Things One through Four: Original art is expensive. It should be. But Art Prints don’t have to be.
But first, OMG, what fun this was! Ebenezer is an emu who specialized in escaping from his former home. Rebecca of Thieving Otter Farm saw him around her property and rustled up a posse to capture him. Somehow she found out who he belonged to, but they were unable to keep him contained, so Rebecca, who is a poultry breeder, decided to take adopt his feathered butt. She suggested I paint his portrait just for fun, then she ended up buying the painting. When she bought it she asked if I would mind blinging it up, and I didn’t mind at all! What a fun afternoon that was! I love how he came out. Oh, and they’re working on finding him a girlfriend because emus love company. Also, it’s pronounced Eem You, not EE MOO as I’ve always said it. I did not know!
What if the people who enjoy making art for aren’t rich? Don’t they deserve art, too? Yes. They do.
Honestly, my favorite thing to do is to create original art and sell said original art. My dream life would be to have a little shop on a trendy street with lots of foot traffic, with my own framer, and a friendly and honest cashier. I would just crank out paintings while they prep them and sell them to drunk people who are high on their 5 days away from their soul-crushing jobs. My paintings would fill their homes with memories of what it’s like to be happy. I would live upstairs, and have a studio in the back. Maybe there would be an ocean or a cute country city center out my window.
Is that so wrong? I posit that it is not.
However, it is not my current reality, and I’m of an age where reality is a bit more real than it used to be. I live in an adorable Tutor house in Pittsburgh. There are lots of people walking dogs on my street, but as far as I can tell none of them are drunk. Not that you have to be drunk to buy my art. But I digress.
So, how do we get art into the hands of sober people without living in a quaint village straight out of a cozy murder mystery? You little it.
Thing One: The Daily Painting Movement
A lot of my recent art is already small in size. I’ve become an avid advocator of the Daily Painters movement. Basically, the goal is to finish a small, (thus more affordable) painting once a day (more or less). I’ve been doing a lot of 8x10s on panels rather than stretched canvasses because it’s cheaper and easier to safely ship. You can learn more about the Daily Painters Movement by clicking the link. Also get Carol Marine’s book, Daily Painting, on Amazon. You can click that, too.
Daily, small paintings created beginning to end in one day are enormously satisfying and educational. You will find your work growing and your “you-ness” coming out more and more the more you do it. (Yes, more, more, more for doing less.) You get the excitement of starting something new, which I find exillerating, and the satisfaction of finishing, which I also find exilerating all in one day. (I don’t seem to know how to spell exillarating. Exhilarating. THERE!) You will not be able to wait to get back to your studio space the next day. Some days I finish two small paintings in a day and that’s so satisfying!
But the big point for this article is that a small painting is more affordable than a big-ass painting for buyers. An average price for a painting is $2.50/sq in. That values an 8″ x 10″ painting at about $200.
Sometimes I offer sales on small paintings, but $200 is a comfortable price point for me. Still, that’s high for a lot of people. So what do you do then?
Thing Two: Limited Edition Prints
A next choice is to create limited edition prints. Limited edition prints are a specific number of prints of a painting that are signed and numbered by the artist of the original piece. Once this print run in completed, the artist will not make any more prints of this artwork.
This print was created from a recent painting. Under the image on the left side is the number 28/100. The 28 stands for where this print showed up in the print run. The 100 refers to the total number of limited edition prints I made from this image. To the right you see my signature. The number and signature are done in pencil because, believe it or not, it’s difficult for a forger to reproduce pencil signatures, while it’s easy to duplicate inks. Most artists use pencil, but some may use ink. Am I worried about forgeries of my work making someone else rich? Not today, but one never knows. Better be prepared.
I also add a stamp of my Buddhist name, Peaceful. That is not necessary, but it makes it more unique. I also print the title of the painting and my name below the image.
The advantages of a limited edition prints is that you can charge less for them than for the original. And because you can sell them for less, the idea is that you can sell more of them. But is that the reality? For an established artist with a strong following, this is definitely true. Their prints may even go up in value over the years. But what about for the emerging artist?
Maybe. Maybe your work’s value will go up and up and up in value until twenty years hence your $50 print will go for $3,000. But maybe not. You may not even sell out of your print run. I created this limited edition print as a New Years’ gift for my customers, friends, and family, so I’m going to get out of it exactly what I expected. Some goodwill. I don’t know if they will be worth anything in 20 years’ time. I don’t know if I will be alive for it to matter to me. I don’t know if my recipients from my snail mailing list will even keep them. If I get famous and 98 of the recipients threw them away, the remaining 2 might be valuable, but we’ll see. (Don’t throw them away! I have dreams!)
It’s tricky figuring out the costs for limited edition prints. Check out this article for more advice on it. Let’s say I am selling the Goldfinch original painting for $200. It would be a great bargain to sell a high quality print of the same size for $25. You might find out that you can sell 10 of these, or 100 if all the starts align. But you might only sell one. That shouldn’t deter you, because you can work on selling the other 99 (or however many were in your print run) for the rest of your life as long as you don’t let them get damaged. If you have them matted and framed a print may go for more than your original painting. Lots to consider.
There are some drawbacks to selling limited edition prints, though. Is it going to be worth the extra time and peripheral expenses?
- You have to have them shipped to your studio instead of drop-shipped to your clients.
- You have to handle each print to sign and number it.
- If selling online, you have to repackage each print individually for shipping to the buyer.
- If selling at markets, you need to invest in sales bags, point of sale equipment (which can be quite inexpensive if you use something like Squareup.com).
- Selling at markets takes time out of the studio and is a whole job in and of itself.
- There are overhead costs for shipping: packing materials and postage.
- There is time involved in handling every single print.
- You cannot increase the size of a limited edition print run. If you started with 10 prints, that’s it. You can’t fake it and add another zero. That’s so sleazy.
You’ll have to do your own research and figure out if it’s worth it.
Thing Three: Open Edition Prints
Open edition prints have a lot of the same advantages as limited edition prints, but they also have some advantages. An open edition means that you can print as many prints as you want of the painting. If you sell out, you can have more printed. And what’s more, you can have them dropshipped so that you never have to touch them. There’s no penciled in signature. A signature is part of the print if you make it so. And there is no number.
Your limited edition prints are numberless. If you sell 10 of them, cool. If you sell 10,000, very cool. You can display your limited edition prints of a special piece right next to an open edition of a different piece. (You cannot make an open edition of a painting that has a limited edition, nor vice versa without losing your credibility.)
The limited edition piece may run for $25, while the open edition might sell for $15. The buyer can see the comparable quality, and decide whether saving $10 bucks is more important, or whether having something that has greater value because only a few of them exist rings their bell.
As the artist, the advantage is that you can set up drop-shipping for open edition prints. To do this, create a high quality photo of your work, which can be done with a late model smart phone or a DSLR. Click here for good instructions on photographing your art.
Send the photo to your chosen platform. Make sure the platform covers both selling and drop shipping. I’ve tried several platforms, and have not found one I really love. I left Etsy because their support is poor, and they are pretty non-responsive. I have used Shopify which was a lot better but there are limited options for prints through them. Gelato does very good printing and drop shipping, but the artist has to enter every order to be fulfilled manually. There is no automatic linking from your site to theirs. If I find a platform I love I’ll let you know.
Once the art is at the sellers platform, you’re all set. You have to keep an eye on your sales, payments, and customers, but that’s just good common sense. You should do that anyway.
So, with open edition prints you skip the hands on and shipping parts of the thing, which is awesome. It saves a lot of time. The only time you’d need to have them sent to you is if you are doing a live market or exhibit where you want to have the prints available. You’re not married to the platform, either. You can get a short run done anywhere, any time, for eternity.
Thing Four: Greeting Cards
Greeting cards are something lots of people buy on impulse. You can sell these as either limited edition prints, which is what I made with my Goldfinch, or as open edition prints. I am using my limited edition Goldfinch printed greeting cards as gifts for clients, family, and friends. Your customers will likely use them for the same things.
The advantage of selling them as open edition prints is that you can sell them forever, and they can be drop shipped and you don’t have to deal with them again. Slap it up on your vendor’s site, and voila, you’re done. (Except for the checking to make sure everything is running smoothly and everyone is happy. In a few years, if you keep making printed cards with more and more of your artwork, you’ll have quite a little cache of stuff people will clamor for.
Good luck to you with your sales, my friends!
Onward and Upward!