Art Marketing Minute | Overcoming Your Prejudices When Selling Your Art

Have you Overcome Prejudice?

What have you done to combat any prejudicial tendencies you might have toward potential buyers. What have your art-selling experiences taught you about the importance of providing great service and building relationships with everyone you encounter? Please leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Starving to Successful

StSBookSHave you always wondered what it takes to show your work in galleries? Is your work being seen by qualified collectors?

In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.

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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

50 Comments

  1. I have over heard artists telling potential clients all kinds of ridiculous opinions and ideas. I am always amazed at how little insight people have into how they may appear speaking in such ways! Many a sale is lost due to foot in mouth disorders….I always try to listen more and ask questions….when answering, I like to have already thought through what I might say……there really are only a few questions that get asked over and over again….I like to take pause and answer with thought not lengthy drivel

  2. Hi Live near the Toronto area of Canada. I am truly proud of the following gifts in my lift. Prior to becoming a serious artist I became Chair of a multi-cultural org. This was one of the most expanding and uplifting experience in my life. Recently I organized a Frist Nations Exhibition, now that was awesome. Their work was truly magical.
    I love the info that you send to us. in mindfulness Pamela

  3. Excellent guidelines on interacting with clients, ones which I follow religiously (pun intended). In addition, I learned early on not to judge people by what they were wearing. I know some quite wealthy people who “dress down” so they don’t stand out. You just never know who is going to be that potential big collector, so I treat everyone as if they are my best client.

  4. Thanks for the reminder, Jason. With the ongoing political situation down there (the presidential election, et al) and the strong feelings it is causing among some people it is sometimes hard to avoid this type of conversation no matter how much you agree or disagree with the party you are talking to. A time reminder. Thank you.

  5. It is common sense not to air your opinions during business conversation. The customer does not care what you have to say about the world stage. To couple with this subject, learn to listen rather than gab constantly. You can talk yourself out of a sale easily with a boring run on conversation. It’s good to have opinions and sharing them in a lively debate with friends and family can be fun. Airing highly controversial opinions can be a death sentence for relationships in any setting and I’ve seen it happen many times in the corporate world.
    Let your art speak for you and gently build the rapport. It works every time.

    Thanks Jason

  6. I completely agree. I remember when a certain politician started bashing people who fly in private business jets. My husband was making good money working for one of the leading private business jet companies in our country. They are to this day a major employer in a city that would die if they ever went out of business. They employ thousands of upper middle class employees, because rich people buy their planes.

    Ironically this politician uses these private jets himself.

    I am so sick of this class division. Research tells us the rich aren’t any happier than people who can pay their bills, so why do we care if they are rich? They are probably envious of the talent they see in artists. Think about it, who is remembered in history, the rich people who bought paintings during Van Goghs time, or Van Gogh who was desperately poor and only sold one painting? Rich people hang paintings on their walls because THEY want to be associated with something they see as great. YOU! In fact there are probably a lot of rich people who wish they could be artists, but are trapped in their money-making careers.

    This rhetoric has become the vogue of mindless sheep.

    Weren’t all of the great masters of the Renaissance funded by rich patrons of the arts, whether it was the church or families like the Medici? Art is a luxury purchase. If you hate rich people, and you think all of them are evil, you can embrace your higher calling and donate all of your art to the poor.

  7. Talk about eating the hand that feeds you (or the artist you spoke of)! It’s hard to attract buyers when you complain about them at the same time. At this time Facebook is the only social media I’m on that is where people see my work. While I have strong beliefs, they are not on FB. Someone might be interested in my work or want to follow me but get turned off by my rhetoric that differs from theirs. I have a friend that occasionally posts political stuff and I find it inappropriate. Art is supposed to bring us together. Why ruin it?

  8. It certainly can happen that when presenting your work to a potential buyer they may suddenly go off on a rant about something you are not at all in support of. But this can also happen when speaking with anyone like a good friend or another artist or a gallery director or a family member. On those rare occasions when this happens I try to keep a cool demeanor and not be overly agitated. But I also have had the experience of someone seeming to take my silence as agreement with them which it is not. My best approach so far has been to say something like “Well that is certainly another way to look at it” which I think signals that I accept them and their right to hold their opinion but also suggests that I don’t necessarily hold that same opinion. But then also not going any further in discussion with them is very necessary. And sometimes one just has to walk away if the other person will not stop.

  9. Great post! A wise friend recently told me about an early experience he had in Sales. He had just landed a great job for a company he had dreamed of working for. He was young and inexperienced. A man came into the store looking scruffy and unkempt and hardly able to purchase anything in the store. He treated him the same way as he would any other customer. Before they were finished he laid down a ‘black credit card’ and purchased thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. It turned out to be Steve Wozniak. It was the first and best lesson he ever learned.

    Even more than creating art that is polarizing, if we treat everyone with courtesy and respect and professionalism we will be better off as artist.

  10. I totally agree and one of the things I am careful to do is eliminate any political items from my Facebook page. I also discuss this with my students. I am also aware that outside appearances are deceiving. My father always dressed in old clothes and carried cash in his pocket when he went shopping for his new Cadillac. He only bought from people who treated him with respect, ignoring what he was dressed like.

  11. I have to agree with the thoughts of others who’ve replied above, especially Christine Conner’s very well thought and articulate comment. Most wealthy individuals I know are very, very giving people and most are extremely generous, yet at the same time cautious, with what they have been blessed with. There are some, however, that are…..well, not so much. They’re NOT evil people, though. Maybe what they choose do with their wealth is not so good, but they, themselves, are generally not bad people. They probably just haven’t figured out the law of reciprocity yet: Generous givers reap WAY MORE than they sow; it’s just the way it is. Wonderful topic, Jason, as always!

  12. Great segment Jason! Totally agree. For one thing, I make it a point not to use a broad brush when painting ANY group of people, whether they be of a certain race or religion or even based on their economic standing.

    In regards to what I do relative to this topic, I have two separate Facebook pages…a personal one and a professional one. I use the professional one ONLY for my art business. No politics, no religion and nothing very personal. (Same holds true for my website.) That’s what the personal page is for and neither mix. If a customer or media writer or a gallery owner sends me a FB Friend request on my personal page I typically message them and explain that it’s best if they Like my artist page. So far, I’ve never had a problem with anyone after making that request.

  13. I was taking a plein air painting class at the university and was painting near the entrance of the university arboretum. A young child approached me and wanted to talk about what I was doing. Her grandparents rushed up and told her to not bother the artist. I gently told them she was welcome to come see and ask questions. How else could she learn about art? We had a lively conversation about what I was painting, pointing out where it was in the park, with colors and methods simply explained as she asked questions. When the girl’s curiosity was satiated, they left. I thought about the grandparents’ reaction, recognizing that they wanted their granddaughter to be respectful, and how some think kids are a nuisance. I was totally taken aback when the grandmother returned not long thereafter and asked to buy the painting I was working on! Their granddaughter’s interest in the work and her excited chatter about the art made them consider the painting an asset they wanted to own. They agreed to wait until after my class was done for me to deliver it to them. Three months later, when they came back to California from Canada to visit their family again we traveled to the arboretum and took pictures with the painting and her granddaughter. It was a memory they said they would cherish of the good times they had experienced at the arboretum with their family. I cherish the memory, too. Had I assumed that a child’s interest was an undesirable interruption, this lovely recollection would not have happened.

    1. I had an similar experience while painting a dog portrait. Her Dad had told her not to bother me, I smiled and said it was okay. The next day, her mom asked me to paint their dog. It was a GREAT engagement. I love to work ‘in public’ and to answer questions.

  14. Nicely put and very timely. Sometimes it’s difficult to not get involved in a discussion about the politics involved in the restoration of the Salton Sea – seeing as many of my paintings stem from dawns reflected across it; I’m often asked where I live, and then what it is like to live there. Blissfully it’s a non-partisan subject and these are not conversations that go anywhere except to educate the listener (who have on occasion gone on to become a client) on the beauty, issues and potential solutions.

  15. In the beginng it was not comfortable to meet potential clients, but when they are interested in my work it makes conversations easier.
    I’m aghast that people would rail against potential customers! Kindness should be the rule in all conversations!

  16. For 30+ years I’ve been studying the way our thoughts and minds create our reality and how our subconscious beliefs determine our reality. If we hold a negative opinion about “rich” people we are definitely never going to be “rich”. We will hold ourselves away from the good that we desire because we associate a certain amount of financial prosperity with a negative association, which undermines our desire for a rich life.
    Money is only a form of energy and is a magnifier. If you are an ethical person then you will be more of that with more money, if you are a jerk you will be ever so much more with more money.
    Wealth and prosperity is 1st a mindset, which then manifests into physical form as a substantial bank account, more sales, a prefered home, good health, happiness and joy. Some of the poorest people I know only have money but if you are not friendly with money, it won’t stick around.

  17. Pretty good info. After painting 200 murals. With all kinds of clients from all walks of life. Hearing may stories, opinions, etc. I’ve learned to shut up and listen. Easier that way to not put your own foot in your mouth. I believe everyone has some insight to offer if one has an open mind. And wealthy people? I love to hear how people have earned their money. You can learn something quite often. It’s not usually evil either. Learning that money is a tool, not an evil device is the first step anyway in attaining wealth. Just shut up and listen. Save the debate for he dinner table with your family. 🙂

  18. Anyone who is genuinely interested in my art is automatically sympathetic to me. Accordingly, there is enough material for conversation – art in general, my art, or the specific piece that has caught their attention. There is no need to tread on thin ice with such topics as politics, religion or cultural background.

  19. Nicely put. I had a customer at the studio who liked whales and why did I mention the “Blackfish documentary.” Her boyfriend that was with her use to work at SeaWorld. Boy did I get an earful just for mentioning that I had seen the documentary. I didn’t even say anything about it. I don’t talk about anything controversial on Facebook or mention anything that might be in the studio anymore. I learned my lesson. Be careful out there.

  20. Thank you Jason for reminding me of this. It is inevitable that people can be drawn to your art but not your philosophy or political views. Since artists rely on people to purchase their work, it just makes sense to avoid those contentious topics and focus on all the other things there are to talk about.

  21. Dear Jason,
    I fully agree. I have ‘survived’ as an artist selling to Europeans, Asians and Americans for over forty years. Over the past couple of years, I have been working on a series of paintings titled “Evolution of a Myth” which re-interprets the Greek-Judaeo-Christian ‘Myth’. One of my best clients does not like the series, but (at my age – 65), I just had to do this series. My gallery here in New York will be showing it in January (2017). Recently, one of my other clients in Germany gave me a book of Emil Nolde’s religious paintings. Nolde’s flower paintings and landscapes sold like wild fire, but not the religious paintings. They are powerful character studies of the the riff-raff and most are housed in the Nolde Museum. I would therefore add to your talk that an artist must also pursue difficult subjects especially with figurative painting. With abstract art, life is actually easier since content is purely associative so an artist’s opinions can remain incognito!
    Yours sincerely,
    Michael Price
    http://www.michaelprice.info/Catalogue_Evolution_Myth.html

  22. As artists, we are passionate creative people, but I have realized that this path of life is a singular one. We cannot control what path another is on. I also realized that it is not my job to change people, as the only one I can change is me, and be a lamp to others. Like music, art is a universal language, and with some people, the only time we can be on the same page with them is with art. We are all moved by it, love to look at it, hang it in our homes. Many wealthy people became wealthy after working hard and saving much, doing without so they could save for the future or for their children. I know I’m not anybody’s judge. It’s just my job to love them, no matter how different they are from me.

  23. As to one’s opinions, I think there has to be a balance somewhere. I don’t want to be a complete blank slate– people like to know what an artist’s personality is like. From my FB posts people can easily glean my political/philosophical leanings. And I think that’s OK, it’s just the really negative, in your face stuff that probably turns people off. We’re human; we have to have some ideas about how life is to be lived. As for money, Mae West said it best: “I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich, and being rich is better.” I couldn’t agree more.

  24. When hoping for a sale at the volunteer gallery I display in, many of us welcome our visitors much as we would a friend. After all the gallery is the ‘home’ to our works. However we have to draw a line (so to speak) as to how much we share in conversation with this new ‘friend’. Our 25 members are a a mix of old and young and in between, various ethnic backgrounds too and our visitors are also the same, many being tourists. So we have learnt that we must be as polite and as you say Jason, ‘put aside those personal prejudices’ and think of the sale, talk of the gallery, talk about your’s and other’s work. Consequently our gallery members have quite a few ‘followers’, those who keep coming back again and again to see their favourite artists and BUY!

  25. After a lifetime of selling my own art, mostly face to face to my buyers…I love watching these videos from Jason Horejs… he encapsulates what I have learned on my best days…and reminds me to carry it forward as I finish this art life. It is always worth the time I spend to read, watch, or study what he offers… I am very amazed that many of the simplest of steps that I learned when I was young selling at local art fairs, got lost during the ahrd times…only to come back NOW…and I am grateful I stayed alive in myown heart to be able to still do the art…and still be open to the walk of art through this life. It’s been almost 55 years since my first art exhibit… and I am still learning… fine…that’s what it’s all about. Thanks Jason! and thanks Red Dot blog… soon I will be rebuilding my web presence bouncing back again…hey! that’s the way the ball bounces… it never bounces once! That’s for sure. Check me out in a couple weeks at TonyStengerARTintoLIFEstudio.com it should be back up by then… moving forward!

  26. I’m not a bumper sticker person but I am seriously considering a custom order with this: “You don’t care who I support, what I believe, or what I think, do you?”
    We all have opinions but no one is going to change anyone’s mind about anything in a five minute conversation. The world is too complex for that. If you are distracted more than that you not only lost a sale but probably alienated that interested person.
    You can control your conversation but the challenge is to refocus the potential buyer. People are passionate about politics, in particular. Find a speedy but graceful segue to redirect the conversation about the piece or art in general. Don’t take the bait.

  27. Thanks for sharing your insight. I try to treat people the way they treat me. If someone likes my artwork that’s the first sign that there’s a “meeting of the minds” … between us.
    Lee

  28. I wonder, what would happen if the artist you were talking too were to become successful, sell a lot of her art and then become “rich”. She would then be part of the group that causes so much destruction in the world and she in turn would need to be punished. She would “have it coming” simply because she sold too much art.

  29. At one of the first shows I participated in selling my weavings the person interested in a shawl I was selling was wearing a t-shirt with Che Guevara’s face on it. Being of Cuban background it took all my strength to stop me from refusing to sell it to him. He did buy it in the end.

  30. Hi Jason,
    Could not agree more! Actually the journey I have followed in my religion has led me to be open and inclusive… a work in progress!! As far as relationships go there are few safe sites where I can be completely candid. I do keep my opinions to myself when I feel there is a chance to offend. It is all about love and mercy anyway.

    I have had problems building my list of clients though. Often I do not get the buyers information from the galleries (cooperatives) I deal with….

  31. Unbelievable! I have run my own interior design custom sewing business for over 40 years now.[ I have just recently become a fiber artist.] I have never gotten a project/ work order from a poor person!!! Always, always, always treat every client as though they are very special and you get repeat orders and wonderful referrals! And yes, keep your opinions to yourself and keep your Facebook page either personal or business and never, ever mix the two!!!

  32. the Chelsea art district Manhattan os the belly of the far left wing beast—my representational art is journalistic from the far right pagan point of view—–any suggestions?

  33. Wish there was a way I could post this clip on Facebook. This clip is incredibly thought provoking with solid suggestions. There was a Zen undercurrent to what was said in this clip: putting your prejudices aside and allowing the art to be the conduit of transformation, of oneself, ones buyers and those just viewing ones art (my words and interpretation of what Jason said). If anyone can tell me how to post this clip I would greatly appreciate, I know many artists of different genres that would appreciate hearing this clip. Thank you.

  34. Jason,thank you for addressing this. Your discussion makes absolute sense. While I have always tried to hold to your advice to conquer prejudices and put stubborn ones aside during all interactions with others, I still struggle with terror of and internal anger toward wealthy people. My mother endured extreme poverty and shaming as a child — one hundred years ago! and I believe I received this terror and anger in my upbringing. This in fact has made it difficult to approach and interact gracefully with potential clients — which I nonetheless strive endlessly to do and do well, and with some success. Still I know deep down I am terrified of these same people and the power they wield. I do not follow up with clients well, as I “know” they do not want ongoing relationships, but just the goods I make — even when they request and make clear their openness to ongoing relationships.
    If you have specific suggestions on how to (safely) puncture my protective balloons of fear and distrust I will be grateful to hear them.

  35. Very wise Jason. I learned this valuable lesson dealing with all types of people in my calligraphy and art experiences taking on commissions. I have learned to smile and nod if someone starts ranting. This is very infrequent but does happen. I agree with you to never bring up those hot topic areas.

  36. Very good topic especially at present , there is no room for prejudice at anytime it is an ugly trait . As you commented we need all types of people interested in our art .I wouldn’t want to choose a category of people to like my art. Its there for everyone to like.

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