Feel Better About the M Word

Marketing. Maaaarrrrrrketing. MARKETING!

There’s something about that word that shakes us up.

Marketing is something that direct-mailers and telemarketers do. They didn’t teach marketing in art school and you certainly won’t read about it in art history books or artist biographies.

It’s the dirty deed that we all had to do, but no one admitted to in the past.

But marketing doesn’t have to make us bristle. Here are some ways for you to feel better about the M word.

Carolin Peters, Mind, Body, Spirit
©2006 Carolin Peters, Mind, Body, Spirit (triptych). Oil on canvas, 48 x 92 inches.


Do introduce yourself as an artist.
Do share.
Do focus on others.
Do inform.


Don’t beg for attention.
Don’t request action from people who don’t know you.
Don’t be greedy.

Feeling better about the M word?

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20 thoughts on “Feel Better About the M Word”

  1. Just when I was feeling the start of the Christmas art marketing blues, I wake up to this sage advice. Alyson, you’ve done it again! Thank you for the reminder do’s and don’ts.
    There were two items in this newsletter that really struck a cord with me. The first was that amazing image (and scale of it) by Carolin Peters, and then the little line, “MAKE GREAT WORK….”
    That was the best reminder for me. Some galleries that rep my work have requested “small works” for special pre-Christmas collector shows. Small work = smaller price generally. For me, small work = missing the scale that my subject matter needs.
    I’ve been struggling with these eight little pieces – 12×12’s for wayyyy to long. I usually work in much larger scale, and these “little things” are driving me crazy and have been in the studio for way too long. Nothing I seem to do to them is making me feel like they are “great work”, and in the time that I have been stressing about this, I could have been working on something truly inspiring.
    I realized this morning when I read this post, that part of marketing is also knowing WHO you are and what you do best – what really drives your artistic crank. I’m vowing now, to viciously self-edit where the galleries are concerned and learn (again) when to say, “Thank you – but no. I don’t do that.” 🙂

    1. Excellent point, Janice. That should be added to the list:
      “Do know who you are and what you do best.” That gives you the confidence you need to move forward.

  2. “Don’t request action from people who don’t know you.”…..?…..huh?
    If I don’t know gallery owners, magazine editors et al, how does one ask for shows etc without it being a request for action? Isn’t part of the catch22 of the art world that they show people they know?

    1. Beth: The reason that asking for shows doesn’t usually work is because a gallery is unfamiliar with you. If you become known to them before asking for anything you’ll have much better luck.
      Your question is a good one and is something I hadn’t considered when I wrote this. I was mostly thinking of “please vote for me” emails or “please look at my art” emails that I receive.
      There’s probably a better way to phrase what I wrote. Thank you for making me think.

  3. Now that you have brought this up though, how does one become familiar with a gallery that is not in their area, especially when they make themselves impossible to reach?

  4. Harriete Estel Berman

    Thank you to Alyson for putting the Don’ts into words:
    Don’t beg for attention. It’s kind of icky to plead for fans, followers, and subscribers.
    Resist the urge to blast everyone with a “vote for me” email.
    Don’t request action from people who don’t know you.
    I’ve been watching these “Don’ts” pop up everywhere, all day long. I been paralyzed by watching this flood erode good will.

  5. Happy Birthday ArtBizBlog!
    As I see it, offering an opportunity to view one’s work is not the same as pleading for a vote. I think it’s fine to invite but annoying to ask for a response or action before having made a connection. I don’t mind seeing announcements about where one’s work is being shown (whether virtually or really) as long as I don’t have to publicly announce my intent to “join” (as occurs with facebook invites which are pervasive and tacky) in general.
    I have an acquaintance who sells Mary Kay. Every so often I get one of her emails announcing a sale. I don’t use Mary Kay but I am not annoyed because 1) she’s someone with whom I want to maintain good will and 2) the announcements only require action if the recipient wants to buy something.
    Ok, now to marketing. Which isn’t selling or so I’m told. Marketing is not something that makes me stand up and cheer. Perhaps I’d be good at it if I felt more positive about it. But I don’t and I’m not and it’s a chore I don’t feel comfortable with. Thus I have decided to try and work with an intern (or class project?) at a local university where I’m an adjunct (science not art, though). Thus I have decided to assign some of December to the writing of a cogent proposal to present to whomever teaches marketing and ask for their assistance. I’m hoping I can connect with a marketing professor before the start of the new semester but I’ve yet to identify anyone in the Business School – so that’ll also be a December assignment.
    I figure if I can’t do it well given both my time and inclination parameters, I should try to find someone who can – while I learn how to do it and how to embrace it.

  6. Very nicely put, Alyson. Marketing is something most artists struggle with or don’t even consider. It’s really all about realizing your value, building confidence and then learning how to ‘be’ in the world. And of course, if you’re an artist … marketing’s part of that ‘being’ in the world. Marketing, with grace and integrity can be a lot of fun – it can be as artistic as painting! Cheers, Susan

    1. You have got to be kidding. I am a poet. I publish. Marketing is not as fun as you say, as actual creative work. For me. At all. Publishers used to publish and now want a marketing plan to buy some work. Now agents want a publishing plan from the writer to represent him. This is not fun, nor progess. It is horrible, and if someone enjoys it, more power to them. However, I will always be a write rand never a marketer.

    2. Katie,
      I feel your pain. While I understand and fully accept marketing to be a part of the *commercial* end of my photography business, it creeps me out to the EXTREME that FINE ART photography forums etc now have classes / workshops on “branding” et alia. Something is definitely amiss there, and embracing it may be necessary, but it is whistling past the graveyard, as the phrase goes.
      This should not be about who is the best at marketing, or who has the swankiest promotional materials, or who could afford to hire a publicist, or even who went to the most well connected school, but this is what it largely has become.

  7. I think the key word is sharing. If you are excited about what you are doing and want to, and can share it in an interesting, consistent, but respectful way, then put it out there. It does take alot of time and energy and sometimes I put more of it out there than others, but when I am in the groove with marketing, it is fun.

  8. Pingback: We’re Darn Lucky — Art Biz Blog

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