5 interesting reasons why I boldly sell my art. Beware the starving artist’s myth.

Why do I try so hard to sell my own work? Besides the obvious, I need money to pay my bills and not live on ramen noodles. I get this kind of question and criticism often. So today I want to strip it down for you with full transparency. It’s been a bit of a journey myself discovering these truths over the last ten years of my artistic career. Now I’m sharing the inside scoop with you here.

  1. I’ve never liked creating in a vacuum. 
A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a still life painting of a Japanese bottle and mandarins by Kelli Folsom.

Recently my mom found an old audiotape of me when I was eleven years old. On it I’m speaking and performing to an imaginary audience. “And now I’ll play for you Aura Lee a song made famous by Elvis Presley better known as Love Me Tender”. Oh my gosh. I’ve always needed an audience! People to share my creation with and to get feedback from. What does every little kid do when they finish a drawing? Here mom, dad look at what I did. There’s no greater pride than a smile, an affirmation of how good it is, and the creation hanging with pride on the refrigerator.

2. The ultimate positive feedback and validation is someone spending their hard-earned money on my work. 

Like the little kid whose mommy proudly displays her art on the icebox, I too can’t wait to get hung on the “fridge”.  Where I come from money was always tight and you never spent it on anything unnecessary. It was survival mode in my house. Even buying name brand groceries was wasteful. So for someone to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a painting I created is like WOW! I made something so special that you would spend hard-earned money on it. That gives me meaning. 

3. It keeps me creating! 

There’s nothing more depressing than a room full of paintings staring at me saying “sorry no one wanted you”. Remember, I need an audience. I should tell you I gave up on the piano as a kid because I had no proper teaching and no audience. No one cared if I could play Jingle Bells (albeit poorly). So when paintings go out my studio door to someone else’s walls it makes me want to paint more. In fact, I get a huge surge of creative energy. I say,”Okay I just sold my best painting! Let’s see if I can outdo that one. There’s nothing more inspiring than an empty studio. A clean slate. This is a big motivator for me and I’m not ashamed of that.

4. I care about my financial future. 

I’m not married. I don’t have anyone else supporting me. So three years ago when I looked at my revenue from the prior year it lit a fire under me. I couldn’t afford insurance and I couldn’t invest in a retirement account. As a 38-year-old woman looking to her future 78-year old I knew I had to try harder. I decided I would be financially successful as an artist. My 78-year-old self thanks me. Since then I’ve been able to pay off my student loans, start a 401k, have a sturdy savings account, and good health insurance. I’ve also been able to hire and pay others to help me in my business. That makes me feel so good knowing that my art is not only feeding me but putting food on other tables too. 

5. I want to dispel the Starving Artists’ Myth for all artists.

Finally, the last reason why I push to market and sell my work. This one’s gonna be long so buckle up baby. You’re in for a 100% truth ride. I gave you the softies first. This world is full of limiting beliefs but the worst of them for artists is the starving artists’ myth. How many people were told don’t be an artist? Go get a real job and do your art on the side? How about Van Gogh never sold a painting his whole life and look how famous his work is now. Or this one, it’s so hard to make a living as an artist. Nobody’s selling. The galleries are struggling. The economy’s so bad. I just want to paint. The business side is so hard. Don’t be too salesy. If people like your work they’ll find you and buy it. If you’re not selling maybe you should paint something else. Do something else to supplement your income.

The list goes on and on. As you can tell I’ve heard it all. I’ve been told I’m stubborn and maybe I am. But I refuse to give in to any of these limiting beliefs. At least I’ll go down fighting that’s for sure. I didn’t go to art school to not be an artist. I didn’t uproot my life, get a divorce, and spend 100k on art school to NOT sell paintings and go get a part-time job! NO! Sorry not sorry I don’t want to be like Van Gogh who now everybody loves, but never supported him in real life. Oh and I’ve heard the economy thing for ten years. I came into the art world in a bad economy! So that excuse is lame. The business side is hard- harder than painting. But it’s worth the struggle.

Now let’s talk about this one- don’t be too salesy. I’ve gotten this criticism a lot. As if I’m some kind of used car salesman tricking someone into buying a lemon. Or that person that attacks your face in the Mall with some weird face cream. No, I market my work and tell people it’s available for sale. Here’s why: potential art buyers are intimidated to buy art because the fancy-schmancy art world has made them so. 

I want collectors to know how critical their role is in the survival of art. Every artist has needed collectors. Long gone are the days of Michelangelo being taken under the wing of the Medicis and the Pope.  I need collectors to survive. It’s as simple as that. Maybe you read the word collector and immediately picture some posh snob at Christie’s. So let’s break that label down too. You’re a collector if you buy art. Plain and simple. I’m on a mission to bust the myth for collectors that you have to be a certain type of person to buy art. No, you don’t.

Everyone deserves and should have original fine art hanging on their walls. Every painting that goes to a new home lets me know that I’m on the right track and spreading the awareness and appreciation of representational art. I come from everyday middle-class regular people and most likely so do my collectors. Together we can keep beauty and representational art alive. 

Okay so you know I’m gonna end by telling you I’ve got a BIG Christmas around the corner- starting this Friday actually. Paintings $500 and under are going to be Buy One Get One Free! In fact, the new paintings pictured here will be in this BOGO category. 

And selected paintings over $500 are going to be 50% off! So you can go scope out the ones you want on your walls early. 

10% of sales will be donated to the Salvation Army to help families in need at Christmas.

P.S. I’m also doing a Christmas Day Giveaway of an original painting (size 9×12 and under) to someone on my Collector’s Circle list! Click here to join for a chance to win: http://eepurl.com/dpg-_9.

An oil painting of a single pink rose
An oil painting of a green vase and fall fruits
An oil painting of a green pear and red berries
An oil painting of pink roses in a red glass vase

Love in Light, Kelli

26 thoughts on “5 interesting reasons why I boldly sell my art. Beware the starving artist’s myth.

  1. You’re so welcome Susan! Yes never give up! It’s an honor to be on the journey with you and I’m so glad to be of service. Well I do work a lot with artists on the business side mostly in the Mastermind Mentorship Program. But I’m planning to put something together for everyone this year. I’m wishing you much success and happy painting in 2021!

  2. Kelli, your words from the heart and transparency of you journey is one I can relate to. Thank you. You encourage me to keep fighting and keep pushing forward and to never give up. Would you ever give a guiding talk about the business of art? Surely one of my weakest links.
    You are genuine and I thank you for your ongoing generousity and inspiration! I continue to learn a heap!!

  3. I love everything you do, your art speaks for itself, but the fact that you are so transparent is sooo inspiring. Sharing your knowledge and thoughts with no hidden secrets is amazing and just gives encouragement to all artist that it’s hard work and perseverance that will lead us all to our goals! It’s up to each of us! Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  4. Thank you Melissa! I’m so happy that OETA segment is still touching hearts. It was so small….like 5 minutes! I’m still floored how many people tell me they were moved by it. I hope you love Sunday Surprise Bouquet now that it’s in your home! I’m so honored to know you and all the collectors that support my work. Together we’ll spread the love of light and beauty in this world that desperately needs it. Merry Christmas Darlin’ I appreciate you.

  5. Oh Joyce, thank you so much for this comment. Sometimes it’s tough to be this honest and transparent, but I believe it’s so needed in this time. I’ve taken a lot of classes in writing also and work on that skill as well. What did Michelangelo say….”If you knew how hard I worked you wouldn’t think I was so talented.” ha ha. Something like that. It’s true. Talent/skill is the outcome of diligence, sacrifice, and devotion. Thank you so much and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

  6. Awww thank you Georgia! You’re the best. Well that’s true. I have worked my butt off to make the most beautiful paintings I can. I strive to do better each day. I love knowing my collectors personally.

  7. You’re so welcome Robin! It can be hard work to find those collectors and takes a lot of time and money invested to do so. Keep putting your work out there and spreading the love of beauty.

  8. Hi Carla! Thank you so much for these words of appreciation. I love knowing who has my work on their walls….far better than just some stranger that a gallery sold to and I have no relationship with. I too am so grateful for our time together, the inspiration, love, and laughter we’ve shared. Merry Christmas!

  9. You’re so welcome Tiziana! We do waste so much time trying to please others and do things the “right” way. I’m so happy this spoke to your vision!

  10. Thank you for these points, your words made me think about how much time we waste on the wrong way of thinking. You’ve just reinforced the bright side of my vision of life as an artist.

  11. Hi Kellie, you are truly inspiring, every time I lose hope, your words ring in my ear and I keep moving forward. Love your work and keep inspiring many more!!!

  12. You are absolutely the BEST, Kelli. You know your stuff, you share what you know, you have made life better for so many ~ painters AND collectors. Very happy to be in your courses and receive all the benefits you offer. Cheers to you now, through the upcoming holidays, and beyond.

  13. Very well articulated! You are an amazing artist as well as teacher. There is nothing better than to walk into a room to see your beautiful work on the wall! It warms my heart to know the passion behind the creativity. Everyday I’m thankful for our paths crossing & the joy I feel from viewing your paintings. You are touching lives in ways you may never know! Blessed!

  14. Thanks for sharing your honesty!! Im so glad for you! Im still trying to find collectors! Maybe someday I hope!!
    Robin Raymond

  15. Dear Kelli – one thing you forgot – You are very talented and collectors are so very fortunate to have connected with you!!!

  16. Hi Kelli,
    You are amazing! Not only are you a fabulous artist, your marketing skills are like none other. Your ability to promote and sell your work is a talent equal to your artistic ability!
    It is a rare individual who can express herself so well both on canvas and in words! You are an inspiration!

  17. Talent will shine. I found your art on a public television show here in Oklahoma and then I found your web site. I am here because I choose to be here. Because of your marketing, I was able to afford a purchase, I think the title is Sunday surprise. When I saw it the first time, it called to me. I could close my eyes and see it. When it came up on sale, I was able to afford it. You are absolutely right to do the marketing, to connect to as many people as possible. Making collectors will also help all artists. So thank you for boldly selling your art.

  18. Great points and I’m going to journal these for reference when I teach others!!!! Thank you!

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