I met Brent Howard almost exactly a year ago when I serendipitously heard him say, “I’m looking for Natalie!”
It was our first major event of 2022, the release of Issue 23, and I was in my usual pace, half-running/half-sprinting.
A month later and Art Direct was our official printing and framing partner and we were planning out activations for the year.
We constantly get questions about how to make art prints. And to be honest, we didn’t always know what to suggest. Now we have experts to point to. And the relationship is symbiotic. In the last year, Art Direct shifted their focus to provide resources and space for the community. They’ve expanded their locations to include a gallery and they have plans to open an even larger HQ later this year.
Last year, they added a second location with a gallery to host featured artist exhibitions in addition to fulfilling their services. They plan on opening an even larger headquarters to include a 2,500 sq ft gallery, offices and workspaces for artists to use.
For Issue 25 “Hello!” I talked with Brent Howard, Art Direct’s VP of Retail Sales & Operations and their Gallery Director, Maggie Lyon, to delve deeper into their plans.
How did you get involved with the art community?
B: When we started, we were focusing on interior designers and commercial accounts. But after having discussions with artists about their challenges finding quality prints, we didn’t want to treat them just like another number. So we did a 180 and went down the artist rabbit hole first on Instagram by offering free sample prints. Last year we connected with you and it exploded from there.
What are the most common questions you get from artists about printing?
B: When it comes to printing, it’s: how do I go about getting reproductions and how do I market myself. We then explain the different avenues you can take outside of selling originals.
What opportunities outside of printing & framing services do you offer artists?
M: We have about 25 local artists featured in our gallery, so we’ll host private showings, sell originals and offer prints through our website and Artsy.
How do artists get their art own your gallery?
M: I encourage everyone to come in and see the space first. Then they can fill out our online application. We now have a selection process and committee, so we choose art based on what’s currently hanging, and rotate it every 60 days to keep it fresh. We also choose one person to be our featured artist every 3 months.
B: Wall space is limited so we also sell artists’ prints. I want our space to be almost like a record store where customers can flip through tons of local artist prints.
Do you have any advice for artists that want to add value to their prints?
B: To make it special, you can embellish prints with gold foil, epoxy or acrylic. Price is always a concern but a lot of it is about how you market yourself. When you sell this work, you can list these materials like if you use gold foil or describe the type of paper and that will instantly help elevate your work.
M: Simple things like including a cardboard backing behind your print, printing in standard sizes, and signing your prints adds a lot. You can also include pre-made mattes to make it easy for people to pop it into a frame. Releasing limited editions also is a great avenue.
What types of prints are your customers drawn to?
B: A lot of them like Austin themed art.
M: Also anything iconic or pop culture images. P.Muir is very popular. The interior designers that come in also favor abstracts because they are looking for art to fill their homes.