Monday, February 27, 2012

Top 5 Mistakes Artists Make When Trying to Sell Their Artwork

After years of selling my artwork both online and off and talking to other artists, I've found that there are several common mistakes artists make when trying to sell their work. This list doesn't cover everything however, it does include the topics I am asked about the most. I've ranked them by order of importance.

1. Thinking that you don't need to have your artwork on the internet.
Most of the time artists will ask me, "Do I really need to have a web site? Collectors don't really buy art online do they?" My gut reaction is to grab them, shake them and shout, "Yes!" More than ever before collectors are buying art online.

Baby Boomers are very comfortable shopping on the internet. According to marketing research Baby Boomers respond to the use of email campaigns FaceBook and Twitter as sales tools. Gex. X-ers are on FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter and PinInterest looking for things that interest them and Gen. Y also uses social media as a shopping tool.

Imagine you have a painting or two in a group art exhibit and a collector sees your work. They love the style of your paintings in the show but they are looking for something larger. They write down your name to take home (or they take out their smartphone) and do a Google search on you and nothing comes up. You just missed a sales opportunity because you didn't have an online presence.

Aside from potential sales opportunities having an internet presence looks professional. Having a portfolio of work on your own web site is even better. It sends the message to potential collectors, gallery owners and other artists that you are more than just weekend artist playing around, you are seriously pursuing art as a career.

2. Believing that any one thing will generate sales.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard artists complain that they've had their work on a particular web site for X amount of time and they haven't had any sales. They then go on to use that as proof that collectors do not buy art online. Let's be perfectly clear, there isn't any one web site that will guarantee your success. You have to be responsible for your career, no one else. Y O U.

This is a good thing. There isn't anyone else in the world who is as invested in your success as you are. Not your spouse, your kids, friends and especially not a group of people who run an online sales site. That said, some sites truly do want you to succeed because the more sales you generate the more income they make as a result. The online sales venues that understand that will offer free marketing information to it's members, they will have responsive tech people who are happy to answer your questions and they will immediately blacklist a scammer who tries to take advantage of members.

Depending on a particular web site or group to market your artwork for you is a mistake. Art buyers are a very specific group. Once you figure out who your particular customer is you need to find ways of putting your work in front of them. If you depend on someone else to market your work they will most likely put it in front of an audience much wider than necessary. Internet sales sites like Ebay, Etsy, Zatista, etc. have a diverse group of sellers therefore, the audience they market to is broad. Pinpointing your customer within that group requires effort on your part. That may include things that aren't internet related such as attending art festivals, entering in juried art shows, joining local arts groups, mailing postcards to your collector mailing list and sending thank you notes to existing collectors.

3. Making either of the following excuses.
Have you neglected to get your work online because you aren't computer savvy? Sorry, I'm not going to sugar coat this because if I do then you won't take me seriously. No one cares. There, I said it, I'm sure I'll get a few angry comments over it but I would be doing you a disservice if I politely suggested that you might possibly want to consider, maybe figuring it out one day down the road.

While you are busy not figuring out how to get your work online there are 10 other artists who are. With YouTube, art marketing blogs, online community forums, Artists Helping Artists Blog Talk Radio and many other resources there really isn't any good reason for not figuring it out. Fine Art Studio Online offers affordable and easy to assemble web sites for artists and what sets them apart is their stellar tech support that is always there to help you if you run into a problem.

Don't have time to do your own art marketing? With two kids, one of which is still in diapers, I'm in that same boat. The way I handle it is to do at least one thing to market my artwork every day. Whether that's writing a blog post, reading an art-related article, uploading new work to my web site, posting to my FaceBook page or simply making a task list for the day/month/year. This keeps me from getting overwhelmed and gives me a feeling of accomplishment however small it may be. So even if you do one small thing a day, just imagine what you will get done within a year.

4. Making collectors jump through hoops to buy your art.
I buy art, I buy art both in person and online. I don't buy art from artists who don't list prices on their works online and off, who don't list shipping fees and who don't have any contact information available so that I can find out the above. I also don't buy art from artists who won't return phone my calls or emails.

I remember the first time I wanted to buy a painting. I saw the artist's work at a local outdoor show but didn't buy that day, I met the artist, I took his business card with his contact information. The next day I visited his web site to look at more of his work. He didn't have any option to buy directly off his web site so I sent him an email detailing where and when I met him and saw his work. I waited, no reply. I tried again and when I still heard nothing back I called, got his voicemail and left a message. He never called me back, never answered my email. Do I own one of his paintings? No and I never will.

If you don't make it easy to buy your art then you will miss a lot of sales opportunities.

5. Thinking that exposure equals sales.
We've all heard it and I'm guilty of saying it myself, "That show/opportunity is great exposure." My next questions is always, "Exposure to who exactly?" There are lots of art shows, festivals and other opportunities to display your work out there. Some require a fee and some don't. Before you throw your hat into the ring you should ask yourself who is attending the show or festival. If the answer is other artists, then the sales opportunities will be much more limited than if the show is attended by true art buyers. Yes, artists do buy art but typically not on the same scale as art collectors.

Now I'm not saying that exposure is a bad thing. Exposure can and will help you advance your career in other ways just don't make the mistake of thinking that exposure will result in increased art sales, that isn't always the case.

I hope this list is helpful. If you've been reading my blog for a while you might have noticed that I'm posting more information about the painting process and now this marketing article. I plan on writing about art related topics like this in addition to posting new work. I'd love to read your thoughts on this new direction.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gray Sky Over the Back Bay - Original Oil Painting - Landscape Art

"Gray Sky Over the Back Bay"
10" x 8"
Oil on Canvas Panel.
Available through my web site at

Here is another view of the Back Bay in Newport Beach, California. This scene is looking south toward the opening of the bay near the Pacific Ocean. The bay is a protected wetland area set right next to suburban Newport Beach. It is a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city.

There are a lot of things that I feel came together in this painting. Two of my personal favorites are the composition and the bold brushwork in the foreground. Usually, I find it challenging to paint when it's overcast but when I was working on this one it felt like it practically painted itself and I was just holding onto the brush.

If you are an artist and you are reading this then you know that we are our our toughest critics. I see it a lot in my students. They are working so very hard to improve that they loose sight of what they are doing that is working well. Many become discouraged. One way I've found to combat that is to first find an area in your painting that you are happy with. Every painting has at least one sweet spot. Recognize it, then repeat after me, "I really like this area in my painting because......." You'll find that instead of being discouraged, you'll have a mental list of things you do well. Of course, there will always be something else to improve on but, give yourself credit for the things you are doing right.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Back Bay Bluffs - Large Original Oil Painting of Wetlands

"Back Bay Bluffs"
18" x 24"
Oil on stretched canvas.
Available on my web site

This was created for a group show coming at the beginning of April at the Muth Interpretive Center in Newport Beach's Back Bay. It's a very informal show of paintings available for sale featuring the Back Bay.

The bay is a protected wetland and home to lots of birds, fish and occasionally a seal or two. The waterways are open to the Pacific Ocean. It is a beautiful and very peaceful place.

In creating this painting I used a smaller study for color information and composition, which I painted while actually at the Back Bay. The study is 8 x 10 inches. When working on a larger piece like this I find that after the initial block-in of shapes and colors I really don't need to refer to the study or a photo much after that.

When I was still a student and I would read blogs from other artists, statements like that would baffle me. I mean how could you create a finished painting without looking at SOMETHING? Now that I've gotten a few more years of painting experience under my belt, I get it now. At some point during your journey as an artist you realize that the view/person/still life you are looking at is not as important as the painting you are creating. After the initial stages of the process you find yourself responding to the needs of the painting itself and looking at the view/object/person less often.

Yes, I used a view in real life that I stood in front of to help create this but that view didn't dictate every decision I made in the painting process. For example, in the actual view, the swampy dark green grasses on the lower right had a brown patch of earth right in the center of them. I chose not to paint that in because that color change wouldn't have made sense visually AND it would have actually hurt the overall effect of my painting because that detail wasn't anywhere near my focal point.

My 8" x 10" study done outdoors (en plein air).

When it comes to working larger from a study or photo reference I've found that the larger version can be more successful if at some point I put my reference away. Then I can look at each area of my larger work and decide what might need to change or what details need to be added or taken away. In the large version of this painting the bluff on the left side is much lighter in value than the one in my initial plein air study, which you see above. I made the change even though I liked my small 8 x 10 study because I felt that changing the value would more accurately reflect what time of day it was.

Now when all is said and done, I do like both versions but for different reasons.

If you enjoy the large "Back Bay Bluffs" painting, I've entered it in the monthly Bold Brush painting competition and I'd appreciate it if you would hit the "like" button. Click here if you are so inclined.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Emerald Avenue - A Study - Original Oil Painting of Trees Along a Road

"Emerald Avenue"
8" x 6"
Oil on Linen Panel.
Available for a limited time on with a low opening bid and $15 shipping within the U.S.

This is another painting for the weekly challenge. The challenge was actually posted a long time ago but, I thought this was a good painting to demo. for my oil painting students to see since there are so many greens in this scene. Knowing how to mix different greens is critical for a landscape painter. Landscape painters are often confronted with scenes that are loaded with green and knowing how to make use of the colors on your palette is crucial to creating a successful painting. Another aspect to mixing greens is knowing how to mix both warm and cool versions so that you can create depth in your paintings.

For this challenge painting you can see that I kept all my warm greens in the foreground and then used cooler versions in the background. When it comes to mixing these colors it helps to think beyond the yellow + blue = green basics. This is where making your own color mixing chart can help you see how many different color combinations can be used to create green. If you've never created one, I recommend you do, it will be a tremendous learning tool that you will refer to time and again. To see how to create your own click here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Group Art Show at Copperwood Artware Gallery - Feb. 2012

I am pleased to announce that 2 of my paintings are hanging in Copperwood Artware Gallery's annual No Woman Stands Alone exhibit. The show hangs through February and features work by American fine artists and crafts people. If you are in the area, stop by for a peek at the show.

For store hours click the link below.

Copperwood Artware
148 A North Glassel
Orange, CA 92866

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Page Turner

"The Page Turner"
8" x 8"
Oil on canvas panel.

Available through

Last week my very talented friend Dana Cooper was invited to host the weekly painting challenge. Her challenge to all of us artists was to paint the seated figure.

When I was up in San Luis Obispo earlier this year for a painting trip I spotted this young woman sitting on a rock reading. I whipped out my camera because I didn't think she would sit still long enough for me to paint her right then. She was so intent on what she was doing that she didn't notice me snapping away with my camera. I loved her pose - bare feet, pats rolled to keep them out of the water, book clasped firmly in hands, long braid over her shoulder - I couldn't believe my luck!

For my painting I tried to keep it simple and really thought about each stroke before I put my brush on the canvas. I wanted to keep the strokes bold and fresh so I laid them down and did my best not to mess with them again. My favorite one is the highlight on the back of her arm from shirt sleeve to elbow. This was a fun challenge and I'm very glad Dana chose it!

I have to confess I am a bit behind in posting this. Life kept me away from my easel for a number of reasons (a couple of them live in my house and call me mom) but, I did it. Better late than never, right?