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Selling Your Art: Building Block No.2: Your Art Is Visible (Part 1, cont.)

Selling Your Art: Building Block No.2: Your Art Is Visible (Part 1, cont.)

Let’s do a quick review of last week’s Selling-Your-Art Building Block No.1 and Selling-Your-Art Building Block No.2 (Part 1)

Selling-Your-Art Building Blocks Recap

Selling-Your-Art Building Block No.1: Your Art Is Created:

This is a foundational building block, which needs your attention in three key areas:

  1. You’re putting in the time and effort to reach a certain level of skillfulness.
  2. You’re establishing your artistic fingerprint, your unique artist angle.
  3. You’re reaching deep into your creative spirit and manifesting a creative truth for the world to experience.

Selling-Your-Art Building Block No.2 (Part 1): Your Art Is Visible

This might seem too obvious to bother with, until you consider all the ways your art might be functionally invisible. This can run the gamut from not being visible at all, to being visible, but inaccessible.:

  1. Your website contact form doesn’t work (and you don’t know this because you don’t email yourself—on a regular basis—from that same form!).
  2. You lost a gallery and haven’t worked yourself up to move on.
  3. Your website is a ho-hum, portfolio-only menagerie of your work.
  4. You truly think words don’t matter, so no artist statement and a boring bio.

are you unintentionally blocking the visibility you need for selling your art

Are You Unintentionally Blocking The Visibility You Need For Selling Your Art?

If you are already a professional artist selling your art, or you are heading in that direction, you realize how essential it is to be the sensitive creative you are, and a pragmatic, life-long learner.

You realize that the truth and power of your art, and thus the truth and power of selling your art, rests on more than the surface-level, nitty-gritty, administrative and marketing tasks.

As important as these daily, weekly, monthly external tasks are, they can also be the barrier to paying attention to the less obvious, emotional and spiritual capacities of our internal experience.

It’s this rarely explored, internal territory with its exotic fauna and flora that underpins what determines how you sell your art, because it determines the most basic relationship you have:  your relationship to your art.

And your relationship to your art is what pulls the invisible strings of success for selling your art. I go into this in depth in my artist manifesto: Your Path of Visionary Affluence: A Manifesto for Artists who want to sell more art.

When you don’t pay attention to the internal stories you whisper to yourself, they control your internal experience in the same way an out-of-control child wreaks havoc in a grocery store because the caretaker isn’t paying attention.

The key is being psychologically strong enough, and intellectually willing enough, to be wrong from time to time. Or willing  to experience emotional discomfort from time to time, without putting your hair on fire.

Otherwise, you may be unintentionally blocking how visible and accessible your artwork is, and then passing this off with “I forgot.” Or, “I didn’t know.” Or (my favorite), “I didn’t mean to… (fill in the blank).”

When Your Art is Visible, You Are Visible. And Selling Your Art is the Most Visible of All.

When Your Art is Visible, You Are Visible. And Selling Your Art is the Most Visible of All.

But, how do you know which old triggers are keeping you from selling your art because its visibility and accessibility is compromised?

For a lot of creatives, being visible is a double-edged sword. We crave it, on the one hand; while being skeptical and cautious on the other.

The joys of being visible means we’re on the road to success. We’re seen—the holy grail of human desire. The artwork we love is in the world and for the world, and what could be more satisfying?

And… selling your art is the culmination of creative work and the ultimate joy of visibility.

Meanwhile, in the underground of our psyches, visibility can also dredge up all shapes and sizes of triggers related to early trauma. From the belittling remarks of classmates to terrifying nights with a drunk parent, a good many of us have experienced life in ways we do not wish to repeat.

And even though we’ve historically grown way past those incidents, they often live on in the crevices of our bodies, and pop out when the trigger conditions are right. For most of us, this happens on the QT, buried beneath the more urgent, daily tasks of living.

If we don’t become aware of our visibility triggers, then they quietly slash and burn our art careers in ways our daily Creative Self doesn’t see. And selling your art becomes the casualty.

An emotional trigger just happens. No control here. The trick is what you do after the trigger shows up

So, what do we do with this? I mean, isn’t a trigger out of our control?

Yes… and No.

An emotional trigger just happens. No control here. The trick is what you do after the trigger shows up.

First, notice the visibility trigger that just happened.

Your clue will be somewhere in your body where a major shift occurred: your stomach lurched / your headache started / your shoulders tightened / your jaw clenched.

This body reflex will be consistent for each trigger; it doesn’t change until you become aware and awake.

Next, once you’ve identified your physical reaction to your emotional trigger, ask yourself: What’s going on here?

And listen for a response, which might not turn up right away. But that’s okay. If you follow noticing your body’s specific response to the trigger with the question– What’s going on here?—over time you’ll become aware of the connection to something that happened to you before.

The key is both self-kindness and self-respect. You’re doing this to strengthen your internal ability to allow your art to be completely and wholly visible so selling your art doesn’t hit any speed bumps.

This is not the time for blame or ridicule or self-criticism. It’s only time to become aware and awake so selling your art becomes a joyous success.

Alongside visibility triggers is another tricky pattern of behavior I’ve identified as The Gap.

Selling Your Art: Building Block No.2: Visibility (Part 2)

Selling Your Art: Building Block No.2: Visibility (Part 2)

Most of us experience The Gap on any given day as an unconscious, socially acceptable response to some mis-step we’ve taken. In most cases, it’s not worth paying attention to.

However, in some cases it can, inadvertently, derail the visibility you need for selling your art. But, this is tricky territory, as you’ll see, because as far as I know, no one has dug into this common, human pattern of behavior to understand it’s true nature.

In fact, this behavior is so common it’s dismissed out of hand. And this is one of its greatest feats: hiding a deceptive deflection behind a familiar, innocent sounding refrain…

I’m sorry… I didn’t intend to… (fill in the blank).

But, there is a way out of this coverup.

selling your art map the gap

It’s rare when we take the time to examine the interplay between our external reality and our internal landscape.

And yet, dialogue between these two realities pretty much determines how we move through the world: what art we make, how others perceive who we are and what we do, and how we perceive ourselves.

It’s also the disconnect between our external behavior and our internal intentions that get us into trouble.

This common remark—“Yes, but I didn’t intend to do xxx (fill in the blank).”—is hiding an ego-generated reaction (in a moment you’ll see why I call it that) that poses as a rationale for behavior that has, to some degree, troubled the person on the receiving end of the behavior.

“Yes, but I didn’t intend to (fill in the blank)…” is, in reality, always a cleverly disguised excuse.

First, consider that the behavior (whatever it is) has actually happened. It’s a done deal. No taking it back.

A Couple of Not-So-Fun Examples Where Internal & External Realities Collide

You accidentally knock over your friend’s water glass and it spreads over the painting she’s been working on for weeks.

Of course, you didn’t mean to. But how does that change the hours of work she can never get back?

Or, blissfully unaware that the gallery owner can hear you, “She just won’t stop yammering!” becomes a hot moment you can’t take back. I didn’t intend to hurt her feelings has zero impact on feelings already hurt.

As bad as you might feel, “I didn’t intend to do that” does not, nay…cannot mend fences.


If you uncloak the “rationale” of this reaction, you will find a scared, ego turning the spotlight away from the (mis)behavior and the person affected, and onto the ego itself as the real victim of… of all things…an intention.

I didn’t intend is a way to avoid responsibility for the result of some behavior by implying a kind of innocence behind the behavior that should be the real factor considered.

So, what’s really going on here?

why is the gap relevant to selling your art

And why is The Gap relevant to Selling Your Art: Building Block No.2?

Most of the time, most of us are oblivious to the disconnect between what we are experiencing internally and our external behavior.

We assume, 99% of the time, that whatever we are experiencing internally (the home of all intentions) is automatically showing up in our behavior. And, of course we also assume that anyone else can see this is true.

Sometimes these two distinct, yet constantly intertwined realities are aligned. What you experience internally is manifesting in your external behavior. And that makes for smooth sailing.

But a good deal of the time, there is a gap between the two. And this gap can be a one, on a scale of 1 to 10, or a ten—or anywhere in-between.

The problem is, it’s very hard to know how much of a gap is manifesting (or if there’s any gap at all) by ourselves.

It’s as if the Divine Order of Things has decreed that “the eye cannot see the eye” as a clue that we need each other. That cooperation and connection trumps isolation and disconnection.

selling your art cooperation and connection

So, then, what to do when selling your art is on the line…

because you’re struggling with a collector, buyer, gallery owner, or another artist?

Here’s a five-step, Map The Gap Process that’s easy to learn and apply:

First, check out, with yourself, if the bumpy interaction might be exacerbated by your unawareness of the gap between your intention (internal experience) and your behavior (external manifestation).

Second, trust yourself. Self-honesty is a hard-won trait that can breathe life into any tangled knot.

Third, firmly (internally) tell your ego to: Please take a back seat  (climb a tree, go read at the library, etc.). I’m happy to let you back in afterwards, but for now, I need my space—go!

Fourth, trust the other person. People rarely back away from a genuine, heartfelt plea for help or an apology given sincerely. So, ask the person in the tangle with you, I’d love the truth right now: how do you interpret what I am saying and doing?

Fifth, listen to the other person. To keep it safe and simple, only do this with one person at a time. Group dynamics can be dicey when you’re learning to work with your ego instead of against it.

Okay, this has been a lot.

Map The Gap: Let’s review the dynamic connection between your art’s visibility and selling your art.

When you’re faced with an art sale that has just slipped through your fingers. Or a time when you are trying to put your art in the world and you keep hitting roadblocks with other people. Or you’re working on a commission with a difficult client, see what happens when you apply the five steps in Map The Gap.

Because most of the time, most of us feel that whatever we are experiencing internally is naturally aligned with our behavior, we fail to check it out.

But if we do, and if we Map the Gap, suddenly there’s a release in any tangled knot of circumstances for us to:

  1. a) Recognize that our behavior is not honoring our intention accurately
  2. b) Address the gap with the person involved
  3. c) Mindfully create behavior that reflects the truth of your intentions

When did you last experience The Gap and it’s consequences?

I’d love to know, so please leave me a comment.

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    Selling Your Art: Let’s Start At The Beginning 

    Selling Your Art: Let’s Start At The Beginning 

    Selling Your Art: The Beginning…

    When a piece of your work sells, it lights you up. When I hear about it, it lights me up too. 

    Nothing is more validating, more affirming than someone wanting to pay you for the piece you’ve poured your heart and soul into. 

    It’s a high like no other. 

    And in that split second transfer of money for art, all the hours with their endless details—some high, some low—melt away. 

    But along the way, you had to take three foundational steps toward those art sales. 

    Each one seeming so obvious, and in some cases inevitable, that taking time to pay conscious attention might feel frivolous, or unnecessary. 

    I’d like to stress-test that by peeking under the ArtLife hood. 

    3 basic building blocks to selling your art

    No.1 —  Your art is created.  

    You’re putting in the time and effort to reach a certain level of skillfulness. You’re establishing your artistic fingerprint, your unique artist angle. You’re reaching deep into your creative spirit and manifesting a creative truth for the world to experience. 

    No.2 —  Your art is visible. You’re in a gallery. Or hosting an in-studio reception. Or at an art fair. Or maintaining your website, not as a glorified portfolio, but as an experience for people who will become lovers of your work.  

    No.3 —  You, the artist, are excited to engage. You’re answering a question from a potential collector standing next to one of your pieces in a gallery. You’re responding to an email from a potential buyer who just saw a piece on your website. You’re answering an email from someone who met someone who told that someone about your work. You’re replying to comments on Instagram that invite the sale. 

    Nail all three steps, in sequence, and the golden ring on the Selling Your Art Merry-go-Round is yours. 

    Obvious, you’re thinking.  

    I agree. 

    Only, let’s see what happens when we reverse it, shall we?  

    Because, after decades of experience with artists at all career levels (and in all genres), I have watched as one (or more) of these obvious basic steps become… A stumble. A missed opportunity. A missed art sale 

    what happens when we reverse the basic building blocks of art sales

    No.1 – Your art is sort of made. It is generic or superficial. It needs more technical expertise. Your art needs an honest critique from a trusted art-community source. It fails the authentic artistic fingerprint test. (You know…unique to only you…) Your art needs more of you more of the time. 

    No.2 – Your art is invisible: Your website contact form doesn’t work (and you don’t know this because you don’t email yourself—on a regular basis—from that same form!). You lost a gallery and haven’t worked yourself up to move on. Your website is a ho-hum, portfolio-only menagerie of your work. You truly think words don’t matter, so no artist statement and a boring bio. 

    No.3 – You, the artist, fail to engage: Because the art is invisible, how can a collector stand next to you asking questions at an opening? There is no potential collector emailing you, either from your website or from someone who never saw your work, so couldn’t recommend it to someone else. Or you have the work up on a website, but no email list and no newsletter. You do Instagram, but forget to respond to comments. 

    With any one of these basic building blocks, if the artist falters, selling your art falters. 

    Let’s Dive Deeper Into Each Basic, Selling Your Art Building Block  

    art sale building block no.1 your art is created

    At first glance, Your art is created might seem too obvious to bother with until you encounter three sticky wickets : getting enough studio time, being clear about what you are making, and consistently developing your artist fingerprint. 

    Some might frame each of these as a problem, which, for me, is problematic. Problems have a habit of indicating that you’re at fault in some way.  

    If you frame these as artistic intentions, then accountability becomes connected to the impartial marker of “Is it working?” “What would work better? Faster? More easily?” 

    1. Intention: Get enough studio time to make the work you need for selling your art. 

    When I gave out my Vision Questionnaire of 28 questions to the smARTist Telesummit participants, so they could identify where they were in their art career, a consistent response to one of the questions was: I need more time in the studio. 

    It seems everything eats into studio time: family commitments, health issues, survival issues, even the irrepressible kitchen sink makes demands. 

    What’s hard is to take responsibility for what part of this is unconscious self-sabotage. We might wish to lay reasonable, rational, and often guilt-laden demands at the feet of fate, or duty, or obligation, or anything but at the feet of our own choices. 

    It’s not to say that family commitments, health issues, survival issues, etc. aren’t real. They are, and often alarmingly so. 

    But first and foremost, we are responsible for how we show up. And if we are not taking stock of what we need, along with everyone else’s needs, that is on us. 

    Give yourself the gift you give others: the time you deserve.  

    It’s truly that simple. 

    1. Intention: Be clear about what you are making so you have art to sell.

    Because creativity is not genre specific, most creative people have more creative inspirations than they know what to do with.  

    for some of us the sheer luminosity of an idea becomes a firefly of creative possibilities that we'll follow deep into the forest

    This is both a gift and a curse. If we harness this instinct, it turns into the gift of creating with intention. But if we spend too much time chasing down one inspiration after another, it muddies our creative waters. 

    This doesn’t mean sticking to one thing—an impossibility for a good many of us. 

    It means focusing on what makes your art…well…your art. Which brings us smack into the third intention for making art: developing a consistent artist fingerprint. 

    1. Intention: Consistently selling your art depends on a consistent Artist Fingerprint.TM  

    Does your work have an identifiable, artist fingerprint TM, visual cues that signal to any viewer that this work of art is yours and only yours?  

    Are you aware of these visual cues?  

    Are they intentional and conscious, or merely part of your creative flow outside of verbal language? 

    You know a Judy Chicago, a Georges Seurat, or a Louise Joséphine Bourgeois because they each have an artist fingerprint that immediately identifies their work and often spans decades, styles, concepts, and mediums. 

    Even if you’ve not thought of this before, can you look at several pieces of your work and describe what aspects are reliable from piece to piece?  

    It might be a technique, a way of using color, light, perspective; subject matter married to a unique technique; a crossover of artistic genres (think writing and painting).  

    Besides these visual cues of your art making,  there’s a more enigmatic characteristic of your artist fingerprintTM:  it’s the light passing through your spirit/soul into your earthly mind/body that guides you when you manifest creativity for the world to experience. 

    Once you put in the time and effort to hone your skill and technique, it’s time to reach deep into your creative spirit and pull out your artistic truth.  

    your artist fingerprint is the indelible foundation of your artist identity

    And your artistic identity is the true force behind your art sales. 

    So, what have we covered so far?  

    Let’s do a quick recap for Art Sale Building Block No.1. 

    When you  

    1. get enough studio time 
    2. and are clear about what you are making with your indelible, artistic fingerprint 
    3. then, Your Art Is Created, becomes the obvious first Selling Your Art Building Block. 

        Art Sale Building Block No.2

        Here again, Your art is visible might seem so self-evident  as to border on absurdity. 

        Then again… 

        What if your website contact form isn’t working? Or you’ve lost the one gallery (or two) that you had?  

        Or you keep waiting for the perfect piece to materialize under your fingers before daring to go public? Or you’ve hit a creative roadblock? Or self-doubts have asserted themselves? Or family demands force studio time off the map? 

        Or… your don’t sell your art because you refuse to show your work—for one reason or another. 

        Once upon a time, an artist contacted me for private coaching.  

        I had one spot left in my practice and I was excited to fill it—with the caveat that we first determine if coaching together would be a good fit. The last thing I ever want is to work with an artist who won’t, for one reason or another, be able to benefit from a coaching relationship. 

        This time, my standard preview session proved invaluable in a way I could have never imagined. 

        Ms. Private Extraordinaire (you guessed it… not her real name) had been painting for three decades. She had thousands of pieces in several storage units. But, she had never, ever, shown a single piece. 

        Let me repeat: Never.  Shown.  A.  Single.  Piece. 

        Or, put another way: Never.  Sold.  A.  Single.  Piece. 

        Thank goodness this was a phone conversation, and not Aoom, as I’m not known for my poker face. My voice, on the other hand, I could manage. 

        What’s holding you back from showing your work? My voice even, curious. 

         Nothing, she said. My work is private. Just for me. I don’t want to show it. 

        And do you have any intention of making artwork for others to experience?  

        No, she said, I definitely don’t want to show it. 

        Given that, I continued, what would you like from me? 

        I don’t know, she said, I was hoping you could tell me. 

        Is there any chance I can help you find a way to release a select group of your paintings from their storage units for an exhibition?  

        Or, that you would work on a select group for such an exhibition? 

        Meanwhile, the graphic text bubble over my head: 

        Any chance I can get you to release the fear cocoon  

        that holds you, and your creativity, 

        as prisoners under lock and key? 

        I could never do that, she replied, answering my spoken and unspoken question.  

        Her voice was steady. It didn’t quaver. She didn’t hesitate in her response. She held the silence that followed. 

        (I listen very, very carefully to silences because they always have so much to say…) 

        We exchanged a few pleasantries before … 

        I don’t see a way forward, I said, because the work I do is about artists changing the world by putting their work in the world. 

        She understood.  

        Our parting was amicable. 

        When the work is invisible, you literally cannot sell your art.  

        The trick here is understanding what “invisible” actually means. 

        In the case of Ms. Private Extraordinaire, invisible was literal. I’m pretty darn sure if you’re reading this, that’s not you. 

        Most likely, you’re working just as hard to have your work visibile as you are making the work. 

        Or, your work is visible, but perhaps inaccessible: An outdated website. A contact form that’s not working. A gallery with odd opening hours that keep changing. Or, heaven forbid, a gallery that doesn’t respond to queries from collectors and buyers. 

        I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve gone to an artist’s website and sent them an email from their site…and…silence. Or the last work they uploaded is 2018. There’s no artist statement (you know, that personal connection that furthers the bond between artist and collector).  

        So, maybe you’re not guilty of any of these “let’s-make-visibility-as-hard-as-possible” no-art-sale crimes. 

        are there unintentional ways the visibility you desire, and need, for an art sale are being hampered

        In next week’s blog post, I’ll tease apart how the gap between your internal experience and your external behavior can, inadvertently, derail the visibility you need for art-sales. 

        It’s a process I call Map The Gap. 

        I’d love to “see” you here. But that’s only possible if you drop a comment or two below in the comment fields. 

        Tell me, do you have specific issues with making your artwork visible? 

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