TITLE: Exceptions to Every Rule
DATE: 3/16/2006 05:23:00 AM
So, if you read this blog, you know I have a few pet peeves. I cannot stand the usage of "unique" and "whimsical" when referencing art or craft. I think fashion jewelry is steadily strangling the wearable art market with simple, strung beadwork that lacks involved craftmanship. And, I think eBay is one of the dumbest ways for a serious artist to promote or sell their work.
On the eBay subject... I think I'm now ready to admit I have seen an exception to my rule.
I've enjoyed Duane Keiser's work for quite some time now. In fact, I've had a link on this blog to his website since the beginning.
Duane's blog exclusively showcased one painting each day. He committed to the exercise of doing a small, postcard-sized painting, scanning it, and posting it online. People started purchasing them at $100 per painting. I never purchased one because everytime I would go online and fall in love with a piece, it was already sold! Yes, his work is that simple and clean and good.
Then, suddenly Duane started listing his paintings on eBay. It was a true "business" move, if ever I saw one. Because, soon his paintings on eBay started rising in price. He had widened his market and people were bidding against one another. The paintings were just as good as ever but the price was higher, perhaps more appropriately in line with the success in his style and execution.
I would guess that during this time Duane learned a great deal about what his work is "worth" and what value people place on his brushstrokes, color pallete, and subject matter. Just seeing how the prices in still lifes began to have dramatic range was probably an eye opener.
A fortune cookie sells for $120, but an orange half sells for $186? What subjects do people buy? What colors sell best? What amount of surface development is enough to convey what's intended and sell well, while avoiding wasted energy or overkill?
So, for the past year I've watched Duane sell on eBay. With one day left on the auction, yesterday one of Duane's postcard paintings had already been bid up to $325!
Aside from kicking myself for not buying his work earlier, I can't help but admit that Duane is breaking my eBay art sales rule. He's succeeding in an environment that is slathered with garage sale art, slapped together "contemporary art pieces", and tacky painted surfaces that shimmer and sparkle.
When I looked further, I found another "painting a day" artist who started doing one painting per day and posting the piece online... the same model Duane has used with success. Is Justin the next Duane? Is there room for both?
What do I pull from this? Well, yes, there are exceptions to every rule. Still, I maintain that making art or craft work and expecting eBay to build a collector base for you is ludicrous. There's something to say for choosing a sales environment that matches the perception of your work quality. The eBay perception of quality, like it or not, has always been like that of a really, really juicy yard sale.
Selling your work on eBay is just like any other sales avenue... you're up against some difficult odds. There will be a time, money, and creativity investment on your part.
The investment I have slowly watched Duane put in came in this order:
1) Making great work and working consistently. Practice doesn't make perfect, but it does improve your execution. To my eyes, Duane's work has only gotten better and better. Before anything else, it should and does always begin with making artwork with integrity and appeal.
2) Allowing a natural progression to take place. I don't know Duane personally, which is why I feel good commenting with my outsider perspective. He started simply, with a blog of daily paintings. Then his website grew and his larger studio work appeared. One day I started seeing a gallery listed where he had a show installed. Still later, eBay came into the picture. Duane didn't rush the process or try to build a business. He just let things percolate and develop as they needed to.
3) Duane still keeps it simple. Maybe he has what we all have - too many commitments and too little time. I don't know. What I do know is that even when prices for his small postcard paintings started rising to double (or more!) their original $100 pricetag, he has still stuck with what worked in the beginning. His work still mainly featured quick little "snapshots" of objects centered in the frame or sections of a landscape or streetscape. He could try to transition his collectors and his email mailing list over to larger pieces and stop doing the postcard pieces. Maybe someday he will. But in the meantime the simplicity works and, I imagine, it still holds enough interest to not bore him.
So, don't everyone go rushing to sell on eBay. Think about your options and exercise them wisely.
But, DO go rush to eBay this week and check out Duane and Justin's paintings. Because some day your small $100 or $200 dollar investment might just grow on you. I've already seen it happen before MY eyes!