Making An Art Pitch

Making an Art Pitch

pitching art, business pitches, public speaking for artists, beechhouse media,
Making Pitches...

Every week I write a brand new article for members of our four wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artists Directory, The Artists Lounge, The Artists Exchange, and The Artist Hangout. This week we take a look at making pitches for art grants, representation and the hundreds of other situations, an artist can find themselves in that need a great pitch.

There are times as an artist when you have to stand up and make a pitch. Whether you are applying for an art grant or seeking representation, at some point in your art career there will be a need to make a pitch and you need to be able to deliver it with conviction and confidence.

I have been a keynote speaker at hundreds of events and still get nervous despite the fact that I am approaching half a century old. I have known for years that my youthful days of running around on the stage presenting enthusiastically and animatedly are over and I don’t need some audience to remind me that I can no longer bounce around on stage like Tigger on an acid trip, and besides, these days I have to take a lower lumbar pillow with me everywhere I go.

Instead, I now stand behind a lectern, say what I have to say or in some cases what I am asked to say and then get out of dodge as soon as I can. But even when I make this slightly more sedentary stance to deliver a keynote it still doesn’t help to shake the nerves of standing up in front of people and talking. What makes it worse is when the audience subconsciously tell you that they’re not quite ready to listen as they carry on with their conversations just as you are finally in the zone and ready to talk. Now I use props to grab their attention and when I open a keynote and that my friends usually means ringing a bell or like the last one I spoke at, blasting an air horn which really got their attention. They were looking for the life rafts before I had even said a word.

A quick piece of advice here, if you are going to use a compressed can of air to make a noise, know who your audience is first. The last thing you want is to give some poor dear a heart attack in the front row because it makes the optics look awful and the ER crew make shadows on the PowerPoint screen. Besides, you kind of have to follow an air horn up with something that is even better, and whatever you follow an air horn up with has to be more memorable than the air horn. There’s no point making that kind of an entrance and not having much to say because all that the audience will remember is that guy with an air horn who gave an audience member a heart attack and he really wasn’t very good.

Pitches though are somewhat different to keynotes. In a keynote you can kind of wing it to an extent if you forget your lines and most people are way too busy reading what’s on the PowerPoint slide or they’re checking their phones. When it comes to pitches, they’re usually smaller affairs and everyone is usually fixated on whoever is doing the pitch. There’s usually no way to wing it and even the smallest stumble can make or break the dream of getting that grant or that representation. In short, you have to be way better prepared for a pitch than you do with a keynote.

Public speaking is without doubt one of the most stressful things that an artist might ever be asked to do and you have to make an impact on a group of people who now hold the keys to your future plans.

You need a hook…

My hook at my last keynote might have been the air horn, it got plenty of attention and completely silenced the room, but when you are sat or stood in front of maybe half a dozen people who you need to convince in some way, an air horn is an overkill. You are going to need something more subtle but as equally impactful.

You rarely have long to hook people into you or your ideas and you rarely have long to deliver the entire pitch so you have to make sure that what you are saying will tick all of the boxes that the panel or the audience is looking to tick.

When it comes to panels there is the chance that there will be some key decision-makers in the mix somewhere and those are the people who are constantly busy doing lots of busy stuff. When you have a conversation with someone like a VP of a major organisation it can sometimes feel like having a conversation with a toddler, they can become distracted, they’re already thinking about their next three meetings, and they can be really challenging when it comes to keeping them focussed on you and your pitch. Chances are this won't be the first time they have listened to the very same pitch.

Most people who are pitch panel veterans for want of a better way of describing them will have heard the impactful opening statements many times over, that’s not what they want to hear. What they want to hear is a soundbite that makes them pay attention. Ignore the grandiose generalisations that can’t be categorically proven or those that are a combination of soundbites from headlines and instead, just go with facts that you can prove if you are asked.

The hook is the single most important part of any pitch so you have to make it count, make a great impression and leave whoever you are pitching to in no doubt that they want to hear more. Best foot, and best ideas forward first, has to be the way to go.

stand out in business, delivering a business pitch, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media,
Be Unpredictable...

Present a relevant portfolio…

There are no rules that say that you should only ever have a single portfolio of work. I have always had a few portfolios in play because it makes it easier to showcase work of differing styles. My land and seascapes are maintained in one portfolio, graphic designs in another, and abstracts in another. Each can be interchanged to suit the client I am showing, but if someone is looking for a landscape painting there is a good chance that they wouldn’t want to look through the many graphic designs or abstracts I have created over the years. If they are interested in seeing the other portfolios, I make them available but generally the audience will see what they need to see and it offers a consistency that would be difficult if your portfolios were all a jumble of your greatest works regardless of the style, subject or medium.

The great thing I have always found is that having multiple portfolios always gives you options to take the audience on another path entirely if you need too or you can focus only on the portfolio relevant to the pitch. This shows that you care enough to produce something that is well thought out yet can still give a sense of your wider abilities as an artist.

So let your art do the talking, show progression, and make sure that any documentation is clear and concise. Pitch panels rarely have much time to decide so the quicker you can get to the good stuff that you really want them to see, the better. Remember that a pitch is not a bio and nor is it war and peace, every second will count, especially when you only have a limited time in front of your audience. If you missed my article on portfolios you can read it right here

Plan your pitch…

As I said earlier, when it comes to pitches, winging it usually isn’t an option so you need to have at least an idea of what you want to say and how you want to present it. Having a plan for pitches is as vital as having oxygen to breathe, and practising your pitch is something that you have to do as if your life depended on winning a karaoke contest.

You would be surprised at how many times I hear not just artists but others who do all sorts of jobs saying that they need to prepare for a pitch and when you ask them how they got on with delivering it, the answers are either it went great but I didn’t get through, which honestly in anybody’s book isn’t that great really is it, or I hear, ‘I was totally unprepared when they asked me where I would like to be in a years’ time so I just said alive’.

Never expect to win a pitch if you don’t prepare well enough for a pitch. It’s like asking me to take the plate as team captain for the Yankees. I have absolutely no idea how this baseball business works but if I was picked for the Yankees I would be out in the park with a bat and a ball this weekend and would be giving it my all, along with my lower lumbar pillow of course.

Firstly, you need to know what you are pitching for because whenever I have sat on one of these pitch panels in the past, there have been times when I really have thought to myself, you are in the wrong room aren’t you. Secondly, you need to know what it is that you are pitching, no vagueness, it has to be a tangible and well-thought-out pitch that conveys your message succinctly and without risk of misinterpretation.

Before you even contemplate turning up to a pitch, write it down, practice it, walk away from it, read it again and again, and ask yourself, can you remove the fluff to make it even simpler and even more succinct?

There is a knack to balancing too little detail and too much, but going down the lengthy detailed rabbit hole can trip you up, and because we are human, we have a tendency when faced with certain pressures to overthink. A pitch is all about lighting a spark in the panel’s imagination, not a bonfire, it is about getting the panel to buy into you, and you need to also remember to be yourself but make yourself familiar with any nuances of the panel or individual you are pitching to, and you need to learn their vocabulary because nothing sounds more like you have really done your homework than letting someone know you are familiar with what they do and how they work.

I frequently use a plan like the one below to work out everything I will need to do and say, and to remind me of the most critical messages I need to convey. One page is way better than having an entire document and reading from it!

keynote planning, planning a business pitch, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media,
Keynote and Pitch Planning

Sometimes there are no panels…

Not every pitch will see you sat in front of a panel, I wrote an article last year about using elevator pitches which you can read right here. You might just bump into a key person in an elevator or on the street and you decide to seize the moment and go for it. I did this a few years ago with a project I was working on but couldn’t ever quite get to the key decision-maker, but then met him in the coffee queue. That pitch cost me a cup of coffee and resulted in me getting approval on the spot to roll a huge project out so there is a precedent for doing things like seizing the moment, if you get the chance, you have to be bold enough to take it.

Pitching to a panel or an individual is all about the three whys. Why this, why now, and why you and making sure that who you are pitching to is the right person. Figure out who makes the decisions and only expend energy on those who can get you closer to the target.

Selling the idea…

If selling art is difficult, selling when you are making a pitch can be a whole new level. If there are any guidelines for pitching make sure you read up first and familiarise yourself with any particular requirements. I see this a lot with new artists who make a bold approach to a gallery perhaps not realising that the gallery already has a very set protocol for dealing with submissions and it can be disastrous.

You might also find that you need to change the pitch to suit one audience more than another. Sometimes just minor tweaks will be needed but at other times your entire pitch might have to change to suit a completely different audience. Prepare in advance, do your homework, and do some research online. Platforms like Quora or Reddit are ideal to pick up on threads from others who might have made pitches to the same people but check out services like LinkedIn too. There is no such thing as being over-prepared. 

Be confident…

As unconfident as you feel whenever you make a pitch you need to at least appear to exude confidence by the bucket. Not in an overly arrogant way but in a way that leaves no doubt that you are the expert of you and what you do.

Never go over the top by saying how great you are, rave reviews from family members don’t count, and never ever say to a panel member that they will live to regret not taking you up on their pitch. The art world as big as it is can still be pretty insular and depending on the area of the art market you are pitching in there is a good chance that those people who you are making a pitch to will know the next people you will be making a pitch to.

You also have to remember that art is a subjective topic and an even more subjective business, so there really is no point in arguing with a negative judgement. As with most things, sometimes it just is what it is and you have to move on. Never take it personally.

If you truly are passionate about whatever it is you are pitching it will shine through eventually no matter how nervous you are and if you really are shaking like a bobbly head figure in an earthquake, go back to square one, collect your thoughts and come out with something witty. There is an art to that too, never force humour because explaining it is going to feel a whole heap worse. Let your knowledge of whatever you are pitching take control and please, be mindful of body language because that’s the kind of thing that can say more than words ever can.

making a business pitch, business advice for artists, beechhouse media, Mark Taylor,
Be Bold...

Don’t be uninteresting…

We have all heard the phrase death by PowerPoint, well death by documentation is also a real thing. Remember when I said earlier that talking to a VP can be like talking to a toddler? Well, that’s because they’re generally very busy folk who just haven’t got the time to pour through masses of paperwork and documents. If you need to present any documentation, try to make it stand out. If you need to show a flow chart, then that flowchart better look like it was created by an artist, not a pre-schooler playing with Microsoft Visio.

Never appear desperate…

A good pitch no matter how bad should never give the impression that you are desperate. I call this ‘having an Instagram moment’ where you might feel so low on the inside but the picture has to paint a vision of blue skies and unicorns and possibly the glitter you ate for lunch. The difficulty in doing this well is that you also have to remain authentic. 

If you make people feel like they should support your project that’s another sure sign that the pitch will fail. Pitch sympathy as I call it is usually a one-time trick that will stop working very quickly. People who feel as if they have to support you are less likely to carry on supporting you in the long term so use the sympathy trick very sparingly but better still, never at all. If the recipients of the pitch really wanted to hear about someone going on a journey, they would just watch The Voice or Americas Got Talent. 

The pitch is only the first step…

While it might have taken you years to get in the door to make your pitch, it is only the very first step. What you say during a successful pitch will commit you to do what you have promised to continue getting support.

Art pitches are difficult, they can take time to pull together and my in own experience of arts funding, decisions are rarely if ever made on the same day. I remember a pitch I gave in the late 90s and it was almost two years before I got invited back. Of course, they don’t all take that long but you do have to be prepared to wait for answers. 

Patrons and supporters need to understand and experience the work, they may have to carry out due diligence behind the scenes, and they may pop up unannounced to engage on a deeper level to get a better understanding of you and your work. If an arts organisation issues a grant it’s fair to say that they will want to know that they’re putting their money will have an impact and they might want to build up a trusting relationship with you over a period of time before saying yes. A good pitch is only ever going to be another tool in your artist’s toolbox, there are never any guarantees no matter how good that pitch is that it will work, but having a pitch is definitely a tool you need.

Have you got any tips for delivering a great pitch?

If you have any tips to share for delivering a great pitch we would love to hear them, so feel free to leave a comment below!

Brand New Art...

I am so excited to bring you a new collection of artwork. I have been busy creating a number of new works for my Big Skies Collection and I have now started to release works from my new Adrift Collection too. There is a big sky crossover between the collections, the intention being that pieces from each can be interchanged. Expect to see a number of brand new works in the coming weeks and months, and I plan on making another collection of luxury gifts depicting some of the works in readiness for the Christmas season. In the meantime, you can see my latest collections right here and more works are being added all the time!

Big Skies art, art collection, Mark Taylor, Artist, Beechhouse Media
Big Skies and Adrift Collection by Mark Taylor

adrift under a burning sky, Mark Taylor, artist, landscape art, Beechhouse Media,
Adrift Under a Burning Sky by Mark Taylor
Adrift on Purple Waters, landscape art, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media,
Adrift on Purple Waters by Mark Taylor
adrift on still waters, art by Mark Taylor, landscape art, Beechhouse Media,
Adrift on Still Waters by Mark Taylor

A few of my existing collectors have already made requests for similar works in different colour schemes, so if you have a preference, get in touch and let me know!

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here:

Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contribute to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website. You can also view my portfolio website at

You can also follow me on Facebook at where you will also find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so right here


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