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.

I can’t believe how well this is going..

I really can’t.

I don’t know why I decided to start a blog two months before the Christmas holiday. Even if you are an artist who doesn’t often work, odds are you are busy this time of year. If not with commission work, then at least with making gifts for loved ones.

When I decided to get out of the studio for a while and focus on promotion, I expected a slow buildup, something like when I first started painting. I grew as an artist over many years, and it took a long time before people thought of me as ‘that artist guy I know’. I thought building up knowledge of myself to the world would be a slow burn, but it is a bright fire.

Where to even start..

I picked up two older model Go-pros on Ebay for about $50 each, a couple cheap tripods from Amazon, and went to work making instructional videos.

I’ve never done any filming or editing, but I know I’ll spend hours watching people create on YouTube and dream of doing it myself. When I watch the actual work that goes into something I have a much deeper appreciation for it. I see the story of it, and getting people to see that should be one of your main goals if you want to sell your artwork. Using Youtube to as a medium to tell that story seems obvious. It’s yet another window in my storefront.

I took video of my next project, and quickly found that filming everything I do as I am painting is really hard! It was hard to know where to start. I set one camera up stationary at my painting table and had the other move around with me. It takes a lot of steps to paint with stencils, the preparation takes almost all of the work so there is a ton to show. The actual painting part is over pretty quickly so I needed to think about how I could make my videos interesting but also informative. My main goals in this are to entertain, inform, and to show the immense amount of work that goes into a piece so I don’t feel so bad about my prices.

I would say it took twice as long to paint that piece as it would have normally, but at the end I had hours of footage. I spent the next day learning about video editing, eventually settling on Lightworks. The free version only requires you register and is a very powerful editor. There are a lot of good videos to learn the basics and it only took a day before I edited my first video! I was super proud of it at the time, but in retrospect it wasn’t very good. A lot like my first painting. With a lot of good feedback and watching others make similar videos, every subsequent one has improved and I now have a format I am happy with. I have been able to upload a video with every painting I think will be of interest to people and like my paintings, I see how they get better the more I practice.

I sold 3 copies of my last painting and another that was similar by releasing the painting on the appropriate Reddit along with the video in the comments. I had one customer say to me that he would have never bought the piece if it hadn’t been for the video, which was quite a validation. The video drove people to my website where they actually bought paintings! They were also finding my social media from there. I was overcome with work from just one post. None of that has ever been the case for me.

That’s really only the beginning of the story. The other points in my plan are working out just as well. I’m gaining 5-6 followers a day on Instagram and interacting with a lot of other artists there. I’ve made a plans for some art shows that I am really excited about, 3 months in my local library for one! I have a new logo and new business cards. And most importantly, I have work!

My wife worries over me that I am working too hard, but I try and convince her that I’m seriously loving every second of it. I wish I could work more and sleep even less. Keep an eye out for more once Christmas calms down. I have so much more to share!