16 Ways to Demonstrate Your Art Has Value

Sometimes we get sloppy and forget that everything we do and say around our work affects how others perceive it.

You teach people how to treat you and your art. Make sure you’re sending the right signals.

Here are 16 things to consider.

Making and Preparing Art

1. Use the highest quality materials you can afford. It would be humiliating for your art to start falling apart after it’s purchased.

2. Select frames that complement your work and are well made.

3. See that your mats are cut meticulously. Nothing ruins a good image like a sloppily cut mat.

4. Ensure that all 2-D art rests flat against the wall. It shouldn’t bow, droop, or buckle.

5. Sign your art. It doesn’t matter how you sign it or where, but sign it. Signing art says, “This is complete, and I made it.”

Sarah Snavely demonstrates how she packs her sculpture – securely and professionally. Image used with permission.

Sarah Snavely demonstrates how she packs her sculpture – securely and professionally. Image used with permission.

Handling Art

6. Don’t schlep your art around in supermarket bags. Use portfolios and beautiful boxes.

7. Use the right amount of packing material to ensure that the work will arrive safely.

8. Insure your work and studio appropriately. Home insurance rarely covers business mishaps.

I was enchanted with this exhibition at the Philadelphia airport. Works by Maria T. Jacobs are handsomely displayed and clearly show the artist credit.

I was enchanted with this exhibition at the Philadelphia airport. Works by Maria T. Jacobs are handsomely displayed and clearly show the artist credit.

Exhibiting Art

9. Let people see the art! Your work should be well lit wherever it is on exhibit. Look out for hot spots, glare, and shadows.

10. Create uniform wall labels that are carefully cut and stay snugly on the wall. Wonky labels that appear to be an afterthought can ruin an otherwise solid installation.

11. Use museum-quality hanging and installation devices.

Documenting Art

12. Document all of your art with high-quality photographs. They should be as good or better than the art because they represent the work and if you do your marketing right, you will sell art from JPEGs.

13. Keep your inventory database up to date, noting details such as size, specific materials, and exhibition record of each piece.

14. Maintain a price list. It’s unprofessional to make up prices on the fly.

Interpreting Art

15. Talk about your work with respect. Develop the language to speak intelligently and confidently about it.

16. Don’t ever apologize for your art or leave anyone to believe that you are less than an artist.

What else would you add to this list? Leave a comment and share your experience.

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62 comments to 16 Ways to Demonstrate Your Art Has Value

  • Great article. Particularly inspired by your comment about the art in the Philadelphia International Airport as I have an installation going into the airport in December 2013!

  • Showcase one of your best works on your website…Instead of just writing, size, media, date, name, write all the exceptional things about the work including methods & decisions that are unique, particular & selling points…Did you sit out in a forest all night long for a 5 minute glimpse of a wolf so your sculpture would be more excellent? Is your oil paint eco-friendly walnut oil locally made? Did you hand stretch the work & use copper tacks instead of staples? Do you forego brushes because they are made of animal hair? Did you invent a new way of doing something? If you don’t tell people won’t know…Why is your work more special than anything else on this planet? Why?

  • Question: Is it better to have a price list than to price each piece individually on the display tag (at an art fair)? And should a price list be displayed or just on hand? I’ve been pricing each piece individually.

    • Janet: By “price list” I just mean to know how your art is priced in case someone asks you when it’s not on public display. Yes, please do add the prices to the labels.

      Use the list to make the labels. Does that make sense?

  • Great article, it’s good to be reminded to speak of our work respectfully, I have a habit of trying to be humble, and in doing that I tend to apologize for the work, and/or the prices!
    And thanks for the reminder, Sari, it can be hard to learn to ‘brag’ if you could call it that, and as an artist it is just as interesting to see other artists methods and how they differ from my own, as well as the thought process leading up to the work.

  • Cherril Doty

    I am reminded of a book Alyson has spoken of in the past–”Brag: How to toot your own horn without blowing it” This is a wonderful book that makes many invaluable points about speaking of our own work.

  • Do the best you can to always display where other works are at least equal to your quality. Deliberately upscaling as often as possible is a clear indication of your respect for your work.

  • Great article Alyson! I’m new at selling art and this will help me on how to showcase my art. Thanks for sharing.

  • Great info thanks so much! I really appreciate the words of wisdom here, good to be mindful of all of these things!

  • I was given a bit of advice at a workshop by Zoltan Szabo many years ago, which I try to pass on to others. Artists are on a time line with their art. Therefore, be proud of your art wherever you are in your career, as you will always be striving to improve. Present yourself positively.

  • As always, great information. Even if we already try to do all 16 things, it is wonderful to be reminded.
    We keep our inventory in multiple forms. I have an excel spreadsheet with all of the works. I have an active page and an inactive page. On the active pg I have a location column, so I know exactly where to find each piece: hung in gallery, on loan, storage, etc. I also, have an inactive pg. This is where I move the entries once the art has been, sold, returned to artist, shipped to another gallery etc. I also keep one inventory list, it looks like an invoice, for each artist. Then I create two wall cards for each piece. We use Avery business cards, 5160. Each piece of art always has a wall card attached to the back of the piece and the other card goes on the wall. This helps reinsure that the wall card and work of art are the consistent.

  • Alyson…We will meet one day! You also featured the short video of my dear friend Polly Apfelbaum…the world gets smaller and smaller…Thanks for this great post and your wonderful blog. There is always something to learn.

  • Here is another item for the list. Use correct grammar and spelling. Proof everything – website, business cards, Facebook posts – everything. Failing to write well, or have others do it for you, is a mark of carelessness to many folks.

    • Yes, but try to appreciate and forgive. Too many people troll around looking for mistakes and then making judgment calls over one mistake. I’ve been on the receiving end of this. No matter how careful you are, there will be mistakes.

      Still, we have to do our best. And we are not our own best proofreaders.

  • Anita Morris

    What does museum quality hanging anf installation device mean? Say I want to make a textile hanging and therefore unframed, what should the hanging device?

    I know specific ways I can insure my art while exhibition but insuring it all the time simply isn’t an option. I don’t even have home and contents insurance.

    • Anita…Museum quality hanging & installation devices means that they are nice…Nice means made of something that is safe enough for the work to hang from, nice enough that if parts have to show they look good & are good, nice enough that years later they won’t turn green & moldy with a strange smell…That said, if you really want to use something weird because it is part of your artist’s statement then make sure it is explicit…The installation piece that got thrown out by the janitor because he thought it was trash after the opening party might have had better signage…To add to my list: I learned from The Paint Spot in Alberta not to let anyone put my work on the floor nor stack it…My rule is that it comes home to me instead of getting put in a gallery storage area on a floor, or stacked…When I arrive to install, work is brought in one by one, I don’t arrange it on the floor first…I learned that putting art on a floor degrades it…Stacking paintings is like, the worst, but I see it all the time in backrooms…

    • Every media is different, Anita. Most quiltmakers use sleeves at the top with inserted flat boards. Sometimes weights at the bottom are necessary. It’s super important that the work doesn’t flutter or buckle.

      Framed works should have 2 eye screws D Rings on the back with capable wiring between the screws. The screws allow works to be more secure because they are hung from 2 places instead of just one.

      Capable wiring = wire you can touch – that doesn’t poke anyone who tries to pick it up. Not sloppy!

  • Sari

    I was told no eye screws…I use double D rings with two screws in each holding the bracket part, & a thick D that is floppy to adjust for angle…I use copper wire so it won’t rust-but that was not asked for…

  • Another wonderful, informative post! Alyson, I can’t thank you enough for everything I have learned from you and all of the valuable links and information you share!!

  • I didn’t know about not using eye screws…I will be using D rings from now on. Thanks for the info!

  • Your art is the most precious gift that you have to offer…so treat it that way in all that you do, all that you write about and in everything you say.

    your website is to both showcase and for selling your art 24/7 hours for 365/365 days. So have a realistic pricing structure and an on-line shopping cart with say Pay Pal to take the money.

    The blogs on your website are a good place to write about individual paintings…keep your website clean sharp and focused on the art images. Blogs are for the words!

    And keep that website fresh!

  • Phil I am talking about basics here…Things that are being taken for granted…Is it Belgian Linen or Cotton canvas…? Are your stretcher bars made from sustainable wood or old growth? Pre-stretched or hand stretched? Locally made paint or store bought from a manufacturer far away? Are canvases primed & sized or not? Animal hair brushes or a painting knife? D rings or eye screws? Copper wire or stainless steel? What thickness is the wire? Framed by yourself or framed by a framer? Traced from a photo or painted from life outside en plein air? Did you make the paint yourself? I’m talking about the ingredients…Specifically…Organic or not? Things you would read on Amazon in a product description…Different from a blog post, these are nuts & bolts… A website won’t hit the search engines if there are not enough words…Clean & fresh might just mean ignored…

    • Sari, Thank you for your intersting response.
      A good thoughtful comment…I have figured out my answers to “my canvases” and it can be found in The PK Blogs on my website.

  • I re-posted these reminders to my FB & Linked In pages (skipped Twitter as they ask for more into) with the note: “Simple suggestions, and most of us are doing this, but worth seeing it in print…….Somehow, clarifies the efforts.” Thanks…….!

  • tom

    Thanks Alyson, great advice. I think the last two are tricky when you first start out but learning to talk about your art and be proud of it, whoever the audience is, is so important.

  • Thanks so much. Alyson for yet another fab reminder of some of the elements in your book; ‘I’d Rather Be In The Studio’. I have to say I wholeheartedly embraced your suggestions and have had all my paintings professionally framed this year. So far every single painting that has been shown in open art exhibition this year have sold on the opening night! This can’t be just because I am a good artist can it? LOL

    • Wow! That’s some feat, Anne. Congratulations!

      Why do you think people connect to the work?

      • Thanks very much Alyson, I have asked the question and i have had answers ranging from the vibrant and energetic colours to the draughtmanship in some cases, however these have not always sold the paintings. Lately I have been receiving comments on the ‘professionalism’ of the paintings both from the viewer and the organisation hosting the show/exhibition. This has actually given me the confidence to increase my prices a little.
        BTW I got an email from Amazon recently asking if I want to sell the book i bought a while back… ‘I’d Rather Be In the Studio’…. Like Hell!!!! Lol

  • Nice article!

    I had a chance to do some work for a hand-painted ceramics company who sold through only the highest venues right from the start. The original founder of the company had this belief that her works were extremely special and she priced them that way from day one. No raising of prices over years. She knew what she had, set the value, and took it to the market where it was successfully met.

    I think that’s important. Price what you feel your art is worth, put good value on it as it is deserving, then sell it in an appropriate venue.

    You can’t expect McDonalds to sell their burgers for $15.95 because they are such a poor product AND the target market is they go after is looking for value.

    Just like you can’t expect a Red Robin burger to be sold at the McDonalds market. Another miss-match.

    But more than anything, I think the number one thing is this: If you have no value for your art, how can you expect others to? Make the best quality product (art) you can, and value it appropriately. Just because you are new to the market and don’t have much velocity of sales, doesn’t mean your art shouldn’t be priced appropriately to reflect the quality and the value it reflects.

    • Right, Robert. Newbies often make the mistake of underpricing. And it really makes the established artists angry.

      • When you underprice your art, you bring down the value of everyone else’s work.

        • Anita Morris

          I create fabric postcards, and A4 embroideries designed to be framed. I’m also create oil pastels in A4. This will be my first body of work. Most people work a lot bigger. I like those sizes, they suit my disabilities, my lack of space – sharehouse living and no studio.

          How do you price work that is smaller than everybody else’s as a newbie and not underprice?

          • Sell one to your mother & see what she will pay…Mom’s will pay a fair price, not more not less, a Goldilocks price…Use that as an arbiter of number…(If you don’t have a mother available, try your father…brother…sister…daughter…someone who likes you & is honest…)

  • Such useful tips and reading all the comments added greatly to the info too

  • Dawn Bloomfield

    Dear Alyson, I have just been sent your “blog” and info through “Linked In”. I am a “self-taught” Artist from the U.K. I live in a small town in the West Country and have been exhibiting my art locally once a year. Recently, I sold my first painting. From this experience, I learned to consider current trends with framing. The change I made was to change the frame to a white one and my painting sold. Your views on how to regard oneself as an Artist are inspiring. My tendency is to see my art as inferior to Artists with qualifications and not to “toot my own trumpet”. I now intend buying the book called “Brag”. Thank you so much for your inspirational “blog” – Dawn Bloomfield

  • I sell my artwork on line (etsy), and often I buy artwork too. I have noticed what an impression the packaging of an artwork makes on me as a buyer. I was sent one watercolor recently that looked great online but was mailed without any care to make the whole package look attractive and valuable. It was so disappointing and made me feel much less excited about the watercolor. On the other hand, I have received a tiny drawing in the past that was so beautifully presented that it looked precious and dear. Now I am extra careful when I send my own work.
    Thank you for this post, and thank you to everyone who left such helpful comments.

  • Great article Alyson! And Sari is so right — showcasing your work is important and why not make it more special and unique by doing that little extra! I lack confidence in showing off what I do and now I realize that’s probably the biggest deterrent. When YOU love your own work and have a passion for what you’re doing, other will love it too!

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