This post definitely falls under the category of Random Thoughts. While getting dressed the other morning, I happened to think of something I did a few years ago that I won't do any more. It just popped into my head and I began saying to my wife, " Remember when ?. . . . Man, that was dumb". She told me that little tale would make a good blog post. So here it is.
I was fresh off of studying in New York and it was kind of my first professional move. I got a painting accepted into one of the big salon show competitions. I felt honored and thought of it as a big deal. A friend of mine from New York also had a couple paintings accepted and was going to come down for the show and stay with me. We were both excited. I felt very good about the painting I was showing and hoped it might raise my profile with collectors, or win a top prize, or sell, or all of the above! After I delivered the painting to the gallery for the show I got an email asking if I would like to participate in some advertising for the salon show. Again, I felt honored and thought well, they must think of my painting as one of the best to want to use it to promote the show. They were asking me to participate in a half page ad with three other artists. So four paintings would be featured in this ad in a major art magazine. Only thing is, the gallery wasn't paying for it, the artists were. $250 each. $250 was (and is) a lot of money to me. But, I was in go-for-it mode. My wife and I thought it might help sell the painting, so it was a worthwhile investment. The magazine came out and it was a huge disappointment. The image of my painting was tiny and very dark. It looked awful. But, the disappointment of seeing the magazine is not why paying for the ad was dumb.
It was dumb because I looked at it as an investment. I may as well have laid $250 in the grass and run over it with a lawn mower. After all the time and work that goes into creating a painting, the cost of supplies, the cost of a frame, the gallery's 50% take, does it really make sense to be out another $250 before ever selling the painting? In the hope of selling the painting? I say NO!
BUT Danny, you might say, it could have worked! Someone could have seen that tiny, crappy image in the magazine and called the gallery to buy the painting. Yes. True. But, I'd still be out $250. Do I want to offer a $250 discount on every painting? It just don't make no damn sense.
More philosophically, why are the artists paying the advertising costs for galleries? Especially an ad like the one described above where the images of the paintings are so small and the quality so low? An ad of that type is purely designed to advertise the gallery itself and the show at large. As one of probably 300 artists represented in this show, I had no business paying part of the advertising costs to promote that show. I, and probably over a thousand other artists already paid a fee, per painting, for the privilege of even being considered to be included in the show. Someone may make a compelling argument as to why an artist might split some advertising costs with the gallery. But, I don't get it. And I won't do it again.
Paying for the ad was also dumb from an advertising strategy point of view. As I've learned from a friend who happens to be a marketing expert, buying advertising once doesn't work. Advertising works mostly from repetition. For a collector to take notice of my work and begin buying my work based on more visibility through magazine ads, I'd have to commit to at least a year, probably more, of buying ads.
I apologize if this post sounds a little rant-y. That is not my intention. I just want to report on a mistake I made in the past, so that some young buck (or doe) in that same position might think twice about laying down the cash. We have entered a very difficult and financially risky profession. That is why we have to be extra careful with how we spend our money. It's easy,in the beginning of our career, to get swept up in the dream that one thing like a magazine ad can expose our work to millions. And, that once the masses get a load of this incredible painting they're seeing in the magazine, money will rain down from the rafters and we'll be carried off the court on the shoulders of our teammates after hitting a three point buzzer-beater to win the championship. Don't buy it, my friends. Spend that $250 on paint or frames or canvas or stretcher bars or brushes or whiskey. If a gallery wants you to participate financially in an ad because of all the exposure and sales you'll receive, let them prove it. With their money. You're already paying them half of your sales.
By the way, my gallery has never asked me to pay money towards an ad of any kind, and I love them. Oh, and the painting ended up selling months later in my gallery (Cordair) and was honored in the salon with a "Top 30" distinction.