Why Selling Art is an Act of Compassion


I was recently talking to a fellow artist — a photographer– and I told her that I looked at her photos when I was having a bad day and needed to feel better.

her response was incredulous. “do you really mean that? or are you just saying that because you’re my friend?”

I couldn’t believe she was asking me if I really meant what I said. Her work is stunning. Her business is growing. Her clients are overjoyed. Is she still maturing as a photographer? Yes. She’s still finding her voice and vision. But her work is already way above that of entry-level professional photographers.

Like many artists who are in a similar stage, she is having trouble charging what her services are really worth.  She underestimates her own abilities, which is something I frequently see in my work as an artist coach. This underestimation undercuts her ability to market and sell her services.

There’s something she doesn’t understand, and it is something many artists don’t understand. This something is the single most important thing I can tell an artist about selling art:

selling art is an act of compassion.

It’s not about you. It’s not about your skills, or lack thereof. It’s not about your fears about not being able to fulfill your artistic vision. Every artist has growing to do.


And that effect is a powerful one. Art makes people feel something. As humans, we need to feel. We need to feel strong emotions of passion, excitement, surprise, shock, connection, serenity, joy, rage, and the whole gamut. Perhaps if you truly understood the affect your art has on people (not everyone perhaps, but the special group who “gets it” who is it your job to find) then you would see what an act of compassion it is to create and sell art.

There is no other industry or field that can claim such a noble purpose. Some people think that selling a utilitarian item – a washing machine, for example – is easier than selling art, because a washing machine does something we all need – it cleans our clothes.  We all need clean clothes, right?

More than clean clothes, we all need beauty in our lives. Beauty makes us forget our troubles for a moment, and it can also sooth our wounds, acting as a balm for heart ache. In slums around the world, people don’t own washing machines. They walk around in dirty clothes. But take a look at photos of these slums, and you’ll see the satellites and television antennae. Somehow, they found a way to bring art into a place missing most basic necessities.

All great art comes out of love, not just for ourselves, but for others.  Let’s remember that when we sell our art, we are offering one of the most numinous experiences a human being can have. That is priceless, of course.

Yet human psychology teaches us that people value what they pay for more than what they get for free.   Value, or benefit to the viewer’s life increases when he or she pays for art (with money or something else of value).

Therefore, not only is making and sharing art an act of compassion, but selling art is an even greater act of compassion.

By pricing your art well and communicating clearly about it (which is all selling is), you as an artist are actually increasing the amount of joy your customer can feel about your art.

I hope this is starting to sink in. By selling your art at the right price, you are effectively improving the quality of your customer’s life experience more than even meeting his or her basic needs would. Don’t believe it when someone tells you humanity’s need for transcendence is less than humanity’s need for basic necessities. If that were true, the world wouldn’t be at war over ideas. While there is violence over access to basic resources, world peace is much more threatened by ideas like culture, religion, equality, love, and freedom. We fight hardest for the things that bring us a sense of connection and transcendence.

I believe if art was more valued in the world, there would be more peace in the world. Art brings people together. Art lifts people up, making them feel better when they otherwise might turn to violence.   The value of art is its great potential to bring world peace.

As artists, it’s our jobs to be the first to value art. The way we value art is by creating it and selling it.  Have compassion on the world by selling your art.

♥ ♥ ♥ ,



(Heart image credit :http://www.flickr.com/photos/bestrated1/371032725/)