Lately several websites have been offering fairly affordable original art (mostly paintings) and I have to say I’m encouraged. Serena and Lily, Furbish Studio, and others are all selling original paintings in the 200-1,000 dollar range, which given the amount of money people are willing to spend on home furnishings (see this) seems pretty reasonable.
In researching for this blog I’ve come across several artists whose work is being sold on these websites, and I’ve given some thought to the economics of this kind of painting. For a painting like this one at a price point of $400 I have to imagine that the artist only receives at most $200, and probably more like $150-175. The cost of canvas and paint even for a 16×20 piece like this has to be at least $20. And do artists have to ship their work somewhere? If so, that’s at least another $10-20. So that means the total profit on this kind of piece is in the neighborhood of $120-140. Perhaps artists value the publicity they’ll get from being featured on a very popular website, but I wonder what percentage of their future sales could be tied to users discovering them in this way.
So if an artist wants to make a decent living this way they’d have to make at least a couple of these pieces each day. There really is no time for artistic discovery or experimentation – I have to imagine that producing these kinds of paintings would be done assembly-line style.
As an artist myself I feel like I should find this troubling, but I really don’t. I love the fact that people are buying original art instead of prints. I love that artists have another path to making a living. And honestly, I really like some of the art on these websites.