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Making A Living Painting Acrylic Art – Part 1

This week I wanted to explore a topic openly and honestly – selling my own art. I also wanted to throw out some ideas about services for other artists.

Over the last 20+ years I have marketed products and services for clients all over North America. Everything from games to books to financial training. I have used social media, websites, newsletters and hundreds of other tools. But i want to talk about marketing art.

About 15 years ago I started painting and in the first year, I painted about 10 watercolour paintings. Each one sold for about $200-$550 for the original version of each. I then sold prints of each for about $150-$200. In my first year, I made about $30,000 in gross sales. Not bad for part-time.

Today, I paint primarily acrylics and they range in price from $250 – $650 for original pieces. The price is slowly creeping up.

My goal (to be totally, brutally honest) is to make enough to match my current consulting work and a bit more. Like most artists, over the years, I found there were 2 ways to sell:

  • The traditional Way – selling locally, entering local shows and exhibitions. And hope for the best.

  • Sell primarily online, via the Internet, using Social Media and promoting online.

I typically do both but there are many challenges with both.

The traditional way involves getting paintings in Galleries, working on other peoples schedule, booking shows months in advance, and many other challenging issues.

The Online method of sales is challenging due primarily to the type of promotions you do and the branding of your work. The benefit is you reach a SIGNIFICANTLY larger market. During the first year I sold my watercolour prints, I sold 80% to the US and about 30-40% of my original watercolours/acrylics.

Future Directions

One thing I have learned with both techniques is you have to:

  • Market as many ways as you can.
  • Marketing and promote daily
  • Build a following and stay in touch.
  • Make it easy to buy
  • Know your Target Market

When I talk about marketing different ways, I am not talking about 3-4 methods like a webpage, letter to galleries, Facebook page and Christmas cards. You have to think 50-80 methods of reaching people. I started listing all the different ways you can market and easily come up with close to 80.

Another big challenge is pricing and also determining WHO is your target market and how best to reach them. This is critical. You need to not only think about what gender, income range, interests but need to know about 30 different things that tie to HOW they buy. Do they research the artwork or comparison shop and then buy 6 months from now or do they buy it the same day they see it for the first time.

Experimentation is important and I am finding that on Social Media like Facebook, I can get lots of interest and lots of good impressions from family and friends. But few sales in most cases. On the other hand, Instagram viewers on my feed tend to buy but few are people I know if at all. You need to test.

Pricing is always a challenge. I spoke to one artist online who I read about in a art magazine in BC. He had only painted for maybe 1-2 years. His work was unique and very large, with most paintings easily 4-5 feet across and about 6-7 ft high. He priced his work at about $4000 to $7000 per painting. And he was selling a lot of work.

The average person does not normally spend the kind of money the above artist was charging.

What is encouraging is that you may create a painting and sell it as an original for $500-$1500. But you can print 100 copies and sell each at $300 each as a numbered print. Thats $30,000 in print revenue with about $20K in profit.

I think the approach I may take is to set a goal of say $40,000 in sales. Based on my current volume of work ( say 4 originals a month ) that works out to 48 a year. To make $40K, I would need to sell each for $830. Thats not realistic in the market I am reaching.

The better approach might be to sell 3 original painting over 10 months (taking 2 month off throughout the year) and sell 30 at $400 – $500 each. On the low side thats $12,000. Leaving a $38,000. Now if you created prints of each painting in 2 sizes, you might make more profit.


30 originals x 75 prints each = 2250 prints

Print size one ( 13 x 19 ) -> $250 print x 2250 = $562,500

Subtract expenses of 35% (a bit high) = $364,236

If you did a smaller size of 9 x 12 size, you could sell for $100 each and make another $18,000 net.

The secret is to save your originals for the target market that want these and sell the prints in 2 affordable sizes (signed and numbered) for the audience that is looking for affordable prints.

In my next blog post, I will share some income opportunities for artists based on some of the marketing I have done. Email me at gordon@gordoncurrieart.com with any comments you have.

About Gordon

Gordon Currie has been painting watercolours and acrylics for over 10 years. His work has been displayed all over Canada and the US in both private collections and displays.


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