Last week, a young man wrote to me and asked, "What is the secret to becoming a successful artist?" In my 11 years as a professional artist, I have made many mistakes, but each one taught me something that directed me on a path to success. Of course, "success" means different things to different artists, and quite frankly, I could have listed 100 helpful hints for this young man. I think every working artist has their list of dos and don'ts ... Here are the 5 big ones in my opinion:
1. Know your audience, i.e., who are you making art for? It's much easier to sell art when you know who your customer really is, where they live, their age, their sex, their race, their income, what kind of art they put in their homes/offices, etc. Knowledge is power so get to know your target market.
2. Make art that appeals to many people, not just a few. For me to make a good living (at my price points) I need to sell alot of art. I have no trust fund or spouse with a second income, so I can't afford to not sell. Making something that appeals to alot of people will increase your chances for financial success. Aiming for the obscure market looking for deep, dark subject matter is a harder target to hit.
3. Constantly be looking for new sales avenues. I am always researching new shows/festivals, stores, galleries, decorators, e-commerce opportunities, etc. I constantly analyze the success of my sales channels. For me to make a good living, I need multiple, STRONG sales avenues. Remember, you can make art day long, but if you have no way to sell it, then it will just sit in your studio and gather dust. And, no matter how prestigious the venue, it doesn't help to have your art in a place that can't sell your work.
4. If your art isn't selling, drop the ego. This is a very difficult concept for most artists. It's hard to detach from our artwork. It's personal, often a reflection of who we are and what we like. However, if your art isn't selling, it's time to make a change. I personally know several artists who totally reinvented themselves, completely changing their artwork style and/or subject matter. I am on that list as well.
5. Exhibit at a few art shows and/or festivals. When you sell your art solely through a gallery or store, you rarely get accurate, constructive feedback from potential customers. Therefore, if your art doesn't sell - or it isn't selling fast enough - you will most likely never know the reason why. Before 2008, I sold exclusively through galleries. Then, the economy took a turn for the worse and I reluctantly started exhibiting at fine art festivals. This turned out to be a blessing because it gave me direct access to potential clients. Now I could interact with customers, hear their comments, watch how they responded to certain pieces, etc. Exhibiting at an art show is a great way to collect invaluable market research, so don't be afraid to ask clients for their opinions.
Like I said before, I could have listed 100 more ideas to help this young artist. These are just a few, and truthfully, the number one secret to success is perseverance. Never give up on your dream ... just be smart enough to adjust your dream if/when needed.
Watch videos on how to sell your art at www.ThomasAndrewArt.tv
Thomas Andrew Findlay
As a professional artist since 2004, I am compelled to help new artists. More seasoned, successful artists helped me along the way, so I want to pay it forward. You can watch all my videos on how to make, market and sell your artwork at www.ThomasAndrewArt.tv.