Marketing Artwork

Marketing Artwork

Welcome to October and to the first in a series of reader question posts celebrating 600 posts on this blog. The first question is about marketing artwork. Here’s the question.

My biggest challenge is marketing! I’m a total dummy with social media, and except for occasional FB marketing posts, shy away. On top of that, I often feel that my work doesn’t measure up to that of other artists. Maybe I just need a “swift kick in the pants,” as my dad used to say!

Marketing Artwork in Today’s World

I had the same problems marketing, especially the way I thought about my artwork. I never thought my work was good enough to sell, but I’ve learned that that was mostly because I knew I could have done better. The people who saw my work didn’t know that, and they were happy with it.

Self Criticism

So I think part of the answer is to let go of the self criticism enough to put your work “out there” and see what happens. Even if you’re not trying to sell your work right now, letting other people see it can be a valuable way to get feedback on what you’re doing right.

And don’t forget the opposite side. If you ask for comments and suggestions on what you post, you can also get valuable help in the areas where you need help.

That’s all important because the first step in successful marketing is making the absolute best artwork you can make.

Comparing Yourself to Other Artists

Remember that no matter how good you get, you will always be able to find another artist whose work looks better. This is especially true if you look at your work and see all things that could be improved. I speak from personal experience here! I am my own worst critic so I try not to compare my work with anyone else’s work.

Instead, compare your current work to your early work in order to see how far you’ve come. That will help you quite a bit. It certainly helps me.

Getting Started

One of the pitfalls of the current state of social media is that we sometimes have to make a big splash in order to be noticed. If you’re on social media at all (on any platform), you’re likely to see dozens of artists posting great work. There’s a lot to see. If you’re just getting started marketing your own work, social media platforms can look like an uphill battle.

There’s nothing wrong with starting on social media, but I suggest that you try marketing locally first. If you do animal art, for example, explore the opportunities of displaying work in places where animal lovers go. I promoted my horse art at horse shows, for example. I also had some artwork in a local vet’s office.

Marketing locally can help you develop confidence in your work, and that will make it easier to branch out into other marketing methods.

If you’re selling original artwork, look for local gift shops and see if you can place artwork with them. Small works or artwork that depicts regional subjects can be a big seller with tourists and even with the locals. So don’t overlook such opportunities.

Believe it or not, just handing out nice business cards featuring your artwork can also be a great way to get local customers.

Start Small

You might also consider marketing around special events. Christmas is a good time to market small works, for example.

If you create gift-type artwork or artwork that could make great greeting cards, that’s also a good way to try your hand at marketing.

The Bottom Line

The best advice I can offer about marketing is to start slow and small. You don’t have to market everywhere and you don’t have to market all the time.

Also be aware of the people who are most likely to buy your work. Who are they? People who like the kind of art you make!

I’ve written a post on the basics of selling art. It’s a good post if you’re looking for marketing myths and/or marketing tactics.

One final thought: You don’t have to be actively marketing your artwork in order to use Facebook or any of the other social media platforms. Talk about yourself as an artist, the projects you’re working on, and so on. Work at developing a following in a more organic way and you might find that the marketing takes care of itself.

Got a question? Ask Carrie!


  1. hi Carrie,
    it’s been a while since I’ve commented. I’m hoping to re-subscribe to your magazines soon. Since I’ve spoken with you last I have set up my own art booth at a local boutique, but I’m struggling with getting customers attention. occasionally I get my easel and draw in front of my booth and that helped at first, but hasn’t gotten me any more commissions. I’ve only sold two pieces in the past year from the booth. I was wondering if you have any display tips from when you were showing your artwork?
    for reference I am currently set up on a small shelf, using the shelf and a small section of wall above it. photo of booth:

    1. Rhiannon,

      It’s good to hear from you again, and congratulations on set up your own booth at a local boutique.

      Setting up your easel and making art at the booth is a good idea, but if you’re trying to get commissions, it may not be the best marketing idea.

      Since you have a booth, the best thing to do is to create artwork that is marketable at your booth. Small artwork, greeting cards, and things like that. Less expensive items that customers may buy on impulse.

      As far as display tips, unless you have very few repeat customers, it might help to keep your booth looking fresh, with new items as often as you can. If there are local celebrations in your area, you could also present artwork related to those events.

      Without knowing any specifics about the boutique itself, your area, or other details, it’s difficult to give more specific suggestions.

      I can say, however, that selling art this way is difficult. It can take a long time to become familiar enough to customers and potential customers to build up a good business. The key, I think, is customer service. Always be ready to answer questions when you are in the booth.

      I hope that helps. It’s been decades since I did anything long-term like this with my art, and things have changed dramatically since then.

        1. You’re quite welcome.

          If I were to get back into selling commissions at shows or booths, I would have cards and other merchandise also available. Jana Botkin is right in saying that there will be a lot of people who like your art but either don’t have the money for original work or the interest in having custom work created. However, they would buy greeting cards, mugs, coasters, and even calendars. Those kinds of items may be the best way to have your booth begin to pay for itself.

          Don’t forget business cards. A lot of people think business cards are no longer a reliable way to market, but they give people something to pick up and take home with them, and you never know where those cards will end up! Cards with one of your best pieces on it are a great way to reach out to potential customers and potential commission clients.

  2. Rhiannon, I have never sold art this way, but I’ve never tried either. So, I will share with you what I know from working local art/craft fairs.

    The best-looking, most well-lit, uncluttered displays garner the most attention. My opinion is that your pieces need more space around them. I’d lose the shelf and hang just the very best pieces, and use some sort of a plant stand or pedestal to put your cards on in a nice basket or rack.

    You also need a sign stating “COMMISSIONS ACCEPTED”, and a price list. People are nervous about asking prices, afraid of looking dumb or of insulting the artist.

    Your presence in the booth is the most important thing, you being right there talking to people, learning what they like about your work because art doesn’t sell; it is sold. So if you set up an easel and work there whenever you can, and publicize that you will be there, eventually things will improve. It might help to have a binder with examples of completed commissions to show people, to get them thinking about something they’d like to have.

    One of the best sources I know of for art business is a blog by Jason Horejs, a successful gallery owner. He posts regularly and has great reader input with practical advice and experience.

    Not everyone is in the market for original art, either because of monetary limitations or because their walls are full. These people who like your work will be tempted by things like cards, bookmarks, maybe even mugs (if you can order a very small quantity at a price that you can double and still sell.)

    Good luck with this! It takes awhile to establish a reputation and to build an art business, and it looks as if you have begun.

    1. Rhiannon Lewis

      Thank you very much! I will definitely put up the commissions sign. the shelf I can’t ‘lose’ since it’s the boutique’s, but I’ll try to incorporate your advise the best I can. I also am trying to buy some lights to put in the shelf to light the pieces so that maybe will help. I’ll also check into the website you gave. thank you!

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