On Selling Tools of the (Art) Trade
Play • 40 min

Ron Whitmore co-owns and operates Artisan, an art-supply store that serves as a community hub for artists in its two locations—Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Ron also spearheads the largest artist material expo in New Mexico, featuring more than 100 workshops, and is the host of Art Fusion, a radio show that brings together musicians and visual artists to talk about their creative processes.

Building an Arts Community:

  • “In the store, we have our own radio show. We’re giving artists press, offering yoga classes, art workshops. We have a life-drawing class and free demos. We offer services that are interesting to artists.”
  • “Artists are sharing their knowledge with us in the store all the time. It makes shopping an experience instead of just getting the cheapest thing online.”
  • “We run the materials expo every two years, we have stayed with it and have relationships with all these manufacturers, most of whom are friends.”

Marketing Art Online:

  • “The digital age has changed the way artists are marketing their work here. Some of them are doing it very successfully. They have pulled out of galleries. They’re selling it directly and getting 100% of the commission.”
  • “The whole gallery scene has changed, and the way artists are marketing their work has changed.”
  • “Artists are marketing themselves on Facebook. They have sales models on their website. They can sell and ship through that.”
  • “Since there’s more self-marketing, artists need business savvy to know how to get where people are looking.”

Shifts in the Art Industry:

  • “Artists have to have a name before making reproductions. A lot of artists jump on it too soon, and their originals aren’t valued enough.”
  • “Artists document their work now; they take pictures at different stages of their work because there’s some deception with artists using print and computers to draw their work.”
  • “Oil painting, pastel, and watercolor are still popular, but now there’s digital arts and spray-paint; there’s a lot more urban art going on. Acrylics have taken over as a major new medium, and there are constant changes in those materials.”
  • “We used to do Clark Hulings giclées, and they were so popular; when a giclée came out we could sell it for hundreds of dollars, instead of thousands for original prints.”
  • “It’s not like our society supports a lot of artists; it’s not like the old mentorships when you worked with a great artist. Now, being an artist is expensive.”

Who Becomes Famous?

  • “The bottom line is art is a business, and you need some sort of marketing plan. You need to be able to go out and see galleries, get your site updated, be able to mail to your list, and get collectors and keep track of them.”
  • “The people who get seen are the ones with the drive and the business concepts.”
  • “The ones that believe they don’t need any marketing, that they’ll be discovered because they’re that good—it doesn’t really work like that.”
  • “An artist recently said this to me about success: ‘You really just keep doing what you feel you need to be doing and if you do it long enough people believe it too’.”

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