View Full Version : 5 Things that help to market and sell CP artwork

Katherine T
04-03-2005, 08:16 AM
We have a lot of people in this Forum who are experienced in:
marketing and selling coloured pencil artwork
more general marketing and selling
marketing though a particular medium eg websites
people wanting to know more about about how to market themselves efficiently and effectively as an artist working in coloured pencil and how to sell their coloured pencil artwork
We've had a few business issues for CP artists come up recently and some of the lessons learned may stay in the threads. So this thread is an opportunity to share your 5 TOP TIPS FOR MARKETING YOURSELF AND YOUR COLOURED PENCIL ARTWORK - basically anything and everything which helps you to generate a market for your artwork (originals and/or prints) and sell your work eg through marketing through websites / art fairs / whatever; working on a comission basis; selling through galleries.

Another way of looking at it is what helps to make the business end of things succesful for a coloured pencil artist.

We have a very informative and helpful Art Business Forum (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/channels.php?s=&channel_id=4) on this site which addresses a number of generic issues. BUT as we well know, not everybody out there appreciates coloured pencil art! So, try and make the tips specific to coloured pencil art rather than the more generic tip.

But do indicate what has helped you the most ie what works when marketing and selling coloured pencil artwork.

And for those who are new to thinking about marketing and selling - but wanting to know more - please indicate what you want to know about.

I hope you will all find this a useful thread - I have high hopes!


04-03-2005, 11:31 AM
5 TOP TIPS FOR MARKETING YOURSELF AND YOUR COLOURED PENCIL ARTWORK - basically anything and everything which helps you to generate a market for your artwork (originals and/or prints) and sell your work eg through marketing through websites / art fairs / whatever; working on a comission basis; selling through galleries.

Great idea Katherine, I look forward to the replies!


04-03-2005, 09:38 PM
I'm just bumping this back up to the top. I don't have any tips myself, but I sure would love to get some tips!

Karen Cardinal
04-03-2005, 09:55 PM
I don't really have any tips that would be specific to cp work.

I get 99% of my commissions through word of mouth. When I was first building up a customer base I used to take my pencils and my sketchbook (which had a few completed pieces already drawn in it) to the mall or downtown and sat down in the busiest area I could find and started sketching the people as they walked by. I would have 2 or 3 completed peices, a couple in progress pieces and my blank sketchpad where I was making gesture drawings.

I would always get a few people who came up to see what I was doing. They always seemed to show a great interest in it all (I know it sounds strange but there are a lot of people out there who aren't even artists ;) ). Of course I also had plenty of buisness cards on hand to pass out to everyone... and when I got them out of my pocket to give one to someone, I'd just sit them down on the floor / bench beside my sketches that way everyone could take one.

I got quite a few commissions that way and lots of free advertising.
A word of caution though... Don't do something like this in a mall if they sell booth space to artists. Once our mall started doing that I would go outside the mall to sketch.

PS: A really great website made by a talented designer never hurts either. ;)

04-03-2005, 10:07 PM
I attended a marketing seminar last October and paid good money to go. The team of marketers was an artist-husband and wife team. They had many valuable pointers about how any artist needed to market him/herself. Let me list a few of them for you who did not have the benefit of taking this seminar.

1. Take yourself seriously - no FREE work (including and especially family)
2. Produce related pieces under a theme to help get your head around the kind of art you do (this helps curators, salesmen figure out who your audience might be)
3. Always, always carry a binder of some kind to show your work to potential contacts
4. Binder needs to have 1..pictures 2..copies of any news clippings that you may have 3..business cards 4..postcards with examples of work or announcements of shows in future or past 5..flyers annoucing the production of a new "line of works"
5. Be friendly. You never know who you are talking to in places like a line for a plane, a place where people congregate. Salvador Dali can afford to be aloof. We cannot. Be accessible.

OK, that's my five. Hope it helps.


04-03-2005, 11:32 PM
Like Karen, I end up with most of my commissions through word of mouth, though I did get a couple of jobs by attending an art fair last year. There are two things that annoy me the most about this method (maybe more if I think about it).

1) Why can't I ever get paid to draw what I want to draw, instead of someone's kids/ dog/ house/ combination of all three? Word of mouth always involves someone asking me to create a replica of some object beloved to them but utterly unartistic to me. ("And when you draw Timmy, could you make his hair shorter and remove the booger from his nose?")


2) Can't get no respect! For colored pencils, that is. I live in a fairly rural area (okay, I admit it, I live in the armpit of the MidAtlantic area), and the prices that people are willing to pay for a colored pencil work of mine versus an acrylic or oil painting of mine. . . well, it's pathetic. And the time devoted to the colored pencil work is often far more than the painting, too.

Anyone who possibly can offer a solution to these things, PLEASE let me know, sheesh!

Karen Cardinal
04-04-2005, 01:19 AM
I can definately simpathize with you Maggie... on both fronts.

Commissions can get to you sometimes. It really is important to save yourself some time each month to create something just for yourself.
If there is any way possible (and I know there isn't always) take your own reference photos for your work. You will be much more satisfied with what you are drawing / painting if it's based on a photo you've composed yourself. :D

As far as convincing galleries and buyers that colored pencils are a "real" medium... It is so much better than it was 10 years ago, largely thanks to Vera Curnow and the Colored Pencil Society of America. Bob Ebdon and the great people of the UKCPS are doing the same thing for Europe.
The problem is that colored pencils are such a new medium for artists (barely 100 years old) that we still have a lot of work to get the word out about what colored pencils can do.
The best you can do is keep hounding gallery owners, contest judges and sponsors, as well as collectors and interested buyers that colored pencils are an amazingly versitle medium which truly allows the artists the freedom to express themselves.

Keep doing what you're doing and remember to share your enthusiasm for the medium. Remember enthusiasm is one of the few good things people can catch from you. ;)

04-04-2005, 09:40 AM
Yes, the only thing that I see as unique in marketing cps to marketing art, in general, is that we need to explain it's legit.

Weezy, I disagree about giving art away. That's how I got started on my commissions. I volunteered to draw, mat and frame dogs of friends and family in exchange for allowing them to be my web samples, and told them how much I would charge everyone else. My first commissions came from friends of friends, etc., who saw my work in our mutual friend's house.

04-04-2005, 09:54 AM

What I said about giving art away is what the double marketing team said. I do not adhere to this philosophy either. Its just what I paid to hear. Its another point of view. I can see where this might have saved Nicole some grief on her last piece. Ultimately you have to get your stuff out there if you are going to get 'known' at all.

I just gave my Karen piece to my friend Karen as a housewarming gift to celebrate her divorce, new life and new home. (Not that I feel that divorce is something to clelebrate, just for her, it was) The upshot of that, is that several people at the party want to have pieces done and it might develop into one or more commissions. Who knows? That wouldn't have happened without the gift. I was lucky, Karen said it was the single nicest gift anyone had ever given her. (Everybody should have such an appreciative friend)

So, you need to get your stuff out to be viewed. If family is your only venue, so be it. But at some point, you have to draw a line.(bad pun) If you are going to be professional, you have to value your own stuff as professional. You have to at some point stop the freebies.

Besides, Robin I'm sure you could use an additional sister to your family right??? :evil: :wink2:

04-04-2005, 10:20 AM
Ha, ha!

Yes, I agree. I decided in advance that I would pick my "freebie" recipients...based on their dogs, and the likelihood I'd pick up paid work from them.

04-04-2005, 11:16 AM
The February, 2004 issue of Art Calendar contained an excellent article by Ann Kullberg on how she went about building her career. It is informative and sobering because it took Ann years before she was able to support herself and her two children from her artwork. It's a worthwhile read even if you're not hoping to make colored pencil the major source of income. I've written Carolyn Proeber to see whether she would give her permission to have the article reprinted here.

Aside from the excellent ideas already given by several people, I'd like to add a few of mine as they pertain to colored pencil artists.

Karen brought up the Colored Pencil Society and I would add, if you're not yet a member, become a member and where possible join a nearby district chapter. As part of an organization you can participate in group exhibitions and the group adds weight to the validity of colored pencil as a fine art medium. I've been a member of my district chapter for a little over a year and participated in several shows and have sold three of my works at them.

Join your county or municipal arts council, as well. As a member of my arts council, The Pocono Arts Council, I can have solo exhibitions each year in two of the eight corporate galleries available to us. Each exhibition is for a one month period. The venues include several restaurants, a bank, a law firm's public space, and a medical center's public space.

As Weezy pointed out, be consistant and develop a body of work that has coherence. Know what you like to do best. Is it still life, landscapes, florals, etc? Don't jump all over the place. Nicole's cafe series is an excellent example of the right way to go about it.

It is easier to sell smaller works and, since cp is such a time intensive medium, why not take advantage of that fact. You can get a better return on your time pricewise, per square inch, on a smaller piece than a large one. Stay somewhere between 5 x 7 and 9 x 12 maximum. I recently took one of my larger pieces, 14 x 18.5, to a local frame shop to have a new mat cut for it. The owner, who also runs a gallery, said that if I had any smaller pieces in the same vein she would be interested in showing them. What the heck, I like doing fruits and vegetables!

Entering exhibitions can be expensive but compiling a history of having been juried into many of them will give your artwork a definite legitimacy that's hard to beat. Don't let rejections stop you from perservering. If you live in the U.S., Art Calendar's $37.00 subscription fee is well worth the price. Each month you'll get countrywide listings of exhibitions. In addition, it has informative articles on the business side of art. Jack White's pragmatic articles on marketing your artwork is worth the subscription price, alone.

If your artwork has some local significance, or is timely, look to get it into your local newspaper's art section. It's the cheapest form of advertising.

That's all for now - if I can think of other ways to bore you I'll post them.


04-04-2005, 11:28 AM

What an oustanding message! On this message alone I am going to rate this thread! Thank you.

There's a lot in what you have to say. Groups such as a district chapter of CPSA give you a forum to display other than your family's walls.

Thanks a lot.

04-04-2005, 05:28 PM
Thanks for those kind words, Weezy.


Katherine T
04-07-2005, 03:29 AM
Just bumping this back up the top - mainly to remind me to write something this evening when I get in!

Any other contributions - Sanford's was great!


04-07-2005, 06:40 AM
WOW! A lot of great input on this thread. I'd like to address a couple issues.

Maggie - You had two concerns; 1) You asked why you can't get paid to draw the things you want. I think this starts with marketing your interests. In my case I happen to like classic cars. First I built up enough classic car illustrations to show in public. I targeted the local car shows, worked a deal with many area car clubs swapping ad space in club news letters for 10% donation from commissions from club members (If a year goes by with no commissions I've spent "zero" on the ad space. If I get a few commissions I simply donate 10% back to that club). I love dogs, so I also enjoy doing pet portraits. I market my pet portraits in the same manner - just this month I have a full-page ad in "The New York Dog" magazine. As a result I never find myself illustrating subjects I'm not happy doing.
2) The "Can't get no respect! For colored pencils" issue - This one's a little tougher, but can be done. When I'm out doing shows I'm not finding people ever questioning the legitamacy of my medium - not to say this doesn't happen sometimes/somewhere - just that I haven't had it happen yet. Guess I've been lucky. However, I think if people are impressed with or drawn to my work for whatever reason and they see that I treat my artwork as serious a business, I think the attitude lends a bit to the legitamacy of the colored pencil medium.

Sanford - You had a lot of good advise and valuable input, as did others. Thanks. I'm going to check back to this thread often and if I can think of anything more to add, I will.


04-07-2005, 10:49 AM
Excellent input, Dan! I think that we have a tendency to be a bit apologetic about our medium and thereby feed into the "legitimacy" issue when it may never have occurred to the viewer. For the record: There's a piece of colored pencil art hanging in, I believe, the British Museum done by David Hockney. I'd call that legitimacy!


04-07-2005, 10:59 AM
I absolutely LOVE Hockney's work! What is the title please, do you remember?

To my way of thinking any mark made by man with the intent to communicate is art, and legitimate art at that. Are the caves at Lascaux any the less art because the pigment wasn't oil???

This business of what is art and what isn't, is what caused the Salon des Refuses that started the Impressionist movement. We inherently find some forms more appealing than others. It differs from person to person. But that doesn't mean that its not art, just cause the artist used a media we (figuratively speaking) don't like. Are colored pencil pieces art? You bet your booty they are!

What's saleable yesterday will not be tomorrow. Markets change and tastes change and it could be that what you produced yesterday will not sell tomorrow or it may be the hot biscuit that is seen once and sold immediately. So let's all get out there and quit apologizing for our media and start promoting our art.

Rule #1 - quit apologising and start promoting!

04-07-2005, 11:48 AM
I have had only one person in seven years boohoo colored pencils. And he had not seen any of my work so big raspberry to him!! :evil: ;) I mostly hear *that's colored pencil? You're kidding!* I just love that reaction! My biggest joy is simply getting my stuff out there and talking to ppl. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I am not going to retire on revenue from my art. I totally argree tho when it comes to joining clubs. I have been meaning to join the CPSA and just haven't done it yet. And Dans advice on going to where the intrest in your particular subjects go is right on. If Dan or George took their work to a rodeo I am sure it wouldn't go over as big. And zeroing in on what you love to paint is a great suggestion too. My sibs and mom are always trying to get me to paint landscapes. sigh I love landscapes but that isn't my strong suit. When you paint what you are inspired by it shows in the end. wanda

04-07-2005, 12:33 PM
I agree Wanda. That's the only thing that makes me apprehensive about doing commissions. What if I get asked to paint something that I am totally uninspired by? I know what I am like if I have to do a picture that I am not in the least inspired by, and that could mess with my reputation. Definitely, we need to stick with the type of picture we are inspired by, and market it by going to the people who have the same interest.

I am currently trying to build my own collection so that I have paintings to show to prospective clients, so I am not selling anything on purpose. But to promote myself, I plan on going around to vet clinics and asking to hang pictures with my cards on their waiting room walls, then rotate them periodically so the same ones are not there for long periods of time. We also have a lot of dog, cat, and horse shows here (I live just 18 miles from the state capital & state fairgrounds). I go and take my own ref shots (with the owner's permission) and I get the names, addresses, and email addresses of the owners so I can send them a glossy print (from my own computer) or a small rough print out of the final painting IF and WHEN I finish the painting. There is no contract, no "I will definitely paint your pet" or anything. I just take photos of the subjects by which I am inspired. The owners are always thrilled that I want to do that and happy to give me their info. Of course, if they want to purchase the painting afterwards, I probably wouldn't argue. :wink2:

Becoming familiar with the staff at your local art store doesn't hurt either. If they like you and are interested in your work, they can do wonders for promoting you. Most art stores have programs like "Artist in Action," or weekend classes/workshops taught by local artists. This gives you the opportunity to display your work to others interested in art, and if the store is in a high volume area, such as a mall, then it exposes you to others who typically wouldn't go into an art store. I've even had one of my local art stores offer to display my art in their store and sell it.

I love the advice of going out into the public and painting while there, having examples of your work to show interested people. I tend to always work from photos, but I tape my ref pic and wip on foamboard, then I can take it anywhere with me and work on it. When people look over my shoulder to see what I'm doing, they can see the ref pic I'm working from as well as my wip (I usually only bring out wip's that are closer to being finished and are past the "ugly" stage, so people can see how closely it resembles the ref pic). I've had a lot of people say they can't believe it's done in colored pencil and how in the world did I do it. Nice opportunity for a little art lesson. :) Most people have been blown away by Cade's portrait (including my brother, who never knew I did anything like this). When they find out how long it takes, how many layers of color, etc., they are impressed and understand why the price is so high. My only question is: How do you trapse about with your finished paintings and keep them safe and unharmed? I try to get mine framed as soon as I can to keep them safe. Whenever I bring them about with me, I worry so much about them getting ruined.

I'm planing on joining the arts council in Shiloh when we get there and exhibiting there. I have found I just have to compete with the oil and watercolor painters on their own level. Usually, if someone sees our work next to an oil or wc painting, they would never guess it's cp!

Another little note. I also take advantage of kids and animals playing outside and ask if I can take their pictures to use for ref pics for a painting. The parents are always very interested in that and start to talk to me about commissions. I also go to public gardens and zoos and take loads of pics, and if there is a specific kind of picture I want to do and need models for it, I ask my friends, often those at church, if they would pose for me. I have never had anyone say no and I always show them the painting afterwards. I have quite a reference library now. I have also made smaller paintings that are of a more general interest to the public, but still of photos by which I am inspired. I also look carefully at the prints stores and restaurants have on their walls, just to see what style they like to display. Sometimes it gives me ideas or inspiration.

Okay, I'll stop jabbering now. I'm real new at this, so I'm experimenting in all kinds of ways to promote myself and attempt to make money, but to do it "my way" instead of other people's ways (if that makes sense) so I can enjoy my new found love.

04-07-2005, 12:46 PM
Well, I don't think it's necessarily that people have questioned the legitimacy of my colored pencil and graphite art (I actually consider myself to be most proficient at graphite), it's just that I live in a redneck & retiree capital (a fascinating and horrible combination, a little like brussels sprouts and salt herring) and they seem to regard anything not on a canvas as something that ought to be pretty cheap. I mean, it's on paper, right? Little Dickie draws on paper too! Whoooaaa, that's 40 bucks! You must be from the city, aren't you?

Wow, the extent of my bitterness only becomes apparent to me when written down. I need to move!

04-07-2005, 04:06 PM
Sorry, Weezy, I don't recall the name of the Hockney piece. I did a search on the British Museum's website but only came up with a lithograph by him. I was probably mistaken about it being the British Museum, but it definitely was a British museum. Not much help, I know. I'll keep scratching my brain to see if I can recall where I came across the info.


PS: Piper2 - it's not confined to "rednecks and retirees". there's a definite hierarchy, in the art world, to mediums and the prices each commands and OIL is king.

04-07-2005, 04:19 PM
LOL - Weezy go to (Discussion Thread) Links to websites of C P Artists. On the last page, Katherine just posted three colored pencil (crayon) works by David Hockney.


Katherine T
04-07-2005, 06:49 PM
Right - having started this I better do a post! :D

Tip One: Know your market. I've always made a point of going round exhibitions armed with a pen, marking up the catalogue as I move through the exhibition with:

what sold
what size it was (see Tip Two)
how much it sold for (gives you some pointers for your own artwork)
name of artist (and then look at their website later - see Tip Three)
what the subject matter was (see Tip Four)
At the end I also make a note of what didn't sell (usually portraits - only really seem to sell through commissions; pictures of people who could be anybody are different). I also do the same thing with people's websites and internet sales galleries - and it enables you to draw some interesting conclusions!

The basic purpose of all of this research is about making life easy for myself in terms of knowing whether I'm doing a piece for me or for 'stock'. If you're going to market your artwork, you might as well know what sells well in your market. On the other hand, simply because a particular type of work sells well doesn't mean to say there isn't room for innovation. Very few artists do landscapes - as I was told when I arrived in this forum(! ;) ) - but I love doing landscapes and that's what I aim to do. And if landscapes sell in pastels (and they do) I don't see why they shouldn't in CP - especially the way I do them.

Tip Two: In the UK 'small' sells better than 'big'. Purely to do with the size of our houses and the amount of spare wallspace art collectors have. I love painting 'big' but have taught myself how to enjoy painting 'small'! And interestingly, I think I'll probably focus on doing small CP and large pastels from now on - especially when CP on Wallis looks like pastel anyway!

And building up a stock of small work makes it easier to move around the house!

Tip Three: Your website is your portfolio A number of you may have noticed I don't have a website. That's because I'm still designing and constructing it. And the reason I'm not rushing it is first impressions count - I'd rather take longer and have it the way I want it than rush it and not have the rest of the marketing 'in gear' as it were. Having had a lengthy break from commercial art, it's interesting to come back and realise that you need a website rather than a portfolio these days.

I still haven't decided whether it's better to make a thing out of the CP on the website or focus on the pictures and wait for people to work out that it's CP. Which is one of the reasons that the website is not finished! Any tips / views / comments - I'd be grateful

A few of us hang around in Art Business - and there's a forum in there for Internet strategies - so if you want tips about working with websites or maybe even some feedback on what your new website looks like, it's a good place to start Internet sales strategies (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=70)

Tip Four - develop a recognisable style and galleries with a theme. People need to remember who you are. They'll do that much more easily when you have a consistent style and a consistent interest. Take a look at what other people are doing. There's no one right way of tackling CP and there's quite a variety of styles and techniques out there. However, what's interesting about CP is that it has tended to focus on a few subjects - florals / still life / portraits / animal portraits. So decide whether you want to 'go with the flow' or 'strike out on your own'. On the whole, I've been a lot happier since I found my 'own style' and 'do my own thing'.

Tip Five - before you hit the financial jackpot get some good tax advice and keep good records! If you're business-like you can have business expenses. But don't get carried away! And in the UK you can also carry a loss forward if you incur a lot of expense initially. You can also do a very simple tax return - one liners for income and expenses where turnover is below a certain amount. I have a box which all my expense receipts go in (start collecting them now if you think you want to show / sell in the future) and I keep separate detailed records of all sales. Watch out for complications if you're showing abroad re local taxes.

And finally, start reading posts in the Art Business Forum (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=77)now and again - and you'll learn an awful lot about the common pitfalls / scams / rip-offs etc which you also need to avoid

Hope this helps


04-07-2005, 07:54 PM
Gosh, I have been much too busy lately and haven't gotten to read much in the forum. Thank you Katherine for starting this thread. :)

Well I don't have any advice - but I am trying something this year and will keep you all posted on how well it goes. I've been trying to make a cohesive collection of work that relates and is fun for me to do, which means I've been working big. I think big is good for competitions, but as some has said not for selling. So, I had professional prints made, and am going to try and sell them at fairs this summer. It was a lot of money, but I decided now or never and dove in. I had them printed in two sizes one more affordable size and one actual size on both canvas and paper. I have to say the ones on canvas are incredible and you can't really tell what the original medium was. My printer just actually wrote me an email asking me what I use to fix my pastels - which I of course replied that they are all colored pencil!

I just got everything back from the printer and have been framing and packaging the prints for a SMALL fine art fair this weekend which I am not expecting to get sales from, but I will get some reactions. I also had postcards made and started sending them out first to the local frameries and the businesses that are portrayed in my work. I put my website address on them, an announcement of a group of work and a short calender of events for the summer. Next round of postcards, would be to galleries, but I think I need more work stocked up, so I will be doing some similar smaller works next. I would be happy just to do fairs though if the prints sell well at them. :)

Ah - I'm just telling you all all of this because it is all an experiment that I am trying this year... I will let you all know how it goes!

Commissions - hmmm, after my most recent experience, I'm not sure if I want to venture there! :rolleyes:


04-08-2005, 06:35 AM
I know I'm repeating myself, but everyone here has so much great input!

Katherine - Your going about the production of your website the right way. The last thing people want to see is dead links or "Page Under Construction". Taking the time to get the design where you want it prior to going public is a good move. One thing I did prior to uploading my site was to borrow a laptop and load my site content to it. I took it to work and to a club meeting one night and asked if people wouldn't mind navigating through my site and providing impartial feedback. Some very valuable tips were given to me by this process. I purposely avoided showing it to close friends or relatives because I felt I would get too many possitive comments and not enough of critique.

Nicole - Sorry about your recent experience with a commission. Is that a subject you had posted before? I wasn't aware. Good luck with your newly formed plans for the coming year, I hope you keep us in the loop.

I've heard a few times throughout this thread regarding apprehension to get into doing commissions - understandable. None the less, don't hesitate if you have ever wanted to try it. I'll admit, I feel like an oddball sometimes because I'm at the other end of the spectrum - I've been working solely on commission for almost ten years. In those ten years I can count on less than five occasions being asked to create an artwork that was out of my field of interest. In every case it was someone asking if I could do portraits (people). In every case I simply explained that people were not my strong-point and that I didn't do them for that reason. It is hard sometimes to turn down work, or should I say - the money. However, I think it was better for me in the long run to remain focused on the subject matter I was passionate about because that is where my best work is produced. Another thing I don't want to ever convey is that I may be a "starving artist". Whether I am or not - I would never let a potential client know it.

Here's the down side of my situation (working only on commission) - I have little to no original artwork in my possesion. If I had an opportunity to get into a gallery...............well - what would I show? I personally need to create a better ballance between commissions and my own personal work.


04-08-2005, 08:35 AM
I still haven't decided whether it's better to make a thing out of the CP on the website or focus on the pictures and wait for people to work out that it's CP. Which is one of the reasons that the website is not finished! Any tips / views / comments - I'd be grateful

My opinion is that it is not neccessary to emphasize that your work is colored pencil, so why do it? It won't sell your work, your work will sell itself. I wouldn't hide the fact that it is colored pencil either though. :)


04-08-2005, 08:55 AM
I love doing commission, too, but I've also started doing work "for me", that is, stuff that I might be able to sell elsewhere that I just feel like doing. I have opportunities I haven't been able to take advantage of.

I've been painting in oils, also and am going to offer both on my website. I don't think I'll bother specifically identifying which is which, but if asked, of course, I'll tell them. I think style is what customers buy, not medium.

04-08-2005, 09:45 AM
1) Pricing. IMO, pricing correctly is the cornerstone of marketing.

The very best way to price work is to do what Katherine does, go around and look at work in person...and look on the internet. Many galleries are online, many artists are too.

Find your cohorts and see what they are charging. Because the correct way to price art is to figure out where you stand in the market (how much folks are willing to pay you for your work)...not how long it takes you, or your overhead, or what profit you want, or any other formula like that.

It doesn't matter if it takes you 100 hours or 10, it is the result that matters to buyers. I have never heard of someone buying a piece they didn't love because it took a long time. Or decide NOT to buy a piece that they loved and wanted to put over their buffet because it didn't take long enough. Not from my customers or from any of the consistently SELLING artists I know.

Van Goghs don't sell for a fortune because he took so long, his overhead was high and he wanted to make the same per hour as a LA divorce lawyer. Nor are successful living painters making big bucks because they are slow.

In brutal terms: if you spend 500 hours on something nobody buys at your price...it's truly worth... zero.

2) Don't over charge. Because once you charge $X for an 8 x 10, you can't ethically sell charge the next person less....even if you realize you really can't sell the quantity you want for $X.

3) Don't undercharge. You will look like a chump who has no clue about his/her profession, at best. Find the middle ground.

4) Err on undercharging, slightly. You can always raise your prices, but can't lower them. I've raised my prices in the year and a half I've done commissions 3 times, and began offering bigger, more costly pieces.

5) Buy a Jack White marketing book cd. Tremendous inspiration and helpful hints, especially for self-taught's like me. I read and re-read his book often. Those of you who get Art Calendar are familiar with Jack, who had made giant bucks painting and started with a second-hand art kit shortly after literally losing a fortune, selling his first painting for $10!

04-08-2005, 10:32 AM
Katherine - Very well thought out and excellent advice!

As far as size goes - I've read quite a few articles, recently, from artists who find that it's much easier for people to part with $100, $125, or $150 than the $500 and up for larger works. This seems to be especially true if one is showing in resort areas where people might be looking for a gift to bring back for "Aunt Bea" or as a memento of a vacation.

You're absolutely right about having your ducks all in a row before putting up your website. For some time now, I've felt that I should not be including the photography on the same site as my cp work. In addition, my website violates your rule #4 in that there is no coherent body of work - something that, unfortunately, isn't likely to change very soon.

The business advice is also well taken - you want to avoid problems with the taxing authorities, whether on either side of the Atlantic or Pacific, for that matter.

Robin - You're absolutely right! If you spend 50 hours on a 5 x 7 you'll be lucky to get $2.00 an hour for your efforts. Also excellent advice on overcharging and undercharging - neither works to your benefit.

Nicole - you may not be calling it advice but what you're doing certainly makes a lot of sense. Please do keep us posted on what works and what doesn't.


Karen Cardinal
04-08-2005, 11:08 AM
Lots of great advice here!

I had posted some advice from Vera Curnow in Nicole's commission thread that I always use to keep me motivated and on the right track.

I've also found that doing things in steps worked best for me and many of the artist I've talked to. Don't try to do everything at once or even worry about the things you haven't done yet. Live in the now and worry about what you are doing today.

Many artists have found it best to begin with simply making local connections and getting your name known in the artist's community. Join local art organizations and go to all the meetings. It's also great to join national art organizations which cater to your medium and / or subject matter.

If you decide to go the commissions route, the freinds and connections you've made will be a great help to you in finding the right places to advertise yourself.

If you decide to get your work galleried, you will definately depend on the input of your local artists. They can help advise you what each gallery owner looks for in a portfolio and resume. Start in the small local galleries and once you're ready for the bigger ones, you'll know it.

My advice would be to make friends who know what they're doing and who you can talk to over a cup of coffee... enjoy creating your work (or why would you do it)... and don't get caught up worry about what to do in five years, just go out there and do what you need to do right now... in five years, things will change and you'll be ready for it. :D

04-08-2005, 11:33 AM
I think it's great to have a goal for the future, but yes, working it is a day by day thing that requires flexibility.

For instance, I was pretty sure I would enjoy commission work. I started out drawing humans. Then I did a Kids and Their Pets project here at WetCanvas, and from that piece I got my first "stranger" commission...which was for their dog! From that dog, came more...I realized that the path I was on was the dog portraits! I love dogs, so no problem there, but I was also open to the path that opened in front of me.

Karen Cardinal
04-08-2005, 11:47 AM
Yes, much like college, there are a few people who will set their goals and declare a major and that's what they end up doing forever. Some like me change their major 3 times then end up doing something completely different when they get older and still keep switching around every few years. ;)

Everyone needs something a little different to reach their full potential. For me, I need as many artist friends as I can possibly get. I have a couple at the local college that are simply invaluable.

Of course the freinds I've made on-line have helped more than I can express as well. :D