Artists who work en plein air must deal with natural and self-imposed burdens every time we go out to paint – including the possibility of marketing to strangers.

We load our packs (paints, thinner, brushes, palette, canvas panel, towels, garbage bags, clamps, bungee cords, sunscreen, hat, collapsible umbrella, water and power bars) carry our easels, set up and stand for hours at a time. We are at the mercy of the weather, the land and the ever-changing light.

plein air, backpacking, yellowstone
Lori backpacking with her plein air gear in Yellowstone National Park

If these obstacles weren’t enough, people interrupt us to talk while we are painting! It’s a wonder we get anything done, much less create a body of work to sell.
WAIT…that’s all wrong! We plein air artists have it made – we have a unique marketing and sales advantage over studio artists. We can talk to strangers, and turn them into collectors!
All artists who sell their work need people to buy it. Family, friends and acquaintances may be interested in our art, and they may purchase it. But, it is the people we don’t know who are key to sustaining sales and having an art career.
plein air painting artists
Steven Adams and Shanna Kunz look on as John Horejs paints

So, what about those strangers who “interrupt” us? They are interested, potential collectors with whom we have a marketing opportunity to create a relationship.
Plein Air Petaluma
“Marsh and Mountain” by Linda Rosso

Consider this very typical conversation:

THEM: “Can I see? Nice painting!”

YOU: “Thanks! This is a gorgeous spot to paint.”

THEM: “Yes, it’s one of my favorite views.”

The conversation can then take a variety of turns, depending on what you say next:

(A) “Mine, too. Enjoy your day.”

(B) “I’ll be posting the finished painting on my website. Would you like a business card?

(C) “Would you like a photo of the painting when it’s done? I’ll be happy to email it to you.”

Choose (A), and you have ended the conversation. You have been friendly, but you have not made a business connection.
If you respond with (B), you have created an opening to a relationship. You shared information, and indirectly suggested the other person take action – to look at your website. If they say no, you can say (A) and return to painting.
By selecting (C), you are in the best position to create a relationship. You are offering something, and it exchange, you may get something – the email address of someone open to knowing more about you and your art. If they decline, you can revert to (B) and offer a business card. If they decline, say (A) and get back to painting.
The next time you are in the field, give it a try. The small risk of engaging in a conversation may offer a reward. And you might consider adding an empty box to your plein air pack – you might sell a wet canvas to a stranger right off your easel!
Guest artist/author: Linda Rosso is a painter, author of Art Marketing Basics ( and blogs at Plein Air Liaison DIY (
…and for those of you who don’t want to chat with spectators while painting, here’s a tip: When American painter T. Allen Lawson doesn’t want to talk with strangers, he will  quickly put a paintbrush between his teeth! He says it works every time… 😉
Let’s also meet on Facebook  – Fine Art Tips Facebook Fan Page, on Twitter, Google Plus and on PinterestYou might want to check out and my fine art prints and notecards on Fine Art America and here’s my art website, Thanks for visiting my blog, ~Lori

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