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Omphaloskepsis Blog

Use the Internet to Get Shows, Sales and Publicity

May 6, 2013


It's no secret that the internet is revolutionizing the art world, much like it did to the music industry, but it's also difficult for the artist to figure out where to start. There are a lot of art web sites that exist and more starting up every day that will suck up your time and money. Now that I have a well-established online presence, I get invitations almost every day to join the next great art-selling web site, but I have enough valuable relationships with online art galleries that regularly sell my work. I usually don't accept these invites. I don't want anything to jeopardize my existing relationships. As a result, I am careful with whom my work is exhibited.

A Little History Of How I Gained Success Selling Art Online

It all started in 2008. I helped my dad—stranger to computer and internet—to sell a ‘56 Ford on eBay that he had restored. I saw the car sell for tens of thousands and with his profits I turned around and bought my dad's next restoration project—a ’64 T-bird. I had an "aha!" moment: People spend tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars on collectibles on eBay. Why not sell them original art?


After two decades of painting in obscurity and selling works sporadically—yet still not enough to make a living as an artist—in 2009 I started a blog, redesigned my web site and opened an eBay store. Within my first year, I sold more art than I did in the previous twenty. My online presence caught the attention of CNN, garnered a full-page feature in the Daily News and resulted in a solo show downtown.


Why Art Sells Online


Not everyone lives in a city where they have access to a gallery. I've sold paintings to sophisticated art collectors in small towns all over the world, because of this phenomenon.

They are searching for you

If you stood on a busy street corner on Los Angeles with your painting for an hour, you may expose your art to thousands, but less than 100 of those people are even interested in purchasing art, and, out of those, only one or two may be interested in your genre of art. However, on the internet, almost everyone that finds your art already has a keen interest in that genre, having used search terms that matches your type of art to find you. You are drawing from a world wide pool of collectors and only dealing with a targeted, pre-qualified group of potential buyers.

Less gatekeeping and bureaucracy

Any of you that have tried to get into a decent gallery know that it can be very difficult to navigate the complex system of art world gatekeepers. Even if you can't get into your preferred online gallery; you can still make headway online; exhibiting your work as you please, joining networks that may help you, and receiving feedback on your work. You learn what pieces people like, what is commercially viable and what is not. I've found that establishing an online track record of sales has brought brick-and-mortar opportunities my way. For example, one of my online reps, Ugallery, just featured my work at the Affordable Art Fair in New York. My work sold alongside many established galleries that have rejected my submissions in the past.


Less intimidation, more community for new collectors

People are often intimidated when visiting a high-end gallery and trying to make their first purchase. In an online environment, they are free to browse anonymously until they are ready to buy. But, it goes farther than that. Successful internet galleries and artists nurture a friendly, welcoming sense of community for their fans and collectors. It's actually very important to have a friendly photo of yourself displayed wherever your art is featured, to get personal with your online posts and status updates, letting your public in on your thoughts and techniques to nurture an audience of fans and collectors and create buyer confidence at the point of sale.


Dos and Don'ts Of Selling Art Online

Don't pay for gallery representation

There's a big difference between paying $15/month for an eBay store or an e-commerce web site to self-represent your art and paying an upfront fee to be a member of an online gallery that promises access to a big audience of buyers. Successful online galleries don't charge an upfront fee; they work solely on commission. They must make sales to stay in business, just like brick-and-mortar galleries. Online galleries that charge a fee for representation probably aren't accessing any buyers that you cannot access on your own. They are making their money, not by selling art, but by charging artists fees for membership. Maybe 5% of their artists sell work, and they use them as examples to lure you into paying them a fee. This is not to say that you shouldn't pay a small monthly fee in exchange for an artist web site, if that's easier for you than creating your own, but just know that's all you're getting; you still have to market your work yourself or find a commission-based gallery to do so.

Do establish a code of ethics when exhibiting online

Online galleries that sell my work require an exclusivity agreement, meaning that you can't market the same individual artwork on other sites. They do this, because they want to make sure that they are not wasting their money promoting work that can be purchased elsewhere. Some galleries have tried to demand exclusivity to all of my work offline and online, but I have negotiated them down to the aforementioned individual artwork exclusivity deal. Never try to go behind the galleries back and negotiate directly with a customer that they have found for you. Consider your current gallery relationships when promoting your work and entering new relationships. I want the galleries that represent me to make as much money off of me as possible, so I never undersell or undercut them. I've found over the years that what a good gallery does for your career is well worth the 50% commission that they take.


The retail price is the retail price

Never sell directly to a buyer for less than the retail price of your work in a gallery. Whether on eBay or in the highest-end gallery, one of my small paintings is around $500, whether I net the entire amount or pay a 50% commission. Inconsistent, confusing pricing kills buyer confidence. And, even when you're starting, don't make your prices ridiculously low; the goal is to eventually make a living as an artist.


How Do I Get Started?

Even though I found success the first year, be prepared for it to take some time and effort to get results from your online efforts. I listed on eBay for three months, before I made my first sale, and then that painting was returned to me! So, be prepared for the ups and downs of starting a business. In the beginning, I spent a lot more time on the computer, creating my web site, blog, Twitter and eBay store (there are many more venues from which I sell art today, but in 08, eBay seemed to be the way). Now, keeping a vibrant online presence is just a matter of updates and maintenance, and I've established a routine that minimizes how much time it takes, but be prepared for it to take a lot of time in the beginning.


The first thing you should do before creating an eBay store or building a web site, is to get a business license and sales tax ID number, so you can start out ready to make money. The next step is to take, or have taken, really good photos of your work. Check out this article Selling Art Online: Get The Picture on my blog, YouCanSellArtOnline.com for tips on how to photograph your work.

Next create a free blog on Wordpress.com or Blogspot.com. You can use the blog as your web site—indefinitely, or until you create a web site.

Then next steps to create your online presence and make sales as well as how to get publicity about your work and make connections with established, brick-and-mortar galleries will be covered in my future guest posts on Kate Vrijmoet’s blog.


In the meantime, please feel free to stalk me to get ideas about how to sell your art online. That's what I did, when I first started self-representing my art online. Check me out at WarrenKeating.com.



Somewhere on a bridge or a hotel balcony, you'll find Warren Keating capturing footage of unsuspecting figures walking below. Later, in an Encino studio, you can find him pouring through frame after frame of video footage to find the perfect moment of weight shift, swing of the arm or tilt of the head, which he feverishly paints, covering large canvases with thick paint depicting an overhead view of a person in transit. A native of New Orleans, Keating has exhibited internationally, and his work been purchased by hundreds of collectors in North America and Europe. His latest series, Overview, which combines video and paint, was selected as an LA Times Calendar pick and won awards at juried exhibits at Long Beach Arts, the Visual Arts Society of Texas, Dallas and TAG Gallery, Santa Monica. A solo show of his work is opening at Gallery 825 in September 2013.



picture: eBay store http://www.KeatingArt.com    
picture: Keating on CNN link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3zcqKAqpMo&feature=share&list=UUjbkIYlu_NRCRrRuNySyGig
— picture link: http://www.warrenkeating.com/art-in-the-news.html
picture: uGalleryhttp://www.ugallery.com/warren-keating
picture: websitehttp://www.WarrenKeating.com
Selling Art Online: Get The Picture
picture: blog— http://WarrenKeating.wordpress.com 
Gallery 825 http://www.laaa.org/site_825/hours_825.html

Category: Art Business
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