When you first start painting its easy to never feel you are ready to share your art. You tell yourself “I’m not good enough”, “I don’t have enough experience”, “I can’t compete”, or “I don’t know what to do to get my stuff in front of people”.
Its easy, and understandable, to be hesitant, self-conscious, even insecure (if we are being honest.) After all, you know you still have so much to learn, and that your work doesn’t yet live up to your standards. Well guess what. It probably never will. The pursuit of art is a lifelong pursuit. There is always more to learn, more to master, new techniques, changing interests, etc. etc. etc. Artists are never satisfied.
If you wait until you are “ready” you run the very real risk that you never take that step. You never reach the level where you are comfortable going public. I’m here to tell you – do it anyway.
If you think your “art” is not ready, or not good enough. You are not alone. From what I can tell every artist, regardless of experience or skill, feels that way to some degree. Don’t believe me? Artists as famous as Claude Monet destroyed many, many paintings he felt were not worthy. Perhaps they were not worthy when measured against his own high standards, but do you doubt for a moment that any one of those destroyed paintings would today fetch millions in the art market? Or be coveted by those that appreciate fine art?
So don’t wait. Take that step. If for no other reason than you can’t pile them up in the basement any more, and you have no more family members and friends you can give them away to.
I’m going to give you a bunch of suggestions of how you can get your stuff out there below, but before I do here is one more example of why you should not wait until you think you are ready (or good enough or whatever). You can skip it if you want, its the piece in italics below.
On more than one occasion I have resisted showing a painting I had done. And on more than one occasion that piece of art has been the one that has sold or drawn the most interest. I recently painted a set of painting in 4-seasons. They are landscapes with birch trees as the main unifying element. When I started I thought I wanted to paint relatively the same scene from within a birch forest, but in different seasons. I had already painted a birch forest in winter twice and was happy with the results. So I painted a dense birch forest that was to be my “Spring” entry. When I got nearly done I was unsatisfied with the result for a lot of reasons. So I hung in on my wall so I could look at it over a period of time and decide how I was going to paint over parts of it and “fix” it. (that painting is the one at the top of this post) Then I moved on to another season and changed gears in the concept of the 4 pieces. Over the next couple weeks I completed a 3 of the four new-concept seasonal paintings and had them hanging in the same room. During that time a fair number of people had reasons to visit, and most often these people commented on the painting I didn’t like. The one I planned to re-paint. One of these people even followed up a little later and asked if she could buy THAT painting. When I explained I had not finished it and had to fix it first, she said “but I like it just the way it is”. So I am about to put the final coat of varnish on this painting I deemed not worthy of showing and will deliver it to her shortly.
The lesson here is you are not always the best judge of your work. You have a vision in your head of what you wanted it to be and maybe the result doesn’t live up. But that doesn’t mean its not what someone else finds enjoyable. Art is in the eye of the beholder. If your goal is to reach people with your art and make others happy or experience something through your art. And they do … don’t let your expectations cloud your judgement of whether you should put it out there.
Just do it!
OK, so assuming I’ve convinced you to put yourself out there, where do you start. Having just started painting less than 2 years ago and just made the decision to put myself out there less than a year ago, let me tell you what I have done. I’m sure there are other steps you can take to get your art out in front of people, but here are some ideas that have worked for me (or that I have in my plans).
- Get a website (or a blog).
Create one yourself, or hire someone to do it, but creating websites to display your portfolio is far easier these days than you may think. There are many places you can even start a “Free” website. And they come with templates and/or tools for adding pictures, galleries and pages with content. Just google “free websites” or “website templates for artists”. Squarespace and Wix are two places you can start.
Having a website gives you a place you can easily post your work and then share it with those who express interest. This can make you look more professional and more committed. It also allows you to send a link to your site when approaching places that may be interested in seeing your work.
- Start a Facebook page.
Make it separate from your personal page. It should be solely for showing, sharing, and talking about your art. Send it to your friends and family and let them share it with others. Post every time you finish a painting, or learn something new, or come across a great idea. I have one. I even link posts from this blog so they show up automatically on my Facebook page. Creative Waters Art Facebook Page
- Join a local art league, group, or association.
This is the single best thing I have done. Turns out there is a great art league right in my home town that has members from all over. Not only do you get to meet other artists, but these groups share great information about upcoming events, opportunities to show your work, competitions, etc. And the people all love art and have been through what you are going through. Hands-down more opportunities were made available to me by being a part of this art league than anything else I have done.
- Keep an eye on local charitable events that host art events.
Twice this summer I have participated in charitable events that call for local artists to submit and show their work, with a portion of any sales going to a charity. These events can draw hundreds, even thousands of spectators and potential buyers. And they promote the event, often posting all the work submitted on websites or Facebook pages. Someone else is doing all the promotion for you!!! How about that!
Ask anyone you think may be willing to show your art. The very first time I put my art out in public was a result of me asking the owners of a Inn here in Vermont if they wanted some art to hang in their space. Its free for them, and they have a lot of different people coming through. I sold my first piece ever this way, the first week after I hung my work. My agreement is that if I sell a painting (I hang 2) then I have to have a replacement to put up before I can give the painting to the new owners.
Here are the types of places you can ask. *Anywhere you see art hanging!* That means coffee shops, Inns, Law Offices, Public buildings, restaurants, local art supply stores, etc. And, yes you should definitely talk to local gallery owners. Maybe you are not established enough, or even want to be in a gallery, but gallery owners love to talk art and are a good source for possible places that WILL take your art. Ask.
- Fairs and other local events.
Often times annual fairs have an art exhibit where they promote and accept work from local artists. Any medium or skill level.
- Set up a booth.
This is on my list to do, and cost can be a consideration, but even though it might not be the best place to sell your art due to all the competition that can be at these events, it DOES get you in front of a lot of people. Booths can be purchased at local art events, sometimes at local farmer’s markets, at fairs, for just a few suggestions.
- Start an email list.
Again this may seem daunting, but there are options that are free up to a certain number of subscribers to your list. Collect names at the events you participate in, the art fair you have a booth at (see above item) and on your website. Ask those who subscribe to share with others. Then send out a e-newsletter or postcard every once in a while, like when you have art hanging in a certain spot or you are participating in an event. Always share your best and latest art. A couple places you can start a e-newsletter for free are MailChimp (the one I use) and MyEmma.com.
- Participate in contests or events.
I have participated in a couple ‘en plein air’ events this summer and enrollment was open to anyone. I sold a painting at the last one! Often these fill up very quickly so google them and find the ones in your area or that you are willing to travel to, and put them on your calendar to check often when they start accepting applications. These usually have a small fee, but they often have a showing at the end other for a day, or for weeks! And again, someone else is doing the promotion for you! They are fun, and you get to meet lots of other great artists and people (people you can ask to put on your mailing list).
- Start a YouTube channel.
OK, this might not be for everyone, and requires you to be able to create videos people may be interested in. You can develop a following, and these followers can help spread the word about your art. I have one. Check it out, subscribe, I’d love to have you follow my progress by subscribing here (find the subscribe link at the right), to my youtube channel, or to like my Facebook page.
- Others I have not done but are good ideas are to post your work to Etsy. Lots of artists sell and show their work this way. You can find other avenues online to if you google it or look around. There are sites that post work daily. And places you can sell your art or prints like Fine Art America.
Every one of the above items with the exception of having a booth at a local art fair, and the ones in that last bullet item, is something I have done or is in the works in the coming weeks. Every one has been valuable in not only getting my work out there, but in meeting more artists and people willing to share more about what they know are are doing. They have shared knowledge not only about painting but about other upcoming events or opportunities to show my art. And I have shared what I know with them. Its fun, its friendly, and more importantly to those of us new to this experience, all have been very supportive.
Have other tips or suggestions for getting out there? Or just want to share your experience? I’d love to have you comment on this post and share it with anyone you think might find it useful. Now, get painting, and get your stuff out there! Cheers!