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One Artist's Marketing Success Story Here's How She Sold 225 Paintings in ONE YEAR!

THE FAITHFUL by contemporary figurative artist, MAYS MAYHEW, who generously shares her marketing ideas for a successful art career with our readers.

First of a three-part series.

Mays Mayhew describes herself as “a total hustler” which is why 2021 was such a banner year for her. She sold 225 original paintings (only five of these were prints.)

Her success has not come by chance, but by planning. She is attentive to details and holds herself accountable for setting goals, reviewing efforts, pivoting when necessary, and adhering to what most people would rather skip: writing business and strategic plans for business structure.

The fact that she has also earned an MBA, in addition to her formal art training, certainly sets her apart from many other creators. Her formal training includes a BFA in studio arts where she studied renaissance art in Italy, and figure drawing at Rhode Island School of Design. She learned, over the years, that success and fame don't just happen to talented individuals as she believed in art school. However, she reassures those aspiring to follow in her footsteps, that her achievements can be duplicated by others, and generously offers the following tips to Art BEAT (AB) in this interview.

AB: What have you learned is the best way to market your own artwork?

· Online? Through your own website or online elsewhere?

· Gallery exhibit?

· Art Fairs/Festivals?

· Commissions?

· Shows at your own home or studio?


1. In-person is absolutely the best way to sell art.

One needs to find where the art collector is. Only 1% of art event attendees are in the market for purchasing art. 20 – 100K a weekend is typical attendance for an art fair. So, following the numbers, art fairs are a natural choice.

In addition, art fairs are a great way to market to a new audience unfamiliar with my work. It seems to me the “original fine art only” art fair promoters work very hard to bring in the right art-buying attendees.

AB: Please provide additional details about whatever above venue(s) you prefer and why.


2. Live art shows online

Secondly, online virtual shows / sales were a great way to market to existing audiences familiar with my work. In 2021, 66% of the work was sold at art fairs, 33% online.

3. Open Studio

Gallery shows has to be in there somewhere to get better reach to art collectors. Next Gallery Show is planned for 3/11/22 at Water Street Studio in Batavia, IL.


Juried shows

These are good for the ego and social media content for a beginning artist, but I’ve found they are 90% ego. Art rarely sells at juried shows because they aren’t marketed towards collectors, rather, to other artists. I think it’s the least productive way to sell art.

Art Fairs

If you’re thinking about doing art fairs, remember, not all art fairs are equal. Choose your shows wisely! It’s important when starting out to find the right event where your audience is.

This process takes a while. I do a lot of research each year to find the right event. I read reviews, I look at ratings, I do a lot of research. I usually try to walk the show before I apply. I will look at size of crowd, if people are buying, if this is just a social event, look for comparable price points to mine. Etc. However, no matter how much research I do, there are always other risks to consider. (i.e. weather and shut-downs are the main risks).

If you’re starting out, there is a sizable up-front cost to art fairs.

1. Equipment

2. Transportation

3. Booth fees

4. Labor

Overall, I’ve found art fairs the most rewarding method verses other ways to sell art. I plan (God-willing) on doing 12 art fairs this summer. (Elmhurst, St. Charles, 57th St., Old Town, Madison, Geneva, Printer’s Row, Lake Forest, Lakeview, Naperville, to name a few)..

NEXT WEEK: Mays discusses with Art BEAT the pros and cons of using social media.

PRAYER, 40" x 60", pencil on paper, $2,500

HINDSIGHT, 5" x 7", $75

Mays Mayhew is a full-time artist with a home studio. Learn more at: Mays Mayhew


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