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Your friends might know more about the value of your art than you do.

So you need friends to help you sell your art?

A few years ago I thought I try my hand at selling my art at Salt Lake FanX. I had these little paintings of fairies which I put into jars. Kind of like a ship in a bottle, except this was a fairy painting in a jar. I called them Pickled Pixies. They were really cute and pretty popular and I haven’t made any for a while. But that is not the point. The point is I made a bunch and took them with me to sell in artist alley. 

Pickled Pixies by Manelle Oliphant: Fairies in Jars

Tabling at a con was pretty new to me, I’d only done it once before. The first time I had a friend share the table, and the expense with me.

So, why not do that again?

There is no reason. So that’s what I did.

For tabeling attempt number two I asked two friends to join me. One of them took one day and the other took the remaining two days. On the day of the event, friend-for-day-number-one ended up not having the time to get her art ready, but because she had committed she still came and helped. (She’s a good friend like that. Thanks, Jen. Have a look at her art here.)

And here is what I learned. 

Page from Manelle’s Sketchbook

It’s hard for us as artists to see clearly the value our art can bring to other people.

Jen was so excited to be at the convention and she thinks my art is cool. So she had a lot of fun showing it off to the people who walked by. It was easy for her to say, “Look how cool this is. My friend made it. It’s amazing.”

When the art is yours it’s hard not to feel like your bragging.

Because, as artists we tend to too easily see our mistakes, or we don’t see them clearly enough. 

we might have made something amazingly cool, and when people are like, “Hey, that’s amazingly cool.”

We shrug and wave our hand as we say, “Ah shucks… it was nothing.”

Or we might need to keep practicing because our art isn’t cool yet. And we are like. “Look at this awesome thing I made!”

And people are like, “Oh yeah…he, hee… awesome.” (Secretly cringing.)

Sketch from Manelle’s sketchbook

I think which side we fall on has to do with where in the artist’s journey we are.

When I was a teenager, and in my early twenties I thought I was a lot better at art than I actually was. I imagine this was due to all my neighbors and friends telling me how good I was.

In college, I spent a lot of time comparing my abilities to the other artists around me. We were all basically at the same intermediate level. Plus, at this time social media hadn’t been invented yet so it wasn’t as easy to just go online and see how much better everyone was than me.

Did my teacher tell us over and over that when we graduated we would be competing for work against artists who had been working for 20 or 30 or more years? Yes of course they did, but being young I don’t think I had the perspective to really know what that meant. Now I’m in my early 40’s and it’s just starting to become clear. Why? because now I have my past to understand what 20 years of working and improving looks like. 

As we get better it becomes more clear what we need to do to get better. I’m striving to make better art now than I did when I was younger because now I can more clearly see my faults. The striving is, for me, what makes creating art fun. But it’s also why you probably don’t see clearly how your art can help people. There’s always something you can improve, or experiment with.

I suppose that’s why as artists we can’t be introverts all the time. We need our friends to see clearly on our behalf. 

Were my sales better than ever?

Did I sell more art that day with Jen helping me than ever before? Yes, yes I did. But it could be a skewed result. As I said, I’d only done one comic con before, and quite frankly it was a disaster as far as sales go. However, Patrick Stewart rode right by me on a golf cart (just a few feet away!) so I was still happy with the results.

Regardless of how much money I made, I was able to learn something as I watched someone else talk about my art.

So the moral of the story is, go find a Jen to help you see your art clearly. It was a very popular name in the 70s and 80s so it shouldn’t be too hard. (I myself have had the honor of calling two different Jennifers my best friend.)  And if you can’t find a Jen, another friend might do just as well.

How to you know if your art is any good. How can you learn how to sell it?
How can you better learn to sell your art and explain its value? Try this.

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