When embarking on a career as an artist many start by exhibiting in art fairs, approaching galleries for representation and working on their social media. After that they think the sky is the limit! And they aren’t wrong, these are all things you should be doing to get your name out there. However, to go from selling here and there to being a successful artist you need to do one major thing: take the time to consider your audience!
“How do I do that?” I hear you say. Well, I had an encounter recently which helped clarify some golden nuggets of knowledge and if you have five minutes I’d like to share them with you!
Listen to your collectors
So, here is the context: I’m at a swanky Richard Hambleton exhibition taking place near my studio in Waterloo. The show is bustling with a high society, chic crowd, adorned in £20,000 Prada jackets. Beautiful, well-to-do people are floating around admiring the artwork. That evening over a million pounds of artwork is sold.
And I’m there, stars in my eyes thinking, “how do I get this crowd to my exhibitions?”
I was lucky enough to meet the curator, a humble, knowledgeable guy called Aaron, he worked with Hambleton before his death and is now responsible for the sale of his sizeable remaining collection. He came to my studio, saw my work and gave me some sage advice. Our conversation went something like this:
He asked, “What do you want to do? Like why are you an artist?”
I responded “I just really enjoy painting. So long as I can develop my skills I am happy to making a living from that. I’m not interested in the whole hipster artist image, it’s just not me.”
He suggested that maybe I don’t need the crowd I’d mentioned above. “That’s a bought crowd; it’s all smoke and mirrors. Who is actually looking at your work? Who is buying it?”
I thought about this... In the last few years both construction and property companies have been my biggest collectors and given me my largest commissions.
He proposed that this is the market that I should be aiming at.
Subject matter = Audience
I follow an oil painter called Chris Guest, he specialises in paintings of gorgeous tattooed women. Recently, I saw that he was exhibiting his artwork at the London Tattoo Convention. CLEVER!! It makes perfect sense. In a venue filled with tattoo lovers he was there, standing out as probably the only fine artist selling oil paintings. The audience is perfect for him.
I sent him a DM on Instagram to ask him for his thoughts on this topic. This is what he said:
There you have it! From a curator of multi-million pound exhibitions to a successful living artist. It’s time to really consider who your audience is.
Happy painting people. x