Will You Be Discovered?

by Owen Garratt | The Art of Being an Artist

T his is a fantasy most of us have from time to time.  It’s kind of like the Hollywood story of the waitress scooped from obscurity and made into a movie star.

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Uh huh.

Sure, it’d be great to have someone contact us from out of the blue and take us under their wing and handle all of the marketing and promotional aspects of our careers, and manage us to fame and fortune so all we have to do is work on our art.

Even just writing that felt like a scam! (by the way, if you’ve ever been offered something like that, then you already know how many scam-artists are out there, don’t you?)

It’s pretty obvious that human nature avoids the unknown, meaning we all tend to avoid the things we don’t fully grasp.

People buy lottery tickets and avoid savings and investing.

We want things handled. We don’t want to be bothered with ‘outside distractions’.

There’re two things I’ll never delegate: marketing and the checkbook.  Most people can’t wait to delegate both.

It’s an abdication of responsibility.

If you don’t (as of yet) have a working understanding of some of this, there’s a part of us that wants to hand it off…and that way if something turns out to be a stinker, we have some else who’s fault it is.

Sorry.  It’s still our fault.

I don’t do the books in our businesses. I’m not a numbers guy – in fact, a case could be made for specifically NOT putting me in charge of the books.

But it’s still MY responsibility.  If the Tax Vampires come looking for blood, whose name is on the paper?  My accountant’s?  Nope.  Mine.

It’s a recipe for disaster. Ask Willie Nelson how delegating his financial affairs went – there’s so many celebrities that get taken by people they trust that it’s almost a cliché!

So while I couldn’t tell you which natural gas company supplies our home and whether it’s the same who supplies our gallery, I could find out in seconds.

I know where the money is grouping itself; I know how sales are from year to year, month to month and week to week. I know pretty dashed close what our margins are on framing, what we spent on Google Adwords last week, and what our labor costs are as a cost of sales. Every couple of weeks I get a 10 minute chat about what’s happening, I verify the numbers, sign the checks and that’s it. I don’t get all freaked out and stick my head in the sand.

Like finances, marketing is just too important not it have a handle on. Fortunately, you’re in the right place.

However, it is true that it’s nearly impossible to achieve any degree of success all by yourself.  In fact virtually all successful artists have had someone else take care of the publishing, the media, etc.

But the world has changed.  What worked years ago won’t work now. You NEED to understand certain things: who you are, how people think, how people make purchasing decisions, how to define and reach a market, and so on.

Ironically, 99.99% of people I’ve encountered in sales marketing and management don’t know a damn thing about marketing and selling.  Sure, they like to schmooze, but you can’t pay your mortgage with schmooze (I know. I’ve tried)

I guess it’s the way of things.

  • Most singers can’t sing.
  • Most actors can’t act.
  • Most comedians aren’t funny
  • Most sales reps can’t sell.
  • Most doctors can‘t heal.
  • Most teachers can’t teach.

You have to look out for what Robert Ringer called “The Schmexpert”. A Schmexpert is someone who desperately wants to be an expert on something, but seems to have forgotten all about acquiring a) skills, b) knowledge, c) experience.

Come to think of it, that also sounds like a lot of artists, doesn’t it?  They’ve got the talking game down but haven’t put in the time to learn their craft and skills.

Believe me, the world is FULL of ‘marketing schmexperts’ who’ll promise you the moon, and that they have all the answers.

You see, by trying to fix YOUR problems, they don’t need to work on their own.

There ARE good, knowledgeable sources of solid marketing information – you’re reading one right now, but if you’re talking to someone who hasn’t earned their living by selling art, then take their “expertise” with a grain of salt: they’re either basket cases or fuzzy-headed academics.

That means you need to understand this stuff yourself.

WARNING: Don’t swing the pendulum too far the other way.  You need to understand it, but YOU don’t necessarily need to be the one physically DOING it.

As you get busier and more successful, of course you’ll have to delegate some of this, (you don’t think I still stuff envelopes do you), but I can still tell you who is getting what communication, what events are coming up, I’m prepared for meetings, I know what drawings need to be prepped for what market, what’s selling well, what isn’t and what we’re doing about it, and so on.

And every once in awhile, I get to draw something!

Get hep to The Fast Start Art Marketing Primer!

 Check out the Fast Start Art Marketing Primer!

“Just a note to say thanks to Owen for his courses. It has already changed my whole concept of marketing my work and makes me actually feel in control of my future. Thanks Owen!”

Tony Alderman
Durham, NC

“I’ve gotten great value out of this course. It really speaks to the artist in a no B.S. way that clears the mental clutter, and gets you to pay attention to what you really need to get the ball rolling.”

Fay Wyles
San Clemente, CA

“It was light-hearted, it had charm and humour and kept me engaged the whole time!  I loved it!”

Suzi Campbell
Melbourne, Australia

“The first or second lesson got my money back in multiples already. So brilliant…you shook me!”

Marta Spendowska
Domino, OK

“Owen’s course literally saved me from a slippery path that I would probably have never recovered from.”

Gregg Arnold
Kingman, AZ

3 Comments

  1. Joshua Flood

    I’ve been reading not only all your articles but reviews and comments from others as well. Also been listening and getting pumped up full of your advices and expertise recently. In fact, recently purchased your fast start course, and perhaps plan on buying others if i find myself in a financial place that affords it. However, i find myself [as many others i imagine] still waiting for, not only, that moment whereby somebody walks up and reaches out a hand so as for me to jump down in to safe pasture, so to speak. But, I also perhaps await the tidal turn of the universes sway and influence, if not just plain ol’ mercy.

    You see, after surviving a hemorrhagic stroke under 30 years old, dying several times, and needing reteach myself EVERYTHING from chewing, swallowing, spitting, walking, talking etc, I also had search my reserves within to operate with my non-dominant left hand; in which case an “amazing and remarkable talent”- as said by others- was uncovered.

    At any rate, filled to the brim with knowledgeable insight crafted through those whom have treaded the gametes of mistake or just plain ol’ trial and error crafting expertise- such as you- I still lack an essential commodity. Or so it seems to me. I lack resource and outreach. Living on less than $1000/month from disability leaves little resource and having difficulties to recall things i did that morning by mid afternoon makes it challenging to imagine me running a business myself- which is where the outreach comes in…

    So, when you started how did you get people to not only believe in the chances of your success, but also ‘inspire’ them to come aboard and help “man the ship”?

    Thanks,
    Joshua D. Flood

    Reply
    • Owen Garratt

      Hey Joshua!

      You’ve been dealt a very rough hand.

      Out of respect for what you’re going through, I’m going to be very forthright, even if it doesn’t seem, particularly helpful at first – but I promise that this is meant to help, not to discourage. Bear with me.

      Of course I don’t know how you’re dealing with it, or how it must be for you. But I’m going to share a personal tragedy that has some parallel, especially in terms of being an artist.

      My wife and I lost our oldest son when he was 22 months old.

      He choked on a pretzel and I couldn’t save him. I felt his little heart stop and the EMTs couldn’t restart it or reestablish an airway.

      I felt his body go cold in the hospital.

      On the day of his cremation I reached into his casket and combed his hair and tied his shoes one last time, then I took the responsibility of rolling the little coffin into the crematorium, and I insisted on being the one who closed the door and turned it on.

      It was devastating, but Jackson was my son, so this was my duty.

      In the months that followed my wife and I were fundamentally unable to work and went through our savings embarrassingly fast, and for reasons I couldn’t comprehend, our phone stopped ringing. Not just family and friends, clients too.

      Where did everybody go?!

      About a year after Jackson died we were within a few hours of public notice being given that our house was to be seized fro property taxes. Our water was also shut off and I had to take our other baby Hudson to a local swimming pool to bathe him.

      This was the low point.

      I couldn’t save my oldest son and I couldn’t even afford water to bathe my youngest son. In a couple of hours, everyone would know that I couldn’t put a roof over my family’s head.

      None of this is fair. We didn’t deserve it (though I doubt it’s possible to lose a child and not feel like you’re being punished for something). And I didn’t know what to do.

      And where was everyone? Where were my friends? Where was my family? Where were the people that I’D helped?!

      I need to jump around a little…

      Art is about communication, and communication is a two-way street. To that end, everyone must realize that they are responsible for their own role in that communication.

      The story I’ve related here, in this context, is one thing…but if I included it in my marketing, would it help or hinder that marketing? Would it bond me to people? Would it facilitate them getting to know me?

      The answer is no.

      Are people just callous? Are they so completely self-absorbed that they’ve lost all human compassion? It sure feels that way…

      It took me a few years to sort this out, but no, I don’t think that’s it.

      It’s a psychological protective mechanism. We all have it.

      People want to help, but the average person doesn’t have the capacity to see pain. Real pain.

      Oprah mentioned once that everyone liked to see her guests wiping a tear and show a little emotion, but the times where the gates opened and there was uncontrollable sobbing – everyone froze and people had the instinct to back away.

      Almost everyone slows down at a car crash, and most of them are sincerely concerned that no one was hurt…but they’d be traumatized if they actually saw viscera on the pavement.

      It’s almost impossible for a healthy mind to access those places of suffering and pain. It’s along the same lines as the black humor that ER doctors and soldiers in the field adopt; completely inappropriate out of context, but a perfectly valid coping mechanism in the moment.

      So how does all of this apply?

      As in all matters, there are decisions to make. I didn’t draw for an entire year after Jackson died. And when I did – and this is just my situation – I make the conscious choice to keep Jackson’s loss out of my career, because I now understood how things are from the client’s perspective.

      My suggestions for you – and understand I don’t know you personally, and I don’t know your art, but I do understand human interactions – are to ensure that your message isn’t of anger or injustice, but of inspiration.

      Make beautiful art that shows hope, not dark art that reflects your loss. Again, I’m speaking in a capacity of helping art sell; of course, you can create whatever you want…but since you’re asking me specifically, I have to assume that it’s in a capacity of helping your art find an audience.

      Dark art is a much tougher sell (though I’m not referring to Gothic stuff or anything you’d find on Guillermo Del Toro’s wall; I mean art that shares pain), especially to a broad public, and for the reasons we’ve already discussed.

      A healthy mind can only go so deep (out of a sense of self-preservation), and while there’re always pockets of people for every kind of art, this is one instance where getting specific with a market can be counter-productive.

      I’m not saying that there isn’t therapeutic value in expressing yourself and anger and hurt and fear through art, but again, you’re asking me about it, so I’m being frank. The vast majority of people prefer to see light and hope if they’re going to hang it in their environment.

      My grandmother, who, after her stroke, chose to try and milk pity out of people and went through gyrations to guilt people into giving her support and help.

      Please, watch out for that.

      Sure, she was scared and felt betrayed and angry at the loss of mobility, but she refused to acknowledge basic human nature. People won’t do for you what you won’t even try to do for yourself.

      People will rally behind examples of inspiration, of strength, of leadership, of promise, and of overcoming limitations and odds…but guilt is a repellent, working once or twice, but people will very quickly find other things to put their attention on.

      The second thing to beware of is the Sympathy Card.

      Even years later, there’re times when I want to holler and roar and have people come and prop ME up for a change. I understand that instinct to share my story in the hopes that they would wipe tears and hug me close. There’re many dark days and it would be wonderful to have someone just let me cough it all out.

      But not in a business setting. And one must be very careful in personal settings too.

      It’s not very fair, is it?

      But I can promise the alternative is much better, and much more rewarding, with even bigger benefits.

      Show strength. Show determination. Quell any desire for pity. Make beautiful art that makes people gasp. Be pleasant and “low maintenance” interpersonally. Be gracious. Develop thankfulness (that can be tough!).

      Conquer self. Conquer limitations. You’re already done so much – keep the momentum going by ensuring it’s extension into this new area of your life.

      The more you are able to take that path, the more you’ll find people who will willingly and proudly rally behind you. It’s the kind of thing that makes terrific news stories and gets on TV and newspapers around the world.

      And doesn’t cost a dime.

      On a concrete and actionable level, there’re many therapists who specialize in using art as part of treatment – a notable number have taken our courses. A cup of coffee and a little bit of Googling “Art therapy” and “Art therapists” may introduce you to many forms of assistance.

      Naturally, there are professionals and then there are those who just like the idea of it and hang a shingle; you’ll have to sort it out yourself, but it’s what I’d do.

      I wish you all the luck and success in the world…

      Keep kicking
      Owen

      Reply
  2. Joshua Flood

    Owen,

    My apologies for such a delayed thank you.

    I’ve been waiting a reply and although I felt as though there must’ve been a reason I hadn’t heard back from you- I didn’t look too far or put too much effort in to it, obviously.

    Luckily I checked in to my Spam folder and, voile- there it was.

    One night fumbling in to your gallery online- I thought to ask how such a dedicated man to detail; seen by the drawings, and methodical approaches to marketing; seen by your successes- came up with your gallery name. Surely you would have reason and story behind your choice- and you do, I found out. Its just very unfortunate how the information came to pass.

    Perhaps it was painful re-hatching some of it for the sake of and need in replying to me. You are a true scholar of generosity and a compassionate kindred spirit of the same; one in which I also must pass along my condolences to you and yours for your loss.

    Owen, I appreciate your intuition, your suggestions and advice. I feel very humbled as well as flattered that you took the time you did as well as the attention it held to give such insight and response.

    Thank you,
    Joshua

    Reply

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