How to Pull Off a Sold-Out Show By Extending Your Antennae

Guest blogger: Ruth Soller
I just enjoyed my first-ever sold-out show at the Panhandle Plains Invitational Western Art Show and Sale after participating for four years.
Here are some tips from four years of hard work and keen awareness that led to this moment.

Prepare to Meet the Show Organizers

My first time to attend the Panhandle Plains Invitational (PPI) reception the museum director graciously greeted me and gave me his card. I asked him to introduce me to the curator and complimented him on the quality of the show. I don’t believe I would have met the curator if I hadn’t asked for the introduction.
The second year, my husband and I made a point to tour the entire museum in advance. At the reception, we were prepared to discuss the historical exhibitions with the museum director, curator, representatives, and anyone else who might have been interested. This showed that we were just as interested in their work as they were in ours.

Introduce Yourself to Collectors

Ruth Soller, Loveland Feed & Grain Mill
© Ruth Soller, Loveland Feed & Grain Mill. Oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches. Sold at first PPI exhibit.

After the first PPI show closed, a collector purchased Loveland Feed & Grain Mill because she had grown up in that town.
Upon my return for the second time, I noticed that the collector and her husband were sponsoring the show. When I saw the woman looking at my work, I introduced myself to her. She asked if I had other paintings of old buildings in Loveland and later purchased Loveland Depot as a gift for her brother.

Meet the Other Artists in the Show

I met Louise West, Cecy Turner, and Ginger Wheellock, whom I had admired through magazine articles about their success. When you meet other artists, you might learn about:

  • How well they are doing in specific galleries
  • Requirements for becoming a featured artist in publications
  • Plein-air events or workshops that interest you
  • Teaching or speaking opportunities

You will be amazed at the helpful information you receive just by showing interest in other artists and their work.

Observe Works That Are Selling

During the Panhandle Plains Invitational reception, organizers ring a cowbell each time a work is sold. You can immediately see the best-selling subjects and learn how to adjust your future entries.
I observed that horses, cattle, and nostalgic Texas landscapes were selling. After paying attention to this, I created two nostalgic working draft horse paintings for the third year and one sold to a new collector.

Ruth Soller, Texas Longhorn in Palo Duro Canyon
Ruth Soller, Texas Longhorn in Palo Duro Canyon. Oil on linen, 11 x 14 inches. Sold at recent PPI exhibit.

This year, I painted two landscapes of the local Palo Duro Canyon and included a Texas longhorn in one of them. Both sold during the opening reception.
I also painted a colorful Taos adobe scene that sold after the reception.

Reconsider Your Price Points

After each year’s show, I look up my favorite artists’ websites and often follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
I learn about their gallery representation and the prices of various sized paintings. I also check with the PPI’s online catalog of the show to follow sales after the reception.
As a result of these efforts, I sent smaller works with competitive pricing this year, which contributed to my success.
Next time you’re thinking about drinking a lot of wine and eating your way through a reception, STOP. You have work to do! Extend your antennae and get busy collecting data for your next show.

About Our Guest Blogger
Ruth Soller
Ruth Soller paints the western landscape in a magical style pronounced by intensified hues, symbolic motifs, and dramatic value contrasts. You can see a video of a recent solo exhibit of her work on the home page of her website.

Share this post

Does your digital presence do justice to the quality of your art?

A comprehensive checklist to do a quick review of everywhere you show up online. FREE with opt-in.

15 thoughts on “How to Pull Off a Sold-Out Show By Extending Your Antennae”

  1. Jane Dickinson, CZT

    Thank you, Ruth, for a *fantastic* guest post! It was substantive, insightful, and just plain fascinating. I loved your call for action at the end: “get out there and collect data!” I was listening to Ramit Sethi talking on the Chase Jarvis on-line show the other day and Ramit wondered why most artists are, basically, lousy at marketing. Chase said that a lot of artists are introverted and shy. Your point, Ruth, is well-taken: don’t make it about yourself. Find all these other interesting data and find out who wants to talk about *that*. Asking for the introduction might seem obvious, but how many of us actually do that? And the pricing advice is, well, priceless. 🙂 I think that’s one of the hardest things for artists, how to price our work. It’s not something you just have to figure out in your own head: the information is out there, it just takes a little effort to get it. Thank you again, Ruth, for a terrific post.

  2. Jane, Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I’m thrilled that Alyson asked me to be a guest blogger and polished my story for publishing. I am quite introverted and shy myself; so it takes a lot of preparation and building up courage for me to put myself out in public. I’m glad that this post is meaningful ro you.

  3. First off CONGRATS on a sold out show! I can’t imagine how great that must have made you feel. Thanks for passing along the tips from your success. People buy with their hearts through pieces that they find a connection with.

  4. Vanessa, Thank you for your comment and I’m happy that you enjoyed the post. I agree that people must have an emotional connection to the artwork in order to buy.

  5. The key to your great advice (and “how to overcome shyness”) is in this very important line from your article:
    “You will be amazed at the helpful information you receive just by showing interest in other artists and their work.”
    I would expand that to say that EVERYONE you talk to in life will be helpful if you just show honest interest in them and their lives. Showing interest (empathy) in what your collectors or potential collectors are interested in and what makes them tick will always have GREAT results for each of us who are “marketing” our art forms.
    And…being really talented helps too. Your work is vivid and dreamy, Ruth. You deserve to sell out! And your collectors are very fortunate to have the opportunity to own your unique visions.

  6. McKenna, Thank you for your encouraging comments about my work. I’ve spent 25 years bulding my craftsmanship and am still learning about marketing my work. You are correct that showing genuine interest in others is an effective way to battle the inner fears that hold us back.

  7. Dear Ruth, I appreciated your observation that collectors enjoyed buying pictures of places that revived memories. One of my galleries asked me to identify the location of the subject of my landscapes on my gallery tags, because the patrons liked to buy paintings of favorite localities. Your experience has reinforced for me the value of his request. And thank you for your advice as to how we can research a show and be more knowledgeable as show participants. The curators and directors are also grateful when we sell our works. Congratulations!

  8. You have such great comments, I wish more artists would take your advice. I love getting out to meet other artists. If nothing else you get great inspiration. Congratulations on the sales and thanks again for this wonderful article.

  9. Pingback: Multiply Your Exhibition Audience with Collaborative Programs « Art Biz Blog

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Are you presenting yourself in the most professional manner online?

Get The Artist’s
Online Presence Audit

48 places to check to make sure you are ready when someone runs into you online. Free with optin.

*You will also receive updates about new podcasts, blog posts, and programs. You can opt out at any time.

Privacy + Terms