Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Art of Self Promotion, with Help

Night Self Portrait, Oil on canvas ©1977 Dora Sislian Themelis

The process of self promotion for artist's these days is involved.  I guess any kind of promotion takes time and effort if you really want to get somewhere.  Whether someone wants to find job, get elected to office, meet new friends or find a mate, all the information I have come across says to get yourself out there.  And where is "there"?

For some of us the hardest thing to do is go to the studio to get some creative work done, let alone promote it.  Once we've developed a body of work I think it's easier to feel some detachment from it to sell it.  I know that the portrait of my son and his Greek bagpipe will never be sold because it's too personal to let it go to a stranger. 

In a way I wish I had painted someone else so that I wouldn't feel uncomfortable selling it.  That doesn't mean I'm attached to some other recent work. They can go!  

Besides networking online through all the social media and this blog, I'm thinking about having a small gallery show eventually.  A local church has gallery space that many artists use and the fee for its use is a small percentage of sales.  They offer postcards as advertising and invitations, and I have a nice long list of people I know through my travels that I can invite.  It's totally doable, but I need to have work I'm willing to sell.  That means doing.  It's not going to happen all by itself, right? 

A helpful book I've been reading is I'd Rather be in the Studio, by Alyson B. Stanfield.  She is an art career coach I bumped into on facebook and she has great information on promoting one's art career.  From reading her book I was inspired to throw myself into all the social media stuff and work it.  Little did I know I would really enjoy doing it!  She wrote in her book: don't ask why, just do it, and I did. 

Stanfield hosts various classes online through her website and in person workshops.  She's holding a workshop in Pennsylvania May 11-12 and if I lived closer I'd check it out.  On her website Alyson is hosting an online Blog Triage class, but I think the class is already full.  I believe it's great to be able to have coaching like this because most of us artists are not business minded.  We may not know how to go about getting our product "out there" other than hooking up with a gallery and have them take all the profits, if there are any when they're done with you. 

On Stanfield's suggestions I had business cards made.  I carry them around in case I find an opportunity to hand them out.  During Christmas shopping I struck up a conversation with another shopper about the items for sale and how expensive they were.  This shopper remarked on my scarf and said how much she liked it. 

When I told her I'm an artist and I knit it myself she flipped!  She said, "You probably don't have any cards with you."  Ah, but I did.  I whipped out my business cards and handed two to her.  She was thrilled to meet an artist on the check-out line in Macy's! 

Self-promotion for artists is possible and doable if you are willing to suck it up and forge ahead.  I know some of us are intimidated by the business end of art, but it's not all that bad.  We just have to be ready with work, keep our eyes open for opportunities to show it, be open to talking to people, and have our information at hand if asked for it, like me.


  1. Dora: Thank you for this. I wish you lived closer, too! It would be fun to meet. On the subject of business cards, check out this post I wrote for the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. I encourage you to GET business cards rather than passing them out. Here is the post:

  2. Yes, I did read that post on getting cards rather than handing out! I understand it's a way to gather mailing list info! Think about holding something in the NYC area some day. Plenty of artists could use your help, myself included! Thanks for commenting Alyson!

  3. Nice blog & good post. You have beautifully maintained, you must try this website which really helps to increase your traffic. hope u have a wonderful day & awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

  4. Darlin' Dora... I LOVED THIS!!! =) What a good story! Enjoyed reading it and wasn't that so great to have your cards with you when you struck up that conversation about your scarf! Thank you! =)

  5. Hey Vickey! Thank you so much for commenting! Yes I was prepared. As in Alyson's comment, next time I'm going to swap so I can build my mailing list, sort of like LINK LOVE!

  6. Hey, Dora. Reading this one "better late than never!" Really enjoyed it. Yes, about the art gallery: I charged large amounts for my scarves and got it, but after giving half of it away to the gallery owner, I made very, very little for the hours... She did invite me to bring more in just recently, but I said I wouldn't know how to do the pricing since I'm now on Etsy. I'll check out the websites you've mentioned. Thanks so much!

  7. PS: LOVE your self portrait from '77. You're so talented!

  8. Just saw your comment Therese! Thanks for the compliments!

  9. Thanks for the suggestion Lydia! You see I'm late to the party sometimes,too!


The Latest Work With Permission

©Dora Sislian Themelis, 11x14 Watercolor, Patmos Sunset Available for purchase The latest work is from another person's photograph...