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Maxine's Journal

Adventures of the Polka-Dotted One

Seven Things I've Learned From Selling My Artwork on Facebook.
I know, I know, it's a clickbaity headline, but it's true! I've learned such a lot from selling my work through social media, and I wanted to share some of the most important things.

Since June I have hosted two month-long art sales directly on my Facebook page (June and September), and it has been a truly humbling and transformative experience. There has been laughter and tears, tales of love and loss, real generosity and inspiration, and I've been genuinely moved by the dramas playing out on my own facebook page. I've learned some huge things about my own identity as an artist, about how I and my work relate to the world, and perhaps some little bits about human nature too.

Me presenting one of my artworks for auction.
Me presenting a piece of my artwork for sale.

First though, how did the art auctions come about?

My first art sale was born out of pure panic. After taking redundancy from my day job last year and living off savings for several months, I had been struggling to market myself and my work, and while I'd had a few bitty freelance jobs come in, I wasn't managing to generate any sort of regular income.
In June I came to a crisis point: I knew I was going to be spending the whole month of August travelling to attend various family weddings and important events, but it was going to cost me a small fortune in terms of travel and lost work opportunities. I needed either to find a way to cover the cost of my travel or find myself a day job and risk having to cancel the trip. What to do?

I was on my way home from buying groceries when it occurred to me that I had a big stack of artwork I had been saving 'for a rainy day'. 'Well', I thought to myself, 'it's raining right now!' That day was the first of June this year. I'm still not sure how or why the whim struck me, but something about it being the first day of the month put the idea in my head: 'What if I commit to selling one piece of art per day through the whole month?' ...and since I had been failing to rebuild my website, the only available place to do that was through Facebook.
I cannot put into words how genuinely terrified I was when I made that first post on my page, offering up a piece of my carefully hoarded artwork for sale and committing to do the same every day for the rest of that month.

When I made that commitment, I honestly didn't believe I would make it through the whole thirty days. I imagined that people would get fed up of my spamming them with artwork after a few days and then I would quietly pull my neck back in and go and find that day job. I was convinced that nobody would want to buy my work, and scared that folks would be annoyed with me for bothering them with advertising.

I am happy to say I was very, very wrong.

So here are the things I have learned from running two months' worth of art auctions via social media:

1. People actually love to see new artwork.
Perhaps it sounds a little silly, but it had been such a long time since I put myself out there, after almost a decade of my life being eaten by other things, that I had started to doubt that anyone would actually want my work. The amazing, overwhelmingly positive responses I've received from just putting my artwork out there, even from folks who couldn't afford to bid, have really helped to slam that imposter syndrome back in its box. I want to thank every single person who has commented, liked, shared or bid on my work so much - art is by its nature designed to be shared, so I literally could not have done that without you.

2. An artist can't always predict which work will call to people.
Over my two months worth of art auctions I have put up one or two pieces which I thought wouldn't get much interest only to see them turn into bidding wars, and pieces I thought were technically brilliant which got little interest. It turns out that, even as an artist, I can't necessarily say what will sell and what won't.

3. On the other hand, the pieces that you put actual soul into... when you let those out of the nest, they soar.
I have posted a few pieces over my two art auctions so far which I felt genuinely a little bit scared to let go of. Art that was very personal to me, that I had put a little, or even a large part of myself into. I had to push past a little bit of fear to put them out there, but those extra special pieces have been met with so much love and connection. Of course, everything I have felt was shared with others. I just had to reach out and connect. I'm not going to hide, I have been moved to tears on several occasions reading messages and comments about just how much some folks have been affected by my work, just realising others shared the same feelings sometimes, no matter what those feelings.

4. Joy, fun and silliness really aren't frivolous!

I sometimes have moments of guilt as an artist when I'm not putting out 'serious' work dealing with difficult issues, but recently I have posted some sketches that I thought were silly doodles and have been astounded and humbled to be reminded that, of course, folks find meaning even in the playful and the silly things too - and that play is important. It is so easy, sometimes, to get bogged down in all of the serious, sad and negative aspects of life and forget that it is truly important to play, to love, to enjoy.
I welled up when a close friend assigned a whole new meaning to one doodle that I couldn't have imagined before I posted it online, one of strength and determination in the face of long term illness. Another person who told me they were buying one of my abstract pieces as a reward to themselves for dealing with a difficult time, as a symbol of hope and a new day... well, that person also made me cry happy tears.

5. Playing and doodling is a good thing!
Some of my more popular works through my art auctions have turned out to be my experimental pieces, originally done more to entertain myself or try out new materials than with any intention of selling them. It's been rather a long time since I just scribbled or splashed paint for the fun of it, but watching those curious children fly off the metaphorical shelves inspires me to get back to my drawing board and *play*.

6. People are truly amazing, creative, generous and caring when given the opportunity to be.
I mean... I already knew my friends were awesome, and that their friends were probably awesome too, but I have absolutely adored the creativity happening on some of my auctions, in ways that would not have been possible on a 'proper' auction site. Where else could you see someone bid a rainbow tree, or a piece of custom chainmail, or see a whole collection of folks collaborate on a bid so that one person could take home a piece they loved? Where else could you see folks refraining from outbidding one person who so obviously loves a piece of work that it is clearly meant to be theirs? Perhaps I might have made more money from selling my work elsewhere, but seeing these things develop has filled me with so much joy. Seriously, I love you people. <3

The gorgeous rainbow tree made by a friend in exchange for one of my paintings.
The gorgeous rainbow tree made by a friend in exchange for one of my paintings.

7. Yes, creating and selling art is worthwhile.
It might not be easy. It will be a full time job, and possibly a more-than full time one (it is genuinely amazing how much admin gets generated by selling even a single piece of artwork per day!). Yes, I succeeded in my goal of paying for my US trip. I came back having used up every penny I earned before I left, but with hope for the future. It might be a little bit precarious, and there might not be many days off, but these two months worth of art auctions have proved to me that it is at least possible to keep my head above water by doing work that I actually love and care about, without compromising my principles or 'selling out', and maybe add something good to a few people's lives while doing it... and that's something that's impossible to put a price on.

I am so utterly grateful for my friends, family, and for all of the connections that have made my art sales possible and given me hope for the future.

There are five days of my September art auction left (today included). If you're not already connected to me on Facebook, you can follow my work on my page at https://www.facebook.com/emanixx

And once again, if you have liked, commented, shared or bid in my art auctions, I am so very thankful. Art exists to be shared. Without all of you, there would be no art.

Thank you. <3