A question that comes up often is how should new artists price and sell their paintings. I get asked this usually through email because most artists are not comfortable talking about this face-to-face. At least that is my experience of it. This is a pity, as business tips and anecdotes from artists can be enormously helpful. It is a fact of life - we make a living partly or wholly from art. Let’s talk about it. So here goes!
No More Starving Artist
Let us agree to get rid of the starving artist myth. Sadly Van Gogh is often used as an example, but this is grossly unfair. Surely if Van Gogh had a healthy mind he would have reached financial success too? I am confident of that. Your art business, whether full time or part-time, is simply a business with a reasonable chance of success.
In Part 1 I look at the essential qualities you will need to grow your business.
A Business Attitude
You need a business attitude if you want to make a living with your art. Without the right attitude then your business will not succeed. Plain as that. So what is a business attitude? Personally I think it means learning, taking action and persisting with the necessary steps to grow your business.
Learning the Business
Even someone with basic business knowledge is going to have to learn new skills for dealing in the art market. I know many artists react negatively to this. Business is boring, spammy or not for true artists. All false ideas actually. The correct business knowledge is critical and is about being respectful to your art career. It is not cool to be defeatist about your art business.
There is a wealth of knowledge online and from other colleagues in the art business. Start with reading a few ebooks and blogs and see where that leads. As one piece of the jigsaw falls into place another piece is required and you move forward. Useful blogs like the Art Biz Blog by Alyson Stanfield will help. Many books on Amazon deal with art marketing too. Being a self-starter is a major advantage.
Taking Action and Persisting Without persistent action there is no chance of success. I know many people who throw in the towel when things don’t fall into their lap. Success is a process not a destination. You must persist when things seem hopeless and you must persist when things go well. Stopping is not an option unless you want your business to grind to a halt. It is nice to face this fact because at least there is some certainty in this.
Can You Make a Living as an Artist? Yes of course. A few make it big. The rest work at their business and their art and get along just fine. The opportunities for artists now are much wider than ten years ago. Some artistic fields are in higher demand than others. Perhaps computer graphic design pays more regularly than watercolour paintings? You would have to investigate the options and find what works for you.
Paintings for Sale
Let us assume that you want to sell your paintings. Since that is my focus I may have some useful tips. I did not dive into the art business cold-turkey, as the saying goes. Selling paintings was a side-hustle for a number of years and grew from there. I know many artists have the same approach. Fact is if you have to face fixed monthly expenses then any secure source of income is most welcome. You can spend every spare moment improving your art, learning the business side of it and experimenting with a few less sleepless nights.
It is not ideal to have you art business as your only income source when you start out. There may be exceptions, but I think they will prove the rule. The pressure and torment may kill your dream of becoming a self-sufficient artist.
Often viewed as the ultimate goal by artists. Get your paintings into a gallery and your career will take off. But simple facts of supply and demand economics and a credit crisis put the brakes on that idea. There are many artists with many paintings. There are only a few galleries and many struggle too. What is to be done?
Firstly - I have no problem with galleries. I have paintings in a gallery as well. In reality if I relied on this route alone I would be very nervous. Cashflow would be uncertain and the lack of control would drive me nuts. So I need to diversify and be involved with selling too. In fact a gallery should encourage artists to market actively themselves. With modern methods available to grow your brand and awareness of your art it is essential to take full advantage of these opportunities.
In short - become involved in your business whether or not you have gallery representation. What is it like running a gallery? Some anecdotes from my experience.
Where to start?
I do encourage some involvement on your local art scene. Take part in art events such as local art group market days, charity auctions or whatever your local art society gets up to. Meet other artists, potential collectors and develop the ability to talk about your art in a conversational manner. Not pompous talk. Those days are thankfully over.
Put yourself out there as an artist. It is a process of discovery and nobody has all the answers right away.
Take part in these if you can. For example a Christmas market, Saturday flea markets and so on. Pick the right sort of market that is appropriate for your work and where you can expect to meet your target market. When starting out this is a great way to increase awareness for low cost. (more market tips here for setting up your first market)
This is part of the world and it is expected of you to have an online prescence. This is also a large topic that I will deal with in the next instalment. However it is a trap to make the internet your only marketing avenue. Especially when starting out and you may be nervous about your work. The important idea is to have a holistic approach to marketing.
What Would You Like to Know?
I would like to cover pricing your paintings and getting online with your first gallery in the next installment. Please add any questions that you would like answered either below or on my Facebook page.
Want to learn More About Art Marketing?
Without doubt every artist can benefit from online marketing. Artists have an advantage too. But do you, as an artist, take full advantage of your natural ability to market your art? I wrote a book on this topic together with a course especially for artists and creative people. Have a look at how you can boost your creative marketing here.
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa