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Art et peinture

3 Artists Share How They Stay Afloat During the Holidays

Marc Romanelli | Getty Images

As we head into holiday season, many artists are planning holiday sales of their work and doing big promotional pushes to end the year strong. In this interview by Michael Woodson, three artists share how they’re selling and marketing their artwork leading up to the biggest buying days of the year. Prepare to take notes!

Brian Burt
Cincinnati, Ohio

How has selling your artwork changed over the years?

Brian Burt: I began by participating in art fairs throughout the Midwest and on the East coast. Getting better at my craft, introducing people to my work and myself, and getting people to remember the work were most important to me. I then started approaching galleries, and I found places locally and abroad where I could sell my work. Six years after I graduated, I was a full-time painter.

Kiss Me (oil on panel, 5×5 ) by Brian Burt

How has technology changed the way you sell your work?

Mass emailing is hit or miss for me. The greatest success for me is Instagram. I’m using my strength (visual imagery) to capture people’s attention. I’ve lost count of how many pieces I’ve sold from posting finished or in-progress shots to clients on Instagram.

Sugar Crash (oil on panel, 6×6) by Brian Burt

What are other marketing strategies you’ve used and seen success with in selling your work?

Entering competitions that can result in free marketing is always a plus. My painting Song Of Solanum was in Southwest Art’s 21 Over 30 Competition years ago. Because of that exposure, I sold that painting and received commissions totaling around $10,000 from people I probably never would’ve reached otherwise.

Movie Theater Munchies (oil on panel, 7×4) by Brian Burt

What is the best advice you could give on selling work during the holidays?

Think about price point and size. Very few people are giving 24×36 paintings to someone for a gift, and even fewer are buying them for themselves because they’re on a budget. After all, everyone is stretching their holiday spending in all sorts of directions. But a 6×6 or 8×10 painting fits very nicely under the tree!

See more of Burt’s work at bmburt.com and follow him on Instagram at @bmburt_fine_art.

Birgit O’Connor
Marin County, California

What are a few tricks of the trade in selling your work?

As I started to develop my painting style, I began with affordable works — cards, small prints, small paintings, etc. Outdoor fairs, month-long shows, and competitions were all ways in which I was able to sell my work, and adding an open studio occasionally was very successful. Having a website and being on social media are both crucial to reaching out to your intended market as well.

Amazing Grace (watercolor on paper, 15×22) by Birgit O’Connor

When should an artist be more active in his or her marketing for the holiday season?

Start promoting around Thanksgiving and participate in holiday fairs and open studios. But I find all holidays are an excellent way to market your work, not just those that fall during the “holiday season.” Don’t forget the occasions you can focus on throughout the year, like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, and birthdays. These are great times to promote commissioned work.

Rhododendron Shadows (watercolor on paper, 22×15) by Birgit O’Connor

What are some standard promotional practices all artists should try?

Having a mailing list is crucial. Instagram and Pinterest are both great
for showing your work and keeping it in the public eye. Facebook is a wonderful way to get a global exposure — but when posting original work online, consider a watermark or a very low-resolution image for safety.

Gloria Shirley (watercolor on paper, 15×22) by Birgit O’Connor
Apple Blossom (watercolor on paper, 15×22) by Birgit O’Connor

What are some challenges you’ve overcome in selling your work?

I live in a rural area and, at times, I felt a little paralyzed and found myself retreating to my studio. So I started showing in a small local café and then expanded to other restaurants in my area. Many of the naysayers said showing in cafés was beneath them and that I needed to be really careful with how I chose my venues. But it gave me the exposure I needed, and over time, those same people scrambled to show their own work in that café!

See more of O’Connor’s work at birgitoconnor.com and follow her on Instagram at @birgitoconnorwatercolors.

Ursula Roma
Cincinnati, Ohio

Are there similar qualities to marketing today versus at the start of your career?

In the 1990s, I advertised in source books and found them to be a great way to find new clients. But social media is primarily how I market my work today. It’s free, but you can also pay to reach specific audiences, so when my budget is more flexible, I tend to sponsor some advertisements to sell my work.

Cat Head Ornament (steel with enamel finish, 51⁄2×51⁄2) by Ursula Roma

What do you suggest artists do for holiday marketing?

As the holidays near, say in October, I will start to post images of my work that would appeal to gift-givers. The prices are in a reasonable range, and the subject matter is more universal. I also participate in art shows in the fall and plan solo gallery shows in the fall and winter because people tend to spend money on art during those seasons, especially commissions for family and friends. I post consistently in the fall and winter — which means daily — and I respond to people’s comments promptly. If people feel engaged by the artwork and the artist, they tend to want to purchase that artist’s work!

Rainbow Circle Birds (steel with enamel finish, 11×16) by Ursula Roma
Herd of Cats (steel with enamel finish, 11×23) by Ursula Roma

With so much advertising happening during the holidays, what practices have you found to be most successful?

People tend to be bombarded with imagery and sales during the holidays. I post only images and announcements for my sales and try to remain present, so that when they’re ready to buy, they remember that I’m here!

Flower Painting (acrylic on wood, 11×24) by Ursula Roma

Any advice for artists just starting to sell their work?

Artists should try to remember that buyers have limited budgets and lots
of people to shop for. The holidays are a good time to promote work that is within a reasonable price range and has positive imagery! Smaller items are always bestsellers during the holidays.

See more of Roma’s work at ursularomametalworks.com and follow her on Instagram at @ursula.roma.

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