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Make Money With Your Art, Shows and Galleries

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

SWA Art Show reception Feb 2020

SWA Art Show reception Feb 2020

How To Make Money With Fine Art

I was prompted by a friend to write about how I make a living with art. Actually, it isn’t easy if you are new or haven’t a big name like Farrah Fawcett or Thomas Kinkade. The average artist has to diversify and sell art in a number of places and through a number of venues. I will cover some of the ones I use in this series. This one will cover Art Shows and Galleries.

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.

— Sophia Loren

My first place collage piece at the SWA Annual Show May 2021

My first place collage piece at the SWA Annual Show May 2021

Contests vs. Art Shows

I’m sure you have seen them. Contests offering whopping prizes for the best art design for posters or new logos. They crop up everywhere. I’ve seen them in newspapers, magazines, social media, and sometimes on TV. I am totally against artists entering these contests, and I will tell you why.

With a contest or competition, you are asked to create art along a certain guideline or theme for the possibility of a grand prize or a number of available prizes. I am against them for the simple reason that you are asked to sign an agreement (or by entering you implied agreement) that you turn over all rights to your art to the company or organization without further compensation. Only a few win and see prizes but the company keeps all the art entered regardless. This means for a very small layout on the business’ part (remember $1000 prize for a company like Pepsi is a drop in the bucket), they receive multiple pieces of art to use at will in the future. If the company approached an artist for a special event poster, usually they would be paying $10,000 or more given the world rights and length of time the piece will be in use. Sometimes a company will offer royalty fees for every time they use that piece in order to keep their initial layout down. So say they pay the artist only $2000 but a royalty fee of $.50 each time it is in use, you could conceivably be paid for the next decade for one job. So, you see, even if you win the contest, you have relinquished world rights in perpetuity for a very small compensation. If the said company uses your design in advertising for the next decade or two, you never receive another dime from them. No matter what the prize is, it hardly seems fair to the artist.

Art Shows, on the other hand, will ask a small fee for entering (anywhere from $15 to $40 per piece) and then judge your work against many others, sometimes hundreds, in order to receive a prize. After the judging, the pieces are displayed for a short time (a month or 6 months) and then your art is returned. You never lose your art. You may or may not receive a prize, but your art got visibility, the possibility of sales, and if not sold, you get your art back to enter in another show. That seems very fair.

Reception for SWA Annual Show May 2021

Reception for SWA Annual Show May 2021

Visibility

Art Shows can be local, statewide, national, or International. The wider the global coverage, the harder it is to get into, but the more visibility you get if you do. This means the chances of selling your work at an art show are greater the more visibility it receives. Still, I have sold pieces in local shows as well as statewide shows. It depends on the traffic generated to the show and the fickle public.

The Ziveli Winery Show 2018

The Ziveli Winery Show 2018

To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist.

— Robert Schumann

Art Societies

Many times an art show is generated and run by an art organization like the Society of West-Coast Artists, Pastel Society of America, or American Watercolor Society. Some (not all) will want and sometimes require you to join their society to enter, paying a year's dues. While I haven’t been able to financially join all the art groups I would like to, joining one or two is very beneficial. They not only offer annual shows but also meetings to support like-minded artists, demonstrations, and outings. What I have learned from associating with the Society of West-Coast Artists is equal or above a college degree. The friends I have made and lessons learned under their tutelage cannot be measured.

Art Show Lists

There are several places you can go to search for available art shows in your area. I have several “lists” I subscribe to that are delivered directly to my email inbox monthly. Just a few places to look are below.

ArtFairCalendar.com

Artshow.com

ArtsCraftsShowBusiness.com

Festivalnet.com

Galleries will sometimes allow artists to do demos in their space

Galleries will sometimes allow artists to do demos in their space

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

— Vincent Van Gogh

Galleries

I know having your art in a gallery seems the best way to sell it, but this is very difficult. You see galleries don’t just take artist’s work off the street. You don’t walk into a gallery with a portfolio and announce you have arrived. It doesn’t work that way. Galleries like boyfriends like to do the asking themselves. So the best way to get noticed by a gallery owner is to attain visibility by being in art shows.

I took a few of my paintings into an art gallery once and thought the owner was gracious, but she spent half an hour telling me why she would NEVER hang my work in her gallery. She basically said my work would never sell (therefore, she would make no money and I would make no money) because I used too much color. No one could decorate around my art, she claimed. However, I left determined not to change my style for one woman’s opinion. Many people purchase my work and decorate around it, and tell me how much they love it. It is much better when a gallery owner approaches you and says, “Can we put your work in my gallery?”

After enjoying the art on the walls, people sit and watch the demonstration.

After enjoying the art on the walls, people sit and watch the demonstration.

Rotating Displays

Galleries like shows have a set time for the work on the walls. Many galleries will rotate the art every month. That means your work only sees the light of day for a 30 day period of time and then goes back to your place if it doesn’t sell. Sometimes they keep a piece for up to 6 months but if it still doesn’t sell, back it goes to your studio.


Oil painting demonstration by Bill Davis/aka Trowzers Akimbo 2018

Oil painting demonstration by Bill Davis/aka Trowzers Akimbo 2018

Final Thoughts

Although I’m sure you would have thought that galleries were the best bet for artists, I hope you have revised that opinion. For those of us with limited funds, art shows work out the best. I’d love to read your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 10, 2021:

Jason,

I appreciate you trying to catch the article during the open window. It is getting harder and harder, I know. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 10, 2021:

From Jason Nicolosi or Nicoartz on HubPages

I Love your article about Make Money With Your Art, Shows, and Galleries. I read your stuff often but I've been missing my window to comment before it reaches the network sites. Great job.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 09, 2021:

Rachel L Alba,

Wow, Rachel, thanks for remembering me. You are sweet to say so. You stay safe as well. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on June 05, 2021:

Hi, I remember you always had a talent for art. Hope your art galleries go well for you. Stay safe. Rachel Alba

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 04, 2021:

Lady Dazy,

Thanks. I'm glad you found this enjoyable and educational. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 04, 2021:

Linda Lum,

Yeah, very few realize the difference. I can't tell you how many contests I have entered, won nothing, and virtually gave away my art. That won't happen anymore. I know lots of artists who feel the same way. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Lady Dazy from UK on June 04, 2021:

Lovely artwork, good luck with the art shows, these events are always popular.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on June 03, 2021:

I had no idea what the difference was between art shows or displaying in a gallery, or that contests were such a bad idea. I'm not an artist, but I'm sure your words of wisdom will help others. Good article. Blessings on your day.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 03, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

I know I'm not the only one who has experienced this. I'm glad you have shown your work too. Keep it up. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 03, 2021:

Your advice rings true for me. I have had some success selling my art in different shows. Wishing you great success as you keep creating your beautiful collages.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 03, 2021:

Bill Holland,

I glad to be educational. So many people ask "do you have a gallery" and don't realize that not all artists are asked to show at a gallery. On an up-note, at the last show I was in, a local gallery owner spoke with me and was very impressed with my work. I'm hoping this means that she will soon be calling me about a future showing in her gallery.

Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 03, 2021:

Devika Primić,

What a sweetie to leave me a double message. I am loving what I do every day so it is paying off. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 03, 2021:

Devika Primić,

I love to share what I do and to encourage others to try it too. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 03, 2021:

Rosina S Khan,

You are so kind. It is working so far. Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 03, 2021:

Dora Weithers,

Ah, that's so sweet of you. I'm doing what I love every day and what could be better than that? I don't need a large house or cars or things. I have the Lord. I feel like he is the ultimate Creator and he made me in His image so how can I hope but to create too, in some small way? Thanks for commenting.

Blessings,

Denise

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 03, 2021:

A very interesting look into the business side of art. Thanks for explaining it all to us. On a final note, you are quite talented, and I am in awe of that talent.

Blessings always

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 03, 2021:

I admire your true talent and your effort pays off-

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 03, 2021:

Denise it is a great way To-show for what you have such a talent for and to make otehrs know what they can do for themselves. Your talent shines through and is no exception to what you have to offer to the world. A brilliant thought indeed!

Rosina S Khan on June 02, 2021:

Denise, I am glad art shows work much better for you than galleries. You show great talent in your work and so whatever works for you should be well and good. I wish you every success in the commendable work that you do. All the best.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 02, 2021:

WOW! You really have to love what you're doing. I pray that your commitment pays off, not only because you put in the effort, but also because you do really great work.

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