How do you sell most of your art? Usually through galleries, right? Well, if you sell a lot, you probably do. You sit in your studio, perfect your craft, then you give it to someone else, and say “Hey, sell this for me and just give me half of whatever you sell it for.” Never mind that person didn’t do any of the work, probably doesn’t understand what you did, and definitely isn’t nearly as passionate as you are about the piece.
Why do you do this? The list of reasons usually boils down to: that’s what the gallery told me to do, it’s what I’ve always done, or it’s what other artists (or art schools) told me to do.
Let’s take a moment to think about this gallery thing. How many people are going to see your painting at that gallery, really? A few hundred, perhaps a few thousand if it’s a well-known gallery? You’re willing to part with half your earnings for that kind of exposure? No wonder there are galleries on every street corner in some cities.
You can do better.
The thing is, you could easily get hundreds, or even thousands of people to see your work online. If you know what you’re doing, you could gets tens or hundreds of thousands of people to see your work. A brick and mortar gallery just can’t compete with that.
There are, of course, the online galleries. Some of them get a lot of traffic, even in the millions. Then, of course, there are problems there too. They still take a percentage of what you sell the painting for (granted, not as big). They have unlimited showing space, but how many other artists are in these online galleries? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Of course, you also can’t control how your work is displayed – it’s displayed just like everyone else’s. It’s easy to get lost in the sea in the online galleries.
Why don’t you sell your work online, through your own Web site?
I’ve heard your excuses before. I don’t want to ruin my relationship with my gallery. My images will get stolen. I don’t know how to do it. People don’t buy art online. Give me a break. You know the term starving artist exists for a reason, right? It’s because you buy into ideas like these.
If you really want to do well, if you’re like me and you really want to dispel the starving artist myth, you have to embrace new ideas (not that the Internet is new – seriously) and treat your art like a business.
I don’t care how you do it, but you’ve got to break free. Tell your gallery where to stick it and find a gallery that will work with you. Learn how to watermark your images. Learn how to sell online, and realize that people buy everything online.
When I started The Abundant Artist I wanted to create a movement. An army of artists who realize that they have all of the power. They have the ability to create their own world, a world where artists know how valuable they are and they refuse to let galleries, parents, or teachers tell them what to do or how to make and sell their art.
I don’t care how you do it, but learn how to do it. Sell your work online. Reach your fans. There are hundreds of people yearning to find the work that you do – they just don’t know it yet. Be inspired. You can learn from any number of resources.
There’s a vanguard of young artists who are knocking on the doors crashing the gates of the art world. They sell their work online and making a living doing it. They’re talented, smart, sophisticated, and Web savvy. Check out Hazel Dooney, Natasha Westcoat, Val’s Art Diary, Eleatta Diver or David Hoang. These artists are making it happen. They know how to build an audience, how to reach out, how to give their fans what they want – and make it bold and powerful, full of artistic merit. Learn from them.
Just don’t sit around and complain about how your gallery isn’t selling anything for you.