How do you find Art Selling Opportunities?
You’ve amassed a collection of paintings that you want to sell. How are you going to sell them? My best advice to you is to try everything. Here are a few of the ways to find opportunities to sell your art.
Google is your friend, but sometimes google just gives you too much information. If you have a specific kind of art you want to sell or be involved in – such as mural painting, or public sculpture – you can probably narrow down your google search to those particular art forms. Sometimes it is useful just to browse through whatever google gives you just to see what is out there that might suit your situation and artwork. I like to paint murals on traffic boxes, so I google “traffic box murals” or “electrical box murals.” It’s very specific, but still I find more than I want. I should probably narrow it down to “electrical box murals calls for artists, Texas.” But my best advice to narrow down your search on google is in the next section – ask other artists.
Ask other Artists
You’re reading my essay here, so in a sense you’re asking me how I sell my art. But you can also ask any other artist who sells their artwork. They are almost always willing to share. We artists are not in competition with each other. Go to an art fair on the weekend and ask other artists how they successfully sell their work. Join an art club and ask members.
Join Art Clubs
Some art clubs offer excellent opportunities for their members to sell their work. Ask what they offer before you shell out money for membership. The best art club I ever joined was Best of Missouri Hands. All they did was find opportunities for artists to sell their work. I even spent two weeks at Silver Dollar City Theme park with this group selling art. Unfortunately all art groups are not created equal. I belong to one group right now that has a gallery, which is somewhat of an opportunity and they occasionally sell a piece. Another group I am a member of has shows for members in public places a few times a year. I usually sell a piece or two with them. Be sure to ask before you join – some groups require not only membership dues, but a fee to enter their shows and a commitment of time to docent at their shows. Not cool. Too greedy for me. Usually those kinds of groups are composed of people who do art for a hobby – not really trying to promote artists and sell artwork.
The other opportunity in art groups is you get to ask other artists how they sell their work.
If you see Art somewhere, Ask
I was in a bookstore once and they had a coffee shop with a big blank wall. I asked if they ever display art there and the answer was yes. I got a show up on that wall for a month and got two commissions from that show. Restaurants often display work of local artists. The local university where I live has huge walls in long halls and have art displayed on those walls. I’ve gotten into that venue twice and made a few thousand dollars in sales. The airport displays art in cases – very hard to get into, but if you persist and present a show as a group of artists, you can get some excellent sales. Who knows what other venues you could find?
There are hundreds of websites online that say they will sell your art for you. I have art on about 15 of them but only a few have ever sold any art for me. And the best one is no longer online, so things change, and you might find one that works for your art. Fine Art America used to sell my art regularly, but they have slacked off. Image Kind once sold my art. Right now I am getting sales by putting prints on eBay. I have art on Amazon, but they have never sold a piece for me.
I put my paintings on FaceBook and sometimes sell art there. I don’t put it up for sale – because if you say it’s for sale, FaceBook then limits who can see it as they want you to pay to have it seen. I just say what the painting is and people contact me asking for a price. I just keep posting.
I also post to Instagram and local facebook marketplace sites and occasionally craigslist, but rarely sell anything on these.
If you want to paint murals or do public art sculptures, check out this website. I’ve done several murals from entries on this site.
This site is part of PublicArtist.org, but it is for art calls for any art – sometimes they have shows or galleries worth applying for.
This site has hundreds of calls for artists mostly for art contests, art shows, fairs, and residencies. I have found a few shows/contests that I applied to – one that I apply to yearly for the past 4 years and they always sell my art. But I have my limits – entry fees of $50 are just not acceptable to me. I like the zero entry fee shows. Does a high entry fee mean it’s a better show? Nope. The show that sells my art regularly has zero entry fee. Be picky if you are entering shows on this site. Find shows that fit what you do.
There are a myriad of other online art opportunity sites – Indie Artists Club, Artsy Shark and Art Fair Insiders are a couple that I use occasionally.
I made a respectable living as an artist doing weekend art fairs for 15 years. I travelled a lot and at the time I loved the lifestyle and meeting so many people and selling a lot of art. At present I am out of touch with the art fair scene, so I would not be able to say which shows are best to enter. This would be a situation where you should ask other artists, ones who do art fairs. I retired from fairs due to being old and disabled – shows are very hard work, but at the time I was doing them I loved them. When I made money. I loved them. When I didn’t make money, I usually wanted to quit. But the key to being successful at making a living doing art fairs is to do enough of them so the non-productive ones balance out the successful ones. I did about 35 shows a year.
You have to apply for these shows and you have to grow a thick skin, because you sometimes get rejected for no reason you can understand. Don’t even try. If you know your art is good, and you have good photos of it, you will still get rejects because the people who decide who gets in and who doesn’t have opinions. That’s all it is – someone’s opinion.
Try some local shows first with lower booth fees. I recommend having both originals and prints of your work if you are going to do art fairs. You need to have price ranges for all public who like your work. That’s not always true. I saw one artist whose cheapest painting was $5,000. So when he sold one, he made up for the show where he sold nothing. And if he sold two, he could make up for a couple of nothing shows. That’s kind of rare, however; his artwork was worth it, and it was beautiful.
There are some grants available to individual artists – not many as most grants go to art groups. But apply for them – they do give the money to someone. I usually try to check the winners of the years before to see if their art has any similarity to mine. If the winners were super modern sculptors who worked with steel, I don’t apply. I have never won a grant, but I sometimes still apply.
I used to have my art in about 15 galleries, but if you want to sell art in galleries, you have to keep knocking on doors, because galleries often close. The best galleries I had found me – at art fairs – and invited me to put my art in their galleries. Unfortunately, over many years, they have closed.
I still have art in 3 galleries, and occasionally get sales. Two of these galleries are very honest and pay promptly when an artwork sells. But some galleries are not honest and not so prompt, so keep a good record of what you put in galleries. One time I had artwork in a gallery 1,000 miles away and they closed without telling me. I just happened to be doing an art fair nearby and dropped in to the gallery to find it closed. I called the owner and got my work back, but if I hadn’t been there at that particular time, all of my artwork would have been taken over by bankruptcy court and sold to pay the gallery bills, even though it was in the gallery on commission.
Licensing means you sign a contract with a company and they pay you a royalty in order to use your art on rugs or posters or cards or coasters or something. It’s not an easy way to get into art sales, but if you can connect with a company you can make some good royalty money. Usually they pay 8% royalty on what they sell wholesale.
The licensing deals I’ve done have paid for a while and then somehow the company quits paying royalties. I’ve threatened lawsuits and gotten royalties paid again for a while, but the companies sometimes just quit paying again. I did make $20,000 over about 12 years, so I just quit, too – I figured they paid for the artwork by then. It makes me want to just sell companies the artwork outright and not have to follow up to get paid royalties, but then when I look at how much I made even when they quit paying years later, it comes out to more than they would have paid for the artwork.
The trick here is to get into licensing. I originally made licensing contacts at a Licensing Convention in New York City in 2001, but that’s a very expensive way to get contracts. I got some other licensing contracts from a licensing company in Arizona, which would be an easier way to go. Except they no longer work for me. In other words they aren’t promoting my art. Probably because I haven’t contacted them in years. But this is a way to make income as an artist.
There are lots of other ways to make money selling your artwork. I haven’t tried doing art demonstration videos on YouTube – that’s a popular new venue. I have just barely started with Patreon.com, which is a website asking people to donate for your art projects in exchange for some artwork in the future. Having your own website is another possible way for you to make sales as an artist. I have occasionally sold pieces from my website, but I usually use it as a reference – if someone asks about a painting, I can show them on the website. I have done illustrations for several books, and painted a number of book covers for authors – these commissions were mostly just because an author saw my art and asked me or a referral from a friend or friend of a friend.
I certainly have not covered every artist opportunity in this article. And I could write more in depth for each section. But you get the idea here. You have to work at getting your artwork in front of the public in order for them to see it and buy it.
My ideal scene is to be able to hire a PR person who does all this work for me, so I can just paint…but there are not a lot of PR people who want the job. I hope you find one!