Once an artist starts exhibiting their work and receiving a wealth of positive feedback, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of thinking we know it all and to stop researching our chosen medium. We go on reusing the same techniques over and over again, until the positive feedback starts drying up and we end up feeling uninspired, seeing the same results day in and day out. Those techniques that we knew so well just don’t do it for us, or for anybody else, anymore… our artwork becomes stale!
Maybe I’m speaking for myself in the above paragraph, or maybe it is a common occurence for other artists, too… I’m not sure. Either way, I’ve found a great way to combat this phenomenon: continuous education. I’ve found that the best way to overcome outputting stale artwork is to go back to basics by finding some new guides or tutorials around the net, often ones that tell you what you think you already know.
When I do this, I find that I am reminded of certain factors that made older artworks successful, but that I have been glossing over while shooting within my “I know it all” bubble. For example, I recently became lazy as far as getting high or low was concerned while on location: a quick read of an article today reinforced this fact for me, and I have realised one area where my more recent artwork has been falling short. Likewise, that same article spoke of shooting at dawn and dusk, which led me to reflect on the fact that my most successful photographs have all been shot during one of those times, and yet lately I have been busy in the evenings and sleeping in in the mornings, leading me to shoot during the daylight hours… another area where recent artwork has been falling short!
Not only did this article highlight the areas in which I have been falling short recently… it also gave me some new ideas! I have also aimed to get as much of a landscape into the frame by using only a wide-angle lens… I would never have thought of cropping a landscape tightly using a telephoto/zoom lens had I not read this article today! Who would’ve thought Mr Know-It-All could pick up a new idea from an article that takes us back to basics?!?
Another great reason for constantly reviewing the breadth of new (and old) information available to visual artists on the net is the inspiration that can be gained from the illustrations that go along with them. As visual artists, we are all more than familiar with the cliche that a picture speaks a thousand words, and this rings true for the countless tutorials and instructional texts that have been published for artists, by artists, around the net! While the text content of such articles does serve to make us think about and extend our techniques, it is the pictures that give us inspiration to get out and get the next perfect picture ourselves. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have read an instructional article and thought, “I want to do that,” in response to the accompanying illustrations!
Coincidentally, the article that I read today and have referred to throughout this post can be accessed here: 5 Opposite Steps to Better Photographs.
In a recent blog entry (Monthly Review for April 2010) I made a statement as to why online art communities such as RedBubble are not an effective way of selling one’s artwork. However, such online art communities are still a very important tool in the artist’s marketing toolbox!
Apart from the ability to showcase you work to other artists and develop a network of like minds who will give you honest and creative feedback in the process, the market research provided by online art communities can hold immense value for an artist deciding which artworks to promote in other markets, and which to keep hidden away in the private collection. With statistics such as sales, comments, favouritings and views, the artist is equipped with a wealth of information to help make informed decisions as to the marketing potential of individual artworks.
Obviously, making a sale of an artwork through an online art community is the greatest indicator of an artwork’s marketing potential. The fact that someone was willing to show their approval of your artwork by pulling out their wallet (or purse, as the case may be) and liked your artwork enough to spend their hard-earned cash on a print is the biggest thumbs up you’ll ever get. If an artwork sells, it has a place in your folio and should be promoted to the rest of the world… even moreso if it was a fellow artist who gave you the thumbs up in that manner!
To have another artist add your artwork to their online collection of favourites is the next biggest indicator of an artwork’s marketing potential in my book. While not being as potent (or as profitable) as an actual sale, a favouriting tells us that another artist likes your artwork enough that they want to see it again later. It may be that they want to refer back to your artwork as an inspirational reference point for their own artwork, or that they just really liked it that much that they want to see it whenever they log in to the online art community. Either way, a favouriting is another sign that an artwork should be promoted to the masses.
Apart from the subjective qualities of comments left by other artists on your artwork, the number of comments that an artwork receives can be used as an indicator of an artwork’s marketing potential. Although the number of comments can mean less than the number of favouritings (due to dilution from the number of your own replies, or the number of comments left by group hosts accepting and/or featuring your artworks, etc), the fact that other artists have taken some of their time to leave comments does mean something.
The number of views alone is NOT the best indicator of an artwork’s marketing potential! A high number of views without associated sales, favouritings or comments could indicate that your artwork looks fantastic as a thumbnail (therefore encouraging people to click on it), but is less impressive in full view (as evidenced by the fact that people are not following up by buying a print, adding it to their favourites or leaving a positive comment). Don’t be fooled into thinking that a high number of views means an artwork is popular… a lesser number of views with some associated sales, favouritings or comments means so much more!
Putting It All Together
I have a spreadsheet containing a list of my RedBubble artworks, the date each was uploaded, and the number of sales, comments, favouritings and views for each. I regularly update this spreadsheet with live data, and publish the results to my RedBubble profile.
In addition to the raw data outlined above, I have added the following columns to the spreadsheet to express these statistics as conversion rates:
- Sales per View;
- Favouritings per View; and
- Comments per View.
In assessing the relative popularity of each artwork, I multiply these three columns together to come up with “Sales, Favouritings and Comments per View” and sort by this column (in descending order) to come up with a list of the most popular artworks.
With only a couple of sales on the board, I needed to add an additional column, “Favouritings and Comments per View”, as multiplying by sales was giving most artworks a value of 0 in the sort column. After sorting by the first column in descending order, I then sorted by this new column (also in descending order) to come up with a list of the most popular artworks without sales.
Given that some artworks came up with similar numbers in this final column, I then sorted by the artworks’ uploaded dates (in ascending order), as I consider an artwork that achieves a higher conversion rate in a shorter period of time to be more popular (and therefore have greater marketing potential) than an artwork that achieves the same conversion rate over a longer period of time.
With results in hand, I regularly post updates of the top five most popular artworks to my RedBubble profile… click here to see today’s results!