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How to Sell Art

by Clint Watson on 3/17/2009 12:29:28 PM


This Post is by Clint Watsonfounder of FineArtViews. Follow Clint on Twitter.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have shared some of my ideas about how to sell art and selling art in the series, On Selling Art, Part 1 and Part 2.  After finishing those two articles, I realized it might be helpful to have the same ideas (and a few more) distilled down into a sort of "action list."  So that's what I did.  Here are 24 thoughts on How to Sell Art.  I hope you can learn how to sell your art by using the ideas below.

How to Sell Art:

1.  Get good at making remarkable art

If you want some ideas about how to get good, read How to Be Creative by Hugh MacLaod (the list format of that post inspired this one, by the way).  Getting good is hard work.  There is a reason the word "painting" starts with "pain."

2.  Ignore critics and people who try to bring you down.

If you've gotten good, you can and will sell art.  Lots of people try to discourage the dreamers.  Don't worry about it.  As my pastor says, "If you can't change your friends.....then change your friends."

3.  Treat Your Artwork Seriously

After you've gotten good, treat your artwork accordingly.  You need to believe that your artwork is your special gift to the world . . . because it is.

(more . . .)

4.  Get organized - it is a prerequisite to selling art.

I don't care how disorganized you are when you make your art, but you better have organized systems in place for the business side.  You need to know who your customers are, what they like, who they like, how much they can afford, how much wall space they have, what the do for fun, etc, etc, etc.

(more . . .)

5.  Set up and maintain a good database.

If your organization system is a drawer full of business cards, then I wouldn't be surprised to learn that you're not selling.

6.  Have, maintain and use an email list

Getting permission to send your prospects email messages is a powerful tool, and a great way to continue having conversations.

(more . . .)

7.  Have maintain and use a "snail" mail list

In a world where email is such a chore, receiving interesting items from an artist by snail mail is a real treat.  Take advantage of that.

8.  Don't add people to your lists if you don't have their permission

It's ok to send a personal introductory email to someone but if you add someone to your email list without their explicit permission....then you're a spammer.  Don't do it.

(more . . .)

9.  Know who your very best customers are and treat them accordingly.

Your best customers will probably be a relatively small group.  Chances are they have and will account for the vast majority of your sales so be sure to treat them well.

(more . . .)

10.  Give your best customers special perks, opportunities to connect with you, and first shot at purchasing your artwork.

They've already proven that they want to support you.  They obviously love your artwork.  Make sure you treat them as if they are special . . . because they are.

11.  Contact your best customers personally when you have new artworks available.

It never ceases to amaze me when I purchase a piece of art and then never hear from the artist again.  Seriously, what step beyond purchasing art could I possibly take to show my sincere interest?  Connecting with your best customers personally means that you have to learn the lost art of talking with people by phone.  And you need to learn the lost art of sending nice, handwritten notes. ( have an organized snail mail list...right?)

12.  Every time you have new artwork, make sure your notify your email list.  

It's essential that you have good software to manage your email list to make this step simple.  You also need software that handles subscribes and unsubscribes automatically and software that will keep you out of spam filters.  (Incidentally, we have software that does this at FineArtStudioOnline).

13.  Seriously, if you don't have an email list, go set it up now.

14.  Be persistent in contacting your prospects

It can take many, many contact points before you start to get results with any given prospect (one example at the link below didn't see sales results until after 14 contacts for each person, on average), don't give up too soon.

(more . . .)

15.  Get the names and contact info of all your collectors, even if the works are sold through art galleries.

Your database of collectors and prospects can be your most important marketing tool and you need to know who those people are. Yes, I know galleries don't like to share that information. That's because they're afraid you'll sell your artwork directly behind their backs. Don't ever do that. Make sure that you're galleries know you won't ever, ever, ever sell behind their backs and you should be able to work something out.

(more . . .)

16.  Have conversations with your collectors, learn to lead your "Collector Clan."

Learn to have real conversations with real and offline. . . .anyplace you can have a conversation is a place you can connect and market your art.  That's why things like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Blogs and LinkedIn work.  It's also why regular old email works (in many cases even better than social networking).  But don't forget you can also have conversations at gallery openings, restaurants, coffee shops, museums, dry cleaners, bars, on the phone, at your house, at a friend's house, at a customers house, etc, etc, etc.

(more . . .)

17.  Use the "Hub and Spoke" strategy online

You need a "home base" online.  Make sure it's one you control.  Have a website and blog on your own domain.  Then use things like Twitter, Facebook, etc as "spokes" to drive people back to your "hub."  That way, your followers will know they can always find you at your hub, no matter what online services come and go.

18.  Don't be afraid to recommend other artists to your collectors

Your followers respect your opinion and will respect you more if you aren't afraid to honestly share information about what other artists you admire.

19.  Don't get discouraged easily or quickly - selling art is hard work.

Selling art is a long term process and it's hard.  Realize that selling art is hard and plan accordingly.

20.  Don't confuse web traffic with real progress.

Selling art is about connecting with people and having conversations with them.  Web traffic is about stroking your ego with how many "hits" you get.  Remember what us marketers and geeks say about "hits" - it stands for, "How Idiots Track Statistics."

(more . . .)

21.  Be Disciplined

You can't just do these things when you feel like it.  It has to be a day-in day-out, week-in week-out effort.  You must have discipline and self-control.  If it was easy, everyone would do it.

(more . . .)

22.  If you can't do these things yourself, go back to step one and concentrate on "get good at making art", then get someone else you trust to do all this other stuff

Hey, art galleries exist for a reason. . .not every artist wants to do this stuff.  If you're not doing it, work with art galleries, an agent, or even a marketing-savvy spouse.  But no one is going to care about your career like you do, so chances are in-the-end you'll be the best person to do most of this stuff.  And even if you're not doing it, you still need to oversee it and make sure it's happening correctly.

23.  If you've done everything on this list and you're still not selling, go back to #1

If your art is truly remarkable, it will sell.  If it's not selling, you need to improve your "chops" and/or you're giving up too soon.  "Great work gets attention" - Lori Woodward Simons, artist.

(more . . .)

24.  Now, Go Change the World

(more. . .)



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Related Posts:

Personal, Timely, and Relevant

Email is Still the King . . . It's Good to be the King

On Selling Art - Part 2

11 Art Marketing Questions Answered

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

On Selling Art - Part 1

Topics: Art Business | Best | Hugh MacLeod | Sales 

What Would You Like to Do Next?
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Dora Ficher
via web
Clint, Thank you for your blogs! They are always so inspiring! You have so much to share!
Thank you!

Esther J. Williams
via web
Clint, thanks for the tips, I have used them. I have sold quite a number of pieces on eBay and have recently started a database of their records along with the pieces I have sold in galleries and exhibitions. I had to dig for quite awhile in invoices online through PayPal. It was grueling. Although the eBay customers have paid the least for my art, they still have pride in owning an original work of art. A pleasant surprise is when one of them emails me that they appreciate I give them updates on my career. I send out a little newsletter once in awhile now. When I paint on location, I like the fact that I have conversations with anybody who walks by and stops to talk to me when I am painting. They are the ones who will ask for a business card too. But the thing is, I get their info also and when I call them, they remember me with an optimistic sound in their voice. People like it when an artist talks to them, it makes them feel important and recognized. I appreciate the connection too, unless it is a homeless person who is very drunk. That's happened more than once!
I just got rejected from a juried show that I really wanted to get into in a bad way. I entered what I considered to be my best works. I felt personally insulted by the low scores I got. Enough so that I wanted to give up trying to paint today. Luckily, my husband gave me some support. Artists are sensitive people and the juried show process is brutal sometimes. I sat in the sun and listened to the birds sing and I suddenly felt lifted again. I told myself, I love nature so much and it is in my nature to be an artist, I am really good, this I do know. I will not let one judge ruin that, although he wrecked my day and probably 100 others. I like your suggestion in number 2 to ignore critics. Maybe my style of work did not fit into this show or measure up to the more established artists, but it sells and that's proof people like it. I won't quit, I'll just get over another bucking bronco contest, dust off the seat of my pants, get back in the saddle and ride. Again, I appreciate your blog today, it also has lifted me up.

becky nielsen
via web
Great blog - and I love how the circles come around - found this because Alyson Stanfield once recommended twitter, etc. and I just recently jumped on board, then this woman mentioned your blog on twitter, then I came here, then I see Alyson's book advertised! Thanks for the post - my organization definitely needs some work - and my painting is certainly coming along - but I do have faith that it will be a valid expression of my experience of the world and what I have to offer one of these days.

Gretchen Schmid
via web
I want to help my town,Bellows Falls VT there are lots of artist here ,but the energy isnt being harnest to its full potential,I suggested importing known arists for festivals and work shops what do you suggest?

Rochester Contemporary Art Center
via web
Check out our new online gallery to see over 3,000 original artworks submitted by over 1,200 artists from 17 different countries and 36 different states! Each artwork is 6x6 inches, displayed anonymously until purchase, and on sale for $20! Help support Rochester Contemporary Art Center by participating in the second and final year of 6x6x2009!

Online Gallery:

For more information about 6x6x2009:

Joel K
via web
You really have covered all the bases in your post. I wish I had come across this information earlier. When I was searching for a way to sell my art, I found an artist who put together a step by step way to make money from art. I wrote a quick review; it's definitely worth checking out his info on selling your art.

Finis Collins
via web
I have only read a little of your work. "How to Sell Art", but I like the way you lay it on the line.
Please add me to your "Fine art Views Blog".

Also, please send me any info, cost, etc about how you can help me sell my art.


Finis Collins

Renee Lammers
Thank you for taking your time to help other artists! I found your information very helpful. I will start getting emails from my customers. I have thought about calling a very important collector when I have a masterpiece finished! I paint sometimes four paintings a day so I don't want to notify her daily! But maybe once in a while. I also have a Mastercard and Visa knuckle machine in my car while I am out painting "plein aire". I have sold many more paintings since accepting credit cards! I don't know if many artists know this, but they can get a merchant account for as little of 25$ for the knuckle machine to start up! They have to have good credit. This is available at their bank. Hope this helps too.

d"Cecelia Johnson
I don't have a web yet; I'm not very good at
computer....Yet, without bragging too much, my
impressionistic art work is lovely....I would
like to hire a reasonable computer person to
help me get organized.

Meg Elisabeth Gossett
d"Cecelia Johnson,

I think I might be able to help you with just that.

james hays
hello...i am new to the art world but have been drawing for quite some time... i realy am wanting to get my work out there but do not know how to get started. please help... i do portraits...not to boast but i do very good work...most of my work is in pen... it's all done with dots...thousands of's almost as if it is digital...i also do pencil drawings...please help... thank you for the time you to to read this and GOD bless you...

k. littlewood
Thank you for your info... great stuff! I am looking for a program to use for creating the wall-hung look often seen on ebay. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks again.

Justine Mantor-Waldie
I totally agree with your suggestions. I might add that collectors really enjoy receiving a newsletter updating them on new work and exhibits. It's alot of work so I have encorporated a web/computer guru who helps me with that aspect of work...freeing me up to do the creative work.

regina oliver
Hello,My nam is Mrs.Regina oliver
I,ve been drawing and painting seen i picked up
a pencil. But i have given art away and sold some to some people.
But my dream is for the world to see my work
and get their opinion,s.
If you can help me in anyway to show and sell
some of my work i would really appreciate that
seriously,can you really help me.
If you can please notify me.
1417 E.Maynard Ave
Columbus,Ohio 43211


Hi Clint, thanks for the great article and insight. I founded Socurio an online art marketplace and creative community. We just launched a facebook application called My Socurio. Its free and you can easily display your art on your profile AND fan page. Its really easy to install, all you need is an account with Socurio, which is also completely free :)

Get the latest updates on Socurio and become a fan

Contact me anytime!


I really appreciate the article on how to sell your art, its wonderful. Iam going to try to do all the steps. I dont have a web site or blog, but then Im not a computer wizz. everything I know I learned from different people, so far Im picking it up slowly. Im 79 years old, and still painting. Its the love of my life. Thanks again for your help

Sue Betanzos
Hey Clint,
Thanks for the advice and info. All of it was relevant for me - especially getting a data base set up. I used to be pretty organized but have let it slide and it shows in my business.
I know what I have to do and have to motivate to step it up and get reorganized.
I recently put up six of my pieces at a cafe and they did not have a contract or anything so it is up to me to draft something on paper fast. If the cafe or gallery does not carry insurance is it normal for the artist to insure the pieces? How much does it vary as far as galleries that do insure the works vs those who do not?
Again thanks and look forward to your reply.

Sue Betanzos
Hey Clint,
Thanks for the advice and info. All of it was relevant for me - especially getting a data base set up. I used to be pretty organized but have let it slide and it shows in my business.
I know what I have to do and have to motivate to step it up and get reorganized.
I recently put up six of my pieces at a cafe and they did not have a contract or anything so it is up to me to draft something on paper fast. If the cafe or gallery does not carry insurance is it normal for the artist to insure the pieces? How much does it vary as far as galleries that do insure the works vs those who do not?
Again thanks and look forward to your reply.
Apologize for resubmitting, but previous comment did not have correct email address).

doris johnson

Clint Watson
Doris - the entire article IS the answer. The title is "How to Sell Art" - the article is the answer. I never promised the answer is not a lot of work :-)

But that's what we're here for, to make sure that, if you're going to put the hard work in, at least you're putting the effort on things that actually sell art.

Kay Pratt
Clint, You're the BEST!! Thanks for all you put out there for those of us in need of a mentor who really knows what it's like to be an Artist.

timothy head
i want to know more aboutow much i should be selling my stuff. i am selling art. i am an artist, and i dont know how to set prices. i am an native artist, spiritual and well detailed. i mostly use pens and make dots to add some more nice stuff. please i need your help. i sold alot of my art, but i think i am ripping myself off.

Spencer Meagher
"If you've gotten good, you can and will sell art." Great statement Clint. I think it goes right along with "the cream rises to the top".

"You can't just do these things when you feel like it. " Another comment that points out flaws in my system.

Clint, I think it would be good to republish this article. Most all of us need to re-visit these bullet points.

None sold yet, but alot of people like my work.
1) Should I market my artwork at artshows, and flee-markets, and possibly door to door personally?

2) If none sold and were too pricey for todays art lovers, could I sell raffle tickets so as to come up with a quota for my artwork first, and then do a "50/50" cash drawing in my State/County/City limits? How much would that license cost me?

3) My (RRMC) Costs $25.00, what's next?

Karl Johnston
I enjoyed the list, my only wish is there was an article following up building up a snail mail list. I would like to hear feedback on how others, and any tips FAV has for building/maintaining one.

Wallace Hugh Connolly
A lot of information hee, as useuall
thanks for sharing

shasta eone
I haven't been associated yet a week with FASO, and I am very greatly impressed. The return to my passion for painting came last summer: hadn't painted for forty some years ! My whole life has been in art, professionally, beginning as a senior in high school for Proctor and Gamble on into a broad range of commercial art fields. Painting came with retirement from ... "deadlines." Now in place is "Serenity Scenes ", a collection of some 100 paintings: paintings with a purpose. Serenity renews body mind and spirit. In realism such can remind us of favorite times and places. This collection NEEDS a place such as FASO, and my learning more and more as like a young school child all the what's and how's for people to learn about, enjoy and want them. That very Joy is multiplied every time there is THAT connection. Articles discoverd here, GREATLY assists an artist towards experiencing this spirit and delight. THANK YOU.

Judith Perry
H already have a website, but not getting much out of it. I'm interested in signing up for FASO, and my question is "can I keep muy current .com address? Can I keep my current email address?

I would like to try FASO but I don't want to give up my current website and email address until I feel comfortable with FASO.

Please let me know.

Judith Perry

Clint Watson
Judith - as long as you have access to the domain registry account for your domain "" then yes you can keep it if you switch to faso - our tech support can help you make the switch if/when you're ready. You can sign up at for a 60-day free trial and you'll get a temporary address so you can try it before switching the address.

Although we would love your business, I should point out that everything outlined in this article, "How to Sell Art", can be done without necessarily signing up for FASO, although some pieces of it we have tried to bake in to our software.

Stephan Seable
I am impressed by what I see. I am an old commission artist with a large shop full of paintings and sculpture and would like to move some of it along without giving it away. The help you offer is very tempting. I am not very computer literate and would need a lot of help. Help convince me this is the venue. S Seable

I want sell this crystal
You contact

Ruben Hernandez
I have been trying to sell my art work for a long time on luck all I do pay so peaple can see'em and nobody buys I do'nt think my Paintings are that bad

Haydee Yordan
Hi! This is a unique place for artists and so much needed! As an artist myself, I have a space here in FASO, but I am not taking advantage of all it offers because I strongly feel Faso's definition of artists ia somewhat limited to painters. I am a fine art photographer and would like your comments on this. Can you give me information of other art photographers in FASO?
I feel I paint with my camera the same way painters paint with their brushes...

Timothy W
Hi Haydee,
The only answer I can give you other than FASO is a free account at WEBS.COM... I agree this is so much needed, and there's more out there if you look around different places; for instance

Thank you for your words of support Clint. #1 and #2 are most relevant to my current circumstance,and it's priceless to have intuitions about these two items confirmed by folks like you.

This website is very nice. I've enjoyed the resourceful demonstration and will look forward for new updates. Thanks for the great information.

Sharon McGlasson
Friends have encouraged me to get a website for years. I put it off as I didn't want to stop painting. I also heard it was hard to set up a website, and expensive. I had visions of having to hire a tech person, photographer etc. What a surprise when I started with F.A.S.O. After four days, 5 to 6 hours a day, I'm up and running. If I had begun years ago I could of done it in two days. I am thrilled with the look of my website! Anyone out there wanting to set up a website, needs to do it NOW. "Jump in, the water is fine."

Great support from Clint yesterday, thank you.

I've had great success with Wallspace.

Wallspace Exchange helps facilitate fine art sales throughout the world. Restaurants, Hotels, Bars, Spas, Salons, Retail Stores, Cafes and Airport Terminals allow artists to sell their paintings on their wallspace in return for a commission. The business generates another source of income while the artist gains a larger audience to show their artwork and increase sales. Businesses save on interior design costs and get an updated look while helping the art community.

The business or artist may want to use an Art Broker from Wallspace Exchange to handle the negotiations, scouting, and logistics for the paintings. An Art Broker may represent a client such as a restaurant or hotel that can bring in certain types of artwork the client is looking for. Also, the Art Broker may represent an artist and help place their artwork on walls of several different types of businesses. In return for the work done by the Art Broker, upon sale of the painting they will receive a commission.

Artists, Photographers, Sculptors and Charity organizations can join for FREE

Agnes Mpata
Your informations are very helpful especially for people with little computer knowledge like me

Agnes Mpata
It is a good charity work you are doing and God will reward you.

Agnes Mpata
Through the artists will be exposed and this is a good piece of advertisement . Keep it up.


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