Archive for December, 2016

How to make money from art

Well, to make money from art you gotta sell. There are three steps to making money online with art (and not via the old way of galleries and shows):

1. You must create easily-digestible “pop” art. More on this here.

2. You must market yourself. And you do that by getting A LOT of Instagram followers. Instagram has 10x the purchasing power than any other social media. Back in the day, Tumblr was big, and later was Facebook. Today, only Instagram is worth your time. So, make sure your instagram posts are very tidy, you use the right tags each time, and when you get blog articles about your art, ask them to also link to your instagram account. From there, each time you want to mention your shop or a sale you have, an instagram post will do you wonders.

3. You must sell at the right shops, using the right products on each. Don’t try uploading everything on all your shops. You have to be selective, depending on the profit provided. The last thing you want, is to start selling your most popular artwork for a profit of $1.20, that is stationary cards. Be smart. And here’s how to be smart:

A. Sell your own prints. That’s where you will make as much as 80% profit. I wrote a blog post about how to do that here. Use TicTail the way I do: you sell your own prints there, but you also link to products on third party shops. Consider your own signed prints shop your studio & gallery.

B. On Society6 you must have a three-tier system: your most popular artworks gets uploaded ONLY as art prints, framed prints, canvas, and metal prints. These are the only products that allow you to set your own profit. Set a high enough profit that is both accessible for consumers, but also gets you some good earnings. For the second tier artworks, also export and enable other products too, just make sure they’re of the expensive kind (e.g. shower curtains). This way, these products do exist for those who want them, but they don’t compete with your prints in terms of pricing (because they’d be in equal footing price-wise). And the third tier, the least popular artworks (don’t upload at all the ones that aren’t at least a bit popular btw), you export for everything. Personally, I still avoid some products completely due to their too low price that only makes artists a dollar-something: stationary cards, ipod skins, hand towels, and also apparel (I only use all-over-prints, which look way better). Consider Society6 your mall shop. PROS: lots of shoppers CONS: crippled by software bugs, doesn’t allow custom pricing for everything.

C. RedBubble allows you to set your own prices for all products, which is a huge advantage. Set a good profit for all products in your settings. The problem with RedBubble is that not as many people use it for art as they are for Society6. Therefore, at RedBubble upload only the artworks that look good on products, e.g. apparel, or clocks. Make sure you have a very high profit margin for photo-prints and posters, because these will eat away your art prints if they’re too cheap. I also always disable stationary cards and stickers there. Consider RedBubble your retail shop around the corner. PROS: custom pricing for everything. CONS: a bit more difficult to be found there.

D. Curioos is a beautiful shop (the most beautiful of all), but you only make a 10% there for art prints/canvas and metal prints. You can make there a 16% if you upload an artwork ONLY there (not a great idea). However, there is a trick, to get that 16%, by only enabling acrylic and disk prints (and die-cuts, if some of your artworks are eligible). You don’t enable prints/frames/canvas/metals at all. Because no other shop carries these three kinds of prints (acrylic, disk, die-cuts), you can select the 16% exclusive edition option. Even with 16% though, you won’t make much money there (I recently sold 16 acrylic and disk prints there and made only $200, while for the same prints on paper I’d make $900 at my own Tictail shop). That’s why it’s best to only upload on Curioos your second half of your artworks in terms of popularity. You don’t want these exotic types of prints to cannibalize your own print sales. Consider Curioos your boutique. PROS: Beautiful, functional. CONS: low profit.

E. Zazzle, LiveHeroes, DesignedbyHumans, Fab.com, Fancy.com and a few others: this is up to you if you want shops there too or not. If you are going to open shops there, again, don’t upload your most popular artworks there, because you won’t make much. For example, fab.com only pays 6%, fancy.com is a pain in the butt to upload new artworks up, liveheroes and DesignedbyHumans don’t pay much at all, and zazzle.com is ok (allows up to 99% custom profit over the base price), but it’s a really messy web site. Consider these shops like a remote gas station shop where you mostly enter just to take a piss after a long drive, but sometimes you feel obligated to buy a bag of beef jerky because the cashier is looking at you funny.

What people want is pop

Being in the art business for almost 5 years now it has given me a good instinct about what sells and what doesn’t. Basically, what sells are artworks that are:

1. Easily comprehended visually with a single look that doesn’t take more than 0.3 seconds. This usually means: a main element right in the center of the artwork.

2. Depiction of something super-easy to understand that the viewer identifies with: e.g. eating, sleeping, taking a bath, driving, playing with a cat, being next to flowers.

3. The next step is to make these mundane, everyday depictions surreal: e.g. sleeping on top of Saturn, driving on a road to a nebula, sitting under giant flowers. Basically, take people’s bored existence and make it more interesting. In this case, the art functions as a get-away drug.

4. The most successful kind of art today, and the simplest of all, is substitution. For example, instead of the ear piece on old style landline phones, you replace it with a banana. Or, instead of bombs, you get the airplane to drop candy. The human brain immediately lights up in such substitutions because it takes less than a second for the individual to “get it”, and so it rewards itself the same way it gets rewarded when playing Tetris. Again, art functions here as a drug, not as an intellectual discourse.

Example of things people absolutely love:



Examples of more serious art that people don’t bother to look at because they’re either too visually complex, or their brain hurts too much to think about what it’s depicted:


(this one has a full blown explanation too)


Overall, I’m a successful artist, I can’t complain about that. But it bothers me that I’m selling easily digestible crap, instead of more interesting, often abstract art (called “dada” in collage circles). Only 1% of what I sell overall is serious art (and yes, I have created a number of these, it’s just that people don’t prefer them). I want to be remembered having created something worthwhile, not (essentially) memes that provide the odd smile for half a second to most people, before they move on to the next item on their Instagram feed.

I wouldn’t mind the easier artworks if there was some kind of balance between the two types among consumers. But when people prefer the easy ones 99 times out of 100, there’s a problem. And the problem is not just with me, because the same thing happens with pretty much all serious artworks from other artists (e.g. dada collages). This is why the majority of them can’t make a good buck out of their work to sustain them financially. It’s because their artworks aren’t “pop” enough. Sad, but true.