Letting Go: Getting Started Selling Your Art

On a near weekly basis, someone I know will tell me about something they made. Be it a handmade jewelry box, their own beauty products, or their first few paintings, there is always someone out there making for the first time.

And my first question to them is always, “Have you started selling it yet?”

While the act of selling your artwork online can seem really daunting, it’s never been easier. In one afternoon, someone can set up an online shop and be ready to start shipping their products all over the world.

But when I’m talking to newfound artists & creatives, it’s not setting up a shop that’s holding them back, it’s letting go.

When someone isn’t formally trained – and let’s be honest, a lot of us aren’t these days – the idea of presenting your artwork as something worth exchanging money for can be nerve-wracking. There’s the idea that without that formal experience, you lack that legitimacy as an artist, but that’s simply not true. A lot of great artists didn’t attend art school and making money of one’s artwork these days isn’t just about art, it’s about keen business sense, too.

We can also be overly critical of our work, looking at our pieces with a sharper eye, zeroing in on minor imperfections. These imperfections might be something a customer would overlook, or see and feel it added to the artwork, rather than detract from it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we sometimes lack the objectivity to see it in our own works. So, the piece gets stowed away in a closet, storage room, or garage, leaving it’s only value being the fleeting entertainment felt during the its creation.

But be proud of yourself and the work you made!

If someone is disinterested in your work, they’ll just walk away or change the subject after giving some small platitude, but if they’re standing there asking you questions about your process, inspiration, and telling you how much they like it, they genuinely like it. Let it buoy you up and give you the confidence to keep making, and maybe make a little money on the side.

For artists, there’s another part that makes it hard: letting go of originals. I can’t imagine what painters must go through to part with their original canvasses, but even for me, it was hard to part with those first sets of prints.

When I started selling prints of my work, I had so many reservations about it. I knew I could always print more and no one was ever going to take my negatives and files away from me, but it was still hard to let these little pieces of myself go out into the world. I was worried someone would scan and copy them, or that they’d decide they don’t like them anymore and just tear the prints up.

I had to let it go.

Sometimes, we just need to spend time thinking through our fears, rather than acting on them. From a logic standpoint, it doesn’t make sense for someone to buy my print and copy it. Why would they hand over all this money just to go and make a cheaper copy? The resolution would be lost, the colour imperfect – it would be so much more hassle than it was worth. So that fear was fairly unfounded. And then if they decided to get rid of the print at some point? Well, I can always print more. The images, for all intents and purposes, will always exist.

It got harder to let go when I started making one-of-a-kind pieces like the artifact pendants and wood blocks. But again, the original images they were made with would always be there. And I photograph everything before I put it up for sale, so if I want to look at it again or be inspired by an old piece, I could. There are a lot of emotions that go into the creation of a one-of-a-kind piece, and those feelings can carry over once the piece is made. It’s easy to be sentimental about that first piece, something I’ve written about before.

After a while, there are so many pieces sold into loving homes that it makes it hard to worry about what happens to all of it. In fact, it makes me feel really happy to know my photographs are hanging on walls all over Canada, the US, the UK, Australia and more. This makes it easier to keep creating, keep selling, and keep giving.

Love your artworks. Keep a few for yourself, of course. But let the rest of them go and make someone happy.

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