Being Seen: The Social Part of the Artist’s Life

Herons in the Sea, by Anne Hempel. Acrylic on wood panel, 36" x 48". Copyright © Anne Hempel.

Meeting people and building relationships is the most important thing you can do for your art career. This means you have to get out of the studio and socialize.

You must, gasp, be social in the real world as well as online.

This goes against the natural tendency of so many artists who would prefer to be alone with their art supplies. But it’s absolutely necessary when you want to attain a high level of success.

If you desire more sales and more recognition for your art, you must make it a priority to meet more people.

You need to get out and meet more people if you find yourself …

  • Sitting behind your computer all day and researching the latest magical way to promote your art online.
  • Attending only your own openings.
  • Living in the same place for years without knowing your neighbors.

Why This Matters

Your art must be seen in person in order to be appropriately appreciated. Eventually, you’re going to have to be there next to your art – speaking on its behalf.

Contrary to popular belief, your art does not speak for itself.

Museum curators never let you get away with that excuse. They expect you to speak articulately about the work in a way that gives them reason to show and acquire your art.

They also expect you to meet their donors and collectors in the community and to represent yourself well in the process. This requires practice. Start practicing now.

You might be saying, I don’t care about museums. Fine. Substitute “gallerists” for museum curators in the scenario. They expect the same thing.

Talkin’ ‘Bout the Weather, by Lisa Gibson. Acrylic, watercolor, and ink, 11" x 14". Copyright © Lisa Gibson.
Talkin’ ‘Bout the Weather, by Lisa Gibson. Acrylic, watercolor, and ink, 11″ x 14″. Copyright © Lisa Gibson.

When galleries represent you, they expect you to show up at their shows. Not just your shows, but those of their other artists as well. You are expected to support their programming.

Also, gallerists, curators, collectors, and the nice people who hand out grants and residencies like to see that you are invested in your local community.

Part of being successful in any field is learning to navigate relationships. Meeting people is only the first step. You have to understand how people work, play, and converse together.

You have to learn to speak the language.

But I don’t want to be in galleries or to see my legacy in a museum. I want to be a self-represented artistFantastic! I love that! Working with self-represented artists is my favorite. And …

Who is going to buy your art? Who is going to show it? Who is going to attend your openings? I know you don’t expect them to appear from the ethers.

To Be Clear

I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m not talking about changing your personality or any kind of fake sucking up to people. I want you to be genuine in everything you do.

I’m talking only about getting out and meeting people. I’m talking about being seen.

You can attain a modicum of success by sitting behind your computer and trying to hack the latest sales websites, but you will never reach the highest levels of the art world doing this alone.

Here’s how you can reach out and start meeting more people:

  • Attend your friends’ art openings.
  • Introduce yourself to strangers at your opening.
  • Invite your neighbors to dinner so you can get to know one another.

Notice that being social extends beyond the art world into all corners of your life.

Three’s Company, Four’s A Crowd, by Gloria Clifford. Watercolor, 30" x 22". Copyright © Gloria Clifford.
Three’s Company, Four’s A Crowd, by Gloria Clifford. Watercolor, 30″ x 22″. Copyright © Gloria Clifford.

You never know where a relationship might lead, especially given the fact that everyone knows about 150 people.

Maintaining friendships with the 150 people you know and frequently adding to that list can exponentially increase your sales prospects. You will be surprised at the support you receive and the opportunities you create just by being more social.

I know it won’t be easy for you, but you can do it. You can learn to be more social because it contributes to your long-term goals. And because nothing worth doing is ever easy.

Your Turn

How do you socialize? How are you invested in your art community? What’s difficult about it for you?






Alyson Stanfield is an artist advocate and business mentor at This article was originally published in her Art Biz Insider, which is sent weekly to thousands of artists who are elevating their businesses. Start your subscription now and get Alyson’s six free art-marketing video lessons at