I recently had the great pleasure to sit down for a wonderful conversation with my friend, Libby John who hosts the "Art & Faith Conversations" podcast. We talked about my new book, Created to Thrive along with alot of the back story that has brought me to where I am today as an artist.
Listen to the podcast here or by searching "Art & Faith Conversations" under Podcasts on iTunes or Stitcher.
Starting Mid-May, 2018, you can connect with me via my new podcast, "The Thriving Christian Artist". It's for artists who want to bust through roadblocks that have held them back for years, create the art they love and live the life the they know God created them to live as an artist in His Kingdom.
During each season of the podcast, I'll be sharing encouraging teaching and inspiration from my own journey as an artist plus interviews with both emerging and established artists in every creative medium who are thriving artistically, spiritually and in their business.
You can listen, subscribe and review my podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, GooglePlay or my website www.MattTommeyMentoring.com/podcast
I’ve encountered many artists over the years who really struggle with stepping into thriving because they don’t understand one foundational concept: convergence. Thriving isn’t simply doing one or two things well, but rather doing the right things well at the same time, over time. Although that might seem like a juggling act – and it can feel that way some times – it’s not as out of reach as you think.
Here’s what typically happens with artists. They get two out of the three areas but forgetting that third, continue to struggle. For example, artists who are great artistically and have a strong spiritual connection end up having only a hobby or ministry because they don’t pursue the development of their art business. Artists who are great artistically and have a strong business sense often flourish in the marketplace with their sales but sometimes lack a deep spiritual connection and sense of life in their art practice. Then there’s artists who are deeply connected spiritually and have built a business but their artwork is lacking, leading to immature work and frustration.
For artists who want to pursue their art in the marketplace in the context of their relationship with God, thriving happens when they are growing artistically, spiritually and in their businesses. Each feeds the other and provides momentum for the journey. This place of convergence is what I call your “sweet spot” and it should be a goal for every artist who wants to thrive spiritually, artistically and financially.
This place of convergence is the focus of my artist mentoring program, Created to Thrive. For more information on how to be a part, visit www.matttommeymentoring.com/artist-mentoring
I was talking to a friend the other day who happens to be quite an accomplished artist and a real spiritual father to many creatives around the world. We were chatting about our mutual passion to help artists thrive and, knowing I work with many hobbyist and emerging artists, posed the following question:
"How do you tell someone who is mediocre and not really called (or ready) to make his living with his art (simply because it will never sell) that perhaps God gave you the passion for art just to enjoy and glorify Him with, but it is not your calling to make it your financial sustenance?"
It's a great question and I'm sure the reason no one talks much about it is because it can be a really sensitive issue for the artist... No one wants to have that hard conversation with an artist who's thinking they are ready to take on the world when in reality, they are still stumbling around with the basics. And then sometimes, there are those really hard cases that almost seem like the American Idol auditions where someone thinks they are God's gift to art when in reality, there's not much there but desire and belief.
As I've thought about it, I hope these ideas will help you navigate your own artistic calling and season in that journey.
When it comes to art marketing, there can be a lot of confusion about what works, what doesn't and where to start. Whether you're a seasoned, experienced artist who's been creating for many years or a hobbyist just trying to take it to the next level, knowing how to sell your art is of primo importance!
Art Marketing is about the "Special Factor"
I've had the privilege of creating sculpture both part-time and full-time for almost 25 years. After moving to Asheville, North Carolina in 2009, I opened a studio in the River Arts District and began selling my work full-time. Like a lot of artists, I did the typical things like running around to craft shows, selling wholesale to shops and "hoping" for customers. For me - and remember, everyone's different - that kind of selling drove me crazy! Shows were fickle, my work didn't sell great in stores or galleries because I wasn't there to talk about it and the hope strategy... well, let's just say that doesn't work. Hope is not a viable strategy for how to sell your art.
Thankfully, because of my background in marketing and the fact that I am a people person, I recognized early on in my full-time art career that people pay top dollar for 2 things: special and connection. What does that mean, you ask?
First of all, people are willing to pay a premium for things they feel are out of the ordinary, unique or special, especially if they align with their values. Now keep in mind, we're not talking about your average Wal-mart shopper here. I'm talking about people who are genuinely interested in your art and have the means to pay for it. When your work and your reputation is seen as something to be noticed, something to be valued, not ordinary or run-of-the-mill, all of a sudden, people start to take notice. That's what happened to me. I create sculpture primarily for luxury mountain homes and I love it. One of the things I did to help leverage the "special factor" of my work was to make a decision to install all my own work (when possible) and ask if I could take pictures once installed. Consequently, I have tons of gorgeous images of my work in multi-million dollar homes. Now, when prospective buyers are considering my work, they immediately see "Wow, this guy's work is special... look at who's buying his work." It lets my customers know that I'm someone to be collected and considered worthy of a significant investment.
Art Marketing is about Authentic Connection
The other huge concept I employ in my business naturally, because I enjoy building relationships with people, is connection. I've found over the years that people who are making a significant investment in a piece of art want more than just a commoditized retail experience. They want a relationship. By and large, whether it's buying my work or the work of friends of mine who are painters, sculptors, ceramicists, jewelers or whatever, clients who are serious about purchasing hand-made, original art really enjoy building relationships with the artists from whom they purchase. It's fun for them and for us to get to know them, what they like, what they like about our work and deepen that relationship over time through multiple purchases and referrals to their friends.
I have a studio here in Asheville's River Arts District which is open 6 days a week to the public. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to hear one of my clients coming through the door with a friend or out of town visitor saying something like "Oh, this is the guy I was telling you about..." All of a sudden, they've become my marketing department and a genuine friend.
This same kind of connection is very important even if you're selling through strategic partners like interior designers or gallery / shop owners. Take time to go visit them, learn what sells in their stores, understand their clientele and then work to make them look great! I have a friend up who has a beautiful furniture store in a very wealthy area and she has a trunk show for me every couple of years. That one relationships has produced more than any other relationship in my art career simply because every time I go to that area, I stop by and say hello. I send flowers after a referral. I treat her customers very well. Yes, you guessed it: I'm building connection.
3 Tips for Your Art Marketing
If you're wanting to employ the special factor and connection into your art marketing strategy, I'd recommend starting with the following:
Art Marketing is Much More Than Selling
Listen, marketing your art and yourself is much more than simply learning how to sell your art. It's about creating an image that reflects your uniqueness in the niche you're targeting and then working to build authentic connections within that niche of clients, partners and prospects. Learn to do that well and you'll never struggle to sell your artwork. If you don't, you'll be reduced to doing what everyone else does, shlepping around your stuff to every art or craft show that will let you in, wondering who's going to buy your widget this time. You can thrive if you'll focus on the special factor and on building connection.
My absolute favorite marketing video that exemplifies this way of selling is below called "A Tour Guide to the Two Plants: NEO & Traditional." Do yourself a favor and watch it. Then comment below to let me know your thoughts. Also, for more strategies on how to sell your art, check out my artist mentorship program called "Created to Thrive". Tons of teaching videos, activities and a private Facebook community as well as live q/a sessions with me to help you thrive as an artist.
I hope you're full of faith and expectation for an incredible 2018!
To help you along that journey, I wanted to share a simple tool that I use in my Created to Thrive mentoring program called "What's Working, What's Not & What's Next".
It's a simple 5-page PDF that will help you evaluate where you are and where you want to go this year. Consider this my new year's gift to you! I'm praying this year will be your best year ever! Just download it here and then let me know how you're using it by commenting below.
How to Sell Art...
First of all, this is a huge question but surprisingly simple. It's simple because it has to be based on you, the artist. How do you like to sell your art? I've found over the years, there are basically two ways to sell your art: direct to the customer or through a strategic partner (or, I admit it... a combination of both). It's really important to understand which strategy is most effective for you when you're asking how to sell art.
When I first started asking how to sell art, I did what most artists do and looked to others who I saw being successful and modeled them. Unfortunately for me, their model didn't work for me. Many of the artists I knew were introverts who enjoyed mostly making in their studio rather than interacting with the public. Consequently, they had adopted a wholesale methodology which required them to make production items, sell at a 50% discount, sell through stores and galleries, and never have any interaction with their end user. For me, as an extroverted people person, that was very unfulfilling. When I made beautiful work and faced the reality of packing it up and shipping it off to a gallery far far away, that gave me no emotional payoff, which for me is an important part of being an artist. I love hearing people say "Oh my gosh, that is so beautiful! I love it!" Without that, I was missing something huge!
The other methodology I saw most artists doing included doing as many retail craft and art shows as possible. They seemed to live on the road. In the summers, they were in the mountains and in the winter, they all headed to Florida. Always on the road, always staying in hotels or travel trailers. Again, not my idea of a beautiful artistic life.
For me, I chose to pursue selling my art through a public studio in Asheville's River Arts District, a collection of over 200 artists in 23 old warehouse buildings in Asheville, North Carolina. It's a mecca for artists and art lovers, as well as wealthy retirees who like to incorporate local art into their homes. I get to make, sell and interact all out of my studio. I deliver most of my commissioned works and I get a high level of interaction with my clients. We build relationships. They visit the studio with friends and for me, that's huge!
So what's the bottom line? You have to determine how to sell art for yourself based on how your wired, what you're creating and the life you want. Without being clear about those questions, you'll end up really frustrated. If you're going to be an artist, you want to do so while living a beautiful, creative and fulfilled life.
Where You Sell Your Art...
Now you understand why these two questions go together. How you sell art ends up determining where you sell your art. There's no cookie cutter plan that works for everyone. As you consider where to sell your art, make sure you craft a strategy that fits how you like to create, sell and live life. The artist life is not just about cranking out product, but about authentically creating your work, connecting with others who love what you do and making a profit.
That being said, here are some of my best recommendations:
Where to Sell Your Art For Artists Who Want to Sell Direct To Clients:
We talk about these issues every day in my Created to Thrive Artist Mentorship Program and over the last year, I've created several in-depth teaching videos on this subject based on my own experience and the experience of hundreds of artists I've helped over the years. Find out more about becoming a part of my artist mentorship program here.
Also, let me know what's working for you! Comment below and let's keep the conversation going.
I can remember it like it was yesterday.
I was sitting in a gallery demonstrating my work at an art walk in Waynesville, North Carolina... Just minding my own business, when all of a sudden this guy walks up to one of my pieces and said with a gasp "It's like the hands of God are reaching out to me saying I've got everything under control."
I wondered to myself "What just happened?" and then all of a sudden it hit me. This guy just had an encounter with the living God through one of my baskets. I thought "Woo hoo, Jesus loves kudzu, too!!"
Is that even possible? Absolutely!
When you invite the Holy Spirit into your creative process, He will literally come move through the work of your hands. Your work becomes much more than just the sum of it's parts... it becomes an intersection point where God can show up and release the light and life of His presence!
If you've never experienced this kind of demonstration of God's love through your work, there's no time like the present! The next time you create, invite the Holy Spirit to be present, in and through your work. Create with all your heart, listen for His voice and then respond. After you're done, watch what he does with the work of your hands.
When God shows up, things change and He wants to use you to release that transformation.
Has something like this ever happened to you? Share your story of transformation below and let's encourage one another!
Matt Tommey is a world-class sculptor, speaker and author who is passionate about helping artists to thrive spiritually, financially and creatively.