Seven Break Out Art Marketing Ideas

If your marketing is average, mundane, run of the mill, ho-hum and just like everyone else’s you are putting tremendous pressure on all other aspects of your business to make it successful.

Is working and marketing inside your comfort zone paying off for you?

  • If you are not getting the results you want from your marketing.
  • If you are frustrated with your sales volume.
  • If you desire to have greater awareness for your art, you ought to be thinking of unique ways to do something about these things. It may be time to shake up your thinking and start with some fresh ideas for your marketing methods.


If your marketing is average, mundane, run of the mill, ho-hum and just like everyone else’s you are putting tremendous pressure on all other aspects of your business to make it successful. It means your art has to be extraordinary, your customer service off the charts and business acumen second to none. There was a time, not all that long ago, when a formulaic approach to launching a print career was doable. Such is not the case eight years into the 21st Century.

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

Im not a devotee, but nevertheless do confess to the guilty pleasure of occasionally watching the hit TV program “Dancing with the Stars” for its pure pablum for the brain. Besides charisma, and a modicum of talent and a fan base, those who go far are able to shed their inhibitions to let loose and dance with passion and wild abandon using their bodies in ways that outside of the dance floor would be considered embarrassing lunatic behavior. As viewers, we love the spectacle and appreciate the dancers’ ability to leave the modest outer child in the dressing room so the wild inner child can come out and entertain us.

It occurs to me that if one pursues creating and marketing art with the same level of intensity as displayed by these non-professional dancers who put themselves far outside their normal comfort level of behavior, it would open doors you might not even know existed. I’m not suggesting embarrassing lunatic behavior for your marketing, but rather to stretch yourself to go beyond what you might normally do. How far you go is up to you.

How do you get your art to market? Increasingly, the traditonal means are less powerful as aids to art marketers. The recent three-part story on ArtExpo here shed light on how this is so. Not to say tradeshows and trade magazines don’t have a place in the art marketer’s arsenal, they do and can still deliver new buyers effectively even if their potency has ebbed in the face of changing times.

So what other creative means are there for print artists to find new collectors? The following is a list of some novel art marketing ideas you can use. They are just concepts, mostly borrowed, some with new twists, but all things you could be doing that will help ratchet up your sales and awareness. Think of them as brainstorming exercises to help you break out of the marketing doldrums:

  1. Collectors Club – This hardly qualifies as a new idea. It’s been used by sucessful print artist for decades. The twist for artists here would be to start now regardless of how many prints or buyers one has. Who says you have to wait until you’ve published hundreds of prints and have thousands of buyers. Start now and begin to build your own loyal collectors from the ground up. You can study such diverse artists as Michael Godard, Edna Hibel, P. Buckley Moss and Thomas Kinkade to name a few who have effectively used a collector society to grow their business and market share.

2. Get into retail storesAgain, not revolutionary thinking unless you haven’t done it. I have known artists who were able to do shows several times of year in their local Nordstroms store. Nordies doesn’t need your help marketing. If you pick a lesser known store, you can offer to do some co-marketing and publicity. In the spectrum of retail goods, art is a relatively sexy product. Keep this in mind and use its potential in your pitch to retailers and in your marketing with them. This recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, “The decor store as gallery” should give you inspiration and ideas.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
  1. Get publicity – How creative can you be in doing something newsworthy? Donating another piece of art for a charitable function is at once worthy, overdone and tedious. Don’t take me wrong, you’ll get mileage from such activities, but it’s not cutting edge  or out there with originality. Think about what you can do that is worthy, slightly or very outrageous and specific to your art? How far out of your comfort zone can you go to get your local/regional media interested in you and your art? It doesn’t have to be lunatic theatrics, but if you’ve got a hidden wild streak that in you that can be brought out for fun and profit, why wouldn’t you use it? Those aforementioned dancers, even those who are actors, find themselves shaking their booties and acting well out of character and are finding they have the ability to release aspects of themselves they weren’t even in touch with. Can you shake it loose in some ways with your marketing and publicity efforts?

  2. Outdoor art – Painting a mural with a message on a public wall is one idea.Wyland_whaling_wall_33_2 It is trite and not original. But if you look at what Wyland, the marine artist, has done with his 100 whaling walls for inspiration, you realize you can put as dramatic a twist on things as you have the chutzpah to attempt. In Wyland’s case, he’s taken it a step furhter and set up the Wyland Foundation. What outdoor canvases can you conjure for yourself? If you can paint large scale, or project your work large scale onto an outdoor screen or wall for a cause, or for the hell of it and it makes sense in some way to garner media attention, go for it.

5.Start an art Meetup group– The neat thing about the Meetup concept is you get to define the purpose. Maybe your group will meet monthly to do art walks in your area together. Maybe you will meet to do field trips to museums or wineries. Here’s an idea: partner with the wineries in advance and a local artists group, you could do an art & wine affair. Or as in point #2 above, seek out some retail stores to partner with. The only thing stopping you are self-imposed limits on your ingenuity and willingness to take charge of your marketing. Meetup groups can become great social networks as well as business networks. You’ll get from it what you want from it and what you put into it.

  1. Free art – Print up a bunch of prints and have them ready to give to appropriate people for free. You can tell them if they like the work, they can send you a check, or make a donation via a Paypal account on your Web site. You can tell them to call or email you and like the band Radiohead did its new album that gained great publicity, tell them they can pay what they think the art is worth. Offer to send send them a Paypal invoice to make things convenient. Don’t be afraid to suggest the price they should pay for the print, but let them know they can pay more or nothing at all. Figure out how to get your local media involved so you get free publicity from it.

I’ve written here about the British artist Banksy and Australian artist Hazel Dooney who are both controversial and who are both giving away their work and gaining much more publicity from it than they could afford to buy by doing so. Both these artists have prints on their Web sites that they offer as free downloads. How can you do them one better?

  1. Graphic wrap something wild and/or unique – Graphic wraps for cars and buses is old hat these days. You see it all the time, so it’s not quite as effective as when new. Think about the concept artist Christo, he’s wrapped the Christo_reichstag_berlin Reichstag in Germany, put saffron gates in Central Park and had dozens of other auspicious art installations. Now you may not have the budget and audacity to do something quite so grand and outrageous as that, but what can you think of that could be graphic wrapped that is different? Something that will get lots of attention for you and your art? List all the things you would never graphic wrap. You are bound to come up with some ideas from that sort of brainstorming exercise. How about: Awings? Windows? Buildings? Refrigerators? Bars? Dance Floors? Bandstands? Roofs? World’s largest postcard? World’s largest coffee cup? You get the idea…

Kick your creative genius into thinking on a different scale and use it to figure out ways to break out of the doldrums of ho-hum everyday marketing. If you are ready to deliver your art on scale from gaining wide exposure, you’ll find yourself in another league before you know it.

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

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


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  1. This is a great list of accumulated ideas to move into the right direction when it comes to increase your publicity being the number one requirement in order to sell your art at a decent value.
    Although I agree upon not being quite new it is very helpful to be reminded of opportunities from time to time which might fall into oblivion otherwise.

    Regarding your 2. point “Get into Retail Stores” I have yet a little anecdote here to tell:

    as a result of my own promotion campaign I was called one day by a big interior design store here in Munich to make an appointment. I gladly did under the assumption that the owner had checked out my website for the kind of work I was doing. Why else should he have had his secretary to call me? Well, the appointment came, I was well prepared and brought a couple of my smaller paintings, he looked at them very carefully and then told me that these would not fit into his program. He also told me in the whole two-hour session during which he lead me through all floors of his whole store that he had never time to check out websites and that my work would detract potential customers from his product palette. Please?

    I was even more baffled.
    Instead of seeing it as a chance to attract new, other customers to his retail shop, he was anxious to present something that could take all the attention away from his products. Well – this was truely a new experience for me. Back home again I decided to take the whole “adventure” as a compliment for my work and forget about the frustration to have spent 2 hours and more of my time for nothing.

    As an aside I would like to know your reaction on a situation as described above, where retail stores consider you as a threat to their products instead of a potential partner and enhancement to their product line?

  2. Hello Barney,
    Sometimes I think the term “comfort zone” should be changed to “comfort cage” because it keeps so many confined to small ideas, small risks and small accomplishments. Stepping outside into uncharted territory is often hard for artists, but once the initial trepidation is put aside there are many ways to expand marketing possibilities and make more sales.

    Today in my hometown paper, “The Venice Gondolier Sun” there is an item and picture captioned “Groceries and Art.” Beneath the photo it reads: “If you are shopping in the Sweetbay Supermarket . . . 1-4 p.m. Thursday, you may come face to face with an artist. Michael Handley is taking his watercolor class to the store that day, and each member of the class will choose a subject to paint.” The caption goes on to give information about Handley’s next six-week series of classes.

    What a grand, original idea! For most of his class I’ll bet it’s a step outside their comfort cage – “all those strangers looking over my shoulder as I try to paint the avocados!” What an opportunity for the teacher to tell people about his painting classes! What an opportunity for each student to get some public exposure for his or her talent.

    People love to watch artists draw or paint and I’ll bet there will be many shoppers gathered ‘round looking at the art as it is created.

    I recall vividly many years ago while I was still teaching art in the Baltimore Public Schools when a fellow teacher and skilled caricature sketch artist, Irv Finifter, and I were hired to do caricatures of guests at a very swank party for the city’s elite, moneyed friends of the couple who contacted Irv and hired us. It was an evening garden party with tents to house the orchestra and dancers and another for a sumptuous array of food and still another for the open bar.

    Irv and I, dressed in smocks and berets, sporting Salvador Dali moustaches, set up on the fringe of the garden and in short order were busy doing caricatures. The fascinated crowd around us grew and grew until the hostess approached and asked us to stop because the expensive musical group they had hired was playing to an empty dance floor and food on the buffet table was going begging.

    Near here there is a fishing pier with a popular restaurant. Come on most any nice day and you’ll find a craftsman at one of the public picnic tables bending gold wire into earrings, pendants, bracelets and necklaces incorporating local shark’s teeth and beads. Spread before him is an array of his work and there are always onlookers watching – and buying!

    Visual artists and craftsmen – why not become “performing artists” as you hone your artistic skills? Creep outside the cage and look for interesting venues where you can paint and sketch. Is there a local zoo, a beach, a farmers’ market, a city park; public garden or local landmark people flock to?

    Artists – find a spot, ask permission if there is someone to ask, and set to work. Have plenty of business cards, brochures and perhaps a few other pieces of art you’ve done, or a scrapbook of photos of your work. Then be ready with a smile and a pad to take down information from people you chat with: Name, address, email, etc. Ask if you can send an email about your up-coming shows, digital images of your work or a link to your website.

    Do it until you begin to feel comfortable in “the public eye.” Then go back, padlock the “comfort cage” and throw away the key so you can never creep back inside.

    There are many more suggestions on how to sell your art based on my 20+ years as an art rep and artist on All podcasts are free and if, after you’ve listened, click the email link and send me a question about your work and a link to your website. I may even add it to my “recommended link” list where folks from around the world will be able to visit your website.

    Dick Harrison

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