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Portrait painting (or portrait photography) can be a lucrative occupation for working artists, but it’s vital that you know your market if you want to earn enough to make ends meet.

The truth is, only some people have both the money and the desire for portraits. . . so your first step is to find them and then target your marketing efforts toward them in particular.

Here are 4 of the biggest markets for portraiture:

Grandparents

When a new grandchild is born, or two families join together, who do you think is in the background insisting on a family portrait?

It’s not the moms—they’re too busy changing nappies and baby-proofing the house. It’s not the Dads – they’re too busy being horrified at diaper changes and struggling with diminished finances. No, it’s the grandparents, who are so overcome with joy at the new arrival they need a portrait to remember this moment forever.

Grandparents might ask for a portrait of each grandchild, or a family portrait to hang above the fireplace. Grandparents are some of the best customers to have, as they’ll often come back again and again, and will tell all their friends—who are grandparents themselves. Traditional, realistic styles tend to be most popular with grandparents.

How to sell to grandparents: Make your website really easy to navigate and be sure to include alternative ways to contact you, e,g. by phone or mail. Consider paying for some targeted advertising in senior magazines, newspapers, on notice board at retirement homes and clubs, and in family genealogy magazines.

Brides

When planning a wedding, there’s always a tendency to go a bit crazy with purchases. Suddenly, something a bride has lived without her entire life becomes “essential.”

One of the trends in recent years is to have bridal portraits done—either photographs of the couple after their engagement, or a caricature of the bride and groom to add to their invitations, or even a detailed painting of the bride in her wedding dress.

The wedding market can be a lucrative environment, but you need to make sure your aesthetics fit the market in your area. Weddings vary in theme from beach to vineyard to traditional to rock ‘n roll, so make sure you present a clear style and bridal personality.

How to sell to brides: Set up an eye-catching stall at a wedding show, submit your artwork to be featured on wedding blogs or create your own wedding advice blog on your website to draw potential customer.

Pet owners

We all love our pets, but some people are more obsessive than most. Many pet owners have a much-beloved animal they want to remember with a portrait, especially after that animal has passed on. For the right artist, pet portraiture is a popular and lucrative market.

The objective of pet portraiture is to capture the likeness of the animal, so you’ll need to have a fairly realistic style in your chosen medium.

You’ll also need to decide whether you work from life (observing the animal) or from photographs. While observing from life gives a more dynamic picture, it may also be impossible to get the animal to sit still!

How to sell to pet owners: consider guest posting on pet blogs, or advertising in pet magazines. Put a brochure up on your community noticeboard, and ask the local pet store if they could carry some of your brochures on their counter. You may even want to have a stall at the local dog or cat show, or sponsor a prize for the winning pet.

Tourists

The great thing about marketing to tourists is that they’re always up for spending money on souvenirs of their trip. This means they’ll be much more likely to purchase a portrait in Venice, for example, than in their hometown.

A portrait for tourists needs to capture the spirit of the place, yet be produced fairly quickly. Tourists will be most tempted by street artists who they can watch working—the process is part of their experience. Fun, bright painting or photographic styles will work best.

How to sell to tourists: Set up shop on a busy street corner, beside an iconic monument (ask your local council or shop owners first) or anywhere tourists congregate and offer your portrait services. It’s best to offer smaller portrait sizes you can draw quickly for a lower price point, but make sure you have lots of stunning examples on display.

Alternatively, try local craft markets or other events where tourists will be attending.

For you portrait artists out there, what has worked best for you? Do you have a specific type of buyer that you gravitate towards?

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

The town that I grew up in is situated on a busy stretch of highway, so it's a common sight to see motorists stopping for a coffee or a stroll before continuing their journey.

Our main street is lined with gift shops selling the work of local and regional artists and craftspeople, as well as gift books, greeting cards and even local produce. It's a lovely area to walk around in, and. . . read more

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