The ArtSmart Method

The ArtSmart Method is a career compass designed to strategically navigate you throughout your art career by helping assess the value of each opportunity you encounter, as well as clarify what and how to negotiate for more.

Artists, what do you want? Greater Exposure, Meaningful Context and More Money. You want it all! Here is the missing, magical piece that has eluded artists since the dawn of time:

You can have it all…just not all at once…all the time. You must make choices by asking yourself:

What can I gain?

What can I compromise?

And what can I change?

The change is where we come in. The ArtSmart Kit, developed over the course of 20 years by a former Director of David Zwirner and professor at Sotheby’s Institute, is a cache of real-world scenarios to learn from and proprietary tools that you will master. With galleries closing left and right, artists need a new mindset, a new way of taking control of their careers and determining their own future.

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. Artists, welcome to the ArtSmart universe.

Learn the Method

Learn how and why The Method works by watching the same in-depth presentation
that artists around the country are shown at our undergrad and graduate art school seminars

People Map

The People Map is comprised of everyone you have ever known since the time you were born. It’s made of family, family friends, kids you used to babysit, someone who wrote about your work, your previous neighbors, your high school buddies etc. Think of everyone you know and how they can serve you. Do they write? Do they work for a massive corporation with an art collection? Do they travel? Do they have a space? Do they have connections to materials?


It’s not that this is one way to make your career happen, it’s the only way it happens


You cannot pay your way into artistic recognition and support, instead people around you have to genuinely want to help. Whether it’s introducing you to a curator they know, lending a commercial space their Dad owns for an exhibition, or getting you free canvas from a friend who stretches it, we promise that these connections are what will get the ball rolling in terms of exposure for your work, financial support for your practice and your preferred context for your art.

The ArtSmart People Map is a visual representation of all of your connections & relationships, each one color-coded to represent the career goal that any person you’ve met could potentially help you reach. This map is one of the most important tools in your arsenal as it allows you to clearly see how each person in your life can have the greatest impact on future opportunities.
At ArtSmart, our mission is to empower artists to become the masters of their own careers. Part of this is realizing that within your existing network of connections, you have a goldmine of people that can help you achieve your goals. It’s just a matter of recognizing who they are, what they can help you with, and how to ask them.


The Nearest Exit

High Art

The Key is Widening Your Network

Look in all the nooks and crannies of your past life, and move forward with these things in mind: make your network unpredictable & less efficient. Studies have shown that it isn’t your close, familial ties that that benefit you the most, it’s actually your weak ties that have the greatest impact on your career. In order to encounter a new network, you must break out of your old habits. You must turn off your filters of judgment and assessment. Force yourself to connect with someone who seemingly is not one of “your people”. Go to atypical social hubs. Create randomness in your life so you can bump into as many different personalities as possible. When you do reach out, be courageous and grateful.

Mapping Your Social World

Click the button at the bottom of this page to download a template Excel spreadsheet to fill in your People Map, then go back and highlight key people who can help you. For example, “Exposure People,” ones that spider out and who know a lot of other people. Comb through LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and reconnect with all these people, especially if you have an exhibition coming up. You need to tell others about it and to monopolize on the finite period of time you have exhibiting and a show is a great way to reconnect. People want to help and they want to support you! All you have to do is ask, be specific and be gracious.

Seeing the Bigger Picture Illuminates Your Next Move

If you see an abundance of a single color on the page, you know what resources you have and what you need to focus on when it comes to extending your network or reaching out to your existing network for favors and trade. For example, if you see a lot of green, you know a lot of people that can help you in a financial way. Perhaps if you have a lot of help in terms of access to space, services, and materials, it may be worth it to use some extra money each month to pay for a company like Jumper Media to boost your Instagram followers significantly.

“If I could go back in time and speak to my twenty-three-year-old self, my advice would be threefold: travel further and more often to see what art actually looks like, figuring out sooner which ideas are currently convincing, which have become passé; spend more time making stuff, less time thinking about it; and do a better job of networking, staying in touch with people who show interest or friendship.”

- Thomas Lawson


People Map Example


Fill Out ArtSmart People Map

1) Fill Out ArtSmart People Map

Really rack your brain and try to put a name in every cell on the
People Map Spreadsheet. Dig through all social media channels,
old emails, old date books and journals.


Highlight people (cells) in different
colors based on whether they can
help you with Exposure, Context, or Money

2) Highlight people (cells) in different
colors based on whether they can
help you with Exposure, Context, or Money

When all cells have been highlighted with colors specific to their
function in relation to you, you will get a big picture of how your
network of people can advance you.


Based on their tier number (how well you know them)
and what you can ask for, craft an
email using our templates & examples

3) Based on their tier number (how well you know them)
and what you can ask them for, craft an
email using one of our templates and examples

This will be roughly a 4-paragraph email that you send which will
reinforce your connection with this person, pitch your project /
explain why it’s important, ask them for something based on how
they can contribute and conclude the email in a grateful and
professional way.


Update all social media platforms
to reflect your ArtSmart People Map

4) Update all social media platforms
to reflect your ArtSmart People Map

As you remember old connections and gain new connections,
make sure that you add them, follow them, like their posts and if
they engage with you, always comment back to them, thus
reinforcing the relationship.


Intro / Reminder
Who You Are

(Dependent on their tier) This paragraph changes based on how well you know the person

Elevator Pitch

A description of your project & what makes it important

The Ask

(Dependent on their color) This paragraph changes based on what you are asking them for


Summarizing the email, thanking them for their time

See samples below:

CONTEXT - TIER 3 (Close Acquaintance)

Dear Bill,

Hi, how are you doing? I hope you and Molly are doing well and staying warm in this cold weather we’ve been having.

I’m contacting you regarding my upcoming exhibition at Black Box Studios opening March 3rd. I’m not sure how much you know about my background but since graduating RISD I have been feverishly creating new work and have shown at various art galleries over the last 3 years. This upcoming exhibition showcases my mixed media and photography work inspired by my experiences road tripping through the South this past summer. I delve into the nuanced layers of politics and at-odds culture that I encountered on my journey, and I really feel this exhibition is an important one for people to see given the current political climate. I know that you are friends with Natalie who works at Hi-Fructose, and I was wondering if you could introduce us, I’d love to tell her about the show and see if she’s interested in writing a piece about it. I’ve attached a document with a few images from the exhibition and a bit more in depth artist’s statement.

Thank you so much for your time and hopefully I will see you at the alumni dinner coming up in June!


EXPOSURE - TIER 5 (Vague Acquaintance)

Dear Jonathan,

How are you doing? It’s Ariana Inness, we talked for a while at the last 4th of July BBQ at Rick and Shelly’s. Have you seen them much since? I heard they are going to Barbados for spring break – so jealous!

I’m contacting you regarding my upcoming exhibition at Black Box Studios opening March 3rd, I remember mentioning to you that I am working as an artist, I’m not sure how much you know about my background but since graduating RISD I have been feverishly creating new work and have shown at various art galleries over the last 3 years. This upcoming exhibition showcases my mixed media and photography work inspired by my experiences road tripping through the South this past summer. I delve into the nuanced layers of politics and at-odds culture that I encountered on my journey, and I really feel this exhibition is an important one for people to see given the current political climate.

I know that you and I talked at length about your Instagram presence, you mentioned that you have over 50k followers which is amazing, and I was wondering if there was any way you would be open to maybe posting a flier for my upcoming show? I’ve attached a document with a few images from the exhibition and a bit more in depth artist’s statement.

Thank you so much for your time and help, I really appreciate your consideration, and hopefully I will see you at the next holiday BBQ at Rick and Shelly’s!


FINANCE - TIER 4 (Acquaintance)

Dear Darlene,

Hi there, how are you doing? How’s the fashion world treating you these days? I saw your Instagram posts about your recent graduation from FIDM, congrats on all your hard work!

I’m contacting you regarding my upcoming exhibition at Black Box Studios opening March 3rd,. I have been feverishly creating new work, as you know I show at several different galleries now. This upcoming exhibition showcases my mixed media and photography work inspired by my experiences road tripping through the South this past summer. I delve into the nuanced layers of politics and at-odds culture that I encountered on my journey, and I really feel this exhibition is an important one for people to see given the current political climate.

I remember you mentioning that your boyfriend works at Lagunitas Brewery, and I wanted to ask if they would possibly be interested in donating some boxes of beer for my opening night. I’m really trying to make this opening reception memorable, but with funds as tight as they are, I’m looking for some sponsorship. You can tell your boyfriend that I will display a Lagunitas print-out on the drink table if they choose to donate.

Thank you so much for your time and help, I really appreciate your consideration, and looking forward to seeing more of your fashions on my Instagram feed!


TRIFECTA - TIER 2 (Friend)

Dear Rick,

Hey Rick! How are you doing? We need to meet up soon and talk about the summer, would love to go to Joshua Tree in June again like last year, the weather was perfect, right?

Anyways, I’m emailing you about my upcoming exhibition at Black Box Studios opening March 3rd,. I think I mentioned it to you the last time we talked, but here’s a little refresher. This upcoming exhibition showcases my mixed media and photography work inspired by my experiences road tripping through the South this past summer. I delve into the nuanced layers of politics and at-odds culture that I encountered on my journey, and I really feel this exhibition is an important one for people to see given the current political climate.

As we have talked about, you’re a bit more well-connected in the art world than me, and I was wondering if there was any way you could help me with a few different things surrounding my exhibition.

1) Can I borrow your projector? I wanted to have old film footage of some of the back roads I drove down projected on the wall at the opening.

2) Could you introduce me to your friend Kelly, the founder of CurateMeLA? I was hoping she could come see the show and keep me in mind for future group shows she curates.

3) Is there any way you could maybe pitch my show as a featured event to your friend who works at The LAist? Would love to get the word out as much as possible.

Thank you so much Rick I really appreciate your time, any of these things that you could help me out with I will be forever grateful for.



A huge part of gaining exposure for yourself as an artist is through Instagram. This highly visual platform provides a way for artists to create and interact with their audience. Instagram has a user base of 700 million people (68% of which are female), most of whom are avoiding work and eye contact with strangers to scan your compelling images. In this, you have a huge opportunity to grab their attention and translate it into career advancement.


Every Instagram follower looking at your art on a daily basis is a potential collector of your work, gallerist, or employee at a company looking for a fresh artist collaboration. Instagram has catapulted artists into critical and commercial success by allowing them to create their own exposure and through that, the eventual financial freedom to do what they love.


See our tips and tricks for Instagram as well as learn from some of the most compelling Instagram artist’s success stories and enact a new Instagram strategy! Remember, the days of the gallery gatekeepers are dwindling. There’s a new approach to being an artist, and the gallery is only one component of your career advancement. It helps, but it’s not everything. Hack the art world as it is now!


Collab Elab

Field Of Dreams

The Days of the Middle-Market Gallery are Dwindling

The time could not be more opportune to take exposure into your own hands. There’s a new approach to being an artist, and the gallery is only one component of your career advancement. It helps, but it’s not everything. Below we’ve highlighted some of our most effective hacks, as well as examples from some of the most compelling Instagram artists and their success stories.


ArtSmart InstaHack #1: Your Instagram Page is a Canvas

The whole page itself needs composition and consistency with your brand. Yikes! Most artists hate that word. Okay, change that to “holistic visual story.” As much as each individual artwork you post is important, the overall appearance of your main page is just as important. Compile images with the same detail as each image you post, as looking at your page should be compelling and pleasing to the eye. This may mean deleting some of your previous posts that do not fit visually into the overall composition.

For example, check out the page of artist Adam Hale, known as @the.daily.splice. Adam started making collages in 2015 using images from free magazines. Because of Instagram, he is now working with Mulberry, Adidas, Christian Louboutin and Elle Magazine. Note the composition of his page, including his profile picture. It not only speaks his brand and essence, the entire page itself is an artwork.

Adam’s Instagram Page

A still from Adam’s video ad for Mulburry

Adam’s ad for Adidas

Adam’s ad for Christian Louboutin

Adam’s image work for Elle Magazine, placed alongside an article

ArtSmart InstaHack #2: Engage = Wage

Engagement is the name of the game. If you engage with others by liking their photos, following them, and commenting, 15-20% of them on average will follow you back. Remember, on Instagram numbers matter, note that Adam Hale has almost 200k followers but is only following 98 people. Therefore, for as many people as you initially start following, you will have to un-follow them eventually.

For artists who have some money to invest in Instagram, you can sign up with companies like Jumper Media to increase your following at a rapid rate with real people who you have targeted like interior designers, art collectors, art influencers, galleries, other artists to work with, fashion/design companies interested in a fresh collaboration. You can pay for a computer algorithm to help build your target audience on your behalf on a mass scale. However, you also need to engage back with people who engage with you. You can’t just slap a post and be done. You have to reply to people that comment on your page and also go to their page and comment on their stuff.

EXAMPLE: The Producer BDB @theproducerbdb sought out Instagram engagement when he created a work featuring Rihanna and tagged her in it. She and her fans liked it so much that he became an overnight Instagram art star.

This one move effectively launched
his art career and created a
tremendous amount of financial

“Instagram definitely was a turning point in my career. I put my work up, people liked it, so I thought that was cool. Then I started targeting celebrities by tagging them. My second piece I put up I targeted Rihanna in an art piece I made of her, she liked it and began following me which gave me a lot of exposure. I continued with that pattern since it worked but I did not want to stay an Instagram artist so I had to figure out a way to transition this to the art world....Every time I would get a big amount of exposure I would parlay it to get a better opportunity. Once I began doing art fairs other galleries were able to see my work, and once I got a nice gallery in Beverly Hills I was able to parlay that to a nice gallery in New York. Once I had a nice gallery in New York I was able to parlay it to a nice gallery in Boca Raton. Also collaborating with artists who I believe in opens new doors which can lead to exposure and money.

One of the biggest turning points was negotiating with an artist who wanted to collaborate with me on a piece to show in a collaborative group show she held at Bruce Lurie Gallery. I could have just collaborated with her but I knew getting my own piece in her show would create exposure, so I had to negotiate with her in order to be able to do my own piece that would show my style. That show introduced my work to my first major gallery. During the night of the show it received a lot of attention for its uniqueness. When the piece sold that night it caught the attention of the gallery owner, who then asked to represent me.”

-The Producer BDB

The online art market is on the rise and this is one factor that has lead to the closing of many middle market galleries. Online art sales are up a staggering 24% in the past year due to the proliferation of different websites and apps (Artsy). This means that a gallery is no longer an artist’s one-stop solution when it comes to selling their work and advancing their career. The rules of the game have changed.

EXAMPLE: Maureen Meyer @_apricots_ is another artist that got major exposure with simple hashtagging on Instagram. With her use of hashtags, Maureen grew her followers, started selling works around the world directly to them (as far as China) and eventually landed representation – but not with a traditional gallery. By building a world-wide audience on Instagram (just a few thousand followers), Maureen was able to bypass the gallery system entirely and recently launched her art with one (of many) online art platforms called Tappan Collective.

With no background of any gallery exhibitions, Tappan signed Maureen to exclusive representation and her work is now available for purchase on Tappan’s website as well as promoted by the company.

Note her use of the bullet point hashtag-comment trick. This means putting just a few hashtags in your main caption, commenting on your own post, then using bullet points to scroll down at least 5 text rows before a big chunk of hashtags. Hashtags are so important, often as many as possible, but they can’t go in the main caption or people won’t pay attention.

"The biggest game changer was just starting to hashtag. That is what sets the (algorithm) course and gets your posts into people’s relevant rotation."

- Maureen Meyer

ArtSmart InstaHack #3: The Sweet Spot of Hashtag

As you probably already know, a hashtag is a label that makes your post discoverable. When you search hashtags, find the ones that are in the sweet spot (not too many like several million and not too few like a few hundred).

Some are too specific like #skycollage.

Some are too broad like #collage.

And some are just right like #collageart.

Try not to over hashtag within the caption of your post. Do not use more than 3-4 hashtags as part of your photo caption or people will not pay attention because it becomes a giant block of blue text.

Since you still want to direct traffic with the hashtags, hide the hashtags by creating a comment on your own post. First, hit the period punctuation key and press enter, creating a new line, repeating that 5 times. Then, create a block of hashtags that are relevant to you or your post after the fifth dot. This way, you can effectively hide the hashtags from view.

ArtSmart InstaHack #4: Facts Tell, Stories Sell

It’s important to engage your audience in the art-making process and what inspires you. The finished artwork is important, but what’s equally alluring is what and who is behind the art. For example, @tania_nofilter takes film photographs and then develops them with different liquids to add a visceral effect. She often times uses tequila and vodka in the developing process, so she did an Instagram story where she imbibed these alcohols, shot photographs, and then developed the photos in the same alcohol. She walked her audience through her entire process of this particular body of work. She effectively engaged her audience from start to finish, and they bought the resulting artwork because they felt a part of it.

Note that Tania wrote @luke_henery, a fellow photographer with 14.4k followers, in her post, perhaps he will @ her in a post back, exposing her Instagram handle to all his followers.

ArtSmart InstaHack #5: Collaborative Infinite Synergy

It’s important to @ other artists, followers, and anyone else you are interacting with on Instagram. It brings attention to them and if they chose to repost, you can gain exposure to all their followers.

To build on this collaborative synergy, you can also @ brands/companies that are related to your art content, or entities whose attention you would like to get, engage with them on Instagram with your art/posts) It’s also important to use geolocation, another way to get discovered. You can put where you are in the city, where you made the artwork, or even a location that inspired the content.

Find other artists to pair with, maybe do a 21-day 5-minute painting-a-day challenge where you are constantly tagging one another in posts, encouraging your followers to follow this other person, and engaging both groups of followers in the challenge, letting them vote on which 5-minute painting is the best.

ArtSmart InstaHack #6: The 80/20 Rule:
Don’t Be Ashamed to Encourage Sales

80% of the time show your followers how and why they should buy your art (posts of new work, posts of your lifestyle in the studio, posts of your process).
20% of the time give your followers an irresistible offer, created compelling need to get it now and a sense of urgency. This requires a call to action, don’t be too pushy or too vague.

ArtSmart InstaHack #7: Instagram Live and Videos

Think of Instagram as a show and tell. When you post a live story or video to Instagram, it gives your followers a more in depth understanding of who you are and your process. Seeing “a day in your life” builds a like, trust, and respect factor for your followers that can eventually translate in a desire to collect your work for themselves.

Instagram Live is free publicity, every one of you followers will get a notification that you have “gone live, ” so it’s a great opportunity to demonstrate your process, show off your studio, and talk about your inspirations and current projects. Instagram live helps because people are more likely to buy because they feel like they know you/your brand.

ArtSmart InstaHack #8: Consistent Persistent

The below example is the experience of a self-described designer, not a fine artist, who finally gains commercial attention on Instagram. At ArtSmart, we believe that one path for artists lies with the transition from strictly gallery-based careers to more of a crossover between the creative realms of fine art, design and marketing. This is a huge opportunity for artists to break the barriers of preconceived ideas of high versus low.

The recent commercial attention to Swiss designer Stefan Hurlemann – @stefanhuerlemann – is an example of how persistence on Instagram over time will eventually pay off and can get you noticed by specific companies looking to collaborate as well as design agencies. You just need to get noticed by the right people at the right moment, and the best way to do this is to make your Instagram presence known by posting consistently.

Stefan recently collaborated with Nike on a new campaign, and posted on Reddit about how he achieved this. He wrote:

“I started out with a challenge around two years ago where I tasked myself with designing something every. single. day. and putting on my Instagram for the world to see. Why Instagram? Because I search for a place where I had this kind of ‘obligation’ that I had to do it everyday otherwise people might notice. I started out with doing just one hour of design a day, mostly crappy posters. Pushing myself everyday was hard in the beginning, and still is on otherwise busy weeks. But in the end I learned tons, met a lot of awesome people and greatly improved my work ethic.

As well as improving myself I was amazed to see how many people seemed to like what I do and started following me. After a bit more than a year of doing this everyday I started getting mails from design agencies to work as a freelancer on their projects. One of those was for the Nike campaign you see below. Naturally I was beyond excited as I always dreamed of being able to do creative work for Nike”

-Stefan Hurlemann

There are opportunities to collaborate, no matter your materials or art form. Stefan was noticed for his works with clean composition and typography, but painters are getting in on the action too. For example, the musician Diplo enlisted a painter, February James, to do the cover and merchandise for his most recent EP, California. The artwork was then advertised on billboards across the country to promote the album. In this instance, February James’ painting created an aesthetic that then lent itself to graphic design, fashion, marketing and advertising.

Commission Contract

The ArtSmart Commission Contract is an agreement that defines the scope of either a private or public commissioned artwork or project. The contract should address all of the possible factors: work schedule, deadlines, scope of project, artists responsibilities, collector/institution responsibilities, travel & materials reimbursement, labor, structural engineering, insurance, installation, timing of payments, artist fee and what happens in the event of the commission being canceled by either of the parties. It’s critical for artists to protect themselves with agreements such as a commission contract, especially when a great deal of time and money are on the line.


Party like it’s 2009


The ArtSmart Archive is a central database containing a living record of an artist’s work. We cannot stress this enough how important it is for artists to maintain their own archives.

Seven years ago, Amy built the ArtSmart Archive database in order for artists to have a way to inventory their artwork, organize their studio and manage all the chaotic details in a way that was intuitive and affordable. The application has been a great success and artists have found it was easier than they thought and way more valuable than they could have imagined.

A good archive contains all the information about the work itself (title, date, size, medium, and an image), who owns the work, the location, the price, the discount, the production costs, where it was exhibited and where it was reproduced.


Opportunity Cost

The ArtSmart Archive tool is critical to an artist’s career on many levels. Not only is it a way to organize your studio, but even more importantly, it is a way to understand historical information so that you can make informed choices about the future. The need seems obvious, but the task of beginning this project appears insurmountable. Many artists ask, “How do I begin the process when there are a million other things going on?” This just seems like busy work compared to making art and creating traction with your career.

Setting Up Your Archive

How to tackle this beast? First, if you have a gallery, ask them for an Excel spreadsheet exported from their own database. Then, you can easily import into the ArtSmart Archive. You will add in the images and your own details like production costs as you go.

If you don’t have a gallery or a pre-existing archive, ever heard of “bird by bird”? It’s just a way of saying one step at a time. Carve out one hour a week. Start with the most recent work first. Hire a summer intern. Listen to music while you do it. Just begin and try to figure out a way to enjoy the process. It’s a great opportunity to take stock in what you’ve accomplished, the ups and downs, the successes and failures. Who knows, you might rediscover something that you forgot about. It’s kind of like exercising: you know you should do it, you know you feel good afterwards, so how do you make it enjoyable and manageable while in the process.

Galleries often times employ a specialized person, an archivist, to maintain their archive, and they pay for the photography of the work. If you and the gallery part ways, the gallery is not required to share their archive of your work with you. This is why it is important to keep your own archive, even if galleries keep one for you, otherwise they may charge a fee if you request it if/when you part ways. Definitely ask the gallery for a high resolution digital copy of the photo after the shoot. An archive helps you track production, sales, collectors, and payments.

The ArtSmart Archive Free Trial

The ArtSmart Archive not only allows you to track inventory, but also generate invoices, organize contacts, and create loan & consignment agreements.

Included in this kit is a 30-day free trial and a customized database for your studio. Simply email any contact or image data you may already have and your studio contact information if you want us to get your ArtSmart customized for you! To learn more about the online archive application and to sign-up for your free trial, visit The ArtSmart Application page.

Invoice + Calculator

The ArtSmart Invoice + Calculator is an intelligent tool that allows artists to generate an accurate, professional invoice that factors in retail price, discount, production costs and any other additional costs to be added or deducted from the invoice. Artists who invoice for their artwork are more likely to get the correct amount due to them including any production reimbursements as well as ensuring that they get paid in a timely manner.


The Squeaky Wheel

Most artists look at us sideways when we ask them if they’ve ever used an invoice. “Of course,” they respond, but this is a new trend. In the past, artists relied on their galleries or they would just correspond via email with a final price. It works, right? For straightforward deals, this is a perfectly fine way to conduct business. There are a few other details though that should be considered: tracking, cash flow, accurate calculations, discounts and production costs.

As your studio grows in size, it’s important to keep track of what’s been sold, for how much, when it was sold, when payment is expected and to whom it was sold. The ArtSmart Archive holds this data but the way in which you partially procure this information is via an invoice.

Consignment Agreement → Invoice

The process begins with the ArtSmart Consignment Agreement where by you establish the price, maximum discount and any production to be recouped. We’ve already discussed the details of a Consignment Agreement. That’s the first step of setting the tone and establishing that you’re a professional who cares about their art practice and their studio business. Once you hear about an actual sale, then you send an invoice to the gallery. To clarify, there are two types of documents. The Invoice goes from the artist’s studio to the gallery and the Artist Statement goes from the gallery to the artist’s studio. Most galleries send an Artist Statement upon payment so you know what you’ve been paid for. But an artist shouldn’t wait for this.

As soon as you find out that your work has been sold, inquiry if they offered a discount and the ultimate sales price invoiced to the collector so that you can send your invoice to the gallery. In the past artists would just wait to get a check or a wire without the due diligence of finding out what it was for, how big of discount was given or if they were reimbursed their production costs. But the new normal is for the studio to invoice the gallery. This ensures that you know ahead of time what you are going to get paid, and it allows you to make sure you get your production reimbursed. You get to make the calculation yourself to ensure no mistakes are made.

The components of an Invoice and an Artist Statement should contain essentially the same information, date of the invoice or statement, an invoice number for tracking, artwork details, image, retail price, discount, sales price, production costs, total due to the artist, the name of the collector, and the city and state or country. At the bottom of the invoice is key: Title does not pass until Artist is paid in full.

All of this information should be stored in an archive so you cannot only track where the work is located but also if you’ve been paid for the work or not. This is KEY. Otherwise you will have a very hard time staying on top of what you are still owed.

You generate an invoice based on the information received. This provides you with a perfect opportunity to calculate exactly what’s owed to you and for which work. It also sets a clock ticking of when you can expect payment so this helps anticipate cash flow.

The ArtSmart Calculator

With the ArtSmart Calculator, you can plug in the retail amount, the discount that was offered to the collector as well as any production that you are to pay the gallery for and/or any production that the gallery or consignee owes you. This is incredibly important to get right. and it’s not easy to get your head around this calculation every time. The other hindrance is that the gallery’s or consignee’s language around splitting costs sounds differently than the actual math that is calculated.

We built this calculator so you can see the math worked out in two different ways: the way the gallery thinks about it and the way the artist thinks about it. The thing to remember is that most of the time, everything between the artist and the consignee is split 50/50. That means that the retail price, the discount and production are all split equally. For example, if a consignee sold a work for $10,000 with a 10% discount, each party would receive $4,500 each ($10,000 – $1,000 (10% discount) = $9,000 / 2 = $4,500). So the artist would invoice the consignee for $4,500.

The invoice lists the details of the work (title, date, medium, dimensions and/or edition number), an image of the work is especially helpful both for the artist and the consignee, date of the invoice (this helps with the tracking and timing when the invoice should be paid, typically this would be within 30 days of a collector paying the consignee or if it’s an invoice directly to the collector than typically 30-60 days within receipt of the invoice) and finally what’s due to the artist.

Things become more complex, when you’ve incurred production expenses and require reimbursement. Artists typically think that they are going to get 100% of their production reimbursed because the language the gallery uses sounds like this: “We will take production off the top of the sale”. When you hear this you think, “all of the production will be recouped to me.” This is not true as the math shows. This misinformation and confusion was the sole reason why I created the ArtSmart Calculator.

The areas highlighted in yellow are the input areas. These are the variables for the calculation, meaning these are the pieces of information that change for each scenario. Math Version 1 is the way the gallery or consignee speaks about the sale. They start with the discount being deducted and then there is the Subtotal amount of $9,000. This is what is invoiced to the collector.

Then the production is “taken off the top of the sale.” This means that whatever production is incurred by either the gallery / consignee or the artist will be deducted from the calculation next. The gallery put in $2,000 towards production costs and the artist contributed $1,000 towards the production of the artwork. The amount to be split is the next subtotal of $6,000. The gallery and the artist will split the $6,000 equally. The amount the artist receives is $3,000.

Please do not rely on a gallery to stay on top of this for you. Galleries do their best to be thorough and responsible, but shit happens and stuff falls between the cracks all the time. So it’s up to you to mind the gap.

Certificate of Authenticity

The ArtSmart Certificate of Authenticity is a document issued directly from the studio on studio letterhead. The certificate looks very similar to an invoice. It contains the details of the piece, usually an image as well and any detailed instructions about the artwork, the artist’s signature, installation specifications and /or limitations.

For example, in the case of an editioned work, the certificate usually indicates that a work cannot be displayed publicly and privately at the same time. But the new element is that title or ownership of the piece does not transfer until that collector is holding in their hand the certificate. And the artist doesn’t issue that certificate until they’ve been paid by the gallery, institution or collector.

Artists who invoice for their artwork are more likely to get the correct amount due to them including any production reimbursements as well as ensuring that they get paid in a timely manner.


Video Killed the Radio Star

The Certificate of Authenticity has existed in the art world for a while, but over the course of the last several years, we’ve seen it used beyond edition and non-visual, tangible artwork. Typically these certificates are used when there is no “there there” meaning there is no tangible exchange from the artist or gallery to the collector. For example, with Sol Lewitt’s work there is just a set of instructions from the artist to the collector indicating how the lines are to be installed, what materials to use and what colors are allowed. The certificate provides the only validation that this is an authentic Sol Lewitt signed by the artist. Other artworks that use this method of conveying authenticity are sculptures, video, performance and other editioned work.

Lately we’ve seen the certificate used in another way, though. Unfortunately we live in an art world where some times artists don’t get paid by their galleries. An artist consigns work to his or her gallery with or without a consignment agreement under the implicit or explicit arrangement that upon sale of any given artwork, they will receive compensation for their portion of the sale when the gallery is paid by the collector. Most of the time this does occur. However over the course of 20 years working in the art world, we have seen instances where the artist doesn’t get paid, ever or with a significant delay. The issue arises because technically title has past from the artist to the collector once the gallery receives payment in full. Legally the artist only has recourse from the gallery or consignee because that’s whom the artist has the agreement with.

So the stop-gap solution has become the ArtSmart Certificate of Authenticity issued directly from the studio. Does this ensure the artist will get paid? Would this hold up within the legal system? Not 100%. But it is yet another tool that artists can use in an effort to do all that they can to ensure they are operating in a clear and professional way.

Cost + Benefits Matrix

The ArtSmart Cost + Benefit Matrix is a calculated breakdown of how much time, effort and money goes into making one particular piece of work, and then how much money does that work really net after all is said and done. I’ve used the matrix on several artists’ practices and sometimes it boils down to the artists making below the minimum wage. Not to say that working at Starbucks is the quality equivalent to making your own work, but it’s got to add up to something more if financial stability and growth are going to be achieved.

The Matrix has at minimum four components: costs associated with your personal expenses, costs associated with your studio expenses, cost of making one piece of work and revenue from that one piece of work. After you have the ArtSmart Bookkeeping practices in place, these four pieces of information are easy to drop into the matrix. The goal is to see how many works have to be produced in order to break even during the months of production. From there, you grow the matrix to find out how many additional works need to be made and sold in order to sustain the practice and expenses over a period of time.


Love the One You're With

Another aspect of financial independence that is well within your ability to change is how much work you produce. But before you can make more work you must understand how much it will cost you, and this production should make sense within the overall trajectory of your career.

You’ve probably heard the term over-exposed. It relates to a phenomenon when an artist has produced too much of a particular type of work that the gallery then oversells, thereby flooding the market. The work loses its unique quality and limited accessibility. But, there is also a reverse argument for keeping too tight of reigns on your production. It results in collectors losing interest or not seeing enough of it to be reminded of your art.

There are also limitations that the practice itself puts on the artist. The work could be incredibly labor intensive and multilayered or could require many moving parts and collaborators. The ArtSmart Method is endemic in the work itself as there is always a delicate balance between exposure, context and money playing against one another. The artist and his or her representatives play an intricate juggling act when strategizing about how much to produce (exposure), what to produce (context), the costs associated with that production (money).

If you are an artist with multiple consistent revenue streams and several types of works, series, and mediums, then the matrix becomes more complex as the Opportunity Costs become greater. The Opportunity Cost for artists is the choice between making one thing over another. It refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, in order to take another course of action.

The matrix has the ability to show you how selecting different types of works to produce will change the time, quantity and financial outcome of the practice. Again this is just a rubric and not meant for you to make aesthetic decisions purely based on this analysis. The ArtSmart Cost + Benefit Matrix is a financial guidance system that allows you to understand how prolific you need to be in order to sustain your practice over time.

ArtSmart Cost + Benefit Matrix Step - by - Step


Fill in the Live Budget / Orange Tab

Go down and fill in each category for the amount spent on average per month. Fill in all cells that are highlighted Yellow. The dark orange categories are necessary expenses such as mortgage or rent. The light orange categories are secondary needs such as exercise or meals & entertainment and can be reduced in times of a cash crunch or eliminated altogether if necessary. The most important component is to be realistic. Look at your actual spending over the course of a year to get a real number. This isn’t the time to guess. This is an important exercise to do as it tells you how much it costs you to live.


Fill in the Studio Budget / Blue Tab

Again go down and fill in each category for the amount spent on average per month. Fill in all cells that are highlighted Yellow. The dark blue categories are necessary studio expenses such as rent or utilities. The light blue categories are secondary studio expenses such as studio supplies or contract labor that can be dialed back when there is a cash shortage. As with the personal expenses, be diligent about getting the most accurate numbers so that you can be sure this analysis gives you the maximum benefit.


Fill in the Production / Red Tab

Production is broken down into three main categories: materials, labor and outsourced fabrication. Fill in all cells highlighted Yellow. You may need to change some of the labels if you work in a different medium. You may have to add some cells in order to customize to your specific art practice. Again be as detailed as possible. You must also figure out how many works you can make in a month. This number is needed in order to calculate the overall cost of production for the month.


Fill in the Revenue / Green Tab

Revenue has a few components to consider when calculating how much you will actually get into your bank account. Retail price, discount, production cost reimbursed, and how many work are actually produced and sold. Fill in all cells highlighted Yellow. If you know that you are not going to get reimbursed for your production then zero out those fields in Grey. The Revenue that feeds into the main Cost + Benefit Tab is infused in a certain percentage of increments due to sales received by the gallery and then paid out to the artist.


Fill in the ArtSmart Cost + Benefit Matrix

Enter the cash on hand in your bank account right now. All of the other tabs feed into this main page showing you clearly when you will run out of money, when you will go into debt and when the revenue will kick into the equation. You will need to customize the matrix based on how many months you will be in production. The bottom line shows you when you actually make a profit from your sales.


ArtSmart Bookkeeping is a vast, all encompassing tool that considers both incoming and outgoing funds, including sales, discounts, production costs, studio overhead expenses, personal expenses, and taxes.

Bookkeeping sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry. However, keeping an accurate record of how and where you are spending your money is key to understanding the ultimate cost of your practice and more importantly, getting reimbursed for production costs

Artists who invoice for their artwork are more likely to get the correct amount due to them including any production reimbursements as well as ensuring that they get paid in a timely manner.


The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The resource we like best is QuickBooks Online. It’s an online application that allows you to connect all your bank accounts as well as credit cards. Setting up the Chart of Accounts is first and foremost. These are also all of the categories for tax deductions.

QuickBooks Online is the preferred bookkeeping tool of ArtSmart and our clients. It only costs $15-50 month, and is extremely user-friendly. It’s an easy way to keep track of everything financial in your business. Anyone can learn QuickBooks and do their own bookkeeping when starting out. It not only helps with tax preparation, but it also helps you understand the costs associated with operating your studio.

QuickBooks also helps you manage your cash flow by allowing you to write checks from your business account that are immediately taken out of your QuickBooks account. When there is a long delay for a check to be taken out of a bank balance, it’s easy to forget that you have written the check and that money is no longer there to spend, but QuickBooks reflects this immediately.

Reconciliation is when you go through your bank statement and your QuickBooks transactions to make sure everything has been entered in both.

For an artist studio, the Chart of Accounts in your bookkeeping platform should include the following:


Art Sales & Commissions
Awards & Grants
Reimbursements – Travel, Production, etc.
Rental Income – sublease studio
Total Gross Income
Cost of Goods Sold – cost to make the artwork
Production Materials
Production Contract Labor- must issue 1099s for anyone paid $600 or over
Total Cost of Goods Sold
Net Profit – Total Gross Income less Cost of Goods Soldt


Advertising & Marketing – website, business cards
Auto Expense – gas, insurance, repair & maintenance
Bank Fees
Contract Labor – freelancers not related to production, must issue 1099s for anyone paid $600 or over
Dues & Subscriptions
Equipment & Truck Rental
Insurance – health, liability, worker’s compensation
Interest Expense
Internet & Computer Expense
Kitchen Studio Stock
License & Fees
Meals & Entertainment
Medical Expenses
Office Expenses
Payroll Expenses – wages, processing fees, employer tax
Postage & Delivery
Professional Services – accounting, bookkeeping, legal
Recruiting Expense
Repairs & Maintenance
Supplies & Catering
Taxes and Licenses
Travel – accommodations, transportation, meals & incidentals
Utilities – electricity, gas, telephone, waste



Production Reimbursement

1) Production Reimbursement

As the old saying goes there are two ways to make money in business: increase sales and decrease spending. But in the art world there is a 3rd way: track production costs. If you track your production accurately and alert the gallery in a timely manner, you will more often than not be able to recoup half of those expenses when the work is sold.

What exactly constitutes production expenses? Materials, equipment, contract labor, outsourced fabrication, framing, crating, restoration, pedestals, plinths, etc. A rule of thumb to ask yourself, does what I’m paying for live with the work forever? Again, this is all negotiable with the gallery or institution that you are working with but these are the most common expenses. Things that are not typically considered production are storage, insurance, equipment that isn’t permanently part of the work, installation costs and shipping.

It’s essential to keep accurate, timely records of all production expenses incurred as well as those being paid for by the gallery directly. I advise artists to keep these records in their archive so that it’s attached to the work and can be easily retrieved and updated. The key to getting reimbursed without a fuss is to communicate the amount, or potential amount, as soon as it is known to you. That way the gallery can accurately price the work and know what they are making off of the sale.

Remember this has an inverse effect as well. If the gallery fronts the production then they reimburse themselves for half of the costs before you see a dime on the sale. So it’s incredibly important to know what they are spending in real time so you know how deep you are getting into the hole with them.


How to register your art studio as a business

2) How to register your art studio as a business

f you are registering as a business, you are required to have an FEIN number and a state ID number in order to open a business checking account. When you walk into a bank and say you want to open a business checking account they ask for your FEIN number and State ID number.

Think of it this way, you have to register on a Federal, State, and City level. So you need three things:

1.     Business License –  City
2.     State ID Number – State
3.    FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number) – Federal


Applying for a business license

3) Applying for a business license

Acquiring a business license isn’t difficult, but it’s specific to the county that you operate in, so there’s not one generic website for everyone. In order to be directed to your county’s business license website, see below:

Go to and go the website link for your state.
Then simply follow the steps for application.


Applying for a state ID number

4) Applying for a state ID number

Similar to a business license, for your State ID Number you have to go to a website specific to your state to apply. Google your state along with “ID Number” to get to your state government’s website.


Applying for a FEIN number

5) Applying for a FEIN number

Go to
Select the type of entity – usually LLC or Sole Proprietor
If LLC – select how many members – usually 1
Select State
Select Single Member
Why are you requesting an EIN – usually banking purposes
Responsible party is Individual
Select I am one of the owners
Street Address
Phone number
Legal Name of LLC
Start Date – this month and year
More about the LLC – all are No except maybe last one about employees
Artist Studios – Manufacturing, type of Manufacturing – artwork
How would you like to receive your EIN Confirmation Letter – online
Review and submit
Save the PDF and Confirmation page

Some artists register their businesses under “Manufacturing” as opposed to “Professional Services,” as you are creating/making something for resale.


Applying for a California resale certificate

6) Applying for a California resale certificate
Register a business activity with BOE
Click all that apply
Selling Items or goods in California
Maybe Employing 10 or more people
Click Next
My business activity includes – none of these will apply
Sales and Use Tax Seller’s Permit – check box register and click next
Declaration of Intent – Accept
Enter name
Email Address
Create User ID and password
Select a security question and answer
Record all of this information for future use
What type of company is this – LLC
What is your role – Member and/or Manager
Are you going to register for multiple business locations – no
Are you applying for a Temporary Seller’s Permit – no
E-Client registration confirmation
Print page and save as pdf for your records
Company Information
Company Address
Contact Information
Business Reorg – are you changing from one type of business org to another – no
LLC Principals – Add a member, select individual in drop down menu
Relationship – Member /Manager, name of owner of business
Driver’s license number and California
Social Security number
Date of Birth
Home Address
Save and Next
Sales Activities – no to all
DBA leave blank
Start Date- today’s date
Business address
Are you buying or transferring an existing business – no
NAICS Code: 711510 – for artists
NAICS CODE: 453920 – Art Dealers
Are you making internet sales – no
Do you have other BOE accounts – no
Books and Records contact person – bookkeeper, same for business activities
Banking info, bank name and location
Will the business be accepting CC – no
Projected monthly sales
Projected monthly tax sales (depends on if selling out of studio)
Add Suppliers – look at who you mostly buy supplies from
Review information
Record the Account number and the Express login code
Click the link for Registration Information Packet and print out a copy of the resale certificate so you can bring it with you when you make art supply purchases


Confidentiality agreement

7) Confidentiality agreement

This confidentiality agreement, part of the studio handbook, can be used for a studio manager, intern, or anyone else that you employ at your art studio to help you with any aspect of your business.

Consignment Agreement


The ArtSmart Consignment Agreement is a legal document that grants the temporary rights to sell the works listed in the document on your behalf. The consignment agreement should list the works, the time period of the consignment, the sales price, the gallery’s commission or cut of the sale (typically 50/50), the discount split and any production costs to be reimbursed.


The agreement should also specify who is responsible for insuring the work, the cost of transportation to-and-from the gallery or institution, that you require a condition report and to be notified immediately if there is damage, as well as notification of who bought the work.

It is imperative that you have a legal agreement that protects you if something should go wrong or if there is ever a question of how much you are owed.


London Calling

Breaking Even

Private Eye

Whether you’ve been working with a gallery for years, just beginning a new relationship, whether it’s for a solo or group exhibition or for an art fair, we highly advise creating a consignment agreement. This is probably one of the most important tools that you will be need in most artwork transactions throughout your career.

There is a subtle distinction between an expectation and an agreement. With any relationship, both personal or business, it’s critical to be explicit about what you need. As business coach Steve Chandler describes, having expectations of others is toxic because it can only lead to either one of two results and neither one of them are good. Either you get what you expect and you feel neutral about it because you got exactly what you expected or, and more often the case, you feel disappointment because you did not get what you expected. This can lead to feelings of anger and betrayal. What is better to have in place is an agreement with another person. By creating an agreement with someone you are co-authoring something that is unequivocally clear. It allows for the other person to express what they need in order to give you what you need as well. And the bonus is that you will know ahead of time if the other person cannot make what you need happen. This way of thinking and approaching all relationships, whether they be personal or business, will change your way of dealing with people and yourself in magical ways.



List of Artwork

Title, date, medium, your inventory number and an image of the work. This information identifies the work without a doubt.


Time Period of Consignment

A beginning and ending time frame. This could be exact dates or simply state that the consignment ends a certain amount of months after the closing date of the exhibition.


Commision Split

This is how much money you will get from the proceeds of the sale and also how much money the consignee will keep. This is typically 50/50.


Discount Split

This is how much a discount you are willing to split with the gallery. Typically, artists share up to a 10-15% discount. Anything above that you can stipulate that you either will not share.


Production Split

Almost every artist incurs expenses associated with making their work. It has become customary that if you track these labor and material expenses and communicate the information in a timely manner, the gallery will split these costs with you. This is typically a 50/50 split.


Image Access

Galleries and institutions typically have their exhibitions professional photographed. You should absolutely take advantage of this free photography and request digital copies for your archive.


Photo Credit

When there are printed materials associated with the exhibition, it’s important to have your name credited alongside the photograph of the work.


Name of Collector and Location

Knowing who owns your work and where your sold work is located is incredibly important for your archive, for future sales and future exhibitions.


Name of Collector and Location

When your work is being consigned, the consignee must insure the artwork “nail to nail.” This means that from the time someone comes and picks up the work, through shipment, during the exhibition, through return shipment, and back to your studio (hopefully not as you want the work to get sold and never come back to your studio) it is completely covered and protected by the consignee’s insura


Transportation Costs

All costs associated with packing, crating, and shipping the work, including the return shipment, are the responsibility of the consignee.

All of the above items are obviously negotiable. Some consignees may be unable financially, for example, to ship the work at their expense, so you will have to decide if it is worth doing the show and bear the burden of shipping costs yourself. There are a myriad of other considerations that may be included, such as access to professional photographs, photo credit, credit on wall labels, and to whom the work maybe sold. The most crucial part of a consignment agreement is stating your desires clearly. I know it’s difficult to anticipate every possible scenario that could arise so I created a sample agreement that highlights the key points of things that should be considered when drafting your own.

The ArtSmart Loan Agreement is very similar to the Consignment Agreement. The only difference is that with a consignment agreement, there is a financial component. A loan agreement has no commission split because the work is not for sale.

ArtSmart Lifecycle

From Conception to Collection



The ArtSmart Method and The ArtSmart Kit are the culmination of Amy Davila’s work with art galleries and artists over the past twenty years. Amy started out in business school at The University of Texas, and although she tried to push the eject button and transfer into the Art History department, she found herself pulled back into the world of numbers and ended up with an MBA and working at a Big 6 accounting firm. Bored out of her mind and wanting to leave her mark, Amy realized that she could apply her unique skill set of problem solving, systems development, and financial modeling in an environment that needed her the most: the art world.

Fast forward one gallery internship and six years later, Amy became a director of one of the most prestigious art galleries in the world, David Zwirner, New York. Her business mind had found purchase and her analytical tools were crucial at this monolithic gallery. As Amy applied her knowledge and skills from the business to the art world, she began to realize that creating order out of chaos was, and still is, her currency.

Almost ten years ago, Amy left New York for Los Angeles and opened a private financial consulting practice for artists and galleries. Amy began to adapt the Triple Constraint to formulate a methodology called The ArtSmart Method, a tool that artists can use every time they come up against a career decision. Amy developed a simple, independent guide that artists can reference outside of their representation or peer group. This method has proven itself to be a critical resource for artists, helping them navigate


For artists and art organizations seeking more personalized assistance, ArtSmart offers:

– Monthly Bookkeeping
– Business, Organizational & Career Consulting
– Website Design
– Archive & Database Building

Artist who invoice for their artwork are more likely to get the correct amount due to them including any production reimbursements as well as ensuring that they get paid in a timely manner.

For further questions, including hourly pricing, and to schedule a phone, Skype, or in-person initial consultation, please email us at


At ArtSmart our goal is to empower and support artists throughout their careers. The Kit is designed to do just that with its proprietary tools and real-world scenarios.

If you need further assistance or have any questions about the kit, the tools or the scenarios, please do not hesitate to reach out. We love feedback and hope to have your help in the evolution of The ArtSmart Kit.

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
– Gustave Flaubert

The ArtSmart Method and the ArtSmart Kit are copyrighted by ArtSmart Inc. 2018 ©