Learn How Successful Artists Use Self-Promotion

Self-Promotion is invaluable for success.

For some visual artists, the idea of self-promotion is near loathing. They have a hard time believing good will come from it and look at it as it is akin to being like the cheery, cheesy guy you see here. But that’s not the case. Done right, it will burnish your image, improve your sales, and lengthen your career without dinging your dignity. You can learn to overcome your fear of self-promotion.

Self-promotion is a learned skill for most artists.

It seems most artists I know are either extroverted, expressive personalities that demand attention, or they are introverts who shy away from it. From the outside, one can easily be fooled into thinking extroverts have an advantage in this department. Further, inspection proves this is not the case.

Many shy people are highly successful in high-profile careers. The late King of Late Night, Johnny Carson, is a perfect example. He was a quiet private man who eschewed the limelight when not commandeering the Tonight Show desk. Meanwhile, his alter ego Art Fern persona was an always hilarious over-the-top send-up of what a pitchman could be.

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

I believe some folks have a better knack for self-promotion than others, and they are not always the extroverts. This situation is human nature. We are not all equally blessed in the same ways. However, having the knack for self-promotion is not the key to success in growing awareness for yourself and your art in the art business. It is determination and ambition that drive career success for artists and includes learning to harness the power of self-promotion.

Self-promotion and self-belief are twin traits.

You might want to read my blog post: The Power of Believing in Yourself. Self-belief is a powerful quality that can help propel your career and keep it moving when it appears to everyone, but you are against all odds. If you possess self-belief, it will help you be authentic and sincere in your self-promotion, and that, sprinkled with talent, will take you far.

Self-promotion and success go hand-in-hand.

Most of us don’t mind someone who promotes themselves when we can see it is coming from authentic self-belief instead of braggadocio. We especially find this true if we can see they have the talent to back up their self-belief. We are likely to want to see them succeed.

Do we despise the Rolling Stones who cockily strutted their stuff as the world’s greatest rock n’ roll band? Did we think Picasso was out of it with outrageous and egocentric behavior?  When Jack Nicholson won the Golden Globe for “As Good As It Gets,” he said it was a license for ten more years of bad behavior, and we laughed with him.

Do I think anyone reading this is on the level of the greats mentioned above? Of course not, but that should not stop you from learning from them, from being able to grab that scintilla of purpose that you can apply in your job as a visual artist. That is what you do as an artist every day. You assimilate and emulate styles and techniques until you have one of your own. You borrow from the masters who have paved the path in front of you and then use what you learn to go your way.

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

Here then are some things that all fall under the area of art marketing that you can begin to do to self-promote your art and your career:

  • Comment
    On designer’s or galleries blogs, or other influential folks who can influence your career. Making nice with other artists and commenting on their blog and Facebook is great for your ego, but it is not nearly as important as making nice with people who can buy your work or help your career. Find influential people and comment on their blogs or write them personal notes congratulating them or offering useful tips, insights, or ideas. Lather, rinse and repeat.
  • Make friends with a local media person who covers culture, entertainment, or even politics. Don’t try to approach them for a story. Approach them to attempt to help them and to get to know them. If you do, the residual effect is bound to be positive and worthwhile for you.
  • Do something outrageous that you would never do. An excellent brainstorming technique is to take a large piece of paper and write as many ideas as you and your family and friends can think of to do. I guarantee you will come up with some good ideas to promote yourself.
  • Start an art event for charity. It does not have to be elaborate. It can be in your living room or at a local coffee shop. All you need is an idea, a few fliers, and a little gumption.
  • Print your art large on some unusual substrate such as metal or wood, clothing. Make it twice as large or twice as small as you have ever made. Then challenge yourself to find a way to promote what you have done.
  • Seek help in high places. I wrote a post titled Six Degrees of You. Think about someone who, if they took an interest, could seriously help your art career. Examples are a museum curator, a top interior designer, a magazine editor, the head of your state cultural organization. If you can’t think of someone like this, especially after getting clues offered, then question yourself about how much being successful means to you.
  • Collaborate with another artist. There is no reason you can’t work with other visual artists or performing artists, poets, or musicians. Learn to be inspired by someone, do likewise, and look for ways to explore how to channel that inspiration into new work and new vistas for your art marketing efforts.
  • Get a .com domain with your name on it. Your name, if it is at all common, is probably taken. So, get one with or, or Then start using it. Your name is your brand. People will remember your name much more than some amorphous company name.
  • Write articles, or have them ghostwritten for you on entertainment, design, travel, dining, wine collecting, playing poker, or anything that interests you. Or, write about an art experience that is profound to you. Make sure it is clear you are an artist with a website and a blog.
  • Use social media. Do I need to tell you to get a website and blog, and Facebook fan page? If you haven’t, do not fret, there is still space available on the Internet and Facebook for you.
  • Pay it forward. Get involved in ways to promote other artists. The good karma that will come from it will easily be worth the effort. Market Locally – Grow Where You Are Planted. Use the Internet’s power of local marketing.
  • Network. Get involved in your area, become part of the local chamber. Many chambers have social memberships. Volunteer at a local charity. Visit every picture framer in a 50-mile radius. Ask each one how you can help them or if they have ideas on how you can promote yourself.
  • Use handwritten and hand-drawn marketing pieces. I’ve seen a terrific marketing piece that was printed to look like an elaborate brainstorming session that led to a great idea. Use a series of sketches to illustrate an approach that leads to a suggestion to contact you or visit your website.
  • Believe in yourself. If you lack self-belief, how can you expect others to believe in you?
  • Be driven; no one can want success more than you. Do not rest until you have the success you want. You are the captain of your ship. It will go where you steer it. You are your own true North Star to guide your careers. It won’t all be smooth sailing, but the result will be like a day at the beach if you persist.


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


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  1. Great post, Barney – actually a series of posts. I get my optimism dose from reading your blog and these days I’m needing it more often than not. Thanks for reminding me that I am still (supposed to be) in charge!

  2. Great ideas in this series of posts. The main thing for artists to remember is to keep trying. If a promotional idea doesn’t work try another. Successful people are persistent.

  3. Barney,

    I really enjoyed reading your fresh approach to self promotion and the comments. There are some great ideas on this list…and as you mentioned above, you and I have proven that collaboration with another artist can really get you in front of some new eyes!
    Thanks again for collaborating with me on a great series of artist/gallery related articles.


  4. I love the list at the end. What a great way to get your brain working on ways to get your name out there.

    Although I think just making better are and waiting for people to find you is very short sighted and not really practical in today’s world. Plus if you love your work why wouldn’t you want to let people know about it?

  5. Wow, this is some fantastic and super useful advice! I just found you via Lori McNee. I’ll be linking to this post and subscribing right away!

  6. I appreciate this article. It’s not always so much doing the self promotion, but finding the time to to do it. Once you get the ball rolling, things seems to fall into place. Thank you for sharing…

  7. THANK YOU!!! I am a professional artist, and I have many friends who want to be artists, but when we get into discussions about business & marketing and self-promotion it often turns into an argument. So many of them still carry the old idea of magically being “found,” and think that they are somehow selling out if they think about money and art in the same sentence. I’ll be forwarding this article to several of them 🙂

    1. What a great suggestion. All you had to do was some research then ask for help and look what happened. Repeat that with other venues and publications. Let one experience build your confidence on the next and let the media know your art has already been seen elsewhere, too. They need confirmation themselves sometimes.

  8. Thank you for reading and commenting. The first step towards improving is acknowledging you have a problem. The next is working towards fixing or overcoming what is holding you back.Congrats for taking the stand!

  9. Thank you, Barney, for your article on promoting art. Artists, more than most other people that are owning their own business, need help in promoting their work. For an artist to show his or her art to the public is like revealing a part of oneself. Therefore, artists fear that marketing is on the same level as bragging. I believe, the suggestions in your posts for promoting art will help put this misconception on marketing to sleep.

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