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Still Life Painting - Who is your target audience?


(Brandy Woodford) #1

I just started reading Maria Brophy’s book, Art, Money, Success, and first and foremost she explains that it’s important to find your target audience as opposed to just marketing to everyone.

I primarily paint still life paintings but I have very little knowledge of marketing and don’t sell much of anything, and that’s probably because I never stopped to think about who my right audience might be.

So, the question: Still life painters, who is your target audience? Who buys your paintings? Women? Men? Young? Old? How much do you know about your buyers?

My goal here is to see if there are any common denominators so that I, and anyone else who might struggle with marketing their work, can start trying to reach a more particular audience.


(J M Needham) #2

I remember reading something a while back about still lives mainly being bought by women in the 30-60 age range, if that helps at all! I can tell you that almost all of the still lives I’ve sold have gone to women- the only exception I can think of is one man who bought two paintings from me last spring, he told me that he was a keen cook and enjoyed having paintings of fresh veg to inspire him. But the vast majority of my buyers (across all subjects in fact, not just still life) have been women.

I only really sell online- I haven’t had much luck with local shows yet- but from what I can tell through email conversations with buyers, most are old enough to have grown children, and often grandchildren. Younger people, here in the UK at least, are struggling to save up for homes, cars, and pay off student debts, so they’re unlikely to be buying non-essentials like art.

I’m still an art student, so I paint whatever strikes my fancy, post it online (DPW, on my blog, pinterest, and my facebook page- and instagram, when I remember) and see if people like it. I’m still figuring out what I want to focus on going forward- and how much I want to pin myself down to one style or genre, for that matter- so I don’t worry about marketing to a specific audience, at this point. Once I’m done with my degree, I’ll probably start narrowing it down and looking to target a more specific audience. I see this as a research stage!

Sorry I can’t be more helpful- hopefully you’ll get some responses with more reliable info and stats!


(Bob Blackmon) #3

I too am a painter of mostly still life. See www.blackmonstudio.com and my DPW gallery. I have sold a few paintings from my website and DPW. However, most of my sales occur at solo show opening receptions. I have had two such events in 2017, and I sold five pieces at one and seven at the other— rather good, in my opinion. Most artists that I know agree with me that most sales take place at receptions. But key to that is getting a large number of people to come to receptions. And that requires a lot of effort. I do a monthly email “blog” by sending one of my paintings to a rather large number of people along with my brief commentary about the painting. Three or four weeks prior to a solo show opening reception I invite the blog subscribers. Of course many of those people live far away, including Europe and Africa, and can’t attend such an event. I also have 100 post card invitations printed with three or four example paintings and mailed to people within driving distance. As the receptions approach I send reminder emails to all these people. I’ve even telephoned people, especially some of those who already own my work.

As to who buys my still lifes, it’s frequently couples, and not restricted to women. There seems to be as must interest among men as women. Perhaps that’s because my subjects seem to appeal to both genders. My wife and I have a keen interest in Ireland and travel there as often as we can afford. Many of my paintings contain Irish-made pottery and other things Irish (see Gallery 3 of my website). Many of my works, whether Irish or not, tell an interesting story (thus the blog). And these “theme” still lifes are of as much interest to men as women. I agree that collectors tend to be middle-age and older, I think for financial reasons.

Pricing is a sticky subject. Don’t over price your work, but don’t under price it either.

Finally, try to develop a following, and that doesn’t happen quickly. My blog is slowly doing that for me. It didn’t happen for Van Gogh until he had been dead a long
time. :smiley: Let’s hope we can make it happen quicker!

Hope this helps.

Bob Blackmon
Blackmon Studio in Clare Cottage
Troy, New York


(Sunny Avocado) #4

Hi Bob, I come from the Hudson Valley and now live in Delaware…so I am familiar with the places you mention. Congrats on your solo shows! I like your work, I was wondering if your sales at the shows were in the $350 range as you have a lot in your DPW gallery at that price? I am getting set up for a couple now that are in NC so was just wondering what price point you found success?


(Brandy Woodford) #5

That was definitely helpful, thank you!

30-60 sounds about right for the age range.

Do you sell mostly here on DPW or do you sell on other sites as well?


(J M Needham) #6

You’re welcome! DPW is the only place I sell original paintings at the moment- I know a few other sites that I could sell on, but I haven’t tried them yet. I might have to branch out in 2018 and see what happens! I do also have a Redbubble shop, and a few of my paintings are uploaded there as greeting cards, but mostly I use that for photography, pattern designs and fun things I do in my spare time.


(Dave Gehman) #7

Interesting question. You could say that I’ve just recently discovered still life painting and, while I covet sales - just as I covet groceries or ability to make mortgage payments - I think of the genre more as a medium for development. I seem to have reverse-inherited love of stagecraft from my tech theater daughter, so I have pursued many iterations of lighting and staging.

The advantages of a subject that won’t move in a light that won’t change in an environment devoid of insects is a bit of a relief from my plein air outings. The challenges of colors, of props, of backgrounds, even of toning the canvas are a delight to work through. And I’ve driven my family up the wall by collecting and making props. Maybe sales will eventually take off, but the primary benefit to me is in working through all the problems of painting… composition, contrasts, edges, brushwork, approach… all of them, with (usually) a light heart. May the spirit of Chardin be with you!


(Christine Derrick) #8

Must admit I’ve never tried “targetting” anyone, because I paint a mix of things in more than one medium. But I’ve had men buying floral paintings (probably on the instruction from their wife!), and also women buying landscapes, so I’ve found it to be difficult to analyse. What I can do, though, is try and keep ideas for “modern” subject-matter on hand for the two other online galleries I have stuff on; and also quirky subjects, which the British in particular are rather fond of…as I found out last night at a local exhibition. Quirky themes were literally flying off the walls at the preview night.


(Mary Pargas) #9

Interesting. Examples of quirky themes? I was at a very traditional show last night in Connecticut.


(Christine Derrick) #10

Quirky things here in Britain can be, for example, little old ladies sat on a park bench, painted in a caricature style rather than literal; a close-up of cows’ faces chewing grass; small animals such as mice eating berries or cheese, again painted light-heartedly rather than biologically precise. Even a queue of people at a fish and chip shop, if one includes the period style of the building (e.g Victorian), the shop fronts, signboards and so on. These work well if the scene is local and well-known to the exhibition visitors. It seems the key to these is to concentrate on character and not so much on technical precision.
They’'re probably viewed more as illustrative rather than posh pieces of painting…but when done well, they can be a source of joy and amusement to the buyer for many years.


(Bob Blackmon) #11

Hi Sunny,

In my recent show I sold a painting for $525, but that doesn’t happen often. But $300 to $400 isn’t that unusual. I’ve painted really small at times to keep the price down, but those seem to sell no faster than the more expensive and larger ones. And really I don’t sell a huge number of paintings, but I have done well at the two most recent shows. At the November show one couple improved my record by purchasing four of my pieces. The least expensive one was $125, most expensive was $525.

Bob


(Sunny Avocado) #12

That’s awesome, well congrats! That’s wonderful.

I am putting off the shows until next year. I chickened out. And eek, a solo show? Never.


(Bob Blackmon) #13

Hi Dave,

Chardin is one of my heros as well.


(Dave Gehman) #14

The patron saint of still life painters…


(Mary Pargas) #15

Ah, I can see that type of work being purchased, charming the buyer. Perhaps they’re also purchased by visitors to bring home a bit of the local color.


(Valerie Smith) #16

I liked still life, but I don’t do it anymore.