Create a Niche Market for Your Art in a Sea of Artists

My Twitter friend, professional maritime artist, Annie Strack explains how to ‘create a niche market for your art in a sea of artists’ in the article below.  I hope you enjoy learning how Annie found a unique audience for her beautiful art and how you can too.

Create a Niche Market for Your Art in a Sea of Artists

By Guest Artist/Author: Annie Strack

Niche marketing, I had an early start at it. When I was a teenager showing horses, I would sit on the tailgate of my mom’s station wagon between classes, sketching the horses in pen and ink and selling them to the other riders in the show for five dollars a piece. My goals were simple back then; I just wanted to earn enough money to pay my entry fees at the horse shows.

A few years have passed since those early days, and although I have had many careers in the interim, my life has circled around and I once again find myself painting for money. This time, however, I planned my artistic career with specific goals in mind and developed a business strategy to achieve those goals.

When I first took the leap from amateur artist to being a full time professional, I started with a very diverse portfolio of different subjects in numerous mediums. I didn’t have a particular style or trademark that was recognizable of being my own, and although I was getting some acceptances to galleries and shows, I could see that my lack of working in a cohesive style was limiting my art career advancement.

If you look at the work of any of the top artists in the world, you will notice that each has a recognizable style.

It might be the subjects they paint, the artistic style, their palette, or any combination of things that makes their work recognizable. This recognition adds importance and value to the art, as collectors want art that is reflective of an artist’s body of work, and galleries prefer to exhibit a range of diverse artists, rather than a diverse range by one artist.

Unlike many artists, I had some prior career experience in business management. That experience taught me to think beyond the studio, and gave me a distinct advantage when I started my art career. There are many corporate business concepts that apply to the business of art and among them are the elements of this simple marketing formula that I will share with you here. I was able to improve the results of my sales and marketing efforts by using these three building blocks.

Three Basic Building Blocks of Business Marketing:

1. Identify an Underserved Market.

  • I began my market research by looking around at the other artists and galleries in my regional area. I wanted to see what types of art were currently available, and to see what types of art collectors were searching for.
  • I discovered that several artists were painting the local landscapes of mountains, vineyards, and historic missions, and although the sales of those pieces were not stagnant, there was more supply than demand for those subjects. The result was increasingly limited sales and more competition for gallery representation for artists.
  • Rather than try different subjects, many artists were duplicating the subjects and creating themes that were similar to other artists. They were inadvertently creating a very competitive market for sales of those paintings, and were limiting their career advancement.
  • I was surprised to find that no one in my region was painting the seascapes and maritime subjects of the nearby pacific coast.

2. Develop a Product to Serve that Market.

  • Recognizing the potential of an untapped niche market, I began to specialize in seascapes and maritime paintings. My subjects range from seascapes and tropical scenes, yachts, boats, ships, lighthouses, sea birds, and anything else maritime related. Of course, it helped that I also like painting maritime themes, and I had knowledge and experience with the subjects I chose.
  • There are always plenty of underdeveloped niches in any market, but I went with the one that I knew I could do well and would enjoy.
  • I would not have lasted long if I had chosen a field that I had no knowledge or experience in.
  • Although I specialize, it does not limit me as an artist, and I find plenty of opportunities to also continue to paint other subjects and work in a variety of mediums.

3. Make that Product Available and Desirable to that Market.

  • Next, I changed my marketing strategy to target potential clients in that field.
  • I reach my targeted market audience by displaying and selling my work at art festivals, markets, and galleries in coastal areas, and also at boat festivals and maritime museums.
  • The paintings, prints, and posters I display at these venues are also useful as samples for selling commissioned paintings, and I receive enough requests for custom ordered paintings at these venues to keep my commission schedule fully booked up to a year in advance. In addition, I shoot my own reference photographs for my paintings, and over the years I have amassed an extensive collection of maritime related photos.
  • This provides me with an additional source of income, as occasionally I sell photos to publications as illustrations to accompany articles.
  • My client list has grown to encompass federal agencies including the US Coast Guard and US Navy, corporate buyers such as shipping firms, maritime insurance agencies, maritime museums, boat builders, and also private collectors like boat owners, captains, and owners of homes in coastal areas.
  • Many of my maritime paintings are commissioned for use as gifts. They are particularly attractive to wives looking for unique gifts for their husbands, and as corporate gifts among business people in the maritime industries.

When people ask me what I do, I do not reply that I am an artist; I tell them that I am a maritime artist. This type of specific answer is always greeted with interest, and leads to more questions about my art. It allows me to explain the type of art I do, and gives me the opportunity to talk about my creative processes.

The advantages of niche marketing are:

  • That it allows you to specialize in a particular subject or media.
  • It allows you to concentrate your efforts on enhancing your skills within that area.
  • As your skills develop, your work will become more uniquely recognizable, and thus improve your artistic reputation.
  • By concentrating your marketing efforts to more effectively reach a specific audience for your work, you can increase your sales while gaining recognition as an expert within that field. That recognition brings more opportunities for exhibits, commissions, workshops, publications, and more.

*****

A professional artist specializing in seascapes and maritime paintings, Annie Strack is a Signature Member of five international and national artist societies and is an Official Authorized Artist for the USCG. She draws from her experiences in her previous career in corporate management to build her successful art career and shares her knowledge of business and marketing through her articles for Art Calendar magazine. Visit her at http://ArtCalendar.com or her website http://AnnieStrackArt.com. The above boat paintings are the copyright of Annie Strack.

Annie, thanks for sharing your story with us here. Your ideas can be applied to any art niche marketplace! ~Lori

*****

Here at Fine Art Tips I always strive to bring value through a broad range of posts that are useful to artists and other creatives. I am grateful for your article submissions and enjoy sharing them with my readers.

If you enjoyed this article, please check out:

How to Reach Beyond Your Niche on Twitter

7 Creative Ways to Approach an Art Gallery for Representation

10 Great Ways to Market Art and Develop Your Brand

Tips for Painting Water and Reflections

The Best of 2010: Articles on Art, Marketing & Social Media

About Lori McNee

Lori McNee is a professional artist who specializes in still life, and landscape oil paintings. She is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America, Plein Air Painters of Idaho, serves on the Plein Air Mag Board of Advisors, and is an Artist Ambassador to Arches/Canson/Royal Talens. As the owner of FineArtTips.com, Lori blogs about fine art tips, marketing, and social media advice for the aspiring and professional artist. As a social media influencer, Lori ranks as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter, has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and named a #TwitterPowerhouse by The Huffington Post. She is a keynote speaker, has been a talk show host for Plum TV, writes for F+W Media publications including Artist’s Magazine, Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, Photographer’s Market. Also, Zero to 100,000: Social Media Tips & Tricks for Small Businesses.

Comments

  1. Excellent strategy, and very well said! Focus, focus, focus!

  2. This article has helped me clarify my thinking about niche markets. It was a light bulb above my head experience. Duh. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I’m not an artist and couldn’t be one if I tried, but I read this whole post and thought it was great. What you talked about applies perfectly to people looking to enter any niche in any industry. Great points!

    • Tristan, I totally agree with you. That is, this article can help anyone striving for a niche. Basic business principles can be applied to the art business – artists need to remember that!
      Thanks for the visit.
      Best- Lori

  4. Thanks for a great article. I’ve had a similar vague feeling about my own work (artisan jewelry) recently. This really gelled it for me. I think i need to work on a couple more specific lines of jewelry than making whatever randomly strikes my fancy.

  5. excellent advice, for writers too!

  6. What a great article, my specialty is monochrome art, very much a niche market especially in a world where “color” rules.

    • Hello Steve,

      Your niche is quite specific, isn’t it? I hope this article helped you with some new ideas. Monochrome is beautiful.

      Take care-
      Lori

  7. My primary profession is as a marketing consultant, and Annie’s got a good grasp of the basic principles. I think the difficulty with artists often comes because they feel these types of strategies are too limiting. But I would definitely give Annie’s type of advice to any of my marketing clients. How long has Annie been doing this?

    • Susan, I am not sure how long Annie has been marketing her art. I will let her know you posted this question so she can respond. Thanks for taking time to commet.

      Best-
      Lori

  8. Chris Kellam says:

    Hello Lori,
    I really enjoyed this article. The Niche isn’t my problem, it’s my perspective on starting a side business with selling my artwork online. I know I need a website, I know I need to keep drawing, but that old saying that I’ve told myself over the years keeps coming back……..”Is my artwork really that good?”.
    Artist’s can be known to be their own worst enemies when it comes to judging their artwork. I’m going to keep checking your website and maybe even twitter and facebook. thanks again.

    • Hi Chris, we are all our own worst critics for sure!!! We must learn how to accept the good about our art and edit out the negative. This is how we keep growing. If we felt we were perfect, that would get boring…no reason to paint or create!

      Thanks for the comment-
      Lori

  9. I have noticed that in my paintings I used to be all over the place and now that I am painting on a narrower set of subjects I am finding greater gratification in my painting.

  10. Excellent posts, Lori. I’ve been an oil painter for years and have painted it all – from petunias to portraits. i guess my niche is “oil painting”, but appreciate the validity of your post. To nurture our personal creative bent, I feel we have to have more than one niche in a lifetime to avoid burn-out. As in writing, we have one “star or main character” as well as a few secondary players. Thanks for your valuable information.

    • Marie, thank you for your insightful comment. I too believe that we can have more than one artistic niche or discipline and still succeed. I painting in oils and now encaustic too. Plus I enjoy painting both landscape and still life. I have different audiences too…that is a bonus.

      Thanks! Lori

  11. I think this is such an important article. I struggle with finding my “niche” as I plan my own business strategy to move more of my revenue generation to my art. I’ve worked in various forms of marketing and branding for many years and have seen the benefit of niche marketing. I believe to succeed as an artist is the same as succeeding in business. Focus and a niche specialty align well for this as Annie clearly proves!

    • Hello Albert, thanks for sharing your thoughts and I’m glad you found this post helpful. Yes, niche marketing is something a lot of artists don’t consider. But as Annie points out, it is a proven strategy that works!

  12. An excellent article and I couldn’t agree more. My story is similar to yours- I used to paint a wide variety of subject matter and styles. After a lot of self-refelction I developed a distinctive style for my art and focused on a specific market (art for children’s rooms and nurseries). Although there are many artists creating art for nurseries I try to make my art recognizable and stylized. I also create poetry to accompany each one of my paintings. This helps to make the paintings come to life and it give parents and children a way to engage in the art. Thank you for sharing your story. You are so generous with your advice and I wish you continued success and fulfillment.

    • Hello Jenny, I just quickly peeked at your website and LOVE your whimsical, magical artwork. Thank you for sharing your story. Maybe you have a guest post idea that you would like to share? This is an older post, and it would be good to blog about this ‘niche’ marketing topic again. Let me know what you think!
      Cheers,
      Lori :)

      • Thank you so much, Lori. I would love to share a guest post on your blog. I’m not sure I could approach the topic of niche marketing from the same knowledgable business perspective as Annie, but I could certainly speak to the subject in terms of the creative process. It takes time and a great deal of self reflection to find your style as an artist and to find a niche that speaks to your passion. As artists, the work we create is a part of us. It is a window to our soul and it connects us to others and to the human experience. When we find that niche where our art belongs, we experience a sense of belonging and fulfilment. I LOVE Annie’s tips and I could certainly reference those as well. Let me know if you think this might work!
        Jenny

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