Brand Interview: Mark Schwartz, High Heeled Art
How long has your company been in business? Please tell us a bit about your company, its mission, goals …
I started out my career as a shoe designer, working for the legendary Roger Vivier, and also designing for other luminaries in the fashion industry such as Hermès and Christian LaCroix. My artwork, painted in watercolor and inks, developed alongside my design career, and I went out on my own in 1995. Along the way, I had been fortunate enough to be mentored by Andy Warhol (a fashion illustrator in his own early career) and developed my signature style, my focus, and my brand.
My mission? To sell art and share with the world my love and celebration of high heeled shoes, which is the theme and subject of all of my artwork. High heels are fashion icons in their own right, loved by women and men. They convey style, sex, and glamour in a way that few other things can.
Tell us about your brand.
Before I launched into just creating art for a living, I designed shoes for different labels, including my own, “Mark Schwartz.” Now my brand is a whimsical, fun and colorful collection of art that all pays homage to the iconic high heel. It’s an extension of my previous career in a way, but stands on it’s own as a recognizable signature style of watercolor and ink paintings.
Do you donate to charities? Tell us about that also and why.
Yes, I have donated art to be auctioned or sold for charity many times. It’s my way to give back and support the community, and I’m honored to do so. Here in Tampa, Florida where I live, my art has been donated lately to several schools for fundraising. I also send art to cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami to support all types of causes, such as the American Cancer Society, in an effort to fight breast cancer.
How did you know what typeface (font) would be right for your company workmark or logo? If you logo has an illustration, describe why that art was the right thing, animal, place, objects, etc…
My business is all about the visual art that I create. The logo had to be readable (I chose Times New Roman for clarity) but also include elements that reflected my whimsical, colorful and somewhat eccentric style. I started with the font, and created a banner around it, complete with soft watercolors and a little splotchiness from the ink that I use.
My signature has become a more integral part of my art in recent years. I sign each original piece in a rather large, scrawling hand. That is part of my branding, but is not readable enough to use as a logo. Hence the combination of traditional typeface with the contrast of my loose and fun style of painting.
How did you decide on the right color palette to fit your company look and feel?
As an artist, I play with color all the time. Trial and error many times determines the direction that I take. On my website itself, you see a lot of white space. Just like white gallery walls, this allows my artwork to stand out and take the stage. An uncluttered design provides visual relief that doesn’t interfere with the work itself.
How did you decide which type of designer to work with, or did you design your own identity and web presence?
I created my entire website. It’s a reflection of my vision to have a site that is a gallery for my work.
In what order did you present your company to the world? Did you start with marketing and products, or website, blog and social media?
As I have been selling my art since the mid-1980’s, my work did predate the online presence. Once my artwork really took off in the 1990’s, I’ve sold it mostly by referral, from clients whom I knew in the shoe business, and others. For example, I had designed shoes for Oprah Winfrey a few years back, and someone from her office came to pick them up at my studio. They saw my artwork, and told her about it. That led to a sale of four paintings which she gave as gifts.
I had some gallery shows in New York City also, but mostly my work has been selling from word of mouth, and more recently selling online. My original website was a blog on Blogger which I started around 2003. Just recently, I upgraded to my own domain and website, which reflects my brand better and how I want to present my art to the world.
How long after the launch of your company did you start pitching in social media?
I’ve been on Facebook and Twitter for the last few years. In 2012, I started also posting on Google+, and I frequently use Pinterest to post my art. Of course, since Pinterest is so highly visual, it’s a perfect place to promote my unique style and it fits perfectly with the interest in fashion on that site.
Which social media site do you spend the most time on and how does it help marketing your business?
Probably Pinterest. It’s easy to post, and with my visual art, Pinterest is a perfect match. I’m still analyzing how much it is “helping,” but it does create traffic to my website, and gives me more exposure.
Do you belong to any community sharing websites?
I belong to Daily Painters, which posts my work on a regular basis on their front page. This probably drives more website traffic than any other source, and has been a good move for my business. I like the fact that they are always changing their site to feature art. They have something new to offer all the time.
Did you do research or study any software, take webinars, teleclasses, before approaching any area of your marketing or webs presence?
No. I learned about how to work online at the School of Hard Knocks. I screwed up a lot in the beginning and had to start over, while I was learning the process. At first I had no idea what I was doing, but now I sell from twelve to fifteen pieces of art online every month.
I have noticed that sales of my work are emotionally based. My art, in both style and subject, makes an instant connection with many people who love high heels, shoes in general, and what they represent. It’s that connection that goes beyond simple marketing and pitching your work. I believe I have developed a body of work that speaks to potential collectors on many levels.
Do you advertise locally in newspapers and/or nationally in magazines? Are they effective?
No, I do not advertise. Instead, I get interviewed. In a typical year, about a dozen articles on my work are published in magazines, blogs and videos. I love the opportunity to tell my story and share how my art is created.
Do you advertise online using Google, Facebook or on other company sites? Are they effective?
No, I don’t use online advertising.
When you printed your products, packaging, business cards and other print marketing, did you choose an online printer or visit a local vendor?
Years ago, I did do some direct mail advertising (mostly postcards) and of course, I have business cards printed. I have always used local vendors.
Did you know anything about different types of papers when you wanted to print your marketing materials?
Not really, although I would always choose to use recycled paper if possible. The paper that I mainly use is, of course, for artwork. It is archival, made specifically for watercolors. I don’t use a lot of printed material because most of my presence is online.
Have you ever used “green” technology in printing, using FSC certified papers or recycled paper, and if not, how likely are you at trying tis on a next project?
No, I have not, but of course I am open to using recycled or sustainable materials and practices in any business printing.
If you sell products, are they produced in the USA or abroad?
Not only is all of my work made in the USA, but most is original art. I also have limited edition prints made of several of my paintings. These are printed in America.
Is there anything you haven’t yet tackled, but will want to do soon?
Actually, I have a lot of very exciting things coming up. I recently licensed my art to manufacturers, and my images are now being printed on clothing. Fashion knit tops, and scarves. Plans are also underway with manufacturers to create dinnerware using my shoe art, as well as luggage, handbags, shower curtains, and other products. I’m really thrilled to have these opportunities and look forward to working more in the licensing realm with my business.
Mark Schwartz — High Heeled Art
Website and Blog: http://www.HighHeeledArt.com
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