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Where do Most Artists Sell Art? - Empty Easel Poll Analyzed

by Clint Watson on 12/10/2007 9:27:10 AM

It seems when buying art, customers still want a relationship with an actual person (a gallery person or the artist).....not a nebulous web site or social networking community.

We, at FineArtViews, already knew this fact because of our background of owning and running a retail art gallery, and, indeed, it has been the topic of many of our past articles.

Interestingly, we noticed a poll on the respected art blog, Empty Easel, titled, "Where do Most Artists Sell Art?" And the poll results confirm what we've been telling you here - art buyers want to deal with you, the artist (or the gallery) directly.

When we last checked the poll, there had been 77 responses which is, admittedly, not enough to be a "statistically valid" but interesting anecdotal evidence nonetheless.

Of the 77 responses, 17 people replied that they really didn't sell, so, actually only 60 responses can be counted as valid for determining where people are selling.

Here is the important part:

71.6% respondents reported that methods that establish a direct relationship with the artist or artist's gallery are more effective that online art community sites.

By far the largest selling venue was "Walk-In art galleries" with a total of 25% of the vote (after adjusting for the non-sellers).

The second largest selling venue by a large margin was "My own website" (as we expected)...which means that having your own website is the most important selling venue for artists who don't have walk-in gallery representation....and makes "My own website" the number one online venue for art sales.

This makes sense. It's like the saying in the tech community, "The internet is the platform" which means, there is no need for new networking platforms (social networks, communities, etc) because the internet itself is the platform. So, for example, when we want to buy a piece of art, why would we go to an online art community site when we can simply go directly to the artist's personal web site? Answer: we wouldn't (and as actual art buyers, we don't).

Here is our summary of the poll results (reformatted to eliminate the people who responded that they don't sell):

"Direct" Selling Methods:
Walk-in art galleries:      25%
Your own web site:       15%
Out in public drawing:    8.3%
Art festivals:                   8.3%
Open Studio Events:       5%
Your own e-bay auction 10%
TOTAL:                        71.6%

"Indirect" Online community Methods:
The other 14 online sites listed totaled 28.4% combined, which would be an average of  only 2.02% for any one online community.

The other sites listed were Imagekind (6.6%), Artist Rising (0%), (1.6%), Boundless Gallery (5%), Yessey (1.6%), PicassoMio (0%),, Artflock (1.6%), GoZabo (0%), OriginalArtOnline (0%), RedBubble (5%), Etsy (3.3%), Zazzle (1.6%) and Cafrepress (1.6%).

What about blogs?
One tidbit that we found very interesting - no one listed a blog as a selling platform. It was not in the original poll options and no readers added it as an option. We find this interesting because most art commentators are constantly telling artists why they should be blogging....and there certainly are good reasons to blog, but just interesting that nobody reported selling from a blog. Perhaps blogs are being lumped under the "My own website" option as a blog really is just a special type of web site.

So here is our advice on how to sell artwork, which really hasn't changed:

1. Start by honing your craft - produce the best work that you possibly can.

2. Set up your own, stand-alone web site with your own domain name.

3. Make sure your web site can capture visitor's email addresses

4. Approach galleries and get your work displayed in a good walk-in art gallery (or more than one).

5. Use your list of email addresses collected from your site to promote yourself, your work and your galleries.

6. If, and only if, you have time, set up free accounts on some of the other fourteen sites listed in the poll. Don't expect many sales from those sites - look at them as "advertising" to direct traffic to your web site. No one of them is likely to drive much traffic to your site but all fourteen together might send you enough to garner a few clients....and in the art game a few clients can make a big difference.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

PS - if you need your own full-featured, stand-alone website (shown by Empty Easel's poll to be the number one online venue for art sales) - visit our sister site FineArtStudioOnline for a 60 day free trial.

PPS - although not listed in the poll, our advice about social networking sites like Myspace, Facebook, Linkedin, etc - look at them as advertising.  Don't waste much time on them other than perhaps to look for ways to drive some traffic to your web site.


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Topics: art marketing | Best | Blogging | Email Marketing | Empty Easel | Marketing | Sales 

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Bunny Oliver
via web

In this article, you give points on how to sell art. I have questions about No. 3 and No. 5. I have had a FASO web site for several years (and love it!), but I may be missing something. How can I capture the visitor's email addresses?

Another question I have been meaning to ask is this: Are there plans for adding a Guest Book feature to the websites?

Linda Rorer
via web
Great info...Clint, could you speak to this currently, as this article is almost a year old.
Technology and economics have both changed.
Would love to hear what you have to say--

Verna D'Alto
via web
Clint, I am so impressed by your newsletter and words of wisdom to artists who think they have no time to paint. The website is great, but I am having difficulties accessing the site and also to make changes. Maybe I am not doing this correctly, but I wanted to add paintings and also to give my site info to galleries and friends but since I can't get into the pages, I am hesitant about giving the site info to others.
What am I doing wrong?
Tks, Verna

Hi Clint,
What is your suggestion about adding a price list on our personal website, or that to tacky?

Clint Watson
Anne - my advice has been for years to have prices on your website - not only a price list but make sure to have the price clearly posted next to every single piece shown on your site. It's not tacky.

Anne Fraker
Thanks Clint.
I appreciate all your posts.

gary sligar
any inquires to purchase my small collection refer to email adress thankx

gary sligar
Write another comment . . .

I'd believe social networking sites such as facebook and twitter, if managed properly and in a personal manner can be a fantastic means of attracting new customers.

Hans Baarschers
Hi Clint,

Just discovered the faso website and think it's great, lots of very good and useful information I am doing some market research right now as part of a requirement to get into a self employment program and as such I thought the "empty easel poll" looks like very useful information, since I think this might apply even here in Canada (B.C.). However the poll was conducted back in 2007 and we have suffered a major recession since then which undoubtedly has affected the art market as well. How reliable are these percentages today and what suggestions would you have for a beginning artist like me. Has a more up to date poll been conducted since then?
I am currently unemployed, one year from retirement and decided that if I have to change careers and develop new skills I might as well take the leap to be a professional artist. Look forward to your comments.


Hans Baarschers, Vancouver, B.C. Canada

Catherine Kopiwoda
Being accused of not promoting my work via computer and etc. has been a nemesis. The need to expose myself is reaching the point of an adolescent pimple coming to a head. You imply in what I have read-that humans still prefer eye to eye contact- Bravo! I-myself-would not purchase a $3'000.00 painting without seeing it 'in person'. My questions are: How can a purchaser be confident in buying (are there terms-conditions)? and- If galleries are not creating the work themselves-why cannot they go back to the percent33 payoff instead of the currently percent50! NEED to expose visual candy without developing a cavity------re-assure me this is possible.


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