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Sell Your Artwork. How Three Contemporary Artists Sell Their Work

Updated on March 4, 2021
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Georgina writes on all types of subjects. She has published a children's book, has written for UK magazines, and is a passionate artist.

Sell Your Artwork

Windswept Birch on Dartmoor.  Unison Pastel on Fisher 400 Paper
Windswept Birch on Dartmoor. Unison Pastel on Fisher 400 Paper | Source

Becoming a successful artist is not just about being competently skilled. The most successful artists have also learnt to become their own PR and marketing team. If you intend to earn a living from selling your art, there is always the conflict between spending precious time in the studio creating beautiful things and spending time promoting and selling your work, so I'm always interested to learn how fellow creatives manage this difficulty.

Being an artist can be a lonely, solitary occupation. Personally, I question why I chose the artistic route at least monthly, so for me it's important to be part of a community, to stop me from going slightly potty, holed up in my studio. One thing that worked for me, was joining several British etsy teams. Not only do I sell artwork through my shop, drawntothewild, but I've met so many interesting fellow artists, producing inspiring work.

British Landscape Artists

I interviewed three fellow Etsy UK artists whose work I find really inspiring. My focus is on artists who produce landscape themed work, as this is my particular interest, but they all have a very different style and view of what 'landscape' means.

It is interesting to hear what works for each person and how much time each puts into promoting their work.

Crack Willow. Sue Forey

Crack Willow.  SueForeyfibreart Felt and stitching
Crack Willow. SueForeyfibreart Felt and stitching | Source

Sue Forey Fibre Art

I absolutely love Sue Forey's Fibre Art. Sue produces brightly coloured landscape-inspired wall art using fibre.

Sue is a textile artist, who lives and works on a small-holding in rural West Wales. She sells her work in shops, at exhibition, craft fairs and on her website, as well as in her Etsy store. Sue moved to West Wales ten years ago for a life of self-sufficiency, growing veggies and rearing sheep. Unfortunately there is very little market for fleece, and Sue hated to waste them, so decided to turn them into something creative. She tried spinning and weaving, but it was the process of making felt that really inspired her.

"I have created things for as long as I can remember. I have an affinity for all types of textiles and have made quilts and rag rugs as well as felt wall art. For the last 10 years I have been working in the medium of felt. 'Painting' with woollen fibres and often adding stitching to give extra texture and detail."

Pink Sky. Sue Forey

Pink Sky.  SueForeyfibreart Felt and stitching
Pink Sky. SueForeyfibreart Felt and stitching | Source

As her house became crowded with felt creations, Sue decided to try and sell some of them at a local craft fair. She was surprised and delighted to find that people loved them (I'm not at all surprised, they are gorgeous.) Since then, Sue has sold her work widely and opened her etsy store in order to widen her customer base. Her store is a glorious riot of colour and expressive fibre work.

Teaching Your Artwork

One way that Sue promotes her work is to teach other people. Teaching others not only brings in revenue, but also spreads the word about your art and may lead to sales. Sue runs occasional workshops and also gives demonstrations to art groups, craft groups, W.I. Meetings and at craft fairs.

Sue also had a three month contract with the University of Wales in an outreach programme teaching rag rug making and feltmaking in rural communities. The course was funded by the European Union.

Red Tree. Sue Forey

Red Tree  SueForeyfibreart Felt and stitching
Red Tree SueForeyfibreart Felt and stitching | Source

Celf Canolfan Cymru

When promoting artwork, Sue thinks that it is important to show your work in as many places as possible. Her work is not only for sale in local shops, but also she takes part in exhibitions all over Wales with Celf Canolfan Cymru as well as solo and shared exhibitions in Ceredigion where she lives. She also took part in the Ceredigion art trail. In addition, her work is for sale on the Handmade in the Hills website which is specifically for all artists beavering away in the hills of rural Ceredigion.

Sue Forey On Etsy

Sue feels that for local sales nothing can beat a big craft fair where people can engage with you personally, but when she found she had more time on her hands, she decided to expand her customer base.

"I felt that after selling purely in Wales for six years I was ready for a wider audience. Also my youngest child was 17 and I had more time on my hands to give etsy my full attention."

Sue's Etsy store has worked well for her. When she initially set it up, she spent around four hours a day promoting it, which really paid off.

She opened her store in March 2012 and although her work is in the upper price range of items for sale, compared to other Etsy stores, she made 37 sales in her fibre art shop. Sue also has an Etsy shop selling felt hats and other accessories that she does not really promote, but has still made a small number of sales there, and these figures don't take into account the final Christmas figures for 2012. Now that Sue's reputation has grown, she spends about one hour a day promoting her Etsy store.

Like Hubpages, Etsy fosters a supportive environment for its sellers. Sue says...

"I also love the feeling of community on Etsy where everyone helps each other."

With so much available on the WWW, it can sometimes be difficult for artists not to spend all their time tinkering with their online social networking sites. It's important to focus and limit the number of sites to a few that work for you.

Sue has her Etsy shop and promotes her fibre art on social networking sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Stumbleupon and Wanelo and her work is posted on Craftjuice. She receives most of her hits from Stumbleupon, but most of her sales have come via Pinterest.

Sue Forey's Tips For Success in Selling Your Art

  1. make sure your pricing is right. Pay yourself an hourly wage. At first it is a thrill just to sell your work but you need to cover costs such as materials, packaging, and time spent on promoting as well as your actual making time. Remember that if you sell through a shop they will want to take about 40% and exhibitions take considerably more.

  2. Start small. Try selling your work at craft fairs at first so that you can engage with customers and see which items people are interested in and buy. You can also see who buys them so you know who to target with any advertising. Craft fairs are also good places to network with other artisans.

  3. Before you branch out make sure you have a professional looking product with appropriate packaging.

Original Watercolour. Brenda Cumming

Brenda Cumming, Gweddus Art. Original watercolour landscape
Brenda Cumming, Gweddus Art. Original watercolour landscape | Source

Brenda Cumming, Gweddus Art

The next artist I interviewed was also from Wales. I didn't set out to promote the Welsh Nation, it was pure coincidence that two artists that inspire me happen to live in Welsh Wales!

Brenda Cumming has painted for most of her life, beginning in school, where, enterprising from an early age, she sold paintings and cards to her friends. Her favourite materials are watercolours, acrylics and encaustic painting. Encaustic painting involves using melted wax to form pictures. Brenda takes her inspiration from the glorious Welsh landscape and her favourite technique is painting trees and bushes with watercolours...

"I am an artist living in Wales UK and I love nature and the beautiful countryside around me. Painting allows me to disappear in my world of fantasy."

Brenda Cumming on Promoting Art

Like Sue, Brenda has taught adult education courses as a way of generating income and promoting her work. She also promotes her art on Facebook and by the simple process of giving out business cards that contain her online shop address. Facebook seems to work well for Brenda and she spends an hour or more daily promoting her creations.

Original Watercolour. Brenda Cumming

Brenda Cumming.  Gweddus Art.  Original watercolour landscape
Brenda Cumming. Gweddus Art. Original watercolour landscape | Source

Brenda Cumming on Etsy

Brenda set up her etsy store, Teabreaks as an alternative to doing craft fairs, which she found were becoming expensive and not so well attended as they used to be. Her store is packed with beautifully painted original landscapes that evoke the Welsh countryside. Considering the size of the art, they are immensely detailed pieces. Brenda must have the eyes of a hawk!

Brenda's store works well for her, "I usually get 5-10 sales a month which is quite good for art."

She spends at least 45 minutes a day showing her work to others, 'liking' other artisans' stores and increasing her circle of friends.

Brenda's Etsy store sells lots of beautifully painted smaller items, such as the highly collectible ACEO and OSWOA works. ACEO stands for Art Cards Editions and Originals, which are small pieces that customers like to collect and trade. The work has to conform to a certain size, but without any loss of quality. OSWOA stands for Original Small Works Of Art, and again, certain standards have to be met. The beauty of ACEO and OSWOA work is that the customer is able to buy an original piece, by an artist they admire, but without breaking the bank.

Original Watercolour. Brenda Cumming

Brenda Cumming. Gweddus Art.  Original watercolour landscape
Brenda Cumming. Gweddus Art. Original watercolour landscape | Source

Brenda's Tips on How To promote Your Landscape Art

1. Paint what you love and others will love it too.

2. Never try to copy someone else's style.

3. Promote as much as you can and join in teams and circles.

Sledmere Walled Garden. Hilary Miller-Gough

Sledmere Walled Garden.   Hilary Miller-Gough. The Yorkshire Palette. Original landscape painting
Sledmere Walled Garden. Hilary Miller-Gough. The Yorkshire Palette. Original landscape painting | Source

A peek at Hilary's website reveals vibrant landscapes, air-dried clay and wooden sculptures. Hilary's use of colour and form in her landscapes really adds drama to the piece, and makes the viewer feel as if they could just step right into the painting.

Hilary began painting and drawing as a child, and as a youth spent some time as a print-shop apprentice. After three years study she achieved an HND in art and design.

Hilary Miller-Gough. The Yorkshire Palette

Hilary Miller-Gough's work is different again from Brenda and Sue's, but remains landscape inspired, and she is not from Wales, but another part of the UK known for it's inspiring vistas, the North Yorkshire Wolds. Hilary describes herself as...

"A Yorkshire Wolds artist and crafts woman inspired by the rural landscape and excited by the drama created by changes in weather. Hilary paints predominantly Wolds’s acrylic landscapes and is also a competent photographer and woodworker."

Although Hilary has completed commissions on and off , she only turned professional this year. In her first year, she exhibited at Kilnwick Percy Hall in the summer and the Wolds Heritage Centre. She created her website “The Yorkshire palette” website in April 2012. In addition, she sells her work through local shops, such as Gartons of Yorkshire in Beverly and Happy Days in Pocklington.

Hilary on How To Promote Your Artwork

Hilary promotes her work every day through her blog or social networks and finds that ...

"Twitter has been amazing! It puts you in touch with the right people who you would never have come to know otherwise. Contact with like minded people equals SALES."

Allerthorpe Forest Trail. Hilary Miller-Gough

Allerthorpe Forest Trail.   Hilary Miller-Gough. The Yorkshire Palette Original landscape painting.
Allerthorpe Forest Trail. Hilary Miller-Gough. The Yorkshire Palette Original landscape painting. | Source

Hilary Miller-Gough On Etsy

Hilary has a different experience of Etsy from Brenda Cumming and Sue Forey. She was drawn to the site because of etsy's international markets, low costs to host your creative work, and the fact that the site is well advertised. However, she does not make many sales on the site.

She feels that, as far as making new contacts and getting her work seen and appreciated it’s been good but sales wise very poor.

"Postage cost must affect people’s consideration to purchase also there is no comparison to actually standing in front of a piece of art to looking at it online . The current economic climate is also not in the artist/crafts persons favour."

View From St James's Water. Hilary Miller-Gough

View From St James's Water Hilary Miller-Gough. The Yorkshire Palette Original landscape painting
View From St James's Water Hilary Miller-Gough. The Yorkshire Palette Original landscape painting | Source

Hilary's Tips On Selling Artwork

1. Don’t get disheartened if your work doesn't sell. It in no way means that it’s sub standard. It takes time and some lucky breaks along the way. Do talk to people your enthusiasm for your work is perhaps the best selling tool!

2. Create a website and a blog; you will be surprised by the amount of interest and how many contacts you will make in a matter of months.

3. It can be impossible to get into galleries unless you are already a well established artist in your own right, so go a different route, go local, approach shops ,restaurants ,wine bars even garden centres. Many will happily hang your work for free. Exposure is paramount. Exhibit at craft fairs, village fetes any local shin dig – these are your audience, not the pompous hierarchy that saunter around galleries with a glass of Chablis!

In Summary

So, here we have three very different, successful artists producing wonderful creative works. But we would never have known they existed unless they had 'got their work out there' in some way. The common themes I pick out from their promotional strategies are:

That local is good. Use craft fairs, cafes, theatres, hotels, in fact anywhere that will exhibit your work, then the sales will come.

Use the Internet and social media, but streamline it. Pick sites that work for you. Certainly, people interested in taking your work will expect you to have a blog, or website where they can view your wares.

Don't worry if you don't sell. you are going for exposure. You need lots of people to see your art. I did a charity exhibition at an arts centre last year. In the middle of nowhere (Joy of Devon), on a foul, bitterly cold weekend with icy rain. The staff at the centre were really quite unhelpful and bordering on the rude, parking was horrendous and it was a three hour round trip. I sold one teeny, tiny print that didn't even cover my petrol costs. BUT, from that disastrous weekend, a successful arts exhibitor wants me to exhibit for them in November 2013, and a city cafe wants to show my work in January 2013, So it's not always about the sales. That leads me on to the last tip, I have gleaned from my fellow artists:

Keep going........


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