How to Sell Your Art: Putting Together a Portfolio

The easiest way to entice gallery owners, publishers and collectors to want to see more of your work is by mailing them an attractive portfolio package. The portfolio must be clear and concise, look professional and should be tailored specifically to each recipient. Here’s a checklist of the materials you’ll want to include.

  • Cover letter: Your letter of introduction should be short and direct, no more than one page. Identify specifically why you think the recipient would be interested in your art. Then promise to follow up soon with a phone call.
  • Biography: Include only art-related items, not your entire employment history. Divide the text into sections, beginning with whatever is most impressive. The sections can include, but are not limited to, Exhibitions, Education, Grants and Awards and Public and Private Collections. Within each category, list the most recent activity first and be sure to give exact dates for exhibits.
  • Artist’s Statement: When you’re writing your artist’s statement, your goal should be to give the reader insight and set the tone for viewing your work. Include any special techniques or materials you use; mention subjects for artists who’ve inspired you; or explain your philosophy of painting. Above all, keep it brief and interesting.
  • Slides: Send one sheet of slides—no more than 20 images—of your strongest, most recent work. Your slide sheet should be assembled to create a specific perception in the mind or the viewer, so choose pieces that show a consistency of style and skill and are likely to appeal to the individual you’re approaching. Remember: Never send your only set of slides.
  • Price list: Provide recipients with a list of titles and prices they can refer to while reviewing your slides. Make sure the list is in the same order as the slides.
  • Portfolio: A simple, black, two-pocket folder or three-ring binder will do. To protect your slides, slip a thin piece of sturdy cardboard into the folder. Then use a plain 9 x 12 or 10 x 13-inch envelope to mail your portfolio. If you want the materials back, be sure to include an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) large enough and with enough postage for their return.”I don’t know how people survive without art. When you’re an artist, you’re always interested in something, and each interest leads to another interest. And it’s a thrill to know that your work is in good collections, as mine is—that brings happiness, too,” says famous American artist Mary Todd Beam from her studio in the mountains of Tennessee. A frequent juror and a popular workshop instructor, Beam is a Dolphin Fellow of the American Watercolor Society, as well as a member of the National Watercolor Society, the Ohio Watercolor Society, and the Society of Layerists in Multimedia.

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