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Art Marketing: 6 Traits For Success In The Art Market

Updated on November 16, 2014

6 Personality Traits For Success With Your Art, And 1 That Will Hold You Back.

This lens was created to describe the personality traits that an aspiring artist should have or at least cultivate in order to be successful with their artwork. And by successful, I'm talking about sales..

There is a strong cultural belief that an artist can't make a living creating art. I mean everyone has heard the term "starving artist." This has it's foundation in truth of course for many different reasons. But I have never really thought of making money at art as hard. Well . . . not harder than making money doing anything else.

Perhaps it is because I do so many art fairs that every year I am surrounded by artists successfully selling their goods. Many do these events for fun or hobby. But many others earn enough to live on and some to live on it very well. (Second homes, put their kids through college. That sort of thing.) Mind you it would be exponentially harder, if the art I was trying to sell was of an elitist nature. At least at art fair venues.

For those of you considering turning your art hobby into a successful art business here are a few of the traits that will best equip you to do so.

The 6 Personality Traits For Success In The Art Market Are:

1. Drive

2. Focus

3. Personality

4. Solitude

5. Honesty

6. Confidence

And The One That Will Hold You Back


Note: Nowhere in this list is skill or talent mentioned as a necessary aspect of turning your art hobby into an art business. While skill and talent are very important, it is in all probability your ability to market successfully, that will determine your business's success or failure.

copyright protected by copyscape
copyright protected by copyscape

All copyrights are retained by the artist,

Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery.

The artwork or content in this lens may not be used or reproduced, either

in part or in whole, without the express written consent from the artist.

1. Trait For Success In The Art Market - Drive

Also known as motivation, determination, perseverance and tenacity

You need to be able to let things like rejection, rude comments, or occasional slow sales, not deter you from your goal in order to do what it takes to get the job done.

Drive is what keeps you at it even when you work full time, have kids, and have a busy life. There is always time. Now I am not saying spend time in the business over time with your family. But the truth is, all gathered round watching TV is not exactly quality time.

Before we moved to Iowa I had worked a couple of jobs and had 2 Sundays off a month, I still created, (though at the time my art was barely a hobby) often late into the evening hours. Without drive, your success may well be limited.

2. Trait For Success In The Art Market - Focus

The Ability To Stay On Task WHile In A Whirlwind Of "Must Do's"

Focus In my opinion is the main thing that has saved my art business, while I have watched gallery after gallery close in my area. Because Wild Faces Gallery is diversified, I don't rely on only one source for sales. What this means however, is I have to juggle dozens of jobs all the time. (i.e. gallery manager, customer relations, picture framer, publishing house print proofer, artist . . . well, you get the idea)

The only way I can keep from going crazy is to maintain focus. Not only focus on the future goals but also focus on my daily and weekly goals.

Part of that means cutting out a lot of extraneous activities.

3. Trait For Success In The Art Market - Personality

Being Personable

Good people skills are essential. I consider myself anti-social by nature. I would be ever so happy if I could hide away in a mountain cottage somewhere with a few horses, a pack of dogs, a few miscellaneous critters and a shotgun. (yes, my husband is also welcome on this fantasy hilltop, but I just thought, that went without saying. But then I thought, maybe it didn't) But if you actually want to sell art, you need to talk to people.

I am not a big fan of the hard sell approach, you know the used car salesman kinda thing (though that is a successful technique for many) I tend to greet them and just make myself available. If they seem interested, I generally ask a few questions about them (everyones favorite subject is themselves.) The good thing for me is that most of the people that are attracted to my work are generally animal people, which makes having a conversation easy. Plus I am genuinely interested and not feigning my attention. I know that sounds rude, but after you speak with hundreds of people in an afternoon, it can get tempting to fake it.

4. Trait For Success In The Art Market - Solitude

Loving Your Alone Time

This sounds kinda of the opposite of #3 but if you plan to make your hobby your business you are going to be spending quite a bit of alone time. Most artists are solitary by nature. The act of creation is often a private affair.

People and distraction take away from your ability to effectively create. Now I can work easily in front of a crowd and do demonstrations all of the time. However, I need to be completely alone when developing ideas and would not be nearly as prolific if I was constantly surrounded by others. There is just something about complete isolation that let you tap into that . . . creative side.

It has been recommended that a minimum of 20 hours of alone time in the studio is needed to further your artistic career. 40-60 is what it takes to go pro.

5. Trait For Success In The Art Market - Honesty

Honesty In Assessing Your Business Potentials

By honesty I don't mean honesty with your customers. Of course that is important. In this instance, I mean honesty with yourself, your capabilities both mentally and physically. Also honesty with your business. You need to have the ability to take a good hard look at the numbers.

For example: Lets say I do an art fair and I made X dollars. I need to factor in ALL my costs, like hotel, gas, food, booth fee, jury fee and cost of goods sold. And if I'm feeling very brave (or on the fence about returning to an event) I may also look at time lost creating in the gallery.

6. Trait For Success In The Art Market - Confidence

Confidence Or The Ability To Fake It

In order to effectively sell what you do, you do need to have a certain amount of confidence. Most people (including patrons, galleries, and publishers) want to feel they are making the right decision by trusting in you and your work. They can't get that warm fuzzy feeling if you yourself, don't feel confident in your work.

The old saying "Fake it 'til you make it" is true in this instance. Success breeds confidence, so eventually it will come. Be aware that it is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

Fear: The 1 Trait That Holds Artists Back?

Fear Leads To Stagnation

In terms of marketing your art successfully you do need all of the traits listed above. If you add "lack of" to any of the 6 traits you will struggle to achieve success. Lack of Confidence. . . Lack of Drive . . . Lacking the ability to be alone. (Ummm you get the idea.)

Of all of these things though, fear is the most debilitating issue that artists face. It can be immobilizing and cause stagnation. I could have added Fearlessness as trait #7 but it is such a major player, I thought it deserved special mention..

Fear of acceptance like will I get accepted into that show, or will the buyers be interested in what I do.

Fear of failure is when you are waiting for things to be perfect. Your skill level to increase, the right timing. Fear of failure causes you not to act at all. And the only way you will become successful at art is through action. Whether it be creating it or selling it.

Fear of the unknown, like how will my life change if I decide to go professional. Will I still have time to do the things I love.

But in order to be successful in the art market (as well as in anything else) you must push past it. Many starving artists become starving artists because they are allowing fear to hinder their progress.

Sometimes I play the What's the Worst That Can Happen game. What's the worst that can happen if I screw up this painting, Hmmm. Well . . . I toss it and have lost a few hours of my life. If I posted it on my blog, then the world has seen that I don't always create wonderful art. Hmmm. In the greater scheme of things pretty minor stuff really. So I move forward. Always keep moving forward. Stagnation will kill a career.

Art and Fear - A Book Dealing With The Fear Issues Of Artists

How to Profit from the Art Print Market
How to Profit from the Art Print Market

How To Profit from the Art Print Market; Creating Cash Flow From Original Art; Practical Advice for Visual Artists, by Barney Davey. (A bit of a mouthful really.)

Mr. Davey was a salesman for Decor magazine and its trade show Decor Expo for 15 years. Much of what he says is geared toward using those avenues of promotion. He suggests that to launch yourself in this way would require an investment of at least $100,000. I would think that for the average artist, (myself included) this is an unrealistic plan of action. However, once you get past that, the book is pretty good.

I gleaned more than one good idea from it. Like, when at an art show and you have someone who is really on the fence about purchasing, and they say those three little words made classic by Arney, "I'll be back." You discreetly slip them a postcard that offers something special upon their return (i.e. A free box of greeting cards, a free mini print or a 10% discount.) Since I am not the hard sell type, this strikes me as a great alternative to being more aggressive or appearing desperate (Like ... by falling to my knees, clutching their pant legs and begging.)

I particularly enjoyed reading about the strategies used by some of the current top selling print artists like Moss, Wyland, Doolittle and Kinkade. For instance for over 15 years, P. Buckley Moss made no less than 100 appearances for one-woman shows at her dealer galleries, per year. Wow, now thats commitment.

Though, I can't say that this is a must read for every artist. I do think this book could be a valuable resource. It is crammed with website urls on nearly every aspect of the art business. This book is a great starting point to explore the various avenues for furthering your artistic business goals.


And Finally, Here's One Tip Which Will Help You Sell Your Art

Create Art That Connects With People

I know what your thinking, "Mona, everyone is different. Everyone has different experiences and different things that trigger them emotionally." Look at this as a good thing. This is what allows the variety in styles, media, subjects and genre to all be marketable. So rather than trying to appeal to everyone, first and foremost you need to create art that you are passionate about. Paint what you know and love. The emotion and authenticity comes through in your work and people will feel it.

My example of this is: I get told over and over that my horses are wonderful. They tell me how rare it is to find someone who does horses well. The truth is some of my horses are flawed. Some have conformational issues you probably would not want on a horse you would actually purchase. This is something I work hard to correct. (Technical correctness is important to me. I study anatomy and horses in motion) But since I actually draw them out, it is what it is. I believe what people are reacting to, is that my horse painting have "soul." You feel like that animal exists somewhere. You look at it, it is looking back at you. That is my love and passion for my subject matter coming through the work. It is the same reason I will never paint someones child. There will never be any passion for the subject and therefore even if the painting is technically correct, it will still be lacking, even if it is only on a subconscious level.

So to wrap this up, if you are looking to sell your art, you need to create authentic art that people will connect with emotionally. You need to paint what you are passionate about and in your own voice (style is a complex enough subject it would need it's own page) And finally you need to listen to what buyers (more than friends, family or colleagues) are saying about your work and what is actually selling.

About The Author Of Success In The Art Market

Mona Majorowicz Of Wild Faces Gallery

My name is Mona Majorowicz I am a professional artist who has been making my living selling my work for some time now. I am an animal artist, (meaning I paint critters) who works primarily in Oil Pastel or Water Soluble Pencil.

I own and operate Wild Faces Gallery with my husband Mike in a small rural town in Iowa. There we sell my original artwork and prints, as well as do quality custom framing and offer Giclee printing for other artists as well as for ourselves. I have over 20 years experience in the art and framing industry, both as a business owner and as a working artist.

I maintain a blog called Fur In The Paint, as well as write a regular column for the equestrian magazine Apples 'N Oats about painting horses.

Animals are my passion and art is how I chose to express it.

What Are Your Thoughts On Marketing Art? - Success In The Art Market Guestbook

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    • profile image

      jerrybarndorf 4 years ago

      I love that the only trait to hold an artist back is fear! You are so right!

    • Lynda Makara profile image

      Lynda Makara 5 years ago from California

      Well done! Angel blessings.

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 5 years ago from Kansas

      I agree that fear can hold one back as an artist. Great list of positive attributes as well.

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Your art and your advice on marketing art are sound and sincere. Thank you!!!

    • Joy Neasley profile image

      Joy Neasley 7 years ago from Nashville, TN

      All I can say about this lens is "AMEN"! It is hard work. If it weren't for the passion to draw, rather than money, I am not sure I would have made it.

    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 7 years ago

      I have stated that I think you may be helpful to me with your lenses, and you are, another great lens. See you around the galaxy...

    • profile image

      portraitsbysheri 7 years ago

      Very helpful. Love your work!

    • profile image

      aishu19 7 years ago

      beautiful paintings and great advise...I do wish you luck with your sales. And this is great advise for all-not just artists :)