Friday, December 4, 2009

selling prints in your own gallery

Steam powered printing press from 1814 capable of 1,100 impressions an hour. This was the first printing press not powered by hand.

I had hoped to transition effortlessly into etching .It has always been close to painters hearts. However I got a good question in the comments last night, so I will go after that. Here it is:

I would assume that selling prints would devalue the original somehow. The person buying the original I would assume, want to be the sole owner, not having to tell everyone at dinner "thats the original you know"

Greeting cards is interesting, although since I print up a load of cards for my openings, I would find it hard within myself to charge them 2 bucks a card for what i essentially give out for free. Still, there might be something in it.

This post is aimed mostly at you who have a retail venue to sell prints and cards. I mean reproductions of original art and not fine art prints, by the way. Last night I recommended against most painters doing a lot of printing. If you have to wholesale your art to print shops and distributors, that takes a lot of time and effort. It is really a full time job, with an appetite for capital, inventory to store, and phones to answer. Your little one man part time company will be out in the field competing against giant well established outfits with big advertising budgets. They will also be selling hideous schlock that you won't go near, and you will find out quickly that a fair number of your clients want that and not the delicate landscapes that you make. They will ask, "don't you have anything with radioactive flowers and phony little English cottages with angels and virgins living in them?".

But the real advantage they will have over you is that they handle hundreds of different artists, not one like you. When that client asks for the a's and v's, they got em! wearin balls and chains. So unless you want to get real serious and compete in that arena as an under capitalized naif I suggest you stick to what you already know about, and that's painting.

However if you have control of the retail,say you have a little gallery like our friend above, or are doing outdoor shows or art fairs having prints might be useful. Let me tell you what I did and perhaps you will find that informative.We were of course a small mom and pop gallery in seaside tourist town in New England, Rockport. The town did have a reputation as an art destination and that helped prime people to shop for art.

You asked whether having made a print of a painting decreases that paintings value, I think just the opposite is true. Buyers like to think their picture has such a great appeal that it was wotrh making prints of, and THEY HAVE THE ORIGINAL!

We had the following printed items;
  • Offset lithographs framed out to about 24 by 36 they were a reproduction of one of my paintings of the harbor . We charged a couple of hundred dollars for them, (this was years ago).They sold well but they were expensive to print. I am guessing that they are now old technology and you will want to do some form of on demand giclee.
  • we had giclees in little frames of about ten different paintings of mine, mostly about 11 by 14, but we had some 16 by 20 or so picture to. These were again all reproductions of my paintings. We did a lot of these on canvas. WE sold those steadily at about a hundred dollars or less. We of course sold them as decorative objects and not as fine art. I made a point of saying that to everyone who expressed an interest in them.
  • we had about twenty different images available on note cards with envelopes. We also sold those in boxes of six. We let people select which images they wanted in the boxes, from a Plexiglas display rack built by my wife, who is very handy indeed.I had an old cash register and rang those up and put them into little bags for small bills all day long. They kept us in groceries.
  • We had those same cards in little mattes and glassine envelopes for about 12 dollars.
  • We had postcards, I don't know that those were worth the trouble and it was really annoying sometimes to watch people torture themselves over whether they should spring for a fifty cent postcard.
None of these brought in enough money to make a big difference in our daily lives. But it was nice to always be selling something rather than just waiting for the painting sales, and it did always provide cash flow. We also had to account for the sales and track the sales tax, so there was a bit of accounting and inventory control too.That meant writing up little sales slips on pads all day and making change and stocking little bags in several different sizes. We also had to be able to wrap things which meant a big roll of paper on a table kept clear for that purpose.

Our young daughters enjoyed selling cards though and they would be left to watch the shop sometimes and when I would return they would say proudly, "I sold three cards dad!" One time my two preteen daughters made a 6,000 dollar sale, but that's another story for another time.


Robert J. Simone said...

Great series of posts for those of us who live in an area that largely prefers the angels and virgins (or mermaids!). Thanks, Stape.

Woodward Simons said...

Stape, all good advice here! I had done a number of giclees years ago which I sold from outdoor shows and a local print dealer who bought them outright for 50% of retail.

I ran into trouble because there wasn't a big enough difference between my originals and my prints, and everyone bought the prints while the originals sat there.

However, I've been considering doing some small giclees to sell from my website and at the B&B in Tucson where I sell inexpensive originals each year. Having prints would make me nearly as much money there and not cost me as much time.

thanks for talking about this.

Judy P. said...

Don't forget, you must tell the story of the $6000 sale your daughters made, sometime soon. We Moms love those "Awww-cute!' tales.

Tim said...

Im honored to have generated a post!

I suspect that the art market is very different over here compared to the good old US. That includes the view of the general public. The whole Swedish mentality is very "Dont you go thinking your special now! Conform to the norm!" There is even a special word for it here in Sweden, "Jantelagen". That affects people and peoples views of art in general. Fx, you'd be VERY hard pressed to have someone commissions a portrait of themselves, more likely they'd get a painting of a possession, like a car or a house or something else that doesn't boast about them a a person. And they wont likely open their wallet for something that they just "like". Most rather seem to treat a gallery like a museum. Buying art just doesn't seem to be the norm. Unless however, you happen to have painted something that they own. Im till very young in my gallery venture (1 week, so what the hell do i know really)

For me to ell here, as a beginning artist with no prior reputation, to sell prints just seem to be a bit.. boisterous. see, the Jantelag affects me too! Maybe Im just a lousy blue eyes salesman!

Right now Im at the stage where people buy my paintings for what Ive painted, not my name. Alas, there is no real demand for my work. I'm not at the "Its a Timothy Atkins" yet.

Regarding prices, Ill be glad if I can charge what you charged back in the late 70's NOW. That means selling a giclee in a frame would bring me about 100 bucks for an 11x14 if i sell the original for 700. Its VERY hard for me (and most artist) to know what to precisely be able to charge, without scaring people off. Not forgetting that we pay 55% in taxes over here.

And to top it all off: New laws in Sweden state that any business that handles cash needs to have a state-approved cash-register to combat all of the "under the table" money that is lured out by the high taxes. Thats 2000 dollars a year mandatory for the rent.

Haha, what the hell have I gotten myself in too?!

CM said...

Stapelton, I have a small gallery in a tourist destination like you did in Rockport. I am fortunate in that I love to paint by the sea and people like to take home that memory. By having giclees for sale they can have that experience. I have found that after returning each year to buy a giclee (now they are collectors) many many times they come in and say "This year I can buy an original painting" I have also found that people like to buy directly from the artist and I really enjoy that interaction.
By the way I am very careful to explain how the giclee is produced and that it is a reproduction and I even tape that explanation on the back of the giclee.
The proceeds from these giclees pays a heck of a lot more than the price of groceries!!
Thank you again for the time and effort you put into this wonderful blog. I feel I know (virtualy, that is) so many of your bloggers now . All our personalities show through our words!
Corinne McIntyre

Stapleton Kearns said...

They like tropical color down there too don't they?Do you paint in a special palette because of that,say more chromatic.Maybe the landscape just imposes that color on what you make already

Stapleton Kearns said...

Woodward Simons;
Giclee poseses a special challenge to the watercolor painter doesn't it. Spooky.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will tell it when I get to it chronologically in my own history, which I haven't written about for a while. I always wonder if those autobiographical posts are useful to the reader in the same way as the rest of what I do.

Robert J. Simone said...

Stape, I have always thought the beauty of the Florida landscape lies in it's neutral tones. It's not as lush as you might think. There is a lot of green, especially in summer. But humidity sort evens out the tones making subtlety the interesting thing. People do seem to like a garishness in their art but I don't see things that way. I use a six color palette with few tubed grays. I see little difference between paintings I have done with the six color palette and those I did with a 14 color palette a few years ago. Maybe I should just throw a big pile of winsor emerald on the palette and go crazy with it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Tim: I posted tonights post partly for you also.(the rerun). I sympathize with what you are saying, but I don't think that being too cheap is the answer, in fact it might be exactly the wrong course. I think if I were you I would be very perturbed with the government cash register.I have a feeling you would find New Hampshire a real eyeopener. We might sell you some cheap cigars or maybe a handgun. Need some tires,tax free?The slogan on our license plate is;
Please keep us informed of your progress, and e mail me if I can help you figure out the answer to any of your gallery problems as they arise.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am interested to hear your experience and that it paralleled mine.I think I could have pushed the prints harder but I had a limited interest in that. In fact I was always a little conflicted about it.

willek said...

Okay, I'm sold. Just who is the best/cheapest Giclee service out there. Any Reccommendations. Just get em off the internet. Email them the files? Who is everyone using. Any giclee horror stories? Stape? anybody?