There’s a mass migration occurring in the art world. Many FOF artists have abandoned traditional galleries to run their own virtual galleries on websites like Etsy, Artfire and eBay. They’ve found that online they can make more money and offer art to buyers for less than selling in brick-and-mortar galleries (which take up to a 50 percent cut of their profits). “My first year on eBay I grossed $87,000,” says FOF artist Patty A. Baker. How’d she do it? Read on to find out how Patty and 2 other FOFs have turned their art from a love to a living.
Patty A. Baker
Sells on: Etsy, her own website and Art.com
Location: Ogdensburg, New York
Why do you like Etsy and Art.com?
Etsy offers a lot of exposure. Art.com does all the printing, framing, and shipping. I submitted a bunch of high-res images to Art.com which was a lot of work in the beginning, but now it’s easy.
Do you sell in brick-and-mortar galleries?
I’ve been selling online since 2004. I support myself and two kids with what I make online. My first year on eBay I grossed $87,000. If things continue the way they are this year I’ll gross $50-60 thousand. I know one artist who makes $500-600 thousand selling her art online. It’s so doable.
What’s the secret to selling art successfully online?
You have to make art that people are going to buy. That’s a hurdle for most artists. You do have to bend, you do have to do some sort of selling out.
How do you price your art?
I had to come way down in price when the recession hit. I use a loose formula of 23 cents per square inch for the larger paintings. For the 16X20 paintings, I charge $160.
How do you choose what you are going to paint?
What I paint is secondary to how I paint it. I like to see how colors respond to each other. I also look around to see what’s selling. I’m just as happy painting a salt shaker as a river.
Buyers don’t need to see the art in person anymore?
A buyer recently said to me, ‘Many people buy art to match furniture. I bought a couch to match your painting.’ Also, artists who sell online will bend over backwards to make sure the buyer is happy. For my commissioned pieces, I send samples by e-mail before I ship to make sure it’s right.
Nancy LaBerge Muren
Sells on: Etsy and her own website
Location: Davis, California
What is your style of painting?
I like to capture interesting light. Light is so fleeting. I take photos of something I see with nice light, then take it back to my studio to paint it.
Why do your prefer to sell online versus in a gallery?
It’s a lot of work to get things ready for a gallery. I’d do all my own matting and framing. I’d cart around the art. Then the frames would get old-fashioned, and I’d have to update them. And in the end, it wouldn’t sell. On a site like Etsy, every day there are at least 2,000 people that are looking at my work, in a gallery you might get 5.
So the exposure that the web offers is the biggest draw for you?
Yes, in fact, last summer I was contacted by a television art director who found me by doing a search on Etsy. Now my paintings are on the sets of the shows Modern Family and Better With You.
How do you price your art?
I look how other people are pricing their art. Sometimes people think because art is priced lower it’s not as good, but if I were selling in a gallery, they would take 50% and I’d have to pay for my time and materials. If I subtract all that I end up with a pretty good price for originals. I can price lower because I sell more.
Painter and Host of Artists Helping Artists Blog Talk Radio Show
Sells on: DailyPainters.com and her own website
Location: South Pasadena, California
How did you get into painting?
I’ve only actually been painting for 5 years. I had an emergency hysterectomy and after that I decided I needed to do something for me.
Why do you like selling on DailyPainters?
DailyPainters jump-started my art business. The visibility from the site is really incredible. Every day that I post a new painting to my blog, DailyPainters publishes it to their homepage. There are 80-100 new paintings each day. It’s difficult to be a featured artist on DailyPainters. Last year they only picked up one new artist, so I feel blessed my art is on their site.
How do you price your art?
It’s all priced by size. For instance, all my 6×6 paintings sell for $200 unframed.
How do you decide what to paint? Do you paint to what sells?
You have to think of both, what people are buying but also what inspires. I paint a lot of reflections because it’s what inspires me. I also paint a lot of universities and colleges because it creates a wonderful memento.
What is a common mistake people make when they try to sell art online?
You’d be surprised how many people write on their websites, ‘E-mail me if you want to buy my art.’ A lot of art purchases are on impulse so you need to make it as easy as possible for the buyer. Just recently, I led a workshop on how to add a “Buy Now” button to your website.
What’s a secret to selling art successfully online?
You have to market your art with press releases, newsletters and shows. Every month I send out a newsletter and it results in at least one sale. Over the holidays I ran a ’12 Days of Christmas’ promotion and gave away something each day. The traffic I generated to my site was amazing. You can’t just sit back and think listing it on a website is going to sell it.