A Very Short Story About Selling Art

Christine Montague - The Model Visits the Portrait Studio

Well, I guess a more appropriate title would be: An Open Letter With a Short, Short Story Tucked Inside.

This came from an artist, who was attending the smARTist Telesummit 2011, and wrote this forum post to one of the speakers, Jason Horejs.

Notice her progression from Sell my art? You gotta be kidding…

To…., well, here…read it for yourself…

Note: Jason Horejs, a gallery owner and author, gave a presentation at the live smARTist Telesummit 2011 on: Sell Like a Pro – Insider Tips from a Gallery Owner on the Delicate Process of Turning “Tire Kickers” into Collectors.


Hi Jason.

An anecdote about a sale – thanks to your step-by-step, sales guide.

I have a studio in an old stone mill, quite lovingly renovated into a centre of artists studios, just outside of Toronto, Canada. The approx. 30 artists who rent there must open their doors to the public every Friday and Saturday.

With very few visitors, those of us who are painters can never decide how to handle the open door days. Paint & generally ignore the lookers? Dress nicer and do busy work ready to hop up and talk? Always a bone of contention, as well as a mystery.

I am fortunate in that I do get sales that “fall in my lap” there. I took the telesummit because I felt if I only I had some clue as to how to talk to the “tire kickers” (we call them leaf lookers), I could take some control over my sales.

On the first day back to the studio after the telesummit, only about 20 minutes had passed before my first visitors of the day arrived.

Now, normally, depending on my mood, my next step would have been anything from saying hello, with maybe a how are you? (and then go back to work). Or, Hello, my name is Christine Montague. I am the artist. Just ask me if you have any questions. And then back to painting. Or just generally ignore them, except to smile. Or ask them if they had been to the mill before. And back to work.

Instead, I literally went by your script.

I wasn’t painting but at my work table, doing busy work I could put down in a flash, but be seeming to return to.

“Hello,” I said smiling, as soon as they walked in. They smiled back and started to look around.

“What brings you here today?” (never said that before)

“Oh. Just out for something to do.”

Then a semi moment of panic as I can’t remember what you said to say next. So, I say the old stand by –

“Have you been to the mill before?”

“Yes , many times.” (More internal panic. What was it you said in case we don’t recognize a previous visitor?)

They are now looking at a bin of packaged 13″ x 19″ photo sheets. Although I am a painter, I sell my photos to supplement my income, the ways others sell cards. It’s more profitable

I let them look and keep one eye out from my desk. Normally, I wouldn’t have watched.

I let them know they are looking at photos of the glen ,where the studio is located. I tell them a little bit about the work.

They smile and comment and go back to looking.

The woman pulls out a photo (the ol’ she touched it – it’s on the way to being hers).

I comment how that one was actually on the cover of the 2007 Halton Hills Tourist Guide (where the mill is).

Not too obviously, I get a pen ready… My receipt book is handy.

She chats away amicably as she places the photo on the table. A talker, especially when I am nervous, usually by now I would have been talking up a storm in response.

Immediately, I flip open my receipt book and ask her name. I have never done that so smoothly–ever! She willingly gives me the info. I ask if she would like to be contacted for future shows. She says, yes. And then for the first time ever, I make a little box on the receipt (it is in triplicate) and check it as if I have always been doing so.

This was so much fun and went so smoothly.

Believe me, this is normally a very difficult task for me. I was psyched and ready to try it again. However, typical for the mill, they were the visitors of the day. lol. Next time!

Thanks, Jason!


Did you miss Jason’s lively “How To Sell Your Art” at the live, 7-day smARTist 2011 conference? No worries, sign up for the Home Study Edition – Early Notification List, and we’ll let you know as soon as it’s available! (Get that receipt book out!) Click here.

4 Responses to “A Very Short Story About Selling Art”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ariane Goodwin, Ed.D, NCAL. NCAL said: A Very Short Story About Selling Art: Well, I guess a more appropriate title would be: An Open Letter With a Sho… http://bit.ly/eHWFsf […]

  2. Excellent story. I used to just let people wander into my studio and I sort of stood back and let them be. The ‘no pressure’ sort of approach. Now I greet and chat with them and always ask them to sign my book. My sales have increased at the past two Open Studios.

  3. Mona says:

    I am extremely shy when it comes to promoting myself and my art FACE TO FACE! Even more so for selling my art-work. I get panic attacks when people get interested in my work and talk to me. I make a thousand mistakes. I blame my art for having set me back from making a living.

  4. Ariane says:

    Hi Mona,
    I can appreciate your shyness… AND, if you have any genuine desire to move your art forward, this is an area where you are going to have to roll up your sleeves and figure it out.

    Women have a bigger hurdle than men in our culture as shyness can also be code for: “God help me if I become visible,” since being visible gets us into all kinds of serious trouble: physical assault, put downs, ridicule, stalking…the list is long and very real.

    That said, being visible is also the way to success, with one exception: you find a very talented, smart, respectful gallery dealer who believes in you wholeheartedly. The only difficulty here is that for this to work you have to believe in yourself. No matter how good the dealer is, even sells your work, there is only so far a dealer can go without the artist.

    So, take this seriously. Start by creating a one sentence description of your work and practice on family and friends (only those who truly support what you do, of course!). Then, when you get comfortable (comfort comes from two things: competence and practice, both of which you can learn. Seriously, this is up to you. Don’t cave into your fears. Work to understand what they are really trying to ask you, then give yourself to grow beyond them.

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