There’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I speak to so many artists who sincerely want and sometimes even need to be selling their work, but they often describe obstacles that block them from marketing their art with the full level of commitment and excitement it takes to truly succeed. What are these obstacles? More often than not, they’re part of the artist’s temperament or mindset. It can be a lack of confidence in their work, a fear of rejection, an extreme discomfort with the concept of marketing, or perhaps simply not enough know-how about the fundamentals of building awareness and selling art.
In the months ahead, I want to explore this issue in far more depth, but one thing I’d like to recommend is to join forces with other like-minded artists for support and learning. I’ve always been a big proponent of small artist-groups, and helping each other overcome obstacles to success is just one of many benefits you could receive from getting involved in a small group of artists who live near you.
About ten years ago, I had the good fortune to be invited to be part of just such a group, a new group of women artists who intended to meet regularly to discuss art. Two friends and artists had decided it was time to realize a longstanding dream of theirs to create a contemporary “salon,” which is partly how we arrived at the name of our group: Salon 11. Meetings take place one night a month, sometimes at restaurants and sometimes in a member’s home or studio. It’s a very diverse group in terms of art-making styles and subjects, encompassing a couple of seasoned professionals as well as various stages of emerging artists, and meetings occasionally include guests. And one of the most popular topics of conversation is marketing. What an amazing opportunity to share ideas and find out what’s working and what’s not!
If you feel like you could use some consistent real-time interaction with other artists, I would encourage you to put together a discussion group like ours. I asked my fellow members to help me identify our secrets of success so I could share a few tips with you, and here’s what we came up with:
1. Create a vision before you start. What do you want to get out of this? Is your group just about marketing, or is it broader than that? Should it be all women, all men, or a mix? How many members do you want? (We think 10 is the max for our purposes.) Define the group clearly so you can communicate your idea to prospective members.
2. Pick members who have something to offer and are generous enough to share it. You may know many artists, but carefully select who you’re going to invite to be part of your core group based on the group’s purpose. If marketing support is the primary goal, pick only those artists who are dedicated to marketing themselves and enjoy sharing their methods. Keep in mind that you only need two or three to get started because each of them will probably know at least one other artist who will mesh well with the group and its purpose. And by the way, you don’t need to be friends when you begin—feel free to reach out and interview any artist in your community whom you suspect might be a good fit.
3. Make a commitment. Believe me, Salon 11 members have plenty of fun and laughs while socializing at meetings, but one of the main reasons the group works is that everyone is serious and committed to advancing their art careers. Your art group should not be just a social outlet for the members—it’s an opportunity to learn, share, and support each other’s work. This is intellectual stimulation in the pursuit of art, and it requires consistency. Ask new members to make every effort to show up to every meeting.
4. Brainstorm discussion topics. Let’s assume that your group is dedicated to art marketing. You could survey the group members to find out what the pressing concerns are and start building a list of ideas to discuss at your meetings. Then encourage members to take ownership of individual meetings. Maybe one member could do a deep dive into some facet of social media marketing in May, while another member could lead a discussion on online art galleries in June. And don’t forget to invite guests in your community who specialize in an area that’s big for your group. I also think it would be great to kick off each meeting with an opportunity for members to share recent successes or to request input from other members.
5. Ensure dedicated leadership. Someone needs to step up and take the reins so that the group stays on track, overall and during the meetings. All members can and should contribute ideas for meeting topics, lead discussions, and help organize guests and outings, but there needs to be one ringleader who’s the keeper of the schedule and sends out monthly reminders about meetings.
Generally speaking, what happens in our studios happens in the confines of our own hearts, minds, and hands. But there’s no need to live our whole artistic lives going it alone. If you’re frustrated with your art career’s current state and wondering how other artists are managing theirs, maybe it’s time to reach out to your fellow artists and start up a discussion group, especially one that’s all about the challenges of marketing. You’ll probably be amazed and delighted at the amount of knowledge, support, and motivation you’ll gain from this activity.