by Carolyn Edlund
Austin, Texas-based artist Leslie Kell takes a professional approach to promoting her work. Her marketing plan is impressive, and provides some great examples for other artists.
Leslie Kell’s portfolio is filled with digital photo collages using a technique that she has developed over the past eight years. Much of her work is architectural in nature, with photos and patterns layered and manipulated. Reflections, highlights, contours and textures fill the complex imagery that she creates in 2D as well as 3D installations of her work. Almost every piece also includes a “winged soul” such as a bird or butterfly, taking flight across a virtual sky, as a small reminder of the fragility of the moment.
She explains, “I once heard a juror say: ‘There is no substitute for the physical encounter.’ I’d like to think that my artwork is a physical, even spiritual encounter. I hope to achieve a sense of wonder, movement and maybe even a whisper of sound.”
Since her work needs to be seen and experienced, and photographic images are the only way that she can share her art with people who are not physically present, she came up with a number of ideas to appeal to and draw in prospective collectors. Her efforts have paid off; a recent gallery show of her work at the Dougherty Arts Center opened to a large crowd responding to her invitation, and ready to buy.
Before she began the marketing for this event, she created two things – a digital media kit on her website, and a catalog for her upcoming Mindscapes gallery show. Both are in pdf format, ready for downloading.
For her media kit, Kell wanted to appeal to the press visually as well as with plenty of written information about her work. This provided a rich selection to choose from – a reporter or blogger could easily write about her even if they never got the chance to personally speak with her.
What made her want to make a digital media kit? “I have always had a pdf of my portfolio to send out on request or for submissions, so it seemed natural to make it available for download,” she says. “I loved the idea of making the information available to anyone, including press, all in one place. I had considered doing a brochure, but this is so much more comprehensive.”
She organized her press kit to include the following information:
- Upcoming shows
- Artist statement
- Past press and reviews
- Honors and awards
- Specialty work: custom, public
- Contact info (links are live in the pdf once downloaded and opened in Acrobat)
For a closer look, download her media kit here.
Kell’s second project was making a downloadable catalog for the Mindscapes exhibition. I asked her about the reasoning for this. She responds, “It works in a few ways. First, by ‘unveiling’ a preview of the show to my mailing list, it offers a bit of insider treatment to my contacts and hopefully creates some interest. Also, the catalog exposes the work to people who don’t come to the physical space. And, whether they make it to the show or not, they can share it with those who may not be able to visit in person.”
Having designed the pdf, she can easily make ongoing changes to it – to mark items sold, for instance. And, to further promote the downloadable catalog, she tried something new on the wall cards that accompany each piece of work in the show. At the bottom of the description, she added a QR code and URL that link to the catalog – so visitors could review, revisit and share.
For a closer look, download her exhibition catalog here. Kell shares the link on her website homepage and in the exhibit listing as well. This makes the exhibit accessible beyond the physical encounter.
I asked her for recommendations on what other artists can do to create their own digital catalogs, press kits and more. She responds, “I have been a graphic designer for most of my life, so I came to the project with a fairly specialized skill set. But fear not, there are multitudes of ways to pull this together. There are online design templates that can be customized to create stunning presentations. I would start with a brochure or annual report template.”
“There is software and even apps that tend to be user-friendly and can be saved in a format that can be posted or emailed,” she adds. “You may know a designer or a tech savvy teenager that might be able to help you out for a piece of art in trade, pizza or a fee. Think of it as a visual resume and take it one step at a time. This is a process that will take longer than an afternoon and will need to be kept up to date. In the meantime, document everything so you have a wealth of material to use when the time comes. Now is not the time to be shy.”
In addition to creating a media kit and catalog, she used lots of email marketing and social media strategies to promote as well – and we’ll be covering those in “Serious About Art Marketing – Part 2.”