This is the third article in my new series dedicated to artists and creator marketing. Melissa is the most famous artist I know.
I met Melissa some years ago when I lived in Connecticut and was on the board of directors and the Marketing Director of an arts nonprofit organization. She has a unique niche in the fantasy art world and is famous around the globe – even appearing at shows in Italy. She is lucky enough to have a steady stream of custom commissions from dedicated fans who collect her work. So dedicated, in fact, she has a backlog of orders.
Learn more about Melissa and her art in this article and how she utilizes print-on-demand sites to market her work and earn more from her already-existing artwork.
To give readers a bit of perspective, tell us a little about yourself in a paragraph or two.
I am the owner of Ranting Centaur Studios. I have a colorful, realistic style, and paint pagan subjects along with fantasy art for the gaming industry. I have created powerful and imaginative creatures for many of the top collectible card game (CCG) publishers.
I am best known for working with Wizards of the Coast when they first published Magic: The Gathering in 1993. I created several iconic character designs for that game, most notably Nightmare, Shivan Dragon, and Lord of Atlantis. I did illustrations for many subsequent expansions of the game as well. I’ve also freelanced with several graphics and marketing firms, Titan Sport (WWF), book publishers, a fashion house, a theatrical make-up artist in NYC as well as with the New England Lyric Opera.
I specialize in believable anthropomorphic creatures and people in natural and historic settings, and the bulk of my recent work has been private commissions.
What has been your most successful marketing or promotion to date?
The most successful marketing device has been my website, my fan base on Facebook linking to my print-on-demand sites, and the popularity of the games I have done artwork for.
What has been your least successful?
The least successful has been going to shows. They run hot and cold. Most of these shows are annual events, and I’ve had some that were very successful and others where I didn’t make expenses. This is true for the same show year to year. Also, LinkedIn hasn’t been at all helpful. It’s just people in the same situation looking for work from each other, or looking for a pat on the back.
Oddly, Covid was a big boost for my business. My fans had money because they couldn’t go to shows, so they spent it on art and commissions. As a freelancer, it is very hard to turn down work, hence my 6-month commission backlog.
What do you wish you’d known or done sooner to promote your creative business?
How very time-consuming marketing is, and how fickle customers are. How aggravating the “art of selling” is. The nuances of customer psychology are so very time-consuming. I really hate doing it. I still do…and it takes time away from the board. But if I had to pick one thing, it would be how to use keywords effectively. I still struggle with that.
What are a few of your favorite artist marketing/business/promotional resources you can share with us?
Make use of print-on-demand websites. You won’t have to do marketing, although it will obviously help if you do. Zazzle has no annual fee, and you set the royalty for all the products you put your image put on. They also incentivize you to help drive traffic to their marketplace by offering you an additional referral fee in addition to the royalty you set.
Fine Art America (also called Pixels.com) has a reasonable annual fee and requires less maintenance. It also lets you set your own markup, and both have a marketplace where they will showcase your work for sale on the merchandise they offer (along with thousands of other artists).
Do you/have you ever established a marketing or promotional budget?
I consider the cost of the website my marketing budget. I tried some ads on Facebook, but I think Facebook made more money than I did.
Do you use watermarks to protect your work?
The print-on-demand sites add it automatically, and the website puts it in the code. Nothing can prevent a screen grab though.
What are some other creative or artistic outlets you enjoy?
I read a lot, I am a practicing pagan, and I would be totally lost without my music.
How can readers find and support your work?
- Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/MelissaABenson/
- LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/nightmareartist
- Zazzle: https://www.zazzle.com/s/melissa+benson
- Fine Art America: https://fineartamerica.com/art/melissa+benson
Thank you, Melissa.
I invite you to read the artist marketing journeys of Anna Mayta and Marcia Lorente