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A common scene at the Plein Air Convention & Expo

Inspiration for Artists

My friend Joe Polish says that some people create their value systems, and other people try to copy someone else’s value system.

Yet, according to Joe, the very best thing we can do for people is to help them become better versions of themselves by building out the parts of them that are already awesome.

He says the majority of the self-help stuff out there focuses on what is wrong with people and how to fix it. A small minority focuses on what is RIGHT and how to enhance it.

What’s worse is that a lot of people will pitch garbage advice to their mailing lists or followers that they themselves would never buy simply because they can make some money.

Inspiration for Artists: Build on Your Strengths

Though I don’t offer self-help in the traditional sense, I do offer many things that help people become better versions of themselves. And I try to make them things you can use to build on your strengths.

But I don’t want to change you. I don’t want you to compromise your ethics. I don’t want you to ever do something you would not be proud of.

Being Authentic

But I’ve learned a thing or two over the bumpy roads of life, building businesses and selling art, that might be able to help you figure out a strategy that works for you, in your voice, and will help you be a better version of yourself.

This probably sounds a little corny, but I actually want to help you accomplish what is important to you … maybe it’s being a better painter, growing your art sales, taking cool painting vacations, or finding a way to live your desired life.

My policy is to never put anything in front of anyone that doesn’t expand them, make them better, or pull out the best in them.

I never want to have someone consume a thought, idea, product, service, or event that is not expanding their horizons, bringing joy to them, or helping them grow in some way, because doing so would be selling my soul. I want to one day face my Maker and be told, “Well done.”

And I want you to finish well, however you define that for your life.

Two Artists, A Marketing Guru, and Me … No, this isn’t the opening line of a joke!

In a discussion with a marketing friend and two prominent artists, one of the artists said she has never really succeeded at making enough money because she is afraid to blow her own horn or appear arrogant.

I realized that she thought marketing was a crass idea. So I asked her a couple of questions.

“Have you ever bought anything you didn’t want to buy?”
“No — I’m strong enough, I’d never let that happen.”

Right, so the first thing to get past is that people won’t buy something if they don’t want it. It’s not like you’re ever forcing something on others. If they don’t want it, they won’t buy it. People are in control of their own decisions.

“Have you ever bought something you didn’t think you needed but found out it was perfect for you?”

“Yes, many times.”

I then asked, “How did you discover those things?”

She answered that in one case, someone had told her about something (word of mouth). In another case she had read about something or seen an ad (public relations and advertising). And in one case, a salesperson DID convince her to buy something. In fact, she said she got talked into buying a house, and it turned out to be the best investment she ever made. “I had no idea I needed it.”

It turns out the salesperson wasn’t some evil ogre just trying to sell something to anyone. She told the artist, “Knowing what I know about you, this is the reason you need THIS house, not the others I’ve shown you.” This artist hadn’t even wanted to see this house, but the agent knew something the artist had not discovered about her own needs.

People Often Don’t Know What They Want

Sometimes people don’t know what they need, and if no one exposes them to it or gently nudges them to consider it, they will never find it.

Most marketing isn’t crass or “clever” or making absurd claims or being pushy. Most is subtle and appropriate. We tend to notice the bad stuff because it pegs our BS meters.

This artist concluded that she had been successfully marketed to on things she hadn’t known existed, or hadn’t known she wanted. Maybe marketing isn’t so crass after all!

The Confidence Game

I think that we as artists are often lacking confidence or are insecure about some things, and as a result, we’re often reluctant to ask someone to buy our work. Yet most artists I know have told me stories of people who bought their art and found that it brought them great joy. If they had not learned about the artist, they would not have the joy those paintings bring them.

Screaming Car Dealers Are Not the Norm

We wrongly assume that marketing is about screaming car commercials or pushy used car salesperson. But the largest-selling brands, like Lexus, don’t do that stuff. Their people are not pushy, and they simply make you aware and answer your questions when you are ready. You are in control. But they always have their fishing line in the water so people are thinking of them when the time to buy comes. This is half the battle.

Inspiration for Artists: The Perfect Approach

I may teach marketing, but only you can determine what marketing approach is a fit for your voice, your style, your comfort level, and your self-image. You have to be appropriate to your world and to your personal comfort. You have to be authentic.

Though pushing yourself a little out of your comfort zone is a great way to grow and get better at anything, you still have complete control.

The Invisible Artist

But what would happen if no one was aware of your work? They would not find it and wouldn’t get the joy you can provide. I think you owe it to them to find ways for them to notice you, find ways to create interest in your work, and help people find a way to buy your work. And you owe it to yourself and your family. Because not doing it may prevent you from realizing the best you can be, and having the means to live the life you hope to have.

Not Tony Robbins

Again, I’m not a self-help guy, at least in the traditional way of people like Tony Robbins. Though I incorporate some important principles in my teaching, I don’t want to give you or anyone any false hope. But I do want you to consider that perhaps you can become a better version of yourself. And by doing so, you might start to see more opportunity, might make a better income, and might have the ability to do some of the things you have always hoped you could do.

Related > PleinAir Podcast 146: Molly Siple on Building Your Art Career and More

A Moral Obligation to Help Them Find You

If I have something that I think can help people, I feel a moral obligation to make them aware of it. Countless artists have pushed themselves a little outside their comfort zone to follow some marketing or business principles in their own business, and have seen income and opportunity they otherwise would not have seen.

Ease Into Marketing

Most artists simply don’t know where to start, yet doing anything more than what you’re doing now will usually pay off. Start small, try some things, and then if you want more, try a few more things. Take your time, and don’t try to do it all at once. Ease into it.

In any case, consider that if you just take one consistent action each month, using just one good idea, you’ll be taking a small step in the right direction. You can do it in your own style, your own voice, and within your areas of comfort. And trying something, anything, is a step in the right direction.

Remember, stagnant water breeds disease, and moving water breeds life. We are all meant to become better versions of ourselves, constantly evolving and growing. And chances are if there is some area of your life you are not feeling great about, your actions can change that.

I’ve spent decades learning by trial and error (mostly error). When I started out, I did not know how to do any marketing — I didn’t even know how to make an ad. Yet over the years, I’ve helped businesses grow and become wildly successful, and I’ve done the same for my own businesses and for many, many artists. I thought I’d pass along some of the tools I’ve created that have helped thousands of artists around the country and that may or may not be appropriate for you. Enjoy.

Next year at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) in Colorado, I’ll once again be teaching artists how to better market themselves in ways that work in the art world. You’ll leave those sessions with a solid understanding of what marketing can do for your art and for you … without feeling like an over-the-top used car salesperson!

Plein Air Convention & Expo - Inspiration for Artists


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