5 Reasons Why Your Art Is Not Selling

It is no secret that art is a tough way to make a living. Part of the reason is that creative people are often lacking in the marketing department. If you find yourself struggling to sell your art, then you might want to take a step back and consider why exactly that is the case. In this post I discuss some of the most common reasons artists struggle to sell their art. Once you have identified why your art is not selling, you will be able to develop an action plan to make more sales. I will also say that I do not have the answer to how you can sell more art (that depends on so many variables).

These are just some of the most common issues which seem to face my readers who are trying to break into the commercial art market. In this post, I cover:

You Need More Exposure

Exposure is one of the most important factors for making art sales. It seems obvious, but without exposure, how would anyone even know your art exists? You don’t need to be on the front page of every art magazine or have a huge social media following. But you should at least be in front of your target audience. Here are some ways you can get exposure:

I could go on for ages. Just remember it is very likely there is a group of people out there that love your art. The tricky part is finding them. I will also say that you do not need to be everywhere at once. In fact, I warn against it. With this website I am very selective with where I put my attention as I don’t want to spread myself too thin. I suggest you do a rough list of all the places people are able to find you. Here is my checklist:

These are the main ways people would stumble across my art. If I was more focused on selling my own art, I would want to have more exposure than this. I would be approaching art magazines, guest posting for large publications and trying to get accepted to galleries. However, I am more interested in the education side of things.

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You Need To Improve

The harsh reality is that you may just need to improve. Some artists have done well without developing their skills, but you should not be striving for that. You should always be striving to improve as an artist, no matter if you are making sales or not. Aim to become so good that you cannot be ignored. That is the only reliable way to make art sales.

The Market Is Not Interested In Your Style

The art market is fickle and always changing. One moment landscapes are in fashion, next it is modern abstract art. I am not a fan of chasing the market, but sometimes it may be necessary. For example, if you are a landscape painter but portraits are what brings money in, then you might need to focus on portraits and do landscapes on the side. In most cases, there will be a market for your art, but sometimes it may be less vocal. Remember, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh were both heavily criticised during their lifetime. But opinions seem to change significantly over time. If Monet and van Gogh had changed their style to suit the popular opinion at the time, I doubt they would be nearly as famous. So I suggest that you try your best to ignore the market. You will make sales regardless of the market if you are good enough (provided you put yourself in front of the right audience – discussed later in this post).

Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, 1872
Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, 1872
Vincent van Gogh, Olive Grove: Orange Sky, 1889
Vincent van Gogh, Olive Grove: Orange Sky, 1889

You Have Priced Yourself Out Of The Market

Pricing your art is an extremely important consideration. You don’t want to price too low as it may devalue your work. But you don’t want to price yourself out of the market either. Make sure you do your research before you put a price on your work. Look at what other art is selling for in your niche and consider where you are in relation to that art.

Here is a tool I created to help with pricing your artwork.

You Are Targeting The Wrong Audience

You need to make sure that you completely understand who your target audience is and where they are. There is no point focusing all your attention on a marketing activity if your target audience is not involved. For example, if you only sell traditional landscape paintings in the upper price range, then setting up a stall at your local market would probably not be a good idea. You would be better suited to try and get your art into high-end galleries and competitions where your target audience would be. You need to treat your energy and attention like the finite resource it is. Do not put your energy into something that is never going to work.


If you are not selling as much art is you would like, it can be difficult to identify the real reason why. For example, you might think it is because you are just not good enough, but the real reason might be because you are not putting yourself in front of the right people. Before you can develop an action plan to make more sales, you need to correctly identify what the issues are. To do this, you need to take a step back and objectively assess the situation. This post is meant to give you some help with this and narrow down on some of the most common problem areas.

Want to Learn More?

You might be interested in my Marketing for Artists email course. This course is a remarkably affordable, relevant, and practical crash-course on marketing designed specifically for artists.

Thanks for Reading!

I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I hope you found it helpful. Feel free to share it with friends.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

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Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

8 comments on “5 Reasons Why Your Art Is Not Selling”

  1. Fantastic information, thank you. As you said,You never stop Learning.
    I am very new to this life in art. I need all help i can get.
    I had the great fortune to have a captured audiance on the island and made money. Good money.
    Now i live on the mainland and have to rethink my exposure. This is taking time.
    The more i learn, the more i don’t know and questions and confusion set in.

    • No problem! Sounds like you have done it once before, so this time should be much easier on the mainland. If you need any tips, let me know.


  2. This is a great article. I have no skill at selling my stuff and have a terrible tendency to gift stuff to friends who want to buy. Crazy but it feels so good at the time ?

    • Hi Gwen

      Yes it is all about putting enough value on your own work so that you can sell it with confidence. Remember, your time and skills are valuable! That being said, there is nothing wrong with a few gifts here and there.


    • Hi Chris

      That is a pretty lengthy topic by itself so I won’t attempt to answer it in the comments. I will be putting out a short email course which will cover this in more detail. Let me know if you need an invite to the free course.


  3. Thanks Dan,
    You summed up all my insecurities in one. Trying to please people to much and I need to learn to just do what I love. I do have a question… I love working in more then one medium, and style. I tend to get board just doing the same subjects and styles so I will do a few abstracts, then maybe a few landscapes, then to abstracts with a cartoon, I feel I do have my own Unique style. Would you consider this an issue for an artist? When I do look around I see that a lot of artists keep to one flavor which looks like it does well, would suggest to for me to just pick one and stay with it, or is it still considered professional if one does more then one type of medium?


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