Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Other Side of the Glass

What is your market?

Have you ever taken a minute out of your day to work this out?

I can’t say much about the business of art, I’ve only been at it the last six years and am still getting my feet wet, but I have been writing for fifty-four years and I can tell you the first question any book marketer is going to ask is, “Who is going to buy this?”

Now book selling is a cut-throat business. Everyone is looking for the next Harry Potter. They want to know how well you write, how quickly you write and how many years you have left to write. Come up short on any of those items and you are out of luck.

Fortunately, the business of art isn’t that competitive, yet. There are places, New York and L. A. where there are more selling artists than there are buyers and the frenzied marketing of art can be so overwhelming that the soul of art gets tossed aside.

So who is you ideal market?

You don’t paint to sell. Okay, so what do you do with all of your work? Do you store in the fifteen thousand foot warehouse you attached to your home? I’ve always had the secret suspicion that that would be the best sort of home for an artist, a 1700 square foot house with a fifteen thousand square foot warehouse attached.

The creative guys in the architecture side of art have come up with a wonderful idea; they take the empty cargo containers everyone uses to ship goods and recycle them as housing. Now the advantage as I see it is that sort of thing becomes infinitely expandable. You pluck down the three thousand dollars and get forty feet of space delivered to your site and bang you are ready to start building.

Me I have trouble operating a light switch and a flush toilet on the same day, but there are handy folks out there who can MacGyver a tuna can and some dental floss into a working airplane in less than half a day. Give them an empty container and you can have a passable shelter for the night in a coupla hours.

Now we’re talkin’! Three grand and forty feet and you can add the same space for another three grand. Even in the current depressed real estate climate the cost of housing runs about one hundred and eighty thousand dollars for a modest family home. If my math is good that’s sixty containers on your property or maybe just four or five and the help of a solid handy-man to do the interior and wiring so that the place becomes comfortable for the Long Suffering and the dog.

That’s identifying your target market, filling a need, recycling an existing product and creating a modular space with minimal economic impact. And these guys are architects.

So could you do that same? Not if you haven’t a clue who is the target buyer for your work. You hafta know.

Okay let’s start with the basics, I like people, women especially, nekkid women in particular, but in this part of the world there is not a huge market for that sort of thing. Now I could insist I’m right and everyone else is wrong and just keep cranking out my nekkid ladies, or maybe I could do something else?

That’s what I did. I tried several things when I first got out and started playing with the Big-Time, Professional, Serious Artists. I did some found art, things common to everyday life which look like something else if you squint a little and hold your head just right.

Not so popular…what else could I try?

Yeah, this is Oregon and just chock full of plants and rivers and oceans and ya gotta be blind and stupid not to notice, so I did some of that.

But the truth is the painters have it all over a photographer when it comes to doing a landscape. Okay, skyscape, seascape, boatscape, beachscape or plantscape. They just do and if you want to have a nice shiny red spot on your forehead just keep banging it against that wall.

Then I was playing around with some stuff I had in the computer and it looked kinda interesting and I did a bit of a fiddle here and a tweak there and before you know it I had something that was different and pretty good.

Good enough that I started winning, well placing, sort of far down the honors list, but placing and I said to myself, “Self, I think this fiddle and tweak thingy has potential. You should keep doing it.” And I did.

Along the way, I got some help from a pal or two. New software from the Web and from pals who had moved on to bigger and better things, a lot of time experimenting and showing and finding out what a jury is likely to like and now I have a pretty good idea just who my audience is. They like color and patterns and bold, bright images and interesting looks at common things and they haven’t made me disgustingly wealthy, yet, but I have enjoyed some success.

So do you know who you are painting for? Are you still tossing darts in the dark? Hard way to get ahead. Maybe you should take a break, get a fresh cuppa and sit down by the window and stare at the rain for a while. I find watching the rain chase across the glass peaceful and if I look long enough I frequently see what I have been missing. Might work for you too.

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