I can sympathies. I have had periods of time where I sold nothing for months, never a year, but its the same thing. Here with bullet points (oh, how I love those!) are my thoughts.
- I know your art and you are a skilled painter, but something is wrong. You can't change the world, so you are left with no choice but to change what you are doing. Immediately acquire "Lead the Field" by Earl Nightingale and memorize it, better still, tattoo it in reverse on your chest so that you see it in the mirror first thing every morning. You can download it to your i pod for about ten bucks I have been told. You need Earl! I am not kidding here, this is the best piece of advice I could possibly give you. nough said.....
- Different towns, different galleries and different sections of the country have different art markets, each with their own preferences. Find out what your market wants, or find the market where what you make is wanted. You may have to find a gallery that is far from your home. Look in the art magazines and get an idea of who is selling what. I moved to New England long ago to have my career because where I was in Minnesota the kind of art I was making was not in fashion. They wanted ducks, I got out. If you are making quirky, very personal art and you are working in a traditional style, that's a harder fit than landscapes. If you are painting still life, you could think about what sort of places people put things in their homes and what might fit there. You can paint quality still life with integrity and still make things that will appeal to peoples taste for their homes. See Fantin LaTour, or Chardin. You don't have to do everything that way, just add it to the list of pictures you make. Experiment with painting some subjects that you don't usually do, something might click. Throw a lot against the wall and something is bound to stick sooner or later.
- If the galleries you are showing in are into the avant- garde, go elsewhere. There have got to be galleries within a days drive that fit what you do. Initially you should find three. Then give each of them six paintings. I know that's a tall order, but that's what I think it takes, for starters.
- You might have a discussion with a gallery owner whose inventory you respect and ask him what you could be making that would appeal to his customers. That may seem a little mercenary, but this is a business. I am able to make the kind of work I like and have no conflict with the artistic versus commercial. There are plenty of artists who are making work that is supposed to be commercial that fails. I think the public is mostly hip enough to reject a lot of them,. People don't know much about art but when the money starts flowing they get a lot smarter. They know the want integrity.
- You need to have a fairly large body of art in several galleries, if it doesn't sell then, you may have priced it too high. I know we have all heard the admonishment to never drop the prices lest it hurt their sales. you don't have any sales. These are tough economic times, but getting better. My sales last year where horrid, this year I am right about on track. Things are improving and I think the art market is righting itself, but the herd has been thinned and a lot of galleries and artists have been purged. If your sales pick up at a lower price point, you can gradually increase them. Incidentally, no one cares how long it took you to make a given painting.
- Make compelling, beautiful paintings. Once I asked an older artist "what kind of paintings sell best?" He told me "good paintings" Find something you have a flair for and polish that ability until you are making the most exquisite paintings of that sort in the marketplace you inhabit.
- Do shows, do demos. Help other people who don't have the considerable skills you yourself possess. Besides being the right thing to do it builds a fan base who will speak well of you. Every workplace and family has someone who is the "art expert" try to teach and help those people who are usually amateur painters. If you want more from the world you have to put more value out there.
- Present your work well. You may need simpler frames, are yours too baroque for your market? maybe they aren't the quality or are too fancy, or too something. There is a sweet spot on that. As an artist you may have exalted taste in frames that is playing over your clients heads.
- I have written a series of posts entitled the art business waltz. Search my archives and read those. I have tried to spell out how to break into the gallery scene.
- Some artists I know have a hundred or more paintings out there consigned. I don't have that many, but you need to have a pretty good number. The more you have the better your odds become. Also rotate your paintings, if you have work unsold in a gallery for a year, maybe less, its time to rotate it out to another dealer.
- If you make art that is political, or very personal, or full of weighty ideas, or humorous, that can mkae it harder to sell. Not impossible, but the market is smaller. My own teacher R.H. Ives Gammell made a lot of stuff which must have been the devil to sell. But he could afford it. He was wealthy. I am not.