• Category Archives The Business Side of Art
  • Earning with Art – Part 3

    The first post in this series dealt primarily with the challenges of trying to earn money as an artist, and the second post in this series dealt primarily with sales opportunities beyond just the selling of original artwork.

    This third and final post in this series will touch on subjects other than sales.


    Earning Opportunities beyond Art Sales


    Sell experiences

    One thing I have learned about earning money as an artist, is that more people are willing to pay for experiences than for products.  While many people will hesitate to spend $25 on a print of a piece of art, most don’t have a problem with spending $25 for an evening out with friends, or for a class.  So, it makes sense for artists to look for ways to create experiences for people, and then to sell that opportunity.  How?

    Paint Night

    One of the most common and successfully sold art experiences are paint nights, where the artist usually walks people through how to paint a specific painting.  What appeals to the customer is that all they have to do is show up, all the supplies and equipment will be there waiting for them, and an artist will be there to tell them exactly what to do.  The atmosphere is fun and party like, and lets people try out painting without feeling any pressure to create a masterpiece.  Sometimes paint nights will include a glass or two of wine for each participant, other times non alcoholic refreshments are provided by the artist or studio, but always the emphasis is having fun rather than the finished product.

    Private Parties

    Much like paint night, a private painting party focuses on fun and on having the supplies and instructor provided to walk everyone through a project, they differ mainly in that instead of being open to anyone who wants to come, they are privately booked for a group.  Also, it is often the responsibility of the person booking to provide any refreshments rather than the artist, and the artist is primarily providing the “entertainment” portion of the event only.  The atmosphere and content of the private parties varies widely depending upon the type of party, because they can be anything from a child’s Birthday party where everyone paints a puppy, to a bachelorette party with a live male model for “figure studies”, and anything in between.  Obviously the price, what is involved, what is provided by the artist, and what is provided by the customer will vary greatly depending on the circumstances.

    Educational, Instructional Classes

    While paint nights and parties focus on fun, there are also a lot of people out there who really want to learn something.  They want to learn techniques and skills that won’t just take them through one painting, but that they can apply to their own work later.

    Depending on what they already know, they may need to first learn the bare basics of drawing, shading, perspective, and move toward painting and other art forms later.  Or they may already know some, and need someone to show them how to apply what they know to their desired medium.  They may be quite skillful in one medium, and want just a lesson or two in another medium.

    Depending on what they are looking for, and what each artist is comfortable teaching, the pricing structure and class content would differ widely.  Some classes may be geared towards children while others focus on adults.  If you as an artist are knowledgeable in at least one medium, and can offer instruction in it that would transfer your skill and knowledge to another, then you might want to explore this possibility.

    Artist Events

    Another avenue of earning is in arranging and organizing events for people who already are skillful, but who are looking for opportunities to make a special day or weekend and set it aside to spend time with other artists creating and socializing.

    These can be in the form of plein air outings, weekend retreats, or studio time to collaborate.  The artist who takes on the task of arranging the time and place, contacting and keeping track of participants, booking any necessary rooms or obtaining any needed permits, will usually charge each participant enough to cover the cost putting on the event, plus a little extra for their time spent organizing everything.

    If the artist planning the even is particularly skilled and is offering instruction as well as booking the event, they can charge more for the instruction as well.

    Art Clubs and Groups

    Art clubs and groups can combine elements of the instructional classes, the paint nights, and the artist events into regular gatherings where artists and beginners get together and create, learn from each other, share supplies at times, and socialize. The one who hosts the club doesn’t usually charge much, but enough to cover any costs associated, plus maybe just a little more for their time.  Even if each person only pays a dollar or two, if there are enough participants this can bring in a little income for the organizer.  It also can be an opportunity to share about other events like paint nights, artist events, and the like.  Sometimes if a group or club gets official enough, they can also work with local businesses to arrange displays of artists work for no cost, or can share the cost of booths at art shows and fairs.

    Of course these things require planning and space, if you are blessed to have a studio big enough to use that’s great, but don’t forget that sometimes parks departments will have spaces for rent and sometimes will even have gazebos and outdoor picnic shelters that can be reserved very cheaply, and private instruction can be done in your or your student’s home.  Plein air events will take place in outdoor, public locations, and often you won’t need any permit for this, but it is always good to check with local authorities and make sure first.


    Now, I have done some of these things, and I’ve known artists who have done the others, but I’m sure there are other experiences that could be provided which I didn’t think of.  Do you know of any experiences you could provide others in order to earn some money?  Have you participated in any events like these I’ve mentioned?  Do you have any other ideas of how an artist could earn money other than just selling their work?  Or do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share about this post?  Comment and let me know!

  • Earning with Art – Part 2

    Yesterday I posted the problems associated with trying to earn money through art, first noting that being an artist isn’t about making money, which is a good thing because there are many easier ways to make money, and many will find that even working for minimum wage will pay better. I also noted that making art has its own rewards, but that money was still needed, even to be able to make the art in the first place.

    I noted how selling art can be a real struggle, because materials to make art and the space to sell it both cost money, many times a considerable amount of money, and yet most buyers are looking for a bargain, barely wanting to cover the cost of the materials, let alone the overhead involved in selling the art.

    I concluded though, that while very few will become rich as a result of their art, it is reasonable and possible for many artists to at least cover their costs plus make a little extra.

    Today, I’ll tell you a few ways I’ve found that you actually can earn a little with art, bear in mind though, that I’m still learning myself, and there may be some very good opportunities out there that I haven’t learned about yet!


    Original Art Sales aren’t the Only Kind of Sales

    Its great when I can sell an original painting for a fair price that adequately compensates me for the materials, the time spent, and the overhead costs of selling.  However, that just doesn’t happen that often.  More often than not, when an original sells it doesn’t cover a fair hourly pay plus materials, let alone the overhead costs.  Thankfully though, there are other kinds of sales that can be made.


    Perhaps the most obvious other type of sell is prints.  Selling prints of work allows people to purchase a version of an artist’s work at much less than the cost of the original, without the artist losing out.  Of course there are different kinds of prints and different ways to have them made, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

    Fine Art Giclee Prints

    Fine are prints are prints that are manufactured with archival inks on acid free fine art paper or on canvas.  The advantages to these prints is that they last a very long time and really showcase the artwork in the very best way possible aside from the original.  The colors are generally very true to the original, with a depth and reflection of the most subtle of differences between shades, values, and tones. They are archival, which usually means they are guaranteed to resist fading for at least 60 years, and often up to 200 years. The disadvantage is that unless an artist can afford to have thousands made at one time, the artist is probably going to pay between $7.00-$15.00 for a small, 8×10 print on paper (it will vary based on the type of paper, how many are ordered, and what company the artist orders them from). Then add to that the cost of having it shipped to the artist, the cost of backing, matting, print sleeves, and/or frames, and the cost of overhead for sells, and the customer is going need to pay between $20 and $50 for that 8×10 print if the artist is going to make a profit.  Prints on canvas will run even more.  So, just like with the original art, there is a limit to the number of people willing to spend what is needed for these.

    Standard Giclee Prints

    I’ll let you in on a little secret, the term “giclee” is a term invented sometime in the 1980’s for prints done on special, high resolution, archival inkjet printers.  At first it was used exclusively for prints made on those high quality archival printers.  However, no one trademarked the term, which came from a French word meaning “nozzle” in its noun form, and “to squirt or spray” in its verb form.  So, in the mid 1990’s, it started being used to refer to any inkjet art print.  Any inkjet printer capable of reproducing a print that closely matches the colors of the original piece (a photo quality inkjet) is technically capable of making “Giclee” prints.  Because of this, artist’s have needed to specify between an “archival” giclee, and just a “regular” giclee.  I, and many other artists, specify this difference by calling the regular giclee prints “Standard Prints”, and the archival giclees, “Archival Prints”.  The benefits of a standard giclee if it it printed on high quality paper it will usually not be visually distinguishable from the archival giclee right after printing, and it costs much less, depending on the printer brand and where the ink is purchased it could cost as little as $1.50 for each 8×10, though most of the time it will probably run closer to $2 or $3 in cost to the artist. Again, you have to add to that the cost of backing, print sleeves, frames, and overhead, but in the end, it is possible for artist to ast between $10 adn $15 for these prints and still make a profit on them.  The disadvantages of these prints is that they are more prone to fading than archival prints are.  You can still expect them to last 5-10 years if they are not hanging in direct sunlight though, also they will last considerably longer if they are coated in a UV protection spray, which will bring their display life up to 50 years without fading under normal display conditions.

    Laser Prints

    Laser Prints, like giclees, vary in quality and cost based on the quality of the laser printer used, they have many of the same advantages and disadvantages as the various types of giclees, so I won’t repeat a lot of that information.  The main difference though is the visual quality.  A laser printer will cast a “sheen” over certain dark colors, and tends to not pick up contrast and subtle value differences as well as giclee prints.  Laser prints are best suited for digital art, because the programs used to create digital art often are designed with the laser printer’s color capabilities in mind, whereas physical paint will often have too subtle of differences between shades and values, and the laser printer will lose those.  The laser prints do have the advantage of lasting a very long time, they resist smudging from contact and moisture, they resist fading for a very long time, up to 200 years.  They generally fall somewhere in the same cost range as the standard Giclees, of course depending upon paper or canvas type, etc.


    For a fairly reasonable price, prints can be made on greeting cards or post cards.  The quality and price depends on where they are purchased.

    Poster Prints 

    Poser prints are made by a variety of processes, often by laser printing methods, they are usually printed on very inexpensive paper, and are more prone to tearing and fading than prints on better paper.  Their quality is about what see in posters purchased from any store.  They have the advantage of being fairly inexpensive, although to get the really low prices the artist will often have to purchase 500 or more of the same image at the same time.  Still, there are some places that will do small runs or even single posters starting around $3 each, plus shipping.  Even though they are called poster prints, they can actually be made in a variety of sizes, from as small as 5×7 to as large as your typical movie poster.


    Other types of sells are also possible. Art can printed on a variety of products.  A list of products I’ve seen easily available are: coffee mugs, travel mugs, pillows, T-shirts, phone cases, computer cases, tablet cases, ipad cases, shower curtains, duvet covers, book marks, purses, tote bags, leggings and skirts.  There are a variety of ways to do this.  You probably will make the most if you can find a manufacturer to print on the products for you, with no middle man, but for that you will usually have to put up the money for a large number of each image on each product type, and then you will have to hold onto the inventory and market it all yourself.

    There is a way to have your art put on products without doing that though, and that is through several different print on demand sites, there are many out there, Redbubble, Zazzle, cafepress, fineartamerica, and pixels.com to name a few.  What these sites do is showcase your work on the products you choose, and when someone orders them the site pays you a royalty for the sale.  You usually only make 15-20% of the sale price of the item, but you didn’t pay anything for the manufacture of the item either.  My favorite so far is Redbubble, both for the variety of products and for the fact that they charge you nothing to have your work there.

    The only disadvantage to doing this is that in the eyes of some collectors it “cheapens” the artwork and doesn’t really allow you to do a limited edition of an image.  For that reason, I haven’t put all of my work up on those sites, though I have put some.  With some future pieces I plan to do limited edition prints, and so I won’t be able to list those on redbubble or a similar site.

    Well, once again I’ve let this post get longer than I wanted, so tomorrow I’ll continue this same series, but tomorrow, I’ll be venturing away from actual sales, into other ways to earn money with art.


  • Earning with Art – Part 1

    hummingbird watercolor
    The original painting has sold. Prints are still available.


    Today I sold the painting pictured above on etsy, and it got me thinking about what I’ve learned so far about earning with art.


    Being an Artist isn’t About Making Money

    There are easier ways to make money.

    Any time I talk about the business side of art, I find it necessary to point out first of all that being an artist isn’t just about making money.  If it was, I’d have given up years ago in favor a job at a fast food place, because honestly doing that over the last four years would have earned me many more dollars than selling art has.

    Making art has its own rewards.

    Making art is something I would do even if none of it ever sold.  I have a deep need to create, and when I don’t meet that need emotional well being suffers.  Creating brings me much joy, it brings me peace when my mind is troubled, it gives me quite moments to think, or not to think, depending on my mood. So yes, even if I knew that nobody would ever buy one piece, I’d still create art.

    However, making art costs money!

    That being said, art supplies still cost money.  Higher quality supplies cost quite a bit.  So it is really nice when I can earn a little with my art, and at least offset part of the cost of creating it.  Four years of trying to earn with art has taught me a few things, though I am still learning all the time.


    The Struggle of Selling Art

    Materials cost money.

    Good art materials cost money.  Even cheap art materials still cost some money though quite a bit less, but if one wants to create art that is going to turn out the way you want it to, and that is going to last a long time without cracking, peeling, or fading, you usually need to use the good materials.  Now, I’m not saying that all art has to last years.  Some people make sculptures from ice that they know will last only hours, and that is still art.  But most artists like to think that their grandchildren and possibly event their great, great, great grandchildren will some day be looking at their work. Also, most art collectors want to know that the art is going to endure the test of time.  For that to be a possibility, the artist has to use quality materials, and those cost quite a bit.

    Space costs money.

    Space to sell is generally not free, art fairs costs hundreds of dollars to set a booth up in, galleries often charge for space, and if they don’t they take a hefty commission, sometimes it is both, between the two, even an artist with regular sales artist often makes less than half of the selling price the gallery charges.  Farmers markets cost anywhere from $20-$50 dollars to participate in for a few hours, and many don’t allow artists in at all, and others charge artists a higher price than the people selling farm products. Even online space like etsy costs, though not usually nearly as much as physical space.   Its not hard to imagine how an artist could seem to be having a good week, with lots of sells, but actually not be making a profit at all, and even be losing money, after considering the expenses.

    Most buyers look for a bargain.

    There are a few people out there who really see the value of original art.  People who recognize that owning the original painting is much more desirable than owning a print, and that owning a signed print is more desirable than an unsigned print, and owning a limited edition, signed print is more desirable than an open edition print.  And that any one of those options direct from the artist is better than a mass produced print from Wal Mart.  There are a few people who “get” that.  Most people though, will look at a 16×20 original painting on canvas, and mentally compare it to the mass produced wall art at their local discount store, and will try to talk the artist down to that price range, or will just walk away figuring the artist is overcharging.  Only another artist, or someone very familiar with art and artists, really looks at a piece and stops to think of the hours that were spent making it, the cost of the materials, the cost of the selling space, the time spent manning the space at the art fair, and the skill required to create the piece.  If they did, they’d realize that most artists, if they get what they are originally asking for a piece, are still not even making minimum wage.

    So, in light of this, how can an artist possibly earn money with art, well, its not easy, and most artists will still find that they aren’t exactly “rolling in the dough”, but there is a way for an artist to at least make enough to cover their costs, plus a little extra.

    But I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow…