How to Talk to People About Your Art

Yeah, baby! I just put together a list of all the art festivals, fairs, shows, and open studios I’d like to go to this summer, and seeing all the great art out there is guaranteed to be a ton of fun. But it reminded me of all the years I had a monthly open studio and how much I struggled to learn to talk to people about my own art. So, if you have plans to communicate with art lovers in a face-to-face setting, whether it’s a street fair, a gallery show, or a chance encounter at Starbuck’s, and you’re feeling less than confident about the experience, check out these seven tips:

1. Learn how to break the ice. In my experience, many people are uncomfortable talking to artists, even when they’ve chosen to come to an art event! They’re often unsure of what to say or how to express their opinions, so you want to put them at ease. You can start the ball rolling by introducing yourself the same way you’d meet someone in any social setting. Tell them your name and confirm you’re the creator of the work they’re looking at. If you’re from out of town, you might also mention where you’re from. Then as quickly as possible, start asking them similarly easy questions. Be friendly and open a dialogue. Look for ways to connect by exchanging basic information.

2. Establish what the person is looking for, if something specific, and offer it if you have it. After a little back-and-forth, you can start steering the conversation towards a discussion about your artwork. It’s a smart idea to have a couple of conversation starter questions ready. For example, if you’ve noticed that they’re drawn to one particular piece, ask what they like about it. Or perhaps ask them if they’re familiar with the type of work you do or the medium you use. This gives you an opportunity to start sharing more about your artwork, but keep asking more questions and exchanging information. Probably fairly quickly it will become apparent whether they’re really interested in what you have to offer. It’s okay if they’re not. You can gracefully end the conversation by thanking them for their interest and inviting them to add their names to your e-mail list if they want to.

3. Know how to ask for a sale. Now let’s assume the opposite. Imagine that they’re really interested in your work in general or perhaps one or two pieces in particular. This is where the conversation can stall if you’re not prepared to ask for the sale. Again, it’s great to have a question prepared that will lead you into closing the sale. My favorite was always, “So, do you think you might like to take this painting home with you?” But there are dozens of other possibilities, so find what feels comfortable for you to say.

4. Address any objections. Occasionally, you get lucky and the answer is “Yes, wrap it up!” But sometimes collectors have some objections. Think of the obvious ones—it’s more than they want to spend, they’re not sure if their partner/spouse will like it, they’re not sure if it will look good in their home or office, or they’re not sure how they’ll get it home. There are easy solutions to all of these problems, so just be prepared to address any of them in whatever way you see fit. Maybe you’re comfortable offering a reasonable discount, maybe you’re comfortable bringing the work to their home so they can see how it looks and/or let the partner approve it, and so on.

5. Be prepared to nurture the relationship. After all that, your collector may still take a pass, but that doesn’t mean you’ve lost the sale. You could exchange phone numbers, suggest he or she think it over, and then follow up a few days later. At the very least, you should get the person’s e-mail address so you can add it to your e-newsletter mailing list. Although they might not be ready to purchase right now, they just might be later on.

6. Remain positive and optimistic. Connecting with those people who love and appreciate your work enough to buy it takes a lot of effort. Embrace the idea that there will be far more “no’s” than “yesses.” It’s perfectly normal, so don’t let it get you down. Greet each new person with the same degree of friendliness and optimism, and always remain enthusiastic about your own work so that collectors share in your excitement.

7. Practice until it’s second nature. If the thought of talking to people about your artwork still has you freaked out, maybe you could try role-playing with your partner or a close friend until you start to get past those awkward feelings. For me, practice was the key to getting over my nervousness and learning to enjoy the experience.

Got any more tips for chatting up potential collectors? Let’s connect!



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1 comment

  • Thank you for wonderful suggestions.

    Daneshu Clarke

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