When an artist’s sales are low, they often comfort themselves by remembering that Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime. You do not have to passively except a slow career, however. Van Gogh did not have the internet or any of the other huge variety of media avenues that we have at our fingertips today. Taking an active approach to your career is what is necessary in order to get those sales up to where they should be.
The first thing to seriously consider is the art market surrounding you. Different parts of the world and specific regions of your given country will always lean towards one form of art or another. These trends can either be stable or dynamic, depending on the city. If you are not sure of what the current climate of the art market is in your area, then observe the political and cultural atmosphere in other disciplines. These aspects of society tend to always govern the type of art that is popular at any given time. For instance, areas that are more conservative will tend to lean towards representative pieces that are not extremely political in their subject matter. If you are in an area where your work tends to be going against the mainstream, then you can either move to a different location or adjust your content.
As painful as it may be, artists must also take advantage of social media outlets. These outlets provide a wonderful means for making contacts in the art world with people who you would have no personal contact with otherwise. Facebook and Twitter also give individuals that do not go to art galleries on a regular occasion the chance to view your work. It may seem like a stretch to think that anyone buys art based on what they see via Facebook, but it actually happens on a regular basis. You should join groups of artists that have created communities online specifically for other artists. Doing this further enhances your opportunities to get work into respected galleries. Joining artist communities also has the added advantage of letting you get direct feedback on your work the moment you put it online.
The idea of the hermit artist is not completely viable in the 21st century. The world is so intimately connected that people expect to be able to find information about the people from whom they are purchasing work. Given this fact, it is necessary to have some personality. You do not need a full blown persona by any means; however, it is wise to get some interesting information about your work and yourself into the public eye. Salvador Dali, an extremely wealthy artist by the end of his life, was well aware of this.
Like most things in life, the art market is also subject to odds and statistics. In order to increase your chances of selling more work, increase your level of productivity. Not every piece of art that you produce will appeal to everyone, no matter how amazing it is. The more work you have out there, the better your chances of selling pieces. Although, you should not become an art mill and end up hurting the integrity of your body of work as a whole. Creating artwork that is below par for your level of skill can end up lowering the market value for all of your pieces.
People that sell artwork on a regular basis are depending heavily on collectors. Someone that buys one piece of your artwork is much more likely to buy another versus the average person walking in off the street. You want to develop a base of support, essentially. Doing this requires keeping track of people and building a mailing list so that collectors can follow your progress over time. When people feel like they know whats going on with your career and credibility, it is easier to peak their interest in purchasing work. In addition to personal collectors, keep track of the art market as a whole. The art world at large tends to collect pieces that it deems to have universal appeal and content that fits into the larger picture as it relates to art history and society in general. Personal identity pieces or geographically specific content are the types of pieces that tend to be overlooked in the long run.
Shane Burke, www.beezink.com