Successfully Selling Art: A Panel of Experts. Recap Part Two – How & Where + Tips!

Linda Barberic moderates a Panel Discussion with Salli S. Swindell, Cathie Bleck, Hilary Gent, Jess Sheeran, Keith Allen and Mike Guyot.
Photo: Laura Dempsey

Six diverse artists (Keith Allen, Cathie Bleck, Hilary Gent, Mike Guyot, Jess Sheeran, Salli S. Swindell) sat down with Linda Barberic to discuss selling artwork. It was an evening jam-packed with information. A previous blog post covered the artists’ best advice. In this post I will condense their thoughts on how to get art ready to sell and where to sell it.

These artists want to present their artwork in the best light. Professional photography certainly helps. Gallery Owner/Artist Hilary Gent commented that she does not want to see “crappy cell phone pictures” and instead will push an artist to get professional photos. Jess Sheeran started small but eventually purchased better photo equipment and does not just set her handmade critters in her yard for photos anymore.

In addition to photography artists can have their two-dimensional artwork scanned. Cathie Bleck hires a professional photographer to scan or photograph her work. She wants to have a high resolution digital image of all her artwork. Other artists mentioned utilizing the Cleveland Institute of Art scanning services. Mike Guyot does his own scanning at the Cleveland Public Library digital library. Best of all these high-end scanners are free to use. He recommends calling in advance to reserve a scanner.

A tangible way to introduce your art is a small portfolio book of artwork with a bio. Cathie Bleck prints these books through Blurb and distributes them to gallery owners. She feels these portfolio books are a good business investment. They leave a great professional impression and are portable. Gallery owner Hilary Gent agreed that receiving a portfolio book of Cathie’s would make a great first impression.

Salli Swindell’s They Draw & Cook calendar

Many artists sell reproductions in addition to originals – such as Salli Swindell’s cooking calendars, Keith Allen’s pop-up books or Mike Guyot’s prints. The process Keith went through to get his pop-up book published was detailed in his prior CDPUG presentation. Keith was able to generate interest in his pop-up art by posting short how-to videos. Keith created a fan-club of sorts that contributed to his Kickstarter Campaign to successfully publish a pop-up book. He said to gather your crowd, and advertise on the site before starting a Kickstarter campaign.

Keith Allen’s Kickstarter campaign was a success.

Of course artwork reproduction does not have to be limited to print on paper. Cathie Bleck has her art printed on tea towels and leggings! This way she can have a variety of price points and appeal to a wider sales audience.
All seemed to agree that having a variety of price points is important. Jess Sheeran felt that having a less expensive hand-made critter “nugget” generated more income overall. Mike Guyot sells many reproductions of his originals. They are priced less and appeal to a wider audience.

Cathie Bleck’s leggings.

Licensing artwork and contracts are both big topics. Salli Swindell creates social expressions art for greeting cards and believes that licensing is not always best and a flat fee is sometimes a better option. She explained, if artwork is licensed to a company that makes a product but does not sell anything – that is a bad deal. Sometimes she would rather get a flat fee up front. Salli admits there is a lot to learn about licensing. An artist can license artwork for web use only, one time only, thus a wide variety of options exist. Salli may be in the minority in thinking it is OK to give up the rights to artwork. She may never use the artwork for another purpose and is a very prolific artist. It has worked well for her but most people do not want to give up rights to their art. Salli believes having a good Rep helps with contracts and negotiations. Cathie Bleck hired an entertainment lawyer to assist her with negotiations and licensing. She said it is best to know your negotiating position and to not be afraid of negotiating. It was suggested that it is best to select a rep that works with artists in your art genre and that reps can be found by searching online.

Selling art online, in a gallery or art show was discussed.

All agreed an online and/or social media presence is necessary. Most artists mentioned success with their own website, Instagram and/or Facebook. Some artists had a preference for Instagram as it was a more visual social media platform. Salli Swindell usually posts an original piece of art daily and uses her Instagram site as a mini-portfolio. Jess Sheeran has found Etsy easy to use and advised the audience to not be intimidated by it. As mentioned previously Keith Allen built an online fan club by posting helpful videos and daily pop-up art updates on Facebook. Since great visuals are so important Hilary Gent hired a photographer to handle her Hedge Gallery social media.
Mike Guyot cautioned about posting too much personal information on social media. His insurance agent mentioned that a thief could take advantage knowing when Mike is out of town.

Hilary Gent’s Hedge Gallery

Hilary Gent opened Hedge Gallery to exhibit her and other emerging artists work and make art more accessible to all. She likes to exhibit artists that have the ability to talk about their artwork and tell the story behind it in a way anyone can understand. Being willing to share the emotional story of the art, in a personable way, is the key to making a connection with an audience. She does work with artists that are shy and not outgoing but feels that they do well as long as they can share the story of their art and not be afraid to let their personality shine through. Of course having professional images online or in a printed portfolio helps her get to know the artists work. When reaching out to gallery owners make yourself stand out from the crowd by including a video of how you create your work or a photo of yourself are a couple of suggestions. There are so many ways to get your work noticed in this age of digital hashtags. Hilary encourages people to not be intimidated.

Even though she is a gallery owner, Hilary never discourages artists from selling their own work online and believes social media can work with the gallery to the artists benefit. Visitors to the gallery take photos all the time and Hilary encourages them to link the photos to the artists’ website/social media; thus introducing the artist and their work to more people.

Jess Sheeran exhibits at Cleveland Bazaar.

In addition to art galleries, art shows are another way to reach a wider audience. The art show application process starts online months in advance and usually requires a fee. Mike Guyot recommends reading the application and contract carefully. Some shows do not allow art reproductions to be sold. He admits art shows are hard work and long days. He recommends going to art shows at the set-up to see what is involved. Mike has a large van to transport artwork and modular artwork display walls. One has to be ready for any weather at outdoor shows. Due to hot weather Mike lost a ton of weight at a four-day art show in Ann Arbor. More experienced with art shows now, he prefers shows that are easy to set up and have good food. Some shows he recommends are Cain Park, Boston Mills, Lakewood and Ann Arbor. Jess Sheeran tries to create an atmosphere at art shows and likes to know the dimensions of her display area in advance. She wants to utilize all the allocated space wisely and displays her handmade critters vertically so they can be seen from far away. Jess also displays any awards or magazine articles about her art.

Mike Guyot artwork exhibit at the Lakewood Arts Festival.

So much fantastic insights and advice from talented artists! What advice do you want to add to the conversation?
If you missed this great meeting, do yourself a favor and don’t miss any more! Become a member of CDPUG now to have exclusive access to informative, innovative and fun programs! Most meetings are held at the Garfield Heights Public Library. They have a great Innovation Center just waiting for YOU!

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