Successful Art Careers | The Art of Slight Celebrity | Part Eleven

Visual Artists Need Just a Small Tribe to Succeed.

Art Careers Power of Public Speaking 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 1,000 or fewer collectors to enjoy a sold out career. 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.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

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 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 recognize artists who have a loyal following also make powerful marketing partners.

Slight Celebrity Offers Art Career Changing Benefits

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.

Turn Public Speaking Into a Publicity Machine

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:

  • 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 invaluable slight celebrity in your community. Essentially, you benefit from the halo effect of your raised prominence and as you passively gain more recognition.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

There Are Many Ways to Become a Slight Celebrity

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. Some can become benefactors by way of powerful introductions.

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. 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.

Share Your Thoughts

If you have some ideas on effective, intriguing ways for artists to develop their celebrity, please share them in the comments.

Previous Successful Art Careers Posts

  1. Making Successful Art Careers Happen | Part One
  2. Successful Art Careers | How to Make Yours Happen | Part Two
  3. Successful Art Careers | Marketing Art Effectively | Part Three
  4. Successful Art Careers | Grow Where You Are Planted | Part Four
  5. Successful Art Careers | The Curse of Thinking Small | Part Five
  6. Successful Art Careers | Using the Rule of Three | Part Six
  7. Successful Art Careers | Artistic Courage | Part Seven
  8. Successful Art Careers | Warm Art Marketing | Part Eight
  9. Successful Art Careers | Perspective | Part Nine
  10. Successful Art Careers | Networking | Part Ten

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.
The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.


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  1. I think simplicity is the key. With all the expensive publishing outlets, and focus on social media, I think you are absolutely right that an artist must first focus on local opportunities. Having moved from a long career as an illustrator into fine art, I am finding some measure of success without great expense or reaching too far. I am a studio painter, but also enjoy plein-air. One Saturday, I went down to the gallery where I show, set up outside and painted there all day. Although many artists don’t like to be disturbed, I am quite comfortable chatting away with passers-by as I work, and enjoyed plenty of good conversation, and answered many questions. Important to note, I also had postcards made to give away. A post card will let people remember you, and your work.
    In the end, someone came to the gallery that day to buy a painting they’d already seen, but after getting to know me a little bit, wound up buying one of mine instead. But the kicker is, that some weeks later, the same people returned to purchase four more works, two of them larger pieces. If I have learned nothing else, it’s not to cloister one’s self in the studio. Do a local painting competition (it’s really fun to win something), and don’t wait for a show to be a presence at your gallery. If it’s the kind of gallery where your work is up all the time, go there once in a while and just hang out. The owners will get to know you better, and prospective buyers will remember you.

    1. Hi David, Thank you so much for validating my advice. More importantly, thank you for sharing your own insights and wonderful experiences from putting yourself out there in your local market. Yours is a great way to help you build your own local, or slight, celebrity. Think of a way you might tie-in a charitable aspect, or some other noteworthy actions that would catch the eye of your local media. I was interviewed last week by the arts & culture beat reporter for the Arizona Republic, the largest newspaper in Arizona. I pitched on being a successful local author with four art marketing books being listed as bestsellers in various categories, and on being old enough to retire, but still working full-time while keeping a very busy schedule of blogging, writing, workshops and consulting. Go for it. Thanks again!

  2. Hi Barney, I do local shows here in LA, but I actually sell more work through my website, to people throughout the world. At first I was surprised that people would buy art without seeing it in person, but it has become a regular occurrence, and it doesn’t surprise me anymore. I suppose part of it is that people have become more comfortable shopping on the Internet, and I do offer a full refund if they’re not happy with their purchase. So far no one has taken me up on that!

    1. Dear Cassandra, Thanks for your comment. It just proves what I have always said, there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to getting one’s art to market. That said, I still believe having a contingent of direct buying collectors is the best way to bulletproof one’s career against the vagaries of galleries closing, Facebook or other social media fading and other distribution channel problems you cannot control. For most artists, the lowest hanging fruit is in their backyards. Congratulations on your success with your website, it is encouraging to know it works so well for you.

  3. I facebook,tweet,and show my work online. Google my name,and there I am along with a british actor with the same name. Oct 2012 I started blindly marketing my work,and I’m still very nearsighted. Sales are slow,I have sold a few originals,and will be published in a childrens education book. I recently got a hold of the chamber of commerce in the smaller city Ilive in and will be showing,and hopefully selling at their designs of autumn festival labor day week end which also coincides with a route 66 celebration of many citys it runs through including mine in miami Oklahoma. To prepare wont be that hard I already have some automobile art,and a painting of our local historic theatre. Being basically a hermit has been the hardest thing to overcome,I’m perfectly happy all alone in my studio,and if I could get,or afford to have someone do the public part for me, I would. So I will smile,chit chat,and try not to be to grumpy,or bashful. Wish me luck!
    Larry Lamb.

    1. Hi Larry, Thanks for your candid insights into Larry’s world. You obviously understand who you are and go with a sense of humor. Success nearly always comes as a result of getting out of one’s comfort zone. Your personality comes through engagingly and brightly through this comment. If you let it shine for you in your public persona, I have no doubt you will find success in gaining interest in you and your work. All the best!

  4. A perfect example is Baron Batch, Artist, Pro football player, College football star at Texas Tech, columnist and now the best selling artist at the Lubbock Arts Festival ever. Prolific also.

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