Resources for Visual Artists Sign-up  




Top Ten Tips To Sell Your Art

© 2009 Fraser Kee Scott

The most important things for survival as an emerging artist, in order of importance, are:

1. Make drop dead stunning art. Make art that just stops people in their tracks. The competition is T O U G H. To survive your work has to be the best of the best of the best. The definition for a good work of art is: "Technical expertise itself adequate to produce an emotional impact." So make sure you have exceptional technique, but that you do not concentrate so much on technique that you do not get your communication out. It's the technique that gets people looking and interested and it's the message that makes a work of art have the true power of art.

2. Be ethical. Being ethical means doing things which aid you, and the people and the world around you, to survive. Ethics is a personal thing. When a person does things which they themselves, deep down, know are not helpful to their own and others survival, they then cut back their own success. You are basically good and you only allow yourself success if you feel you deserve it. If you want to succeed in anything, you have to be ethical.

3. Do not have suppressive people around you. Do not accept ANY invalidative criticism (that's criticism where the critic says something is not good - even if they say it in a hidden way - like "Don't worry dear, not everyone's got talent" - yuck!). Artists are creative by definition. There are people out there who are currently destructive. They like to pick on artists as targets to pretend to be friendly to, but actually to pick at, upset and destroy. There are two types of criticism: Constructive Criticism - where the person suggests a better way to do something & Invalidative Criticism - where the person just says something is not good. Be aware in any criticism that there are such things as personal taste, contemporary standards and even envy or jealousy. Criticism is the biggest reason an artist stops making art. Surround yourself with supportive people with social personalities. Definition of suppressive people is here:

4. PROMOTE. If you have No.1, 2 & 3 done then this step will be EASY. Promoting exceptional art by ethical artists who do not have suppressive people around is a dream. If you are having a hard time with promotion have a look over 1,2 & 3 and work on them a little, then promote again. But, there is a law in the universe and it is: Outflow = Inflow - the more you communicate to the world about your art, the more attention and money you will get back. In the arts the Press is God - so make sure you are always communicating to the art, luxury lifestyle and mass press. But also make sure you are always communicating to art buyers or galleries and your past buyers. Ideally you will have a gallery do that for you, but the point is that you have to promote if you want to survive and the key is - number of people reached and number of times reached.

Once you have got those handled, then check out:

Top Ten Tips To Sell Your Art!!!!!!!

1. Find out what is needed and wanted. Like, if you find out that people want pretty pictures of houses with snow on the roof and you DON'T DO THAT, then I am not saying compromise yourself by doing that, but a fatal mistake many artists make is not to consider in any way what their potential clients need and want. Like, it can be a tiny consideration, like the client wants it framed in black or the clients in a certain area only buy certain size works, whatever, survey the people who are your potential clients and find out what is needed and wanted. Integrity is the most valuable part of an artwork. There's a fine balancing act between keeping your integrity and selling - and it's you who has to walk that line - but to sell art it's helpful to find out what art buyers need and want - research - sometimes it's the little details that would not affect the message of the art that prevent a sale.

2. Present your work as if it has value. More than any other object Art is all about perceived value. A drawing by Picasso is worth $50,000 and a drawing by Mr. Pisacco is worth a cup of tea in the diner if he gets lucky. So spend a lot of time considering how you present your work, really make it look like it's worth a lot. It doesn't have to cost a lot to do this, mainly care and attention to detail.

3. Keep a very detailed log of anyone who has bought from you before, keep this separate from anyone who has been interested in buying a work before, keep that separate from anyone who has viewed your work before. Communicate to the lists differently - give very special care and personal attention of the first, have some personal aspects to your communication with the second, be more 'mass mail' to the third.

4. OUTFLOW. Outflow is things going out from you. Like handing out leaflets is outflow, sending out promo, making phone calls, whatever. There is a law in life that is OUTFLOW = INFLOW. Just keep outflowing, it may seem you are not having an effect, then the effect comes 6 weeks later, you might hand out a thousand leaflets in one place and someone walks in from another place, keep it up, it works.

5. Devote some time to promoting yourself. One of the most successful artists I show in my gallery spends minimum 20% of his time promoting himself. Not because he enjoys it, but it keeps him alive. Sure, he has galleries to show his work and promote him, but he has to manage them. Basically it is not enough just to make the best work in the world, you also have to get that work to the world.

6. Start off with prices low and build up. Some people take the compliments to their head and think they should get high prices straight out of college. This can be a fatal mistake. People are wary of buying art, it can be a financial risk. Most people buy art because they love it, but are wary of being burned. Your buying clients are your best form of advertising. If someone has paid bucks for your art and they love it when they have friends round for dinner the first thing they are going to show them is your art, they will be proud of it, they will 'sell it' to their friends, who, trusting their buddy and seeing the work has value as it has been bought by their friend, are likely to want one themselves. So get your art out there. Sell it for whatever you will be satisfied with, make sure you survive, but at the start, until you are selling regularly and well, sell as low as you can possibly afford, that way you build up a clientele. The goal should be to have a waiting list who battle over the works (hence driving the prices up)

7. Be ethical. You are a powerful being, more powerful than you imagine. One of the reasons you do not use all your power is that you are basically good and when a person sees themself doing something with their power they wish they didn't do, they cut back their power, to protect other things around them. So stay ethical, because then you allow yourself to be powerful (which includes selling lots of art). Also, if you find that you just are not selling, perhaps your work is better than a friend who just can't keep hold of his work and it just doesn't add up... Well check your ethics. Is there someone you ripped off? Did you sell a big work and should have paid your bills but you spend the money on loose women and liquor (lol)? If Image of A Gallery, Londonso you need to sort these things out somehow. Maybe you don't have the money to pay the bill now (you spent all that and can't remember half of what you spent it on!) - well, just get in communication with the person you owe and sort some arrangement out, confront it, pay them a little towards it, whatever - keep yourself ethical and sort out any unethical stuff from your past. This is vital to success.

8. Remember what you did that was successful and do that; remember what you did that wasn't successful and don't do that. Look at periods when you did really well, work out why and let that inform your actions, it worked, it will work again. if you are doing really good, then take a sharp turn for the worse, figure out what caused it and stop doing that. You don't need to reinvent the wheel every time- with me I know that doing Art fairs is successful, so I do as many as I can. That type of thing.

9. Finish what you start. If you do not complete an action you start you can leave a lot of your attention on what you did not complete. That can tie things up. Incomplete actions tend to build up and form mountains. These backlogs destroy the possibility of future production. When you see your production going into apathy know you have gone the route of 'not done's' and 'half dones' and handle them.

10. Be true to your own goals. Work out honestly and earnestly your goals as an artist (these can be as wild and high as you like). Then work out realistically how you are going to achieve them. Enthuse yourself about them. Don't let anything or anyone get in your way or discourage you or tell you you can't have what you aim for. Honestly - the field of the arts is full of suppressive people who pretend to help artists but who have destructive goals. It's very important to study the antisocial characteristics: and not have anyone around you like that. You can be, do and have ANYTHING you want. Don't have antisocial people around you who try and stop you!

The above information comes from what I have studied in Scientology and my 12 years experience running a successful London art gallery.

Do well! It's important - the world really needs imaginative artists to succeed!

Yours sincerely,

Fraser Kee Scott
A Gallery, London


By Margaret Danielak © 2009

Artists often ask me what they should look for when looking for a gallery to represent them.  As the daughter of a gallery represented artist (the late painter and illustrator Robert G. Stevens) I recommend that you obtain answers to the following questions before you attempt to approach a gallery about representation:

1. How long has the gallery been in business? 

As we all know, even in the best of economic times, many small businesses including art galleries struggle to find their footing.  My advice is to try to find a gallery that has been in business at least four years.  In fact, on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website, I found out that…

“Two-thirds of new employer establishments survive at least two years, 44% survive at least four years, and 31% survive at least seven years, according to a recent study. These results were constant for different industries. … Of special interest, the research found that businesses that survive four years have a better chance of surviving long-term. After the fourth year, the rate of firm closings declines considerably.”

You don’t want to be accepted to a gallery only to find that it is going to close the next month so first and foremost, you want to find a gallery that has a longer term track record.

2. Does the gallery have a good location?
Do they have good foot traffic and adequate parking?  If not, how do they bring in new business?  You want to get a feel for their clientele and how they handle people coming and going into their physical location.

3. What is the director’s background?

Do the directors have an art background or a marketing background?  (Ideally they should have both.)  Keep in mind, per the SBA website:

“…the major factors in a firm’s survivability include an ample supply of capital, being large enough to have employees, the owner’s education level, and the owner’s reason for starting the firm.”

I would add to the list above that the gallery owner needs to have a passion for the art they are selling.  If they are not passionate about the art, then you don’t want to be in their gallery.

4. Does the gallery cross-promote with other dealers?  

Are they part of a gallery group or a regularly scheduled art walk or other event?  In other words, do they make an effort to grow their business with each event they do?  This is essential to their long term success, and to your assurance that your artwork will be seen.

5.      Are you able to obtain a referral for the gallery and the director? 

Speak to other represented gallery artists about the gallery’s operations and the people running it.  Are they honest?   Do they have written contracts and consignment agreements with their artists, and do they pay them on time?  Even a seasoned gallery artist like my late father had a very bad experience with a prestigious gallery in Taos, New Mexico.  Over the four years he was in the gallery, the director increasingly paid the artists very late, sometimes as much as six months after a sale!  When the gallery closed suddenly with three of his paintings still in their possession, my father found out about it from a newspaper article.  We have never been able to retrieve his lovely paintings from the gallery director who had stolen them.

6. What kind of marketing does the gallery do?

Does the gallery advertise in major art magazines, produce postcard mailings, work the internet and have a great website?  Does the director write articles, speak in public or publish catalogues?  Do they attend the major art fairs? You need to know how the gallery plans to expose your work to collectors.

7.      How are you treated when you go to the gallery? 

One of the best stories I’ve heard on this “due diligence” subject was from a sculptor.  One Saturday she put on an expensive outfit, armed with her wish list, and spent the day visiting ten galleries in Santa Monica.  She decided in advance that she would not mention that she was an artist looking for representation. 

At two of the ten galleries she visited the doors were closed.  There was no information on the door about their hours or how they could be reached.  (She crossed them off her list.) 

At three of the galleries she was greeted adequately by friendly people who knew absolutely nothing about the art on display, nor about any of the artists who created the work.  (She crossed these galleries off her list as well.) 

She was ignored completely at four of the galleries she visited.  The people working in the galleries didn’t even say hello to her and spent their time talking on the phone or working on the computer.  They never even looked at her!  (She didn’t like this at all and crossed them off her list, too.) 

At the tenth gallery she visited, however, she was greeted by a young man who was knowledgeable about the art.  He seemed interested in her and her reactions to the work.  He told her engaging stories about the artists and gave her additional information about the media the artists used to create the work.  He invited her to their upcoming reception, and asked her for her contact information to add to their mailing list.  She decided that, of the ten galleries on her original list, only this last gallery was worthy of her attention.

Remember that in your search for a gallery, one size does not fit all.  Each gallery is unique in its location, how it is run, and the style of art the director will accept.  Like the shrewd artist mentioned in the story above, before approaching a gallery you need to do some research to determine which gallery will be the best fit for you and your work.  

Source Note: 

SBA Website Quoted
: “Business Employment Dynamics Data: Survival and Longevity, II,” by Amy E. Knaup and Merissa C. Piazza, Monthly Labor Review, vol. 30, no. 9 (Sept. 2007), pp. 3-10; “Redefining Business Success: Distinguishing Between Closure and Failure” by Brian Headd, Small Business Economics, vol. 21, no. 1 (August 2003), pp. 51-61.

Margaret Danielak is an Art Rep and the author of artist handbook A Gallery without Walls (ArtNetwork Press).  She may be reached through her website at or  

Margaret is a keynote speaker at the upcoming THE ART OF SELLING... with or without a gallery workshop. Details on signing up may be found here.




Listed Articles

Top Ten Tips To Sell Your Art : A message to emerging Artists
by Fraser Kee Scott, Owner,
A Gallery, London, UK.


What to Look For When Looking for a Gallery
By Margaret Danielak, Artists Rep and Author


Would you print this list if it would help sell your art?






Would you print this list if it would help sell your art?


By Margaret Danielak © 2009

If you are an artist, one of the busiest times of year is the summer. You will be participating in classes, paint-outs and outdoor art shows. You may even take part in a charity fundraiser. Below is a special list to assist you in conversing with potential buyers of your work at any time, but especially at a fundraiser. 

THE LIST below entitled The Top Ten Reasons to Buy Art Today was posted on a board located at the entrance to a recent art show fundraiser benefiting the Mountains Restoration Trust in Calabasas, California.  My sister, Laura Peters, who works with the Trust, created the list with my mother, the artist Wilkie.  Many people commented on the list that day. Each artist sold at least one piece at the fundraiser and several artists believed it helped them close sales because it explained, in plain language, why one should buy art.  Some of the items on this list will make you laugh but some, I suspect, will become part and parcel of your ongoing sales strategy.

  1. 20% of the sales today will go to charity.
  2. You love it!  It makes your heart sing!
  3. You will make an artist happy!
  4. The artwork shows your love of nature and reflects your taste and personality. 
  5. The art covers a hole in your wall.
  6. The colors match your couch.  
  7. The painting recalls a happy place.
  8. You believe art is a tangible asset - a wonderful investment.
  9. You like the prestige of owning an original work of art.
  10. You can rotate the art on your walls.  (Art is not wallpaper!  You can change your art to correspond to the changing seasons.)
If you are participating in an outdoor art show this summer, or taking part in a charity function, you might wish to post this list.  If you forward it to others, kindly credit the creators, Laura Peters and Wilkie Stevens.    

About the author:  Art Rep Margaret Danielak is the author of the popular handbook for fine artists, A Gallery without Walls: Selling Art in Alternative Venues.  Her company, DanielakArt, currently represents an eclectic selection of artworks created by California based contemporary artists including Julie Snyder, Toni Scott and Linda French among others.   Ms. Danielak may be reached at or through The Art Engine.




  Sign-up for mailings facebook Twitter Updated: 05-Feb-2015 © 2013 TheArtEngine