A quote that has stuck with me for many years was uttered by Degas in the late 19th Century where he said, “Art is not what you see but what you make others see.” Never a truer word was said in relation to the art industry and this same thing applies today. Some would argue that this quote is even more relevant in light of the mass of online and offline sites available to you.
The notion of the tortured, starving artist is a romantic one to many artists who find a kindred spirit in the likes of Van Gough and El Greco. But there’s no need to suffer in frustrated silence and have a stack of wall prints and paintings gathering dust in a closet. If you’re talented enough, you can make a living (or at least make some side-money) selling your art if you are willing to create shopfronts, hustle galleries, join artwalks, rent stalls at craft/art fairs, get your art in print, and do everything else you can to get your art seen.
The following tips will give you an idea of how to get your art into–view, because nothing sells slower than a piece of artwork that’s never seen. We encourage all artists to sell through any means possible, utilizing originals, poster prints, canvas wall prints, and digital mediums.
Online Resources You May Not Have Heard About
I have no doubt that as an artist or designer who navigates the web, you’ve heard of zazzle, redbubble, and cafepress. These are all worth exploring as far as putting your work on a t-shirt or mug to get a royalty check from.
Unfortunately, the thousandfold online opportunities are a blessing and a curse to any artist who’s trying to sell their work online and the shopfront route rarely earns you success as a legitimate artist (with the possible exception of etsy.com as a shopfront for your artwork where you can sell your own product), and I think you might want to put your effort into the hybrid registry/shopfront sites that are becoming increasingly popular that often have curators and gallery owners as regular viewers.
The following sites are some of the top sites for artistic talent to get seen by the right people:
Somewhere between an Art Directory and a Shopfront
Similar to Saatchi but with a bit more relaxed vibe
As an artist, it’s so important to build a network of artists and contacts both online and offline. Staying an art troll-in-a-hole doesn’t get you seen or heard. I’ve found the ArtBistro.com a great resource for connecting with artists and opportunities.
Another, unexpected, and little known source for art selling is Ebay
Now, I know it sounds crazy, but amidst all the car parts, electronics, and bric-a-brac, there is quite a community of sellers and buyers who use it as an online trading source.
Raw artists is an artist site that you can apply to that presents event opportunities
This is an idea that’s becoming increasingly popular and this site is the first and best of its kind. It’s basically an event sourcing site for artists, craftspeople, and musicians. Typically, you are invited onto the network, but you can contact them. Once you make contact, you are given the opportunity to participate in a raw artist event. You also get a neat promotional page and marketing platform.
The downside of the deal is that you have to sell a certain amount of tickets for the event yourself or you end-up having to pay the cost for the unsold. This is ideal for those artists who have a strong network of family and friends, and the events are typically well-organized and well-attended.
Take Your Art to The Streets
To get in a gallery is always a big goal for artists but there are alternatives that can help you build contact and exposure. This is the age of the artwalk and the street fair and there’s no better time to take to the streets armed with posters, prints, canvas prints, and original art in a bid to get yourself noticed and to make contact. From personal experience, I have sold few original pieces at artwalks and other one-off shows, but I have made a few bucks selling poster copies and framed prints of my work; passersby might not have the money on them to buy original art, but they can absolutely afford to invest in a poster or two.
Create some canvas wall art prints of your art to sell as semi-original artwork (especially if your work is in photo or digital mediums)
Do some local searches for artwalks, farmers markets, craft fairs, and even swapmeets (rent a stall for a day and see how you do) to find some ideas for guerilla styling your art. Here is a refresher list of good places to sell your art to the public:
- Local Artwalks
- Craft Fairs
- Farmers markets
- Ask local shops & businesses to display your work
Utilize art fairs, art walks, and other local event opportunities
The key to doing this is to not be afraid to fail. It may take you 5 or 6 times of presenting your work to make money or get yourself noticed. As an artist that wants to be commercially successful, you have to seek out art fairs and opportunities, make calls, and be pro-active. There’s no room for shrinking violets when it comes to trying to sell your work.
Make Personal Gallery Connections
DO NOT let anyone ever tell you personal contact with galleries or art-related businesses is a bad idea, or something that is frowned upon. In the art world you can’t be shy about shoving your art in people’s faces and saying “look at me!” People will tell you that you need representation, and while that may be somewhat true for a big bucks Chelsea gallery in New York, when dealing with small local galleries and stores, you have to be bold and make a personal connection.
Seek out galleries that are a good match for your work and call the owners to set up an appointment or viewing. Or better yet, walk in with your business card or a few postcard prints of your work and strike up a conversation, ask them if they’d like to see your original art.
Trust me, gallery owners are always interested in finding new talent and if you have the kind of work that they think they can sell, you will be given a chance to present your work. And don’t be afraid of rejection. For every five galleries that refuse to even see your work, the sixth one might agree to meet with you.
Coffee shops, vape stores, and other local businesses are perfect for hanging your work
The other opportunity is to make contact with local businesses, such as coffee shops and restaurants. Offer them your artwork to hang in their store for free until it sells. I did this recently with one of those new vape stores that are opening up everywhere, which represent a new opportunity for local artists to get their work hung and seen.
- Get your business cards, canvas wall prints, posters, stickers, and other promotional artist items at NextDayFlyers.