If I\’ve heard this once I\’ve heard it a hundred times, from art biz gurus great and small: if artists and writers don\’t take charge of promoting their own work, they are condemning themselves to a sales record equal to that of VanGogh during his lifetime (namely, zero). And, the gurus add, with Twitter, Facebook, and all the wonders of the web within easy reach of everyone, those who fail to advertise have only themselves to blame if their paintings, pots, sculptures, symphonies, novels, and lyric poems are left to molder in attics and basements, their disposal one more post-funeral imposition on the hapless heirs.
I am happy to report that I have spent the last three weeks engaged in intensive self promotion, partly out of consideration for my heirs, and partly because it gives me real pleasure to see something I have made go to a good home. The first week I spent getting ready for Open Studio, polishing and attaching bases to my sculptures, taking photos, inventing titles and prices, designing a display, packing up, setting up, buying (not baking–there\’s only so much I can do) dozens of cookies for the potential visitors, and making and posting signs to direct said visitors to the venue I was sharing with a friend.
Two of my pieces went to new homes, fewer than in years past, but what can you do with these gas prices. One (\”Small Meditator,\” see below) was bought by a man for his youngish but extremely frail-looking wife. He handed it to her with a tearful kiss and said \”Now you can have her with you every morning when you meditate,\” and she leaned on him and closed her eyes.
When Open Studio was over, I removed the roadside signs, packed everything into the car, unpacked and stored it at home, and hurried to do minimal maintenance on the garden, which had exploded over the hot weekend.
I also took a nap.
After that, as directed by the gurus, I made a new \”artist page\” on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/EulaliaBenejamCobb.artist.writer). To do this, I had to retrieve the pictures of everything I\’d ever made, sort them into categories, and select the ones to post. This took me, literally, days to accomplish.
But the wondrous promise of this \”artist page\” was that, if I got 25 people to \”like\” it, it could then become a URL that would make my work accessible to the entire planet. This meant that I had to go through my list of Facebook Friends, select the ones whose e-mail address I knew, and send them a bizarre little message asking them to \”like\” my new page.
In 24 hours, I had most–but not all–the \”likes\” I needed. So I posted a status update on Facebook sort of begging people to \”like\” the page. The response got me more than the required number of \”likes,\” but did not eliminate the feeling that I was taking advantage of my friends. True, asking for a click is not like asking for a kidney, but still….
After I get the new Facebook URL set up, I\’ll need to find someone to spiff up my ancient website, which when it is done will require some more trumpeting on my part. Meanwhile I must be sure to sign up for \”Foliage Open Studio\” in October, and Art on the Green in September. Must not miss deadlines for shows at Southern Vermont Arts Center or the Chaffee Center for the Arts, either.
All this–especially the vision of thousands of artists all over the globe simultaneously revamping their websites, getting friends to like their Facebook pages, and waxing eloquent about their work–was making me feel pretty discouraged with art as a business. It was time to get back to the long-neglected real thing. I went down to my basement studio, where the Madonna of the Bats (in honor of the East Coast\’s endangered bats) awaited.
I pushed the clay around, fixed her smile and her left knee, and gave her a couple of bats for company. Three hours later, feeling much better, I came upstairs, washed the clay off my hands, and wrote this post.