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.