Matt LeBlanc is an abstract artist on a mission. Having lost his sister to a battle with cancer, Matt knows firsthand how devastating the disease can be on the individual and the family. So when his art began to sell, he decided to take a stand against cancer and founded the Matt LeBlanc Art For Life Campaign.
Through his campaign, he has raised nearly $11,000 with a goal to reach $25,000-which is a remarkable feat considering he prices each designated painting for just $150.
Today we’ve caught up with Matt to discuss the ins and out of marketing one’s art and reaching success.
Alyice: How long have you been a mixed media artist and how did you get started?
Matt: I was painting when I was very young but never did anything for years until my wife started buying art online. When the first couple pieces arrived, I told her I could do this kind of stuff and she laughed at me. That’s all it took.
One night while she was at work, I went out and purchased all the necessary materials and painted what I consider the first original Matt LeBlanc. Then I took a picture of the painting and placed it in an eBay template.
When she arrived home, I showed it to her and said, “I found a great painting. We should buy it.” She responded by saying that it was a good idea. So I pulled out the piece and she thought I had bought it already.
When I told her that I was going to get into art again and start selling my work, she again laughed at the idea. She’s not laughing now.
Alyice: What’s been your greatest success as an artist?
Matt: I think my ability to go in to people’s homes and design a piece of art for their living space has been my greatest success so far as an artist. My clients are always surprised and amazed that I offer this service. Yet, 75% of my clients have a wall to fill and that can’t be done without checking out their living space.
My clients don’t purchase art because they are collectors but because they want to fill a hole in their space. They want to make their room better by adding a piece of art.
Alyice: How do you go about the process of designing the right piece of art for your client’s living space?
Matt: I usually request pictures or go on site to view their current living situation or settings. We then discuss colors and style.
I get my clients to choose their favorite paintings from my portfolio and then I recommend the appropriate size. Once we agree on a design, I provide a mockup of the painting they like based on the picture of their room. This helps them visualize the final product. Once I get the go ahead, I paint it and show it to them upon completion.
I never ask someone to buy a piece that they don’t like, as they will have it for a long time. I can always find another buyer. Simple as that!!
Alyice: What has been your greatest difficulty and how did you overcome it?
Matt: To be completely honest, I have not encountered many great difficulties over the course of my art career. I had a few bumps in the road but that’s normal. And those bumps are what makes me who I am today.
I think the only difficulty I had in the past few years is trying to make sure that keep a balance in my life. That I balance everything I do. I have a very crazy life. I work full time as a Marketing Director in an advertising agency. It’s a high pace environment that can require long hours at time. I have a wife and two very demanding kids that need my attention when I come home. And then there’s my art career.
I have anywhere between three to ten people in my home studio on a weekly basis. I constantly go in my clients’ homes to deliver paintings or to offer consultation for custom orders. And I spend a lot of time updating my site, blogging, posting things in social media, building online relationships, preparing paintings for shipping, and the list goes on and on. Then I need time to create my artwork.
The difficulty has been to find the happy balance in this crazy life of mine.
Alyice: For those who have a hard time understanding the art form, can you explain what abstract art is?
Matt: By definition, abstract art is basically a different perspective of objects and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. Every artist has obviously different ways to create art. Techniques, feelings, emotions & experience all play a role in the finished product.
Painting abstract for me is just plain fun. I really feed off colors, emotions and music. I’m not a type of artist who will take a walk and get instantly inspired by something I see. For me, it’s more the mood I’m in and the emotions I feel when I’m in front of the canvas.
I think a lot about colors, shapes and forms. Those items are at the basis of all my artwork. Abstract is seeing objects in a different perspective and I really enjoy hearing what my clients actually see in my work. The answers are very different from a person to the other.
Alyice: In your opinion, what makes a strong piece of abstract art?
Matt: A strong piece of abstract art should challenge your emotions. The choice of colors is an important part of the process. I always aim for color harmony.
Color harmony basically creates balance and engages the viewer by creating a sense of order. I like things that flow together and not things that shocked the viewer. For some people, the most important issue in art is that it expresses or stirs emotions.
I like to keep those emotions positive. I’m a really positive person to begin with so my art really reflects my personality. A lot of artists try to shock viewers by playing with colors to break the traditional harmony. I really have a hard time with those techniques. To me, art should be pleasing and comforting. If you don’t have a color harmony, it will create chaos. And who wants more chaos in their lives?
Alyice: In your blog, you talk about artists creating a brand for their art. Many artists think of branding in terms of characters they create or landscapes they paint or some other very distinct characteristic. How would one go about creating a brand with a form of art that technically has no distinct look or feel?
Matt: You don’t create a brand around products. You create a brand around an entity. Apple and Nike are strong brands. They have many products. Artists have to figure out what they stand for and what kind of image they want to broadcast to their audience. It can be a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
A good start would be to look at yourself and figure out how you want the public to see you. Are you a fun artist? Are you a serious artist? Are you extremely professional or more a free spirit artist? Are you very organized? Is you work high end? Low end? These are all questions that will help you create attributes about yourself.
The Apple brand personality is about lifestyle; imagination; liberty regained; innovation; passion; hopes, dreams and aspirations; and power-to-the-people through technology. How would you describe yourself as an artist? If you can list those 5-6 powerful words that describe your artistic self, then you’re on your way to create your very own brand.
Alyice: So you believe that branding goes beyond the art one paints and stretches into one’s marketing materials. Correct? How would one carry their brand into their marketing materials?
Matt: Once you have that brand personality figured out then you just need to create a look and feel (the pretty pictures) that reflects those powerful words.
Apple’s material is so sleek, fresh and innovative which all reflects their brand personality. Take those brand words to any good graphic designer and they can build you collateral that will reflect your brand personality.
Alyice: It’s always easier to create art than it is to create marketing materials. Any tips on choosing a logo, font, or color scheme so that it becomes an extension of one’s art?
Matt: I had a few businesses over the years and something I’ve learned very early is to focus on what you do and hire help on things you shouldn’t do. I don’t know many mix-media artists who are also graphic artists. If you’re an artist, stick to your job. Invest money (yes your hard earned cash) into 3 things; photography, graphic artist services, and a good web designer.
Don’t have any money to invest? Find people that like your art and make some exchange. I have three clients that are professional photographers, four clients that are graphic artists, and a couple that are web designers. I’ve designed my own material but had professional photography done and got a web designer to put my site together.
Alyice: What types of marketing materials should beginning artists use to promote their work and how cost effective are they?
Matt: The most important asset for an artist these days is a website. I’m always shocked to discover artists who don’t have their own presence online. These artists have the tendency to join all the “art sites” available to them but they don’t have their own website (or blog). To me that creates a lack of focus. They spend all their time trying to manage all those different sites and paying all those fees and not giving enough attention to their business.
I always suggest that if you bother trying something out, give it a good three months and then decide if it’s worth it for you and your business (yes, your art is a business).
The second most important thing is the social marketing. Social sites are free, very easy to use and extremely powerful if used properly. Surprisingly enough, artists don’t use them properly. Artists tend to use social sites as one-way communication. I’m following artists on Twitter and all they do is post their latest work. It gets annoying. One-way communication doesn’t give me any reason to follow them; unless I’m really looking to buy one of their artwork.
Social sites are about forming relationships and providing relevant content. Work on those relationships by interacting with others. Your followers will go to you when they are ready to buy and they will talk about your art to their friends-thus giving you new leads and new relationships.
In the end, artists need to focus on providing a good blend of relevant content. Write small blog posts and tips and post them in between new art posts. This will elevate the artist’s status and make the artist seen as a professional in his/her field. Remember, people always want to deal with professionals.