Pondering The Artist Life

« Colorful Lights and Darks in Paintings | Main | Is Watermedia Inferior to Oil? I say NO! »

Taking Charge of Your Art Business


Today, I am beginning a new blog series - so that I can follow up to my recent post about The State of The Art Market. Here are a few of the topics I plan to elaborate on:

Recent Interviews with artists who are making a living by their art - how they're doing that. The interesting thing is... they're not all doing exactly the same things, but they all have one thing in common: They are running their art business like a business - not depending on galleries alone to generate income. Some do not sell through galleries, but others sell larger paintings at galleries and smaller works directly from their website.

Multiple Streams of Income: Yes, many artists have traditionally supplemented their art sales with income through teaching classes and workshops, but I'm talking about creating more passive streams of income that pay you while you sleep. As artists progress in their careers, I believe they can leverage their income by creating art and materials that are affordable to a large number of collectors and those who love art. Creating books, ebooks, and self-published materials is easy and so... doable.

The Buddy System: Since there are no longer gatekeepers, the world is wide-open for us artists to curate our own small shows... online and in real space. We no longer need to depend on outsiders to sell our work. It's important to remember that your work cannot be easily found or marketed along with thousands of images. Small, well-defined groups who can "buddy up" and sell each others work to their collecting audiences increase the number of eyes viewing the show.

The Art of Self-Promotion: It's not an option any longer... artists cannot expect someone else or even their galleries to promote their work adequately. No one has the time, money, or desire to promote your work better than you do. Well... maybe you don't have the money right now, but I'll discuss how to use your resources and effort to promote your work to a collecting audience. Later, when you fully understand how to do this (and I have to say it's changing all the time), you can hire someone who is efficient and organized to handle these things for you. Please do not hire an artist as your personal assistant! For one, it creates a system that has a conflict of interest built-in, and second, artists are not always left-brained enough to run the business end of things. I believe we'll see a new occupation grow out of the new ways that art is sold. Individuals and small groups of artists will hire a curator/marketer for their work. These new experts will not take on dozens of artists - they will be hired by us to do a set of tasks so we can spend more time in the studio.

The Changing Role of The Gallery: Those galleries who are experimenting with new ways of attracting collectors and working with artists.. as partners.. are the ones who will transition into the new paradigm for art sales. I'll highlight how some galleries are moving toward an online sales set-up, the artists ship directly from their studios. It's a growing trend that is gaining popularity with collectors. It saves lots of overhead for the gallery, allows the artist to ship only once - to the collector, and the art remains in the artist's possession until it is sold. These online galleries curate juried shows for a limited time and offer buying incentives.

Usually, with this setup, the gallery does the promotion for the show and takes a 20% commission on sales.

You might say, well... don't people need to see works in real life? Ten years, I would have responded with an absolute YES, but it seems that there are many, many collectors who are buying online, from magazine ads and articles and from websites. It doesn't make sense to me, but it is happening - and often. Hey, it makes everything easier for us as artists. I personally don't like shipping my work to the gallery... then the gallery often ships it to the buyer, or ships it back to me if it doesn't sell (and getting unsold works shipped back from the gallery is a pain because the gallery usually pays for return shipping and drags their feet).

Invitational Shows and Plein Air Events: These shows are going great. Of course, the museum invitational shows do well because artists save their best works for these prestigious events. Plein Air shows are fun for both the artists and collectors. These "wet paint" sales seem to do well when the economy is slow.

Outdoor and Studio/Home Shows: I'm hearing from artists who are doing very well at outdoor show circuits - especially if their prices are reasonable (under $500) for most of their works. The same goes for studio shows and group studio shows. I'm not sure exactly why these venues are growing with attracting collectors, but they are. It seems that collectors are enjoying personally getting to meet and know their favorite artists.

There are other ways artists are making income... remember it all comes down to supply and demand (always has). Right now, there is a plethora of great artwork out there and fewer collectors for it. Many collectors are downsizing their homes and collections. When supply goes up, demand drops. Lower prices increase demand... so many artists have two sets of artwork. One body of large, expensive works for exclusive shows and galleries, and a set of smaller, unframed works which they sell from their websites. Like this idea or not, it's working for many artists. The lower priced works allow for a wider audience while the masterpiece works are held back for the shows that attract the high-end collectors.

Reproductions: Finally, I'll talk about reproductions. Many artists who have painted originals and sold to individuals through galleries at high prices (over $20,000) would do well to consider having reproductions made. There are paintings I would love to own, but I can't even afford the insurance it would cost me to cover them, but I can afford a reproduction. Sure, it's a lot of work to have giclee prints made, sold and shipped. But all of that can be hired out. In fact, I've been talking to a friend of mine - who is super organized about her paying to have my prints made, marketing them and shipping them to buyers. Then she pays me a percentage of the sale (20%) as a royalty. I set up the licensing contract... she does all the work, and I get money each time she sells a print of mine.

Advertising campaigns: This option takes considerable investment over a long time, but some artists have used advertising to their advantage. I know several artists personally who made an impact on a national scale with collectors by investing in ad campaigns. Interestingly, some artists who advertise in non-art magazines are experiencing sales from their ads (although these magazines are related, subject wise, to the artwork).

In followup posts I'll go into more detail, but I just want to get some of these ideas and facts out on the table. Don't hesitate to comment if you're doing something "out of the box" to sell your work. We can all benefit!







6 Responses to Taking Charge of Your Art Business


What a fantastic article! Thanks for the inspirational ideas.

I was pleased to read your ideas about marketing. It is apparent that the brick and mortar galleries are not the only way to get your work out there and may go the way of the dinosaur. The decline for me has been noticeable over the years. I look forward to reading any and all suggestions you have for taking charge of selling/marketing your work.

I've always known that a person can only sell what they know and experience personally. Many artists say that they can't 'sell' or are embarrassed because they think they don't know enough about what they have created to talk about....I say....think about something that they have passion about; Their children's first step, the mischief their favorite pets has gotten into, their most favorite vacation.....the vigor, enthusiasm, the words from the heart are what engage others to want to listen.

Keep writing on ways for artists to promote their own works....you write so well and I may have to ask permission to use your words (with your permission) on my own website/blog.

Thanks Lori,

Sure Lynn, you may use mynwords as long as you give me credit and ifmyou provide a link to my website or blog, I'd be grateful.

Loved reading your article...very interesting. I too sell small work via my website and blog, I also send the new work to my email list. I hold two solo shows in the UK which help my income and sell larger works there, I also boost the content of these exhibitions with the smaller works that havn't sold and mount them only. I find that clooectors enjoy meeting with and seein the person who actually made the work and are more lickely to come back or join the mailing list as a reault.

Dear Lynn,

I read your "Do Artists Need Twitter?" article on FAV and decided to drop by your website and have a look around. When I visit another artist's website, I approach the site the way I'd want someone to approach mine. First and Foremost, I take the time to have a close look at the art. I then read about the artist and ultimately have a look at the blog.

That being said, I really enjoyed my time here. Very friendly, breezy ambiance, lovely art (I'm partial to your landscapes). Moreover, the post above is really useful. It's a good well rounded survey of the reality of selling art in the advent of online marketing and sales. A few points I think are worth exploring:

Selling high quality prints is easier than you suggest. All one needs to do is create a well thought out hyperlink to an online supplier (Fine Art America comes to mind... there are others) that takes the buyer from your website to their order template seamlessly. The same principle applies to merchandise.

Both Zazzle and cafepress allow you to design your 'storefront' in such a way that when the merchandise buyers go to your offsite storefront url, they may not even notice that they have left your website. It's all about branding.

The possibilities with merchandise sites are endless. Your art ends up on T Shirts, mousepads, duvet covers, clocks, mugs, water bottles etc, etc, etc... you make a profit AND each article is a form of advertising if you have adequately created a recognizable brand out of your yourself.

Two things are key about transforming your art into merchandise. First, make sure your designs are tasteful and add value to your art. Second, make sure you have a recognizable brand associated to your art incorporated into the design. I use a stylized version of how I sign my initials on the back of my paintings as a very slick and instantly recognizable logo. This appears on my site, my letterhead, my business cards, and always somewhere on my merchandise designs. If the product allows for it, I include my website on it (great on mousepads or laptop skins... not so good on a shower curtain or duvet).

Pleasure to drop by... Great blog! Looking forwards to reading more.

Wishing you well,

J.E. Raddatz // www.jeraddatz.com

I can see that I've

* indicates a required field

Remember Your Info
Check this box if you want email updates when people comment on this post