My Best Tip for Selling Art — Fourth Quarter Begins pg287

Colorful companion to my memoir The Incompetent Psychic

Marilyn O’Rourke Gallery at the Benicia Public Library 2016
‘Let’s Go for a Walk’ exhibit: Paintings by Mernie Buchanan & Nancy Freeman March 2016

Over time I had been given four solo exhibits in the Benicia Library’s large, bright gallery, and figured it would be far easier to fill the long walls and share the promo efforts with another artist.

Crowded opening receptions aren’t cheap and easy to pull off, but I had discovered that closing receptions are a lot less hassle. It is possible to advertise to many more people, as everyone who walks through can grab a postcard with an invitation to the upcoming party. Those who had purchased a painting could pick it up and enjoy some goodies, since the art was coming down the next day. The built in ‘last chance’ aspect made it so I didn’t have to pack as much back to my studio, either.

Sixty paintings sounds like a lot, but most were affordable 5x7 and 8x10 ‘snapshot’ acrylic sketches of dogs walking their people. I included a self-portrait of me picking up poop. Nancy’s and my closing reception was a lively event, and half my paintings sold, although me with the poop bag wasn’t one of them. (By the way, this painting still happens to be available for any collector with less than discerning taste.) — End of Chapter 15

Coincidentally, this is the five-year anniversary of our ‘Go For a Walk’ show. Let’s celebrate with some tips on how to be more successful when your art exhibit isn’t mounted in a splashy, more prestigious urban gallery with marketing-savvy agents. The model for gala opening receptions succeeds for them, and is copied without question right down to the small town level. This paradigm doesn’t work as well when the artist is solely responsible for the art and the promo.

Earlier in my art career I had applied for shows in the lovely Benicia Library Gallery. I didn’t make the cut for several years, but I did show up for many other (luckier) artist’s opening receptions. They were all sparsely attended by the same small but devoted crowd of art lovers and a smattering of friends. When I finally landed my first exhibit in 2006 I followed the same pattern with the same thinly attended result… and no sales. Each exhibit is up for a month, and in that time hundreds of folks see and savor the art. Ding! A colorful sign and postcards announcing a closing party to meet the artist might work better instead? It did. My closing receptions from then on buzzed with scads more people and patrons… and were much more lucrative, too.

A closing reception’s added bonus is that a shitload of effort is divided into two parts — hanging and party planning. Getting an art show up involves touch-ups, framing, transport, ladders and tags. Press releases and a postcard at the front end are crucial if part of the point of doing art is your livelihood. I always use PS Print, and buy my next job when they run a special (they offer a grace period of six months to upload the art for printing). Anyone who has ever bought art from me is on my snail mail list. Email is cheap, but oh so easy to ignore.

So the art is hung, lights adjusted and postcards displayed with a guest book. Then you get a relaxing break of two weeks before jumping into invitations, announcements, food, flowers and making sure the Square Reader is charged and ready for credit card swipes.

Other artists have called me ‘commercial’ like it’s an insult. But hey, besides paying the bills of life, selling creative product frees storage space to make more. Even those who paint as a hobby will understand the benefits of that.

A signed copy of Mernie’s memoir is available at

Unsigned copies can be ordered wherever books are sold.

Self Portrait as Good Citizen 2015