If someone had told Van Gogh that one day his paintings would be sold for millions, he might have died happy in himself, albeit still poor.
As it was, he persevered until the very end, creating painting after painting despite rejections at every corner—mostly because of his brother Theo’s support.
You see, Theo invested in him twice over: first, financially, and second, through his unswerving belief in him.
Those of us without a Theo in our lives have to find "investors" elsewhere, and thankfully, through the internet today, it is easier than ever to do so.
There are a growing number of online communities where the budding or moderately successful artist can meet other creative people. Find the right community and you will get helpful suggestions and motivation should your confidence start to flag.
Online art communities are also an excellent and, usually, low-cost means of showcasing your work. Many sites even offer critiques from fellow artists or feedback from visitors to the site—some of whom may be potential buyers.
While tough feedback might be hard to take, those reviews will often bring about dialogue and explanation of your art. Every little bit of interaction and networking online will expand your reach and help to attract buyers.
Ah the buyer! Van Gogh found none while he lived, and many of us at one time or another will face the same difficulty.
Often the problem is that we value our paintings too highly because they are charged with the emotion of our inner muse—the personal effort and emotion we put into our paintings may not strike the same note with the buying public.
So what makes art sell? That’s hard to say.
Some artists have achieved huge rewards with edgy "unsafe" art. And yet those pickled sheep and unmade beds will probably never win the popular vote.
In contrast, there are artists who regularly sell millions of prints, but who are just as regularly scorned by the art critics of the world.
Perhaps it will help to understand that there are two kinds of buyers.
For the first group, buying art is a luxury—they’re just purchasing something they enjoy. Learn to paint well, for a certain audience, and your art will sell.
For the second group, however, buying art is an investment—it’s all monetary. Their hope is that someday your art will increase significantly in price and make them rich. Perhaps the motivation is wrong, but for you, that investment early on will give you the chance to continue on.
Again, you’ll come across both kinds of buyers spending some time in the art community online—so join forums, start an art blog, or do both.
Learn from other artists and your skill will grow. Critique other artists fairly and you’ll receive the same in return. Put your personality AND your art out there and you may find buyers who are intrigued by both.
When you invest your own time and energy into it, others will invest in you too.