How to Sell Oil Paintings

Artist using a brush and oil paints to create artwork.
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Oil painters usually create their art by channeling whatever inspiration lurks in their souls. If you're an artist with a treasure trove of work and are willing to part with some of your masterpieces, there's no reason not to turn your passion into profit. Finding the appropriate venues at which to display and sell your work is key, but there are also a few other steps you can take to raise your profile and improve your sales.

Select your paintings. If you already have quite a collection, and a sense of the popularity of your pieces, this can be simple. However, if you are indeed looking to turn your hobby into a money-maker, you have to be willing to think more like a business person and maybe a little less like an artist. There are works of art that sell better than others simply because of the subject matter depicted. While you shouldn’t drastically alter your art and fall prey to pure commercialism, you should consider pulling from your collection landscapes and anything you may have that depicts scenes local to the area in which you will be selling.

Design a website. Clearly not a traditional venue for artists working in oils, the Internet is, however, a great place to sell and be seen. Display your works and offer them for sale on your website. Be certain to use keywords that will allow anyone searching for your type of art to locate you and your work quickly and easily. To do this well, it is best to solicit a company that knows not only the basics of Internet strategies, but is also willing to find out a little bit about you and your goals. Finally, be sure to include your website on your business card and along with any paintings you set out for public display. Generate traffic to your site at every opportunity.

Join an artist co-op. Co-ops bring groups of artists and patrons together, sharing their talents, their work and their contacts.

Display your work –anywhere you can. Libraries are great sites for local artists to display their work and leave their business cards. The more your art is seen, the more likely you are to develop the following that will lead to sales. Consignment galleries, coffee shops and restaurants are also good places to offer your art to the public.

Attend art fairs. Reasonably priced booth rentals at craft shows and art fairs are not only selling venues but also publicity stops. The more buzz around your work, the more likely you are to create demand. Don’t neglect an opportunity to show your work, even when you are not ringing in the sales.

Donate one of your pieces to a charity auction event. Your work may likely receive more than it would otherwise because of the charity which means you get to honestly state that your piece was sold for such-and-such a price. Additionally, your work in the home of one deep-pocketed art lover may do wonders for your career as an artist. You never know where you’ll find a true patron of your arts.

Sell at auction. There are auctions all over the country which specialize in art. If you have pieces that fit the description of an upcoming auction event, contact the auction firm and see if they’ll take your work on consignment. Usually, they’ll be happy to sell your piece and take their commission. They may also allow you to put a reserve on your artwork so if a minimum bid is not met, you do not have to sell. They will return your painting to you, usually charging only a nominal fee.

Contact local galleries. This is the cold-calling of the art world, but if your work is good enough and you are confident enough, take a chance and go knocking. The best case scenario is a willingness of a gallery owner to display your work. And really, there is no worst case scenario because the more doors you knock on the more people in the art world you will come to know.


  • Consult art experts, dealers and auction houses for what type of art is most commercially viable. This most certainly changes over time. Still lifes may be popular one year, while abstract art may be popular the next.

    Decide on pricing for your pieces by assessing the prices of competitors' works and studying the going rate of similar pieces at auction.

    Consider taking custom orders from collectors who enjoy your work. You can create a loyal base this way and be guaranteed a payday for your next piece.

    Register yourself as a business entity to legally protect you and your art. This may also afford you the luxury of buying supplies at wholesale rates.


  • Make certain that any place you display your art is suitable and safe for your work. If you choose to display it at a local consignment shop or coffee house, determine whether the owner is properly insured in the event of damage or theft.