Put simply, selling art calls upon an entirely different skill-set from creating it – and for most artists the creative side of things comes much more naturally.
But, with a little help from those who’ve already mastered the art of sales and marketing, you can learn the fundamentals of generating an income from your own artwork.
We’ve brought you the most essential tips for selling art from professional artists, galleries and industry insiders:
Read on for their expert advice on how to photograph your work, define your brand, engage your audience and more…
Jayna Mistry, from online gallery Artfinder
It’s key when selling art online to showcase your art in its best light and build trust in your product. Customers want to know what they’re getting when they part with their cash!
- Photograph your artwork on a bright, but slightly cloudy, day. This ensures accurate colour reproduction without too much glare from the sun
- Angle your camera so that it’s about 30 degrees above the surface of your artwork. This helps to capture texture – whether it’s a rich, dense oil painting or a delicate piece on silk
- Glass is such a tricky thing to work with: if their artwork is framed, many Artfinder artists take the glass out of the frame when photographing to avoid any glare
- When buying online it’s hard to assess scale. Show your art in context (i.e. next to a mug, or on a wall) – the customer will be able to envisage how a piece might work in their home
Sebastien Rousseau, computer graphic artist at Ubisoft
Your online portfolio is really important for showcasing your work and selling art online. Take time to put together a selection of only your very best pieces.
(You can display your full body of work elsewhere: for example, on community sites such as Deviant Art)
- Imagine you’re preparing your work for a high-profile exhibition. Which pieces are you most proud of? Which ones are going to give the best representation of your personal style?
- Be sure to exhibit your work in the best way possible – if you’re not a web design whizz, then I’d recommend investing in a portfolio-building platform, like Carbonmade in my case
- Don’t worry if you feel you don’t have enough artwork to showcase. I personally prefer to see one really impressive painting or photograph than a whole collection of “okay” pieces
Ed Swarez, painter/gallery owner at Swarez Modern Art
When selling art, you need to be associated with the qualities you want to be known for.
If I mention McDonald’s, you instantly know how that makes you feel. If I mention Prada you probably think of expensive luxury goods.
- A brand is simply the qualities you determine for yourself and want to be known for. Reflect this in your art and creativity first but this should also be part of the way you speak
- The tone of your printed/online voice, your logo, tag line, photography and level of customer service should all reflect the values of the people you intend to sell to
- There’s no point in creating a luxury brand selling £50 originals – the two don’t fit together. Aim for the right audience and empathise with their own aspirations
Camilla Westergaard, from online marketplace Folksy
Think about the how people will find your art. How will you get them to your shop? The most likely routes are search engines (like Google), referrals (e.g. from blogs) and social media.
- To rank highly on search engines you need to carefully consider how you title and describe yourself, your work and the content you write online
- Search engines can’t see your artwork, instead they rely on the words you use in your titles, descriptions, tags, URLs and the links into your page to determine where it ranks
- Describe your work as accurately as possible on your site. An artwork ‘Untitled II‘ is unlikely to show in as many searches as one titled ‘Beach Huts at Whitstable – original linocut print‘
- Spend time researching popular search terms (there are free tools like kwfinder.com to help you with that) to discover the best words to use on your website and in your listings
Rita Job, from online gallery ARTmine
Most online galleries have hundreds (sometimes thousands) of artists that they need to promote, so it’s important not to rely on the gallery alone to promote your art.
- Use paid ads. Try Facebook’s ad platform to experiment with different audiences and find the perfect one for you. You’ll be amazed at how fast your fanbase will grow
- There are many great communities where you can connect with other artists and collectors. Do a little research and you’ll find several private and public groups you can join
- Hashtags are very helpful on certain platforms, like Instagram. By using relevant and popular hashtags, you’ll position your art in front of the people that are looking for it
Using social media
Cory Huff, author of How to Sell your Art Online
I know many artists who started selling art by sharing it on social media. Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat are amazing platforms for showing off your art.
- Show your work in progress, invite discussion, respond to people, and don’t forget to tell people that your art is for sale – repeatedly.
- You can set up a page on Etsy, Fine Art America, or even just take direct payment via PayPal. The point is to focus on talking to people who might be interested in your art.
- If you’re passionate and you write like you care, you’ll find that the conversations flow like in real life. And when those conversations flow, you’ll have an opportunity to ask for the sale.
Entering art shows
Annie Strack, award winning maritime painter
Shows offer a great opportunity to sell your art. A common approach is to sign up for as many as possible, but this can result in large expenditures of entry fees and a high ratio of rejections.
Another method is to research potential shows and only enter those which are likely to help achieve your career goals. Time and resources are more focused this way, and it tends to yield better results.
- When determining which competitions to enter, think about the goals you’ve set for your art career, and then decide which shows will help in your quest to achieve these goals.
- If your goal is to get noticed by museum curators, then focus your entry efforts on shows exhibited in museums or juried by curators.
- Likewise, if you’re a workshop instructor and want to attract students in a certain area, then enter shows in that area to familiarize potential students with your work and your name.
You’ve just heard from the experts about the most vital things to remember when trying to sell art online, now it’s time to put these techniques into practice.
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