The other side of selling your artwork

I’ve sold a few paintings over the years, but haven’t exhibited in any galleries or made a concerted effort to sell. I was working and didn’t need the money, and I’m in a similar situation financially since retiring. That is, I don’t need to sell art for the money. However, the paintings are starting to pile up, I don’t have space or desire to display it all, and my wife is unhappy with the clutter. That had led me to start trying to sell some of my paintings.

Here’s the dilemma. I largely paint images that mean something to me, have some sort of emotional connection or simply look nice. I don’t really want to sell most of my paintings that are my favorites, and I’m not sure how marketable my lesser works are. Some of my best paintings (to me), I simply don’t want to consider painting. However, it seems that an artist should be selling their best work if they are really serious about it.

How do others deal with this dilemma? I am interested in what professionals think as well as amateurs because it seems like it would be a dilemma for any artist who sells their work.


You’re not alone in this. I now have about 600 paintings (mostly small ones, thank goodness) stored in my little one bedroom condo. I’ve always sold them. Frankly, I have only 6 that mean anything to me and they are hung on my walls and won’t be sold while I’m alive to enjoy them. The rest, are up for sale. If you don’t do that then they will simply accumulate and be a great annoyance to those you leave behind when you’re gone!


Yeah, we all have art work that is somewhat good or somewhat bad hanging around in our closets and it certainly does pile up. What I would suggest is to go to your local library, banks and town hall to see if you might be able to exhibit your work? Offer your paintings at a reasonable price as most of the places will want a percentage from 30 to 50%. Some charge nothing but will ask you for a donation if you do sell. Only fair, considering they are giving you an opportunity.
The other options are to continue to try to make sales at Daily Paintworks or EBay. The gallery thing is either a hit or a miss. I have been with several and I did sell well but the splits were not worth the effort.
I strongly believe that self promotion is the best way to go.
If you strongly believe in your work, consider making notecards, calendars and prints. Just understand your investment and think it through,

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Well, I looked at your gallery and your paintings are wonderful. I see that you just started publishing them on DPW at the end of October, so give it some time. Unfortunately, since there are a gazillion artists on the internet selling their art, you also have to drive traffic to your art; perhaps set up a Facebook page, or also an Etsy store. And give it time. To declutter (I also have limited space) I wrap them in tissue paper (acrylics) or parchment paper (oils) and they fit in a few boxes easily and protected from dust. I have had paintings sell a year after posting - and usually due to having ‘sales’ sometimes which I post on Facebook. Also, if you don’t need the money, give some away to charities to auction off for funds. Or, like someone said, show in local library - of course then you have the framing costs, but it gets your name out there. I think first, though, is to decide if you actually want it to be a business, (which is its own mental stress) or if you are in a financial position to have a pleasing hobby and not expect money returned. If the latter, you can simply paint, enjoy, and give them away.

Also, another way to sell is to enter them into juried or non-juried shows. I have sold works for much more than I can get selling on DPW even after the sponsor takes their cut. You have to frame, but I go the DIY route, ordering frames from Franken Frames and framing them myself.

One way to cut down on the space problem is to paint on gessoboard, if you like it. I like painting on gessoboard, it is easy to ship and store.

My question was really about whether it’s hard for others to sell their artwork from an emotional standpoint. That is, do you find it hard to part with your paintings that you really like, or does that just get to be old hat. I guess you could always paint another copy or version of a piece you really like, but that’s not always possible — such as a painting done plein air or from a photo you no longer have.

Yes, it would be hard for me to sell work I really like so consequently I don’t! There aren’t many pieces like that, though. It makes a difference why I painted something in the first place. I have never had a problem parting company with a commissioned piece, for example. It never was “mine”, it was always someone else’s. For paintings intended to go on DPW from the get-go, I have never had a problem parting with them, although I do like some much better than others. Paintings I made to try out a technique or subject and which I thought I might sell if it went well - these are the ones I have kept for myself. The difficulty I have is with the ones that do not sell. I have a big bonfire once a year and try to vaporise about 60 or so. Some I give away, but there comes a point when your family and friends react to another painting like most people would react to another gift of socks! So what to do with the ones I cannot sell, do not want to burn and have run out of people to gift them to?? They are cluttering up my studio in crates …

Hi Tom,
my advice would be that I remember someone saying that you should only sell work that you are proud of.
I think that’s good advice.

Maybe you could have a sort out of your work and hang pieces in your home that you really do want to keep until you run out of reasonable wall space, then resolve to sell the rest of the work you can say you are proud of.

I know what you mean about emotional attachment. A bit like trying to part with my kids clothes, which I formed a real emotional attachment to, I just kept a few key pieces and got rid of the rest.
With my paintings I have just kept a few key pieces that I felt were milestones. The rest I am pleased (and proud) to think that they are hanging in people’s homes and that they get pleasure from looking at them.


Hi Tom. Yes, I have always had the feelings that my paintings were the most fantastic creations, in my head before I actually finished them. Ha! And I have hung on to them for a long time and then gone back years later and thought why did I think this was that great? So, the ones that I really like, I either kept them or sold them with some emotional trepidation. Then I realized that I could make giclee prints of those and I now enjoy those just as much. And if I really need the texture feel, I paint on the giclee too. And someone else owns the original and that really pleases me that someone expressed their pleasure by paying for it. I certainly appreciate the money, but I get much more in value from the pleasure of producing art and releasing it to the public. I paint for the pleasure of painting and have given up the “presciousness” of the work. It is freeing! Do some giclees!


I have some paintings that I am quite emotionally attached to, but for the most part the joy for me is in doing the painting, not the finished canvas.

One thing I find interesting that it is not always the pieces I expect to sell that people want to buy. I have had people ask me for pieces that I was ready to consign to the circular file. If I think they are truly horrible they never see the light of day, but the ones that I am just sort of “eh” about will get shown sometimes.

Digitally scanning my work has allowed me to let go of a great many to friends, family and collectors.

Looked up your work, it’s very lovely.

The ones I don’t want to sell are hanging on my walls.
The really bad ones I paint over (acrylic, so easy to do).
If I want to donate to charity thrift store, I paint over the signature. I don’t do this very often.
I do an in-person art show every year, so that helps. It’s a good place to move the bargain bin ones.

Marketing helps a lot. Post something on social media every day, even if it’s the same ones you’ve posted a couple months ago. People won’t mind. Chances are some may not have yet seen it when you posted it before.

Also, give it time. You need time and consistency. You have to keep your work in the public eye.

Hi Tom,
I understand your dilemma. I recently sold a bunch of small paintings at a holiday sell. Very nice to get the money and validation, but I did sell some pieces I really liked. Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll never be that good again. The fact is, I will be, I enjoyed the experience of the painting
process, and I’d rather sell stuff than think that it might end up in a thrift store or a landfill after I’m gone. Let them leave the nest to make room for more. Art is a conversation, so share and move on.


NGWhile I have only recently begun selling my paintings, a few factors have helped me let go. First, a long time ago while in college, I took a print making class and did a portrait of John Lennon in Monotype that another art student offered me $60 for it. Since it was my first and only such print, I declined. Now many years later, I have no idea where that print is, probably in my parents’ basement somewhere. I think back and now consider myself kinda silly now not to have sold it at the time. Second, I realized how all material things will eventually decompose. With all the natural disasters occurring everywhere I realized that there are very few material possessions I would grab in case of such a catastrophe. Finally, my favorite painting at the time is usually the last one just made. Sometimes I can’t even wait to finish the one I’m working on since my mind is anxious to get to the next idea that popped in my mind. I have also given away my best paintings to the people closest to me who have expressed a strong desire to buy it, but I can let best friend or family buy my paintings. It brings me much joy to visit their homes and see my work proudly displayed, or when they tell me stories of showing off my work to their friends and visitors. Letting go is hard at first, but I think the returns are even more rich!

Interesting replies on this topic. Guess I am going to be the odd ball here. I paint a lot and they do pile up even with selling them. There are only a hand full that I won’t sell and yep they hang on my walls. What I do is once a year I have a what is called a studio floor sale and sell as many older ones as I can at a basically cost, then I have a bonfire and destroy any that I feel aren’t up to my current standard of painting. It is a very freeing feeling. What I love is the process of painting and just don’t get overly attached to work once it is done. And yes I do try and sell my best work, destroy or paint over any that aren’t that good. Just think it pushes me to paint better.


I think part of the answer is just time. A painting you are emotionally attached to today you might feel like letting go of in the future. I like doing an art fair, usually twice a year. There is nothing as gratifying as someone gushing over a painting you love. Sometimes the right buyer, one who you feel will appreciate your attachment to the painting makes the sale easier.

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I agree with @lindamccoyart too. That time does make a big difference and you usually can mark that passage with improvement in your technique or artist’s eye.

For me, even short amount of time can change my mind on what I am excited about. Even when planning a painting-I can be all excited and attached to an idea and the next day say…wha?? Why did I like that?

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Thanks for all of the replies. I’m new to selling and it was concerning me. I have given away many paintings to family and friends, but you can’t always tell if people appreciate that. I think people are right about time being a factor. I’ve got paintings and drawings that I thought were great years ago but make me cringe now.


I find that as an artist, I cant view any art as too precious to part with. Everything I paint is for sale except one that was painted for my husband and a particular spot in my house. .All the rest may be displayed in my home but if its sold , a new one can take its place . I think one of the marks of an amateur is so many paintings are just too precious to let go. I paint a ainting, enjoy it but am ready for the next one. The subjects are endless. Its the process of capturing that light,mood, or atmosphere that is important.

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It has nothing to do with “precious” but everything to do with passion. Leonardo Da Vinci held on to the Mona Lisa until the day he died. One would be hard pressed to call him an “amateur.”