The Truth about What Kind of Art Sells Best

Stop worrying and wondering about what kind of art sells best.

What Kind of Art Sells BestResearching to discover what the bestselling art subjects are wastes your time. More importantly, if you are using the information to slavishly mimic another artist, it can rob you of your creativity and dignity. That said, there are many reasons why artists might want to learn about what kind of art sells best.

Humans are curious creatures.

It is inevitable and unstoppable that human nature and curiosity will inspire artists to want to know about the best selling art subjects. If you are one who worries about this and spends time researching bestselling art data, then you need to ask yourself why.

What is your motivation to learn about what kind of art sells best? If it is just curiosity and a brief distraction, there probably is no harm. It might just be somewhat helpful. On the other hand, if you are obsessed about bestselling art categories, or think you need to know the answers to help you decide what kind of art to make, then, in my humble opinion, you have a problem.

What is your problem?

If your motivation is to know about what kind of art is selling best these days so you can make art just like it, this is not a smart idea for your art career. It quite likely means you may have acquired some practical art making skills, but are lacking in imagination, or don’t trust what you have.

If the art you currently produce is not selling well, you might find yourself using research to find bestselling art subjects. If that is the case, you may inadvertently overlook other reasons why your art is not selling.

Granted, it could be your subject matter or style does not appeal to buyers. In this case, changing things up will help. As the Chinese proverb says, “When business is bad, paint the counter.”

Asking the right question is paramount.

The question you need to ask before you quit your current style and subject matter is, “Have I done enough of the right kind of marketing to give my art exposure to my best prospects?” Is it that your art sucks, or that your marketing sucks? Only you can answer this question, and you need to be honest with yourself about it.

If your marketing sucks, you cannot fix poor art sales by changing what kind of art you make. You will still have the same problem of not having enough eyeballs from your best prospects on your work.

It is a simple equation; the only way to sell your art is showing it to lots of the right people.

Determine your problem, then take action.

If your art is stacking up in your studio, and your marketing is stuck in the wrong places, is unfocused, or not applied diligently and regularly, you have a marketing problem, not necessarily an art subject matter problem.

Let’s assume your marketing is sufficient, and your work is not selling. That is a compelling reason to recalibrate. Here are some aspects of your art creation selections to re-evaluate:

  • Subject matter.
  • Prices.
  • Color schemes.
  • Media.
  • Sizes.

When you have these things in harmony, you will have the greatest success. You can get by with some of them being not as correct as possible and still have measurable success, many artists do. Still, the more you are in the pocket with these, the better your results will be.

Some of these things are difficult to study easily. It takes time to fiddle with each of these important aspects of your art career. They are worth the effort to gain the wisdom.

This is where research can truly help you.

There is nothing wrong with having a bead on what other successful artists are doing with each of the above listed categories. Actually, you are encouraged to gain as much intel about these factors as possible. Bestselling artists usually make smart, informed decisions based on what is happening in the art business around them

If you try to learn about what kind of art sells best to fill in some blanks your art career knowledge base, you are on the right track. If you are using this research so you can make art just like what is selling best, it is likely you have put your creativity away, or just don’t trust it, or that you do not have any. In all cases such as these, you are aiming for second best, or worst.

Copying another artist’s work is quite often illegal copyright infringement.

This happens a lot, way too much, in fact. An artist will come up with a unique look or style and start enjoying conspicuous success with it. Soon, other artists take notice and start copying the style. Some copy so closely they are infringing on the copyrights of the original artist. Read Joshua Kaufman’s “Print-on-Demand and Copyright” article in the January issue of Art World News. You may be surprised to learn that what you think is borrowing is actually illegal use of another artist’s copyright.

Other artists may use the realization the original artist’s subject matter is hot and choose to make art to cash in on it, as well. This is why you see trends in subject pop up. Whether it is angels or pin-up girls, or poker and cigars, trends emerge and fall. There most often is a fine line between what some call “creative borrowing” and illegally copying. If you are not sure of where you stand, or are unaware, it will not hold up as a defense in lawsuit against you.

If we all liked the same thing all the time, life would be boring.

You will find art print publishers all tend to follow their competitors. They have no choice. They are responding the requests of their volume buyers to get them some the latest fantastic looking art with angels as the subject matter. All, but the strongest trends have a shelf life. The buying public loses interest, just as they do with interior design, fashion and music.

Here is the stark truth about what kind of art sells best.

If your interest lies in wanting to make sure you include the colors that match contemporary decor trends, or you want to pay homage to certain trending subject matter, or that you are offering prices, sizes and media that the public wants, then bully for you. You are using research wisely.

If you are using your research to find top selling art so you can slavishly copy it, then that is a terrible thing. It is unhealthy for your career, probably dangerous for your reputation, ruinous for your self-esteem and hurtful for the artists you choose to copy.

No one can own a category, style, subject matter, or look.

It is true some art subject matters are so popular that many artists enjoy considerable success with it. For instance, the late Marty Bell had extraordinary success with a line of romantic cottages based on earlier works by English artists. Then the late Thomas Kinkade borrowed the subject matter and took it to unparalleled print sales success.

The California artist, George Sumner, reportedly is the father of the still popular “over and under” marine wildlife-painting genre. However, it was Robert Lyn Nelson, Wyland, and Christian Riese Lassen who benefited from employing the subject matter technique into their work. It takes a studied eye in many cases to identify which artist painted some images. Nevertheless, they all made millions working in the genre.

Here is my take on researching for what kind of art sells best.

You might be so smitten by the idea of painting cottages, whales or angels that you are compelled to make the subject the theme of your work. Surely, you will not be the first artist that has done so. Moreover, if you do, that is okay.

What I suggest is using the influence of those before you who have taken the genre to a new level. When the Rolling Stones covered the Robert Johnson blues masterpiece “Love in Vain”, they put in a country rock-tinged flavor to it and remade it into something unique to the band. The result was they created their own distinctive masterpiece.

If you choose to use your research to understand what kind of art sells best to imitate it in a way that confuses art buyers, which I strongly urge you not to do, then I suggest you do not publish your real name on the piece. That way, you keep the knockoff entirely phony from start to finish.

If the above describes you, and you are selling work that looks almost identical to the original artist’s work, then I suggest you look into using your skills in other ways. Try reading this recent post titled “20 Art-related Career Alternatives to a Full-time Art Career.” It just may be a better way to manage your artistic talents and regain your dignity.

How to Profit from the Art Print MarketLearn How to Succeed in the Art Print Market! Order Your Copy Today!


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20 Art-related Career Alternatives to a Full-time Art Career

Satisfying options for an art-related career.

art-related careerTo begin, I would never discourage someone who has the passion and wants to become a full-time artist to choose otherwise. It is a unique, noble and worthy way to make a living. That said, as with all entrepreneurial endeavors, going full-time is challenging, to say the least.

Success as a full-time artist is complex.

Becoming a successful full-time artist requires more than artistic talent. It requires a business mind, a marketing mind and a willingness to endure during dark patches where your income does not meet your expectations. In other words, it requires some sacrifices for those who are not the beneficiaries of a spouse or other family members or friends who will support them in the early going.

This blog is for all artists, regardless of status.

Readers of this blog know I work hard at providing practical art business and art marketing advice designed to help artists become more successful. the How to Sell to the Affluent Market post from last week is a perfect example. Judging from the response to it, there is a substantial amount of interest in the subject. As such, stay tuned, or subscribe now, for future posts with more details on selling art to rich people.

Now, whether or not you are destined to make full-time artist status, you will find the ideas, information and inspiration published here helpful in reaching your art career goals and potential. Know one thing. You do not have to work full-time as an artist to have a rewarding career as an artist.

Xanadu Gallery artists are all full-timers.

My monthly art marketing broadcast partner, Jason Horejs, who owns Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, recently told his Red Dot Blog readers in a post on artistic production that he does not have any artists represented who are not full-time. His reasoning makes sense. He is looking for artists who are committed, both to their full-time art careers and to meeting his minimum production expectations for representation in the gallery. He has found the production part is highly problematic for artists with outside obligations.

Balancing your day job and you art career.

Previously, I have written about how When Greatness in Your Art Career Competes with Your Full-time Job. In that post, I used myself as an example. That is, I work full-time in a tech sales and support position for a large domain, hosting, and email provider. I find the work both informative and helpful in feeding my inner geek. More importantly, it has provided steady income, health insurance and retirement benefits. Without the job, adequate health coverage was almost unaffordable.

Confession time: I am a full-time wannbe.

Honestly, I would prefer to work full-time as an author, speaker, and workshop leader. However, I have had to temper my enthusiasm with the reality of my other commitments and needs. I made peace with that decision long ago. It is easier to deal with because I have a goal and plans to eventually, and hopefully soon, take the leap to full-time information marketing entrepreneur.

I jumped into my current job because it suits me well. Having worked 30 years as a commission-based ad sales rep, I had the selling chops down. Likewise, I have long been interested in technology. Finding a job with a company that could use my skills and interests turned out to be as ideal as possible for me.

All jobs and careers have their downsides.

Don’t get me wrong. I chafe at working for the man. It is a tradeoff for me, just as it will be for many reading this. As the saying goes, “The price you pay for money is work.” When someone else is doing the paying, they make decisions for you. The flip side of this is when you work for yourself, you have to make sacrifices and perform tasks are not your strong suit, or even distasteful to you.

Art-related careers

If you are not yet ready to move into a full-time art career, I hope you find considering some of these art-related careers as possible leads towards an ideal situation for yourself:

  1. Picture framer
  2. Art gallery owner or employee
  3. Art restorer conservationist
  4. Corporate art buyer
  5. Art handler
  6. Graphic designer
  7. Illustrator
  8. Web design
  9. Video game designer
  10. Animation and cartooning
  11. Museum curator
  12. Museum technician
  13. Art educator
  14. Art marketing consultant
  15. Advertising agency art director
  16. Art agent / business manager
  17. Art dealer
  18. Art photographer
  19. Giclee printer
  20. Art tour guide

The above list just touches on obvious art-related career paths you could choose. Most of them require specialized knowledge or further education, either at the university level or through apprenticeship. Nearly all need the perspective of an artist.

Skills in your day job improve your art career.

As with my job in the tech industry, for which I have an acknowledged affinity, these jobs will allow you to increase your knowledge and skill sets and help you make your art career, whether full-time or part-time, more fulfilling and successful. Because of the requirements of an artist career, many artists have the experience to some degree in any number of these art-related career fields.

For instance, if you make art, you will need to understand the basics of how to frame it, how to ship it, how to market and sell it. You probably have photographic and digital art software training and skills, and a lot of other jack-of-all-trades capabilities. No matter what art-related career you decide to pursue, you will acquire and hone valuable skills that can lead to new opportunities.

Your day job can become your ideal job.

You may find an occupation that is more lucrative and rewarding than you might have been able to accomplish as a full-time artist. You may also find that all your knowledge is perfect stepping-stone to help you leap to the career of your dreams as a self-supporting full-time artist.

The good news is there are no bad choices here. At worst, you start on one direction and go to another when either your first choice is not right, or a better opportunity presents itself.

Priceless advice.

Immodestly, I will tell you my ideas are worth following. Here is my best advice in a nutshell. You want to choose your goals wisely, evaluate your resources fairly, execute your plan daily, measure your progress regularly, and never be afraid to regroup and move to a higher calling when the spirit moves you, or the situation forces you.

Gratitude and respect are their own rewards.

Be grateful for the plethora of opportunities before you. Never take a measure of your success against that of someone else. Your path is your own. When you understand and acknowledge the fact it is you and you only who gets to define your success, your life becomes simplified in a good way. Moreover, you become oblivious to negative opinions of those who ultimately do not matter to your art career, or art-related career.

how to sell art to the affluent market

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Reputation and Relevancy Are Not Just SEO Hacks

Reputation and Relevancy Impact Your Art Career.

Reputation and relevancyMajor search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo use reputation and relevancy to match web pages to search queries. Google is known to have 200+ algorithms it uses to rank web pages, but the most important are reputation and relevancy.

What Do These Terms Mean?

Before we get into definitions, let’s start with what Google wants from webmasters. The answer is simple. It wants pages designed for users and not for search engines. In the last year or so, Google has instituted one change after another with the intention of punishing those sites that used link building tactics, low quality guest blogging and other spammy content techniques that contained keywords, but offered little value to the web searcher.


Relevancy is the most valuable search component. It matters to Google for two main reasons:

  1. Google won the battle of search engines and gained a dominant market share by being consistently most relevant. The reason most people use Google is they are confident they will get relevant results to their search queries. Whether I am looking for a bicycle shop, a restaurant, or the latest information on a medical condition, I want my search results to match what I need to know. Google is constantly working to improve its algorithms and to learn to predict what we are seeking. The engineers at Google work extremely hard to perfect its search tools so you will not consider its competitors.
  2. Relevancy is how Google makes money. As an advertising revenue-based operation, it uses its best of breed search tool as the way to introduce you to advertising that is relevant to your queries. Because you have become comfortable using its search tool, it makes you more open to clicking on relevant ads displayed on the same page as the search tool.

When a search engine crawls your website, it is indexes the content on each page. It then archives your content in databases for inclusions in what it deems are relevant search terms. What this means to you is you should strive to include not just keywords, but high quality, useful content that includes keywords that will help a web searcher get the information they need.

Instead of stuffing the same phrases repeatedly, which creates unnatural, keyword goofy content, your content should include keywords in natural language. Google looks for variations of keywords to describe the same thing because that is how we communicate. By using variants, you get listed on potential search results for those alternative keywords. Google’s algorithms have enough artificial intelligence to know when copy is created just for a search engine. It will know  “oil painting” and “artwork” mean the same thing. It is a terrific idea to use a keyword search tool to learn what other ways your keywords are searched. It can be eye opening to realize there are different ways to get the same information.

Relevancy in Your Art

As a businessperson, you try to find buyers for your work. You explore and pursue different channels of distribution. You may sell direct, through galleries, online or through social media. To be proficient at marketing your work, it is imperative that it relevant to the audience you have targeted. It is too expensive and overly ineffective to launch advertising and marketing campaigns without narrowing your focus. It is a well-known fact that working in a niche arguably is the best way to maximize your marketing efforts. If your work is not relevant to your target audience, you will fail.


Search engines use reputation to help rank pages. Despite incredible advances in how search engines work, they are not sophisticated enough on their own to rank relevant web pages properly. This is where reputation comes to bear on page rankings. If two sites have equivalent relevant content, Google uses reputation to help determine which is more important, and therefore will rank higher.

If a page on one of the websites has ten links on it, but most are from other sites with higher page rankings, then it will be treated as more important to the search engine and earn higher page rankings as a result. If the other site has 20 links from family members, non-related businesses and low ranking sites, it will find itself ranked far below a competitive site that has superb content and quality links.

Your Professional Reputation

The most successful artists tremendously boost their sales because of who they are. In my post on selling art, last week, I talked about branding. In that post, I gave examples of how certain songs would not become massive hits were they recorded by less highly regarded acts. Your reputation helps galleries sell your work. It helps online buyers feel comfortable making an electronic purchase from thousands of miles away.

As you carefully cultivate your reputation, you will find it helps you attract buyers. It will help you receive unsolicited referrals. Links to your website will be part of what happens as your reputation increases and improves. Just as relevancy is a byproduct of creating outstanding content, reputation is a byproduct of how you manage your business and your life.

There are no shortcut hacks to building reputation and relevancy in your online or in your offline life. Certainly, there is much more to do to enjoy success with all aspects of your art career and your art marketing efforts, including SEO.

Seek to make the best art you can make, to do the best marketing you can, and to be as impeccable as possible in all that you do, and positive profitable results will happen naturally for you.

selling art through online galleries

As with art, itself, online galleries come in many different varieties. Some serve the originals market, some serve as an adjunct to physical galleries, others offer complete print-on-demand services, including framing and shipping fulfillment. Running the gamut from to, with Amazon, eBay and now, Google, jumping in the mix, there is much to think about for artists seeking to sell art online.

On Tuesday, March 11, art marketing experts and co-presenters, Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery and publisher of and Barney Davey, author of numerous art marketing books, and publisher of will jump into the topic of online galleries. Their goal is to help visual artists learn more about how to use online galleries successfully, explain their up and downsides, and much more.

Join us for this free broadcast

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Benefits of Slight Celebrity

Succeed with a Small, Loyal Tribe.

(Editors’ note: This is a repeat of a very popular post from the Successful Art Careers series. Look for new original content next week.)

The art of slight celebrityStudy the lives and work of most visual artists and you will find they on average create 1,000 originals in their lifetime.

While the math of 33 pieces per year for 30 years determines the estimate, your mileage may vary. For the sake of argument, let us use 1,000 pieces. What that means is an artist only needs a small tribe of loyal collectors to purchase one-third or more of their work.

Some Collectors Influence As Well As Buy

Within your tribe, you can realistically expect some will be benefactors as well as patrons where they will pass along their influence to enhance your career in ways you could not have imagined. For example, imagine being introduced to important journalists, gallerists, curators, and other buyers who show immediate interest in your work. This kind of power comes from developing direct buying collectors.

Being slightly famous can only help your cause with sales and introductions and more. Celebrity is more than those whose lives are the source of gossip journalism. It encompasses having well known status in certain circles, even small ones.

The Value of Celebrity

Becoming just slightly well known is a fabulous and fun way to promote your art career. It can bring you benefits that extend well beyond selling art. It can lead to books, teaching, touring and much more. Couple becoming slightly famous with smart marketing and you are on your way to developing your career to the fullest extent.

Small But Mighty Wins the Day!

The luck of visual artists is they need only a small tribe of followers to create career success. While they may target smaller numbers, they still get to use the same powerful marketing tools to develop their following as those whose careers require much larger tribes to achieve success. This means you can get much greater leverage from tools such as email marketing, blogging and social media to accomplish your art career goals.

It is true that getting one’s work to market is different today from even the recent past. Just a few years back  it was career suicide (at least with galleries) for artists who established a direct buying collector base. Today, it is encouraged by enlightened gallery owners. They realize artists need to make a living and getting that done means having their own following is necessary. They also recognize artists who have a loyal following make for potentially powerful marketing partners.

Slight Celebrity Offers Art Career Changing Benefits

The idea of being a slight celebrity simply means the artist has found effective ways to raise awareness for themselves amongst their tribe. I believe this is most easily done on a regional basis. Artists, by the creativity involved in their work, have an advantage over most other small businesses in their area. That is, art is much sexier than plumbing or dentistry, for example.

Turn Public Speaking Into a Publicity Machine

One of the most valuable things you can do is create a flexible 30-minute to one-hour presentation on a subject about which you are passionate. Here are some topics I think would be both easy to research and irresistible to many as a lecture from you:

  • Detail how your area rich in art history.
  • Talk about any famous artists who have connections to where you live.
  • Explain how the arts are a driving economic factor in your region.
  • Provide insights on the benefits of how having a vibrant arts community, and providing arts education in your schools, enriches your whole community.

Learning to present on these or other fascinating topics is sure to open doors to publicity for you. It just begins with publicity. As you pursue your speaking, you can become the authoritative go-to contact when the media in your area when needs a source for a story. The more often you are quoted, the more likely you will be tapped again and again for invaluable slight celebrity in your community. Essentially, you benefit from the halo effect of your raised prominence as you passively gain more recognition.

There Are Many Ways to Become a Slight Celebrity

Public speaking is powerful, but not the only way to become well known. I have written in both my books and on this blog about how to use publicity to get exposure in other ways. These include becoming the founder and driving force behind an art happening, writing books, or do something noteworthy, outrageous and effective for a charity you love.

The aim of becoming a minor celebrity is to build awareness for you and your art. People like to buy from people they like. Doing any of the above things gets you in front of new people, many of whom are bound to love and respect you on many levels. A certain percentage are sure to love your art and want to own multiple levels. As previously mentioned, some can become benefactors by way of powerful introductions.

It Is All About Your Art Career

Be proactive and do these things often and you will quicken the rate at which you build your tribe of loyal fans, friends and collectors. This is how you can bulletproof your career so when galleries close or Facebook fails or other distribution channels fail that your core collectors will stay connected to you by you.

Share Your Thoughts

If you have some ideas on effective, intriguing ways for artists to develop their celebrity, please share them in the comments.

Previous Successful Art Careers Posts

  1. Making Successful Art Careers Happen | Part One
  2. Successful Art Careers | How to Make Yours Happen | Part Two
  3. Successful Art Careers | Marketing Art Effectively | Part Three
  4. Successful Art Careers | Grow Where You Are Planted | Part Four
  5. Successful Art Careers | The Curse of Thinking Small | Part Five
  6. Successful Art Careers | Using the Rule of Three | Part Six
  7. Successful Art Careers | Artistic Courage | Part Seven
  8. Successful Art Careers | Warm Art Marketing | Part Eight
  9. Successful Art Careers | Perspective | Part Nine
  10. Successful Art Careers | Networking | Part Ten

Learn New Ways to Bulletproof Your Career in Guerrilla Marketing for Artists

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Myth of The Muse

Waiting for Your Muse Can Kill Your Career.

The myth of the museSuccessful  art careers are not built on an externally-driven process (muse) beyond the artist’s control.

Muse: a source of inspiration; especially; a guiding genius.

Artists of all sorts sometimes refer to a person, incident or event as a muse that inspires their work. Andrew Wyeth’s Helga Pictures and Eric Clapton’s Layla come to mind. Perhaps it is fitting on this Valentine’s Day weekend to consider that a muse is quite the romantic notion. Romance aside, the career’s of these above mentioned stellar artists are not wholly formed on the famous work inspired by their muses.

Everyone Has a Muse.

It is undeniable that a muse is the source of inspiration for some artists who attributed their creativity to it. I believe all people have creativity residing in them. As such, that means we all have muses to inspire us.

Muses are not the difference between the average person and successful artists. If we are aware, we all have momentary flashes of brilliance. They often occur when the mind is relaxed, such as in the shower, where the brain produces more alpha waves.

Some creative people do show greater amounts of alpha waves than the average person does. Still, greater creative career success rarely is due to extra bursts of creativity.

Success is much more than having higher alpha waves or creative thoughts. Talent, execution and ambition are more influential in career success than merely tapping a muse for inspiration.

Inspiration Is Overrated.

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just get to work.

Every great idea I ever had grew out of work itself.~ Chuck Close

Close is a superb example, even a muse of sorts for other creatives, that is a muse who gets things done by doing, by taking action. He believes as the quote above attests, that work, the doing is the point. So do I.

Check out this video on Chuck Close from the CBS Morning show, “Notes to Younger Self” series.

If you want more from Chuck Close, read this post: Chuck Close on Creativity, Work Ethic, and Problem-Solving vs. Problem-Creating by Maria Popova

The Best Time to Start Is Now!

In my most recent broadcast on email marketing for artists with my co-presenter, Jason Horejs, I mentioned the importance of just starting. There is never the best time to start. If you wait for the perfect situation, your competitors will eat your lunch as you languish in the starting gate.

It Is Not the Idea; It Is the Action.

How often has a friend told you they had the same idea as some successful inventor? I never doubt them. That was their muse, their shower-induced alpha waves feeding them creative ideas. But, since they didn’t act on it, the opportunity toj capitalize on their idea was squandered. Most likely, they lacked the skills to make a bright idea into a reality.

It is equally likely that they lacked the entrepreneurial spirit to jump in and start swimming. There is no shame if this describes you. That just puts you in the masses who also pass when opportunity knocks. Whatever the case, you never have to accept things as they are. Neither do you have to let difficulties set you back. Chuck Close is again here proof positive you can overcome major obstacles and achieve things beyond your imagination.

You Have the Talent to Make Your Art Career Happen.

I am assuming you are likely reading this blog because you believe you have the talent to create art that others will want to buy and collect. I salute you for that vision. I implore you to combine your imagination and your talent to an ambitious work ethic.

The great thing about entrepreneurial endeavors is you can choose to launch when your muse strikes. Or, you can choose to emulate Chuck Close. He gets his inspiration from showing up and putting time in at the easel.

Go Where Your Art Business Muse Leads You.

Just start doing. Do not be afraid to try new things, to adjust your plan. Your first ideas might not work. If you are making art now and it is getting eyeballs and exposure to the right buyers, but you are not getting sales, it may be time to change what you are doing.

There is a Chinese proverb, “When business is bad paint the counter.”

Go ahead and mix it up. Conversely, when you find something that is working, then mine that vein for all it worth. Learn to use your muse to continue mining that vein, but you unique evolving creative flair. If you try, you will find countless ways to make a signature style that is ever changing, but still recognizable as from your hand.

Discover New Ways to Find and Develop Direct Buying Collectors

  • Set and meet art career goals based on your needs, desires and capabilities.
  • Target the best prospects most likely to buy your work directly from you with effective art marketing.
  • Build a network of loyal patrons who want to own your work and support your career.
  • Determine which traditional and digital art marketing tools are best for your unique situation.
  • Focus your marketing on selective projects to get most fire power and return from your efforts

Learn How 100 Collectors Can Change Your Career

Guerrilla Marketing for Artists: Learn How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Art Career shows artists how they can get control of their careers. By using simple and effective networking and art marketing techniques, they can systematically build a solid base of collectors who buy directly from them.

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Five Ways to Boost Your Art Career

How to strengthen your art career.

Boost Your Art CareerFive ways to help your art career.

  1. Sell direct to collectors.
  2. Build a network of fans, friends and followers.
  3. Become slightly famous.
  4. Be known for your work.
  5. Maximize your marketing.

Let’s break them down and discover why and how these things are essential to promote your art career.

Sell Direct to Collectors.

Selling direct and building a collector base is a good thing today. In the past, artists were discouraged from selling direct if they hoped to have success working with galleries. Back then, it just was bad form and bad karma to compete with galleries. They had the marketing; they had the collector base and the power. Galleries did not want artists competing with them.

Most artists who chose to buck the gallery system were Sunshine Artists working the show and fair circuits. They didn’t have the resources and tools to build a clientele the way galleries could do. Traditional marketing resources such as advertising and direct mail were too expensive and difficult to get reasonable returns.

In 2014, things have changed. Galleries and virtually all other small businesses have had to deal with a myriad of disruptive forces. These include the ubiquity of the Internet, the rise of e-commerce, the growing influence of social media and noticeable changes in consumer buying habits.

These days, enlightened, and compassionate gallerists not only see it is not a smart thing to stand in the way of artists selling direct. They realize it is necessary for artists to earn a decent living. Moreover, they know artists now have the tools to build their own loyal following, which makes them stronger marketing partners. An artist with faithful fans and a responsive email list can help stimulate gallery sales.

Build a Network Of Fans, Friends and Followers.

Equally important to the success of your art career are the relatively inexpensive and easy to use digital marketing tools available to artists. With them, artists can make an affordable e-commerce enabled website, a blog, an email marketing system, and use effective social media platforms to help drive traffic, grow email lists and appreciation for the artist’s work.

Artists can use these tools to help them find new direct buying prospects and convert them to buyers and collectors. Artists can use online print-on-demand art sales sites such as to be able to expand their product line. Having a place to drive traffic to a one-stop site for selling canvas and paper prints and postcards is a fantastic way to get work in the hands of those fans who love an artist’s work, but do not have the budget for original works. This seems particularly beneficial for converting social media friends and followers into buyers. Another goal for building a network is to foster a residual strong word of mouth effect. Referrals are your best opportunities for making new sales.

Become Slightly Famous.

I have blogged about the many ways there are to become a minor celebrity. Although I appreciate public speaking is not for every artist, it is arguably the quickest way to gain slight celebrity.

While public speaking is powerful, it is not the only way to become well known. In my books and on this blog, I have encouraged artists to use publicity to gain exposure in other ways.

Some suggestions to create slight celebrity are:

  • Becoming the founder and driving force behind an art happening.
  • Writing books.
  • Do something noteworthy, outrageous and effective for a charity you love.
  • Become an expert on your local/regional/state art history.
  • Become an authority on the life of famous artists.

Be Known for Your Work in Your Art Career.

Telling artists they need to stick to a single genre or style sounds understandably confining. It is after all your art career. As such, you are accountable first to yourself. I have been as guilty of offering this advice as have a myriad of other art career advisers.

There is a rationale behind the advice. That is because collectors and galleries have expectations. They need to know if they like your work that they will find more like it as you continue your art career. This situation is never going to go away. For some artists, it is not a problem. They love painting wildlife, for instance, and have no plans to do other genres that would be foreign to their established buyers.

For those of you who chafe at the suggestion of continuing to paint in the same vein, there is hope. You can ditch the genre or style tips and just work on making sure you are known for your work in your art career.

What does that mean? Simply, if you are going to put energy into working your art in new ways that you pay equal energy into being known for making it. The other way to approach making work not recognizable to your collectors and galleries is to think of it as your personal stash. You are making it for your own pleasure. If you are doing well enough with your other work, then there is no pressure to turn other creative forays into commercial success.

Maximize Your Marketing

You only have 168 hours each week to eat, sleep, work, and enjoy your life. In the work component, your time for marketing is both crucial and limited. The only way to make your marketing payoff is to focus it on what is essential and what is effective.

In my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book, I suggest an artist focus on two or three significant events a year, (More only if you have staff to help.) Then arrange all your marketing around those events. It takes multiple touches to get buyer motivation, even from existing buyers. Coordinated marketing is how you achieve those touches and drive sales.

If you start far enough in advance, you can create an avalanche of marketing messages, all pointed toward one event. Imagine having press releases, publicity, advertising, direct mail, blog posts, guest blog posts, social media and more pouring in the weeks up to an event.

This sounds like a lot of work, and it is. The way to master making this overwhelming is through planning and scheduling. Break your tasks down to the smallest component. Schedule just enough every day to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Working this way, you can do as much as if you had a large marketing staff.

There Is Always More to Make Your Art Career Successful.

Sure, you can do much more than suggested here to promote your art career. That said, I encourage to focus on turning these ideas into actions. When you do, I know you will see improved results in recognition and sales of your work. Unless you are volunteering your art career, those kinds of results are both necessary and rewarding.

Guerrilla Marketing for Artists

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8 Ideal Artist Traits Art Print Publishers Seek

Are You An Ideal Artist for Print Publishers?

Ideal artist wish listOne of an art print publishers most crucial tasks is to find new artists and fresh looks. Discovering new artists as possible additions to their print catalogs is a constant, critical need. Publishers never know, but always hope, that the next artist they meet will become a superstar.

Realizing just how much weight publishers put on finding artists should encourage your desire to land a deal with one. Understanding what their needs are and how closely you match the ideal artist traits they seek will boost your confidence in your ability to work with them.

Art print publishers have specific measures for what they consider ideal artist traits. Here  are composite criteria qualities they seek in an ideal artist. I compiled this list based on years of working with art print publishers.

Art Print Publisher’s Ideal Artist Wish List.

Publishers want to work with an artist who:

  1. Work has substantial commercial appeal.
  2. Work is consistent.
  3. Artist is easy to work with.
  4. Works on deadlines.
  5. Artist is coachable on specific design requests.
  6. Artist is trustworthy and reliable.
  7. Is available and easy to contact.
  8. Is flexible and versatile.

Do those qualities accurately describe you? If can answer yes to all, congratulations! Your success is nearly signed, sealed and delivered. However, the truth is few artists live up to every item on the list above for untold reasons.

Matching the Ideal Artist List 100% Not Necessary

Publishers are aware their wish list and realities rarely coincide perfectly. As such, they remain flexible with what they find in the best and worst qualities of artists with whom they work. The lifeblood of an art publisher’s business is to sell art prints. That means adapting to market trends, wholesale buyers’ needs and artists’ capabilities and personalities.

Benefit from Using this List for Self-Assessment.

Whether you work with an art print publisher, or self-publish, having ideal artist qualities benefits you. I suggest you use the items on the list to take a self-assessment. Be brutally honest with yourself since it you will never share the information.

When you have your answers, you will know your weak spots. They will be the ones hurting your ability to achieve the success you desire. Armed with this knowledge and understanding, you can make plans to shore up those things that are holding your career back.

You do not require interest in the print market to make this assessment work for you. It works for any creative person. The items on the art print publisher’s ideal artist traits are common sense. Sometimes we just need another source or individual to point out the obvious.

The Art Print Publishers Ideal Artist Traits Are Not Equal.

The first trait, “Work has substantial commercial appeal” is on the top for a reason. That is, the other traits do not count unless your work sells well. You could be aces on all the other items mentioned, but if art buyers lack interest in your work, it will not matter.

Compelling Work Is the Secret to Success.

This is not unique to visual arts. It holds true for all creative endeavors where the artist seeks to earn a living from their work. It is not completely necessary for an artist to possess all the traits on the list to succeed. If that were the case, you would have never heard the term, “Temperamental Artist.”

Art print publishers and the public will tolerate a lot of angst and antics from artists whose work is compelling. Whether it is Picasso or Axl Rose, we tend to compartmentalize their work from their behavior. But, if either had failed to produce enduring works of art that touch us in the way that only art can, they would be toast.

Put your greatest effort into making it compelling art, and then you never need worry whether it has substantial commercial appeal. It will happen as a natural byproduct of your work’s captivating style.




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21 Resources to Boost Your Art Career

Art Marketing Gifts for Visual Artists

art marketing ideas
Giving gifts is a big part of the Holiday Season.  In a sense, I think of the art marketing ideas, information and inspiration I produce in my blog posts, podcasts and webinars throughout the year as gifts for artists.

This Post Is My Holiday Gift to You.

Below is a selection of the best and most popular art marketing post published on Art Print Issues posts this year. Additionally, you will find links to every art marketing podcast produced by my good friend, art marketing extraordinaire and broadcast partner, Jason Horejs and me in 2013.

Making 2014 Your Best Year Ever.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about how good was the new great. It described a feeling many of us have developed since the 2008 financial meltdown. Prosperity ebbed for many of us afterwards. Certainly, selling artwork was more difficult then than now.

All said; recently things have improved. The stock market has rallied, property prices have begun moving upward, and new jobs are growing. Do these trends translate to more art sales? The situation is better than before, but there is still work to do. The good news is you now have situations favorable for your art career success. This includes the huge factor that art buyers now are more inclined to buy directly from artists.

Your Destiny Is in Your Power.

You have the best tools ever for any artist in any age to promote your work. You have the resources to build personal relationships with collectors and patrons. You have the opportunity to control your destiny. It is in your power. The information in blog posts included here and in the podcasts with Jason and me are linchpins and levers. Commit to finding ways to use them to enhance your fine art career.

Give Yourself a Gift – Start Finding Your 100 Collectors Now.

I will tell you unashamedly and unabashedly that one of the best things you can do for your career is to prioritize developing long-term relationships with your buyers. Further, I believe the information, systems and suggestions in my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists: How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Career will help you create a credible roadmap for securing your career and making more money while you do it. Guerrilla Art Marketing for Artists Order your copy today. It is a small investment in your art career that will pay dividends for years to come.

Top Ten Art Marketing Posts 2013

  1. How to Sell Art To Interior Designers
  2. The Psychology of Pricing Art
  3. Seven Sins of Art Marketing
  4. 15 Ways to Make Your Art Career More Successful
  5. Successful Art Careers | The Art of Slight Celebrity
  6. How to Sell Art with No Fear Reprised
  7. Email Marketing for Artists | 10 Ways to Create Content 
  8. Selling Art | Take the Lead | Close the Deal
  9. Hate Art Marketing? You Are Not Alone!
  10. Do-It-Yourself Email Marketing For Artists Does Not Pay

Art Marketing Podcast

2013 Art Marketing Podcast Roundup

All the best, Barney

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Art Career Success Killers | Self-limiting Beliefs

Ambition Will Succeed Where Talent Alone Will Not.

art career success frustrationsThe above is a phrase I coined a few years ago. We all know there are plenty of talented artists, musicians, writers and other creative types who never seem to get their due. Lack of ambition is one problem. Self-limiting beliefs are another.

Art Career Success Frustrations Are Common

While I have often noted that ambition is an enormous element in art career success, I realize that there are many ambitious artists who struggle. They are putting in the time. They are talented. They have a distinct body of work. Unfortunately, despite these positive attributes they remain behind in career achievements in comparison to artists similar to them.

How Does This Happen?

There are many reasons why some otherwise talented artists do not get their due.

  • Their geographical location is a potential problem.
  • They or some family member may have physical or psychological issues.
  • They may be impoverished.
  • They are thinking small and running bad scripts that empower self-limiting beliefs and crush art career success.

Although I have great sympathy for artists dealing with the first three conditions listed above, fixing them is not the focus of this post. I also will say I am neither a self-help expert nor do I have any special training or education that qualifies me to help with running bad scripts and removing self-limiting beliefs. What I do have is the power of observation, years of art marketing experience, and a shareable abundance attitude.

What Makes Big Hitters Different?

When you look at the career paths of top artists who have made it in terms of income, for example, they make $100,000 or more annually, you will find they have had quantum leaps in their income along the way. There is no escaping making quantum leaps if you want high achieving art career success – steady small incremental increases in sales and prices will fail you.

For instance, let’s say your current annual income is $25,000. In order to get to a $100,000 annual income, you have to compound a 10% growth for around 15 years. That’s a long, long time. And, in 15 years, $100k will not be what it is today.

If incremental growth is acceptable to you, then you have painted yourself into a picture of self-limiting beliefs.

If you think raising prices 10% a year is too much, you are running a bad art career success script. Sure, even big hitters have years when their progress may not be quantum and a 10% pop is okay. However, without quantum leaps along the way, they would be stuck in an income range that is an art career success killer.

Stick Your Courage & Grow.

It takes brains and courage to get higher prices. If your highest price for your work is $2,000, ask why. Can you make an artwork twice as large and twice the masterpiece of any previous work? I think most of you can, but if you don’t, it’s probably due to a self-limiting belief script running full-time in your head. Realizing the only price police are the ones in your head is a fantastic way to let go of a bad script.

How to Increase Your Price Ranges.

Granted, you cannot just markup your work 50% overnight and hope that it will sell. You have to put some substance on your pricing and add plausible rationale, too.

Heres is an example of a self-imposed, self-limiting pricing strategy. If you tell your buyers or potential galleries that your work sells in a range of $200 – $2,000, you are letting them know your maximum price. Most are likely to look for your medium priced work, or dicker with you to lower your top price.

What is stopping you from making a piece for your portfolio that priced at $4,000, $5,000, or double or triple your current top price? You, and only you. That is all. Start planning now to plan and execute a masterpiece that is worthy of double or more your previous highest price. It make take a while to sell it, but it does wonders for your pricing range, your buyer psychology and for lifting your self-limiting beliefs.

Learn from the Smartest Retailers.

Now you can display or show pictures of an actual piece that you can recommend with confidence and pride that gives you a 100% or greater range than you had previously. It makes your higher priced work you typically sell look like the safer middle ground purchase that is a bargain by comparison. You have now stepped out of your self-limiting belief and stopped mentally capping your work for your buyers and yourself.

Smart retailers will always show you the best, most high priced work to start. They know it drives their average selling price higher, which makes their staple items easier to sell. Moreover, I promise this will happen to you, too: By offering the high-priced versions of their goods, those retailers know they will find some buyers who are willing to purchase them without blinking. You have out there buyers for your newly minted higher priced work, but you will never find them until you put it up for sale.

Leverage Is a Key.

Finding leverage points to help you take quantum leaps will make for enormous differences in your art career success. The pricing strategy I have given you here is just one scenario. There are many other ways to leverage your art career. Just as you choose what to create by using your imagination, you can choose what to do with your career and how to leverage it also by using your creativity and imagination.

The power of self-belief is one of the greatest driving factors behind tremendous success. So is creatively thinking and acting on ways to leverage your career and recognition for it. An outsized example is Wyland’s 100 Whaling Walls. He estimates a billion people have seen them.

I believe finding new, plausible ways to increase your price range is a key leverage point. Used properly, it is a way to increase the price of your work, dramatically. Leverage points are all around you. They can be in your work, in your materials, in your marketing, in your publicity, in your promotion, in your branding, in your networking.

You Can Learn to Believe in Yourself, You Can Do It!

The thing holding most artists back are bad scripts and limiting self-beliefs. Those scripts bind them tighter than any ropes ever could.

The first step is recognizing and accepting your self-limiting beliefs. The second is committing to work on ridding yourself of them. You can blame nature, nurture, or anything you want. You may be right. You may have had a raw deal. Life can be hard and unfair.

Nevertheless, it does not matter because you ultimately have the power of free will to lift yourself above your circumstances. People do it every day, so can you. I know you can do it. Now, you have to start to believe in you as I do.

Next Steps

Learn to observe your behavior. Figure out where your career is hitting the wall. It’s not all bad scripts holding you back, but often they are intertwined with other factors. Gaining self-awareness is a key to understanding where the bottlenecks are in your art career success. Those pain points, bottlenecks, or whatever you call them also are leverage points when you fix them.

Don’t try to work on too many things at once. Tackle the most obvious, the most important, or the easiest, depending on what else is going on in your career and your life. Never underestimate the power of believing in yourself. It has performed miracles on art careers and can for yours as well.

Want More Help from Me?

The quickest and least expensive way to get more help from me is to order my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book and webinar bundle.  If you just want the book, check out my art marketing e-store.

Guerrilla Marketing for Artists - Order Your Copy Today!

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Selling Art to Interior Designers with JND

Use JND to Sell Art to Interior Designers

The Just Noticeable Difference (JND) Scale for Artists

This a guest post by Dick Harrison, the author of Sales Tips For Artists. His previous guest post, How to Sell Art To Interior Designers, remains one of the most popular posts among the 500+ published on this blog.

What Is the JND Scale?

The  JND Scale is a psychophysics term. It is used for a variety of purposes, including marketing, to measure small differences people notice.

According to Wikipedia, “Manufacturers and marketers endeavor to determine the relevant JND for their products for two distinctly different reasons:

  1. So that negative changes such as reductions in product size or quality, or increase in the product price are not discernible to the public. That is, they remain below the JND.
  2. So that product improvements, for example, improved or updated packaging, larger size or lower prices, are obviously apparent to consumers without being wastefully extravagant. That is, they are at or just above the JND.

Presentation Drives Perceptions – Seeing Is Believing

When it comes to product improvements, marketers very much want to meet or exceed their buyer’s differential threshold. Simply, they want to make it easy for consumers to appreciate any improvements made in the original products and not observe negative aspects. If they increase the size of the product, they make the packaging larger. If they reduce the size of the product, they keep the packaging size the same.

It is admittedly a bit of a stretch, but I think the concept of the JND Scale helps to explain why equally well-done work by some artists sells steadily when work by others does not. Often, the JND in what or how artists create is subtle, but perceptible, in ways that makes selling art by them easier and faster.

Selling Art to Interior Designers

Interior designers’ work is all about visual interpretation and perception. The best are JND masters.

For more than 20 years, I was an independent, full-time art rep selling to leading interior designers and art galleries in Florida. During that time, I came to know some artists had a JND to their work while others did not. This was despite equal technical skills, materials used and similar subject matter. The JND Scale explained the difference.

Invariably, when I placed comparable pieces of art, suitable in color and theme to a client’s project, I nearly always knew which would be chosen. Although both were exceptional works of art that I was pleased to offer, those that sold quickly and easily had the JND. Often, the buyer could not elaborate their buying decision, but my experience let me know the JND drove the sale.

My staples were landscapes, florals, birds, animals, and beach and water scenes. Many talented artists create art that match that general description. Most of these subjects and scenes were of places the customer already knew, or would like to see. My top selling pieces were those that evoked a desire in buyers to want hang the work in their home or office so they could enjoy looking at it every day. In my experience, it was in the way an artist approached his or her creation that affected the JND Scale.

In His Time, Interior Designers Loved Ken Hawk — He Personified JND

Interior designers loved Ken Hawk

Ken Hawk was one of my bestselling artists. His flair for color and brilliant palette, used on whatever he painted, was what set him on the JND Scale. My Florida based buyers could not resist the unique way he used color.

Interior Designers Love Colors that Complement

Interior designers loved to mix it into their commercial and residential designs. Collectors wanted to own it. Certainly having a remarkable colorful palette like Ken’s, which was so crucial to the many interior designers with whom I worked, is one way artists can bring the JND Scale into their work.

Other ways I see the JND Scale fitting into an artist’s work are when it has a rather unexpected viewpoint of a subject. Sometimes, it was because the subject that although it might have fit into one of the broad categories mentioned above, was presented in a way the buyer had never or rarely seen.

Christina Wyatt’s Work Is an Example of the Unexpected Viewpoint

Christina Wyatt

Christina Wyatt – The Mermaid’s Sanctuary

Christina Wyatt’s work is a perfect example of the unexpected viewpoint of a subject. I met her through Barney Davey, publisher of this Art Print Issues blog.

She tells me a number of other Florida artists are now painting mermaid subjects, which is an unfortunate byproduct of being successful and unique. Without question, at the time I was actively selling art in my Florida territory that is fascinated and surrounded by things aquatic, I would have sold lots of her gorgeous underwater creatures – real and imagined as hers are – with great success.

While her original work and her fine art prints are something my buyers might not have at first expected to hang on their walls, they would have eventually succumbed finding it too exotic and wondrous to resist. That is the power of the JND Scale at work. 

Nike Parton's work delighted interior designers and collectors

Nike Parton – The Caretaker’s House

Nike Parton was a Florida artist, who probably had the most “free” watercolor style I’ve run across. She built a loyal following of devoted collectors and interior designers through her long life. They loved her unique style. It was the ability to create what at first glance seemed a “careless” brush stroke, but was work that spoke volumes. It was realism so “loose” in technique that it caught the subject in a way a detailed “like it is” could not. You can see more of her work, and spontaneous style, on

JND and Pricing Art

If you are at that hoped for the point when you are selling so much art, or where you think the current price point for your images needs upward adjustment, the JND Scale can come into play just as it does for the “manufacturers” mentioned in the definition at the start of this article. If your JND is in place, your new pricing will not be so obvious to induce a buyer to hesitate to purchase it. Or, perhaps your smaller pieces are now selling at prices similar to what your larger pieces sold for before you applied the JND Scale to your work.

I suggest you critically look at your own work. You may find it has the JND that sets it apart. Knowledgeable designers, art buyers, and collectors can look at a piece of art and say, “That has to be done by so and so.” Compared to other artists you are selling against does your art exhibit that distinction?

Always think of your work with a capital “A” to set it apart in your mind. This is how you want it perceived in the minds of your collectors. They need help to decide they want your unique creations enough to pay new higher prices for your worthy talent, hard work and creativity.

Many artists understandably shudder at being lumped in with the manufactures of everyday products with discussion of such things as the JND Scale, but the truth is you do manufacture a product. Your art is both a creation of your skill and innovation and a production. There is no shame in that. Likewise, there is no shame is working at putting the JND Scale to use in your art career.

It is not about calculating how to create work made to sell. It is about making work that makes you happy. Art you are proud to have made and proud to know it is easily finds a place to be loved and appreciated. When your work comes from the heart of your creativity, excels in its presentation, and touches buyers and motivates sales, the JND Scale is nothing more than a way to think about why you are successful from a business perspective. When you are selling art regularly, the result of fattening up your bank account cannot hurt either.

There is another JUST NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE (JND) I’ll write about in another article or blog that every artist can use to increase sales. The working title is: I’M NOT A SALESMAN! – REALLY?

This Guest Post is by Dick Harrison. He is an inspiration to me and others in so many ways. If you want an example of how to live a long, fruitful life as a productive, creative, kind hearted and decent person, you will have to look far to do better than Dick. I only hope when I am in my 80s to have half the energy, curiosity, and willingness to learn all manner of new things as him. Check out his Sales Tips for Artists blog to get more great information from him.


Order Your Signed Copy from the Author

Buy it on Amazon
Thoughts on Goal Setting and the Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book from Bob Killen

This is not a fragmentary presentation of how to sell art, but an organized approach filled with workable steps to achieving art sales success. What I find compelling is Barney’s real life approach to the arts. He makes it clear in the early chapters that Success, like creativity in art, is unique to the artist.

His real world direction for goals and self-evaluation anchors the artist to a starting point and then moves with career choices that will help the artist achieve his/her goals. Some readers may initially find a personal identity crisis as they examine their work, current goals and resources, but this is not a book of flash fiction, it is a systematic plan, one that anyone with the desire to sell their work can achieve.
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