Marketing Your Mate — Try It, You’ll Like It

13 Jan

October, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

If you’re married to an artist, there’s a high likelihood that you are not an artist yourself.

Now don’t get all feathery here, I’m not saying you’re not creative, and I’m not saying that two artists can’t live together (God knows how), I’m just dredging up the observation that frequently, when one half of the equation is an artist, the other half tends to be, well, how shall I phrase this?

More businesslike?

Now the artists will be poofing up their plumes.

But face it — it is the rare artist who thinks about publicity, marketing, bookkeeping, and website maintenance as much as perspective, value, contrast, form, color, and point of view.

My own journey into managing the Norwegian Artist’s professional art career began with one of those casual statements you throw out without thinking of the eventual implications:

“If you want some help with filling out a show application form or something, I’d be glad to do it,” I mentioned over tea and toast one morning, feeling especially magnanimous. After all, I reasoned, what were we talking here – an hour, maybe two, every week? Small price to pay for spousal contentment.

One show turned into two, then three, then more as I researched the Internet for additional options in our area and beyond. And as you know (but I didn’t), it didn’t stop with the initial paperwork (a lot of that, incidentally) and sending of the check; acceptance brought a new set of responsibilities from shipping or delivering the artwork to setting up inventory forms, communicating with the people running the show, coordinating attendance at the reception, and attaching myself, trophy-wife like, to the artist’s arm.

And then, when the first work sold, I needed to figure out what to do with the money. Seriously.

Evening Shadows, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

Our debut year found me researching tax regulations, financial operations, spreadsheets, recordkeeping. Living in a small town where my accountant is also the county tax assessor as well as the piano player for the non-profit theater organization, I networked in the grocery store or, better yet, the library. Whenever I discovered someone who knew more about a topic than I did – and just about everybody knew more than I did about a lot of things that I needed to know – I backed this person into a corner and extracted information from them the way a vampire drinks blood.

And the Norwegian Artist , when he wasn’t working his day job. . .

painted and painted and painted and painted – providing me with more fodder for more shows and eventually galleries, private clients, and community events.

My one-hour a day commitment quickly grew to a second job, and I found myself phone chatting with an officer of the state revenue department who warmly and with gentle humor walked me through my first state business tax form; once we hung up, I drove to the library where Janice and Heather the Librarians gave me two-on-one instruction in how to set up an Excel spreadsheet, starting with a definition of what a spreadsheet is, anyway, and why I might meet one;  done there, I walked two blocks to the Historical Depot, where they were setting up an art show and wanted several of the Norwegian Artist’s latest pieces.

And I exhilarated in every bit of it.

The learning curve was steep, and in a short space of time I went from someone who couldn’t send an e-mail or understand why you have to hit the Start button to turn off the computer to a reasonably accomplished intermediate computer user who actually understands 10 percent of what my computer geek friends talk about over coffee. (Have you noticed that these types drink coffee, not tea? Is it something about being wired in every facet of their beings?)

I’ve set up customized inventory sheets, maintain a Master Record of Steve’s work, whipped out Artist Statements, Biographies, Resumes, and brochures (to the point that I now do them for others), and discovered the wild world of professional blogging.

What started out as a sideline painting endeavor for Steve, with the impossible dream that somehow he could quit his day job and make a living as a fulltime artist, is day by day turning into a tangible reality.

And all because I offered to fill out a show application.

I am not saying that you – spouse or significant other of the artist – have to be obsessively and energetically driven to the point that you make your mate’s art career an integral part of your life. I am saying that, if you are linked with an artist, you probably think a certain way, and possess a certain mindset and roster of skills, that uniquely qualify you to address the marketing half of the equation.

You may be able to keep this to a half-hour a day.

But I’m betting, once you get launched and see how electrifyingly exciting it all is, you won’t want to stop.

Dory Beach, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson


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