When it comes to anxieties over marketing art, it’s good to know although you can’t always control your thoughts, you can use free will to stop them from making you unhappy.

— Barney Davey

In my 30 years as an art marketing mentor, I have encountered many visual artists needing help marketing their art. I don’t need to explain to artists how overwhelming and stressful an art career’s business and marketing side can be. I hope you believe artists can learn to stop worrying about art marketing and love their careers—because they can.

Stop letting the expectations of others mess with your mind.

I know how disheartening it can be to feel you’re not meeting others’ expectations in your art career. However, it’s crucial to realize that you don’t have to satisfy anyone’s expectations but yours. If that sounds selfish, it’s not. So, by aligning your art marketing with your values and goals, you can promote your work without enduring a difficult process.

I recently received an email from a subscriber of Art Marketing News; I’ll call her “Artist Friend.” She asked about the cost of art marketing services with this email message: 

[Artist Friend]

Today, I am pulling the trigger and asking what you charge for Art Marketing. 

I want to paint, but honestly, like probably every artist, I do not know how to market and really don’t want to. Therefore my sales are sporadic. I do a few shows yearly, and the last few have not been great. I often get told that my abstract paintings are beautiful and even have comments like “yours are the best in the whole show.”

  • Do you market other artists? 
  • If so, what do you do, and what is the cost?

[Barney Davey]

Thank you for your email and questions. I appreciate your longtime interest in my blog. I do offer coaching by the hour. Although I’m honored by your question, I don’t have full-time clients or run marketing for any artists.

It’s a miracle if an artist finds a dependable marketing partner who is not a spouse, partner, or family member. I have been helping artists since 1988, and I feel your pain and understand your wanting to make that happen. Marketing is hard work, even worse when you don’t like it. 

Mindset Matters… a lot.

What if you had a different view of the situation? Sometimes it’s helpful to ask, “Whose expectations are we trying to fill?” Since I only know you from this email, I am still figuring out the answer; perhaps you can answer. But it’s okay if not.

I ask about expectations because it happens enough to be a thing. That is, artists sometimes feel pressure from peers and family, or they daydream about the career they could have. But such thinking is often a snare that traps logic. 

You said it:

You don’t know how to market and don’t want to do it. That’s beautiful honesty and self-awareness.

If you know that in three months, you will likely have given up on (take your pick, email marketing, networking, etc.), then save the money and effort to start. You have to find things that work for you and have confidence that you’ll stick with them. It’s too hard otherwise for most people. 

Self-awareness helps… a lot.

Building an art business takes much work and money. And since most artists are solo operators who have to do everything, it’s even more challenging. You may subconsciously recognize that most traditional and digital marketing is too much for you to handle.

However, your conscious brain keeps getting bombarded with messages to get out there and market yourself and live your dream. So, you feel like you have to do it or be judged. You can see how such conflict is the cause of the angst and disillusionment artists experience.

You can overcome it in two ways:

  1. Become a marketing maven and pay the price in time on task doing marketing to get that high-ticket success. I don’t know you, but I bet that’s not a price you want to pay, which is normal. Most artists don’t.
  2. The other option is to resolve to be the artist you want to be, based on your realistic expectations. Look at what you’re doing and ask what you can do or change to make a joyful experience as an artist. A change in thinking produces new opportunities.

It’s often a good thing—sometimes the best—to find suitable work to help support your art business rather than struggling to make it keep you afloat.

Supporting your art business becomes a healthy mindset expressed this way: “This is my life as an artist, and I hope you approve.” “But it’s okay if you don’t; I’m happy all the same.” 

From your brief career description, I can see that you do what most artists do regarding business and marketing. That is, you already do a mix of things like shows and other unique or unconventional ways of selling your work.

But you’re selling less than you want at shows; it could be sales skills. You sell much more art when you ask people to buy it with friendly closing talk. This post is helpful: Learning How to Sell Art with No Fear Is Easier than You Think.

What to do?

Back to self-awareness. What’s working for you and why? Look at what you are doing that is profitable and is also something you like to do.

Whatever that is, start figuring out how to multiply that activity and repeat it in new creative ways. It’s not traditional marketing, but it will keep you in the market and the art business on manageable terms. And you are working on a plan of your design built around your expectations.

Hope, love, and care.

I hope you find this advice helpful and that it applies to your life and business as an artist. The concepts and thoughts behind them are part of a message I’ve been working on to reach more artists. I want to help them figure out the best way to market their art and enjoy their lives as artists.

And sometimes, that means being realistic about what we want and what is possible and finding the balance between them. That leads to a joyful, well-lived artist’s life. Everything’s right about that. 

Thank you for your question, and I hope I have helped despite needing marketing agency resources to offer you. 

[Artist Friend ]

Thank you for taking the time to reply. 

Her succinct reply with the gist.

I read this a couple of times, and what I think you are saying, in a nutshell, is,

 “If you are resolved not to become a marketer yourself, then be satisfied with just what you ARE doing, but find more ways to make what you ARE doing (art shows) better).” 

[Barney Davey]

You are right, and you summarized what I was saying correctly. I am pragmatic and know the business well. Looking for a marketing maven capable and desirous of helping you is a good goal. However, they are rare as hen’s teeth. So, it’s best to conduct business knowing you are responsible for getting things done.

Seek creative art marketing options.

And that being the case, given that the marketing and business sides are not your strengths, the best advice is to find effective ways to market your business creatively and sensibly on your terms. 

Do more of what already works for you and be as creative as possible in making intentional connections with people who will buy your art, influence others to buy it, or promote your career. When artists stop satisfying the expectations of others, they can replace those haunting negative emotions with joy and gratitude.

Your thoughts took you there. Now use them to get out.

Our minds control our emotions, and we can choose what we think about and react to. For example, the polar opposite of feeling like you should have accomplished more in your career is accepting the joy and abundance in your life with gratitude. It is also helpful to work to eliminate toxic people who show through their words and actions that they don’t care about us.

Timeless concepts for living well and marketing art.

This information is not specifically for you because I need to know you better. But I am confident my observations are accurate for many artists, and I’ll use a version of both replies to you in a blog post to help as many artists as possible. Your email and questions are the catalysts, so if others find comfort or a more peaceful path to making and marketing art from this advice, you will always be a part of the reason why.

Stay true to yourself! 

The most important tip is to stay true to yourself and your vision as an artist. Don’t let others’ expectations dictate your success or happiness. Instead, embrace your unique perspective and create art that speaks to you. When you find a marketing approach that aligns with your values, you’ll find that selling your art becomes a more natural and enjoyable process.

In conclusion, marketing your art can be challenging. These tips will help you find an approach to marketing your art that aligns with your values and goals. You must believe you can sell your art without sacrificing happiness and satisfaction.

Remember that you don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations but your own. Stay true to yourself and your vision as an artist, and success will follow.


anxiety, marketing art

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