“Art for art’s sake, money for God’s sake. Gimme the readys. Gimme the cash”, the band 10cc sang in the ‘70s. Kevin Godley, the band’s drummer, and Lol Creme, both former arts school students, were the creative force behind the Stockport-based art rock quartet.
Essentially, the message behind the line ‘Art’s for art’s sake’ is that producing a work of art should not need any justification – monetary or otherwise. But with Arts degrees costing three times as much as science-based subjects like Biology, according to research by Voucherbox, and student debt higher than it has ever been – the highest in the English-speaking world, claims an online BBC report – sometimes it can be hard to stick to those principles. Godley spent eight years, not the usual three, studying to be a graphic designer. Just imagine the debt he would have been in had he graduated in 2016.
The good news is that self-funding your way through university has never been easier for artists. It costs next to nothing these days to build and host a website, which can be used as a shop window to advertise your work, while social media has an immediacy and reach beyond anything that art shows, car boot sales and exhibitions can offer. With Instagram, for example, there is no need to network or have the right contacts to get a return on your work. Just register an account, publish your images, sit back and wait for the response. Best of all, it’s free of charge.
Nowadays, some of the best contemporary artists advertise their work on Instagram. They range from filmmakers to painters, sculptors to conceptualists, and everything in between – and it can be a profitable enterprise. Social Media open doors hitherto closed. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio (illustrated) and Lindsay Lohan have purchased art from artists after discovering their work on Instagram. Who knows, your painting could soon be hanging on the walls of a Hollywood mansion instead of hiding under a dust sheet in your attic.
Naturally, it figures that the more followers you have, the better chance you have of landing a sale. They are the equivalent of footfall on the High Street. Once you have built up a loyal band of followers, make sure you continually engage them by posting photos of your work’s progress and telling them about the thought process and the sources of inspiration behind the piece. After all, everyone likes to feel that they are in the know and getting the inside track – even if 10,000 other followers get to see the same post. And research shows that audiences love storytelling.
If selling an original one-off piece, a good technique to create urgency and a buzz around the work is to give followers a chance to name their price. “Make an offer and it’s yours!” should do the trick but make sure you put a definite deadline for offers.
Another upshot of selling work on social media is that it doesn’t involve face-to-face interaction. By their own admission, many artists are introspective and socially awkward by nature, and feel uncomfortable promoting themselves in the flesh. Hours spent alone, deep in thought, paintbrush or pencil in hand, can bring about such feelings. Social media allows the introverted artist the chance to distance themselves from real-life social engagement without it necessarily being detrimental to their relationship with their audience.
So, instead of worrying about being as quiet as a mouse, why not use a mouse to generate a tidy little income?