Art Marketing for Introverts
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D.
“[…] Nineteen writers out of twenty are introverts. We have been taught to be ashamed of not being ‘outgoing‘. But a writer’s job is ‘ingoing‘.” ―
Artists and writers excel at ingoing.
It’s kind of our geeky superpower.
However, the near-death of galleries and the traditional publishing industry have made it necessary for us to be outgoing.
We now need to figure out how to authentically market ourselves without spending our entire lives behind a computer screen.
Problem is, I’ve forgotten how to do that.
This summer artist Anvil Catlin Williamson, my friend, and Charmed Studio subscriber held up a lamp to light my way again.
Anvil stumbled on a surprising, non-internet, non-social media-based way to make connections and sell more of her beautiful art — despite struggling with a certain condition.
The Walmart Bench for Introverted Artists
Anvil — like most of us artists and writers — is an introvert.
“I love me some alone time,” Anvil told me.
“I can feel quite drained after spending time with people, even close friends.”
So like many of us artists, Anvil has wisely given herself permission not to attend everything and not to feel guilty about it.
“But by a cruel twist of irony,” Anvil said, “I’m also fascinated by human connection – emotional, physical, spiritual, etc.”
“I’m constantly trying to balance my desire for solitude with my desire to genuinely connect with people.”
“Usually,” said Anvil, “I land somewhere in-between and end up sitting on the people-watching bench at Walmart (you know the one.)”
Can you relate? I can. I think most creatives have their own version of the Walmart bench; a public place where we perch to see humanity go by.
Then Suddenly One Summer
But recently Anvil stumbled across a quote that deeply resonated for her. It went like this:
“Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.”
— Maria Forleo
The idea ignited a new conviction within Anvil to venture out ‘beyond the bench’ and head directly into the festival-crammed Alaskan summer of her city of Fairbanks.
She attended slews of festivals, openings of other local artists, and social get-togethers at a mad pace of 3-6 per week over the past two summers.
“By venturing out locally, being friendly and remembering to carry my business cards with me for a change,” about 3 wildly good things occurred for Anvil.
The same 3 wildly good kinds of things that can unfold for all of us if we get brave and venture out from behind our computers and into the wilds of …. our own community.
3 Boons Introverted Artists Receive Off the Walmart Bench
1. Introverted Artists Get Marketing Benefits
We Introverts are More Confident on Our Home Turf. It’s Easier to Set Up Shows & Get To Meet and Sell To Cool New Collectors There
Oddly enough, the first slice of human-to-human, summer marketing magic happened for Anvil at a cannabis dispensary.
“I was talking with the dispensary owner about having an art show at their location, and another woman happened to have been within earshot,” said Anvil. ” This woman introduced herself and asked me some questions about my work.”
“Fortunately, I had business cards on me for a change and gave her one. I went on to have that show in the dispensary and not only did this woman attend, but she also bought two pieces and has followed me to every local show I’ve had since.”
Here’s another little miracle that can happen for us beyond the bench.
2. Introverted Artists Experience Light Bulb Moments
You Get Big, Bright, Practice Shifting Ideas
When we go rogue and talk to people about our art in person they often share things with us they would hesitate to share online.
While Anvil was in off-bench mode she ran into Mike, a student who’d seen her work at her BFA show a while back.
Mike told Anvil he was a big fan of her work but lamented she didn’t make pieces he could afford or fit in his place. (At the time Anvil was only making large, intricate, ceramic animal sculpture.)
“I realized at that moment that my fans and my collectors were NOT the same people (shocker!)”
So Anvil seized the moment and asked Mike a few questions to help her narrow in on a price point and scale that could allow her fans to become her collectors.
Because of this honest, in-person encounter with Mike, Anvil decided to start firing more approachable priced “clay sketches” and maquettes which have sold well but more importantly, allowed her fans to become collectors.
But wait, there’s more.
3. Introverted Artists Might Even Get Help Renovating Their Studio
You May End Up Being At The Center of Your Own Amish-style Barn Raising
Artists are often good neighbors who help others. Getting out into your community allows people you’ve helped, the pleasure of finally permitting them to return a favor.
This summer found Anvil bumping into old friends and new contacts whom she’s finally allowing to help her complete her new studio on wheels. A studio that will soon house a magical heart; a brand new kiln Anvil won via a grant.
But if all that wasn’t miraculous enough, the final boon Anvil was gifted with was the most unexpected of all.
And a boon many of us could use right about now.
Surprise Bonus: Political Community
The icing on the cake result of Anvil’s ‘off the Walmart bench summer’ was something she humorously refers to as, “mild activism.”
“Alaska is under fire by its own governor who recently vetoed a significant portion of the budget including the elimination of our only State Arts Council,” said Anvil.
This veto rendered Alaska the only state in the U.S. without an arts council, btw.
“But,” Anvil said, “I’ve learned that few things build community like rallying together for a common goal (or against a common enemy.)”
Anvil and a group of other Alaskan artists got together to stage a statewide art intervention in which they draped public artworks in black shrouds.
Under pressure, Governor Dunleavy just restored the State Arts Council budget.
“Prior to all these summer experiments, I was just suffering in my community of one,” said Anvil.
I had no idea the support system that existed around me until I started showing up for things, personally and professionally.”
Why Artist Need Local Community
Yes, we need to market online. But we forget that socializing and marketing locally is equally beneficial for creatives, especially introverts, for 3 psychological reasons:
1st Reason: Bubbles Can Make You Loco
We creatives have a propensity to get more and more self-critical as we toil away in our own weird bubbles.
We begin to forget our work is good and that being an artist or writer is cool.
Walking around and talking to actual humans about what we’re up to lately reminds us of who we are and the good that we do.
2nd Reason: We Need Eye Implants
When you venture out beyond the keyboard you are granted a new set of eyes.
As novelist Terry Pratchett said:
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. ” — Terry Pratchett
(See my Why Artists Need Vacations: 6 Solid Justifications To Spend Money on Travel post for more on this.)
3rd Reason: To Allow Us to See the Invisible Hands
As mythologist Joseph Campbell used to teach, when you are the right path and trying to help others, an endless line of invisible hands, one after another, will reach out to pull you up over the next hurdle so you can achieve your dreams.
We spend our time running ourselves ragged in the virtual world of the internet looking for those hands. But Anvil reminded me some of the most magical hands are often closer to home than we think.
They’re often right next door, or at least down the street at the dispensary, or Hardware store literally tapping us on the shoulder and saying hi.
So take a gentle peek around your neighborhood this week and stay open for mini-miracles.
What do you think? Are you an introvert?
Where’s your version of the Walmart bench?
Mine is my local Friday Farmer’s Market. It lets me get out, and briefly mingle. But if a wave of introversion comes over me I can always dart away from a conversation on the pretense of fetching lettuce or finding the perfect mushroom.
What is one good thing that happened for your art practice as a result of socializing in your community?
I’d love to know in the comments below. 🙂
And speaking of political community this post is dedicated to Charmed Studio subscriber, actor, and So Cal activist Denise McCanles.