A Guide on How to Sell Paintings for Profit

An artist provides a guide on how to sell original paintings to the public while making a profit.

| July/August 1971

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    The author soon realized that the ideal spot would be an empty store in a shopping center! Luckily, the author found just what was needed in their own neighborhood and the owner offered to let the author use it free if the "For Lease" sign in the window was left up in the window. 
    Photo by Dave Comstock
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     Well the question had been, would people like the paintings enough to pay cash and take them home? The answer was yes. More than half the paintings were sold in three days.  
    Photo by Dave Comstock
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    This year the author planned to hold at least six sales—each in a different locality—and, if the author's theories hold up, he may have even more art shows. 
    Photo by Dave Comstock

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I've been drawing and painting ever since I was a kid, but I was almost forty years old before I discovered a way to sell my work. In fact, for most of those years it didn't occur to me that anyone might be interested in buying! Of course, many people said they liked my work (and some hinted that they'd accept gifts), but none offered to buy. Meanwhile, I made my living mostly as an advertising artist, hating more and more the business of trying to trick people into making unnecessary purchases.

In 1964 I got involved in the campaign for Fair Housing in California and I was assigned to raise some money. Like most amateur fund raisers, I didn't relish the task and had very few ideas on how to do it. I did know that the less you spend to raise the money, the less you have to raise . . . so instead of putting on a dinner or an entertainment I decided to go for cash donations, cold turkey.

Since I wanted to make those donations as large as possible, I got to thinking of ways to encourage big checks. At the time I was feeling guilty because I seldom got out to paint on weekends as I once had and it occurred to me that if I offered to paint a watercolor for each person who gave a large amount it might kill two birds with one stone. Well, I did it, half a dozen people took me up on the offer and when the campaign ended I started painting.

Naturally, I was elated to find all six people pleased with the watercolors they received and I was further encouraged to discover that some of my friends and co-workers also admired the paintings. I began to wonder if they would be willing to pay for my work and I decided to make a test. During the next few months I produced about twenty paintings which I considered worth showing and I then went looking for a place in which to put them.

My plan was to hold a show for relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors and anyone else who might wander in. I wanted a place that was accessible to all, with adequate parking and room for displays that could be well lighted. I soon realized that the ideal spot would be an empty store in a shopping center! Luckily, I found just what I needed in my own neighborhood and the owner offered to let me use it free if I would leave the "For Lease" sign in the window.

At the time I considered this a rare bit of good fortune, but I have since discovered that I can make similar arrangements in other shopping centers. Landlords and their agents ,are always anxious to bring more customers into their centers, because many of their tenants pay rent based upon income. More customers mean more money and an art show—which adds a touch of class—is just the thing to bring those customers in. Interestingly (and I always point this out) every store I have used has been rented before my show ends!

cindy merritt
1/18/2012 1:12:13 PM

you're awesome, will be bookmarking and referring back, thanks so much

Andrea Perniciano
6/16/2011 11:19:36 AM

Thank you.

Juli Halifax, Tampa Bay Real Estate
2/18/2009 2:33:39 AM

Thank you for sharing this great article and business outline. We will give it a try once we have enough paintings to hold a "sale"!



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