The first 4 steps toward selling your art: Step #4

Here we are. The final step to take when you want to start selling your art. Note that these aren’t ALL you need to do to sell your art. These are the four things I tell someone who comes to me and asks, “Where do I start?” Got that? Okay, then, let’s review the first three steps.

Step #1 was Devote yourself completely to a studio practice
Step #2 was Create your mailing list
Step #3 was Connect with other artists

Step #4: Start writing about your art (and never stop)

Most artists insist they can’t write, but the problem is that they don’t make time to do it. They don’t want to do it. You can’t suddenly sit down at your computer or stare at a blank sheet of paper and expect to come up with a brilliant artist statement, bio, press release, or cover letter. You have to work at it.

I can’t think of a better way to begin the process than to start a journal. It’s completely safe because what you’re writing is for your eyes only. No one has to see it except you. It’s a tool you use along the way to help you connect with bigger and better audiences. The equation goes something like this:

More writing = more words = more opportunities to connect with fans

Gwen Revino, Annie MacHale, Liz Crain, Terry Parker, and Connie Williams

Gwen Revino, Annie MacHale, Liz Crain, Terry Parker, and Connie Williams make up the Santa Cruz artist marketing salon, where they talk and write a lot about their art. To start your own salon (free!), click on their photo.

Another cool thing about journaling is that there are no rules. You make them up as you go along. Do you need to create discipline? Set aside 15-20 minutes in the morning or evening to write. Do you have ideas leaking from your pores? Keep a journal with you at all times to capture the ideas before they disappear. Or use a voice recorder to catch your thoughts.

When you journal, you’re not trying to craft the perfect sentence. You’re writing just to get the words out of your head and onto the paper. You’re writing to capture the thoughts and to create a pool of words you can fish from when you need them. And you WILL need them.

Writing about your art is nonnegotiable

Ever heard of anything anywhere being sold without words? You need words to talk with interested buyers, other artists, curators, and arts writers. You need words to fill up a website or blog. You need words to tweet with on Twitter. And you need words to write your artist statement, press releases, grants, and newsletters.

There’s no getting around it. You can’t promote your art without words, so you might as well start now. Writing might also make you a better artist because you’re exploring art at a deeper level.

If you aren’t ready to write about your own art, write about someone else’s. Visit a gallery or museum for inspiration. Reading and watching documentaries about art will also grease the wheels.

Remember: You’re not trying to make the perfect literary document. You’re just capturing all of your thoughts before they disappear.

Related Resources

See “Differentiate Yourself: The Power of Your Artist Statement” in my book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio! (pages 35-52).

The Relatively Pain-Free Artist Statement (an e-book to help you journal your statement)
The Value of the Artist Statement (one artist’s process with the e-book)

Straighten Out Your Bio and Statement

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25 comments to The first 4 steps toward selling your art: Step #4

  • Alyson – This is a great post. Writing is so important to communicating about my work and can inform what I am trying to accomplish creatively. I have had many paintings result from journal entries – and I paint realism.

    It is also a way I can share my excitement about what I paint and why. Blogging has been a fantastic tool for the practice of writing and connecting with other artists and collectors.

  • Thank you so much for this great series of articles. I have enjoyed tremendiously reading them. It is always great being reminded and adding new knowlegde. I actually find the writing bit hard. Not that I don’t have anything to say, but not having English a my first language is deffinately not an advantage. Ah well, I’m doing my best… :-)
    Birgitte

  • Writing about your art is extremely important. Since I attended Alyson’s workshop a couple of years ago I began a blog, newsletters, brochures, social networking (FB, Linkedin, Twitter), joined forums, improved my artist statement and bio; wrote proposals, the list goes on. By doing so I’ve been better able to explain what I do and why verbally in person, too, and with more confidence.

  • Alyson,

    Thanks for your useful and very important tips.

    -ML

  • I think the writing should be left to pros…Let the artists paint & create–The key to sales is having a PR & marketing team to write about you…and sell your work. It holds much more creditbility when it comes from the press and third parties…

    Artpeace!
    AUDREY /ARTV

  • I finally started an art blog-

    http://philipkochpaintings.blogspot.com

    - and find it has been remarkably enjoyable. Wonder why I was so slow to pick up the pen in the first place. The only caution I have is that it does take up some of your time.
    -

  • I have found that journaling about my work (for my eyes only) helps me to firm up what I’m trying to say with paint. As someone who is forever looking to solidify my Visual Voice, I find having that “conversation with myself” helps me to whittle away at where I’m trying to go. After painting or facing a painting problem, I spew out all phrases and comments that come to mind. As I start to weed through them, I can sometimes find what I’m really trying to say. Though, I must admit, I’m in love with words almost as much as I’m in love with the visuals! :)

  • I agree with you about how it is important for an artist to become a good writer. I taught myself how to express myself verbally as well as I do visually by forcing myself to write about every single piece of art that I create. English is not even my first language, so I somewhat struggled for a while, but eventually writing about my work became as natural to me as creating it.

  • [...] Stanfield has an absolutely excellent series called The first four steps towards selling your art.   She is careful to say that these things aren’t all you have to do, but they are the way [...]

  • I like Natasha’s idea of writing about every single piece of art as a practice. Both writing about and talking about my art has been a breakthrough. I am realizing how important and powerful these are to my career. Unless I can give life and validity to my art, how can I expect someone else to?
    Thanks for the push, Alyson!

  • Philip: Welcome (a bit late) to the blogging world.

    Tracy: Sounds like words are part of your process. Very nice!

    Natasha and Julie: Writing about every work is wonderful. That’s why blogs are great! You can use that text, too, on a website. You never know which work someone will ask you about, so you’ll be well prepared.

  • Alyson,
    i love the insights. I finally started writing my blogs on meylah. I definately can relate to it. I love your statement “More writing = more words = more opportunities to connect with fans”
    This is the real truth. I wrote 2 blogs and I have got great feedback from fans.

    your writing is wonderful.
    Checkout my 2nd blog and let me know your advice : http://meylah.com/blog/82/Throwing-a-Home-Jewelry-Party

    • Liza Fe

      I hope you don’t mind my asking, but is Meylah free to use? I was looking over the site and found that one can request an invite. However, I didn’t see anything else about the trial period. Thank you. :)

  • Rez

    Really great advice actually. I never thought about it that way, not even art sells it self without words. Thanks so much, I’m going to make a conscious effort to write about my work.

  • Alyson what a fantastic post! Thank you so much! Your research is fantastic! I have kept a hand written log for years and years. I eventually moved it onto Exel and now I found Artists software! I love that! Thank you!

  • I started blogging about digital collage techniques, with specifics about the use of vintage wood engravings, inspiration, etc. It can be viewed at http://blog.retrocollage.com/.

    What I wonder is whether is makes sense to mix postings of new art in this type of blog? I do have a link to my art gallery of work for sale but have not put artwork itself in the blog feed.

  • Alyson: I started posting replies with the name of my website rather than my own name (Eric Edelman). I also decided to integrate my own artwork with my writings. Recently, I began a series I call “Profiles in Collage” to highlight the background of the earlier collage masters. So my blog is a hodgepodge of art-related, collage-focused material.

    I find now it does take quite a while to research and write my blog posts, but I think it is worth it.

    • I really wish you’d use your own name as that’s how you’ll want to be known in history. With “Art of RetroCollage,” you could be anyone. And we’ll just call you “Art.”

  • Michele: I’m happy you’ve been moving forward. And it sounds like you’re enjoying it – half the battle!

  • I didn’t know where else to write this, I read your posts regarding facebook and twitter…I hope you’ll consider writing something soon regarding LinkedIn as well. Thanks!

    • Tim: You can always email me (link in the About tab above).
      I haven’t heard of artists having much luck with LI and I hate to encourage anyone to spend time somewhere that won’t be fruitful for them. I’d love to hear from you if you have a good LI case study. alyson@artbizcoach.com

  • [...] Step #1: Devote Yourself to a Studio Practice Step #2: Create Your Mailing List Step #4: Start Writing About Your Art [...]