How Do I Sell My Artwork?

I was recently browsing Reddit and came on a thread, ‘I want to learn how to sell my artwork’. I decided to reply, then thought my reply was worth sharing here as well. The thread mostly talked about coffee shops and Etsy stores until this point.

Seeing as most of the common knowledge to passively selling your artwork is already covered here, I would like to just add what I feel are the two most important points to being successful as an artist, or for that matter any creative profession.

When people in your extended social circle think of who they know who is an artist, your name needs to float into the front of their heads first. There is a lot of work for us out there, but getting to the point where people think of us for it is a struggle.

The best way to accomplish this is to be prolific! You need to paint a ton, and then you need to shove it in peoples faces over and over again until they forget there was a time that you weren’t the artist guy they know. I have painted at least one painting every week for the last six years, and it is not always easy to keep that up. It’s close to 2am right now, and I’ve been grinding out stencils because family and kids took up my day which starts again in about four hours. It’s not always like this, my wife is an angel and supports me fully, my point is just that no part of this is easy, but anyone can do it.

You are working for yourself, and you are starting a business, but you don’t have the luxury of things like a storefront. Your paintings are your storefront. You have word of mouth. You gotta be on all the social medias, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, you name it. (Stay away from deviantart.) Be posting pics of those late nights, progress pics, pics of your brushes with tight filters, you get the idea. Be redundant but not annoying. It’ll feel like a giant waste of time and like your stroking your ego, but you need to do all this. Don’t count on people seeing your work in a coffeehouse or on Etsy, bring it to them. Make it literally unavoidable. It doesn’t matter so much what you paint, only that you paint a lot. The greats were all great because they painted a lot, not because they were naturally talented. That doesn’t really exist.

If you can give of your time, you will find that it almost always comes back to you. I do classes for the kids at the school, scout troops, summer camps, and I donate a painting for any charitable event I am asked for. I have found I get so much more back than I put out. My community knows me now, people have my cards and they call me for things. Sometimes its pretty random and I gotta paint a cat portrait or a bait sign, but work is work.

So to my second point, and that ties into your question, you need to let your artwork go for a reasonable price. Art speaks to people, and you will see that sometimes in folks who see your artwork. At the same time, art is a luxury item, it is not something most people budget for. It can be hard, but if you sell your artwork for a lower price than people expect, you will sell more artwork. Ask Walmart, ask Target, be Target for artwork.

The customers you have will return again and again, every time they need a thoughtful gift they will think of you. Every time you sell a piece of art, you are selling a business card to someone is going to display it proudly and prominently for free. They are going to give it to someone, and in turn that person will come to you for a piece of meaningful art. And hey, jokes on them, because with all the practice you are getting at painting those paintings aren’t even representative of the tight shit you’re putting out now. You can’t even believe you sold those!

It all just snowballs and propagates itself and it can get as big as you can take it. It just takes thousands of hours of hard work but if you enjoy painting there are worse ways to spend your life.

Don’t devalue your time, just bear in mind that once you build your brand you can charge more, work will come to you, and you can slow down. Work for free or for full price, never for cheap. You know what your work is worth in time and materials, don’t sell it in such a way as you feel bad, just figure in the benefits you get from getting more of your art into the world, and see the bigger picture of yourself as an artist in regards to self promotion. Life is long and paint is cheap. Good luck to you.

10,000 hours

A cold winters day, raining as usual, and I’m stopping in a coffee shop to warm up and get a fix. It’s early and my brother has picked me up to help him with a job. The pump that keeps his basement dry has failed in the night, and we need to dig it up and replace it.

Gil’s not actually my brother, but I always just say he is. Some friends are just like that. Saying ‘my friend Gil’ never really got the right message across. We’ve been friends since we were kids.

As is the case in most coffee shops in Portland, there was a good deal of artwork on the walls, several artists had displays. As I sipped my house drip and waited for Gil’s complicated coffee drink I wandered around looking at it, in particular being drawn to a set of Star Wars inspired stencil art.

2018-10-24_012927I am a nerd at heart, and that sort of thing really speaks to me. There were stencils of several of the main characters, a Boba Fett piece in particular had caught my eye and a few of ships in space, with that classic spraypaint space art as a background. I was overwhelming impressed with the quality and general ‘coolness’ of it all and found myself quite transfixed. My brother wandered up behind me with his fancy coffee.

‘How do you suppose people can make this sort of thing just out of their brain and onto a wall like this? Man, people do some cool things.’ I said to him over my shoulder.

‘Nah. This sucks.’, he scoffed, ‘You could do it way better.’

Now my brother is about 5 or 6 years older than me, and throughout our lives, he has always been way more grounded than me. I will often get super excited about an idea, especially when we were young, and not easily see any of the possible hurtles or negative outcomes. He has always been the antithesis of that, a hard realist who makes sure we keep our heads during projects or adventures, who keeps us from doing most of the dumb things that young men do.

For him to say something like this frankly surprised me. I am not in any way an artist, I was a cook. I could certainly not make anything like this in my wildest dreams. I was blessed with no artistic talents like the artist who’s work I had been admiring.

‘What are you even talking about Gil? Look at this.’ I motioned to the Boba Fett. ‘Some guy made this with spraypaint!’

And then my brother started verbally destroying this painting, pointing out all the flaws. Things like overspray, wavy lines, off-center layers, and other blemishes. He pointed out how the artist could have done better, how anyone can do this kind of art if they want to, and how easy it would be to get into if I wanted to do this and be good at it.

I gotta say, he was really only mistaken about the last thing.

It’s funny but it was hard to see the paintings the same way as I had just a moment before. The way he had described it, it became more of a thing somebody figured out how to make then a thing that came pouring out of someone via some mystical sort of inspiration. More of a craft than an art. Like a well made rocking chair.

Could I really do this?

I had always been kind of person who picks up a new hobby every couple months, gets super into it and learns everything he can, and then moves onto the next thing. I am a jack of all trades but a master of few, as the saying goes. As I dug holes in the rain that day, I decided I would give it a try.


I bought 25$ worth of Krylon spraypaint and some cutting blades at the local department store the next day, and painted by moonlight on my sons old easel. The moment I sprayed my first layer on top of another, and saw the effect, I knew I wanted to be really good at this. Here was my first piece.finalchillintrooper

Gil helped me build a spraypaint table, a contraption  that pulls air through pegboard and shoots it outside, after he found me high to the point of drooling on paint fumes a few days later. He had a serious talk with me about carcinogens and safety. If I was going to do this seriously I needed to do it correctly. Since then it’s always been a priority. I will do a future post on how I have my studio set up.

All this happened about 10 years ago, and art has just gotten more interesting and exciting the more I learn about it. Since then, I have painted at least one painting every week. With the opportunity to practice so much and the will to just make cool stuff I just can’t help but improve.

I’m here because I just don’t want to keep it to myself anymore. The more I can show people about how easy this is the better. If you want to create art every bit as awesome as mine you totally can, all it takes is practice. Literally anyone can do this, you just have to decide to, and then practice a lot. People will soon think that you have a ‘natural talent’, but you will know it is just the result of grinding out paintings and learning from mistakes.

4 years ago I quit my job as a Chef of over 20 years to paint awesome pictures in my shed, and so far I haven’t had to go back. It’s an amazing life that I never could have dreamed about those years ago in that coffee house. I have a sincire hope that someone see’s one of my Boba Fett paintings one day and says, ‘That sucks, you could do way better..’