Marketing your work

"Dames Rocket in an Old Orchard," 16X12, by Carol L. Douglas.,

“Dames Rocket in an Old Orchard,” 16X12, by Carol L. Douglas.

Last Friday I attended the annual Artists and Makers Conference in Belfast sponsored by the Island Institute’s store, Archipelago.

Henry Isaacs’s opening talk immediately spoke to the divide facing artists today: should we sell online or through galleries. Isaacs came down strongly on the side of traditional gallery sales.

That isn’t because he doesn’t understand online marketing; my Facebook feed is always chock-full of his paintings. He makes, however, a distinction between the soft marketing of the internet and the hard business of selling, which he believes still happens most successfully through galleries.

"Hudson Sunset," 12X16, sold online, but only because the buyer was already familiar with my work.

“Hudson Sunset,” 12X16, sold online, but only because the buyer was already familiar with my work.

If you read my blog on your phone, you already understand his point—a 2 by 3 inch image of a painting doesn’t really tell you much about the work. It won’t motivate the punters to shell out big bucks.

I’ve worked with a lot of young artists, and I’ve observed a similar phenomenon among my young friends. They sell remotely, but the price points are very low. The buyers, also young, are taking very little risk at those prices.

Still, I do know artists who sell on the internet—Jamie Williams Grossman and Susan Renee Lammers immediately spring to mind. Since both of them are my (and Isaacs’) age, it’s not a generational thing, either.

I still use postcards, but they've gotten very expensive to mail.

I still use postcards, but they’ve gotten very expensive to mail.

This year I’ve been focusing on the hard kernels of marketing—analytics, tying my internet presences together, and, yes, paying for advertising, both in print media and online.

I’ve discovered that online marketing has given me a much greater return than print media, but it requires a bigger investment of time.

I’ve also discovered that it’s a complex and dense subject. That’s why the afternoon’s session with Marydale Abernathy was so revelatory.  Abernathy is the Island Institute’s vice-president of media and communications, and one sharp cookie. In a very short presentation, she gave us a summary of how to establish an online presence. I hope that, in the future, she can reprise this presentation with the details fleshed out. It would be a great service to Maine artists and artisans, since we’re all selling to people from away.

Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit for more information.