Art Q&A: How to Start Selling your Art

Published Mar. 23rd 2007

For Sale By ArtistQuestion: When you’re ready to sell your art, what’s the best way to start? Who do you contact; and where do you go? -Karrie

It’s a good question. . . and in my opinion, the best way to look at it is that there are two markets for art: one market is made up of art collectors and the other is just regular, everyday people.

If you’re serious about selling your art, it’s a very smart idea to figure out which group you’re going to try to sell it to BEFORE you start.

Let’s say you want to sell your artwork to art collectors and fine art connoisseurs. Great! You’ll probably want to be represented by a gallery.

Getting gallery representation

Getting a gallery to show your work can be tough for new artists, but it’s not impossible. One thing that will help is to have an entire series of work ready to show, based around a specific theme or idea. For more information about that, read this article I wrote on planning a series of paintings.

The reason why this will work is because the show can be made up of just your artwork, and that makes it easy on gallery managers to plan the event and appeal to a niche market.

Once you’ve got a series ready, then call your local galleries and set up appointments to speak with someone about your art. Have an artist statement and resume ready to show them, too.

Keep in mind that most galleries plan shows a year in advance—sometimes longer—so even if you do get accepted, your work might not be shown right away. While you’re waiting, keep painting and try to line up more shows even further out, so you can stay busy throughout the year.

But perhaps you’d rather not split your earnings with a gallery. . .

Selling art directly to the public

Selling to the general public means a much larger potential audience, and the easiest way to tap into that is by choosing a certain group of people and painting just for them. After all, the average person is much more inclined to buy art that speaks to their interests and hobbies than anything else.

The possibilities are endless. You could paint WWII planes or sports cars; dogs or kittens. . . even baby portraits. Each of those things is “targeted” to a specific consumer. And yes, for some of you this might be commercializing art too much for your taste—but a lot of times, this is what it takes.

Whatever subject you choose is fine, although it IS best to have some interest in it yourself. Then all you have to do is be direct.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you love horses and horseback riding, so that’s what you decide to paint. Once you’ve created two or three paintings, then you just need to find (and go visit) places that are horse-related.

Look for horse owner associations in the yellow pages and online, horse services in your hometown, rodeos or rodeo associations, western themed restaurants, etc. Make a list of all the possible places that might want to either buy your art or display it to their customers. And don’t let a few rejections get you down.

Chances are, you’ll have a higher acceptance rate than if you approached galleries. Even better, everyone who sees your art will already be inclined to buy it.

No matter what you paint, this process will work. It also doesn’t matter what style you paint in. To most people, the subject is the most important part of a painting anyway.

With all the online forums and groups available today, it’s also very easy to find a large audience of like-minded individuals via the internet and sell your art online. What’s great is that you can still be a “local artist” while selling your art worldwide.

A big part of being an artist is just being a good salesperson. You’ll either be “selling” your art to a gallery, or just plain selling it yourself. And as a new artist, most likely no one will be beating a path to your door—but you can certainly beat one to theirs.

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