5 Lies About Selling Art We All Fall For

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Tell me - what's the single WORST piece of advice you've ever received about selling art?

Over the last few years, I've heard some great ones about selling art. And I want to share them with you - and get some of your thoughts too.

You know how it goes...Unsolicited advice - bad advice - can be difficult to handle. But when it becomes generally accepted as "wisdom" it can be truly damaging.

Here are a few examples:

1. Painting fast = painting bad

5 Lies About Selling Art We All Fall For
George was 22 when he started his body of work...
"You need to slow down. I paint a handful of paintings a year. Maybe one really great oil painting every two years. Because I want to make great art, and painting any faster than that means the quality will suffer."

How many times do you hear this?

Look, it's all well and good if you have the time to retreat to your garden artist studio once a week to rest, relax and unwind while painting, but the rest of us need to earn a living.

What are you doing for the rest of the year???

Your art isn't better because you are inefficient.

Maybe all you need is a fresh look from a new perspective. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is the world's most widely used instructional drawing book.

2. Self-promoting or self-publishing = they couldn't make it as a "proper" artist

5 lies about selling art we all fall for
Shakespeare was never "published" during his lifetime. They just kinda sat around a table and made it up as they went along. Then performed it. Worked out pretty good.
"Despite royalty rates of 70%, I think self-publishing is a terrible idea for serious novelists (by which I mean, novelists who take writing seriously, and love to write)."

- This quote was actually taken from an article over at The Guardian (a UK publication that abhors anything related to self-publishing).

This section deals with writers and authors, but the same case can be made for visual artists.

There are plenty of authors who couldn't get a publishing deal turning to self-publishing. But there are plenty of authors who DO have publishing deals turning to self-publishing too.

And there are even more authors who never even bothered with traditional publishing in the first place.

If $7,000 for 2 years' work sounds like fun, by all means go the traditional route.

But the numbers don't lie. Self-published authors earn more per sale.

On average, self-published authors make more money (you can look this up over at Author Earnings).They can also release books as fast as they like and have creative control over their marketing.

Self-published authors have access to everything a traditionally published author does (like editors, designers, etc).

Maybe self-publishing is better for you. Maybe the traditional route is more suitable. But at the end of the day, one choice over the other doesn't make you a "real author".

Only you can make yourself one.

Whether you upload your manuscript to Amazon, or Bob from Marketing does it, the reader doesn't really care.

If you're a "serious author" you should be getting read, earning money, and improving your craft. Period.

How you do that is up to you. Nothing else really matters. 

3. The industry needs gatekeepers!

5 Lies About Selling Art We All Fall For
After a failed career as a Kindergarten teacher, 
Quentin finally found his calling.
"You need to submit your art to gallery directors in the mainstream art gallery system so you know it's good enough. Gatekeepers are there to protect collectors from bad work and protect artists from their own egos."

Do you mean to suggest that there isn't a single bad work displayed by a traditional mainstream art gallery?

That an artist somehow requires someone else's validation to share their work with the world?

Does anyone lambast the street musician for not having a record label?

It's amazing how far some artists will go to justify losing 75% of their paycheck.

Look, if your art sucks, nobody's going to buy it.

Collectors don't need gatekeepers to make decisions for them. 

4. A real full-time artist only paints

"Just concentrate on making art 100%. You're not a full-time artist if you spend time marketing and promoting your art. That's what your art gallery is for."

I hear this one a lot too. Or variations on that theme of "I don't want to do any marketing".

Reality check - you're a business owner. You're in the business of making money from your art. What other business would recommend spending 0% of your time on marketing, sales, or promotion?

- "You're not a full-time chef if you negotiate contacts, source ingredients, or buy advertising for your restaurant."

- "You're not a full-time actor if you go to auditions or send out your resume."

- "You're not a full-time painter if you try to get your work into a gallery."


A traditional art gallery isn't going to do your marketing for you, either.

That's still your job. If you want to get seen and make money, you're going to need to justify your existence.

And that means producing great work. Be proud of your work. Shout it from the rooftops.

Nobody else is going to do it for you.

5. The Starving Artist

"Every artist should create for the love of the craft, not for money. There is dignity in being a starving artist."

No, there's dignity in paying your heating bills and being able to afford food.

Nobody needs to be starving.

An artist - any artist - deserves fair compensation for their work. If you buy into self-limiting beliefs like this, how can you expect to succeed?

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, author and creativity expert Jeff Goins has set out to replace these false narratives and replace them with timeless strategies for thriving as a creative and debunking the myth of the starving artist.

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