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How Slight Celebrity Sells Art


What Always Works.

It’s an excellent time to build your email list if you are ready for it. People are bored and stuck at home. They are looking for alternative sources of amusement, education, and infotainment. Get them to know and like you first. That is how to build trust and options to show your work to them.

To get someone on your list, you need to entice them with an offer they can’t refuse. Challenge yourself to figure out what you have that you can give in exchange for an email.

Here are some top of mind giveaway examples:

  • A free five-day email course on how to draw something. A horse, a house, a hat. Show in step-by-step instructions on how to define the basic shapes and refine them into the result. Use Loom to make videos. It is a free screen capture program.  I use Snagit daily to capture screenshots and videos. It’s what you can do with the assets afterward that make it so powerful. Watch the video on the link above to see what I mean. Check it out with the free Snagit trial.
  • Drag a simple image into Paint By Numbers Online, a free app. Use it to make a paint-by-numbers download. Below is a quick example of a photo on my computer. I did not take the picture and don’t know the artist, so I use it with apologies.

Upload Your Photo

Download the Expected Paint by Numbers Result and the Outline. Have Fun!

cactus paint by numbers

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Those are a couple of ideas to stimulate your thinking. Use your creativity to come up with a compelling offer.


You needn’t be wildly famous to sell art.

Something else you can do is start planning to become a slight celebrity in the post-pandemic that will come eventually.

For most artists, a little bit of fame goes a long way. Your job is to figure out how to get and use a slight celebrity while staying comfortable in your skin.

Be yourself, everyone else is already taken. – Oscar Wilde

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Does it seem impossible to you that you could be famous? It shouldn’t. Because fame sells art, even a small hint of celebrity will make your life as an artist more fun and more profitable. And, no, you don’t have to sell your soul to make it happen, happily.

Art is an exciting topic. It comes with an air of mystique you can use to boost your business.

Life is short; be happy!

I’m not saying you have to be happy to sell art or be famous. I have known more than a few sourpusses who succeeded. It just always seemed to me they were missing the joy from people loving their art.

It’s not about the Kardashians, for heaven’s sake!

Most people hear the word fame, and they immediately think of movie stars, musicians, professional athletes, politicians, or even attention-addicted reality TV stars.

The fame we are talking about here has zero to do with those kinds of celebrities. You need not aspire to join their company with your face in celeb rag mags or featured on entertainment news TV shows.

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Andy Warhol made fame more famous. – Fran Lebowitz

To enjoy success as an artist, you need slight fame. Unlike other creative pursuits, artists require the least number of friends, fans, followers, and buyers to have a wildly successful career. The subtitle to my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book is: How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Career. 

I believe visual artists who develop 100 or more direct buying collectors have more control of their careers and finances than any other marketing activity they can do. That belief is the Art Marketing Toolkit’s foundation, which is only $4.99 per month with no contract.

Of course, that number is dependent on a broad range of factors, including your age, how far along you are in your career, how prolific you are as an artist, and more. No matter your number, it is small compared to what authors, actors, musicians, and performers need to make bank with their careers.

The cool part is you have the same tools as they do to help you gain fame and success in your career. This means your leverage over things like social media is far higher than nearly all other creative professions.

Let’s Talk about Selling Art.

When it comes to getting anything sold, a process takes place. For example, every purchase involves AIDA, which is an acronym for:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

This continuum happens in virtually every sales transaction. It can occur in a moment of instant gratification, or as is the case with most art sales, it can take repeated exposure to move your buyer from attention to your art to taking action to buy it.

How to expose your potential buyers and repeat buyers to those frequent contact is a discussion about marketing for another post.

Let’s Talk about Fame

What Turns a Buyer’s Desire into Action?

You have learned about how AIDA is part of every sale. There also is another three-step process that is at the root of why buyers choose your art. They are:

  1. Know
  2. Like
  3. Trust

Take it easy, but take it. – Pete Seeger advising Bob Dylan about fame.

People Like to Buy from People They Like.

We don’t need to debate or prove this because you know it is the absolute truth in your personal experience. In the case of your art career, it follows the more people who know you and like you, the more art you will sell to them.

Your effective marketing is all about getting your prospects to know you. Sometimes that is enough to get you sales. Fame is a positive aspect of the buying process that improves sales. Just a bit of it will tip your prospect’s buying decision in your favor.

Imagine a buyer who is deciding on buying art from two different artists. The one they know and like is nearly always going to get the sale. Add just a dash of fame, and the deal is a lock. It is only human nature and a perfect example of how even a slight celebrity sells art.

Buyers don’t have to know you personally to feel as if they know you. Fame is when someone knows something about you when you don’t know they exist.

The power of word-of-mouth marketing makes things happen. You know, people have come to like you so much that they can’t wait to tell their family and friends about you. It is a by-product of your fame.

fame sells art

It’s the Truth; Fame Will Help You Sell Your Art.

It does more than help you sell art; it will open doors and give you access to people and places you won’t have without it. Some of those people will have the power to influence your career in crazy, beneficial ways.

Fame and reputation are nearly, but not quite, the same thing. I believe you can have a reputation without recognition, but you can’t have fame without a reputation. When you have both, you are well on your way to selling more art.

There is not enough space here to tell you all the ways you can gain fame. Search the Internet, and you will find many ingenious and useful suggestions. I found a few things for you to consider.

Use the Rub-Off Effect for Fame.

Derek Halpern, the publisher of the well-respected and trendy Social Triggers blog, has this short video describing how to use what he calls the “Rub Off Effect” to gain fame. He explains it as part of his “How to Become Famous” post.

Don’t Take Your Fame Too Seriously.

Singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen received countless awards and inductions to multiple Hall of Fame organizations. Despite such acclaim, he makes it clear to everyone how he perceives himself in his lyrics for the Tower of Song:

Oh in the Tower of Song
I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get?
Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
A hundred floors above me
In the Tower of Song

Cohen’s humble homage to Hank Williams makes his perspective on fame and perhaps talent quite evident. In the pantheon of songwriters, he wryly places himself well below the incomparable Hank Williams.

Lifehacker published this tongue-in-cheek titled post, Eight Cheap Ways to Become Famous without Killing Anyone. It offers some useful suggestions you can use to grow your fame.

I suggest these methods in my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book.

  • Public Speaking – Put together a speech you can give on a topic about which you are passionate or willing to do in-depth research.
  • Become a recognized authority on some aspects of the art business. It could be the local history of art in your town. Or details on the life of a famous artist. It could be on the ins and outs of getting the most from the museums throughout your region. Pick a topic, love it, research it, and publish and promote your knowledge about it.
  • Be spectacular – manifest being spectacular through your art, through your lifestyle, through your personality. Learning to get outside your comfort zone to make this happen can cause all manner of new, happy things to come your way.

The different ways you can gain fame and use it to your advantage are as endless as to how art is created. It takes you to use your creativity in a new way to think deeply about how you can corner the market on fame in your career.

Be Yourself. Believe Fame Sells Art!

The last thing you want is to be a phony. Nevertheless, you should not let worrying about what other people think hold you back. As the saying goes, “Haters are gonna hate.” You could not change their mind no matter what you do, so you have to learn to ignore those critics with nothing meaningful to say.

No one expects you to start doing outrageous things or changing yourself to get attention. That is not what getting fame is about. It is about using a positively built reputation to make that know-like-trust trio dance in your favor.

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  1. Barney,
    With more than 20 years as an independent art rep I learned how important AIDA is in making the sale:

    ATTENTION – You can’t sell it unless you show it! Learn all the ways you can do this.
    INTEREST – Buyers want art they are comfortable living with because they will be looking at and loving it for a long time. They don’t change the art in their homes and offices like they change their shirts.
    DESIRE – What does your potential buyer have a passion for. It could be anything from music to motorcycles. Paint for their passion.
    ACTION – Sometimes buyers need help in understanding the value of what they’ll be laying out hard – earned dollars to own. For example: A piece of art they are considering buying for $1,000 may give them pleasure every day for 10 years (or longer) each time they look at it. That’s 3,650 days. Can you think of anything else that can make you happy for less than 3 cents a day?

    At the end of 10 years it may be worth more than the $1,000 they paid for it – or they may have the additional pleasure of giving it to a loved one who grew up loving it, too, because it had a prominent place in a loving home. Good art, never gets “old.” It may just get “better.”

    Our new book, How To Sell Art To Interior Designers, delivers hundreds of practical tips every artist should use to achieve the “fame” they deserve. At $9.99 for the Kindle edition, that’s about a nickel for each of the 184 information loaded pages, any one of which may make the difference between “sale” or “no sale.”

  2. “Of course, that number is dependent on a wide range of factors, including your age, how far along you are in your career, how prolific you are as an artist, and more.”

    Would you elaborate on the “age” factor. The other two mentioned seems like something under one’s control, but the age factor, not so much.

    1. Building a following of 100 artists is a general statement. It’s possible artists in their 20s or 30s may set higher goals for acquiring direct buying collectors, while some older artists may want to scale back their expectations. It’s a just a matter of setting realistic goals based on personal situations, available resources and capabilities. Think of it this way. If you can sell a third or more of your lifetime work directly to collectors, you make yourself far less vulnerable to distribution channels out of your control, such as galleries closing unexpectedly, throwing your career for a loop.

    1. You are welcome. Thank you for liking my work. My books are available on Kindle. You don’t need to own a Kindle to read them. You can download a free Kindle reader which will allow you to read my books on your computer, or any tablet, not just Kindles. CLICK HERE to review the digital version of my books on Amazon.com

  3. This a great article and a great spin on the topic of fame especially for more introverted artist type. Thanks for the links and resources – really interesting. I’ve never been comfortable with popularity but you make great point about leveraging it in the networks where I have built it even in non-art related circles. Excellent food for thought.

  4. Hi Barney,
    Just got a nice half-page profile in THE VENICE GONDOLIER.
    It won’t make me famous, but people are seeing it. Here it is ReadDTD.com
    My next book may be out any time. It’s titled: How I Managed NOT To Become Famous.

    1. Congratulations Dick! Publicity well deserved. I agree it might not make you famous, but it does give you slight celebrity. That is something you can run with to help get more publicity and new ways to promote your many projects. Great job! Well done.

  5. Good advice…. It’s a competitive world out there..Concentrating on a few key buyers and collectors is important….Not every artist has a well connected gallery behind them.

  6. Thank you Barney for the excellent post. Definitely lifted my spirits as I feel as if I need to begin, once again, considering the times. I might need to get your book on pricing art because am reconsidering my niche (wasn’t aware of the free Kindle great to know). Was Fine Art America the affilliate site you have? I closed my Shopify store and looking for an alternative.

    I read somewhere that Leonard Cohen’s manager stole his money and Cohen had to go out on tour again when in his 70’s.

    1. Hi Alice, you’re welcome. Glad to know my post hit home with you. The affiliate link I have is for Artspan My book is advice on pricing digital art. You can find it on this link http://bdavey.co/books. I have a generic how to price art course. It’s $14. You can learn about it here http://howtopriceart.com

      It’s true about Leonard Cohen. Sad as it was, he rebounded and live concerts were legendary. The Leonard Cohen Live in London is one of my all-time favorites. It’s hard to find the full recording, so I bought it. You can watch it in pieces starting here. https://youtu.be/EImVucJO7Ok

  7. Lots of great advice Barney. Sometimes we just need someone to help us see ‘outside the square’. The art of self promotion, as an artist, is not something many of us feel comfortable with and find the right way to do it is key.

    1. Thanks, Olivia. I recognize the difficulty for many artists to come to grips with self-promotion. It doesn’t come naturally for most. I try to value that feeling and provide solutions for artists that they can use without angst or at least reduced angst.

  8. Never thought about it in this way before. Have posted some photos with persons who could draw attention to my painting. Doesn’t seem to have made a bit of difference, but I never know for sure.

    I know this though: People who detest me do so even more now. I suppose it can work both ways. I remember how I was considered the Simon LeGree of the art world when I offered to display a huge painting in a public library. It drew the alarm of a feminist who was certain my painting was going to “displace a community of artists.” She must have been right, too. I see all those homeless people from Telluride now sleeping under bridges in Silver City and they are all artists. They must be artists I figure with all those vodka bottles they leave around. Now I’ve got an idea. I ought to do it in Aspen. Soon we will have billionaire artists sleeping under bridges here.

    Thanks for the idea. Now I will be doing it, the same practice, but wondering if my motives have turned sinister.

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