I’ve seen it happen, time and time again. There’s a big show, there’s a gallery walk. There’s art up somewhere. Two artists, each with great work participate in such, and one? Why one sells some work. Maybe sells one or two pieces or maybe sells a bunch of work, while the other? Nope, not so much. So, this naturally begs the question, why does some work sell while other work does not? Is it magic? Is it just that somebody has something people want? Are some people better salesmen? Circumstance? The universe out to get one but maybe not the other?
There are a lot of factors that go into selling artwork. There is how it looks, how it’s priced, how it’s talked about, what kind of venue it is in, where it is hanging within that venue, the mood of the person purchasing the work, the mood of the person selling the work, the time of day, the crowds (or lack of crowds) there looking at the work. It can be hard, if not impossible, to pin point what, exactly, makes some work sell and others not so much. There are a couple of universal factors though that come into play. Things like laws of supply and demand, but also things like good, old fashioned marketing.
Generally, it’s true that the more “eyes” on work that’s for sale, the more likely it is to be sold. So, this begs the question, are you doing everything you can to put your work in front of as many people as possible? Be honest here. I’ve heard a lot of artists answer, “Yes” to this question and then hedge when I ask them, “Oh really? So you do press releases for all of your shows? And invite 200 people to each and every one?” Yes, didn’t think so.
It’s not just a matter of eyes though. Every artist wants to drop work off at a gallery and then sort of “let the gallery deal with it.” By that, I mean actually let the gallery deal with it. They maybe don’t want to help promote the show. They maybe don’t do as much as they can to invite people to the show. They don’t drum up interest in the show. And, many times, they aren’t capable of talking about the work. Can you stand there, next to your work, and talk about it to different people? Are you capable of greeting people, talking to them, and sort of “talking up” your work? If not, why not? Please don’t give me the “I’m shy!” or even the, “I’m a tortured artist” routine. If you don’t know how to do this, you had better learn, because other artists do learn how to do this and, surprise! That might be just the reason why they are selling more and your work maybe not so much.
There are many factors that go into selling work, yes, but there are also some small things you can do to help you work sell and to better promote your work. Things like use social media more efficiently. Learn how to talk to people, learn how to present your work in a crowd or even in a one on one situation. Come up with an “elevator talk” about yourself and your work. Work with gallery owners, directors, curators and the lot to get your work placed into better galleries and even into better places in the better galleries. (What good is being shown in the greatest gallery in the world if your work is stuffed into a drawer in the back room somewhere?) Learn how to hob-knob, learn how to promote yourself. Watch others who are good here and learn from what they are doing.
I hand out business cards and talk to people a lot. Some people have even, more recently, told me I was “very good at talking with people!” in the gallery setting. I wasn’t always good. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I was always *horrible* at this. But, I watched. I watched and I learned and I worked at it and I learned some more. I watched other artists do this and learned what worked for them, what didn’t, and what I need to do to maybe promote my work a little bit better. And, I didn’t get good at this overnight, no, I worked at it. I like to think that, with each and every passing show, I get just a little bit better and better at it. I don’t sell as much as I think I can, or potentially could, but I’m trying and I’m learning and growing in this area, and that’s all that counts really. Art is really a lot, so much, about marketing-marketing yourself and your work and your style and sometimes even your media to people who might not otherwise know they want to share in it. Embrace that idea, for it will serve you well.
No, really selling your work comes down to a lot of little things. I would have to admit though, if you learn to sell, if you can get some of the basics down, it goes a long way to making your work more likely to sell. It just takes a little time, maybe some practice, and a bit of effort on your part to move things along in that direction.
You spend a lot of time crafting your work. Isn’t it worth it to spend a wee bit of extra time learning how to market, how to sell it as well? It can seem like moving a mountain at times, but really selling your work will help you in the long run. You’ll be a better artist for it once you learn even a little bit of how to do it. It can help give your work new focus and meaning and help pay those bills which is always a good thing, no?
Until next time…