Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

Cracking Creativity Episode 9: Crista Cloutier on The Working Artist, How to Build Relationships with Your Audience, and the Mindset Changes Necessary for Artists to Succeed

Crista Cloutier was a former art director at Segura Studio as well as the owner of her own art gallery. During her time there, she learned sales and how to build deep, lasting relationships with artists. She has now turned that knowledge into her own online art workshops as The Working Artist. In this episode, Crista shares an unbelievable amount of knowledge including how to build relationships with your audience, how she successfully funded her Indiegogo campaign, and the mindset changes necessary to succeed as an artist.

  • ran fine art print studio
  • worked with artists by invitation only (blue chip and beginners)
  • as director she sold studio art to museums and galleries
  • put together Working Artist, a workshop that explores every aspect of being an artist
  • was too expensive to travel and teach
  • created crowdfunding campaign so she could deliver the course online to anyone anywhere, launched in October 2014
  • went to art school, was going to get part time job at Segura Studio
  • caught on to sales and within a year became director of the studio
  • also opened a gallery while working as director
  • had a knack for selling art, learned that the secret to selling art was relationships
  • started out by cold calling and forming relationships with artists
  • when she started at Segura there was a box of 50 clients, when she left there was a massive filing system of clients
  • fear amongst artists to build relationships, they want galleries to build relationships for them
  • artists need to think link entrepreneurs

“Treat everyone like your very best customer, even if they never buy anything from you.”

  • when she was selling art, she took extensive notes (name of dogs/kids/birthdays)
  • had dates when she would call clients
  • become familiar with what your customers are interested in
  • your audience is not everybody, you need to narrow it down as much as you can
  • Tudeux and scraps of paper for to-do lists

“It makes me feel in control if I can get ideas out of my head.”

  • artists can become victims of their own ideas
  • look for tools to help you manage ideas
  • to figure out what to do next she puts all her ideas on paper, and selects a few of the most important things
  • set a timer for things you don’t want to get done
  • break things into tiny steps and working on them every day
  • blue chip artists – call any museum/gallery and there is interest
  • beginning artists – don’t have that affect with galleries

“It’s a marathon not a sprint. It rarely rarely happens over night.”

  • student was offered portion of value to sell all her art to Charles Saatchi
  • she sold it all because you never know if you can sell it later and creating a relationship with an influential collector
  • every day you have to do something, do three marketing things a day (social media, contacting gallery, etc.)
  • it is important to identify where you want to go
  • take steps forward towards the direction you want to go
  • art fairs and festivals are a great way to start because you can build one on one connections with customers
  • start at small fair, go to bigger fairs, then you can get into galleries
  • galleries want people who already have an audience
  • art fair – sprint, exhausting (labels, capturing info, etc.) – you have to do everything
  • galleries – will do most of the things you have to do at fairs (you need completed paperwork & hitting deadlines)
  • gallery relationships are a marriage, your work is your child
  • you wouldn’t throw your child into daycare with someone you don’t know
  • many artists will sign with anyone, but they shouldn’t
  • need a mutually beneficial relationship with your gallery
  • do your homework before you choose a gallery

“I think a mailing list is really important for any artist to have because you want to control your audience.”

  • by controlling your own mailing list, you control your audience
  • if you have a blog, post a least once a month, don’t wait to keep in touch or people will forget you
  • “It feels like a conversation when they hear from you.”
  • used writing to support her business, wrote stories instead of general tips
  • put it out there and see what resonates with your audience
  • writing is like making art, it has to flow, just listen
  • met Andy (artist mentor) at 17, he was blind but was able to draw landscapes
  • was artist as a boy (but had a brain tumor at 8)
  • taught her about the spiritual path
  • has lost touch with him many times
  • his daughter contacted her looking for him too, found clues of him being alive
  • took them a few weeks to find him, but they are re-united now
  • considered every artist she worked with a teacher
  • using The Working Artist to teach and give back
  • when she was working at the studio she managed a lot of relationships
  • she needed to get on the radar of artists who had a lot going on
  • she wanted to teach in the way artists learn, artists are much more visual learners, you need to break it up and keep it visual

“Crowdfunding is an amazing tool for creatives.”

  • funders had no respect for artists, so she turned to crowdfunding
  • Kickstarter lost her paperwork for Amazon, so she turned to IndieGoGo
  • reached her funding goal
  • met people and formed strategic partnerships through campaign, created a much bigger platform
  • she went to artist fairs, festivals, classes, and told them what she wanted to build and asked them what they wanted to see
  • learned directly from her target audience by taking notes

“So many artists carry this pain and fear.”
“It’s great to connect with that vulnerability and to help.”
“A lot of people have this expectation, they make art, it should be selling, and that should support them… Just because you’re making work doesn’t mean it is ready to be sold… You should really work on your craft until you know that it’s at that level, til you feel good about it… It’s not something you are born with… You work to confidence “

  • you should show your work, get feedback, and have conversations about your work
  • your confidence comes from doing your work
  • you can make a living, but you have to work up to it, it takes a while
  • what are you willing to sacrifice? art entails sacrifice
  • it’s about the journey, it’s a practice, you’re never going to be perfect, you’re always going to be striving for the better

“You’re never going to arrive at one place and say this is it, I’ve made it. There’s going to be the next thing. So I think it’s really important to learn how to enjoy the journey and to set up your business and your life so that you’re enjoying life and having fun… We should be enjoying this.”

  • it’s both an incredible and terrible time to be an artist
  • meet with people where they’re comfortable, and you’ll have a whole new audience
  • questions to ask yourself: What’s the subject matter? What’s the medium? What’s your work about?
  • there’s no blanket answer for how to market your art
  • think individually, not what everyone else is doing
  • What does your art say? and Who are you talking to?
  • art is a practice, not a competition
  • Indiegogo was first crowdfunding platform out of Sundance Festival for movies, Kickstarter was started out of the tech industry
  • Kickstarter makes you pay through Amazon, Indiegogo allows you to use Paypal
  • Kickstarter requires you to hit your funding goal, Indiegogo does not
  • Her gifts – $5 for ebook, $60 for Working Artist course for as long as it’s alive, $100 for book, Working Artist, and Working Artist interview series (5 blue chip artists on their careers and advice they have), $500 for everything and private consultation, $1000 for all of that plus original art by Kiki Smith
  • you want to be very supportive of the people who gave to you in the beginning
  • everything was virtual, so she didn’t have to ship anything
  • in the middle of campaign she added a $45 gift for a photograph
  • learned she should have done $45 campaign from the beginning
  • get over asking people for money
  • Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, TED Talk, Kickstarter, and Patreon
  • be as generous as you can with the people who are supporting you
  • Kiki Smith talked about how not everyone will like your work and why that shouldn’t bother you, “Deciding to be an artist is deciding to be in freefall for the rest of your life.”

“There’s no such thing as good art or bad art. There’s just art.”

  • Vic Muniz embraces failure, “When I succeed it’s that time i failed to fail.” Looked at success as more rare than failure

“Don’t label failure as failure. Think of it all as an experiment.”

“You are not your work. Your work is something different than you, and you have to take your ego out of it in order to be able to deal with this kind of stress and pressure that’s going to come.”

  • our egos get wrapped up in our work
  • Working Artist – online program, 4 weeks, every week you get a video, has quizzes and worksheets
  • it takes you step by step through the questions you need to ask yourself and provides tools to get you where you want to go
  • by the end, you have a business plan for moving forward
  • Where do I dream of seeing my work? Why?
  • What kind of professional experiences do you want?
  • Why do I procrastinate?

“People don’t stop to ask themselves where they want to go on this journey, where they want to end up. They just jump in.”

  • The Working Artist at Play – audio magazine – interviewing artists, collectors, galleries, blog posts, etc.
  • before she started the Working Artist, she felt unfulfilled at her job
  • one day a man asked her if she wanted to live in the south of France, and she decided to make that leap after seeing a magazine article of a man she knew living there, she took that as a sign
  • lived there alone for a year, which gave her time to reflect on her life, and allowed her to concentrate on writing and photography

“You have to be bold and to take the jump… look for signs… just keep moving forward.”

“Creativity is the song that’s inside of you, and I think It’s our job as creative people to nurture that song until we can sing it better and louder and more true. And keep singing it until we get people to listen. And it’s only by doing that, that song gets louder and better and that people start paying attention to it… Connect with that song and sing it loud and true until you find the people that need to hear it.”

Find Crista at The Working Artist

Receive email updates for the latest podcast releases!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *