How Do I Know If My Art Will Sell?

If you aren’t enjoying the process, you’ll never make it into something worth doing.

Barney Davey

The quote above applies as much to learning if your art will sell as it does to making art. Because creating art is highly personal, it’s loaded with potential angst on many fronts. Not the least of which is making peace with putting one’s art into the commercial art market.

All art is not made for the commercial market. I bet most art is made with little to no intention of getting it to market. Millions of artists create works in countless styles and media, and only a tiny fraction is actively selling their work with frequency.

Although the point is arguable, when it comes to the business of art, I believe the first question an artist should ask themselves is this. What journey do I have in mind for my art upon its completion? I ask members of my Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP) to answer this question before planning what strategies, tools, and techniques they’ll use to know if their art will sell and how to sell it. That’s because a frank answer will guide their decisions, save time, and produce the best results.

I challenge my blog readers and AMTP members with this equally important follow-up question. Do I have the ability and resources to allow me to fulfill my wishes for my completed art? I’m asking them and you to keep it honest with yourselves. That’s because hope is not a plan. Plausible plans avoid wasting time and keep morale high when stretch goals are set and accomplished.

How to Find Yourself in the Art Business
Success leaves tracks — learn to find and follow them here.

For Better or Worse, Artists Decide If Their Art Will Sell.

Ultimately, artists determine if their art will sell. Finding out if it sells can often require overcoming fear of the unknown and doubts about the quality of one’s artwork. Beyond that, and once the work is in the marketplace, buyers’ actions answer if your art will sell.

If you are ready to start selling your work, the following suggestions will help you gain clarity, insights, and confidence in marketing your art. The answers will give you helpful feedback and new perspectives.

Start Your Research with Your Warm Market.

Your family and friends are the logical beginning point. You’ll get more helpful replies by limiting your question to asking about one artwork. Present them with questions they can answer with ease.

Be aware and ready to weed out answers given not to hurt your feelings or that come from those who have little interest in buying art from you or anyone else. Remember, it’s not constructive to you or them to push back when you disagree with their answer.

Ask the Right Questions the Right Way for Helpful Answers.

Asking flat out if someone would buy the work is too direct and makes the other person uncomfortable. If they answer yes, they might feel obliged to make a purchase. If they answer no, they may worry they have hurt your feelings.

How to Find Yourself in the Art Business
Success leaves tracks to find and follow.

Selling art is sometimes a happy byproduct of asking for help and honest feedback. In this case, limit your efforts to sell your art. Keep in mind that selling is secondary to your goal of understanding how your art is perceived. Information that will help you market your art effectively for years to come.

Asking open-ended questions with your version of the following suggestions will gain you priceless insights:

  • Can you describe your immediate reaction when you first saw this art?
  • What are your thoughts when you look at this art?
  • Does this work speak to you on an emotional level?
  • Tell me about any detail or feature that got your instant attention.
  • What part of this artwork do you like the most?
  •  If you don’t like or understand anything, please let me know what it is and why.
  • Does any part or area of this art confuse you or seem like it’s incongruous or should not be part of the work?
  • Given what you know about me and this artwork, please tell me what type of person is the most likely to buy it?

Reach Out to the Artist Community.

Family and friends are the warmups, but they can only help you so much. Successful artists who have the experience and have walked miles in your shoes know what it takes to get where you want to go. As such, they are a valuable source of insights and ideas for you.

Knowledgeable artists can help you improve your art’s commercial appeal. The best help they can give you is a complete and candid critique of your art and your potential in selling it. If they believe your artwork is market-ready, it’s crucial to go to the next step to get their suggestions on what steps to follow to get it sold.

To Learn the Most, Ask for the Full Treatment.

You’ll want the whole enchilada whenever you can get it. Feedback on the technical aspects of composition, color, and subject matter is helpful. Learning veteran artists’ candid response to the emotional quality of your work is instrumental to helping you improve because they know things you haven’t thought of or experienced. They know intangible aspects often are the driving force to selling art successfully.

How to Find Yourself in the Art Business
Success leaves tracks — learn to find and follow them here.

Besides technical and emotional insights, knowledgeable artists are well-positioned to give tips on pricing your art. Pricing your art to make it competitive comes from experience, and learning from those who have been there will shorten your learning curve.

Hey You. Ask Your Toughest Critic.

Artists, in general, are more intuitive and perceptive than most people. It’s great for creativity and terrible for dealing with hurt feelings and a sense of inadequacy. That makes it harder to gain a straightforward, honest assessment of your work. But it’s necessary to tamp down fear and doubt if you are to enjoy success.

Of course, you want validation from your peers, but more important than that is to gain confidence in yourself and your work. That is the ultimate validation. As you become aware of the power of belief, you’ll start to notice how effective it is for those who have it and use it naturally.

Because art is so personal and subjective, there’s no denying how difficult it is for artists new to the business to tap into their psyches confidently. Asking yourself puzzling questions is a huge help.

  • Did I have command of the process and use it throughout the completion of the work?
  • Can I see prominent weak areas or flaws in the work that are fixable?
  • Was I able to identify problem areas and did I take the time to rework and improve them?
  • Did I complete the work in a timely, productive manner without wavering perfectionism?
  • Does my completed work meet the vision I had for the piece?

What’s It All About? What Is Your Story? What Is the Story of This Artwork?

It’s been said that consumers buy the artist as much as the art. And while not always true, there is enough proof to know it is spot-on accurate. Storytelling is a skill you can master.

Decorative art sold in lower price forms such as reproductions will have more spontaneous appeal than original art. Their lower price points don’t require partner approval to purchase. But most original does need spousal/partner approval due to price, but also design questions as in where will we display this painting?

The higher the price, the greater the need for a compelling backstory. This dynamic runs straight to the top of the market prices at Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions. Collectors will always have questions about the art and the artist. They may use logic to help determine if they should buy the work, but emotion gets them to open their wallets. A good story and solid explanation fill both needs.

Use Your Intuition to Your Advantage.

Emotions come from how buyers feel and are driven by what they know about the work and artist. You have intuition about why you create art and your vision and motivation for making a particular piece. The better you communicate these things to potential buyers, the more likely you will positively influence the sale.

If you have done the suggested exercises and can tell your story in your words, you may know the answer to the question, “How do I know if my art will sell?” It is a large part of who you are and what your art will mean to those who buy it.

If you want to live your best artist’s life and how to identify and use the marketing most suitable for your needs, join the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP). It’s only $4.99 per month with no contract. It’s priced low to make it available to artists no matter who they are or where they live. You have nothing to lose and much to gain by joining.

How to Find Yourself in the Art Business
Success leaves tracks — learn to find and follow them here.


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