(Editors’ note: This is a repeat of a very popular post from the Successful Art Careers series. Look for new original content next week.)
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.
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 important 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.
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.
The luck of visual artists is they need only a small tribe of followers to create career success. While they may target smaller 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. This means you can get much greater 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 own following is necessary. They also recognize artists who have a loyal following make for potentially powerful marketing partners.
The idea of being a slight celebrity simply 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.
One of the most valuable things you can do is create a flexible 30-minute to 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:
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 invaluable slight celebrity in your community. Essentially, you benefit from the halo effect of your raised prominence as you passively gain more recognition.
Public speaking is powerful, 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 effective 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 love your art and want to own multiple levels. As previously mentioned, some can become benefactors by way of powerful introductions.
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. This is how 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.
If you have some ideas on effective, intriguing ways for artists to develop their celebrity, please share them in the comments.