Logic says I ought to be the very best person to sell my own paintings but right now, as I set out on my journey as an artist, I’m finding that I am probably the very worst.
Normally, I rely on others to do it for me – gallery owners, curators, friends, family and existing customers. Or I can stay safely hidden behind the web. However, over the last few weekends I’ve been running an open studio from my home and it’s been up to me to:
talk to people about how and why I paint (fine, I can do that and enjoy it)
talk to them about how great a particular painting is (getting a bit awkward)
talk about prices (really? Help!)
I really do start to get uncomfortable when someone starts to get interested in a painting. I have actually found myself at the point of sale saying things like “please don’t feel obliged to buy” (yes, I actually did say that to someone), suggesting another artist has painted the same scene (and probably did a better job) and offering unnecessary discounts on sales that were going to happen anyway, simply because I'm surprised that someone appears willing to pay the list price for my work.
I’m somewhat comforted by that fact that over the last few days I’ve spoken to several other artists who have exactly the same problem, especially when they are starting out. In fact, it’s pretty common knowledge that artists don’t always make the best salespeople. “Bigging up” your work (and by implication your talent) is never going to be something that comes naturally to most of us.
However, the good news is that I’m definitely getting better. I’m starting to understand that enthusiasm isn't the same as conceit; I’m learning how to differentiate between the people who want to chat and those who just want to be left alone to browse quietly and I’m appreciating that rather than being expensive, my work is actually under-priced at the moment (so buy now, before it goes up!).
I shall be practising these skills more and more as I move towards opening a permanent gallery in a few months’ time.