If you want to build a sustainable creative enterprise, any business, you must solve a problem or alleviate a pain.
In fact, you need to solve a problem that is really worth solving and make that your true mission.
You can’t B.S. your way around this. Why? People will smell it.
Your mission must be grounded in your deep soulful truth.
Why? Because what artists really sell is emotional truth.
Why don’t business plans work for artists? Because we sell emotions.
True emotion is not something you can fake for very long and if you do it only makes other people cringe.
I get push back on this assertion all the damn time but I will debate anyone on this point.
Here’s how artists counter my assertion. They point to their incomprehensible, self-involved, artist’s statement that makes no damn sense or they say “Well Ann…people buy my work because it touches them.”
Okay. That’s nice and that can happen, occasionally but not consistently.
Touching people occasionally with no rhyme or reason does not make a market for your work.
If you want to build a profitable creative enterprise, any business, you must solve a problem or alleviate a pain for a target market.
I received straight As in art history and I was a tutor. Here was my big take away.
The only reason an artist landed a feature in the pages of the art history books was because at some point there was a market for their art and there still is today.
So if there was a market for their art, they solved a problem that was worth solving for a specific group of people.
It’s time for the art history books to be rewritten.
Why don’t art historians or art critics discuss this critical understanding leaving us all in the dark about how the heck we are ever going to make a living as an artist? Two reasons:
- Because art historians and critics are not marketing strategists.
- Art museums serve as a prop for the secondary art market. Don’t believe me? Just follow the money. When collectors bequest their collection they can deduct the appraised value.
I’m not asserting that this is right or wrong. I just want all of us professional artists to deal in reality of the market place.
Want me to prove it? No problem.
Allow me to present the problem solved by each of these famous artists in history. Otherwise known as their mission.
What problem did Michelangelo solve?
Michelangelo expertly expressed raw human emotion while teaching the story of Christ and inspiring illiterate Catholics.
Whose problem was that? The Vatican.
Who was Michelangelo’s target market? The Vatican.
What problem did John Singer Sargent solve?
Sargent elevated the station of his patrons by accepting their commissions limited to twelve a year.
Whose problem was that? The Edwardian aristocratic, whose big problem was maintaining their station in high society.
Who was Sargent’s target market? Edwardian aristocracy.
What problem did Andy Warhol solve?
Warhol celebrated the consumption of American culture and celebrity through his art, his “Happenings”, and Interview magazine, still in print today.
Whose problem was that? Celebrities who wanted to see and to be seen. Lucky for Kim Kardasion, Warhol’s cultural trend of distraction through celebrity consumption continues.
Who was Warhol’s target market? Those who wanted to see and to be seen.
What problem did Thomas Kinkade solve?
Thomas Kinkade celebrated conservative, born-again Christian American “family values.”
Whose problem was that? Conservative, born-again Christian Americans, who the contemporary art market has a distain for and so does not celebrate or affirm them.
Who was Kinkade’s target market? Conservative, born-again Christian Americans.
Is talent important? Most often. Yes. It’s the minimum price of admission.
But then what? Then it’s all about the value above and beyond the art itself.
Now that I’ve cracked the code on marketing art you can learn do this too.
How? You will not learn how to crack the code on marketing art in art school or in a business course but you can learn by: