Anyone who has been an artist for a few minutes can list the questions they most often get asked. Over the years, I have watched some professionals actually roll their eyes at opening receptions. The potential collector is confused by this reaction, and rightly so. They have no idea that it’s the 30th time in the last two hours their artist has had to answer the very same inquiry. Does this sound familiar?
I wear my emotions on my face, and the harder I try to hide them, the more obvious they are. Rather than give a poor first impression, here are some answers I have been using for those common questions. By now, you know I love to multitask. So each of these responses does more than just provide information.
Q: How long does it take you to paint that?
A: I don’t time my painting sessions, but if you commission me to paint a piece, I typically ask for 2 to 4 weeks to deliver a finished family heirloom to you.
This answers their question and puts in their head that you are working hard on each piece, but the artworks are personal, special, so you can’t give an exact answer like an assembly line operation could.
Q: How much does that cost?
A: This is what my painting is valued at.
Q: Oh, I’m sorry but that is not in my budget. (Or if they are non-responsive and you suspect the price deterred themâ€¦)
A: If you are still interested in purchasing a piece of my artwork, I am happy to discuss a smaller format that may be more in line with your budget.
Now they know that you are willing to work with them, to get them the art they want, at a price they can afford. You just broke the ice on a discussion about the value of a luxury item that sometimes makes people feel uncomfortable. Notice I didn’t say “price” in my response. Certain words make people cringe, and studies have determined that “price” is one of them.
Q: Can you share your painting process with me?
A: I can give you a summary of what I do. But to really experience my painting process, here is a link to my private mentoring sessions. Also, I have several workshops scheduled. If you happen to be in one of these locations, you may enjoy learning in an environment where other artists are asking questions and trying out my methods too.
You shared a little, but you didn’t give a free lesson away, when others are paying for your knowledge. That wouldn’t be fair. You described the different types of learning environments you offer in your art business. You’ve directed them to the places they can go for more information if they desire it. This is a firm, but kind boundary you have just set.
Q: Please paint several pieces in this theme for a group show I am organizing.
A: This request often comes from venues I show at. Galleries, art centers and museums will put out calls with themes, to ensure continuity in their shows. When you have personal relationships with the curators, they will often reach out to individuals and invite you to participate. If the theme is broad, like realism or flowers, I happily accommodate. When it becomes more specific, like sunflowers or poodles, I use this answerâ€¦
I do not have any of those specific pieces in inventory, but here are several works that loosely relate to your theme. Please let me know this week if you can use them in your exhibition and I will put a hold on them for you.
This answer does several things. It kindly says that you are not an artist who can easily shift gears and create a new series of works. (If you are an artist who can easily shift gears and create a new series of works in a limited timeframe, I applaud you and you can ignore this paragraph.) It offers alternatives that may work so they know you truly are interested, and you want to continue working with them. It puts a time on the availability of your works. You don’t want to end up in someone’s inbox and have them ask for a piece you promised, after you’ve sold it or shipped it to another show.
Q: Is your painting demonstration piece available for sale?
A: Yes, it is available at this discounted value. If nobody purchases it today, I will work on it some more back in my studio, and then it will be offered at my regular retail value of _____.
This is a question that comes up at pretty much every workshop or painting demonstration I do. I choose to offer my demos at a lower price point, because they are not fully rendered pieces. People buying them at my demonstration location are collecting them so they can remember the teaching points I discussed during its creation. They know it’s not a fully rendered painting from my studio. Whether you choose to discount specific works or not is entirely up to you. Also, I often state the cost of my demo at the start, before I’ve begun working on it. Then, people can be thinking of whether they want to own it, during the entire presentation.
For me, this answer lets people know that I recognize and appreciate their patronage. But it also sends the message that I am not undercutting the pricing that existing collectors have purchased art at. And, there is a sense of urgency to buy before I take it home to work on it more and the price goes up.
Does this article make you think of ways you have answered similar questions from your followers, students and collectors? Please share your experiences in the comments below.