I wanted to write a post in order to share some of the lessons that I’ve learned in the last couple of years about making art sales. If you’re reading this, you probably have some idea about how hard it is to sell art. If you don’t read anything else, understand one thing: be persistent.
The first, and probably the most obvious thing about selling art is that the quality of your work has to be high. Or at least high enough. Now, art is subjective, we know this, but most people judge art simply based on whether it appeals to them visually or not. Other people might look a little bit deeper to see if there’s anything emotional in art that they connect with. But at the end of the day art is something that people look at and it has to appeal to them.
With that said, it is important as an artist to always be perfecting your craft. Whatever style it is that you create in, you have to be improving and evolving. This will ensure that you will capture larger and larger audiences and that your following will be able to see your development as an artist in real time.
The next thing to know about selling art is presentation. Are your paintings clear coated? Are the edges clean and finished? Does your work and your brand have a refined look and feel to it? These are some things to think about and I will write another post later about branding because that is huge! But for now, begin to consider these things, and how you can improve them. If you’re at a loss for this, look at other artists on Instagram. You’ll find that many of these artists build a huge following just on brand alone. The aesthetics of their posts, and the consistent look and feel of their work draws people in and keeps them in. This should also be reflected in your “in person” or “real life” exhibits. Again, look at the bigger artists and see how they are presenting their work in public places. It is also important to mention photography… not every artist is great with a camera but most smart phones have really good cameras and with just a little bit of effort, and perhaps some lighting adjustments after the photos are taken, one can produce images that are similar in quality to professional work. It is well worth your time to watch a couple of YouTube videos on how to photograph your art… both to display on a website, and how to take a good ‘in situ’ picture.
Once you have quality work that is finished and very professional looking, it’s time to find a place to put it! Every city is different, and opportunities for artists to display their art may be numerous or extremely limited. I’m going to give you some tips on how to forge ahead and make your artistic presence felt.
One: start with a Google search for ‘call to artists’ in your area. Also check Facebook. This will give you ( hopefully) a list of venues that are actively looking for artists to display their art. Follow this up with a search for art shows, art fairs, craft fairs, music festivals, open mics in any other local venues and events that might be willing to allow an artist to display their work. Be creative with this one, because there are niches everywhere, they just need to be found!
Two: do another Google search for “art in _____” where you put your city name in the blank. The goal is to find, and become a part of your local art scene. This will also help to find a list of places that allow local artist to hang art in their stores, shops, cafés or restaurants. For example, here in San Diego, we have a local spot called the mission. it’s a great place to eat and they always have local art hanging on the walls. Getting on the wait list to hang your art there is as simple as sending an email with some of your artwork attached. Your city mayor may not have places like this which leads us to…
Three: get ready to hustle! This one is the hardest one, but has the highest potential for results. You go to Google maps and you search for cafés. Then you start at the highest point North of your city or locale, and work your way all the way down south. Call or email every single café and say something along the lines of:
“Hello, my name is ___, and I’m a local artist. I was wondering if it would be possible to discuss hanging some of my art in your establishment. My work can be seen at ___, and I can also come in and bring some samples.”
Now, you don’t have to follow this recipe exactly, and I certainly suggest that you say something similar to this, but very much how you would say it. When you do this, be prepared to hear no about 95% of the time. But the ~5% of yes answers mean that you will essentially own all of the walls of the venue! This also means that you bear the responsibility of bringing the art, hanging it professionally, handling inventory, questions and transactions and generally making it very easy for the managers of the venue to continue to allow you to hang your work there. It’s a lot of work, and not the kind of work that artists are necessarily keen on doing, but this will get your work out in the public eye, and depending on how many people patronize the venue, you stand to build a large following very quickly.
I hope that these tips work for you as they have worked for me. When I started selling art, it was extremely slow at first, and it picked up very slowly… And if I'm being honest, the growth is just a slow, steady grind. But the following that you develop is real, and made up of people that genuinely want to see you evolve as an artist. That is an amazing feeling and I'm going to continue to improve and evolve throughout my life. I hope you do too :)