How I sold my first print

And how I sold my last print.

And why it is the only print I sold so far.

This is the sto­ry of the one print I sold to an unknown cus­tomer. I wish I knew the name of who­ev­er bought it, I would like to thank the per­son. So if you are that per­son, feel a huge bear hug from me.

Global Photo Club

Let’s rewind three years. I got in con­tact with a small neigh­bor­hood Gallery and com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre. They exhib­it the work of local artists and run a pro­gram for new artists (“First Steps”) every year to give them a platform.

You need to apply for the pro­gram, so I did this and got select­ed. Every artist could exhib­it only a few pieces, as we had around 15 oth­er artists, and the gallery space is lim­it­ed. I was the only pho­tog­ra­ph­er, the oth­er artists were local painter (as in “art paint­ings”). Being in that pro­gram was excit­ing! Every­thing you do for the first time prob­a­bly is. Oth­er peo­ple would see my work print­ed as art pieces on the wall. And they could buy it!

Image of my three print I used in my First Steps Gallery
First Steps

My three fine art prints then were on the wall for two weeks, and nobody bought them. I expect­ed that. How­ev­er, my dreams were obvi­ous­ly paint­ing a dif­fer­ent pic­ture. But these kinds of exhi­bi­tions open doors. They are net­work­ing events; you meet peo­ple inter­est­ed in art, and you get in con­tact with peo­ple who can help you grow. That was the case, so it was a suc­cess I only real­ized later.

Next year I stepped up the game, I was delu­sion­al and applied for a solo exhi­bi­tion. I’m glad they did not select me. It would have been quite a stretch, finan­cial­ly, and I did not have enough match­ing images to fill the entire gallery space. But they thought I could join a group exhi­bi­tion with two oth­er local artists. Between us three, we were able to fill the room. We met twice, found a vision for the group exhi­bi­tion and made it work. This time I could show­case 12 prints (A3 for­mat). One week lat­er I sold how many pieces?


Again. But one of the two oth­er artists let me know that there was a work­shop in the city about sell­ing art work. The lady who was run­ning the work­shop was a suc­cess­ful painter her­self and is now men­tor­ing oth­er artists. She also acts occa­sion­al­ly as an agent for artists.

I went to the work­shop. It was good, not only because of the con­tent, but she became the facil­i­ta­tor for my first sale.

After the work­shop we stayed in con­tact, and one day she con­tact­ed me and asked me if I want­ed to exhib­it three small prints in New York. What would you answer? I want­ed! It was not a big gallery, but a small well-known Kiwi Restau­rant in Brook­lyn, exhibit­ing typ­i­cal Kiwiana images. Some of my images had typ­i­cal kiwi sub­jects, so that matched. I was over the moon, hav­ing my images on a wall in New York! For the record, none of these images sold.

But my agent also had con­tacts to a lux­u­ry New Zealand tourist des­ti­na­tion, the Lochmara Lodge in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds. I pro­vid­ed three prints and did not think of any­thing com­ing out of it. But weeks lat­er I got an email that they sold one of my images! It was this image here:

White Faced Heron © Frithjof Moritzen

I received NZD 189.30 for that sale (they take a small com­mis­sion). I sub­tract­ed the mate­r­i­al cost I had for the print and frame, and split the remain­ing pro­ceeds with my agent as with­out her I would not have sold any image. And she added $100 to the price I orig­i­nal­ly put on the image because I had no clue what peo­ple would pay for pho­to­graph­ic fine art prints. So thank you, Kate!

The mon­ey is not the key point here, but it is still worth men­tion­ing. I lost mon­ey over the entire process. Quite a bit. You can cal­cu­late your­self, I had twelve A3 sized prints with top qual­i­ty archival print paper and ink com­mer­cial­ly print­ed and sim­ple frames. It would sur­prise you how much mon­ey goes out the door for an exhi­bi­tion of only twelve images.

But it is a feel­ing of sat­is­fac­tion and grat­i­tude that comes with the first art sale. That was worth it. And even if I would sell no more prints, the one I sold will stay in my heart.

Global Photo Club

Why was it the only image I sold so far? Hmm.. I think I did not han­dle the art sales as a busi­ness. I was not in the mind­set of a pro­fes­sion­al dig­i­tal artist; it was (and still is) a hob­by, not a full-time pro­fes­sion. If you work full time in a dif­fer­ent occu­pa­tion as I do (I work in IT dur­ing the week), it’s hard to shift the mind­set need­ed to get more results. So jug­gling your day job and art busi­ness is dif­fi­cult, espe­cial­ly if one earns mon­ey, and the oth­er los­es mon­ey, at least in the beginning.

Global Photo Club

What you can learn from this story

  • Even small local neigh­bor­hood exhi­bi­tions open doors in ways you can­not foresee.
  • Put in the work. Pay mon­ey upfront, pre­pare to nev­er see it again. Rinse and repeat.
  • Cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties. Some peo­ple look at the result and think it was pure luck, but luck is most often the last stage of an oppor­tu­ni­ty cre­at­ed earlier.
  • Learn about the busi­ness side of art sales. Pro­mo­tion, pricing.
  • Cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties by engag­ing in com­mu­ni­ty events relat­ed to your art form. Speak to peo­ple (that is hard if you are an intro­vert like me), invest into a web­site, exhi­bi­tions, an agent, what­ev­er you can do to get your work out there. You nev­er know who sees it and is touched by it for an unknown reason.
  • Be grate­ful for the small suc­cess­es and the friend­ly peo­ple you meet on the way.
  • This is not a get rich quick scheme.

Thanks for your time, I appre­ci­ate it!

Global Photo Club

If you are in Christchurch, New Zealand, around the date of Nov 24, 2020 — Dec 12, 2020, come vis­it the gallery and help emerg­ing artists on their way.

Lin­wood Com­mu­ni­ty Arts Cen­tre & EASTSIDE GALLERY — First Steps 2020 Exhibition

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