Top Ten Habits of Highly Successful Artists by Amy Amdur
After 37 years of running art festivals, I have seen that the top artists, those who consistently sell the most, share a set of habits. Success, it appears is not random, not based on luck, not about any one thing. Success is a carefully formulated outcome based upon a shared set of habits. Let’s look at those habits and discuss each point in detail.
1. The top artists get into the top shows
How do they do that? The top artists know that they have to present a stellar group of jury images that will score high points and get them into the shows they want to do. In a typical show that requires 4 images of art and one of the display, the top artists will submit 4 images that are clear, have even exposure, that relate to each other in theme or design. Their booth image is recent, shows the manner of presentation, and the booth is well designed and the work well presented.
2. The top artists at shows have a cohesive body of work
Top artists present a body of work that relates to each other. The work is cohesive in that it all has a similar style, technique, and in some cases subject matter. Top artists do not try to show a variety of things they have done…they curate their art to show work that relates and expresses a point of view.
3. The top artists finish their pieces professionally
Artists who sell the most take the time and expense to make sure their art is well finished. What I mean by this, is that frame moldings, sculpture bases, and other details are well selected. When it comes to framing, successful artists have very few frame options, and many have just one. By reducing the variables in frame choice, the focus is kept on the art itself. Fewer choices reduces confusion on the part of the potential buyer and more sales result.
4. The top artists have an impeccable booth presentation
Artists utilize pro-panels, state of the art tents with light domes, solid color carpet, often lighting systems in their booth. Art is hung on vertical and horizontal midlines for symmetry and balance in the booth. 3D Artists have pedestals, and Jewelers have beautiful well-lit cases. Top artists have title cards and pricing in the same location near every piece in the case of 2D and 3D art. Jewelers have photo blow ups of exquisite pieces on their walls. Booths are tidy, spotless, and inviting.
5. The top artists are active in their booths
Artists are actively involved in telling their story to all who come into their booth. They talk about what they do and what inspires them to create. They lead the potential buyer through their booth as a museum guide would walk a group through a museum. The top artists know the art of selling, and know that taking a piece off the wall brings them a step closer to selling. Top artists take very few breaks and stand the majority of the show. They are in all senses of the word present in their booth.
6. The top artists offer art at different price points
Real pros know that they can sell one big painting for $4,500 or ten small pieces for $450 each, and either way gross the same amount. I call this Art Fest Math. The pros also know that the small pieces are often bought in two’s and three’s, and are easier price points for many. Walk a show and you’ll see people trying out different combos of small pieces, and some people end up buying 9 and doing a three by three grid of pieces. However you get there, have work at two or three price levels.
7. Highly successful artists demonstrate their technique, or explain their process
While some artists like to create in their booth, many prefer to have sample materials and describe their process. The explanation builds the respect of the public and better support the prices asked by the artist.
8. Top artists offer to do commission work
Top artists know that they cannot have every size that the public may want. When someone is sincerely interested, but expresses a wish for a piece of flat art, sculpture, or jewelry in a special size, the top artist will offer to create a special unique piece on “Commission”. Artists typically ask for a 50% deposit at the time of the order and collect the balance when the work is delivered.
9. Top artists to home visits
Often, serious buyers can’t make up their mind on site at a show. Tops selling artists often offer to do a home visit after the show during the evening or the Monday after the show. Artists bring in a variety of pieces and help the buyers see the choices on location. Many artists also offer to hang larger work, after the sale has been made.
10. Top artists follow up
Top selling artists follow up after shows with anyone who had questions. They follow up with their buyers when they have new work, when they will be in the area for a show, and take an active role promoting themselves to buyers old and new.
While no one habit is in itself a game changer, the totality of these habits does make a difference in success. I encourage those who are seek the “magic” formula for success to try to incorporate as many as these habits as possible in the coming season.