Yes, I know you just want to create art, but the truth is, until you have built a client base eager to buy your work, part of your time will have to be spent in selling what you create. You can't sell it, if you don't show it. You can't show it until you identify potential buyers willing to look.

That means carefully considering whom your art is most likely to appeal to and doing research to find out where, when and how they buy. Does your work fall into the "decorative art" category or is it more specialized? Interior designers and architects buy a great deal of art. Some specialize in residential projects, some in commercial assignments such as banks, businesses, hotels, golf clubs, medical offices or hospitals.

If your specialty is painting motorcycles or animal portraits, you'll be spinning your wheels concentrating on reaching interior designers, but there are many motorcycle clubs and dealers who may be interested. There are also veterinarians, pet shops and animal shelters, each of which may be able to guide you to owners who want a pet portrait.

Does your work measure up to the competition? Does it have a distinctive difference that makes it more attractive, more affordable or easier to buy? Can you tell or show potential buyers how and why your art is special in words or text? Can you describe that difference on your website or blog or when you are face-to-face with potential buyers?


The art I carried in my portfolios was unframed and many of the professionals I sold to custom framed the images for their clients. Many had established relationships with favorite framers, but some did not and others were looking for reasonably priced poster images for specific jobs. I established a trade relationship with a large volume, wholesale framing company in my area and carried several poster catalogs from major publishers. The framer provided a case with frame and mat samples, which I carried with me, and an excellent discount on any framing orders I brought to him. If one of my clients needed framing for a piece of art I sold or wanted to order framed posters, I was ready to provide that service. I was able to add a comfortable mark-up to what I paid for framing and still offer a competitive price for my customers. I was, essentially, an unpaid, traveling rep for his company and he gave me great service and in-house pricing. I bought as much as $50,000 worth of framing from him in some good years and added real income to my bottom line. Of course, I was responsible for collecting for the framing and usually had to deliver the framed art, but it was well worth the effort.

If you visit potential art buyers in person as part of your sales effort, I’ll bet you can find a framer in your area who will offer the same sort of arrangement, or at the very least, a discount you can pass on to your customers. Even if you do not take orders as I did, ask if he would provide a discount coupon you can give to the buyer of your art if he or she chooses to bring the art to your framer. That thoughtfulness can bring future purchases of your art.


Sharpen your focus on customers you haven’t concentrated on before. In the decorative art market, when real estate is booming and developers are trying to keep up with the demand for new homes, design firms specializing in model homes are a great potential market. Accessory buyers for furniture stores and many galleries are looking for art to meet the demand of new homeowners. About eighty-five percent of the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of sales I made each year were to interior designers and architects, a huge market many artists overlook, and about 15% to galleries and frame shops.

When the real estate market contracts or is near collapse, as it is today in many parts of the country, artists should ask themselves, “Who’s still buying?” Having lived through a number of downturns in the art market as an art rep with a family to support, watching some galleries and design firms that had been good customers close their doors, one truth helped me refocus my efforts: People with money, always have money.That meant redoubling my efforts to search out and contact “high-end” and specialized designers with clients who continued to buy and decorate homes and businesses. They make up just a segment of the overall design field. To reach them I had to work harder, travel farther and tailor what I carried to more affluent customers and specialized tastes.


Be open to new and unexpected opportunities to use your art talent. I graduated from art school with a BFA in art education determined to be an art teacher. That happened as planned, but I soon had a wife and new baby to support. To supplement my salary I took a part time job pasting up ads for a couple of movie theatres. Part time soon became full time and I spent twenty-seven years in advertising, from paste-up artist to advertising manager for a chain of forty-one theatres, to art director, agency exec and finally ad agency owner before “retiring” to become an art rep for twenty more years, a vocation I had never considered and knew almost nothing about until circumstances brought about the change.

Once I was on the road selling other people’s art and saw what my customers were buying, it dawned on me: “I can sell my own art, too, if I figure out how to create it easily and quickly enough to leave time for me to be on the road as an art rep for others.”

I hit upon a way to use hand cut stencils to create multiple, “pochoir” prints and dimensional collages in the colors my interior design clients were buying. In some years I sold twenty to thirty thousand dollars worth of my own work while helping other artists sell theirs. I didn’t have the luxury of spending a week working on each piece I sold, so I looked for a medium and technique that allowed me to create salable art quickly – art that customers liked, but was still fun to produce.


Explore “niche markets” you may not have considered. I had always enjoyed doing pen and ink sketches for fun but soon learned there wasn’t much demand for these with my regular design clients. The art business was treating me well and I had just had a new house built with ample studio space and a half acre pond excavated next to it, where I ended up, for a short time, raising swans. (There’s a podcast and slideshow on about this sideline.)

Because I had looked at many model home brochures and doodled sketches of how I wanted my house to look before choosing an architect and builder, the light bulb above my head once again lit up, and I realized real estate agents, builders, developers and architects DID BUY pen and ink sketches.

Thereafter, if things were a little slack I began doing pen and ink drawings of buildings they were selling, from model homes for developers and builders to multi-story condominiums for a real estate agent in Naples, Florida, who specialized in selling units in these luxury buildings. Over a couple of years I did dozens and dozens of pen and ink drawings of these lovely structures and they were used in newspaper ads and sales brochures because the drawings reproduced so well and attracted more attention than ads with photographs. Need I remind you there are real estate agents, developers and builders in your town?

I also did pen and ink pet portraits from photographs the owners provided by contacting veterinarians, leaving a sample drawing and information about cost and how to contact me. When a veterinarian sent a customer to me I offered a portion of my fee to the vet as a “thank you.”


Trading one item or service for another is the oldest form of commerce, pre-dating the invention of money. It still works! Over the years I’ve traded art or writing services for everything from Windjammer cruises in the Caribbean to having a piglet raised to maturity to stock my freezer with bacon and pork roasts.

Ben Franklin said “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and it’s as true today as in Revolutionary times. When I built my home, I used art to pay for more than $30,000 of the cost - everything from the architect’s fees to carpet and tile, solar hot water and landscaping. I’ve had my teeth fixed, cars repaired, taxes prepared and rented vacation accommodations on the ocean using barter.

There are two ways to trade: directly, one person or business to another, or through an organized Barter Exchange. I’ve done both and still belong to an active barter exchange in Sarasota. Just keep in mind that the IRS considers a barter dollar exactly the same as a cash dollar.

Did you know there are Barter Exchanges in almost every major city in the US and many more around the world? For information on Barter Exchanges, click this link: and read the first paragraph:

“Most of USA Fortune 500 companies use barter to increase their market share and improve productivity. There are about 500 barter exchanges in North America and Latin America, and several hundred more throughout the rest of the world. Here are listed links to hundreds of the Web sites of the many barter exchanges, which have developed internationally.”

If GM uses barter, shouldn’t you consider it, too?

Want to learn more? Then keep checking in on because I’m planning to do a detailed podcast on how artists can use barter.


Use technology to identify and reach your most likely buyers. When you’ve identified who they are, you must figure out the best ways to reach them. If your work appeals to a specialized, identifiable or organized group there’s a lot of help at your fingertips.

When I began working as an art rep, telephone directory yellow pages were my best (and almost only) way to look for potential clients. I spent hours at the local library letting “my fingers do the walking” through yellow pages of phone books for the cities I planned to visit, making 3” x 5” file cards of business names, addresses and phone numbers. At that time, few had email addresses or websites, but almost all had fax numbers. Over time, I put together a database of fax numbers for almost a thousand design firms and galleries in my state, stored them on my computer by each of the towns I traveled to regularly. Before making a sales trip I used an automated fax program to send a message to each, saying when I would be in the area and asking for a call back if they needed to look at art.

That will still work, but the Internet now provides a wealth of information with far less effort, just by going to Google Earth and using Search to find groups and businesses your work may appeal to. For example, pick any city, type “Interior Designers” (or any other classification) in the business search box. You’ll find names, phone numbers, email address, websites and maps. Today you can send digital images and complete slideshows of your art as easily as I sent faxes!


Use POD to become your own publisher: I’m mystified at why artists, publishers and art reps have largely failed to recognize and use the unique versatility of “print on demand” giclee technology to increase sales by offering prints made to the specific size specifications of their customers.

Once a high-resolution capture of the image by camera or scan and a color corrected profile has been made, a giclee can be printed in virtually any size a buyer would like.

During the 20+ years I was on the road, gicllees made their debut as a viable reproduction medium and has since flowered into the dominant means for an artist or publisher to enter the “multiples” market. Artists were quick to realize that “Now I can be a publisher” and well-known fine art publishers recognized the new medium was a way to test the marketability of a specific image at a fraction of the up-front cost compared to producing a complete edition of prints.

As soon as I established a working relationship with a competent giclee printer, I began to guide individual artists I represented into that medium and carried samples of their work to show my clients.

Because art work selected by interior decorators and architects is purchased to fit a specific place in the project they are working on, the size and proportion of the image is a critical determinant in what they buy, assuming the subject, style and color of the art complements their overall look.

It was immediately obvious to me when I showed a sample giclee that was appropriate for artistic reasons, I had a compelling advantage in making the sale when I said, “This can be printed to your size specifications.” At that point, the only question was price and if the art could be delivered on time. It often made the difference between “no sale” and walking away with a check.

I also sold art for some fine art publishers who were beginning to offer giclees and was surprised that my suggestion of printing to the customer’s size specs was dismissed out of hand. “We never did it that way before!” was a reason I heard over and over.

Now, years later, not much has changed. Some artists and publishers are offering the same image in a couple of sizes, but here’s what I found in scanning the ads in two leading trade publications, ART WORLD NEWS and ART BUSINESS NEWS (Dec.07 issues): Between the two, there were thirty-four giclee images by twenty-six different artists advertised. Six of the artists offered the same image in more than one size. Four of these six offered the same image in more than two sizes. Not a single artist or publisher advertised that their art could be printed to a customer’s size specifications. Yet that is the versatility no other fine art reproduction method can offer except by producing complete editions in a variety of sizes.


Once you have a digital image of your art, you can place it on a wide variety of other items from mugs and T-shirts, to mouse pads and note cards. There are a number of websites that will set you up with your own on-line store, produce the items bearing your art, collect whatever price you set, pack and ship, then send you a check for the difference between the price you asked and their cost to produce the item. All free. Look in on and You can have your own on-line store in minutes. They’ll help you find customers, but to be successful you must learn to drive visitors to your store.


I’ve visited many artists’ websites that are visually beautiful, technically sophisticated, and easy to navigate. They tickle the eye but don’t sell enough art to pay the hosting fees.

Just about the best self-built artist’s website I’ve ever seen is You may not considerate it beautiful, but Linda tells me it provides her total income - no more hassle with shows and exhibitions unless she chooses to – and it takes her to Tuscany, her favorite part of the world and the subject matter for much of her art, a couple of times a year. I just clicked on it and see the hit counter at the bottom of the page shows 404,727 visitors. That’s a staggering number!

If you check, which ranks the traffic at 45,726,000 websites around the world, her site places in the top 1%, not far behind visitors to Thomas Kincade and far better than major art publishers such as Bruce McGaw, Bentley House, Wild Apple, Winn Devon and Mill Pond Press.Spend a little time navigating the pages on her site and see how many ways she offers the images she creates and the precision with which she describes her art – the “distinctive differences” I mentioned in the sixth paragraph of this blog.


Consider having two websites and a blog: I’ve become convinced an artist should have two websites, one, a beautiful “gallery” of art to use as a reference for trade professionals, such as interior designers and galleries, and another that sells directly to the end user as Linda’s does so well.

If you’d like to see a really effective artist’s blog that also guides visitors to her website click on: and note the varied and interesting comments and the many links to her paintings. She also has an excellent website you should visit at:

It costs nothing except time and creativity to become part of the “blogoshere” - will GIVE you your own blog site with easy up-load templates that require no computer expertise to use.


If you are waiting for “better days,” use the time to learn new skills. That may mean “going back to school.” Thanks to, I’ve been invited to participate as a workshop moderator during Career Days at Ringling College of Art and Design, one of the finest art schools in the world and named by BUSINESS WEEK as one of the 60 top design schools in the world and one of only 10 in the United States.

I expect to learn far more from the students in the workshop than I’ll ever be able to impart. My art education at The Maryland Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, was a fine one, but it was many years ago and as I go through Ringling’s catalog, I’m awed by the breadth of course offerings in art fields not even imagined when I was a student.

There are now so many opportunities for well-prepared and talented artists to find their perfect niches in the art world, an economic slow down in one area, such as the narrowly focused sales arena I’ve described, means nothing for an artist willing to learn new skills and seize an opening when it appears.

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