Anatomy of a Sale | How We Used Photoshop to Make a $5,000 Art Sale

How many times have you heard this: “I like this painting, but the size won’t work for my space”?

I’m sure I’ve heard the phrase hundreds, if not thousands, of times throughout my career in the gallery business. As much as we wish people would buy the art they love and find a space for it, there are times when space is a key consideration for the client.

I had just such a case with collectors recently. The couple was given a gift certificate to the gallery (which is a great idea I’ll touch upon in a future post) and came in mid-January to spend it. They ended up buying several pieces, but while they were in the gallery they saw one of my father’s desert landscape paintings and fell in love with it. The only problem? The space where they would place the piece was far too large for the painting’s 20″ x 60″ dimensions. They tried to think of other locations where they could place the painting, but decided they didn’t have another location for it. They decided, instead, to wait and see if something larger would come along for the space.

When I was out at their home helping install the work they had purchased, I saw the wall that was, in their minds, the perfect spot for a desert landscape. I asked if it would be alright if I took a picture of the wall so that I could show it to the artist. I snapped some quick shots with my camera phone.

Snapshot of the space
Snapshot of the space

When I got back to the gallery I went to work with the photos I had taken. I was determined that one of my father’s paintings would hang on that wall, and sooner, rather than later.

scale2The first thing we needed to determine was what the right size would be for the space. Using Photoshop, I took the space and superimposed the smaller painting on top of the image, scaling it to several different sizes on the wall so that we could get an idea of how it would look. I created a variety of sizes and proportions to find out which looked best in the space. When I was finished, I emailed them to my father to make sure he was comfortable with all of the proposed sizes (no point in showing them an image if the artist wouldn’t be able to create the piece).

scaleScaling the images would have been easier if I had been wise enough to put a tape measure in the image. I didn’t. Instead I had to get a rough scale off something in the image. I was able to use the floor tiles because I could tell they were 18″ tiles. In Photoshop I measured the tiles using the measure tool, and then took that measurement and divided it into 18 to get my scale. From there it was easy to create a variety  of painting sizes from the scale. They weren’t perfectly to scale, but close enough for the clients to get an idea of how the art would look. In the images below, you will notice I also added a drop shadow to the images to make the artwork feel more real.

I emailed the images off to the clients, who were now back home in Canada (their Scottsdale home is a vacation home) and asked which size they most liked. Here is the email I sent:

This took a little longer than I anticipated, but I am sending the promised concept images for the John Horejs sunset painting for your living room. I am including four image showing different sizes. These are not to exact scale, but they are very close and should give you an idea of the possibilities. We used the image of the painting you liked in the gallery and modified it to the proportion of the example sizes. John would work with you to get just the right imagery.
These are just preliminary concepts and can be refined to fit your exact need for the space.
Let me know what you think!
20" x 60" (Original Artwork Size)
20″ x 60″ (Original Artwork Size)
30" x 72"
30″ x 72″
50" x 60"
50″ x 60″
60" x 50"
60″ x 50″

 

In response to the email, I received this:

Thank you Jason!  I really appreciate it – we left that day on a trip to the Galapagos and have just returned … so I hadn’t looked at the images.

I will look at these with K and then provide feedback.  Personally, I like images best that are wider horizontally – and not so tall (but I think the 20” may be slightly too short because of the high ceilings).  Any thoughts?

Thanks!

To which I replied:

Thanks D, I agree that the 20″ size (which is the size of the one we have in the gallery now) is probably too small. The next size up, the 30″ x 72″ would create the same effect, but would fill more of the space and could look great there.

I didn’t take measurements while I was there. I wonder if I could bring the artist out for him to see the space and take exact measurements? Are you currently in town?
Client response:

We are not there again until mid March – but will have a house-load of company during that visit.  Perhaps we could find some time to meet then – or at our next visit during the Easter break?

Take care.

Now, a quandary. If I followed her suggestion and waited until April to meet with them again, there was a very real possibility that their interest in the piece would cool. I avoid letting too much time pass when trying to make a sale. So, I talked to my father and asked if he would go ahead and create a 30″ x 72″ sunset on spec, with the hope that it would be perfect for them. He was willing to create the piece because the subject matter and size were saleable even if this particular client didn’t end up buying it.

Once the piece was finished, I contacted the clients again asked if they might be able to see the piece while in Scottsdale in March. They said they would bring their guests along with them to see the art in the gallery. When they saw the piece in the gallery they knew they loved it, but wanted to see it in the space before committing to purchase. We made arrangements to deliver the piece to their home in the few hours they would have between their guests leaving and their own departure flight.

When we first placed the piece on the wall, the wife worried that it might be too small (you’ll see that it’s actually a bit smaller on the wall than my photoshop rendition), but as she looked at it more and more she and her husband decided they loved it. I hung the piece while she wrote out the check.

These kind of sales require extra work and a little risk, but I’ve always found it to be worth the effort to go the extra mile for a client.

Final piece, installed Desert Illuminated 30" x 72" | Oil
Final piece, installed
Desert Illuminated
30″ x 72″ | Oil

What have you done to go the extra mile to make a sale?

Have you used Photoshop to help you make sales? What else have you done to provide extra service that has helped you make sales? Share your experiences or thought about this post in the comments below.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

18 Comments

  1. Once we had a couple who wanted a painting with a bear in it for them and three other couples to give as an anniversary present for college classmates. The couple was in Texas, we are in Colorado. I asked one of our artists if he could add a bear to one of his paintings. He agreed, added the bear. We shipped the painting to Texas. I think the bear may have still been wet. They took the painting to Aspen where they had the anniversary celebration when their friends. The painting was probably 36″ wide x 30″ tall. I can’t remember for sure – this was maybe 15 years ago. We only had a week or ten days to get the bear into the painting and get the painting to them. A fun sale.

  2. There is an app called PreviewThis which does this very thing but more accurately as it measures the object and puts the painting in relation to the size. For example you would put in the measurement of the above cabinet and then put in the size of the painting and voila a more accurate ratio. I have done this for clients for different orientations and sizes and ended up doing a commissioned piece with a very happy customer.

    1. After going to the website to check out PreviewThis, I clicked on their link to the Apple Mac Store to see about getting the app and I got a message that the app is not available in my country or region. I live in California.

      1. Try the app “Wall Picture”. They have a free trial app with few background pictures to add your painting to. If you like it, you can also download their app for one time payment of $30. It has more backgrounds to choose from but also gives you an opportunity to download your own background shots to any particular painting and size you choose. Very cool

  3. I have taken as many as 3 large paintings to a clients home to see which one worked the best. And the client purchased the first one they had seen in a show. Hanging them showed which seascape pulled the viewer into the room.

  4. My landlords loved a goofy little surrealism drawing I did. Asked if I could do it in 3D. Thought about it and said I’ll give it shot. I had several sheets of clear plexiglass of different thickness’. Some card stock and had at it. I figured out where to place the thicker one’s and where the thinner one’s needed to be. Marked them then put them aside. Started recreating all subjects separated from each other, then found each piece it’s spot within the layers of glass. It took a while, but in the end. At a size of 3’x2′, it turned out great! They loved it. Wanted me to paint a waterfall at the bottom of it on the wall. That’s where I had a river coming off the bottom of the drawing. Would’ve, but they were moving. Great learning experience on that one.

  5. My favorite solution was to “make the wall smaller” by painting a vertical section of a large wall either slightly different or a contrasting color from the original wall to frame the artwork in a visually smaller area.
    The paint seams can be hidden with narrow painted trim boards or not.

    Mounting a frame around a small piece, or painting a fake mat around a 3-D piece can work as well. This worked well for stained glass edged mirrors.

    Usually we said: Put it on a credit card, take it home, try it there, try it in a different room, if it just doesn’t work… bring it back.

  6. I think the only extra mile I’ve had to make to this point was to just remove a canvas from a frame for the sale.

  7. I did have a similar experience.
    The piece was not wide enough, so I turned it into a triptych by painting two smaller pieces to place on each side of the piece.

  8. This was very timely for me. I had just shown a painting to someone who saw it in an online post and wanted to see it in person. She came over, said she loved it but didn’t think it was big enough for her space. I told her as soon as I varnished it and framed it I would be more than happy to bring it over to her home so she could look at it in the space where she would hang it. ( being encouraged to do that after just reading your article). She said she would love that! When I got there and she could see it in the place where she wanted it she said she loved it, and it was just right! And wrote me a check right then!
    Thank you for the encouragement. Maybe some day soon I’ll learn how to do photo shop too!

  9. Good advice, and going the extra mile can work just great!

    I’ve ‘framed’ paintings in Photoshop, to show the client how different frames change the painting, and have added ‘wallpaper colour’ to show how that too changes the impression of the painting. Even a pretend image says more than words.

  10. I loved the time and effort you took for your client. This is how it works most of the time. I try to do the same to my collectors and haven’t lost a sale by doing what you did and actually word of mouth by them have made new sales! I love getting your emails! Thank you!

  11. This clearly demonstrates what is can take to make a sale, as well as an intelligent way to market oneself. My respects to all and the piece looks great exactly where it is … bet it will receive many favorable and I would say a few more buyers of this artist’s incredible work.

  12. I have used Photodhop in the past for a particular art piece.

    It was a huge mural that took two huge parking lot walls. I went in first day and took pictures of the whole space, then made a full collage in photoshop and laid out the mural.

    The client was able to land on something the liked and off we went to paint.

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