Friday, December 11, 2009

The "Little Guys" - The Other Art Market..The Other Artists

Not all of us who sell art cash checks with commas in them.  We aren't in galleries, don't have an agent and don't travel a festival circuit.  We aren't hoping the buzz in the Art World will be about us; in fact, we aren't even sure who the Art World is!  Yet, we are creating fulfilling art and selling it.  We are the little guys of an ignored market.

Now, if you don't know, I have been doing pet portraits since 2001.  From the Fall of 2006 until recently, I put my art on the back burner and worked for lawyers.  That line of work, like many others, has taken a huge hit for a variety of reasons and opportunities for me in the legal world have really shriveled up.  So I was cast back into the waters of making art with little notice and little backup.  But those three years off have given me an unusual opportunity to analyze the market for us little guys before and since The Terrible Economy.  I'll share some of my observations about that on another day.

I've had artists tell me they would literally clean toilets rather than take a pet portrait commission.  It would hurt their reputation.  And it's not as easy as some of them think it might be. Those of us who are at all successful work very hard learning the ropes in our specialty and it's an ongoing education.  Their opinion about pet portraits is great news to me...there are over 2,400,000 results on a google search of "pet portraits".  I have a full plate already getting buyers. 

And there ARE buyers.  While some of them are dog nuts who also are sophisticated art buyers, most of them aren't.  In fact, most of my buyers are buying their first piece of original art ever.  Most of them have never been inside a gallery, would feel funny about it.  They don't know art movements or anything about composition or values and feel a little embarrased about not knowing anything about Art.  They feel nervous about paying for a piece and having someone who "knows art" tell them it is junk.

Now, this isn't the art market that will make you rich on a dozen paintings a year.  Yet, it is so untapped!  This is a market that is not poor, who COULD buy art with commas in the checks.  They are a combo of nervous, novice collectors and people who have no interest in art except very personal art, like their pet's portrait.

And of course, us little guys aren't all doing dog portraits.  We're doing landscapes, still life, marine art, fantasy art.  We paint, we draw, we scratchboard, we pull prints.  We're doing art we love to do and just want to get paid so we can do it more!  We sell to a market that most ignore.  We have little guy collectors.
But getting to that market is difficult.  Every single book I've bought regarding art marketing is oblivious to that market and same with most magazine articles.  The assumption is that those selling art are gallery bound, that they have to catch the eye of the sophisticated buyers, agents, galleries.  And if not in galleries, they have a stable of collectors who buy off the easel.  So us getting there is mostly trial and error, we have no roadmap.  Trading notes online is the best we can do.

Anyway, I have to tap that market even more if I am to continue to live as I wish and create artwork instead of typing pleadings. I can't wait til I'm important enough to get into gallerys and get commas on those checks! That's where I am on my art journey now, and I'll share how I've gotten this far in a future post. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear more from those of you who are my cohorts. How did you get where you are...and how do you intend to progress?