I want to write about selling art, and just how damn hard it is. I had a couple of conversations just in the last week with different artists about this topic. I think the making of art is easy - the selling is the hard part. Does selling make you more successful as an artist?
I guess when I think of successful, I think of making a living with my art. That doesn't have to mean selling large fine art pieces at millions of dollars. It means being paid for what I do, and being paid enough that I can call it a job. The cool part is that there are so many ways to make money doing this job. I have found if I put all my effort into one kind of art and one kind of selling I don't do as well as I would like. I am searching for many ways to capitalize on my skill.
I feel like working as an artist is so hard because so many people have devalued what we do. I hear comments all the time like "I could do that" and "why does it cost so much?" If anyone else was asked to do a job for 6 hours only to be paid $30 they would tell you to go fly a kite. Somehow, though, since we love our jobs we are asked to do it for free. It isn't even just the putting paint on a canvas - it is the prep time, the planning, the gathering materials, the sitting at booths, the constructing, the networking, the emails, the hanging show after show after show.......This needs to change.
Now, there are some wonderful people in the world who do understand. These people are willing to pay $150 for a small painting because they know the work that goes into a piece of art. Maybe they are an artist, or maybe they know one and have seen the hard work, endurance, and sacrifice first hand. Yes, we love the work, and it is work.
I have heard other artists talk about how they don't like galleries because a gallery will take at least half the money from a sale of art. On the surface this doesn't seem fair. The more I think on it, though, I feel like it is fair. Making the art is only half the job - selling is the other half. Selling doesn't just mean ringing up a sale in a cash register; selling means building relationships with people, wonderful customer service, and following up. It is a different set of skills that are just as important in our capitalist society. My skills to make art are valuable, and someone else's skills to sell art are just as valuable. If I were able to find someone willing to partner with me to sell my art, why wouldn't I? I heard in a podcast or something by Ned Hallowell that it is a good idea to outsource what you aren't good at or don't like doing. For me, selling is definitely one of those things.
If you are an artist starting out, I would like to tell you that it doesn't get easier. You just have to get better at it.