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Find Your Spot

by Russ Cushman


Some time ago I wrote my synopsis of the art market and the challenges artists face in today's economy. I followed my own advice...and I wanted to share what I learned, and hope it will be helpful to you.

Basically I declared that artists had to be creative and aggressive, even to the point of “picking their spot”
and meeting the public where it is. My friend Leon Collins has taught me a lot about this strategy, and even though we cannot be him, anyone can certainly implement his basic marketing idea. His idea is based on maximum accessibility and maximum exposure. And before his health failed, these two legs of his stool were backed by the third, that of consistency. He did it all by setting up every day on the sidewalk in downtown Navasota. After selling thousands of paintings (yes, THOUSANDS!) we have to look at him with wonder as some kind of historic art phenomenon.

We cannot be him... but each of us can do a lot more for ourselves to find our own path to marketing our works. Seeing Leon's success has encouraged me to work harder and fight the odds of this economy and our changing culture. And just in time, as more art galleries have gone out of business...including all but one of mine.

Last January I laid out a huge body of work to be done. I visioned around fifteen to twenty canvases and actually sketched out around a half dozen. Had no idea where I might sell them, but planned to place them in galleries somewhere....if I could find any that had room. The atrophy in the business has put the pressure on the last existing galleries... and most are packed from floor to ceiling. Still, I painted with certain passion. At my age it is too late to change careers. It occurred to me that I might just give them all to relatives at the next Christmas if they were still around.

2015 was a pretty good year for commissions. Several large commissions distracted me from my canvases and frustrated my goals, but still I managed to create the largest inventory of art I had ever amassed. Galleries I negotiated with were lukewarm or downright negative, and my old reliable Houston gallery finally gave up the ghost. If all else failed, I had planned to take everything and wholesale it at the Round Top antique festival, and was instead lured by the bird-in-the-hand...commissions which came in for the approaching Christmas season. Round Top came and went, and I had around 30 paintings piling up in my studio.

Feeling a bit foolish, I began to think of desperate measures...I did not even have that many relatives!
Then a friend of mine contacted me about doing a CD party for his band. In the past I have worked with Navasota businessman and Mayor Bert Miller to promote local music. We put together a cool plan to market the new CD's in an alley adjacent to our joint creation, Blues Alley in downtown Navasota. We all made commitments to advertise, using newspaper and Facebook and any other we could afford.

Then it hit me. DO AN ART SHOW! So we planned a joint event in November, an evening of art featuring Tubie and the Touchtones and a Russell Cushman one man show. We advertised---spending perhaps $600.00 on ads and carefully blitzed our Facebook friends. For me the Facebook advertising was the trick, which connected well with a very large group, reaching people and producing inquiries from as far away as Idaho and Turkey. TO MAKE SURE I got rid of some paintings, I slashed my prices. Without gallery commissions to pay, I could do so without any loss of income. The combination of these things became magic. I sold a dozen pieces before the show opened...with multiple clients competing for paintings...and doubled that figure in the coming days. The event drew a decent crowd, we all had fun, and the art show steam did not cool for several weeks. In short I may have had the best Fall season of my career. And

Facebook became my sidewalk. So go paint, ANYWAY, and find YOUR spot on a new main street.