Do Something — Anything

From my inbox:

I signed up for your emails, because I feel I SHOULD be doing marketing, but it all seems so overwhelming and what I really want to do is PAINT (which doesn't happen often enough, as it is). I'm sure you've heard all this a million times. It's a very common malady, but wanted to communicate my frustration. I keep thinking “someday.”

My feelings about this email are complicated and intertwined, but I've tried to break them down below.

Gini Lawson, The Babysitters
Gini Lawson, The Babysitters. Oil on canvas, 55 x 54 inches (diptych). ©The Artist

  1. I get it. I know there's a lot to do and much of it doesn't sound that fascinating. It is overwhelming. We're all overwhelmed these days. Not much you can do about it except to take little steps of progress.
  2. I'm not going to say that you should or shouldn't do this or that. If you choose to do this or that, I might tell you how I think it should be done. It's up to you to make it your own.
  3. Not everyone is ready for this stuff. In every newsletter and blog post, I share tips for when you are ready. Work on what you need right now and save the rest for later. That's what the blog search function (upper right) is for.
  4. Not every talented artist has the stomach for promoting the work, keeping track of finances, showing up at openings, and other things required for a successful career. Make sure you want it bad. You're going to have to work your butt off.
  5. beginning
    biz basics
  6. Of course you should be making art. The studio discipline must be in place. If you don't make art, you aren't an artist. It's simple, really.
  7. The alternative to doing something is inaction. The alternative to marketing your art is waiting for something to happen and watching opportunities to pass by. I'm pretty sure you don't want this.

Bottom line: Do something. Anything! Every little action — whether it's selecting artist software, updating your fan page on Facebook, or sending a newsletter — takes you closer to your life dream.
One thing at a time. Now would be a good time to begin.

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21 thoughts on “Do Something — Anything”

  1. Great measured and thoughtful response to this, Alyson. We all feel overwhelmed and resentful of the time it takes to market. The alternative is be resentful of those other artists who seemingly “get the breaks” or do well, out of proportion to their talent, and wonder why its isn’t us. Well, we know why – we need to get out there! no one will come looking. I’d rather “have a go” at seeing my work in public than sit on the shelf -and when the marketing works, it’s very satisfying and the time spent seems minor. Bottom line is – do you believe in your work? If so, let the world know about it.

  2. Alyson,
    I love your response! I’m guilty of not marketing my work (mainly because I’m also guilty of not making work), but know that any step taking is forward progress.
    A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

  3. As for me I found it difficult sometimes to do some of the necessary marketing because I was trying so hard to make it perfect. I just have to remind myself that everything don’t have to be perfect.

  4. Waaaaahhhh! it’s not fair…. I want to sell my artwork, but it’s too hard to do it, there’s so much involved, I just want to paint and somehow have it magically sell. And I want it to sell right now, without having to take all of the steps that are necessary….. whine, whine, whine.
    Get a grip, stop thinking of marketing so negatively and stop being afraid of the hard work. I never resent the time it takes to market. If you want to make money from your artwork, the time spent marketing is as important as the time you take creating your work. When I think of the outcomes of all my marketing efforts, I start to like it!
    We all want a lot of things, but they don’t fall into our laps. And you know what, when all of the hard work in marketing etc. pays off and your work sells – you can feel so proud of yourself and what you’ve accomplished.
    I’m sorry to be so harsh, but I am so sick of artists complaining and whining. We all have stuff going on in our lives. Anything worth having is never easy to attain. I know & accept this and I just get on with whatever I have to do to reach my goals. The alternative to not doing it is something I just not willing to accept.

    1. Sometimes we just need someone to listen and set us back on course. OR, give us permission to do something we hadn’t done before.
      You’re right, though. I have a strict “No Whining” policy in my workshops, classes, and with my clients.

  5. I must be weird: I want this so badly, that I do something daily no matter how trivial it seems. Everything adds up, just like push ups and a walked step.
    Keep trudging, keep creating, keep painting, keep going. You never know when you will have a breakthrough to help push you more: a communication, eyes on your page(s), whatever it is.
    Like Fiona, I actually find it fun to market my art!

  6. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a creative pasttime for the pure pleasure of it. Not everything should be started with the goal of making money, and not everyone is cut out to be a solo-prenuer.
    Despite the stereotypes of the artist’s life, being a professional artist is hard work.
    The gulf between sand-lot baseball and the NY Mets is vast, and the bridge can’t be built from “shoulds”.

    1. David,
      I hired a copywriter for my photography business. The website is not fully finished as yet, but every step takes it that bit closer.

  7. The key to marketing happens back in your studio.
    Build up a head of steam with your work. Find your the path to those special, personal, intimate excitements that are at the heart of real vision. Then make a big body of work that is honest and visually exciting.
    Once you’ve done all that (which takes years and years) then it becomes obvious to you that YOU OWE IT TO THE WORK you’ve created to find an audience for it. If you have to build that audience one person at a time, that’s OK.
    The art world is inherently unfair. If you’re from a wealthy family or have social connections your progress is of course easier. But there is always something you can do to help your art and your art career along. Some of the steps can actually be kind of fun- having a show of your work for example. Start with the first steps you’re most comfortable with and move out from there.

    1. I love this, Philip! And I say it often: You should be so excited about the work that you can’t wait to get up in the morning and share it with the world.
      But I like the way you put it: YOU OWE IT TO THE WORK. Brilliant.

  8. I’m so grateful for the honest posts! It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who feels like all the other junk gets in the way of my art. I know that the “other junk” is necessary do it helps to hear what others are doing to make marketing a little easier.

    1. Don’t let anything get in the way of making art. Otherwise, there’s nothing to market and no reason for “being.”

  9. You’ve always been so good at stressing the ‘little steps’ type attitude Alyson. 🙂 Whether on the blog or in your classes it’s really helped me. I currently have an overwhelming task of organising my contact addresses in order to send out some invitations. I’m pacing myself by entering 3 or 4 at a time between other tasks. It’ll be done in no time. In fact you encouraged me to do a similar thing on your Get Organized class and I managed to create an entire art database almost without realising it! 😀
    I’ve actually just come through a very long rough period and ‘do 2 things a day’ was my mantra throughout (I was literally incapable of more). It could just be sending one email, or writing one blog post, or a sketch. It all adds up and keeps the marketing machine going, however slowly. Unfortunately I do have a lot of business catch up to do after the past year, which is my motivation in telling other artists to at least do those little things! You’ll be surprised how far simple tasks can take you.

  10. I love the positive ideas in this post and the comments!
    It IS possible to have a successful art career/business but it’s hard work -as you so clearly and honestly say.
    I’ve found that realistic optimism is one of the most useful attitudes to cultivate for success and for learning something new and asking for help in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

  11. Amazing Alyson and Awesome Artists,
    Sometimes, we have to give ourselves permission to whine. Sometimes we have to give up and go inward and do nothing or do ‘time wasting’ things or whatever thing that is not what ‘we are supposed’ to do, in order to get back to the focused and laser pointed path of our soul’s true work.
    You have full permission to whine…in order to show you what you don’t want (whining), in order to get back on the magnificent track of miracles. 😀 I call this many things – ‘traveling through a dark tunnel’ and ‘snake skin shedding’. The snake is incredibly irritated, sad, and frustrated when it sheds its skin. After the skin is shed, the snake is bigger and the skin is iridescent. ‘Whining’ is the snake skin shedding phase. After you finish (maybe for some it takes a few thousand skin sheddings) you market with gusto and everyone loves your iridescent skin!!!
    Shining One, now go, adventure, explore, marvelously market, and paint the town rainbow.
    Yes, some places will say ‘no’. but then you simply say ‘next’! The more NOs you get the more likely you will get to YES! It really is fun to meet people in person at shows that you have.
    Have a beautiful day!

  12. Pingback: Acknowledge & Celebrate Your 2011 Accomplishments — Art Biz Blog

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