Prairie Storm by CESPrairie Storm by Christine Striemer
I need to stand out in a sea of paintings,” says Christine Striemer. “I apply a lot of psychology [her university major] to what I do, especially from a marketing perspective. I try to appeal to every audience possible.”
This is probably the most concise lesson on being an artist in the Internet age that you will likely find. Striemer has adapted her calling as a painter to the new tools of selling art with admirable skill and impressive determination.
“I am always thinking about painting,” she says. “It’s always on my mind. Right now I’m thinking about how I might capture the light reflecting off the coffee cup. I absolutely love what I do.”
Her work is saturated in colour. Though she chooses a remarkable variety of subjects, they all bear a trademark rich palette. “When I first started painting full time seven years ago,” she says, “some of those landscapes were less colourful. The colours I choose now are very conscious.”
Landscapes share space in Striemer’s repertoire with portraiture, still life, and studies on specific subjects like birch trees. A series she calls “Darker Arts” focus on human skulls and faces that are markedly zombie-like.
“I am constantly researching trends,” she says. “Chickens are hot right now! I still have to paint a chicken. I’m always watching for who is successful online and what’s working for them.”
Far from anything like artistic emulation, this part of her practice is simply good marketing. “For each new painting, I am updating 10 websites. I could not do this without the Internet. I am not a very social person. I don’t know if I could go out there and try to market my work through galleries.
“I did live in the city for several years but moved back to the country. I thought it would take a chunk out of my income. The very first website I had was all HTML code. I learned how to write the entire code for it. I was determined. There are a lot of successful artists using this method of selling their work. Some are low-end décor art. But many are selling high quality originals.”
Access to original art through the Internet has created a new buyer. “People who can’t walk into a gallery and pay $6,000 for a piece can go online and buy a small original for a few hundred dollars. Art is being made available to anyone.”
Striemer paints full time and is about to make another gutsy change to the way she works. “Commissioned pieces used to be about half of what I sold. Recently, I’ve been turning commissions down. It was starting to feel too much like work—I was procrastinating on them. These obligations were getting in the way of passion and creativity.
“I don’t like being told what to paint. As long as I am producing and putting new paintings out there, I believe people will want then. I feel like I’ve found a different way to market. I spend as much time on my computer as I do painting.”
Her objective with whatever subject she may choose is always the same: To show the beauty of the subject. “I don’t say much about my paintings online,” she observes. “I let people make their own interpretations. How they feel about the paintings should come from them.”
Despite a preference for solitude, Striemer has found herself very engaged on one subject—the transparency of art being sold online. “Be careful what you buy online,” she says flatly. “Some art is being sold as ‘original’ but it is just Photoshopped pictures printed out and daubed with a bit of paint.”
With a group of other artists, Striemer has lodged complaints to art marketing websites who are carrying works that are fraudulently labelled as original. She has gone so far as to buy a work and send it to a lab to be tested and proven to be the product of a colour printer. Why wouldn’t she be motivated to check other work: the Internet is as important a tool to her as her brush.
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