Artists! Selling art on the internet. Your experiences?

So I’ve recently got into the art gig as an amusement. I’ve been looking around at various art sites out there. Most of them claim to be galleries where peopole can buy, but really seem to be mostly artists that comment on each others work. Which is good for feedback on what’s good and what’s not I suppose. And good for general exposure. But I’m hoping to actually sell something.

Has anybody sold any art over the Internet? Where did you have the most success?

And also, what art sites in general do you like to visit, or do you exhibit at?

Also, I’d love to see your art.


Bill, I’ve listed my stuff with one Internet site out of, of all places, Hot Springs. Arkansas. That ought to be enough of a hint to find the site. They contacted me after a brochure fell into their hands. They seem to be legitimate, with a contract and everything. They do want $350.00 to join and list up to 15 pieces. They take %10 of all sales. You have to ship the piece to them in Hot Springs at your cost once a buyer calls for a piece. UPS will not take original works of art but will take “home decorations.” They peddle to the interior decorator trade. They want you to list two prices on every thing, a retail price and a wholesale price that is ½ the retail price.

If you go with them you would be well advised to mark your prices up to make up for the wholesale pricing, the commission, the shipping and the initial sign up charge. Some of the stuff on the web site is, in my judgement, crap, but some is very, very good.

You have to make the decision about whether or not to sign up. I suspect that they will take any body who shows up at their door with $350.00 in hand. The real question is whether you think your stuff is good enough to sell and how much you are willing to pay to get the Internet and thus nation wide, maybe world wide, exposure. If you do not have a deal with a gallery that has an active market the Internet gallery may be a good idea. You have to start someplace.

I’ve seen your stuff on your web site. I would think that the non-representational, almost space telescope, stuff would be very commercial. If you want additional exposure I would consider the commercial sites.

I looked at & some people’s art was around $1-$5 & no bids. If the artist is well known they get more, but well under what they would get in a gallery. Kincade is an example of that.

You can look at Ebay for art, there is a lot of it.

Depending on the type and subject matter of the art you’re trying to sell, consider searching around for websites and discussion groups that encourage selling of your type of art. For example, I sculpt and mold porcelain animal figurines, one of which was an Afghan hound. There’s a Yahoo! group called caninecollectibles that allows (even encourages) posting of sale items from private artists, and I sold out within fifteen minutes of posting. There’s a similar, and much more active, group, devoted to “breakable” (ceramic and factory resin) animal figurines, primarily but not exclusively horses. I took a chance and posted when I had some extra tadpoles to sell. Not only did I sell those out within a day, I had to make some emergency trips to the kiln to create more to meet demand. Never expected a crowd composed primarily of horse collectors who buy a few other animal figures to be so enthusiastic, but it worked.

To cultivate a following, many of the artists within the circle I’m involved in start their own Yahoo groups (some stray from Yahoo, but most of their market already has Yahoo accounts so they tend to cluster there) to encourage discussion, input, and that sense of community that goes a long way toward increasing sales. I maintain an opt-in mailing list of previous customers and people who wander in through my website, and rarely do I not sell out long before I need to market through other venues.

Probably goes without saying, but carefully select the groups you post to for appropriateness, and examine the list’s rules scrupulously before posting. You don’t want to be pegged as a spammer. If you have a website showing your work, it’s often a smart idea to write an intro message that includes a link to your site rather than posting a direct sales pitch. Sure, I got away with selling tadpoles to horse people, but I was within the group’s stated guidelines and was a well-known list member before I posted there.

Might be worth googling up the line of “Poor Richard’s” website books. I remember there being one about marketing your work via the web that included some smart suggestions for individuals and small businesses.

Spavined Gelding, I’ll check them out. How long have you been with them? Also, most importantly, have they sold much of your work?

You wrote

Thanks! When you say “commercial sites”, do you mean the place you recommended? Or other? Honestly, I’m very new to this whole market.

Thanks, handy.

I’ve looked at eBay and seen the same thing. Most of the art there doesn’t seem to sell, unless you’re famous and I’m not. However, I wonder if it’s like a gallery where you put out 50 pieces and are happy when a few sell.

My own (limited) experience as an art buyer matches that model. Years ago, I bought some art on eBay. I spent a couple weeks scanning around seeing what was there, but ultimately bought some work by Dali.

Have you sold art on eBay? any success?


Selkie, I really like your targeted marketing idea. Currently, my art is pretty abstract so without a true subject I’m somewhat limited, but I’ll pursue that angle. It sounds like you’ve got an excellent track record. I’ll be shocked if I can sell anything out in 15 minutes.

About Yahoo groups: Do you mean that the artists start a group about their own work, and encourage their buyers to create a community there? I really like that. I don’t have any sort of following as yet and you need people to create a community, but I can see how key is. Gotta start somewhere. And your point about collecting a mailing list is very valuable.

Thanks for all the great ideas and advice, Selkie.

Bill, by “commercial site” I mean any commercial site, not just the people. If you are not in with a gallery with lots of wealthy traffic it is my experience that you might as well set up a tent in a shopping mall parking lot. The same is true of annual community sale-shows. There just isn’t enough exposure to people with money in their pockets to justify the effort. If you are not hooked up with an established regional gallery you might as well throw in with one of the Internet galleries.

My only thought on the art-exchange site is that they are pedaling to decorators and may have a bigger turn over than sites that are looking for direct sales. Since I am in a pretty rural area and galleries are far and few between and knowledgeable buyers with money in their pockets who are willing to pay a grand or more for what is essentially a decoration that you can’t sit on are even scarcer, my best bet is the Internet.

Of course, because you can’t count on an Internet image of a painting, you have to be prepared for a buyer to have second thoughts after they get to see the thing live. The Internet seems to be blue-green color blind.

I just threw in with the Internet site withing the last month and they have only had my stuff up for a week. No sales yet. Maybe no sales ever, but it beats driving 300 miles and spending two days under a tent trying to figure out where the rest rooms are and sleeping in the van. You are in California, I think. Things may be different out there. Out here on the prairie the Barbed Wire Boys are not big buyers of high priced fine art. Not even he who will not be named, the painter of light, could keep his store open in Des Moines, the biggest village in the country.

“Have you sold art on eBay? any success?”

Nope. Im near Carmel, Carmel has about 80 art galleries in a square mile so there is a lot of competition.

Spavined Gelding, this is great advice. I’m in a gallery right now, but they’re hardly big and have minimal wealthy traffic. Gotta start somewhere. I’m fortunate to be in the bay area, so there are a zillion galleries within driving distance, and in fact a dozen within walking distance. So, I’ll work on moving up there. Any advice? What’s the typical business model? Currently, I’m paying for the art and framing, not paying the gallery anything to show (and they’re not paying me either), and they’re taking 10% of anything they sell. Is that typical? My guess is the big thing the gallery owner wants to hear is that my art sells so fast he won’t be able to keep it on the walls; any other hot buttons?

Also, you’ve given me the valuable insight that interior designers are large purchasers of art. and obviously wealthy people who want things for their own collections. any other large consumers? Any insights of how to make inroads into interior designers?

In my case, I’m selling glicees, so the actual manufacturing time and cost is very low. So, returns aren’t quite the hassle they would be if I were selling “real” art.

Good fortune to you. Sounds like geographically the internet is ideal for you. I’m very interested in hearing how things go as you move forward selling online.

You might want to get in touch with Jinwicked who sells her stuff on-line.

I don’t know where you work, but if it’s in an office with a lobby you could ask about hanging pictures there. Or in a local coffee shop / trendy boutique / some place that needs brightening up and has rich arty people wandering around.

Thanks handy. I wonder if Carmel has too many buyers as well as too many sellers. Here (the bay area) there are a lot of artistic types as well.

Tapioca Dextrin, thanks; I’ll look up Jinwicked if she doesn’t show up here.

Hanging them at work is a bit tricky because I’m the CEO. So, I’ve got a couple of mine in my office, but I really don’t feel it’s right to put them in the lobby. I’d feel like I’m pushing something inappropriate on employees, like I was hiring an idiot brother-in-law or something. I have asked peers I know at other companies, but I hate to push too far there, as I’m concerned people could wonder how serious I am about real business. Kinda silly I guess.

I appreciate your advice to get them out there in places like boutiques and restaurants, and I agree; exposure is key. Thanks!

That’s it exactly. Artists entice customers to those groups with special offers for list members, contests, giveaways, etc., and then build a little mini-community from there. Achieving critical mass is tricky, but once they’ve got it, every post from list members excited about a recent purchase becomes advertising money can’t buy. Every time an artist takes a suggestion from a listmember strengthens the buyers’ sense of involvement in the creative process.

It will probably be harder to get those initial purchasers because your work is abstract, but some creative thinking to reach relevant groups may get you around that hurdle.

Another potential source for some of your work may be a local botanic garden. All of the ones around here carry work by local artists, often with above-market pricetags. Worth a try for your trees, flowers, etc.

Great advice and ideas, Selkie. Thanks very much.

Anyone else? I know there’s a number of artists here. Any more experience with online selling? Thanks.

One last thing regarding your website, Bill H. Based on both my experience and that of other artists I’ve spoken with, potential buyers are very shy about inquiring for prices. Most won’t do it at all and wind up spending their money elsewhere. The shyness factor doubles when they are dealing with an artist they haven’t done business with previously. Posting prices up front should significantly increase sales amongst those you lure to your site. Otherwise, you may lose potential sales for reasons ranging from “Oh, I’m sure those must be too expensive for me to afford” to “How do I say ‘No’ when the art turns out to be ‘overpriced’?” Far better that they see your prices and think “Wow, that’s cheap!”

Bill I’m very impressed with your work. What medium?
I’m three steps behind you. I do stained glass, and paint, I’m too lazy/intimidated to start a web site. Do you mind if I listen in? I promise, I won’t be any trouble… I hardly eat anything… could I pleease?? could I

selkie Your point about price. I’m not even sure what I should be asking. I’ve looked at other peoples’ glass, and its either sky high or free… Ok, I’m over stating, but hell, I don’t even know if I’m any good! I’ve done 2 street fairs, and didn’t sell much, but no one else did either. I’ve sold a number of pieces to friends, but they never tell the truth. Its like the drawings on the frig. they’re there because you love your kid not because its great art.

picunurse, today just might be your lucky day. My very close friend has worked professionally in stained and painted glass for the last twenty years. Most of her work is in the form of windows for churches and mansions, but she does jewelry and other small things as well. If you’re interested, I might be able to persuade her to give you an honest assessment of the market value of your work, and provide some suggested pricing. She always complains about the difficulty of pricing things, but heck, she’s surived this long and must have some idea what the market will bear.

One other thing, picunurse, and it’s probably heresy to the proper art crowd. It’s not about whether the art is good, it’s about whether it will sell. My work (which you notice I’ve carefully avoided showing anyone on this thread), isn’t selling out because of its overwhelming artistic merit, it’s selling because it mets an underserved niche.