Succeed with a Small, Loyal Tribe

Study the lives and work of most visual artists, and you will find they on average create 1,000 originals in their lifetime.

While the math of 33 pieces per year for 30 years determines the estimate, your mileage may vary. For the sake of argument, let us use 1,000 pieces. What that means is an artist only needs a small tribe of loyal collectors to purchase one-third or more of their work.

Some Collectors Influence As Well As Buy

Within your tribe, you can realistically expect some will be benefactors as well as patrons where they will pass along their influence to enhance your career in ways you could not have imagined. For example, imagine being introduced to essential journalists, gallerists, curators, and other buyers who show immediate interest in your work. This kind of power comes from developing direct buying collectors.

Being slightly famous can only help your cause with sales and introductions and more. Celebrity is more than those whose lives are the source of gossip journalism. It encompasses having well-known status in certain circles, even small ones.

The Value of Celebrity

Becoming just slightly well known is a fabulous and fun way to promote your art career. It can bring you benefits that extend well beyond selling art. It can lead to books, teaching, touring and much more. Couple becoming slightly famous with smart marketing and you are on your way to developing your career to the fullest extent.

Small But Mighty Wins the Day!

The luck of visual artists is they need only a small tribe of followers to create career success. While they may target lower numbers, they still get to use the same powerful marketing tools to develop their following as those whose careers require much larger tribes to achieve success. You can get much higher leverage from tools such as email marketing, blogging, and social media to accomplish your art career goals.

It is true that getting one’s work to market is different today from even the recent past. Just a few years back it was career suicide (at least with galleries) for artists who established a direct buying collector base. Today, it is encouraged by enlightened gallery owners. They realize artists need to make a living and getting that done means having their following is necessary. They also recognize artists who have a loyal following make for potentially powerful marketing partners.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



Slight Celebrity Offers Art Career Changing Benefits

The idea of being a minor celebrity means the artist has found effective ways to raise awareness for themselves amongst their tribe. I believe this is most easily done on a regional basis. Artists, by the creativity involved in their work, have an advantage over most other small businesses in their area. That is, art is much sexier than plumbing or dentistry, for example.

Turn Public Speaking Into a Publicity Machine

One of the most valuable things you can do is create a flexible 30-minute to a one-hour presentation on a subject about which you are passionate. Here are some topics I think would be both easy to research and irresistible to many as a lecture from you:

  • Detail how your area rich in art history.
  • Talk about any famous artists who have connections to where you live.
  • Explain how the arts are a driving economic factor in your region.
  • Provide insights on the benefits of how having a vibrant arts community, and providing arts education in your schools, enriches your whole community.

Learning to present on these or other fascinating topics is sure to open doors to publicity for you. It just begins with publicity. As you pursue your speaking, you can become the authoritative go-to contact when the media in your area when needs a source for a story. The more often you are quoted, the more likely you will be tapped again and again for slight invaluable celebrity in your community. Primarily, you benefit from the halo effect of your raised prominence as you passively gain more recognition.

There Are Many Ways to Become a Slight Celebrity

Public speaking is persuasive, but not the only way to become well known. I have written in both my books and on this blog about how to use publicity to get exposure in other ways. These include becoming the founder and driving force behind an art happening, writing books, or do something noteworthy, outrageous and productive for a charity you love.

The aim of becoming a minor celebrity is to build awareness for you and your art. People like to buy from people they like. Doing any of the above things gets you in front of new people, many of whom are bound to love and respect you on many levels. A certain percentage are sure to enjoy your art and want to own multiple levels. As previously mentioned, some can become benefactors by way of powerful introductions.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



It Is All About Your Art Career

Be proactive and do these things often and you will quicken the rate at which you build your tribe of loyal fans, friends, and collectors. You can bulletproof your career so when galleries close or Facebook fails, or other distribution channels fail that your core collectors will stay connected to you by you.

Subscribe to Art Marketing News
Click and join. It’s free!




art career, art marketing, Career Success, Celebrity, Slightly Famous

You may also like

  • Elpedio Robinson says:

    Thanks, Barney, for your article; it is very insightful. Indeed, this is something artists need to take careful note of: building relationships. We should see each sale as the beginning of a relationship and therefore work to nurture it in order to build a ‘tribe’.

    • Exactly! Sometimes, it’s not even a sale. It’s a contact who might have all kinds of referrals for you. Just because I’m all Southwest art doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate your abstract art and steer valuable prospects to you.

  • Very encouraging article. On the topic of public speaking… I take the opportunity to do presentations and demonstrations at public art events, especially where there are many non-professionals displaying their work. It’s also a good way to get people interested in taking classes from artists.

    • Thanks for sharing, Larry. It’s something any artist can do. I have a follower from New Zealand. She joined Toastmasters after reading about it in my book. She has found it an exhilarating experience that more than made up for her initial fears about trying it.

  • Thank you Barney. I love the idea that your fan base does not have to be huge. Thinking that artists need to live in a big city or have a contact list of thousands is a dark pit of despair we can easily fall into. Thanks to your insights and just looking at the possibilities with a wider lens, I am encouraged. Even in a town as small as mine (pop. 400) it can be done.

  • I had read your recent articles. It is surely uplifting. My deep passion for fine art and I love the artwork since I was 5 years old. I have done my first artwork in 1970 and had given away a lot of my artwork. in fact, one of my artwork had landed in England. Deep in my subconscious mind, I think that I would be more successful with my artwork. But for the last 10 years, I had done a few of my art shows do to busy work and school and busy life’s daily schedules. I tell myself I will run with my artwork after my retirement year, which I only have nine months to go. I think then, I would have time with my art shows more often, and more traveling time and more time for social media too. Like many of my artwork that I have done and have in my personal collection almost 500 pieces of all sizes. I should be able to find many even million likes of my work. You right, all about self-promotion and marketings and the word of mouth daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and I should find the collectors who like my work to keep. I will take your advice, Mr. Davey. Thanks for all your helpful tips for fine-arts in the art world. Sompong Moss, TN

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Subscribe to weekly updates. 
    "Helpful information & encouraging inspiration for fine artists."  

    Search This Site