I read this great blog post by my friend Lori Woodward and tonight I am going to post that. This is something I have thought about a lot and been reluctant to say as boldly.
The best artists - and I am friends with some of the very best living ones - don't need bother with 75% of the things on the list. Why not? Because their work is so amazingly good that as soon as a gallerist sets eyes on it, he or she wants to call that artist and get them first into their gallery.
If your work looks amateur, all the self-marketing, coaching, and portfolio submissions will result in wasted time and effort on your part. First, make incredible art that people know is going to sell without a doubt, and then market it. If you are doing all the right things in your art marketing efforts, but have no sales, compare the quality of your work to the work that is selling. Be honest - is your work as good as theirs? Where does it stand on the professional scale of 1-10 - meaning that 10 puts you into the living master range.
I see some artists struggling to sell their work and spending a great deal of money, time and frustration on coaching and marketing - when it's clear to me and everyone else that their work isn't going to sell no matter what they do because it's not good enough to sell. The sad part is that no one is willing to say to those artists that their work is not selling because it's highly amateur. Collectors know great art when they see it. It's our responsibility as artists to know what makes art great, and to get ours to that level.
Artists need to first make art because it is a passion - one where you intend to stand out in the crowd. More and more people are joining the art collecting craze, and so more artists are able to sell their art than ever before, but at the same time, the competition for sales has become intense. There's a lot of good work out there to choose from. One doesn't have to be a master artist to make a living at work, but still - you gotta make something that people fall in love with... and that usually means stunning, exceptional, in some way.
Making your art cheaper will not necessarily make more sales, but neither will raising prices when the artist's reputation or quality of work is weak. Collectors are well educated, you can't trick them into buying your work by putting a high price on it.
It might amaze you to know that even though I have worked with galleries for the last 20 years, it's become much harder for me to get into shows and galleries than ever before. Even though I am personal friends with many gallery owners, they're not asking me to join the gallery... and my work has been featured in magazines many times. One of the reasons why galleries are not taking on new artists is because they've had trouble marketing the artists they already have. In order for them to take on my work, they have to be absolutely sure they can sell it.
So, I'm taking an alternate route - selling from my website for very reasonable prices, entering competitions and seeking invitations to major art events and shows. I'm getting really good feedback about my work, but at the same time, I am bent on raising the level of the quality of my work as much as I can over the next couple of years... because I know that if it is spectacular, I won't have to do much marketing at all.
Remember, the number one way to get into a gallery is when the gallery's artists or a collector recommends you. The truth is that gallerists rarely have time to look at portfolios and many of them never do.