“I set up an Instagram account, people seemed to like it, and this was how I entered the art world as I guess more than just a hobby”
Zoi Roupakia / Illustrator
Tell us about yourself, bit of background on the artist?
I came to the UK to Cambridge for postgraduate studies in speech recognition and machine learning. I was always attracted to producing art but I wasn’t confident enough to really publish it. In the beginning, though I was more into photography and then I really got into digital art and in particular minimalist illustration.
I set up an Instagram account, people seemed to like it, and this was how I entered the art world as I guess more than just a hobby. After this, I started getting asked to do some interviews and I did some art festivals in Cambridge and also collaborated with a fashion brand.
I like to combine art and technology, to use different artificial intelligence and deep learning methods to produce my art. I think that new emerging technologies are opening new directions for art. I know people are resistant to that, but it really interests me and I think this is the way we are going. The next step for me is to try and teach machines to, well to give them a concept, say “draw about love”, but this is a tough question!
How long have you been selling your art?
A bit less than two years ago I guess. Because my background is completely technical, I didn’t have any connections in the art world, so it was really difficult for me to go and speak with art galleries or get advice from people who know about these subjects. So I thought, well I know about technology, I can build websites, so I can set up something myself. I started with my website and took the orders myself, and now I have a store with Shopify using the creativehub system.
What are your most successful channels for generating new buyers?
Mainly via social media like Instagram and Facebook. Instagram started out as the most popular because I think it natively attracts people who are interested in visual arts, but now it’s actually Facebook! Some of them just happen across my work and then others have known of me personally.
There are different kinds of customers; there are the ones who just want to buy one print for their home, and then I have had business customers who buy a bunch of prints because they want to decorate their offices. Through Instagram, I collaborated with an art consultant company who provide art for big hotels internationally. They approached me on Instagram after seeing the work on my feed. Also, interviews and features.
Do you use any paid advertising tools?
Yes, I have tried and use a few of these. Never Google Adwords. Instagram ads for some reason don’t work that well for me, but Facebook does. I think the reason for this is that Facebook has more categories for targeting.
With Facebook, I’ve experimented with lots of different approaches. I have tried promoting my website explicitly which works quite well and links to my print store. Then I have tried promoting direct to the store, using things like the carousel ads highlighting different products, but this didn’t work at all for me. Every ad that I have done that is direct in a sort of saying, you know “I have done this, buy it” does not work. I think people don’t like to have ads that are pushy or feel a bit spammy. What works the best for me is a one image ad that directs to my website, but without saying “I sell this” and let them find their own way to buying. What also works well is just boosting Facebook posts that are on my page. For a small amount of money, you can create really good engagement.
When it comes to how I target or choose my audiences, I try different countries but keep the interests quite open. I constrain the age, usually to between 25-55, because I have seen that older people tend to buy and the average age of people visiting my website are between 30-50. Countries are interesting. I target the same audiences but in different countries and I have the most traffic in Greece, maybe that is because I am from Greece and they recognise my name. France and Italy are also good. The UK is really difficult, I don’t know why, I haven’t found the formula yet (laughs).
“Follow other people’s work, if you like something then say it. It’s a two-way thing”
What tips can you give for creating engagement on social media?
This is really important for promoting yourself online. I engage with people, you need to be polite with social media, follow other people’s work, if you like something then say it. It’s a two-way thing. If I want people to come to my account and express their interests or share my work I have to do the same you know? I’d say the main tips are you need to be consistent. If you have a month gap between posts engagement will drop massively. Whether it is daily or twice a week it needs to be consistent.
Then I’d say be polite, like their work, follow others, be genuine. If people comment on your work, answer them! Customers have given me this feedback saying that it really helped with their purchase me being friendly and polite. You know, I think people are scared to buy things online, they like to have personal contact, they like to know you are a physical person (laughs) that they can trust. Lastly, don’t spam. Be consistent but don’t spam people with everything you are doing.
How do you go about pricing and sizing your work?
Due to not having the art background, I wasn’t sure where to start or to know what my value was. I came to the decision that it was good to offer various sizes to reflect different budgets. Right now, my pricing is more based on the production costs rather than actually pricing my work with considerations like the effort put in and time and those things. So I aim to cover the print cost and a bit of profit, but not much at this stage.
There are various formulas out there, like cost functions to use, but in the end, I kept it simple – less pricey and cover my costs. What I also do is offer my work in easy to frame sizes. The first question I have from every buyer is “how do I frame?” , “what kind of frame can I use?” So what I did is spent a day researching all different frames that you can get online and in stores, worked out my artworks aspect ratio then selected my sizes. My two best selling sizes are 30x40cm and 45x60cm which are easy to find frames for.
What kind of questions do you get from buyers?
Every customer I have had has contacted me before buying something, always through chat on either Facebook or Instagram. Few use email or via my website. So I mentioned about the framing. The other questions I get is what size artwork would I propose for their space? Or if they want to combine two they will ask for my opinion on what work? Or as a gift for someone, It’s always my opinion on what they should buy. A lot of interaction, it’s nice.
What do you worry about when it comes to your career?
Sustainability. Can I do this forever? Can inspiration continue? At some point in time, we need to evolve as artists, you can’t keep doing the same things, but will I be able to evolve as an artist? I guess these are slightly existential but there are practical worries too, like how can I organise my first exhibition or approach art galleries. How do I do these things? How do I find the right people? How should I contact these people and generate more interest in my work?