Thursday, December 17, 2009

How the Art Market for Pet Portraits has Changed

As I mentioned earlier, I was out of the market for 3 years.  Here and there a commission came in and I did it but I did zero marketing.

So when I began marketing again in September, I had an unusual opportunity to compare this niche market before and after the economic downturn.  Here's what I found out:

  1. The low and mid market is gone.  Before, I sold mostly my smaller, less expensive portraits.  Now, I sell the larger, more expensive ones.
  2. Selling cheaper doesn't bring in more sales.  Sales don't work.  Smaller pieces don't work.
  3. More people are comfy with looking for and buying online.
  4. People want more personal contact even if they find you online.  I've had more people call me to order in 3 months than I had before in 5 years.
  5. Printed materials have less of an impact than they did.  I used to get most of my orders through people who saw a card or flyer of mine.  Now, it's almost all online. 
I suspect others in the lower/mid markets of art are finding the same...

So, what am I going to do with this info?  Well, I am going to raise my prices.  People aren't deciding to/not to buy from me because of a few dollars.  How much more is a big issue I've been contemplating for a few weeks, and discussing with online and real life artist friends.  It's a difficult thing to know.  I don't want to price myself out of my market yet I think my work stands up to more money than I'm getting now.

I am working hard to increase my skills.  I hope there never comes a day when I don't feel I need to!

I am concentrating my marketing efforts online: Twitter, Facebook, etc. rather than running around town putting up cards.  I will still do that, but it's definitely "when I'm there, anyway" kind of thing.

I am upgrading all of the printed materials I do have.  I am having my work professionally photographed.  I need to reach more of the sophisticated buyers, and need to jump up a notch in my presentation.

Would love to hear your ideas and comments!! 

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?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ebay or Etsy or Facebook - a place to sell art?

Every once in a while, I go on an ebay art selling binge.  Then something happens, and I stop, so I've never been one to build a following.  Now I haven't done it for 3 years, and since then, they've changed things and the buzz among my online artist friends is it ain't no good no more.  But I did really well there, so thought I'd give it a whirl.  This is the first piece I'm trying.  I painted it, it's one of the first things I've done in acrylics, on gallery wrapped canvas.
It's 8 x10.  I had it listed on Etsy for months, not a nibble.  I lowed my price, not a nibble.  So I pulled it from Etsy and put it on ebay with a listing price of $35.50, which is $10 less than I was asking on Etsy.

I like Etsy.  I like the IDEA of Etsy very much.  The forums are exceptional.  But it doesn't seem very attuned to fine art, and that's a shame.  I've left my handpulled prints and some portrait commission listings up and am keeping the shop open.  In the future, I might try teeny tiny pieces, which I suspect will do better there.

I also have put up artwork for sale via my Facebook Art Page

I have gotten some nibbles, but both wanted the piece for themselves, not as a gift, so have to wait til after Christmas, if it doesn't see before that.

So, for now, that's my 3 tries outside of my pet and childrens portraits website.  I'll let you know how...or if...any of them work.  By the way, I also put a pet portrait gift certificate up for bid. You can see them both: http://tinyurl.com/yhcmkag.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bulldog Pet Portrait

Here's a photo of a pet portrait that I'm currently working on.  Just one of the array of photos of this bulldog commission.  Two things I don't like..the coverlet and the hidden paws.  Luckily, the owner did provide more photos that showed paws and I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve for cute foregrounds/backgrounds! 
Promotions wise, I joined up at Yahoo and contributed to the Yahoo buzz.  Just another giant place to put my links, I've been anywhere between number 40 and 48 on searches under "pet portraits".  If you have a spot online you could add a link to my site at http://robinzebley.com/ under pet portraits, boy, would I appreciate a link.  It can only help!  Robin