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Response to comments in Fine Art Views

Since my blogs were posted in Fine Art Views, amongst the great encouragements, it attracted a number of interesting comments on my experience by fellow artists. The posts can be found here:

Comments raised a number of interesting questions and issues. I would like to compile them here and try to address them in one place so it does not get lost in the crowd.

  • Making small works as a means of creating affordable art (Sandy Askey-Adams)
  • Making artworks for making money (Sandy Askey-Adams)
  • A new artists vs an experienced one with lots of clientele (Barb)
  • Advertising with Google and Facebook (George De Chiara)


Making small works as a means of creating affordable art

One reason for the initiative was to make my art accessible both price wise and literally. My work looks much better in flesh. Also, with the current economic crisis, selling art at higher prices is less likely. So, creating small pieces have benefits for both sides.

Having said that, small pieces are a logistic nightmare to deal with online. You need to photograph each work, edit them, get a name, write a story, load them onto the website, etc. But as people buy them because they are affordable, the nightmare is forgotten. It is worth it!

Making artworks for making money

There is a long precedent going back in time of artists who market their work and themselves successfully. It’s out in the open now that artists generally do this and indeed embrace the marketing aspect of running an art practice. I don’t see anything wrong with this given that artist needs to eat to create.

However, I believe Sandy's reference to “Hacks” still applies. There is a big difference between modifying your practice to accommodate the current economic realities and offer some variety in your price range at exhibitions, etc. and churning them out to sell.

But where do you draw the line, so to speak?

In my 100-day initiative, because they were made in rapid succession and covered some 13 different categories, it quickly became apparent from encouraging emails and the sales, which subjects were in demand.  For instance, the cycling images were popular as well as anything with a mother and child in it.

There is the crux of the problem as I see it. Does one now rush to the studio and trot out tons of mother and child or cycling pieces?

When I was making the initiative pieces often what drove me to create the works was something entirely different from the subject matter. In the cyclist work what grabbed me was the contrast and relationship between human form and the metal shapes of the bikes. This same interest could be explored in different contexts. One image titled “Cardboard Collector” incorporated this same theme but it was unpopular. I could also study it further in what could be a very popular context of mother and pushchair?

I think it is a matter of what sustains you when making your work. This relationship of man and machine interests me and could drive quite a lot of work. I can see lots of possibilities there and I could also explore it across different categories. But to do a series on cycling for cycling sake, I could trot out quite a few but I don’t think I could keep it going no matter how many sold. This is not to say I cannot do a lot of cycling pieces but they would have to be rooted in the area I am interested in. I think, otherwise, the quality and freshness would wane.  So, giving into commercial pressure may be tempting but it carries with it the seeds of artistic self-destruction. I think any serious artist should keep this in mind and the only way to do it is to really understand what you are doing.

A new artists vs an experienced one with lots of clientele

I am a relatively experienced artist but had never gallery representation before. I developed my initial contact list over the years through friends or group exhibitions. Before the initiative, I worked on the contact list for a few months leading up to the launch. I felt I didn’t have a large circle but I found that the initiative gave me something to talk about, a reason to talk to people. In fact, I invited everyone I came across in the weeks prior, my doctor, the people in the local shops, parents in my son’s school, etc. I also printed some flyers and asked people to register.

As usual, in such cases, people are very helpful. Being an artist also attracts extra respect. Nobody takes an artist as a threat. Society in general has this maturity about it. So long as you do not treat people as marketing subjects (that is, as a number), there is no reason they should treat you as such. Of course, I am in Australia and cannot generalize these things but I would imagine this to be similar in other places.

Advertising with Google and Facebook

This is of course not a scientific study but we all know that general advertising without context is a numbers game. I am advertising with both Google and Facebook for the last 6 months. They brought to me around 4000 people at a cost of $AU600. If it generates one sale per 10,000 people then it would worth a piece and break even J As such it does not seem to be a good tool.

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The impact of the 100-day initiative

During the 100-day initiativemany of you have inquired about the impact of the intense work I brought upon myself. Here I will try to sum up the main artistic gains I have obtained from this effort. I have also documented the networking side of things in another blog.

The intense effort of doing so many little pieces in such a short period of time has amplified everything in the studio. Lots of future directions have emerged and I have learnt that future work comes from the current work. The process is not necessarily simply idea and then execution. The drawing activity itself fuels the ideas. It has also taught me helpful work habits and I have become very much more focused and organized with my time and work space.

To create all these pieces I utilized a fabulous resource of eight years worth of sketch books and visual diaries spanning all our experiences of living in Europe and becoming a family.  It was very helpful to catalog these images beforehand into thirteen different series or bodies of works. Once under way it was hard shifting from series to series yet it did ensure there would be variety in the artworks. It’s made it very clear to me for future projects how very important it is that I keep on sketching.  Like Julia Cameron’s comment in “The Artist’s Way” that as an artist you have to “feed the well.” This means noting down all those fruitful experiences for later development.

Each piece I produce requires on-site drawings, idea development, compositional development as well as trial runs and final executions. The final pieces usually require multiple attempts because the media I use is unpredictable. Thankfully because the work for the Initiative was small I was able to sit at the desk to make them and not by standing-up at the easel!!!

Even though my current technique strips some of the details from my drawings, it is a worthy experiment to capture the essence of things. It makes me think about the gesture itself more so than the details. This way I hope to capture the emotion more so than the motion. Amongst the happy accidents of dribbling comes the sharpened focus on the gesture. The gesture is the reflection of thought processes of the living. It therefore amplifies the reasoning behind the thought process and can make the observer of the art work grasp the feelings of the subject.

Probably the very best thing to come from doing this Initiative as an Artist is to be sharing my work with others. Exhibitions are great but way too short. As my posts landed on people’s desks every two days I felt I had a new connection with everyone. People now know what it is that I do. It has generated lots of conversations with everyone on-line and otherwise. Whilst I am aware that I work inside a tradition, and therefore I am never really alone artistically, being in the studio can be very quiet.  So it’s been fantastic to discuss and share my work with others. 

I also hope that I was able to contribute to peoples' lives in whatever small ways I did. Art is a funny way of communicating but it has such fantastic rewards.

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100-day initiative as a means of networking

If art works were the fruits of a tree, exchanging ideas must be the rain falling onto it. Without it, the best art is destined to dry up. One goal of the 100-day initiative was to provide a vehicle through which I met new people, particularly people with new ideas and interests. I can conclusively say that the initiative has reached this goal.

Here in this blog, I would like to record some of the details I discovered so that other artists can learn from my experience.

Concept and credits

The idea first came to us through internet searches, while we were looking to set up my own website. Our research led us to a great web site called Fine Art Studio Online. Apart from offering a web hosting cloud service specifically designed for artists, it offered some interesting marketing advice. Deep down in the web site, we then came across painter Brian Kliewer’s clever project of “100 for $100.” We also found out that another painter in the US, Kelly Medford, had started a similar project just recently. Both posted one work per day for 100 days, an amazing achievement.

The problem, though, was that I was not a still life painter. My work requires an intense development effort before they are borne out. (You can find details of this in another blog I wrote about the artistic impacts of this initiative.) In the end we decided to reduce the number of works to 50 and produce them in small batches: develop idea, produce in lots, post one by one. I ended up producing 125 different images in 10 long sessions in order to post 50 works.

Here are some dry numbers re the initiative:

2, number of people who did the lot (my husband for IT side and I)

50, total number of images posted

54, total number of images posted with variants

82, percentage of posted images sold (as of this writing)

31, percentage of sales on Thursdays (funny stat)

7, number of larger pieces sold as a direct result of the initiative

13, number of subject categories I used

125, total number of pieces produced including variants

10, number of sessions to produce all works

26, percentage of increase in the number of contacts

25, number of people who purchased the small works

3, number of countries works were sold to

7, number of countries in the contact list

25000, approx number of hits 100-day initiative received

3000, approx number of visits it has received

800, approx number of people visited

8.5, average number of page each visitor viewed per visit

I was very careful not to spam my contacts (except for friends :) I have talked to most people face to face or over the phone asking for permission to go onto my newsletter. If this did not happen to some in my newsletter list, it must be an error and not a deliberate action. It took me about a month just to assemble the contact list before the initiative started.

We did not include galleries in the list as we thought they would be interested in the result rather than the journey. Along the way, however, a few galleries joined.

We used Google and Facebook ads which drove a good number of visitors to the site, particularly from Spain, Greece and Italy (in this order). We advertised in the school newsletters around our community. Also used media release channels. To our knowledge, none of these ads led to a sale.

Final points and conclusion

I have really enjoyed doing this even though it was quite hard. The feedback was great. There were quite a number of people who told me that they waited for the next picture with great interest. Some even asked me to continue indefinitely J

This brings out some interesting possibilities. This could actually become a new type of exhibition format. It offers a steady stream of works to its audience in a quality and accessible manner. I will ponder about this in the coming period. It may be that I may repeat this once a year or so with perhaps shorter stints (50-day initiative, 25-day initiative, or something like that). It is a great way for me to develop my art practice and for the audience to enjoy this artistic journey too.

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47. Hand Kissing #1

Kissing hand means many things to many cultures. In a Turkish kid's mind, it usually means "give me the money" during Ramadan Bayram in which childeren are awarded for showing respect to elders.

Related work: Sitting on the beach

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37. On the ramp

Thrill of speed and control is as attractive to watch as it to practice.

Related work: Down
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33. Child on the beach

Mother and child are in different but also same worlds.

Related work: Sitting on the beach
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29. Love you dad!

There are moments where you don't care about the weight.

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23. Love birds

A piece of real life here. Now you're close, now you're not… Secrets are locked in the moment.

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22. Back to back

He is away dreaming in the tram...

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20. Down

There’s a moment, a pause at the top of the ramp just before the decent. It is both a beginning and an end.

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18. Internet head

Internet is a vast space. Will it fit into his head? Or will his legs evolve out before that happens?

Related work: Internet café

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14. Looking down

No, he did not drop something… There is a fascination about the gap going all the way down for children (and adults).

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13. Bank teller

The bank teller blends into the background. The perspex screen which blocks a clear line of communication does not help this situation. It is a reminder that banks are a kind of fortress.

Related work: Post office

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