​Real Artist Case History Series: Patrick Skoff, Selling Art Online

Patrick Skoff is getting ready to hit the road. On Monday, December 6, he announced on his public Facebook page that he is selling off the art in his Chicago-based Skoff Studios and heading out in his “artmobile.” He will promote his own work and the work of the other artists at Skoff Studios. These days Patrick isn’t just a working artist in his own right, he is an enthusiastic gatekeeper for other emerging artists frustrated with the traditional landscape of the art world and unsure how to break into the business side of art. Hardly anyone is better suited to the role.

It all started with a scavenger hunt. Skoff, who is a prolific painter, began hiding some of his work in locations around Chicago. He would snap a photo of the area and post it to Twitter and Facebook with a few clues. The first person to find the artwork got to keep it. This is how The Free Art Hunt was born. Skoff began to garner press attention for this unusual way of creating exposure for his paintings. Slowly, he built up his Facebook friend count and this opened up new opportunities.

All along, Skoff noticed that when he posted a piece of art he was working on, often the comments would quickly turn to inquiries for a price. Over time, and with his growing social media base thanks to The Free Art Hunt, he began pricing his art online. In those early days he was careful to keep the price point very reasonable. While he knew it was important not to undervalue his own work, he also wanted to see it sold rather than slap on an unrealistic price tag and watch it sit there unsold. Around $100-$150 per piece seemed to be the magic number in those days. Almost every painting he posted sold.

Before all this, Skoff had tried auctioning off paintings on Facebook, but without enough traffic to his page he had little success. With his social media numbers up, and several works sold already, he decided to try something a bit drastic.

In July of 2012, Patrick Skoff auctioned ten paintings a day for ten days straight. As he explained in an interview with Praxis Center, he spent the morning painting and put up each piece on his personal Facebook page in an album titled “work for sale.” The title of the album was one of the keys to its success as it alerted people that the work was up for grabs. Over the course of the day, friends and family could bid on the no-reserve auction in the comments section below the post on Facebook. Each comment carried a time stamp which made it easy for Skoff to track the progress of the auction. By 7 o’clock pm each day when the auction closed, all ten pieces had been sold to the highest bidder. He would then inbox message the person to finalize the payment method. He was onto something.

Despite his wonderfully whimsical ideas, Patrick Skoff has his feet firmly grounded when it comes to the business side of things. Not only does he know how to reasonably price his own work, he also knows how to ensure that he is paid for each and every painting he sells. Skoff uses only two methods of payment, PayPal and cash on delivery. If a work is sold locally he will accept a cash payment upon receipt. If a painting is to go cross country, before it is packed for shipping Skoff makes sure that payment in full is received via PayPal. He is aware that in order to protect his own interests he must treat each painting sold more like a business transaction than simply a work of fine art.

These days Patrick is a full-time working artist. Throughout his career he has resisted showing in galleries. For him, the traditional paths to success just aren’t a good fit. His work goes on display at restaurants around his home city of Chicago and his Facebook business is still thriving, but Skoff knew early on that there had to be other ways to challenge the status quo when it came to the business side of the art world.

Using his still growing notoriety as an artist, Skoff continues to challenge these norms and helps other artists do the same. Skoff Studios offers a familial environment in which emerging artists can grow their own business to become full time working artists without having to rely on traditional routes like galleries and art shows which often come with hefty entrance fees.

Patrick Skoff is a living example of how an artist can grow his or her own thriving business from scratch, but it takes a very clear way of thinking in order to succeed. Skoff’s number one piece of advice is, simply, “try.” He encourages artists to create as much work as they possibly can, to get that work in front of as many people as possible, and to always, no matter what, be your own number one promoter.

Be sure to check out our new course Selling Art Online for tips and tricks to break into the business side of art using the power of the internet.

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