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

21 Comments

  1. I’ve known for a long time that Photoshop can be a great friend. The tape measure idea is a must unless you have a very good eye and understand that linear perspective is finely nuanced. (you must have that pretty well in hand). I haven’t tried it wit my work since no opportunity has come along but in the upgraded website- i’m thinking it’s a way to showcase the most important works.
    The extra mile- a friend absolutely lived a painting she saw in an invitational show but was unsure exactly where it might go.Being familiar with her house, we chatted about various spaces. She was adamant that everyone who visited needed to see it. (I was awe struck). Anyway the day the show closed I brought over to her house. (I’ll just say that the show was to the “east” and she was to the “west and slightly south” many more than a few miles). And we hung it that day. Later, she asked more about it and after hearing the story was happier than ever.
    I think we have to do whatever it might reasonably take to put the client at ease and feeling cared for.

  2. There are a number of programs out there to hang a painting virtually, so you don’t have to have or be conversant with Photoshop. I’ve used them several times and gotten a couple of commissions from doing so. Larson-Juhl has a program for trying on frames, so you can even add a frame. Because I’m in a resort area and clients’ full-time homes are often a distance away, I ask them to send me a photo of their wall(s) with nothing on it (them) and tell me what paintings they’d like to try. I already have high res images. It takes a little time as you said but can be very helpful.

    1. Ellen, this is very helpful information. A visitor to the gallery where my show is currently up told me she’d love to have a painting, but doesn’t have the room. How great to be able to show someone. Since I don’t have Photoshop, I was in a bit of a stew about how to do this.
      Jason, your entire post was terrific. I hope a time might come when I have the opportunity to do a full-out treatment like the one you did. Thanks as always for your experience and wisdom in these technical matters.

  3. This is a timely piece for me. I had a conversation with a collector who is also a decorator. She expressed concern that the artists in the non-profit gallery where I volunteer and have work on display, “never” take the decorator in mind and only create one piece at a time and not “sets”, as she called them, that were not identical, but went together, but were not diptychs’ because she might want to put them on opposite walls or further apart than the compositions demanded, but were the same dimensions and framed identically. She also had some strong opinions about what colors she was looking for. I told her I would share her concerns with the other artists, but frankly, sort of dismissed the idea of trying to paint specifically to fill her concept of what she needed. There was something very off-putting about the “pickiness”. On the other hand, I have both scaled up and scaled down paintings for clients who needed a particular size of something I have previously done. I’ve also “re-created” work for a patron who “missed” getting a painting they loved. They are always warned that the recreation will not be identical and they have the option to opt out if it is not to their liking when finished. I figure I can find a home for it with someone eventually.

  4. Very Cool Jason!
    I work with a similar format in Athletic Sales( day job)..we call them mock-ups.
    In a world of instant gratification these tools increase the odds of a Sale
    immensely! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I had a commission to do a large church window (13′ x 13″). The space would be divided with store front framing. Church…. that means a committee. I took photos of the space which had been curtained for 30 years since the building. I drew up and watercolored the ideas the small committee had directed me to and pasted them into my photos using photoshop.
    An even larger group (75 members) stayed following a service to see the glass presentation. There were a number of new ideas, none like the committee had ordered. They described themselves as one big disfunction family. I had thumbnails from the first meeting that I’d sketched while the committee asked about the feelings they wanted the windows to invoke and had an idea. I passed the page around and asked them to put a mark on concepts that interested them.
    The new direction lead to pasting in for more designs into my photos. I printed my new paste-ups and created a fold out board- members voted for over the next month. One concept was a clear winner. It’s hard to make everyone happy with such a large group, in fact, the woman who brought me into the job left the church when the one she liked best didn’t win! It was a valuable experience. I usually am only dealing with a family and only need a couple to agree!

  6. Even with my rudimentary photoshop skills I was able to make a sale of two pieces just yesterday. Was able to create decent enough images that the buyer could see the pieces would look perfect in her home.

  7. There are ways to do what you did, instead of photoshop. It is called AR, altered reality. New devices used by decorators , can literally put an object into a photo.
    I had a piece of art in a Tyler Texas gallery . My art is assemblages, like those of the very famous Louise Nevelson. They are painted over in one color, usually a flat white or flat black. I sell a lot of art. They are very popular! Flat black is the most popular. Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I experimented with a new color, flat grey. It looked great, but the potential buyer that saw it loved , but said the color wasn’t just right. I told the gallery owner to suggest that I might repaint it another color, such as flat black. She said, “you would do that?”. It took me two days. It sold for $800 dollars and the buyer commissioned two more in two other colors. The gallery owner told me that a lot if artist will not accommodate a change in their finished work. For that kind of money, I will change anything they want. Ego don’t pay the bills!

  8. Yes, I’ve used Photoshop to secure a sale. A client fell in love with a piece and was concerned about where it would fit. They already had many pieces hanging and the only available space was above a doorway passage between living room and kitchen., it was a large triangular space. They sent a photo of the space, using the height of the opening I was able to estimate the proportion of the art and overlay it on their image. There was no need to install extra lighting as that wall receives a gentle wash of SE light from a large skylight. They were convinced and the piece greets them each morning as they pass to the kitchen.

  9. My recent client liked a horizontal painting, but wanted it in a vertical format and already knew the size they needed. I didn’t use Photoshop, though I have in the past. Instead I painted a smaller study in the format requested, knowing, like your father, that the small painting would sell regardless if the client liked the new format. The client approved of the new format because of the small study I had created and immediately commissioned the larger vertical format painting. The small study sold within the week as well. Win/Win. I usually paint a smaller study, or even the actual sized piece if I know it will likely sell eventually. That way if the client likes it, it is all ready to deliver and hang immediately.

  10. This idea works well and in today’s instant digital world may well become a necessity. I recently did exactly this when commissioned to to a painting for a lady in another country (so no chance of ever seeing her lounge room). I asked her to send me a picture of where it will hang along with the dimensions of the buffet hutch that it was to hang above. From that I worked out the size that I thought was appropriate, photoshoped a mock-up for sign off and then stripped the finished painting into the scene for approval and payment. All of that was easy and necessary due to the distance involved, the hardest part was international shipping. You will see that I’ve used this method extensively on my web site where I’ve stripped artworks into room interiors http://www.brucepeebles.com.au

  11. Fine Art America has an interesting android app. If you have images uploaded to their site you can use the app and your device’s camera to preview what the artwork would look like on your wall (or any wall). Their ad for it is here: https://fineartamerica.com/android-phone-app.html?autoplay=true
    You could also get a 32×72″ print of the artwork on acid free paper for about $160., turn around time 2-3 business days. That’s not a lot of money if you’re sure you can make a $5K sale. I have Adobe Photoshop CC and Lightroom CC. I photograph my own artwork but a professional photographic service could probably do that for you.

  12. Last year I had potential clients come into the gallery and like my work, but needed larger work. I offered to paint a piece in the size they specified, but they could not agree on exactly what they wanted. They suggested a group of colors (sort of), a semi-abstract landscape (maybe), and a mountain (or not…). Only the dimension was a firm decision. I got their email and let them know I would be contacting them. They shopped around, and I emailed them periodically. When I felt they were receptive, I offered to create a painting I thought they would like, based on what I FELT they wanted. I told them that they would not need to place a deposit down, as I would be able to sell the final piece to someone local. They sent me pics of their interior and I went to work. Once I finished, they saw the piece, and bought it immediately. My point is, if I hadn’t pursued them and made it work, they may still not have a piece, and especially not a piece of mine. Further, they are now friends of mine as well as special clients.

  13. I have used the technique for many different applications from helping a prospective client better visualize how my artwork might look in different sizes on their walls … to helping other artists choose which selection and arrangement of their paintings worked best for their co-op gallery space before “hanging day” … to convincing the board at a local country club that my group of artist friends could provide a more fitting collection of consignment artworks room-by-room throughout the clubhouse. I have found that PowerPoint actually provides a very quick and flexible way to create multiple options with proper scaling, shadows, etc.

  14. I sold a piece to a customer who e-mailed me that the piece was to small for the space they placed in and requested a return. I told the customer that I had intended to reframe the piece and could they send me a photo of the piece where it was. It was very easy to send the photo back with the proposed new framing substituted for the old framing. The old framed piece gave me the scaling. It saved the sale. One more way that Photoshop plays a part in my art.

  15. I do this regularly for online sales. Collectors become much more sure of their potential purchase when seeing the artwork represented virtually on their own walls before they buy. I have also used Photoshop to show different pieces they may be interested in as a virtual “visit’ to their home of those pieces. It inspires confidence in their purchase, and that inspires confidence in the artist.

  16. When someone asks about my work I believe listening to their needs is so important and when they are not sure I offer to bring artwork to clients on a trial basis with no obligations, so that they may experience it in their space. This may put my plans on hold but I feel it is often the only way for the buyers to know they will enjoy the work in their own space and to it helps me see how my work looks in other settings. It is important to be available to clients as best as possible. Thanks for sharing this story about another lovely painting being enjoyed in someones home.

  17. You asked what we did to ensure a sale. At an art show, a customer couldn’t decide between two paintings. I could just imagine her deciding to “think about it and come back later”, so I quickly offered her a discount if she bought both, which she did! Don’t be afraid to offer a better price, after all, every piece you sell is like a business card people hang on the wall.

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