Art Talk: Showing and Selling Art

Happy Thanksgiving Day to my USA readers. Here is another blast-from-the-past post for you. I wrote this article for an art newsletter way back in 1999.

Showing and selling your artwork can be a daunting experience. You’re proud of your latest creation and want to share it with others, but you know there are some flaws. You question whether it’s worthy of a price tag. What do you do?


  • Show your art when you’re ready to free your identity from the work. It’s the artwork, not you, which will be judged. So if those flaws are screaming at you, either fix them or redo the work. If you don’t approve of the work, then you probably won’t get approval from others. You know whether the work is good or not.
  • Know the artwork is done. Don’t rush a work to show. Be patient. Give your work time to let you know it’s done. Once it’s done, leave it alone. If it needs framed, dress it in something complimentary and pleasing to the eye. Keep it simple and hang the work where people can see it.
  • Evaluate criticism. Was there any positive criticism about the work? Was there any negative criticism that has merit? Look for honesty and fairness. Keep your pride and resist the urge to defend your work from unfair criticism. Honest and knowledgeable criticism from others can be an artist’s best friend, but don’t let someone’s opinion decide how and what your art is supposed to look like. You must keep control of your craft. Positive criticism of your work only means the work is identified as good. Negative criticism of your work does not mean you’re a bad artist, only that the work isn’t appreciated for whatever reasons—whether sensible or prejudiced.
  • Choose your audience to decide what or if to show. Is your audience people who enjoy art? Or are they there because of another event? Art organization shows are specially for people who appreciate and buy art. So are gallery shows and artist’s studio shows. Pricey art competitions bring the serious art collector and big money. And when choosing what to show, remember this: subject matter varies in popularity, so it’s wise to not create art to fit someone’s fancy.


  • Price your art at what it’s worth to you. Be honest and fair to yourself Do your homework and see what other artists whose work is like yours are selling for. Set your prices to compliment those of other artists whose work is like yours.
  • Know your audience. Be aware of trying to sell where people aren’t art enthusiasts and are unprepared to buy. These include mall shows, sidewalk shows, fairs and parks, and restaurants and stores. Know your market. Think big and expensive pieces for artist organization shows, competitions and studio shows, and small and least expensive for libraries, malls, fairs, sidewalk shows, and stores and restaurants.

When your work is finally out there, frustration and discouragement can come creeping into your life. These are an artist’s real enemies, so keep your chin up.

  • Sales do not make or break the artist. Circumstances affect sales and you cannot control circumstances. Your sales will climb and they will drop. Sales—no matter how big or how many—do not make you a successful artist. Sales equal achievements. Don’t let sales influence your work.
  • Don’t let rejection get you down. Whether your work was rejected as an entry to a show or got passed over for an award, consider why the work was rejected. Artists must consciously free themselves from their work when seeking feedback. Look for honesty and fairness. If your art goes without reward, accept that your work lost a prize through a fair judging process. Realize that the opinions of the judges don’t make the work inferior.

When success comes, keep in mind that praises, awards and acclamations aren’t personal reflections on you. Ignore pats on the back. You aren’t what others make of you, but what you make of yourself. Tame that ego and stay honest to yourself.

2 thoughts on “Art Talk: Showing and Selling Art

  1. Excellent, excellent advice. I hadda smile at “Know when the artwork is done.”– not an easy thing to know sometimes! And “Once it’s done, leave it alone” may be the sagest advice of all– and perhaps the toughest to follow!! A lot of thought went into this– very nicely done, Steven, and much appreciated.

    1. Steve Campbell

      Yep. I ruined many pieces by overdoing it. From those mistakes I developed a feeling of “the work looks and feels done” and learned that’s the best time to walk away. Every piece is never really done and could use a dash of color here or there (just ask any artist). But if it doesn’t scream “not finished” at you, leave it alone. A hard lesson learned. 🙂

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