One of the biggest questions emerging artists struggle with is how do we make people look at our work? What is the secret that some artists seem to find that makes people stop and actually look at their work. Is there a magical formula for it? My belief is that its simply word of mouth. The secret is in making word of mouth spread.
I kind of see it in my mind like a set of scales. When we start out the scale is weighed completely against us. We are a completely unknown element. It does not matter how talented we are or aren't. The more people know about us as artists the more the scales start tipping in the opposite direction.
Its hard. Damned hard! In fact it might be the hardest thing as artists that we face.
I've mentioned in past articles that the key to understanding social networks is to envision grains of sand in an hourglass. The sand flows faster when we post more and share more thoughts to others. I think the same thing applies here, but the grains of sand when they fall are falling onto that imaginary scale and are ever so slowly tipping it. Every grain is the impression you make on a single person. The more impressions, the more grains and eventually the scale tips. You are no longer a nobody. Your name is recognized, your skills are acknowledged, your work sells.
This may seem a rather simple explanation. But its not in the theory that its difficult, its in the execution. How on earth do you get that name recognition? If the galleries won't bother with you when your a poor struggling artist, then how can you get to the point where the scales start to tip in your favor?
For everyone of us its a different formula. For example if your father was a banker from New York City, it might be easier to get that name recognition because you have help and assistance along the way. But of course this article isn't written to help those folks. They manage quite well on their own. This article is written for the poor struggling artist who has absolutely no resources except his or her skills to work with.
I truly believe that philanthropy is a fast track to being recognized. The old adage that you have to give a lot to get a lot back is true here. Now I caution you, I am not talking about giving your art away at the drop of a hat. That's the quickest way to being taken advantage of.
But there are ways to get noticed locally in a big way. A donation of a higher priced piece of art to just the right cause can take you a very long way. Helping others by using your artistic skills in public works can also be very profitable towards name recognition. Go out and paint that house for Habitat for Humanity. Suggest ways to improve neighborhoods with art.
Don't wait for an organization to contact you. Become the organization. Say there is a stretch of wall that is decayed and detracting from a neighborhood. Find out whose permission you need to repaint that wall and turn it into art. Be proactive about putting your name out there.Find a niche that needs filling with art and fill it.
Every time you insert "the artist" into a situation is a chance to create name recognition. Even if you are told that you are not needed, the mere fact that you volunteered creates some name recognition.
Now lets shift to a national and international level. Of course the same rules of philanthropy become much more difficult on a national level. You neither have the resources or the time to spread yourself around the world just to create name recognition.
But that doesn't mean you can't share some level of artistic expertise through the social networks. What are you reading right now is one of the ways which I use. I am sharing my ideas of name recognition with you the reader. Will you remember me? Perhaps not at first, but if you return and read another article later or see a piece of my work, eventually name recognition will be achieved.
Some artists do this incredibly well. There are some artists that have such name recognition that I see them pop up constantly on the various social platforms. These are the ones to study. What are they doing differently to get people to know who they are?
Let me give you a great example Leonid Afremov. I don't know the man personally, but I can tell you without a doubt that not only is he a fantastic artist, but is one of the best creators of name recognition I've seen. I see his name constantly. He is not only an artist but a teacher of the arts. Look him up sometime if you've not run across his name yet. Study him. Google his name and see how many ways he comes up.
Another example of an artist is Thomas Kinkade. There is a lot of opinions out there about Kinkade. Many think his work is nothing but marketing hype while others are avid fans. Despite your opinion of him he was a master at name recognition. He plowed into the American art scene with his methods of mass marketing his work as prints and creating a of stand alone galleries around the United States. Now of course Thomas had the money to invest in huge name recognition, but regardless of the money spend, he began life as a nobody artist. Also note that even though the artist has been dead for several years his name recognition now has its own life and will continue long after he's gone.
I hear a lot of artists say "no one looks at my website". My question always returns to this. "What are you doing to make them want to come back?". The answer is inevitably that they put up more art work. Well you know, that just doesn't cut it. Your average visitor will stop at your site and say "great art" and totally forget about you ten minutes later. What you want them to do instead is say "cool site, I need to bookmark this".
That wont happen if you are not providing them with anything to make them want to come back. "Well that's too much work!". Yeah your right, its hard. But this is part of what it means to be an artist unless you want your work to remain in your studio until you die. That is your choice but I believe the purpose of any piece of art is to be seen. Its not about making money, but it is about sharing your art with those who want it.
So how do we create content for our sites? You may think to yourself that you have absolutely nothing to share with others except your art. Your wrong. You have a wealth of experience that stems from that art.
Consider any given piece of art you create. That art goes through stages. The conception of the piece. The gathering of materials to make it. The colors chosen. The challenges you faced as you created it. The journey you went through to get from the first step to the last step are all information you can share.
I create art and provided content for my website at the same time. By taking a few photos of the piece while its being built and jotting down a few key notes as I am building it, I now have the fodder for a good article that just might help another artist and just might interest a buyer to the point of wanting the piece because they've become emotionally involved in the art.
And once again it all goes back to name recognition. I made people look. I make them look with not only my art but my skills as an artist.
In the end its all about doing a bit of brainstorming and having patience. There are thousands of ways you can create name recognition. The simple fact is that most of us are just too lazy to put that amount of effort into it. We'd rather be making art.
If you want to be a successful artist then it becomes an essential part of your artistic career to take these kinds of steps. It will NOT happen tomorrow. It will NOT happen six months or even a year. Resolve to yourself that name recognition takes a long time. But there will come a time when suddenly the scale tips and people know your work and your reputation.
I get so tired sometimes that I get close to giving up. I think to myself, "why are you killing yourself to post 200 times a day and constantly talk about your work and the journey?" Then I stop complaining and keep my eyes open long enough to put just one or two more impressions of the world before I sleep.
Remember, every single thing you do online that relates to your journey as an artist is one more grain of sand dropping onto the imaginary scale. Making the sand move is up to you.