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Selling Self-Portraits? What You Need to Know

Self-portraits can be really fun to make. I mean, your subject is always with you! That said, you may be wondering if you could ever sell them. Who would want a self-portrait aside from a loving and obsessive mother? Well, self-portraits DO sell, if you follow a few important tips.

Self-portraits can sell well if they are appealing as art pieces. In most cases, this requires adding intrigue to your self-portrait by adding a scene to your work or otherwise allowing it to tell a story. Self-portraits also sell well if they are masterfully done or depict a famous artist.

If you want to get started with selling your self-portraits, here are some tips to get you started.

If You’re Famous, Selling Self-Portraits Will Be Easier

Art isn’t for everyone, but at long last the tide is shifting in favor of the flat-out folks. That’s right, self-portraits are taking over. There are art shows and art museums devoted to them. 

This is why selling your self-portraits is a great opportunity right now!  

That said, you’ll have an easier time convincing strangers to put a picture of your face in their house if you’re well known and have a following. If you happen to be extremely famous with a huge following, please email me and say hello 😀 jk jk But, really…

Theodore Roosevelt filled his “Autobiographical Notes” with self-portraits and spoke of capturing a sense of his own personality through the deliberate work of a painter. As he put it, “Every man carries about with him a note of his own personality, and is bound to impress others by the way in which he affects them.”

But, he was Roosevelt. People were automatically interested in his work.

There are also some extremely impressive examples of self-portraits bringing in massive amounts of money. For example, Andy Warhol’s self-portrait raked in $27.5 million (source). Again, he’s Andy Warhol though, so what do you expect?

One of Vincent Van Gogh’s self-portraits sold for $71.5 million, which was the 3rd highest price for any painting in history in 1998 (source).

vincent van gogh self-portrait that sold for 71.5 million
Can you imagine paying $71.5 million for this beauty?

If you’re extremely famous, it will take less work to get your fans to buy a self-portrait of you. You’ll probably make a boat load of money from it, to boot. But, if you don’t happen to be excessively well-known or famous, selling your self-portraits is still possible. 

Here are my tips.

Create a Self-Portrait That Tells a Story

When you create a self-portrait with intentions of selling it, it’s important that you focus on the story or message you hope to convey to your audience. As with any other piece of art, it’s important that your self-portraits connect with your potential buyers in order fo them to sell.

Whenever we think about selling our art, we need to think about audience appeal. That doesn’t change just because you’re making a self-portrait.

In fact, you may need to consider audience appeal more than you would otherwise. 

If you create a beautiful drawing of a tree that you created just for your own whims and desires, it’s probable that you’ll find buyers that connect with it. Trees are universally appealing, even if you never intended to sell your drawing.

On the other hand, it’s more rare that we want to buy drawings of people we don’t know unless there’s a particular reason to do so. 

woman painting a self-portrait

If you’re creating self-portraits with the intention of selling them, make sure that they tell a story. This will make them compelling to buyers and more likely to sell.

Does the piece tell a story? Is it meaningful? Is it more than just a self-portrait?

At the end of the day, it’s not about art. (Well, it is a little bit.) It’s about authenticity. 

Every time you make a self-portrait, you are putting your truest, most honest self out there for the world to see. You have been provided with an archive of your life, and that’s powerful stuff! 

Lean into the vulnerability and use it to tell a good story to your potential buyers! Though this can be hard to do, it will benefit your abilities to sell your art, self-portraits or otherwise.

Research Self-Portrait Friendly Art Shows or Museums in Your Area

Make a list of the art shows and museums in your area and see how often they have featured self-portraits, or portraits in general. This will give you a good idea of who to reach out to within your area, and whether they will be receptive to your self-portrait art.

This is critical if you want to sell your art in an art show, museum, or gallery. Whether you sell self-portraits or not, it’s important that the vibe and theme of your art matches the place that you’re reaching out to.

You want to be able to fit in with the rest of the show, museum, or gallery on an aesthetic level. 

If you don’t keep this in mind, you’ll be setting yourself up for rejection.

So, before you reach out to any art shows, museums, or galleries in your area, make sure that your self-portraits will be aligned with their past or current collections.

Research the Self-Portraits Being Sold Online

If you plan to sell your self-portraits online, research the various platforms and study the self-portrait listings of other successful artists. This will give you a good idea of the images, SEO optimization, and overall presentation that’s successful in the self-portrait e-commerce world.

Selling your art online is a great opportunity.

It can also be intimidating, and many artists often wonder if their work will sell well enough to make it worth going through the effort. The truth is that selling art online is tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.

In order to have a chance of selling your self-portraits online, you need to study the market and figure out what works and what doesn’t work for your competition. 

If you already know that self-portraits are what you want to sell and specialize in, you’re ahead of the game. Instead of getting lost in a rabbit hole of online art stores, you can focus your attention on what other self-portrait (or general portrait) artists are doing in your space.

Here are my favorite platforms to sell art to get you started:

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  • eBay
  • Fine Art America

When you’re looking at these online options, seek out top artists who sell portraits. While looking at their profiles and listings, keep these things in mind:

  • how many portraits do they offer?
  • how many listings do they have in general and how many of these are portraits?
  • how have they set up their portrait listings?
  • what does the SEO look like for their portrait listings?
  • what photos do they use to market their portraits?
  • do they have a social media presence? How do they feature their portraits there?

Be really nosy and observant when analyzing your competition. There’s a lot that you can learn from them!

Gather as many tips and tricks as possible so that you can get a good feel for the various e-commerce platforms available to you as an artist and how you can set up your portrait listings for success.

Network with Other Artists Who Sell Self-Portraits

In general, artists like helping other artists within the community. Reach out to other self-portrait and portrait artists and see if you can learn from them. At the very least, introducing yourself so that you have other artists to connect with will be valuable for your future as an artist selling your work.

Networking is a powerful skill to have.

When it comes to networking, it’s important to keep in mind that what you present is reflective of who you are. This applies more to artists because an artist’s work and who they are as a person are often aligned. 

This means that you can often forge deep connections with other artists that you network with. Don’t take this for granted. 

Of course, networking will be important as you move forward with selling your art, but it will also be important for your social life as an artist as well. At the end of the day, it will make your life as an artist more meaningful and less lonely.

It can be scary to sell your art, especially when you’re selling self-portraits that are vulnerable and personal. 

Don’t worry; it will get better. 

The hardest part is taking that first step and getting started, which you’ve done by reading this article! Go forth and research where you’d like to start selling your self portraits and make sure to have fun with it!

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