To varying degrees, artists are basically creative people. However the unfortunate fact is that they tend to channel their creativity in only ONE direction--making art. If artists were anywhere near as creative in selling themselves and their art, they might not be millionaires but they'd be a good deal more healthy financially than they usually are. When it comes to sales, artists usually fall into one of two categories, those who expect someone ELSE to sell their art for them (and paying dearly for the service in commissions), or those who are stuck in the time-honored rut of juried shows (which are seldom great sales venues) and various commercial shows (which range all over the place in terms of likely sales). Beyond this of course, are commissions and the Internet which rely on the prospective customer to make the first move toward your work.

So, how do you market your work creatively? One way is to get OUT of the art market. It's overpopulated, over-hyped, and over saturated. Learn about, and move into, other markets, appealing to pet owners, doctors, restaurants, auto enthusiasts, garden clubs, tourists, hotels, memorabilia collectors, virtually ANY hobby or business is a potential niche market for your art provided you're willing to cater to it with BOTH your creative efforts--art and marketing.

Just as every artist must learn his or her art, nearly every artist CAN learn to teach their art. Like art itself, to some, it comes so naturally--little learning is needed. But to most, it involves some trial and error. The only way to LEARN to teach is by watching and imitating good teachers. Take workshops, paying as much or more attention to HOW they're taught as to WHAT is taught. And don't think for a moment you have to start leading workshops yourself to earn income from your developing teaching skills. Workshops are at the TOP of the teaching hierarchy. At the bottom, are private individuals, guest speaking engagements, a few friends getting together with you as their leader, all can be a beginning. I taught my first adult classes (12 & over) for two dollars per person (1972 dollars that is), half of which I donated as prize money for an art in the park show once a year. This went on for ten years and drew up to a dozen students at various times. And quite apart from teaching your art, you can also teach ABOUT art, organizing tours, serving as a guide. These can be as simple as a car caravan to a local art museum, or as complex as an art classes aboard a cruise liner or in a foreign country.

Inasmuch as most artists' homes look like art galleries anyway--virtual one-man shows--why not capitalize on this? By rearranging (or reducing) the furniture a bit, many artist can play upon this, alone, or perhaps in conjunction with their artists friends to organize a studio tour much like various community organizations hold home tours around Christmastime. Whether the tour has a holiday theme or not, the best time for these is toward then end of the year when retail spending peaks. Keep any refreshments simple, send out engraved invitations (close friends and relatives are usually not good prospects) or just run ads. Try to avoid any kind of party atmosphere. Keep the event highly professional, focusing solely on the art and its salability. Include a door prize and perhaps a raffle as well. Show mostly new work, using some other venue for disposing of markdowns.

Speaking of older, hard to sell items, while you might not want to go the yard sale route, bargain hunters ARE often prone to shopping outdoors. Depending upon the quantity of this type of work you may be tripping over, it's usually attractive enough to entice a business owner to loan you his or her sidewalk, or to warrant a permit to sell in a well-trafficked park. The simple, wire tripods used to hold cemetery wreaths can be purchased cheaply at discount stores and make excellent "easels" for smaller pieces. For larger works, traditional folding display easels or existing park benches (even picnic tables) will work. Make lots of posters, run lots of ads and spend at least as much time promoting it as in setting up the show.

And if you can't SELL it, TRADE it. Visit non-art shows, hobby shows, trade shows, whatever, and carry photos of your work. If you see something you like, don't be shy about making the first move. I've traded art for a mounted squirrel, a mallard duck, and a coyote, an owl, (all also mounted) and gotten great mileage out them as teaching tools for drawing. I also once traded a painting for a root canal, which reminds me, art can be traded for services...or services for services too. We won't talk about the tax element in all this, but be assured there is one and it's a factor to consider.

And finally, though this is a somewhat traditional approach to selling, it also sometimes involves a degree of unorthodox creativity--become famous. Nothing leads to more sales at higher prices quicker than publicity, whether free or purchases. Master the art of writing news releases, and the equally important art of releasing them. Donate a painting to a prominent charity. Consider it an advertising expense as much as a charitable contribution. Create an outlandish work of art, big, flashy, and controversial. MAKE news. I once knew an artist who turned an entire HOUSE into a work of sculpture with an antiabortion theme. He then shot photos and turned them into limited addition prints. Thousand of people saw it on TV and in newspapers. The publicity was priceless. Being creative isn't easy whether in making art or selling it, but unless you want to (and can afford to) have others do it for you, it's the necessary second leg an artist needs to stand up and be noticed.