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?

Book Review: How to Start Marketing Your Art, by Tamara Holland

My pal Tamara has written a sweet new ebook, How To Start Marketing Your Art: 100 DIY TipsIt’s the much-awaited sequel to her first book, How To Start Making Your Art Your Business: 100 DIY Tips.

tamara ebook cover

Tamara is a wonderfully creative person who brings her positive energy and generosity to both her life and her art. I loved the book and definitely recommend it. I posted a book review on Amazon, and wanted to share my thoughts with you as well.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that Tamara is a friend of mine, and that she has been the sales rep for my greeting cards. I also profiled her in my book about selling artwork and crafts online. I pointed out in the Amazon review that although I’m not objective about Tamara-my-friend, the fact that I also write books and lead workshops about selling art means that I take very seriously my responsibility to be objective in my recommendations on this topic.

With that disclaimer, I wholeheartedly recommend Tamara’s ebook to anyone starting out in the difficult business of marketing their art. Most artists are not natural-born salespeople, but Tamara makes this subject which many artists find either foreign or even distasteful seem if not fun at least manageable. She breaks down what can feel like an overwhelming subject into do-able tasks, and offers a great variety of creative ideas for people to pick and choose what best fits their personality, abilities and situation. It’s also a great refresher for people who are already doing their own marketing but could use some new ideas and an infusion of Tamara’s infectious positive attitude.

Although it’s comprehensive and offers a wide range of marketing topics, there’s no “fat or filler” in this book. It’s focused and to the point; Tamara doesn’t waste your time with unrealistic suggestions or goals. And the generosity and cheerleading attitude that Tamara advises artists to adopt in their marketing shines through the entire book.

Tamara is refreshingly up-front about what her book is, and who it’s for. If you’re starting out and committed to doing-it-yourself art marketing, her 100 tips are invaluable. They will save you a lot of time and money re-inventing the wheel, and will point you in the right direction to do deeper research into the tips that fit for you.

Buy Local, Sell Local (part 1)

Don’t jump to conclusions — I’m not going to preach to you to do all your shopping and selling locally. After all, in my book Sell Your Artwork and Crafts Online and my workshops on that subject I teach people to reach way beyond their neighborhoods and cities to show and sell their art.

Etsy home page

But sometimes it just makes a whole lot more sense to do business locally. For years I’ve had my business cards and the postcards for my Open Studios printed by various online printers. Then last year I amped up my business to sell greeting cards to stores through my magnificent sales rep Tamara Holland of Bean Up The Nose Art (hey guess what, she’s also local, just over the bridge in Marin).

Bean Up The Nose Art

Logo courtesy of © Bean Up The Nose Art

Forget having the cards printed online — think of the shipping delays and costs. I also need to be able to meet in person with the printer to make sure the cards come out perfectly. I checked around – boy, there are a lot of printers in the Bay Area. But guess what, the best one by far that I found is less than two miles from my house!

Cerrito Printing

Logo courtesy of © Cerrito Printing, Inc.

Cerrito Printing is a full-service, family-owned and operated printing business at 1600 Kearney Street in El Cerrito. They offer offset and digital printing services to Bay Area (and beyond) companies of all sizes, and also provide layout and design services. Every contact I have with Jayne has been a complete pleasure. She’s so easy to work with, accommodates my requests, and answers my newbie greeting-card manufacturer questions. And most important, the quality of the cards is better than any other printer I’ve used.

Greeting cards

She worked with me to get to a price that was better than any other local or online printer I looked into. And what a relief not to have to deal with the complicated requirements of online printers, each one with its different rules and recommendations buried in various menus, forms, and links — and the tortuous upload procedures. I copied my files onto a flash drive and drove the 1.5 miles (getting the picture?) to Cerrito Printing, had a nice chat with Jayne and Bud, patted Rocky their pup, and that was that! When the cards were done – amazingly quickly – I got a phone call. Has Vistaprint called you lately? I think not.

Cerrito Printing

Photo courtesy of © Cerrito Printing

I just completed my third card order with Cerrito Printing, and I look forward to many more! If you’re wondering what’s happening with all of those greeting cards stay tuned for Part 2:Selling Local.

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).