Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I learned to sell art from Tupperware!! REALLY!!

It's true!! I was thinking about this recently, someone was commenting that people don't like to buy from losers.

Here's a few things I do almost second nature that I learned from my Tupperware manager. (During my very brief, but wildly successful career).

1. Fake it til you make it. I don't feel uncomfortable anymore "being" an artist. When I was starting out with my dog portraits, though, I felt like a fraud. Who was I to sell art, I had no degree, no training, etc? But I pretended to be an artist long enough to become one!

2. Have a full book. When we were starting out, our manager had us write fake party dates in our appointment books. We put in all our friends, our aunts from out of state, etc., so that we LOOKED popular, and it worked. Before I HAD a waiting list, I pretended I did. I didn't actually lie. I said, "well, I have to finish up this golden retriever and then I have a cat portrait to do, I can put you in after that". Never told them that the golden and the cat were both samples for my site! Of course, after a while, I had a waiting list.

3. Tell people what you do. I'm naturally chatty, so this wasn't a problem. And it works, also.

4. Be stocked. My dad owns a kitchenware store in Okeechobee, FL, and he told me he has to have at least 5 of everything at all times. Somehow, when there's only 1 or 2 of a spatula left, nobody buys it! I noticed during the times I put work on my site that's for sale, if there's only one or 2, they don't sell. If I have a dozen, I'm way more likely. Same with Etsy. I realized I have to be stocked if I want to sell that way.

5. Keep in touch. I'm not that good at this. I swear I will get better.

6. Love your product. I never showed Tupperware pieces I thought were stupid. I showed the things I used myself. Love your art.

7. Don't be your best customer. Part of their plan is to sell to the sellers. In other words, they have you sitting there, and they sell you on the advantages of a product so much that you end up buying it and spending your profit on their product! It's not quite the same, but I try to keep a lid on overspending on art supplies especially if I haven't really earned it back. But I live near great art stores so don't need to stock up. But sometimes, I swear I did more buying than I did selling, and every time I clean the studio, I'm reminded of this...

8. Get your friends to help you get started. I did that with my dog portraits and that's how I'm going to do my human portraits, too.

9. And this is the big one...the harder I work, the more I'll make. And talking about working doesn't count!

I bet if you think of other situations/training you've had in your "other life" you can think of ways to translate it to your art.

Any of those suggestions would be greatly appreciated here! Please do post any hints!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Feeling encouraged!

Yesterday worked on a sample portrait on the train to work, and someone stopped and inquired about my prices! Not just a LITTLE encouraging, lol! My little jump to deciding to go down this route kinda reinforced!

What about you? What jumps are you making? Or hops? Or baby steps? We're in this together!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hold my hand! I'm JUMPING!

After a lot of waffling, I'm JUMPING into people portraits. I have been so hesitant...even though I get a lot of requests...because I just felt like I needed a formal education to do it. I mean, who am I to offer HUMAN portraits???

I've done some, I enjoyed it, and I do a lot better with practice of course, etc etc etc.

I would like to take my own photos, but that scares me.

I've just decided to throw away all those little fears and go for it. I'm going to do it exactly how I started my dog portrait business...I'm going to do practice pieces for family and friends and put the best ones on my website and keep my prices low....very build up a portfolio, get lots of practice and hopefully grow as an artist.

I'm still planning on taking classes, that should help as well!

I think it is a natural addition to the animal portraits and even the woodcut printing.

Best of all, since I've been drawing every day, I have been drawing Otto my dog and humans and have been enjoying it. So I think it will help me with my goal of getting better as an artist, as well.

I'm going to be posting my progress and hope you'll all be very lavish with your advice for me!



Friday, January 16, 2009

More on Cohesiveness - Then it DOES matter!

Yesterday I talked about the importance of taking the time to experience making art fully, deadends, trying different media, etc. and how we learn who we are as artists, not to rush to a style in order to be more marketable.

I should have also said, and will here, that there's a point, and Ghislain is there and I feel I am, too, where decisions have to be made not only for marketability but for growth.

We can be a little good at a lot of things. Or we can get really good at what we found during the experimental phase, that we naturally loved and found we accomplished more than in the stuff we didn't like.

Otherwise, we might never become masters and not only won't be taken seriously, but will feel like we're spinning our art wheels, with a roomful of supplies and no growth to show for it.

I recently read that it takes 40 paintings to be able to do a one-person show. That's an awful lot of work, and of course there's steps on the way.

So sidetrips into another new medium or subject can derail at this point. There comes a time where you have to figure out what "ball" you want and keep your eyes on that ball.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cohesiveness, Style and How to Get There

One of our participants here, the wonderful painter Ghislain Bruno raised a question on the Wetcanvas forum about the need to focus.

What a great topic to think about!

You do hear it, that you need a cohesive style, subject, etc., to be considered by galleries and shows, etc.

I'm all for cohesiveness, but at the proper time! Especially for those of us who are basically self taught, we need time to explore (and spend money on art supplies!!)

Keep in mind that formally trained artists are exposed to a variety of techniques, media, subject matter, etc. Some requirements that are dreaded can turn out to the be very thing that they love! So those of us on our own, also need to discovery exactly what we like and don't like.

I love watercolor paintings, but I hate doing it. Can't tell you why, but I just don't like the act of painting in watercolor.

Also thought I would love pastels. Nope. Same for still life. Except my foray into painting flowers made them look like they all had personalities!

Love really good abstracts...but have no natural ability to even start down that road.

Now, there's all different techniques and palettes in oil painting, as well. Some folks jut love to glaze. Others? no. It takes TIME at the easel/drawing board to discovery all this and it's personal. Nobody can predict. AND you have to master the various techniques/media/subject matter etc. well enough to give it a good shot and KNOW that it's not for you.

Only then can we really begin to think about cohesiveness...which is tied to style imo.

Now, I know I have a style. I don't know where it came from, lol! But I've drawn, painted, pastelled and relief printed animals and folks familiar with my work tell me they can tell I did it. So I'm guessing that's style.

Every single choice we make, color, value, subject, stroke, etc. reveals us.

But I think that only comes when we feel good and relaxed and confident with our materials and skills...not following books, or really even much advice. THEN, I think it's time to worry about cohesiveness. Because until then, really it's kind of artifical and strained. IMO!

But enough from me, now, I'd love to hear what you all think about cohesiveness and developing a style.

If you've just visited this blog for the first time, let me introduce! I'm Robin Zebley, my pet portrait website is My blog about animals and art is and if you'd like to read this whole blog, just click on the banner at the top and don't forget to look at the older posts at the bottom.

And don't forget to comment...I love opinions and if you disagree or not, love to hear from you! Robin

Friday, January 9, 2009

Local Shows

Some of you are talking about doing local shows as a way to start selling. If you haven't yet, or are just getting started, I bet you are like me.

I find out about them too late. I hear all about them when they are too close in to get ready and apply for them, especially the juried ones.

So I now keep a separate calendar (a free one I got from my oil company) and any shows I'm interested in, I jot down the date and staple the info on the back. Not that organized, but it works.

Many shows are at around the same time every year. So I have all the pertinent info. Even if the contact person changed, whoever the old contact person was will know who the new one is. I look at my calendar often in order to make a decision if I want to enter it or not.

I have a few in mind that I've been "following" for a couple years, not quite ready.

It's also, imo, important to visit the local shows and see if my work will fit in.

I'd love to hear what you guys do to collect and make decisions about, local shows! My pet portrait website is Come visit! Robin

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Selling Art in a Coffeeshop

Midlife artist Pam Boutilier mentioned coffeeshops in her response to my last post. While I haven't done that myself, I'd like to. And I have a very close artist friend who did well...very a coffeeshop in the tourists/artsy side of town and I'll tell you exactly what I think he did that made the difference between sales and just decorating someone else's business. I know I speak for all of us here (we have a LOT of lurkers!!) that any other ideas are most welcome.

Here'w what he did: He had a lot of pieces. BIG pieces. Pieces that fit verticle spaces, pieces that fit horizonal spaces. And all "fit" could tell the same artist painted them all.

He mounted a small tag next to each one with title, dimension and price. Double stick tape.

He mounted small, framed price lists with thumbnails in several areas.

He bought card holders and placed them in various spots including next to the register.

He gave the staff a stack of cards to fill up the holders.

He told the staff he'd be in every Tuesday and Friday at 5 and would hang around til 8 in case anyone wanted to meet him, but he'd be willing to come in and meet anyone who called.

He did that. But he also stopped by often in between, and thanked the staff profusely when they told him anyone was interested.

He gave each waitstaff member and the owner a small, signed, original framed drawing to thank them for their help. They sold his stuff! They passed on the info about when he'd be there, introduced him, gave out his card and most of all, gushed about his art.

He sold out in 6 weeks, all of it priced in the $700 - $1,200 range.

Do you have experience selling in a coffeeshop? If so, we'd love to hear your experience and ideas to make it a really positive and lucrative experience!