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Do You Want Traffic or Do You Want to Sell Art?

by Clint Watson on 1/23/2009 7:46:29 AM

This article is by Clint Watson,  former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here.

While browsing Kathryn Tyrrell's excellent Making a Mark blog, I came across a post, What Do You Know About Selling Art Online?, where a reader had written Kathryn for some advice on getting her artwork "out there."

Considering the questions the reader posed led me down the following line of thought . . .

Two Common Online Art Marketing Questions


In part, the reader wrote, "I'd really like to get more traffic to my blog and website but have no idea how to do it. Any advice you could give me would be really appreciated...Do you have any recommendations regarding Etsy, ImageKind or any of those sites?"

These types of questions are very common, especially among artists who are just getting started online.  So Kathryn helpfully distilled the reader's letter down to the following two points that most artists wonder about when they're getting started:

  • how to get more traffic to their blog and website
  • views on various websites which help artists to sell their art online.

In fact, Kathryn, has found the time (I don't understand how) to put together a Squidoo Lens to help artists answer these questions.

My Easy (but wrong) Answers


I want to be very clear, before I get into the meat of this post that I have absolutely no problem with the questions posed above, and Kathryn's answers and lenses are useful and helpful resources.  I encourage you to utilize them.

However, I had some thoughts about such questions that I wanted to share.  You see, sometimes these questions are asked by people who don't necessarily want the "real" answers (hint: marketing is hard work and takes time...years, usually), but are wanting a "quick" solution and/or some kind of magic site/method that will just automatically start selling their artwork.  And, since I'm in a bit of a flippant mood today, I'll start by giving you a couple of flippant (i.e. wrong, but easy) answers to them:

Question 1:  How to get more traffic to your blog and website

Answer 1:  Advertise. 

You'll get traffic right away...just realize that the "traffic" will be virtually worthless.  For example: A few months back, out of curiosity, I experimented with StumbleUpon advertising and shot my visitor number up over 1,000 visitors more than normal over a couple of weeks.  It could have gone much higher, too, if I was willing to waste more money.  However, as soon as I stopped advertising, my traffic went back to normal.  (Of course "traffic" that you garner by having conversations over a period of months or years with loyal readers isn't worthless...more on that below).

Question 2:  Views on various websites which help artists to sell their art online.

Answer: 2  These sites do help your existing sales effort, they don't usually sell much for you. 

These websites have neat technology and can be of great assistance to "help artists sell their art online."  These sites typically are tools to assist you with your marketing and selling efforts...they don't sell FOR've got to do that for yourself.  The blog, EmptyEasel, interviewed two of ImageKind's top selling photographers and essentially they both did all their own promotion and used Imagekind as a back-end fulfillment service...and that's a great service after you've made the sale that needs back-end fulfillment.  One of the photographers interviewed, Ben Rogovy, had this advice which sums it up nicely, "It’s always best to start where you’re already known and work outward. Often times an artist may have a support network of family and pre-existing fans/friends. Those people are a good base to start word of mouth."

A Different Perspective


It's not necessarily bad to ask the questions presented above, we all want more "traffic" and we all want more sales.  However, I've felt for some time now that, although the Internet offers so many opportunities for artists, it seems that we're commonly asking the the "traffic" questions while ignoring the "right" questions.

For example, consider what artist Asher Mains wrote, "I am under the impression that many people including artists are still in the Web 1.0 phase of simply providing their work for broadcast across the web. More and more I understand that people really want to be engaged. Watching my statistics I have an OK amount of visitors - but there's nothing to bring them back to my site. Instead of being an artist standing on a corner preaching my artistic ideas at people walking by - I want to be an artist that has dialogues with people walking by so that they can engage my work more fully and so that I can learn from their feedback."

Or think about what artist, John T. Unger told me, "It's not about traffic, it's about the right traffic.  I once got 50,000 visitors in three days from  The 50,000 did not buy anything, leave any comments or link to the site.  They were in and out.  By contrast, the same number of visitors that year who found the site organically spent 1,000s of dollars and told their friends."

With that in mind, here are the questions I think artists should be asking:

6 Uncommon Art Marketing Questions We SHOULD Ask


1.  How do I engage in conversations with my existing contacts and begin leading my clan regarding my story?

2.  Do I have the proper tools on my website and blog to have meaningful conversations?

3.  How do I encourage my existing supporters to refer their friends?

4.  Am I making full use of my mailing list before asking about such things as "traffic"?

5.  Do I have an email newsletter?  If not, why not? and how soon can I start one?

6.  Do I realize that nobody or no website is going to market or sell my work nearly as well as I can?

What I'm saying here is that "traffic for traffic's sake" is worthless. We want "people for people's sake."

Remember, Less is Often More Powerful


It's like Daniel Edlen wrote on his blog, Vinyl Art, "We need to appreciate PEOPLE, not the value they create for us to take. I'm lucky in that, firstly, I get to do what I enjoy, and secondly, I usually get appreciation for what I do. I get to feel connected to the goodness in people. It is there."

I wrote about this previously in 1. vs. 100, but I'm going to re-post the ideas here.

Think about this:

Would you rather have...

1 Person who loves your work or 100 who are "just looking?"

1 dedicated fan or 100 "page views" on your web site?

1 real friend or 100 "Facebook Friends?"

1 fantastic painting or 100 mediocre ones?

1 selling gallery or 100 restaurant exhibits?

1 productive hour or 100 hours watching TV?

1 week in Maui or 100 weeks at work?

1 person who refers another buyer or 100 "maybes" who found you through Google?

1 phone call from a person whose life your art has changed or 100 emails from people wanting you to add "more red" to your work?

1 customer or 100 time wasters?

Sometimes 1 is far more powerful than 100....

Remember that before jumping on the latest Internet bandwagon promising you more "hits", more "page views" and more "traffic."

Now go change the world.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

FASO: Want Your Art Career to Grow?  Set up an Artist Website with FASO.
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Backstory: About Clint. Email EditorTwitter. Republish. ]

Related Posts:

Artists: Lead Your Collector Clan

1 vs. 100

Changing the World

Art Marketing is Conversations

What REALLY Drives Web Traffic - Word-of-Mouth and Advertising

What You Really Need are customers who are interested in, and therefore, actually purchase art.

Topics: art marketing | FineArtViews 

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Lori Landis
via web
Hi Clint, How timely that your blog came. I just had listened to a webinair about marketing your blog. I was exhausted. Thanks for clarifying what we really need as far as traffic. My artwork website needs more than viewers but people who would understand my philosophy of painting. A comment I would like to make on previous blogs about gallery relationships. Galleries get too focused on flash and not substance. The gallery I'm in though sends a sales slip to me with name, address and phone when there is a sale, but I'm not allowed to talk or contact the collectors. I would think having the artist in dialogue with the collector would be a help as you said. Thanks for your thoughts on the subject.

Athena Alexa
via web
hi Clint,
I really enjoyed the information in this blog about the right kind of traffic and the importance of connecting with the audiance and the quality of traffic being far more important than the amount of traffic!
I found this helpful in my goals for my book series and artwork.This is so true and as painstaking and tedious as this can be in the beggining it is one of the most important steps to creating and expanding a good fan bace...
But I would like to add some of my own thoughts on this too,
I think depending on an artists goals that massive amounts of constant traffic can add to the stir and buzz.
My goals may be different,but I want my work in the mainstram,and if enough people see my work over and over it will soon have a doorway to go through,a path,I am on many art and poetry sites,and have also found that my daily posts are creating a stir of more and more views,the more they see my work,the more it will grow.At this point sales are not my first priority,the more popular I become as an artist the more people can connect with my vision,the sales will follow,But I do believe in lots of constant traffic,but also to perservere in this I must keep at it,because one round of tons of traffic wont do much,but the constant flow of getting my work before a larger and larger audiance is definately having an impact on my career and my goals...
The fan base and the contact that you describe in your blog is absolutely where its at for sales and for starting a stir and growing the art business,but if someone has goals for the mainstream,or goals to be a world renowned artist,thier are ways to expand on this even more,lots of traffic is a part of my game plan.but daily posting and a cosntant perservering effort of putting my work in front of the masses is one of the ways that I make my path...
Athena Alexa
Author of earth prayers angels and dreams
The earth prayer series

Rick Wojnilo
via web
Hi, timely info in this post. Just what I was looking for. thx

Emma Brooks
via web
Brilliant post Clint. Your '6 Uncommon Art Marketing Questions' is definitely a road map to success online.

Your post came into my email box at the same time as an eletter from 'marketing troubleshooter' Mary Schmidt She is not an art marketing person, but talks about business in general and marketing. Much of her eletter relates to what you say:

"If you know your customers you can:

1. Make sure you know customers' concerns or issues before they develop into biz-losing problems.

2. Regularly communicate with them so you remain top of mind, even when you're not selling.

3. Build and keep a relationship going so you don't have to go out and find NEW customers. (less marketing costs, increased profitability, more fun for you.)

4. Use them as a sounding board for new ideas. People love to be asked for advice and customers who trust you aren't afraid to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly. "

It's all about connecting in a more meaningful dialogue and maintaining that conversation, so that you, as an artist, are top in your customers mind when they come to buying new art.

Or better still, the fact that they have a dialogue with you in the first place, makes them want to buy art from you! 'I ain't looking for art, but I REALLY want that piece of art! Where's my wallet?".

Always a pleasure to read your blog.
Best wishes

Terry Krysak
via web
This is excellent advice, your 6 points distill the main issues down to a workable game plan, and I am pleased to have read something that is more useful than what the successful internet marketers have been offering as advice.

I have had my work on Redbubble, Imagekind, and Zazzle for over a year, and although I have received over 5,000 views, I have only had a total of 3 sales (prints)of my work.

My 1 month old blog has received almost 1,300 visits, and resulted in 1 sale of a print on Redbubble. I agree with your point that visits don't necessarily translate into sales.

After reading this, I need to go through your points and put a lot of energy into each one.

Thanks very much for the tips, they provide a unique perspective to this whole issue.

Walter Paul Bebirian
via web
this all sounds good - but - there are great art dealers such as Leo Castelli who admit to not being salespeople at all - who let the customers know what was in their galleries and did not bother with selling - but who sold more than anyone around - I would rather take that approach - let the artwork sell itself -
and there a many pieces that I have sold to people around the world who are so enthralled with those pieces while I have forgotten that they have them -

I suppose like anything else in this world - there are as many ways to either skin a cat or enter the ocean or win the hearts and minds of people and while I might be interested in doing that for photographic assignments - I suppose I would prefer that in the instances of my art - that the art do it's own selling please - :-)

P.S. for the record in relation to the code verification box below - I am a human - but with all of this putting in of numbers and putting effort into marketing and selling and stuff - there may be a thin edge that I might be approaching so you never can tell -

Lori Woodward Simons
via web
You post reminded me of an artist friend of mine who began with advertising quarter page ads in major art magazines. The only response he received was from would-be students interested in his workshops. He then went to half page ads, same response.

When he put in full page ads, collectors took notice and he began to sell the work in the ads. Frequency is important, but so is impact. You have to know who you're trying to impact and how to get their attention.

Thanks for the thoughtful post!

Anita Murphy
via web
WOW - my question to Katherine seems to have got around!!!

jimmy springett
via web
Hi Clint,
This is the heart of my whole 2009--centering on ideas to think quality, not quantity--sort of goes hand in hand with the quality of paintings being presented.

In a quote, in the article "I want to be an artist that has dialogues with people walking by so that they can engage my work more fully and so that I can learn from their feedback," I worked with your tech group, Padgett and Marsha both great people helping me set up what I call a survey form, using the other form option. I am trying to do exactly that get folks to engage in discussion and then keep coming back to take a more serious look at my work. Having been on your website for about 4 months I have learnd that traffic is variable and I have yet to sell my first work on the website but that can change too.

I have been recognizing too, that working and networking with fellow artist is a good idea, in Alyson Stanfield's salon group approach a small group of artist help one another . Having worked primarily by myself all last year, was a huge learning time, not only learning more about myself and my painting style but now I am recognizing that more heads together are better than one head.

I continue to work on goals for 2009 having started the process in late 2008, and I continue to refine as I progress into this new year.

Keep up your timely blogs and encouragement, because you are helping many of us walking in the wilderness at this time, when did we stop walking in the wilderness, come to think of it we have never stopped.

best wishes, Jimmy

Michael Cardosa

Another outstanding posting. Thank you.


Lorraine Khachatourians
Good food for thought. I particularly liked the 'power of one'. I have a small web presence, and it is in balance with what I do regarding my art at this point. I haven't used the web for selling so far. This is mostly because of the supply issue. My output isn't large, and what I have been painting in the last couple of years particularly has been selling locally. I am becoming more proficient in my painting now, and find I can produce a painting more quickly than before, so I am thinking that I might like to gather a series together, and approach a couple of local galleries. So my focus will be on the painting for now, to produce the best I can, and then see where that takes me. Thanks for the thought-provoking articles you post.

Carolyn Henderson

I read this article in 2009 when you first published it, and on revisiting it this morning, I extract even more. I like your direct, practical approach reminding us all that marketing is hard work that takes years of determined, concerted effort. The message to the contrary is so strong in our culture that it is easy to be lulled into a sense of laziness as we hope that we will strike it rich like a lottery winner.

Carol Schmauder
Wonderful post Clint. You said many things I needed to "hear". Thank you.

Ken McBride
Thank you, Clint, for the insights. I'm new to FASO and the Web as far as my art is concerned, and your exhortations really ring a bell. For one thing, they encourage me to get my newsletter up and running. By the way, I appreciate your other blog entries. I also like the way you honor others by quoting from them and linking to them.

Filomena Booth
Great article, Clint!

I frequently get questions from other artists who ask what I do to market my work online. The truth is that there is no easy or quick answer. I've been at this since 2001, when I "discovered" the internet. Like Edison with his light bulb, there were a lot of things that didn't work out for me but I kept searching until I hit on some that finally proved successful.

I think that in today's market, the artist has to be his own best salesperson. Newsletters, blogs and social networking all contribute to getting the word out, but they all involve countless hours of time devoted to creating an online presence. It doesn't happen overnight and takes a lot of dedication.

My advice to is to be diligent in researching all venues (but, be careful of scams), build a good contact list, send out regular newsletters, blogs and spend some time on social networking. Of course, none of this matters if you do not devote yourself to what is most important...your art.

Teresa Tromp
Thank you for the great advice, Clint.

I do have a blog on my FASO website, however, my dad is the only one who responded. Perhaps it's because I never asked a question. I only write a little something about the painting, or a painting technique. Maybe I'm too afraid someone will insult the painting, then I'll be discouraged and not paint for three years.

Lorraine, I am working on my first series as well, and I just want to say that it actually helps me stay focused on my painting, as it is like working on a goal; to finish the series. Sort of like a homework assignment. Usually my thoughts and ideas are all over the place.

Bonnie Samuel
Right you are, Clint. I recently sent a newsletter out to a list of clients from a former biz, unrelated to my art. Great response, some nice comments on my new "career", and referrals too. Connections and building relationships is key.

Kim VanDerHoek
Your post is timely for me as well. - Just yesterday, I was telling a group of artists on Etsy the same thing, that there isn't an instant solution to getting more sales. I've been on Etsy since 2006 and I've spent a lot of time finding my collector and directing my marketing efforts towards them. In the beginning I too though it was all about traffic and page views but now I know better.

I would add one more question to your 6, "Who is my collector?" Just asking myself that question has helped me with many marketing decisions.

Now I'm off to read more about engaging in conversations with my clan...

Carolyn Henderson
Ken --

In my experience, Clint is a good honest businessman who runs his business in concordance with his beliefs. Definitely an oasis in the desert.

If you're new to FASO, take seriously the site's encouragement to contact their incredible technical support team when you have questions or difficulties. Your questions are answered completely, promptly, and in a warm and engaging fashion.

Helen Horn Musser
Clint, You are positively dangerous. I wish you would market my work.

Kathleen Krucoff
Great post and this is one I'm going to refer back to over and over when web clients ask me about how to get more traffic to their site. It so important that we understand what we want to accomplish and I completely agree with your assessment of the power of One!

Thank you.

Esther J. Williams
Clint, you are right-on about the power of one person who has purchased my art as opposed to one hundred views on the website in a day. I value those relationships and rarely look at my online stats anymore. Out of curiosity I will look at my stats to see what is bringing people into my site. Sometimes it is one of my blogs. That is okay, but I think they are just curious and wanting to learn something. I post informative blogs with painting tips or tell about a book I have read.
Next discussion is how to nurture our relationships with our buyers. I know we are supposed to send greeting cards or maybe a small original drawing, but I do not seem to have the time for that. So, the email newsletter is my main connection. Then I do call some of them, we really hit it off and try to get together at times. Those are also the ones who want more of my art and the very same ones who tell their families, friends and work associates. That is what I call striking gold, when your buyers are spreading the good word about your art and promoting you to their circle. It is like having a cushion at your back side, something soft to fall back on.
Now, I have to get to finishing a painting because one of my connections has requested a similar painting to one that she saw her associate buy from me. I am kept busy painting these days.

Olivia Alexander
Great article Clint, I spent money advertising with Google and found the same thing; more traffic but it dropped off when I stopped it and I'm not aware of any lasting result.
All my sales still come from one on one contact and visits to my studio.
I have been marketing online though for about 20 mths and I find that consistency is important. My 'fan' base is gradually increasing and i am trying to connect more with them.
I don't focus on selling but rather on connecting.

Sharon Weaver
I had the same thing happen on my blog. Looking over last years stats I found that I had a three day time where I had over 650 hits but no comments, no other indication why this happened. I still am stumped as to why I had this surge. I only stumbled on it when I looked at the entire years stats. Numbers are fun but really don't matter if it is just "looking."

Joanne Benson
Lots of sage advice here. I like the Power of one! You need quality contacts not quantity...although it would be nice to have a large quantity of quality contacts! LOL

Ken McBride
Thanks, Carol.

Yes, I have had occasion to use the FASO technical support and have found it very helpful indeed!

Robert Sesco
One cannot stress 'slow and steady' as a marketing plan enough. There will always be exceptions to the rule. I'm sure your readers have read about plenty of artists who got 'discovered'. But a great rule of thumb is, if you can't sell locally, or regionally, why do you think you can sell globally? I recently read of an artist who stated that he gave away 50,000 pieces of art before he started making a living. Personally, at my advanced age, when you'd think I'd be feeling the clock ticking, with my life experience I realize that I must simply do this, as best I can, continue to learn and improve, give art away, sell art when I can, make it easy for my art to be viewed and purchased, and simply make MY LIFE a work of art as best I can. I'm 25 percent Italian, and making art out of life is what I have observed the Italians and the French have learned over the centuries. As artists, let's use our gifts, work other jobs if we have to, but learn what it is that separates us from beasts. Live well, create, and judge your accomplishments by the mix of passion and effort applied instead of by comparisons to others, hits, views, sales, or productivity.

Olivia Alexander
Hi Robert, I love your philosophy.. I think I will adopt 'making art out of life' as my motto!

Stede Barber
This and yesterday's piece seem to be focusing on quality...of time, focus, and attention. Beautiful.

Casey Craig
Excellent post Clint!

The 1 vs. 100 mentality was driven home to me last weekend.

I had a couple visit the studio and purchase 2 paintings. One of which was very large. The week before I was thinking that maybe I should crank out a bjillion small paintings to try and entice some friends and family to purchase my work ....conveniently ignoring the fact that they just don't buy art.

While I still think there is merit in creating works in all sizes, I was "thinking small". I like how Joanne put it - "you need quality contacts not quantity", but both would be nice!

George De Chiara
Thanks for posting this again Clint. I missed it the first time around. I've been thinking a lot lately about traffic to my site and this really helps put in focus what kind of traffic I should be trying to get.

Joanne Benson
Congratulations on your sales! That's great. I'm always torn between large and small paintings. I'm working on a 3' by 4' commission now for a friend. It is the biggest thing I have ever done and I'm planning to use acrylic which I have been playing with again to get the feel of it as I haven't used it since college many years ago. Wish me luck! The studies have been fun but soon on to the big white canvas!

Mark Haglund
Great post. Traffic is way over rated. I have sold on eBay and Etsy. Both are social network that may or may not help you find a devoted collector. I would get 150 hits on a painting, but on buyers. I have not had any repeat sales from ether site. Even in those environments it is about relationships. Those that have found their followers, found sales.

On the other hand I attend a weekly networking meeting at my local Chamber to promote my art. Not a common thing for an artist to do. But I have connected with several people that have become repeat patrons. They follow my art and they talk about my art to their friends. I find this way more enjoyable then selling on line.

In time I expect to find a gallery that will represent me, until then I work the local market and have an online place for people to go, but I expect to sell more face to face then online.

Oh.. I do blog and have a not so regular newsletter. The newsletter is a great selling tool. People my not buy from the newsletter, but they show up at my sales and some buy.


Casey Craig
Thanks Joanne. I like working on small ones when the subject is right, and the really big ones are fun too. I've only done one 3'x 4' painting, but I'll probably try and do another one this year.

Good luck to you on your commission and working with acrylics on that new big white canvas!


You are so right about the power of one. Just one nice comment can really make the day sing.

This article may be from 2009, but the information provided is timeless! A great perspective on the traffic dilemma.

Thanks for posting this info. I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative. I can't wait to read lots of your posts.

Computers themselves, and software yet to be developed, will revolutionize the way we learn.

I love this article! I couldn't agree more with everything you wrote.

Warm Regards
Marie Stephens


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