Figuring out how to sell your art can be daunting. But it doesn't have to be! There are many best ways to sell your art, whether it's through a gallery, online, or even on social media. Knowing what options for selling your work are available will help you make a more informed decision about what strategies will work best for your business.
10 Best ways to sell your art
The traditional way for artists to sell their artwork is in galleries. There are many benefits to this traditional approach, including building name recognition and improving your reputation, but you also have to pay the gallery commission.
Typically galleries take around 35 - 50 percent in commission. This can be a worthwhile expense if the gallery is increasing your reputation, advertising your work, and handling sales and shipping, but it is not a good fit for everyone, and getting into a gallery can be challenging
If you want to sell your art at a gallery make sure to search the gallery’s webpage for their submission process and make sure your work seems like it would be a good fit.
You may also consider submitting work to online galleries, such as Western Gallery, owned by George Irwin.* Western Gallery is a respected online western art gallery. There are other, generic, online galleries that do not have a specific focus area like Saatchi Art, Artful Home, etc. These are drastically different from well-reputed, smaller galleries with a curated selection, like Western Gallery. As you chose the option that works best for you it is important to know your goals and business plan, to determine the best fit.
“ I have primarily sold my work with Western Gallery and feel lucky to have started at the same time they were emerging into the art scene. Over the last two years, we have developed a happy working relationship based on integrity, reliability, and mutual trust, wherein both parties have grown and are now coming into their own. Honestly, this bond feels more like a vested partnership than part-time representation and I know that’s not always the case in the art world.” - Lucile Wedeking (Website, Instagram)
2. Online Shops and Marketplaces
Selling your art online is a great way to reach a wide audience of potential buyers. You can sell your artwork through the most successful eCommerce platforms such as Etsy or Fine Art America and Amazon. This is an easy way to connect and attract potential customers and a wonderful way to increase your exposure. As with online galleries, the platform you chose should align with your goals as an artist and for your business. The approach of an artist who wishes to sell mass-produced work at a lower price point is very different from an artist who wants to build their reputation and cultivate a relationship with collectors, galleries, and the art world.
“This is where I make at least 70% of my sales. I sell small works in an Etsy shop, Plein air pieces and smaller works on Dailypaintworks.com, and a few larger pieces from my website.” - Veronica Brown (Website, Instagram)
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3. Art fairs
Art fairs are another popular option for artists to sell their art. These events bring together a number of different artists in one place, making it easy for buyers to browse and purchase art. Art fairs can be a great place to meet potential collectors, build your email list, and sell your art. Be aware that different art fairs have different requirements. Some may provide a display set up and tent, and others may require you to bring your own. Some art fairs have volunteers to help watch your booth so you can take a break, but others expect you to be fully self-sufficient. Make sure you read through all the fair’s requirements and expectations before applying and committing yourself.
“I love art fairs and they are a great way of connecting with new clients and building in-person relationships. It gives you a chance to tell your story to a potential buyer about each piece and to obtain their information for future contact. They are also a lot of work and can be very exhausting, but hopefully, the good outweighs the hard work and travel costs. Much easier if you have someone there to help you!” - Elizabeth Dryden (Website, Instagram)
4. Exhibitions and Shows
Exhibitions are unique in that they take many forms, and there can be a variety of exhibition opportunities. You can organize your own exhibitions or collaborate with other artists in a joint exhibition. When you host your own exhibition you will need to ensure you have a place to show the work. For an informal exhibit, you could collaborate with local businesses, like restaurants, to host the work. For a more formal exhibition, you will want to reserve space in an art venue or other space that has a more professional feel. Often you will need to apply and/or rent these spaces, and may also need to pay a commission on your sales.
Stay aware of calls for art that fit your business model and work well for your style, and where you are in your career. Newer artists may find applying for and exhibiting their work in smaller, local shows, can help them build their reputation, get their work out in public, and sometimes win prizes. More established artists can enhance their career and reputation by applying for more difficult and well-respected shows.
(Pro tip: Remember, rejection is part of being an artist. Don’t let rejection get you down.)
“I recently have participated in 2 shows where I was the featured artist. I had little to no expectations for either and it is interesting how things have turned out. One show is at a historical museum that is visited by tourist by approximately 95%. I would never have guessed that a show in our area could be so successful! I have had to replace my photography several times and have run out of supplies. I have been very aware of what subject the customers have purchased and the price point that has driven those sales. People won't buy something they can't afford, for the most part. I have been asked to be the permanent artist at this venue because my work has been so popular.” - Susan Humphrey (Website, Instagram)
Festivals and fairs are very similar, but often festivals have more name recognition and turn out. Some of the larger festivals, such as the annual Art Basel event, attract buyers from all over the world.
“Back in the 90s I did a lot of Art and Wine Festival type shows and had great success... It has only been since 2019 that I've been 're-emerging' into this world again... post-COVID, the last couple of festivals I participated in have been very good for me.” - Jeanne Cardana (Website, Instagram)
6. Open Studio
This can be one of the most cost-effective ways of selling your artwork. Host an event in your studio or home studio, where people can view your art and chat with you. Make sure that the space is clean, comfortable, and easy for individuals of all ages to come in for a visit. Also, consider offering light refreshments.
“I have done pre-Covid home shows and they were great! Lots of interaction, fun, and sales! Look forward to doing them again!” - Dianna Fritzler(Website, Instagram)
7. Social Media
In this digital age, Social Media is an amazing tool for building a group of fans and customers who admire your work. Social media gives artists a platform to express their unique personalities. Audiences can learn more about artists and their artwork from the comfort of their home, on an app they are already using frequently. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are great social media platforms for promoting and selling your arts.
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“Social media is my #1 way to reach my audience. Almost every time I post a new piece, it gets shared and I get to reach new people. Don't be discouraged if you don't get many likes or shares at first, it doesn't mean it wasn't seen or appreciated. You will be surprised how many times someone will tell you "oh, I saw your beautiful art on Instagram" when you thought your post got no attention. Be sure to use hashtags so that you reach a wider audience than just your followers. Try your hand at Instagram reels or TikTok. Once I learned how to put audio and text on my reels (thanks for the lessons, CGA!!) I started getting hundreds to thousands of views instead of dozens.” - Tammy Pennington (Website, Instagram)
A website can build trust for the audiences who visit your social media profiles. Having a professional-looking website is a useful way for potential art collectors to learn more about you and your products. Make sure your website contains relevant and engaging information and options for purchasing your available work. Having a website will improve your professional image, build social proof, and increase the chances of converting your audiences or fans into customers.
Websites are also great tools for showcasing your art and giving potential buyers access to detailed information about your art. A good website should include high-quality images of your art, prices, descriptions, contact information, and any other relevant details. Make sure to include links to social media pages, like Facebook and Twitter, so people can share your art with their friends.
"Direct sales on my website have been so-so, but it is important to have a professional looking website that is functional. It is a great way for galleries to see your work for one thing and also shows that you take your work/business seriously". - Debbie Carroll (Website, Instagram)
Taking part in local events, or even organizing your own event, is another way you can sell your work, and get your work in front of more people. Make sure the event is fun and enjoyable and aligns with your vision and values for your work and career.
If it fits your business plan you may consider offering a discount to motivate people to purchase your art.
“ The only kind of "events" I have participated have been auctions. I have worked with organizations that support and protect wild horses, and now I am partnering with a wild horse rescue in Colorado. I do provide paintings for auctions for them to fundraise. It is a win/win. They get exposure through my Facebook page and website, and I get exposure through theirs…” - Linda Briesacher (Website)
10. Private Commissions
Many artists are intimidated by commissions, especially when they are just starting out, but private commissions are another great option for selling your art. Private commissions are also a great way to build a relationship with your collector. For a private commission, you will work with a client to create a custom piece of art, based on their specification.
(Pro Tip: Have a good contract, and make sure everyone is on the same page for what work you are creating, the price of that work, the payment schedule, and the expected completion date…)
“This is my favorite way to sell my art. You are creating for someone who likes your style and knows you will deliver a piece of art that they will cherish for a long time and pass on to others.” - Kellee Mitchell (Website, Instagram)
How do Cowgirl Artists of America members sell their art?
Cowgirl Artists of America (CGA) is a great artist community, that provides artists with opportunities to promote their work through various venues and collaborations on Social Media and on the Cowgirl Artists of America Website. CGA’s goal is to provide support and education to artists whether they are just starting out or experts in their field.
Depending on your membership level, you will have opportunities to exhibit your art on our website, social media, and CGA-associated galleries/partners. We also provide supports that help you as you expand into new territories. CGA takes a holistic approach to our mission by providing artists with various services, support, training and education, social media promotion, advertising opportunities, and networking.
If you're interested in learning more about CGA, please visit:
To wrap things up
If you're an artist looking to sell your artwork, there are a number of options available to you. You can work with a gallery, sell commissioned pieces, participate in art fairs or open studios, or sell your work online. You will want to pursue the options that fit your business and artistic goals. Some options aren’t often available to newer artists. You will need to continue working on your style, and improving your skills and reputation for more of these opportunities to open up. Don’t get discouraged, it is a journey for all of us. There are also plenty of great resources to help you navigate your art career, and sell your work. Organizations like Cowgirl Artists of America are here to help.
*As of the writing of this post, George Irwin is on our Advisory Board and we are partnering with Western Gallery for our first annual art show, Wild Flowers.