On May 28th, 2017 I took part in the Kensington Market Art Fair. I was really excited for this event, and it definitely didn't disappoint. The crowd was great, and the weather wonderful. So did I succeed? That is a tough one to answer. Here are a few lessons I learn about selling humour.
Firstly, I get a lot of joy from displaying my art in public because I can see people's reactions and I can hear their laughter. Since my main purpose as a cartoonist is to make people laugh, this is extremely fulfilling. They enjoy the humour and are entertained by the few minutes that they spend in my tent. That's all great!
Moving on to the second part, why do people buy art work? Well this is a bit more complicated. They do and they don't. We enter a new territory. It may seem plain to say, but just because someone finds a piece of art work really really funny, doesn't mean that they want to spend money on it and put it up on their wall. What could the reasons be? Why do people buy prints? How do they add value to their lives?
The key here is adding value to their lives. When you buy something, you spend money on it because you believe that the value that it will add to your life is worth more than the money that you spend on it. It will benefit you in a way that its a good investment. People buy stocks because they believe they will grow, so really they are trying to buy a lot of money with a little bit of money. When people buy basketball shoes, they are not buying just shoes, they are buying the ability to jump higher, run faster and also look good (help their reputation).
So how does that apply to selling humorous illustration prints? I'm not sure really, but I'll have a crack at it. When I buy something to put up on my wall why do I do it? I want to make my space look good, to myself and to others. I want something to inspire me. Really it comes to down to interior decoration. When people decorate their house they want to impress their guests and also feel good about where they have reached in life. So the value that a print adds to their wall is that it somehow makes them look good to others. It shows that they have good taste. Specially if the art piece is rare, or an original by a famous artist. This is what has value. Also, it must look like art. This is why painterly things sell quite well. Also things that are really detailed might sell well as it looks like a lot of work was put into them.
And that brings me back to my art work and what sold well and what didn't. I couldn't have predicted this but the fresh (see left) was the bestseller, followed by Dart evader and then the unicorn did quite well. So let me go through them one by one..
I think this sold well because it looks like a piece of art, it doesn't look like a cartoon. There are lots of shapes and forms in there with a lot of variety. It has a lot of characters and very detailed so it shows that a lot of work was put into it. People can look it at for a while and notice different things about it. It keeps you looking at it.
I think this sold well just because Star Wars posters always sell well, and this is a parody of a start wars poster that still looks like a star wars poster (i'm guessing the font helps in this case).
I can't really tell why this one sold more than I thought it would. I think that there is something about it that also keeps you on the page, as it is a seemingly never ending conversation. You can picture these two going at it in the corn field all day long. Well thats just my guess!
THE ONES THAT DIDN'T SELL TOO WELL
I did a horror series that I originally sold as T shirts and these were Dragcula, Wherewolf and Spankenstein's mosnter. They actually got the most attention and laughs from the crowd, but funnily enough nobody bough them! My suspicion is that they are funny but not something someone would want to put up on their wall. Perhaps they are bit too naught, and you don't want to give the wrong impression to your guests :) So they might actually work inside a book, but not openly displayed. Merry Peepings had the same result
Also, I found that one liners and quick jokes that get a chuckle and nothing more than that don't sell either. You look it at it, you laugh and thats it. It doesn't get any deeper. These kind of things are better perhaps inside a book as a collection of at least a hundred, so their collective strength gives value. Or as a daily web comic. Either that of they have to be really really clever and funny.
To conclude you want your piece that you're selling to be something that the viewer can spend some time looking at and not get bored. It should have different levels, and keep the viewer intrigued. You want it to stay on their mind even after they've left it.