4 Lessons Learned When I Tried Selling My Art

I’m going to do something wild and crazy here, and combine my writing with my other favorite thing, which is drawing robots. I’ll let you read about that here, on my website.

Last weekend, I tried something new: I sat behind a booth, at a couple of art fair/craft markets and attempted to sell my robot art. It was 90 degrees, but it felt slightly cooler under the tent I purchased at 6am the day of the market. Me and my lovely booth partner managed to set this tent up with a bit of assistance from those in neighboring booths. For the next 8 hours, we chatted with each other, chatted with customers, and folded and refolded our screen printed shirts about 100 times. We did the same thing the next day, but without the 90 degree heat. We did, however, learn how to block our wares from the rain and wind. Over the course of these 2 days, I learned a few things, which I have narrowed down to 4 Lessons I Learned When I Tried Selling My Art.

  1. Some people do not want my art. This is because they do not like how it looks, they don’t think it’s priced appropriately, they don’t have the money to buy it, it reminds them of their first heartbreak, divorce, dog, etc. Basically, I have no idea why they are not running up throwing cash at me, but they are not. If I was selling, say, coffee that I had not roasted, picked or purchased, I don’t know if this would bother me so much. When I draw or paint, it feels like the distillation of my little heart being spread onto paper, and when someone is all “I will pass” on that, it is easy to get crushed. Thankfully, just one single person liking my art can often override that shitty feeling. There was a boy, on day 2, who came up to our booth with the word “weird” written on his little 9 year old hand. His Mom made a comment about this being “the robot lady from yesterday” and then she told me that after they had seen my stuff the day before, the boy went home and drew his own robots. There. Heart repaired. I inspired one person. Can that carry over into other things? Can I focus on the positives and the people who do care and do love me and stop focusing on the ones who just don’t care or even dislike me, knowing that their opinion might be out of my control anyway?
  2. I can let go of insecurity.  I carry around a bunch of insecurity about my decision to work in a corporate setting after graduating from art school. There are so many different paths, and I had romanticized the path of creating art to support myself. I have felt, often, that I’m not a real artist, because my art is too literal (i.e. these are my robots. they mean..well that they are robots?) or because I work 9 to 5 and when asked what I do for a living I tell people what I do to pay my bills. There was a time, in the last year or so, as I was getting to know some amazing artists locally, where I starting thinking about quitting my job and trying to survive on art alone. Then I found a job that I liked. It’s corporate. I wear business casual attire and work in the HR department at a hospital. And I love it. And I love making art. And that’s fine. If one thing pays the bills and helps me to build a career that can support me for years to come (hopefully), then I feel like I’ve created an environment for myself where I can make art. I didn’t even realize that I had been working towards that until it was there. I can afford a little corner of a studio. I can afford art supplies. And if nobody buys my robot t-shirts and prints all weekend, I can still pay rent. That is good for me. The balance of security and freedom is good for me. We’re all so different, and that might not be the formula for you. It might be for my friends, and I will be there to listen and learn from then as long as possible, but that doesn’t mean one is “right”. Your path doesn’t make you an artist. Making art makes you an artist. What you look like does’t make you an artist. How you look at things does. In my opinion. Art is subjective, y’all.
  3. Feeling disappointed means that I tried something. I was disappointed in the way the markets went. Why? Because I put myself into something and created something and it didn’t sell, which was the intention. Ways to avoid this situation would include: not trying or trying harder next time. OK. So not trying? I did that for the first 7  years after I graduated. That did not make me feel good. That leaves trying harder, which is inherently hopeful. That market didn’t work out? Or, that run sucked? That relationship didn’t work out the way you wanted? That presentation, etc. etc…On a basic level, the option to try again is so often present. Yes, you have to build yourself back up first, which leads to the next lesson which is….
  4. Failure is a massive opportunity for practicing self-love. After the first market day, when it was 90 degrees out and everyone melted and became zombies, I went home and went to bed. I had the opportunity to go out with people I love and drink and rehash the day. This might be self-care for some people. Last month, I started a practice of not drinking alcohol and going home when I wanted to. Yes, my practice is  wild, I know. My body told me that was what it needed to heal from certain things, so I listened to that. When I notice that I feel fragile or frustrated, I listen to that. It’s like magic. It works every time. I don’t know what your body or mind are telling you, but I bet there’s something. I ignored so many things for so long and then I sort of gave up and listened. It turns out that my mind is actually pretty smart, and if I just listen, I can get some pretty helpful tips. Like, go eat food and get in bed. OK, mind. I hear you. Don’t text them. Don’t drink that. Drink this instead. Talk to this person. Don’t talk. Just listen. Listen to this person. You know so much more than you think you do. It’s amazing.

That’s what I learned. I also learned that my supportive female friends are my secret weapon, but that’s another story for another post.

Do you have thoughts on selling your art? Tips for new people like me? Questions that I will try my best to answer? Please please please leave them in the comments. I dream of this blog being a place for conversation. You’re all the very best.



2 thoughts on “4 Lessons Learned When I Tried Selling My Art

    1. Thanks Ryan! I have not read it, but am familiar with Brene Brown’s writing and love it. “Daring Greatly” is going on my list of things to read.


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