A body of work is the result of a life lived – No one’s life experience is the same. One’s life journey is as individual as one’s fingerprints. If you were reborn and lived your life over, it would not be the same path. Your life is ultimately your art. When you buy my artwork, you are buying a piece of my life.
My life’s path lead me to be on the porch of a 100 year old farmhouse on Prince Edward Island, camera on hand when this scary storm cloud came thundering across the farm fields and over a lighthouse.
Each day is born with a sunrise
and ends in a sunset, the same way we
open our eyes to see the light,
and close them to hear the dark.
You have no control over
how your story begins or ends.
But by now, you should know that
all things have an ending.
Every spark returns to darkness.
Every sound returns to silence.
And every flower returns to sleep
with the earth.
The journey of the sun
and moon is predictable.
is your ultimate
― Suzy Kassem
I happened to be at this particular location in Clinton, Connecticut experiencing a beautiful summer sunset because after a long day of helping my parents pack up their belongs for a permanent move to Florida, I decided we all needed to get out of the house for a break.
As a fine art photographer, I’ve chosen to share my particular life journey. When you buy one of my fine art photographs you are buying my unique life experience, my unique perspective on the world and my unique vision of what to share.
Chasing trains around the Connecticut River Valley lead me to this intriguing, tortured, boat launch in Pratt Cove, Deep River.
Photographs taken in the field are a result of my travels in a particular year, on a particular day, captured in my particular style, edited in my particular way. You are buying the expense, effort and drive required to reach that particular vantage point and the experience which brings about a certain lens, focal point, aperture selection, composition and view.
My vintage tractor series could only exist at this time of my life as I’ve landed in the rural Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire after living in places as far flung as Hawaii, Kansas, Germany, Virginia, Maine, Massachusetts, Georgia, New Jersey and New Hampshire.
My studio work brings forth my personal artistic vision to the arrangement of elements in the frame – be it a dog, person or objects, as well as the physical control of the lighting, lens choice, focal point, composition etc.
My series of dog photographs would not have existed without the request for a dog by my wife and son followed by dog models provided by my son’s friends.
You are buying the time and effort behind an image created without any guarantee of reward. As such that is fine art photography. Images created for no other client than the artist.
Each image is the result of the artist’s life experiences, travels, influences, training and background. Imagery forge by the places traveled, books read, course taken, trials and experiments, successes and failure and a life time observation.
Becoming Famous – Recently a new seller on Fine Art America asked how they could become a famous photographer. They had to desire to become a famous photographer and simply wanted someone to tell they how.
Is there some formula for becoming famous? Does fame only require a desire? How many photographers are famous to begin with? I wonder if the average person can even name any famous photographers past Ansel Adams?
Famous photographers became famous either by the subjects they photographed such as the amazing celebrity portraits by Annie Leibovitz or Richard Avedon. Or creating masterful landscapes of the American West like Ansel Adams or exploring the role of women in society through self portraits like Cindy Sherman or family dynamics and relationships like Sally Mann, who also creates incredibly unique landscapes using cameras and techniques from the Civil War era.
Or one of my favorite photographers of all time Diane Arbus who documented the fringes of society, midgets, circus performers, strippers, nudists and others who tend to stay in the shadows of society.
Fame as a photographer is not about having the best equipment or the latest camera gear. It is certainly not about taking photographs on vacation or of your cat. Famous photographers become famous because they have a unique vision and great ideas.
The ideas behind the images are more important that the equipment or even how many photographs sell.
To garner fame as a photographer, your best bet is to come up with an intriguing subject matter to explore. Create a series and body of work around that subject/topic. Create enough for a book and touring exhibit.
Get noticed for your unique and compelling ideas. It’s is the subject, topic and concepts that will get noticed, not the sharpness of your lens or the saturation of your colors. Famous photographers become famous by presenting a unique view of the world and creating compelling stories to share.
Today it is rather easy to offer your photography for sale but are you ready to actually sell your work?
Selling Photography – These days it is so easy to set up an account with a POD such as Fine Art America or Pixels that I have to wonder if camera manufacturers will be begin trying to market cameras as a cash machine.
So many camera owners (notice I didn’t say photographers) seem to think all it takes to sell their photography is pointing their camera at something, uploading the images and voila! people will buy.
Most of them find it not so easy to sell their snapshots. Sure maybe once in a while they get lucky and someone buys one of their garden flower photos or their “Look! I saw a duck!” type images but I’d say the serious art buyer is looking for more depth than a camera operator. They want some proof that they are buying from a serious artist.
What’s missing from the typical amateur cameraman goes beyond quality. Professional quality is that base line standard as you are competing on a world market with professional photographers. Beyond basic quality standards, buyers are also looking for :
A unique vision
A body of work
Quality buyers see right through a facade of someone simply trying to cash in with their latest camera purchase. By looking at an artist’s work you can tell if this person is a weekend warrior who dusts off his camera a few times a year when off to the next national park or cruise trip vs. a working artist.
Art comes down to authenticity. Is the photography a result of an intended, well-thought out, pre-visualized idea? Or is it just a lucky shot? Is the photographer authentic, do they know their subjects, have they spent years learning about their subjects? Does their passion for the subject show through their images or are they simple recording their travels not really seeing the essence of what they are photographing?
Look at their body of work. Is it a bunch of random images toss together or do you see a reoccurring pattern of ideas and concepts? Do you see a unique vision or simply a collection of random snapshots?
Personally I can’t stand gallery shows that have a single image from a number of artists as it is not until you see a series of images from the same artist or photographer that you can understand their vision. The amateur photographs portfolio will be all over the place while in the profession or more serious artist, you’ll see a unique pattern as they display their vision of the world.
I think buyers pick up on this intuitively. They prize images from serious artists pursuing their own unique vision over the random snapshot.
Would be photography sellers would be advised to work on their own personal vision before attempting to sell their work. Develop a body of work with a distinctive style before expecting someone to pay for it.
Besides fine art photography prints, canvas, framed artwork. metal prints and other wall art choices, we also have designs intended for t-shirts and other products such as tote bags.
See the entire line of artwork intended for tees (but can be purchase as wall art and on other products such as throw pillows, tote bags, phone cases, towels and more). https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/art/tee
Here are a few of the recently purchase t-shirt designs in the collection.
T-shirts can be purchased in a variety of colors and sizes from Toddler to Adult as well as a variety of styles.
A video posted by SketchoftheDay (@sketchofthedays) on
My high school senior recently found out that he was accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design starting in the Fall of 2017. He attended the RISD Pre-college six week intensive program last summer and worked on his portfolio up to the last minute deadline of earlier acceptance.
At this point in their creative careers, Caffrey Fielding and friends are exploring anything and everything. Their creative output is amazing. No thoughts of commercial aspects, simply experimenting and testing out various mediums.
Here he is creating a huge charcoal self portrait for his RISD portfolio.
And plein air pasteling along the Connecticut River.
Selling Artwork – Christmas 2017 Art Selling Season Starts Now
Sell More Artwork By Planning Ahead – One of my families favorite Christmas season movies is “Elf” and there is a scene at the end where Santa tells the elves “congratulations for a great Christmas”. They all cheer and then get back to work on next year’s Christmas! No rest for the weary at the North Pole.
A friend of mine is a product designer for the electronics industry. Early January he is always crushed with business producing mock ups for the February trade shows.
All across the toy industry, designers are finalizing their designs for next year’s toys which will be manufactured all summer. Cooking magazine art directors are putting the final touches on their Halloween photoshoots right now. Book publishers are meeting with Christmas themed book writers in late winter.
The point is that the Christmas selling season starts now – not in December 2017.
Missed Out On The Christmas Buying Spree? What Are You Going To Do About It
Ok, many of you are not experiencing a jump in sales this Christmas season and perhaps are discouraged by hearing about other artists enjoying increased sales this season. Let’s face it the moment after you congratulate someone on a sale, the first thought is what do they have that I ain’t got?
So what are you going to do about it to build your business up to be ready to take advantage of more sales next Holiday season? Are you just going to droop your head down and say whoa is me? Or are you going to make a plan? How about a real business plan? For many of us this is a business, its time to start acting as such.
1. Are you going to analysis your offerings and offer more of what people want to buy and less of what only you like?
2. Are you going to increase your social networking efforts?
3. Are you going to get an artist website and blog?
4. Are you going to increase the number of markets you participate in?
5. Are you going to improve your skills and offer better work?
6. Create more places where people can buy your work?
7. Communicate with potential buyers?
8. Stop spending valuable time commiserating with others who are not selling?
9. Stop blaming your lack of sales on things like the economy, or slow networks, or Amazon, or the world that is conspiring against you?
10. Are you going to DO SOMETHING about it?
How about it? Anyone got any action plans for 2017? You better because your competition does and they working hard to create great art and marketing for the upcoming Christmas season that starts today.
About the Author
Artist Edward M. Fielding is a successful artist/designer/photographer on Fine Art America, Pixels and other POD sites as well as an International stock image supplier whose work has been featured in magazines and on book covers around the globe. His whimsical books of dog photos can be found on Amazon.com.
Getting more people to see your artwork and hopefully purchase it
Art does not sell within a vacuum. And art can’t be purchase without first being seen. The more people who see your work, the more potential your artwork as to being sold. How do you get more people to see your work? Are all viewers equal? How do you generate organic traffic? What is organic traffic?
In totality there are lots of ways for people to see your work:
On the street
On the Internet
Online there are two main ways to generate “traffic” the generic and cold term for web site visitors (i.e. people who might buy your work). Offline at retail space this “traffic” might be referred to as foot traffic.
The presence and movement of people walking around in a particular space. Foot traffic is important to many types of businesses, particularly retail establishments, as higher foot traffic can lead to higher sales. Strategies businesses can use to increase their foot traffic include holding grand openings and other promotional events such as demonstrations, giveaways, sales and charitable fundraisers.
First the terms: organic traffic vs. paid traffic:
Organic traffic generally refers to non-paid traffic, so includes traffic from:
Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Referral traffic from other sites – visitors arriving at your site after clicking on a link on another website.
Direct traffic – someone typing in your URL into a browser.
Blogs – links from blogs describing your process or artwork
News – links from press releases, news articles and other press about your work.
YouTube – referrals and links from your YouTube or Vimeo videos.
Such traffic is all achievedorganically, rather than through a source of advertising or paid promotion of some kind.
On the other hand…
Paid traffic is where you are spending money to attract those visitors to your website. This might include:
Using paid listings on search engines.
Paying to promote your content/link on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and give it a much wider audience.
Showing ads on other sites around the net, usually using an ad network like Google’s Display Ads within Adwords.
Visitors arriving at your site because of an affiliate program you run, i.e. incentives others to link through to your site in return for monetary compensation of some kind, usually either on a sale or some other user action after they arrive.
Ninety percent of selling is conviction, and 10 per cent is persuasion. – Shiv Khera
Not All Traffic Is Created Equal
Of course not all traffic is created equal. Consider the value of a targeted mailing to active art buyers vs. a mailing to the general public. Or the value of a person walking into a high end gallery in NYC vs. someone walk into the decor section at Pier One. Two different buyers with vastly different sales potential and people who will most likely be attuned to a different sale pitch.
The expectations of the person walking into a high end art gallery are different than the Pier One customer. The gallery patron is expecting artwork of a certain quality and price point, as is the random Pier One customer. The Pier One customer is not expecting one of a kind work or a one of a kind artwork price point. While the gallery patron is looking for something exclusive and perhaps something that will be of investment grade artwork.
But compare this to someone who simply wandered into each store randomly as they were looking to have their shoes shined. They weren’t looking for artwork to buy and they might not even appreciate artwork. And besides they only have $20 in their pocket to get their shoes shined and perhaps pick up a newspaper and cup of coffee.
It would take a heck of a lot more salesmanship to sell some art to this random person.
Creating Targeted Traffic
This is why you want to create targeted traffic to your artwork. Targeted means you are messaging people who are in the market for what you are selling. You can do this in two ways. One – push messages at people who have been identified as members of your target market – usually this can only be done via demographics such as sex, age, income etc.
Art magazines are a good example of an advertising environment that includes a rich targeted audience for artwork messaging. But you will also get a lot of people within that audience who are other artists trying to sell their own stuff. In the magazine world they call this “concentration” and sell advertising based on this concentrated audience. For example they might show audience stats to a gallery showing that “30 percent of readers have purchased art in the past year” or something.
But this type of traffic has several drawbacks:
It costs money
It depends on the effectiveness of your advertising material
You never really know if traffic you are paying for matches your artwork.
There is a lot of fake traffic – bots, third world country click farms.
Salesmanship is limitless. Our very living is selling. We are all salespeople. James Cash Penney
Organic Traffic: Striking Gold
Self-selected, organic traffic is the gold standard of web traffic. People who discover your artwork on their own, from their own explorations.
Your job as an artist, small business person, entrepreneur, art marketer and art salesperson is to create material that will attract people and potential buyers to your artwork.
Ideas for generating organic traffic to your artwork:
Create YouTube videos showing your process
Describe your process, motivation,
Announce shows, openings, new series, sales
Use social media – everything and anything – Facebook, Google+, Instagram – engage your audience and build a following.
Teach and give workshops
Send out postcards and news articles.
Write blog entries and promote your ideas.
“If you take a print magazine with a million person circulation, and a blog with a devout readership of 1 million, for the purpose of selling anything that can be sold online, the blog is infinitely more powerful, because it’s only a click away.” – Timothy Ferriss
Build a funnel to channel organic traffic to your artwork
The goal is to use every avenue you can think of to attract potential customers to your artwork where hopefully they will fall in love with it and purchase a print or product.
Increase awareness of you, your brand, your artwork. Make sure potential buyers understand that your work is for sale.
Create interest in your work by letting your follows behind the scenes so they can see how you create your work. Show our process.
Help potential buyers purchase our work by explaining the various products available so they can make a decision.
Lastly have an easy to use method of completing the sales transactions.
How I became a successful selling artist
I sell regularly on Fine Art America but it took me many years of building up an audience and filling the funnel to get to this point. Filling the funnel can take years before it starts paying off. The good news is most people give up after a few months so for those who stick to it, you’ll reap the benefits.
As a successful seller on Fine Art America and Pixels, I’m often asked for advice from other artists trying to get an online business off the ground.
Art is Business
First of all the key word is “business”. My career in the arts started about 35 years ago when I first fell in love with photography at a summer camp. We shot film and developed it in a dark bag on a picnic table. Later in high school I got my first SLR and darkroom experience. Practicality took me to Boston Universities business school but I still shot film and developed prints in my closet darkroom as I studied the great photographers in BUs extensive library of photography books.
So I ended up with a business degree and a career in the publishing industry. Later when I left the publishing world to dedicate my time to my fine art career, I brought the knowledge of the business world and market research world with me. After all – Art is Business.
As an artist, one can not pretend that art is all about self-expression, freedom and ignorant bliss. You have to recognize that art is a marketplace like any other. There are needs that need to be fulfilled. There are buyers and sellers. There is an exchange of money for a product. The artist is in a sense a factory that produces a product just like any other product and the collector is a buyer of that product. If you produce items that have no market, you won’t be successful.
And you have to consider the over all market size for your art/product. It could be that there are thousands of people out their clamoring for your specific type of artwork. Or there might only be one person in the world who wants exactly what you have to offer.
Price accordingly. If the there are thousands of people looking for your art than you can sell them items with low mark up. Maybe mugs are the way to go. Maybe there are thousands of people looking for your art on a mug so you can make $1 on each one and net $1,000 for your effort and you can sell out in a day.
Or maybe there is only one elusive person on the planet who “gets” your work. Now to find this person will take considerable time and effort. You will have to spend a lot of money (in the form of time and maybe advertising) to find this buyer. You will need to cut through all of the clutter and grab their attention at the right time. Hopefully not just after they’ve spent all of their money on a different artist.
So after years of searching for this buyer and after convincing them that your work is worthy of their attention and money, what are you going to sell them? A coffee mug?
Sell The Gallery Not The Gift Shop
I see a lot of my fellow artists on Fine Art America clamoring for the site to sell things like calendars or coaster or some other low end product. I think it comes about for a few reasons:
They aren’t currently selling the products offered at the moment
They always dreamed about seeing their art on X,Y,Z
They think the addition of another product might be just the thing for their art to start selling
My strategy has always been to take the high road. Low end products can be there, in the gift shop so to speak, but my main goal is to sell prints.
I work with the idea that my work is going to hang on someone’s wall. This is how I approach my work. This is what motivates me to get up in the morning on a cold snowy day and hike out to an old red barn in rural Vermont to capture a winter landscape.
This is why I spend thousands of dollars on travel expenses and equipment and put in the hours of processing time. I’m doing this work to create art prints which have a decent profit built in to pay for my time and effort.
I’m not doing this to sell a greeting card, mug or beach towel. If those gift shop items happen to sell then so be it but that is not my focus. This is what I mean buy selling the gallery not the gift shop.
You sell the movie not the popcorn. Sell the main event not the side card. Sell the candidate not the red trucker hats. Sell the car not the fuzzy dice.
I license my work to greeting card companies, book publishers, magazine editors etc. This is the way to get your work on these products, created in the 10s of thousands. If your work is up to industry standards then there is a market for it on consumer products. This is different than self publishing in a vanity site. If your work is puzzle quality then seek out a puzzle publisher and license your work to them. They know the market, they know the buyers. Far too many artist try to reinvent the wheel by going it alone and trying handle every aspect of the various markets, many of them not having any understanding of how that market works.
I suggest seeking out the experts in the various sales channels, people who have years experience in that industry. Concentrate on selling high end products of your work, leave the gift shop items to themselves or the experts in those areas.
When it comes to selling your artwork, concentrate on the high end, not the low end. Be professional and value your work.
PODs or Print On Demand is just one of the amazing technologies we enjoy in the Internet fueled economy. POD can pertain to book or artwork is basically affordable custom manufacturing. Products created only when the customer places an order.
Print on demand (POD) is a printing technology and business process in which copies of a book (or other document) are not printed until an order has been received, allowing books to be printed singly, or in small quantities. While build to order has been an established business model in many other industries, “print on demand” developed only after digital printing began, because it was not economical to print single copies using traditional printing technology such as letterpress and offset printing.
Before digital printing it would have been prohibitively expensive to produce a one off product. Imagine going to a letterpress shop and asking the printer for a quote to print a single business card or a single wedding invitation. It just wouldn’t happen.
Print On Demand for Authors
Vanity printers have been around for decades. Printers who would print a number of books for a “self-published” author looking to market their own books or perhaps create books as a promotion or giveaway item. These authors were interested in bypassing the traditional mass publishing companies and create products directly. Often this meant living with box loads of books in the garage or storage unit for years.
Now print on demand publishers such as Lulu or Amazon’s CreateSpace can inexpensively inventory and print and ship a book on demand when a buyer wants a single copy. And they can offer these books on vast merchandising sites such as Amazon.
This is the method I used to create and sell my books “the Quotable Westie” and “Pugs”.
The print quality is not what you’d expect from a high quality coffee table book printed in Italy. But the print on demand digital printing method allows the author to offer a unique book at a very affordable price. These little books make great gift items and the quality is acceptable.
For the buyer, POD books allows for more choices and undeserved niches on subjects and topics might never make it to the shelves of a national chain store book merchant.
How To Create POD books
Creating POD books can be a bit tricky but vendors such as Lulu and Createspace offer downloadable templates to use. Straight text is the easiest way to create a book as their are no graphics to format but it is possible to layout a photo or graphic heavy book, page by page in Photoshop. All of the information can be found on the various vendor websites. Cover images can be licensed and cover designers offer their services online. Don’t skimp on the cover as this is the main marketing vehicle for any book.
Coming Up – Part Two of Understanding Print On Demand
In Part Two of Understanding Print On Demand, we’ll discuss buying and selling art via Print On Demand sites for artists and collectors.