How to sell your art -
A scene from the gallery at the Plein Air Convention & Expo, where you can learn how to improve and sell your art

Why isn’t your art selling? More importantly, how do you sell your art effectively in 2020? Find out in this letter from Eric Rhoads.

How to Sell Your Art

Dear Friends,

The other day I heard a report that said those of us living in America are living in the best economy ever known and experienced in the U.S.

That’s right. The biggest and best. More than the roaring ’20s. More than the booming ’80s.

So why isn’t your art selling?

More importantly, how do you make it sell in 2020?

Recent conversations on the same day … one with an artist who told me that their work isn’t selling, it’s never been so bad. The other with a gallery, telling me it’s the best year they’ve ever had.

A Dose of Reality

I know you don’t want to hear this, because most of us never want to accept the blame for our problems. It’s a lot more fun to blame it on the economy (can’t do that), to blame it on the state of the world, on politics, on other factors.

Though you can blame outside forces, a successful person succeeds by finding a way no matter what. There were lots of people who made millions during the Great Depression.

Related Article > Bill Davidson on Inspiration for the New Year

Here is a reality: “If you can’t make the best living ever during the greatest economy in history, you’re doing something wrong.”


I know. It hurts.

I have trained hundreds, probably thousands of artists. I talk to artists every day of my life. I know artists inside out, and I also happen to be an artist. I’ve found a few things most have in common that are getting in the way of their success. Here they are:

Telling Ourselves Stories

As humans, we’re good at stories. We have stories in our heads. And when we hear stories that seem to fit, we put them on like a shirt. For instance, all we need to do is hear another artist say they are having a bad year, and we assume everyone is. We don’t take into consideration that the artist might be making mistakes. We tell ourselves stories about galleries being in trouble, artists not selling, bad economies, no one will buy in this political climate. Listen carefully for the stories you are telling yourself, then ask yourself: Is this true? How do I know? Try to prove it. You’ll find most of those stories are not true.

Blaming Other Forces

This is pretty much the same thing. We want to blame the president, Congress, the economy, or pick any of a hundred other things. As artists we have to stop blaming outside forces — even if those forces are real — and find a way.

Waiting for Perfection

We like to wait till we’re ready and things are perfect. “Maybe I can’t sell till I’m a better painter.” It might be true, but it might not. I’ve sold lots of bad paintings in my life, as I look back. Or maybe we’re waiting for the perfect gallery, or for our marketing to be perfect, or until we have enough money. Winners never wait for perfection, they simply go for it. You can make things perfect later. Just take action.

Following the Pack

Remember the “Got Milk?” campaign? How many thousands of copies of that campaign emerged? We tend to see things and copy them without knowing the reason behind them. For instance, copying the campaigns of a giant advertiser isn’t smart because they might have a reason for the campaign you can’t be aware of. Coke once made a campaign that was only designed to get investors interested, yet people thought it was a way to sell product, so it was copied, and it bombed.

Today we’re all believing Facebook and Instagram are the answer because we see others doing it, but we don’t know their results, their numbers, or their level of spending. A gallery owner told me yesterday that he has never yet sold a painting from Instagram. I have, but it only happened one time. Be original, don’t copy. Build your own strategy.

Not Taking Action

Action is the fuel in your car. Without action, you go nowhere. Don’t be paralyzed by fear. Just do something, anything. It may not be right, but it will help. Action is everything.

Not Having Goals

Most artists I know have dreams, but not goals. List your goals, prioritize them, and set deadlines. And make sure you define your goals in exact detail.

Not Working Goals

Many who want to have goals set them about this time every year, then never look at them again. You should read your goals daily if you can, but weekly no matter what. And you can adjust them as you go.

Not Visualizing and Believing in Goals

Goals don’t work if you don’t believe in them. That’s why exact detail is important, so you can visualize what it will feel like when you succeed. Visualization is the most important part of setting your mind to success. If you visualize yourself hitting a goal, and think about how you will feel, it will change your physiology and help you make it happen.

Not Having an Exact Annual Plan

Goals don’t work without action, and action does not work without a plan. You have to break every goal into small action steps, then prioritize the steps and what you will work on each week. Action without a plan is of no value.

Spend 20 Percent of Your Time on Marketing

Face it. If you’re selling art, you’re in the art business. The way to make a business successful is to get customers to buy — and that is what marketing is. Learn and study marketing, and you’ll have the success you imagine. Dreaming isn’t enough. Expecting buyers to show up out of nowhere is pointless. Hoping to get lucky isn’t a plan. If you spend one day of five working on selling your art, working with galleries, developing promotions and marketing, you will see a major change in your success.

For 2020, I suggest you set your goals, make an action plan, and set a time on your calendar every week or every day for marketing. Use that time to learn, study, grow, and take action.

Doing this will change your life.

Eric Rhoads, Publisher
PleinAir Magazine

I’ll be teaching marketing each of three mornings at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE). It’s all new every year, and always the latest things I’ve learned about how to sell your art and more. But there are fewer than 135 seats left. Learn more about PACE and reserve your seat here.


  1. Let me paraphrase this article: I heard on Fox News that it’s the greatest economy ever, and if you aren’t selling well, it’s your fault. I’ve never made my living as an artist (my bio says so), but I have all of the answers. I’m not going to give them to you unless you pay me money and come to my convention that I can’t seem to sell out even though it’s in a small hotel outside the Denver city limits. If you do come, I won’t have any real advice for you, but you can bet we are gonna dance and cheer! BTW, it’s also your fault that my convention isn’t selling out. It’s the greatest convention ever, during the greatest economy ever! I’M BIGLY MAD AT YOU!

    • Hi Samuel! I’m sorry you’ve interpreted this in this way. I don’t know if you’ve come to PACE, but I’ve seen firsthand that there is plenty of expert advice (and yes, some dancing – it’s fun). I wish you the best in your artistic endeavors.


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