Friday, February 4, 2011

An Artful Conversation

     I spent last Saturday hunting quail at the King Ranch with my friend, painter Mikel Donahue.  Mikel has been on a roll, and his artistic hot streak seems to be only picking up more steam. 

Fellow artist George Northup on the hunt.

     Our conversation started with what art shows we were doing, which seems to be a hot topic when artists get together.  However, we moved to the real meat of the conversation and started a great discussion on self-marketing. 
     It’s nice to have common ground with a peer.  Mike is a fantastic artist and we share a similar background, having come to Fine Art after years of being thrashed in the stocks of Illustration.  The drawing part isn’t so bad.  It’s the dealing with clients, deadlines and trying to get paid, that makes being a hired pencil so bad.  Thirty—Sixty---Ninety days and I still can’t get paid!

Mikel and George sit atop our hunting rig.

     We traded war stories and came to a joint and unanimous decision.  Illustration was a great foundation, but its heyday is over and we have moved on, both now deeply ensconced in Fine Art.
     Mikel’s success has been rapid and significant.  Most would be jealous of his short track record and list of accomplishments.  But these achievements are built on impeccable technique and years of toiling at his craft.  He’s paid his dues, even though his Fine Art career is just beginning.
     We both recognize that we are in the midst of a major paradigm shift in the art market.  The galleries of Santa Fe and Scottsdale are, by the measure of most artists, in serious decline.  It’s hard to get a real pulse of what’s actually going on.  Artists say one thing, gallery owners something different.  Everyone has their own spin.  Much of selling your art is projecting a professional image and no doubt it is important, but it would be nice to encapsulate how the economy is affecting the art world, and know how to play it.

Libation Station

     Mikel makes a good point about quality, his point being that good art, at a good price, will attract a buyer.  I agree wholeheartedly.
     Another major point we covered was how most successful artists have a supportive spouse.  I’m not talking about the high five and “have a good show” type of support.  I’m speaking of someone who is on the rope, helping pull this art train further down the track. 
     Sometimes it’s not feasible, but all things being equal, an artist with a spouse in the game, has a better chance at making the climb.  Mikel and I are lucky in this regard.  Pam and Kristi have skin in this game and we both acknowledge we’re better off for it.
     My last point may be redundant, but the time is coming when being a full-time artist means you are in charge of your own marketing.  I know many artists start to turn pale and zone out when selling their own work is mentioned.  But if you’re not going to make your own sales, who is?  Mikel and I discussed this at length and have only our experience to draw from, but the Internet, Facebook, and New Media are the future. 

Good art friends Mikel (left) and George (right).
Both class acts!

     I heard Tony Robbins marketing a new sales gig on the radio and he flatly states that not embracing the web properly, will put you out of business.  Again, I wholeheartedly agree.  It’s a brave new art world out there, and the artist must actively seek a market for his work. 
     I want to close by saying that time spent with other artists is a favorite pastime of mine.  I always learn something I’m not doing, or something I can do better.  Mikel, thanks for a memorable hunt.  Thanks for pursuing quality, and thanks for hogging the top of the hunting rig.  Paybacks are a bitch!

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