The Way Back Letter Machine

Two Things I’m doing to promote my art with less social media.

If you try to figure out how to run an art business today, the big message is to get your ass on Instagram and get rich quick. In fact, as soon as you start posting about art on Facebook or Instagram, you start getting ads from people who have figured out how artists can make 6 figures their first quarter of their first year in business. Seriously?

My Online Art Gallery

The problem is, these people who are selling this line of caca doodoo are not making money doing art. They’re selling their “secret to success” to artists who are desperate to quit their day jobs and become full time artists. This is an age-old get rich quick scheme that used to take place through direct mail that came to your actual physical mail box, or laid wait in the backs of magazines. One such ad said Draw Me, and showed a sketch of a chipmunk named Winky, or a girl with a 1960s hairstyle, saying you could win a scholarship to art school if you could draw that picture. I did it when I was 12. Luckily they wrote back that I was too young.

Nowadays, the free courses that proliferate on Social Media are funnels to get you to take another course for $1,000 or $5,000. I took some of those courses in 2020 and 2021 when I got laid off my real job in the nonprofit sector during Covid. There is some good info in some of them, to be fair. The thing is, they’re all selling the same stuff, and it’s not art. They’re selling marketing courses. They’re all saying some version of “you can make a fortune with very little effort in hardly any time by giving money to us”. Yeah. Maybe there was this one guy this one time before Instagram cranked their algorithm down so tight that no one can get any organic traction anymore that made the big time. But it’s not happening now. Before I got kicked off of Instagram for posting cat videos on Facebook (yeah, that happened), I had been stuck at roughly 1,737 followers for months. I could not get the needle to move even though I’m incredibly awesome and posted amazing stuff. Yes, I know that’s not many followers, relatively speaking, but they were all organic, and were gained with about a year of daily posting, often multiple times a day. So many posts! But you used to be able to get tens of thousands of followers that way. Now you can only get those numbers if you buy them, and Instagram will limit your reach if you buy them. So, real, genuine artists trying to make a living are screwed.

The good news for us is that an artist doesn’t need a million followers. An artist needs a few collectors, especially if they are collectors who will share you with their friends.

So what what’s an artist supposed to do?

Intermission: Click Greg the Raven! He’s available on my website as of the time I’m writing this.

Greg the Raven, original oil painting, is available on my website at

Well, first of all, we don’t have to stop doing Social Media entirely. We just have to stop trusting those fellers completely with our businesses. Put SM in the back seat, and use it as a back up for your Apartish work. We can use it to enhance the other things we are doing. Which means we gotta figure out other things to do.

I’m terribly sorry to break this to you, but we need to start spreading our wings into the IRL world of person-to-person contact. Yikes, right? PEOPLING IS HARD! I’m not saying it isn’t. I’m so good at being at home with just my husband and my three cats it’s freakish. Well, no, it’s awesome because I’m happy. But it’s not going to sell my art. I’m a borderline Introvert/Extrovert, but the capital “I” is taking over more and more. Introverts are finally getting their moment on Social Media, I know, I know, but really this boils down to whether we want to do art for a living or not. Not all person-to-person stuff means you have to meet a stranger who isn’t receptive to what you have to offer. I’ll bet we can still do some of it from a little distance.

As I told you in my last posts, my husband has been going through some medical crap, and it’s turned out to be way more involved than expected. For the next couple of months I’m going to be sticking close to home with him, so I’m not going to go gallery hopping or schmoozing with the big kids in the Pittsburgh Art Scene. Mostly I need to figure out who the damn big kids are, and where they are, and what they have coming up. That’s something I can do from home.

Thing One: So, amongst my things to do is web searching to learn more about the Pittsburgh art scene. This will set me up to visit some galleries in the New Year.

Thing Two: My next experiment is launched. I ordered snail mail stamps from the post office that say “Thank You”, and I ordered printable greeting cards. I’m going to paint something for the New Year, print it on New Year’s greeting cards and send those suckers out to every one of my customers and anyone that comes to mind that might become a customer, or might know someone that might become a customer. This year I anticipate sending about 100 cards. Recipients will get a free print on a greeting card, a personal, handwritten message from me, and a discount coupon good throughout 2022. Can you stand it? How about if I provide 2 discount coupons so they can share with a friend?

I’ll let you know how it goes. The very worst thing that can happen is they’ll get something personal from me, which will genuinely come from my heart.

Onward and Upward,

Aunt Kellie

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May you endure the pain

Things One, Two, and Three I did.

A Franken-Klingon and some small marketing steps for Aunt Kellie

May you endure the pain is a traditional Klingon greeting. Saying, “May you endure the pain” upon meeting is part of the Klingon basic etiquette. And goddamn it, my Niblings, altho I am not a particularly enthusiastic Star Trek fan, I love this. It stabs me in the heart when people diminish what you’re experiencing with lazy responses like, “Oh, it’s not that bad,” or “God never gives you anything you can’t handle,” when you’re going through something difficult. Fuck that. Sometimes you’re going through a thing. Saying it’s not a big deal is mean. “May you endure the pain” is a damn fine response to someone else’s suffering.

Fransina Lucretia Bullington was my Great Aunt, and a flapper girl in the 1920s. This portrait of her is at auction on my website for a very low starting bid. Check her out.

When your small business has been punched in the gut by Big Social Media, you really shouldn’t make any other plans. And, yet, damn it, even if you don’t, life will. At the time I’m writing this, my husband just had surgery to reconstruct his nose after some skin cancer nonsense. It ended up being a lot more involved than we expected. To top it off, it happened on the 6th anniversary of my mother’s death and the Trump election, so this week has been complicated to navigate.

It just not an option to stop doing marketing because of life. Well, within reason. I am a real live artist. If you art for a living, you’ve gotta sell art, too. I am emotionally exhausted, so there’s no way I was going to do anything big, but I would have felt worse if I did nothing at all.

Thing One I Did: Read a book, damn it.

So I started reading Art/Work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career by Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber. The book is very yellow. Yellow is my favorite color. The first bit of wisdom I glommed onto from Art/Work is to figure out what your life/work schedule is going to look like and stick to it. Don’t try to fit arting around the other parts of your life because if you get off schedule for some reason, like, say, your husband’s face exploded, it’s really hard to get it back. Fit the other parts around your art life. This doesn’t mean you should neglect your kids or the job that pays the bills, if you have one… or your spouse’s nose. It does mean that maybe TikTok and true crime TV isn’t that big of a deal and studio time is a great big fucking deal. And besides. You like to art, right? Elevate your art time. It’s essential.

My husband is not supposed to lie down during this part of his recovery at all, not even to sleep, so after trying to retrofit our bed to accommodate this, he ended up sleeping in the pull-out chair in my studio. This meant there was no way I was going to go into my studio to paint today. That’s okay. I have computer work to do and a blog to write. Today I moved the chair to our bedroom, and I’ll be able to paint tomorrow. Today I write.

Thing Two I Did: Reaching out one-on-one.

I mentioned an artist named Jose Trujillo in my second post. After getting kicked out of Instagram where I followed him, I searched for him online and took a marketing course he offers on Teachable. Turns out he also lives in Pittsburgh, where I live. So, I decided to reach out to him by email and let him know that I wrote about him, and that I joined his email list so that I can attend future exhibits of his work. I’ll let you know if I hear back from him!

Revelation: I realized that I should do this any time I mention other artists or other small business owners. I wanted to reach out to the author of Art/Work also, but have been unable to find contact info. I will at least write a positive review when I finish reading it.

I’m feeling really good about this. Good reviews for artists (of all genres) that I like, and sending them some sort of contact letting them know they’re awesome, and maybe even collaborating with them, is a way to do good instead of just self-promoting.

Then I remembered someone else I used to follow on Insta. Her name is Lori Ruiz, and she does amazing watercolor paintings, and is a watercolorist and mixed media painter from Western Colorado. She is a self taught artist and nature enthusiast. She advocates for women supporting women within the creative community. She’s a cool person. So, I reached out to Lori by email, and asked if she would either let me interview her or write a guest blog. I hope we can work something out. I’ll let you know.

So Thing Two I Did was really three things, but they weren’t hard, they didn’t add to the stress on my plate. They just reached out to some real live artists and writers out in the universe. The worst thing that can happen is that they know I admire their work. The best thing is that they can also share my work or collaborate with me in some way.

I’ll let you know.

Thing Three I Did: I’m going to chill in front of the TV.

Despite what I said about prioritizing art time, our own emotional health is a huge deal, too, so I’m going to kick back and watch TV tonight. I’ll be searching for an art documentary or … I admit it … some true crime crap to watch. A glass of wine, something marginally healthy for dinner, and some down time with a cat over my shoulder.

I’ll be back in touch soon.

Oh, while I’m thinking about it, I also read up on the best times to post a blog. Apparently Tuesday afternoon and evening is best for social media sharing (ahem), and Sunday is best for less competition. So, I’ll have to experiment with that. I think I’m going to start with posting this on Tuesday afternoon, and sending out a reminder to the SM I’m still on this Sunday. I’m experimenting with Discord, LinkedIn, and may check out Mastadon. But this doesn’t mean I will be primarily marketing through any of them. I’ll get the value I can from them, but I’m focusing on the part that is outside of social media.

There’s a reply link at the top left of this post.

May you endure the pain!

Onward and Upward,

Aunt Kellie

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Already Breaking Rules

Keep in mind, I’ve been screwed by Meta, and I’m experimenting. But I’ve already had my first success, so maybe the art marketing gurus don’t sell the whole enchillada.

But first, some art. I’m going to include some of my art in each post because art is the point of me doing this.

The Malala Yousafzai painting is at auction on my website at a low starting bid.

Click here to visit her if you want to!

In my first week since being jilted by Meta, I already broke a rule that has been pounded into my brain since I went full time into my art gig in 2020. Everyone has been telling me I don’t charge enough for my art. And maybe I don’t. But as I charged more, I sold less. So, I did a thing.

Charging more isn’t the whole answer. We’ve got to figure out what the question is. My question at the moment is how TF can I sustain and grow my fledgling art business when Meta has just taken away my customer base? Charging more doesn’t answer that question.

This week as I was reeling from my Meta Breakup (see my first post, link at the bottom of the page), I started looking outside of the Meta trap for some artists I had followed on Instagram. Frankly, I only sold a couple of pieces of art through Instagram anyway, My main sales were through Facebook. I was mainly on Insta to follow artists.

One of the artists I really enjoy is Jose Trujillo. (There is a link on his name, just hover.) I LOVE his artwork. It’s bright, playful, and has brushwork that I adore.

Turns out Jose has stuff on several outlets including Teachable, so I took a free marketing course from him. Jose says he is making in the 6 figures, which is where I want to be. (Okay 7 or 8 figures wouldn’t hurt my feelings, but let’s start at 6.)

One of the most off-the-wall things he said was that if you need to make money, just figure out how much you can conceivably sell your art for, and sell it for that. Make it something valuable that you’re selling for less than you would ideally, in a dream world, sell it for. And honestly, that’s pretty cool, because you’re putting your art into the hands of someone who might love it but who might not be able to afford it otherwise. And they could tell their friends. And word of mouth is a good thing.

Lowballing yourself sounds totally messed up, right? Logically it seems like I should be charging more if I want to make more. But the truth is that in order to make more money you have to get your products moving into the hands of collectors. And that happens in two steps:

  • Make art that people want to own
  • At a price point they’ll easily pay.

The first part is not saying that the work has to be “good”. What does “good” mean, anyway? It’s completely subjective. We all like what we like, and if we like it enough to buy it, that’s good. Not “good enough”. That’s REALLY GOOD. Find somebody who wants to buy your shit, whatever it is.

Trujillo says. don’t just “put it on sale”. Leverage it for something you need to get out of it.

What do I need?

I need email subscribers. I cannot trust Facebook and Instagram. I’ve already been kicked out of them for no understandable reason. I was just starting to get leverage after 2 years in my art biz. The loss they arbitrarily caused STINKS. It takes a couple of years to get a new business to float in an ideal world, and honey, this world ain’t ideal. I was just starting to gain some traction, but I made a fatal mistake. I put my eggs in the Meta basket, and they hate Monty Python quotes. (See the first blog post for more on that. Link at end.)

I don’t want to annoy people with an email list, but I want to continue making art for a living. So, guess what? I won’t annoy them with an email list. I’ll give them something valuable for a price they’re comfortable paying.

I thought and thought about how much I could sell my paintings for that wouldn’t break the bank, and even did some math. But I didn’t feel comfortable with trying to decide what people are willing to pay. I think it was Miriah Coz who said, “Don’t look in your customer’s wallet! It’s not your business!” Granted, she said that while she was saying not to undersell yourself, but here we are.

But I knew who DOES know how much my collectors are willing to pay for my art. My collectors, and the people who will become my collectors know how much they are willing and able to pay for my art. Why not ask them?


So, yesterday I posted to my Facebook account…. Wait, I didn’t tell you about that, did I? I managed to create an alternative Facebook account. I’m not confident it will last, but at this moment, as I write this, I have a new Facebook account.

So, yesterday I posted to my new baby Facebook account that is sitting on a razor thin tightrope, that if people would sign up for my email list, I would do an 8×10 painting commission for them that I would normally sell for $250, and they could name their own price, plus shipping. I created a cutoff of about 36 hours. I told them why I was doing it, and told them that they could unsubscribe at any time. Complete transparency.

I got 31 email subscribers before the time was up. Yes, I realize that means I have 31 paintings to do, but YAY. I love painting.

The first person not only offered to pay the full price, they went ahead and actually paid the full price. Boom. So, I made a solid sale, I have 30 other people lined up, and even if some can only do $0, I’ll be in good shape. Because now, along with the 48 wonderful collectors I already had on my email list, I now have 31 more. And some of those have referred me to their friends, so those are more potential collectors.

I now have a tool I know I can use occasionally when I need subscribers. I won’t use it often. It would not work if I were busting this routine out every month.

So there’s the first step on my recovery from Meta products. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what happens next.

Stay tuned,

Aunt Kellie

Previous Posts at Art Apart(ish)

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