The art of marketing is at the heart of all businesses, including art

Artist and gallery owner Paul Van Ginkel learned to be creative in his business approach to sell his art

Paul Van Ginkel is a very well-known artist in Calgary with his own gallery in Inglewood, which is home to his studio as well.

Calgary’s Business: How important is it for an artist to market themselves?

Van Ginkel: An artist is no different than anyone who has something to sell – whether it’s a product or service. Marketing is absolutely critical. However, it’s also relative to how successful – ambitious – an artist wants to be.

If an artist is content with creating part-time and occasionally selling a piece, then they don’t need to focus on marketing as much.

However, if an artist wants to have a career in art, make a good living and sell internationally, it’s imperative that a strong marketing strategy is in place. Further, because essentially everything is always changing, the marketing strategy should be flexible and fluid relative to the economy, the artist’s work, etc.

CB: How are you finding business in Calgary these days as we slowly recover from a recession?

Calgary artist and gallery owner Paul Van Ginkel.

Van Ginkel: It doesn’t matter if the economy is strong or weak, my professional routine never changes. If I’m not working on custom, commission paintings, I’m creating new pieces for gallery sales. That said, despite sales being somewhat slower during the recession, I continued to produce so I’m now selling those paintings in this stronger economy.

CB: Is Calgary today more interested in art than it was say perhaps 25 years ago?

Van Ginkel: I’ve been a full-time professional artist for 35 years, 28 years as a gallery painter, so I’ve certainly experienced the ebb and flow of the art world. However, in order to be in business for that long I’ve had to constantly find ways to stay relevant by improving the quality of my work and opening up new markets – i.e. collectors.

I’ve always been of the mind that there will always be people interested in original art, it’s my responsibility to find them. I think I sold as many paintings 25 years ago, just for less money.

CB: How do you juggle the business side of what you do with the creative side?

Van Ginkel: From the start of my career I was mindful that if I wanted to not just survive but thrive in the very challenging art world, I would have to establish a strong business acumen. In other words, wear two hats – the business hat and the creative hat.

Despite still learning my craft with each piece I create, painting was relatively natural for me while I definitely had to deliberately work on an effective business side.

I then realized that I could also be creative in my business approach. Most artists choose to stay behind the scenes and have galleries and/or agents represent them, however, despite having a U.S. agent for 24 years, I’ve chosen to represent myself. It’s extremely satisfying to know who owns my work and establish friendships.

CB: For years, you had your studio at your home. Why was it important for you to open a studio and gallery in Inglewood?

Van Ginkel: Because I’ve been an artist for so many years, I’ve had many studios in my home and away from home. Each location has its strong and weak points. Mindful of the value of my time, naturally working at home was very convenient. I also was able to strike a good work/play balance.

My discipline motivated me to keep a regular 9 to 5 schedule while not becoming a workaholic due to the distraction and accessibility of a home studio.

As one would expect, having a studio away from home also had many advantages, primarily the inspiring aesthetic of a different space and the energy associated with being more integrated in society. I’ve been at my current Inglewood space (the Van Ginkel Art Gallery) for over five years. It’s the perfect setup with my gallery on the main level and my studio on the lower level – both over 1,000 square feet.

Inglewood is the oldest and most eclectic neighbourhood in Calgary, a very inspiring location to for me to create in this marvellous 1912 building.

– Mario Toneguzzi

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