We're all capable of DREAMING BIG and most everyone does. Just look at the lotteries and the million dollar checks from Publishers Clearing House. Look at thousands of teenagers who spend hours on their neighborhood basketball courts dreaming of NBA careers. Consider how many folks sit at their computers and dream of starting a Microsoft, Apple or Facebook. Look at the hundreds of people with cash who dreamed Bernie Madov would make it into a REALLY BIG fortune. How many have seen their dreams turn into reality?

Lots of people are capable of THINKING BIG. They've attended multilevel “opportunity” meetings, clicked on the link to “Single mom in 'my town' makes $600 an hour, part time,” “Make a fortune in Real Estate with no money down,” or “Billions in Grant Money going begging.” Some have taken at least a few of the recommended steps investing time and dollars toward reaching BIG. And some have made it – there ARE “triple diamond” Amway distributors, and some savvy speculators own properties they bought for pennies at tax sales or foreclosures! There are more inspirational books, blogs and seminars on THINKING BIG than anyone could read or attend in a lifetime. Thinking, reading or attending isn't the key to BIG.  DOING is the difference.

As an art rep for more than twenty years, knowing many artists with big dreams and loads of talent, I've met quite few who went from DREAMING BIG to THINKING BIG. I've represented a few who went from THINKING BIG to MAKING IT BIG, by taking advice from the best and following through on what they were taught. The best of these experts, in my opinion, is Barney Davey, who gives practical, no nonsense, steps to success in his book HOW TO PROFIT FROM THE ART PRINT MARKET and, while keeping in mind that what constitutes success varies in scope with each individual and his circumstances.
If only I had Barney's book when I started my art career, I might be able to look you in the eye today and say, “I MADE IT BIG!” - while leaning on my Lamborghini Countach in front of my waterfront mansion and glancing at my Rolex watch.

The truth is, like most want-to-be-artists supporting a family, working to pay the mortgage and stay current with the bills - I NEVER MADE IT BIG. I also learned that HALF BIG or even a QUARTER BIG isn't that bad.
On the way to becoming owner of an ad agency, then building a business as an art rep, I learned THE ADVANTAGES OF THINKING SMALL – accomplishing one small goal, before moving on to the next, without spending time or stress concerned with how far I'd come to reaching BIG. I'm not claiming the way I did it is the best way to earning a living as an artist, but I can attest that any artists willing step outside of their “Comfort Cage“ by actually standing in front of a potential buyer and selling what they create, will find one sure way to earn a living. But, keep in mind, it's just one way.


This blog is a response to the following threads - very much worth reading:

•The Myth of Print Advertising: What Works? by Jack White ~ great comments & dialog @Fasobuzz •Hey - Was That A Door You Just Slammed in My Face? ~ lively reply to Jack White on print advertising

Hello Jack, Barney Davey, et all,

Friend Barney Davey, whom I consider a premiere art blogger with insights, advice and information every artist must have, pointed me to this interesting thread.

After spending a couple of years teaching art in public schools, I spent the next 20 years in advertising, eventually owning an ad agency. We were area representatives for most major Hollywood movie studios and did print ads every day, but also represented other ad and PR clients, including Playboy Magazine. We found we could sell most anything with “sex”, including luxury condominiums and motorcycles.

Circumstances led me to become an independent rep selling my own art, limited edition prints for major print publishers and for individual artists. This calling provided a comfortable living for my family for the next twenty plus years. You can listen to my podcasts – no charge – at: and see many examples of the wide variety of art I sold, mainly to Interior Designers, Architects and to some galleries on:

MANY ARTISTS HAVE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS about reps, galleries and advertising.  “If I just had a good art rep.” Or “If I just had a good gallery.” Or “If I just had the money to advertise,” the dollars would begin to roll in.

Here’s the sort of conversation I had dozens of times with artists showing samples of their art asking me to rep their work:.
ME: “Your paintings are lovely and I think they are salable.”
Artist: “I love to paint. If only I could just spend my time painting, I’d be in heaven.”
ME: “If someone paid you $1,000 a week just to paint, would that seem fair?
Artist: “I’d be thrilled beyond words! I’d paint even if I wasn’t paid – it’s something I have to do.”
ME: “It certainly shows. I especially like this tropical acrylic. How long did it take you to paint it?”
Artist: “About three hours – it was such fun!”
ME: “If I found a buyer for it, what do you think would be a fair price?”
Artist: “My gallery sold one similar to it for $900 but I got just $450. I’d like more, but $450 would be OK. It’s one of my best!”
ME: “How many of your paintings have they sold for about that price?”
Artist (hesitating): “Well, just the one.”
ME: “How many of your paintings has your gallery sold this year?”
Artist (hesitating): “Well, just that one.”
ME: “If you painted full time for $1,000 a week, that would equal $25 an hour for forty hours. If you spent three hours painting the acrylic, that adds up to $75. Would you still be thrilled if you got $75 and not the $450 you said would be fair?”

I met many artists and very few could claim earning $1,000 a week from their art. Some years I sold $25 - $30,000 worth of my own art, but if the art by another artist I repped was better for my client’s project, that was the art I really pushed. If you aren’t willing to put your client first don’t become an art rep.

PROBLEM? Most artists have no idea how the art business really works – who gets what and how much? They like to paint but don’t realize what the value of their talent is in the marketplace where money actually changes hands. They’ve seen stories about artists who sell everything they paint for thousands of dollars and say to themselves, often rightly, “My work is as good as theirs!” Just look around and see how many people are gifted with some degree of art ability. There are many mathematicians in the world, but only a handful of Einsteins. God gives art talent generously to many. But, only a few have established a reputation through years of hard work and tremendous personal involvement. I sold the work of many artists - many pieces a year for a few, but just a couple for most.

MY ADVICE AS AN ART REP: You are your own best salesman. Until you realize that and are willing to spend the time and effort to learn, practice and spend hours and dollars using as many of the multiple ways to promote your work as you can, whether personally, through print, galleries, reps, technology and social media, please continue to paint or draw and be thankful for your God given gift. Work hard, learn about your market, don’t get a “big head” and, perhaps, your time as a lion of the art world will come!

MY #1 PIECE OF ADVICE IS: YOU CAN’T SELL IT IF YOU DON’T SHOW IT. As an art rep I sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of quality “decorative” art each year to the most active of all art buyers, a group many artists overlook, by driving throughout the state of Florida to potential clients with portfolios of actual art. I knew what my “market” was and was in contact constantly.

NOTHING BEATS PUTTING THE REAL THING INTO THE HANDS OF A POTENTIAL BUYER to touch, examine closely and fall in love with. Used properly, all of the other ways to show art have a place, assuming you learn from experts (especially Barney) how to use them. My art career included years the Internet was just beginning to be considered a viable medium, but many of my clients weren’t yet familiar with it. I did use the “technology” of that time – broadcast fax - to reach almost 1,000 clients to let them know when I’d be in town and to ask if they were working on a project that needed art.

PERSONAL PERMISSION AND FACE-TO-FACE INTERACTION MAKES A DIFFERENCE! Every one of them I’d ask for permission before sending faxes and to get their fax numbers. Despite my ad background, I didn’t spend a dime on print ads, not because they weren’t attractive, but because I just didn’t have enough dollars to do it properly after paying all my rep travel expenses, insurance, phone, accounting etc. etc. from commissions I earned on actual art sales.

IIF YOU WANT TO USE AN ART REP BE WILLING TO PAY HIM for his time, professional contacts and experience, just as you would any other art professional such as a gallery owner or magazine publisher.

THE MORE ARROWS IN YOUR QUIVER, THE MORE LIKELY YOU’LL MAKE A SALE. . Incidentally, if there’s a hardworking artist out there who’d like to do what I did - sell his own art and from my remaining inventory on to earn a generous commission on anything he or she sells, please drop me an email at That’s another truth, straight from the “horse’s mouth” – one that’s been around the track more than a few times. How’s that for a couple of useful clichés in a row?


WRITE CLEARLY AND CONCISELY using “standard” English with proper spelling, grammar, descriptive vocabulary, correct punctuation and capitalization. Avoid slang, text message shortcuts or abbreviations. Proof read!

DEVELOP POISE, SELF-CONFIDENCE AND COURTESY in face-to-face situations. That includes dressing appropriately, being punctual, respecting the other person’s time and temperament and accepting a “NO” graciously.

GOOD TELEPHONE TECHNIQUE: Call at appropriate times for the customer. Identify yourself and the reason for your call when you are connected. Prepare in advance and know what you will say. Be businesslike and courteous. “Chatty” is for friends and family.

USE THE INTERNET, EMAIL, WEBSITE AND BLOGS: Learn all you can, polish your skills as time allows and use a variety of ways to reach your potential buyers.

No comments: