The interface of art and the internet is an interesting place. One of the phenomena to arise from this interaction is the “Painting-A-Day” movement. For the past few years, I have been aware of blogs where artists post a new work of art each day. The purpose of these blogs is to sell work, allow the artist to discuss the creative process that went into each work, and motivate the artist to produce a work of art every day, by keeping him/her accountable to an audience.
I would venture to say that the popularity of this approach has much to do with the internet. The sense of community and support the internet offers to daily painters relieves the “if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forest” sense of isolation for artists who previously worked in obscurity. And, from a practical point of view, blogs for daily painters bring their work to the marketplace instantly.
One such artist, who had web design training as well as an interest in painting daily, is Micah Condon. He started in 2005, painting each day, blogging and watching others, and thought, “Why not pool our forces and all be in one place?”
In September of 2006, he started dailypainters.com . It grew quickly, and ironically, as will happen with art businesses, soon all of Micah’s time was spent on the blog and not in the studio. He has spent a lot of time learning about the marketing end: what works and what doesn’t. When I interviewed him by telephone in early September, 2009, I asked him what he has learned about successful marketing for art. He said that the key is building personal connections between artists and collectors by getting the artists’ stories out there. He said that artists who are successful are people who do a very good job of telling their story and continuing to build on their personal story through their work and what they say about it.
I asked Micah how this success has played out, in terms of sales. He told me that artists on his blog can sell directly or through email, and the ones who have taken off are selling everything they put out and many have gotten gallery connections. Since the sales are directly through the artists and Micah doesn’t take a commission, he charges a monthly fee to be on the site. He also juries in the artists to maintain consistently high quality, and has committed to site members not to grow too fast. He adds just a few people per quarter. Artistically, the works tend to be small (thus, doable in a day). Most of the works on dailypainters.com are representational, and very well done. The website is attractive and well-organized.
One of the keys to his success seems to be his connectedness to his artists. He polls them on policy decisions. Although he says it’s hard to get a consensus, he uses a message board and active communication process so artists know their opinions count. This is notable, because he is using the strengths of the web as an interactive social network to build and improve his web business. I asked him how he promotes the site, and he says he places a large print ad in American Art Collector magazine. Thus, his marketing strategy, while primarily web-based, also utilizes a more traditional form of promotion. In addition, he has hired publicist Lisa Ferraro to help promote his site. She succeeded in placing works by dailypainters.com on the NBC-TV feature show of interior designer Courtney Cachet.
The daily painting movement, as represented by Micah Condon’s successful business model, seems to be a win-win for a certain type of artist. I would say that the chief benefits for an artist are: exposure to a wide audience, the benefit of accountability to a social group (sort of like Weight Watchers for artists) and the discipline of committing to painting a discrete work each day. This last factor is helpful in several ways: first of all, there is nothing like daily work in the studio to help an artist improve and grow technically, and secondly, it enables the artist to build a large body of work quickly. My impression is that this approach is most helpful for artists who have trouble getting started or staying engaged in their work, or are feeling isolated. For artists who are already well along on their careers and into a rhythm of producing work, it may prove to be a distraction.
I asked Micah about this, because personally, my works take anywhere from three days to several weeks to complete. He agreed that there is no one-size-fits-all in studio practice. But clearly, the growth and success of his website is proof that for many artists, he presents a useful combination of support, promotion and a working regimen.