A Belfast artist is encouraging other art entrepreneurs to think creatively about business during the recession.
Jolie Dennison has been a professional artist since moving here a decade ago from the US. She is a mixed media artist, working in acrylic paints, inks, gesso and collage and she also works as an arts facilitator, specialising in children’s workshops.
She has harnessed the power of the internet to sell and market her work and feels that creating a strong online presence is the best way for the creative industries to thrive in today’s economic climate.
She said: “As recently as a few years ago, the best way to sell art was through traditional art galleries. The shift in the economy changed all that and luxury goods, such as art, really suffered. Galleries are having trouble moving even the most well-known artists.”
Ms Dennison has worked since 2001 to build an identity for her work using social media.
She has found Facebook to be particularly useful. Lending itself well to image sharing and conversations, the networking site has enabled her to build relationships, something she says has proved lucrative.
“When people were looking for Christmas gifts, they remembered me and I had a very busy fourth quarter last year,” said Jolie.
“In addition to art sales and commissions, I’ve been contacted by several arts organisations to facilitate art workshops for kids.”
The artist also has a YouTube channel, featuring her own art demonstration videos and promotional material, a Flickr account displaying photographs of her work, a Twitter account keeping followers updated on her activities and several online shops from which her creations are available to purchase.
Ms Dennison believes that the key to succeeding in the creative industry is accessibility. As well as using the worldwide web, she is thinking creatively in the real world too. “Cooperating with other businesses allows us both to share a customer base.
“For example, I am beginning to work with Michael Quinn Hairdressing on a project involving in-home ‘diva soirees’ that will combine hairdressing and creative demos with the ability to purchase our products, including my painted jewellery.
“It’s a fantastic marketing tool that clients love, because it’s not a heavy handed sales pitch. It initially took place in Michael’s salon but the in-home events will follow a similar format with the hostess earning credit to spend on our products and services.”
Business and marketing do not always come naturally to an artist, but Ms Dennison insists it is a skill which can be learned.
She advises writing down goals and starting slowly. “An artist who wants to make a living from their work has to wear a lot of hats. We are producing the work and then we also have to get it out there,” she said. “If you aren’t naturally business savvy, do your research — there is a wealth of information online.”
Embracing online interaction is something Jolie believes all artists — indeed all businesses — cannot avoid for long. “The more an artist or business engages with people online, the more far-reaching they can be.
“Most of my sales at Christmas were from people overseas,” she said.
“Anyone who wants to stay relevant needs to realise this is how people are interacting now.”