The aggressive artist

July 21, 2009
Robert Genn

Yesterday, Bill (Bosque) Redondo of Fresno, California, wrote: "I know quite 
a few artists who are really serious about marketing and selling their art. 
However, it seems like they are not aggressive enough and I wonder if that 
might be the reason for their lack of sales? Do artists need to 'wine and 
dine' potential customers or should they trust their art to sell itself?" 

Thanks, Bosque. While selling is not the Holy Grail to many artists, the 
greatest thing that sells art is art. An artist can be a mute, knock-kneed 
nerd, incompetent in the selection and even pouring of wine, but if his work 
is exciting, he's already partying on down to the bank. Sorry, but all this 
stuff about aggressive marketing is not worth a prayer if the work is 

Artists' sales are made in their studios--that is, when they make the art. 
My observation of artists, whether gallery-represented or private 
sellers, shows them doing best when they are simply on top of their craft. 
Quality is always in style. There's no such thing as an undiscovered genius. 

Long ago I learned a valuable lesson: Putting work in front of the general 
public and appearing eager to sell it can be the kiss of death. Better to be 
in the background, maybe even a mysterious figure, and let yourself be 
discovered. Artists need to be in their studios or furtively moving around 
outside with their paintboxes. The idea is to get good, rather than get 

This does not mean that artists should avoid listing potential connections, 
having discreet and tasteful websites, or, if the opportunity arises, giving 
well-controlled interviews. Potential connections need only to be alerted when 
fresh bread comes out of the oven. 

Simply put, creative folks need to succumb to the love of process. This 
spiritual transformation softens poverty and eventually buys success.   

Ideally, an artist needs only two things: excellent art, and someone, other 
than your Mom, who knows it's excellent. Also, this someone ought to be a 
dealer (or dealers)--in other words someone who is in a position to do 
something about your excellence. That's the long and short of it, Bosque: no 
ballyhoo, no wine and dine (no cheese), and no aggression. 

Best regards,


PS: "It is astonishing how little one feels poverty when one loves." (Edward 
G. Bulwer-Lytton) 

Esoterica: We need not act like insurance salesmen with our contracts hanging 
out. There is a better way, but it takes a student's mind, hard and repetitious 
work, and a generous amount of faith in yourself. For artists, keeping the wolf 
from the door can mean going to your room. Funnily, the money eventually just 
wanders in. "Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." 
(Woody Allen)