Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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03/04/2006: "Selling a painting before you exhibit it"

In the last two days I've had people want to buy 3 paintings from my "In Progress" gallery.

Now, don't get me wrong, this is *really* excellent news for me, but I'm not sure how it fits into my "big picture". The big picture is to work on a body of paintings and take as much time as I need without an exhibition deadline and make them as good as I possibly can...then take the time to photograph them properly, take scans of my favorites for prints, send out to try and get a show to exhibit them somewhere great and *then* hopefully sell them.

I wonder if other artists have a policy about selling work through their website before it has been exhibited anywhere?

Replies: 21 Comments

on Sunday, March 5th, ann said

My non-artist's opinion: I think that you should tell them they are still works in progress, that they may change before the final product, and that you aren't sure when you will finish them. But also tell them that you will be happy to send them a photo of the completed painting when you are ready to exhibit it, so they can get an opportunity to buy it then (or directly before the exhibit/show to give them the first chance of buying it). That way you can 1) complete the painting when and how you want to, 2) exhibit it if you want to, and 3) hopefully keep people interested in your work (by giving them the first option to buy a painting they loved when it was still in progress).

Just a suggestion...

on Sunday, March 5th, ann said

Also... I don't think it'd be horrible to sell a painting before it's been exhibited, but whether you do so or not may depend on the goals you have for your art... how does relying on the financial income from selling your art compare with exhibiting your art? Your answer may help you figure out what you want to do in the future.

on Sunday, March 5th, Howard said

There's no reason why you can't sell the work and still exhibit it. Just let the buyer know that the work will be hung in a show before they'll be able to claim it. I've been to a lot of exhibitions where there were a lot of red dots up on openning night.

on Sunday, March 5th, Daniel said

I regularly sell work and then exhibit it later. In fact, I currently have three paintings on loan from a collector for two shows this spring – I believe the collector placed their total value at $9k, although I previously sold them to her for only $4k. My collectors eat it up, they even pay for the shipping of the pieces to exhibits. It builds "provenance" which is one of the best formats for judging fiscal worth (a very difficult issue for artists).

Occasionally, they decide to resell the work at the exhibit to turn a profit themselves and then buy more new work from me. Everyone wins. Think of it as the ultimate commission. You decide everything and already have someone lined-up to buy. Continuously turning down these opportunities is professional suicide.

But remember this is advice coming from an artist that could care less about previously produced work. Everything is about now. Put your life into each painting like it is your last and the smart collector will treasure the work, so you have the freedom to forget and move on.

on Sunday, March 5th, marja-leena said

Ann, Howard and Daniel said it already - good advice all! It's great that you have buyers lined up, Elise.

I'm still toying with setting up a sale page on my site - any suggestions, tips, what to avoid, dealing with customs etc. from everyone? I know you've suggested a few things already, Elise, but I'm still hesitant.

on Monday, March 6th, Elise said

Hi guys,
thanks for all the great advice...I wouldn't hesitate telling someone they have to wait until after the opening if I had a show on the books coming up but I don't, and it might be awhile before I do.

One of the people is local so if it stays in town then it's not a problem to get back but I wouldn't feel comfortable asking someone from out of state to do that. My shows aren't that big of a deal yet. I'm still at the stage where people buy just because they like it and not so much as a money making venture.

And Marja-leena, I think setting up a sale page on your site is an excellent idea. Be sure to include the price + shipping and handling if you can, people usually don't like to ask about price if possible. I think showing something to scale helps too, a lot of people don't know what 12x14 looks like.

For sales I just use PayPal which is a breeze to set-up and where customers can use their own credit card to buy even without a paypal account.

Most people contact me first by email when they want to buy, only a few people have ever used the shopping cart feature so if you don't want to set that up right away you don't have to.

Anyway, I'm not an expert, I'm sure there are others with better advice but if you just want to get started, there isn't much involved.

Good luck!

on Monday, March 6th, Kasia said

I have no idea about selling art, so I can't help you. But I have a strange question - me and my friend have been quarelling for some time about: how do you actually pronounce "Elise"?:)
And I have to thank you sooo much for encouraging me to blogging:) It has turned out to be an incredible experience - I have a great opportunity not only to "talk" with my Polish friends more, but I have met so many wonderful people from all over the world. (Ha! Do you know David Walker? We've been emailing for some time now. )Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

on Monday, March 6th, Elise said

Hi Kasia, I'm not sure how to spell my name phonetically but if it's something like eeeleees. The first e is long and the i is pronounced with the long e as well, so another way would be: ēlēs Now, the "correct" French pronounciation (which only a handful of people use) pronounces the s as a z.

So, I hope that answers that. I can make a little audio clip if that would be easier, that might be fun anyway!

Oh, and I'm so happy that you are enjoying blogging so much, it really is adicting isn't it!??

And I must say I'm fairly shocked that you are emailing with David Walker!!! He is one of my closest friends from college. How strange, what a small world we live in after all.

on Monday, March 6th, greg said

hey Kasia - I'd like to know how you think Elise is pronounced!(?) I'm married to an (different) Elise, so I am curious. You have a nice blog, and I also wonder how many other disciples 'our' Elise has gotten to start blogging?? :D
I marvel that so many of your links have 'z's in them ...perhaps you should go with Elize? lol

"Elize!" That's great news and you've gotten some great advice! I'd think that rather than finish the paintings as you may have been inclined to, they are pretty much ready to go! Perhaps only need some minor pigment build up in thin (or blank? :D ) spots.

I was amazed once to show two artistic people my burnt sienna underpainting for a work, and have them say "It's good as it is!" :hehe:

If your works are getting attention at this stage of progress, maybe you're a step closer to finding you 'master style!'

Been doing any self-portraits?

on Monday, March 6th, Elise said

Hi Greg, so your wife pronounces the s as a z? That's the way my name is supposed to be pronounced but hardly anyone ever does. As long as they don't call me elsie, that is my biggest pet peeve of all time!

I think that I will probably do as you suggest, just beef up some area that are a bit thin and call it a day. I think the reason I'm a little sad to see these go is because I feel so happy with the way they're going and once they're gone, they're gone. But there is nothing as sweet to me as an artist as someone buying one of my paintings and if they are in love with them the way they are than so much the better.

Buy all ya want, I'll paint more!

btw, I think that's funny about the underpaintings!

Oh, and I haven't been painting any self-portraits but I haven't been painting since getting sick so...also, I don't really like the way I look so a self-portrait doesn't inspire me much.

on Monday, March 6th, greg said

Hmm ... since you mention it and while I think about it ... the pronounciation does fluctuate between the eee-leees and the el-ees :O

we all know how much the 'elsie' people suck :D I get my rankles all up when a phone solicitor or bank official begins to attempt to say her name ... and they always get a big congratulations if they say it right! :)

If I may ask ...where did your buyers find you from? Online?

heh, maybe I can stiil become a master "monochrome cartoonist" in the painting world!

on Monday, March 6th, subi said

well, i think you should go ahead and sell them. this will also act like a deadline of sorts as well. and if these peoples/buyers are local then you can always exhibit in a show there. i think the advice from Daniel was priceless...tho i can't say I understand it as writing is so different than visual art, but being in the now I think is a very essential place for us all. But damn woman, that's what happens when you show us sneak peaks!!!!we want em!!! (your beloved fans/collectors that is)

oh and Kasia...that IS so funny, how did you and David Walker connect? Vis Elise's blog which leads to yours? I think I hear crushes??? :hehe:

on Monday, March 6th, Kasia said

I call Elise - "Eliza". That's in Polish of course. I thought it might have been something like "ilaiz" - I don't know how to write it phonetically.:)
And hey Subi - David just wrote to me - I suppose he saw a link to my blog on Elise's links' column. How is your baby girl?
"Elsie" you mentioned something about vistiing my country - get Subi and do come. :)
What does "to hear crushes " mean? I have no idea.???

on Monday, March 6th, Jackie said

E: Go for the sales! I used to be torn between selling work before I showed it. It was mostly my sister, and a close friend who got previews, since that was before I ever had a web-page. To this day, I don't like previewing my work before it's done. Of course, depending on the venue, you can show work that's already sold - but some people get mad about that.

Gaahh! with all these pronunciations, I hope I don't start thinking of you as Eliza (like in My Fair Lady). Never, never, never think "Elsie". Oooh - what about Eloise? Anyone ever call you that? You'd be surprsied at how many different spellings people come up with for "Jackie" (or maybe not). :cool:

on Monday, March 6th, Elise said

Hi again Greg, people find my work online in all manner of ways. In this case both people are friends and one of them has bought several pieces from me in the past…big supporter of the arts…YEAH! But people have found me from reading this blog, from doing an image search on a topic they were interested in, links from other people’s blogs and from a couple sites like where I’m listed….all kinds of ways, you know how random the web is, you start at point A and god only knows how you get to point J.

Subi, Rick has asked me to go to Italy with him this summer, he’s renting an apartment on the Adriatic Sea 3 hours outside of Rome, I’m not 100% clear where yet, I hope it’s 3 hours in the direction of Switzerland but I’m sure we could meet somewhere in the middle if nothing else. I *really* want to do it but at the moment I don’t have the $$$. If I sell paintings and get my tax refund…maybe. DTD!!! Oh, and a trip to Poland someday would be heavenly, you’ve been before right Subi?

And as for DW, just remember he’s a married man now Subi!

Kasia, you can pronounce my name however you like!!! A “crush” is defined as “a usually temporary infatuation”. You might have a crush on the cute boy who serves you your morning coffee or on a neighbor you see walking their dog.

And I think I agree with you Jackie, if someone wants to buy something I should go for it. I always worry because I put up versions of paintings in progress and sometimes someone falls in love with a previous version that I’ve already changed a lot and when they see the new version they don’t want it anymore. That happened with one painting and the man was a real dick about it! Like I owed him or something. Weird.

on Monday, March 6th, Kasia said

I know what "crush" - just didn't understand the idiom "to hear crushes":) What did Subi mean by that?

on Monday, March 6th, Elise said

hmmm, Subi, want to jump in here?

on Monday, March 6th, subi said

oh!!!!! i didn't know he was married! either way he is a great guy, and I'm sure a cool correspondant!

and Kasia crushes is a weird conjugated form of crush, not really used ... sorry to be prying! but all of these American friends, you ought to go to the US!

and about traveling Elise, you've got a fab opportunity, you got to make it work! maybe I could figure out how to come to see you all harry will be on break then. but why hasn't rick contacted me? i would love to see you BOTH! well, i just said something to Harry and he was like, well he doesn't want to see/hang out with you, it's obvious!
:confused: wahhh...what do you think about that opinion?

oh and funny dreams about /with you Elise, you were showing your art...and buying very bizarre cool wearable art sort of a clothesline exhibit... but i do know how boring typical dream descriptions can get, and somehow my grandmother gave you a ride home.

on Monday, March 6th, Elise said

Tell Harry that he's WRONG! Rick loves you, you know that! I think he's just in the initial planning stages right now, I've only just learned of it myself so no worries...he becomes pretty incommunicative during the school year.

He's planning it for early June to early July. I could probably come end of June to early July. So, I will *try* to make it work but I can only turn down my furnace so low, ya know!
Oh, and dreams aren't boring if *I'm* in them of course!!!

on Tuesday, March 7th, subi said

good, i hope so!!! and we can always come that way to see you all...if it's where i think it is it isn't so far from Florence. sigh. i hear it's super easy to communicate in Italy when you can speak Spanish! either way there are many direct trains right from our town to milano, florence, etc. i want to go!

on Tuesday, March 7th, Elise said

I love how you're already acting as though it were a done deal! I mean, I'm pretty sure Rick at least will be coming, I'm not sure about Andrew or I but we shall see. If I do come it will all go on the ole credit card which I'm already trying desperately to pay off and to which I still owe thousands of dollars, well, you know how that goes...never ending struggle.