Lessons I Learned from Selling Art Online

Save for later & Share!

What Have I Learned?

I switched careers from a corporate job to full-time artist, and the deep dive into making and selling art online taught me valuable lessons about creating art and letting it go (to collectors) immediately. Even if it was the best watercolor I’d ever painted.

Back in the day, I sold watercolors on Ebay. It was a rewarding experience at the time, and I learned a lot about online art sales.

I had never sold my art before, so making money from doing something I loved was a revelation. Along with the “excuse” to paint frequently, there was also a king’s pantry of practices that were totally new to me.

Unprepared Artist

As watercolor sales ka-chinged via email, they also doled out a fly-by-seat-of-the-pants crash course.

Days were filled with Do’s and Dont’s of online marketing and promotion, relationships with collectors via email correspondence, photographing and listing art, writing Html code, packaging and shipping art, resisting the pull to only paint-what-sells, scanning and photoshop, international and domestic post office snags, crafting better descriptions of my work, the importance of policies, writing and updating a concise bio, the beauty of online friendships, and most of all – the practice of making art, all the time. Whew!

Painting a tiny Italian street scene in watercolor

An Excellent Take-Away

Here’s one of the big lessons I learned in those first years: selling your art teaches you to let go.

You finish the work, post it online, make it available for sale, and then flick the switch, over to the department that makes more art.

Getting attached or ambivalent about selling a piece doesn’t help a working artist. Attachment can stall your engines.

Don’t get attached to your art.  Pygmalion and Galatea, 35 x 27 oil on canvas by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Making vs Keeping

After seasons of rolling through a thriving make-and-sell cycle, you earn clarity in the value of the process of making. And you learn to kick the urge to keep, save, or cling to your art.

There’s a big difference between the artist’s making brain and the artist’s attachment brain. Making art is the important work we do as artists. It grows fertile in creative expression, inspired ideas, self-discipline, experimentation, and focus.

Hoarding the art we make has a suspicious connection to pride, ego and accomplishment.  Feeding those sentiments can seduce an artist into complacency in the studio. You don’t try as hard if you’re sitting idle, staring at your best painting.

Clinging to your work also says something about lack of trust – of yourself.

If you believe you’ll never paint anything as well, hanging onto your best piece of art may be a real-life manifestation of that nay-sayer’s voice in your head.  

Title it (here’s a course to help you with that part), scan it for documentation in your files, and move forward.  Trust that you’ll have more creative successes in the studio because you’re earning them by working hard.

Adding a room behind a blank figurative reference photo

When Patrons Love Your Work

There’s a whole other cupboard of pleasant satisfaction to be had in knowing that someone out there loves that piece you just made. They pine to gaze at it for a long, long time.

If you sell it and miss it, you can always brew a cup of coffee, fire up your computer and stare at the jpeg.

Making Makes You Better

If you make a lot of art, you’re less inclined to feel clingy towards a particularly successful piece, because it’s natural that you will get better and better, but only if you’re producing work.

If you keep your hands busy in the studio, pretty soon, your favorite painting will be so out-shined by the successes that follow it. You’ll look at last month’s best piece through a more mature lens, and observe a map of passages you’d adjust with your hard-earned, freshly acquired new knowledge.

Building a light field monotype on mylar

Just Keep Making

Leave that bread crumb trail of your ever-improving process in the hands of collectors who resonate with the work you’re producing. Just like every selling artist in history has done before you.

Learning how to paint the texture of fur in watercolor

Here is a link to a blog post from an artist I admire so much – David Hettinger. He’s writing in this post about why artists need to seed the earth with art – even more so when things look darker around us.

Rose & Dahlia 21 x 10 watercolor (sold)

Let’s Plan to Make Art

How many pieces of art would you like to produce each year? And have you ever reached that goal? Working small helps if you’re aiming at lots of practice and sizes that are easy to mail. What plans do you have for the coming season of makery in your studio space?

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post –


P.S. You can subscribe to this blog to get the posts via email here, and you can also get my studio newsletter here. Watch your inbox for a confirmation email in either case. 🙂

P.P.S. The lessons outlined above are some of the topics I’m marinating on for a series of video courses. I wish someone could have guided me to avoid the uncertainty and bumps in the road when I started to sell my work. What do you think?

Art Quote

N.C. Wyeth’s children were beginning to reveal artistic sensibilities. Watching them sketch one evening in 1920, Convers remarked “Drawing! That’s the outstanding stunt in this house! All five around a lamp, each one seriously bent over a tablet of paper, recording all sorts of facts and fictions of Nature. One would guess this was night art school – or that we’re all nutty in the same way!”

K. Jennings
Petite ceramic watercolor rinse cup to beautify an art table

Save for later & Share!

17 thoughts on “Lessons I Learned from Selling Art Online”

  1. Did you write this post just for me? 😉 Yes, that curriculum sounds perfect, and thanks for the wake-up call about attachment to our art. I definitely fit your description. As always, thank you for your generosity, insights, and knowledge.

  2. Yes, please share ideas about how to link for passive income, easy tips for writing those pesky descriptions for etsy or ebay, etc. All helpful to those of us who trail behind you.

    1. Hi Tina, Thanks for the visit. Yes, those pesky descriptions for etsy, and titles with good search terms and subjects for blog posts and titles for art, and blah blah blah… I will assemble a tutorial and share what I know, for sure. xoxo

  3. Hi Belinda. You know I’m a big fan of your art. I’ve watched you flourish over the years. A side from the fact that your’e a very talented artist my biggest question is how does she do it? I paint and do a few shows – not afraid to let go, but the fear factor is putting down my brush and learning just how to market my art. The learning curve seems overwhelming, especially web marketing. I would be forever grateful if you would do video Blogs and share this process.

    1. Hi Cathy, Thanks for the nice note and your compliments. Marketing has always been a challenge for artists – I think maybe because of the extreme opposites between working on art alone, and then hawking it in the public. But we’re lucky that social media and blogging lets us hawk our goods from behind the keyboard. It’s a nice transition to start. I will definitely work on some online artist promotional tutorials. xo

  4. Donna Thibodeau

    Love your work and insight into how artists think. I am one that gets attached to art and doesn’t make art enough because I am buried under paintings. Better to let them go so someone can enjoy them. Thank you for all the sharing you do.

  5. Bonjour chère amie,

    J’aime beaucoup la composition florale avec les dahlias et les roses… Les ombres font un bel hommage à la lumière. Une harmonie de couleurs riche et vivifiante.
    Merci pour le partage de vos expériences.

    Gros bisous ♡

    1. Bonjour martine, merci pour votre note aimable et vos compliments. Je suis très heureux que mes divagations soient utiles ou divertissantes. C’est avec plaisir que je partage avec vous les événements de mon atelier.

  6. Your Rose and Dahlia painting took my breath away – the colors, sunlight and shimmering reflections! So grateful to be a follower and recipient of your wise advice, and I look forward to some enlightenment about the “business” side of art. Having followed numerous art blogs over the past 3 years, one thing I learned for sure, that it “ain’t easy, being green”…or blue…or purple or whichever hue on the spectrum of life of an artist!! Yet, when I see works such as yours, it’s worth all the travail in the end (even when the end is still not in sight). Thanks for fueling my motivation.

  7. Hi Belinda,
    Your painting is beautiful…
    Excellent post! I like all your tips, the David Hettinger page, the books….everything!
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *