109 – Unconventional Ways to Sell Your Art
Episode 109

In this episode, Laura and Nikki dive into the deep sea of art sales, but not in the way that you might think. They take you off the beaten path, exploring 12 unconventional, out-of-the-box methods to help you sell your art and turn your passion into profit. If you’ve ever felt stuck or unsure of how to get your art into the world, this episode is crafted just for you!

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Laura

0:01
Today we’re diving into the deep sea of art sales, but not in the way that you might think. We’re going off the beaten path exploring 12 unconventional out of the box methods to help you sell your art and turn your passion into profit. If you’ve ever felt stuck or unsure of how to get your art into the world, this episode is crafted just for you.

Hi, this is Laura Lee Griffin.

Nikki

0:31
And this is Nikki May with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:41
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

0:53
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours. Laura, in my opinion, this is the best time to be an artist. The old ways of being an artist or designer and going through galleries or agents is still viable, but there are so many more options out there today than there ever have been before for us to get our work seen and sold.

Laura

1:18
Okay, Nikki, this is gonna be fun. Yeah, we’ve had so many episodes about selling on marketplaces like Society6 and other print on demand sites. And we all know that you can sell your artwork on Etsy on your own website or at art festivals and markets. But let’s talk about other creative ways to get your artwork into buyers hands.

Nikki

1:39
Yeah, I’m going to just dive right in. So the first thing that comes to mind is do some collaborative projects. You can work with other artists or groups of artists to create pieces or series. It’s a great way to expand your reach as you can tap into the other artists, communities and audience bases.

I’ve done a couple of really cool collaborative projects. I know you’re also in the past part of the encaustic world. So I did some really cool collaborative projects when I was part of IEA International and caustic group that there was an East Coast group and a West Coast group and being in the middle of the country. I not really part of either one, but I was part of the West, the West Coast group. And we met up with it was New England wax in in New England, at the encaustic conference in Massachusetts, and we came up with this project that was doing diptychs. So the East Coast and the West Coast paired up. And we each did two panels. And I started one and my partner on the East Coast started one and then we shipped them to the other person and the other person created the second panel of the diptych reacting to the first one. So we came away with two diptychs, and they were responses to the others. But what we did was we exhibited in both places. And so it just it doubled our reach of re you know, people attending the show that would never have seen the artwork otherwise, yeah. So you know, although personally, I didn’t sell mine, but a lot of people sold them. And we have a book on it. And we met new artists. So it just really expanded our reach.

Laura

3:34
Almost like a marketing thing as well, because other people would would maybe hear your name or see your artwork that wouldn’t have normally seen it. I actually did an exercise when I was in Bali with Flora Bowley where we worked on these paintings. And then in the middle of like, I don’t know, after like an hour or so of working on them. She’s like, turn to the person to your left and swap canvases. And I was like, That’s anxiety inducing. I kind of was but it was great, because then like you, you started building something from a different perspective. And sometimes that painting ended up being so much cooler than if you had just done it on your own. So I think that there’s some benefits there too, in the creative process when you collaborate with people, right? In addition to the fact that you can expand your artists base.

Nikki

4:21
Yah, definitely. So what’s next.

Laura

4:24
So the next way that is out of the box to sell your art is to leverage local businesses. You can partner with cafes with boutiques or other local businesses to showcase your art. They get unique decor and like beautiful artwork to put on their walls so that their facilities look fabulous. And you get that visibility and potential sales and a lot of them have really good arrangements on the percentage that they get as well. So it’s a it’s a great win win for both the artist as well as the local business. And I know here in Tulsa, as well as even in Dallas Have a Brazil was an example. I think there’s one in Tulsa called Shades of Brown that offer basically, sort of gallery wall space that you can put your artwork up there for sale and potentially patrons that walk into the coffee shop will want to buy them.

I’ve actually shown and sold my work in three different coffee shops here in Paducah. And in fact, two of them didn’t take a commission at all. They just wanted to support the arts locally, and gave me a space to just show my art and sell it. They you know, they sold it for me and didn’t even take a commission.

And people will show up at that coffee shop that never would have otherwise seen your art. So it’s a really great way to foster those. And, and really, it could be stepping out of the box and just approaching someone right and saying, Hey, I have some. Here’s some examples of my artwork. I’d love to put them on your walls. Do you have an opening coming up where there’s some wall space for me to do that?

Yeah. And not just coffee shops. There’s a little boutique hotel here in Paducah, right downtown, that has a lot of events. And they have their hallways open as a gallery. And I’ve shown my work there and lots of other local artists have. And I also had the idea I haven’t approached them yet, but I do a lot of drawings of nude women. And I’ve even got some of like breastfeeding mothers and I thought it would be great to go to like a women’s health center and see if they’d be interested in having my work on their walls either buy it outright from me or, you know, have it available for sale?

I think that’s a phenomenal idea. Yeah. So thinking outside of the box, even not just a restaurant or a place with food, but like other businesses where they your artwork might fit well with their decor.

Yeah, think hospitals, hotels, big office buildings.

So another option is to have your artwork in pop up shops, or pop up galleries. So you really think about having it in high footfall area. So sometimes those opportunities are actually advertised that people are going to do a pop up. You can approach local businesses about this. Sometimes there are malls that have empty spaces in them that they’d be willing to let you have a pop up. I know there are stores even like anthropology that we’ll have an afternoon with let a local artists come in and sell their you know, watercolor paintings or something that’s in line with their aesthetics, right. There are local holiday pop ups that happen sometimes, I actually participated in a Valentine’s Day pop up at a friend’s house once that was really fantastic. So just know that there are a lot of cool opportunities for popups where you can approach someone or you can be looking for those opportunities that other people have done in the past and see if you can get in on the next one that happens.

Nikki

7:57
Yeah, I was just actually this morning over coffee talking with a friend in her beautiful loft apartment. She’s looking for ways to sell more of her art and her home looks like an art gallery. You know, right now it’s full of art from other people. But I was like, well, why don’t you just temporarily take all that art off the walls, hang your art up and invite people for a cocktail party pop up gallery opening, right?

Laura

7:57
That would be amazing.

Nikki

8:00
If that goes well, then you can offer it to let other artists do it in your space. And there’s also I know, unfortunately, in the downtown have a lot of smaller towns like Paducah where I live, there’s a lot of buildings downtown that are vacant, that would be great for little pop up galleries or shops.

Laura

8:47
Right and it provides an opportunity for the city or whoever owns it to perhaps get a percentage of the income. And and people will look at the building as well. You know gifts gives a lot more visibility into that. So again, another win win situation.

Nikki

9:01
Another way to sell your art in a way that you might not think of originally is host an art workshop. Aside from the fact that that’s a great way to make a little extra money teaching. Anytime I have taken a workshop with an artist that I like if they bring art to the workshop, I’m gonna buy something.

Laura

9:23
You know, that’s so true. I have bought paintings, I’ve bought jewelry. I’ve bought all kinds of things from the teachers because you’re taking that workshop for a reason. You already love their style.

Nikki

9:33
Yeah, you love that you love their work. Yeah, their techniques. And so I know a lot of people that’s they make as much money selling their work at the workshop as they do teaching the workshop. So that’s another great way. Yeah, that is a great way to sell art out of the box. What else have we got?

Laura

9:52
All right, so the next idea is subscription models. You can offer monthly art boxes where you have a new piece of print and exclusive merchandise and enamel pin, whatever it is. And this creates a steady income for you but also helps build a loyal customer base. And I think there’s a few people have done this really successfully. I know. One subscription service I’ve seen is from Jennifer Hewitt, and she offers her own designed scarves. So it’s like a scarf of the month program. I’m actually part of Gingiber’s program for her tea towels because they are stunning and gorgeous. And I apparently need 50 tea towels in my house.

Nikki

10:36
Wait wait, do you even cook?

Laura

10:38
I don’t cook. But I use towels a lot. I am always cleaning things with towels.

Nikki

10:43
So you don’t cook you’re just messy.

Laura

10:46
I’m just messy. Yeah, but oh my gosh, these towels are gorgeous.

Nikki

10:50
They really are. Well, and I’ve thought about… I started working on a postcard subscription service. So like you would sign up and once a month, you would get a postcard in the mail. And you wouldn’t know what you’d get. But it would be a little miniature piece of art every month. And then you know, over time, you’ve got a collection of tiny art from your favorite artist.

Laura

11:14
Yeah, that’s kind of fun.

Nikki

11:15
I might have to pick up that idea again and run with it. Yeah,

Laura

11:18
I’ve seen those postcards that are wooden, it’d be so cool if you had a Glowforge.

Nikki

11:24
If I hadn’t sold my Glowforge….

Laura

11:25
And you could like make a really cool design on that and send like a wooden postcard. I don’t know, I just that sounds like a cool idea like it.

Nikki

11:33
So another idea is an art vending machine. And you can set it up in popular locations to get a lot of traffic. And there’s a bunch of examples. The one that comes to mind for me is the I think it’s called Artomatic. And it’s kind of like an old cigarette machine, okay, and you can order a kit and put your art in a little cigarette pack size box and sell your art that way. And they have like a variety of artists in them. And you can find those in various places. That’s a really cool idea.

Laura

12:06
That is cool. I mean, you’d have to figure out where could you place the machine and have the rights to do that. And would you need a permit or whatever.

Nikki

12:14
Right? But Art-o-Mat is actually a project out there that already exists that you can participate in and get your work into that machine. So then you just sell a tiny little piece, but also just get your name out there too.

Laura

12:29
Right. So they’ve already dealt with all of the housekeeping stuff.

Nikki

12:32
Yes, yes. We have one in our local Mellow Mushroom pizza place here in Paducah.

Laura

12:37
Yeah. And also, you know, there could be a local art gallery or collective or something that would love to have something like that, that you could talk to them about. Now, I know that Katie Daisy has recently created her own vending machine for stickers. And oh my goodness, it is the cutest little pink vending machine that you’ve ever seen in your life. I was just obsessed when I first saw it, and she will have these wildflower stickers that she has developed from her artwork on the inside and you put in like I think it’s like $1.25 and coins, and then it spits out the sticker. And it is so amazing.

Nikki

13:17
I would love to do that with my state flowers and insects and the birds I haven’t drawn yet.

Laura

13:23
We’re gonna link to the vending machine picture in the show notes so you can see just how stinking cute this thing is.

Nikki

13:30
It’s so cute.

Laura

13:31
It’s so cute. I think it’s a brilliant idea.

Nikki

13:34
And on a smaller scale, I’ve seen somebody use like an old gumball machine. And you know they have those like little plastic eggs, little containers that yeah, like egg, little tiny eggs that have a little toy in it or something that I’ve seen somebody use that for little pieces of art. And that’s a much smaller thing that can like sit on a counter. So you can pick those up at antique stores.

Laura

13:58
That can be cool for like jewelry or something.

Nikki

14:01
Yeah, I’ve seen like tiny little books or just teeny teeny tiny little drawings or paintings.

Laura

14:08
So another example could be having a treasure hunt sale. You can organize an art treasure hunt, where where buyers could find clues to find something. But you could also use this as sort of a marketing ploy per se. And I know that there’s an artist out there named CJ Hendry and we’ll link to her in the show notes. She love her work. She is a colored pencil artist and she does these huge scale, color pencil drawings that look like you could just reach out and touch the thing. They’re very realistic. But she does a lot of work kind of like Andy Warhol did with she will take like an item that exists and crumple it up or you know, put paint on a very expensive like athletic shoe and then she captures like a photo of that or whatever and then she draw Was it and that it’s considered sort of copyright infringement. Something happened with that at some point. And now she has this fun copyright infringement scavenger hunt. And it happens in different cities all over the world. And when she releases the data, it’s going to happen. And lets people know people go absolutely bonkers. And she’s created this massive following from this really cool scavenger hunt that she created for herself. So there are definitely opportunities there to do something creative.

Nikki

15:28
Yeah, you could think of a way to do something similar with your art, have a piece of art hidden somewhere and have clues that people can find and whoever finds it gets to keep it or something like that.

Laura

15:39
Yeah, very cool.

Nikki

15:40
Yeah. Okay. Here’s my favorite one. Have a traveling studio or gallery on wheels. Obviously, I live in a bus, we’ve talked about that about 800 million times. But there are other people that I’ve seen that like Carrie Schmitt, I think we’ve talked about before, that has a traveling studio in a pink bus, very pink, beautiful bus. And then I’ve seen another woman who has a print studio in a, like an old bread truck, or like a FedEx truck or something. And then and then I liked the idea of so I live in my bus, but I travel around a lot, I have my studio set up in it, but I could also set up a pop up little gallery in it and sell my work anywhere I go.

Laura

16:31
Yeah, I think that’s an amazing opportunity, if you have the resource to have something like that, or that’s a desire that you have to do it. And you have a place to park it. Right, Nikki?

Nikki

16:45
That’s, that’s one of my biggest challenges in my life these days.

Laura

16:48
Yes, I think that’s just a fabulous way to have a studio and to get your artwork out there to people. Okay, another way to get your artwork sold and to get your your artwork in front of more eyes are live art performances. So you can create art in live settings. Now that could be in parks at events. It could be even at a church or a wedding, you can create like a painting during a ceremony or even on public transport. So the process sort of becomes something that everybody gets involved in and the piece could be auctioned on the spot. Or it could be something that, you know, somebody commissions.

Nikki

17:33
Laura, haven’t you done that yourself?

Laura

17:35
I actually have. I did a live painting session as part of my gallery show. So I had a gallery show in a community art gallery. And so I had probably 30 pieces or so on the wall. But then I wanted to show people the process. So I came in and actually did a live painting session for about two hours where people could ask questions, I’d interact with them, they could watch me paint, I brought in a classical guitarist so they could play nice music in the background, I had tons of food. So it was sort of my opening show for the gallery show. It was my opening. But I made it something that everybody could sort of interact with and be involved with. And then even separately, I think I had an iPad showing my process, like some videos of a process of creating one of the paintings so that people can feel more involved in that. And people want to go someplace, hey, if you’re going to offer free food, music and entertainment, you know, people enjoy that. So

Nikki

18:32
And I think that once you’ve gotten people excited about the process, they’ve seen you create it, they’re going to be a lot more eager to buy.

Laura

18:40
Absolutely, absolutely. And another example is my friend, Miranda Vanden hovel, who we did interview on the podcast on the episode on commissions she has done painting on huge wall size panels in a bar before and came in for like five hours and just did this really cool abstract painting piece live in a bar with everybody watching.

Nikki

19:04
Oh, I would totally do that. If they’d keep me supplied in bourbon the whole time.

Laura

19:08
Of course they would.

Nikki

19:10
You know what, I’ve got some friends with bars here in town. I’m gonna get on that.

Laura

19:17
All right, Nikki, what’s another example?

Nikki

19:19
So here’s an idea that that I just heard about, that I’m really excited to do myself. And that’s to have a temporary tattoo parlor. Okay, you can get your art converted into temporary tattoos. There’s actually paper you can buy and print it yourself. But there’s also companies that do that for you like a print on demand or you know, it’s not just not just a one off you have to probably buy in bulk but, but you can get your work printed on to temporary tattoos that can last up to like a week. Set up a booth at a festival or market or out of your bus and, you know, sell it, sell them for a few bucks. And then you have people walking around wearing your work.

Laura

20:09
You know, that’s really interesting. I have a couple of examples of that one, there was this really cool festival in it was like a marketplace that was Boho Chic in Dallas. And it took place in the big Dallas Market Center on the first floor and people would come in and you could get like flowers and all this and somebody had one of those. They had a booth with temporary tattoos. And they would like apply it for you while you were there. And then you could walk around and like everybody who’s going to a boho chic event wants to have a temporary tattoo. I mean, how cool is that? Absolutely. And then another example is I went to something called the World Domination Summit. I so wanted to go to that. It sounds way more sinister than it is. Okay. So it was dominating the world with adventure, kindness, entrepreneurship, creativity, like things like that. And while I was there, I saw a girl who had created temp tattoos. And in her case, she used it for marketing. And she basically handed these out there were hundreds of people walking around advertising, I think it was her membership, because the tattoo was super cool. And everybody wanted one. So yeah, there’s some really great ways to use temporary tattoos to your benefit.

Nikki

21:18
Yeah, I think I actually might do that at some of these, some of these Nomad gatherings that I’ve been going to how you totally should, yep, I’m on it. Because what I need is, what I need is a whole new project to start.

Laura

21:32
Of course you do. All right, Nikki, the next one would be Facebook auction groups. Now I’m using Facebook as an example. It could be on a different platform. But this would be an example where artists come together, and they decide to create a Facebook group that they use solely for selling their art. And you can release it you can pause, like any posting in the group. And then when the week that you’re ready to do your auction, you can open that up. And each person who’s selling their art can share pictures of the art. And then beneath the post, people will actually post whether or not they want to bid, and then they bid on that art. And it closes at a certain time. And they award the artwork to that final bidder. And it’s a really great way to sell your artwork, because number one, it’s free, right like, now, I don’t know, I know Facebook has done some different things around sort of monitoring monetary activity. So I’m not sure how all of that that works today. But I think at the time that this was built, it was like a free way to put your artwork out there and get it sold. And then in addition to that, you’re getting your work in front of a lot of different people’s eyes, that normally wouldn’t have necessarily seen your artwork, because you might be in a group of five artists that are contributing to this auction. And so I think that’s, that’s really a cool way to come together. And it’s very accessible, because everybody has access to Facebook, and creating a community around selling artwork that everybody can enjoy. And I’ve actually bought artwork that way. So I am you know, this is a real thing.

Nikki

23:04
That’s cool. That’s very cool.

Laura

23:07
I’ve actually spent money that way, and bought some really cool artwork from people.

Nikki

23:11
So another thing you can do is barter for your art. Mm hmm. I’ve done an example. That’s kind of the backwards way where instead of selling my own art, I’ve purchased art by offering a service instead of money. They got a brand new, beautiful website, and I got a big beautiful painting that would otherwise have not been in my budget at all. Yeah, so you can do that for services. You can do that for haircuts, you know? Does your stylist like your art? Say, Hey, I’ll give you this great painting. And you can give me a year for free haircuts.

Laura

23:52
You know, it’s interesting. I did that once for a class because I taught in person workshops. And someone was always taking my class every month and we bartered for some beautiful pottery pieces. I wanted some brush rests that were custom mace. And so we were able to barter for that. And that was a win win for both of us.

Nikki

24:12
Okay, Laura, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got tons of wheels turning in my head right now. And I want to try a bunch of these ideas.

Laura

24:19
Yeah, me too. I mean, these ideas not only serve as ways to sell art, but they can also act as really great marketing strategies, generating buzz and word of mouth due to their unconventional nature.

And now we’d like to hear from you. Have you tried any of these? Or do you have other unconventional ideas for selling your art that we haven’t thought of? Or are you like me, and some of the things we mentioned today got you super excited about things to try? We’d love for you to share them with us in our Startist Society Facebook group.

Nikki

24:52
For links to all the resources we mentioned, and to read today’s Startist Society show notes, go to startistsociety.com/unconventional. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, we’d love for you to leave us a five star rating and review and share it with a friend. reviews help us reach more Startists like you and keep us inspired to create new episodes.

Laura

25:14
Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.

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