Posts Tagged ‘Communication Communication Communication’

Though, As We All Know, the Best Commercial Is Non Commercial

In my last post I promised to dedicate the next one to selling your work. Then there wasn’t a “next one,” because I got swept up in a project to create images for our village’s new Sierra Nevada Tram Museum, located in our old tram station. The Sierra Nevada Tram was an ambitious project promoted by a Granada nobleman–el Duque de San Pedro de Galatino–to ferry clients up to his hotel/gambling saloon up on the mountain. It also provided transport for the people of several villages along the way, one of which was ours, Pinos Genil. The project–20.5 kilometers of tram line between Granada and El Charcón, at 1,500 meters of altitude, included 14 tunnels and 21 bridges, and was presented in August of 1919. Work began a year later and the first stage of the service–Granada-Canales–was inaugurated in 1925. By 1928 the line had reached the Maitena station, from which clients were carried the last stage of the trip up to the hotel by horse and carriage. The tram, which continued operating until 1973, never made a profit. It was finally terminated due to the construction of a giant new dam and reservoir that covered the tracks.

We arrived in Pinos Genil, where we have remained every since, in the fall of 1969 and made use of the delightful little yellow trams both for routine trips down to Granada and summer excursions up to El Charcón where it was cool and they had diverted the River Genil to create a chilly, melted-snow swimming pool. To give you an idea of what the old Spain was like, the couple of rustic restaurants on the tram’s trajectory permitted clients to take their own food and just buy drinks. Today that sounds like science fiction. Oh, I almost forgot, the town hall has very kindly offered me display space to sell my tram-related prints.

Pinos Genil’s Renovated Sierra Nevada Tram Station Museum

My Mixed-Media Images of the Original Trams

Back to Being Commercial

Let’s start with the foundation truth: too few printmakers are able to make a living from their artwork, and it’s not getting any easier. We’ve had the financial crisis of 2009, and for some of us that’s not over yet. Add to that a few more economic wobbles, a few wars, Covid 19, and the disloyal competition of people selling “giclee” reproductions-and calling them “prints,” when they’re just photocopies. What they aren’t is fine-art prints. But they could be sold profitably at a tenth of the price, and they have cut a wide swath through the fine-art-print market, our market. Print departments–and whole art departments–started closing down..

Being realistic, I suspect that printmakers will never again see prosperity like that of the old days. I’m referring to the 70’s-90’s. I fondly remember the first edition of Estampa, the Madrid Fine-Art-Print Fair at the Crystal Palace in Madrid’s Retiro Park in 1993. By the end of the second day of the five-day event I had sold everything I brought with me and had to phone Mike, at home in Granada, and ask him to empty all of the print drawers in my studio and rush all the prints to me in Madrid. Those were great times. There was a leak in the roof right above our stand. Did the management panic? No, they just rolled in a big, potted plant and placed it beneath the drip. It was beautiful, and we continued to sell prints.

That first edition of the fair was boycotted by the art galleries. I think they stayed home because they considered the lowly prints too cheap to make much profit on. But, when they saw the success of that first fair, they quickly awakened to the commercial possibilities there. Over the next few years they took over the running of the event, raised the prices of the stands, imposed mandatory minimum prices for the prints and generally started treating printmakers like merchandise. I wasn’t the only artist to abandon the fair after a few years. Though, it was great in the early days. I confess I miss them.

Selling Fine Art Prints in Troubled Times

So, with all the cards stacked against you, you want to try making your living selling your prints. It’s not impossible, but it’s far from easy. I think the first thing you have to get clear is the fact that you’re not just selling prints. You’re selling your humanity, culture, philosophy and lifestyle. The bottom line is, you’re selling all the best of yourself. If the retail business rests traditionally on three pillars: location, location, location… the fine-art-print business is based on three others: communication, communication, communication.

Luckily, we’re living in the age of Internet, the most powerful communications tool in human history. And, depending upon your level of Internet skills, it’s practically free, because you can do it yourself. Obviously, if you’re a digital native, it will be easier for you. If not, you’ll have to choose between learning to do it yourself or paying someone to do it for you. Happily there is a middle way which, I suspect, is the way many successful artists go. That is, have an expert design your website and prepare templates for your site and your blog. Then, all you have to do is fill in the blanks with fresh content in order to keep everything updated. There is still a bit of a learning curve but you can surf it if you’re constant. Your success or failure, of course, depends upon those three little words: “keep everything updated.”

The success of your online communications depends upon the professionalism of your site, what you communicate and how often. It’s not just about techniques, sizes, prices and shipping costs. It’s much more magical than that. You have to impart your enthusiasm, knowledge, secrets and “ilusión.” This is a Spanish word for which there is no English equivalent that I know of. It’s not about the illusion of a magician. It’s about hopeful enthusiasm and anticipation and the conviction to make things happen. It’s one of the threads that pulls us through life. Maybe I’m getting a bit airy-fairy here, but it’s true that you have to transmit to others your own enthusiasms, aspirations and commitment. That is to say, what you have to communicate is You.

Then There’s Your Work

Your work is the motor of your whole enterprise, and it helps if you have some innate talent. But, talent or not, your trail is the same: study, work, learn to see, do a lot of sketches, re-invent yourself with new ideas and new techniques. And you must work hard to get all the qualified feedback you can, have some studio exhibits, inviting friends, family and art lovers and previous clients who already have some of your work on their walls. Never give up, be positive and create what you see around you, this makes your work authentic and unique.

The most popular way of getting artwork before the public is, obviously, exhibiting. Which brings me to a confession. I don’t like exhibiting. And as soon as I could shake it off, I did. It’s one of the most dubious commercial propositions I can think of. To begin with, it’s a lottery, and most of the risk is placed on the artist. Of course, there are great galleries who work with artists for years and help them consolidate their careers. But they are the exception. My recommendation is to sell as much work as you can from your studio or via Internet or local commercial outlets and choose your exhibitions with great care.


Part 2/2 coming soon
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