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Here's what artists should know about effectively selling their work

Desireé Vaniecia.
Shauna Benoit
Dallas artist Desireé Vaniecia poses with her artwork that depicts Black figures in evolving stories.

For many artists, it’s difficult to balance viewing their artwork as a craft versus a business. But the entrepreneurial side of art-making is increasingly getting more interest.

Dallas-based artist Desireé Vaniecia, who makes mixed media fine art, recently spoke at The Cedars Union to share some of her best practices for finding ways to connect people with art.

Vaniecia, who was a part of the first Cedars Union cohort, is a Dallas ISD art teacher and artist who has been widely exhibited in North Texas. She was selected for the 2022 SXSW Art Program and will have a mural in Meow Wolf Grapevine’s upcoming art exhibition.

Here are some of Vaniecia’s tips for fellow artists:

1. Think about how to situate your work in a space. 

Whether it’s your workshop station at The Cedars Union, a convention or art fair, Vaniecia said it’s important to consider how your artwork appears to passersby. For example, in her studio, she considers items like books, art supplies, sketchbooks, paint swatches and family photos, all of which help tell a story.

“So that way, anybody that walks into my studio can get an idea of who I am or what I plan on doing,” she said.

The artist said this is important for three reasons: It helps you get back in routine, it allows people to take you seriously and it helps people understand your work.

Building that credibility can grow the number of people who will want to buy or display your artwork.

2. Plan for scalability. 

At the beginning of any project, Vaniecia tries to think about alternative media and merchandise that could be launched from an original work in the future.

The artist recently painted a mural for the Meow Wolf Grapevine exhibition opening in July. With the digital rendering she used to make the mural, she also created a puzzle that she can sell.

“Even when I was done painting the mural, I took a lot of pictures of my process,” she said. “I thought to myself, like, what if I want to make a book later on? Or what if I want to make this very intricate, delicate poster?”

It’s also a way to tap into new markets and allow patrons to bring your work into their homes, according to Vaniecia.

3. Apply for opportunities even when you feel unqualified.

It can be hard to apply to grants and scholarships when insecurities and doubts arise. Sometimes you won’t fit listed requirements. Vaniecia said apply anyway.

I have learned very quickly from a lot of the partnerships that I've gotten, a lot of the contracts that I receive, it's literally because I will just put myself out there,” she said.

Vaniecia said even when she wasn’t selected for certain opportunities, she has developed new contacts and found herself in a meeting with a gallery who was interested in her work.

Those contacts could be avenues to new commissions and projects in the future.

4. Beef up your artist’s website.

Everyone’s online these days and Vaniecia urges artists to update their online presence. She said it’s another avenue for the public to learn about their work.

Updating my website is hard, but it's the best thing that I can ever do for myself because when I'm not able to talk for myself, my website talks for me,” Vaniecia said.

The artist draws from her love of graphic design and finds inspiration from other artists’ websites. She encourages artists to include more detailed descriptions of their work to build a connection with those who might not be familiar.

The background and context from those descriptions can help draw in potential buyers.

Arts Access is an arts journalism collaboration powered by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.

This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.

Elizabeth Myong is KERA’s Arts Collaborative Reporter. She came to KERA from New York, where she worked as a CNBC fellow covering breaking news and politics. Before that, she freelanced as a features reporter for the Houston Chronicle and a modern arts reporter for Houstonia Magazine.