May 042010

Paradoxes, Purposes and Ponderances

I have met many artists who describe themselves as “self-taught” artists. It is a moniker that has developed some marketing appeal, thanks to the popularity of so-called “Visionary” or “Outsider Art”.

Many artists use the term “self-taught” in a way to assert their claim to importance or even superiority over artists who have received training or academic education in the arts.

Me? I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and Master of Arts Degree in the visual arts, yet in many ways, I feel as though I have taught myself most of what I do as an artist. That story is for another post, though.

This post is about social media. And when it comes to social media, practically all artists are self taught.  There is no “Social Media Arts” degree.

I use social media extensively as a way to connect with people interested in my artwork. In so doing, I have developed a wide reach in marketing my work to people interested in buying it.

I started using social media sometime in 2008. I am not exactly sure when.

It started with developing a MySpace page and connecting with other artists in the Canton Arts District. Soon, I started a blog on Blogger, and I tiptoed into Facebook. Then I read this article about artists using Twitter.

A lot has changed in my life since then.

I no longer use MySpace. I now have this blog, which has my website wrapped around it. I now wade in the deep waters of Facebook with great regularity. And I am a Twitter-aholic.

And I am selling A LOT of artwork.

I am far from being a huge success, mind you. My artwork still does not sell for prices that make me wealthy. But my popularity is growing, and I am well on my way to becoming a self supporting artist at a time when everyone says, “No one is buying art right now because the economy is so bad.”

I often have artists asking me, “How did you do it?” and “What is your secret?”

My secret is that there is no secret. Social media is free and wide open for the taking. It just takes some willingness to research the web, openness towards engaging with others in a curious and friendly manner, and a fearlessness about overcoming the things that you do not yet know.

It is intriguing to me how most artists are willing to do these very things in the pursuit of creating their art, but not in the pursuit of marketing it to a global audience.

When I try to share what I have learned about using social media with other artists, they often shy away, or say, “I am no good at that.” It is as if they fear the success that they dream of, and they sabotage any success that they could have.  Inches away from the door that opens them to the world, their intrepid souls run and hide under a blanket.

Twenty three years ago, I chose to avoid being a full time professional artist and I went back to school for a degree in counseling. I did that because, at that time, artists were limited in opportunities for selling their artwork. Back then, you had to find galleries to sell your work, and even if you found one, you had to wait for them to sell it, after which you received a small portion of the sale. The whole business seemed geared towards someone else making money on the value of the artwork, not the artist.

With the advent of social media, however, it is the other way around. The artist holds all the cards to his or her success.

No one taught you how to paint? You taught yourself? Fantastic!

Are you going to teach yourself how to share it with the world? Or will your innate talent be silenced by fear?

Social media has as many opportunities for creativity as the canvas does, folks. It is an adventure waiting for you to conquer. Will you take the challenge?

Or will you lament that someone else succeeded where you did not?

Personally, I find life, and art, far too interesting to waste on laments.

Life is an Adventure!


  No Responses to “Paradoxes, Purposes and Ponderances: Self Taught Social Media Artist”

  1. There are many layers to what you write about in regards to marketing art and finding success as an artist. I also have ventured into social media and have been successful in getting commissions from coast to coast and abroad over the last 2 years thanks to facebook and blogging.

    I have had to ask myself what success means to me? If my primary goal is to be a commercial success than I am on my way with a waiting list of commissions but thats not the only way to measure success. I am trying to look at the bigger picture of balance and personal as well as professional growth. I find the computer can take up so much of my time if I let it… and here I am writing you and on the computer when I have other things to do to help me reach my overall goals. I love the instant interaction with people since you and I both know creating is done for the most part in solitude (as I am in my studio taking a break from painting) so feeling like there is an audience somewhere is attractive but dang it…. the computer also sucks up so much time!! Time I can paint or be outside or ride my horses or be at my kid's ball game. So in order to keep on track today I am agreeing with you on the dilemna of how best to deal with the paradox of the draw of social media, marketing art, time spent away from the computer and how it helps or hurts my overall goals. I don't have it figured out yet. Maybe the next person who posts does. 🙂

  2. Balance,indeed, is the word, Sue. Once you develop some competence with social media, or even before you do, you have to find ways to balance the time that you spend on it with the other things in your life, your art, and your business.

    But if you intend to become a professional artist with the anticipation of selling your work beyond the occasional hobby sale, you need to consider yourself a business. As an artist and as a business person, you have to set your priorities. Unless you have a highly productive gallery representing you or are lucky enough to have some other PR marketing arm behind you, you have to find time to do social media.

    And you also have to find your own ways of managing the success that you achieve. I find that I still have the opportunity to choose which projects I want to enter into; which commissions to accept; which business deals to make. No one holds a gun to my head and says I have to do artwork that I do not want to do.

    Yes, the choices become more difficult. But for me, the choices are in my hands, and no one else's. I like it that way.

    If you are finding that your social media marketing efforts are leading you to work that you do not enjoy, perhaps you may want to look at developing a SM strategy that more accurately reflects the image that you wish to portray and promotes the work that you wish to create.

    Develop boundaries for what you will and will not do, and stick to them.

    Just like guiding a horse, you need to respect the nature of the beast, but also hold your ground. 🙂

    But artists who lament that no one is buying their art, yet do nothing realistic to attract potential buyers, have no one but themselves to blame.

  3. I'm determined to do better at social media. I need to focus on things like publicity and giveaways as well as get myself a website up and running.

    The computer as distraction is a good point. It's so easy to let it eat up time without doing anything useful – an artist needs to focus and use it to help them. I'm not doing that well at the moment but I hope to improve.

  4. Oh, and never make the mistake in thinking that artists are a bunch of undependable airheads and can't count and can't learn anything technical. Once we learn something, we change the world.

  5. Marjorie–I think you do a fabulous job with social media. You certainly have captured the imagination of this artist half a world away! But we can all do more and learn more.

    I leave it to my cat to do the computer distraction schtuff…

  6. Indeed! Artist can and do have considerable abilities to utilize technology in creative ways. Some, however, tend to lack the willingness to jump in and give it a go, much to my amazement.

  7. Thank you for the long response BZ Tat. My comments did not have as much to do with my work (art or business) as it did with just plain old time. I have been self employed one way or another for years and it may just be my personality but things do tend to get lop sided pretty easily when it comes to time and business…. I feel good about how I do my work and the way in which I conduct my business for the most part (paperworks sucks no matter what business you have) but balancing time is tough. When a person is self emplyed the boundaries of what is working and what is not is blurred more so than in other instances. Social media can and does eat up alot of time if you let it. I can justify that as “I am working” but I also know if I were to spend as much time on face to face encouters as I do with social media I would be getting business that way also. I used to sell real estate years ago and that business is not really that much different than selling my art. People buy from me (or you) because they like you (or me) and the art. The product being sold is almost secondary if someone has an engaging personality. But I am kind of veering. My point is I have to decide how much computer time do I want take up to balance my life. In the time I spent today doing computer stuff I could of read a few chapters in a book, talked to my neighbors, housework (nah) perfected my 'art or learned a new skill. I instead played around on facebook promoting a rescue horse organization (which is fine and wonderful). I choose the virtual world over the tangible world because I feel passionate about horse rescue and what people to see and know my own rescues. I am making virtual friends, am growing my web site traffic, am getting more 'fans' on my page but I ran out of time to ride my horses. Granted I had an appt. with the farrier right in the middle of the day which took up a chunk of time but I wonder on a beautiful day like today if I choose to get those numbers instead of interacting in the tangible, physical world. I will end this now and go on back outside because truth be told the inspiration for my work comes from that time and that is important too. I think I would wither without the computer but I KNOW I would wither without time spent outside and in nature. Sometimes I choose the former because its right in front of me and it can be addicitng as we all know! I just don't want to lose site of the big picture of my life by letting time pass on doing the things that really feed my soul which is art and horses.

  8. Sue–We all have our life challenges and tensions to contend with, and balancing this with that is never easy. I try to remember it is all a grand adventure, and no experience is wasted! Thx for all your thoughtful comments.

  9. Sue–We all have our life challenges and tensions to contend with, and balancing this with that is never easy. I try to remember it is all a grand adventure, and no experience is wasted! Thx for all your thoughtful comments.

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