Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Facebook for the Artist

I admit it. I love using Facebook! While I appreciate and enjoy connecting with friends and family using this modern method of communication, I mostly use Facebook as a feedback and promotional tool for my art. My most recent series of posts on a set of 16 little bird paintings is a nice little example of how Facebook can help us connect with our collectors, fans, and other artists. ** promote, promote, wink, wink, check out all the posts about my 16 birds on my fanpage HERE **

1) The Process
Art is a creative process. And while I can envision how to take an idea from start to finish, I often forget that this process can be an interesting mystery for others. While I've posted videos and slideshows on Youtube showing my process, I found that doing so on Facebook was more effective for allowing me to share what I do and receive immediate feedback on along the way. I also seem to create my best work when I know I'm being watched, which is why I will often paint at shows. Having others interact and react forces me to slow my process down and be more contemplative.

(images as shown on Facebook)

2) The Feedback
With facebook I can immediately tell which pieces make a greater impact on my fans than others. My fans also have inspired me to keep going and working on a piece. Looking at the number of hits/posts/likes also helps me to plan which images to print more of for a show and which images I should frame and display. I feel like I don't have to wait for the show itself to know what customers will like. (You do have to keep in mind the timing of your posts, as this will definitely affect how many people see/comment as well.)

3) Promoting
OK. Here it can get tricky. I know I can sometimes over-promote and lose a fan here or there along the way. At the same time, though, I try to keep my audience regularly engaged in what I do, and give them several different options for following or purchasing my work. Since I have a variety of followers, too, interested in both my art itself and the business of art, I try to mostly use Facebook as a means to promote my work, but I also try to have educational posts as well. In fact, it was my Facebook fanpage that made me realize how many people are curious about the business side of what I do after posting a few income/expense charts showing %s. While all artists operate differently, our work life is a mystery to most people. People will often expect that I spend my days blissfully painting away in my studio every chance I get. Well, as nice as that sounds, I do my best to get into my studio a few hours every other day. The rest of the time I'm preparing prints and other merchandise, scanning, uploading, purchasing supplies, promoting, packaging, shipping, filling out forms, keeping my show calendar up to date, and balancing books. I'm sure I'm missing a few things here too... The more people know about our professional lives, though, the more engaged I feel they become.

4) Interacting
Since my 16 Birds were so well received on Facebook, I also felt what better place to ask my followers' opinions about what comes next... sheep, fish, chickens, houses, or?? It will be my first Facebook poll, so I don't know what to expect, but I hope it will again keep me inspired and painting and engaging! (Vote on my fan page, if you like and become part of the interaction)

5) and MORE
Personally, since I'm a rather private person and a wife and mother of 2 kids as well as being a full time artist, I try to make sure to separate family from work. Thankfully, Facebook makes this easy by allowing us a Friend page and a Fan page. For artists, I highly recommend making use of the Fan page to promote their work. Also, people will often want to be my friend on Facebook when I don't know them personally since they follow my work. I just direct them over to my fan page so that I can keep my friend page personal. It works great! That way my art followers aren't inundated with pictures of my kids :-)

So - if you are an artist, artisan, aspiring artist - check it out and see if a Facebook fan page is the right thing for you!

"16 Birds"
The complete set of originals available for a Limited Time on ETSY
Prints available on ETSY and IMAGEKIND

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Etsy Front Page Debate

As most of you know, I sell my art on ETSY. I love the professional look of the storefront they provide, the easy to manage shop tools, and the minimal expense. I also enjoy the occasional extra sales I get because of their front page exposure! And if you browse the community threads on Etsy (as I like to do) you will often find discussions about how much being on the front page affects a shop... as well as a myriad of other threads about "how to get on the front page...", "why are the same people always on the front page...", "what's wrong with my pictures...", etc.

Well, I'm here to tell you, being featured on the front page DOES affect your shop! Take a look at these hits (provided by Google Analytics) from the past year. You can guess which days I was featured.

Just head on over to Craftcult if you want to confirm that yes, indeed, those huge spikes are days in which I made the front page. (Once on craftcult, go to "the vault", choose option "search for member", enter "jenlo262" for username.)

To reiterate: here's the numbers (hits) for each front page feature

July 15, 2010: 337
November 13, 2010: 820
November 14, 2010: 450
February 28, 2011: 864
June 5, 2011: 334

Being that I usually average around 50 hits a day, on a good day, I'm getting an average of more than 10 times that amount by having that front page exposure.

NOW, the big question - do these hits translate to SALES?

Usually (I'm not sure what happened with my Nov 2010 stats, with 2 days of feature in a row and NO sales... hmmm...)

Below is a more typical result, however, where my 1 day of front page exposure gave me about 50% of my month's sales - wow!

Here's the rest of the 1 day sale numbers:

July 15, 2010: $528
November 13, 2010: $0
November 14, 2010: $0
February 28, 2011: $180
June 5, 2011: $57

So, in the past year, I received 5 front page spots and as a result had an additional $765 in gross sales. Just think if I had a spot every few days, like.... ahem.... I won't go there.

Not to add fuel to the debate of how front page items are chosen and who benefits from these choices, but I can certainly understand those who start and contribute to the front page Etsy threads. I had never really thought about it until I started looking at the numbers today (after having a front page feature over the weekend), and thought some other Etsians might be interested in a few behind the scenes stats.

In the meantime, I will press on and enjoy what front page exposure comes my way.

Happy ETSY selling & shopping!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Original Works of Art on Paper - Vote!

While I love painting on canvas, I equally enjoy painting on paper. Painting with Acrylics (or oils for that matter) can easily be done on a nice heavy weight paper such as a watercolor paper (I prefer Arches Cold Pressed papers but also use their mixed media paper). Unlike with watercolors, I always gesso the paper first, leaving to dry flat (no taping the edges/corners). While the weight of the paper is more like canvas, it has a very smooth surface unlike canvas which, for me, brings a different kind of freedom and brushwork to these paintings.

Now - the age old question - but how should they be presented?

Option 1: float framing under glass

Watercolors are often presented under a mat and frame with glass. While this is an option, since I don't have to leave a white border for taping down my paper while I work, I prefer painting all the way to the edge and leaving a nice uneven deckled edge on the paper. Recently, I have been framing these pieces with a float frame method (using a spacer between the matboard on which the artwork is mounted, edges showing, and the glass). You can find out more about float framing in my previous post HERE, although I tend to leave out the extra mat now and just frame to the edge of the paper as shown above. While I love this look, it is time-consuming and a bit of a materials investment. So...

Option 2: mounting on bamboo panels

As I was looking into new ways to present my prints, I came across this lovely little product by Plywerk that provides a backing to your print using bamboo in an interesting patterned cross-section. While I like this look, I was looking for something a little deeper. So, I emailed them to ask if they would make such a thing - and what do you know - it's currently in the works! As I was admiring this product I started to think it might be interesting to mount original art on them as well (I've been planning out a 100 flock of birds series, with 100 individual little paintings, which would look great on these!)

But - they would look great with float framing too!! Argh... I can't decide!

So what's a girl to do? Ask my customers! Here's your chance to cast a vote - FLOAT FRAMING or MOUNTED on BAMBOO (like picture shown but about twice the depth). What do you think?



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