Evolution of an Art Career
Estimated Reading time: About 4 minutes
Do you ever suffer from stage fright?
Today, I can walk into any room and talk to anyone about most anything.
It wasn’t always that way.
My first public presentation was to introduce a panel for a business seminar. I put on my best suit, got a fresh haircut, put my notes on index cards and practiced until I knew the words by heart.
The theatre had 700 banked seats -- every one of them occupied by someone who had given up an evening and had paid to be there.
I stood behind a solid, oak wood podium with a fixed microphone. The upside of that imposing fixture was that I could hang onto the sides to keep my hands in check and no one could see my knees knocking.
The downside was the impressive and daunting array of buttons and lights on the flat surface (where I’d planned to put my notes), none of which had been explained to me.
My Worst Fears
I was terrified that three of my worst fears would come true:
- I would drop the index cards and not remember which one went with which panel member.
- I would mispronounce a name, stutter or lose my voice.
- I would lean on a button and send up the house lights, drop the screen or knock my glass of water over and short out the whole (expensive state-of-the-art) electronics. That might also set off the fire alarm and force an evacuation of the whole audience and speakers.
The Enemy Within
Beneath these fears were self-doubts, lack of familiarity with the technical system, and the possibility that I would humiliate the panel members or shame myself.
Those underlying thoughts could have derailed me, but adrenaline kicked in. I remembered to breathe and I did my job well because I had prepared the panel introduction so thoroughly.
I learned to continue to prepare myself so well that none of my doomsday scenarios would ever come true.
Is Marketing Just for Extroverts?
I describe myself as an introvert with good social skills. So when I get an e-mail like this one, I understand very well:
"I understand the concept of conversations, building relationships, trust etc. Most of these marketing strategies rely on exposure and extroversion. What advice might you give to an artist who is NOT an extrovert, salesperson, or even remotely out 'working the crowd.' An artist who lives in an area removed from cultural opportunities, venues and potential buyers?"
Feel better now?
Extroverts are not all the life of the party.
- Extroverts draw energy from being around others.
- Extroverts process their thoughts and feelings "out loud."
- Being alone too much can deplete their energy.
Introverts are not all reclusive or shy.
- Introverts can be out in public but prefer their rich inner world.
- Introverts watch and listen to make sense of life.
- Engaging in "cocktail party chatter" can be a stretch.
You have the capacity to modify your preferences.
I know. I’ve done extroversion for short periods. But I carefully balance how much time I am "out there" and make sure I have quiet time to regroup.
So - Marketing is Not Just for Extroverts
- You don't need a personality transplant to market your art.
- You don't have to be extroverted to have conversations. (In fact extroverts can learn about listening from introverts.)
- And, thanks to technology, introverts don't have to go out in public more than you choose to. (Although marketing in person has power that no app can replace.)
- You do need to draw on different parts of your personality to get the word out.
- You do need to know your audience.
- And you do need to be comfortable and proficient with person-to-person conversation, and any technology that’s involved.
As abstract artist James Thatcher said in my interview with him
“I was driving with a journalist friend when he observed ‘You know Jimmy – you don’t say a lot, but you have a whole range of sounds that are very expressive.'
"I got into artwork because I was not very verbal. Things have changed and demands have required me to verbalize feelings and thoughts.
"When someone asks, 'How do you feel about this?' you can't say, 'I don’t know' because no one else can know for you.
It’s so worth the effort to punch through and not be afraid and find the words for what your art is expressing.”
Be Your Best Self
Being your "best self" is the way to build trust in relationships.
Trying to be someone other than yourself is the last thing that you want to do. (Although if you have any really annoying habits, you might want to keep them in check when you are out.)
Start by thinking about the person or people you are talking to.
- What you know and appreciate about your audience.
- Where do they work? What are their dreams?
- Do they have families? Etc.
You get the idea.
The more you know about them, and the better your connection skills, the more successful your marketing performance will be.
P.S. I coached artist Valerie Edwards on how to handle both social and geographic distance, when she lived on the top of a mountain 4 1/2 hours from the 220 galleries in Santa Fe.
"My greatest obstacle was to learn to market my work without fear. Art galleries, publishers, clients, newspaper reporters, all the questions, art receptions; talking about my work with strangers, being the center of attention -- it was overwhelming. Artist career Training TeleClasses helped me to break all this down in easy to follow steps, and gave me the opportunity to ask questions and get answers from those with experience. I learned fear was only a result of my ignorance.
"Aletta's insightfulness in our telephone coaching sessions helped me to face my social anxiety. Her recommendations of books to read helped me understand that this is a common fear. (Otherwise, why would there be so many books on the subject!) She walked me through what to do, giving me sample social situations and verbal replies for guests at my first reception. She made me feel comfortable. When 'show time' arrived, I talked non-stop for two hours and sold a painting for $1,000.00!"
I understand the challenges of many kinds that we face as artists and members of the human race. Let me know how I can help you get your art and life going in the direction you want to go at your pace. The first 15 minutes is on me.