Sunday, May 27, 2012

Who's On Your Totem?

Happy one-month birthday to my little blog!  It’s been a kick-butt 30 days with nearly 3500 views and 52 subscribers.  (Don’t miss out on the opportunity to win the 4 x 4 painting by becoming a follower – please click on the “Join this Site” button.)

Here is a most interesting article on Harley Davidson motorcyles, "Buying What Harley-Davidson Really Sells - Hint: It's Not Motorcyles."  As you read through the article you begin to see "The HD brand is about freedom and living life on the edge a little." 

This blog is about discovering what you and I, as artists, are really selling. Hint - It's not art.  I hope you will follow and enjoy the ride...pun intended. Vrooom!

Who’s On Your Totem?
Casey Klahn, pastelist and fellow blogger - author of The Colorist - presented a two day workshop last weekend here in Denver.  The workshop was not technique-oriented but rather about helping the participants to see differently.  The title of the workshop was "See Differently. Authenticity & Your Art."
I’m not exactly a star pupil when it comes to workshops, never seeming to produce anything worth saving, and believe me, this time was no exception.  However, I did come home with a head full of valuable concepts to explore. One concept is the idea of a totem.  The totem pole is usually associated with the northwest Native American tribes depicting their spiritual symbols. The idea has been borrowed here and used as a means of inspiration and growth for Casey’s students.  His totem consists of Degas, William DeKoonig, and honestly, I can’t remember the other two!  It was his totem after all, not mine.
I’ve been pondering my own totem and have arrived at two masters so far.  One is Georgia O’Keeffe and the other is Jean-Baptiste Chardin.  There are many other artists I admire and they do influence my paintings: Deborah Bays, William Wray, and David Leffel to name just a few, but they are still alive.  I'm thinking long gone masters.
Georgia O’Keeffe found the sensuality and intimacy of her subjects, and she held a notion of a simple, meaningful life.  I read her biography years ago and was so struck with her dedication to her craft...and the fact that she didn't cook. 
Jean-Baptiste Chardin (1699-1779) was one of the greatest masters of Still Life in the history of art.  He constructed a simple world of truth, humility and calm on his canvases. His “Glass of Water and Coffee Pot” was painted in 1760 and is so timeless it looks like it could have been painted today.
I have two more positions to fill on my art totem, my inspiration and guide for growth as an artist.

"Emma's Pansies"
6 x 6 Pastel on Paper

How Does This Apply To Selling Your Art Online?
I believe in order to be successful at selling art online (or anywhere, actually) you must  know something about what speaks to your collectors.  Most people buy art because it speaks to them. As in the HD example about motorcycles, what speaks to the customer is the opportunity for freedom and living life on the edge.
Whatever you are selling, really, must be evident in all of your marketing efforts - your website design, your Etsy/online gallery design, your tag line, and most importantly right down to the art itself. 
For me, I have always looked for the sensuality in my subject matters – mostly fruits and vegetables.  My compositions are also fairly sparse, usually a very intimate and dramatically lit morsel of food.  I’ve been speaking with two, but vaguely similar messages : 
“I love drama in my art, not in my life.” 
“Life beats down and crushes the soul, art reminds us we have one.” By Stella Adler
Once I complete my totem I will re-evaluate what my message really is and fine tune my "brand."  I’m still learning about myself and my relationship to my art.

Today’s Nitty Gritty Nugget:
     Build your totem for inspiration and focus.

4 x 4 Oil on Gessobord

What’s Next?
1.   Contemplate who will be on your totem (3-4 predecessors) and why.  What relationship does their view of the world have to yours? 
2.   Fine tune your message to your collectors, is it about simplicity? Sensuality? Freedom? What are you really selling?
3.   Build your online shop/gallery and everything that supports it to clearly communicate that message.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You're Being Paged

For those readers wondering if they should set up a Facebook (FB) page to support their online selling efforts, here are my Etsy shop stats for the last 30 days.  While FB is not the number one source of visits to my Etsy shop, it is in the top 5.  (I'm only showing the top 5.)

1.                                                    793

2.     Direct TrafficPeople who typed your URL into their browser, bookmarked your page, or clicked a link in an email, instant message, or twitter client.                                               253

3.                                       69

4.                                             52

5.       34

I created my Cynthia Haase Fine Art FB page October 27, 2011, and FB has brought in 438 page views since then. Many of my sales are followers finding my work through FB.

What to do with all these people?

When I first joined FB several years ago I had my personal page, but it was quickly filling up with posts about my art business. I feared my friends and family were sick to pieces of hearing about my art, so I established my art FB page.

When new people, many of whom I am unfamiliar with, ask to join my personal page I now send them a message which reads:

      I recently received a friend request from you.

I’m limiting my personal FB page to my huge family and close friends. However, my guess is we share a common interest in all things art related. I have two other FB pages: My art My Nitty Gritty Nuggets of Selling Art Online

I do hope you will understand and join me at one or both of my professional pages.

Warm Regards,
Cindy Haase

This issue always seems to come up when discussing adding a FB page for art – How to inform followers you have a personal page separate from your business page  Sharing my grandchildren’s photos, details about an upcoming trip, or health status of my family becomes less of an issue when the two are separate.  I do, however, share my artwork with family and friends on my personal page from time to time.

Having a business art page also allows me to feature artwork of some of my favorite painters, as well as topics of interest for my artist friends without boring my family and close friends to tears.  One guilty pleasure I have is posting works that have sold, and telling folks whether it's a new or repeat collector and where the paintings are going.  I think that helps to build a trust factor.
"Vintage Teapot"
9 x 12 Colored Pencil and a bit of Pastel

Today’s Nitty Gritty Nugget:
        Create a FB page for your art business.
What’s Next?

1.      Go to your FB Home page and click on the Help Menu in the upper right corner.  Type “Create a Page” in the Search bar.

2.      Once you have created your art business page let followers know on your personal page. For those who would like to follow your art invite them to “like” your new art business page. (I hate using the word “fan” page.) Click here for help choosing a username for your new page.

3.      When you have reached a certain amount of likes (it was 25 when I applied) FB will provide you with a link to convert to a url specifically for your page.  Mine is

4.    Keep your posts interesting and not too frequent (1-2 per day is enough without overloading followers.)  Provide inspirational and educational links.

5.  Include the link to your FB art business page on your marketing materials such as postcards and business cards.

Monday, May 21, 2012

C'mon, Trust Me!

Almost all of the marketing gurus say you must build trust with your potential customers before you can expect them to become a real and loyal customer.   I totally subscribe to that notion.

So What Was I Thinking?

Last week I was looking for ways to get the word out about this blog and to let people know there was a give-away of a free painting in progress on the blog.  I popped* into an Etsy forum and began looking for some problems where I thought my blog could help out.  One of the discussion threads I landed in was an Etsy seller trying to figure out how to promote her shop without being “spammy.”

I jumped up and down on that one with both feet.  Here’s my response:

Hi folks, I write a blog on selling art online, but it could apply to your fine crafted items. I share my personal experience of selling on Etsy and creating a niche.

Make sure you follow my blog by using the ‘Join This Site’ function on the right side bar for a chance to win my free painting.”

I not only didn’t build trust with this reply , I actually turned people off, and had one person call my response “spammy.”  I was horrified!  As you can imagine I wanted to defend myself, but I gave myself some time to let the remark settle into my body.  After I picked up my feelings off the floor, I realized I hadn’t taken the time to get to know this Etsy seller, build some common ground and offer some heartfelt tidbit.  No one in the thread knew me or my intentions, nor were they buying – even though what I was offering was free. I did, indeed, respond in a spammy and crappy way. 
"Diner Cup and Strawberries"
6 x 6 Oil on Gessobord

What Could I Have Done Differently?

I could have listened more closely, asked questions about what things she had already tried, shared a personal experience specific to her issue right there in the discussion thread (instead of a cold “click on this link” statement.)

I did apologize in the thread, but will probably stay out of that discussion for a good long time.  No one was buying the apology, either.  I am still looking in the forums - taking the time to look at individual  shops, get clear on what their issues are, care about their solutions, and start a chat.  I definitely need practice in learning how to build trust, even if I’m selling free information.

Today’s Nitty Gritty Nugget:

     Build trust with people long before you ever expect them to buy, even if what you are selling is free.
"Apple Slice"
6 x 6 Oil on Gessobord

What’s Next?

1.       Is much of your marketing based around cold “click on this link” actions? 

2.       How could you build trust and establish a relationship instead? 

3.       Look at how businesses you buy from establish trust.

4.       What two things from #3 could you adopt in your own art business?

*corrected a typo of “pooped”, which would actually be so much more descriptive in this story.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Occupy Your Studio

My good friend and fellow artist, Ranjini Venkatchari, asked the following question earlier in the week.  I thought it would be a good topic for a blog post, and an opportunity to share a link to her amazing artwork.

I would love to know how long you have been doing daily painting? How did you start on it and what makes you work every day? I find it extremely difficult to get into the habit of working every day but I would definitely like to get into this habit sometime soon. Thanks!”

How it Started…

In March of 2010, my good friend, June Davis, and I decided to rent our own studio space, Golden Point One Fine Art Studio.  We had been students of Master Pastelist, Deborah Bays, for a few years prior to that and had access to her teaching studio.  I was going through some real drama and trauma when I joined the class, and I found that having the studio to escape to - changed my life and my mental state.

JunieB, which I affectionately call her, and I inked our first lease along with a third friend.  The third friend ultimately didn’t work out.  So instead of paying a third of the rent, we were now paying half of the rent. It’s not a situation we regret as JunieB and I find we are totally compatible, honest, supportive and productive with just the two of us.  At this point we won’t be adding a third person.  Plus, it’s a really tiny studio.

I muddled around for the first 10 or so months, doing some larger pastel work and entering competitions, but the sales were just not happening, and my bank account was suffering. I walked into the studio one cold December morning and JunieB was oil painting this huge canvas. It was about the size of one of our studio windows.  She was having company that weekend and she needed some “fresh” art on her wall – a story or two in itself.  It looked like so much fun, and I decided I wanted to try oil painting - which I said I would never do.

My first 4 x 4 “daily” oil painting was really bad, but I put it up on my Etsy shop, Littleton Studio, and it sold.  OK - I’m now HOOKED. 

"Lime and Cranberries"
4 x 4 Oil on Gessobord

How Often?

I can’t say I paint every day, but I still fall into the category of “daily painter” by producing 2-3 paintings a week.  Last year I averaged about 3 paintings a week.  This year it’s more like 2, but I’ve also been working in pastel since March and they take a bit more time. The pastels are selling well even at a higher price than the oils. I’m working in pastel because I have one more pastel workshop for the year and I want to make sure I’m not rusty.

I try to be at the studio at least 3-4 days a week from 9am-ish to 1pm-ish. JunieB and I prefer to paint when we can both be in the studio, but that isn’t always possible.  In the beginning I literally had to mark studio/painting days with a big X on my calendar.  I started scheduling anything not related to the studio in the afternoons.  I’ve had to give up a few things to make time for painting like book club, morning coffee dates, morning doctor/dentist appointments, etc. 

On weekday mornings, I get up, get dressed, check email, and stop at the local Starbucks as I’m on my way to the studio. If I didn’t get to the studio the first thing in the morning, like this morning, I wouldn’t get there at all - life intervenes and I get distracted. The one day of the week that I don’t paint is Tuesday, which is the day my husband and I entertain our youngest granddaughter, Emma.

My Motivation…

Paying the rent on the studio! There is also a sense of accountability when you paint with someone.  If you say you’re going to be there, you usually try your best to show up.  Sometimes I show up at the studio and don’t get any painting done for an hour or two.  I have a mantra – “At least I’m here!”

And, oh yes, I’m a showoff – I love to post my work after a good painting day.

4 x 4 Oil on Gessobord

Today’s Nitty-Gritty Nugget:
       Occupy your studio as often and as long as you can.

What’s Next?

1.      Find a place you can call your studio, whether at home, or off-site.  It should be a place to escape to not a place to dread.

2.      Make yourself accountable to someone to actually occupy your studio.  I’m accountable to JunieB, yours could be another artist friend that you check in with daily for awhile.

3.      Find a motivation.  Mine is $$. Decide how much money you need to keep your studio operating, or how much you need for a vacation, supplies, etc.  Money can be a very motivating factor.  You don’t produce? You don’t get paid!

4.      Pick a consistent time to be in your studio, not “just whenever you can find time.”

5.      Find your trigger/routine for beginning to paint. Mine is an iced venti skinny vanilla latte, putting on my black apron and putting some tunes on the CD player.  Once the apron goes on, my body knows it’s time to get down to business.
Thanks Ranjini for the opportunity to share!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Going, Going, Gone

As a daily painter (or maybe more like twice-a-week painter) I find if a painting doesn’t sell quickly using the strategy I have in place now, it more than likely will set up residency in my “archives”. (i.e. read basement storage)

The current strategy I have is using Etsy as my selling site for all my small paintings and using exposure sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Daily Paintworks and Daily Painters Originals to drive traffic to my Etsy shop.

Last year I had 20 or so paintings out of 165+ that didn’t sell, and to now move them out of the archives and turn them into cash presents a new opportunity.  This last weekend, I experimented with a fun site called Tophatter that I learned about while trolling through the Etsy business and team discussion boards.  It’s a virtual auction site complete with your own little icon - my icon has a purple dress and gray hair.

"Empty" 5 x 5 Oil on Gessobord
SOLD on Tophatter

Tophatter has themed auctions: Jewelry, Supplies, Antique and Vintage, Bath and Body, Art, etc.  They also have auctions that are labeled as bazaars (Early Bird and Night Owl).  Each day they post an Auction Schedule.  It appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the Art auctions at 11am (Pacific Time) and on Tuesday night there is an Original Art and Limited Edition auction.

You set up your profile, and start adding your items.  Each item is a “lot”.  You can schedule your lot for an auction in two ways: By scheduling or by adding to the stand-by category for a current auction.  When I listed my first painting for an auction, it was scheduled for a week out, which I thought was odd.  The second painting I sold was by adding it to the standby category for the Monday morning Art auction.  Someone has to bid on your item to bring it out of standby where everyone can bid on it.  Payment on both items came through Paypal and both buyers paid immediately. Here is a link to the Tophatter Blog, The Monocle and Moustache, which more fully explains the standby concept. (The bidding goes very fast, and I find the chat function annoying.)

I’ve sold two paintings, a 5 x 5 for $18 and a 5 x 5 for $11 - both over a year old - and have another painting scheduled for auction on May 18th. So as you might guess this is not for your high end art or larger art – at least not yet.  There are a lot of prints, ACEO/ACT art, along with some really bad art.  There was a piece that was just so poorly done, it looked like a drawing but the jury is still out on that.  The bidding started at $300.  I was riveted, I just had to see if this thing would sell or not - as you might guess no one bid.
"RedHead" 5 x 5 Oil on Gessobord
SOLD on Tophatter

The idea here is to find a price point you can live with, which will also cover your shipping and supplies, and move your practice and archived pieces out of storage.

Today’s Nitty-Gritty Nugget:

     What’s your strategy for turning “archived” paintings into income?

What’s Next?

1.        Take inventory on those paintings you would really love to get rid of.

2.        What is the price point at which you would cover your supplies and shipping?

3.       Set a price and then look for a market to sell them, either online, or in a brick and mortar shop.   It may not be the “image” of the cool, hip gallery that you ultimately would like, but if you would rather have the cash, you’ll find a place.  I know of several gallery owners that look for new talent online – in Ebay auctions, auction sites and other unlikely spots.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I'd Follow You Anywhere - USE JOIN THIS SITE BUTTON on right sidebar

Happy Saturday! 

I am celebrating the “2-week plus one day birthday” of my new baby, this blog -  “What Are You Really Selling?”

It’s been two weeks of meeting new friends, being supported by my already super friends, searching my soul and rusty memory banks, and early morning writing sessions.  A freaking JOY!

To add to the joy I just sold two paintings, one last night on TopHatter (I will be writing more about this experience) and one this morning on Etsy, both to new collectors (TX and FL.)  In celebration, my X-Man Super Hero husband went out and got me a venti skinny vanilla latte, my one vice, from Starbucks. 

Between the great launch of the blog and the new sales, I’m in a give-away kind of mood and will be giving away the painting shown below.  For my current followers and those who follow by midnight (MDT) May 31st, your name will go into the “hat” and one winner will be announced on the blog on June 1st.  I will contact the winner for mailing information. (Sorry, only my North American friends will receive free shipping.)

Today’s Nitty-Gritty Nugget:

     Follow my blog and be in the drawing for this oil painting.

"Pear in the Shadow"
4 x 4 Oil on Gessobord
$35 value for FREE

Friday, May 11, 2012

Could You Repeat That Please?

In the early 1990’s I left my corporate job at the telephone company in my quest to become something other than I was.  The first thing I landed on was a decorative wood painting business.  I bought a scroll saw, table saw, drill press and belt sander and transformed our little ranch-style home into a virtual carpentry shop.  I began developing my own designs to cut out of wood, paint and sell in the local craft markets. 

I had two driving age teenage sons and car insurance was astronomical, so I needed to bring in a fair amount of money.   The name of my business was Corn Street Designs, and I was able to develop a great customer following by offering what I call “multiples”. 

The term, “multiples”, means nothing more than repeat business.  I cut six foot lengths of 2 x 2” pine into little squares and painted one side of them with seasonal symbols like pumpkins, ghosts, holly, candy canes, Easter bunnies, sunflowers, crows…etc.  I sold them for $2.95 each.  They were like potato chips, you couldn’t just buy one.   The other line of items was a Welcome sign to hang on the door, with three hooks for interchangeable, seasonal symbols.  The signs sold for $12.95 and all the symbols sold for $3.95.  So if you bought the sign you had to buy at least three symbols, and you HAD to change them out for each holiday.  There are several other examples of the multiples concept, but I think you get the idea.  My income per month averaged about $600 a month with sales before the big holidays well over $1,000.
"The Diva"
6 x 6 Pastel on Paper

How does that translate to selling art online?

Well, I think I’ve mentioned this before and if I haven’t I should have.  You’re not likely to be successful if your approach is all about having a "happy accident" painting in your studio and then deciding to list it in your Etsy shop.  You are more likely to build a following if you have a strategy.  A strategy consists of what your art “brand” is about with listings supporting your brand, what sizes you will offer, and consistent pricing for those sizes. 

I stumbled across an Etsy shop the first part of the week, the art was wonderful, but the shop was not user-friendly.  There were some interesting types of art mentioned in the shop banner, but the categories did not reflect those types of art, and when I clicked on the category of mixed media and 10 art pieces appeared no sizes were apparent and the prices were all different – so confusing. If you don’t make it easy for the customer to buy in your shop, it will be difficult to make one sale, let alone multiple items or repeat business.

We will be visiting this multiple sales concept more in the upcoming posts.

Today’s Nitty-Gritty Nugget:
Think “multiple” sales in your marketing strategy with like-sized paintings, pricing, and categories.

"Yellow Chile Pepper"
5 x 7 Oil on Board

What’s Next?

1.   Do you offer items that are grouped into consistent sizes?  Or are you painting a 2 x 3” today, and a 4 x 6” tomorrow, and planning a 10.75 x 16.325” painting for next week?
2.  Are your prices consistent for your groups of paintings? Are your 4 x 4" paintings all the same price, your 20 x 40's, etc.?  Don't price based on how good you think the painting is.
3.  Are your categories set up to let collectors compare apples to apples? Or coconuts to kumquats?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Know When to Hold 'Em

What’s the best timing approach for posting new listings in your online shop/gallery?

-Saving up your art to list several paintings at one time

-Listing your paintings as soon as they are done

Let me help you out here, I don’t think there is a “best”, just different.
"Saucy" 6 x 6 Pastel on Paper
Click Here to Purchase Painting

A look at two different approaches:

In my Etsy shop, Littleton Studio, I list my items as soon as I deem them done, or more correctly as soon as my studio mate, JunieB, agrees they are done.  Sometimes she doesn’t agree.  For my oil paintings I give a “ready for shipping date” in my item description to give them drying time, but I don’t wait to list them until they are dry.   I use this approach partly to always keep something new and fresh at the top of my items for sale and it motivates me to paint more often, sometimes daily.  The real reason I use this approach is I get a huge “Rush” from the whole process of listing and seeing the views and reactions to my paintings.  Here is where the gambler’s blood coursing through your veins fits into the picture.  My favorite story is about listing a lime painting that sold in less than 10 minutes.  I could see that old slot machine hit lucky sevens in my mind’s eye!

One of my favorite shops is Jill2Day, she features one-of-kind clothing made from recycled sweaters and fabrics.  We’ve traded paintings for clothing in the past and she is a delightful person to work with.  Jill also has a Facebook page and I’ve watched as she uses a build-up period to promote enthusiasm.  She will give you sneak peeks at fabrics, designs and a countdown as to when the items will be actually posted in her shop.  She has even posted photos as she is folding, photographing and tagging sweaters (not to mention her cool afghans.)  I’d say the “Anticipation” approach is working just fine for her, she’s had 817 sales and has 2800+ admirers.  (I’m the proud owner of three of her summer tops.)

Today’s Nitty- Gritty Nugget:
Whatever approach you use, Rush or Anticipation, make it work for you. 

"Bluesy Pears" 5 x7 Oil on Panel

What’s Next?

1.      Think about your approach to listing new art.  Do you identify more with the Rush or Anticipation approach?

2.       Could you benefit from tweaking or experimenting with your approach?

3.      Do you use Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about your new listing? (You really need to think about doing this, if you aren’t.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Inspiration from Unlikely Places

It's the one day of the week that my husband and I spend the day with our youngest granddaughter, Emma, so not much time to write.

We have four grandchildren, the oldest being 18, then 16, 5 and 3.  We also have two beautiful young girls who are our almost-granddaughters, our son's fiance's girls.  Each of our kids is a different source of unlikely inspiration for me as an artist.

Emma, the youngest, is so independent, "I'm strong....I'm brave....I can do it myself!" She is an inspiration for me in being extremely independent.  Those little declarations she makes feed my own independent spirit. 

Our oldest, Taylor, has taught me to overcome your fears and bloom. Keegan, our grandson, is an old soul and has taught me to follow my inner wisdom.  The five year old, Opal, teaches me the world needs more entertainment. She's a natural-born performer and gets it from me, I think. I'm also a show-off! (Just ask my studio mate, JunieB.)  My new "loves" - Madison, is all about supporting her "sisters" of the world, and Riley, is teaching  me to live life on life's terms.  Riley has had Juvenile Diabetes since she was 10 months old and is a champ.

I keep these inspirations written on the inside cover of my "handy-dandy" notebook that I carry in my purse. (If you watch the Nick, Jr TV channel at all you'll get the connection to Blues Clues and the notebook.)

"Cuties and Cranberries"
6 x 8" Pastel on Paper
On exhibit in June
 Missouri Valley Impressionist Society Exhibit
Got Art on Third, Lee's Summit, MO

Today's Nitty-Gritty Nugget:

Where do you get your unlikely source of inspiration to be who you are?

What's Next?

1. Make a list of the people in your life who inpire you. Make notes about what they are teaching you.

2. Post your final "unlikely inspiration" notes somewhere that you will see them everyday.

3. When times get tough, read your notes and think of examples where this person has demonstrated those little bits of inspiration.  This week there was a FB picture of Madison selling lemonade to raise money for a cure for Juvenile Diabetes to help her sister.  Amazing.....

Speaking of FaceBook, don't forget "What Are You Really Selling?" also has a FB page. You'll find lots more inspiration there.