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Advice to Artists Who Want to Sell Their Work

Updated on April 26, 2012
Dbro profile image

I am Diane Brown (dbro), an artist and illustrator living in Texas. I enjoy all phases of the creative process. Enjoy and comment!

This hub is written in answer to a question posted by fellow hubber Robie Benve, who asked, "Any advice for an artist who wants to start selling?" I was intrigued by this question and wanted to provide what advice I can give based on my experience. I must say I am no expert on this subject, but I have had some success in selling my work. I am an artist who has a studio in my home. I sell paintings occasionally, but in no way do I make my living selling paintings. However, my art is a nice supplement to our household income.

My first piece of advice is about attitude. While first and foremost you may consider yourself an artist, you must also adapt your thinking to also see (and accept) yourself as a salesperson. In order to be successful selling your work, you must actively sell your work. As artists we may find the notion of selling difficult or even onerous, but unless you hire someone to market your work, you will have to do it yourself.

Camellia, watercolor 5x7" Sold at Local Art Group Gallery
Camellia, watercolor 5x7" Sold at Local Art Group Gallery

Potential Buyers Want to Know...

I have learned that potential art buyers are usually not only interested in the art, but are also very interested in the artist. As an artist who wants to sell work, you must become comfortable talking about your art, your motivation, your message, etc. This conversation with a potential buyer can be crucial to making a sale and possibly finding a collector of your work.

One way to develop this ability to converse about your art is to join a local art group. Here fellow artists share observations about their work, pass on ideas, and learn about places they might be able to display and sell their art. Members of art groups can be supportive of one another, but there is also the potential for jealousies, competitiveness, and cliquishness, so beware!

How to get your Work "Out There"

The only way to make sales of your art is to get your work out into the public eye. There are many ways to do this, but one of the best is to maintain a website for your art. This makes your work accessible for viewing 24 hours a day. A basic website is reasonably affordable and easy to build and maintain. Having a business card with a phone number and your website (and possibly an attractive graphic based on one of your works) is a handy way to get your work "out there."

Art Shows and Competitions

Getting publicity is a good way to drive potential customers to view your work. This publicity can be garnered in a variety of ways. One good way to get free publicity is to win an award for your work in a competition or show. Art societies and groups hold shows usually on an annual basis. An artist can enter these shows for a small entry fee. These competitions give your work exposure. A word of caution about art shows and competitions. Most of these art events are "juried" which means that your work has to be accepted by a judge in order for it to make it into the show and ultimately for it to win a prize. This is a highly subjective process and high quality works of art are rejected regularly simply because they do not fit the judge's aesthetic. You must have a thick skin and secure ego to enter these shows. Resolve to not take rejections in this process personally! If you are fortunate enough to win recognition at one of these shows, there is the potential for mention in the news media.

Wheels of Progress, Watercolor 11x14" Sold as a result of media exposure
Wheels of Progress, Watercolor 11x14" Sold as a result of media exposure

A word here about using the news media to your advantage. Do not wait around hoping the media will hear about your accomplishments. You must be proactive and contact them with the news about your art. You may likely have to write the press release yourself and submit it to the media outlet. When you submit this release to the local paper, don't forget to include a picture of your artwork. Local, small newspapers are usually hungry for content, so you will have a very good chance of having your press release published. This is a great way to get free publicity for your work.

Galleries

I can't speak about gallery representation with much authority, as I haven't explored this option in depth. I do know that you must approach galleries requesting they accept your work for display. Of course, the gallery will require a "cut" from sales of your art they display. This commission the gallery requires can be quite significant. If you decide to pursue gallery representation, you will have to balance this "cost of doing business" against the benefits the gallery will bring to marketing your work. Galleries will actively pursue sales of your art. Galleries can afford to advertise (most of the time) and will typically attract clientele who are shopping for art and planning to buy. Of course, all of this assumes that the gallery will accept you as one of the artists they wish to represent. (See my earlier comments about juried art shows and competitions.)

Conclusion

Selling art in today's economy is a great challenge - it has never been easy! As you navigate the process of making sales, remember that commercial success is only part of what makes an artist a satisfied individual. Always remember your work has great value - never compromise on the excellence of your work as you see it. Remain positive and keep trying - you will make sales, and better yet you will add depth and beauty to many people's lives in the process.

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    • Dbro profile imageAUTHOR

      Dbro 

      5 months ago from Texas, USA

      Thanks for your comment, MG Singh emge. I guess it depends on what you hope to achieve through your art. I think most artists want to share their work with a larger audience in some way. That does not mean that they necessarily want to SELL their work, but in many cases artists want to have the affirmation that their work is of a quality that people would pay money to obtain it. It isn't all about affirmation either. I think many artists dream of being able to support themselves and their family with the work of their hands.

      There are other artists who create solely for their own enjoyment for whom the idea of marketing and sales of their work is unimportant or even distasteful.

      I think it's all a matter of what each individual artist's notion of what it is they want to accomplish with their work.

      I hope you enjoy your painting and that you find fulfillment in doing it. Thank you again for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh emge 

      5 months ago from Singapore

      Very interesting. I have over the years painted about 30-32 canvas in oils but never thought of selling anything.I have just stored and kept them.

    • Dbro profile imageAUTHOR

      Dbro 

      5 months ago from Texas, USA

      Thanks for your comment, Peggy. You are right, selling art is not easy. If it were, I suppose a lot more people would be trying. Selling is a skill, just like making art requires skill. Being a good salesperson is something that can be learned, though I think a lot of artists don't want to take the time to learn. You are lucky to have a person in your life who is willing to take on the task.

      Congratulations to you on the markets you have found for your work. I think that's one of the biggest challenges for artists who want to sell their work - finding venues where their art can be viewed by large numbers of people, particularly people who share an interest in your subject matter.

      Good luck to you as you continue your artistic endeavors. I hope you find many interested viewers and buyers!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Sales of art are not necessarily easy. Congratulations on your success.

      I have had some success in selling my art, but I hate being a salesperson. Fortunately, my husband has been there to take on that role. I have been in a number of group shows, plus five one-person shows. The latter have all been in Galveston, Texas, where they have a monthly art walk. Currently, my art is selling at the Galveston Historical Foundation and the Moody Mansion. They only sell the linocuts of Galveston subjects that I have created.

    • Dbro profile imageAUTHOR

      Dbro 

      5 months ago from Texas, USA

      Thank you for your comment, Denise. I can so relate to the "charge" one feels when you make a sale of something you have created. I have an Etsy store as well, and I make a sale there once in a while. I'd like to do better on Etsy, but reading about SEO, etc. makes my eyes roll into the back of my head...

      I have explored some of the sites that pay royalties for the items they sell with images of artwork on them. I haven't taken the plunge, but I might give it a try on a limited basis.

      I appreciate your comments, Denise. Good luck to you as you continue sharing your art with the world. It's good to remember as you continue creating that you are actively making the world a better place. I certainly appreciate it, as do many other people.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      5 months ago from Fresno CA

      Great advice. I belong to one art society and that keeps me busy enough. We have an annual juried show as well as several small membership shows that aren't juried to just get our work out there. Like you, I don't sell enough to "make a living" but it always gives me a charge when someone wants my work enough to pay money for it. I also have an Etsy shop with many paintings and I have sold a few there all over the country. One lady saw my work and commissioned me to paint something specific for her because she liked my style. That's always nice. If you are into the possibility of royalty art, you can put good quality digital images of your work on places like RedBubble, Society 6, or Zazzle where people can order things like tote bags, wall hangings, wall prints and posters, or phone covers with your art on it. You get a royalty percentage each time someone orders a product with your work on it and you still keep the original painting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Dbro profile imageAUTHOR

      Dbro 

      9 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thank you, Georgina_Writes. It is a very challenging thing to market one's art. Even in good economies it is difficult. We fellow artists need to help each other find markets and ways for us to gain exposure. I struggle myself with finding balance between selling my work and making work to sell! :)

    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina Crawford 

      9 years ago from Dartmoor

      Voted up. It's not easy promoting your art is it. I spend far more time marketing than I do in my studio painting. Thoroughly enjoyed your hub, so voted up and am following you!

    • Dbro profile imageAUTHOR

      Dbro 

      9 years ago from Texas, USA

      Yes! I have had some luck at local restaurants and coffee houses. There are lots of places that are willing to display art, with varying degrees of commission requested. It's good to keep your eyes open and it never hurts to ask! Thanks, Anish, for your observations.

    • penofone profile image

      Anish Patel 

      9 years ago

      I like the fact that galleries are not out of reach if you start locally m maybe even at coffee shops...

      Thanks for the tips...

      Love,

      Anish

    • Dbro profile imageAUTHOR

      Dbro 

      9 years ago from Texas, USA

      Millionaire Tips, you are a gem! Thank you so much for your support and compliments. That's what keeps people like me out there trying!

    • Dbro profile imageAUTHOR

      Dbro 

      9 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thanks, GoGreenTips! I'm sure your wife and I could share some war stories! We should share our successes too. These would help us keep motivated and help others who share the same goals.

    • Dbro profile imageAUTHOR

      Dbro 

      9 years ago from Texas, USA

      I'm glad I was able to help you with your question. I am sure you will be successful in your desire to make sales. Stay positive and celebrate the small victories! I'd love to hear how you are doing with your art and your marketing of same!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      This is really good advice Dbro. And beautiful artwork to go with it.

    • GoGreenTips profile image

      Greg Johnson 

      9 years ago from Indianapolis

      Great hub! As my wife is an artist I can attest to the frustrations that come with selling and getting your art displayed.

    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 

      9 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks Dbro for answering my question so beautifully. Voted you up, useful and bookmarked it! :)

    • Dbro profile imageAUTHOR

      Dbro 

      9 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thanks, Bldg an Architect! I'm glad you found it interesting. Selling art in this economy, or anytime, actually is a tough job - but the rewards are worth the effort!

    • Bldg an Architect profile image

      Bldg an Architect 

      9 years ago

      Another fantastic hub Dbro!

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