Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Painter as Salesman


Sometimes, it feels like this.


Whenever I have to slap on my salesman's hat, I cringe.  I hate having to sell.  I'm just not a natural-born salesperson.  Although there are books and YouTube videos to advise me on how to fight my inclination to shrink into a dark corner, it's still hard for me.  I'm lucky if I remember to restock my wallet with business cards, and luckier still if I remember to give you one.

Being a professional painter offers so many rewards.  I love my time spent outdoors or in my studio, poking away with a brush while the day's soundtrack plays.  I love the ordering and organizing of supplies and, yes, even doing the paperwork.  I love people coming to my studio so I can talk to them about the painter's life.

I love having sold a painting—but I do not love "selling" one.

This has nothing to do with parting with a piece.  Sure, I like to have a good one around for awhile so I can admire it and congratulate myself, but ultimately, it must go.  I depend on my art sales (and my workshops and writing) for income.  No, my "selling" a painting has to do with knowing that I am "selling" and not just having a friendly chat with a collector who's asked to visit.

Can I change?  If I'd tried working on this years ago, maybe.  But even back when I was younger and learning the ropes, it was hard for me.  I'll never forget what my mentor, Ann Templeton, said once.  While I was writing her 30-year retrospective book and staying with her, she invited me to dinner with some of her collector friends.  I'd been up since 4 a.m., poring over slides and transparencies of her work, writing captions.  It was late.  I was beat.  I declined.  Chastising me, she said, "Michael, if you're going to do this"—meaning, be a professional painter—"you're going to have to do this."

Ann was a natural.  She moved with cat-like ease in the social circle of collectors, and everyone who met her became her friend.  I'm not that way, and not every painter is.  Can painters like me be successful?  Yes—but perhaps we will have to do more than just paint.

(And please don't forget my Holiday Studio Sale! And that I'm giving 25% off on all the other Southwest paintings over $200!)

2 comments:

Linda Richichi said...

I know how you feel, I used to feel the same way but over the years I found that everyone sells. You are selling us on the fact that you don't like to sell. Selling is not a four letter word. It is finding a need and filling it. It is listening to the collector, finding out what they want, what they are attracted to and helping them find a way to have it.

I agree with Ann. Lucky you for knowing her. Keep up the great work and consider thinking of the word selling as sharing something you love.

Being a sales person is a natural ability.

We all are natural salesman. When a good restaurant comes to town, we sell the idea to our friends that they should go to it. We are not used car salesman of the past pulling something over on somebody.

We have a valuable asset that we offer for a fair price. The collector makes out better than we do. We spend the money quickly and they still have the painting for years after. The word selling has a bad rap because we have to ask for the money. Money has a bad rap too but that is another story. The worst thing we can do as artists is give away our work because FREE HAS NO VALUE.

Selling is fun.

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thanks so much for the heartfelt response, Linda. But I've tried, and it is still very hard.