Art Lessons

Art-ing is a hard business, and decisions about how and where to show and sell your creative work can be daunting. Should I do shows? If so, which? What about selling in galleries? Different factors but same question.  Online venues? Again …  you get the idea.

Even after you’ve done the research and made choices, you have to keep working to make the best of where you’ve landed – market yourself AND the shows, galleries and stores your work is in.

Sadly, sometimes despite your diligence and efforts, things fall apart. I just learned that my beloved greeting card sales rep is leaving rep-ping for greener pastures. And then another blow; the local gallery where I show my artwork and hold workshops has replaced the paintings in its windows with really big “For Sale” signs.

Village Shops and Galleries

Ouch! But I don’t think the lesson is that I should not have agreed to have Tam rep my cards or to show at the Village Shops and Galleries. I got many wonderful benefits from both, and even looking back I would have made the same decisions.

Greeting cards

But there are lessons in failures. First, don’t rely on one source of income from your art. If you only do shows, what happens if you break your leg, your car conks out, or you don’t get juried into the biggest show on your list? Or say you’re selling only online through one website and they shut down, or change their rules or procedures in a way that cuts your sales in half (hello Etsy).

Zazzle zebra sneakers

Zazzle stopped making sneakers and cancelled all of the sneaker designs artists had uploaded

What to do? Diversify! Look into the many different ways artists sell their work, ranging from in-person to on-line, in stores and galleries, to licensing or having sales reps, and more.

Second, be careful not to invest too much money or time in an uncertain venture. I could have rented space in the Gallery rather than accept a split from my sales, but without a proven track record of customers, sales and good staff support it just didn’t make sense. And I was careful not to pre-order too many greeting cards from the printer, so I’m not left with a mountain of unsold cards.

Finally, go in with your eyes open. Do the research, ask for references, talk to others  familiar with the situation you’re thinking about. Spend time at the shows you’re thinking of entering, or at the gallery you’ve got your eye on. Are people buying art? Are the fees or costs in line with similar venues?After that, weigh the risks and benefits and either back away or jump in and go for it.

Have you had an art situation explode on you? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

Spreadin’ the good news

A few months ago my incredibly creative friend Tamara, of Bean Up The Nose Art, told me some great news. After several years of selling her fantastic greeting card line herself and through sales reps to more than 100 stores, she got a licensing deal! Calypso Cards saw Tamara’s cards at Surtex in May and guess what, they’re already selling them.

copyright Tamara Holland, Bean Up The Nose Art

But Tamara had more great news up her sleeve. Since she couldn’t sell her cards directly anymore, she was expanding her business to become a sales rep herself. After all, she had been so successful selling her own cards, she loved dealing with the stores and buyers who carried her cards, and she even knew a bunch of talented artists whose lines she could represent. Okay, so the really really great news for me? She wanted to know whether I was interested in having her rep my cards and gifts. Talk about a dream come true!


So I’ve been moving full speed ahead to get my work ready for Tamara to take out on the road. I found a fantastic local family-owned and operated printer, Cerrito Printing, to print my line of photo-art cards.

I’m busy designing forms, ordering supplies, making samples, and figuring prices. I’m designing all-new labels using the wonderful logo that Carolyn Hess, another amazingly gifted local graphic designer and artist-friend, designed for me.

Any of you selling wholesale? It’s a leap, and the differences between direct selling to wholesale are eye-opening, so I’ll be posting more about it in the coming months. Now, back to designing some new fabric-covered light switch plates – hopefully soon to be seen in a store near you (wink).