Building an audience doesn’t seem to come intuitively for most of us creative, intuitive souls. Especially not when our culture has taught us to keep quiet about our work, fit in and avoid making any sort of fuss.
The rank commercialism of mainstream buying and selling hasn’t helped either. In the rush to be different from corporations, many artists don’t promote themselves at all. As a consequence, no one knows who they are or what they make.
Rosie Hartmann aims to change that.
A Milwaukee-based visual artist, Rosie stepped into the art scene in 2011 with a solo exhibition that was well-received. A mentorship with Lawrence D’Attilio soon followed, expanding her repertoire from photography to include watercolor and acrylic. She soon began manipulating the photos and mixing them with the other media. Today, she now supports herself comfortably on her own art sales—many of them to dedicated collectors—and is represented by Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Anyone who knows the Upper Midwest art market knows this is a feat indeed: one due in no small part to Rosie’s keen business mind that moves her to network regularly, stay active on social media and maintain a website worthy of her work.
Now, she’s created more art of an entirely different kind: WuzzleIt.com, a low-cost subscription community where creative businesspeople can access timely, to-the-point tutorials on every aspect of audience-building.
“I see a couple challenges with most artists when it comes to growing their audience and gaining sales,” says Rosie. “One is that they tend to shrink from social situations, so no one knows who they are. Another is that they often don’t use social media at all—or if they do, they misuse it and drive people away.”
According to Rosie, this becomes a vicious cycle. Artists work low-paying jobs to afford their supplies, but the time it takes to create the art leaves them little time for promotion, which doesn’t come naturally anyway. So the artists continue to work more low-paying jobs and feel this endless sense of tension. There’s never enough money because not enough people are buying the work. Often because they simply don’t know it exists.
WuzzleIt aims to speak to this tension, right from its homepage: “Build your audience, solve your problems,” the header proclaims. Along with “Downloads, contests, guides and videos are all part of the package.
All this might sound more clinical than the average artist could tolerate. But with its viscerally stimulating visual brand and approachable tone, the site itself is anything but clinical. “Think of the inspiration you need,” Rosie writes of her general approach in an Instagram tutorial, “the education you need and the value of seeing what works for others. Go and seek those things out. The audience will come.”
The initial content, which covers everything from social media platforms to website-building, is largely Rosie’s handiwork. Many of the tutorials are the results of her sharp in-the-field study of how high-profile artists were using digital tools to rapidly expand their reach. Each month, new tutorials will drop on everything from proper social posting times to branding to writing artist statements to designing effective websites.
Eventually, the site will also feature tutorials on artistic craft, as well. Rosie notes ruefully that many of the top-performing artists in the digital space aren’t actually that skilled; they’re simply great self-promoters. She aims to foster artist success that is built on both craft and business.
And it won’t just be Rosie’s voice. Going forward, the site will feature an army of other artists. One of them is Grey of Grey Cross Studios in New Orleans, who served as an advisor for the project’s development and is already on board writing blog posts for the site.
Rosie’s delight in this project is as infectious as her joy in the creative process. “This is my way of giving back,” she says. “I want other artists to grow their craft and their audience the way I’ve been able to. It’s not that hard, but it does take some savvy.”
Savvy is what Rosie and her cohorts aim to make every artist who joins the site—but not by breaking their (already thin-stretched) banks. WuzzleIt’s professional memberships for working artists are just $7/month and $5/month for students. Yearly memberships offer a 15% price reduction from the already rock-bottom monthly pricing, with $50/year memberships for students and $70/year for professionals.
Even basic math shows that a WuzzleIt subscription is far less expensive than most coaching sessions or online courses. Put in perspective, a whole year at WuzzleIt costs the same as just two months at Lynda.com.
In addition to the evolving library of audience-building tutorials, videos and downloads—which will expand monthly—WuzzleIt also features Spotlight Artist opportunities and contests. These public awareness offerings are designed to help artists learn basic processes and attention to detail skills necessary to gain gallery representation and traditional press opportunities, which are often carefully screened for adherence to submission guidelines.
And like the tutorials, these opportunities include step-by-step instructions, plus return feedback from the working artists who will evaluate submissions.
Through all this, Rosie has ensured that WuzzleIt practices what it preaches. Though the site launched officially on Saturday, it already has an audience ready to share the love. As part of her smart pre-launch strategy, Rosie reached out to art schools, arts organizations, and other groups with large audiences of emerging artists who need help audience-building. She estimates over 60,000 people will learn about WuzzleIt within days of the launch thanks to these promotional partners.
Which is part of the reason why Rosie is the perfect person to lead this initiative. Because she knows how to get the word out, attract buyers, and build a movement—all while continually taking her craft to the next level.
Hopefully through WuzzleIt, many other artists will be empowered to follow her example.