Art Career Advice That Will Make You Successful

Quotes with Art Career Advice from Barney Davey

My friends at make some of the industry’s websites for artists and publish the art marketing newsletter, It includes original art career advice articles plus syndication of top posts from art marketing authors like me.

They also compile and publish quotes from my posts and other publishers. You can find my quotes here

root for underdogs - buy the winners

A key component to operating a successful small business is to grow consumer interest in it. You can and should work at promoting your business in a manner befitting it. Self-promotion is essential to the process.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

Consistently working to build awareness for you and your artwork is necessary to develop a successful art career. Self-promotion is merely acting on opportunities to spread the word about your work.

being busy on wrong things

It’s not enough to be busy. Being busy on the wrong things is a career killer. It’s not sufficient to have great intentions either. To gain success, you must make the right choices about what to do and act on them first.

I don’t know any artists who are starving. I do know some who feel like their careers are kind of on a starvation diet due to lack of sales. The biggest reason why art does not sell is that not enough qualified buyers see it.

direct buying customers

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

Direct buying collectors help you make more money and sustain your career. Collectors are critical because they represent potential sales of many pieces to the same person. They also are your best source for referrals to other collectors, or to opportunities that would not be open to you otherwise. A devoted fan may make introductions to people who can make a significant impact on your career. You don’t get this from the casual art buyer.

lifeblood is customers

The lifeblood of any business is customers. They are what make the difference between a hobby and business. Whether you are a dentist, a plumber, a hairdresser, or an artist, you share a common problem. How do I find enough customers to grow my business? If you want to keep the doors open, you must have customers.

successful artists are productive artists

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. — Pablo Picasso

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

Whether you desire to be highly creative or to earn a generous income, or both, productivity is an essential ingredient. It comes down to this: if you want to make more money and continually improve your skills, you have to make more art.

making art for money

When I talk about embracing your authentic self and making money, I am serious. If you are at odds with the fact that you are a creative source that has the unique ability to make one-of-a-kind artwork and feel you should be ashamed for wanting to make money from your efforts, then I am talking to you.

worrying and wondering

If the art you currently produce is not selling well, you might find yourself using research to find best-selling art subjects. If that is the case, you may inadvertently overlook other reasons why your art is not selling.

not enough galleries

There are fewer galleries now than ever. The remaining ones have less influence in how art gets sold. As such, artists must find ways to create direct patronage. I still believe in working with galleries, just not exclusively to distribute your art.

creative marketing

Today, you have the tools to shape your reputation and improve your art business. Websites, blogs, email marketing, publicity, and press releases can go a long way towards defining who you are as an artist. There are many ways to get noticed on art websites and blogs. Look for opportunities for feature stories, interviews, or human-interest angles for highlighting you and your work. Become an active participant in online discussions and forums that are of interest to your target audience.


Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use


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  1. Barney,

    I always enjoy your comments and how relevant they are. Today’s advice is so solid!

    Marketing, promotion, tenacity have to be as much about being an artist as creating the work itself. I wish it was mandatory that each student that attends a college or university to pursue an art degree would be required to read the practical advise you offer. But then every professor, instructor just might gag.

    I have to be honest though, being a professional artist for 40 years now, its just a challenging today; maybe more so than ever. I have to constantly brush up on the tactics you speak of.

    I’d still like to spend sometime with you and share what we do and where we think we’re heading. I’m not talking about gratis but a fair consulting fee.

    Let me know if you think you might have a window. You could be a good barometer and we might also provide some good head wind we experience for you think about.

    All the best,


    1. Thank you, Bill. I appreciate your kind words about my work. Coming from an artist with your impressive resume, it is high praise. I will send you a separate message privately this weekend. It would be an honor to find a way to work with you.

  2. Thank You so much. I’m trying to overcome living in a small town in California. I love your advise

  3. I am from a very small town in Idaho and I think that has to be worse than a small town from just about anywhere else other than maybe the Antarctic. It’s a struggle to find customers and times have really changed. I make paper items from my art work such as cards but people don’t send cards much anymore. I always read your information with great interest. I purchased you book on guerilla marketing. Hope to find some help there too. Thanks.

    1. Debbie, I am sure you have unique challenges. You cannot let that get you down. Success comes in kinds of ways. You can overcome your challenges with inspired, unique responses to them.

  4. Thanks Dick, for your kind words and great support. Your comments are always a welcome, insightful pleasure to read.

  5. Barney,
    Will order your book, can’t wait.

    I have been painting for quite some years, but only been “out” for about 3 years when I joined a local art gallery and discovered the joy of showing my art, the honor I feel of having my work sold and once in a while seen in television commercials, where I rent out my art work.

    I do indeed feel that social media is very helpful for putting my art and name out there,
    but now need to broaden my circle and go beyond my friends, friends of friends and colleagues hence reading your book.

    Thanks for putting up your 10 quotable art advice tips, they made me want to read your book. I need all the professional advice I can get.

    Jora Nelstein

  6. I read your articles sometimes. I am based in India in coimbatore. I got to professionl painting after 50, am 58 now. My work sells , but not as much as I really wish. My children take care of me and all my needs. But I really wish to sell my work more . I try contacting peope, but not much success has come. I do feel that my efforts are not in the right direction. I am striving to sell my work but my city is not the place where art sells easily.
    I really need a good direction. Would you suggest some good ideas?

    1. Thanks for following my blog from India. The truth is no one’s city is a place where art sells easily. Art is a non-necessity that requires a willingness to purchase and disposal income to make the transaction. If your art is in a niche category, find ways to be active where those in the niche hangout, both online and offline. You sell art to people who know, like and trust you, not strangers. Making that happen requires an effort on your part to do the research to find your prospects and then spend quality time with them wherever they congregate. Wishing your work to sell more is not a plan. You need a solid plan and solid follow through on it. You need to measure your actions and results and adjust to what is happening. The more you research, act, measure and refine, the more art you will sell. The easy path is the way I am describing. The hard path is doing nothing, using wishful thinking and suffering from the disappointment your art is not selling. The biggest reason art that is compelling does not sell is not enough potential buyers see it. Good luck with your career. You are very fortunate to have such supportive children.

  7. I have been working in the health field as an RN for over 30 years…I first went to college to pursue my passion in art, but a teacher pissed me off and well, I ended up pursuing a medical background and degree and taking care of people. I have always thought that I made a snap decision and have kicked myself for not staying with my art. Now, I am getting back into it and have found peace, tranquility, and my passion has returned. I have a room full of my art and do not know how to go about selling, showing, pieces…I also have a great passion for photography and have taken that talent on as well and absolutely love it. I feel I have been missing this “peace”/piece, in my life…and finding solace in it and helps level me and ground me after a long day of high pace, hustle and bustle of hospital work. (don’t get me wrong, I am thankful and honored to help people and improve their health and prevent illness, that is a blessing to me.)

    I guess I am asking for your advice on how to do more of my passion and sell…I have no website and I have no idea how to go about being notice…also it seems so competitive. How do you separate yourself from stellar artists that have been doing it for years versus from someone like me who loves it, breathes it and wants so much to do this more than my current job? My heart is in my art and photography, my mind is in the biweekly paycheck that gives me too much stress??

    1. Hi Liz, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. While your story is unique, you’re among lots of folks who came back to art later in life. You are asking how to sell your work. The simplest answer is this. First, make work others want to buy. Second, build a following of people who are interested in your work. Third, show your work to them on a repeat basis with multiple options to buy.

      To start, you need a website. It’s not an option. Then you need to begin to find and engage with your best potential prospects. Yes, it’s competitive, but, you only need a small group to buy your work. Fortunately, not everyone needs to buy art from the most well-known artists. Frankly, once you get past named artists whose is in museums, most people are clueless as to any pecking order. So, between that and the fact that the internet and social media flatten the playing field, you have great odds to make a go of it. I like to say an art career is a terrible thing to waste. And, that happens most often when artists get off to a rocky start because they lack basic art business knowledge.

      You are a perfect candidate to join the Art Business Basics Course. It is the most comprehensive collection of art business knowledge available anywhere at any price. They don’t teach this in art schools. Art marketing gurus want you in advanced learning, which is great, but if you lack the basics, you won’t get near the full value of what they offer. Here are some of the topics covered in the course:

        How to Price Your Art
        Getting into Galleries
        Inventory Management
        Selling Art at Shows
        Blogging for Artists
        Websites for Artists
        Licensing Art
        Self-publishing and Working with Publishers
        Social Media for Artists
        Email Marketing
        Self-promotion & Branding
        Domain Names
        Business Names
        Legal Issues
        Banking, Finances, Taxes
        Goal Setting and Resource Assessment, and lots more

      Art Business Basics Course

      Remember Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every artist was once an amateur.” Be determined, work hard, work smart, never stop learning and you will succeed.

  8. Barney,

    I’m SO glad your link to this great article didn’t slip by me.

    For those of you contemplating this course, it is definitely worth it. I took the course a while ago, and the only thing in the way of my success has been ME!!! I am one of those people that spend way too much time learning, but then freeze when it comes to taking the proper action. I KNOW if I would follow all of Barney’s advice, I would be there already. I have been slowly doing the right things, little by little, and trying not to beat myself up for taking so long. I have been implementing many of the things I’ve learned; I’m watching my social media following steadily grow, I’m growing my email lists of my target audiences, in the process of trying to roll out an e-mail campaign to them, and building upon it all.

    I get SO mad at myself because I know it could be as simple as picking up the phone and directly calling one of my targets, interior designers. I KNOW what Barney and Dick Harrison have been saying is so true, yet I avoid the telephone like the plague. It’ SO ridiculous, but I do believe that once I make that first phone call, my fear will be gone and I’ll plow right through my list.

    Thank you for the constant advice and encouragement, Barney, and for helping us artists navigate our way through selling, when all we really want to do is paint!

    Debbie Viola

    1. Hi Debbie, thank you for your comments and kind words about Dick Harrison’s work and mine. Everyone evolves at their own pace. The most important thing is you keep improving and doing. You’ll get there. Don’t be too hard on yourself. There are so many things I know I should be doing and that never seem to get done. So, I’m working on getting there myself.

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