What are you selling?

Are you
       selling yourself?
Or are you
              selling art?

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21 thoughts on “What are you selling?”

  1. I guess it depends. If you think about Andy Warhol, then it’s definitely a case of selling himself. I do think that people are interested in the artist and their life and how that plays into the art that’s created.
    If your art is an extension of yourself, then are you selling yourself anyway, invariably? Good question..

  2. I think you are selling what you believe and your expression of your beliefs. So you are selling “you” in a way…through your artwork.

  3. Interesting. My first response was both, because so many times those who buy are attracted both to the art and to the artist who created it – or what they know of the artist. In spite of that, the idea of ‘selling’ yourself (myself) feels uncomfortable. Perhaps you’re presenting yourself and selling your art?

  4. I would think both. Most people I know, while they like/love the artwork of an artist, also want to be able to know the artist, and about the artist as well. When artists are talking about their work, they often slip bits about themselves into the conversation.

  5. Angela Canada Hopkins

    I’d say I spend most of my time selling myself and what I’m doing. My art is an extension of my mission to bring awareness to cancer and educate individuals about the importance of prevention.

  6. I sell my art, but through my art I share a part of myself. & I co-create with the supporters of my art so they too can participate in the process & make it partly their own. It’s a great subject to give some thought to…

  7. Great question Alyson. I’d say both, but at varying levels with different clients. If someone sees one of my images and feels compelled to purchase, I’ve sold a bit of myself without possibly ever meeting that person. But – personal relationships are important and clients want to feel like they know the artist so, in that respect, I’m selling myself.
    Either way, my art is an extension of myself as Zachary mentions above, so I am selling both.

  8. I read the comments with great interest. I would like to add my two cents to the fray. Though artists love to create and be one with their creation, I think that the artist who sells him or herself as well as their talent does better in the overall art world. Here are my examples, Salvador Dali, Georgia O’keef, Diego Rivera and Frieda Kalo, Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, Goya, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollack, Jeff Koons, Grandma Moses, Van Gough, Rembrandt. Each had fiery non conformist celebrity attached to their lives. Notoriety followed these incredible people through their art . I’m not sure if the art they created caused the attached notoriety, like Warhol working in a dept. store art dept and then becoming the art darling of discos and decadence. Therefore I think that a truly successful artist must sell the essence of his uniqueness along with the perfection and passion of his artwork. Something, even gossip must set the artist apart from his more vanilla peers.

    1. Based on the artists you mentioned, I think you may be confusing what we know NOW about those artists’ lives with what people knew at the time those artists lived. Dali and Warhol are wonderful examples of artists that created a persona to sell art. Georgia O’Keefe chose to live a solitary life and I don’t think she was a celebrity. Frieda Kahlo didn’t get recognition in her own country until very late. Van Gogh wasn’t a celebrity either, even though everyone knows now about his ear. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that some artists sell themselves by being notorious and drawing lots of attention. Other artists were anything but notorious when they were alive, even though we think of them that way now. So, yes, you are right that notoriety sells work. However, not all famous artists we know from art history cared at all about being famous when they were making their art. Louise Bourgeois just passed away. She is quoted as having said: “Tell your own story, and you will be interesting. Don’t get the green disease of envy. Don’t be fooled by success and money. Don’t let anything come between you and your work.”

    2. I couldn’t agree more with your statement. In fact, two days ago I had this very same realization with respect to marketing my art. I realized that what I need to market is me. People buy the artist first…then the work of the artist. I’ve known people who have purchased impressionistic art because it reminded them of Monet, or surrealism because it reminded them of Dali.
      The work of a famous artist sells for a lot more than the work of someone obscure, even if the obscure artist’s work is more dramatic, or more technically close to perfection.
      So, I’d say now that the most significant creation the artist can make is to “be” that rebellious, non-conformist originator of aesthetic communications. But he must be “himself” in the process of doing so. I’m currently in the process of re-doing my entire marketing plan based on this.

  9. I agree with Kathryn- both. As an artist, people certainly want to know what makes me tick, plus I think they want to like you before buying your work. As a collector, I buy from artists that know on a personal level. Their work tends to stand out more in my mind.

  10. This topic has got me thinking a lot this morning… I think you are always selling yourself whether you are aware of it or not. Some artists have been good at presenting themselves to the public in such a way as to get noticed. They were aware of how publicity would help them. Other artists have led very quiet lives, yet when we learn about their lives later, we see them as having been ahead of their time. I think nowadays you have to be aware of how you will be perceived. So, you may not be interested in fame, yet you have to know that everything you do and say represents you and your art. Alyson has pointed out in the past to always speak well of others (galleries and artists for example). Isn’t making the choice to not bad-mouth anyone a way of selling yourself as a professional? Aren’t we making choices all the time to be taken as serious artists, and isn’t that selling yourself?

  11. I think it actually goes three ways… you may selling yourself and your art, but sometimes even more so your client’s wants and desires. There’s been many a time when someone picked a particular painting from my booth because it spoke to them personally, it brought back some fond memories. Specific places and certain wildlife may hold special meaning for someone.

  12. From a very pragmatic point of view, sales are easier when the collector knows the artist. That doesn’t mean an artist is selling him/her self. But knowing the artist, or believing you have insight into the artists life and thinking, adds a depth to the experience of the artwork that would exist if that knowledge was absent. Plus good business is nearly always about experience and relationships.
    That doesn’t mean that an artist needs to create a grand public persona. Trying to be bigger than life could be a disaster for most of us. That effort can easily look contrived, too artsy or simply not credible.
    My feeling is to be honest about who you are to yourself and to the public. I strongly agree with Alex that it is important to remember, as an artist, you are in the public eye and it is wise to act professionally and never, ever bad-mouth other artists, collectors, galleries or anyone related to your business – or anyone, period.

  13. I see all sales is a dance of emotional, invisible, strings of love and passion. Art sales even more so. Selling our own work is a special dance.
    If someone is standing in front of my work and gushing about how moved they are – I will always “ask” for the sale, but more as a friend than a “salesperson”. A gentle voice, perhaps even a small touch on their arm and a big smile with a loving statement of “facts” will make a HUGE difference in your career. They are always buying with an “excuse” to own and therefore – they will buy more likely if they love you AND your art. They will be unlikely to buy if either you or the art is unappealing.
    SO… here’s a fact to share (sincerely) with your potential buyer when you next get the opportunity:
    “I am so excited to share my work with you and I can see you are very moved by what I do. I want you to deeply consider collecting my art as I really love knowing that someone who “gets it” – who gets what I am doing – will have my work to enjoy forever. If I was your best friend, I would be wrong to not encourage you to own this piece today. What do you think?”
    (AND, as usual – you don’t say another word until they do.)
    THAT process – that REAL emotion – is showing love and respect and caring about the collector. AND asking for the sale all at the same time.
    I feel strongly that It is wrong to deny someone an opportunity to own our work if they love it and can afford it. You and all other artists know that your patrons LOVE having your work in their lives. Don’t short change potential new collectors by not “selling” to them.
    Anyway…using encouragement and complements and other words to that affect said with a smile in your heart are worth considering. With real love for your own work and a real love for the joy it will bring and a real love for anyone who takes time to explore your work with you – well, it’s hard to resist sharing and encouraging anyone to look up at a rainbow or see a great movie or read a great book. It’s all about sharing the love. Your enthusiasm for a great restaurant and the review you share with total strangers should be the same feeling of love and sharing when someone views your art.
    And I would add that there can be a third reason – the elephant in the room: they think it will be a good investment. THOSE buyers don’t care about what the art looks like or whether the artist is a nice person, but rather what museum collections they are in and what auction houses they are represented by and what the prices have done over the years. (I sold original Picasso’s and Miro’s and Chagall’s and Rockwell’s … It’s all about the buyer’s “needs”.) Find out WHY they have bought in the past and you can direct your emotional connections with more targeted results.

  14. Why do we have to be “rebellious” or somehow controversial to sell our art? Wouldn’t being genuine, approachable and real work just as well? In a world where so many things are fake or enhanced, I think the public would embrace honesty and truth, especially if they thought we were just like them.

  15. Pingback: 12 Tips for Pricing Your Art « Art Biz Blog

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