Graphite Mixed Media · Canada
Three, two, one. Hey, everyone, Harry Whelchel here. Today I have Michael Gibson, and we're gonna be talking about how Michael went from $800 in monthly sales to over $9,000 in sales in about two months, with his graphite mixed media artwork. So Mike, why don't I just turn it over to you? Can you just share a little bit about yourself and your background and what you do?
Yeah, so thanks Harry. It's great being with you. So I'm like a mid-career artist. I've been doing this for a while now and have some representation with four galleries across the U.S. and one gallery here in Canada. And so I've been doing this, been in the art business now, doing this for about 20 years or 20 plus years, and I guess my story is trying to take back my power from the galleries and try to start to sell my own work and develop my own connection with my collectors. And as far as my work goes, you could pigeonhole me into black art. I do a lot of stuff about the African-American experience, African-Canadian experience and a lot of images that reflect that.
Very cool, very cool. So tell me a little bit more about that. How did you decide to get into art initially? And I'm also curious, how did you decide to focus on those subject matters and those themes?
So I'm one of those fortunate people who found a passion at a very young age. And so drawing was something that I did when I was a kid and got the right kind of encouragement, was able to go to an arts high school, and then decided to pursue that as a career in college and university. So went to an art school in college, and then after I got three, four years under my belt doing that, went out into the real world and started doing commercial art on one end, and my fine art stuff on the other side, and always had my own business in the arts, and shortly after coming out of school and getting my feet wet, I decided I always wanted to have an art business focusing on my fine art and so that's how I got started, and just been doing it ever since.
That's awesome, that's awesome. So you knew at a young age you were interested in art. What drew you to it? Was it just the ability to be creative? Was it that it was a meditative experience for you? What do you like about the actual act of creating your artwork?
It's a way in which for me personally, I can process my own feelings and emotions. It's a way of learning and exploration. It's my spiritual space. That is my space where I really connect spiritually and it's for me I believe it's my purpose, but I'm also mostly just a vessel. And so that's what it's been for me. It's not just something that I do. It's more of, art as a practice, it's a passion. It's a really strong passion for me. It's a daily thing and if I'm not actually making art, I'm thinking about making art. If I don't make art, like even my wife will say, "You're off." Like I can only go so long without actually making art and I get miserable.
You get antsy.
Yeah, I'm just not right. I'm just not right. I'm not a very nice person to live with if I'm not making art.
I'm so curious about you guys as artists. Is it that you're like, I just have to get a pencil in my hand, and I have to just draw something, or is it like, did some subject matter like strikes you, and you're like, I've got to put this person on paper or this subject on paper? What is it for you?
Good question, I don't think it's one thing. I don't think it's one thing. I think it's a myriad of things, but it culminates in the fact that I have to be creative, right? I guess a good way of explaining it is, you have a way of expressing yourself that you're very comfortable with, and that's what you not just enjoy doing, I feel compelled to do it. So if I don't do it, it's like, oh... It's actually depressing not doing it.
If that make sense.
Yeah, it makes me think of some people I know that they are runners and they'll run every single day and if they don't run, they're totally out of shape. They're just like so anxious and stressed out.
You're just not yourself, you're out of sync. So to me, it's a daily thing, like a runner, it's a daily practice, and if you don't do it for a couple of days, you're not yourself.
It affects your mindset and your mood and all those things.
Affects all those things for sure.
Well, let me ask you this. What do you feel makes your style and the subject matter that you cover, what makes your body of art unique in your mind?
There's a few things that people have told me over the years. One, there's a photorealistic nature to my work, that people always cite. Two, there's a spirituality about the work that I do. And that's part of my art practice is my goal, is to try to draw, this is going to sound weird, but this is actually my goal. I try to draw things that you can't see. Meaning, emotions, thoughts, feelings, atmospheres, that moment in time when you were a kid that gave you this particular feeling. I try to draw things that connect us as human beings. And most of those things are things that you can't actually purchase, buy, hold. These are memories. Those things are so powerful and so I tap into that in myself and I try to move down that path and share those things with folks and to try to capture that, which is it's not easy to do, but I try, I do my best.
That's so cool. That really resonates with me. I haven't seen a ton of your work, but the stuff that I've seen, I think you're right on the money. The photorealism is definitely really striking and then I think I saw one of your mixed media pieces recently on social media and that contrast between the photo realistic black and white with the colors behind it, it's very cool.
Yeah, that's a new style that I've started working on.
Share a little more about that, yeah.
Yeah, that new body of work came about actually this year, just before I started working with you, I started moving into trying to see how I could use color, large graphic shades of color to make that graphite pop, and give it an extra punch. Prior to that, I was doing mostly just graphite. I did do some graphite drawings with a little bit of mixed media in terms of watercolor, and now I've moved into working with graphite and then just really strong gouaches, using gouache, strong colors, and some really... Shapes that really help to bring out the graphite and give it an extra punch. And so, yeah, I started doing that, and I started off doing a couple of small pieces and the response has been overwhelming, right? Every time I do a piece, people snap them up just like that. So you keep doing them, right? You keep going down that road and seeing what else you can explore using that connection that you've made with people.
Yeah and one thing that comes to mind for me, I don't know if you did this intentionally, but hearing you talk about how there's a spiritual element to your art practice, I don't know if you're familiar with, Eastern European, Eastern Orthodox iconography, but it almost hearing you talk about the spiritual thing and then thinking back to that mixed media, I almost got this element of an icon almost to some of your work. I don't know if that's something that you did consciously.
That's intentional. That's intentional, yeah. Just trying to communicate an African spirituality that, we've got spirituality that we all carry in us. We're all spiritual on some level, but to reflect my own spirituality from my own culture and so forth, that's something that's really important to me.
That's awesome. Well very cool, very cool. So let's talk about this. Let's go back to the beginning, before we were working together, just tell me a little bit about, what were you doing in your art practice, the month or two before we were working together? What was things like then?
I'm not unhappy with what my situation was, just to give you a little bit of background, I used to be totally doing things on my own, doing a lot of art festivals and that kind of thing, and then when my wife and I decided to have a family, I couldn't be running around, all over the country, two countries and doing art for 80 hours a week and stuff like that. So I decided to move my art practice into getting into galleries and allowing them to do all the labor work, which would allow me to just do my art, focus on my family, and go that route. Now that my children are a little bit older now, they're 10, and I have twins by the way, so that played a role. So having twins, it was overwhelming for us. So I really had to scale back the amount of traveling that I did and so forth. So now that they're 10 and they're older now, I'm realizing that, I have these great relationships with these galleries, but I'm giving away 30%, I'm giving away 40% in some deals that I have, and I want to start to take that power and shift the economics back in my favor, and just phase out my relationship with galleries who aren't selling as much as I would like them to. So that's what I was doing prior to working with you and right when I stumbled across you, it was more of a situation where, I was trying to decide what to do. I wanted to either A, change my website and create a situation where it was an e-commerce situation, or B, try to learn the marketing end of the business, and try to hire a marketer. To be honest, I wasn't interested in getting my hands that dirty in the marketing itself. My thing is, how can I get what I want, but still leave me as much time on the drawing table and as much time in the studio as possible? So that was my dilemma, is how can I make more sales and still leave me doing what I do and just drawing and producing art as much as I can? So that was sort of the dilemma where I was at a crossroads at that time.
How did it feel then? Was it confusing? Were you trying to do your own due diligence online and see what other people were saying? What was it like to try to discern what to do?
So there were a few things that I was looking at, to be honest, there was another company that I was looking at that did that kind of work, and I was saying, well maybe I should go over there, but it didn't feel right to me, because they were... It looked like they were pushing, artists getting into selling a lot of other products, phone cases and I just didn't feel authentic to me. So that was one thing that I was looking at. Another thing I was looking at is, like I said, e-commerce looking at Shopify, looking at Wix, looking at these other, platforms to revamp my website, and then another thing was, well, maybe I should just go hire either, an art dealer or an art rep, or someone who can take that spot for me and push my work, but I still going to have to kick them up 20% or whatever it is, so I was in that stage of figuring out what do I want to do? So I was in the valley of decision, trying to take a look at these different options and figure out what was best for me.
And did you feel like you were making progress or it was like... I don't know, I feel like, the reason what I'm getting at is I feel like there's so many online free resources and they all can one minute convince you that's the right path, but then there's missing links or... It's really easily confusing I feel like, if that makes sense.
I wouldn't say that I was necessarily confused per se, but what I would say is, I knew that I wanted to leverage social media, I knew that I wanted to leverage the internet in order to make sales. So I knew that part, the question was, which direction would give me the best results? That was the thing.
The e-commerce route or the art rep, yeah I see.
Exactly. Which one is gonna give me the best long-term return for whatever it is that I'm going to have to do? Whether that might be my own personal time, giving up my own personal time, or giving up a percentage to another professional that can actually take it and run with it, what is gonna give me the best return? So that's where I was. I'm willing to invest, I wanted to reinvest in myself, but what is going to give me the best return, what situation is gonna be the best for me? So that's where I was trying to figure things out.
Yeah. Right, so that makes sense. So you knew social media was the constant, but like how to do it, when you were doing that, and looking into the e-commerce route, what were you most frustrated by, or most skeptical by about that path and going the merchandising low ticket route? If that makes sense.
The challenge with all of that stuff is at the end of the day, you can... 'Cause I've had a website, I've done the whole thing, right? You can put up a beautiful website, with all of the bells and whistles and have all that stuff. But at the end of the day, you still gotta drive traffic to that site, and you still got to convert those folks who come to your site and to get a little bit technical, because I've been in the business for a while, what's the conversion rate of that one sale? What is it going to cost me? Because it is a cost. And I felt like all of these providers, they offer great platforms. But what they don't do is they don't give you the infrastructure to drive traffic to your site, right? So there's that one. Then if you go in and you go on Etsy or you go on these other platforms, now you're fighting against everybody else who's on that platform to actually get some traction and get noticed. And my particular work, my style of work, is not really your mainstream, down the middle, landscape kind of work. It is a very niche market. Lots of people are interested in it, but it's not a mainstream kind of work. These are the things that were really concerning to me is, yeah, I could do this stuff, but at the end of the day, that's the real hurdle for me and that's the problem that ultimately I was trying to solve.
I think you nailed it. With the e-commerce route, if you do your own store, there's a lot of platforms today that make it so easy to get the tech set up, but then they leave out what are the actual metrics of the funnel of how much traffic do you need to drive to get the sale? And then what are your unit economics? And if you actually knew that stuff and did the math, you would just would be shocked as an artist, how much traffic you need to send to make that viable? And then on the platform side, you're right, any additional traffic you get through a platform, you have that game, but you lose out because you're really not differentiated at all. You're just like another commoditized artist next to all these other people. And you can't really differentiate in a really meaningful way, if that makes sense.
Yeah, and the other challenge with that is, if you're on one of these platforms that generally are not attracting your kind of collector, the chances of you making significant sales is extremely low, right? So that was the other problem is, are these platforms, like Etsy for example, are they pulling the kind of collectors, my demographic? Because being in the business a while, I know what my demographic is. I know what my ideal collector is. I know them, I've met them, I've talked to them over the years. And if that platform is not pulling those folks, you're really not going to make a lot of sales. Total disconnect, yeah.
Let me ask you this, where did you first hear about me and what piqued your interest?
I first heard about you, it was on the internet. It was at YouTube, it was at YouTube. Here's what piqued my interest about you is, this is how I perceived it in the beginning. Okay, he's talking about learning some fundamental principles about marketing. So I thought, okay, that piqued my interest because at the end of the day, that's really where the rubber meets the road. That's really what I'm gonna need. It doesn't matter what you're selling and it doesn't really even matter what circumstances you're in. Understanding those fundamental principles, is going to really help me. That's what I initially thought. So that's what piqued my curiosity in the beginning.
Versus people that maybe try to hook you in by saying, "Oh, you gotta use Instagram or you gotta use LinkedIn as the only thing." There's people out there that make it all about the tech and like that being a silver bullet, but it was my emphasis on no, like there's just fundamental principles of communication we need to work on.
That's it, yeah.
That resonated with me. That resonated with me because ultimately what I had in my mind was how do I recreate that gallery experience where I'm meeting someone in the gallery and we make that connection, and that's what energizes the sale, versus, a low ticket item energizing the sale or the tech energizing the sale. So that's where I made that initial connection because of that.
Very cool. That's really, really cool. I know we've only been working together for about two months, but you've still had a ton of wins since then. Can you just speak to to the high level, a couple of the wins that you've had and some of the impact we've had so far?
Yeah, there's been a couple of... The really high level wins that I am excited about are the new collectors that I've met cold, and I'm just using Instagram. I'm only using Instagram. I said, listen, and from your advice, listen, let's just focus on one thing, and I feel like, let me just focus on Instagram, let me get to know that cold, that we get to really understand how to connect with people that way, I don't have a large following, like maybe just 500 plus, but those 500 plus are engaged, so in meeting people cold on the internet, not ever meeting them before, it's very rare, maybe prior to working with you, maybe two or three times that I've done that, and it's always been an instance where they saw my work somewhere else and then found me. These couple of instances, I'm talking about people that are just totally cold, which is new for me to take them from one client, one new collector, met her cold and she bought a piece from me for $700, just a small graphite drawing. And then the next month she turned around and purchased a piece from me for $3,000. And just being able to--
What did she say about that second piece, you remember what she said?
She said, "I have to have it." "I have to have it."
We had a little studio call and a little studio tour, and we chatted for a bit and it went so well. It's interesting when you make a connection with somebody, things don't have to go perfect. Like I didn't tell her what the name of the piece was, she was moving the conversation forward, and actually when we finished the zoom call, we ended the call and I was like, I don't even think I even told her what the name of the piece was. I told her the price was $3000. She said, "Oh, let me think about it, I've got to work through some things around my budget." And stuff like that, I said, well, I can work with you and maybe half an hour, she texted me back, said, I want it. I gotta have it, I gotta have it. So that was really great. And that's the thing really is exciting for me at this point is being able to take someone, not knowing them at all, and being able to develop a relationship with them and they start off their collecting and have that progression really happen really, really rapidly, that's-
That's my favorite when they hear from people like you, Michael, cause it's almost like you unlock the superpower because you realize that you can actually take total strangers and then turn them into collectors or clients and do that with predictability and doing it in a systematic way. It's like, your life has the before you can do that and after you can do that.
It is so true. It is a huge deal because prior to this, most of my sales have come from collectors who are repeat, right? We're already connected, we maybe met at a show or somewhere. They know what to expect, and so now they feel comfortable coming online and purchasing from me. I had that covered and was able to do that pretty successfully. What I was not able to do, is what I'm able to do now, and that is meeting somebody on the internet cold, developing that connection, developing that relationship, and getting those sales from that cold contact. So that's the game changer for me, for sure.
And how many times do you feel like you've done that so far? A couple of times?
It's been a couple of times and then I have another one set up for tomorrow actually. Tomorrow's Friday. So tomorrow I have another one that's another studio tour that started from a cold contact. We talked, we generated a rapport and then I said, hey why don't we jump on a Zoom? And let's meet each other, let's chat. And she's super excited. I want to see this and I want to see that, I want to see this. Let's just meet each other first. Yeah.
It's cool. I feel like once you do it once, then you get some win in your sales and some confidence. You're like, okay, if I can do it once I can do it twice. If I can do it twice, I can do it three times. If I can do it three times, I can do it five times. And the next thing you know, you've got this momentum going and you're right at the beginning of that cusp, I think of that momentum.
Yeah, it's pretty cool. It's pretty cool.
Any other wins or insights or takeaways that have been especially valuable to you so far?
I think the other thing that's been valuable about working with you is the community. That's the other thing that's been valuable for me, it's a community that's very supportive, but for me, it's also like, okay, there's a group of folks that I'm accountable to, right? I got to show up when I'm supposed to show up, There are certain things that I feel like I need to do. I'm a pretty disciplined guy, but that added community pressure, no one's pressuring you, but when you sign up for something and everybody's moving in a certain direction, you don't want to be left behind, right? You don't want to jump on a call, and folks are talking about this aspect of things, and you're like, wait, what's going on? So that aspect of what I call soft accountability, no one is looking over your shoulder, no one is waving their finger at you if you don't do anything, but it's that soft accountability because you're a part of a community that's all moving in the same direction. We all have similar goals, we all want people to actually be successful. So you do feel, at least I do, I do feel some level of responsibility to like, okay, there's certain things I got to get done this week, I got my list, this is what I got to do, and it helps you to stay focused. So I like that aspect of it, yeah.
That's really cool. No, I haven't had anyone put in that light. I love that term though, soft accountability. I think you nailed it. It's like you want to make everyone else proud, right? You want to do right by them. It's not like there's any task master stressing you out or anything like that.
No, not at all. And of course, you come into something, at least for me, I'm motivated because if I'm going to... I'm the type of person, if I'm going to spend my money, and if it's not going to work, it's not going to be because I wasn't doing my due diligence and doing everything I need to do to make this work. I want it to work, but I'm not going to slack off and say, oh, well, you know, it's because he wasn't focused. He wasn't doing what he needed to do. It's more about, I know what I need to do, but also there's this group of people that's there with me and they're inspiring me. And of course in turn, I want to do the same thing. So it's like that soft accountability. You want to be an encouragement to folks too, as well as their encouragement to you.
I love it and so have you been getting that just from being in the group and chatting with people on social media? Or is it, have you been doing any accountability sessions at all as well?
As you know, my summers are free, so I literally have accountability sessions set up for next week, starting next week. And so we're gonna go after-
Tap into that.
Yeah, tap into that, but prior to these last two months, it's just been, coming to the group meetings twice a week, being there, being present, asking questions, listening. I think that's another thing that's really great is hearing other folks and what they're going through, and hearing what you suggest them. And you're like, okay, well that'll work for me. I'll take that and I'm going to do that, right? So the other aspect of it is, there are people, always people ahead of you, and there are always people behind you. You can learn from the folks around you. So there's folks that are ahead of you, they're like, oh, okay. That's what's coming up or they're just ahead of me, so I need to do that, or maybe I don't need to do that, and also there are people behind you who maybe they've asked a question that you didn't think about and it prompted a solution. You're like that solution will work for me. I'm going to do that. And so I've been just in that way, learning a lot of getting a lot from those group chats that we get on, where we've been working our our problems together and I can hear everybody's thoughts and hear your thoughts and your suggestions and glean from that too. So I will say that's big for me.
Yeah, that's really cool. And one other thing that comes to mind for me with your story is like, I don't think you fully, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't think you've fully digested all of the training. Like you've really just scratched the surface on that. So can you just speak to at a high level, a little bit about how, you don't have to master everything in order to get the wins that you've been seeing.
No, you don't have to master everything. And for me it's like, okay, I took it upon myself to say, where am I weakest? And I'm gonna laser focus in where I'm weakest. Where I'm weak as was, hey, these cold contacts, getting, making connections on Instagram. How do you do that effectively? I remember one time we actually went through, I showed you what I said, right? And you gave me some very specific pointers, okay. I took that back, right? I took that, I worked with that. And then that's how I believe I got to these cold conversations, right? For me, it was like, okay, there's some things I feel like I'm okay with like the mindset and all that stuff. I feel like I'm good with that, but here's where I'm weakest. And so you can actually take the training and say, okay, let's focus on my weakest points. That's what I did. I said, let me short up the weakest points in the area that I want success the most. And so I had a list and I said, okay, these are the three things that I really want to focus on. And I zeroed in on that in the training. And it's yielded results, right?
And just to add to that, I think what's good about the way you did it is that you didn't do that in isolation. I think you came to me and we basically cross-referenced together and talked and like, you've always been in dialogue with me, so I could help tailor things and help you out. And I think it's that combination that led to you getting those quick wins, if that makes sense.
Yeah, it's true and pretty much every week. I'm on there every week and pretty much almost during the week I have questions or I have something to share and we discuss, I'll say, hey Harry what about this? What do you think about that? So it's not like I'm just doing my own thing. I have my own thoughts. I have areas that I want to work on. And I always say, hey, what do you think of this? Or in the case where we looked at some of my chats, I said, hey, what do you think of this? I didn't really connect, this kind of fell off. What do you think I should do here? And we go through it and then I'm really good at taking the feedback and then, okay, let give it a shot. Let me try it.
Nice, that's awesome. What about this? I'm curious, have any other areas of your life maybe personally or professionally, have they improved at all beyond, some of these sales that you've been having?
I think for me, there was a little bit of underlying anxiety about how I'm going to solve this problem, because I think for artists, at least I can speak from myself is we typically abdicate all of that to other folks. That's how I've been able to be successful to this point. That's the conventional way. You let the gallery owner deal with all of that. You produce the work, you show up to the opening and you do your thing, and then you get your check, right? That's the way it's happens. So there's always this underlying anxiety to say, okay, now I'm doing it.
There's no one else responsible.
There's all these things that I got to think about now that I typically have chosen deliberately not to think about. And so having the group there, having you there, it helps to address those blind spots. It helps to address that anxiety that you might have around, I don't know what to do next. There's someplace to go where you can ask what to do next. So there's never a real feeling like you're out there floating by yourself, right? And you don't have this understanding of any kind of direction, and nor do you have this feeling like, I don't know what to do. And I think that's a huge weight off the back of my mind, because at the end of the day, when you're making your art, if you're in the business, eventually that art you're going to show it to folks. You're going to hang it up somewhere. You're going to put it on social media, and you're going to try to sell it. And if that's in the back of your mind, like, I don't know what I'm doing, that can affect your art practice as well, right? So that's freed it up for me and it left me spaces to not have to worry about that and really just focus in on my practice.
That's really cool. And I think it reminds me when we first connected, I think you brought up that you were like, hoping you could find someone to sell for you. And I basically talked to you and convinced you on how it's important for you to learn first, so that if and when you want to do that, you can really manage them well and understand if they're performing or not. And so I'm just curious now that we're a couple months into the relationship, was that a big idea to wrap your head around? Did it take a lot of convincing for you to see my point, or how much anxiety or nervousness or faith did you have to put into making that decision?
You know to be honest, Harry, I understood exactly what you were saying, I just didn't want to do it. Because you got a family. I work a full-time job. You're juggling a lot of plates. Most artists are not doing this full time. And so the time that you take away from that studio is very precious so it's like, ah, he's right. I got to do it, so if I'm going to do it, I'm going to be diligent and really make that time count. So that was my hesitation. 'Cause I know where that time's coming from. It's not coming from my family. It's got to come out of that studio time, right? So that was my hesitation on that.
And now like looking back on it in hindsight, does it feel like you were making it into a bigger thing than it was at the time? Like it's not as much rocket science or are you happy that you decide to bone up on these skills a little bit as a part of this?
Yeah, I think one of the things that I'll give you credit for is that, it's very straightforward and to the point, and it doesn't take a ton of time, right? It doesn't take a ton of time to learn. And what I appreciate about it is, it doesn't take a ton of time to learn. And then as soon as you learn it, the real important thing is, put it into practice.
Just do it.
Don't wait, don't wait. Don't muddle, don't don't try to get all, get into the theory too much and get theoretical and bounce around all these. No, no, no, no. If you understand it, the way to show that you understand it is to put it into practice and the quicker you do that, the quicker you'll become more effective. So that's what I like about it is, let's put it into practice, you make mistakes, lean into those mistakes. Those are those a ways of learning. Come to the group, get feedback and try again.
Yeah man, it's so interesting to hear you say this, because I feel like there there's so many artists like yourself out there that have been in it for a while. They have a good career, they've been in galleries, but they've been so conditioned to think that they can't be the one that sells their own artwork. Like there's such a limiting belief around that. I think it's so powerful to you to share your message and what you're sharing right now, and how you were able to get around that and work through that and see the fruits of making that decision, if that makes sense.
Yeah, I think it's real important. 'Cause I used to do that, but this was before social media. And I used to do that, but in person. So I think the added challenge now is, and I think most successful mid-career artists know how to talk to their clients in person. That's something that's--
It's that techie element that's new.
It's that gap, it's that tech. The screen in between me and that other person and it's those people that like, oh, I have these people likes or all these likes, what do I do with them? We don't know how to bridge that gap in, make it as comfortable as if we're in a gallery, having those conversations. And I think that's a huge barrier to a lot of artists being successful online is not knowing how to do that.
Yep. And I think for the artists that are listening, it's like, if you know how to do it, it's not as scary as you might think. It's just something that's new, it's just unfamiliar. It's an unknown territory.
Yeah, it's just learning it, it's--
Yeah, it's learning the nuances and how to subtly change the way you do things online versus in-person. I think there's just some very distinct things that you'd have to learn how to do online, that if you don't consider it, if someone might carry is not pointing it out to you, you won't notice it and you'll be failing.
No results, it'll just be binary.
You don't really know why and because you haven't really sat down to really analyze it, you'll just continue to have those same results. Just continue to spin your wheels.
Well, let's shift gears for a second. Overall, so far, do you feel like you've gotten a return on your investment today?
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely, absolutely. Because I remember when we talked, I was like, well, if I'm going to reinvest in myself and spend this money, I need to know if that's going to work and you are very good in saying, well, you know what? Let's work together and we can always revisit how you're doing down the road. And you were very accommodating in helping me feel that I had someone that's willing to work with me and understood that, hey, there is going to be that little bit of an anxiety there.
9,000 in sales is not too bad for the first two months.
That's pretty good, that's pretty good. I want to try to just get more consistent, but yeah, that's great.
Yeah, exactly. It's like now that we've had a couple of good months under the belt, it's like, exactly, consistency is the next step. And once you get that consistency, we can keep going from there. So let's go back to our conversation, our initial conversation, when we got connected, try to remember back, why did you decide to do business with me?
Well, you'll remember this. We had initially talked and then I emailed you and said, well, let me talk to some... Give me some of your other clients that you've worked with. Other artists, other folks that you've worked with. And immediately you sent me a whole bunch of videos. Like, okay, check this out, check out. And I can tell you, I went through all of those videos. I went through all of them, I watched them all. I was like, okay, let me hear what they're saying about their experience. Let me hear some of the things that they're learning. And so those references really helped me a lot because when we initially talked, I understood what you're saying. I was interested, but I had no context. I had no context for what it is that you were saying. So hearing from other folks, hearing those conversations, hearing the nuances in the conversations that you were having, helped give me context to what this program was. So that was, I would say, the biggest thing.
Interesting. And was was there any interview in particular that jumped out at you or, was it artists interviews or more just the fact that it was just the interviews in general, like some of my past clients that were business owners, were they also impactful?
There were all impactful but what I look for is, for me, when you're working with someone, I look for the strength of the relationship, the numbers and all that kind of stuff. Assuming that both people on either side are genuine, and doing the correct thing, I assume that there's going to be a return at some point, but what will undermine that is if the relationship between those two individuals is not there. So when I looked at those videos, I was looking at it from that standpoint. Of course, the artist one was of particular interest because same community, but the other business ones, it was more about, okay, is this relationship reciprocal? Is that relationship being reciprocated back and forth? And can I see that both parties are committed? If I don't see that, then I know something's not right there. So to me, when you enter into a relationship, especially in business, it has to be reciprocal and if it's not, that's a sign that something is not healthy there. So that was where I was coming from.
Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. Yeah, knock on wood. I've been fortunate enough to work with a lot of clients so far that are easy to help and easy to work with and vice versa so I think it shows up in the interviews that we mutually enjoy each other's company and the process of working together and getting the results, if that makes sense.
It definitely showed, definitely showed.
Was there anything in particular that kicked you over the fence? Let's say like at the one yard line, so to speak?
I was pretty much a go after the interviews. It was more now, okay. I believe that there's genuinely good things happening. I believe that there's a connection between you and your clients. It sounds like what's being taught, has really helped folks. The only thing was okay now, how am I going to budget it out so that... 'Cause I don't like to have debt, I don't like debt. I'm not the type of guy who would just put it on a credit card. The way I run my art businesses, the art and my sales have to generate the amount of money that I can reinvest. And so it was just a matter of, I've talked to you about, it was just as a matter of figuring out how to do that. And yeah, I was pretty much 95% of the way there, chatted with my wife, talked to her about it. That was the last step and when she was like, "Yeah, it seems great." Then I was like, okay, let's do it.
That's awesome. That's gotta be great to have, a spouse that's supportive and allow you to take those investments and grow your art practice. Because a lot of people who aren't entrepreneurs, they don't really get that mindset of investing in yourself, you know?
She's fantastic. She's so great, she's so great in terms of supporting me and stuff like that and being really encouraging and stuff, so yeah.
I consider her a part of things, so I always say, hey, what do you think of this? What do you think of that? What do you think? Give me your perspective. I really value her opinion, so yeah.
That's awesome, nice. Well, let me ask you this. Would you recommend others work with me?
I would, I would. I would recommend it because, it's those fundamental principles that I was talking about earlier, that if you learn these things, in my mind, as you set it out, I'm thinking like, if someone teaches you how to fish, you'll always know how to fish. And so that's how I feel like I'm learning how to fish and I'm going up like, okay, so I'm now starting with like, okay, I'm starting with bass. I'm starting with trout, but eventually I'm going to get to bigger game. It's a bigger game as I go up. But the principles of fishing is the same, right? Maybe the bait and the equipment and all this other stuff, that's different, but you still really have to know the basic principles. And that's what I would say is as artists, we really are not taught or focused on learning those skills of basic marketing principles and skills. And for me, that's what I'm really excited about, is growing my skills that I have. And that's why I would say artists should work with you on really, if you learn that, man, I've learned that's a game changer.
Yeah, it's funny. I love what the way you said that because part of me sometimes thinks about some of the early stage lead gen techniques that I teach. I must think of them as like, end of the world, or apocalypse lead generation, meaning if everything else went away, like if your social media went away, or ads went away or, if you had a blog and that went away, you could still go get business and make sales because this is so fundamental. And it's so basic. It's about, how do you build relationships with people systematically and quickly to build that trust, you know?
I'm getting to the point now, even if like social media went away, if I have emails, if I got emails, I can make it happen. I can make it happen. Like I actually really believe now, and my website is there, but it's just there.
You don't even need the website.
I haven't used it. No, I haven't even used it. I haven't looked at my analytics on my website at all.
I was just talking to another artist earlier today, Ehab and he was laughing about that too. He was like, "Yeah, I don't need the website." Why are we all so obsessed with it? I literally do not need it. At this moment and I'll talk to you about this at another call. At this moment, I'm more thinking about, okay, well maybe I can open up another social media after I get going with this one to really, I don't need a website. And if you were to talk to me six months ago, I would have been like, oh yeah, you gotta have a website. I don't believe that anymore. I really don't believe that anymore.
It's hard to believe that if you haven't seen firsthand, the stuff that we work on.
I was just going to say, if I talked to some of my other art colleagues, they won't believe me.
They won't believe you, they literally will not. They're like, you're lying.
They won't believe me.
They will say, "Yeah, you're doing great on Instagram, but you're eventually going to need a website." And I disagree with them.
Maybe at some point it's nice, but like it's much further away than you think like you can probably get to, I think, 30,000 a month in sales, probably, just off of your Instagram, if you wanted to.
And here's the thing. If I'm doing 30,000 a month on Instagram in sales, why do I need to go to a platform on the internet that is unproven in sales? It's unproven.
There you go.
That's how I think now, why wouldn't I just say, okay, you know what? Why don't I open up another Instagram page for another social media platform and have those two spin off of each other? Why would I go outside that ecosystem to a static website? That doesn't make any sense.
Well, let's talk about that off interview.
I have some questions about that.
So back to this so we were talking about, if you'd recommend me, who do you think in particular we're a good fit for?
I think one of the things you have to be in order to work with you is you have to be motivated and self disciplined as an artist. This is not gonna work for you if you're not serious. You gotta be serious. And if you're serious and you're motivated, then I think this is for you. It doesn't matter whether you're starting off, or your mid-career you're like myself. But I think there does need to be a baseline of, okay, I'm self-disciplined, I'm motivated. I'm willing to actually devote a certain amount of time to actually learning these skills and principles. I think if you're at that point, in your art practice, then I would say, this is good for you.
I think that's really, really true. And I think the way I would say it, it's like, you have to be psychologically committed, right? It's a difference between wanting something and making a decision. Like a lot of people want to be successful, other people decide I am going to be an artist, right? And then when you make that decision psychologically, that's going to signal this commitment to yourself. And then at that point, it doesn't matter if you're part-time, full-time starting out, mid career. You're just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep working with me and you're going to see results. So it's really about that psychological mindset, I think, in my perspective, does that resonate with you?
Yeah, it does. And I would say to artists, it's almost like, when you go to the canvas, you go to that piece of paper, chances are you're not going to finish that piece today. You're going to lay down. You're working, drawing, you're going to do that. That takes a couple hours, maybe four hours. You can come back tomorrow and put a base down, like there's stages in. But to start, you have to decide, this is what I'm doing. I'm going to make this piece. And I know that I'm not going to finish it today. It may take me a month, right? But I'm going to keep chipping away at it. Three hours, five hours, the same attitude, three hours, five hours, two hours. I'm just going to continue to chip away at it. But every time I come to do it, I'm going to take it seriously. I'm going to turn off all the outside distractions, and I'm actually gonna focus on doing it. And I think if you're at that point and most artists, they understand that intrinsically because most artists don't complete finished in like two hours, they realize that this is a long, lonely process to make this painting. I've got to devote a lot of time to it. And this is the same thing, you gotta chip away at it, you got to work on your skills, You got to hone your skills. You're not gonna create a mass masterpiece the first time out, it takes practice. And this is the same thing so I view these things. Once you get past the initial trepidation of it, I view them very similar to an art practice. Like these are just skills that we need to learn.
Yeah, now I do. That is such a good metaphor. And I think, I don't know if you've seen it yet, but I think as you get more mature in your business career, you're gonna just start to see more and more about how the whole building the business around the art, that is artistic in itself, that's a craft, that's a creative thing. And you look at it like you're building this masterpiece. It's just one piece of art that you're working on, for a month, six months, 12 months. And you just keep adding to it like a pearl, if that makes sense.
Yeah, you keep building out that painting, right? You keep adding layers. That's how I look at it, I keep adding layers of graphic, keep building it out. Work different areas, work them all up. They all got to fit together. So that's how I see it in my mind, is where I'm at with you is I've just started a really good foundation. I got a nice foundation going, I want to round out the foundation before I go into the second stage of the piece.
Cool. Why should someone who's listening take action right now?
The reason why you need to take action right now is, because if you don't, the likelihood of you remaining stagnant in this area of your business, is extremely high. It's extremely high. This was a sticking point with me, for about six months, right? And had I not taken action, I'd still be there. I'd still be there trying to figure out what to do. And taking action gives you the opportunity to actually learn and move towards results. Even if I took action and I didn't go with you, I went with someone else. At least I'm going to fail quicker. You know what I mean? That's how I look at it, at least I'm going to learn whatever I need to learn over there quicker, versus just being in the the valley of decision as to what to do. So to me, not taking action, means that you're further away from actually getting a solution to the problem. And every day you don't take an action, is another day that you've missed the opportunity, to move towards a solution. And again, if you walk by that empty canvas, and you don't put anything on it, that's another day that that canvas is blank and you're no closer to actually that finished piece, if you continue to not put anything on there. So make a decision, put something on there, and then now at least you're on a path to growth.
Yeah, that makes sense. I think most artists, when they're trying to decide if to act or not, it's a lot about just like, whatever they're doing right now, the current course of action, the status quo, it's comfortable or comforting. You get in this rut where you're just doing things and you just assume like this is the way things have to be. They don't realize that like, yeah, if you just make a decision, you could literally, in a months time, make more progress than you'd make in 12 months on your own, just struggling and trying to get gas and things like that. And so I think you're right, like say just take more action, get momentum and then at least you can see if something didn't work, iterate on it and move in another direction if you need to.
Move in another direction. The other thing is, is that, it's so interesting. I don't know if you've you feel this way here, but this is so interesting that artists do a lot of things in community. Usually artists are always in community with one another. It's interesting to me that in this area, we're solo. We're solo, like as far as marketing and all that kind of stuff, as artists, we don't talk about this stuff.
You don't trade notes?
No, we don't. We are far more likely to trade notes on our craft and oh yeah, we do that all the time. And we're community about--
Why do you think that is? Is it because everyone has a scarcity mindset? They're so nervous about thinking there's not enough collectors to go around.
That's a good question, I don't think it's that. I think it's just that we just don't understand how important it is, because I think, we've abdicated that for so long and it's just the industry standard that we don't think of taking ownership over that.
It's like that idea of the unknown unknown, it's like so far out of the universe of discussion, that it just doesn't even come up.
It just doesn't come up. And so what I'm saying is it's really interesting that, there's a ton of community with other stuff, with artists, but when it comes to this, how can we take ownership over our own careers? And how can we do this for ourselves? There's not a lot of conversation about that. And so I think that's the weird part about it. And working with you, that's a big part of what you get, a big part of what you get is you get that community that seems it's very familiar to you on the art side, but you get it on this side.
What everyone's talking about is marketing and sales.
Exactly. But they're all artists too, right? They're artists so we can do both.
Which typically doesn't happen. When you go out into the art world, that typically it doesn't happen.
Yeah, I love it. And I think some people, when they first get into that community, they're a little hesitant. They're like, I don't want to share my little secret, I don't wanna lose out on this thing that I just discovered for myself. But I think as you guys weighed in and you get more into that community with the other artists. I think y'all are all seeing how, if one of you gets better, it makes all of you better. If one of you get stronger, if one of you has more wins, it makes the other peer people more likely to make sales. It's this totally different mindset shift than what you see in a lot of the more gatekeeper zero-sum dynamics of the traditional art world, if that makes sense.
Well, what we'll really doing as a group is, we're growing the pie together. That's what it is. When you see another artist winning, they're growing the pie, because if they're winning, then that means the pie is bigger. So I don't see. And I'm the type of artist to say, from the beginning. There's a ton of collectors out there. Ton of business out there. There is no way we could go another 100 years and we're not even gonna trip over each other as far as sharing collectors. It's no way, I'm off over here and you're off over here. But what is really encouraging is, when you see another artist growing their pie, that helps you to understand that it can be done. That this individual, they've taken control of their marketing on their own and they're doing it. And if they can do it, then not only I can do it, but what's important is, I can just shoot him a message and talk to him. You know what I mean? Ask him what were these things that you did? Or in the group, he could share. And I'm like, okay, that's much more tangible and much more real when you actually hear people explaining it or when people share a win. What I like about that is people share a win and then you say, hey, you know what? That's great ,but you know what you could do next time? You could do this. And it's like, oh, I could do this. So you can even bump it up some more. It's like, okay. So that's what I like too was like, okay. He sold $1000 piece of artwork, but now here he's telling them, well, here's what you could do. Maybe next time you could sell that same piece for this, or the next time you get with that client, this is what you want to do. So those are the kinds of things that begin to propel you forward because you're starting to see how you can move, you can create that momentum and move from one win and one good thing to the next.
And it trains you to not settle, it trains you to always think about, how can I just get a little bit better, get a little bit better, tweak that. And that's really key.
Awesome, man. Well, this has been so fun hearing everything that you've shared. Let me ask you this, what's your number one piece of advice for artists?
My number one piece of advice for artists would be to understand that social media has dynamically transformed the art market in a ways that you have yet to understand.
And you're barely scratching the surface on, like it's just nuts.
I'm going to say this is going to sound crazy, but if you don't want to be in a gallery, you don't need to be. You don't need the galleries. I'm in galleries, I love my gallery relationships. I'm not saying that that part of our ecosystem needs to be blown up. It's needed and it's gonna be there. What I'm saying is your ability as an artist to connect personally with your collectors and develop your relationship with your collectors now, it is so easy and it's so profitable. Why wouldn't you do that? I don't understand why you wouldn't do it. I don't understand why you wouldn't do it. To me, that's the number one thing I would say is your ability to create a business, from your art based on social media connection directly with potential collectors, has never been greater than it is today. It's never been greater. It's going to get better over time. There's technology that is, we don't have to talk about it here, but there's technology that's gonna make it even better. So build that infrastructure and that understanding of marketing now, and it's gonna pay dividends, it's goNNA pay tremendous dividends in the future. I can't stress that enough.
What a great message to share. I think that's really, really good advice, that's awesome. Mike, what's on deck for you looking ahead next 30 days, 90 days, what are your plans for yourself?
Yeah, so what's on deck is like I said, even tomorrow, I've got a couple of Zoom studio tours lined up. So hopefully we get that going. So that's the short term, we're going to have that. The next months is, my goal is to try to make that connection and that customer experience even stronger, both in being able to connect with them, and right the way through the entire relationship, from day one to the day that they get that special piece of artwork delivered to their door. I want to continue to improve that connection and that relationship, that's one. Two, is the consistency of sales. Is being able to say, okay, let's pick this target and let's see if we can hit that target every month, over the next, quarter or over the next three months. And then we'll revisit that and then go the next three months. So that's where my mind is at right now. And I know you and I are going to be talking about some things I've already put some ideas forward of how I'm thinking of doing this stuff. So yeah, that's what I'm looking forward to.
Those a great action times ahead. Can I make a suggestion on the last one on the tablet?
How do you feel about 10,000 a month?
Well, originally when I came in, if you remember when we started, I said, that was my ultimate goal. I didn't think I was going to get to that point so quick because now and the last couple months has been 9,000 in two months, so that's gotta be it, that's the goal. I was thinking five and I pretty much almost got there in two months. So yeah, getting to the level of 10,000 a month, that's a great goal.
Yeah and it's no pressure on my end. I think, if you want to do it, it's right in front of you. You just have to walk the path, basically. You just have to do the work next month.
To me, I think it's just a matter of consistency. And for me, creating the work is not the hard part. I think creating the work it comes, it's now getting that consistency in terms of my skills to a place where I really feel super confident that I'm able to go out and fish successfully every month.
And also, if you've sold some pieces for 3000, which I know you have, if we just sell three of those in a month, that's nine. And so we're almost done with that.
That's what I'm thinking is like, if I can do, two pieces a month, and each of those pieces are, between four and 6,000, I'm right there. So now it's about taking those pieces that have sold for that amount and taking those ideas and that energy, and coming up with new pieces for next month, which I've already planned, right? We're already working on that and continuing to build that momentum.
Cool. Well, Michael, this has been awesome. I'm gonna let you run. I look forward to doing another one of these with you in a couple of months, we'll tune back in. If people want to learn more about you, and follow you online, where can they find you online?
I'm on Instagram at Michael C. Gibson. That's where I live, I'm not sending you anywhere else. 'Cause that's where all this stuff is. So Michael C. Gibson on Instagram and you'll see me.
Cool. Awesome Michael, thanks so much. We'll talk soon.
Thanks Harry, appreciate it.
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