Earlier Work Hasn't Sold: What to Do?

You are up to your eyeballs in unsold work!

What you’d really like to do is just get rid of it. It’s taking up your energy and you can’t afford to rent storage just for early work.

Deep Thought

What do you do with early work that hasn’t sold and no one seems to want?

The best response* will win a copy of Chris Guillebeau’s book The $100 Startup.

*I am the sole judge of the winner. My opinion is decidedly subjective.


Carol McIntyre was the winner of my challenge. Here’s why.

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64 comments to Earlier Work Hasn’t Sold: What to Do?

  • Cat

    Option 1: Move to another location where your work might be appreciated more – and people might actually pay you for what it’s worth.

    Option 2: If all else fails, and you happen to be a glass fusing artist like me, smash it up and re-use it in something new.

    If these ideas don’t work… I’ll let you know what else I can think of, as I am first trying option 1… then option 2, if necessary. We just moved from a very small rural community in the west (pop. 29,000) to an area much larger in population that attracts a LOT of tourists, and is very big on art galleries and art shows. Hoping Option 1 is the deal maker! 🙂

    • Cat

      May I add one more thought?

      At the end of the year before holiday gifting times, I usually would have an open studio party with lots of foods, and give folks an opportunity to make a Christmas/window ornament. I always had postcards printed and handed them out at shows or wherever I saw people to invite them personally.

      When I knew we would be moving to the eastern side of the US and didn’t want to pack and haul so much glassware with me, I had another open studio party. I covered up my glass this time and didn’t give the option to make an ornament – and sold waaaay more than I usually did with the “give away” deal. Maybe folks showed up for the freebie and then felt guilty if they didn’t buy something? 🙂 I did give discounts on “sets” of items and got rid of a lot of things that way, too.

  • Last year I did a studio cleaning and decided to try an online sale to my newsletter subscribers to clear out stuff. I offered two small groups of pieces from an older style for a 3 wk time period each. I offered free shipping and a little lagniappe (note cards, etc). This gave the opportunity to learn how to use ecommerce on my website and how to market online. The $ earned covered my expenses and a bit more, and the work went to really good homes. Several were first time art buyers. Will do this again on occasion.

  • For my earlier work that hasn’t sold, I have found a consignment gift store where I have taken quite a few pieces. I leave them there and my studio has less inventory and more space. They are consistently selling because the store has reached a group of buyers with different tastes in art.

    Another thing I do with older pieces is look at them with different eyes. I quickly revamp each one. Sometimes with a watercolor painting I will brighten up an area in the picture…. add something to an acrylic painting or quickly add or remove a mat or frame. I Change it up and then I make a new display in my studio.

  • My sister and I have a site together. We get together in the summer and have a sale. Our best sale is on the front lawn of a busy street. (We borrow the lawn) We sell our items as, buy one get one free. We have our free ones in a box for the customers to choose from. Customers love it!

  • Oh, boy. This is going to be hard. I’m cutting off the entries right here since it’s been over 48 hours. And now to decide the winner. Will be back!

  • Each month I select a non-profit arts organization (the smaller the better) that I think is doing great work. I introduce my audience to the organization and ask them to donate whatever they can to the organization to be entered into a drawing for a piece of older artwork. This raises awareness of and money for really worthy organizations, promotes my work to the organization’s supporters, and allows some people that might otherwise not be able to afford my work to own a piece.

    My “Be Nice and Do Good” give away program is on hiatus for my summer traveling season right now, but you can find the details here. http://chrisdahlquist.com/be-nice-and-do-good/

  • vicky

    Paint over your name if you don’t want people to know who did them. Take them to a place with a decent amount of foot traffic (best if this is right outside your own home) and leave them outside next to a trash can. People will take them. (It’s fun to watch people react to them!)

  • I think of my old work as a journel. I try to hold on to it, its packed away, but if it is a total bomb of a piece I generally will paint over it.
    My newer work that is crowding my studio I hang on the walls of my sisters and brother, my mother.
    Why put it in stacks if they and others can enjoy it. When I need something for an exhibition I just go and
    pick it up. Replace it with another painting.
    It good to see my work in someone elses space. I look at it more objectively.
    I have donated work but seldom do this. Artist are always been asked to give away their work, as well as musicians, this trend seems wrong to me. Artist are generally a poplulation of people who struggle financially.
    I will dontate or parttake in events where my work will get sold for a lot less then I would normally receive for a work. I rather donate my time to a worthy cause.

  • Lawrence Humphrey

    Yes Vincent, you should just destroy all those paintings you haven’t been able to sell.

    Frankly, those garish colors and those pecky brushstrokes of yours are never going to catch on.

    Not only that, but you’ve been sponging off your brother for the past 10 years. Give the poor guy a break.

    Get a life!! Get a job!! Be a man!!

  • Donate the artworks to charity. Or sell them really cheap specifying that you will donate the money to charity.

  • Hi all,
    I found Lawrence Humphrey’s comment to be very interesting! It could be that you haven’t found the right audience or perhaps you are ahead of your time! My favorite was the one where you advertise the heck out of a show for charity with other artists & then take a tax deduction on the $$ earned & donated. The buy one get one free is also an
    interesting concept!

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