiber art, handmade paper, block prints, mixed media, etc. etc. It’s fun, and I sold some of it, so it can be deceiving and keep you from your real work.
Your real work is what you were meant to do, what you long to do, and what will turn your career around if you let it. So, choose, what will it be? Declare yourself something specific. Are you a watercolorist? An oil painter? A print maker?
Remember that by choosing a medium we are becoming more professional and making our work more marketable. (and easier to market) We are not trying to limit our creativity. You can still do some watercolors if you decide that you are an acrylic painter, but you will market yourself as an acrylic painter.
#2 Choose a style to work with.
It’s time to stop following trends and copying the style of others. They are not better than you and your uniqueness. I want you to think about what you do differently as a superpower. Find your authentic style. It’s not hard to just be yourself or it’s at least not as hard as trying to be like someone else.
Just sit down with the medium you have chosen and paint something totally out of your head, just for fun. This exercise will help you discover what your color palette is (just notice what the dominate colors you used are), how you paint (loose, tight, abstract, realistic), and give you insight into your subject matter. Which is our next topic.
#3 Choose a subject matter.
Everything I have presented here is to help you make yourself more marketable which will make it easier for you to market yourself and your art. Choosing a subject matter simply makes you one step closer to being not only a professional but a specialist. (More on being a specialist later!)
If narrowing it down too far is too hard, just narrow it down as much as you can. If you think of yourself as a nature painter, what type of nature? Botanicals - Flowers? Animals – Pets? Landscapes – Barns?
"It’s more about discovering yourself."
Please remember that there is no right or wrong answer to any of this. It’s more about discovering yourself. Finding that thing that you love that you could paint again and again in various ways. It’s also important to remember that we are not trying to limit you but we are trying to find you, your authenticity, your uniqueness, your special, your superpowers.
By choosing your medium, style, and subject matter, you have defined your marketing. We cannot market everything we are capable of and be successful in our marketing. We can however find our thing and find our success doing it.
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